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.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Unknown French person, Au Clair de la Lune.

We'll be wrapping up 1960 next week, but as a prologue, here's the greatest hit of the year one century before--the first song ever recorded in human history, as it turns out.

"Researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades. The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians."

Jody Rosen's excellent article is in today's Times.

Recorded 9 April 1860 (the same day the song "Dixie" was first performed in public, in New Orleans) by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville.

Top: Victoria and Albert.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The Carter Family, When The Springtime Comes Again.
Nina Simone, Here Comes the Sun.
The Lemon Drops, I Live In the Springtime.
Tanya Tucker, Spring.
Igor Stravinsky, Rite of Spring: The Adoration of the Earth--Dances of the Young Girls.
Gustav Mahler, The Drunkard In Spring.
Donovan, The Lullaby of Spring.
Edith Piaf, Enfin le Printemps.
Biz Markie, Spring Again.
Reno and Smiley, Springtime In Heaven.
Sun Ra, Springtime in Chicago.
Jonathan Richman, Springtime in New York.
The Go-Betweens, Spring Rain.
Teddy Joyce, March Winds and April Showers.
Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You.
Billie Holiday, Some Other Spring.
Vic Godard and the Subway Sect, Spring Is Grey.
Marlene Dietrich, Another Spring, Another Love.
Bill Evans, You Must Believe In Spring.
Yo La Tengo, I Live In the Springtime.
John Fahey, When the Springtime Comes Again.

Five minutes ago, not far from here, I met a man I know, Adalbart, the novelist. "God damn the spring!" says he in the aggressive way he has. "It is and always has been the most ghastly time of the year. Can you get hold of a single sensible idea, Kröger? Can you sit still and work out even the smallest effect, when your blood tickles till it's positively indecent and you are teased by a whole host of irrelevant sensations that when you look at them turn out to be unworkable trash? For my part, I am going to a cafe. A cafe is neutral territory, the change of the seasons doesn't affect it..."

Well, you see, he's not the only one; the spring makes me nervous too; I get dazed with the triflingness and sacredness of the memories and feelings it evokes; only that I don't succeed in looking down on it; for the truth is it makes me ashamed; I quail before its sheer naturalness and triumphant youth. And I don't know whether I should envy Adalbart or despise him for his ignorance.

Thomas Mann, Tonio Kröger.

And so it was that the weather did in fact change.

The next day, around the church in Auteuil, Palm Sunday gave forth its odor of tomcat and flowers. Vinca opened the window facing the street, one of the last village streets left in Auteuil, to watch for Philippe and his parents, who were coming for lunch. She leaned out to wonder at the spent lilacs and the mahonia with leaves the color of reddish iron, squeezed in between the gate and the front of the house.

"When we're married, this is where I'll wait for Philippe..."

She belonged to that sweet, tenacious, hardy race, oblivious to progress, with no desire either to change or to perish.

Colette, April.

Of prymtyme, and what it is.

The prymtyme is hot & moist temperately as the air. This season the blood moveth and spreadeth to all the members of the body, and the body is parfaite in temperate complexion. In this season chickens, kids, and poached eggs ought to be eaten, with lettuces & goat's milk in these three months. Prymtyme beginneth when the sun entereth the sign of Aries and lasteth .xcii. days, an hour and a half from the .x. day of March to the .x. day of June. In this season is the best letting of blood of any time. And then is good to travail and to be laxative. And to be bathed. And to eat such things as will purge the belly. For all diseases that cometh, either by purging or bleeding, returneth anon in this prymtyme.

Secreta secretorum (believed by medieval scholars to have been written by Aristotle, but actually a translation of the Arabic Kitab sirr al-asrar).

Spring, of all seasons most gratuitous,
Is fold of untaught flower, is race of water,
Is earth's most multiple, excited daughter.

Philip Larkin, "Spring."

A cold spring:
the violet was flawed on the lawn.
For two weeks or more the trees hesitated;
the little leaves waited,
carefully indicating their characteristics.
Finally a grave green dust
settled over your big and aimless hills.

Elizabeth Bishop, "A Cold Spring."

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring--
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring."

There is nothing in this world more bitter than spring.

Camper Van Beethoven, "June."

Your storm is over; lady, now appear
Like to the peeping springtime of the year.
Off then with grave clothes; put fresh colours on,
And flow and flame in your vermilion.

Robert Herrick, "Comfort to a Lady Upon the Death of Her Husband."

How many more springs can I hope to see? A sanguine temper would say ten or twelve; let me dare to hope humbly for five or six. That is a great many. Five or six spring-times, welcomed joyously, lovingly watched from the first celandine to the budding of the rose; who shall dare to call it a stinted boon? Five or six times the miracle of earth reclad, the vision of splendour and loveliness which tongue has never yet described, set before my gazing. To think of it is to fear that I ask too much.

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, "Spring."

And now my spring beauties,
Things of the earth,
Beetles, shards and wings of moth
And snail houses left
From last summer's wreck,
Now spring smoke
Of the burned dead leaves
And veils of the scent
Of some secret plant,

Come, my beauties, teach me,
Let me have your wild surprise,
Yes, and tell me on my knees
Of your new life.

Jean Garrigue, "Spring Song II."

When you're lost in the rain in Juarez
and it's Eastertime too.

Bob Dylan, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues."

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs...Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, "Bother!" and "Oh blow!" and also "Hang spring cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

oh it's spring, and I'm more transparent than ever:
I heard the white-breasted nuthatch gurble over the trunk
bark today, and tonight everything is so clear, it's

going down to zero: my idealism's as thin as the sprinkled
sky and nearly as expansive: I don't love anybody much:
that accounts for my width and most of my height...

A.R. Ammons, Sphere: the Form of a Motion.

Soon I shall grow to be astonished how I could ever have gone out, in the sunshine and springtide of my life, to swim in the sea of thought and passion--the more astonished as time goes on, and brings me warning that I grow too old for such enterprise.

Robert Browning, Fifine at the Fair.

As spring is also the season of rutting, please check out Alex's post on sex raps over on Moistworks.

End credits: The Carter Family's 1930 "Springtime Comes Again" (their version of the trad. "Little Annie") is on the 5-CD set 1927-1933, while John Fahey's take, from 1967, is on Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes; Nina Simone's 1971 cover of "Here Comes the Sun" is on Essential Nina Simone Vol. 2; the Lemon Drops' "I Live in the Springtime," from 1967, is on Nuggets (the Yo La Tengo cover is from a concert in Seattle, March 2000); Tanya Tucker's "Spring," which may make you cry, so watch out if you're listening at work, is from 1975--on 16 Greatest Hits.

The excerpt from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" was conducted by Igor himself, in 1961; "The Drunkard in Spring," in which Gustav Mahler set a Li Po poem to music, is from Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth)--sung by Fritz Wunderlich and conducted by Otto Klemperer in the essential recording of the piece (English-Chinese-French-German face-off translation here); Donovan's "Lullaby of Spring" is off 1967's A Gift From a Flower to a Garden; Biz Markie and Edith Piaf, a couple sadly separated by time and circumstance, are both happy that spring is here--his "Spring Again" is on 1989's The Biz Never Sleeps, her "Enfin le Printemps," from 1954, is on Legendary Edith Piaf.

Springtime in heaven (Reno and Smiley's 1954 King single is on the out-of-print Early Years), in Chicago (Sun Ra, from 1956, is on the fantastic LP Super-Sonic Jazz) and in New York (on Jonathan Richman's Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow, from 2001).

Gloomy springtimes: Jolie Holland's "Springtime Can Kill You" is the title track of her 2006 LP; Billie Holiday's 1939 version of "Some Other Spring" (which she once said was her favorite song) is on Lady Day: Master Takes ; Vic Godard's grey spring was recorded around 1979 and is out of print.

Rainy springtimes: "Spring Rain" leads off the Go-Betweens' 1986 Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express; Teddy Joyce's "March Winds and April Showers," a British pop hit from 1935, was on the soundtrack of Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven.

Finally, Lili von Shtupp's"Another Spring, Another Love," from 1957, is on The Very Best; and Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez and Eliot Zigmund's gorgeous take on Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" was recorded in 1977 and released after Evans' death a few years later, as the title track of this record.

Paintings (top to bottom): Sandro Botticelli, Allegory of Spring (+ detail); Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Spring; Claude Monet, Le Printemps, Giverny; William Bouguereau, A Dream of Spring; Francis Picabia, The Spring.

Folk tales from various European countries claim that only on the March equinox day one can balance an egg on its point. However one can balance an egg on its point any day of the year if one has the patience.


Monday, March 17, 2008


Bobby Marchan, There's Something On Your Mind.
Bobby Hendricks, Psycho.
Hank Locklin, Please Help Me I'm Falling.

"There's Something On Your Mind" opens with the singer realizing that his woman's found someone new--he takes the blow calmly, even with tenderness, quickly accepting that he no longer has a place in her heart. When the band cuts out, Bobby Marchan delivers a succinct, step-by-step instruction in how to leave a broken relationship with (some) dignity.

All seems well, and you expect the fade-out to come at any moment, but the track keeps going. The singer goes to a pawn shop, buys a gun, heads back to his lover's house. And what was once a calm acceptance of fate turns into a double homicide, with an ending so gruesome it's almost farcical.

Marchan was the former lead singer of Huey "Piano" Smith* and the Clowns, and his version of Big Jay McNeely's "Something on Your Mind" was a national R&B hit. Released in two parts as Fire 1022; on There's Something on Your Mind.

Bobby Hendricks' "Psycho" is the story retold, this time by a man muttering on a psychiatrist's couch. Released as Sue 732 c/w "Too Good To Be True"; on Itchy Twitchy Feeling. Released years before "The Name Game", if anyone's keeping track.

Hank Locklin's "Please Help Me I'm Falling" is the other man's perspective--he knows he shouldn't be falling in love, but the more he denies it, the deeper he digs in. Hopefully it won't end with him at the wrong end of a pawn shop revolver.

"Falling" was pure Nashville Sound--written by Don Robertson and Hal Blair, produced by Chet Atkins, and featuring Floyd Cramer's "slip note" piano playing (basically, hitting one note and instantly sliding into the next); it was released as RCA Victor 7692 c/w "My Old Home Town," and was a country #1 for three months; on RCA Country Legends.

Top: Belgians flee the Congo, July 1960.

*see comments for what I stupidly wrote at first.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Ben Webster, Renaissance Blues.
John Coltrane, Like Sonny.
Eric Dolphy, Les.
Ornette Coleman, The Tribes of New York.
Ornette Coleman, Mr. and Mrs. People.

Four saxophonists in the year of Kennedy and Greensboro, in the autumn of jazz's official golden age: older men, young men, established men, ruthless men.

The master Ben Webster, 51 years old, rumbles through "Renaissance Blues." After a brown study by Jimmy Rowles on piano, and some quiet, fleet thoughts by Jim Hall's guitar, Webster opens with a riff on Gershwin's "Summertime" and then loses himself in the approaching dusk. With Red Mitchell (b) and Frank Butler (d); recorded live at "The Renaissance", Hollywood, on 14 October 1960; on Ben Webster At The Renaissance.

A year after the breakthrough of Giant Steps, John Coltrane and his quartet taped a quiet session that served as a farewell of sorts to Coltrane's apprenticeship--the highlight was "Like Sonny," whose sinuous theme is a Sonny Rollins riff transported to Cairo, or further points east. McCoy Tyner, in one of his first sessions backing Coltrane, provides sprightly but solid accompaniment to Coltrane's flight of fancy.

As for Rollins himself, he was walking on the Williamsburg Bridge at night, playing to the moon.

Recorded 8 September 1960, with Tyner, Steve Davis (b) and Billy Higgins (d); on Like Sonny.

Eric Dolphy's "Les" is from Dolphy's first recording session as a bandleader. Dolphy, who would be dead by 1964, was in a fever to play and record--working with Mingus, Coltrane and Coleman, he also used his own newly-formed quintet as a stage for his grander thoughts. Named after the trombonist Lester Robinson, "Les" is a statement of principles, a call to revolution, all swagger and snarl.

With Jaki Byard (p), George Tucker (b) and Roy Haynes (d); recorded in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, on April Fool's Day 1960; on Outward Bound.

Dolphy also played bass clarinet on Ornette Coleman's massive, epochal Free Jazz late in the year. Earlier in 1960, Coleman and his usual conspirators--Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell--had recorded a number of tracks that for whatever reason weren't considered worthy of release. It's a testament to the Coleman Quartet's fecundity and ambition that such masterful takes as "Mr. and Mrs. People," "I Heard It Over the Radio" and "The Tribes of New York" were left in the vaults until the 1990s.

Recorded in NYC on 19 July 1960; on Beauty is a Rare Thing.

Top: Future hippies.

Friday, March 07, 2008


George Jones, The Window Up Above.
Jean Shepard, The Root of All Evil (Is a Man).

Irreconcilable differences:

Heard you whisper to him softly,
that our marriage was all wrong.
But I hope he makes you happy
and you will never lose his love,
I lost mine while I was watching (you)
from the window up above.

George Jones' "Window Up Above," which has one of his most god-like vocals, was released in September 1960 as Mercury 71700 c/w "Candy Hearts"; on The Best of George Jones.

They'll tell you that they love you
And will until they die.
But you'll find them out with someone else
before the ink on the license is dry.

Jean Shepard's version of Jeri Jones' glorious diatribe was recorded on 21 March 1960 and released as Capitol 4538 c/w "No One Knows"; on Honky Tonk Heroine.

Top: Joanne Woodward, who's been married for 50 years.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The Revels, Church Key.
The Gamblers, Moon Dawg.
Johnny and the Hurricanes, Beatnik Fly.
The Ramrods, (Ghost) Riders In the Sky.
The Ramrods, Zig Zag.
The Fireballs, Bulldog.
The Ventures, Walk Don't Run.

Down with lead singers! Down with their cults of personality, their second lives as dream dressing and t-shirt logos, their shameless wish to be a mirror for our crudest, most desperate desires, down with their brand names.

Rock & roll long ago was conquered by the lead singers, with lead guitarists as their aides-de-camp. Yet between the eclipse of Elvis and the rise of the Beatles, there was the great interregnum--the protectorate of the instrumental rock & roll band. An era when lyrics hardly mattered, or barely existed--when a hit song only required a slurred catch phrase, a saxophone riff, a fat beat, a guitar hook.

"These bands just wanted to rock, and they played for audiences that just wanted to drink and dance. So why not dispense with the singer altogether?" Greg Shaw.

Instrumental bands were generally amateurs in a time of heightened professionalism in pop music, and they were almost entirely regional--each medium-sized city had its own handful of champions. The bands filled the gap between the waning raw rockabilly style and the ornate pop music being crafted in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles; they played before raucous club audiences every night, which kept them honest and attuned to what made people dance and what drove them wild.

Let's begin with the Revels, who, to clear up a common mistake, were not the same band that recorded "Dead Man's Stroll" in 1959.

They came together in California, at San Luis Obispo High in 1957: guitarists Gil Serna (who later became an actor) Dan Darnold and Brian England, saxophonist Norman Knowles, Sam Eddy (piano), and Jim Macrae (drums). They were first known as Gil Serna and the Rockets, but as the band's primary inspiration was drinking and partying, they were soon re-christened The Revels. Their first single, released in October 1959, was "Six Pack," allegedly written in honor of Darnold's ability to drink a beer in four seconds.

The follow-up, "Church Key," is their masterpiece--a Duane Eddy-inspired guitar riff, a girl laughing (Barbara Adkins, who weirdly was credited on the label), and the sound of a "church key" cracking open a beer can. Consider it a haiku of postwar American teenage life.

The Revels lost many of their original members after "Church Key," though the group stayed together for several more years, recording another great drinking song, "Intoxica," and even recording a concept LP called The Go Sound of the Slots, a suite of songs about slot car racing.

"Church Key" was released in November 1960 as Impact 1-IM c/w "Vesuvius"; on Intoxica!

The Gamblers' "Moon Dawg" is the sound of classic surf music being born, fully-fledged: the drum rolls and rumbling bass; the soaring, wordless backing vocals; barks and howls; the spiky guitars, the churning piano--the sense of propulsion and space.

They were a short-lived group: Derry Weaver (lead guitar), Elliot Ingber (rhythm guitar--he later worked with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart), Larry Taylor (b), Rod Schaffer (d) and Bruce Johnston (piano), who later became a designated hitter of sorts for the Beach Boys, and who wrote Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs."

"Moon Dawg" was their only single, released as World Pacific 815 (bizarrely, World Pacific was a jazz label; even more bizarrely, the b-side was called "LSD-25"); on Bustin' Surfboards.

Like disco performers two decades later, the instrumental bands were omnivorous and shameless, using any piece of music as a starting point. So you had Johnny and the Hurricanes doing a rock & roll version of "Blue Tail Fly," or the Ramrods taking on Vaughan Monroe's "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."

Johnny and the Hurricanes were from Toledo. Formed in 1958, they were led by saxophonist John Pocisk, who was known as "Johnny Paris." Unlike other instrumental bands, the Hurricanes began simply as a backing band, first for a failed rockabilly singer. They went to Detroit in the hopes of finding studio work with some vocalists, and wound up being signed on their own by two managers, Harry Balk and Irving Michanik. Balk and Michanik were cigar-chewing promoters out of central casting, who took 20% off the group's earnings, in addition to nabbing all the publishing royalties and ripping the band off in other elaborate ways.

Still, the Hurricanes had a number of hot singles--the reverb-smeared "Crossfire"; a driving remake of "Red River Valley" called "Red River Rock" dominated by organist Paul Tesluk; a riff off the typical Army bugle call ("Reveille Rock") and a remake of "When the Saints Come Marching In" ("Revival"). Shaw: "Johnny and the Hurricanes were like some missing link between the great jazz combos of the Thirties and the Rolling Stones."

When the hits began to dry up, Johnny Paris moved to Hamburg with a new version of the band, and headlined at the Star Club, with a scruffy band called the Beatles as his opener.

"Beatnik Fly" was released in January 1960 as Warwick 520 c/w "Sandstorm"; on The Very Best.

The Ramrods, from Connecticut, were a pair of siblings, drummer Claire Lane (born Litke) and her brother, Richard, on sax. Their cousins, Vincent Bell Lee and Eugene Moore, played guitar.

They had a short but brilliant life--their first record for a New York independent label, Amy, remade "Ghost Riders," Monroe's camp Western classic, into an early psychedelic Western, complete with whistles, moans and cattle calls. The b-side "Zig Zag" was sludgy and dense, music for an empty strip club in a suitcase town.

Released in December 1960 as Amy 813; on Rock Instrumental Classics Vol. 2.

The Fireballs, from New Mexico, allegedly got their name after a vicious live performance of "Great Balls of Fire" in a high school talent contest. They were signed by Norman Petty in 1959, arriving just as Petty's main talent, Buddy Holly, was moving to New York and severing his ties. (After Holly's death, the Fireballs were recruited to overdub backing tracks on Holly's acoustic "apartment tapes".)

After a string of instrumental hits, including the twisting "Bulldog," the Fireballs found a lead singer, Jimmy Gilmer, and wound up having a second life with "Sugar Shack," one of the most dire (but popular) hits of the '60s, along with "Bottle of Wine."

"Bulldog" was released at the tail end of 1959 as Top Rank 2026 c/w "Nearly Sunrise"; on The Original Norman Petty Masters.

Finally, Seattle's Ventures, amateur scientists whose solid-body guitars had utterly precise intonation even when the guitarists were wailing on the whammy bar; it was a sound notable for its absence of swing; as guitarist Bob Bogle has said, the Ventures did not play R&B. They did inspire everyone from George Harrison to Joe Walsh.

"Walk Don't Run," their biggest and best single, was released in July 1960 as Dolton 25 c/w "The McCoy"; on Walk Don't Run.

Top: Jane Goodall arrives at Lake Tanganyika, June 1960.