What Is Soul? Pt2.
'Blue eyed soul - The Early Years, 1964 - 1966'.
'What is soul'?? Well, I attempted to answer that in my previous discourse, but that was 'soul' as a black artist's milieu. Here I'm looking at the beginnings of what we now know as 'Blue eyed' soul, the 'white' equivalent of the output pouring from Detroit, Memphis, New York, and just about everywhere else, on labels major and minor. This time, unlike my 'Can blue men sing the whites' articles, the artists rarely attempted to sound 'black', concentrating instead on slick production and an extremely danceable beat. The epicentre of this music was probably New York, thanks in no small part to the staff composers and record labels located at the Brill Building and Aldon Music on 49th and Broadway. Those composers (Crewe/Gaudio, Goffin/King, Mann/Weill, Greenwich/Barry for example) were responsible for major hits by black and white artists thanks to the universality of the subject matter (falling in love, breaking up, making up, bad boys, even badder girls etc) and the producers and studio musicians took notice of Stax/Atlantic and Motown, using the tempo of those songs to create a, perhaps, watered down style of soul music.The actual term 'blue eyed soul' was said to have been initially coined by Philadelphia DJ Georgie Woods who, in 1964, called the Righteous Brothers 'my blue eyed soul brothers' in interviews to signal to his audience that the 'brothers' were white. The 'brothers' responded by calling their 1964 album 'Some Blue Eyed Soul'. Once their classic 'You've lost that lovin' feelin'' hit the charts many 'black' radio stations broadened their playlist to include white artist's releases in much the same way 'Thriller' opened MTV to black artist's in 1982. My choices, however, are those who I think utilised the feel of, say, Motown to create a perfect, for the time, dance music aimed at the burgeoning discotheque scene which was springing up in every town and city world wide. Many of these tracks or artists found that their music would be re-investigated in the UK's 'Northern Soul' scene in the seventies and, to a lesser degree, the concurrent US 'Beach music' scene. So, once again using my vinyl collection, let's start this article just outside my self imposed time zone, with the 'originators' of the genre:
Righteous Brothers- 'Little Latin Lupe Lu'. (Initial UK release London label 7", June 1963. From 'This is Sue' LP, released 1969. Island label)
Just where would this Righteous Brothers single sit in the UK charts for June 1963? A quick check shows acts including the Beatles (natch!), Gerry, Freddy and Billy J from the 'beat' scene, the Chiffons and Crystals from 'girl groups', Andy Williams, Ned Miller and Frank Ifield from MOR with Buddy Holly, Del Shannon and Roy Orbison from the late 50's/early 60's all present; but when it comes to 'soul'.... well, Ray Charles is there, as is Sam Cooke, and that's it. This is a period before Otis recorded his first Atlantic single, Sam and Dave (perhaps the closest direct parallel to the Brothers) didn't begin to release any of their classic singles until 1965, and neither did Wilson Pickett. So, something this wild, and by two white men to boot, was way ahead of its time. Plus, each side of the single was composed by one of the 'brothers', Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, again almost unique for that time (Beatles excepted!).' Little Latin Lupe Lu" was written by Bill Medley when he and Bobby Hatfield were in a five-piece band called The Paramours. It's about a girl he dated at Santa Ana High School named Lupe Laguna, whose nickname was "Lupe Lu." Medley later described it as "a silly little song, about a girl who likes to dance". He taught the song to Hatfield, then contacted Ray Maxwell, the owner of a local label called Moonglow Records. Maxwell had them record the song, but since it was just Hatfield and Medley, they needed a new name.According to Medley, a different story regarding their name emerged, involving U.S. Marines stationed at the nearby El Toro Marine base. At the end of a performance, an African-American soldier in the audience shouted, "That was righteous, brothers!" Walking in from the parking lot for another performance, a group of Marines spotted them and one called out, "Hey righteous brothers, how you doin'?" From then on, they were "The Righteous Brothers". The original Moonglow release was poorly promoted and initially didn't chart locally so Hatfield and Medley took some gigs at The Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach, which was a surfing dance club where Dick Dale regularly played to 3000+ dancers. Again according to Medley, they were reluctant at first to perform there, but the single "fit this surf dance that they were doing" (the 'surfer stomp'), and became a big hit with the crowd. When the local record store told their new fans they had never heard of it, Hatfield and the road manager took about 1500 copies to the store, and the Brothers told the kids where to buy them. As a result, the initial pressing soon sold out. When Los Angeles stations KFWB and KRLA heard that 1500 records had been sold, they added ".....Lupe Lu" to their programming list, and it soon became a local hit, reaching No4 on KRLA and No5 on KFWB. On May 11, 1963, it entered the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 49. After a further three singles, Moonglow were offered a deal on a 'licensing' basis by Phil Spector after he saw the Brothers support the Ronettes at Daly City's Cow Palace. He immediately contacted the Mann/Weill songwriting team who came up with the classic 'You've lost that lovin' feelin'', perhaps the greatest 'blue eyed soul' single ever.
Len Barry- 'It's a crying shame'. (beeside to 'Somewhere' 7", released mid 1966. Brunswick label)
Would be basketball player Len Barry first started singing while serving his conscription in the US Coastguard and, when his service ended, he returned to Philadelphia, home to many dance oriented TV and radio shows and formed the Dovells in1960. Signed to Cameo Parkway, they immediately hit with 'The Bristol Stomp', a million selling No 2 single and four other top 50 hits (including the No 3 'You can't sit down'). The group toured with Sam Cooke, James Brown and the Motown Revue which could only have increased Barry's love of soul and he was soon being promoted as a solo singer. After a couple of non-hits he released the classic '1-2-3' (backed by the superb 'Bullseye') and 'Like a baby' in late 1965/early 1966 and was rewarded with top 3 placings for '1-2-3' in both the US and UK and a top thirty placing for the follow up. The follow up to those two was a mid-tempo, mis-placed release of 'Somewhere', a number 6 hit here in late 1964 for P J Proby. If only the record label had followed up with the much better 'It's that time of year', or even flipped the single to push '.... Crying Shame' then things may well have been different. His next three releases were all good efforts (including the Northern Soul favourite 'I struck it rich') but failed to sell as, at that time, pop music was changing at a great pace. However, even as late as 1969 Barry was still cranking out his brand of soul music, witness the 'live' album 'My kind of soul', chock full of Tamla and Stax covers which is worth picking up if you see it. As the sixties ended he took up the plight of Native Americans which saw him composing and producing the instrumental 'Keem-O-Sabe' for The Electric Indian, a studio band which included perhaps the most popular 'blue eyed soul-ster', Daryll Hall which went top twenty in the US in 1969. Following this, Barry moved over into production and composing, hitting with singles by Fat Larry's Band and Booker Newbury III and, later, wrote the critically acclaimed novel 'Black-like-me' about two white siblings growing up in a black neighbourhood and their struggle to be accepted.
R Dean Taylor- 'Don't fool around'. (beeside to 'Gotta see Jane' 7" May 1968. Rereleased as topside 1974. Tamla Motown label).
Not for the last time I'm slipping outside of the time zone but it is worth it! I've referred to Tamla Motown on a couple of occasions and here's a pretty good example of the beat almost being almost more important than the lyrics... not that I'm complaining. Canadian born Taylor wasn't the first white act signed to Tamla by any means, Debbie Dean is generally accepted as that, but he definitely had the most hit singles as a white artist for Tamla back in the sixties/early seventies, particularly in the UK. He first recorded in Toronto, scoring several local hits before relocating to Detroit. There he was signed to Tamla subsidiary V.I.P. Records as both a songwriter and singer. He recorded a single, the improbably titled "My Ladybug (Stay Away From That Beatle)", which remained unreleased before debuting proper with one of my favourites, 'Let's go somewhere' (a track generally much maligned by Tamla fans) which became a local hit. Moving over to the Tamla Motown label, his next single, and perhaps his finest, was 'There's a ghost in my house' which also inexplicably failed and Taylor moved to Tamla and concentrated on writing for other Tamla acts. He hit straight away with 'I'll turn to stone' for the Four Tops and 'All I need' for the Temptations before releasing his first charter, the atmospheric 'Gotta see Jane', with this dancer on the flip. It's a song which has few of the usual Tamla musical tropes and, like several Taylor songs, sounds more like a Goffin/King composition than a Taylor/Holland song. The single achieved a worthy number twenty in the UK but, for the time being, he returned to composing, hitting the charts again with the Supremes 'Love Child' and 'Living in shame'. He then moved to Tamla's 'Rare Earth' label, formed solely for the company's 'white' artists, and had success with 'Indiana wants me' and, here in the UK, the re-release of 'Gotta see Jane' , 'There's a ghost in my house' and several others. Although his recording career then stalled, here in the UK he still achieved a modicum of sales thanks mainly to his records danceability and the burgeoning 'Northern Soul' scene
Cathy Saint- 'Big Bad World'. (7" single, released November 1963. Daisy label. This from 'Red Bird Story Vol 2 released 1987)
Occasionally I can find absolutely nothing out about an artist............... this is one of those occasions!! Cathy only released one single, this is it and it's an absolute stormer. Cathy may also have recorded with the surnames Saint John and Troupe Steward, or not, and I can't find anything there either!!!. The beeside ('Mr Heartbreak') must have made some impression as Dionne Warwick covered it on her 'Anyone who had a heart' album in 1964. Daisy and Tiger were sister labels to Leiber and Stoller's famed Red Bird (home to the Shangri Las, Dixie Cups etc) but, with the success of the parent company, the other labels were either shut down or suffered from lack of funds and, hence, publicity. I've already mentioned in other articles the problems L&S had with Red Bird but, briefly, when co-owner George Goldner became embroiled with the Mafia they sold their shares to him for $1 and returned to free-lance production and composing. Goldner then sold the label to the Mafia's 'representatives'. Once again, I'm outside of the timelines but hey, who cares when something is this good.......
Barry Mann-'Talk to me baby'. (Single a-side, released November 1964. Red Bird label. This from The Red Bird Story Volume 2, released 1987. Charly Records)
Let's ignore Barry's initial compositional success ('She say Oom Dooby Doom' for the Diamonds in 1959) and his first chart hit as a performer (the affectionate parody of 'Who put the Bomp....' in 1961) and just mention his biggest hit to that time, the swoonsome 'I love how you love me' by the Paris Sisters which reached number 5 in the charts in 1961. It was at this critical time that he met, and married, Cynthia Weil who was also a staff composer at Aldon Music... and that's when the hits started to flow. 'Uptown', 'We gotta get out of this place', 'Kicks', 'You're my soul and inspiration', 'I'm gonna be strong' and, most famously, 'You've lost that lovin' feelin''. Not a bad selection there......... his (co)compositions amount to over 600 songs, six awards from the BMI, two Grammys, an Oscar nomination and 46 songs achieving over one million radio plays..... PLUS: '....Lovin' feelin'' was the most played song on radio in the 20th Century, totalling over 14 million plays. Back to the excellent dancer, 'Talk to me baby'; Mann and Weil had befriended Leiber and Stoller at Aldon and, when L&S set up Red Bird, it was natural they would ask the pair to sign up as staff composers, with the added bonus of a recording contract for Mann. Their time at Red Bird was short lived, with only this single released by Mann (achieving No 94 in December 1964), although they did supply quite a few songs for other artists. The reason for their brief tenure was possibly because they were in direct competition with the equally prolific Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry composing partnership who both had compositional, production and recording contracts. Mann and Weil are still married and the songs they composed are the subject of a series of CD's covering their entire output over the years.
Ellie Greenwich- 'Another boy like mine'. (Demo: unreleased until 'The Red Bird Story Volume 2 LP, released 1987. Charly Records)
Here's a demo of a song Ellie wrote with hubby Jeff Barry for the first Dixie Cups LP released 1964. A listing of hit songs written by the pair deserves an article by itself but... 'Be my baby'', 'Baby I love you', 'Da Do Ron Ron', 'Hanky Panky' 'Do Wah Diddy Diddy', 'Chapel of love' and 'Leader of the pack' are just some of their compositions. Ellie had a career stretching back to 1958 when she recorded as Ellie Gaye (chosen as a tribute to Barbie Gaye, original singer of 'My boy Lollipop') then, in the early sixties, further recordings as Ellie Gee and Kellie Douglas before becoming the lead vocalist with the Raindrops on Jubilee Records. Ellie's composing career had started when she went to the Brill Building for a meeting with John Gluck Jnr (co-composer of 'It's my party') but, as he had a prior appointment, he 'parked' her in an empty cubicle belonging to Leiber and Stoller where she began playing the piano. L&S quickly returned, thinking it was Carole King composing a new song, only to be met by Ellie.They offered to let her use the office whenever she wanted on condition they had first choice on her material which led, after a short period, to Ellie signing to their publishing company, Trio Music. Her prolific output, initially with Ben Raleigh and, later, with Mark Barkan and Tony Powers, led to her nickname as 'New York's Demo Queen'. She had met, and married, Jeff Barry in the early sixties and they became staff writers for Phil Spector's Philles label before they signed to Red Bird as writers, record producers and artists. Her marriage to Jeff Barry foundered in 1966 and, although they continued to compose as a pair for a short period, Ellie formed Pineywood Music in 1967 and began composing with Mike Rashkow and, in the seventies, she became more involved in production work with The Electric Light Orchestra, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Darin, Lou Christie and 'ole blue eyes' himself... Frank Sinatra. The eighties saw Ellie co-composing with Ellen Foley and Cyndi Lauper, resulting in hits for Cyndi and Nona Hendryx (of Patti LaBelle and her Bluebelles/LaBelle) and it was due to these friendships that Ellie was persuaded by the Bottom Line club owner Allan Pepper to put together a revue type show of her hits which became the long running hit musical 'Leader of the Pack'. Ellie passed away in August 2009 after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and achieving six co-compositions in Rolling Stones Top 500 songs (along with Barry)...... more than any other non perforforming songwriting duo.
Now for a look at a couple of UK artists:
Billie Davis- 'I want you to be my baby'. (Spanish pic sleeve 7" single, released 1967 on tri-centre Decca. UK release August 1968, Decca label)
Slightly outside my own time frame: Here's a real oddity; my research seems to point to the fact that this single was released initially in Spain (there was even a Spanish language version) a year before the UK issue (see the lovely Spanish pic sleeve below) on a 'tri-centre', heavy vinyl pressing and, listening to the two recordings, it seems like a different mix on the Spanish issue. Billies vocals are buried deeper in the mix and, as a result, the beat is even more to the fore than on the UK pressing. However, the only video I can find of what may be the 'Spanish' mix on t'internet is from 1969, but it does sound more like the 'original' mix than the UK pressing. Billie's career started when, after winning a talent contest (where she was backed by the Rebel Rousers), a recording session with Joe Meek and the Tornados was the first prize. Signed to Robert Stigwood's management, and with a name change suggested by him (she was originally the more prosaic Carol Hedges), her first recording session proper was hardly likely to get her more than a 'who's that annoying bird' as she became the vocal 'foil' for Mike Sarne on the equally annoying 'Will I what' in August 1962........... presumably Wendy Richard had seen the light after 'Come Outside'!!! However, early 1963 saw her broach the charts with an exciting (sic) cover of the Exciters 'Tell him' which reached the top ten. Its follow up, the already dated 'He's the one' crept into the top forty, and that's when things started to go astray. Just as she left Decca to join, perhaps, the more sympathetic Columbia label, the Beatles started their unprecedented rise to superstardom and girl singers temporarily lost their momentum. And then, when returning from a concert with the Jet Harris/Tony Meehan duo, she was involved in a car crash and suffered serious facial injuries, resulting in her jaw being wired for four months. You would think that would generate some sympathetic headlines for the 17 year old popette but..... she was sharing the cab with her new boyfriend, the unhappily married, and five years her senior and equally seriously injured Jet Harris! Cue shock, horror headlines, a distinct chill from the record industry in general, and from EMI in particular. In 1966 she released three singles on Piccadilly with Keith Powell (imaginatively christened 'Keith and Billie', perhaps in an attempt to disguise her identity?) before returning to Decca in 1967 where she recorded 'Angel in the morning' backed by Kiki Dee and P P Arnold, a full year before Pat recorded her superb version for Immediate. Billie's version of the Jon Hendricks song 'I want you...', first recorded by Louis Jordan in 1952 (and also covered by Ellie Greenwich), featured Kiki, Pat, Madeline Bell, Doris Troy and the Moody Blues on back up vocals and became her final charter, reaching number 33 just as the Decca pressing plant went on a prolonged strike!!! She continued to record occasionally until the end of the nineties and is still popular in Spain where she still appears occasionally. She has since recorded several albums, including one featuring Albert Lee, her earlier work, including some live recordings has also been re- released and she toured as recently as 2007 on a double bill featuring the late Jet Harris!
Here's the rather wonderful Spanish picture sleeve.
Helen Shapiro- 'Please Mr Postman' (From 'Helen Hits Out' LP, released November 1964. Columbia label)
Just fourteen when she recorded her first two number one singles, Helen is a perfect example of right place, wrong time. By the time she was headlining over the Beatles (whose 'Misery' was turned down by producer Norrie Paramor without her knowledge) in early 1963 she was already something of an anachronism, thanks to her dated style of dress and hairstyle as well as the type of records she was releasing. Helen was actually younger than all four of the Beatles but, because she was 'discovered' at the age of fourteen in 1960, her management pigeon-holed her into a 'beat-ballad' singer. However, even on her first album someone had the good sense to allow her to cover 'Will you still love me tomorrow' and Marv Johnsons 'You've got what it takes' alongside versIons of MOR songs by Brenda Lee, Neil Sedake, Connie Francis and Elvis amongst others. Her second album is best glossed over but her third is pretty groundbreaking, seeing Helen in Nashville backed by the Jordanaires and some of Elvis's musicians. It's just a pity a little more time wasn't taken with rehearsals and song choice (Helen was given the songs to learn at home, flown out, and recorded the album in just a few days) which may well have given her the classic which Dusty achieved with '... In Memphis. The album does, however, include the original version of 'It's my party' which, despite Helens plea's, would not be released as a single. However, by the time of her fourth album ('... Hits Out) the management must have seen the writing on the wall and agreed to let Helen record more contemporary songs. And what a difference! The whole album is packed full of covers but, this time, most of them were of recent recordings including 'My Guy', 'He's a rebel', 'Shop around', 'Baby it's you' and this excellent cover of the Marvelettes early Tamla classic. Yep, the orchestration leaves a little to be desired, but so did Cilla's first album, probably because our studio musicians often saw playing on beat-era recordings as below their standing. All too late I'm afraid for Helen, and by 1966 her records were not selling and she could be seen at many 'chicken in a basket' working mens clubs 'oop north'. I often wonder what would have happened if she had been discovered around the time this album was recorded.... perhaps backed by the Rebel Rousers? Now there's a thought!
Lesley Gore- 'You name it' (From 'Boys, boys, boys' LP, released April 1964. Mercury label)
Another forerunner to the 'Blue eyed soul' sound, here's Lesley with a track from her third album (in a little over eighteen months) which continues the theme of her earlier releases such as 'It's my party' and 'Judy's turn to cry'. Lesley was born into an affluent New York manufacturing family and entered into show business whilst still at Junior High school. Her first single, the classic 'It's my party', was produced by Quincy Jones, hit No1 and sold a million copies. After a couple of similar themed hits Lesley recorded what is now viewed as one of the first 'feminist' anthems, late 1963's 'You don't own me', which was only kept from acheiving a further number one by the Beatles pheonominal success with 'I want to hold your hand'. The chart positions tailed off after that success and Lesley developed her acting career, appearing in several films in the sixties and seventies. She was a regular on all the top rated US music shows but it's perhaps her appearance as one of Catwoman's 'assistants' in a double feature 'Batman' episode which is most fondly remembered. Her contract with Mercury was extended to six years and she was assigned to new kids Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who moved her towards a more soulful sound for a couple of singles which failed to achieve further success. She was then assigned to producer Bob Crewe (long time producer and composer for the Four Season) in 1967 for her last successful album, 'California Nights', her seventh album in just four years, and was rewarded with a number sixteen placing and a chart stay of fourteen weeks with the title song. 'You name it' has all the hallmarks of the 'blue eyed soul' sound and may well have been an influence on the following years' biggie 'Rescue me' by Fontella Bass, which does bear a more than passing resemblance in my opinion. It's worth noting that, as well as her own fine compositions, Lesley recorded material by Paul Anka, a pre-fame Marvin Hamlisch (a family friend), Carole Bayer (Sager), Toni Rose (whose ''Groovy kind of love' was turned down by Gores management when exclusively offered), Bob Crewe, Ashford and Simpson and that her early albums were amongst the first to be based around a single 'theme' or concept.
Bonus track: Not too sure what her 'feminist sisters' thougtht of this, surf-ish, and no sign of Catwoman unfortunately..........
Four Seasons- 'Danger' (From 'Rag Doll', 'Ronnie' and ten other brand new hit songs' LP, released July 1964. Philips label)
Perhaps the great 'lost' Four Seasons single, its release apparently refused because it was a Bob Gaudio/Sandy Linzer composition as opposed to the usual 'Bobs' Crewe and Gaudio.The albums title song came about when Gaudio was on the way to the studio. He was stopped at traffic lights and an eight year old 'rag doll' girl ran out to clean his windscreen and, when she had finished, Gaudio fumbled in his pocket for change but only had a five dollar bill which he gave to the youngster and drove off. It's the girl's look of astonishment and gratitude, which Gaudio saw in his rear view mirror, that inspired 'Rag Doll'. 'Danger' is a great speedy song, driven along by double time handclaps and featuring a fine chorus with Frankie Valli in great vocal form as usual, hitting the high notes with ease, and the whole band excelling on the harmony singing. And just dig those 'Spector' type drum fills at the close of the song!! The Four Seasons and the Beach Boys were the only two US groups to survive the Brit Invasion of 1964 with the Seasons being the first group to achieve three consecutive number one singles on the Billboard charts. Valli had released his first single as early as 1953 before teaming up with Tommy DeVito to form, initially, The Variatones and then the Four Lovers before settling on the 'Seasons' nomenclature, the name being taken from a local bowling alley. The 'Rag Doll...' album was an unbelievable seventh in less than two years, their fifth to chart in the top twenty and, in common with most of their early releases, it centred around a hit single and its follow ups. Over the next three years the group would hit the Top Twenty charts with another fifteen singles but, as 'progressive' style music became more popular, the band were relegated to the nostalgia circuit. Their resurgence began during the mid-seventies 'disco' era which saw them back in the charts with 'The Night' and, eventually, at number one with 'December 1963 (Oh what a night)'. Valli still tours and, of course, the band are now immortalised in the stage show 'The Jersey Boys'.
Lou Christie- 'Jungle' (from 'Lightnin' Strikes' LP, released October 1965. MGM label)
Born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco (much snappier than Christie don't you think?), Christie studied music and singing at High School where, in 1958, he met the established songwriter Twyla Herbert who was twenty years his senior. Together they wrote several hundred songs over the next thirty years, starting with his early (US) hits 'The gypsy cried' and 'Two faces have I', both of which went on to sell over a million copies stateside. Here in the UK, however, it would take a little longer for Christie to chart with his Four Seasons-like 'Lightnin' Strikes', his first single release for MGM after his US Army service. MGM had been reluctant to issue the song and only agreed, initially, to a small pressing for the California market. When it became a local hit they released the song worldwide and were rewarded with a number one hit in the US (on Christie's 23rd birthday), Canada and a respectable number 11 in the UK. However, his follow up, 'Rhapsody in the rain' ran into trouble thanks to its risque (for the time) lyrics. Further releases by previous labels then flooded the market which derailed his career just as it was at its early peak and, by 1969, he had been dropped by MGM. There was a brief resurgence in the UK with 'I'm gonna make you mine' and 'She sold me magic' (later covered by Melting Johns) during a brief period of residence here, but later attempts to widen his appeal in the country market were broadly unsuccessful. The nostalgia circuit beckoned and, whilst on tour with Lesley Gore the pair recorded the one-off duet 'Since I don't have you'. There have been sporadic releases since then but the high water mark of 'Lightnin' Strikes' looks unlikely to be broached. 'Jungle' is stylistically similar to his biggie and features his famous falsetto soaring stratospherically, a tough, brief guitar solo and fine support from his girl group The Tammys, for whom he wrote the decidedly strange 'Egyptian Shumba' (whose 'delights'.are included as a bonus!!!). The parent album does feature several of Christie/Herberts songs but the first side is entirely composed of cover versions, perhaps confirming that, although the pair had composed 'hundreds' of songs, not all of them were the equal of his biggest hit.
Newbeats- 'Run Baby Run (Back into my life)' (Single, released October 1965. Hickory label)
Sticking with falsetto led songs, here's the 'Bread and Butter' hitmakers with a great slab of 'blue eyed soul' which charted at number 12 in the US, even higher in Canada but, inexplicably, failed initially in the peak 'beat' era UK. It would be 1971's 'Northern Soul' fans who hoisted it into the UK charts when it was initially re-released as the beeside to 'Am I not my brother's keeper'. Better late than never!! Great stompin' beat, fuzz guitar, pounding drums.... just about all you want from a soul classic. Brothers Dean and Mark Mathis joined Dale Hawkins back up band before forming their own eight piece revue band featuring Larry Henley as vocalist. The group split, with Henley going solo and the brothers performing as a duo until, in early 1964 they were asked to record a demo of 'Bread and Butter'. They called Henley back into the studio and sent the demo to Hickory Records who booked the group into the studio to record the official release. Within weeks the single had hit the US charts and they started on a string of live dates but 'musical differences' saw the group split and reform on several occasions. Henley remained in the business as a composer on the country music scene, writing hits for Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis, Barbra Streisand, Delbert McClinton and the Carter Family but hitting most famously with Bette Midlers 'Wind beneath my wings'..... originally recorded in 1982 by Roger Whittaker!!!! Wonder if he whistled on his version?
NB: Be sure to check out the beeside of 'Break Away (from that boy)', the wild, maraca shakin' r&b of 'Hey-O-Daddy-O',if ever you chance upon it.............
Jackie De Shannon- 'Love is leading me'. (From 'Are you ready for this' LP. Released late 1966. Liberty Records)
Probably more famous for the songs she (co)wrote for, or were covered by, other artists such as 'When you walk in the room', 'Come and stay with me', 'Breakaway', 'Don't doubt yourself babe' and 'Bette Davis Eyes'. Jackie was born in 1941 (as Sharon Lee Myers) to a farming family with musical interests and was appearing on radio at age six and had her own show by the time she was eleven. She appeared regularly on the Pee Wee Hour TV show in the mid fifties before commencing her recording career in 1957 as, variously, Sherrie Lee, Jackie Dee and Jackie Shannon and it was at this time that her singles 'Buddy' and Trouble' caught the ear of Eddie Cochran who requested she move out to LA to form a songwriting partnership with his girlfriend Sharon Sheeley which hit immediately with Brenda Lee's 'Dum Dum'. Her final name change saw her, eventually, hit the lower reaches of the US charts with 'Needles and Pins' and 'When you walk in the room' and, in 1964, support the Beatles on their first UK tour with her band which featured Ry Cooder on guitar. In 1966 she moved briefly to London, forming an 'attachment' with top sessioner Jimmy Page and recording several songs here as well as appearing on RSG. Jackie combined her recording career with writing songs 'to style', hoping for covers by other artists and, with 'Love is leading me' we have a song Jackie pitched to the Supremes. They never recorded it but the treatment here couldn't be any closer to a mid sixties Motown record, unless it had been recorded in Detroit instead of LA. Jackie is still active, recording and appearing on radio. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.
Laura Nyro/Labelle- 'Nowhere to run'. (From 'Gonna take a miracle' album, released November 1971. Columbia label.)
Well outside my timeline, but showing the way forward for those who would follow (step forward Delaney and Bonnie, Hall and Oates, Rita Coolidge and other purveyors of 'blue eyed soul' mentioned herein), we move from one provider of hit material for others to another who, after a disappointing start at the Monterey Festival in 1967, supplied The 5th Dimension with "Blowing Away", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Sweet Blindness", and "Save the Country"; Blood, Sweat & Tears with "And When I Die"; Three Dog Night with "Eli's Comin'"; and Barbra Streisand with "Stoney End" and "Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)". Not bad for someone who was (allegedly) booed off the stage! Her musical style was one part Brill Building, one part jazz, one part rhythm and blues and a soupçon of soul, rock and roll all topped off with a love of show tunes; and all delivered with a mezzo soprano three octave sultry voice. How could she fail? Well, Laura is still better known for the cover versions, but, although her albums did sell moderately well at the time, she will always be filed under 'cult artist I believe. By the age of eight Laura was writing poetry, had taught herself piano and, thanks to her mother's record collection of Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Leontyne Price, had composed her first songs. In her teens Laura could be found singing with her friends, acapella style, in the Bronx subways until, in 1966 she was spotted by a pair of shyster managers, Artie Mogull (sic)and his partner Paul Barry who, despite their dubious reputation, secured a punitive deal with Verve/Folkways who released 'More than a new discovery' with very little fanfare. Laura even 'sold' her new composition 'And when I die' direct to Peter, Paul and Mary for $5000! However, following her appearance at Monterey, her peers began to appreciate her songs and the cover version started to mount up. It was at this crucial time that David Geffen signed her, established a joint publishing company, bought the rights to the 'More than...' material and negotiated a much improved deal with Columbia. Laura, meanwhile, had a long held ambition to record some of her favourite songs from the sixties, perhaps reinforced when she recorded with Duane Allman and the Muscle Shoals musicians for the 'Christmas and the beads of sweat' album in 1970. It was at this time that, whilst promoting the album, Laura was interviewed by Vicky Wickham, one time co-producer of RSG, who also managed LaBelle. Laura was introduced to Patti and they immediately struck up a deep conversation around their shared love of Tamla Motown and girl group songs. Laura invited Patti to accompany her on her upcoming tour (with Patti as unofficial tour cook!) and, on their return, they went into the Sigma Sound Studio with Gamble and Huff and the rest of LaBelle in May to record the 'Gonna take a miracle album'. All the songs were chosen (after discussion) by Laura and, from amongst the plethora of great cover versions, I've chosen one of my favourite Tamla songs, with great enthusiastic vocals from all concerned and, as a bonus, a great dancing beat.
Nino Tempo and April Stevens- 'All strung out'. (7" single a-side, released mid 1966. London American label)
And here's the single that gave me the idea for the 'Blue Eyed Soul' article. However, it doesn't meet any of the criteria which the other tracks encompass! Is it danceable? No! It's a lush ballad. Does it bear the influence of, say, Tamla/Stax? Hardly, it's production reeks of Spector and the harmonies sound almost surf-ish. So why is it included? Well, the song was written by Nino and Jerry Riopelle and, if you are at all familiar with the work of Phil Spector, Riopelle may be a name you've seen quite a few times as a (co)composer and producer. Nino was also a studio accompanist for Spector, playing saxophone, piano, drums and guitar on many of Spector's recordings. But, primarily, when I started to read about the song, it turned out that it was originally intended that it would be recorded by the Righteous Brothers, and what a single that would have made. In fact, it's difficult now for me to play the track without imagining the Brothers singing it and I hope you can feel that when you hear it too. Brother and sister Nino and April (born Antonino and Carol Vincinette LoTempio) were signed to Atlantic in 1960 and, after a string of minor hits they were called in by label boss Ahmet Ertegun to record Tempo's choice of "I've Been Carrying A Torch For You So Long That It Burned A Great Big Hole In My Heart" and 'Deep Purple' for their next release. The latter was completed in just 14 minutes at the end of the session but, initially, Ahmet was too embarrassed for Atlantic to release the single. As Phil Spector had shown an interest in releasing 'Deep Purple' Nino requested Atlantic cancel their contract unless the single was put out. Ahmet agreed to release it, on condition that if it was a hit they could not have their contract release and was stunned when 'Deep Purple' not only became a number one single but, incredibly, was awarded an Emmy as the year's best 'rock and roll record'. Several other revivals followed, with ever decreasing success and, in 1966 the duo moved to the new label White Whale, then home to charters The Turtles. Here, for their debut single, they issued this slab of Spector influenced magnificence and were rewarded with a number 26 charter. There were further 'Spector-ish' releases, each one less successful but 'I can't break the habit of lovin' you Baby' certainly deserved better than a couple of weeks in the lower 90's of the charts. Both these tracks feature the Spector 'wrecking crew' as well as Glen Campbell and others to produce what would undoubtedly have been two great Righteous Brothers tracks......
So there we have it................ hope you enjoyed another trip back to a more 'innocent' time. Any thoughts, improvements, additions or corrections are always welcome, just send 'em in and I'm sure Tim will add them on to my article.