Sunday, December 06, 2015

COME AND GET THESE MEMORIES: PART 2 - MORE 60's POP SONG COUNTDOWN



75. I MAKE A FOOL OF MYSELF-FRANKIE VALLI
(Bob Crewe-Bob Gaudio) Phillips 1967 single , Billboard #18
                It doesn’t happen often. But sometimes sequels are even better than the hits that inspired them. “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” is a terrific movie. But I like “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” even better.  And Karloff’s “Bride of Frankenstein” beats the tar out of its brideless predecessor. “I Make a Fool of Myself” ‘s the follow-up to Frankie Valli’s monster hit  “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”.  And it’s carefully crafted to touch all the same bases – not a carbon copy, exactly– but certainly a very, very close cousin. I like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”.  But from the first time I heard “I Make a Fool of Myself”, I knew this song and I would have a lifelong relationship. Whatever it is that’s not quite fully realized in the first one is perfected, nailed and sanctified here. The hesitating brass riffs, the yearning vocal. I can never hear this record begin without uttering an instinctive internal “Yippee!”

74. KEEP ON TRYING-BOBBY VEE
(Van McCoy) Liberty 1965 single, Billboard #85
Composer Van McCoy had a nice talent for mixing mellow soul and melodic pop. He’s the guy that wrote Barbara Lewis’ “Baby I’m Yours”  and Jackie Wilson’s “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” to name two of the many McCoy creations I like. This record’s certainly on the soulful end of the Bobby Vee spectrum. Vee may not have had the widest vocal range, but he regularly injected an engaging mid-western energy into well-chosen material.  And that clover- fresh sincerity of his was hard to resist.  There were lots of Bobby’s on the 60’s music scene. But this one, I think, left the best string of great pop records behind him. 
 
73. BLUE ON BLUE-BOBBY VINTON
(Burt Bacharach-Hal David) Epic 1963 single, Billboard #3
I always think more of 60’s pop artists who tackled Burt Bacharach material. Had I been a 60’s singer, I know  I’d  have been scouring his catalogue daily. Some – like Elvis – seemed to have had zero interest. Others tried it but failed. Connie Francis did a whole album of his songs – using characterless nightclub arrangements  to  hoover out every last particle of actual Bacharach flavour.  Bobby Vinton, on the other hand, did quite nicely with his one Burt Bacharach hit. Responding to first-rate material (instead of  the  politely uncomplicated “Roses are Red” stuff he tended to peddle), he and his singing suddenly seemed more substantial.

72. STEAL AWAY TONIGHT-BARBARA McNAIR
(C. Paul-D. Hamilton) Motown 1966 album track
Barbara McNair was a noted beauty and a reasonably successful nightclub singer. What she wasn’t  was a big recording star. And Berry Gordy, always game to add show biz “class’ to his label, signed her, with hopes of making her just that. Her Motown debut album “Here I Am” featured some dandy pop/soul material. The title track’s great –the Marvelettes later had a hit with it. And Barbara’s sombre, timpani-laden reimagining  of  “My World is Empty Without You” is a 10 out of 10. But “Steal Away Tonight” ‘s the album’s MVP.  I’ve never heard of another Motown artists covering it. And that was common practice at the label, where everyone seemed to be covering each other’s songs  24/7. So this number  is  exclusively  Barbara’s  and  she  belts  - or rather finesses  -it out of the park. A shiny new set of chart credentials is what it should have given her.  Didn’t happen.  All I can think is that with so much good Motown material jockeying for chart placement at the time, this one just slipped through the cracks. It shouldn’t have. But then Motown mishandled Barbara’s LP big-time. “The Sound of Young America” was the company’s slogan at the time – but you’d never know it from listening to Side 2 of this album. Trying to hedge their bets and please the fogeys too, they loaded it with stale nightclub material, neither better nor worse than the million other tired blood arrangements of same that were out there. The company  just wound up shooting itself in the foot with this one. No adult wanting to hear Vegas cabaret material was going to seek it out on the backside of a Motown soul album. And no teen was going to thank Barbara for shanghaiing them into a supper club.  Berry and Diana may have been able to bulldoze the public into buying “Supremes at the Copa” albums. But  for Barbara McNair – no sale. She hung around Motown for awhile, even got a second album plus the usual mountain of unreleased vault stiff. But none of her Motown efforts ever troubled the charts. The company said adios and then – for Barbara - it was back to the Persian Room and other destinations less plush.

71. STRAIGHTEN UP YOUR HEART-BARBARA LEWIS
(Sharon MacMahon) Atlantic 1963 single, Billboard #43
One of the beautiful things about Barbara Lewis’ breakthrough hit “Hello Stranger” was the smooth and supple background vocal work on it. That was supplied by the Dells, a male vocal group who’d already been through a decade of ups and downs by ’63. They’d had a million seller in ‘56 (with “Oh, What a Night”). But mishaps and personnel changes sidelined them for several years.  A version of the group sang background for Dinah Washington for awhile. And they were clearly available when Atlantic wanted  some smooth male voices to accompany up and comer Lewis.  The results were so good – the Dells embellishing Lewis’ melting honey tones with their own surround-sound ebb and flow – that it’s a shame they didn’t record together more.  “ Straighten Up Your Heart” takes “Hello Stranger” ‘s basic recipe  -Lewis, the Dells and that organ with its levitating lilt, speeds up the tempo a bit – and gets everything right one more time. The Dells’ busiest years were ahead of them. According to Wikipedia,  Ray Charles hired them to open for him in ’66, then fired them when they got too many standing ovations.  How do you put that in your resume? They  had a hit with “There Is” in ’68 and for the next 25 years or so were mainstays of the r&b & soul charts, even notching a couple of pop top 10’s . For them, “Straighten Up Your Heart” was just a tiny career footnote. But a lovely one.

70. THINK OF YOU-NINO TEMPO AND APRIL STEVEN
(Weisham-D’Amica ) Atco 1965 single B side, uncharted  
In the early to mid-60’s brother and sister duo Nino & April built up their own little cottage industry, refashioning Tin Pan Alley standards into 60’s pop records. The pair was originally from Buffalo. He became a top sax player and session man, singing just a lark for him. She’d enjoyed some recording success as a singer of nightclub type material and novelty songs.  Family, friends and colleagues liked the way they sounded when they sang together for fun and they were encouraged to record as a vocal duo.  In the records that eventually brought them success, harmonicas were often prominent, along with lashings of decorously funky percussion.  It took plenty of trial and error to put that sound together;  they experimented with the standard “Sweet and Lovely” and it  became their first single together. Then came some further tinkering with “Paradise” and “Indian Love Call” (both venerable artifacts from the 20’s). They released them as A and B sides of an Atco single in ’63 and the record met with regional success here and there - just enough to encourage them to persevere.  Harmonicas were added to the mix  when they  re-jigged  the 30’s hit,“ Deep Purple” -   and it turned into a #1 smash for them. Not too surprisingly, standards featured heavily on their “Deep Purple” album and the one after that featured nothing but, all given radio-friendly Tempo-Stevens makeovers.  There were more hits, but none as big as “Deep Purple”.  Eventually dwindling record sales indicated the public was tiring of their sound, I guess. But I never did. Nino’s voice really is incredible. There was a lightness  to it. But a cool, innately hip lightness.  Chet Baker  recast as a Sherwood Forest troubadour. Yet it was his ability to glide instantaneously into a fluid yodel, the transition barely discernible, that really, really startled.  April’s voice, though pleasant enough , was nowhere near as amazing as her brother’s. The thing was, though, that when she sang with Nino, her sound complimented his so ideally it brought a whole new level of beauty to his singing;  April’s voice was essentially the catalyst that  brought Nino’s to full potential. This particular vocal combination is probably my favorite of the 60’s – maybe ever. I love the way their voices blend.  By the time they did “Think of You” they’d applied their formula to scads of other standards.  Atco didn’t even rate it an A side. But I think it’s the most perfect of their Oldies reboots. The treatment’s not radically different from their trademark sound. Yet their execution and the rightness of this particular song for Nino & April-ization  make it one of 60’s pop’s shining moments. 
 
69. THEY’RE JEALOUS OF ME-CONNIE STEVENS
(Carole King-Gerry Goffin) Warner Brothers 1964 single uncharted
Some 60’s girl singers with perfectly okay voices – Annette Funnicello, say, or Donna Loren – seemed to have a tin ear when it came to choosing good material. Could  they really have had zero input into what songs  they sang? Both made singles galore, albums too and almost every song they chose was rubbish.
As insubstantial and disposable as the silly Beach Party movies they  both turned up in.  Connie Stevens was an actress too. At Warner Brothers - first on TV’s  “Hawaiian Eye”  as someone called Cricket.  Then into movies –her 1961 agenda included “Parrish” and “Susan Slade”, hardly Strindberg – but more lavishly appointed than Annette’s vehicles.  Movies  for the marginally more discerning young adult.  Full of melodramatic coincidences, illegitimate pregnancies, shack to mansion trajectories and final love-conquers-all clinches. The template was ‘59’s “A Summer Place” and since Sandra Dee couldn’t be in everything,  bubbly  Connie was  a frequent  go-to girl. She was very pretty and projected a
satiny sincerity that made some of the guff scriptwriters handed her palatable. Anyway, like most self-respecting teen idols, Connie also made regular trips to the recording studio. And she actually had an appealing singing voice, sounding just like an idealized Warner Brothers girl next door should. A  rudimentary little thing called “Sixteen Reasons”, more a 50’s throwback than anything remotely forward looking,  turned into a monster hit in ‘61. There were other singles. But her albums leaned toward standards. A ’62 LP she recorded in West Berlin with Werner Muller‘s fancy pants orchestra consisted solely of movie songs.  With some refreshing choices like “Return to Paradise “Hajji Baba” and “The Long Hot Summer”.  And it’s lovely.  But –as her movie career cooled (she lobbied unsuccessfully for the role Sandy Dennis  eventually played in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” but Warners just couldn’t see Connie as an exponent of Edward Albee) – she became more focused on a return to the pop music charts. Result: a lovely string of beautifully polished Girl Group era pearls. Her re-do of a Petula Clark album track, “Now That You’ve Gone” actually did get a lot of airplay( #53 on  Billboard). But none of her other singles made a dent. The thing was Connie deserved better. Her choice in material was first-rate and – vocally - she did each of the songs proud.  The accompanying productions were splendid;  this one’s a prime example -  a song Goffin and King could be rightly proud of.  It was clearly the public who were out to lunch here. But like most other 60’s singles, it’s still out there, waiting for discerning or at least susceptible listeners to discover and fall in love with it. Though Connie was never part of the original Beach Party movie series, she actually turned up in the very last Beach Party movie - a 1987 reunion called “Back to the Beach”. Which, as it happened,  was about  twenty times better than the originals. Frankie and Annette were actually pretty endearing in it.  But best of all was the chance to see Connie again, looking like a million bucks and sounding wonderful when she joined in the finale number  “Some Things Live Forever”.  A better song than any Beach Party movie had ever boasted  and - wouldn’t you know it - consistent with Beach Party bungling and Connie’s bad luck as a perennially aspiring pop star, it was omitted from the soundtrack album. Go figure.

68. EVERYBODY GO HOME-EYDIE GORME
(Carole King-Gerry Goffin) Columbia 1963 Billboard #80
Steve & Eydie never quite embraced their brief period as Brill Building pop stars. With their own musical tastes so strongly attached to traditional big band  and Broadway material , they always seemed to have felt sheepish about following Columbia’s advice and recording “teenage’ stuff with an eye to selling singles.  Their  foray into what – in those days -  demurely passed for rock and roll netted each of them a #1 single, also a hit duet and a number of other chart placements.  But they definitely got their fulfillment elsewhere , recording Sinatra  style material and headlining in Vegas.  Yet for Brill Building fans, the singles they turned out in this brief (’62 to ’65) period are pure gold. “Everybody Go Home” wasn’t Eydie’s biggest hit but it’s the one I like best. A kind of slowed down, more eloquently  despondent  variation on the grievances Lesley Gore aired in “It’s My Party” 

67. GO AWAY LITTLE GIRL-STEVE LAWRENCE
(Carole King-Gerry Goffin) Columbia  1962 Billboard #1
A friend recently described this one as a perfect record and I couldn’t agree more.  It lopes along, enveloped in a kind of prairie schooner vibe.  With Lawrence’s voice – as always, accomplished and approachable -  double-tracked for optimum chart potential.  Others have redone it – even had hit parade success with it. But Steve got this right the first time. You can’t improve on perfection.

66. ANY OLD TIME OF THE DAY-DIONNE WARWICK
(Burt Bacharach-Hal David) Scepter 1964 1964 single(B side) uncharted
If Bacharach and David created their own musical kingdom in the 60’s, it was definitely Dionne Warwick who presided in the throne room.  Dispensing a kind of aristocratic soulfulness that meshed splendidly with  the elaborately crafted Bacharach arrangements.  Hal David’s elegant, poetic lyrics had no finer interpreter. And of course Warwick’s voice was never at a loss when it came to negotiating the swirling thrusts and swoops of Burt’s music. This one’s from Dionne’s second LP “Anyone Who Had a Heart” – which like most of her 60’s albums was an embarrassment of riches. The song eventually showed up as the B side of “Walk On By”, which means at least it wound up in a million homes.  Anyone who never gave the flip side a spin was missing something marvelous.
 
65. MADE IN PARIS-TRINI LOPEZ
(Burt Bacharach-Hal David) Reprise 1965 single, uncharted
  "Made in Paris" comes from the days when Burt Bacharach and Hal David were turning out movie themes galore. This title song’s much better than the movie it comes from, a timid, smirking little ooh-la-la  sex comedy (totally sexless of course) with Ann-Margret and Chad Everett.  Where the film’s just a bad  60’s time capsule, the song - a jet-streamed  bubble bath, iridescent and  groovy  - is a very good one. I was never into all that Live at PJ’s /If I Had a Hammer/ Lemon Tree stuff that marked Trini Lopez ‘s popular apex. But he did hit my sweet spot more than once. There was an excellent album in ’67 called Trini Lopez in London - a collection of beautifully produced originals and covers (including a remake of the Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane”). My only criticism of the album is that “Made in Paris” wasn’t on it. But I suppose it might have looked odd on an album called “Trini Lopez in London”.

64. ONE MORE TOWN-THE KINGSTON TRIO
(John Stewart) Capitol 1962 single, Billboard #97
The Kingston Trio were major players in the clean as a whistle folk/hootenanny  movement of the early 60’s. Not an era that’s much celebrated now.  Dave Guard had been the group’s lead singer but he split in ’61 and was replaced by John Stewart. That’s the guy who carries the vocal on this one. He wrote the song too and it’s  a nostalgic beauty, with the keep-a-movin’ rhythm of a wagon train and a melancholy “where are the snows of yesteryear?” mood.  I’d have probably included the B- side, “Scotch and Soda”,  in my Top 100 too. But I found out that it wasn’t really recorded in the 60’s. It was an old Dave Guard track from a ‘58 album.  Why they decided to make it the flip of this single I don’t know. But, together the songs constituted one of 62’s best bang-for-your-buck musical experiences 

63. IT’S OVER-JIMMIE RODGERS
(Jimmie Rodgers) A&M 1965 single, Billboard #37
if you’re feeling down and want to wallow in it for awhile, here’s the song to play. Even the guitar intro’s a beautiful heartbreaker.  And resignation’s seldom been so eloquently expressed:
                  “So I turn my back, turn my collar to the wind,
                 Move along in silence trying not to think at all,
                I send my feet before me,
                Walk the silent street before me,
                    it’s over ‘
And every line in the song is just as good. Rodgers had a lovely voice, with a gentle tenor range that beckoned and soothed. He enjoyed a hit period in the late 50’s. “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”  and “Honeycomb” were especially big  and both stand up nicely still.  Have you ever heard “Wonderful You” from ’59?  A  perfect vocal.  An  exquisite song.  He even wrote the thing, words and music.  Rodgers’ career had been quiet for a few years when he signed with A&M and released this out of left field gem. It put him back into the Top 40 (and should have gone higher).  An Oscar worthy song – all it lacked was the movie to go with it.

(Rudy Clark) 20th Century Fox 1965 single(B side), uncharted
Another goody from Mary Wells’  first post-Motown album.  Not far from the “My Guy” groove. And 21 year old Mary makes it sound like sunny days are in the forecast. But the writing was already on the wall. The first two singles from the LP had under-performed. This was the B-side of the third and continued the downward spiral sales-wise. Quality-wise, though, Mary was still at the top of her game.

61. LOOKING WITH MY EYES-DIONNE WARWICK
(Burt Bacharach-Hal David) Scepter 1965 single, Billboard #64
By 1965 the best pop producers were managing to pack an awful lot of splendor into the grooves of a 45.  None  more so than Bacharach and David.  The whirlpool of orchestration on display here might overwhelm another artist.  But Dionne Warwick was completely at home in Bacharach world. It was her planet too.  She plows through this like the figurehead on a pop galleon.  “Looking with my eyes, seeing with my heart”. Bacharach’s urgent piano chords just speed her onward. The seas are stormy but she’s on  a mission - find happiness or die trying. As far as emotional sweep is concerned, this is a Tostoy novel edited down to 2 minutes and 54 seconds  -and somehow maintaining its dramatic integrity.

60. THE BIGGEST NIGHT OF HER LIFE-HARPERS BIZARRE
(Randy Newman) Warner Brothers 1968 album track
Harpers Bizarre had great harmonies but always sounded like slightly subversive choirboys.They found a nice balance between tongue in cheek and heart on sleeve. A style I’ll bet they honed listening to show tunes. Their album “Anything Goes” featured sound bites from Cole Porter himself  plus  a standout resurrection of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. The group also showed good taste when it came to modern composers. Randy Newman wrote some of the most sophisticated pop songs – lyrically and musically – of the era.  This is one that turned up on the “Anything Goes “ album - a study in poignant irony.  I always get a lump in my throat picturing Susie in her party dress going off to the biggest (and scariest) night of her life, encouraged by her clueless parents who like the boyfriend ‘cause his hair is always neat.
 
59. NIGHT AND DAY-SERGIO MENDES & BRASIL 66
(Cole Porter) A&M 1967 single, Billboard #82
Composer Cole Porter was doubly impressive because he also wrote his own lyrics. And they’re generally rated among  the Great American Songbook’s best. In the pre-rock era, Porter’s “Night and Day” was sometimes touted as the greatest popular song ever written. It certainly stands as a definitive expression of romantic tunnel vision.    
                 “Night and day you are the one,
                  Only you  beneath the moon or under the sun
                  Whether near to me or far
                 It’s no matter darling where you are
                 I think of you night and day”
Brazil’s Sergio Mendes was an accomplished, highly trained musician, with a burgeoning career in jazz. Fronting his vocal/instrumental aggregation “Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66”, he coasted to fame in the U.S riding the 60’s bossa nova/samba wave, that era’s incarnation of North America’s long love affair with Latin rhythms. The song that broke the group in the States was a Brazilian one, “Mas Que Nada” but Mendes wisely recognized that a good way to consolidate and extend the group’s success in the U.S. was to apply the pop samba treatment to songs American audiences already loved. “Night and Day” was a judicious choice.  Lyrically, of course, obsessive love never goes out of style.  And “Night And Day” had a melody that had already insinuated itself deep into the world’s consciousness. Seasoned with Brazilian spice, the song became a radio hit all over again (top 10 on Billboard’s Adult/Contemporary chart).  And any time I get the urge to hear Brasil ’66 this is usually where I head.

58. COME ON BOY-The Supremes
(Berry Gordy Jr) recorded for Motown in 1963-unissued at the time
There are still some  grumblers who say Flo Ballard should’ve been lead singer of the Supremes. I think not. Ballard had a competent  r&b voice,  gospel-tinged and flinty. But this is not a singer I’d immediately recognize if I heard her on the radio. And proficiency isn’t star quality. Diana Ross may have had to work a few years to find said quality in herself.  But find it she did. And no list of 20th century pop divas would be complete without her.  Sincerity’s never been a hallmark of Ross’s style – vocal or otherwise.  Those spoken bridges she so often inserted in songs were monuments of plastic-coated condescension, the chumminess counterfeit, the inspirational shout-outs a pose. But the unshakable attitude’s hard to resist  and the star quality’s real –at least as real as such a construct ever can be.  And whatever one thinks of Diana Ross, that voice of hers glistens with sweet musicality . Like a bell or something.  And it is instantly recognizable, completely utterly distinctive.  In their early, struggling years at Motown, the trio released a lot of flops but this one wasn’t even dignified with an official release. It turned up decades later on a Supremes compilation.  Berry Gordy wrote it and it reflected Motown’s  ’62 /early ’63 style. With the kind of laid back cha cha groove that charmed a lot of listeners before the more aggressive Holland-Dozier-Holland dance hits took the company into orbit. “Come On Boy” s an enticing, pared down little slice of come-hither. And Diana certainly knew how to do that. I love the lurching rhythm that steers this track. Motown is still finding its way musically and here in the the company’s mad scientist lab we have Dr. Diana and her twin Igors, Flo and Mary, coaxing and cooing the thing to life.
 
(Parsons-Monnott) Motown 1964 album track
“Hymne a l”amour” was the original title of this 1949 song, music by Marguerite Monnot, lyrics courtesy of  Edith Piaf, the iconic singer who introduced it. The English version (words by Geoffrey Parsons) made a splash for Vera Lynn a few years later.  Since then there’ve been plenty of other takes on it. A song this good is never going to remain out of circulation for long. Celine Dion recently performed the French version to great acclaim at the American Music Awards (as a gesture of solidarity toward post terror attack Paris). I’ve always been partial to this Mary Wells version, which turned up rather unexpectedly on her “My Guy” album. The arrangement has a nice off-the-cuff feel, briskly  trotting  percussion, brass on the sweet side, with a nice interplay between Wells and legendary Motown backup ladies the Andantes. I don’t think Mary ever handled a lyric with quite so much intimacy and tenderness. She really feels it and so do we.

56. GETTING MIGHTY CROWDED-BETTY EVERETT
(Van McCoy) VeeJay 1964 single, Billboard #65
I think Betty Everett quit the music business in the 70’s and expended a lot of her energy on church work. Well, I’m glad we had her as long as we did. There’s a  warmth in her wail. A clarity and shine that few are blessed with. She had some classic hits”( “The Shoop Shoop Song(It’s  in His Kiss)” ,“You’re No Good”) . But I like this one even better. She lays into the Curtis Mayfield type arrangement and - with a sharp blast of ladylike soul - gives the whole enterprise an energy that’s not just positive but flat-out uplifting.
 
55. TO WAIT FOR LOVE-TONY ORLANDO
(Burt Bacharach-Hal David) Epic 1964 single, uncharted
When Tony Orlando and Dawn hit it big in the  70’s, they were everywhere - on radio with their songs, on  TV with a flashy variety show.  Orlando himself was a good singer,  genial and quick-witted – a born MC.   Very  difficult to dislike.  And who’d want to? What seemed surprising was that it had taken him so long to click. He’d charted modestly with three different records in ’61 (when he was 17) but further efforts went largely unheard.  Which is a shame.  Since his version of this oft-recorded Bacharach-David number is, by far, the best one out there.  Certainly one of the best kept secrets  of 1964.

54. JUST BE YOURSELF-LABRENDA BEN
(G. Fowler-S. Ossman) Gordy 1963 single, uncharted
This is one of the songs  that came to my attention via the great online site “Motown Junkies”. If you’re a Motown fan or think you might want to be, this is a site you should check out. Host Nixon has set himself the task of discussing every Motown single (A & B sides) from the beginning. He’s been at it for 6 years now and is currently up to early ’66. Every step of the way’s been a delight for his readers. This is a guy who knows and loves his stuff – and has the writing skills to communicate both the knowledge and the love. Go there. As for Miss LaBrenda Ben. Well, she sounds a lot to me like Toni (The Big Hurt) Fisher.  Which means  she has a big clear belting voice and was born to sing. Where she did her singing after ’63 is anybody’s guess.  Because Motown let her  go when this one failed to chart.  I love the cha cha groove stuff and this is squarely in that primal groove.  To fans of later Motown, this sound pegs the record as part of the company’s cretaceous period.  But that’s far from a problem with me. It’s got that funky hesitation-lurch rhythm I love. Plus music and lyrics I fell for the moment I heard  them. In an alternate universe, Miss Ben, you won awards (and a raise) for this one.

(Lieber-Stoller-Brecher) EMI Electrola 1965 #1 on German pop charts
Everybody knows Ben E. King’s original English version of this one, “Spanish Harlem”. It’s a wonderful song, words and music ideally fused.  Cliff Richard covered it on one of his 60’s albums. But his German version was released as a single in Germany and topped the charts there.  The lyrics are simple enough that with my two (long ago) years of University German I can penetrate them.   Simple yet eloquent.  “This is the question of all questions” and though they lack the striking color images of the original, that “ red rose up in Spanish Harlem with eyes  as black as coal that look down in my soul”, they’re still affecting.  Richard tackles German gamely, respecting and preserving the language’s beauty.  For me, the production mix on Cliff’s German version sounds fuller and richer than on his English one.  So though, I like a lot of what Cliff Richard put out in the 60’s, this was the Cliff song my Top 100 couldn’t do without.

52. THAT’S HOW HEARTACHES ARE MADE-DUSTY SPRINGFIELD
(Jerry Ragavoy-Bert Russell) Phillips 1965 album track
I first fell in love with this song when I was 14. Not this version of it. But the original by a scrappy r&b singer from Louisiana, I think, called Baby Washington. Turns out, at least where this song’s concerned, I didn’t know what love was till I heard Dusty polish and perfect it. Spreading soulful pixie dust all over it till the whole thing simply starts levitating. If heartache has an upside, then it’s the fact that it can springboard a song and a performance like this one. Another bull-s eye from the matchless one.
 
(John Lennon-Paul McCartney)  recorded for EMI Parlophone in 1967 unissued at the time
Cilla was one of the girls that were part and parcel of the British invasion of the 60’s.  Smack dab in the middle of it actually, since she was Brian Epstein’s #1 female protege. The American charts welcomed a couple of her songs. But back in Britain she enjoyed  a long, long string of successes - hits that should have happened here but somehow didn’t. “Step Inside Love” was one of them. A Lennon-McCartney composition (read McCartney)  that George Martin wrapped up in an imposing large-scale arrangement. The finished project sounded like a James Bond theme that got away. I love it but this isn’t that version. This one I discovered only recently.  An earlier, previously unissued demo with Cilla (and McCartney on guitar and background vocals) feeling their way around the song.  It’s a privilege and a treat to really step inside and hear this intimate little studio moment that quietly gets to the heart of a great song.



                                                              More to Come

No comments: