A curious addition to the country pop singer Jerry Wallace’s resume: The biggest selling single of his career was a 1970 Japan-only release that featured Charles Bronson on the sleeve. It was the soundtrack to a commercial for an aftershave called “Mandom,” starring Bronson as an urbane action figure who rewards himself at night by splashing the product all over himself like victory champagne. As he does this, Wallace gives the following lyrics one hundred-and-ten percent: “All the world loves a lover/All the girls in every land-om/And to know the joy of loving/Is to live in the world of Mandom.”
Archive for the ‘Song IDs’ Category
Suave, knowing glam rock single that ended up as the Jook’s final one. The UK quartet included two former members of John’s Children (guitarist Trevor White on the far left and drummer Chris Townson on the far right). The band shared their manager John Hewlett (another former member of John’s Children) with Sparks, who marched to the orders of the American brothers Ron and Russell Mael. Shortly after the single came out in 1974, White and bassist Ian Hampton (middle right) snuffed out the Jook by defecting to Sparks, whose “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” single had reached #2 in Britain the same year.
Here’s a portion of an interview (by Phil King) of Jook drummer Chris Townson in Jeremy Thomson and Mary Blount’s Wired Up: Glam, Proto Punk and Bubblegum: European Pictures Sleeves 1970-76 (2013) (pp. 206-207):
Phil King: Did you go and see Sparks play?
Townson: No, because there was a bit of argy bargy going on. I took a swipe at Russell over a table. He said something that I thought was quite disparaging. I used to be quite aggressive when I was a young man. I just caught his nose. They were really quite arrogant. I really didn’t like them at all. I went out for a meal with them once – Ron and Russ – and it was really one of the most unpleasant meals I ever had. There was no conversation…
King: Did they come and see Jook play?
Townson: They came to see Jook play and said “Yes, they sound like a rock band.” No further discussion.
King: What about the story about the Bay City Rollers stealing your image?
Townson: We were playing in Scotland and this rather scruffy long-haired bunch, who looked like we did a year previously, came in after the gig and said what a fantastic show it was and how impressed they were with the image. Not two months later, even less, we saw these same guys and they’d patched it up with lots of tartan and everything. It was essentially the Jook image….
King: That must have been another nail in the coffin.
Townson: It was, and it was also bloody irritating when you go somewhere and they say, “You look like the Bay City Rollers.” I think I came close to punching many people.
Two years ago I heard this song, with its ghost voices and Star Trek organ, through static on a Mexican oldies station in the Arizona desert. Because none of the instant-info apps on my phone could get the job done and the station’s Clear Channel website contained nothing of use to anyone, I conceded defeat to the gods of ephemerality who oversee the affairs of most pop music in people’s lives. All of the song’s residue then vaporized except for three words from the chorus: “y mi sentimiento.” The gods had mercy on me last month when I was listening to Austin’s 1560 AM and it slithered out of my car speakers again, giving me time to pull over and scribble down more of the lyrics. Information, then: The song title translates to “I Swear I Love You” and was recorded in 1972 by a group of young adults from Venezuela. Calling themselves the Earthlings, they watched their song take control of Mexican radio for a moment in 1975.
I found this 1980 live video from a group called the Twisters (led by Matti Miettinen) and watched it over and over. They’re doing a version of “Why Don’t Somebody” by Welsh Teddy Boy group Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, who they cover five times on their cassette. (An alternate version of the cassette featured cover art with the Confederate stars and bars, which the scene had latched onto long ago.) While Crazy Cavan’s original (recorded in ’77) is a more settled-in Scotty-and-Bill situation, the Twisters give it a young punk’s sense of tension, with ratatatting lead guitar, right arms pumping in sync, and sober countenances. I like it better than the original, filled as it is with the kind of artistic virtue only inexperience can provide.
The performance happens in a town near Helsinki in front of one of Finland’s ubiquitous Sokos department stores. Mothers mind their bemused children, heads nod slightly, and rockabilly kids cluster and lean against walls. It ain’t no rumble, but it’s still rock ‘n’ roll.
With his fan base in Houston and New Orleans, it was fitting that “Steal Away” Jimmy Hughes would also chart with a song written by Crazy Cajun Records’ Huey Meaux. (And no, the unfortunate connection between Meaux’s reputation and Hughes’ lyrics for “Steal Away” is not lost on me.) “Neighbor Neighbor” (1966) reached #4 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #65 on the Hot 100, and captures Percy Sledge’s Alabama cousin sounding like Little Willie John’s rock and roll twin. In 1970, after a few unsuccessful years on Stax/Volt, Hughes would lose patience with the music industry and abandon it for a job with the nuclear industry in Tennessee. (The ad to the left comes from Billboard, May 7, 1966, p. 7.)
From Leighton, Alabama, Jimmy Hughes was Percy Sledge’s cousin, and his soaring, imploring “Steal Away” (which includes the disquieting line “your folks are sleeping, let’s not waste any time”) found its way into Billboard’s Top 20 in 1964. This was one of producer Rick Hall’s early successes for the FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals – the first hit, in fact, to be recorded in that building. The song would naturally influence plenty of soul yet to come and help shape the Muscle Shoals sound, but it also bore the unmistakable musical imprints of the Southern gospel standard “Steal Away to Jesus,” written in the mid-1800s by a former slave named Wallace Willis. The clip below shows future Los Angeles gospel legends the Mighty Clouds of Joy (featuring Joe Ligon) doing their upbeat version of the hymn. It comes from TV Gospel Time in Baltimore, a show that debuted in 1962, in an episode hosted by Sister Jessie Mae Renfro.
In the realm of musical recordings made by athletes, which includes such sobering entries as Terry Bradshaw’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Ron Cey’s “Third Base Bag,” and Shaquille O’Neal’s “I Know I Got Skillz,” this one’s as good as it gets. Willie Mays’s “My Sad Heart”/”If You Love Me” came out the same year his San Francisco Giants lost a hard-fought seven-game World Series to the New York Yankees, and it reveals a musical version of the Say Hey Kid as appealing as the famous baseball version.
We can tell from both sides of the record that Mays had good taste, demonstrating familiarity with Sonny Till and the Orioles (side A), Bobby Blue Bland (side B), and Little Willie John (side B). Writer credits for both went to Deadric Malone, the pseudonym for Don Robey, who owned the Duke-Peacock label empire. Before this, Mays had appeared on a 1954 cut credited to “Willie Mays of the New York Giants with the Treniers” called “Say Hey (the Willie Mays Song),” one of the other great baseball singles. Did any suspicion-prone baseball people notice in ’62 that the previous time the Giants had won a pennant Mays also recorded a single? (1954 was the year the New York Giants swept the Cleveland Indians and Willie made his celebrated catch.) He should have been pumping out a record every year since then.
I’m hoping someone will step forward with footage of Willie Mays’ 1962 appearance on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s TV show to promote “My Sad Heart,” which never ended up charting.
Willie Mays – “My Sad Heart” (1962) : Maybe this song’s lack of chart success, come to think of it, had to do with its having no title hook.
This 1969 single written by the unlikely team of Brian Wilson and father Murry (as “Reggie Dunbar”) perhaps should have been a higher charting follow up to “Do It Again” for the Beach Boys (although it did sit rather uncomfortably as part of the 1974 Endless Summer lineup). Why didn’t “Breakaway” do better than its numerologically eye-catching #69 peak position? My theory: the “Breakaway” catchphrase had already been getting tons of airplay with Steve Karmen’s jingle for the 1969 Pontiac.
Beach Boys – “Celebrate the News” (1969): This was the broody B-side, a Dennis Wilson track that gives the single the yin yang tension familiar to many a Beach Boys observer.
And here’s this:
The Steve Karmen Big Band featuring Jimmy Radcliffe (1968) – “Breakaway Parts I and II”: Side A is Jimmy Radcliffe talking and singing over a troubled, minor key arrangement of Karmen’s theme, while Side B is the major-key instrumental version more familiar from TV and radio ads.
Two-sided UK guitar group perfection courtesy of “Shall We Dance” Bram Tchaikovsky’s former band The Motors, who also endorsed his dance-floor-as-nirvana notion. Side A clocks in at 3:13, but the album version, which is twice as long, is also a keeper, featuring an extended intro based on the yearning middle section. Those lower register guitar octaves in the verses sound like vintage Cheap Trick, who would later cover this song badly. Side B (“Whiskey and Wine”) is another killer, featuring a zigzag hook that should have blared from late 70s car stereos on Saturday nights but never did.
Bram Tchaikovsky (aka Peter Bramall – formerly of the Motors), got in my head during the summer of my first transistor radio – 1979. His “Girl of My Dreams” crept into the US Top 40 around then, but I remember it airing on Salt Lake City’s KCPX-AM like a Top 5. Three years after that, he re-infiltrated my skull when his “Shall We Dance” aired with some regularity on Super 107-FM (although he’d reportedly called it quits with the biz by then). To me, the song has everything appealing about early ’80s music: the stuttering guitar, the minimalist bursts of fluorescent keyboard, and the promise of bliss via the dance floor (where pre-driver’s license teens like me could maybe find girlfriends).