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The Originals – 1960s Vol. 1

April 25th, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

 

In this instalment of The Originals we look at some of the lesser-known first releases of songs that would become huge 1960s hits for others, starting with (what I will assume is) the innocence of My Boy Lollipop and ending with the national anthem of Orgasmia. There are 30 songs on the mix; I’m telling the story of 17 of them. Of the remaining 13, it may be noted that two were written by Laura Nyro, the one featured here in her first recording and the later Blood, Sweat & Tears hit And When I Die.

So, get a good cup of the hit beverage of your choice, settle in and enjoy the journey through the originals of 1960s classics.

 

My Boy Lollipop

Millie’s My Boy Lollipop, widely regarded as the first crossover ska hit which helped give reggae a mainstream audience. In its original version, My Boy Lollypop (note the original spelling) was a song recorded in 1956 by the white R&B singer Barbie Gaye, at 15 two years younger than Millie Small was when she had a hit with the cover in 1964.

As so often in pop history, the story of the song’s authorship is cloaked in controversy. By most accounts, it was written by Bobby Spencer of the doo wop band The Cadillacs, with the group’s manager, Johnny Roberts, getting co-writer credit. Barbie Gaye’s single became a very minor hit, championed by the legendary rock & roll DJ Alan Freed. It was Spencer’s misfortune to come into contact with the notorious mafia-connected record executive and music publisher Morris Levy, who implausibly claimed that he had in fact written My Boy Lollypop, using the moniker R Spencer as a pseudonym. The real Spencer was later reinstated on the credits which nonetheless still list Levy as a co-writer. Levy’s name is attached to other classics which he had no hand in writing, such as Lee Dorsey’s Ya Ya, Frankie Lymon’s Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and The Rivieras’ California Sun. We’ll encounter him again in the story of the next song in this post.

My Boy Lollipop was revived in 1964 by Chris Blackwell, boss of the nascent Island Records label in England, which had recorded no big hit yet. He chose young Millicent Small to record it. As half of the duo Roy & Millie she had already enjoyed a hit with We’ll Meet in Jamaica. Her version changed Island’s fortunes: the song became a worldwide hit, reaching #2 in both US and UK. Island, of course, went on to become the label of Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer and U2.

Hanky Panky

Among the inhabitants of cubicles with pianos at the Brill Building in New York were Ellie Greenwich (who in her earlier singing had named herself Ellie Gaye in tribute to Barbie Gaye) and her husband Jeff Barry, who together wrote so many of the songs we now associate with Phil Spector’s girl groups. In 1963, Greenwich and Barry recorded a demo of a song called What A Guy. It was intended for a doo-wop group called The Sensations, but the band’s label, Jubilee, was so impressed with demo’s girl-band style (which was in fact Greenwich’s multi-tracked voice, with Barry providing bass voice) that they decided to release it, in the name of the songwriters’ band, The Raindrops.

Trouble was that Greenwich and Barry had no song for the flip-side, so they thrashed out Hanky Panky in the space of 20 minutes. They were not particularly satisfied with the song, and when a group called The Summits released it soon after as the b-side of He’s An Angel (or it might have been released before What A Guy came out; it’s unclear), it didn’t do brisk business either.

And yet, the song had become popular among garage rock live bands, including one called The Spinners (not the soul band), from whom the teenage musician Tommy Jackson heard it. He recorded it with his band, The Shondells, in 1964 at a radio station in Michigan. It was a local hit, but Tommy decided to break up his band and complete his schooling. The following year he was contacted by a Pittsburgh DJ who had discovered the record and now wanted Tommy and his Shondells to perform it on air. He hurriedly put together a new line-up of Shondells, and changed his name to Tommy James. He then sold the 1964 master to Roulette Records, which released it without remixing, never mind re-recording it. The single went to #1 in July 1966. James later explained in a Billboard interview: “I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that.”

There is a great story of how the small New York-based Roulette label got to release Hanky Panky. It seems that a whole gang of labels, some of them majors, wanted to buy the record. Suddenly, one after another, they withdrew their offers, much to Tommy James’ surprised dismay. In the end Jerry Wexler of Atlantic told the singer, still a teenager, what was going on: Roulette’s Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesch Rabkin is based) had called all rival labels telling them that Hanky Panky belonged to him. Intimidated, the rivals bought the bluff, and James had to go with Levy.

Needles And Pins
Needles And Pins was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nietzsche and first recorded by the vastly underrated Jackie DeShannon in 1963, crossing the Atlantic the same year in Petula Clark’s version before the Searchers finally scored a hit with it in 1964 (DeShannon’s version, while not a hit in the US, topped the Canadian charts). The story goes that The Searchers first heard Needles And Pins being performed by Cliff Bennett at the Star Club in Hamburg and immediately decided that the song should be their next single. It became the second of their three UK #1 hits. They did retain DeShannon’s pronunciation of “now-ah”, “begins-ah” and “pins-ah”.

 

I’m Into Something Good
In the late 1950s Ethel “Earl-Jean” McCrea was a member of the R&B girl group The Cookies, which was absorbed into Ray Charles’ backing band, The Raelettes. Only Earl-Jean didn’t join the backing singer gig, instead becoming part of a new incarnation of The Cookies, who recorded the original of The Beatles’ Chains.

The Cookies did much demo work for Carole King and Gerry Goffin at Aldon Music, doing backing vocals on pop songs such as Little Eva’s The Loco-motion (it was through Earl-Jean’s recommendation that King and Goffin employed Little Eva as a babysitter) and Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Along the way, they had a top ten hit with Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby.

Earl-Jean left The Cookies in 1964 to try for a solo career, and it was King and Goffin who wrote her first (and only) solo hit: I’m Into Something Good, released on Colpix Records. It did a creditable job, climbing to #38 in the Billboard charts. Alas, her follow-up single, Randy, didn’t do as well, and when in 1966 Colpix folded, her solo career was over.

In Britain, the record producer Mickey Most – fresh from discovering The Animals – had heard I’m Into Something Good, and decided it was a perfect vehicle for his new protéges, Herman’s Hermits. The single became a UK #1 hit in September 1964, and then went on to reach #13 in the US, ringing in a golden period for Herman’s Hermits, who remarkably became the best-selling act in the United States in 1965, ahead of even The Beatles

Galveston

Jimmy Webb sat on the beach of Galveston on the hurricane-plagued Gulf of Mexico when he wrote this song, which might appear to be about the “Spanish-American War” (which we really should call the Cuban Independence War) but was just as applicable to the Vietnam War, which in 1966 was starting to heat up (“While I watch the cannons flashing, I clean my gun and dream of Galveston” and “I’m so afraid of dying”). The composer subsequently said it was about the Vietnam War but at other times also denied it. Whatever Webb had in mind, its theme is universal about any soldier who’d rather be home than on the killing fields.

The original of Galveston was recorded by the relatively obscure Don Ho, a Hawaiian lounge singer and TV star who was known for appearing with red shades and died in 2007 aged 76. Campbell later said that, while in Hawaii, Ho turned him om to Galveston. Campbell sped it up a bit to create his moving version. Apparently, after “giving” the song to Campbell, Ho would not sing it any more.

Gentle On My Mind
Another Glen Campbell hit. Even without a chorus, Gentle On My Mind made a great impact when it first appeared in the late 1960s. John Hartford, who wrote the song, picked up two Grammys for best folk performance and best country song, but that was eclipsed by Glen Campbell, for whom it became a signature tune (literally; it was the theme of his 1969-72 TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, on which Hartford frequently appeared). Campbell, who discovered the song when he heard Hartford’s record on the radio, also won two Grammys for his version, for best country recording and solo performance.

Gentle On My Mind was not a typical John Hartford number. The singer is better known for his bluegrass roots which found expression in his accomplished use of the banjo and fiddle (shortly before his death at 63 in 2001, Hartford won another Grammy for his contributions to the bluegrass soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Hartford – the son of a New York doctor who grew up in St Louis and later acquired a steamboat pilot licence – said that he wrote Gentle On My Mind after watching the film Doctor Zhivago. “While I was writing it, if I had any idea that was going to be a hit, it probably would have come out differently and it wouldn’t have been a hit. That just came real fast, a blaze, a blur.” The song is said to have spawned some 300 cover versions.

 

Guantanamera
A patriotic Cuban song, Guantanamera came into the US via Pete Seeger, who used it (with the translated lyrics of the island’s independence hero José Marti) to promote peace during the time of the Missile Crisis. It became a worldwide hit in 1966 in the version by easy listening crooners The Sandpipers. The song’s origins go back to 1928 at the latest, when Cuban singer Joseíto Fernández improvised commentary on current affairs to the song’s tune on his radio programme. The earliest recording of Guantanamera seems to be that made in New York by the Cuban dance band Cuarteto Caney. Led by Fernando Storch, the band (which, contrary to its name, at times had up to seven members) did much to popularise Cuban music in the US in the 1930s and ’40s.

Yeh-YehWritten by jazz musicians Rodgers Grant (piano) and Laurdine “Pat” Patrick (saxophone), Yeh-Yeh was first recorded in 1963 by Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaría, whose band Grant and Patrick were members of at the time. Still an instrumental — though Santamaría’s single version includes what might be described as vocal ticks — it appeared on his Watermelon Man album. It soon came to the attention of jazz singer Jon Hendricks, one of the great purveyors of scat singing and a third of the jazz-vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Hendricks had a long line of instrumental songs to which he added lyrics, doing so most famously for an album of Count Basie standards. Hendricks recorded Yeh-Yeh with the trio, in which Yalande Bavan had by now replaced Annie Ross, for the At Newport ’63 live album.

Here Comes The Night
Sometimes in pop, as we have already seen in this series (and see again), a song written for a particular artist is not always the first to be recorded by them. Or, in this case, by Them. Here Comes The Night was written by Bert Berns, the Brill Building graduate whose songwriting credits included Twist And Shout, Hang On Sloopy, Tell Him and Piece Of My Heart. His splendid career was cut short by his sudden death at 39 from a heart attack in late 1967. Somehow, possibly because they were labelmates on Decca with Them, Lulu & the Luvvers (she ditched the backing band in 1966; the same year Van Morrison ditched Them) got to go first with Here Comes The Night in 1964. This, their third single flopped, reaching only #50 in Britain. Them’s version, with Jimmy Page on guitar, was released in May 1965, peaking at #2 in the UK and #24 in the US.

 

Dream A Little Dream Of Me
Dream A Little Dream Of Me is one of those songs where one cannot pinpoint a definitive “most famous” performance or hit version. To some, it’s Mama Cass’ song. Others will remember it as Frankie Laine’s or Ella Fitzgerald’s song. Written by Fabian André and Wilbur Schwandt — there are claims that one Milton Adolphus wrote it —with lyrics by Gus Kahn, it was first recorded on 16 February 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra, with Ozzie on vocals and Jack Teagarden on trombone, beating a recording by Wayne King’s orchestra by two days. Ozzie, who had a radio and then TV show with his wife Harriet Hilliard and two sons — the late rock & roll singer Ricky Nelson and TV producer David— got his break in 1930 when as an unknown he won a popularity poll by the New York Daily News. Realising that kiosk vendors claimed for unsold newspapers with only the torn-off front page, Ozzie and pals picked up the discarded newspapers and filled in the poll forms in their favour. The ruse worked, and throughout the 1930s, Ozzie and his orchestra enjoyed a fine run of success — even if their version of Dream A Little Dream Of Me was not a hit.

The song seems to have maintained a presence in many concert repertoires. But it made a big comeback with the versions by Laine and Fitzgerald only in 1950. It made the rounds in the jazz and easy listening circles, but it required the death of one of its co-writers to cross over into pop. Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas grew up knowing Fabian André as a family friend. When he died in 1967, after falling down an elevator shaft, she (or possibly Cass Elliott) proposed that the band record the song Michelle remembered from her childhood. A decision was made that Cass should sing it solo, and when the song was released as a single, it was credited in the US to Mama Cass with The Mamas and The Papas (elsewhere just to Mama Cass). A re-recorded version also appeared on Cass’ debut album, not coincidentally titled Dream A Little Dream.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
Pino Donaggio is best known as a composer of the scores for films such as Don’t Look Now, Carrie and Dressed To Kill. But before that, he was a big pop star in Italy, having abandoned the classical training he received as a teenager (and which prepared him for his soundtrack career) for pop after performing with Paul Anka in the late 1950s.

He performed Io che non vivo (senza te), which he wrote with Vito Pallavicini, at the San Remo Festival in 1965 with the country singer Jody Miller. Dusty Springfield was there and then asked Vicki Wickham, producer of the British music TV show Ready Steady Go! and a songwriter, to set the song to English lyrics for her. Wickham asked Simon Napier-Bell (one-time manager of the Yardbirds, Marc Bolan and Wham!) to help her. Napier-Bell later remembered that they wrote the lyrics in a taxi. Springfield’s version (reportedly recorded in 47 takes) was released in 1966 and became one of her signature hits.

Universal Soldier

Early in the Vietnam War, Canadian folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie saw an injured soldier return from active duty and decided to write an anti-war song. It would become one of the most potent songs in the peace movement, even if her good advice to you and me evidently has not been taken. By her own account, the song was written in a Toronto café to impress a college professor, Buffy, then in her early 20s, sold the rights to Universal Soldier to a man she had just met in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight Café, for a dollar (the contract was written on a paper napkin). Two decades later she bought the rights back for $25,000. In the interim, she made it on the White House’s blacklist for her anti-Vietnam and Native American rights activities, spent five years on Sesame Street (on which she breastfed her child), in 1966 became the first singer to release a quadraphonic album (4.0 stereo) and apparently the first to release an album on the Internet (in 1991). She also co-wrote Up Where We Belong, the hit for Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes from 1981’s An Officer And A Gentleman, with then-husband Jack Nitzsche.

The year before Sainte-Marie released Universal Soldier on her 1964 debut album, It’s My Way, it was recorded by folk-group The Highwaymen (not to be confused with the country supergroup), who enjoyed their commercial peak in 1960 with the hit version of Michael (Row The Boat Ashore). It’s not clear how the Highwaymen got to record Universal Soldier first; one may guess that they were given the song by Buffy’s new friend from the Gaslight Café. Released as a single and on the group’s penultimate album, March On Brothers, it was not a huge success.

Universal Soldier’s breakthrough came with the version by Scottish folkie Donovan, who released it in 1965 at the age of 19, having already two UK Top 10 hits with Catch The Wind and Colours. Young Mr Leitch’s softer version, which adopted Buffy’s arrangement (and using strange pronunciation of the name Dachau). Released as an EP in Britain, it topped the EP charts there and reached #14 in the singles charts.

 

Green, Green Grass Of Home
Written by Claude “Curly” Putman Jr, the execution ballad Green, Green Grass Of Home was first recorded by Johnny Darrell, the ill-fated associate of the Outlaw Country movement. Darrell’s 1965 version failed to make much of a splash, but country star Porter Wagoner did gain some attention with his recording made in June 1965. Both versions communicate empathy with the protagonist, a dead-man-walking who is awakening from a dream of being reunited in freedom with the scenes of his childhood but in fact is awaiting his execution in the presence of the “old padre” (not “peartree” or “partridge”).

Tom Jones was introduced to the song through Jerry Lee Lewis’ version, also a country affair recorded a few months after Wagoner’s, and proceeded to turn it into hackneyed easy listening, selling more than a million records of it in 1966. Who said pop was fair?

Those Were The Days
It’s difficult to say which version of the Mary Hopkin hit Those Were The Days should be regarded as the original. Strictly speaking, it’s a Russian song called Dorogoi dlinnoyu, which was first recorded in 1925 by Georgian singer Tamara Tsereteli. It reached the West in 1953 when it was sung by Russian singer Ludmila Lopato in the film Innocents in Paris. It was subsequently recorded by folk icon Theodore Bikel. Enter Greenwich Village folkie type and playwright Gene Raskin who wrote English lyrics for his singer-wife Francesca, and then summarily copyrighted not only the words but the music as well.

Folk band The Limeliters first recorded the song in 1962. Six years later Paul McCartney heard it performed by the Raskins in a London club, and decided Mary Hopkin should record it on Apple Records. She did and had a worldwide hit with it. The song would be used in ads, and Raskin – by then an academic who surely reviled plagiarism – became very rich from the royalties. Today he’d be sued to kingdom come, but those were the days…

 

Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying
It’s not really fair to call Gerry & The Pacemakers “usurpers” of Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, since the song was written by Gerry Marsden and his fellow Pacemakers. But before they could record it, Decca had teenage singer Louise Cordet commit it to record. Cordet, who had a minor single hit in 1962 with I’m Just A Baby, was among the supporting acts ion the 1963 Beatles/Roy Orbison tour of the UK. Also on the bill were Gerry & The Pacemakers. And it was their George Martin-produced version of Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying that became a huge hit soon after Cordet released her record. Cordet is the god-daughter of Prince Philip, on account of her parents’ friendship with the exiled Greek royals, and the mother of singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch.

Good Lovin’
One of the defining songs of the 1960s, Good Lovin’ was first recorded by soul singer Lemme B. Good, but co-writer Rudy Clark wasn’t happy with the lyrics. Soon after, soul group The Olympics recorded the song with tweaked lyrics. Their Jerry Ragavoy-produced version was recorded with practically the same arrangement by The Rascals, who had the huge hit with it. Lemme B. Goode, real name Limmie Snell, went on to found Limmie & Family Cookin’ which had two UK Top 10 hits in the 1970s.

Je t’aime… moi non plus
The story goes that the national anthem of Orgasmia, Je t’aime… moi non plus, was written in 1967 by Serge Gainsbourg at the request of Brigitte Bardot, who did record it but asked Gainsbourg to withdraw its release. Her version came out in 1986, almost two decades after Jane Birkin had a hit with it. Bardot’s version is the first recorded with that title and that arrangement. But already in 1966 the Gainsbourg composition was recorded under the title Scène de Bal by arranger Michel Colombier for the film Les cœurs verts. So effectively there are three originals: Colombier’s Scène de Bal, Bardot’s unreleased recording, and Birkin’s 1969 release.

As always, the mix fits on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments.

1. Barbie Gaye – My Boy Lollipop (1956)
The Usurper: Millie (1964)

2. Earl-Jean – I’m Into Something Good (1964)
The Usurper: Herman”™s Hermits (1964)

3. The Exciters – Do-Wah-Diddy (1963)
The Usurper: Manfred Mann (1964)

4. The Four Voices – Sealed With A Kiss (1960)
The Usurper: Brian Hyland (1962)

5. Jackie DeShannon – Needles And Pins (1963)
The Usurper: The Searchers (1964)

6. The Raindrops – Hanky Panky (1965)
The Usurper: Tommy James and the Shondells (1966)

7. The Outsiders – Bend Me, Shape Me (1966)
The Usurper: The American Breed (1967)

8. Lulu & The Luvvers – Here Comes The Night (1964)
The Usurper: Them (1965)

9. The Valentinos – It’s All Over Now (1964)
The Usurper: The Rolling Stones (1964)

10. Frankie Valli – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore (1965)
The Usurper: The Walker Brothers (1966)

11. Peter, Paul & Mary – And When I Die (1966)
The Usurper: Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969)

12. The Highwaymen – Universal Soldier (1963)
The Usurper: Donovan (1965)

13. The Limeliters – Those Were The Days (1962)
The Usurper: Mary Hopkin (1968)

14. Cuarteto Caney – Guajira Guantanamera (1938)
The Usurper: The Sandpipers (as Guantanamera, 1966)

15. Mongo Santamaria – Yeh-Yeh (1963)
The Usurper: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (1965)

16. Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1931)
The Usurper: The Mamas & The Papas (1968)

17. Tony Bennett – Blue Velvet (1951)
The Usurper: Bobby Vinton (1963)

18. Eddie Miller – Release Me (1950)
The Usurpers: Ray Price (1954), Engelbert Humperdinck (1967)

19. Johnny Darrell – Green, Green Grass Of Home (1965)
The Usurpers: Porter Wagoner (1965), Tom Jones (1966)

20. Don Ho with The Oak Ridge Strings – Galveston (1968)
The Usurper: Glen Campbell (1969)

21. Pino Donaggio – Io che non vivo (senza te) (1965)
The Usurper: Dusty Springfield (as You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, 1965)

22. Louise Cordet – Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (1964)
The “Usurper”: Gerry and the Pacemakers (1964)

23. Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues (1966)
The Usurper: The 5th Dimension (1969)

24. Lemme B. Good – Good Lovin’ (1965)
The Usurper: The Young Rascals (1966)

25. Sam the Sham & Pharaohs – Ready Or Not (Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie) (1966)
The Usurper: Jay & the Techniques (as Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, 1967)

26. Will-O-Bees – Make You Own Kind Of Music (1968)
The Usurper: Mama Cass Elliot (1969)

27. Vicky Leandros – L’amour Est Bleu (1967)
The Usurper: Paul Mauriat (as Love Is Blue, 1967)

28. John Hartford – Gentle On My Mind (1967)
The Usurper: Glen Campbell (1967)

29. The Stokes – Whipped Cream (1965)
The Usurper: Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass (1965)

30. Michel Colombier – Scéne de Bal (1966)
The Usurper: Jane Birkin (as Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus, 1968)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    April 25th, 2019 at 07:20 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Brad
    April 27th, 2019 at 13:21 | #2

    Dude,
    Thanks yet again for another in the Originals series. Your research and commentary are as interesting and entertaining as the songs themselves. I’ll be passing copies along to friends who enjoy this series as much as I do. It’s really interesting to hear these after years of only knowing the hit versions. Many thanks.
    Brad

  3. Rhodb
    April 27th, 2019 at 23:28 | #3

    Great work

    Love the original concept and appreciate the effort in documenting the history of each song.

    Regards

    Rhodb

  4. Col
    April 30th, 2019 at 08:41 | #4

    Well – blow me down! I thought I knew a lot about most of those songs, but you’ve taught me even more. Very well researched and my heartfelt thanks for such an informative report. Thank you once again.

  5. Paul
    May 2nd, 2019 at 22:58 | #5

    What a wealth of information you share! I thought I knew a lot about music and then I found your site and discovered I actually knew very little.

    Thanks for your hard work.

  6. Dan G.
    May 7th, 2019 at 04:48 | #6

    Dusty Springfield recorded Pino Donaggio’s song as “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” not “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.” It’s right in the song listing, but not the discussion paragraph above.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Don%27t_Have_to_Say_You_Love_Me

  7. halfhearteddude
    May 24th, 2019 at 18:35 | #7

    Indeed. Lapse of concentration. I’ve fixed it in the text; thanks for your eagle-eye.

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