Posts Tagged ‘Ventures’

A Random Six-Pack

March 31, 2020

There are currently 79,000-plus tracks in the RealPlayer, most of them music. (I have about thirty familiar lines from movies in the stacks and some bits of interviews, too.) And today, we’re going to take a six-stop random tour through the stacks. We’ll sort the tracks by length; the shortest is 1.4 seconds of broadcaster Al Shaver exulting over a goal by the long-departed Minnesota North Stars – “He shoots, he scores!” – and the longest is the full album with bonus tracks of Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, clocking in at an hour and eighteen minutes.

We’re going to put the cursor in the middle of the stack and click six times and see what we get.

We land first on a track by Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers: “Memphis Queen” from the group’s 1989 album Rock & Real. At All Music, William Ruhlman notes, “Grushecky’s songs of tough urban life are made all the more compelling by his rough voice and the aggressive playing of his band.” The track in question, “Memphis Queen,” tells the tale of a Pittsburgh boy headed to New Orleans on the titular riverboat, stopping in St. Louis to search for the “brown-eyed handsome man” and meeting a girl named Little Marie, whose daddy is “down in the penitentiary.” I found the album at a blog somewhere when I was going through a Grushecky phase a few years ago. It’s a good way to start.

We jump from 1989 back to 1972 and a track from Mylon Lefevre. “He’s Not Just A Soldier” comes from Lefevre’s Over The Influence album. Originally recorded in 1961 by Little Richard, who wrote the song with William Pitt, the song reads on Lefevre’s album as an artifact from the Vietnam era, declaring that a young man in military service “is not just a soldier in a brown uniform, he’s one of God’s sons.” And there’s a surprise along the way, as Lefevre is joined on vocals by Little Richard himself. There’s also a great saxophone solo, but I don’t know by whom. (I saw a note on Wikipedia that said the album was a live performance, but I doubt that’s the case.)

Next up is a cover of a piece of movie music: “Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures. The tune originated in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Penned by Nelson Riddle, the song is source music from a radio the first time that the movie’s protagonist, Humbert Humbert, sees the title character who will become his obsession. Sue Lyon, the actress who played Lolita, provided the vocals for the film version of the tune. The Ventures’ cover of the tune was released as a single, but got only to No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From there, we head to 1968 and Al Wilson’s first album, Searching For The Dolphins, recorded for Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Label. “I Stand Accused” was the fourth single from the album aimed at the Hot 100; the most successful of the four was “The Snake,” which went to No. 27. “I Stand Accused,” a good soul workout, bubbled under at No. 106. As usual with Rivers’ productions, the backing musicians were spectacular: Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Jim Horn and James Burton. (A 2008 reissue of the album provided as bonus tracks eleven singles and B-sides recorded around the same time for the Soul City, Bell and Carousel labels.)

Lou Christie’s fame (and his appeal), as I see it, rests on five singles: “The Gypsy Cried” (1963), “Two Faces Have I” (1963), “Lightning Strikes” (1965), “Rhapsody In The Rain” (1966), and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (1970). He shows up here today with “Wood Child,” a track from his 1971 album Paint America Love, released under his (almost) real name, Lou Christie Sacco. (He was born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, according to I’m not sure what the song is about, except that its lyrics are evocative and include the recurring choruses, “You’ve got to save the wood child” and “Take a ticket and get on this boat.”

(A 2015 appreciation of the album by Bob Stanley for The Guardian said: “Yet another side of Christie emerged in 1971 when he cut his masterpiece, Paint America Love, a Polish/Italian/American take on What’s Going On. Orchestrated state-of-the-nation pieces (‘Look Out the Window,’ the extraordinary ‘Wood Child’) compete with majestic instrumentals (‘Campus Rest’) and childhood reminiscences (‘Chuckie Wagon,’ the Sesame Street-soundtracking ‘Paper Song’) in a gently lysergic whole. Online reviews compare it to Richard Ford and John Steinbeck: fans of Jimmy Webb are urged to seek it out.”)

I’m not sure where I got the album, probably a long-lost blog, but I suppose I should take Stanley’s advice and listen to it more closely.

And our six-pack this morning ends with “Long Line” from Peter Wolf, one-time member of the J. Geils Band. The title track from his 1996 album, the tune shifts from straight-ahead tasteful rock to a spoken interlude and back. It sounds a lot more like 1972 than 1996, with some nifty piano fills, which makes it a nice way to end our trek.


November 1, 2012

We’re back to the March of the Integers this morning, looking at ‘Five,’ and the RealPlayer comes up with a list of 262 mp3s as a starting point.

Before we can get to work, though, we have to winnow out records by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama, the Original Memphis Five, the We Five, Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five, the Ben Folds Five and the Dave Clark Five as well as tracks by the Five Americans, Five Bells, Five Blazes, Five Breezes, Five Chavis Brothers, Five Delights, Five Empressions, Five Keys, Five Man Electrical Band, Five Stairsteps and Five For Fighting. We also need to set aside Nick Drake’s 1969 album Five Leaves Left, most of the 1969 Hawaii Five-O soundtrack by the Morton Stevens Orchestra and most of the similarly titled 1969 album by the Ventures.

Still – as has been the case in the previous four chapters of this exercise – we’re left with enough titles available so we can be a little picky. We’ll once again go chronologically.

With a nod to events in the eastern U.S. this week – and meaning no disrespect to anyone affected by Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath – we’ll start with a country tune about a flood from 1959. Johnny Cash chronicles the rising waters in “Five Feet High and Rising” in a dry and matter-of-fact tone that one can interpret as either comic or stoic. I’ll go with the latter. The record spent nine weeks in the country Top 40 as summer edged into autumn in 1959, peaking at No. 14.

The pleasantly trippy track “Five O’Clock in the Morning” by Wendy & Bonnie comes from one of the more interesting one-shot albums of the 1960s. Wendy and Bonnie Flowers were sisters from San Francisco who were seventeen and thirteen, respectively, when their album, Genesis, was released in 1969. It came out on the Skye label, which folded soon after the record came out, dooming any chances for the album to gain any attention. Was it interesting because it was good or because Wendy and Bonnie were so young? A little more the latter than the former, I think, but the album – re-released on the Sundazed label in 2001 with bonus tracks – is worth finding.

I noted that we’d have to ignore most of the Ventures’ 1969 album Hawaii Five-O, but there was really no way I could put together a selection of songs featuring the number “five” and not include the title track from that album. “Hawaii Five-O” is about as catchy as a television theme can be, and the Ventures’ recording of the theme went to No. 4 in 1969. The tune came from the pen of composer Morton Stevens, who recorded the version used for the show’s opening.

Jade was a British folk-rock group that released its only album, Fly on Strangewings, in 1970. It’s a pleasant album with a few very good pieces, but I think that Richie Unterberger of All-Music Guide got it right: “While Jade’s only album is decent early-’70s British folk-rock, its similarity to the material that Sandy Denny sang lead on with Fairport Convention is so evident that it’s rather unnerving.” Unterberger went on, however, to note several tracks on the album that could stand on their own without drawing comparisons to Denny and Fairport. “Five Of Us” is, sadly, not one of those tracks. Still, from the distance of more than forty years, it’s a decent piece of British folk-rock with impressive harmonies and a very eerie recurring “whooooooh” in the background.

The country-rock group Cowboy released half-a-dozen albums on the Capricorn label during the 1970s and deservedly sold a fair number of records. I’d guess that most folks who went looking for Cowboy’s work, though, did so for the same reason I did: The track “Please Be With Me” was included on the first Duane Allman Anthology because of Allman’s Dobro work. And, like me, those who bought the 1971 album 5’ll Get You Ten just for that track discovered a lot of additional fine music from Scott Boyer, Tommy Talton, Chuck Leavell and the others who sat in. The track “5’ll Get You Ten” is as good as anything on the album.

In 1999, country-folk artist Nanci Griffith took some of her best songs from previous albums and re-recorded them with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra. Some of Griffith’s performances were overwhelmed by the orchestra, and some of them came out all right. To my ears, the best thing on the album was the duet on “Love at the Five and Dime” by Griffith and Darius Rucker, best known as lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish. The song, which had been affecting in its original version on Griffith’s 1986 album, The Last of the True Believers, became more powerful and poignant with the addition of Rucker’s unique voice.

We Dialed BLackburn 1 . . .

December 21, 2011

Originally posted February 12, 2009

When I was a sprout and one of the tasks at hand was for me to memorize our home phone number, the chore was helped immensely by the fact that part of our phone number was a word . . . and that was the case all over the U.S. at the time.

In St. Cloud, that word was “BLackburn” and our phone number – a number still in use – began with BLackburn 1. My mom has had that phone number for more than fifty-two years, since some time before we moved from Riverside Drive to Kilian Boulevard. She told me this morning that she thinks that sometime during the nine years on Riverside, the phone number changed from 332OJ to the current one.

Sometime in the 1960s – maybe as early as 1966, using the title of Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” as a rough historical guide – the alphabetic prefixes to phone numbers were discontinued, and phone numbers became all numeric. I imagine the change had something to do with the technology for direct dialing of long distance calls. But in a way, it’s too bad. There was something kind of neat about those prefixes.

I remember a couple of exchange names beyond BLackburn (which was taken from the name of a city in northern England), mostly from movies and television: MUrray Hill and ALgonquin. The Glenn Miller song “Pennsylvania 6-5000” refers to a phone number. But there had to be thousands of prefixes in use. Many of them are cataloged at the Telephone EXchange Name Project, which is a fascinating place to rummage around. Do you remember your phone number’s prefix? If so, feel free to leave a note.

This came to mind this week, of course, because the RealPlayer landed on “Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes. I posted it here once before, but when it sparked memories of BLackburn, I figured I’d post it again, so I went and found a Billboard Hot 100 from the song’s time on the chart.

A Six-Pack From The Charts
(Billboard Hot 100, September 1, 1962)

“Party Lights” by Claudine Clark, Chancellor 1113 (No. 5)

“The Wah Watusi” by the Orlons, Cameo 218 (No. 24)

“Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54065 (No. 39)

“Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” by the Rivingtons, Liberty 55247 (No. 59)

“The Ballad of Paladin” by Duane Eddy, RCA Victor 8047 (No. 67)

“Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures, Dolton 60 (No. 74)

“Party Lights” is a combination of R&B and the girl group sound, and its success was an accident. The hit was supposed to be the other side of the record, a Jerry Ragovoy tune titled “Disappointed.” Since the B-Side was supposed to be no big deal, according to writer Dave Marsh, the folks at Chancellor let Clark record and produce one of her own songs – “Party Lights” – for the flipside. But “Disappointed” stiffed, and a deejay somewhere flipped the record over. “Party Lights” entered the Hot 100 on June 30, 1962, and a little more than two months later, it peaked at No. 5.

Nonsense sounds! “Wah-Watusi!” “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow!” And you could throw “Lolita Ya-Ya” in there as nonsense, too. The watusi was a dance, of course, and the Orlons’ record found its place in a long line of records about dances that includes “The Stroll” by the Diamonds in 1958, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” in 1960 and 1961 and continued all the way through the years to Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” in 1996. (That’s obviously a quick and incredibly incomplete list; anyone want to add other dance-titled records?) “The Wah-Watusi” was on its way back down as September started. It peaked at No. 2 in July, being blocked from the top of the charts by Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red.”

As to the Rivingtons’ record, by the end, I don’t think the singers have found out what the title means, except that it sounds good on a record. The record reached only No. 48, which I find a little startling for something that was so much fun. If you want more on “Poppa-Oom-Mow-Mow,” the aforementioned Dave Marsh dissects the relationships between it, the Rivingtons’ 1963 record “The Bird’s The Word” (No. 52) and the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” (which went to No. 4 in 1963) in The Heart of Rock & Soul.

The Ventures’ record – even with its nonsense sounds – is a different kind of animal. If it reminds me of anything at all, it’s French pop from about the same time, the kind of music examined lovingly at the blog blowupdoll, for one. And that makes some sense. The Ventures’ record was a cover of a single by Sue Lyon (MGM 13067) pulled from the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film, Lolita. Lyon played the title role in Kubrick’s film. By the start of September, the Ventures’ “Lolita Ya-Ya” had been in the Hot 100 for five weeks, and it moved up to No. 61 two weeks later and then fell from the chart. (I have no idea how well the Lyon version of the song did on the charts, and I’d be interested to know.)

“The Ballad of Paladin” was the theme to a TV western, Have Gun – Will Travel, which starred Richard Boone and ran on CBS from 1957 through 1963. Boone played a bounty hunter and hired gun who used the alias of Paladin. Eddy’s instrumental version of the theme went to No. 33. On the show, the theme was sung by the suspiciously named Johnny Western:

“Have Gun – Will Travel” reads the card of a man,
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.
Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam.
Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home.

As one might guess, Have Gun – Will Travel was regular Saturday evening viewing at our home.

As to the Marvelettes’ single, it’s a nearly perfect bit of early Motown R&B. It was the fourth of ten Top 40 singles for the Marvelettes, peaking at No. 17, and might be the best things the girls from Inkster, Michigan, ever did. (Though “Please, Mr. Postman” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” were close to sublime, too.) The only quibble I have is that the title should have been “BEechwood 4-5789”)

Chart Digging: Mid-October 1964

October 20, 2011

Having been distracted and interrupted last time out by the Everly Brothers’ “Gone, Gone, Gone” and the resulting covers, I went back this morning to the Billboard Hot 100 for October 17, 1964, forty-seven years ago last Monday.

A look at that week’s Top Ten is intriguing:

“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann
“Dancing In The Street” by Martha & The Vandellas
“Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison & The Candy Men
“We’ll Sing In The Sunshine” by Gale Garnett
“Last Kiss” by Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers
“Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)” by the Shangri-Las
“A Summer Song” by Chad & Jeremy
“It Hurts To Be In Love” by Gene Pitney
“When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)” by the Beach Boys
“Let It Be Me” by Betty Everett & Jerry Butler

Boy, with the exception of Manfred Mann’s No. 1 record and the Chad & Jeremy tune, that Top Ten looks pretty much like the British Invasion had been thwarted at the Atlantic shore. (Gale Garnett was New Zealand-born but came to the U.S. before she was ten, and her record is pretty close to traditional pop or maybe even country; the recording academy called it folk and gave her a Grammy for it.) There are all sorts of sounds and styles in that Top Ten.

What I wondered was: Where were the Beatles when we got to mid-October? I found their cover of Carl Perkin’s “Matchbox” sitting at its peak of No. 17, and “Slow Down” was sitting at No. 39, on its way to No. 25. They hadn’t had a Top Ten record since “A Hard Day’s Night” topped the charts in August (although they’d had seven records in the Hot 100 during that time, four of them – including “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” – peaking in the Top 40.) This was, in fact, a minor lull, one that would end in five or so weeks, with Beatles releasing four Top Ten hits – “I Feel Fine,” “She’s A Woman,” “Eight Days A Week” and “Ticket To Ride” – between early December 1964 and late April 1965.

As to other Brit groups and performers, the highest I find is the Honeycombs, whose “Have I The Right” was sitting at No. 20 on its way to No. 5. In the rest of the Top 40, we find numerous British acts – the Nashville Teens, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, the Animals and others – so this is a chart that shows the transition created by the British Invasion underway but not complete, as I see it.

I should note that the Top Ten would be, for the most part, a good stretch of listening. I love “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and “Dancing In The Street,” and – with one exception – the rest of those ten are good, if not favorites. The exception? I dislike “Last Kiss” intensely.

As always, though, I did some digging for nuggets in the lower portions of that Hot 100 from forty-seven years ago, and found a few things worth some attention. Among them is another tune about bereavement: “Death of an Angel” by the Kingsmen. With its garage-rock rhythm and riffs, it almost seems to be a better fit for 1966 than 1964, but then, the Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie” always sounds like it belongs to a year later than 1963, when it went to No. 2. “Death of an Angel” didn’t do nearly as well as “Louie, Louie”, though. Forty-seven years ago this week, it was sitting at No. 53, on its way to a peak of No. 42. (The Kingsmen would have their second and last Top Ten hit in early 1965 with the novelty “Jolly Green Giant.”)

In October 1964, Columbia still hadn’t figured out what to do with Aretha Franklin. She’d had eleven records in or near the Hot 100, but only one of them had found its way into the Top 40, and not that far in at that: “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” had gone to No. 37 in the autumn of 1961. Columbia would eventually give up, and starting in 1967, Aretha would become a legend on Atlantic. But in the autumn of 1964, Columbia was still trying, and in mid-October, Aretha’s “Runnin’ Out Of Fools” was sitting at No.78, on its way to No. 57. (The record went to No. 30 on the R&B chart.) I don’t know how the studio version sounded, but when Aretha sang the song on the December 2, 1964, episode of Shindig!, there were hints of the Aretha to come:

Garnet Mimms is probably best known for recording the original version of “Cry Baby,” the Bert Berns/Jerry Ragovoy song that Janis Joplin covered on 1971’s posthumously released Pearl. Mimms’ 1963 version – credited to Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters (although Joel Whitburn notes that the backing singers were actually the Sweet Inspirations) – went to No. 4 on the pop chart and spent three weeks atop the R&B chart. After that, two late 1963 records with the Enchanters reached the lower half of the Top 40, another peaked at No. 78, and two 1964 solo releases stalled short of the Top 40. So in mid-October 1964, Mimms was still seeking another Top Ten hit, and his “Look Away” was sitting at No. 89. The record didn’t do all that well – peaking at No. 73 – but what interests me is that the song tells pretty much the same tale as did Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By” when it went to No. 6 in the spring of 1964.

The records presented here when I do my chart digging are generally lesser-known titles (sometimes deservedly so) or by lesser-known performers (ditto). But last evening, the RealPlayer settled on Jackie DeShannon’s original version of “When You Walk In The Room,” and when I saw the Searchers’ cover listed at No. 97 in the October 17, 1964, Hot 100, I knew that I had to offer it here. The Liverpool group’s defining hit, “Needles and Pins,” had gone to No. 13 in the spring of 1964, and four more singles reached the Hot 100 by the end of the summer, with two of those reaching the Top 40. “When You Walk In The Room” would peak at No. 35, and why it didn’t go higher is a mystery to me (as is the fact that DeShannon’s original only got to No. 99 in January of 1964). Both versions are great records.

I mentioned the Ventures in my last post, noting that the group placed “twenty-five records in or near the Hot 100, including Top Ten hits in 1960 and 1964 with two versions of ‘Walk – Don’t Run’ and then in 1969 with ‘Hawaii Five-O’.” I also noted that I like pretty much anything the Ventures did, and that includes the cover of “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” that was bubbling under the Hot 100 at No. 109 when mid-October rolled around in 1964. The record would go to No. 35 and would be the group’s last Top 40 hit until “Hawaii Five-O” rolled around in 1969. (It’s interesting to note that the flip side of “Slaughter” also got a little airplay, bubbling under at No. 135: “Rap City” was based on Johannes Brahms’ familiar “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5.”)

I know next-to-nothing about the Chartbusters. Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles tells me that they were a garage-rock band from Washington, D.C., and that earlier in 1964, they’d had “She’s The One” go to No. 33. (Based on my listening this morning, I’d never heard the record before.) They were back on the chart in mid-October, when “Why (Doncha Be My Girl)” was bubbling under at No. 122. A decent piece of garage rock, the record would get to No. 92. The Chartbusters had one more record of note: A live version of “New Orleans” would bubble under for one week at No. 134 during the summer of 1965.

‘Just Say I’m Gone . . .’

October 18, 2011

A hint that a reader named Larry left in a comment the other day falls into the category of good ideas I should have thought of a long time ago. I’d mentioned the difficulty of sorting versions of different songs with the same title – in this case, covers of Phil Ochs’ “Changes” – while using the information at All-Music Guide. Larry suggested using the online databases at ASCAP and BMI, the institutions that keep track of such things.

It sounded like a good idea, so I gave it a shot this morning, looking up versions of “Gone, Gone, Gone,” the Everly Brothers’ single that entered the Billboard Hot 100 on October 17, 1964, forty-seven years ago yesterday. I’d already scrummed around a bit at AMG and I’d come across four cover versions of the tune, but I was thinking there might be more. And the AMG listings were crowded with other songs with the same or similar titles, including tunes by Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins, Joe South and the trio of George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward.

But BMI, for whatever reason, lists only three of those four cover versions of “Gone, Gone, Gone.” So I would hope that the four cover versions I found complete the field. First, though, let’s take a look at the original.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” was the Everly Brothers’ next-to-last Top 40 hit, getting to No. 31 in December 1964. (Their last Top 40 hit was “Bowling Green,” which barely made it, sitting for two weeks at No. 40 in 1967.) I wanted to share a video of the single, but the copyright holder evidently doesn’t allow videos of the studio version of the song. I found, however, a live performance of “Gone, Gone, Gone” from a 1964 episode of Shindig!

That performance, I think, took place on October 14, 1964, evidently just as “Gone, Gone, Gone” was released. The brothers performed “Gone, Gone, Gone” twice as part of the Shindig! opening medley – once in the autumn of 1964 and again in June of 1965 – but from what I can tell, the only time they performed the song in its entirety was on the October 14, 1964, telecast.

Now, on to the covers: The first to cover the tune, evidently, were the Ventures, the instrumental group that had twenty-five records in or near the Hot 100, including Top Ten hits in 1960 and 1964 with two versions of “Walk – Don’t Run” and then in 1969 with “Hawaii Five-O.” The Ventures’ version of “Gone, Gone, Gone” showed up as an album track in 1965 on The Ventures Knock Me Out! It’s a typical Ventures track, which means I like it.

The cover version not listed at BMI came next, when the British folk-rock group Fairport Convention performed the tune live on the BBC’s show Top Gear hosted by the famed John Peel. The show aired on August 26, 1968, and the track eventually showed up on the album Heyday, subtitled “BBC Radio Sessions 1968-69.”  I think the duet on the performance is by Sandy Denny and Ian Matthews (before he changed the spelling of his first name), and it’s also one I like very much.

That last statement should, I suppose be annotated: I like very much all five versions of “Gone, Gone, Gone” that I’ve dug up this morning. Do I have a favorite? Yes, and we’ll get to it shortly. First, though, we’ll look at the most unlikely cover I’ve found of the song. In 1970, the Minneapolis group Crow got hold of the Everlys’ song and transformed it from a sprightly pop folk song with rockabilly hints into a lengthy blues-rock jam that slides its way along, stopping for a guitar solo and an odd choral segment backed with an ethereal wordless vocal and some organ chords. By the time the eight-minute track finds an ending, it hardly seems like the same song.

And that brings us to the most recent version of the song (and my favorite cover): Performers Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, along with producer T-Bone Burnett, added a subtitle and included “Gone, Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” on their Grammy-winning 2007 album Raising Sand. Returning the song to its rockabilly roots, Plant and Krauss share the spotlight with drummer Jay Bellerose.