Posted in 1950s, 1959, 1970s, 1978

56–Shout

Click here to view a transcript of this show. 

The Isley Brothers were an act that seemed to do well on stage, but they were having difficulty getting traction as far as record sales or radio airplay were concerned. While performing in Philadelphia, Ronald Isley recognized that their cover of Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” was getting a terrific response from the audience, so he started ad-libbing a call-and-response section to keep the song going. It worked out so well that they kept doing the bit, and when they’d finished the series of performances, their producers suggested that they turn the bit into a single of its own. And a gigantic hit was born!

Ha, Ha! Just kidding. The song only went to #47 on the Billboard charts. But it became a popular party tune, and was covered repeatedly by numerous artists, including Lulu, who was only 13 years old and still performing as Lulu and the Luvvers. Here’s her 1965 appearance on Ready Steady Go. I like the full ending she puts on the record, and the way she gives up lip-synching before she’s quite done: 

Finally, 1978 rolled around and the song was used in the film National Lampoon’s Animal House, performed by a fictional band called Otis Day and the Knights, which re-activated the song’s popularity (and contributed heavily to the Isleys getting Gold certification for their version), and allowed the singer of the band (not the guy you see on stage, that’s a lip-synching actor) to put a real Otis Day band together and go on tour. Over ten years later they recorded an album with a new recording of “Shout”. 

The Knights, with Otis Day off-camera. That’s Robert Cray playing bass, second from right. I have to admit, at first I thought it was Matt “Guitar” Murphy. 

If you usually get your podcasts from somewhere else, well, you should already have it by now. Either that or you ran out of data on your plan and you’re waiting for the next cycle to come around. But anyway, if you listen and/or download from here, have at it:

And, of course, ratings and reviews are always welcome. Which reminds me to send a big Thank You to StampingJulie, who was too kind to me over at Apple Podcasts recently. 

Posted in 1950s, 1958, 1960s, 1966

Episode 51–Barbara Ann

The year was 1958, and a guy named Fred Fassert wrote a song about his sister. Guess what her name was? I’m sure you know it was Norma Jean.

Ha, Ha! Just kidding! It was Barbara Ann! But I’m pretty sure the title of the post gave that away.

And now that I think about it, and all the girls named Barbara who had to put up with people singing that song at them, I’m not entirely convinced that he didn’t write the song to needle her just a little bit. 

Anyway, he and the rest of his group, the Regents, recorded the song but they couldn’t get a label to distribute it, so they eventually broke up. 

Three years later, a record distributor in New York picked up the recording and released it locally, where it became a hit in the NY Metro area. That distributor, in turn, leased the recording to Gee Records, which sent it nationwide and it became a #13 song for a band that no longer existed (and where have we heard that one before?)

Even the party pictures were faked. How about that!

A couple of years after that, the Beach Boys, under pressure to record something for Christmas 1965, put together a “party” album that was carefully crafted to sound like a spontaneous get-together, and they recorded a bunch of older songs that they happened to like. One of them was the old Regents tune, and they got Dean Torrence (of Jan & Dean) to sing lead. The tune closed out the album, and when radio stations started playing it, Capitol rushed out a single version of the record. 

There’s more to the story, but if I tell it all here then you won’t listen to the podcast, and I can’t have that. So go check out your podcatcher, or listen/download through the player below. 

And, as usual, please take a moment to leave a comment here, or a review wherever you get your podcasts from. 

Posted in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s

50–Exchange Students

The Billboard Hot 100 chart has been around for about 60 years. In all that time, only seven songs which weren’t recorded in English have made it to the Number One position. And there are several other foreign-language songs which enjoyed plenty of popularity without making it to the top spot, but the fact is, in United States it’s tough to score a hit if your song isn’t in English. 

So this week I tried to come up with a comprehensive list of non-English songs that made it to the Top 20. This definitely became a case of “the more you find, the more there is to find” so I’m not at all sure I caught everything, but it’s a pretty good list, and at over 18 minutes, it’s an overstuffed episode besides. 

I think that some of the songs that didn’t make Number One are going to be a surprise to you, but a couple of the ones that did, may also be surprising. And there’s one artist who actually hit the Top Five twice, with songs that aren’t in English. And no, it’s not Dean Martin. I shan’t spoil it here, but I will say that this one really knocked me out. 

By now your podcatcher may have located this show, but if you’re content to listen or download it from right here, be my guest: 

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Posted in 1950s, 1958

Episode 41–Summertime Blues

Eddie Cochran’s premature death in an auto accident cemented him as forever young in his fans’ minds. And it didn’t hurt the story that he died protecting his girlfriend from harm.

Cochran was in a taxi with his girlfriend, Sharon Seeley, along with Gene Vincent and their tour manager, Patrick Thompkins on the night of April 17, 1960. It was the final night of a very successful tour, and they were in Chippenham, on their way from Bristol to London in order to catch a plane back to the United States. The road they were on was dark and winding, and the car was clearly going too fast. The driver had realized that he’d made a wrong turn, and when he hit the brakes the car spun out of control and smashed into a concrete lamp post.

Seeley reported that Cochran threw himself across her to protect her, and the impact threw him upward against the roof of the car and then out the door, which had sprung open. Gene Vincent had broken his collarbone and re-injured his left leg, which he’d broken badly in 1955. The accident left him with a limp he’d have for the rest of his life. Image result for eddie cochran memorial marker -site:pinterest.comSeeley and Thompkins walked away with minor injuries, but Cochran received a serious brain injury and died a few hours later in a hospital. To this day there’s a memorial marker on the spot.

Coincidentally, one of the people who saw Cochran during this tour was a young George Harrison, and both the guitar playing and the on-stage persona made a huge impression on him. He once recalled it in an interview:  “He was standing at the microphone and as he started to talk he put his two hands through his hair, pushing it back,” Harrison later recalled. “And a girl, one lone voice, screamed out, ‘Oh, Eddie!’ and he coolly murmured into the mike, ‘Hi honey.’ I thought, ‘Yes! That’s it—rock and roll!”

The story of Eddie’s signature hit is the subject of this week’s show. If your podcatcher doesn’t have it already, feel free to listen to or download the show from right here:

And, as always, leaving reviews wherever you get your podcasts is always a welcome thing.

 

Posted in 1950s, 1957

Episode 32–Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

There’s no doubt that Jerry Lee Lewis was a huge influence on the early days of rock and roll. There’s also no doubt that when he married an underage relative, he pretty much torpedoed his hitmaking career.

But his star burned brightly for a little while, and while the jokes continued, he did manage to restore his reputation, and his influence on the genre is undeniable. Elvis Presley once said that if he could play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, he’d give up singing. And Elton John once said that hearing “Great Balls of Fire” was the first time he’d heard someone “beat the shit out of a piano.” This time around, however, we’re looking at his first hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, which has a bit of a checkered past before Jerry Lee got his hands on it. Maybe that’s what made it attractive to him, hm?

Jerry Lee Lewis is enshrined as one of the inaugural inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it’s a well-deserved place for him to be.

As usual, if your podcatcher isn’t catching pods today, or if you don’t use one, you can always click on the player below to listen and/or download.

Posted in 1950s, 1958, 1970s, 1971

Episode 29–Rockin’ Robin

It was originally spelled “Rock-In Robin,” which is a distinction that’s too tedious to elucidate verbally, and it was Bobby Day’s biggest hit. But while Bobby was known for his songwriting, he didn’t write this one.

It was written by songwriter and record executive Leon René, and for some reason he let the song lapse into the public domain, so I guess he wasn’t such a hot executive. Anyway, that means if you want to cut your own record, or maybe record a version for background music to enhance a project you’re doing, have at it! Change the words? No problem! You don’t need anyone’s permission! The caveat, however, is that you have to come up with your own recording. Use an existing one, and you’re almost certainly infringing on a copyright.

If your favorite podcast catcher hasn’t found this week’s episode yet, there’s always the player below, from which you can listen or download for your future listening pleasure.

And, as usual, leaving a rating in your favorite software is always appreciated. Which reminds me: I didn’t realize that the show wasn’t available via Spotify; that should be fixed within  the next couple of days.

Posted in 1950s, 1959

Episode 25–I Only Have Eyes For You

Back in the 1950s, cover songs weren’t a big deal at all, especially if you were in a doo-wop group. Most of those groups started out in churches and in schools, and performed on street corners or Amateur Hour shows, and they weren’t writing their own material so much as they were adapting the songs that they’d heard and already knew. So it was with The Flamingos and their biggest hit, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” which dates back to the 1934 film Dames, featuring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Check out this mostly-instrumental “dance” number!

For a song that’s so well-known among Oldies fans, it didn’t do that well on the charts in 1959, peaking at #11 on the pop chart and #3 on the R&B chart. And I have a theory about that, but you’ll have to listen in.

As usual, you can get it via your favorite podcatcher (and I SWEAR I’ll publish on time this week!), or you canclick on the player below to listen/download:

And, of course, leaving a positive rating in iTunes or other software is always helpful. Thanks for listening!

Posted in 1950s, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1960s

Episode 19–The Coasters

Happy New Year!

The group in 1961: Dub Jones, Carl Gardner, Cornell Gunter, Billy Guy. This was the configuration that was inducted into the Rock Hall.

While they’re often mistaken for a doo-wop group, The Coasters were actually a rhythm-and-blues vocal group, whose greatest successes came when they were teamed with the composers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and when they had humorous material to work with.They made such an impression on other artists that it was a small wonder when, in 1987, they became the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Yeah, I know I’m kinda splitting hairs, here: the previous year was all individuals plus the Everly Brothers. But I’m sticking by this assessment.)

One of the posters for the movie, which inspired the Coasters’ song (but the song isn’t based on the movie). This ain’t a bad place to be, if you’re Gary Cooper.

Their peak years, chart-wise, were between 1958 and 1960, when all of their Top 40 singles were released. In today’s episode we talk about three of them: Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, and Along Came Jones. After these three came two more: Poison Ivy and Little Egypt, which were more clever than funny.

There have been numerous configurations of the group since the first day, so you could argue that the one in the photo above, which is responsible for most of the hits, was the magic bullet. Through many personnel changes, The Coasters never quite reached the same level of success.

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Posted in 1950s, 1959

Episode 12: El Paso by Marty Robbins

 

The original promo 45, showing the edited A side. The full-length song is the B.

In the late 1950s, Marty Robbins, who was commuting hundreds of miles between his home in Phoenix and various gigs in Texas, frequently passed through the town of El Paso on his journeys to and fro. The town inspired him to write a cinematic-level song with nine verses and three bridges—and no chorus. Plus, it clocked in at four minutes and forty seconds. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, the song climbed in just a few weeks to take over the top spot on the Hot 100 for the first two weeks of 1960.

This is the consumer/retail version of the 45. The song is 4:40, even though it doesn’t say so on the label. The B side is a song titled “Running Gun”.

The song put both Marty Robbins, and the town of El Paso, at the front of everyone’s consciousness, and it’s probably the song that’s most associated with him. But what inspired him? Is the song about anyone special? And how many sequels to one song can the music-buying public take? (Answer: more than you’d imagine.)

By the way, if you have a copy of Marty Robbins’ book, I’d love to see it. That was a frustrating search.

 

 

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Posted in 1950s, 1958

Episode 7: Tequila by The Champs

This was the A side of the record, remember.

This week we’re taking a look at a song that was never meant to be a hit. In fact, it wouldn’t even have appeared on a record if some musicians hadn’t been hanging around when someone realized that the record he’d been working on didn’t have a B side.

So he rounded up whomever he could find and fortunately, the saxophone player had a tune he’d been fooling around with for a little while, plus he had a fondness for a certain beverage from South of the Border.

Erm…no. The one Down Mexico Way.

As usual, if you haven’t subscribed via iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, you can download the file or you can listen right here:

 

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