Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spencer Davis Group – "Gimme Some Lovin' " (1966)


Better take it easy
’Cause the place is on fire

The Spencer Davis Group – guitarist Spencer Davis, vocalist and keyboard player Steve Winwood, Steve’s older brother Muff (who played the bass), and drummer Pete York – originally called themselves the Rhythm and Blues Quartette, which is a truly horrible name for a rock band.

The Spencer Davis Group
Steve Winwood, not Spencer Davis, was the group’s star member.  So why was the band named the Spencer Davis Group?  According to Muff Winwood, 

[Record producer Chris] Blackwell wanted to call us the Vipers or the Crawling Snakes or some outlandish thing.  Spencer was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews, so I pointed out that if we called it the Spencer Davis Group, the rest of us could stay in bed and let him do them. 

Steve Winwood was only 14 when the band formed.  He left the Spencer Davis Group went he was 18 to form Traffic.  

But before Steve left, the group recorded two truly great rock singles: “I’m a Man” (not to be confused with the Bo Diddley song of the same name, which was covered by the Yardbirds in 1965) and today’s featured song, “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

From the February 25, 1967 issue of Billboard
“Gimme Some Lovin’,” which climbed all the way to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100,” is propelled by Steve Winwood’s Hammond B-3 organ part.  It was released in October 1966, when Winwood was only 18.

Here’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” which 2 or 3 lines has chosen as the best song of February 1967.  It may be 50 years old, but it’s still a stick of dynamite:



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Monday, February 27, 2017

Byrds – "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll star" (1967)


If you make the charts
The girls will tear you apart

I was never a big fan of the Byrds, but I have to give credit where credit is due: “Eight Miles High” is as good a record as was recorded in the sixties – it’s like nothing else I’ve ever heard.

The Byrds
“So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star” isn’t as mind-blowing as “Eight Miles High,” but it packs a lot into just two minutes.  The lyrics are remarkably intelligent, and the arrangement is perfect. 

The song was written by Chris Hillman and Jim McGuinn (who later changed his named to Roger after becoming involved with a spiritual movement called Subud). 

Hillman came up with the song’s bass guitar line during a Hugh Masakela recording session.  Masakela (a South African trumpet player whose biggest hit was “Grazing in the Grass”) returned the favor and contributed a very interesting trumpet part to “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star.”

Hugh Masakela and the Byrds' David Crosby
The audio of screaming fans that you hear about a minute into the song was recorded at an August 1965 concert in England.

A lot of people have covered “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star.”  Patti Smith’s cover is probably the most famous one.  (About all I can say about it is that it’s better than the Black Oak Arkansas cover.)

The oddest cover version of “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star” was the very earliest one – the instrumental recording of the song that was released on the Royal Guardsmen’s The Return of the Red Baron album the same year that the Byrds’ version reached #29 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  

Why in the world would you do an instrumental version of “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star”?  It’s like doing an instrumental version of a Bob Dylan song, or the Gettysburg Address.

The song did not chart in the UK.  (I have only one thing to say about that to my British readers: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?)

Here’s “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star”:



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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Young Rascals – "I've Been Lonely Too Long" (1967)


So funny I just have to laugh,
All my troubles been torn in half

The Young Rascals originally called themselves the Rascals.  But they changed their name at the insistence of the Harmonica Rascals, a defunct harmonica ensemble that had been popular in the thirties and forties.

The Harmonica Rascals had broken up in 1955 after the group’s leader, Borrah Minevitch, died of a heart attack.  So it’s not clear why they cared whether the band that recorded today’s featured song called themselves the Young Rascals or just the Rascals.

Johnny Puleo and the Harmonica Gang
The star of the Harmonica Rascals was Johnny Puleo, a dwarf who stood only 4 feet 6 inches tall.  After Minevitch’s death, Puleo formed his own group and called it the Harmonica Gang.

I remember seeing a harmonica band that included a dwarf perform in my home town when I was maybe ten years old.  It may have been the Harmonica Gang, or it may have been a cheap imitation group.  (I’m betting that I saw the original group because I have to think it’s not likely that there were two different American harmonica bands that featured dwarf harmonica virtuosi.)


I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Young Rascals because the Rogues – my wildly popular 8th-grade band – covered “Good Lovin’,” their first big hit.

“Good Lovin’” was followed by “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “Groovin’,” “A Girl Like You,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “A Beautiful Morning,” and “People Got to Be Free.” 

The Young Rascals
All of those singles were top 20 hits, and three of them made it all the way to #1.  (The last two of those records were released after the Young Rascals had changed their name to the Rascals.)

Let’s face it, boys and girls – the Young Rascals/Rascals were pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.



Here’s “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” which was comfortably ensconced in the Billboard “Hot 100” fifty years ago today:



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Saturday, February 25, 2017

5th Dimension – "Go Where You Wanna Go" (1967)


You gotta go where you wanna go
Do what you wanna do
With whomever you wanna do it with

That third line doesn’t exactly roll trippingly off the tongue, but I think its message is pretty darn clear.

Did you know that the Mamas & the Papas had three songs in the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967?

The Mamas & the Papas
The last appearance of “Words of Love” in the “Hot 100” was in the February 18, 1967 issue of Billboard.  (It had peaked at #5 the month before.)

“Dedicated to the One I Love” entered the “Hot 100” the very next week.  (It would climb all the way to #2.)

The Mamas & the Papas’ version of “Go Where You Wanna Go”– which was written by Papa John Phillips and released on the If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears album in 1966 – never made the “Hot 100.”

The 5th Dimension
But the 5th Dimension’s cover of that song – which was that group’s first single – was sitting pretty at #16 the last week of February.   

Take one more look at the lines from “Go Where You Wanna Go” quoted above.  Note that the third line begins “with whomever,” which is grammatically correct, but sounds a bit stiff.

In the Mamas & the Papas version of the song, the line is “with whoever” — not “whomever” – which is presumably how John Phillips wrote it.  

Mackenzie and John Phillips
Given that Phillips reportedly raped his daughter Mackenzie when she was 18 and later had a 10-year consensual sexual relationship with her, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t give a damn about correct grammar.

Here’s a video of the 5th Dimension lip-synching to their cover of “Go Where You Wanna Go” on Casey Kasem's "Shebang" television show:



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Friday, February 24, 2017

Harpers Bizarre – "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" (1967)


Slow down
You move too fast

The Queensboro Bridge – also known as the 59th Street Bridge – connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Queens.  It’s one of the 22 bridges and tunnels that carry vehicles from one side of the East River to the other.  

The Queensboro Bridge opened in 1909
When I was in high school, I was part of a team that competed in a local academic quiz show that was broadcast on a local radio station.  One of the questions we were asked in our first match was “What two boroughs does the Brooklyn Bridge connect?”  Obviously, one of the boroughs was Brooklyn.  But none of us had ever been to New York City, so we had no idea what the other borough was.  (The other team was so clueless that they guessed Manhattan and Queens.)

The bridge passes over Roosevelt Island
In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway use the Queensboro bridge to get from Long Island to Manhattan.  “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge,” Nick says, “is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

The view of Manhattan from the bridge
A famous scene from Woody Allen’s 1979 movie, Manhattan, features Allen and Diane Keaton sitting on a bench under the Queensboro Bridge:

Keaton and Allen chatting under the bridge

*     *     *     *     *

“The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” was originally released on Simon and Garfunkel’s third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  (Like Vampire Weekend, Simon and Garfunkel don’t give a f*ck about an Oxford comma.)

The drummer on that recording was Joe Morello, the brilliant jazz drummer who was a member of the legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet.  (Morello judged a high-school jazz band competition that my high school’s jazz band entered, and then gave a clinic and performed.  I didn’t have a clue who Joe Morello and Dave Brubeck were at the time.) 

You may be more familiar with the Harpers Bizarre cover of the song, which entered the Billboard “Hot 100” fifty years ago this month, eventually climbing all the way to the #13 spot.  Leon Russell arranged their recording of the song, which featured a Beach Boys-esque a cappella section and a short bridge by a woodwind quartet.  The song is pretty thin gruel, and benefitted greatly from Russell's arrangement. 


Randy Newman was a member of the Tikis, which is what Harpers Bizarre called themselves before they recorded “Feelin’ Groovy.”  The group eventually recorded six Newman songs.

In 1969, Harpers Bizarre boarded a TWA flight in Los Angeles that was supposed to fly to San Francisco.  But an AWOL Marine hijacked the plane and ordered the crew to fly to New York City.  The 707 wasn’t carrying enough fuel to make it that far, and when it landed in Denver to fill up, the passengers were allowed to disembark.  After getting to JFK Airport, the hijacker decided he wanted to go to Rome.  TWA accommodated, stopping in Shannon, Ireland to refuel once more.  

When the hijacker, who was armed with a rifle, was asked by a newspaper reporter why he did it, he said, “I don’t know.”

Here’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”:



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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Donovan – "Epistle to Dippy" (1967)


Look on yonder misty mountain
See the young monk m-e-d—
—itating rhododendron forest

“Epistle to Dippy” is a musical open letter to an old school friend of Donovan’s who was in the British Army in Malaysia at the time.  

One website says the song has “a strong pacifist message.”  (You could have fooled me.)  Another  website says that “Dippy” contacted Donovan when he heard the song, and Donovan bought his friend out of the army.  

I have no idea whether it was possible to buy someone out of UK military service in 1967.  (I am from Missouri, and you know what that means.)

Donovan
What I do know is that Donovan had to have been high when he wrote the lyrics to “Epistle to Dippy.”

There are a lot of sixties songs with lyrics that sound like the songwriter was high when he wrote them.  But Donovan stands out from the rest of the sixties crowd because EVERY Donovan songs sounds like he was high when he wrote it.  (And not just a little high.)

The song probably makes perfect sense to Dippy.  For the rest of the world, it's impenetrable.

The three verses of “Epistle to Dippy” share one odd little metrical trick: the second and third lines of all those verses break after the first syllable of a multisyllabic word.

In the lyrics quoted at the beginning of this post, Donovan holds the first syllable of “meditating” for several beats before completing that word.

The second line of the second verse ends with Donovan holding the first syllable of “suspicious”:

Doing us paperback reader
Made the teacher s-u-s—
—picious about insanity
Fingers always touching girl

And the second line of the third verse ends with the singer holding the first syllable of “speculating”:

Rebel against society
Such a tiny s-p-e-c—
—ulating whether to be hip or
Skip along quite merrily

The sleeve for the “Epistle to Dippy” 45
It’s a poetic technique I’ve never encountered before.  There’s probably a name for it, but I don’t know what that name is and I’m too busy to go looking for it.  (It’s February, which means I’m in the middle of “28 Songs in 28 Days,”which means I have no time to waste looking for needles in Internet rabbit holes.)

 I have no memory of hearing “Epistle to Dippy” on AM radio, and it doesn’t strike me as the kind of song that would get a lot of play on top-forty stations.

But “Epistle to Dippy” made it to #19 on the Billboard “Hot 100,” so I’m obviously full of sh*t.  (Like there was still any doubt about that.)

By the way . . . the lead guitarist on this record is Jimmy Page.  Before joining the Yardbirds, Page was an extremely busy session guitarist who played on Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, and Who records, not to mention “As Tears Go By” (Marianne Faithful) and “Downtown” (Petula Clark).

Here’s “Epistle to Dippy”:



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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Johnny Rivers – "Baby I Need Your Loving" (1967)


Although you're never near
Your voice I often hear

“Memphis,” which was Johnny Rivers’ first record to make the charts, peaked at #2 in 1964.  

The story goes that Rivers decided to record “Memphis” after Elvis Presley played him a test pressing of his recording of the song, which he had not released.  Rivers loved the song so much that he recorded a similar arrangement of the song.  

According to a book by one of Elvis’s employees, Rivers was “on Elvis’s sh*t list” after that.

*     *     *     *     *

Johnny Rivers – who was born John Henry Ramistella in New York City in 1942 – had a remarkable string of hit singles in the mid-1960s.  

His family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when Rivers was quite young.  While he was still in junior high, he joined a local band that was led by Dick Holler, who later wrote “Abraham, Martin, and John” and “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.”  Rivers then formed his own band, cutting his first record when he only 14.

Johnny Rivers then
When he was 16, he met famed disc jockey Alan Freed, who helped him get a second recording contract and who advised him to change his name.  The Mississippi River flowed through Baton Rouge, so John Henry Ramistella became Johnny Rivers.

Rivers followed up “Memphis” with “Maybellene,” a cover of another Chuck Berry song.  Next came “Mountain of Love,” “Seventh Son,” “Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side of Town,” “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “Summer Rain.”

Altogether, Rivers had seven top ten hits between 1964 and 1967, including a #1, a #2, and two #3s – not too shabby.

He had one more big hit – “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” – in 1972.

Johnny Rivers now
Many of those hits were covers.  Rivers also covered “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Fire and Rain,” “Sea Cruise,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Six Days on the Road,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”  (That’s a very eclectic group of songs – Chuck Berry, Motown, folk, country, and the Beach Boys.)

Several of Rivers’ covers outsold the originals.  For example, the Four Tops’ version of “Baby I Need Your Loving” made it to #11 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in 1964, but the Johnny Rivers cover that we are featuring today climbed all the way to #3 in early 1967.

Rivers was a pro – his vocals are just about flawless.  He didn't take a lot of chances musically, but he rarely disappointed you.

Here’s the Johnny Rivers cover of “Baby I Need Your Loving,” which features drummer Hal Blaine of “Wrecking Crew” fame and backup singer Darlene Love:



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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Electric Prunes – "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" (1966)


Then came the dawn
And you were gone

Today’s featured song was written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, the female songwriting duo who wrote most of the songs on the Electric Prunes’ eponymous debut album.

Producer Dave Hassinger reached out to Tucker and Mantz to do the songwriting honors for that album because he thought the band’s original songs were dreck.  

Annette Tucker later said that she and Martz wrote “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” in half an hour.  

Songwriter Annette Tucker
The band recorded the song at Leon Russell’s house.  James Lowe, the lead vocalist for the group, later gave this account of the recording of the song’s introduction by Electric Prunes guitarist Ken Williams, who played a 1958 Gibson Les Paul guitar with a Bigsby vibrato unit:

We were recording on a four-track, and just flipping the tape over and re-recording when we got to the end.  Dave [Hassinger] cued up a tape and didn't hit “record,” and the playback in the studio was way up: ear-shattering vibrating jet guitar.  Ken had been shaking his Bigsby wiggle stick with some fuzztone and tremolo at the end of the tape.  Forward it was cool.  Backward it was amazing. I  ran into the control room and said, “What was that?”  They didn't have the monitors on so they hadn't heard it.  I made Dave cut it off and save it for later.

Maybe that makes sense if you’re a recording engineer or a guitar player, but I’m neither.  So it’s all Greek to me.


“I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” made it all the way to #11 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967 — that’s fifty years ago this month, boys and girls.

I don’t know about you, but the song sounds just as crazy today as it did fifty years ago.  It’s surprising that it did as well as it did on the pop charts, but the music that was getting played on the radio in early 1967 was remarkably diverse.

Here’s “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”:



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Monday, February 20, 2017

Ed Ames – "My Cup Runneth Over" (1967)


My cup runneth over with . . .  
Love!

“My Cup Runneth Over” was written for the Broadway musical “I Do! I Do!” – which opened in 1966 and ran for 560 performances.


The play has only two characters – a married couple, originally played on Broadway by Mary Martin and Robert Preston (and later by Carol Lawrence and Gordon MacRae) – and one set.  So it’s the perfect musical for a small theatre with a limited budget to mount.

In 1971, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Minnesota hired Susan Goeppinger and David Anders for a six-week run of “I Do! I Do!”  The play eventually ran for over 20 years – Goeppinger and Anders got married after performance number 500, and eventually appeared together over 6500 times.

Goeppinger and Anders in 1985
The title of “My Cup Runneth Over” comes from the King James Version of Psalm 23:

Thou preparest a table before me 
In the presence of mine enemies
Thou anointest my head with oil
My cup runneth over

A recording of the song by Ed Ames climbed up the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967, eventually making it to the #8 spot.

Ames played Mingo, Fess Parker’s faithful Indian sidekick, on the NBC television series, Daniel Boone, for six seasons.  (He was the child of two Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, but he was often cast as a Native American.) 

One night, he was demonstrating the tomahawk-throwing skills he had picked up in that role to Johnny Carson when something unexpected happened:


Here’s “My Cup Runneth Over”:



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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Seekers – "Georgy Girl" (1966)


You're always window-shopping
But never stopping to buy

When I was a teenager, it seemed like the 1966 film Georgy Girl was on television quite often.  But I’m not sure I ever watched the whole movie, and it’s been a long time since I said goodbye to being a teenager, so I can’t say I remember much about the movie.

Here's the opening credit sequence:



Here’s how the Turner Classic Movies website summarizes the plot of Georgy Girl:  

Georgy Parkin [played by Lynn Redgrave] is a plump and somewhat forlorn creature who partially disapproves of her parents working as servants in the palatial London home of middle-aged James Leamington [James Mason] and his ailing, forever-complaining wife [who is portrayed by Lynn Redgrave’s real-life mother, Rachel Kempson].  

Resigned to her fate as one of life's misfits, Georgy shares a flat with a beautiful but cold and amoral violinist named Meredith [Charlotte Rampling], who regards Georgy as little more than an unobtrusive convenience who keeps the apartment neat and tidy.  In return, Georgy is able to share vicariously in Meredith's numerous love affairs, particularly a long-standing affair with Jos [Alan Bates], a madcap Cockney.  

One day, to her astonishment, Georgy is informed by Mr. Leamington that he would like her to become his mistress and that he has taken the trouble to have legal papers drawn up on their “agreement.”  Georgy, however, chooses to remain a virginal observer in her flat with Meredith, who reveals that she has become pregnant for the third time by Jos.  


On the previous occasions Meredith had undergone abortions, but this time Jos persuades her to marry him and have his child.  Georgy is thrilled to stay on at the flat and keep house for them.  While Meredith is at the hospital giving birth, Jos – first playfully, then seriously – seduces Georgy, and in the days that follow they live together idyllically.  

Consequently, when Meredith, who intends to put her unwanted baby up for adoption, learns of the love between Georgy and Jos, she gladly turns the infant over to them and blithely returns to her former life.  For a time Georgy and Jos are happy, but Jos soon becomes restless and a little annoyed at Georgy's lavishing all of her love upon the baby.  

In an attempt to regain Georgy's undivided love, Jos takes her on a boat trip and clowns about pathetically in the hope they can recapture their lighthearted intimacy.  Both realize, however, that something has gone out of their love, and when Jos eventually moves out, Georgy knows that the authorities will soon come and take her beloved baby away from her.  

All is not lost, however; for Mr. Leamington, whose wife has since died, comes to the rescue.  If Georgy will marry him, he will adopt the child.  Mr. Leamington thus wins his “Georgy Girl,” and Georgy happily keeps her baby and prepares for a life of upper-class matrimonial comfort.

Based on that plot summary, why would anyone want to see this movie?

Rampling is beautiful, and Bates is charming, and Mason is always compelling to watch on the big screen.  But their Georgy Girl characters are repulsive.  

Who’s the worst of the three?  My vote goes to Rampling’s truly despicable Meredith, but the two males are pretty bad.

Here's the final scene – not exactly a happy ending, eh?


*     *     *     *     *

The movie’s theme song was a worldwide hit for the Seekers, who were the first Australian pop music group to hit it big in the UK and U.S.  

Seekers lead singer Judith Durham
The song is heard at the beginning and end of the movie, but with different lyrics.  The lyrics for the “Georgy Girl” single varied from both movie versions.

“George Girl” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost out to the Born Free theme song.  

Here’s “Georgy Girl”:



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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Paul Revere and the Raiders – "Ups and Downs" (1967)


Things was looking golden, baby
Everything was fine
You never made no sign
That you had changed your mind

I heard Paul Revere and the Raiders perform at Memorial Hall in Joplin, Missouri in the summer of 1966.

Memorial Hall in the 1960s
I was 14 years old, and heading into the 9th-grade when Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay, et al. came to Joplin.  (Why a band as popular as the Raiders came to little ol’ Joplin remains a mystery.)  I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited at a concert than I was that night.  (Sorry, Rolling Stones . . . and Kinks . . . and David Bowie . . . and all the rest.)

Paul Revere’s real name was Paul Revere – sort of.  (Actually, his real name was Paul Revere Dick.)  He continued to tour until shortly before his death in 2014.  

The photograph for this 1967 album cover
 was taken on the porch of a house in Joplin
If you never saw him perform live, here’s an excerpt from a fan letter to Paul that explains what all the fuss was about:

Like most people, my initial introduction to you was on television, radio and records, but none of those mediums gave me a real clue to the one-of-a-kind life force that was Paul Revere.  Sitting in an audience at my first Paul Revere and The Raiders concert introduced me to a larger-than-life dynamo of high-energy slapstick, outrageous and spontaneous humor and a genuine child-like joy. 

Paul Revere (circa 2010)
Paul Revere and the Raiders put out some great records.  Like the Monkees, they were always underrated – perhaps because they, too, were network-TV stars who always seemed to be having way too much fun.

“Ups and Downs” made its first appearance on the Billboard “Hot 100” fifty years ago this week, just as “Good Thing” was about to fall off that chart.

Here’s “Ups and Downs,” which sounds a lot like a Rolling Stones song:



And here’s the band doing “Ups and Downs” live on the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  The Smothers Brothers didn’t allow their musical guests to lip synch, but maybe they should have made an exception for Mark Lindsay, who absolutely butchered the lyrics:



Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keith – "98.6" (1966)


Hey, ninety-eight point six
Her lovin' is the medicine
That saved me

The singer known as Keith (he was born James Barry Keefer) wasn’t exactly a one-hit wonder, but he was the next best thing to one.  

Keith’s fame was fleeting, but it was sweet while it lasted.  

Keith
From Rolling Stone magazine:

At the height of his career, Keefer was making $15,000 a week, and getting his back slapped by a Beatle, who told him what a great record his "98.6" was.  "John Lennon was standing next to me in a urinal in London," he said.

The singles Keith released just before and just after “98.6” (which made it to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967) did make it into the top forty, but just barely.  

He released a couple of albums that went nowhere, and he was arrested for draft evasion while on tour in 1968.  After a year in the Army, he released one more album – which flopped – then joined Frank Zappa’s touring band.  

“I think they brought me in to commercialize Frank,” Keith later said.  If that was the goal, it didn’t work.

According to his website, Keith legally changed his name to Bazza Keefer in 1988 to honor his mother.  (Go figure.)

*     *     *     *     *

“98.6” is simply a dynamite pop song, even if the title and the lyrics make no sense whatsoever.  

I think the best thing about the record is the arrangement, which was done by Joe Renzetti.  That arrangement is as cool as the other side of the pillow.  (Note especially the long instrumental introduction, which is quite unique.)

Joe Renzetti
Renzetti was a studio guitarist in Philadelphia in the early sixties, then moved to New York, where he arranged a number of hit records, including Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques, and Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.”  

In 1973, he arranged the music for the The Buddy Holly Story, winning an Academy Award for his work.  

Renzetti taught the three actors who played Holly and his bandmates in that movie (Gary Busey, Don Stroud, and Charles Martin Smith) how to play their instruments and sing, and they were filmed performing live for the scenes depicting Holly and his band in concert.

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly
Busey – who attended the same Tulsa high school that my college girlfriend graduated from –lost 32 pounds in order to portray the very skinny Buddy Holly.  (Holly weighed only 146 pounds at the time of his death.)

Here’s “98.6”:



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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mojo Men – "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" (1967)


Baby, can’t you see
That I’m a desperate man?

The previous 2 or 3 lines featured “For What It’s Worth,” which I think you have to say is the best of the Buffalo Springfield’s songs.

Another Stephen Stills song that appeared on Buffalo Springfield’s eponymous debut album, “Sit Down, I Think I Love You,” was covered by the Mojo Men, a Summer-of-Love-vintage psychedelic group from San Francisco.


That Mojo Men cover climbed to #36 on the Billboard “Hot 100” about the same time “For What It’s Worth” was climbing to #7.

There’s nothing wrong with the Buffalo Springfield’s original version of the song, but I think I prefer the Mojo Men’s rather baroque, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cover, which was arranged by Van Dyke Parks, the eccentric musical genius who is best known for his work with Brian Wilson on Smile.   

The Mojo Men 
One notable thing about the Mojo Men was that they had a female drummer – Jan Errico, formerly the drummer and lead singer for another San Francisco group, the Vejtables.  Eric, who changed her name to Jan Ashton because she thought it sounded more British, was the cousin of Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico.

Here’s “Sit Down, I Think I Love You”:



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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Buffalo Springfield – "For What It's Worth" (1966)


There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

Most people think “For What It’s Worth” was a protest song about Vietnam, or civil rights, or some other big-ass sixties political issue.  But it was actually inspired by something much less significant: the Sunset Strip riot of 1966.

(Riots are coming back into fashion)
Los Angeles officials had responded to complaints from local residents and business owners about the traffic congestion and noise generated by the young people who flocked to the clubs along the “Sunset Strip” by instituting a 10 pm curfew.  

On November 12, about a thousand protestors – including Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda – congregated on the Strip to demonstrate against the curfew, blocking traffic and generally making a ruckus.  Fights broke out, store windows and car windshields were broken, and a city bus was trashed.

Rioters punish an innocent LA city bus
Stephen Stills seems to have stumbled upon the demonstration by accident.  After observing the melee, he headed back to Topanga Canyon and wrote “For What It’s Worth” in about 15 minutes.  

Buffalo Springfield recorded the song on December 5 – barely three weeks after the Sunset Strip riot – and it eventually climbed to the #7 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100.”


It’s one of the seminal songs of the sixties, but it’s not a song I would have expected to peak that high on the pop charts.

Tomorrow 2 or 3 lines will feature another Stephen Stills song that was recorded by Buffalo Springfield.

Here’s “For What It’s Worth."  (Nice chapeau, Stephen Stills!)



Click below to buy the song from Amazon: