Sunshine Superman (December 27, 2020; 15th? segment appearance)

Donovan first met his future wife, Linda Lawrence, in 1965 when she was recovering from a broken relationship with Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones. The pair dated briefly, but not wanting the scrutiny and uncertainty of being a pop star’s girlfriend all over again, Lawrence broke it off at the end of the year. Donovan responded with this song.


“It’s not a normal love song, the singer told Mojo magazine June 2011. “On the face of it, the song is about being with Linda again. But sunshine is a nickname for acid. The Superman is the person capable of entering higher states because it’s not easy to go into the fourth dimension and see the matrix of the universe in which everything is connected.


The line, ‘everybody’s hustling’ referred to the pop scene at the time, where you could lose yourself very easily. Gyp Mills – Donovan’s lifelong friend and tour manager – would always keep my feet on the ground; we had left home at 16 to busk so we could see fame for what it is.”


Donovan was good friends with The Beatles, and they were both making very innovative and trippy music at the time. Donovan’s producer Mickie Most told him not to play the Sunshine Superman album to Paul McCartney under any circumstances, because he knew McCartney would be tempted to do something similar.

Donovan recalled to Uncut magazine: “My arse was being sued by Pye after Sunshine Superman so , my masterwork, sat on the shelves for seven months. If you date it, it was at least a year and a half before Sgt Pepper and I remember Mickie saying to me, ‘Don’t play it to McCartney’ but of course everybody was sharing with everyone else and nicking from each other.” ”I played it to McCartney anyway,” he continued. “But they were already there, anyway, and George Martin was doing something similar with The Beatles, working out arrangements from ideas they had in their heads. George Martin was The Beatles’ guy and John Cameron was my guy and they both had an appreciation of jazz which was key.” Originally, the “Sunshine Superman” single was subtitled “For John And Paul,” a reference to Lennon and McCartney.


Donovan was recording for Pye Records when he was working on this. Pye also had Mickie Most under contract, but he moved to CBS before the album could be released. This prompted a lawsuit that delayed release of the album, so it didn’t come out in the US until September 1966, and wasn’t released in the UK until 1967. This was unfortunate for Donovan, because this would have been considered much moer innovative if it were released on schedule.
This was one of the first ever overtly psychedelic pop records. Donovan played down the drug implications of the song, but they were certainly implied: “Sunshine” was a name for LSD.


The song was Donovan’s only single to reach #1 on the Hot 100 . “Gypsy Dave [Donovan’s creative companion] and I went off to Greece with about three quid in my pocket,” he recalled to Billboard magazine. “The phone rang, and Ashley Kozak, my manager, said ‘Get yourself back to Athens, you’ve got a first-class ticket to London. ‘Superman”s released and it’s #1 all over the world!”

This is Alan Tolz, the official music maven blah blah blah…

DID YOU KNOWs


DID YOU KNOW #1 – Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s great guitarist, played lead guitar on this track. He was a session man at the time.


DID YOU KNOW #2 – This was the first hit song with the word, “Superman” in the title. In future years, it was used in many songs, often as a symbol of inner strength.


DID YOU KNOW #3 – This was used in the 2010 “Snow Trip” commercial for the Honda Accord…and finally…


DID YOU KNOW #4 – In the Beatles video of the song, “A Day In The Life”, You can see a close-up of the single, “Sunshine Superman”, playing on a spinning turntable.

Sugar, Sugar (December 6, 2020; 14th segment appearance)

The Archies were the group that performed on the Saturday morning cartoon Archie. The group itself was never seen, just the cartoon characters. The song was written by Andy Kim and Jeff Barry, and was performed by session musicians including Kim, Toni Wine, Ron Dante and Ellie Greenwich. Kim had a hit in 1974 with “Rock Me Gently”; Dante produced Mandy for Barry Manilow and “Heartbreaker” for Pat Benatar. Greenwich and Barry, who were married from 1962-1965, wrote many famous songs, including “Be My Baby” and “Chapel Of Love”; Toni Wine wrote the hit songs A Groovy Kind of Love and Candida.

According to Jeff Barry, he and Andy Kim wrote the song with preschoolers in mind since that was the audience for the Archie TV show (Barry had a 3 year old and a 4 year old at the time). The line, “You are my candy girl” came from thinking that’s what kids that age like – candy, but they wanted to appeal to adults as well, so they added a weightier line, “I just can’t believe the loveliness of loving you.”

Toni Wine explained, “It just was a very easy session. Donnie Kirshner wanted to bring The Archies to life, which he did. And Jeff Barry was going to produce this fictitious animated group called The Archies. We went into the studio. Jeff and Andy Kim, who had hits on their own as writers and singers, wrote ‘Sugar, Sugar,’ Ronnie was Archie, and I was Betty and Veronica. We went in, we did the record. It was a fun session, it was a blast, and at the session we just knew that this was something, and something huge was going to happen. We didn’t really know how huge, but it was huge. In fact, a friend of mine had been in town, Ray Stevens, who’s an incredible songwriter, singer, producer, musician, and we were going to just grab a bite to eat, so I told him to meet me at the studio, pick me up, and then we’ll go eat. And he wound up handclapping on ‘Sugar, Sugar.'”

This was the $1 song on the US Billboard chart for 1969, beating out the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder. It logged more weeks on the hot 100 (22) than any other song on the US charts that year. It also spent 8 weeks on the UK hot 100 charts.

The Archies group was put together by Don Kirshner, a prolific promoter and producer. Kirshner also created The Monkees, and he wanted to do the same thing with cartoon characters because they’re much easier to work with than people. Kirshner said, “It wasn’t written for anything other than to satisfy a Saturday morning animated show. Sugar, Sugar was one of those songs that I kept humming. I kept loving it. It would not leave me. And with the magical mind of Jeff Barry, a great record was made. There was no time to analyze and to pontificate and to see if it made any sense. The writing and the recording and the euphoria of being part of it just excited me.”

A degree of mystery surrounded the Archies as the song climbed up the charts. Toni Wine said, “It was a big secret who we were.” The song met with resistance at radio stations, which didn’t want to play a cartoon band. According to Andy Kim, Don Kirshner hired an experienced promotion man to work the stations. His tactic was to visit the stations, play the song for the program directors, but not reveal the artist until they agreed to play it. In some cases, he could only get them to play it once, but that was all he needed because the phones would light up.

“That was the best part of being in the music world then, said Andy Kim, you really had such an active audience response to what they hear. And you didn’t have that many choices. So, if the audience loves it, you play it. And that started what became a wildfire all across this planet. When I toured, no matter where I was, I’d start the song and everyone would sing along.”

According to Ron Dante, here are the musicians who played on the track:

Guitarists Dave Appell, Sal DeTroia and Andy Kim, Keyboards: Ron Frangipane, Bass: Joe Mack, Drums: Gary Chester and hand claps, Toni Wine, Jeff Barry and Ray Stevens.

This is Alan Tolz, the official music maven of the Bobby Katzen Baby Boomer and Gen X show. Tune on to the Bobby Katzen Show next week to hear more stories about the music you grew up with.

DID YOU KNOWs

DID YOU KNOW #1 – This wasn’t the first Archies song. They recorded and released several “Bang Shang A Lang the year before Sugar Sugar. (which went to #22). The follow up to Sugar Sugar, Jingle Jangle, went to #10 and was a gold record.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – This knocked “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones out of the US #1 spot.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – Ron Dante also sang lead on the novelty song “Leader Of The Laundromat” by the Detergents, and was the voice of The Cuff Links, who had the hit, Tracy.

DID YOU KNOW #4 – A dance version by Olivia Newton-John appears in the 2011 movie A Few Best Men, where she plays the mother of the bride.
And Finally…DID YOU KNOW #5 – The line, “Pour a little sugar on me, baby” inspired the title for the 1987 Def Leppard hit “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

When a Man Loves a Woman (November 22, 2020; 13th segment appearance)

This song was the first #1 Hot 100 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones, and many other famous musicians would later record some of their classic songs. It’s a legendary love song, but the story of its writing and recording is a bit murky. Sledge, who died in 2015 at age 74 had told long, florid tales about how he came up with the song, but Quin Ivy, who produced the track had a much simpler story.

Sledge was an orderly at Colbert County Hospital during the day and sang with a band, The Esquires Combo, at night. As Sledge tells it, one night while playing a gig, he was upset about a woman. He was so upset about this broken relationship that he couldn’t concentrate on the music he was supposed to sing. He was so overwhelmed with emotion as the group started their set, he asked bass player Calvin Lewis and organ player Andrew Wright if they could play a slow blues – any key, their choice.

After a couple of glances, nods, and shrugs among them, the band started to play and Sledge vented in song for about 6 minutes. In Sledge’s story, Quin Ivy was at the show and approached the band about polishing the song and recording it. Sledge says he worked on the lyrics with Lewis and Wright and recorded it at Norala Sound with Ivy producing.

Quin Ivy’s sound studio was also a record store, and he says he met Sledge when the singer walked into the store one day and they were introduced by a mutual friend. Sledge and the Esquires tried recording the song at FAME studios, but it wasn’t working, so the engineer there sent them to Norala to record with Ivy, complete with their big Hammond B-3 organ for Wright to play. This recording was a success and the song got proper distribution when Ivy played it for FAME’s owner, Rick Hall, who contacted Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, who signed Sledge, released the song and it became a huge hit.
In Sledge’s version of the story, he co-wrote the song with his band mates Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, but let them have sole composer credits since they gave him the opportunity to sing his heart out. Whether Sledge was acting out of the goodness of his heart, or had nothing to do with writing the song is a matter of debate, but the writing credit had huge implications, resulting in a windfall for Lewis and Wright who continue to get the royalties every time it’s played.

Since the song went on to be covered by many artists, they get paid for those performances as well. If it was a goodwill gesture by Sledge, it cost him millions of dollars.

The musicians who played on the song were many of the same guys who recorded at FAME and later at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, a competing studio that opened in 1969. This included Spooner Oldham on organ, Marlin Greene on guitar, Junior Lowe on bass, and Roger Hawkins on drums.
Trained musicians can tell that the horns on this song are out of tune, and that didn’t escape the ear of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records. He sent back the original version so it could be fixed, but the fix never made it to the shelves. As legend has it, the song got re-recorded with different horn players but the tapes got mixed up when sent back to Atlantic so they pressed and released the original with the out of tune horns, and that became the hit.

Percy Sledge says that when he sang this, he had a woman named Lizz King in mind. She was his girlfriend for three years before she left him for a modeling job in Los Angeles. Sledge recalled that he didn’t have any money to go after her so there was nothing he could do to get her back.
This song had a totally different title and meaning when it started. Sledge said, “When I wrote the song at first, it was called, “Why Did You Leave Me Baby?” And I changed it from that to “When A man Loves A Woman” when Quin Ivy said to me that if I was to write some lyrics around that melody and that line, it would be a hit record.”

DID YOU KNOWs

DID YOU KNOW # 1 – In 1987, this was used in a series of Levi’s commercials in the UK. It was re-released there to capitalize on that exposure and went to #2 on the UK charts, a higher position than it had there when originally released in 1966.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – This was by far the biggest hit for Sledge and his only top 10 in the US or UK . His next record, “Warm and Tender Love” only made it to # 17 in the States. His 2nd biggest hit was, “Take Time to Know Her”, released in 1968.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – Sledge performed this at his induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. He sang it as a tribute to his waif, Rosa, and included her name in the lyrics.

DID YOU KNOW #4 – One of this song’s many admirers is John Fogerty. When asked which song he wished he’s written, he said without hesitation, “When A Man Loves A Woman”.

And finally…DID YOU KNOW #5 – This was featured in a commercial for Tony’s Frozen Pizza as, “When A Man Loves A Pizza”.

Soul Man (November 15, 2020; 12th segment appearance)

This was released on Stax Records, a legendary soul label where Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Isaac Hayes (to name but a few) recorded. The song was written and produced by Hayes and David Porter, and the house band, Booker T and the MG’s played the instruments except for Booker himself, who was away at college. In fact, the reason that Isaac Hayes was brought in to Stax was because Booker left for college.

When this song was written, there was no clear definition of a “Soul Man”. After Isaac Hays came up with the title, David Porter wrote the rest of the lyric based on what he thought a “Soul Man” might be. To Porter, he was:

Rural – “Comin’ to ya on a dusty road”

Hardscrabble – “Got what I got the hard way”

A great lover – “I learned how to love before I could eat”

Monogamous – “Give you hope, and be your only boyfriend”

Describing this guy, Porter said, “He didn’t have the fancy, big city slant, but he had the emotional thing happening inside of him that made people really love him”.

Interestingly, Porter’s co-writer Isaac Hayes would exemplify a new, funky soul when he wrote “The Theme to the Movie, Shaft.” The “Soul Man” was Educated at Woodstock (sometimes misheard as, “educated from good stock). Now this was 1967, two years BEFORE the famous festival. David Porter chose the name “Woodstock” to evoke the picture of a school out in the sticks. The word denoted a school that was out in the forest somewhere.

Sam and Dave were Sam Moore and Dave Prater. Moore was in the Mellonaires gospel group and Prater was a solo artist before they met in 1963. They were signed by Roulette Records in 1962 before they switched to Atlantic in 1965 before recording for Stax. In 1988, Prater was killed in a car crash. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1992.

At the 1:15 mark in the song, you can hear guitarist Steve Cropper play four notes that elicit the reply from Sam Moore, “Play it Steve!”

This was spontaneous and done on one take only, which happened to be the best take so it’s “in the record”. Cropper’s guitar lick came after Isaac Hayes asked him for an Emore James- sounding slide part. Cropper used a Zippo lighter as a slide and got those famous notes.

The Blues Brothers released this as their first single in 1979. It hit number 14 in the US and helped establish the duo as a legitimate music act. The Blues Brothers were Saturday Night Live comedians John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, and they turned their skit on the show into a movie and a tour. Their backing musicians were Paul Shaeffer ( of David Letterman fame), Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T and the MG’s.

Cropper explained: We were working on material in New York trying to put a show together and I suggested that they do something a little more danceable – they were doing a lot of slow blues. They were the Blues Brothers, but I thought some R & B should also be a little part of the show, so I suggested “Soul Man”. We jumped into it right away and I said, “Sam and Dave used to do all these dance steps and stuff” so they got into it and had a lot of fun with that song.

DID YOU KNOWS

DID YOU KNOW #1 – This song won a Grammy in 1967 for Best Rhythm and Blues Group Performance. It was just the second year the award was given.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – Giving his thoughts on the Blues Brothers version of this song, Sam Moore said, “I’d say they were good comedians. I looked at it the way I looked at The Coasters. It was a parody from a comedy team.”

DID YOU KNOW #3 – When Bob Dole ran for President in 1996, he repurposed this song as “Dole Man” and used it in his campaign until he was sued by the copyright holders.

DID YOU KNOW #4 – Sam Moore re-recorded this in 1986 with Lou Reed for a movie of the same name. It’s about a white guy who pretends to be black so he can get a scholarship to Harvard. Hijinx ensue when he gets picked to play on the basketball team and he’s awful.

Sittin' on the Dock (November 8, 2020; 11th segment appearance)

A month before this song was released, Otis Redding died in a plane crash. He recorded the song three days before that crash. It was by far his biggest hit and was also the first posthumous #1 single in the U.S. Redding was a rising star moving toward mainstream success at the time of his death. There’s a good chance he would have recorded many more hits had he lived.

Stax guitarist Steve Cropper wrote this song with Redding. Cropper produced the album when Redding died, including this track along with various songs Redding had recorded over the last few years. In a 1990 interview with Terri Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air”, Cropper explained that Otis was one of those guys who had hundreds of ideas. Any time he came in to record, he had 10-15 different intros or titles for the song he was about to record. He had been in San Francisco playing the Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse in Sausalito, (across the bay from SF) which is where he got the idea of, “watchin’ the ships roll in.” That was about all he had. “Watchin’ the ships roll in, and I watch them roll away again”. Cropper took that and finished the lyrics.

If you listen to the song, most of the lyrics are about Otis. Redding didn’t write about himself much, but Cropper did. “Mr. Pitiful” and “Sad Song”, known better as “Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa” were about his life.

Dock of the Bay was exactly that. “I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay” was all about him going to play the Fillmore.

Redding ended up sitting on a dock on the SF bay thanks to Bill Graham, who ran the Fillmore West auditorium. Redding played there December 20-22, 1966. Graham gave Redding a choice: he could stay at a hotel, or at a boathouse in nearby Sausalito. Since Redding liked the outdoors, he chose the boathouse.

Redding was the star recording artist for Stax Records, a Memphis label that made classic soul music. Redding’s death was a big blow to the label, and along with other factors, it casued the label’s demise in the ‘70’s. In 2003, a soul music museum opened where the studio once stood.

The end of the song “Dock of the Bay” contains what might be the most famous whistling in music history. It wasn’t planned, but when Steve Cropper and Stax engineer Ronnie Capone heard it, they knew it had to stay. According to Steve Cropper, “Otis was a master of the musical ad-lib, and this song baffled him a little bit because of the tempo and mood, so when we got down to end of it he really didn’t have anything to ad-lib with, so he just started whistling. It was such a great melody to go out with…”

Beach sound effects were dubbed in after the recording. Steve Cropper explained, “I played acoustic guitar on the record and there are some outtakes where you can hear Otis clowning around with seagulls. He was imitating their “caw caw” sound and that’s where I got the idea of getting the seagull sounds. I got a sound effects record from a local jingle company and made a tape loop of the seagull sounds. I ran it in the background as I mixed the record. I would bring them up and down in volume at certain times. I added my acoustic guitar, sent it off to Atlantic Records and that’s how it came out.

He added, “The guitar licks I put in there were high up on the neck because I was trying to keep them in the register of the seagulls.

Redding recorded this with Booker T and the MG’s, the house band for Stax records. They played with all the Stax artists including Wilson Picket, Sam and Dave, and Albert King and they had a hit of their own with this classic ‘60’s instrumental…

Redding died 5 months before MLK’s assassination in Memphis, where this was recorded. Amid the angry racial tensions, “Dock of the Bay” stood out as an integrated collaboration in a segregated city as guitarist and producer Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn were white member of Booker T’s band.

Booker T and the MG’s were on tour when they found out about Redding’s death. They were in an Indiana airport waiting on a delayed flight due to a snowstorm when one of the band members called the Stax office and got the horrific news. When they returned to Memphis, Cropper mixed the song for release. Under pressure from the record company, Cropper rushed to get this song finished as soon as word had gotten out about Redding. He said is was maybe the toughest thing he’d ever done. He finished the song before Redding’s body had been recovered.

Redding wrote this soon after listening to the Beatles, “Sgt Pepper” album which had just been released. Shortly before he started recording it, he alluded to it as an extension of the Beatles’ music. In 1966 and 1967, Redding had “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Day Tripper” in his set list at some of his concerts.

DID YOU KNOWS

DID YOU KNOW #1 – The plan was to use background singers on this track, possibly the Staple Singers, but when Redding died, there was no time for that.

DID YOU KNKOW #2 – The ships that roll in and roll away again are the ferries that go back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco, which often stop in Sausalito.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – Redding started to compose this song while he was recovering from surgery – he was having polyps removed from his vocal chords. The doctors told him not to sing or even talk for six weeks after the operation.

DID YOU KNOW #4 – This was so unlike any other Otis Redding release that Stax Records chief Jim Stewart didn’t want it release in any form – even after Redding and Cropper insisted that it would be his first #1 single. Stewart relented after he heard the finished master after Otis’s death.

DID YOU KNOW #5 – BMI named this the 6th most performed song of the 20th century, with around 6 million performances. It was also Michael Bolton’s first “Top 40” chart hit – it reached #11 in 1987, but Michael Bolton is unable to whistle, so the whistling solo at the end had to be overdubbed.

Monster Mash (November 1, 2020; 10th segment appearance)

Bobby Pickett was a nightclub entertainer who performed with a group called The Cordials. He wrote “Monster Mash” with his friend Lenny Capizzi. They were both big horror movie fans, and Pickett would do an impression of the actor Boris Karloff (known for playing the monster in many Frankenstein movies) during the speaking part of “Little Darlin'” that went over well in his act. As Capizzi played the piano, he and Pickett put together this song with his Karloff impression in mind. They came up with the plot about Frankenstein’s monster starting a dance craze.

The lyrics are based on the story of Frankenstein, which started as a 1818 novel by Mary Shelley and evolved into various film adaptations. In the story, Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature who comes to life, but what he created is a monster. The book is sober tale of regret and unexpected consequences, but the story is often played for comedy. In this song, the monster throws a big dance party, which is enthusiastically attended by many other creatures of lore (Dracula, Wolfman).

Pickett is imitating Boris Karloff, but is narrating the story as Dr. Frankenstein, not the monster that Karloff famously portrayed.

Pickett and Lenny Capizzi wrote this song in about two hours. They recorded a demo to tape and brought it to Gary Paxton, lead singer of The Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”). They recorded the song with Paxton and studio musicians Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae and Rickie Page, who were credited as “The Cryptkickers.” Paxton, who is credited as the song’s producer, also added the sound effects.

Paxton put the song out on his Garpax label and distributed it to radio stations around southern California. Response was overwhelming, as the stations saw their phone banks lighting up with requests for the song. A deal was struck with London Records, who distributed the song worldwide.

This is a dance song based on the “Mashed Potato” dance craze, which is where The “Mash” in the title comes in. The original title was “Monster Twist” in an attempt to jump on the Twist craze, but that fad was fading so they tried calling it “Monster Mashed Potato,” then settled on “Monster Mash.”

This being 1962, many of the sound effects had to be created in the studio. The sound effects on the song were done as follows:

The coffin being opened was made by pulling a rusty nail out of a lump of wood with the claw of a hammer.

The bubbling sounds came from blowing through a straw in a glass of water. The sound of the chains was made by dropping chains onto plywood planks on the record studio floor.

This is arguably the most successful novelty song of all time. Bobby Pickett accomplished the rare feat of reaching the top 100 music chart three times with the same song. On October 20, 1962, the original release hit #1 in the US. The song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 29, 1970 peaking at #91, and then again on May 5, 1972 when it went all the way to #10. The song has sold over four million copies and continues to be a Halloween favorite.

The song made little impact in the UK until it was re-released there in 1973 and reached #3 on the Singles chart. By this time Boris Pickett was a 32-year-old part time New York cab driver.

Pickett quickly followed up this song with “Monsters’ Holiday,” where the monsters throw a mischievous Christmas party.

Monster Mash has been used in several TV shows, including the following:

Magnum P.I. (“Make It ‘Til Dawn” – 2019)

Stranger Things (“Trick Or Treat, Freak” – 2017)

Parks And Recreation (“One Last Ride” – 2015, “Greg Pikitis” – 2009)

The Simpsons (“The Great Wife Hope” – 2009, “I Love Lisa” – 1993) The Office (“Costume Contest” – 2010)

Freaks And Geeks (“Tricks And Treats” – 1999)

Cheers (“Bar Wars V: The Final Judgement” – 1991)

Happy Days (“The Evil Eye” – 1978)

It’s also been used in the movies Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982) and Sweet Hearts Dance (1988).

In 1995, Monster Mash: The Movie was released, starring Pickett as Dr. Frankenstein.

Artists who have covered this song include Misfits, Mannheim Steamroller, Sha-Na-Na and a cover by The Beach Boys (on their first live album – Beach Boys Concert, released in 1964).

Pickett was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000 and died in 2007. In his autobiography Monster Mash: Half Dead In Hollywood, he wrote: “Gone is that conditioned, morbid fear of physical death. I feel that psychological death is much more grueling and painful. Besides, to quote the great Bela Lugosi as Dracula, ‘To be dead… to be really dead… that must be glorious!’ Poor guy. A vampire’s half-life must really suck.”

Around Halloween in 2004, Pickett re-recorded the song as “Monster Slash.” The new version was a protest against President George W. Bush and his support for logging, mining and other environmental policies Pickett felt were harmful. Sample lyric: “The guests included big timber, big oil, mining magnates and their sons.”

Darlene Love, who sang the holiday favorite “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” claims that she was one of the backing singers on this track, which is plausible as she was one of the most popular session singers at the time. Love occasionally performed the song at Bette Midler’s Halloween shows.

The third release for this song in 1973 was a #1 hit in Australia, spending over 20 weeks on the Top 40 charts.

When a novelty song becomes a surprise hit, a hastily produced album typically follows. In this case, the album was called The Original Monster Mash and included songs like “Blood Bank Blues,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Transylvania Twist,” “Me And My Mummy” and “Irresistible Igor.”

Pickett extended the “Monster” brand throughout his career. In 1970, he released “Monster Man Jam,” 1973 saw “Monster Concert,” and in 1984 he released the inevitable “Monster Rap.” Also an actor, Pickett made appearances on T.J. Hooker, Bonanza and The Beverly Hillbillies, and played Dr. Frankenstein in the 1995 film Monster Mash: The Movie, which also starred Candace Cameron and Jimmie Walker.

DID YOU KNOWS

DID YOU KNOW #1 – According to Mark Steyn’s A Song for the Season, Elvis Presley was not a fan of this and called it the dumbest record he ever heard. PLAY ELVIS PRESLEY – “Don’t Be Cruel”)

DID YOU KNOW #2 – “Monster Mash” was the nickname of the professional basketball player Jamal Mashburn.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – This was banned by the BBC from their airwaves in 1962 for “being too morbid.

DID YOU KNOW #4 – Boris Karloff LOVED this song. He performed it on a special Halloween edition of the variety show Shindig! on October 30, 1965.

Rhinestone Cowboy (October 25, 2020; 9th segment appearance)

So…remember last week we talked about the drums at the beginning of my jingle and how they sound just like the drums at the beginning of the 1967 song “Bend Me Shape Me”? Well, this week’s song, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, was written and originally recorded by Larry Weiss, a Brooklyn songwriter who also wrote, “Bend Me Shape Me” for the one hit wonder band, the American Breed.

Glen Campbell was on tour in Australia when he first heard the song. He bought a cassette copy and listened to it over an over. When he returned to America, he told Al Khoury, an A&R man, at his record label, that he found a perfect song to record. Khoury replied that he also had a great song for Campbell – it was “Rhinestone Cowboy.” They had found the same song! Campbell took this bit of serendipity as a sign that he was destined to record it. The tune ended up becoming Campbell’s signature song and a centerpiece of his live shows.

Campbell could relate to the lyric about a country singer who has seen it all. In the ’50s, he spent several years playing honky tonks in Albuquerque, NM and after moving to Los Angeles in 1960, he worked as a demo singer, a staff writer, filled in as one of the Beach Boys on tour, and was a session musician before hitting it big in the late ’60s after he turned 30.

Now, what about those rhinestones??? Rhinestones are fake jewels that are popular on country-style clothing. They show up nicely on stage, so they are a popular fashion choice for some flamboyant country singers. One such singer was David Allan Coe, who called himself the “Rhinestone Cowboy” and released an album in 1974 called The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy. As Coe told the story, Mel Tillis gave him some Rhinestone suits, which he would wear backstage at the Grand Ol’ Opry. When he went into the audience, the glistening suits made people think he was a star, even though he was a nobody at the time. When others in the audience asked him for autographs, he signed them, “The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy.”

Coe says that Larry Weiss offered him this song, but he didn’t feel comfortable singing about himself so he turned it down.

Campbell wanted to accentuate the vocals on his version, since he loved the lyric. To do so, he overdubbed a harmony vocal that plays throughout the song.

This song originated when Weiss overheard the phrase, “Rhinestone Cowboy” in a conversation. He told American Songwriter magazine: “I heard the phrase and thought, ‘Boy, I like that title’. I put my own meaning to it and wrote the song. I’ll always be a kid at heart, and ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ was sort of a summation of all my childhood cowboy movie heroes – particularly Hopalong Cassidy.”

The song is about a Country singer struggling to make it big, and it reflected Weiss striving to make it in his songwriting career. He revealed in the same interview: “The idea for the song was also a crying out of myself. It was the spirit of a bunch of us on Broadway where I started out – Neil Diamond, Tony Orlando – we all had dreams of making it.”

A note on Neil Diamond and his famous shiny suits: he is more comfortable in Blue Jeans, but goes with the gaudy stagewear so the audience can see him more clearly.

For Campbell, this was a very important song, and one he would call “maybe the best song I’ve ever sung.” It came at a time when his career had gone flat: His popular TV show had been canceled, acting gigs dried up, and he hadn’t had a hit since four years earlier in 1971. The story of the faded star who perseveres in the song held a lot of meaning for Campbell.

Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” sold over 4 million units and hit #1 on the Hot 100, Country, and Adult Contemporary charts in the summer of 1975, becoming the first song since “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean to reach the apex of all three charts. “Rhinestone Cowboy” gained three Grammy nominations and was the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year for 1976. In 1977, the song earned Weiss the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International’s Songwriter of the Year award.

Although it wasn’t used in the film, this was the inspiration for the 1984 movie Rhinestone, starring Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone.

Campbell performed the song on a telethon, which kick-started interest to the point of the RKO radio chain playing Campbell’s version on the air before the single was even pressed.

In later years, Campbell sang the line, “I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long, singin’ the same old song” to “I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long, singin’ those good old songs,” since he wanted to show appreciation for the songs that served him so well.

DID YOU KNOWS:

DID YOU KNOW #1 – This was in the running for Most-Performed Song of 1975 in America but was beat out by “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – Campbell performed this song on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where he was a regular guest and occasional guest host. Carson would later poke fun at the song’s ubiquitous popularity, threatening to sing it on the air. He eventually did… while wearing an outlandish cowboy outfit.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – Campbell performed this song at the Grammy Awards in 2012, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Campbell had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but with the help of his wife, Kim, he decided to keep performing, which doctors said helped slow the progress of the disease. The Beach Boys, who Campbell performed with in the ’60s, also played that night.

DID YOU KNOW #4 – Bruce Springsteen sings “Rhinestone Cowboy” at the end of Western Stars, a 2019 concert film accompaniment to the Jimmy Webb-inspired album of the same name. “

The Loco-Motion (October 18, 2020; 8th segment appearance)

The husband-and-wife songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote this song. Little Eva was Eva Boyd, the babysitter – actually more of a nanny – being paid $35/week to watch their daughter Louise and clean the house. They were all young: Eva was 17, King 19 and Goffin 22.

One day King came up with a melody that Goffin thought sounded like a locomotive, and when he saw Eva dancing with their daughter to the tune, he got the idea to make the song about a brand new dance – The Loco-Motion. He wrote the lyrics and they brought Eva to the studio and had her record the song as a demo – they were hoping Dee Dee Sharp would sing it. Their producer Don Kirshner thought Eva’s vocal was just fine, so they named her Little Eva and had her record the song. The only downside for King and Goffin was losing their nanny: when the song became a million-seller, Eva was able to buy a place of her own.

Gerry Goffin had actually had this song idea in the back of his mind for a couple of years, but had never found the right moment to bring it out. When he sat down to write it at last, he defended it to Carole: “This is going to sound stupid, but what the hell.” Don’t all the biggest fads start out that way?

That saxophone solo was performed by Artie Kaplan, who was also the contractor for the recording session. Kaplan was a song plugger in Aldon Music’s publishing department and also Aldon’s Music Contractor. Among many other things, he was the one who discovered Tony Orlando while eating lunch at the diner across the street from the Brill Building. As songwriter Barry Mann’s roommate, he was there to see the beginning of Mann’s relationship to songwriter Cynthia Weil.

Kaplan contracted the ‘Loco-Motion’ recording session and cast the two other musicians who I thought would be right for the date, namely Buddy Saltzman on drums and Charlie Macey on guitar and bass. I played five saxophone overdubs on baritone sax and tenor sax plus the solo part on the session to fill out the feel of a larger orchestra. Carole King played piano on the date and also wrote the arrangement, while she and The Cookies (a female R&B group that recorded for Aldon) added their brilliant vocal backgrounds. And of course there was the wonderful vocal by Eva Boyd, all under the direction of Gerry Goffin and a most able sound engineer Ron Johnson at Dick Charles Recording studios in New York City.

In those days demos were recorded in mono. Meaning that every time the musicians played a different orchestral part or the singers sang an added harmony, the engineer had to bounce the original track to a second machine while balancing the preceding part along with it. This process, known as overdubbing, was quite common in the early days among songwriters seeking inexpensive studios in which to record their songs to audition for music producers and music publishers.

When the demo of this song was completed, Artie Kaplan took it to Cameo-Parkway, but Cameo producer Bernie Lowe listened to the opening for all of sixty seconds before squeaking the needle off the record and saying “I didn’t hear the hook,” turning it down cold. Kaplan just shrugged and took it back to Aldon. Lowe’s exact facial expression, upon hearing this song come out of the radio later as a #1 hit by July of ’62, is forever lost to history but we’re pretty sure it must have been memorable. And that’s how this song became the first single put out by the newly-formed Dimension Records, spawned from Aldon Music.

The genesis of this song might have been “Uptown” and “Spanish Harlem,” two songs produced by Brill building alumnus Phil Spector. According to Rich Podolsky’s book Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear, when these hits charted, Al Kirshner of Aldon Music didn’t get what the popularity was with them, but told his songwriting staff, “Write some more of those songs that I don’t understand.” The other impetus was of course “Mashed Potato Time,” by Dee Dee Sharp, part of the “mashed potato” song fad at the time as referenced in the entry for “Mashed Potatoes.” Kirshner called his top writers into the office and announced that there was nobody hotter than Dee Dee Sharp in 1962, and that producer Cameo-Parkway was looking for a follow-up hit. So he charged his staff: “Let’s give them a song they can’t turn down.”

The promotional photo for this single features five of the people involved posing around an actual locomotive train engine: Producers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins on the left, founders of Aldon Music, songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King on the right, the writers, and lead singer Little Eva, in the front with one foot up on the train like she’s keeping it parked so it doesn’t roll away. The photo graced the cover of Cashbox magazine.

King credits Little Eva for coming up with the famous dance. “Though ‘The Loco-Motion’ alludes to dance movements, neither Gerry nor I had envisioned an actual dance,” King recalled in her 2012 memoir A Natural Woman. “Eva had to invent one for personal appearances. Standing beside a locomotive for publicity photographs, with ‘The Loco-Motion’ playing on loudspeakers, Eva moved her body that day in imitation of the arm that drives a locomotive, and a dance was born.”

DID YOU KNOWS:

DID YOU KNOW #1 – “Loco” means “crazy” in Spanish, implying that the dance was a crazy motion.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – In 1974, this became an unlikely #1 US hit for Grand Funk, who did a rock version of the song. It was just the second time a song hit #1 for two different artists – the first was “Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence in 1962 and Donny Osmond in 1971. That song was also written by King and Goffin.

DID YOU KNOW # 3 – A cover of this song was the first hit for Australian singer Kylie Minogue. Released in 1987, it was the biggest-selling single of the ’80s in Australia, and her only hit (#3) in the US until 2002, when she struck with “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.”

I'm Into Something Good (October 4, 2020; 7th segment appearance)

The prolific songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote this bubbly song, which is about meeting someone new and falling into puppy love. Goffin and King wrote popular songs for The Monkees, Aretha Franklin, The Crystals and many others.

This was originally recorded by Earl-Jean (real name Ethel McCrea), who had been the lead singer the R&B vocal group The Cookies. Her version, titled “I’m Into Somethin’ Good,” peaked at #38 in the US in August 1964. The song became a British Invasion hit when producer Mickie Most heard Carole King’s demo and decided to cover it with a new British group, Herman’s Hermits. The band was fronted by 16-year-old John F. Kennedy lookalike Peter Noone, who had already appeared in the British TV soap Coronation Street. Released as the group’s first single, it went to #13 in America in December 1964, but proved wildly popular on their home turf, reaching #1 in the UK in September.

The youthful exuberance on this track is very real, as the band was very excited to be cutting a single. “On the record you can hear the enthusiasm of this band who believe that they were going to be heard on the radio,” lead singer Peter Noone said in his Songfacts interview. “When the record was on the radio, we thought we’d made it.”

Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, both future members of Led Zeppelin, played on some Herman’s Hermits songs, but not this one. Someone outside the band played the piano on this track, but other than that it was the actual band.

This was Herman’s Hermits’ only song to reach #1 in the UK, where it remains their best-known song. After it hit, the band went on tour in America with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars and made inroads in that country, where they were welcomed as part of the British Invasion. In 1965, they had two American #1 hits: “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am.”

Peter Noone recorded a new version of this song for the 1988 movie The Naked Gun. Herman’s Hermits recorded for Cameo/Parkway Records, which was bought by Allen Klein, who as a result owned the rights to the songs Herman’s Hermits recorded for the label as well as tracks by The Animals, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell and many others. Klein rarely allowed the songs he controlled to be used in movies. Before Allen Klein’s death in 2009, Peter Noone explained to the Forgotten Hits newsletter how this song ended up in The Naked Gun: “They wanted to use the song in the movie. Klein declined because he knew he would have to account to somebody (e.g. Paramount). As he hates to account to anyone, because he can’t cheat and lie, he had to say no.

The producers and writers contacted me with their story and I said, ‘I can make a copy exactly like the original and nobody will be able to tell the difference.’ When it was done, we decided you couldn’t tell the difference so we took off the guitar and replaced it with a whahhoo machine so Klein wouldn’t say it was the original. It’s a tragedy that Klein and his witless children stop all the product they control from being in movies so they can steal ALL the money. A question: Have any songs under the Klein families’ control ever been used in movies, commercials, TV shows? Doesn’t anyone ever wonder why? Surely there would be one Herman’s Hermits song, one Animals song. One song from a Cameo / Parkway artist, one Sam Cooke song, just one, that would work in a motion picture?”

DID YOU KNOWS:

DID YOU KNOW #1 – The hand claps on this song were done into the same microphone where Peter Noone was recording his vocal. They aren’t always in time to the beat, but that’s part of the appeal of the recording, as it’s unrefined, but jubilant.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – Donny Osmond recorded this when he was 13 for his second album To You With Love, Donny in 1971. Other artists to record it include Graham Parker and The Surfaris.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – In late 2005, this was used in a commercial for Yogurt Blast Cheerios

I Love Rock 'N Roll (September 27, 2020; 6th segment appearance)

This was originally recorded by a British group called The Arrows in 1975, and it was written by their lead singer Alan Merrill and guitarist Jake Hooker. Merrill said, “That was a knee-jerk response to the Rolling Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll.’

The song was released as a B-side with The Arrows’ “Broken Down Heart.” The group was recording for RAK Records, which was run by Mickie Most, but “I Love Rock And Roll” didn’t suit his current tastes, as during that time Most preferred ballads and blues. Most’s wife Christina Hayes encouraged him to flip the sides, but the song didn’t catch on, as it suffered from a poor run of luck at the time of its release.

First, it had to be re-released as an A-side. Second, the song came out during an English newspaper strike, so new songs weren’t getting the exposure they’d normally get. Third, The Arrows were feuding with their record label. As a result, the song didn’t chart and was banished to obscurity.

All was not lost, however, as The Arrows performed this song when they were guests on the UK TV series Pop 45. The show’s producer was so impressed that on the strength of this performance, she gave them their own TV show, simply called The Arrows Show, which ran from 1976-1977 in the UK for two full 14-week seasons on the ITV network. It was this show that Joan Jett saw in 1976, which prompted her to acquire a copy of “I Love Rock and Roll” and later cover it in 1981, producing what is arguably one of the most successful covers in rock history.

Jett was touring England as a member of an all teenage girl group called The Runaways when she discovered this song. She wanted to record it with The Runaways, but the other members didn’t like the song and made the mistake of passing it up. So, in 1979, Jett recorded it with Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and released it as a B-side. Finally, in 1981, Jett recorded the song with her band The Blackhearts, resulting in a monster hit.

When the Runaways broke up, Joan Jett and her producer Kenny Laguna put her first solo album together with studio time and travel arrangements fronted by The Who. They struggled to get a record deal and had to form their own label, Blackheart Reocrds, to release the album in America. Jett and Laguna both thought “I Love Rock and Roll” was a great song, but since they didn’t have the backing of a major label, they held off on it until they could establish themselves and get better distribution. When “Do You Wanna Touch Me” and “Bad Reputation” started getting airplay, they got a deal with Boardwalk Records. That first album, which was called Joan Jett, was remixed and renamed Bad Reputation. Now that she had a record deal, Jett released “I Love Rock and Roll,” which was her first single on a major label and was included on her second album.

Jett’s 1979 version of the song was owned by The Polygram company, who were not enthusiastic about Joan or the song, so they sold the rights to Kenny Laguna. The company decided that if he would pay the studio cost of $2,300, he could have all the rights to three songs. He got ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ with The Sex Pistols, ‘You Don’t Own Me’ – they did a great version of the Lesley Gore hit, and a song Joan wrote called ‘Don’t Abuse Me.’

In the meantime, Joan has a couple of fans. Rodney Bingenheimer of K-ROCK, KMAC in Long Beach, BCN in Boston, LIR in Long Island, they were playing The Sex Pistols’ kind of cruddy version of the song, and it was #1 on the alternative stations. It was really alternative music, they were way-out stations that would play some pretty adventurous stuff, that’s why they would play it, because Joan was not getting a record deal.

In the original version, the lyrics are about a guy picking up a young girl and taking her home, which was fairly typical rock and roll subject matter. When Jett covered this, however, it became a song about a girl who notices a guy next to a jukebox and brings him home to have sex. Other hit songs like “Physical” by Olivia Newton John and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar also had sexual overtones, but Jett sang about aggressively pursuing the guy, which for many women made this a female-empowerment anthem. This song helped shape Jett’s image as a tough, confident rock star and became an inspiration to many female musicians. In the US, this was #1 for seven weeks in 1982. “Ebony And Ivory” by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney did the same a few weeks later.

The song’s co-writer, Alan Merrill, died at 69 on March 29, 2020, one of the first high-profile victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Joan Jett offered condolences on Twitter, posting: “I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me.”

DID YOU KNOWS:

DID YOU KNOW #1 – The line “Put another dime in the jukebox” was dated by the time Jett released her version, as very few jukeboxes took dimes. “Quarter” didn’t sound good in the lyrics, and as jukeboxes slowly disappeared or became computerized contraptions accepting paper currency, it didn’t matter anyway.

DID YOU KNOW #2 – Jett’s next two singles, “Crimson And Clover” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” were also covers of songs originally recorded by male singers. When Laguna worked with Bow Wow Wow, he had them record “I Want Candy,” another song that had to be adapted for a female singer.

DID YOU KNOW #3 – The video was directed by Arnold Levine, who also did many of the Loverboy and Bruce Springsteen clips. Jett wore a red leather outfit to the shoot and when she and Levine looked at the edit, the colors were a mess, with way too much red and mauve in the shots because of poor fashion choices, but when Jett saw the black-and-white work copy, she loved it. Without the color, the clip looked gritty and retro, which is what they were going for, so that B & W video is the one that was famous on MTV as it stood out among far more colorful clips by the likes of the Go-Go’s and The J. Geils Band. It became a huge hit on the network, which had launched just months earlier and was becoming a criterion of cool. The video helped send the song up the charts and establish an image for Jett as a rough-hewn rocker.

Wedding Bell Blues (September 20, 2020; 5th segment appearance)

So this week, we follow the theme of two lovers that suffered from bad timing and were married, but not to each other. While we know that the 5th Dimension took the song, “Wedding Bell Blues” to # 1 in the Billboard charts in 1969, many don’t realize that Laura Nyro wrote this song when she was just 18, and released it on her first album in 1967. The song finds the singer telling her boyfriend (Bill) that although she loves him, she’s becoming frustrated waiting for him to propose to her.

So, was there really a “Bill”? Alan Merrill would know. He is the son of Jazz singer Helen Merrill, and grew up with Laura, and they thought of each other as cousins. He says that around 1958 or so his mom was dating a married man named Bill Carter, a b-film actor. He was married to Trink Wiman, an heiress to the John Deere fortune. His mom and Bill co-owned a jazz club and were having a very passionate and public relationship. The club was quite possibly funded by Ms. Wiman’s money. The affair was so serious in fact that the Deere heiress had private detectives invade the Merrill’s apartment in NYC at the time. The ensuing newspaper scandal was the reason the Merrill family left to live in Europe for many years.

This was big family gossip of course, and Laura listened to it as a child and later wrote about it. Helen Merrill could never marry Bill, and didn’t. Seeing a married man was a big deal in the ’50s, but that the wife was such a wealthy heiress upped the ante. These days at age 90, Helen seethes at the mention of his name and refuses to discuss him, although she did confirm the story of the affair (and Laura admitting to her that it was the inspiration for the song.

Enter the 5th Dimension. They had a history of covering Laura Nyro’s songs.

The 5th Dimension had hits in 1968 with Nyro’s songs “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness.” The group’s producer Bones Howe was good friends with Nyro and loved her songs, so he encouraged them to record another one for their Age Of Aquarius album. The song was exceptionally fitting for the group, as members Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were engaged at the time, but had not set a wedding date. This played well on television appearances, as Marilyn would sing to “Bill” and Davis would put on that look guys get when they’re being hassled about getting married. McCoo and Davis did get married later in 1969, and remained together.

“Wedding Bell Blues” became a common phrase in pop culture after this song became a hit. The title has been used for several books, a 1996 movie, and episodes of television shows.

“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” was the first single released from the album and the first #1 hit for The 5th Dimension. “Wedding Bell Blues” was released next, and also topped the charts.

In the 1991 movie My Girl, about a girl coming of age in the early ’70s, Vada (Anna Chlumsky) sings this to a photo of the teacher she has a crush on.

Worst That Could Happen (September 13, 2020; 4th segment appearance)

Hi Bob…as you probably remember from last week, we talked about a song that came from a classical piece of music. This week’s song has a snippet of classical music in it as well, but this song is a ballad that was written by the same guy who wrote “MacArthur Park” and “By The Time I get to Phoenix.” His name is Jimmy Webb, and the song is “The Worst That Could Happen”, by The Brooklyn Bridge.

Webb wrote this song about a girl named Suzy Horton, who left him in California to go to Vegas and be a show girl. When Webb found out she had gotten married, he wrote “The Worst That Could Happen” to help him come to terms with it. “Maybe it’s the best thing for you…but it’s the worst that could happen to me.”

Now…Horton’s marriage didn’t last that long, and when it fell apart, she came back to California. Webb had a new girlfriend and his career was on the upswing. Horton married again in 1993, this time to Bobby Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt’s cousin.

Well…enough about her…Most people don’t know that the song was NOT originally recorded by the Brooklyn Bridge. More on that in a bit…

As we talked about last week, the singer for the Brooklyn Bridge was Johnny Maestro, formerly of the Crests (16 Candles…) . When Maestro put together this 11 piece band, his manager complained that it would be easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge than to promote this big ensemble. The name stuck!

After the group recorded two songs that their record label assigned to them and were less than happy with the results, Maestro was rummaging through his albums and found this song on the 5th dimension’s Magic Garden LP. So…where’s the classical connection? After the last verse, the trumpets play a line from Mendelssohn’s Wedding March as the Maestro sings to the end, “Never ever ever ever gonna get married”…

Anyway, the upshot of all this was a hit record that made to the Billboard charts in early January of 1969 and peaked during the first week of February at #3.

A Lover's Concerto (September 6, 2020; 3rd segment appearance)

Last week we were talking with callers about “one hit wonders” and I said that we’d be learning the story behind a song where the title is not in the lyrics this week. Not only is that the case, but the song is also a “one hit wonder”. Set your way back machine to 1965 for a song that got as far as #2 on the American Billboard Hot 100. The song was titled, “A Lover’s Concerto and it was performed by The Toys.

The melody for this classic was adapted from a classical piece – “Minuet in G” by Christian Petzoid. Now even the “Minuet in G” has a back story…it’s often thought to be a J.S. Bach composition because it was included in a book of sheet music kept by Bach’s wife, but that’s another story for another day.

“A Lover’s Concerto” was written by Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer who went on to write some of the Four Seasons biggest hits. It seems Randell was taking music lessons at a very early age and “Minuet in G” was a favorite of his. As he got older and started to write songs, he knew that at some point he’d write a pop song from the melody, and even though his song is in a different time signature than the original, he was able to put it into a form that worked perfectly for the romantic lyric, which he adapted from poems he wrote as a teenager.

This song is a rarity of sorts since its title is not in the lyrics. The title is a combination of both the feeling of the melody and the romantic poems from which the lyrics came.

The Toys were Barbara Harris, Barbara Parritt and June Montiero. They met in high school and were signed by Randell and Linzer. They had this big hit in 1965 and broke up in 1968.

This song was recorded at Olmstead Studios in NYC and was produced by Charles Calello. That’s only worth mentioning because Colello also produced “Lightning Strikes by Lou Christie and “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons. “A Lover’s Concerto” was also a big influence on The Supremes’ hit, “I Hear A Symphony” which was Motown’s first #1 hit with elements of Classical Music.

We’re going to stay with the love theme and another little nod to classical music next week, with a song that peaked at #3 in January, 1969.

Hanky Panky (August 30, 2020; 2nd segment appearance)

So in 1963, Jeff Barry and Elie Greewich needed a B-Side for a group called The Raindrops. Jeff Barry took about 20 minutes and knocked off a little song called, “Hanky Panky”. A year later, after he heard that song covered by a club band in South Bend, Indiana, high schooler Tommy Jackson wanted to record the song with his band. They recorded the song at a radio station in his hometown of Niles, Michigan.

The song gets released on a local label, sells a bunch of copies in the Midwest…and fades into obscurity. But that’s not the end of the story. A year later, in 1965, a DJ in Pittsburgh starts playing this two year old single as “an exclusive”, some other DJ starts to play it at record hops and Pittsburghers went crazy for it. 80,000 bootleg copies were sold in a short period of time!

Now, it gets interesting. The first Pittsburgh DJ finds Tommy Jackson and lets him know about all this and ask Tommy if his band, The Shondells could come to Pittsburgh and play. Trouble is, The Shondells and Tommy all graduated high school by this time and went their separate ways. So Tommy goes to Pittsburgh, finds a garage band there called The Racontours, asks them if they want to be new Shondells, they say OK, he changes his name to Tommy James and now, they’re Tommy James and the Shondells!

As you’d imagine, all these national record labels all want to sign the band, and eventually, Maury Levy (with some help from some criminal friends) muscled everyone else out and put them on his label, Roulette Records. They did a great promotional job with the song, and Hanky Panky became a number on hit in July of 1966, two years after it was recorded.

When asked about his sudden fame, Tommy James said, “One night I was playing for 20 drunks in a bar in Michigan and the next night I’m playing for 10,000 screaming fans in Pittsburgh. It was literally overnight! It was one of those winning the lottery type stories!”

When Tommy recorded it, he couldn’t remember some of the lyrics, so he made them up on the spot.

Now, if anyone ever asks you, the title, “Hanky Panky” as in, “My baby does the Hanky Panky” is repeated 23 times in this 2 minute and 59 second classic.

Yesterday (August 23, 2020; debut / 1st segment appearance)

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