Posts Tagged ‘Robert John’

‘Scarf Now!’

December 27, 2012

I have – as we all do – consistent patterns and habits.

The Texas Gal first noticed that soon after we met, when our daily contact was still limited to computer chat and telephone calls. “What’s for lunch?” she asked one morning. Chili beans over hot dogs, I told her.

“You had that yesterday,” she said.

“Yes, and the day before that,” I replied.

There were reasons for the sameness of my lunch menu, I told her. First, I like chili beans over hot dogs. And then, I was at the time on a very limited budget. Chili beans were cheap, and a couple weeks earlier, the grocery store where I shopped had filled a small freezer in the meat department with one-pound packages of John Morrell’s German Brand hot dogs. They’d been frozen upon their arrival at the store some time earlier and had been forgotten in the main freezer until they were past their so-called freshness date. There was nothing wrong with the hot dogs, a sign assured shoppers; they’d been frozen since their arrival. But because of the date on the packages, the store was selling them at a dollar per one-pound package.

I’d never tried the brand, so I bought a package and had two or three that noon. Having approved, I went back to the store that afternoon and stocked up on, oh, fifteen pounds of German Brand hot dogs. And that became my preferred brand until the Morrell company discontinued them about five years ago. So I found another brand, and even with the addition to my lunchtime options earlier this year of several varieties of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pasta, a bowl of chili beans over hot dogs still shows up frequently on my noontime table.

So what brought habits and patterns to mind this morning? My breakfast.

For a couple of years now, my breakfast has been the same. It starts with coffee, of course. (I’ve lately been drinking Gevalia’s Traditional Roast, my most recent attempt to find a regular coffee since the McGarvey Flame Room blend has once more disappeared from the shelves of the nearby supermarket.)

To represent the beginning of my breakfast, here’s Squeeze with “Black Coffee in Bed,” which went to No. 103 in 1982. The record isn’t much, but the video is entertaining for both the 1980s fashions and for the seeming disinterest with which the members of Squeeze go through the motions.

Once coffee is brewing, I head to the bread. If I ever took the time to make toast in the mornings, I could dig up a video for “Toast to the Fool” by the Dramatics or maybe “Toast and Marmalade For Tea” by Tin Tin, but I go with plain bread. So here’s a clip from the television show Solid Gold of Robert John performing his 1983 cover of the Newbeats’ “Bread & Butter.” The Newbeats’ version went to No. 2 in 1964, while John’s cover went to No. 68.

Speaking of habits, John made a habit of covering older hits. His 1972 version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which went to No. 3, was a cover of the Tokens’ No. 1 hit from 1961. (The Tokens’ version was reissued in 1994 and went to No. 50 after the song was recorded by South African artist Lebo M. as part of the soundtrack to the Disney film The Lion King.)* John also covered the doo-wop classic “Hushabye” in 1972. That cover went to No. 99; the Mystics’ version had gone to No. 20 in 1959. And in 1980, John released a version of “Hey There Lonely Girl,” which went to No. 31. That was, in fact, a cover of a cover: Eddie Holman’s take on the song went to No. 2 in 1970 while the original, Ruby & The Romantics’ “Hey There Lonely Boy,” had gone to No. 27 in 1963.

Anyway, once I have my bread (and I suppose we should be grateful that no record ever seems to have come close to the Billboard Hot 100 that has the words “whole grain” in its title), I slather it with peanut butter. Here’s the Marathons (who also recorded as the Olympics, as I noted in a post some time ago) with “Peanut Butter,” which went to No. 20 in 1961.

That takes care of one slice of bread. These days, the other gets a good coating of apple butter. (I used to use grape jam but switched for some reason a couple of years ago). There are no records that I could find specifically about apple butter (and I quickly dismissed the idea of pulling anything out of the “Apple Jam” portion of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass), but there are plenty about apples. Here’s a pretty good one from Badfinger, “Apple of My Eye,” which went to No. 102 in 1974 (and was released, happily enough for our purposes this morning, on Apple).

*The tangled history of the songs “Mbude” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is told well at All-Music Guide.

A Baker’s Dozen On Atlantic

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2007

I had an album ripped and ready to go this morning, but as I was researching it, I learned that it is no longer out of print; it’s been re-released on CD. That’s a boundary I try to keep, not posting entire albums that are in print, so I ditched the rip I had planned.

Then I sat there and looked at the pile of albums I have in my “To Rip” pile. I sneezed a few times, as there is some kind of pollen roaming around right now that does not like me. I looked at my list of household chores waiting for me. And I decided I’d move my Baker’s Dozen from Wednesday to today and let Wednesday worry about itself when we get there.

So, without any back story or anything else, here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while: A random Baker’s Dozen of singles on the Atlantic label. If I had more energy, I’d write about the Atlantic label, but I really don’t think I need to go into detail about the influence and importance of the label to American popular music. If you’re unfamiliar with the label and its history, there are any number of useful anthologies available with pretty good liner notes. (A note: In my filing system, if I have an entire album in the RealPlayer, then all songs from that album are listed under the album name, even those that were released as singles. So some favorites won’t have a chance to pop up.)

So let’s see what we get:

“It Tears Me Up” by Percy Sledge, Atlantic 2358, 1966

“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic 2909, 1972

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John, Atlantic 2846, 1972

“Since I Met You, Baby” by Ivory Joe Hunter, Atlantic 1111, 1956

“Whatcha Gonna Do” by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Atlantic 1055, 1955

“I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, Atlantic 89877, 1983

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris, Atlantic 3248, 1975

“Too Weak To Fight” by Clarence Carter, Atlantic 2569, 1969

“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic 2198, 1962

“Drown In My Own Tears” by Ray Charles, Atlantic 1085, 1956

“A Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals, Atlantic 2493, 1968

“Dancing Queen” by ABBA, Atlantic 3372, 1977

“See Saw” by Aretha Frankilin, Atlantic 2574, 1968

A few notes on the songs:

One surprise here is Wilson Pickett’s version of “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” the Randy Newman tune that Three Dog Night took to No. 1 in 1970, two years before Pickett recorded it. It seems an odd choice for Pickett, but keep in mind that he also recorded “Hey Jude” not long after the Beatles released it and nailed it.

Robert John’s version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” pales when compared to the Tokens’ 1961 version, which was itself a revision of a recording by the early folk group the Weavers. The Weavers, in turn, had gotten the song from a recording by African Artist Miriam Makeba. The song’s origins, according to Dave Marsh in The Heart of Rock and Soul, date to the 1930s, and the chain from Makeba to Robert John is a modern version of the way folk music used to evolve from region to region and from era to era.

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” the Major Harris tune with its racy-for-the-times cooing and moaning ran here a while back in a Baker’s Dozen from 1975. But it’s too much fun not to run it again.

I won’t say it was the first time I ever heard the recording, but the first time I really paid any attention to Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You, Baby” was when I heard it in the soundtrack to the 1987 movie The Big Town. Set in a mythical late 1950s, the movie – starring Matt Dillon and Diane Lane – is a noir-ish tale of a young gambler come to the big city with all its perils. The soundtrack, which featured Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, the Drifters, Little Willie John and a few others Fifties artists, was superb.

ABBA’s music is often derided as “just pop.” Well, it may be pop, but it’s great pop, and there are few moments in 1970s music as recognizable as the gorgeous piano glissando that kicks off “Dancing Queen”!