Transcript 91–Under the Covers, Part 5

NOTE: This is a pre-production transcript and may not match the final show precisely.

Hello! And welcome to the next episode of How Good It Is, the show that takes a closer look at songs from the rock and roll era, and we check out some of the stories behind those songs, and the artists who made them famous.

My name is Claude Call, Did you miss me? ‘Cause, man did I miss you.  

Remember to check out the website, How Good It Is Dot Com, and the Twitter, and the Instagram, and of course the Facebook page, which can be found over at Facebook dot com, slash, (ow) How Good It Is Pod.

Before I do this week’s trivia question, I have to address something from Episode 90’s trivia question. 

[TEA FOR TWO]

Last time around, the trivia question was about why Peter and Gordon didn’t sing “World Without Love” when they made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. And my answer was correct, but one of the details was wrong. The song that they sang instead of “World Without Love” was titled “I Don’t Want to See You Again.” Well, somehow I got it in my head that the song’s title was “I Don’t Want to See You Anymore,” and somehow I got it so locked into my head, that at one point I actually said the right title and CORRECTED myself to the wrong one. And coincidentally, when I played Episode 90 in my car, when the show was over I switched over to Sirius XM’s 60s channel and a few moments later, “I Don’t Want to See You Again” came on. And I realized not only that I’d screwed up, but just how badly I screwed up. So, my apologies if you were confused by this mistake. 

All right, onward to this week’s trivia question, and I’m asking this one in honor of the fact that I’m going up to Boston this week, and it’s also for a podcasting event. And I’m going to leave the setup purposely vague, so here it is: what do Babe Ruth and the song “Tea for Two”–which you’ve been listening to for a couple of minutes already–have in common? And yes, Boston is, in fact, a hint. As usual, I’ll have the rather surprising answer for you later in  the show. 

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When it comes to covers, it almost always surprises me when I discover that a song I’ve really liked turns out to be a cover. So, early in the life of this show, I started taking notes in order to have a bank of songs to draw from for shows like this one. And while I know I did a Stealth Covers show just a few episodes ago, I was cleaning out my computer bag a couple of weeks ago and I discovered a really old list of cover songs that I’d compiled, going back almost to the first time I did this kind of show. And when I realized that I hadn’t even discussed most of these songs, I took it as a sign that I needed to come back to the well once again. 

Now, some of these songs have kind of an “old” feel, so it’s not as surprising when you learn that they’re in fact older than you think, but it’s still a bit of a surprise regardless. [IT’S ALL OVER NOW Stones]

For instance:

Here’s one from the “not a big surprise” column. 

“It’s All Over Now” was the Rolling Stones’ first Number One hit in the UK, though it only made it to Number 26 in the United States. But did you know that it was a cover?

[Valentinos]

The song was written by Bobby Womack and his sister-in-law Shirley Womack, and recorded by a group called The Valentinos in 1964. That version peaked at Number 94 on the Hot 100, but:

New York City disc jockey Murray Kaufman, known to most people as Murray the K, had a series of interviews with the Rolling Stones during that first US tour, which aired on his Swingin’ Soiree show on WINS radio. And during one of those shows, he played the Valentinos’ record for the Rolling Stones, who really liked it. Just a little over a week later, the Rolling Stones recorded the song in Chicago after Sam Cooke talked Bobby Womack into letting them record it. Which means, if I’ve done my math correctly, that the Rolling Stones recorded “It’s All Over Now” around the same time they began working on “Satisfaction,” which Mick Jagger had written just a couple of days earlier, as you might recall from Episode 35 of this show. Now, given that the Stones were still largely known as a blues band who played a lot of covers, in retrospect this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, but I have to agree with Bill Wyman’s assessment that the unintentionally country feel it has comes from the 12-string guitar and the harmonies in the chorus. 

[LOVE HURTS Nazareth]

Now, most people know this song, “Love Hurts” as a power ballad by the group Nazareth, from 1975. I was about 12 years old at the time, so I was pretty deeply into the Top 20, so this was the one and only definitive version, so far as I knew. It was a huge hit that you heard throughout the winter that year, finally peaking at Number Eight in early 1976. But it was also big international hit, reaching Number One in several countries. It only topped out at Number 15 in the UK, probably because Jim Capaldi’s version, which came out slightly after Nazareth, had already recently peaked on the charts there. And, of course, there’s a cover version by Cher, which has synths that just scream its 1991 origin…

[LOVE HURTS Cher]

…it’s not awful, even if it is overproduced. So far as I know, though, it wasn’t released as a single. BUT! You may not realize that the song goes all the way back to the early 1960s.

[LOVE HURTS Orbison]

“Love Hurts” was previously recorded by Roy Orbison, and it appeared on the B-side of his 1961 hit “Running Scared.” Now, “Running Scared” was a big, big hit worldwide, but the only place where “Love Hurts” got any airplay worth mentioning was in Australia, where the record was considered a double-A, and so both songs charted at Number Five there. So that was the first hit version of the song. 

But wait, there’s more. Let me turn back the clock …

[LOVE HURTS Everly Brothers]

“Love Hurts” was written by a songwriter named Boudleaux Bryant, who typically teamed up with his wife Felice to write songs, many of which wound up being recorded by the Everly Brothers. And while this was a solo effort on Boudleaux’ part, it too was picked up by the Everlys and recorded for their 1960 album, A Date With the Everly Brothers. However, it was never released as a single. But it was the Everlys who had it first, 15 years before Nazareth turned it into an international hit. 

[TIDE IS HIGH Atomic Kitten]

“The Tide is High” was released in 2002 by girl group Atomic Kitten, and while it’s pretty bad, it did sell over a million copies worldwide, and made it to Number One in the UK, the last time that band saw the top slot anywhere. But everyone knew when that song came out that it was a cover.

[TIDE IS HIGH Blondie]

“The Tide is High” was the first single from Blondie’s 1980 album Autoamerican, and it became the band’s third Number One song in the United States. Incidentally, it was their LAST Number One song in the UK for nineteen years, until “Maria” was released in early 1999. So who knows, maybe Atomic Kitten has a chance in another couple of years. 

I’ve always liked the reggae feel to this song, especially given the creative overlay of horns throughout the song, plus the strings that appear here and there, but gain a little more prominence in the bridge. And by the way, this is one of the weirder videos of the MTV era, including the band waiting for Debbie Harry outside a high-rise building while her apartment starts to flood, all the while being observed from outer space by an alien who appears to be Darth Vader, but who turns out not to be, which you realize when: the band finally reunites, then they drive out to a rocket launch and meet up with the alien, after which she starts dancing with him. It’s a bunch of typical nonsensical fun, but I’m sure you know by now that Blondie didn’t have it first. 

[TIDE IS HIGH Isaacs]

About two years earlier, Gregory Isaacs released this recording on his own label, called African Museum, but it was also released as a 12-inch single in Jamaica on a label called Front Line, with an extra DJ Mix by U Roy. Now, Deborah Harry has always been on the bleeding edge of trends in music, so there’s little doubt in my mind that she heard this track and decided to cover it. Isaacs’ influence is clearly stamped on the Blondie version. 

But…Gregory Isaacs didn’t have it first, either. 

[TIDE IS HIGH Paragons]

The song was originally written and released in 1966 by a group called the Paragons, with the song’s writer John Holt singing lead. It didn’t really do a lot until 1971 when U Roy–remember U Roy? He’s in this part of the story too–anyway, U Roy did a DJ mix of the Paragons version and the record got some traction in Jamaica and the UK. So U Roy is responsible for the song catching on twice with two different artists, but the SONG appears to be responsible for ending the UK career of two other artists. How’s that for weird karma? 

OK then. Let’s pick up the tempo before finishing out: 

[MICKEY]

Toni Basil was a well-established dancer and choreographer when she recorded “Mickey” in 1980, but it didn’t get released until 1982, when it absolutely raced up the charts and took over the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in December of that year. She’s considered a one-hit wonder, but she did have a couple of other charting singles, and I’ll leave it to you and your skills with Google to figure out what those were. But while Basil added the “Oh Mickey you’re so fine” chant to the song, she wasn’t the first to record it. In this case, however, there’s a little bit of a difference. 

If you go back to the first time I did one of these cover shows, I talked about “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” where Cyndi Lauper did a little bit of a gender bend with the song, changing the intent of the lyrics by making a few minor changes. Well, Basil did a similar thing by gender-changing the entire song. 

[KITTY]

The song goes back just a couple of years, to 1979, and was originally recorded by a band called Racey, which included the song on their debut album, where it was called “Kitty”. Racey had a little bit of success as a band in the UK, Australia, Ireland and South Africa, but it didn’t last long and they broke up in 1985, though since then there have been two concurrent revivals of the group, each featuring at least one of the original members. 

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[TEA FOR TWO]

And, now it’s time to answer today’s trivia question. Back on Page Two I asked you what Babe Ruth has in common with the song “Tea For Two”. Well, if it weren’t for that song, it’s possible that the Boston Red Sox would never have sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. 

Back in 1919, the owner of the Red Sox was a man named Harry Frazee. Now, Harry’s real passion wasn’t baseball or the city of Boston, but rather producing theatrical shows in New York City. And in 1919, Frazee was pretty deep in debt, so he sold off his star player–one George Herman Ruth–to the Yankees for one hundred thousand dollars. As part of the deal, Frazee also got a three hundred thousand dollar loan from the Babe’s new team. Frazee used some of that money to finance a play titled My Lady Friends, which opened around the same time the trade took place. My Lady Friends wasn’t a huge success, but it was successful enough that he invested a little more of the money to turn the show into a musical. That musical, which opened in 1925, was the smash hit No, No, Nanette, which featured the song “Tea For Two.” 

And that was the start of about eighty years of the Red Sox not winning the World Series. Even today, Frazee is considered a villain around Fenway Park. 

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Next time around, we’re going to find out How Good It Is when we take a look at yet another song that’s a stealth cover, requested by two different listeners. And that’s all I’m going to say at this point. 

Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you next time.