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The Originals Vol. 25 – Beatles edition 1

May 29th, 2009 12 comments

Among the many potent influences the Beatles had on pop music, their part in advancing the importance of albums was crucial. Before the Beatles, pop albums “” be it rock & roll or easy listening “” were promotional tools for hit singles, populated by fillers. Serious albums served jazz and musical soundtracks. Of course there were very good albums before the Beatles (Elvis had at least three before Uncle Sam grabbed him, and Sinatra introduced the concept album), but LPs such as Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt Pepper”s, or even A Hard Day”s Night before those, helped establish the album as the more serious form of artistic (and commercial) expression.

With that in mind, it is easy to forget that three of the Beatles” first four albums were topped up with fillers, many of them cover versions (which is quite ironic since the Beatles went on to become the most covered band ever). Some of these are better known in their original versions; the Little Richard and Chuck Berry compositions and Motown classics, for example. Some are generic classics (A Taste Of Honey; Till There Was You), and some are fairly obscure, or would become so. In this sub-series of The Originals, we look at the latter two categories in the first of a three-part sub-series, which includes a few rarities. (EDIT: The Cookies’ link is now fixed, and thespian misidentification removed.)

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The Top Notes – Twist And Shout.mp3
The Isley Brothers – Twist And Shout.mp3
top-notes_twist_and_shout The Beatles – Twist And Shout.mp3
Mae West – Twist And Shout.mp3
Twist And Shout is probably the most famous cover by the Beatles, and is most commonly associated with them. And rightly so: their take is rock & roll perfection. It was based on the 1962 cover by the Isley Brothers, who introduced the rythm guitar riff (which borrows heavily from Richie Valens” La Bamba) and the “ah-ah-ah” harmonies, to which the Beatles added the Little Richardesque “woo”.

The song was written by the legendary Bert Berns (sometimes credited to his pseudonym Bert Russell) with Phil Medley. Berns has featured in this series before as the author of songs such as I Hang On Sloopy and Here Comes The Night, and he will feature again if I can find Garnet Mimms”s Piece Of My Heart.

isley_twistBerns gave Twist And Shout to The Top Notes “” a Philadelphia R&B group which might have been forgotten entirely otherwise “” whose recording was produced by a very young Phil Spector. The result did not please Berns, who accused Spector of “fucking it up”. He was a bit harsh on young Phil; the Top Notes” version is not bad, but Berns had hoped for something a more energetic. So he took the song to the reluctant Isley Brothers”, who had scored a hit two years earlier with the driving Shout, which had the kind of sound Berns imagined for his song. Their Twist And Shout, which Berns produced, became a US #17 hit, and so came to the attention of the Beatles, whose version upped the tempo to produce a joyously frenetic and, indeed, orgasmic version.

beatles_twist_and_shoutIt was the last song to be recorded after a marathon 12-hour session which saw ten tracks put down for the Please Please Me album, on 11 February 1963. Lennon had been ill with a cold “” towards the end of the song, if you listen closely, you can hear Lennon cough “” and his voice was already hoarse, soothed by milk and throat lozenges. The first take demolished Lennon”s voice; a second take was recorded but, according to producer George Martin, Lennon”s voice was by then gone (and George Harrison”s hands bleeding). That first take captured one of the great vocal performances in rock & roll “” by a singer who, according to Martin, did not like his own voice, begging the producer to modify it on the recordings. Martin would later recall Lennon asking him repeatedly: “Do something with my voice. Put something on it. Smother it with tomato ketchup. Make it different.” In time, Lennon became adept at using his voice in different ways.

At about the same time as the Beatles” version of Twist And Shout came out, another one was released by Brian Poole & the Tremeloes “” the band Decca signed instead of the Beatles. For pure novelty value, Mae West”s remake is”¦interesting. Imagine a masochist cat enjoying an orgasm while being tortured.
Also recorded by: Booker T. & The M.G.’s (1962), The Searchers (1963), Ricky Gianco (1963), Brian Poole And The Tremeloes (1963), The Miracles (1963), Buddy Morrow and his Orchestra (1964), The Shangri-Las (1964), The Iguanas (1964), The Chipmunks (1964), Jack Nitzsche and his Orchestra (1964), Bob Hammer Band (1964), Del Shannon (1964), The Kingsmen (1964), Ike and Tina Turner (1965), Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (1965), The Mamas and the Papas (a slowed down version, 1967), Tom Jones (1969), Chuck Berry (1969), The Who (1982), Rodney Dangerfield (for Back To School, 1986), Salt ‘n’ Pepa (1988), Los fabulosos Cadillacs (as Twist y gritos, 1988), Alejandra Guzmán (as Twist y gritos, 1989), Chaka Demus & Pliers (1993), Samantha Miller (1994), Mr. Al (1997), The Punkles (1998), Matmatah (2000), The Orchestra (2001), Liquido (2002), Dee Dee Ramone ( 2004), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (bootleg, 2005), The Drawbacks (2009)

The Cookies – Chains.mp3
The Everly Brothers – Chains.mp3
The Beatles – Chains.mp3

cookies_chainsAnother US #17 hit found its way on the Please Please Me album, recorded during the same session that produced Twist And Shout and the next song. The Cookies at the time were Little Eva”s back-up singers (and, later, Ray Charles”) who occasionally released singles themselves. Apart from the Top 20 success of Chains, they had a top 10 hit with Don”t Say Nothin” Bad (About My Baby). The Cookies recently featured on this blog (here) and one of the Cookies will reappear later in this series as the original singer of a Herman”s Hermits song.

Chains was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Soon after the Cookies had their hit, the Beatles (and other Merseyside bands) included it in their concert repertoire. On Please Please Me, it is one of two songs that feature George Harrison on vocals (the other is the Lennon-McCartney composition Do You Want To Know A Secret), with John taking over the lead guitar and Harrison on rhythm guitar.

The Everly Brothers” version is possibly the best of the lot, but went unreleased until 1984.
Also recorded by: Sylvie Vartan (1963), Jack Nitzsche and his Orchestra (1964), Carole King (1980), Kaleo O Kalani (1995), Beatlejazz (2005)

Billy Dee Williams – A Taste Of Honey.mp3
The Beatles – A Taste Of Honey.mp3

billy_dee_williamsA Taste Of Honey was the title of a 1958 British kitchen-sink play by Shelagh Delaney (whose picture appeared on the single sleeve of The Smith”s Girlfriend In A Coma). The play was adapted in 1960 for Broadway, with the addition of incidental music. The song that became known as A Taste Of Honey provided a recurring theme. Among the cast of the Broadway production was Billy Dee Williams . Williams recorded the tune set to lyrics in 1960, failing to generate pop music”s crowning moment. Two years later, crooner Lenny Welch recorded the song (some source mistakenly claim that this was the first vocal version). It was Welch”s version which Paul McCartney was familiar with when the Beatles included it in their live repertoire, and then on their debut album, on which McCartney duetted with himself.

The song really has two lives: the vocal version and the instrumental one most famous in its incarnation by Herb Alpert (recently posted here).
Also recorded by: Bobby Scott (1960), Martin Denny (1962), Victor Feldman Quartet (1962), Acker Bilk (1963), Quincy Jones (1963), Barbra Streisand (1963), Paul Desmind (1963), The Hollyridge Strings (1964), Tony Bennett (1964), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1965), Bobby Darin (1965), Trini Lopez (1965), John Davidson (1966), Johnny Mathis (1966), Johnny Rivers (1966), Esther Phillips (1966), Tom Jones (1966), Chet Atkins (1967), Chris Montez (1967), I Giganti (as In paese è festa, 1967), The Hassles (1967), Shango (1969), Robert William Scott (1970), The Supremes & the Four Tops (1970), Ray Conniff (1971), Joshua Breakstone Quartet (1991), Vincent Gallo (1998), Lizz Wright (2005)

Barbara Cook & Robert Preston – Till There Was You.mp3
The Beatles – Till There Was You (Decca audition).mp3
The Beatles – Till There Was You.mp3

music_manWhether or not one would regard this as a lesser-known original depends on one”s interest in showtunes. The Broadway afficionado will know Till There Was You as the song that ends Act 2 in the 1957 musical The Music Man, as the librarian (Barbara Cook) addresses the professor (Robert Preston). The soundtrack of the stage musical “” it was made into a movie in 1962 “” was one of the biggest US sellers of the 1950s, as many musicals were in the days before pop LPs (which, as noted, the Beatles helped usher in).

Paul McCartney was not a big follower of Broadway as a young man; he was introduced to the song via Peggy Lee”s 1961 version, courtesy of a cousin. He later claimed to have been unaware until much later that the song originated from a musical. It was a firm fixture in the Beatles” concert playlist, even during their second stint in Hamburg. They also played it at the unsuccessful Decca audition (the audition tapes, incidentally, show that poor Dick Rowe did not suffer a terrible lapse in judgment. The Beatles were pretty poor).

till there was you Having recorded it for their sophomore album, With The Beatles, the group played Till There Was You at the Royal Variety Performance, apparently giving the Queen Mother much pleasure. The old bat probably frowned soon after at Lennon”s exhortation for jewellery rattling (he had planned to say “rattle your fucking jewellery”, but wisely though disappointingly chickened out), and possibly did not dance on top of her seat to the next song, Twist And Shout.
Also recorded by: Anita Bryant (1959), Chet Atkins (1960), Joni James (1960), Peggy Lee (1961), Valjean (1962), Nana Mouskouri (1962), Thomas Allen & Valerie Masterson (1995), Innovations (1998), Patti Austin (1999), Maye Cavallaro & Mimi Fox (2003), Rod Stewart (2003), The Smithereens (2007), Cassandra Wilson (2008)

Buck Owens – Act Naturally.mp3
The Beatles – Act Naturally.mp3

buck_owensAppearing on Help!, Act Naturally was the Beatles” final cover version, if one ignores Let It Be”s Maggie May. The other remake on Help!, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, had been recorded a month earlier. So we mark 17 June 1965 as the day the Beatles became an exclusively original band.

Act Naturally was a nod to Ringo”s fine performance in A Hard Day”s Night (and, indeed, in Help!), though the lyrics have less to do with impending stardom than with the feeling of rejection. It probably also cemented the public notion of Ringo as the cute, guileless and slightly retarded Beatle. It”s an image that would contribute to an entirely unjust diminution of Ringo”s reputation as a drummer.

Act Naturally was first recorded in 1963 by country singer Buck Owens, an influential figure in popular music as a progenitor, alongside Merle Haggard, of Bakersfield country, the Southern California sub-genre that gave rise to Gram Parsons (and the influence he brought to the Byrds) and later the likes of Dwight Yoakam, who recorded with Owens, and Brad Paisley. In 1989, almost exactly 24 years after the Beatles version was put down, Ringo and Owens “” who had quite similar voices “” recorded Act Naturally together.
Also recorded by: Loretta Lynn (1963), Brian Hyland (1964), Kitty Wells (1964), Betty Willis (1965), Hank Locklin (1965), Jody Miller (1966), The Hollyridge Strings (1967), Charley Pride (1967), The Cowsills (1969), The Youngbloods (1971), George Jones (1987), Daniel O’Donnell (1988), Buck Owens & Ringo Starr (1989), Moe Bandy (1997), Phil and the Frantics (1999), Johnny Russell (who wrote the song, 2000), Bobby Osborne (2000), Tamra Rosanes (2002)

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The Originals Vol. 24

May 8th, 2009 14 comments

We have a bit of a bumper edition here, with ten quite distinct and all lovely versions of Let It Be Me, four of City Of New Orleans, plus It Must Be Love, My Baby Just Cares For Me and Ruby Don”t Take Your Love To Town. Special thanks to our old friend RH and our new friend Walter for their contributions. I would be interested to know which version of Let It Be Me is the most liked.

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Labi Siffre – It Must Be Love.mp3
Madness – It Must Be Love.mp3

siffre_it_must_be_lovePerhaps I”m stretching the concept of this series a little here; some may well say that they know the Labi Siffre original better than the remake. Still, it is the 1981 Madness cover that was the bigger hit and gets the wider airplay. In my view, their version is better than Siffre”s, though I fully expect to receive dissenting comment calling into question the intactness of my mental faculties (or, indeed, refer to my complete madness). Madness reached the UK #4 with the song; in 1971, Siffre (one of the first openly gay singers in pop) reached #14 with it. Rather endearingly, Siffre made a cameo appearance in the video for the Madness single (he is a violin player).

Siffre periodically retired from the music industry. He most propitiously returned in 1987 when he released his anti-apartheid song Something Inside (So Strong), which has been frequently covered, and then proceeded to co-write most of Jonathan Butler”s fine 1990 album Heal Our Land, which in part was a love letter to South Africa at a time when it had become clear that apartheid was dead.

Also recorded by: Marian Montgomery (1972), Lyn Paul (1975), Jasper Steverlinck (2004), Jeroen van der Boom (2006), Paolo Nutini (2007)

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Mel Tillis – Ruby (Don”t Take Your Love To Town) (1967).mp3
Waylon Jennings – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1967).mp3
Kenny Rogers & First Edition – Ruby Don”t Take Your Love To Town.mp3

Mel Tillis – Ruby, Don”t Take Your Love To Town (1976).mp3

tillisA Korean war veteran comes home from doing his “patriotic chore” without his legs and his beloved wife treats him like dirt and goes cheating on him. Much as it may sound like a country music cliché, songwriter Mel Tillis, who released the song in January 1967, said he based the lyrics on a couple in his neighbourhood, with the man having been wounded in Germany in Word War 2, not in Korea. Tillis spared us the bitter end of the story: The ex-GI killed his straying wife and then himself. Though the protagonist of the song imagines putting Ruby into the ground, he has no concrete plans to kill her.

EDIT: Tillis was the first to release the song, but Waylon Jennings actually recorded it three months before Tillis did, in September 1966. Jennings’ version, however, did not get released until August 1967.

The song had been recorded a couple of times before Kenny Rogers decided it would serve to move his group, the First Edition, closer to the country scene. He and the group recorded the song in one take. It became a hit in 1969 (at the height of the Vietnam War), reaching #6 in the US and #2 in the UK. For Rogers it became a signature tune which he would record twice more, in 1977 and 1990. Apparently Rogers likes to send the song up in concerts; it seems to have become a bit of a gag, with the not very humorous Right Said Fred honouring it with a cover version. Personally, I fail to see the capricious angle.

And thanks to commenter Phillip:
Walter Brennan – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.mp3 (direct DL via AprilWinchell.com)

Also recorded by: Johnny Darrell (1967), The Statler Brothers (1967), Red Sovine (1969), Dale Hawkins (1969), Peter Law & The New Pacific (1969), Leonard Nimoy (1970),  Carl Perkins (1974), Gary Holton & Casino Steel (1980), Sort Sol (1985), The Gorehounds (as Ruby, 1989), Right Said Fred (1996), Cake (2005), The Killers (2007) a.o.

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Steve Goodman – City Of New Orleans.mp3
Arlo Guthrie – City Of New Orleans.mp3
Johnny Cash – City Of New Orleans.mp3

Willie Nelson – City Of New Orleans.mp3

steve_goodmanThroughout this series there have been songs that in their original form were far superior to the versions that made them famous. Great though Guthrie”s version (and Willie Nelson”s) is, City Of New Orleans is one such song. Goodman wrote it after travelling on the eponymous train which was about to be decommissioned, recording faithfully what he saw. The song helped to reprieve the line. Having been discovered by Kris Kristofferson, who introduced him to Paul Anka, Goodman recorded the song in 1971. One night in a Chicago bar he approached Arlo Guthrie with a view to introducing the song to Woody”s son. Arlo was not really interested in hearing another songwriter trying to peddle a song, but on condition that Goodman buy him a beer, he mustered some patience. Later he would recall it as “one of the longest, most enjoyable beers I ever had”. The meeting would provide him with his biggest hit, released in 1972. Johnny Cash, no stranger to the subject matter of trains, released his take in 1973.

arlo_guthrieGuthrie changed some of the lyrics: Goodman”s “passing towns” became “passing trains”, the “magic carpet made of steam” was now made of steel, “the rhythm of the rails is all they dream” was now felt. Goodman didn”t seem to mind; he and Guthrie remained good friends until the former”s premature death at 36 in 1984 from leukaemia, the disease he had been diagnosed with in 1969. He won a posthumous Grammy for the song on strength of Willie Nelson”s 1984 version. Read the quite dramatic story of The City of New Orleans train here, and more about Steve Goodman here.

Also recorded by: John Denver (1971), Chet Atkins (1973), The Seldom Scene (1973), Joe Dassin (as Salut les amoureux, 1973), Sammi Smith (1973), Hank Snow (1973), Johnny Cash & June Carter (1973), Henson Cargill (1973), Ted Egan (1973), Hopeton Lewis (1973), Jerry Reed (1974), Johnny Cash (1975), Judy Collins (1975), Rudi Carrell (as Wann wird’s mal wieder richtig Sommer, 1975), Yoram Gaon (as Shalom Lach Eretz Nehederet, 1977), Louise Féron & Jérôme Soligny (as Salut les amoureux, 1993), Randy Scruggs (1998), Maarten Cox (as ‘t Is weer voorbij, die mooie zomer, 2005), Beth Kinderman (2006), Discharger (2006), Lizzie West & the White Buffalo (2006), Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2007) a.o.

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Ted Weems & his Orchestra – My Baby Just Cares For Me.mp3
Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me.mp3

weemsWritten by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn for the 1928 musical Whoopee (not to be confused with the rubbish actress going by a similar name), My Baby Just Cares For Me was recorded by a host of artists in the following few years. Ted Weems” was not the first, but certainly among the earliest recordings. His take shows just how great an interpreter of songs Nina Simone was. She recorded it in 1958. It was not her most famous number, much less her signature tune, really becoming well-known when it featured in a British TV commercial for Chanel No. 5.

The bandleader Ted Weems was a star by the time he released his version of My Baby Just Cares For Me in July 1930, having had previous hits with Somebody Stole My Gal (1924), Piccolo Pete, and The Man from the South (1928), and later with Heartaches, which he recorded in 1933. At around that time he became even more famous thanks to a regular spot on Jack Benny”s hugely popular radio show. His band broke up with World War 2, and was reformed briefly in the early “50s. Weems toured until 1953 when he became a DJ in Memphis and then a hotel manager. Weems died in 1963 at the age of 62. Take a look at this great video of Weems and a chorus line of flappers.

Also recorded by: Ethel Shutta (1930), Ted Fiorito & his Orchestra (1930), Mel Tormé (1947), Nat “˜King” Cole (1949), The Hi-Lo’s (1954), Tony Bennett (1955), Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads (1955), Tommy Dorsey (1958), Tab Hunter (1958), Mary Wells (1965), Frank Sinatra (1966), Cornell Campbell (1973), Alex Chilton (1994), George Michael (1999), Julie Budd (2000), Natalie Cole (2002), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Laura Fedele (2005), Jaqui Naylor (2006), Amanda Lear (2006) a.o.

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Gilbert Bécaud – Je t”appartiens (1955).mp3
Jill Corey
– Let It Be Me (1957)
Everly Brothers – Let It Be Me (1960)
Betty Everett & Jerry Butler – Let It Be Me (1964)
Skeeter Davis & Bobby Bare – Let It Be Me (1965)
Peaches & Herb – Let It Be Me (ca 1967)
Glen Campbell & Bobbie Gentry – Let It Be Me (1968)
Bob Dylan – Let It Be Me (1970)
Roberta Flack – Let It Be Me (1970)
Rosie Thomas – Let It Be Me (2005)
All nine cover versions in one file here

becaud-jappertiensLet It Be Me is one of those pop standards that cannot be ascribed to any one particular artist. Most commonly, it might be considered an Everly Brothers song. To me, it is Betty Everett & Jerry Butler”s song; perhaps the most gorgeous version. Some may have heard it for the first time in its vulnerable interpretation by the wonderful Rosie Thomas, duetting with Ed Hardcourt. Not many will think of it as a French song, co-written and first released by the brilliant Gilbert Bécaud as Je t”appartiens (I belong to you) in 1955.

It was not the biggest hit for Bécaud (born François Silly), but it has been prodigiously covered. It took two years to cross the Atlantic, when Jill Corey ““ the youngest singer ever to headline at the Copacabana “” recorded the first English-translation version. It was not a big hit, barely scratching the Top 60. It did become a hit with the Everly Brothers” in 1960, their first recording made outside Nashville “” it was made in New York “” and their first to incorporate strings in the arrangement. Let It Be Me became a hit again in 1964 for Butler & Everett, in 1969 for Glenn Campbell & Bobby Gentry, and in 1982 for Willie Nelson. Bob Dylan recorded it twice; featured here is the first of these, which appeared on his 1970″s Self Portrait album. The same year Roberta Flack gave the song a whole new treatment on her second album. I am also partial to the version by the delightfully named Skeeter Davis with outlaw country pioneer Bobby Bare, which includes aspoken bit by Skeeter, as was her wont.

Also recorded by: The Blue Diamonds (1960), Chet Atkins (1961), The Lettermen (1962), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1962), Andy Williams & Claudine Longet (1964), Sonny & Cher (1965), Brenda Lee (1965), Molly Bee (1965), The Shadows (1965), Barbara Lewis (1966), The Escorts (1966), Nancy Sinatra (1966), Arthur Prysock (1966), Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown (1967), The Sweet Inspirations (1967), Sam & Dave (1967), Claudine Longet (1968), Earl Grant (1968), Petula Clark (1969), The Delfonics (1969), Jim Ed Brown (1969), Tom Jones (1969), Connie Smith & Nat Stuckey (1969), Roberta Flack (1970), Elvis Presley (1970), Bob Dylan (1970), Nancy Wilson (1971), New Trolls (1973), The Pointer Sisters (1974), Demis Roussos (1974), Nina Simone (1974), Mary McCaslin (1974), Melanie (1978), Kenny Rogers & Dottie West (1979),Jay & the Americans (1980), Bob Dylan (again, 1981), Willie Nelson (1982), David Hasselhoff (1984), Collin Raye (1992), Marc Jordan (1999), Nnenna Freelon feat Kirk Whalum (2000), Justin (2000), Lauro Nyro (2001), Anne Murray & Vince Gill (2002), Mike Andersen (2003), The Willy DeVille Acoustic Trio ( 2003), Paul Weller (2004),Pajo (2006), Frankie Valli (2007), Charlie Daniels Band with Brenda Lee (2007), Roch Voisine (2008), Jason Donovan (2008) a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 23

May 1st, 2009 4 comments

This time, we”re looking at the originals (and, in some cases, more than one covers) of For Once In My Life, Dancing In The Moonlight, Money”s Too Tight (To Mention), Georgia On My Mind and Rainy Night In Georgia.

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Jean DuShon – For Once In My Life (1966).mp3
Barbara McNair – For Once In My Life (1966).mp3
Stevie Wonder – For Once In My Life (1967/68).mp3

Jean DuShon

Jean DuShon

Ron Miller and Orlando Murden were staff writers for the Jobete publishing company which was owned by Motown. In 1966 they wrote For Once In My Life, but were still struggling with it. Miller asked the little-known singer, signed to Chess Records but then performing in a nightclub, singer Jean DuShon to work with him on the vocal arrangement. He was so impressed with DuShon”s interpretation that he had her record and release the record on Chess. Sadly Chess didn”t promote the record (some say due to pressure by Motown boss Berry Gordy), and it flopped. Hearing that the songwriters had given the song to a non-Motown artist, Berry Gordy insisted that it be immediately recorded by an act on his label. The song was given to Barbara McNair (whose stint at Motown was brief and who never was a priority for Gordy), and over the next few months was recorded by non-Motown artists, including Tony Bennett, who had a minor pop but decent easy listening charts hit with it.

steviewonder_foronceMotown regularly produced the same songs by different artists. In summer 1967, the Temptations recorded For Once In My Life, and included their take “” like all the others, read as a ballad “” in their live repertoire. At about the same time Stevie Wonder, still a teenager, gave it an exuberant, uptempo treatment. Gordy didn”t like Stevie”s versions and declined to release it. When, at the bidding of Billie Jean Brown, head of Motown”s Quality Control Department (!), it was released as a single (and title song of Stevie’s new LP) in late 1968, it became a massive hit, peaking at #2 (topping the charts was another Motown hit Gordy had previously vetoed, Marvin Gaye”s I Heard It Through The Grapevine).

Ron Miller wrote other hits for Stevie Wonder: Heaven Help Us All, Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, and A Place In The Sun. But before Stevie had a hit with For Once In My Life, it was considered Tony Bennett”s song. When Ella Fitzgerald introduced it on her 1968 Live in Berlin album (recorded before Stevie”s version was issued), she described it as Bennett”s song. A few years ago, Bennett and Wonder finally sang the song together, on the former”s album of duets. The pair took Grammies home for their efforts, and performed the song at the awards ceremony where Stevie dedicated it to his recently deceased mother and Bennett to”¦his sponsors.

Also recorded by: Barbara McNair (1966), Tony Bennett (1967, Carmen McRae (1967), Nancy Wilson (1968), Ella Fitzgerald (1968), Vikki Carr (1968), Dorothy Squires (1969), Jim Nabors (1969), Mantovani (1969), Erma Franklin (1969), Charlie Byrd (1969), Nancy Sinatra (1969), Andy Williams (1969), Slim Jim (1969), O.C. Smith (1969), Frank Sinatra (1969), Sammy Davis Jr. (1970), Bill Medley (1970), James Brown (1970), Kiki Dee (1970), Cilla Black (1970), Dean Martin (1971), John Farnham (1971), The Rance Allen Group (1973), Gladys Knight & The Pips (1973), Peter Nero (1974), Roberto Carlos (1979), Dean Martin (1986), Pia Zadora (1986), Frank Sinatra, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder (1994), Dionne Farris (1996), Jack Jones (1998), Patti Austin (1999), Trijntje Oosterhuis (1999), Vonda Shephered (2001), Justin Guarini (2002), Michael Bublé (2003), Natalia (2003), Harry Connick Jr (2004), Stefan Gwildis (as Es kommt eine Zeit, 2005), Michael Fucking Bolton (2006), Gilbert Montagné (2006), Michael McDonald (2008) a.o.


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Boffalongo – Dancing In The Moonlight (1970).mp3
King Harvest – Dancing In The Moonlight (1972).mp3

boffalongoWhen Toploader had a UK top 10 hit with Dancing In The Moonlight in 2000, the question of who originally recorded the song became a popular piece of trivia. Most self-appointed quiz masters got it wrong. Dancing In The Moonlight was written by Sherman Kelly of the not very successful American band Boffalongo, which recorded the song in 1970. Sherman”s brother Wells was the drummer for King Harvest (named after the song by The Band), and introduced the song to his group, which recorded it in 1972 and had their one big hit with it.

The Toploader version, which I see no cause for featuring here, was a bit of a joke in that the singer even copied the frog-in-the-mouth diction of King Harvest singer (evraburdy’s dancin’ in moonlight). The Boffalongo version, it may be noted, also features some serious drawling.

Also recorded by: Young Generation (1973), Liza Minnelli (1973), The Keane Brothers (1979), M.O.T.O. (1991), Baha Man (1994), Joe Esposito (1996), Toploader (2000), Aswad (2002), David Kitt (2005), Orleans (2005), Jack Wagner (2005) a.o.
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The Valentine Brothers – Money”s Too Tight (To Mention) (1982).mp3
Simply Red – Money”s Too Tight (To Mention) (1985).mp3

valentine-brothersThe lyrics of this song have recovered pertinence in the aftermath of greedy capitalist bastards selling the world economy down the toilet. The economy was not in a great state in the early “80s, so money was pretty tight then.

Money”s Too Tight To Mention was Simply Red”s breakthrough hit in the summer of 1985, creating what seemed to be a fresh take on an old soul number. It was, in fact, a cover of a song barely three years old (the Reaganomics reference, of course, hints at that). But even in its original form, the track sounds like a “60s throwback, musically and lyrically. The narrative borrows from down-on-luck numbers such as Sam Cooke”s A Change Is Gonna Come (absent the trace of optimism), and musically you can imagine Otis Redding singing it. Simply Red”s take is not wildly different from the funkier Valentine Brothers” version. And the iconic exclamation, “Cut-back!” is there in the original.

The Valentine Brothers, a duo from Ohio (one of whom, Billy, had been a member of jazz trio Young-Holt Unlimited), never enjoyed much success, their career fizzling out after a couple of albums. Billy Valentine still seems to be recording and writing. I”ve once read that, happily, the brothers didn”t sell the right to Money”s Too Tight, which will have brought in a fair amount of royalties.

Also recorded by: Nobody I could find
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Hoagy Carmichael – Georgia On My Mind (1930).mp3
Mildred Bailey – Georgia On My Mind (1931).mp3
Billie Holiday – Georgia On My Mind (1941).mp3
Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind (1960).mp3

hoagy-georgia-on-my-mindGeorgia On My Mind was a standard long before Ray Charles recorded it, but when he did, he made the song his own. It was written by Hoagy Carmichael and lyricist Stuart Gorrell in 1930. The Georgia of the title was originally intended to refer to Hoagy”s sister, but realising that the words could apply also to the southern US state, Carmichael and Gorrell were happy to keep things ambiguous. The plan worked: the song was a massive hit especially in the South, and since 1979 it has been the state song of Georgia (a better choice than the tourist-unfriendly Rainy Night In Georgia, the loser-comes-home Midnight Train To Georgia, or the infrastructure-deficient The Lights Went Out In Georgia).

Carmichael”s version features jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke on cornet. He died a few months later at 28, but Carmichael went on to enjoy a long career, and is perhaps even better known for Stardust and Heart And Soul than he is for Georgia (which he nonetheless re-recorded a few times). Frankie Trumbauer scored a hit with the song in 1931, as did Mildred Bailey with her very appealing version.

ray_charles_georgia1Ray Charles, who was born in Georgia but grew up in Florida, recorded his version in 1960, reportedly at the advice of his driver who had heard Ray sing it to himself in the car. It was an instant hit, topping the US charts, and became something of a signature tune for Ray. When Georgia adopted the song, two years before Hoagy”s death, it was Ray Charles who performed it at ceremony in Atlanta. Willie Nelson sang Georgia On My Mind at Ray”s funeral.

Also recorded by: Frankie Trumbauer & his Orchestra (1931), Milded Bailey (1932), Louis Armstrong (1932), Gene Krupa (1941), Billie Holiday (1941), Artie Shaw & his Orchestra (1942), Fats Waller (1942), Jo Stafford (1946), Peggy Lee (1946), Frankie Laine (1953), Dean Martin (1955), Eddy Arnold (1958), Lawrence Welk (1960), Rusty Draper (1960), Oscar Peterson Trio (1962), Lou Rawls (1963), Richard Chamberlain (1963), The Righteous Brothers (1963), Jimmy Smith (1963), Jackie Wilson (1965), The Spencer Davis Group (1965), Doc Severinsen (1966), Tom Jones (1966), Gonks (1966), Wes Montgomery (1968), Anita Kerr (1968), Jerry Reed (1969), Bobby “˜Blue” Bland (1969), James Brown (1970), Geoff & Maria Muldaur (1970), Herbie Mann (1973), Glenn Barber (1974), The Band (1976), Mike Auldridge (1976), Deep Purple (1976), Jerry Lee Lewis (1977), Jerry Lee Lewis (1977), Willie Nelson (1978), Cold Chisel (1978), Mina (1978), Willie Nelson (1980), Nat Gonella (1981), Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass (1983), Stanley Jordan (1987), Michael Fucking Bolton (1989), George Adams (1989), Maceo Parker (1992), James Brown (1992), Bobby Kimball (1993), Shirley Horn (1993), Emilio Aragón & Greta (1996), Günther Neefs (1997), Crystal Gayle (1999), Roderick Paulin (1999), Coco Schumann (1999), Boston Brass (2001), Van Morrison (2002), Booker T. & the MG’s (previously unreleased, 2003), Steve Tyrell (2003), Joeri (2004), John Scofield (2005), Nicoletta (2006), Gerald Albright (2006), Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues feat. india.arie (2006), Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis (2008), Russell Watson (2008) a.o.
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Tony Joe White – Rainy Night In Georgia (1969).mp3
Brook Benton – Rainy Night In Georgia (1970).mp3
Ray Charles – Rainy Night In Georgia (1972).mp3
Randy Crawford – Rainy Night In Georgia (1981).mp3

tony-joe-whiteLouisiana-born “swamp rocker” Tony Joe White was only19 when he wrote Rainy Night In Georgia in 1962. He didn”t release the song until seven later, and even then it was his Polk Salad Annie which grabbed all the attention (covered to good effect by Elvis). At the same time, deep-voiced soul veteran Brook Benton was looking for a hit to launch his comeback on an Atlantic subsidiary, Cottillion Records. The legendary Jerry Wexler alerted Benton to White”s song, and the singer scored a massive 1970 hit with his version, produced by the great Arif Mardin.

brook_bentonRainy Night In Georgia has been recorded many times (ex-Temptations singer David Ruffin put down a version at about the same time as Benton did; it was not released until 2004), as soul and as country songs. Ray Charles (1972) put his own blues spin on it, taking the tune to unexpected places. But my favourite version is that from 1981 by Randy Crawford, one of soul”s finest but least appreciated singers, whose clear and warm voice captures the resigned spirit of the lyrics exquisitely.

Also recorded by: Nat Stuckey (1970), Boots Randolph (1970), Johnny Rivers (1970), Ken Parker (1970), Wynn Stewart (1970), Tennessee Ernie Ford (1971), Hank Williams Jr (1974), John Holt (1977), Tony Worsley (1990), Amos Garrett (1992), Ross Hanniford Trio (1994), Sam Moore & Conway Twitty (1994), Beaucoup Blue (2005), Boozoo Bajou (2006), Hem (2006), Aaron Neville feat. Chris Botti (2006) a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 22

April 17th, 2009 6 comments

With Elvis out of the way, we return to randomly selected lesser-known originals (or, in one case, near-original) of hits by The Animals, Rosemary Clooney (and Shakin’ Stevens), Captain & Tennille, Bob Seger and the Beach Boys. Please feel free to comment!

Ashley and Foster – Rising Sun Blues (1933).mp3
Georgia Turner – Rising Sun Blues (1937).mp3
Woody Guthrie – House Of The Rising Sun (1941).mp3
Leadbelly – In New Orleans (1944).mp3
Bob Dylan – House Of The Risin’ Sun (1962).mp3
The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun (1964).mp3
Orchester Günter Gollasch  -  Es steht ein Haus in New Orleans (1973).mp3
animalsThe moment Hilton Valentine”s distinctive guitar arpeggio kicks off House Of The Rising Sun, the song is instantly recognisable. It is now The Animals” song, even though not wildly dissimilar previous versions by folkie Josh White, Nina Simone, and Bob Dylan preceded that by Eric Burdon and pals. Burdon has said that White”s version inspired the Animals” version, but at other times he has credited the English folk singer Johnny Handle for the inspiration. Dylan, for his part, was miffed that people thought that he had covered the Animals” version. Ironically, fellow folk-singer Dave Van Ronk has accused Dylan of “borrowing” his arrangement.

leadbellyThe song itself is an American folk song of uncertain date, adapted from an old English tune said to go back to the 17th century. It used different lyrics, though those credited to Georgia Turner and Bert Martin in the “30s formed the early basis for the version we now know best. Turner”s version featured here was recorded by the great musicologist Alan Lomax in 1937, when she was 16. The oldest known recording, by Clarence Tom Ashley with Gwen Foster, dates back to 1933, using different lyrics. The song was recorded under alternative titles “” blues legend Leadbelly went for the title In New Orleans “” before House Of The Rising Sun stuck. By the time Josh White recorded it, the lyrics had been changed so much that the best-known version now excludes Turner and Martin from the songwriting credit.

Dylan has also claimed songwriting credit (no doubt to Van Ronk”s mirth), but the Animals”” version “” recorded in one take “” is credited to “traditional” with arrangement by keyboardist Alan Price. Apparently the record company ordered it was not possible to include all five members” names on the single”s label, so Price”s went on by dint of alphabetical order, using the first names of the band”s members. It seems that Price has cheerfully collected the royalties without caring to share them with his four ex-friends.

The Animals have been accused of changing a prostitute”s lament (even Dylan sings it from her perspective) to a gambler”s cautionary tale to satisfy radio-friendly requirements. That may be so, but they were not the first to take the gambler”s position. Apparently Lonnie Donegan did so on his 1959 version, which might or might no have inspired Valentine”s guitar part.

The song has been so ubiquitous, it was even recorded in East Germany, by the Orchester Günter Gollasch. Under a regime where rock music was regarded as subversive, Gollasch must have been willing to take his chances. It is a quite excellent version.

Also recorded by: The Callahan Brothers (as Rounder’s Luck, 1934), Ray Acuff (1938), Woody Guthrie (1941), The Weavers (?), Glenn Yarbrough (1957), Lonnie Donegan (1959), Frankie Laine (as New Orleans, 1959), Miriam Makeba (1960), Joan Baez (1960), Nina Simone (1972), Johnny Hallyday (as Le pénitencier, 1964), The Supremes (1964), Marianne Faithfull (1964), Friedel Berlipp (1964), The Telstar’s (1964), Los Speakers (as La casa del sol naciente, 1965), The Brothers Four (1965), Waylon Jennings (1965), Jay and The Driving Wheels (1965), The Barbarians (1965), Marcellos Ferial (as La casa del sole, 1965), The Five Canadians (1966), Herbie Mann (1967), Trudy Pitts (1967), Ronnie Milsap (1967), Catherine McKinnon (1968), Tim Hardin (1969), Nat Stuckey (1969), Jimmy Powell (1969), Jimi Hendrix (1969), Oscar and the Majestics (1969), Mike Auldridge (1970), Frijid Pink (1970), Conway Twitty (1970), Geordie (1973), Idris Muhammad (1976), Hot R.S. (1977), Santa Esmeralda (1978), Alan Price (1980), Dolly Parton (1980), Skid Row (1981), Jan Walravens (1984), Adolescents (1987), Tangerine Dream (1988), Alejandra Guzmán (as La casa del sol naciente,1989), Tracy Chapman (1990), Theodis Ealey (1993), Don McMinn (1994), Sinéad O’Connor (1994), Peter, Paul and Mary with B.B. King (1995), Eric Burdon Brian Auger Band (1998), Don Angle (1999), 386 DX (2000), Blind Boys of Alabama (using the words of Amazing Grace, 2001), Toto (2002), Sarah Brooks with Joe Beck (2002), Muse (2002), Helmut Lotti (2003), Jet Jet Six (2003), Rock Nalle & The Yankees (2004) a.o.

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Stuart Hamblen – This Ole House.mp3
Rosemary Clooney – This Ole House.mp3
Shakin” Stevens – This Ole House.mp3

stuart-hamblenThe story goes that in 1949 actor and cowboy-country singer Stuart Hamblen was hunting with John Wayne in a remote part of Texas when they happened upon an abandoned, crumbling hut, miles from the nearest road. Intrigued, they entered, finding the corpse of an old mountain man. Hamblen wrote the lyrics right there, on a sandwich bag. As a song about dying, Hamblen”s recording was upbeat yet poignant.

clooneyHamblen sang the song from the first person perspective. Rosemary Clooney in her 1954 hit version became a spectator to the man”s death, giving it a rather indecorous upbeat treatment. In Clooney”s version, it seems that the death of the man is a matter of gratification. The record-buying public didn”t mind: her version topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic (two concurrently released versions in Britain notwithstanding). In 1981 Welsh rock & roll revivalist Shakin” Stevens (Shakey!) resurrected the dead man”s epitaph in similar bouncy fashion, also topping the UK charts.

hamblen-candidateAs for Stuart Hamblen, shortly after writing This Ole House he experienced a religious conversion at a Billy Graham rally, became a broadcaster of Christian material. Having lost as a Democrat congressional candidate in 1933, he ran as the Prohibition Party”s candidate for US president in 1952, picking up 72,949 sober votes.

Also recorded by: Alma Cogan (1954), Billie Anthony (1954), Rex Allen & Tex Williams (1954), The Statler Brothers (1966), Les Humphries Singers (1971), Billie Jo Spears (1981), The Brian Setzer Orchestra (1998), Bette Midler (2003), Wenche (2005), Brenda Lee with Dolly Parton (2007) a.o.

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Willis Alan Ramsey – Muskrat Candlelight.mp3
America – Muskrat Love.mp3
Captain & Tennille – Muskrat Love.mp3

willis-alan-ramsey Popular music is not brimming over with songs about the romantic pursuits of rodents. Willis Alan Ramsey got his break as a 19-year-old in 1972 when he stayed in the same Austin, Texas hotel as Leon Russell and Gregg Allman. Precociously, he knocked on their doors, introduced himself, and impressed them so much that they invited him to record at their respective studios. Ramsey eventually signed for the Shelter Records label which Russell co-owned. He made only one album (recorded in five different studios), and then became a songwriter of some renown instead. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin. The most successful of the songs on his poorly selling, self-titled album was intended as a novelty number “” how can a song about rodent porn be otherwise? “” written in 15 minutes.

Ramsey”s Muskrat Candlelight was first covered in 1973 by soft-rockers America (who I consider to be hard done by in reputation on the back of the much reviled Horse With No Name ““ see HERE). Unaccountably, America changed the title to Muskrat Love, which is how husband and wife duo Captain & Tennille adopted it three years later for their US #4 hit.
Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems.

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Rodney Crowell – Shame On The Moon.mp3
Bob Seger – Shame On The Moon.mp3

rodney-crowell Many of our performers of lesser-known originals never hit the big time, especially when they wrote the successfully covered song (which goes some way to explaining why their originals aren”t better known). Rodney Crowell isn”t one of them. A successful country singer, especially in the alt-country genre headlined by Earle and Van Zandt, he is still churning out records. Among his country credentials is his former marriage to Roseanne Cash, and a recording (and reworking) with his ex-father-in-law of I Walk The Line. Some might include him in this series as progenitor of the Keith Urban hit Making Memories of Us. Not many would associate him with having written and first performed one of Bob Seger”s biggest hits.

Crowell”s version appeared on his self-titled 1981 LP, to no attention at all. A year later, Seger”s version reached the US #2. It features former Eagle Glenn Frey on the harmonies. It was also his only sizeable hit on the country charts.
Also recorded by: nobody else again, it seems.

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The Regents – Barbara-Ann.mp3
Beach Boys – Barbara Ann.mp3

barbara-annBarbara Ann became one of the Beach Boys” biggest hits at the same time as the Beatles released Rubber Soul. For the Beatles, December 1965 was a new beginning; for the Beach Boys, Barbara-Ann bookmarked the end of their surf pop era, appearing on the covers album Beach Boys Party! (which included three versions of Beatles songs), as Brian Wilson was already preparing the massively influential Pet Sounds.

The Beach Boys didn”t want Barbara Ann to be a single release. Beach Boys Party! was an informal affair, a very laid back jam session recorded to fulfil a contractual obligation. The group, and whoever else was around, were playing whatever came to mind while they were getting drunk. At one point, Dean Torrence of surf-pop duo Jan & Dean, who had previously recorded Barbara Ann in 1962 and was recording in an adjacent studio, popped in. Torrence suggested the song and sang lead on the recording with Brian Wilson. Torrence left half an hour later, and was not credited on the album. Obviously, the light-hearted Barbara Ann, with its fluffed lines and subsequent laughter and with session drummer Hal Blaine on ashtrays “” listen closely at 1:05 “” did not quite meet the sophisticated production values which had already been evident on recent recordings, such as California Girls. And still, Barbara Ann reached the US #2.

regentsBarbara-Ann (it was originally hyphenated) had been a 1961 US #13 hit for The Regents, an American-Italian doo wop group from the Bronx. They went on to have only one more Top 30 hit, Runaround. Barbara-Ann “” written by bandmember Chuck Fassert”s brother Fred for their eponymous sister “”had been recorded as a demo by The Regents in 1959. When they couldn”t land a record contract, the group folded. A couple of years later, a group called The Consorts, which included a Regents” member”s younger brother, dug out the demo and played it at auditions. One record company, Cousins, liked Barbara-Ann and released it “” but not by the Consorts, but the Regents” version. The Regents hurriedly reunited, and the song quickly became a local and then a national hit.

Also recorded by: Jan & Dean (1962), The Who (1966), Martin Circus (as Marylène, 1975), Vince Vance & the Valiants (as Bomb Iran, 1979 “” John McCain”s favourite), Red Squares (1989), Blind Guardian (1991), Travoltas (2003)
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The Originals Vol. 21 – Elvis edition 4

April 10th, 2009 6 comments

This is the fourth and final Elvis special in the Originals series. That is 20 cover versions (plus Glenn Reves” demo acetate of Heartbreak Hotel), out of some 250 cover versions Elvis recorded. Most of these are, however, relatively obscure or better known in previous versions. Featured here are six songs: Are You Lonesome Tonight, Crying In The Chapel, Suspicious Minds, The Wonder Of You, There Goes My Everything, and Burning Love.

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Mark James ““ Suspicious Minds.mp3
(old file replaced by the album version as of December 17, 2009)
Elvis Presley ““ Suspicious Minds.mp3

Elvis Presley”s artistic decline in the1960s is symbolised by the coincidence of his most derided movie, Clambake, opening at about the same time as the Beatles released their groundbreaking Sgt Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A year later, in 1968, Elvis” live TV special marked the comeback of Elvis the Entertainer. Elvis the Recording Artist, however, had not had a #1 hit in seven years when in January 1969 he entered the famous American Sound Studios in Memphis, the soul table where Dusty Springfield cut her legendary Dusty in Memphis album.

At first the old soul music veterans at the studio were dubious about working with the washed-up ex-king of rock “˜n” roll. Elvis soon had them convinced otherwise. Eight days into the session, on January 20, he recorded the Mac Davis-penned In The Ghetto; two days later Suspicious Minds, which by the end of 1969 would top the US charts.

mark_jamesSuspicious Minds was written by American Sound Studios in-house writer Mark James (whose real name was Francis Zambon), who also wrote hits such as It”s Only Love and Hooked On A Feeling for his friend, country singer BJ Thomas. The latter was also a UK hit for the vile Jonathan King. BJ Thomas was in line to record Suspicious Minds before the song was given to Elvis “” who insisted on recording the song even when his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, threatened that he wouldn”t over the question of publishing rights (always an issue with Parker). Thomas went on to have a big hit that year anyway with Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, and went on to record Suspicious Minds in 1970.

elvis_suspicious_mindsElvis would record four more songs written or co-written by James: Always On My Mind (written originally, as noted in Elvis edition 2, for Brenda Lee), Raised On A Rock, Moody Blue and Thomas” It”s Only Love. James recorded none of these, but in 1968 he did record Suspicious Minds. Chips Moman had produced James” version, and thereby created a handy template which he returned to when producing Elvis” version. Improved by Elvis superb interpretation, the stirring backing vocals, and the tight Memphis Horns, the cover became Elvis” definitive latter-period song. Two months before Suspicious Minds was released as a single in October 1969, Elvis resumed performing live on stage “” for the first time in more than a decade. As if to create a poignant contrast, Elvis” first performance in Vegas took place just two weeks before Woodstock. Almost invariably, Suspicious Minds would be Elvis” closing song, later usually accompanied by extravagant karate moves.

Also recorded by: Ross McManus (1970), BJ Thomas (1970), Waylon Jennings & Jessi Coulter (1970), Dee Dee Warwick (1971), The Heptones (1971), Del Reeves & Billie Jo Spears (1976), Johnny Farago (1978), Leo de Castro & Babylon (1978), Ral Donner (1979), Thelma Houston (1980), Candi Staton (1981), B.E.F. feat. Gary Glitter (1982), The Defects (1984), Fine Young Cannibals (1985; charting in the UK with a remix in 1986), Bobby Orlando (1988), Dwight Yoakam (1992), Phish (1996), Axelle Red (1997), Ligabue (as Ultimo tango a Memphis, 1997), True West (1998), Avail (1999), Wax (1999), Gareth Gates (2002), Helmut Lotti (2002), Big Fat Snake with TCB Band & Sweet Inspirations (2003), Pete Yorn (2003), Flemming Bamse Jørgensen (2007), Sakis Rouvas (2007), Dread Zeppelin (2008), Roch Voisine ( 2008), Colton Berry (2008), Ronan bloody Keating (2009), Miss Kittin & the Hacker (2009) a.o.

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Darrell Glenn – Crying In The Chapel.mp3
The Orioles – Crying In The Chapel.mp3
Elvis Presley – Crying In The Chapel.mp3

elvis_chapelThe influence on Elvis” early music by the sounds of Rhythm & Blues on the one hand and country music on the other “” Arthur Crudup and Hank Snow “” is well known. A third profound influence was gospel. Here, too, Elvis drew from across the colour line. Often he was one of the few white faces at black church services (as a youth in Tupelo, he lived in a house designated for white families but located at the edge of a black township), but he also loved the white gospel/country sounds created by the likes of the Louvin Brothers “” whose charmless sibling Ira once declined an approach by his fan Elvis, citing his reluctance to speak to the “white nigger”.

Gospel was not just a fancy, but the genre Elvis loved the most. In recording studios, he would warm up with gospel numbers. When he jammed with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the Sun studio (Johnny Cash left before any of the mis-named Million Dollar Quartet session was recorded), much of the material consisted of sacred music. At the height of his hip-gyrating greatness, he recorded an EP of spirituals titled Peace In The Valley. And let”s not forget that the only three Grammies Elvis ever received were for gospel recordings.

oriolesElvis” biggest gospel hit was Crying In The Chapel, which had been written in 1953 by Artie Glenn for his son Darrell, who performed it in the country genre. The same year, the R&B band Sonny Til & the Orioles “” progenitors of the doo wop style of the late “50s and the first of a succession of bird-themed bandnames “” scored a #11 hit with the song (around the same time, a pop version by June Valli reached #4). It was the Orioles” recording from which Elvis drew inspiration in his version, recorded shortly after he returned from the army in 1960. It was not released, at Tom Parker”s command, because Artie Glenn refused to share the rights to the song with the cut-throat publishing company of Elvis repertoire, Hill & Range. And with good reason, for the song continued to be a hit by several artists. Eventually Hill & Range secured the ownership. When Crying In The Chapel was eventually released in 1965, it was not only a US hit (his first top 10 single in two years), but also topped the UK charts.

Also recorded by: Rex Allen (1953), Lee Lawrence (1953), Art Lund (1953), Ella Fitzgerald (1953), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1953), Eddy Arnold (1953), Nelly Wijsbek (1953), Wolfgang Sauer (as Tränen in den Augen, 1954), Derrick & Patsy (1962), Little Richard (1963), Roy Hamilton (1963), Ellie Lavelle (1963), Santo & Johnny (1964), Adam Wade (1964), Bobby Solo (as La casa del Signore, 1965), The Starliners (1965), Hugo Winterhalter (1965), Chuck Jackson (1966), The Lettermen (1966), Staple Singers (1968), Don McLean (1974), Ronnie McDowell (1978), Allies (1989), Aaron Neville (1995), Hotel Hunger (1997), Helmut Lotti (2002), P.J. Proby (2002), Chris Clark (2005), Cagey Strings (as Tränen in den Augen, 2006), Flemming Bamse Jørgensen (2007) a.o.

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Ray Peterson – The Wonder Of You.mp3
Elvis Presley ““ The Wonder Of You.mp3

raypApparently written for Perry Como, The Wonder Of You was first recorded by Ray Peterson (he of Tell Laura I Love Her notoriety) in 1959, scoring a moderate hit with it. Peterson, who died in 2005, later liked to recount the story of how Elvis sought his permission to record the song. “He asked me if I would mind if he recorded The Wonder Of You. I said: “˜You don’t have to ask permission; you”re Elvis Presley.” He said: “˜Yes, I do. You”re Ray Peterson.”” Not that Peterson owned the rights to the song, or was particularly famous for singing it.

Elvis recorded the song live on stage in Las Vegas on February 18, 1970. It was released as a single a couple of months later and was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, topping the UK charts for six weeks. It was also his last UK #1 during his lifetime.

Also recorded by: Ronnie Hilton (1959), The Lettermen (1963), The Sandpipers (1969), Bobby Hatfield (1969), Jennifer Holliday (2003), Flemming Bamse Jørgensen (2007)

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Ferlin Husky ““ There Goes My Everything.mp3
Elvis Presley ““ There Goes My Everything.mp3

ferlin_huskyThis song is probably most famous in its incarnation as Engelbert Humperdinck”s gaudy 1967 hit. In its original form, however, it is a country classic, written by Dallas Frazier. It was first recorded in 1965 and released the following year by that great purveyor of unintentionally funny songs and owner of the hickiest of hick accents, Ferlin Husky. His version was an album track; fellow country singer Jack Greene turned it into a hit in 1967. Elvis” version, which appeared on the quite excellent 1971 Elvis Country album (after being a 1970 b-side of I Really Don”t Want To Know) and was a UK top 10 hit that year, certainly draws from the song”s country origins “” though surely not from Husky”s original.

Also recorded by: Carl Belew (1967), Del Reeves (1967), Margie Singleton (1967), Bill Vaughn (1967), David Ables (1967), Col Joye (1968), James Burton & Ralph Mooney (1968), Charlie Walker (1968), Nana Mouskouri (as Mille raisons de vivre, 1971), Holmes Brothers (1993), Patty Loveless (2008) a.o.

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Arthur Alexander ““ Burning Love.mp3
Elvis Presley ““ Burning Love.mp3
Dennis Linde – Burning Love.mp3

arthur_alexander_burning_loveElvis did not particularly like Burning Love; if he didn”t record it under protest, he certainly was not going to spend much time on it. Where 16 years earlier he”d spend 30-odd takes on the spontaneous sounding Hound Dog (see Elvis edition 2), he recorded Burning Love in only six takes. The production values were pretty poor: Elvis” voice sounds tinny, but not for lack of trying. But listen to the drumming! Strange then that this slack recording scored big in the US (#2 on Billboard; the final top 10 hit in his lifetime) and UK (#7).

A year previously, in 1971, the soul singer Arthur Alexander (whom we will meet again when we turn to originals of Beatles songs) recorded Burning Love, releasing it in January 1972, two months before Elvis recorded it. A fine recording in the southern soul tradition, it made no impact. The song”s writer, Dennis Linde, recorded it in 1973 “” his version recalls the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Also recorded by: Mother’s Finest (1977), Benny Scott (1983), Ronnie Spector (1987), I Love You (1989), Clouseau (as In vuur en vlam, 1992), Travis Tritt (1992), Batmobile (1993), Grant Lee Buffalo (1993), Melissa Etheridge (1994), Nina Forsberg (1997), Ghoti Hook (1998), Wynonna Judd (2003) a.o.

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Vaughn Deleath – Are You Lonesome Tonight.mp3
Henry Burr – Are You Lonesome To-night.mp3
Carter Family – Are You Lonesome Tonight.mp3
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight (Laughing version).mp3

vaughn_deleathTom Parker got Elvis to sing this old standard because it was a favourite of his wife, Mrs Marie (!) Parker, in its 1940s version by country star Gene Austin. Written by Tin Pan Alley residents Lou Handman and Roy Turk in 1926, it was recorded by a swathe of artists in 1927. The first of these versions, by Ned Jakobs, was not released, so the honour of first released recording goes to one Charles Hart. The song first became a hit in the version by the improbably named Vaughn Deleath, “The Radio Girl”. Her take dates to June 13 (Hart”s was May 8). On August 5, 1927, the famed tenor Henry Burr put his voice to it. Many a crooner would follow, but some performers adapted the song to their genre. So it was with the Carter Family “” the pioneers of country music who went on to produce June and Anita “” whose quite lovely 1935 bluegrass version is barely recognisable, musically and even lyrically.

The song enjoyed a revival in the 1950s. It was the 1950 version by the Blue Barron and his Orchestra which served as the basis for Elvis” take on Are You Lonesome Tonight, with Al Jolson”s version of the same year inspiring the spoken part, which borrows from Shakespeare”s As You Like It (“All the world”s a stage” etc). The saxophone is played by Boots Randolph, who later covered the song himself.

are_you_lonesome_tonightFeatured here is not the studio version which those who don”t already have it don”t really need. What they need is the laughing version from one of his 1969 Vegas gigs. The conventional story has it that Elvis, probably amphetamine-addled, was cracking up at the high-pitched singing of a backing singer (said to be Cissy Houston, Whitney”s mother). An alternative story has it that after Elvis, as was his wont, “humorously” changed the lyrics from “Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there” to “Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair”, when he spotted a bald man in the audience, setting him off into a fit of laughter “” and all the while the backing singer keeps going in a most gamely fashion.

Also recorded by: Al Jolson (1950), Blue Barron and his Orchestra (1950), Jaye P. Morgan (1959), Peter Alexander (as Bist du einsam heut’ nacht?, 1961), Frank Sinatra (1962), Helen Shapiro (1962), The Lettermen (1964), Michele (as Ti senti sola stasera, 1965), Dottie West (1972), Donnie Osmond (1973), Euson (1973), (as Er du langsom i nat, 1976), Johnny Farago (1976), Allison Durbin (1977), Merle Haggard (1977), Ral Donner (1979), Karen Casey (1980), Will Tura (as Ben je eenzaam vannacht , 1984), Peter Hofmann (1986), Robot (as Ti senti sola stasera, 1987), Mina (1989), Bryan Ferry (1992), 101 Strings (1993), Sammy “Sax” Mintzer (1997), Megan Mullally (1999), The Mavericks (1999), Helmut Lotti (2002), Anne Murray (2002), Barb Jungr (2005), Chris Botti with Paul Buchanan (2005), Cagey Strings (2006), Barry Manilow (2006) a.o.

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More Originals

The Originals – Elvis edition 1
The Originals – Elvis edition 2
The Originals – Elvis edition 3

The Originals Vol. 20

April 3rd, 2009 6 comments

I failed to realise that the 19th instalment of The Originals last week marked the 100th song to be, erm, covered in the series (remember, the first part included ten songs, part 2 featured six). Since it can be argued that the story of Bitter Sweet Symphony wasn”t really a tale of an original and its cover, we enter the second century of the series with a South African song with a most remarkable history (and pardon the length of the entry; it”s worth reading anyhow, I hope), as well as the originals of the Kingsmen”˜s Louie Louie, Glen Campbell”˜s By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Deep Purple”˜s Hush and the bizarre Tiny Tim”˜s Tip Toe Through The Tulips.

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Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds – Mbube.mp3
The Weavers – Wimoweh.mp3
Miriam Makeba – The Lion Song (Mbube).mp3
The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight.mp3
Pete Seeger – Wimoweh (live).mp3
Soweto Gospel Choir – Mbube.mp3

mbubeOne of the most foul stories of songwriting theft must be the story of Mbube (the song known more widely as The Lion Sleeps Tonight or Wimoweh), with even the venerable Pete Seeger involved in the deceit; though he comes out of it a lot better than others.

The man who wrote and first recorded it, Solomon Linda, died virtually penniless, having been duped into selling the rights to the song for a pittance to the Italian-born South African record label owner Eric Gallo. Gallo pocketed the royalties of the prodigious South African sales, in return allowing Linda to work in his packing plant. Apart from performing on stage in South Africa, where he was a musical legend in the townships, Linda worked there until his death at 53 in 1962 “” nine years after Seeger and the Weavers had a US #6 hit with it, and a year after The Tokens scored a huge hit with the song in a reworked version. No laws were broken in this deplorable story of plagiarism, but the rules of ethics and common decency certainly were.

solomon_linda1

Solomon Linda

Mbube was introduced to American music by Pete Seeger, who adapted a fairly faithful version of the song. Still, Seeger didn”t even transcribe the word “uyiMbube” properly, even though he had received a record of the song (from the great music historian Alan Lomax), which had a label stating the title on it. And surely it should have been possible to research a song which sold a 100,000 copies in South Africa, especially if Alan Lomax is your friend, in such a way as not to render “uyiMbube” as “wimoweh”.

Seeger later pleaded ignorance about the intricacies of music publishing, and, to his credit, deeply regretted not insisting firmly enough that Linda be given the songwriting credit. He had sent his initial arrangers”s fee of $1,000 to Linda and insisted that the song”s publishers, TRO, should keep sending royalties to the South African. Apparently they periodically did so, though Linda”s widow had little idea where the money “” hardly riches (about $275 per quarter in the early “90s) “” came from. Some family members say the payments started only in the 1980s. Whatever the case, neither Linda nor Seeger were credited for the song now known as Wimoweh. The credit went to Paul Campbell, a pseudonym used by TRO owner Harry Richmond to copyright the many public-domain folk songs which TRO published.

tokensThe Tokens” version took even greater liberties. But this time nobody could claim ignorance because Miriam Makeba, who grew up with the song, released it in the US in 1960, a year before The Tokens” version was created, as Mbube, or The Lion (mbube means lion). It is fair to say that George David Weiss, who rearranged the song for The Tokens, at their request, should not be denied his songwriter credit (that would be the same Weiss who co-wrote Elvis” Can”t Help Falling In Love with mafia associates and RCA producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore ). Weiss dismantled and restructured the song, turning a very African song into an American novelty pop song. As so often, the future classic was first relegated to the b-side; a disc jockey, not impressed with the a-side, flipped over the single and so created a massive hit.

Peretti and Creatore claimed co-writing credit and the rights to the song, deciding that Mbube was an old African folk song and therefore in the public domain. They might well have thought so in good faith, but a minimum of research would have established the facts, even before the age of Google. Or perhaps not: they pulled the same stunt with Miriam Makeba”s Click Song (the clicking is a distinctive sound in the Xhosa language), which the Tokens released as Bwanina. They got away with that, because Makeba”s number was based on an old folk song. Not so with The Lion Sleeps Tonight, to which Gallo, the record label owner from South Africa, had asserted his US rights in 1952 and then sold it to TRO. A whole lot of wheeling and dealing took place, with the upshot that the credit now included TRO”s fictitious Paul Campbell. Again, Linda was left out in the cold.

It was only at the beginning of the present decade that Linda’s family took legal action, and that only after Richmond, Weiss and the mafia pals started to wrangle about the ownership to the song. Solomon Linda”s family eventually won a settlement which entitles them to future royalties and a lump sum for royalties going back to 1987, largely due to an extensive Rolling Stone exposé by South African one-book wonder novelist Rian Malan. By some estimates, Mbube/Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight has accrued royalties in the region of $15 million. Linda”s family initially sued Disney for $1.5 million for the song”s use in The Lion King ““ happily they are now due royalties from other versions. Malan and the family”s lawyers are still trying to find versions of the song against which to claim royalties.

Here’s the kicker: Solomon Linda was quite delighted at the international success of his song; he didn”t realise that he should have received something for it “” even if that something was just an acknowledgment that he wrote the song.

Read the full story of Mbube.
Also recorded by: Karl Denver (1962), Henri Salvador (as Le lion est mort ce soir, 1962), Roger Whittaker (1967), The New Christy Minstrels (1965), Eric Donaldson (1971), Robert John (1972), Dave Newman (1972), Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus (as Rise Jah Jah Children, 1974), Brian Eno (1975), Flying Pickets (1980), Roboterwerke (1981), Tight Fit (1981), The Nylons (1982), Hotline (1984), Sandra Bernhard (1988), They Might Be Giants with Laura Cantrell (as The Guitar [The Lion Sleeps Tonight], 1990), R.E.M. (as The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, 1993), Nanci Griffith (1993), Lebo M (1994), Steve Forbert (1994), *NSYNC (1997), Helmut Lotti (2000), Laurie Berkner (2000) a.o.

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Billy Joe Royal – Hush.mp3
Deep Purple – Hush.mp3

bj-royalIn Volume 19 we looked at Joe South”s original of Rose Garden. South enjoyed chart success himself with Games People Play, and wrote a couple of hits for Billy Joe Royal, including Royal”s signature hit Down In The Boondocks (1965, originally intended for Gene Pitney) and Hush (1967). Royal “” it is his real name “” had a country background, though one influenced by the soul stylings of Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. He performed with the country singer likes of Jerry Reed and George Stevens, but aimed for a pop audience. For a while he succeeded, but when his pop star waned, he successfully crossed back into traditional country. His final pop charts entry, a 1978 version of Under The Boardwalk which peaked at #82, was followed in 1985 by his first country charts entry (Burned Like A Rocket, #10).

Hush was not a big hit for Royal, peaking at #52. But it became the first hit for hairy hard rock legends Deep Purple, in 1968 “” even though initially nitially the group was not really interested in the song. Since then, Hush has been recorded in various styles, most of them taking as their template Deep Purple”s version rather than Royal”s gospel-tinged original which evokes the source of South”s inspiration for the song: a spiritual which included the line “Hush, I thought I heard Jesus calling my name.”

Also recorded by: Johnny Hallyday (as Mal, 1967), I Colours (1968), Merrilee Rush & Turnabouts (1968), The Love Affair (1968), Jimmy Frey (1969), Funky Junction (1973), Deep Purple (1985), Milli Vanilli (1988), Killdozer (1989), Gotthard (1992), Kula Shaker (1997)

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richard-berryRichard Berry & The Pharoahs – Louie Louie.mp3
The Kingsmen – Louie Louie.mp3

There are people who like to designate the Kingsmen”s 1963 version of Louie Louie as the first ever punk song. One can see why: it”s production is shambolic, the drummer is rumoured to be swearing in the background, the singer”s diction is non-existence, the modified lyrics were investigated by the FBI for lewdness (the feds found nothing incriminating, not even the line which may or may not have been changed from “it won”t be long me see me love to “stick my finger up the hole of love”), and by the time the song became a hit ““ after a Boston DJ played in a “worst songs ever” type segment “” the band had broken up and toured in two incarnations.

louie-louie

Originally it was a regional hit in 1957 for an R&B singer named Richard Berry, who took inspiration from his namesake Chuck and West Indian music. In essence, it”s a calypso number of a sailor telling the eponymous barman about the girl he loves. It was originally released as a b-side, but quickly gained popularity on the West Coast. It sold 40,000 copies, but after a series of flops Berry momentarily retired from the recording business, selling the rights to Louie Louie for $750. In the meantime, bands continued to include the song in their repertoire. It was a 1961 version by Rockin’ Robin Roberts & the Fabulous Wailers which provided the Kingsmen with the prototype for their cover.

It is said that Louie Louie has been covered at least 1,500 times. It has also woven itself into the fabric of American culture, having been referenced in several movies, as diverse as Animal House and Mr Holland”s Opus. In the terribly underrated 1990 roadtrip film Coupe de Ville, three brothers (including a young Patrick Dempsey) have an impassioned debate about whether Louie Louie is a sea shanty or a song about sex.

Also recorded by: Rockin’ Robin Roberts (1961), Paul Revere & The Raiders (1963), Beach Boys (1963), The Kinks (1964), Joske Harry’s & The King Creoles (1964), Otis Redding (1964), The Invictas (1965), Jan & Dean (1965), The Ventures (1965), The Sandpipers (1966), Swamp Rats (1966), The Ad-Libs (1966), The Sonics (1966), The Troggs (1966), Friar Tuck (1967), The Tams (1968), Toots and the Maytals (1972), Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (1973), Skid Row (1976), The Flamin’ Groovies (1977), The Clash (live bootleg, 1977), The Kids (1980), Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1981), Barry White (1981), Stanley Clarke & George Duke (1981), Maureen Tucker (1981), Black Flag (1981), Motörhead (1984), Lyres (1987), The Fat Boys (1988), The Purple Helmets (1988), Young MC (1990), Massimo Riva (as Lui Luigi, 1992), Pow Wow (1992), The Outcasts (1993), Iggy Pop (1993), Robert Plant (1993), The Queers (1994), The Stingray (1996), The Alarm Clocks (2000), Mazeffect (2003), Angel Corpus Christi (2005) a.o.

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Nick Lucas – Tip Toe Through The Tulips With Me.mp3
Tiny Tim – Tip Toe Through The Tulips.mp3

nick_lucasWhatever mind-altering substance it was that possessed the record buying public to turn Tiny Tim”s bizarre rendition of Tip-Toe Through The Tulips into an international hit, I want some. Usually a baritone, Tiny Tim sang the old standard in a bizarre falsetto which he had “discovered” by accident when singing along to a song on the radio as a young man in the early “50s. Somehow he built up a loyal cult following with that falsetto shtick, ultimately leading to his novelty hit (possibly aided by his cryranoesque physiognomy) following its performance on the comedy variety show Rowan and Martin”s Laugh-In.

tiny_timBut Tiny Tim, known to his mother as Herbert Khaury, was more than a bit of a court jester. In his real life, which ended in 1996 at the age of 64, he was a serious student of American music history. He didn”t do Tip-Toe as a parody but as a tribute to the song”s original performer, Nick Lucas. Indeed, Lucas sang it at Khoury”s 1969 wedding to one Miss Vicky on Johnny Carson”s Tonight Show (Video of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicky crooning on the show).

Nick Lucas, known in his prime as “The Crooning Troubadour” and later as “the grandfather of the jazz guitar”, topped the charts with the song “” written in 1926 by Joe Burke and Al Dubin “” for ten weeks in 1929 on the back of its inclusion in the early colour film Gold Diggers Of Broadway (video).

Also recorded by: Jean Goldkette (1929), Johnny Marvin (1929), Roy Fox (1929) a.o.

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Johnny Rivers – By The Time I Get To Phoenix.mp3
Glen Campbell – By The Time I Get To Phoenix.mp3
Isaac Hayes – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (full ).mp3

jriversJohnny Rivers is mostly remembered as the “60s exponent of rather good rock & roll covers, especially on his Live At The Whiskey A Go Go LP. He was also the owner of the record label which released the music of The 5th Dimension. In that capacity, Rivers gave the budding songwriter Jimmy Webb his first big break, having The 5th Dimension record Webb”s song Up, Up And Away and thereby giving Webb (and the group and the label) a first big hit in 1967. By The Time I Get To Phoenix is another Webb composition, and this one Rivers recorded himself first for his Changes album in 1966 (when Webb was only 19!).

Rivers” version made no impact, nor did a cover by Pat Boone. The guitarist on Boone”s version, however, picked up on the song and released it in 1967. Glen Campbell scored a massive hit with the song, even winning two Grammies for it. In quick succession, Campbell completed a trilogy of geographically-themed songs by Webb, with the gorgeous Wichita Lineman (written especially for Campbell) and the similarly wonderful Galveston.

isaac_hayes_hbsAnother seasoned session musician took Phoenix into a completely different direction (if you will pardon the unintended pun). Isaac Hayes had heard the song, and decided to perform it as the Bar-Keys” guest performer at Memphis” Tiki Club, a soul venue. He started with a spontaneous spoken prologue, explaining in some detail why this man is on his unlikely journey. At first the patrons weren”t sure what Hayes was doing rapping over a repetitive chord loop. After a while, according to Hayes, they started to listen. At the end of the song, he said, there was not a dry eye in the house (“I’m gonna moan now…”). As it appeared on Ike”s 1968 Hot Buttered Soul album, the thing went on for 18 glorious minutes.

Also recorded by: Pat Boone (1967), Floyd Cramer (1967), Vikki Carr (1968), Roger Miller (1968), Andy Williams (1968), Eddy Arnold (1968), Conway Twitty (1968), Marty Robbins (1968), The Lettermen (1968), David Houston (1968), Tony Mottola (1968), Al Wilson (1968), The Main Attraction (1968), King Curtis (1968), Jack Jones (1968), Julius Wechter & Baja Marimba Band (1968), Ace Cannon (1968), Harry Belafonte (1968), Jack Greene (1968), Jim Nabors (1968), John Davidson (1968), Four Tops (1968),  Ray Conniff (1968), Frankie Valli (1968), Larry Carlton (1968), Johnny Mathis (1968), Frank Sinatra (1968), Dean Martin (1968), The Intruders (1968), Bobby Goldsboro (1968), Ray Price (1968), Engelbert Humperdinck (1968), Claude François (as Le temps que j’arrive à Marseille, 1969), A.J. Marshall (1969), Mantovani (1969), José Feliciano (1969), Nat Stuckey (1969), The Mad Lads (1969), William Bell (1969), Young-Holt Unlimited (1969), Erma Franklin (1969), Dorothy Ashby (1969), Nancy Wilson (1969), Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy (1970), Winston Francis (1970), Mongo Santamaría (1970), The Ventures (1970), Wanda Jackson (1970), Fabulous Souls (1971), The Wip (1971), New York City (1973), The Escorts (1973), Susannah McCorkle (1986), Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1986), Eric Miller & His Orchestra (1991), Reba McIntyre (1995), Jimmy Webb (1996), Detroit Underground (1997), Heather Myles (2002), Thelma Houston (2007), Maureen McGovern (2008) a.o.

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More Originals

The Originals Vol. 19

March 23rd, 2009 3 comments

In the 19th instalment of The Originals, we look at “60s classic Doo Wah Diddy Diddy, Joe Cocker”s chestnut You Are So Beautiful, a couple of legendary Motown his and the sorry tale of the Verve”s Bitter Sweet Symphony.

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The Exciters – Do-Wah-Diddy.mp3
Manfred Mann – Do Wah Diddy Diddy.mp3

excitersIt was a huge hit for the unlikeliest pop star ever to emerge from Johannesburg (yeah, I know, Mr Lubowitz”s stage name applied to the whole band). But a year before that, in 1963, it was recorded, minus a diddy, by a soul girl group which never enjoyed as much success as it deserved. The Exciters are remembered mainly for their single big hit, the Bert Berns composition Tell Him.

Do-Wah-Diddy was written by Brill Building hitmakers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who wrote many girl group hits such as Be My Baby, Baby, I Love You, And Then He Kissed Me, Da Doo Ron Ron, and River Deep Mountain High (Greenwich also co-wrote the Exciters” other hit, He”s Got The Power, and ““ incidentally ““ discovered Neil Diamond).

The song made a comeback of sorts when Bill Murray and Harold Ramis sang it in a marching scene from Stripes (1981), the first half of which was very funny. Earlier in the film, Ramis uses another Barry & Greenwich composition, Da Doo Ron Ron to good comedic effect.

Also recorded by: Sheila (as Vous les copains, je ne vous oublierai jamais, 1964), Jan & Dean (1965), A la Carte (1980), Silicon Teens (1980), Showaddywaddy (1980), The Dolly Dots (1982), Neil Diamond (1993), Mr. Al (1997), Murry Lachlan Young (1997), DJ Ötzi (2001)

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Undisputed Truth – Papa Was A Rolling Stone.mp3
Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (full version).mp3
Temptations – War.mp3
Edwin Starr  – War.mp3

papa-was-a-rolling-stoneIn Motown”s happy family it was common that the same songs would be recorded by different artists. Sometimes, that custom would result in two chart-toppers within a year, as in the case of I Heard It Through The Grapevine (see Volume 2). In other cases, one version would become legendary, and the other virtually forgotten. So it is with Papa Was A Rolling Stone and War, both muscular soul-funk tunes written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.

The Undisputed Truth, who may be remembered for their hit Smiling Faces Sometimes (which was originally recorded by the Temptations), recorded Papa Was A Rolling Stone as a single release in 1971. It did not perform spectacularly well, peaking at #63 in the US charts. A year later, Whitfield gave the song to the Temptations when he produced their 1972 All Directions album, on which it appeared as a 12-minute workout. The shortened single version went on to top the US charts.

The song dated the death of the deplorable Papa to “the third of September”, which happened to be the date Temptations singer Dennis Edward”s father died. Edwards was allocated that line, leading him to suspect that Whitfield had written the line knowing of that particular detail. Whitfield denied that (as he well might), but nevertheless exploited Edward”s anger about it by having him sing the line in repeated takes until the singer sounded very irate indeed. For his troubles, by the Temptations dismissed Whitfield as their producer. The group would never recorded anything better than Whitfield”s epics. And when Whitfield (who died last year) eventually left Motown, the Undisputed Truth followed him.

psychedelic-shackWhile the Temptations scored with the Undisputed Truth”s song, Edwin Starr had a hit with a Temps song, War. The anti-Vietnam protest song appeared originally on the Temptations 1970 Psychedelic Shack album. By popular request, Motown decided to release it as a single, but not by the Temptations, because the label did not want to associate its big stars with political causes. Indeed, the Temptations themselves were apprehensive about offending some of their fans (though exactly why anybody who would dig the drug-friendly psychedelic grooves of early-“70s Temptations might be offended by an anti-war sentiment is a mystery). So Motown gave the song to a relative unknown who two years earlier had enjoyed his solitary hit. Edwin Starr”s anthemic, fist-raising version was far more fierce and furious than that of Temptations. Catching the zeitgeist, Starr”s War was a US #1 hit. And guess who appears on the backing track? The Undisputed Truth.

Also recorded by: (Papa Was A Rolling Stone): David Lindley & El Rayo-X (1988), Was (Not Was) (1990), The Lovemongers (1992), George Michael & Queen (1993), Isaac Hayes & Soul II Soul (1996), 4 the Cause (1998), Lisa Fischer & Chris Botti (2003), Gilbert Montagné (2006).
(War) D.O.A. (1982), The Jam (1982), Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984), Tom Jones (1985), Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street band (1986), Mace (1976), Laibach (1994), Hexenhaus (1997), The BB Band (1999), Joan Osborne (2002), Gilbert Montagné (2006), Boyz II Men (2007), Maria Muldaur (2008)

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Billy Preston – You Are So Beautiful.mp3
Joe Cocker – You Are So Beautiful.mp3

billy-prestonFew noises in mainstream pop history have been as disturbing as Joe Cocker”s croaked note at the end of that staple of soppy love songs, You Are So Beautiful. Some people might regard the song best crooned by Homer Simpson, but they are probably not familiar with Billy Preston”s rather good original. The song was written by Preston and his songwriting partner Bruce Fisher, with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson”s uncredited lyrical contribution  (Wilson would sing the song as an encore at Beach Boys gigs in the late “70s and early “80s). Preston”s version was recorded shortly before Cocker”s slower version in 1974. The former remained an album track, while Cocker”s version reached the US #5 in 1975 (but didn”t chart at all Britain).

Also recorded by: John Davidson (1976), Tanya Tucker (1977), Bonnie Tyler (1992), Babyface (1993), Kenny Rogers (1994), Captain & Tennille (1995), Al Green (2005), Sam Moore with Billy Preston, Zucchero, Eric Clapton & Robert Randolph (2006), Diana Ross (2006), Carnie Wilson (2006), Westlife (2006), Kenny Rankin (2007), Donny Osmond (2007) a.o.
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Andrew Oldham Orchestra – The Last Time.mp3
The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony.mp3

andrew-oldham-orchestraOf course, this is not so much the story of an orignal and its cover as the unhappy tale of a sample and greed “” all revolving around a loop in the Verve song that was lifted from Andrew Look Oldham”s 1966 instrumental adaptation of the Rolling Stones” The Last Time. Oldham was not only a musician, but also the manager of the Stones in their early pomp. He sold his contract to Allen Klein ““ has there ever been a more lawyerly name in rock? ““ in 1966. By 1997, when the Verve”s Urban Hymns album came out, Klein controlled the Stones” 1960s back catalogue.

The Verve had actually secured permission to use the sample, but when Klein heard an advance copy of the song, he threatened to sue, claiming that the us of the sample exceeded what had been agreed on. The band and publishers settled on a 50/50 royalties split. As the album hit the shops, Klein reneged on the agreement and demanded 100%, successfully so, because by now the album could not be pulled from the shelves. The out-of-court settlement was a defeat for the Verve ““ and, to some extent, for Oldham. All royalties were ceded, and the songwriting credit went to Jagger & Richards, even though their version of The Last Time had no significant influence on Bitter Sweet Symphony. The Verve”s Richard Ashcroft, who wrote the song, later commented caustically: “This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years.”

verve-bitter-sweet-symphonyIt can be argued that Jagger and Richards didn”t even write the song from which Ashcroft didn”t sample; The Last Time was based (or ripped off, if you are feeling less than overly charitable) on a 1950s recording by the Staple Singers of almost exactly the same title, This May Be The Last Time. It”s a shame the Staple Singers didn”t think to sue”¦ And just to turn this sorry tale into a real farce, when Bitter Sweet Symphony was nominated for two Grammys, the credit went to Jagger and Richards as writers and the Andrew Oldham Orchestra as artists.

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More Originals

The Originals Vol. 18

March 13th, 2009 5 comments

Another batch of originals, looking at Homeward Bound, Hurting Each Other, Blame It On The Boogie, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Rose Garden.

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Chad & Jeremy ““ Homeward Bound.mp3
Simon & Garfunkel ““ Homeward Bound (live).mp3

chadjeremyIn 1965, Chad & Jeremy were a popular English folk-rock duo when Jeremy Clyde met the songwriter of promising newcomers Simon & Garfunkel at a party for Bob Dylan. Paul Simon was delighted to be asked to play some of his songs for the folk star, and proceeded to play 18 tracks, many of them future classics. One song in particular, Homeward Bound, appealed to Jeremy, and he recorded it with Chad Stuart in London on 26 November 1965 (with Simon dropping in during the session). A few weeks later, in December, Simon & Garfunkel got around to recording their own version of the song which Paul Simon had started writing while stuck at Widnes station (or Dutton or Wigan, accounts vary) in northern England.

Chad & Jeremy considered Homeward Bound for a single release, but having got wind of Simon & Garfunkel considering the song as a follow-up to their hit The Sound Of Silence, they opted for a rocker titled Ballad Of A Teenage Failure. It turned out to be a ballad of a failure, teenage or not. Chad & Jeremy in the end released Homeward Bound in August 1966 on their Distant Shores album. Simon & Garfunkel had a #5 hit with it earlier that year. The Simon & Garfunkel version posted here is a live recording from the soundboard bootleg of their 1968 Hollywood Bowl concert.

Also recorded by: Mel Tormé (1966), Petula Clark (1966), Cher (1966), Richard Anthony (as Un autographe, SVP, 1966), The Quiet Five (1966), Jack Jones (1968), Glen Campbell (1968), Brenda Byers (1970), Buck Owens (1971), Jermaine Jackson (1972), Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson (1983), The King’s Singers (1989)

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Jimmy Clanton ““ Hurting Each Other.mp3
Carpenters ““ Hurting Each Other.mp3

jimmy-clantonAs previously noted, the Carpenters had a way of appropriating songs first recorded by other people. In part, this owes to an astuteness in often picking songs that weren”t very well known. Once Richard Carpenter imprinted his imaginative arrangements and Karen her marvellous vocals on such a song, it almost invariably was theirs. And so it was with Hurting Each Other, which the siblings recorded in late 1971 (apparently a news segment filmed them putting down the backing vocal track). It appeared on their excellent 1972 album, A Song For You, and the single reached #2 on the US charts.

Hurting Each Other was written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell, whose songwriting credits also included Brian Hyland”s Sealed With A Kiss. The first recording of the song was released in 1965 by teen idol Jimmy Clanton, a white R&B singer from Baton Rouge who had a string of hits (including Neil Sedaka”s composition Venus In Blue Jeans) in what has been called “swamp pop” and then faded into the sort of obscurity that has nonetheless ensured a performing career that continues to this day, complemented by a line in radio DJing.

Also recorded by: Chad Allan & The Expressions ( who would become Guess Who,1965); Walker Brothers (1966), Ruby & The Romantics (1969), Peter Nero (1972), Percy Faith & His Orchestra (1972), Ray Conniff and The Singers (1972), Johnette Napolitano with Marc Moreland (1994), Stan Whitmire (2000)

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Mick Jackson – Blame It On The Boogie.mp3
The Jacksons ““ Blame It On The Boogie.mp3

Loo & Placido – Should I Stay Or Should I Boogie.mp3
mick-jacksonHow many cover versions have been sung by the namesake of the original performer? Mick Jackson was a German-born English pop singer. His Blame It On The Boogie, which he also co-wrote, sounds like a presentable Leo Sayer number. The Jacksons changed little in the song”s structure “” Mick”s original has all the touches we know well, such as the “sunshine, moonlight, good time, boogie” interlude “” and yet they turned a pretty good song into a disco explosion of joy, presaging Michael”s Off TheWall a year and a bit later.

Mick Jackson actually wrote the song with Stevie Wonder in mind (and it”s easy to imagine how it might have sounded), but was persuaded by a German label to record it himself. When the freshly minted record was played at a music festival in Cannes, a rep for the Jackson “” no doubt alerted by the performer”s name “” secretly taped the song, flew it to the US and had the Jackson brothers record and release it in quick time, to release it before Mick could have a hit with it. With both singles out at the same time, the British press had some fun with the Jackson “Battle of the Boogie”. Mick”s single reached #15 in the UK and #61 in the US. The Jacksons” version became the classic.

The song made a comeback in South Africa in 2003 in a version by a 13-year-old Danish character called Jay-Kid. That version was used in Loo & Placido”s rather splendid 2005 mash-up with the Clash”s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, titled Should I Stay Or Should I Boogie?

Also recorded by: Rita Pavone (1979), Big Fun (1989), Fat Boy Slim (as Blame It On The Baseline, 1989), Luis Miguel (as Será que no me amas, 1990), Dynamo’s Rhythm Aces (1999), Jay-Kid (2003), Captain Jack (2003), Marcia Hines (2006)

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The Four Lads – Istanbul (Not Constantinople).mp3
They Might Be Giants ““ Istanbul (Not Constantinople).mp3

the-four-lads-istanbulIt casts a reflection of some kind on They Might Be Giants that many people believe the novelty number Istanbul (Not Constantinople) to be their original. It is, in fact, an old swing number from the 1950s written “” borrowing copiously from Putting On The Ritz “” by Nat Simons and Jimmy Arnold, the latter frontman of Canadian singing quartet the Four Lads. The song was the group”s breakthrough hit in 1953, and they had enough of a career to enable a reconstituted version of the group to trawl the nostalgia circuit.

They Might Be Giants recorded their faster cover version in 1989, drawing from the klezmer style of secular Jewish music to get that Middle Eastern effect (hey, they are Americans”¦). One may assume that the song would cause some perplexity in Greece, where the Turkish city on the Bosphorus is referred to as Constantinople. (Thanks to Philip)

Also recorded by: The Radio Revellers (1953), Frankie Vaughan (1954), Caterina Valente (1954), Santo & Johnny (1962), Edmundo Ros (1953), Al Caiola (1962), Bette Midler (1977), The Residents (1987), The Sacados (1990), Mad Dodo (1992), Chris Potter & Kenny Werner (1994), Trevor Horn Orchestra (2003), Reggie”s Red Hot Feetwarmers (2005), Ska Cubano (2006), Ayhan SicimoÄŸlu (2006)

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Joe South – Rose Garden.mp3
Lynn Anderson ““ Rose Garden.mp3

joe-southOnce upon a time, I hated the song as being representative of everything I loathed about country music. I still didn”t like it when I saw the light and embraced the genre, for Anderson”s hit record is rather naff. Then I heard Joe South”s version, and it became clear to me just how good a song it is. Alas, a few weeks ago I watched an audition for South Africa”s Idols show during which a spectacularly untalented woman performed the song she retitled “Ahr Burk Yurr Pahrrdynn”, singing it aggressively out of tune and with no regard to the correct lyrics. It is her tragicomic version which I now hear, alas, when I think of the song.

In the three years before Lynn Anderson got around to scoring a hit with it in 1971, Rose Garden had been recorded by a soul singer (Dobie Gray), another country singer (Glen Campbell) and three easy listening merchants (Ray Conniff, Ronnie Aldrich and His Two Pianos, and Boots Randolph, under his almost real name Homer Louis Randolph III). For Joe South it was just an album track. He”d have a hit later with Games People Play, and wrote a couple of hits for Billie Joe Royal (Down in the Boondocks and Hush, which would become a Deep Purple classic), The Osmonds and Elvis.

Lynn Anderson almost did not record the song. Execs at her record company, Columbia, didn”t like it much and thought it inappropriate for a woman to sing a song which represents a male perspective (for example in the line “I could promise you things like big diamond rings”). As it happened, there was some spare time during a studio session, and the track was recorded. The label”s micro-managing head, Clive Davis, heard it and decided that it should be Anderson”s next single. It was a big hit in the US and Europe, and Anderson”s version remained the biggest selling recording by any female country artist until 1997.

Also recorded by: Dobie Gray (1969), Glen Campbell (1971), Homer Louis Randolph III (1971), Ray Conniff (1971), Ronnie Aldrich and His Two Pianos (1971), Peter Horton (with German lyrics, 1971), Johnny Mathis (1971), Loretta Lynn (1971), New World (1971), Andy Williams (1971), Dottie West (1971), The Fevers (as Mar de Rosas, 1971), Claude François (as Je te demande pardon, 1971), Bakersfield California Brass (1972), k.d. lang (1986), Kon Kan (1989), Suicide Machines (2000), Tamra Rosanes (2002), Socks (2004), Martina McBride (2005), Southern Culture on the Skids (2007), Aldebert (as Je te demande pardon, 2008)



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The Originals Vol. 17

March 3rd, 2009 7 comments

Time for another round of Originals. Apologies for the relative scarcity of posts in the series. They are rather research-intensive, so one post of five songs can take up to 5-6 hours of work. Still, I enjoy writing these posts very much, so I”ll keep on going.
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Richard Chamberlain ““ They Long To Be Close To You.mp3
Dusty Springfield ““ (They Long To Be) Close To You.mp3
Carpenters ““ (They Long To Be) Close To You.mp3

Isaac Hayes – (They Long To Be) Close To You (full).mp3
Jerry Butler & Brenda Lee Eager – Close To You (live).mp3
Gwen Guthrie ““ (They Long To Be) Close To You.mp3
Paul Weller – Close To You.mp3

richard-chamberlain-close-to-youThe Carpenters drew heavily from often not very well known songs, making them their own in the process. This was not so, however, with what is widely regarded at their signature tune. (They Long To Be) Close To You had been recorded a few times before the Carpenters got their turn in 1970.

It started out as a humble b-side to Richard Chamberlain” (yes, the actor) 1963 single Blue Guitar. Within a year both Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield had recorded it, though Dusty”s version was not released until 1967, on her lovely Where Am I Going? LP.

Composer Burt Bacharach was not happy with either of the hitherto published versions when he offered the song to Herb Alpert, who had in 1968 recorded a rather good version of Bacharach”s This Guy”s In Love With You. Alpert, however, declined to do Close To You (apparently he didn”t like the line about sprinkling “moondust in your hair”), and gave the song to the Carpenters, who had released their debut LP on Alpert”s A&M label. An similarly hesitant Richard Carpenter and Alpert arranged the song “” with the latter”s prominent trumpet track “” and created aversion Bacharach was happy with.

carpenters1Close To You has been covered many times since. The genius of the song is that it can stand distinct treatments. It did not suffer from Isaac Hayes slowed down, psychedelic-soul 1971 take, nor from Jerry Butler & Brenda Lee Eager’s 1973 gospel-blues rendition (from the legendary Save The Children concert), nor from Gwen Guthrie”s wonderful upbeat, joyous soul interpretation in 1986. Even Paul Weller on his 2004 album of cover versions couldn”t mess it up. Indeed, I like his raspy-voiced version on which he struggles to keep in tune, but I seem to be in a minority here. Listen to it and tell me what you think. And, of course, it”s Homer and Marge”s wedding song (in the movie; regular viewers will recall several weddings).

Also recorded by: Dionne Warwick (1967), Gabor Szabo (1970), Johnny Mathis (1970), Perry Como (1970), Nancy Wilson (1970), Diana Ross (1970), Leon Spencer (1971), Frank Sinatra (1971), The Moments (1971), Claudine Longet (1971), Barbra Streisand & Burt Bacharach (1971, on Bacharach’s TV show), Cilla Black (1971), Eddy Arnold (1971), Richard Evans (1972), Errol Garner (1973), The Clams (1974), B.T. Express (1975), The Cranberries (1994), Richard Clayderman (1995), Yasuko Agawa (1996), Billy Baxter (1998), Marshall & Alexander (2003), Gerald Levert & Tamia (2003), Tuck & Patti (2004), Soulbob (2005), Rick Astley (2005), Herb Alpert (2005), Barry Manilow (2007), Mario Biondi & Duke Orchestra (2007), Steve Tyrell (2008), Tina Arena (2008) a.o.

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Anita Carter ““ Love”s Ring Of Fire.mp3
Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire.mp3

anita-carterAt the time when June Carter was falling heavily for Johnny Cash, she was regularly writing songs with fellow country singer Merle Kilgore (the first song they wrote together was titled Promised To John, recorded by Anita Carter with Hank Snow). As Kilgore recalled it, Ring Of Fire was born the day June spoke to him about her love for Cash. Later, seeking an idea for a song, June remembered a letter she had received from a friend going through a divorce which described love as “a burning ring of fire”. And thus a classic song title (which even appealed to the manufacturers of haemorrhoid ointment; Roseanne Cash blocked its use in an ad for such a product) was born. Or, if you choose to doubt Kilgore, the writers lifted it from an Elizabethan love poem (or maybe June”s friend got the line from that source).

The song essentially describes June”s feelings for Cash. But it was her sister Anita “” reportedly a one-time girlfriend of Elvis Presley”s “” who recorded it first, in November 1962. In fact, the song was only half-finished when Anita was ready to record it (June had led her to believe the song was already complete). June and Kilgore banged the rest together in ten minutes, fortuitously retaining the word “mire” from a provisional lyric.

cash-ring-of-fireCash liked the song when he heard Anita”s record (as he well should) and decided he would record it. Deferring to his future sister-in-law, he waited four months before recording his version. In the interim he had a dream about the song featuring Tijuana trumpets “” possibly inspired by June”s comment about her having borrowed the song”s swirling sound from the music at a merry-go-round in Villa Acuna, Mexico. Shortened to Ring Of Fire, Cash”s version was a hit, his first since October 1958, this saving his about-to-be-cancelled recording contract with Columbia. And for years later, Kilgore was the best man at Johnny and June”s wedding.

As a postscript, Cash”s ex-wife Vivian claimed that June (or Kilgore) wrote the song, saying it was Johnny”s song about June”s vagina (or “bearded clam”). Attractive though the idea of the song as a metaphor for cunnilingus may be, Vivian”s claim is less than utterly persuasive.

Also recorded by: Roy Drusky (1964), Kitty Wells (1964), Jerry Lee Lewis (1965), Dave Dudley (1966), Tom Jones (1967), Lynn Anderson (1968), Eric Burdon & The Animals (1968), Tommy Cash (1969), Hank Williams Jr (1970), Ray Charles (1970), The Buckaroos (1971), Earl Scruggs & Linda Ronstadt (1972), Olivia Newton-John (1977), Blondie (1980), Wall of Voodoo (1980), Carlene Carter (1980), Dwight Yoakam (1986), Social Distortion (1990), Frank Zappa (1991), McPeak Brothers (1992), Dick Dale (1994), Martin Belmont (1995), Stop (1995), Bhundu Boys & Hank Wangford (1996), Elliot Humberto Kavee (1997), David Allan Coe (1998), The Caravans (1999), The Du-Tels (2001), Billy Burnette (2002), Michel Montecrossa (2003), James Carr (2003), Rachel Z (2004)
Bobby Solo ( 2004), Joaquin Phoenix (2005), The Regulars (2006), Leningrad Cowboys (2006), Lucy Kaplansky (2007), Elvis Costello (2007) a.o.

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Sir Mack Rice – Mustang Sally.mp3
Wilson Pickett – Mustang Sally.mp3

mack-riceMustang Sally is the karaoke number of blues and soul, thanks in large part to The Commitments spirited performance in the eponymous 1991 film. But it was in overuse before that: John Lee Hooker”s San Francisco blues club sported a sign on its stage warning: “No Mustang Sally”.

The song was written by the songwriter Bonnie “Sir Mack” Rice (who also wrote the soul classic Respect Yourself) as a bit of a gag on somebody”s desire for a Ford Mustang, calling it first “Mustang Mama”. Reportedly it was Aretha Franklin who suggested the renaming to Sally. Mack had a minor (and his only) hit with it in 1965; in late 1966 Wilson Pickett recorded his now legendary version “” which almost died the moment it was finished. Apparently the tape snapped off the reel, fragmenting on the floor of the Muscle Shoals studio. The engineer, Tom Dowd, gathered the pieces and spliced them back together again. With that, he saved one of the great soul performances. Of course the great story of the broken tape ignores that Pickett could have simply recorded the thing again. Apparently the men from Desperate Housewives are singing it in the new series; have mercy”¦

Also recorded by: Chambers Brothers (1965), The Kingsmen (1966), Young Rascals (1966), Ken Boothe (1968), Mar-Keys (1969), Muddy Waters (1974), Maurice Williams (1975), Willie Mitchell (1977), Snooks Eaglin (1978), Rufus Thomas (1980), Magic Slim & the Teardrops (1983), Frank Frost (1988), Andy Taylor (1990), Buddy Guy (1991), The Outcasts (1993), John Clark (1993), Hiram Bullock (1994), Sam & Dave (1995), Vance Kelly (1998), Fiona Day (1999), Albert Collins (2000), Los Lobos (2000), Solomon Burke (2004) a.o.

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Lis Sørensen – Brændt.mp3
Ednaswap ““ Torn (acoustic version).mp3

Trine Rein – Torn.mp3
Natalie Imbruglia ““ Torn.mp3

lis-sorensenWhen Natalie Imbruglia”s Torn had its long run in the upper reaches of the British and US charts in 1997, word was that the song was a cover of the Norwegian hit by Trine Rein. The rumour was repeated so often that it became received wisdom. The truth is that it wasn”t even the first cover, or even the first Scandinavian version.

The song”s journey to hit-dom is a little complicated. The song was written by Ednaswap members Anne Preven and Scott Cutler in 1993. The same year it was recorded in Danish by Lis Sørensen as Brændt (I got her version from Danophile Whiteray of Echoes In The Wind), but by Ednaswap only in 1995. Still, those who overplayed the Norwegian angle aren”t entire wrong though: Imbruglia”s cover is a straight copy of Rein”s version, right down to the guitar solo. Ednaswap were a not very successful “90s grunge band, who came by their name when singer Anne Preven had a nightmare about fronting a group by that name being booed off the stage. Well, with a name like that”¦ Preven has become a songwriter, receiving an Oscar nomination for co-writing the song Listen from Dreamgirls.

Also recorded by: Off By One (2002)

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Marion Harris – I Ain”t Got Nobody.mp3
Ted Lewis – Just A Gigolo.mp3
Louis Prima – Just a Gigolo/I Ain”t Got Nobody.mp3

marion-harrisBased on his early “50s stage act, Louis Prima craftily took two songs and seamlessly turned them into one. Just A Gigolo, the first part of the song, is based on the 1929 Austrian hit by Richard Tauber, originally known as Schöner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo (Beautiful Gigolo, Poor Gigolo ““ as in the 1978 movie in which Marlene Dietrich sings the song), which tells the story of a soldier who ditches his uniform to become a “dancer-for-hire” after World War I. In the interim, the song has become a German big band standard. Soon after it was released in Austria, it crossed the Atlantic. The translated lyrics, by one Irving Caesar, moved the action to Paris and eliminated the social commentary on post-war Austria. It was first recorded in the US by French singer Irene Bordoni. Ted Lewis” 1931 is the oldest of the German-language versions I could come by, thanks to One Hep Kat.

Prima brings the gigolo”s fatalism (“When the end comes I know, they”ll say “˜just a gigolo” as life goes on without me”) to the obvious conclusion in the second part, in which the gigolo laments his loneliness via I Ain”t Got Nobody. The song was written, as I Ain’t Got Nobody Much, by Spencer Williams (who also wrote Basin Street Blues) in around 1915, and was first recorded in 1917 by Marion Harris (1896-1944), providing her biggest hit (sorry about the low bit-rate of the MP3). By the time Prima got around to merging it with Just A Gigolo in his 1956 debut album, The Wildest!, it had become a standard. Prima”s audacity in taking two standards and presenting them as one song is matched by his genius in creating from a medley a single version which in itself is now a standard, one that towers over the other two.

Also recorded by: (Just A Gigolo): Louis Armstrong, Leo Reisman, Bing Crosby (his first hit), Leo Reisman And His Orchestra, Jack Hylton, Billy Ternent, Jaye P Morgan, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Eartha Kitt, Marlene Dietrich a.o. (I Ain”t Got Nobody): Bing Crosby, Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Wingy Manone, Chick Webb, Emmett Miller, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Coleman Hawkins, Rosemary Clooney a.o. (Prima medley): Village People, David Lee Roth, Alex Harvey, Lou Bega a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 16 – Elvis edition 3

January 30th, 2009 3 comments

In the third Elvis special in this series we look at the originals of That”s All Right  (1954), My Baby Left Me (1956), His Latest Flame (1961), Cant” Help Falling In Love With You (1961) and Viva Las Vegas (1964) “” though the last of these is not really an Elvis cover.

Charles Gilibert ““ Plaisir d”amour (1908).mp3
Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling In Love (1961).mp3

This is the song which ignorant callers to radio stations tend to request by the title “Wise Man Say” (and, if fortune likes to piss on you, in UB40″s ghastly incarnation). The fictitious title is not entirely off the mark: the lyrics were co-written by a pair of alleged mafia associates, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, with George David Weiss. Peretti and Creatore were partners with mafioso Mo Levy in the Roulette record label (named after the game that “Colonel” Tom Parker was addicted to), which the FBI identified as a source of revenue for the Genovese crime family. The trio also wrote the lyrics for The Lion Sleeps Tonight, a song whose sorry saga will feature in a future instalment in this series.

Charles Gilibert

Charles Gilibert

The melody of Can”t Help”¦ borrows from the old French love song Plaisir d”amour, composed in 1785 by Johann Paul Aegidius Martini. It was first recorded in 1902 by Monsieur Fernand (real name Emilio de Gogorza), and subsequently by a zillion others, including in 1908 by the baritone Charles Gilibert (1866-1910). It may be a little more accurate to describe Can”t Help Falling In Love as an adaptation rather than as a cover. While the similarities are sufficiently evident to mark Plaisir d”amour as the basis for the song, it certainly has been innovated on.

The song was adapted in 1961 for Elvis” Blue Hawaii movie. Reportedly, neither the film”s producers nor Elvis” label, RCA, liked the song much. Elvis, however, insisted on recording it. Elvis often was his best A&R man, and so it was here. The song was initially released as the b-side of Rock-A-Hula Baby (you do know how that one goes, no?). In the event, Can”t Help became the big hit, reaching #2 in the US and #1 in the UK. It also became a signature song for Elvis who would invariably include it in his concerts. Indeed, it was the last song he performed live on stage in Indianapolis on 26 June 1977, Elvis” final concert.

Also recorded by: Perry Como (1962), The Lettermen (1963), We Five (1965), Bobby Solo (as Te ne vai, 1967), Aphrodite’s Child (as I Want To Live, 1969), Andy Williams (1970), Al Martino (1970), Marty Robbins (1970), Bob Dylan (1973), The Stylistics (1976), Johnny Farago (1976), Shirley Bassey (1977), Baccara (1977), Ral Donner (1979), Klaus Nomi (1983), Corey Hart (1986), Lick the Tins (1986), David Keith with The T. Graham Brown Band (1988), The Triffids (1989), Hall & Oates (1990), Julio Iglesias (1990), Luka Bloom (1992), UB40 (1993), James Galway (1994), Michael Chapdelaine (1995), Celine Dion (1995), Richard Marx (1995), David Thomas and Two Pale Boys (1997), Sammy “Sax” Mintzer (1997), Neil Diamond (1998), Nato Ghandi (1999), Hi-Standard (2001), Pearl Jam (2001), Eels (2001), A*Teens (2002), Anne Murray (2002), Erasure (2003), Tuck & Patti (2004), Michael Bublé (2004), Mägo de Oz (as Todo Irá Bien, 2004), Rick Astley (2005), Joseph Williams (2006), Andrea Bocelli (2006), Barry Manilow (2006), The Skank Agents (2008), Blackmore’s Night (2008), Ingrid Michaelson (2008) a.o.

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Del Shannon ““ His Latest Flame (1961).mp3
Mort Shuman ““ His Latest Flame (1961).mp3

Elvis Presley ““ His Latest Flame (1961).mp3
elvis-his-latest-flameWith it”s Bo Diddley-inspired guitar riff and flamenco-meets-Rock “˜n” Roll feel, 1961″s (Marie”s The Name) His Latest Flame served as a welcome, albeit temporary, break from Elvis” succession of easy listening fare such as It”s Now Or Never, Surrender and Are You Lonesome Tonight (though within a few months, he”d top the charts with another standard ballad, Can”t Help Falling In Love). Like these songs, His Latest Flame was not an original.

del-shannonThe song was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who wrote some 20 Elvis songs “” including His Latest Flame”s b-side, Little Sister “” as well as hits for acts such as The Drifters (Save The Last Dance For Me) and Dion (Teenager In Love). Although reportedly written specifically for Elvis, His Latest Flame was first offered to Bobby Vee, who turned it down. Del Shannon recorded the song in May 1961, with a view to releasing it as a follow-up single for his big hit Runaway. In the event, he decided to run with “Hats Off To Larry” instead. His Latest Flame was released on the Runaway With Del Shannon LP in June. The same month Elvis recorded his version, which was released in the US in August. Due to the arcane method of compiling the US charts, the His Latest Flame peaked at #4 and its flip side, Little Sister (another Pomus/Shuman composition) at #5. It topped the charts in Britain.

Shuman tended to tout his co-composition by way of demos on which he sang himself. The demo for His Latest Name is much closer to Elvis”version than Shannon”s, a less smooth, more soulful interpretation which has something of a mariachi band feel, using brass to accentuate the Diddley-style riff (which the Smiths famously sampled 24 years later on Rusholme Ruffians).

Also recorded by: Richard Anthony (1961), Ronnie McDowell (1978), The Residents (1989), El Vez (1992), Scorpions (1993), The Sun Gods (1999), Misfits (2003), Morrissey (as part of a medley, 2005)

pomus-shuman

Mort Shuman ““ Viva Las Vegas (1963).mp3
Elvis Presley ““ Viva Las Vegas (1964).mp3

elvis-viva-las-vegasDoc Pomus and Mort Shuman also wrote the title song for Elvis” 1964 movie vehicle, the title of which presages the singer”s future image (just think of the nauseating cliché of rhinestone-jumpsuited Elvis impersonators with comedy shades administering nuptial vows in a tacky plastic chapel in Vegas, the image of Elvis which threatens to destroy our boy”s rich legacy). The song has become one of the most popular from Elvis” fallow mid-“60s period. Oddly, initially it was only the b-side to the lead single, the cover of Ray Charles What”d I Say (MP3 here). Playing guitar on Viva Las Vegas was a little-known session musician named Glen Campbell. The Mort Shuman version is the demo version, so Viva Las Vegas is not really a cover.

In 2002, the city of Las Vegas approached Elvis Presley Enterprises, the behemoth that controls (or at least tries to control) all Elvis-related matters, with a view to using Viva Las Vegas as its official song. In a merry-go-round of idiocy, EPE demanded too high a fee, even though the copyrights for the song had reverted to the estates of Pomus and Shuman (who died within three months of one another in early 1991) in 1993. The city of Las Vegas apparently didn”t bother to check who actually owned the song and negotiate a deal with them. It might be, of course, that Vegas wanted to use Elvis” voice, which EPE possibly do control. If so, then Vegas must take a very dim view of the talents on offer among its growing population of Cliché Elvis Impersonators.While Vegas did not get to adopt the song, it was used by the pharmaceutical company (which Elvis had supported so enthusiastically) Pfizer to flog Viagra “” Viva Viagra!

Also recorded by: Ral Donner (1979), Dead Kennedys (1980), The Residents (1989), Nina Hagen (1989), Bruce Springsteen (1990), ZZ Top (1992), Shawn Colvin (1995), Big Johnson (1995), Boxer (1997), Ann-Margaret (as Viva Rock Vegas, 2000), Dread Zeppelin (2004), The Thrills (2004), The Grascals with Dolly Parton (2005), Los Derrumbes (2005), Jim Belushi & the Sacred Hearts (2005), Spinballs (2007) a.o.

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Arthur “˜Big Boy” Crudup – That”s All Right (1946).mp3
Elvis Presley ““ That”s All Right (Mama) (1954).mp3

arthur-crudup-thats-all-rightThis is the song that changed Rock “˜n” Roll forever. Young Elvis was in the Sun studios in Memphis, auditioning for the legendary Sam Phillips (in other accounts the story is set, more credibly, during the first recording session). Elvis, the story goes, was failing the audition, having crooned one ballad after another in Dean Martin mode. It was not the sound Phillips was looking for. During a break (or at the end of the session), Elvis starting goofing around with his guitar, singing That”s Allright, Arthur “˜Big Boy” Crudup”s blues number from 1946. Session musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black joined in. Sam Phillips later recalled: “The door to the control room was open, the mics were on, Scotty was in the process of packing up his guitar, I think Bill had already thrown his old bass down “” he didn”t even have a cover for it “” and the session was, to all intents and purposes, over. Then Elvis struck up on just his rhythm guitar, “˜That’s all right, mama..,” and I mean he got my attention immediately. It could have been that it wouldn”t have sold ten copies, but that was what I was looking for!”

elvis-thats-all-rightEleven days before the single was released on 19 July 1954, Memphis radio DJ Dewey Phillips played it seven times in a row by popular request. In an on air interview, he asked Elvis (whom, according to legend, he first called Elton Preston) which high school he had attended “” a euphemistic way of clarifying for his listeners that Elvis was in fact white. Elvis has often been accused of hijacking black music, turning it white. If that was the effect, it was not Elvis” plan. Here was a boy with a real affinity for R&B (as well as for gospel, country and the crooners). In 1956 he said: “The coloured folks been singing it and playing it just like I’m doin” now, man, for more years than I know… I used to hear old Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel what old Arthur felt, I”d be a music man like nobody ever saw.”

Also recorded by: Marty Robbins (1954), Carl Perkins (1958), Blind Snooks Eaglin (1962), Scotty Moore (1964), Gram Parsons’ International Submarine Band (1968), Albert King (1970), Rod Stewart (1971), Jimmy Ellis (1972), Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn & Bill Vitt (1973), William Robertson (1977), Merle Haggard (1977), Ral Donner (1979), The Maines Brothers (1981), Ronnie Hawkins (1983), Paul McCartney (1988), Albert Lee (1991), Vince Gill (1992), Home Coockin’ (1997), Nikolaj Christensen (1997), Tyler Hilton (2005), Curtis Stigers (2005), Monster Klub (2007), Dread Zeppelin (2008)

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Arthur “˜Big Boy” Crudup ““ My Baby Left Me (1949).mp3
Elvis Presley ““ My Baby Left Me (1956).mp3

arthur-crudupElvis would record two more Crudup songs, My Baby Left Me and So Glad You”re Mine. If My Baby Left Me, which he recorded in 1949, sounds a lot like That”s Allright, it is because Crudup had a limited number of tunes which he adapted with new lyrics (usually also recycled). By coincidence, the man whose song set Elvis up with a career start at Sun Records had previously recorded for RCA (on their Bluebird subsidiary), the record company with which Elvis would break big. Crudup fought for the rest of his life to receive due royalties, making his living as a bootlegger and field labourer. In 1971, an agreement for $60,000 was agreed with Melrose Publishers, who proceeded to blankly refuse paying up. Crudup died penniless in 1974 at the age of 68.

Elvis recorded My Baby Left Me in January 1956, during the same New York session which produced Blue Suede Shoes. It was released as the flip side of I Want You, I Need You, I Love You in May that year.

Also recorded by: Johnny Hallyday (as Tu me quittes, 1964), Dave Berry (1964), Scotty Moore (1964), Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970), Loggins & Messina (1975), Dave Edmunds (1977), Ronnie McDowell (1978), Geraint Watkins & The Dominators (1979), John Hammond (1982)

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The Originals  – Elvis edition 1
The Originals  – Elvis edition 2