Posts Tagged ‘Crow’

Saturday Single Nos. 108 & 109

November 16, 2011

Originally posted January 10, 2009

It’s so sweet when it works this way:

I write a post and share a tune (or several), hoping that what I know outweighs what I don’t know. A reader (or more than one) shares information, and that information provides me with both a lever and a place to stand. Using those tools, I go out into the cyber-countryside and dig up more information . . . and if I’m very fortunate, more music.

It went that way yesterday after I posted Long John Baldry’s 1971 version of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll,” which includes Baldry’s tale about being arrested for playing for pennies on the streets of 1950s London. Quite rapidly, a reader left a comment that widened my eyes a little:

“Being from Minnesota, I’m surprised you don’t remember that Crow recorded this earlier… I’m thinking fall of 1970, second single after ‘Evil Woman.’ It did chart, no idea how high, though. You might enjoy this discussion:

He added a note about Tony Burrows, whom I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post, a note that I will likely explore another time. But more information about Crow piqued my interest. As I clicked the link to the discussion, which turned out to be at a site called Prentiss Riddle: Music, I realized that – even though the group was from the Twin Cities – all I know of Crow is “Evil Woman . . .” I do have a copy of the group’s first, self-titled LP in my stacks of unplayed music, quite likely bracketed by the soundtrack to the 1970s film The Great Gatsby and a box set of Russian folk music.

The discussion of the song at Prentiss Riddle: Music had taken place in 2005 and was full of information and educated guesses from fans of the song and of Baldry, Crow and a little-known early 1970s group called Gator Creek (more on that group later).

One of the most valuable bits there was the full set of the song’s lyrics. The version I’m posting is a little different, based on the later discussion at the board I was exploring.

Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll.

Don’t you tell me n-n-n-no lies woman ’cause all you know I’ve told
Don’t sell me no alibi sister ’cause all you’ve got I’ve sold
You better leave that midnight sneakin’ to the one who worked it out
I don’t wanna hear no back talk speakin’ go on and shut yer mouth
And everything’s gonna work out tight if you act like you been told
So don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

Don’t you feed me no TV dinners when you know I’m used to steak
I don’t need no rank beginners when it’s time to shake that shake
You better pull your Thing together, reach in and dust it out
And if ya feel that you just can’t dig it then I guess you know the route
It ain’t a matter of pork ’n’ beans gonna justify your soul
Just don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

You weren’t alive when I started to drive, so don’t put none on me
You didn’t arrive ’til late ’45 but your head’s in ’53.
You got what it takes to keep the heads a-spinnin’ down by the old rib shack
And you come across just like a fool grinnin’ in the back of a red Cadillac.
You can’t come across the Atsville bridge until you pay the toll
So don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

The lyrics were posted by a Crow listener who said that the song had been on Crow’s Mosaic album and had also been originally recorded in 1970 by a group called Gator Creek. The lyrics as posted called the “rib shack” a “rim shack” and had “[inaudible]” for the name of the bridge in the next-to-the-last line. Another reader soon corrected “rim” to “rib.” And the fourth line in the second verse had been posted as “And if ya feel that your ass can’t dig it . . .”

Someone posting as Prentice Riddle, the board’s evident owner or moderator, noted that Baldry had changed that fourth line in the second verse to read: “And if you feel that you just can’t dig it you know you don’t know what it’s all about.”

But the name of the bridge stayed unknown for a time, with readers offering their own decades-long guesses. Some of those guesses were: Astro, Apsfail and Astral, which I quite liked. (My own guess? For years, I’d been hearing John Baldry sing about crossing the Oslo bridge, which I figured wasn’t quite right. But I’d never had the inclination to go find the correct lyric.)

And at that point, the discussion was helped greatly with a post from W.C. Thomas. W.C. wrote: “My brother Jeff wrote the song and I have a copy of the original demo with the Ray-Lettes singing background. Jeff says it’s ‘you just can’t dig it’ and the ‘Atsville Bridge,’ based on the slang of the time, like ‘where it’s at.’ Also it is the old rib shack.” W.C. added in a later note: “Jeff wrote the song for Elvis but Elvis didn’t want to call himself the King of Rock and Roll.”

So that answered the questions about the lyrics: But there were a whole lot of unanswered questions: When did Crow’s version come out? Is there a copy of it out there somewhere? Who was Gator Creek? And whatever happened to that demo by Jeff Thomas with the Ray-Lettes?

Well, a few posts later, Jeff Thomas himself weighed in: “I am quite flattered by the attention given to my song. I thought it was good enough to record by myself. The late, great, and dear John Baldry claimed the hit version, although Crow’s version was charted. Another great version was done by ’Gator Creek (Kenny Loggins sang the vocal). An unreleased version was recorded (produced by close friend Jimmy Bowen) live in Las Vegas by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition (with exceptional vocal by friend and fellow Georgian Kin Vassey).”

After learning from another poster that Thomas’ version had been released in 1970 on Bell Records, I went hunting. I first posted a note here, acknowledging my ignorance of Crow’s version (and asked if anyone out there had it). Then I went to one of the better blog search engines: Captain Crawl. I entered “Gator Creek” and found a rip of that 1970 album through the blog Rare MP3 Music.

By the time I’d listened to Gator Creek’s version, I had an email from a fellow named Dave who had been the original commenter here. He’d attached to his email a copy of Crow’s version of “(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The) King Of Rock And Roll,” which – as he’d thought – was from 1970. And moments ago, while writing this post, I stopped at Ebay, where I found and bought a promo copy of Bell single 941, Jeff Thomas’ version of his song. So that should be here in the next week or so.

(The names of a few of the folks who were on the Gator Creek album stand out: Along with Kenny Loggins, who was a member of the band, some of the folks who helped out on the sessions were guitarist Larry Knechtel, horn player Chuck Findley and background vocalists extraordinaire Merry Clayton, Clydie King and Venetta Fields.)

The last thing I wanted to know for this post was where Crow’s version charted. The group had a single titled “Slow Down” sit just underneath the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in late March and early April of 1970. Another single, “Cottage Cheese” reached No. 56 in a fourteen-week sojourn in the Hot 100 in late spring and summer. And then in the fall, I learned, “(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On the) King of Rock And Roll” peaked at No. 52 during a nine-week stay in the Hot 100 that began in October 1970.

So, as Jeff Thomas’ single makes it way to my lair, here are two versions (punctuated differently) of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll,” your Saturday singles.

“(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On the) King of Rock And Roll”
Crow (Amaret 125, 1970)

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll”
Gator Creek (from Gator Creek, 1970)

A Memory From The Sledding Hill

November 9, 2011

Originally posted January 2, 2009

There are, as I’ve discussed before, many songs that take me back to a specific time and place, or remind me of a specific person, or both. That’s true, I’d guess, for anyone who loves music: some records trigger memories. Among such recordings for me are Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them,” which sets me down in the lounge of a youth hostel in Denmark; Orleans’ “Dance With Me,” which puts me in the 1975 version of Atwood Center at St. Cloud State; and Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” which tugs me back to my duplex in Minot, North Dakota, on a winter’s night.

There are, I’m certain, hundreds of such songs, and every once in a while, one of them pops up on the radio, the stereo or the RealPlayer and triggers one of those long-ago association for a moment or two. Sometimes, those associations are a little puzzling, as was the case when I was driving to the grocery store the other day.

I was listening, once again, to Kool 108 in the Twin Cities. The station, as it does every year, had played holiday music from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Even if one loves holiday music – and as I’ve noted here, I generally don’t – that’s way too much of a good thing. So I was hungry for oldies on the car radio this week, hungry enough that I even listened to “Help Me, Rhonda” all the way through instead of pushing the button for another station. And I’m glad I hung in there with the Beach Boys, for the following song took me back:

It was early 1970, and Rick and I were at the sledding hill at Riverside Park, no more than a mile from our homes. We had a couple of new saucer sleds and were testing them out on the long hill, enjoying the times we wiped out as much as we enjoyed those times we made it upright to the bottom of the hill. It was a cloudy Sunday, and the light that penetrated the cloud cover was fading; evening was approaching as we hauled ourselves up the hill for the last time that day. And as we got to the top of the hill, from somewhere came the sound of a radio for just a few seconds: Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy.”

I’m not sure where the sound came from. In the parking lot at the top of the hill, a car with its radio on might have had a door open for just a moment, perhaps to admit tired sledders about to head home. That seems likely. But however it happened, we both heard the song as we went up the hill. “Good song,” I said. It was okay, said Rick, not one of his favorites.

And almost thirty-nine years later, as I drove to the store, the strains of “Holly Holy” put me back there again: On that long hill in Riverside Park, cheeks red, glasses splashed with snowflakes, feet cold inside my boots, taking the first steps on the way to home and hot chocolate.

A Six-Pack from January 1970
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond (Uni 55175, No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 of January 3, 1970)

“Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games With Me” by Crow (Amaret 112, No. 22)

“Let’s Work Together” by Wilbert Harrison (Sue 11, No. 50)

“I’ll Hold Out My Hand” by the Clique (White Whale 333, No. 60)

“Jennifer Tomkins” (sic) by the Street People (Musicor 1365, No. 87)

“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by the Delfonics, (Philly Groove 161, No. 122)

A few notes:

“Holly Holy” had just peaked the week before at No. 6, Diamond’s fourth Top Ten hit. I think “Holly Holy” tends to get lost among Diamond’s other hits of the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially falling into the shadow of “Sweet Caroline,” which had gone to No. 4 in the summer and autumn of 1969. But it’s one of my favorites; beyond the memories it spurs, it has a good melody and a great, haunting hook. And the slightly cryptic words sustain the haunted mood.

As I understand it, the Twin Cities group Crow was unhappy with its hit, which had peaked at No. 19. The group’s sound was much more straight-ahead guitar rock, not the horn-band sound one would assume from the single. Lore has it that the group was plenty annoyed with the folks at Amaret for adding the horns to the record. That may be, but I like the single.

Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” was an edit of a longer version that showed up on his 1969 album of the same name. For some reason, the Hot 100 didn’t identify the charting single as Part 1 (Part 2 was on the B-Side), but it’s listed that way in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. The single – the second Top 40 hit in Harrison’s career (“Kansas City” went to No. 1 in 1959) – went to No. 32. Canned Heat’s cover of “Let’s Work Together” went to No. 26 later in 1970.

“I’ll Hold Out My Hand” was one of the Clique’s follow-ups to “Sugar On Sunday,” which had reached No. 22 in 1969. “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” peaked at No. 45 in late December 1969 and then began to slide, leaving the Texas group a one-hit wonder. More interesting to me than either of those records was the group’s version of “Hallelujah,” the song that Sweathog beefed up and took into the charts in 1971. I’ll try to remember to post that sometime soon.

“Jennifer Tomkins” (the title was misspelled “Jennifer Tompkins” in the Hot 100, at least in the online copy I have) edged into the lower levels of the Top 40 in the last half of February 1970, peaking at No. 36. It was only hit for the Street People, which was a studio group that featured Rupert Holmes, who reached the Top 40 with three singles in 1979-80; the best known of those is likely “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” “Jennifer Tomkins” is a pretty slight record, but there’s something about the chorus – “I swear, just ain’t fair. Trouble, trouble everywhere. Oh, Lord, come on down. Got to spread some love around” – that I find sweetly appealing.

The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” had a long climb ahead. From No. 122 (“Bubbling Under The Hot 100,” as it says), the record made its way to No. 10, the second Top Ten hit for the Philly trio. (“La – La – Means I Love You” had gone to No. 4 in 1968.) The record was one of the most luscious confections put together by Thom Bell – Stan Watson was his co-producer – in a long, long career.