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The Originals Vol. 3

September 9th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the third part of this series we look at the originals of songs made more famous by 70s doo wop revivalists Darts, Bobby Darin, Marianne Faithful, Carpenters and Gene Kelly.

EDIT: With DivShare having deleted three accounts, some of the links originally posted are dead or probably will go dead soon. I have compiled the originals of the featured song, except Daddy Cool, in one file:

The Originals Vol. 3
(The Wrens, Charles Trenet, Dr Hook, New Vaudeville Band, Herman”s Hermits, Cliff Edwards & the Brox Sisters)
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Daddy Cool & Come Back My Love
Every decade seems to enjoy a revival at roughly a 20-year cycle. We are slowly emerging from the 1970s revival, are full-on in the 1980s revival (which was officially launched with The Wedding Singer) and the 1990s revival has already begun ““ though I cannot imagine what there is to be nostalgic about. Essentially, the cultural decision-makers launch a wave of nostalgia to the years of their childhood. And, as this blog proves, I like nostalgia. In the “70s, the big revival was the “50s. It started early, with movies such as The Last Picture Show and climaxed with Grease and the death of Elvis. Bands such as Sha Na Na, Showaddywaddy, Racey and Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers had hits cashing in on the nostalgia boom (as did, at the tail-end of the revival, Shakin” Stevens). All of these were more or less karaoke artists. Not so Darts. They got Rock “˜n” Roll. They took old (usually obscure) numbers and gave them new life. In the case of both of these featured songs, released in 1977, the Darts revamped and improved on the original ““ if one overlooks the sample of Little Richard”s The Girl Can”t Help It in Daddy Cool. It is a shame they are not remembered by much more than the original artists.

The Wrens were a  Bronx doo wop trio that never hit the big time. Come Back My Love, recorded in 1954, should have been a massive hit, but (like their other records) never was. The Rays were a short-lived doo wop band who scored a US hit in 1957 with Silhouettes, of which Daddy Cool was the b-side (the Rays” singer, Guy Darrell re-recorded the b-side as a single in 1961). But it was Daddy Cool which became the inspiration for an Australian “70s group by that name. The Rays file has been borrowed, with permission, from the excellent Whiteray at Echoes In The Wind, who featured it in this post (and do read Whiteray’s amazing story associated with the song). The Wrens” version I had been looking for unsuccessfully for a long time. Within minutes of asking my very generous new friend RH (whom we will have much more reason to be grateful to as this series progresses), he sent it to me.
The Rays – Daddy Cool
Darts – Come Back My Love
Darts – Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It
Also recorded by: The Cardinals/Daddy Cool, Drummond
Best versions: Darts, in both cases.

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The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
Shel Silverstein was something of a Renaissance Man: a poet, childrens” author, cartoonist, screenwriter and composer. In the latter incarnation, Silverstein wrote several hit songs, including A Boy Named Sue and The Ballad of Lucy Jordan. He also wrote a few soundtracks, among them Ned Kelly and the snappily titled Dustin Hoffman film Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? In 1971. Silverstein selected the yet unknown Dr Hook & the Medicine Show to appear on the latter. He proceeded to write the lyrics for many Dr Hook songs, including the notorious Sylvia”s Mother, Cover Of The Rolling Stone and Lucy Jordan. Dr Hook”s 1974 version made negligible impact, but Marianne Faithfull”s cover five years later became a big hit. And quite rightly so: Faithfull”s raspy, slightly desperate voice elicited empathy with the eponymous character”s breakdown, whereas Dr Hook in their perfectly servicable version just told a story. When I posted the Faithfull version previously, I claimed it was about suicide. A reader strongly disagreed. I think the denouement ““ climbing on the roof, taking the man”s hand, driving away in a white car ““ can be read in two ways: suicide or institutionalisation. Faithfull has opted for the latter interpretation, but as far as I know, the writer never let on what he meant.
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
Also recorded by: Lee Hazlewood, Belinda Carlisle, Bobby Bare
Best version: Faithfull”s.

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La Mer/ Beyond The Sea
It is perhaps unfair to speak of Bobby Darin”s Beyond The Sea, released in 1959, as a cover version of the French song La Mer by Charles Trenet. The melodies coincide, as does the nautical theme. From there on, they are really different songs. Trenet”s version, written in 1943 on toilet paper while travelling by train and released in 1946, floats along merrily; Darin”s take initially sails along similarly but then enters a storm of big band brass and brash bluster of vocals. Before Darin recorded the song, with lyrics by Jack Lawrence, it was released by three acts as Beyond The Sea. I have heard none of these versions, but the notion that Benny Goodman”s orchestra was among them would suggest that there is no truth to the idea that it was Darin”s masterstroke to give it the big band treatment. And yet, whatever sound preceded the 1959 recording, Bobby Darin totally appropriated the song, investing in it so much personality that the number can”t be divorced from him. Most covers are based on Darin”s masterpiece, and nobody who has strayed too far from his template has managed to mess it up completely. Not even Robbie Williams.
Also recorded by: Harry James & Orchestra, Benny Goodman & Orchestra, George Wright, Roger Williams (La Mer), Ray Conniff, Lawrence Welk, Helen Shapiro, Johnny Mathis, The Sandpipers, George Benson, Kevin Kline (La Mer), Django Reinhard (La Mer), Ewan McGregor & Cameron Diaz, Bobby Caldwell, Patricia Kaas (La Mer), Wet Wet Wet, Will Young, Robbie Williams, Celtic Women (yikes!), Barry Manilow a.o.
Best version: Bobby Darin should be regarded the King of Headbanging Big Band Swing, with Beyond The Sea as the anthem.

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There”s A Kind Of Hush
A clean-cut song recorded first by a clean-cut band and covered with greater success by an even more clean-cut act. It”s difficult to imagine it now, but at the height of the British Invasion, Herman”s Hermits were briefly challengers to the Beatles” crown, ending 1965 as the best-selling act in the US. Peter Noone and pals weren”t quite as successful in their home country, where they nevertheless scored ten Top10 hits (and a solitary chart-topper) in between 1964 and 1970. Herman”s Hermits” There”s A Kind Of Hush fell smack bang into the middle of that run, becoming a UK #7 and US #4 hit in 1967. The Carpenters” cover nine years later didn”t do as well as that, #12 in the US, but to many people it is the more familiar version. Richard Carpenter does not have high praise for his own arrangement. The original, he has said, was perfect and could not be improved on (and how I wish that more musicians would have such humility), and he didn”t like the synth in his version. On the other hand, it does feature Karen”s voice, for which I am prepared to forgive anything ““ even this song. Edit: After posting this, our friend RH sent me the version by the New Vaudeville Band, whose founder Geoff Stevens co-wrote the song, and released in 1966 on the Winchester Cathedral album. In all my research, I found no reference to that until I read up on Stevens.
Also recorded by: Engelbert Humperdinck, John Davidson, Claude François, Dana Winner, Barry Manilow, Deerhoof
Best version: I don”t think the Herman”s Hermits version is perfect, but it certainly is superior.

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Singin’ In The Rain
Singin” In The Rain, the greatest musical movie of all time, was set in the nascent age of the talkies, giving rise to a couple of incredibly funny scenes involving the efforts to adapt to the new technologies by sound engineers and thespians. The songs in the film were pillaged mostly from Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Bown”s back catalogue of songs written for MGM musicals (Freed”s idea was mainly to cash in on royalties. And why not?). One of these was the title track, performed by Cliff Edwards & the Brox Sisters and originally featured in The Hollywood Revue of 1929, a star-studded affair released not long after the transition from silent movies, and MGM”s only second musical. It therefore was an inspired choice to provide the title and centrepiece for the 1952 musical. And the sequence of Gene Kelly crooning it in the rain ““ filmed while he was running a high fever ““ can never and will never become a cliché. It is film”s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel (and that sequence in A Clockwork Orange the equivalent of pissing on it).
Gene Kelly – Singin’ In The Rain
Also recorded by: Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland; John Serry Sr, Lena Horne, John Martyn, Sammy Davis Jr, Taco, Lou Rawls, Jamie Cullum, Mint Royale a.o.
Best version: The one you can play while jumping in puddles while wearing shiny shoes, a suit and a hat.

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  1. Richard
    September 9th, 2008 at 14:15 | #1

    I’m enjoying this series of covers vs originals. :-)One thought, surely the ‘yikes’ in the ‘Beyond the sea’ segment ought to follow Barry Manilow?*ducks and runs, grinning*Richard

  2. Anonymous
    September 9th, 2008 at 17:43 | #2

    The Shel Silverstein song seems to be a near copy (music not lyrics) of Mickey Newhart’s ‘San Francisco Mabel Joy’, another tradegy story song. Let’s call it a heavy influence rather than plagarism because there is a thin line between the two in music and one thing I’d never accuse Shel Silverstein of is a lack of originality.First time at your blog and look listen further to other postings soon. Thanks for sharing your music and thoughts. Dave

  3. Bill
    September 9th, 2008 at 20:52 | #3

    Never forget that Sha Na Na was at Woodstock. I can decide if that says more about Woodstock or Sha Na Na. Maybe both.

  4. Peewit
    September 9th, 2008 at 21:05 | #4

    I’ve always thought that Darts were a vastly underrated band. I saw them at Uni well after their peak but it was a great night out. More Darts form all bloggers please!

  5. Lizzle-ba-Dizzle
    September 11th, 2008 at 02:55 | #5

    It’s me, girl with the computer-illiterate aunt… just piping up to say that we LOVE this series! :) Every new paragraph I read (aloud), either my aunt or I (or both of us) exclaims, “THAT WAS A COVER?” and of course we have to pause to listen to the various versions of the song. Thanks again for the excellent reading and listening material!

  6. Anonymous
    October 31st, 2008 at 09:29 | #6

    This is so much fun. I thought I was an expert, but I’m constantly stunned. Very stunned. Having problems with Zshare, though. Any chance you could upload New Vaudeville band to Divshare?

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