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In Memoriam – January 2011

February 3rd, 2011 5 comments

With the death of Charlie Louvin, one of the longest-running performers in music has passed on. With his brother Ira, he started performing in the 1940s as the Louvin Brothers. The country and gospel act was massively influential. Elvis Presley was a huge fan (the brothers were his mom’s favourites). Ira, a racist drunk, died in a car crash in 1965; Charlie continued to record and perform for the next 45 years. Alas, the Louvin Brothers are often remembered only for the cover art of their 1960 album Satan Is Real (the story of which is HERE).

The Cheers’ Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots was one of the first hits for songwriters legends Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller; the motor crash song became a hit shortly after Jamers Dean’s death in 1955.

Two motor accidents claimed musicians this month. R&B keyboard man Greg Johnson reportedly stepped in front of a car in bad weather and was fatally hit, and Alex Kirst of grunge band Nymphs and later a session drummer for Iggy Pop was killed in a hit and run, apparently while walking to a shop for cigarettes.

Two musicians connected to Australia’s Little River Band died within a day of one another. Sherbet’s guitarist Harvey James was a member of the group that would become the Little River Band, and Steve Prestwich joined the band briefly after Cold Chisel broke up.

Finally, Bobby Poe’s 1964 hit with The Chartbusters included in this collection inspired Tom Hanks to make the movie That Thing You Do.

As always, songs listed with entries are in a downloadable file at the bottom of the post.

Gil Garfield, 77, member of ’50s rock & roll trio The Cheers, on January 1
The Cheers – Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots (1955)

Charles Fambrough, 60, jazz bassist and composer, on January 1
Charles Fambrough – It’s Not Easy Havin’ Fun (1997)

Verne Langdon, 69, musician and record producer, on January 1

Gerry Rafferty, 63, Scottish singer-songwriter and former member of Stealers Wheel, on January 4
Gerry Rafferty – Stealin’ Time (1978)
Stealers Wheel – Late Again (1972)

Mick Karn, 52, bassist of British new wave band Japan, on January 4
Japan – Quiet Life (12″ version, 1979)

Gustavo Kupinski, 36, guitarist with Argentinian rock band Los Piojos, in a car crash on January 4
Los Piojos – Tan solo (1999)

Grady Chapman, 81, lead singer with doo-wop band The Robins, on January 4
The Robins – Since I First Met You (1957)

Bobby Robinson, 93, record producer of acts such as Elmore James, Wilbert Harrison, King Curtis, Gladys Knight a.o., on January 7
The Shirelles – Dedicated To The One I Love (1959)
Lee Dorsey – Ya Ya (1962)

Phil Kennemore, 57, bassist of American heavy metal band Y&T, on January 7

Margaret Whiting, 86, jazz/pop singer, on January 10
Mel Torm̩ & Margaret Whiting РMake Someone Happy (1961)

Alex Kirst, 47, drummer of alternative rock band The Nymphs and for Iggy Pop, in a hit-and-run on January 13
The Nymphs – Sad And Damned (1991)

Tommy Crain, 59, guitarist of The Charlie Daniels Band, on January 13.
Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (as guitarist and co-writer, 1979)

Trish Keenan, 42, singer of British electronica group Broadcast, on January 14
Broadcast – The Book Lover (1997)

Harvey James, 58, guitarist of Australian pop group Sherbet, on January 15
Sherbet – Howzat (1976)

Steve Prestwich, 56, drummer of Australian rock band Cold Chisel and briefly the Little River Band, on January 16
Cold Chisel – Forever Now (1982)

Don Kirshner, 76, record producer, song publisher, TV host and impressario, on January 17

Greg Johnson, 58, R&B keyboard player, played with Joe Cocker, in motor accident, on January 20
Joe Cocker – Unchain My Heart (as keyboardist, 1987)

Bobby Poe, 77, singer, songwriter and promoter, on January 22
Wanda Jackson – Let’s Have A Party (as backing musician, 1960)
The Chartbusters – She’s The One (as member, 1964)

Buddy Charleton, 72, influential pedal steel guitarist and backing musician for Ernest Tubb, on January 25

Charlie Louvin, 83, country singer; half of The Louvin Brothers, on January 26
The Louvin Brothers – I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight (1956)

Gladys Horton, 66, lead singer of Motown band The Marvelettes, on January 26
The Marvelettes – Playboy (1962)

Henrik Ostergaard, 47, singer of San Francisco rock group Dirty Looks (not to be confused with the 1980s New York band), on January 27
Dirty Looks – C’mon Frenchie (1989)

John Barry, 77, British film score composer (Out Of Africa, James Bond), on January 30
John Barry – The Persuaders Theme (1971)

Doc Williams, 96, bluegrass musician and member of the Kansas Klodhoppers, on January 31.

DOWNLOAD IN MEMORIAM JANUARY 2011

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The Originals Vol. 35 – Beatles edition 2

January 22nd, 2010 8 comments

Last April “” ten editions of The Originals ago “” we looked at the first of three batches of originals covered by the Beatles. Here we revisit two tracks each from the debut Please Please Me (Anna, Boys) and 1964’s Beatles For Sale (Words Of Love, Mr Moonlight), as well as With The Beatles‘ Devil In His Heart.

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Arthur Alexander ““ Anna (Go To Him) (1962).mp3
The Beatles ““ Anna (Go To Him) (1963).mp3

Few artists will have had their original songs covered by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. Arthur Alexander did. We already observed that Elvis covered Burning Love (though Alexander didn”t write that one), Dylan covered Sally Sue Brown (in 1988), the Stones covered his You Better Move On (in 1964), and the Beatles his song Anna on their debut album. The Fabs also used to perform three other Alexander songs in concert. Not bad for a soul singer who died in relative obscurity in 1993, aged only 53. Some people even suggest that Alexander influenced John Lennon”s vocal style. McCartney in a 1987 interview said that in those early days, the group wanted to be like Arthur Alexander.

Alexander”s far superior version of Anna was not a big hit, even as it featured the great country pianist Floyd Cramer, whose keyboard riffs Harrison replicates on guitar. It did make the R&B Top 10, but stalled at #68 in the Billboard charts. Released in September 1962, the Beatles “” clearly already fans “” soon included it in their concert repertoire, and eventually recorded it in three takes on February 11, 1963, just over five weeks before their debut album was released. That day, the band recorded 10 of the album”s 14 songs, culminating with Twist And Shout (featured in the first Beatles edition of The Originals), on which Lennon”s vocals are famously shot from a long day”s session and a cold. On Anna, Lennon”s voice is noticeably enduring the effects of his malaise. Strangely, once it had been committed to record, Anna was dropped from the concert setlists. Note by the way that neither Alexander nor the Beatles actually urge Anna to go to him.

A promo single of the Beatles’ version of Anna (backed with Ask Me Why) issued by the US label Vee Jay is said to be the rarest Beatles record, with only four copies known to exist. Vee Jay changed their mind about releasing Anna, going instead for Twist And Shout, since that was going to be performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Also recorded by: Vern Rogers (1964), The Tams (1964), George Martin (1966), Humble Pie (1974), Kursaal Flyers (1977), Jack Denton (1989), Roger McGuinn (1994), L.A. Workshop with New Yorker (1995), Alan Merrill (2003)

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The Donays ““ Devil In His Heart (1962).mp3
The Beatles ““ Devil In Her Heart (1963).mp3

Devil In His Heart appeared on the With The Beatles album, but had been part of the group”s concert repertoire in 1962/63. The Beatles recorded it on July 18, 1963, two days after recording it for the BBC show Pop Go The Beatles. The group came upon the song when they had heard it in Brian Epstein”s NEMS record store in Liverpool. George Harrison, who sings lead vocals on the cover, later recalled: “Brian [Epstein] had had a policy at NEMS [record store] of buying at least one copy of every record that was released. Consequently he had records that weren”t hits in Britain, weren”t even hits in America. Before we were going to a gig, we”d meet in the record store, after it had shut, and we”d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there”¦Devil In Her Heart and Barrett Strong”s Money were records that we”d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting.”

Unlike other the other R&B acts covered on that album, the Donays “” Yvonne, Janice, Michelle, Gwen “” were not and never would be well known. Devil In His Heart was the Detroit girl-group”s only single, and it made no notable impact at all, though the flip-side, Bad Boy, received some local airplay. Devil In His Heart was first released by Detroit’s Correc-tone Records, which also had an unknown Wilson Picket on its books. The New York label Brent picked up the national license for the single, and through Brent’s arrangement with the British Oriole label the record ended up in Epstein’s Liverpool store.

But it was not the lack of commercial success that forced the group’s demise, but their mothers. “The mothers wanted the girls to go to college,” Yvonne would recall. “Michelle”s mother was leery about the music world, so they dropped out.” Yvonne carried on recording for Correc-tone for three more singles, as Yvonne Vernee, but without great commercial success. She later became a member of the Motown group The Elgins to tour Britain in 1971 after the band had a belated hit there with their 1967 sing Heaven Must Have Sent You.

Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems.

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Buddy Holly ““ Words Of Love (1957).mp3
The Diamonds – Words Of Love (1957).mp3
The Beatles ““ Words Of Love (1964).mp3

The influence of Buddy Holly on The Beatles (and virtually every act of the British Invasion) is evident. It was a Holly song, That”ll Be The Day, which The Quarrymen performed on that famous acetate, and the name “Beatles” was inspired as a riff on the insect name of Buddy”s band, the Crickets. Yet, the Beatles recorded only one Holly song, the rather minor Words Of Love, which in Holly”s version was released as a single in Britain, but failed to dent the charts there.

Holly recorded Words Of Love on his own, putting each individual part (including his harmonies) to tape and then overdubbing them, apparently the first time that production method was used by a major artist. It was not a hit for Holly in the US either. Instead it was recorded by The Diamonds, also in 1957, who enjoyed a #13 hit with it. The Diamonds, a Canadian group, were mostly used to score hits from cover versions of songs originally performed by black acts. Their version of Words Of Love was, well, different.

The Beatles” lovely version, far superior to Buddy’s (never mind The Diamonds’) appeared on Beatles For Sale, having been recorded on October 18, with John and George harmonising on the vocals (sources differ on that; others say it”s Paul, not George), sounding not unlike the Everly Brothers. Paul, the big Holly fan, later recorded his own cover version of the song.

Also recorded by: Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs (1964), Mike Berry (1999), Jeremy Jay (2009), Jessica Lea Mayfield (2009)

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The Shirelles – Boys (1960).mp3
The Beatles ““ Boys (1963).mp3

Boys was one of two Shirelles songs on Please, Please Me. Co-written by Luther Dixon, who produced the Shirelles on the Specter label, Boys was released in 1960 as the b-side of the group’s big hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Dixon had enjoyed some success as a songwriter, notably The Crests’ 1958 hit Sixteen Candles. The other co-writer, a white boy named Wes Farrell, would go on to greater things yet. He co-wrote Hang On Sloopy with the legendary Bert Berns, was the force behind Tony Orlando’s Dawn (named after Farrell’s daughter) and the Partridge Family, and founded Bell Records, which would later, after he sold it, become Arista.

It was recorded in one take during the mammoth February 11, 1963 session, just after Anna and before Chains (which featured in the first part of originals of Beatles covers). The other Shirelles song on the album was the better known Burt Bacharach composition Baby It”s You. While Lennon sang the latter, Boys introduced Ringo”s vocal stylings to the public. In the Beatles” hands, the R&B number becomes a rocking scorcher in which the backing vocals eclipse Ringo”s voice, which delivered suitably tweaked lyrics.

Boys had been popular on Liverpool”s live circuit. The Beatles performed it in the Cavern Club, where it was the token number to be sung by drummer Pete Best. After Best was sacked, it became Ringo”s song. But it already was before then: as the drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes he would often sing it in concerts, sometimes even duetting the song with the young Cilla Black, who would later become a star herself.

Also recorded by: The Flamin’ Groovies (1979), Mata Hari (1988), Jools Holland & Ringo Starr (2003)

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Dr Feelgood and the Interns – Mr Moonlight (1962).mp3
The Beatles ““ Mr Moonlight (1964).mp3

Many Beatles fans point to Mr Moonlight as the group”s worst recording (presumably ignoring the arcane stuff like Revolution #9 or Within You, Without You). It is indeed doubtful that Mr Moonlight has ever featured on a great number Top 10 lists of Beatles songs. But it isn”t really that bad (this guy makes his case persuasively).

Mr Moonlight appeared on Beatles For Sale, the hotchpotch album released in late 1964 that among some strong original material featured a number of random covers. It may seem that Mr Moonlight was one of those peculiar obscurities the Fabs often dug out “” note how many b-sides and non-hits they covered “” but the song was in fact quite popular at the time. Other bands obviously did the same as the Beatles did. It had been covered by The Hollies in January 1964, and in 1963 by the Merseybeats. Mr Moonlight had also been a Beatles concert staple for a while (going as far back as 1962; it appears on the Live At The Star Club, Hamburg album) , so there are some who suggest that the Hollies and Merseybeats “borrowed” the song from the Beatles.

The song was written by one Roy Lee Johnson, and first recorded in 1962 by the blues pianist Piano Red (Willie Perryman) as a b-side to his single Dr Feelgood, the title of which had become his stage name, and would later be adopted by the British rock band of that name (though they probably picked up the moniker from a cover version by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates). Piano Red, an albino performer who had made his first recording in 1936, was the first blues musician to break into the Billboard pop charts, and as a radio DJ in Atlanta in the 1950s featured a young James Brown on his show. Piano Red”s excursion as Dr Feelgood, a moniker he employed as a DJ, was brief and did little to benefit his career. His career later recovered, with Piano Red appearing on the jazz circuit. He even performed at the inauguration of the German chancellor Helmut Schmidt before dying if cancer in 1985 at the age of 73.

Also recorded by: The Merseybeats (1963), The Hollies (1964)

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More Originals

The Originals Vol. 12

October 27th, 2008 6 comments
In this instalment, we thank RH for the original of Here Comes The Night and my new friend Kevin for the original of Dedicated To The One I Love.

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

The Originals Vol. 12

Comme d”habitude/My Way
When your inebriated uncle grabs the karaoke microphone and sprays it with his saliva in a regrettable attempt to out-sinatra Sinatra his way, he probably won”t wish to contemplate that the song was originally sung in French by a small, somewhat camp blond guy wearing extravagant clothes who died in 1978 while changing a lightbulb as he was having a bath. It is peculiar that one of the most famous songs in the English language was a French number co-written and first recorded by a singer who himself had made a career of translating and performing American songs.

My Way was born Comme d”habitude, Claude François” elegy to his decaying love affair with singer France Gall. A year before its release in 1968, young songwriter Jacques Revaux offered CloClo, as François is known among his faithful fans, a ballad called For Me, with English lyrics. Michel Sardou has demoed it, but Revoux didn”t like his interpretation (Sardou subsequently recorded the finished article in the year of Claude François” death). François tweaked the melody, dumped the English and with Gilles Thibault wrote the new lyrics, and gave the whole thing a dramatic, brass punctured arrangement. It became a hit, and played on the radio (or TV, depending on which account you hear) when Paul Anka was holidaying in southern France.

Forty years later he recalled that he thought it was a “shitty record” but acquired the publishing rights anyway, for nothing (a bargain which would later cause a couple of legal quarrels). Back home, he decided to adapt Comme d”habitude for Frank Sinatra, who by then was threatening to quit the rapidly changing music business. According to Anka, he wrote the lyrics imagining what Sinatra might say and how he would say it, in that Rat Pack way of copying the stylings of gangsters who had themselves copied the stylings of movie hoods such as James Cagney and the pathetic George Raft. Sinatra”s impassioned rendition, recorded in early 1969, would affirm Anka”s astute judgment; as he sings it, the Chairman of the Board (and note which soul group covered My Way in 1970) personifies the great fuck you to the world. Anka himself thought he could not do justice to the song, but, possibly pressured by his label, recorded it nevertheless. Here too Anka was astute: his version was fundamentally “shitty”, much more so than Claude François” original (Paul Anka – My Way).

And so we are left wondering what might have been had Anka taken his 1968 holiday in the Bahamas instead of France. Young English singer David Bowie was invited to translate Comme d”habitude into English. Before his rendition, Even A Fool Learns To Love, could fruitfully cross the channel, Anka had snapped up the rights to the song (it is said that Life On Mars was, musically, his revenge song). And what would your drunk uncle sing then?
Also recorded by: John Davidson (1969), Anita Kerr Singers (1969), George Wright (1969), Hugo Montenegro (1969), Andy Williams (1969), Roy Drusky (1969), Sammy Davis Jr. (1970), Dorothy Squires (1970), Bill Medley (1970), Brook Benton (1970), Chairmen of the Board (1970), Shirley Bassey (1970), Glen Campbell (1970), Nina Simone (1971), Fred Bongusto (as La mia via, 1971), Patty Pravo (as A modo mio, 1972), Elvis Presley (1977), Sid Vicious/Sex Pistols (1978), Michel Sardou (Comme d’habitude, 1978), Nina Hagen (1985), Gipsy Kings (1988), Shane MacGowan (1996), Faudel/Khaled/Rachid Taha (Comme d’habitude, 2000), Robbie Williams (2001), Little Milton (2002), Paul Anka & Jon Bon Jovi (2007), Elli Medeiros (Comme d’habitude, 2008) a.o.
Best version: From zillions of versions to choose from, I think Claude François, far from being shitty, is the most appealing. And, naturally, Sid Vicious” interpretation.

Don”t Let Me Be Misunderstood
The writing credits for Don”t Let Me Be Misunderstood list Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus, but the main contributor, Horace Ott, is not credited (due to rivalling writers” union memberships which prohibited cross-fraternisation on record labels). The song, or at least its chorus, was actually written about Caldwell at a time when she and Ott were breaking up. Happily they reconciled in good time and eventually married, so Ott was not entirely out of the royalties loop.

Nina Simone first recorded the song in 1964 as a slow, soulful blues ballad, her voice so deep in places you”d think it was a man singing it. A year later The Animals took hold of it, and ““ as they had done with the traditional song House Of The Rising Sun ““ turned the number inside out, speeding it up, reintroducing the signature opening chords (which almost unnoticeably appeared at the end of Simone”s version) and Alan Price”s glorious organ riff, and giving the soul-rock a bit of a flamenco sound. Twelve years later, in 1977, Leroy Gomez & Santa Esmeralda covered the Animals version, adding a touch of disco to the mix, to produce a dramatic and eminently danceable hit. There are three versions of Santa Esmeralda”s Don”t Let Me Be Misunderstood: the album recording (which at 16 minutes takes up the whole side), an extended 12” version (about ten minutes long), and the standard single which topped the charts in many countries.
Also recorded by: Joe Cocker (1969), Little Bob Story (1975), Helen Schneider (1981), Gary Moore & Friends (1981), The Costello Show (1986), Lou Rawls (1990), Francesca Pettinelli (1994), Robben Ford (1995), Eric Burdon Brian Auger Band (1998), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Laura Fedele (2005), New Buffalo (2006), Yusuf Islam (2006), John Legend (2006)
Best version: Santa Esmeralda”s, in any format.

Dedicated To The One I Love
The “5” Royales” name screams “50s novelty band. That they were not. Indeed, they were cited as influences by the likes of James Brown (who recorded their song Think), the legendary Stax musician Steve Cropper and Eric Clapton. By the time the band from Salem, North Carolina released Dedicated To The One I Love in 1958, their heyday was past them, and the single did not do much in two releases. Likewise, the Shirelles” cover, recorded in 1959 (with Doris, not Shirley, doing lead vocals) initially flopped. It became a hit only on its re-release in 1961 to follow up the success of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, reaching #3 in the US pop charts. The Mamas and the Papas” 1967 cover did even better, getting to #2. As on the Shirelles” recording, the second banana took lead vocals; it was the first time Michelle Phillips, not Mama Cass, sang lead on a Mamas and Papas track. Funny enough, by then she had stopped sleeping with the two men in the group.
The “5” Royales – Dedicated To The One I Love
The Shirelles – Dedicated To The One I Love
The Mamas and the Papas – Dedicated To The One I Love
Also recorded by: The Lettermen (1967), The Temprees (1972), Stacy Lattisaw (1979), Bernadette Peters (1981), Bitty McLean (1994), Linda Ronstadt (1996), Laura Nyro (2002)
Best version: The “5” Royales” is tighter and more cohesive than either the Shirelles” or Mamas & Papas”. And the guitar!

Jersey Girl
Whether this is a case of lesser or better known originals depends on one”s musical development ““ and on whether one can abide by Tom Waits” voice. I can”t stand Waits” voice at great length and find it impossible to listen to a whole album by the man, and therefore gratefully welcome good cover versions of his songs (of which there are a few). A couple of lyrical tweaks aside, Springsteen took few liberties with Waits” 1980 song when he featured a live version of it on the b-side of the ghastly Cover Me in 1985. That is the same take that appears on the Live 1975-85 box set. One would, of course, expect Brooce to have empathy with a Jersey Girl; he has assembled a whole lyrical harem of girls from New Jersey in his catalogue, half of them called Wendy or Mary. Springsteen had long included the song in his live shows, once, in 1981, even performing it with Waits (EDIT: thanks to my friend John C in Canada, posted here on YouSendIt) . That should discount the rumours that Waits wrote Jersey Girl as a Springsteen parody ““ though it certainly sounds like one. The song was, according to Waits, written for his new wife and later songwriting collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, who was brought up in New Jersey.
Tom Waits & Bruce Springsteen – Jersey Girl (live)
Also recorded by: Pale Saints (1995), Holly Cole (1995)
Best version: If there”d be one with Waits” arrangement and Springsteen”s vocals”¦

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, as well as production credits for the likes of Solomon Burke, the Drifters and Wilson Picket. 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.
Lulu & the Luvvers – Here Comes The Night
Them – Here Comes The Night
Also recorded by: David Bowie (1973), Van Morrison (1974), The Rivals (1980), Miki Honeycutt (1989), Graham Bonnet (1991), Dwight Yoakam (1992), Native (1994).
Best version: I”m rather partial of Van Morrison”s live recording on It”s Too Late to Stop Now.