This week’s episode arose from an essay I published on my blog several years ago. I was looking back on some of the stuff I wrote and found this particular piece, and thought, with a little re-writing it might make a decent episode of the podcast. So, re-write I did, and I’m generally happy with the result, though I’m once again fighting off a respiratory thing.
Anyway: James “Sugarboy” Crawford wrote “Iko Iko” in 1953, and recorded it with his band, the Cane Cutters. That version didn’t go anywhere, chart-wise, and neither did any cover that followed, until 1965, when Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, using audio from the Dixie Cups’ fooling around between takes, added a backing track and turned their version, with its nonsensical lyrics, into an international hit. The song became such a big deal that the Dixie Cups eventually received partial writing credit for the song because of all the changed lyrics.
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By the time early 1965 came around, the Rolling Stones were certainly in the realm of a band that had paid their dues. They’d spent time touring the UK to build up a following there, they’d been to the US once without a hit, which wasn’t an especially successful tour, and they’d been there a second time, a trip that went much better. However, during that tour there were still a few mishaps, and that, plus a guitar riff that Keith Richards literally wrote in his sleep, transformed the Rolling Stones from Just Another British Band Covering American R&B tunes, into a genuine worldwide phenomenon.
The time from concept to release was a little over a month, and from release to the top of the charts (in the US, anyway) was only another few weeks. The song dominated the Billboard Hot 100 for the entire month of July 1965, and became the #3 song of the year, behind “Wooly Bully” (Wooly Bully? Really? That was #1?) and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”.
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In the mid 1960s, a group called The Detergents released an album of novelty songs, and a couple of them caught on, but one did especially well, a parody of the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.” Among that group was a young man named Ron Dante.
A few years later, Dante was chosen to be the lead voice for a fictional band that was tied in with a cartoon series. That band was The Archies, and they had a short string of hits, peaking with “Sugar Sugar” in 1969. Dante provided all the male voices on “Sugar Sugar,” and Toni Wine provided all the female voices. So yes, you appear to hear two women—one singing low and the other singing high—but in fact they’re both Toni Wine.
Wine left the group around the time “Sugar Sugar” became a hit, and the female portion of The Archies’ follow-up single was voiced by someone else. You’ll just have to listen in to find out who that was.
If your favorite podcast software doesn’t have it for you already, you can always click below to listen to/download this week’s episode.
Oh hey! How Good It Is is listed as a featured podcast on the Podcast Republic app! I’m gonna give them some love for a few weeks, you betcha.
The Righteous Brothers were originally part of a larger group called The Paramours. In 1962 they split up, and members Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield began appearing in local clubs in southern California as a duo. One night, when they finished singing a song, a Marine from a nearby base shouted at them, “That was righteous, brother.” When they were signed to Moonglow Records shortly thereafter, they were asked to come up with a name for the act, and they recalled that incident. “Righteous Brothers” sounded about right for them so they ran with it.
About two years later, they were playing in a show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, where a record producer was conducting the band. That conductor was Phil Spector, who was looking to add some male voices to his Phillies label. Spector’s first move was to hire Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a song specifically for his new act. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” was the result of that hire.
Shortly after the record was released, the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, got Cilla Black to rush-record a cover for quick release. It started to out-pace the Righteous Brothers’ version, until two things happened: first, the label caught wise to what was going on and flew the Righteous Brothers to the UK for a week-long publicity tour that included some TV appearances. Meanwhile, Andrew Oldham, the manager for the Rolling Stones, spent his own money to promote the version from across the pond. In short order, the American version was topping the UK charts, and Cilla Black’s was dropping rapidly.
Naturally, if you iTunes or some such, you’ve already got this in your library. But if you don’t, you can click on the player below to listen or download.
Oh—and, as promised in the last post, here’s a photo of my basement studio:
The laptop on the left holds my audio elements while the one on the right is my “everyday” machine that I use for recording. The Audacity file you’re looking at is the unedited, unprocessed (via Auphonic) version of this week’s show. You can see I use two mice; one is wireless and the other one isn’t. The wired one is the one that I use for the left-hand machine, because it gives me (I think) more control and that’s where I really need it.
There’s another panel of foam squares just out of frame to the left, and a third one behind me. My mic is on a boom that’s clamped to the table. And that’s my script between the computers and resting on both keyboards.
Did you ever decide that you were in the market for something, let’s say you need a car, and all of a sudden you see advertisements for cars all over the place? Or, you learn a new word and suddenly you see it being used everywhere?
This is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, and it’s a weird little trick our brains play on us. And recently, I was pranked by my brain in this manner.
Episode 9 was devoted to songs that you may not have known were covers of other artists, and I thought at that time that it was kind of a fun idea, and I’d like to come back to it once in awhile. Now, I was thinking maybe another 20 or 30 episodes down the road, but then Baader-Meinhof got in the way and I started really noticing it when it was pointed out that a song I was listening to was a cover of another recording. So, because I have a tendency to write stuff down and then immediately lose the notes, I decided to return to the concept a little more quickly than I usually do. And the fun thing is, I’m saving the one that came as the biggest surprise to me for another show.
So this time around we’re going to hear from musicians as diverse as Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Led Zeppelin and Linda Lyndell. Who? Just go listen, you’ll be fine, I promise. In fact, you’re going to be sad that you don’t know who Linda Lyndell is, especially when you find out WHY you don’t know who she is.
I noted this briefly at the end of the show, but something I noticed only while I was recording was that all of the songs enjoyed only modest success until the cover came out. But the other common thread is that the more successful artist made some sort of change to the song, almost as if that made the difference between whether or not the song was a hit.
As usual, if your favorite podcatcher isn’t getting the job done, you can feel free click on the player below to listen and/or download the show:
Also, my apologies for the late delivery of this episode; I had a technical issue that was frankly kind of scary, and had me wondering whether I’d be forced to A) re-record the episode after B) buying a new computer, but fortunately I managed to fix what was wrong and we’re only a few hours late.
This was the song that heralded the Dylan Goes Electric era, and when he first played it live at the 1965 Newport Music Festival, he was met with boos and charges that he’d sold out, or was somehow a “traitor” to his folk roots.
But Bob Dylan stuck to his guns, and “Like a Rolling Stone” became, and remains, his biggest single ever.
If it hadn’t been for a quartet from Liverpool and their obvious cry for Help!, it probably would have gone all the way to Number One on the Billboard chart.
This episode is now available through your favorite podcatcher, or you can download it or you can listen to it right here:
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During the podcast I mentioned an interactive video that’s connected to this song. Here’s the teaser trailer:
But the real fun lies here: you can play with the original video on your own by clicking on this link. I will refund every dime of your money if you don’t think this is cool.