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The Originals Vol. 43

August 11th, 2011 3 comments

In this instalment we look at the lesser known originals for five hits from the 1970s. Regular readers with exceptionally good memories might have a déjà vu movement: two of the songs I”ve done before. But I was not satisfied with one, and recently was sent by a kind soul a crucial sound file for the other.

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Johnny Bristol ““ Love Me For A Reason (1974).mp3
The Osmonds ““ Love Me For A Reason (1974).mp3

Johnny Bristol is probably best-remembered for his excellent mid-“70s soul hit Hang On In There Baby. We have encountered him previously in this series, in The Originals Vol. 37, as one of Johnny & Jackie who co-wrote and recorded the first version of Diana Ross and The Supremes” Someday We”ll Be Together.

A producer of many Motown records and after 1973 for CBS (where he produced such acts as Randy Crawford, Boz Scaggs and Marlena Shaw), he resumed his recording career in 1974. Among the tracks on his rather good Hang On In There, Baby album was Love Me For A Reason, a song Bristol co-wrote with David Jones and Wade Bowen.

Bristol recorded on MGM records where the prolific producer and arranger Mike Curb ran he show. Curb was, it is fair to say, a man of uncompromising conservative opinion. He later became a Republican politician, but while at MGM, he fired a reported 18 acts from the label for using or supposedly promoting drugs. Among them were Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground.

One act in no danger of Curb”s axe was The Osmonds, the squeaky clean and impossibly toothy Mormon brothers who had produced a string of hits for MGM. Their version of Johnny Bristol”s hit became a US #10 pop hit in 1974 ““ their last. In Britain it topped the charts (and they”d have another top 5 hit there in 1975), inspiring a hugely successful cover version 20 years later by Boyzone, the Ronan Keating-led band that traded in unwelcome remakes of old hits.

Also recorded by: The Hiltonaires (1974), Boyzone (1994), Studio 99 (1999), As We Speak (1994), State Of The Heart (1996), Bruno Bertone (2000), Fabulous 5 (2003)

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Gene Cotton – Let Your Flow (1975)
Bellamy Brothers – Let Your Flow (1976)

It might have been a hit for Neil Diamond. Written by one of the lamé-jacketed star”s roadies, Larry E Williams, it was offered first to Diamond. He declined to record it (as did Johnny Rivers), which perhaps was just as well. Instead the song came to country/folk singer-songwriter Gene Cotton, who recorded it for his 1975 album For All The Young Writers.

While Cotton”s version went nowhere, Neil Diamond”s drummer suggested it to his friends David and Howard Bellamy, the country duo The Bellamy Brothers. Their recording became one of the biggest hits of the decade and gave the brothers” their international breakthrough hit. In West Germany Let Your Love Flow topped the charts in summer 1976 for six weeks until it was knocked off by its German version by Jürgen Drews, formerly of the Les Humphries Singers, which went by the peculiar title Ein Bett im Kornfeld (A bed in the wheat field).

Also recorded by: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn (1976), Jürgen Drews (as Ein Bett im Kornfeld, 1976), Roy Etzel (1976), Les Humphries Singers And Orchestra (1976), Lynn Anderson (1977), Del Reeves & Billie Jo Spears (1977), Karel Gott (as Běž za svou láskou, 1978),Joan Baez (1979), John Holt (1982), Ray Charles (1983), Audrey Landers (1986), Solomon Burke (1993), Tom Jones (1998), John Davidson (1999), Dana Winner (2001), Jan Keizer (2001), Tamra Rosanes (2002), Dream Dance, Inc. (2005), Collin Raye (2005), Fenders (2006) a.o.

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Art Reynolds Singers – Jesus Is Just Alright (1966)
The Byrds ““ Jesus Is Just All Right (1969)
The Doobie Brothers – Jesus Is Just All Right (1972)

In the 1970s there was a fashion of rock groups singing songs about Jesus. Perhaps it was a fashion inspired by the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Or maybe some really were just into Jesus. So the Doobie Brothers, a band named after a synonym for a joint, had a hit with Jesus Is Just All Right in 1972.

The original of the song was recorded by the Art Reynolds Singers in 1966. It was written by the band”s leader, Arthur Reid Reynolds, apparently as a riposte to John Lennon”s “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” comment. Present at that recording session was Gene Parsons, the drummer of The Byrds, who introduced the song to his bandmates who in turn recorded it for their 1969 LP Ballad Of Easy Rider.

The Byrds” version provided the template for the Doobie Brothers 1972 cover. The Doobies added a middle section to the original, with new, even more emphatically Christ-supporting lyric, sung by guitarist Pat Simmons: “Jesus, He”s my friend; Jesus, He”s my friend; He took me by the hand, far from this land; Jesus, He”s my friend.” Oddly enough, none of the Doobies were known to be Christians, but the Christians loved it, throwing Bibles on to the stage at Doobie Brothers gigs and making the One Way (up) handsigns.

Also recorded by: The Underground Sunshine (1970), 1776 (1970), Sister Kate Taylor (1971), Ronnie Dyson (1972), Exile (1973), DC Talk (1992), Shelagh McDonald (2005), Robert Randolph & The Family Band feat Eric Clapton (2006), Eric McFadden (2010)

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Jim Weatherly ““ Midnight Plain To Houston (1972)
Cissy Houston  ““ Midnight Train To Georgia (1973)
Gladys Knight & the Pips ““ Midnight Train To Georgia (1973)
Neil Diamond – Midnight Train To Georgia (2010)

In 1972 former All-American quarterback Jim Weatherly released a country song that told of a girl whose fading dream of stardom in Los Angeles led not to a life of waitressing or pornography, but ended on a plane back to her home in Texas. In fact, Weatherley initially wanted his protagonist”s dreams shattered in Nashville, for his genre was country music.

The choice of Houston as the failed star”s home was inspired, according to Weatherley, by the actress Farrah Fawcett, who at the time was more famous for dating Lee Majors than her thespian accomplishments. “One day I called Lee and Farrah answered the phone,” Weatherly later told songfacts.com. “We were just talking and she said she was packing. She was gonna take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. So, it just stayed with me. After I got off the phone, I sat down and wrote the song probably in about 30 to 45 minutes.”

Some months later, the Janus label sought permission to record the song with Cissy Houston, but asked whether they could adapt the lyrics to make the destination Georgia (seeing as Ms Houston going to Houston might seem a bit awkward). Weatherly accepted that, as well as a change in the mode of transport.

Whitney”s mom’s lovely performance became a minor hit in 1973. Gladys Knight heard it and decided to record it with her Pips. Houston”s endearing version might have been the template, but Knights” cover demonstrates the genius of the sometimes unjustly ridiculed Pips. What would Gladys Knight”s interpretation be without the interplay with and interjections by her backing singers: “A superstar, well he didn”t get far”, “I know you will”, “Gotta go, gonna board the midnight train”¦” and, of course, the choo-choo “Hoo hoo”s?

It was fortuitous that Georgia was also Knight”s homestate. The song also sparked a collaboration with Weatherley with whose songs Knight populated the Imagination album on which Midnight Train appears.

Also recorded by: Ferrante & Teicher (1974), Connie Eaton (1974), Lynn Anderson (1982), Indigo Girls (1995), Sandra Bernhard (1998), Renee Geyer (2003), Jasmine Trias (2004), Paris Bennett (2006), Human Nature (2006), Joan Osborne (2007), Emma Wood (2009), Neil Diamond (2010), Sandrine (2010) a.o.

Larry Weiss ““ Rhinestone Cowboy (1974)
Glen Campbell ““ Rhinestone Cowboy (1975)

Larry Weiss was, and still is, a prolific songwriter (we read about him recently as one of the singers of the theme of Who’s The Boss). In the 1960s, he co-wrote hits such as Bend Me Shape Me, Hi Ho Silver Lining and Spooky Tooth”s Evil Woman. Sporadically he also recorded his own songs. One of these was Rhinestone Cowboy, inspired by a phrase he had overheard in a conversation. The song appeared on Weiss” Black And Blue Suite album, and it was released as a single (at least in West Germany).

The story goes that Glen Campbell heard the song on the car radio as he was on his way to a meeting with his record company, and thought about suggesting to record it. But before he had the opportunity to do so, the record company presented their own bright idea: how about this Rhinestone Cowboy song by Larry Weiss.

In the original version, Weiss sounds much like his old Brill Building chum Neil Diamond. Campbell made the song his own, with that soaring voice which expresses such a forfeit of hope. Released in May 1975, it went on to top the pop and country charts simultaneously, the first time that had been done since 1961.

In 1984, Weiss finally got a project he had been working on realised ““ a movie starring Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone. Its title: Rhinestone.

Also recorded by: Slim Whitman (1976), Bert Kaempfert (1976), Charley Pride (1977), Tony Christie (1978), White Town (1997), David Hasselhoff (2004), Jan Keizer (2004) a.o.

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More Originals

Step back to 1976 – Part 2

March 16th, 2010 11 comments

The long, hot summer of 1976 brought changes in my life. I had graduated from primary school, and at the age of ten would attend a high school which included in its student population bearded old hippies, some of them as old as 18. And in the summer we were packed off to a church camp while my parents went on holiday in France, the first time we didn”t all go on holiday together.

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Bellamy Brothers – Let Your Love Flow.mp3
The big summer hit of 1976, in its original form by the country music siblings and in its German version, titled Ein Bett im Kornfeld, by Jürgen Drews (like Boney M”s Liz Mitchell an alumnus of the Les Humphries Singers). I certainly wouldn”t have recorded this on my cassette recorder. In fact, it still reminds me of my miserable time on church camp, at which my older brother was a youth leader. For reasons probably related to his being a 16-year-old teenager on a power-trip, he asserted his fascist ascendancy through the brutal persecution of yours truly (my little brother, blond and the youngest in the group, enjoyed the protection of all the girls whom older brother fancied). Sturmtruppenoberführer Big Brother did get his just desserts towards the end of the camp when an insect bite gave him mild blood poisoning. He would be a youth leader again the following year, but that camp turned out to be one of the best fortnights in my life.

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Boney M – Daddy Cool.mp3
Much as I hate to admit it, this is a pretty good song. Indeed, if Boney M hadn”t jumped the Zugspitze after 1977 with shocking songs like Rivers Of Babylon, Hooray Hooray It”s A Holi-Holiday and the hilariously bad “We Kill The World”, they (or Frank Farian, whom we met in part 1 of 1976) might be remembered with greater respect. Daddy Cool, Ma Baker, Belfast and their cover of Sunny are fine disco-pop songs, even if the lyrics were exceptionally bad, especially those of Belfast. And to a boy about to enter puberty, the covers of the first two LPs, featuring the three exotic ladies in various states of undress, were rather appealing. Though I did hope that as a grown up there would be no circumstances that would compel me, by dint of being an adult, to wear anything as absurd as Bobby Farrell”s gold underpants.

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Johnny Wakelin – In Zaire.mp3
Mohammad Ali vs George Foreman. The Rumble in the Jungle. Back in the day, I was actually a Joe Frazier fan, and was delighted to find among my late father”s possessions an autograph by the great man (since faded, alas). He also had an autographed picture of the erstwhile Cassius Clay, obtained when he interviewed The Greatest in 1966 in London while covering the football World Cup there. Sadly, that autograph has gone missing. In Zaire is a novelty number, obviously (Wakelin made a career of novelty songs). And yet, the African percussive beat, though entirely hackneyed, were an innovation in the upper reaches of the pop charts of the day. Wakelin was something of a Muhammad Ali cheerleader: a year before In Zaire, he had a UK hit with Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)..

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David Dundas – Jeans On.mp3
As I mentioned in the introduction, after finishing Grade 4 I departed the safe cocoon that was primary school for the local gymnasium (the highest of Germany”s three tiered school system). My father had gone to the same school, and my elder brother was a student at the converted medieval monastery. My father, whose politics were centre-left, knew that the school”s teaching body comprised many old Nazis, people whom he knew back in the bad old days. Still, he sent me to that hell hole. The teachers were gruseome. The severe German teacher, who”d enter the classroom with big strides and purposefully bang his bag on the table by way of intimidation; the unpleasant religion teacher (doubtless one of the old Nazis) whose forbidding theology I could not follow because I was hypnotised by the strand of white slime that invariably moved between his lips; the geography teacher (definitely a Nazi) who had us standing to attention when he entered the classroom, stopping short from having us salute him with a raised arm; and the biggest bastard of them all: the coach, who systematically robbed me of all my self-confidence because I was not quite the legendary sportsman whom he believed my father to be. And David Dundas” Jeans On provided the soundtrack to my miserable time there.

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Sherbet ““ Howzat.mp3
I am certain that if cricket had caught on in Germany in good time, the country would have become quite excellent at it. Look at the German national football teams who have a way of hitting form at just the right time. That”s the secret to test cricket: winning the decisive sessions, coming back from setbacks, maintaining pressure on equally or more talented opposition. Basically the attributes that made Australia so domineering a side for a decade until a couple of years ago. Cricket fans will know why I”m yabbering on about what really is a minority sport (but huge in India, so in terms of numbers, it”s a significant discipline). The word “Howzat” is typically shouted by bowlers (they are like the pitcher in baseball) when the ball hits the batsman (that”s the guy with the bat) on the leg in a certain position, which the umpire may declare illegal and give the batsman out. Sherbet, being Australian, employed that cricketing term to give a cheating girlfriend “out” (they use another cricket term when they inform the girl: “I caught you out”). None of that made sense to me at the time, of course, even had I known about cricket. After all, I had started learning English only a couple of months before this became a minor hit in West-Germany.

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Tina Rainford – Silver Bird.mp3
If one wanted to locate a song with English lyrics as a good example of what a German Schlager sounds like, Silver Bird would be a most astute choice. Indeed, it was written by a Schlager producer, Drafi Deutscher (an old friend of Rainford”s whose “60s hit Marmor, Stein und Eisen is one of the few truly great Schlager), under the pseudonym Renate Vaplus. It is a song of its time, recalling the likes of Pussycat and the George Baker Selection “” and, indeed, ABBA in their Schlager phase. It was a massive hit. Quite bizarrely, Silver Bird also reached the top 20 of the US country charts. I had long forgotten about this song, so when I heard it again, it proved the powerful impact of music on the long-term memory as all kinds of feelings came rushing back, beaming me back to our living room.

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Ricky King РLe r̻ve.mp3
German-speakers of my generation who may be reading this will not thank me for posting his. Ricky King was a German guitar virtuoso located firmly in the muzak genre. The Fender Statocaster wielding King, known to his granny as Hans Lingenfelder, had been a session man for assorted Schlager types when he released Verde (an instrumental adaptation of a song by the improbably named Italian duo Oliver Onions) and this song, Le rêve. I suspect the only readers who will be interested in this are fellow nostalgist on a quest to recapture the feeling of the autumn of 1976. For everybody else, Ricky King is to Jimi Hendrix as Richard Clayderman is to Al Kooper. Bernhard Brink, who sported a blond afro, recorded a quite horrible vocal version of Le rêve.

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Marianne Rosenberg – Marleen.mp3
As mentioned in Curious Germany Vol. 2, Marianne Rosenberg began her career as a maidenly teenage singer, trilling songs about Mr Paul McCartney. After doing the standard Schlager thing, Rosenberg turned to disco in 1975 with the marvellous Ich bin wie Du (also in Curious Germany Vol. 2), all the time maintaining her secretary-next-door look. Today she is a cult legend in Germany”s gay scene, a status she seems to embrace. Marleen follows the same story line as Dolly Parton”s 1974 hit Jolene (note how Marleen more or less rhymes with Jolene). Marleen is in love with Marianne”s man, and the latter begs the more beautiful (less housewifey?) Marleen to abandon her romantic designs on Marianne”s man. Just hear Rosenberg”s tortured, drawn-out cry of Marleen. And all that is set to a gentle disco beat, so that we may dance and weep at the same time. The song, like many in the Rosenberg catalogue, was co-written by Joachim Heider, whom we met previously as a member of Krautrock band Glory Be in Curious Germany Vol. 3.

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