Monday, March 31, 2008


Art Farmer and Benny Golson, Killer Joe.
The Shirelles, Boys.
The Fleetwoods, Outside My Window.
Billy Miranda, Go Ahead.
Bobby Hebb, Night Train to Memphis.
The Coasters, Shopping For Clothes.
Derrick Morgan, Fat Man.
Serge Gainsbourg, L'Eau à la Bouche.
Gary U.S. Bonds, New Orleans.
The Devotions, Rip Van Winkle.
Eddie Cochran, Cut Across Shorty.
Lattimore Brown, Somebody's Gonna Miss Me.
Connie Francis, Many Tears Ago.
The Crests, Step By Step.
Doug Warren and the Rays, If The World Don't End Tomorrow.
Jackie McLean-Tina Brooks Sextet, Appointment in Ghana.
Sonny Boy Williamson, Temperature 110.
Jerry McCain, She's Tough.
Eddie Quinteros, Come Dance With Me.
Fats Domino, My Girl Josephine.
LaVern Baker, Saved.

The myth has been created that 1960 was an all-time low in pop...but the myth is a lie: 1960 wasn't the best year ever but it introduced some beautiful sounds. The only thing missing was a genuine trend. All the good things were disconnected...

Michael Gray, Song and Dance Man.

During its short lifespan (about as long as the Kennedy Administration's) the Jazztet--the partnership of trumpeter Art Farmer and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson--rivaled the Jazz Messengers as the finest hard bop band of the era. It came about when Golson, who had been with the Messengers, left the band in 1959, allegedly after bandleader Art Blakey had balked at the meticulously-arranged drum parts Golson had written. (Blakey replaced Golson with Hank Mobley.)

With Farmer and the Jazztet, Golson was able to craft lighter, more song-oriented arrangements--as Ted Gioia described it, "a stately and uncluttered style, with firm roots in the Swing Era and links to the West Coast sound...[it] tended to be overshadowed by the more extroverted efforts that dominated the jazz world during those transition years." For instance, the group debuted in New York at the same time (and on the same stage) as Ornette Coleman's quartet, and the Jazztet was ignored in the controversy over Coleman's music.

"Killer Joe" (introduced by Golson, the song's composer) is one of the Jazztet's best tracks--an ode to a freeloading hipster, moving at a suitably casual pace. Recorded in the penthouse of the Steinway Building, NYC, 6-10 February 1960, with Curtis Fuller (tb), McCoy Tyner (p), Addison Farmer (b) and Lex Humphries (d); on the Argo LP Meet the Jazztet (and iTunes).

"No, trust me, I really hate you more."

"Boys," the b-side of the Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," is the dizzy prologue to the hard choice the girl faces on the flip side. Re-introduced to Americans by the Beatles, who had Ringo belt it.(Paul McCartney, many years later: "If you think about it, here's us doing a song and it was really a girls' song. 'I talk about boys now!' Or it was a gay song. But we never even listened. It's just a great song. I think that's one of the things about youth - you just don't give a shit.")

Written by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell (who later would write the theme song to "The Partridge Family") and released in November 1960 as Scepter 1211; on Will You Love Me Tomorrow.

The Fleetwoods' "Outside My Window": a high-school version of George Jones' "The Window Up Above," by a group that quietly trafficked in teenage desolation. Released in January 1960 as Dolton 15 c/w "Magic Star"; on Come Softly To Me.

Billy Miranda's "Go Ahead": "You know you gonna lose weight/'cos I fed you good." The ultimate breakup rant. "You think I'm gonna cry/I ain't gonna never cry about no woman, no sir!/I'm a MAN and I have been a man ALL MY LIFE--ever since I was a child/ GO 'HEAD!!!!." And then the descent into the maelstrom. Just amazing. How was this released as a single? (Checker 957 c/w "Run Rose.")

Patrick McGoohan, in the debut episode of "Danger Man".

Bobby Hebb was a black country singer, born in Nashville in 1938 to two blind parents. He was playing in local clubs by the time he was three, and by his teens, he was playing spoons with Roy Acuff, eventually singing in the Grand Ole Opry. It was through Acuff that Hebb learned "Night Train to Memphis," an Acuff country hit in 1942.

Where Acuff's track was built of a lattice of twanging guitar lines, Hebb's take rolls along with a dense, locomotive rhythm and a girl gospel choir pushing him along. "Night Train to Memphis" was also Hebb's farewell to country music--he left Nashville for New York in 1961, and a few years later had a massive pop hit with "Sunny." (Much information from David Cantwell's essay on the track in Heartaches By the Number.)

Released as Rich 1001 c/w "You Gotta Go"; on The Rich Records Story.

The Coasters' "Shopping for Clothes," a forefather of hip-hop--a rhythm track that loops over and over, serving as backdrop to the swaggering, jousting, cutting voices--is also a pointed racial commentary delivered in the form of a novelty song:

When I got off, a salesman come up to me--he said, "Now what can I do for you?"

I said, 'Well go on in there and show me all them sports clothes--
like you supposed to."

"Shopping for Clothes," written by Mike Stoller under the pseudonym Elmo Glick, was recorded in New York on 29 July 1960, with King Curtis on sax, Stoller on piano and Phil Spector on guitar. Released as Atco 6178 c/w "Snake and the Bookworm"; on The Very Best.

Fat man, stop trying to steal Derrick Morgan's girl. A ska bolero, "Fat Man" is delivered by Morgan with a sense of resignation--he spies the fat man creeping around his house; he knows he can't be resisted.

"Fat Man" was part of Morgan's audition for the producer L.S. "Little Wonder" Smith, who put it out immediately--it became an enormous hit in Jamaica, a soundtrack to the last years of British rule. Released as Blue Beat 7 c/w "I'm Gonna Leave You"; on Moon Hop.

The young Gainsbourg heads to the clubs, clumsily hits on the girls and goes home to write a song about it--a wolfman's love ballad:

Je te veux confiante je te sens captive
Je te veux docile je te sens craintive
Je t'en prie ne sois pas farouche
Quand me viens l'eau à la bouche

(I want you trusting I sense you're captive
I want you docile I sense you're fearful
I beg you don't be shy
When my mouth waters

From the soundtrack EP of Doniol-Valcroze's film of the same title; on 100 Plus Belles Chansons.

Gary U.S. Bonds' "New Orleans" was his first single--like its mighty successor, "Quarter to Three," it sounds like it was recorded in a broom closet. With tribal chants, a carnivaltide horn riff and a beat so heavy it could shake the dead out of their graves.

Released as Legrand 1003 c/w "Please Forgive Me"; on The Very Best.

The Devotions were from my old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. They had one song in them--"Rip Van Winkle," which they cut and issued towards the end of 1960. It didn't do much. "Rip" was put out again by another label, Roulette, in 1962--again, nothing happened. It was issued again on a Roulette compilation LP in 1963, where a disc jockey from Pittsburgh heard it and began playing the track. So "Rip" was released yet again as a single in 1964, and the song finally became a minor hit, reaching #36 nationally. Here's to perseverance, Astoria!

Originally released as Delta 1001 c/w "For Sentimental Reasons," it's pure American teenage junk, complete with chipmunk voices and bowling-alley sound effects; on The Golden Age of American Rock & Roll--Special Novelty Edition.

Eddie Cochran's "Cut Across Shorty" is from his last studio session, at which some of the Crickets--Sonny Curtis on lead guitar and Jerry Allison on drums--backed him. A few days later, Cochran went to the UK to tour with Gene Vincent. On April 16, 1960, as he, the songwriter Sharon Sheeley (Cochran's fiance) and Vincent were in a taxi speeding through Chippenham, Wiltshire, the car had a blowout and smashed into a lamppost. Cochran died the following day.

Recorded in Hollywood on 8 January 1960 and released as Liberty F-55242 c/w "Three Steps to Heaven"; on The Best Of.

Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, England, 1960.

"Somebody's Gonna Miss Me" has an enervated, closing-time sound--Lattimore Brown sings as though he can barely convince himself of his delusions, while a saxophone offers a few meager suggestions. The last man standing is the organist, who's been playing a simple seesawing phrase throughout the song--at last he resolves it as the lights go out.

Recorded in Dallas in December 1960 and released as Excello 2196 c/w "Darling Dear"; on Ernie's Record Mart.

Connie Francis was responsible for a great deal of dreck in the '50s and early '60s: "Many Tears Ago," in which she seems to be channeling Wanda Jackson, is the blessed exception. Released as MGM K 12964 c/w "Senza Mamma"; on The Singles.

The Crests were the original Sly and the Family Stone--an integrated doo-wop group consisting of an Italian, two black men, a Puerto Rican and a black woman (Luther Vandross' older sister, Patricia). They came together in the Alfred E. Smith projects in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and were singing on the Lexington IRT train when the wife of Al Browne, a well-connected arranger, heard them.

While the Crests are best known for the dreary "16 Candles," sweet uptempo tracks like "Step by Step" showcase the group's talents far better. Released February 1960 as Coed 525 c/w "Gee"; on Doo Wop Uptempo.

Picasso, Jacqueline.

"If The World Don't End Tomorrow (I'm Comin' After You)", originally just called "Comin' After You," was first recorded by a Muscle Shoals, Ala. band called the Fairlanes--their saxophone player, Billy Sherrill, wrote it. It was the b-side of a flop single, released by a Chess subsidiary in January 1960, but it caught the ear of Kenny Marlow, a Nashville songwriter. Marlow, retitling the song, gave it to country singer Doug Warren and put the track out on Marlow's indie label, Image. It began getting airplay.

Then Carl Smith on Columbia covered the song, while simultaneously Chess re-issued the Fairlanes' original. The result was a market glut--three fairly similar versions of the song on the charts at the same time, and unsurprisingly they canceled each other out. The highest any version got nationally was Warren's, which reached #107.

Sherrill went on to become one of the major country songwriters of the '60s and '70s (he wrote "Stand By Your Man" with Tammy Wynette, among many others), while another member of the ill-fated Fairlanes, bass player Rick Hall, later opened FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals.

Warren's version was released as Image 1011 c/w "Around Midnight"; on Bubbling Under.

By 1960, Jackie McLean had kicked heroin and was leaving hard bop, its legacies and its restrictions behind him. A track like "Appointment in Ghana," a collaboration with the tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks, shows McLean grappling with the challenges offered by Kind of Blue and Ornette Coleman. It's a milestone on the road to McLean's greatest LPs, Let Freedom Ring and Destination Out!

With Blue Mitchell (tp), Kenny Drew (p), Paul Chambers (b) and Art Taylor (d); recorded 1 September 1960 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ and released on the Blue Note LP Street Singer and later on Jackie's Bag.

Cheering the glorious victory of the Pirates over the Yankees, Game 7 of the World Series

Bluesman frustrated: Sonny Boy Williamson's "Temperature 110," released as Checker 956 c/w "Lonesome Cabin," is on Bummer Road.

Bluesman elated: Jerry McCain's "She's Tough". With lines suitable for the president-elect:

The President sent for my baby
said, 'Come here, sweetheart.
You can stop a war
even before it starts.
We know the enemy
won't pull the trigger,
when you walk out on the front line,
and they see your fine figure."

Released as Rex 1014 c/w "Steady"; on Tuff Enuff Vol. 3.

Eddie Quinteros, born in San Francisco, was in high school when he got a job playing guitar and singing backup for Bobby Freeman. Freeman's manager, who had hired Quinteros simply because the kid could read music, began to groom Quinteros for his own career. Quinteros cut "Come Dance With Me" in LA, with some of Freeman's band and session players like Roy Estrada (who later played with the Mothers of Invention and was an original member of Little Feat).

"Come Dance With Me," a Richie Valens knock-off that's about as good as Valens' own stuff, was released as Brent 7009 c/w "Vivian"; on Bubbling Under.

By late 1960, other founding fathers of rock & roll were dead (Holly, Cochran), disgraced (Lewis), in prison (Berry), redeemed (Little Richard) or exiled in Hollywood (Elvis). Fats Domino, who had been there from before the beginning, kept on as if nothing had changed.

"My Girl Josephine," anchored by Cornelius Coleman's parade-ground drumming and Roy Montrell's rhythm guitar, which gently jabs against Domino's vocal, was recorded in July 1960 and released as Imperial 5704 c/w "Natural Born Lover"; on Fats Domino Jukebox.

"Saved," coming as Sam Cooke and Ray Charles were codifying the use of black gospel motifs and phrasings in pop songs, is both a mockery and a celebration of soul. Written by Leiber and Stoller, it's a few steps away from being a Broadway parody, but the manic playing by the studio pros and Baker's delirious vocal keep "Saved" close enough to the street corner to pass.

Recorded in New York on 7 December 1960. The soul-saving army: Dick Vance and Taft Jordan (tp), Rudy Powell (alto sax), Big Al Sears (tenor sax), Bert Keyes (p), Phil Spector (g), Lilton Mitchell (organ), Abie Baker (b), Gary Chester (d) and Sticks Evans beating on the big bass drum. Released as Atlantic 2099 c/w "Don Juan"; on Soul on Fire.

1960 Moviehouse

À Bout de Souffle (Breathless)
. "I choose nothing. Grief is a compromise."
L'Avventura. "Why all this fuss over a swim?"
Tirez Sur Le Pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player). "Framboise!"
Psycho. The jaunty trailer.
Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face). The stuff of nightmares.
Comanche Station. Condensed version, dubbed in French.
La Maschera del Demonio (Revenge of the Vampire).
Akibiyori (Late Autumn).
Le Trou.
Peeping Tom. Dancing and death.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. "Take a good look at this face!"
Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud-Capped Star).
Dama s Sobachkoy (Lady With the Dog).
The Magnificent Seven. The Clash's soundtrack.
Hanyo (The Housemaid).
Zazie Dans le Métro. A preferred use of balloons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too many people think that the 60's started musically on February 9, 1964-the day The Beatles debuted on Ed Sullivan. Thanks for your post.