R is for Respect

How do I write about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and do justice about her first #1 song, one that went on to be one of her signature tunes?  This song became one of the most important recordings of the 20th century.  ‘Respect’ was in the first class of songs to make it into the of the National Recording Registry in 2002.  First off, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ is one of the greatest Soul tracks of all time, OK that was a pretty good start, but let’s not make this post about me as that would not be showing Aretha Lady Soul the respect that she deserves.  This song was written by Otis Redding and he recorded a slightly different version and he released this song first.  Franklin put her graceful touch on this one, making it her own and taking it away from Otis Redding.  Or maybe it is like she says, that it was just the right song recorded at the right time.

I tried to find out if Aretha Franklin paid any royalty money to Otis for using what should be his song, although it was more superior now, but I didn’t find anything.  I did stumble across this article about 2014 bill to change the odd restriction where music recorded before 1972 was not eligible for royalty money and this bill was named the Respect Act in honor of the song.  A lobbying campaign was titled “It’s a Matter of R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” which is supported by both Pandora and SiriusXM and also had Ms. Franklin’s approval.  And a current bill in Congress, the Music Modernization Act, would force digital radio services to pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972.  Aretha knew that removing the copywrite protection from all pre-1972 sound recordings was not fair.  It seems that Aretha Franklin was fighting so that others could get the respect that they deserved.

Aretha Franklin underwent a long period of “apprenticeship” before she achieved her breakthrough as a pop star in 1967.  After a less than stellar career at Columbia Records, from 1960 to 1966, she went over to Atlantic Records, where Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler encouraged her to record strong material well suited to her spectacular voice and engaged stellar and empathetic musicians to back her up.  Aretha switched to Atlantic because she was seeking to upgrade and restructure her voice by returning to her gospel roots.  ‘Respect’ won Aretha her first two Grammys, launched her most resonant period as an artist and showcased Aretha’s genius at musical arrangement, by modernizing and keeping it classic at the same time.  Her sister Carolyn Franklin did the vocal arrangements.  Aretha used her incisive knack for tapping into the current of popular culture at any given time.  Some people consider this song as being off one of the most important pop music reinventions in American history, as it allows society as a whole to understand what respect truly means.  Aretha flipped the message, by embellishing on Otis Redding’s song, which was about a man that came home for dinner and demanded respect from his wife, because he was supporting them.  She reversed all the pronouns and made this song about a woman who deserved to be treated with respect.

This was the second single from Aretha’s eleventh studio album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.  In 2002, the Library of Congress added the song it to the National Recording Registry.  In 2003, this album was placed at the 83rd position on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.  Aretha’s version of this song went on to become one of the most successful tracks of her career.  In 2004, the song ‘Respect’ was ranked at the #5 position on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The track won Aretha her first Grammy winning for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1942, Aretha Franklin was largely self-taught, and a gifted singer and pianist.  She got her start singing in front of her father’s congregation, a Baptist preacher Reverend Clarence La Vaughan.  They traveled in a revival show, and she made friends with gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke and Clara Ward.  She became a mother for the first time at the age of 12, having a son named Clarence.  Two years later Aretha had another child, her second son Edward.  Franklin would later have two more sons, Ted White, Jr. and Kecalf Cunningham.  In 1960, she went to New York, where she signed with Columbia Records and she released the album Aretha in 1961.  In 1966, she signed to Atlantic deciding to be in a move, where producer Jerry Wexler encouraged her to embrace her classic soul-and-gospel sound.  Wexler shuttled Franklin to the Florence Alabama Musical Emporium (FAME) recording studios.

Aretha recorded this in New York City with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a group of four studio musicians who also played sessions in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama before starting their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.  Jerry Wexler produced this, Tommy Cogbill played bass on this and keyboardist Spooner Oldham played organ on the track and besides singing Aretha accompanied herself on piano.  King Curtis and Charles Chalmers both played the sax and Aretha was backed up by her sisters Erma and Carolyn Franklin or The Sweet Inspirations.  Arif Mardin was a young engineer assisting Jerry Wexler when she recorded ‘Respect’ and he said this was like making a soup.  Where the guitar player would play a lick and they would say “Keep that, but do this.”  Aretha would go next door and rehearse the background parts with her sisters, while Arif would write down chord changes and be the liaison between the control room and the musicians.

In Franklin’s version of ‘Respect’, a young, confident, independent woman tells her man that she does everything he wants from her and doesn’t see any reason why he keeps disrespecting her.  She starts off asking for a little bit of respect from him when he comes home.  She knows that when he is out, he is fooling around and she tells him that she is not just laying around all day at home and by the end of this song she is demanding nothing short of respect.  Aretha made this song a person-to-person conversation about being willing to give someone respect, but saying that at the same time that she would like to have that respect given back to her.  Aretha’s version went on to become one of the most famous female empowerment anthems of all time.  In her 1998 autobiography titled Aretha: From These Roots, the ‘Queen of Soul’ said the lyrics speak to anyone who feels unappreciated.  In addition to being a strong symbol of female empowerment, ‘Respect’ became a powerful anthem for African Americans and other people all over the world who were being treated as if they were insignificant.  This song went on to become a battle cry of the civil rights movement in the United States.

‘Respect’ made two phrases very popular in the United States and abroad.  The line “Take care, TCB” from the song popularized the slang phrase “take/taking care of business” in the late 1960s in America.  To take care of business basically means doing what needs to be done.  The repeated line, “Sock it to me” basically means “give it me”.  Aretha Franklin used this “sock it to me” phrase, because she wanted her man to give her respect.  The massive success of ‘Respect’ contributed in making this phrase a household name in America during the late 1960s.  In 1968, Richard Nixon used this phrase when he appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as an effort to reach out to younger voters.  They tried to get Nixon to say, “you bet your sweet bippy”, but he didn’t go for that, so they settled on “sock it to me”.

In 1987, Aretha became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In December of 1994, Franklin, at age 52, becomes the youngest person ever chosen for the Kennedy Center Honors.  In September 1999, she receives the National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award from President Bill Clinton.  In November 2005, President George Bush presented her with the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award.  In 2008 she won her 18th Grammy Award, making her one of the most honored artists in Grammy history.  In October 2014, Franklin’s cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ reached #47 on Billboard’s R&B chart, becoming her 100th charting single, and she’s the first woman to reach this Billboard chart hit milestone.  Franklin released numerous singles, of which many are considered classics.  Franklin passed away in 2018 due to complications from pancreatic cancer, but her music lives on.

Hey, what you want
(Oo) Baby, I got
(Oo) What you need
(Oo) Do you know I got it?
(Oo) All I’m askin’
(Oo) Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home
(Just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)

I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong (oo) ‘cause I don’t wanna (oo)
All I’m askin’ (oo)
Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Baby (just a little bit) when you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my profits

When you get home (just a, just a, just a, just a)
Yeah baby (just a, just a, just a, just a)
When you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit) Do it for me now, just a little bit

Ooo, your kisses (oo)
Sweeter than honey (oo)
And guess what? (oo)
So is my money (oo)
All I want you to do (oo) for me
Is give it to me when you get home (re, re, re, re)
Yeah baby (re, re, re, re)
Whip it to me (respect, just a little bit)
When you get home, now (just a little bit)

Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB
Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me
Sock it to me, sock it to me)
A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me
Sock it to me, sock it to me)
Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
You’re runnin’ out of foolin’ (just a little bit)
And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)

When you come home (re, re, re, re)
Or you might walk in (respect, just a little bit)
And find out I’m gone (just a little bit)
I got to have (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)

Q is for Quarter To Three

Gary U.S. Bonds had a #1 single in 1961 with ‘Quarter to Three’, which took much of the same riffs and melody from the previously recorded instrumental ‘A Night with Daddy “G”’ by the Church Street Five, and by adding some party lyrics and also using a different arrangement, this hit song was born.  This song is an adaptation, which is a musical work which uses most of the music or lyrics of another musical work.  ‘Quarter to Three’ was recorded on the Dance ‘Til Quarter to Three with U.S. Bonds album, and the single also went to #3 on the R&B chart and it got to #7 in the UK.

When Gary Anderson was a teen, he lived in Norfolk, Virginia and he sang street corner Doo Wop with his friends.  One night in 1957, on the corner of Granville Avenue and Park in the Brambleton section of Norfolk, the local record store owner of Frankie’s Birdland on Church Street, Frank Guida stopped by to listen and he liked their singing.  Frank told them that he was thinking about opening up a studio and a record company and he wondered if they would be interested in recording.  It took two years for Guida to open up his recording studio where he was the head of Legrand Records, and by that time the other members of street corner singers had joined the service and Anderson was the only one left.

Guida had achieved initial success in 1959 with ‘High School U.S.A.’, a novelty record sung by Tommy Facenda who just left Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps to go solo.  Guida took Gary down to his studio and he gave him the song ‘New Orleans’, which was a country and western song written by Joe Royster, a guy who worked in the shoe department in one of the major department stores in Norfolk.  In the fall of 1960, ‘New Orleans’ reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Guida came up with a gimmick to attract the attention of disc jockeys, by crediting the vocal to Gary “U.S.” Bonds and he inscribed the message, “Buy U.S. Bonds” on the sleeves of promotional copies that were sent to the radio stations.
Gary Anderson became Gary “U.S.” Bonds at the age of 19 and many DJs, got the gimmick wrong and thought it was the name of a group.  His next record called ‘Not Me’, which radio stations refused to play, because of lyrics about having fun with a married lady were regarded as lewd.

In 1963, a quartet of female singers the Orlons from Philadelphia recorded ‘Not Me’, and it reached #12 in the US.  Bonds worked magic for his second hit, turning a prosaic instrumental into one of the most rollicking party records of the rock ‘n’ roll era.  In 1961, Guida employed a studio band called Daddy G and the Church Street Five, which recorded an instrumental called ‘A Night With Daddy G’.  Either Guida or Gene Barge the saxophone player known as Daddy G asked Gary to come up with some lyrics for this instrumental which didn’t crack the Hot 100, although it did receive regional air play and made several local charts.  Gary came back in about 15 or 20 minutes with a song and they recorded it.  The song became Gary’s strongest record, a #1 hit that remained on the charts throughout the summer of ’61.  ‘Quarter To Three’ was initially issued as U.S. Bonds but soon changed to Gary U.S. Bonds, along with his subsequent releases.

Joe Royster was Guida’s engineer and songwriting partner and he co-wrote ‘High School U.S.A.’ with Frank Guida and ‘A Night With Daddy G’ along with Gene Barge, and Frank Guida he was also a co-writer on the song ‘Quarter to Three’ with Bonds, Gene Barge, and Frank Guida.  Frank Guida assembled a group of local musicians to form a house band for Legrand’s recording sessions.  Barge and drummer Emmett “Nabs” Shields, pianist Willie Burnell, trombonist Leonard Barks, bass player Ron “Junior” Fairley, made up The Church Street Five.  The band got its name from the church where Shields played in a band, Bishop Grace House of Prayer.  Between 1960 and 1964, the Church Street Five had nine instrumental singles released on Legrand.  The Legrand sound was readily identifiable, the result of multiple overdubs and a live ambience created in the studio by producer Frank Guida.

Following the success of ‘New Orleans’ and ‘Quarter to Three’, Gary joined the premier summer stage show, the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars.  While he was on tour, Gary’s single ‘School Is Out’ climbed to fifth position on the charts and by October 23, and the follow-up ‘School Is In’ reached 28.  In the song ‘Quarter to Three’, The Church Street Five is mentioned, along with Daddy G.  About three months later, the Dovells recorded ‘The Bristol Stomp’, where they sing, “we rocked with Daddy G” and that song went to #2 in October 1961.  Gene Barge would always be better known as Daddy G after this, and he was no longer able to remain virtually unknown because of having his name mentioned repeatedly in song and on the radio.  In June 1961, ‘Quarter to Three’ went to #1, and it stayed there for two weeks.  In this song, Gary U.S. Bonds sings about staying up till quarter to three in the morning, dancing to the swinging sax of Daddy G.  This song has a party vibe, with the sounds of revelry and a rough-hewn production making use of echo and phase shifting.  This gave the song a lot of energy and bucked the trend of the time, which was very smooth recordings.  The joyous horns and vocal chants by The Church Street Five sounded like a rocked-up revival meeting.

Throughout the late 1970s, it was not unusual for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to end one of their marathon three-hour-plus performances with a blistering encore of the 1960 Gary U.S. Bonds hit ‘Quarter To Three’.  Bruce brought Bonds up on stage to perform the song at a time when Bonds had long fallen off the charts. In 1981, when Springsteen was working on material for his follow up to The River, with some mutual friends, guitarist Stevie Van Zandt (Little Steven) and Gary U.S. Bonds together they wrote a comeback collaboration album called Dedication for the celebrated R&B vocalist.  In 1982, Springsteen and his band worked on another album for Bonds titled On the Line.  In 1962, Bonds sued Chubby Checker claiming he stole ‘Quarter To Three’ for his song ‘Dancin’ Party’, and the case was settled out of court.

Don’t you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three
With the help, last night, of Daddy G.
He was swingin on the sax like a nobody could
And I was dancin’ all over the room.
Oh, don’t you know the people were dancin’ like they were mad,
it was the swingin’est band they had, ever had.
It was the swingin’est song that could ever be,
It was a night with Daddy G.
Let me tell you now,
I never had it so good
Yeah and I know you never could
Until you get hip with that jive
And take a band like the Church Street Five.
Oh don’t you know that I danced,
I danced till a quarter to three
With the help last night of Daddy G.
Everybody was as happy as they could be
And they were swingin with Daddy G.
Blow Daddy!
Let me tell you now,
I never had it so good
Yeah and I know you never could
Until you get hip with that jive
And take a band like the Church Street Five.
Oh don’t you know that I danced,
I danced till a quarter to three
With the help last night of Daddy G.
He was swingin on the sax like a nobody could,
and I was dancin all over the room
Oh don’t you know the
Dance, do bee wa dah
Dance, do bee wah dah
You can dance, do bee wah dah,
You can dance, dance, dance

P is for Paint It Black

The Rolling Stones may have recorded more iconic tracks than any other band in history, but they’ve been together for over half a century and they hold the record for having the most recorded songs of all time.  One of their most incredible songs is ‘Paint It, Black’, which went to #1 in both the US and the UK and it was released in 1966, as the first single from the fourth album, Aftermath.  Mick Jagger partnered with his longtime collaborator and bandmate Keith Richards to write this song and this song marks a point where Brian Jones began to become increasingly overshadowed by the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership, as Jones was progressively sinking into a bad drug hole at this time.  On the single, there is a comma before the word “black” in the title, which is thought to be a clerical mistake, added by their record label, Decca, something that happened often in the ‘60s and later the comma was removed.  Jagger said that there was no specific inspiration for the lyrics and writing a song about death and depression was not a new thing.  Jagger said that he got the line “I turn my head until my darkness goes”, from James Joyce’s epic Ulysses, which carried an underlying theme of desperation and desolation, however there is no passage in this text that contains this phrase.  This song may have been influenced by the poem Funeral Blues by WH Auden that was originally published in 1938.

In 2004, ‘Paint It, Black’ was ranked #176 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and according to the Rolling Stone magazine, ‘Paint It Black’ is one of the greatest songs ever written.  The production of ‘Paint It Black’ was handled by renowned record producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, who served as The Rolling Stones’ manager in the mid-1960s.  This was the first number one single to feature a sitar and it followed The Beatles using one on their song ‘Norwegian Wood’.  ‘Paint It, Black’ wasn’t just another song by just another rock group, this song contained an explosion of ideas that were all presented in one neat three-minute package.  The song’s haunting guitar riff kicks in, giving way to Charlie Watts’ pounding drums, just as guitarist Brian Jones, who had mastered many instruments during his time with the group, follows the main riff, as well as the melody, on sitar, creating a distinct sound that shot out of radios during the spring and summer of 1966.  It’s a fully integrated instrument within the context of the song, playing off Keith Richards’ guitar perfectly.  Bill Wyman contributes on bass and Hammond organ making this pure psychedelia with a backbone and a driving beat, that was a different style to everything they had done before.  It is Jagger’s cynically dark lyrics that make this song so special to me.

This bleak depressing song was the Stones sixth British #1 and one that saw Brain Jones transforming into a multi-instrumentalist, playing sitar after giving up on playing the guitar.  This is an exceptional rock and roll song that transcends international cultural borders.  Jagger and Richards later became known as ‘The Glimmer Twins’, a nickname they adopted after a vacation cruise they took to Brazil with their then-girlfriends, Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg had successfully locked into a great rhythm and formula, in both the mechanical aspect of songwriting, but also by plugging into the cultural attitude of the hippie revolution that was going on.  The song is simultaneously ambiguous and poignant and it doesn’t need to be extrapolated and explained, but that would ruin all the fun for me.  This song showed that the Rolling Stones were capable of adapting and they could think outside of the box, and if they wanted everything painted black, their audience was ready for that.

If color is solely based on the way that it is described in physics, defining color as the visible spectrum of light waves, then black and white are outcasts and they don’t count as being true, physical colors, and technically black and white are not colors, they’re shades.  I would like to make this post about the physics behind where all the light goes, and how it gets absorbed by an object converting energy to heat, and why other light waves reflect or transmit light at certain frequencies, but if I did that, I feel I would lose all of my readers, not that I have that many to begin with.  Black is what our eyes see in a space that reflects very little light at all.  That’s why, if you enter a room with the lights turned off, everything is dark and black.

Black is the darkest color, the result of the absence or complete absorption of visible light.  Black is a mysterious color, it can be scary evoking demons, or be associated with the villain who is wearing a black hat.  It can also be considered as elegant and sophisticated, like that that little black dress which Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it is typically associated with the unknown like a black hole, or something negative.  In western society, black is the color of mourning, death, evil, depression and sadness.  Colors can alter our mood and have a positive or negative impact on us, thus they hold contrasting feelings for the one who looks at the color.  Black has a way of bringing out the best, or the worst in whatever it surrounds.

The guy in this song is not only depressed, he is angry and he wants to lash out against everything that he sees.  He is going through a visual sensory overload, getting more input from his vision than his brain can sort through and process.  His deep depression and resulting anger stems from a loss, of someone that he was very close to.  He would like to fade away so he wouldn’t “have to face the facts”, which says that he is having difficulty accepting her death, and the traditional grief cycle, after the initial shock or disbelief, people generally go through five general stages of grief which include denial, anger and bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  He sees a line of cars and they are all painted black, so he is at a funeral, but he is not in one of those cars and he is not near the casket, probably because he prefers to watch from a distance, because it is too painful for him to be nearby.  He notices all of the flowers and he knows that his love, like the flowers that were picked and are withering away, his love is never going to come back.  He could just pluck out his eyes, or go around wearing a blindfold, but no, this guy wants the whole world to turn black and this may be the result of misery loving company, which concerning people who are unhappy, so they try to share their troubles with others, hoping this will make them feel better.  His heart has turned black and he would just like to fade away into nothingness, instead of trying to face the fact that his loved one is gone.

He sees a red door and he wants it to be painted black which would signify a world of order and control, which he secretly years for, but this guy has turned to the dark side and there is no coming back for him.  This door may be symbolic of him moving on with his life, and he would rather paint it, then go through it, because he wants to wallow in his depression, and this won’t allow him to look past the fact that if he just moved on, he would be able to find another love and enjoy romance in his life again.  He despises colors and when he is looking at girls while they are walking by dressed in their summer clothes, this literally makes him sick and the only option that he sees is to turn his head until his darkness goes.  He notices that people at the funeral, don’t enjoy looking at the dead body, but he rationalizes that people die every day, just like people are born every day, so since death is part of the circle of life, death should be a normal part of life.  Life is not easy for him now that his whole world has been turned upside down and everything has become black to him.

The next verse is the most confusing part of the song, but I will give it a shot.  In very deep water, almost all of the sun’s rays are absorbed by the water, and the blue will appear to be darker.  Jagger sings, “No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue”.  A deep blue color is associated with the calmness, tranquility and serenity of being near water, and his life will never have any of this again, and someone like him who feels sick is said to look “green around the gills”.  He might be blaming himself for not being able to help or stop the death of his loved one and he is reflecting back on the event saying that he could not foresee this thing happening to her.

He has this idea that if he could look hard enough into the setting sun, that would change the past enough that his love would laugh with him before the morning comes.  Dream on buddy, this guy has really gone off the deep end and now he wants to see his loved one’s face painted black, so he can escape the pain of her memory.  He is hurting really bad and his thoughts turn to everything being black as night, black as coal and he doesn’t want to see the sun, flying high in the sky.  Just paint everything black and then he can have his solace.

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love, both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby it just happens ev’ryday

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and I must have it painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I want to see your face painted black, black as night, black as coal
Don’t want to see the sun, flying high in the sky
I want to see it painted, painted, painted, painted black, yea

O is for Over and Over

Bobby Day wrote ‘Over and Over’ using it as the B-side to his 1958 novelty hit ‘Rockin’ Robin’, which written by Leon René under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas.  Robert James Byrd was a member of the R&B group the Hollywood Flames he used the stage name Bobby Day to perform and record.  He recorded under numerous other names, as The Jets, The Voices, The Sounds, The Crescendos, including being the original “Bob” in the duo Bob & Earl with singer Earl Nelson who is best known for his hit song ‘The Duck’.  Day died of prostate cancer in 1990 at the age of 60.

‘Over and Over’ was a pretty decent piece of party-time R&B.  The song is over quickly, taking just two minutes, but it moves along with a nice beat making it great to dance with.  It is about a guy that goes to a dance where everyone is stag.  It seems a bit strange for all of these kids to attend the event without a date, but maybe they all went there in hopes of meeting someone.  He feels that this dance is gonna be a drag, until he sees this pretty girl which leads to his misgivings that he might actually have a good time at this dance.  He wants her to come and talk to him and choose to be his girl.  The girl shoots him down, tells him that he is too late and that she is waiting for her boyfriend to arrive.  He vows to try over and over again.  I imagine that everyone has gone unaccompanied by a person of the opposite sex to a social event at one time or another, but being without a partner at a social gathering is awful.  I am ashamed to attend events all by myself when everyone else is there with their significant other, as it always makes me feel like the third wheel.  There’s a lot of shame associated with being single, as society will view you, like there’s something wrong with you.

In the US, ‘Over and Over’ was the DC5’s 12th Top 40 hit and it was their only #1 hit.  It was also the last #1 hit of 1965.  Despite its success in the United States and the popularity of the group on both sides of the Atlantic, the single only reached #45 in the band’s native United Kingdom.  The Dave Clark Five never got close to having another #1 again.  They took the Bobby Day song and stripped it down and Mike Smith sang the vocals on this without even trying to sell the frustration of being all alone at a dance.  He made one lyrical adjustment which I feel ruined the meaning in this song by turning Bobby Day’s “everybody there was stag” into the utterly inscrutable “everybody there was there.”  WTF if they were there, then they were there.  Stag is defined as doing something without a partner and going to a dance without a date would be going stag.  It refers to any person who attends a social gathering unaccompanied by a partner, but it is more relevant when used to describe a man who is unaccompanied by a woman.  In the mid-1800’s, a stag party was a group that was made up of only men, and this term changed to mean a bachelor party.  Thus, taking the reference to stag out of this song, corrupts the meaning of the song.

The Dave Clark Five often called The DC5 were from the UK and they formed in 1962 and existed till 1970.  The group was made up of Dave Clark on drums, Mike Smith singing vocals, and playing keyboards, Lenny Davidson on guitar, Rick Huxley playing bass and Denis Payton on horns, and guitar.  The DC5 sold over 100 million records which made them at least temporary superstars.  For a brief period of time, their only competition was The Beatles and they were neck and neck in popularity with them, as they excited crowds into a frenzy and made them feel glad all over.  Clark and his band wrote most of their material, but they also rearranged other songs and made them popular.  The Ed Sullivan show, the show that ‘broke The Beatles’ in the U.S. and remained the most influential outlet for almost all of the British Invasion bands, and this show had The Dave Clark Five on a record-breaking 18 times, which was more than any other rock act, and this show had a weekly audience of 70 million viewers.  Unlike The Beatles, the DC5 never morphed into an ‘album band’ and because of that, they went out of style.  The DC5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Dave Clark and Mike Smith wrote ‘Glad All Over’ which became DC5’s first big hit, peaking at #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and going to #1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1964.  It was so successful that it managed to kick out The Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ from the top spot which in turn, fueled the DC5 and Fab Four rivalry.  The British Invasion of America started just a week or two later and this phrase was coined by CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite.  From the start, Dave was the ringleader, the mastermind of this group.  This group formed after Dave followed his dream of acting around 1958, when he was 15.  Before making it big with the band, Dave Clark was an extra and stuntman in films starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (The VIPs) and Peters Sellars (Pink Panther: A Shot in the Dark).  Dave Clark produced and co-wrote the musical Time that was seen by over one million people.  Clark produced the concept album with Laurence Olivier, Freddie Mercury, Julian Lennon, Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder, and more.  The album and its singles sold over 12 million records.

Not too many bands are named after their drummers, but he wasn’t just the drummer, as he was the band’s manager and producer as well.  The band’s entire sound was organized around his drum beat which was a four-four stomp that overwhelmed everything around it.  The guys were all between 18 and 21 years of age and the name for fame was set, DC Quintet becoming Dave Clark Five.  Dave found a strong singer with attitude when Smith came along in 1960.  The guys were from various parts of London, Middlesex and Kent but were based in the northern London suburb of Tottenham.

In 1969, they decided that their best days were behind them and they wanted to go out while they were still on top, so they agreed to call it quits after one more year.  There were two U.K. top ten hits in the interim, but that didn’t deter them.  Lenny, Rick and Denny departed, while Dave and Mike formed a new group, Dave Clark and Friends, to satisfy contractual obligations with EMI (a cover of Tommy James’ U.S. hit ‘Draggin’ the Line’ was the first of several singles under this name).  Three years later, at the end of the act’s original ten-year deal, they scattered for good and never reunited, at least not to record or tour.

Dave Clark managed and produced the band himself, negotiating a much higher royalty rate than artists of that period usually received.  Unlike most groups, The Dave Clark Five owned their own masters.  They weren’t obliged to go along with just any company who wanted to release their music on CD, as they had complete control and they sat on the catalog hoping for the biggest pay-off they could get.  You couldn’t purchase the music of The Dave Clark Five on any format from 1975 to 1993, but Clark apparently waited too long, as he didn’t realize that keeping the records out of the stores for nearly twenty years, diminished their value.  Nostalgia almost never ages well.  Saxophone player Denis Payton died in December 2006 and singer and the keyboard player Mike Smith died in 2008.  Bass player Rick Huxley died in 2013 at the age of 72 leaving drummer and bandleader Dave Clark and guitarist Lenny Davidson as the only group members that are still alive.

Well, I went to a dance the other night
Everybody went stag
I said over and over and over again
This dance is gonna be a drag
I said over and over and over again
This dance is gonna be a drag
I said over and over and over again
This dance is gonna be a drag

All at once it happened
Well the prettiest in this world
Please a-won’t you come over and talk to me
And be my girl
I said won’t you come over and talk to me
And be my girl
Please won’t you come over and talk to me
And be my girl

She said that she was sorry
That I was a little bit late
She would wait and wait and wait and wait
For her steady date
She would a-wait and a-wait and a-wait and a-wait
For her steady date
She would a-wait and a-wait and a-wait and a-wait
For her steady date

Now, my poor heart was broken
All of my life, where had she been
But I’ll try over and over and over
And over again

I’ll try over and over
And over and over again
I will try over and over
And over and over again

N is for Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye

It doesn’t sound feasible, but a group can have a hit song without actually being a real group and that is exactly what happened with the 1969 song ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’, once it made it to #1 in December 1969.  The band Steam didn’t actually exist, as they were currently transforming into the gaseous phase of water at the moment and it always takes time for water to boil, and you better make sure that you are not watching the pot, or else it will take forever.  Lots of heat is applied which causes the water to boil and eventually that leads to rapid evaporation, which appears as a mist, but true steam is invisible.  Those white clouds that you consider to be steam are actually tiny droplets of water diffracting light through the liquid water inside and that is the water vapor.  If you heat up this water vapor it will disappear as now it has become steam.  Besides heating up the temperature, you can’t ignore the pressure.  Bob Reno, the A&R man at Mercury loved it and didn’t want to waste it as a B-side.  Mercury Records applied the pressure, as they wanted to capitalize on the success of this 45, so the band needed to form and become a reality.

Paul Leka worked as a producer and songwriter for Mercury Records, and he had produced and co-written the Lemon Pipers’ early bubblegum #1 ‘Green Tambourine’.  A bit later he started working with his old bandmates Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer from the early 60s as the Glenwoods, then as the Citations and the Chateaus who were based in Bridgeport CT.  In 1969, writer/producer Paul Leka of Mercury Records was in the midst of a session with his former bandmate, Gary DeCarlo, who was recording under the name Garrett Scott as they had been members of a few Doo Wop Groups from Bridgeport, Connecticut.  A B-side was needed for their new record ‘Sweet Laura Lee’, a ballad written by Larry Weiss, the composer of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’.

Leka decided that they’d use a deliberately bad song, so DJ’s would only play the A-Side.  Leka recalled one he’d written years ago with old friend Dale Frashuer (who also had played with Leka and DeCarlo in Bridgeport), and this was called ‘Kiss Him Goodbye’.  Leka called Garrett and Dale and they worked on the tune.  Leka came up with the “na na na na” chorus, and DeCarlo added the “hey hey hey” part, just so that they could stretch the song out.  The three musicians kept it simple, not using bass or guitar on the track, and the repeating drum loop was lifted from one of the four Garrett Scott singles, a song called ‘Sugar’ that written by Neil Sedaka.  The song was built in layers, with just the drum track, piano, organ and a board DeCarlo played as percussion to accompany the vocals.  Leka tinkered with his piano strings by applying tape to produce the different tones heard.  The percussion was done by DeCarlo tapping a pair of drum sticks, the tips covered with cloth, on a wooden board.

When the track was recorded, Leka didn’t even bother bringing in session musicians, deciding to play the drums himself, while Frashuer came in to add percussion, and DeCarlo handled the lead vocal.  To make the number even less desirable to Top 40 DJs, Leka extended the track to make it unfriendly for AM radio.  They started the session around 7 p.m. and finished at 5 a.m., but when they emerged, they had the completed song.  The master recording was so long they had to fade it out so it would fit on the record.  When it was released, the song clocked in at 3:45.

Paul was surprised when Mercury liked the B-side!  They felt it had hit potential, so a compromise was made.  The song wouldn’t be released under Gary Richard DeCarlo’s alias of Garrett Scott, but with a different name.  Initially uncertain what to call the thing, Leka and the guys were crossing 7th Ave when a subway train went beneath the roadway, shooting steam up from a Manhattan manhole cover, and he had the eureka moment for the name of the group.  What Leka saw was water vapor, which he mistook for steam as I explained above.  The fictitious band named Steam wasn’t invented until the album was being done.

Mercury told Leka he needed to find a group, which could be any group, to tour as Steam and make promotional appearances (it’s unclear if DeCarlo didn’t want to participate or was pushed aside).  Leka hired the six-piece Bridgeport band Special Delivery to be Steam.  The group consisted of Bill Steer (lead singer), Jay Babins (guitar), Mike Daniels (bass), Ray Corries (drums), Tom Zuke (guitar) and Hank Schorz (keyboards).  The Steam tour band appeared on various TV shows, most notably Dick Clark’s American Bandstand on December 27, 1969.  Clark displayed Steam’s gold record on his podium during the band’s performance.  Leka brought three of the members into the studio to share the lead vocalist spot on the additional songs that would make up Steam’s debut album (all written by Leka, Frashuer, and DeCarlo).  None of the Special Delivery guys played on the LP, as Leka used session musicians this time.

By early 1970, Steam’s self-titled debut album had been released worldwide.  When Steam performed live, they were allowed to play their own tunes, and in fact, they played little from the album, as their music style differed greatly from that of the hit single.  All they were required to do was open and close with ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’.  This first incarnation of Steam wouldn’t make it until the end of the year.  They were frustrated that they weren’t permitted to record their own material, as their songs were deemed too heavy, so eventually, most of the group members (along with a couple of new members) formed a new rock band known as Famine.

Undeterred, Paul Leka went about looking for another band to take their place.  Guitarist Tor Pinney who just quit The Chains and was doing odd jobs while living in New York City received a call from his manager Joe Messina, relayed a unique opportunity about producer, Paul Leka, being bombarded with requests for the non-existent stars of Steam to perform at concerts, college homecomings and rock festivals coast to coast, and was actually booking the band’s first national tour and Joe asked him if he was interested in forming the next incarnation of Steam.  Pinney, who thought it sounded like fun and hey, the money was good, jumped at the chance.  Tor wanted to be on guitar and he called the best musicians he knew, Peter Burger on drums, wild Chris Robison who was also in The Chains on keyboard and Don Bosson on bass.  They were all seasoned rock musicians by then and they had all developed strong voices.  Three of them were prolific songwriters and this group promised to be awesome.

The four-piece lineup was set, they went into an insane rehearsal schedule and ten days later our fledgling quartet went on tour as Steam Mark II.  They toured all over the United States, signing autographs and hooking up with groupies along the way.  This version of Steam got a chance to go into the studio, and a 45 was released in September 1970.  Though the Leka/Frashuer/DeCarlo team still wrote the songs, the group played their own instruments and sang on the two Motown-inspired tracks.  As was the case with all of Steam’s post “Na” singles, the 45 failed to chart nationally.  A year after “Na” peaked, Paul Leka retired Steam and soon after, Robison joined a band called Magic and then he joined John Lennon’s backing band, Elephant’s Memory.

The song has somewhat of an actual story, with this guy wanting this girl, who has eyes for another man.  He tries to convince her to leave her boyfriend and date him instead, because he says that he will love her more.  This other guy will probably give this girl the thrills she is seeking, so taking a risk, he tells her to go ahead and kiss him, probably so she will have some type of comparison to use, as he is willing to kiss her after she kisses this other guy.  He alerts her to the fact that this other guy is not paying her the proper attention that she deserves, like he would be able to do.  He tells the girl to kiss the other guy goodbye, so she can be with him.  It is about the love factor and all of the emotions involved in a love triangle while trying make the girl realize that this other guy is not for her.

This song is one of the strangest #1 hits in history, using an unfinished song from 1961, to create a throwaway B-side, but it became a cultural phenomenon that was used for years to come as a musical goodbye.  B-sides in the ‘60s were designed to be clearly inferior to the A-side so that disc jockeys wouldn’t flip the record.  This song knocked the Beatles record ‘Come Together” backed by ‘Something’ off the top spot in the charts when it reached #1.  According to Tommy Mottola, who spent time as both chairman of Sony Music and husband of Mariah Carey, he is one of the backing singers on this track.  He was working for MRC Music publishing at the time, whose workers were recruited to provide the group chorus.

In 1977, ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’ became a regular sports thing when White Sox organist Nancy Faust started playing it whenever the opposing team pulled its starting pitcher out of the lineup.  The song became the indelible sports stadium taunt becoming a quick blast to get the goodbye message across and the crowd started singing it, and it caught on.  Paul Leka produced and arranged music for artists such as Harry Chapin ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’, the Peppermint Rainbow ‘Will You Be Staying After Sunday’, the Left Banke, REO Speedwagon, Gloria Gaynor, and many others.  Leka died in 2011 at age 68 of lung cancer.  DeCarlo released an album, Long Time Comin, in 2014.  DeCarlo died in 2017, at the age of 75 of the same disease.  I was unable to find any information about Dale Frashuer.

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

He’ll never love you, the way that I love you
‘Cause if he did, no no, he wouldn’t make you cry
He might be thrillin’ baby but a-my love
(My love, my love)

So dog-gone willin’, so kiss him
(I wanna see you kiss him, wanna see you kiss him)
Go on and kiss him goodbye, now

Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

Listen to me now

He’s never near you to comfort and cheer you
When all those sad tears are fallin’ baby from your eyes
He might be thrillin’ baby but a-my love
(My love, my love)

So dog-gone willin’, so kiss him
(I wanna see you kiss him, I wanna see you kiss him)
Go on and kiss him goodbye, na na na na, na na na

Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

Hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

Hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

Hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

M is for My Guy

Smokey Robinson of the Miracles wrote and produced the 1964 hit single ‘My Guy’ which Mary Wells recorded and this song made her Motown’s first female star.  ‘My Guy’ charted #1 in the US and it was the defining hit of Mary Wells’ career, but it was also memorable as Motown’s first British hit in the UK on May 16, 1964, it made it to #5.  ‘My Guy’ was the first number one hit for Motown and soon Wells was one of the most popular Motown performers.  She was the first Motown artist to be nominated for a Grammy and the first to perform outside the US.

This song entered the charts at #50 during the Billboard week of May 4, 1964 when The Beatles held a monopoly on the Top 5 US chart positions with their #1 ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, #2 ‘Twist and Shout’, #3 ‘She Loves You’, #4 ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and #5 ‘Please Please Me’.  Mary was the Beatles’ favorite American singer, and they took her on a UK tour that came to a head with the biggest hit of her career ‘My Guy’.  They called her “their sweetheart” and she struck up a warm relationship with John Lennon in particular.  Upon her return to the States, the Beatles sent Wells several compositions to be released on their next album.  In return, Mary recorded an album called Love Songs to The Beatles.

In this song ‘My Guy’, a woman declares her devotion to her man while she rejects the advances of all others.  She has found her ideal guy who she is very happy being with and she affirms her fidelity to her boyfriend, saying that nothing will separate them and they will stay together like glue that is used fix a stamp to a letter.  Many of the other girls are impressed when a man has bulging muscles, but not this girl, as her guy has a physique and looks that are ordinary, but she is fine with normal and she will remain dedicated to her man.  Smokey Robinson wrote the song as a pledge of fealty which was so simplistic that it almost works as a nursery rhyme.  Like her other collaborations with Robinson, ‘My Guy’ featured her smooth, knowing, but coy delivery backed by Robinson’s understated popish arrangement.

Mary Esther Wells was born on May 13, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan and her story is one that is filled with hard luck.  She never knew her father and her mother worked as a domestic servant to provide for her three children.  While still young, Wells was afflicted with a bad case of spinal meningitis.  She suffered temporary paralysis, a loss of hearing, and she was partly blinded in one eye.  To deal with the pain of her various illnesses, she lost herself in the church and in music.  After she recovered from the disease she had to learn to walk again.  Once healthy Mary began to demonstrate a gift for singing.

Wells first began singing in church when she was three or four.  Her voice was so good that by the age of ten she was competing in talent contests in the local clubs.  She also stood out in her Northwestern High School choir.  Her gift for singing also branched into songwriting.  At age 16, while she was still in high school, she met a man named Robert Bateman, who was Motown founder Barry Gordy’s personal assistant.  Wells told Bateman that she had written a song called ‘Bye, Bye Baby’, and that she thought would be perfect for Motown artist Jackie Wilson.  Bateman introduced Wells to Gordy, and as she was unable to write her song down, Gordy asked to hear the song.  As she sang it to Gordy. he was so impressed that he promptly bought the song and signed Wells to a contract, turned her over to William ‘Smokey” Robinson and Motown released her debut single ‘Bye, Bye Baby’ which went to #45 Pop, and reached #8 R&B, in 1960.

Few other soul singers managed to be as shy and as sexy at the same time as Wells and the soft-voiced singer followed up her first single with ‘I Don’t Want To Take a Chance’, which Wells also wrote, and it did well on both the pop and R&B charts, but her third single, ‘Strange Love’ wavered.  Gordy then decided that she could benefit from someone else’ material and in 1962, Wells was teamed up with performer, writer, producer Smokey Robinson along with the emerging Motown production team, and he happened to be the perfect match for her talent.  Robinson wrote and produced her biggest Motown hits, ‘Two Lovers’, ‘You Beat Me to the Punch’, and ‘The One Who Really Loves You’ which all made the Top Ten in the early ‘60s, and ‘My Guy’ hit the number one spot in mid-1964, at the very height of Beatlemania.  ‘My Guy’ was also Wells’ last hit single for Motown, except for the duets, ʻOnce Upon A Time’ and ʻWhat’s The Matter With You Baby’ which she recorded with label mate Marvin Gaye.

At the peak of her career Wells let her then husband-manager, songwriter Herman Griffin, convince her that Motown was not paying her enough and that she should sue the label.  Wells went to court, arguing that her contract, which was signed when she was seventeen, was invalid.  The court let her out of her contract with Motown giving her the option to terminate the contract at her discretion after she reached her twenty-first birthday on May 13, 1964.  She was encouraged by her ex-husband to break her Motown contract and she signed with 20th Century Fox in hopes of higher royalties and possible movie roles (which never materialized) along with a reported advance of several hundred thousand dollars.  Mary wrote songs under the pseudonym LR Peques and her glamorous look, adorned in blonde wigs and stunning stage gowns, was ahead of its time, and she became a sex symbol for many young fans.  Her loss hit Motown hard, which is why they fought to keep her.  But Mary lost out also, as the agreement that freed her from Motown not only cost her the label’s production and promotional muscle, it deprived her of royalties from sales of her old material.

Mary turned 21 years old as ‘My Guy’ was rising to the top of the charts, and left Motown almost immediately afterward.  It’s been rumored that Wells was being groomed for the sort of plans that were subsequently lavished upon Diana Ross and the more nefarious rumor involves Motown quietly discouraging radio stations from playing Wells’ subsequent releases.  What is certain is that Wells that Wells never found the success that she enjoyed during her Motown Years.  After being terminated by 20th Century Fox, she signed with Atco, and Jubilee recording solid pop-soul on which her vocal talents remained undiminished.  She wrote and produced a lot of her late ‘60s and early ‘70s sessions with her second husband, guitarist Cecil Womack (brother of Bobby), and these found her exploring a somewhat earthier groove than her more widely known pop efforts.

She had battled addiction in the 70s, and bouts of depression, and in 1965 just when she should have been thriving, she suffered a relapse from her childhood TB, which put her out of action for weeks, as Mary was spectacularly unlucky.  She followed her number one hit, by doing some very successful duets with Marvin Gaye.  She did have a top forty hit with ‘Use Your Head’, but after only one year with Fox her contract was cancelled.  Wells signed with different labels over the next few years and did have a few nominal hits with songs like ‘Dear Lover’ and ‘Dig The Way I Feel’, but by the end of the sixties, this beautiful woman and her angelic voice that took America by storm had retired from performing to be a mother.

In the eighties, a renewed interest in Motown prompted Wells to return to touring.  She found that she still had dedicated fans who would come to see her perform.  She successfully toured throughout the decade.  In 1990, Wells was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx.  The cancer was caused by a heavy smoking habit, which Wells admitted was up to two packs a day.  The cancer treatment she had to undergo left her unable to sing for many years.  She also had no health insurance, and the costly treatments and therapy quickly eliminated her finances.  She was so financially devastated, that she was evicted from the apartment where she and her daughter lived.  But her friends in the industry came to her rescue, and such notable musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, and Elton John helped her pay her medical bills and living expenses.  The Washington-based Rhythm and Blues Foundation raised more than $50,000 to pay her medical bills.  Diana Ross gave $15,000, Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen $10,000 each, and the Temptations $5,000.  Wells even appeared on a special Joan Rivers television show in which she was paid tribute by stars such as Stevie Wonder and Little Richard.

Determined to help the fight against cancer, Wells appeared before a Congressional Committee to argue for government funds for cancer research.  In her speech she said, “I’m here today to urge you to keep the faith.  I can’t cheer you on with all my voice, but I can encourage, and I pray to motivate you with all my heart and soul and whispers.”   Though her time at her absolute peak was short, Mary Wells’ career had been glorious.  Her luscious looks proved that soul could be sold as sexy to white people, which her former backing singers The Supremes exploited in a cutesy way.  And while you could argue that there were female soul superstars before Mary Wells, such as Dinah Washington and Etta James, they were both known in other fields first, such as R&B, rock and jazz.

My Guy” is a charming song, with lead vocals by Mary Wells and Background vocals by The Andantes, which were made up of Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps.  The musicians on this song are the Funk Brothers, the legendary Motown backing band, with Earl Van Dyke on keyboards, Johnny Griffith on piano, Eddie Willis playing guitar, Robert White also on guitar, James Jamerson on bass, Benny Benjamin playing drums, Dave Hamilton on vibes, Herbert Williams and John Wilson both playing trumpet and both Paul Riser and George Bohanon on trombone.  Apparently, they didn’t think that this song would ever come out, so when it was time to create the arrangement, they amused themselves by quoting the old jazz standards ‘Canadian Sunset’ and ‘Begin The Beguine’.  Most people aren’t listening for those little touches, and they hear a sunny and unambitious shuffle, artfully arranged but lightweight.  The best moments are the smallest ones, like the bit toward the end where James Jamerson’s complicated bassline steps into the spotlight.

Wells continued to suffer from the cancer and she was hospitalized once more and spent her last days at the Kenneth Norris Jr. Cancer Hospital until July 28, 1992 when she died after a bout with pneumonia.  Cigarettes had forever silenced one of the most beautiful voices ever to grace the airwaves when Mary Wells died in Los Angeles, California.

There’s nothing you could say
To tear me away from my guy
There’s nothing you could do
‘Cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy

I’m stickin’ to my guy like a stamp to a letter
Like the birds of a feather
We stick together
I’m telling you from the start
I can’t be torn apart from my guy

There’s nothing you can do
Could make me untrue to my guy (my guy)
There’s nothing you could buy
Could make me tell a lie to my guy (my guy)

I gave my guy my word of honor
To be faithful and I’m gonna
You best be believing
I won’t be deceiving my guy

As a matter of opinion I think he’s tops
My opinion is he’s the cream of the crop
As a matter of taste to be exact
He’s my ideal as a matter of fact

And no muscle bound man could take my hand from my guy (my guy)
No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy (my guy)
He may not be a movie star
But when it comes to bein’ happy we are
There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy

And no muscle bound man could take my hand from my guy (my guy)
And no handsome face could ever take the place of my guy (my guy)
He may not be a movie star
But when it comes to bein’ happy we are
There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy

There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy
There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy
There’s not a man today

L is for Leader of the Pack

Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and George Morton wrote the #1 hit ‘Leader of the Pack’ for The Shangri-Las, which they recorded in 1964 on their album of the same name.  This song is about accepting differences and it contains a story about a conversation which takes place between Betty and her two unnamed friends.  Betty just got engaged, but she is not as happy as she should be because her parents are complaining about her choice of male friends.  Her father insisted that she should dump Jimmy and the obedient daughter, she dumped him.  Jimmy is shocked when he hears that she won’t see him anymore and he rides off on the rainy night.  We hear a cry, “Look out” along with some fast-drumming sounds and you realize that there was a crash and now it is all over for the leader of the pack.  Tears and sadness follow.

The bad boy in this song is not just a guy who rides a bike, he’s the head of a motorcycle pack, however this biker bad boy is probably a far cry away from being an actual Hells Angel.  This is just my opinion, but one that I derived from watching Mary Weiss sing this song, as she doesn’t look like the kind of girl that would want to become a Hells Angels mama, because of this innocent teenage quality that she exudes.  I picture her as the type of girl that is fascinated by danger, and she probably owns a leather jacket, because it looks good on her.  However, her standards demand that she date a clean-cut, sociable guy, maybe one with a Honda and not a Harley.  This leads us to an important question that must be answered if we want to understand this song, and this is, “Is a pack a club, or is it a gang?”  This guy is the leader of the pack, but is he just some wimp that is in a motorcycle club and he enjoys going out on rides with his good friends, or is he a really bad boy, like some type of outlaw?  The answer to this question is revealed when Betty says that she met Jimmy in a candy store, so this guy turns out to be the leader of a motorcycle club, as it doesn’t seem realistic for a Hells Angel to go into a candy store to pick up chicks.  The other thing is that Betty’s two friends both seem to know Jimmy, so he is most likely a local.

Her dad didn’t want her to date the biker and Betty is probably blaming herself for Jimmy meeting his doom after crashing his bike on the wet road.  As the song fades out Betty declares that she will never forget Jimmy and then she says, “The leader of the pack – now he’s gone”, letting us know for sure that Jimmy died in the crash.  The spoken dialogue that takes place in this song is what makes it so interesting.  This song has it all, doomed love, class divisions, teenage rebellion, the generation gap, parental opposition and tragic death condensed into a three-minute single.  I don’t think that Betty was intentionally trying to cross a line by getting involved with Jimmy, a boy from the wrong side of town, she probably just didn’t see things the same way that her parents did.  All it took was one smile from the leader of the pack, and Betty was hooked on him.  Betty takes Jimmy to her home to meet her parents, but that didn’t work out so well, because they felt he was not suitable for their daughter.

Music producer George Francis “Shadow” Morton was noted for writing and producing two big hits for the Shangri-Las, ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’ and this one, which he wrote with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry.  ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’ was another tragic breakup song and Morton was looking for a follow-up to that hit.  He had a motorcycle and was part of a motorcycle gang in his youth, so he, Greenwich and Barry decided to use that as the theme.  Together, they came up with the rather dramatic story, being sure to name the characters in the lyric (Betty and Jimmy) which allows the listener to form an attachment with these characters.  Death has often been featured as a theme in music, but Jimmy dying seems so unnecessary, making it all that more dramatic for the listener when they learn about the circumstances of his violent end.

The Shangri-Las were made up of two pairs of sisters (Elizabeth & Mary Weiss and Mary Ann & Marge Ganser).  These Andrew Jackson High School girls were based in the Cambria Heights section of Queens and they had already found Top 5 success with their previous song.  In April 1964, their parents had to sign the record contract with Red Bird Records for their daughters, as these girls were all still minors.  Mary was 15, Betty was 17, and the Ganser twins were 16.  They started out singing in school talent shows, and initially, the girls performed without a name.  But when they signed their first deal, they began calling themselves the Shangri-Las, after a Queens, New York restaurant.  These clean-cut cuties singing about their crushes, quickly rose to become one of the most important acts of the “girl group” era.  A top NYC radio disc jockey named Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, went to see the Shangri-Las at a talent show after hearing about them from listeners.  He was impressed with their tough and strong image, and he felt that they displayed angst and showed rebellion.

By the end of 1964 The Shangri-Las were an established act.  They performed with the Beatles, a Fall 1964 tour with the Rolling Stones, R&B artists such as The Drifters and James Brown (who, according to Mary Weiss, was surprised to discover the girls were white).  Cashbox magazine listed them as best new R&B group and they became a fixture on the Murray The K shows at the Brooklyn Fox from 1964-66.  They also promoted Revlon cosmetics by singing, “Natural Wonder, how pretty can you get.”  In March 1965, they toured the UK with Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits, Del Shannon, and others.

Mary Weiss may have been a little bit more concerned about school than the 3 other girls in the group, or maybe because she was the youngest member in the group, she stayed in high school taking classes at a for young professionals in Manhattan, while the others were required to make personal appearances which required them to leave high school.   Shortly before the Shangri-Las went to the UK for their tour in, Betty Weiss dropped out temporarily, leaving the group as a trio. The remaining trio (just Mary Weiss and the twins) circulated at the group’s peak in popularity and beyond, which made many people think that this group was a trio.  Betty rejoined the group in mid-1965, and the group appeared as a quartet once again until the start of 1966 when they permanently became a trio with (MaryAnn and Margie leaving at different times and replacing each other, until the demise of the group).  The group alternated between touring as their own band and gigging with some of the local area bands.  Other groups that they played with were the Sonics, a garage rock band from Tacoma, Washington, as well as the Iguanas, a garage rock band from Ann Arbor, Michigan featuring a young Iggy Pop.

Queens, New York, was a rough neighborhood and although these girls appeared to be reserved, modest, and shy while they were up on stage, they all probably knew some things about how they could protect themselves from growing up in this environment.  Rumors about supposed escapades have since become legend, and Mary Weiss attracted the attention of the FBI for transporting a firearm across state lines.  In her defense, she said that someone tried to break into her hotel room one night and she bought a pistol for protection.  Whatever truth these stories may have, they were believed by fans in the 1960s, and they helped cement the group’s bad-girl reputation.  According to Weiss, that persona helped her to fend off advances from musicians while she was on tour.

Billy Joel claimed that he may have probably played the piano on this song when he was very young, but girls weren’t at the session while he was playing.  At the time, he wasn’t in the musician’s union because he was about 14 or 15 and he said that he never got paid, and he thinks that this was his very first recording session.  He seemed to be clearer about being on the piano player on their song ‘Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)’ which became a hit first, but was actually recorded a little bit later.  Billy thought that Shadow Morton, was a strange guy, because he wore a cape in the studio and he felt intimidated hoping that no one would find out that he wasn’t in the union.

According to Jeff Barry, they used a real motorcycle to create the sound for the revving engine.  Shadow Morton sometimes talked about how they wheeled the motorcycle into the studio to record it, but Barry explained that they attached a microphone to a long cable and recorded it on the street outside the New York City studio.  The bike was a Harley Davidson owned by Barry’s engineer, Joe Venneri. Fortunately, Venneri’s Harley was not used to create the crashing sound, as that was a sound effect.

Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let’s ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing?
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
By the way, where’d you meet him?

I met him at the candy store
He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture? (yes, we see)
That’s when I fell for (the leader of the pack)

My folks were always putting him down (down, down)
They said he came from the wrong side of town
(whatcha mean when ya say that he came from the wrong side of town?)
They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad
That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)

One day my dad said, “Find someone new”
I had to tell my Jimmy we’re through
(whatcha mean when ya say that ya better go find somebody new?)
He stood there and asked me why
But all I could do was cry
I’m sorry I hurt you (the leader of the pack)

He sort of smiled and kissed me goodbye
The tears were beginning to show
As he drove away on that rainy night
I begged him to go slow
But whether he heard, I’ll never know

Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out!
I felt so helpless, what could I do?
Remembering all the things we’d been through
In school they all stop and stare
I can’t hide the tears, but I don’t care
I’ll never forget him (the leader of the pack)

The leader of the pack – now he’s gone
The leader of the pack – now he’s gone
The leader of the pack – now he’s gone
The leader of the pack – now he’s gone

K is for Kind of a Drag

The Buckinghams had a #1 hit with ‘Kind of a Drag’ in 1967, it sold over a million copies and went gold.  It was written by Jimmy Holvay and it was the title track of their debut LP, which managed to scrape a #109 placing on the Billboard 200 album chart.  Holvay wrote four other songs for The Buckinghams and he was a friend of the theirs from Chicago.  Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, in the mid-1960s Carl Giammarese (lead guitar, vocals) was playing with Nick Fortuna (bass) as members of the Centuries.  Later the duo was joined by Miccoli (keyboards), Jon-Jon Poulos (drums), George LeGros (vocals) and Dennis Tufano (vocals), they became a sextet and were now playing as the Pulsations.  They gained popularity while they were still in high school, but LeGros was drafted and they became a five-piece band.

Their break came when they won a “Battle of the Bands” contest sponsored by a Chicago WGN-TV show, All Time Hits, and they were awarded a 14-week gig on the show.  With 1965 being the height of the “British invasion” period, the show wanted the band to have a more British-sounding name.  A young security guard that worked for the TV station gave them a list of names he thought might work for them.  On that list, the band chose The Buckinghams, not only because it sounded British, but there was also a fountain in Chicago called Buckingham Fountain in Great Park.  That security guard would remain a friend of the group for the rest of his life.  Miccolis was fired after ‘Kind of a Drag’, and he was replaced by Larry Nestor.  Nestor’s stint with the band was short-lived, and Marty Grebb (keyboards) came in to replace him the following year.

Their first manager/co-producer, Carl Bonafede, signed them to Chicago’s USA Records.  They worked with big band musician Dan Belloc as co- producer, and arranger Frank Tesinsky who created their horn sound, which became a signature of the Chicago horn sound identifying them as The Buckinghams.  Their first records were covers of hit songs.  They did James Brown and the Famous Flames’ ‘I’ll Go Crazy’, The Beatles’ ‘I Call Your Name’, The Hollies’ ‘I’ve Been Wrong Before’, some Kinks ‘Don’t Want to Cry’, and the Zombies ‘You Make Me Feel Good’ which sold fairly well in the Chicago area, but the band needed a national hit to cement their reputation.  They found what they needed in ‘Kind of a Drag’, which sold more than a million copies and went to #1 on the national pop charts.

Columbia Records offered the group national label distribution, and the band chose James William Guercio, who’d written Chad and Jeremy’s #1 hit, ‘Distant Shores’, as their new manager.  The Buckinghams recorded 12 singles that dominated the AM radio airwaves.  With new management and a major label, the Buckinghams recorded and released many more hits in 1967, becoming one of the best-selling groups in the 1967 and were one of the more successful sunshine pop bands to come out in the 1960s.  In 1967, Cash Box Magazine named them “The Most Promising Vocal Group in America”, and they set off a chain- reaction of demand nationwide in record stores.  In 1967, Billboard Magazine named them “The Most Listened to Band in America.”  The airwaves were brimming with The Buckinghams’ latest tunes, and TV audiences got to see them on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, The Joey Bishop Show, and American Bandstand.  The Buckinghams were playing to capacity crowds in arenas and festivals, sharing the bill with Gene Pitney, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Neil Diamond, America, Tom Jones, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and The Who.  Thousands of teenage girls waited at concerts to rush the stage and rip clothing for souvenirs, which made The Buckinghams became part of American teenage culture overnight.  Their faces were splashed onto national magazines, posters and album covers with a look and style that helped define 60s pop rock.

The Buckinghams recorded in Columbia’s New York and Los Angeles studios, in between more than 300 tour dates, having 3 chart hits at one time on 2 different labels.  The band were pop superstars for about a year and a half in 1967-68, and then three things happened which changed everything for them.  First the music industry changed from a time when singles dominated the industry to the time when the album started to rise of in the late 60s and early 70s, and since The Buckinghams were known as a singles group, this spelled their downfall.  When the 45-rpm disc was the most common format, artists felt obliged to keep their songs to an industry prescribed three-minute mark, and this also suited the AM radio format.  As FM picked up popularity and the singles acts started dying off and the album-oriented bands took over.  The Buckinghams were not alone in this, as many of these single-orientated acts never had hit records again.  The second issue was a trumped-up drug charge where band members Nick Fortuna, Marty Grebb and Jon-Jon Poulos were arrested in August of 1968 in Spirit Lake, Iowa, specifically possession of narcotics (only marijuana was found, and it was in possession of the group’s roadies).  Also arrested on drug charges were the group’s tour bus driver and three roadies.  All seven were held overnight in the Dickinson County Jail and released on $2500 bond the following day, just in time for them to make a concert appearance.

The third thing that attributed to their decline in 1968 was the image of their music being described as wistful, with their biggest hits being full of teenage love and not showing an understanding of what love really is.  They were also not as cool and seemed to be out of touch unlike the hipper bands of the day.  When America’s youth turned their attention to the Vietnam war, and festivals like Monterrey Pop and Woodstock, The Buckinghams were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Some say they suffered from what is sometimes called the Chicago Curse, meaning that they starting out as a well-intentioned Chicago cover band and ended up playing pop drool.

The song featured the powerful vocals of Dennis Tufano and a punchy, distinctive brass soul-styled horn section, creating the foundation of the “Chicago Sound” (aka taking a pop-rock track and plastering horns all over it).  Guercio steered them in an awful pop direction, drowning the band in horns and strings and giving them crappy songs to record.  The group managed to survive a while, but after cranking out three albums in two years, they faded along with other happier pop groups.  They were always a bit more soul-oriented than other pop groups due mainly to Dennis Tufano’s strong vocals and Jon-Jon Poulous’s interesting drumming.

Their original song ‘Kind of Drag’ written by The Mob’s Jim Holvay gave the group considerable national exposure, but no one anticipated the demand, as the single rocketed to #1 across the country becoming a million-seller going gold.  Jim Holvay was a founding member of The Mob, the first rock band to perform at a Presidential Inaugural Concert & Ball.  The Buckinghams churned other hits, however, when the band’s subsequent singles didn’t do well, they broke up shortly afterwards.  After 1968, their fortunes changed this time and the group went from having four Top 20 hits the past year, to only managing to score a lone Hot 100 hit via the single.  They spent several years on tour, sharing the stage with Carole King, Bread, and Cheech and Chong so after they went through a string of personnel changes, having issues with their management as well as each of the members wanting to go in different directions, the band split up in early 1970.

In 1968, Guercio took his experience from The Buckinghams to become a staff producer for Columbia, where he signed the group The Big Thing, who were renamed, Chicago and he also crafted Blood Sweat and Tears’ #1 album.  With guidance from The Buckinghams’ drummer, Jon-Jon, as their new manager, the rock duo of Carl and Dennis were signed to Ode Records by legendary producer Lou Adler.  Grebb went on to play with Chicago related bands like Lovecraft and The Fabulous Rhinestones.  In 1980 the band, minus Jon-Jon Poulos, who had unexpectedly died of a drug overdose earlier that year, suffering heart failure brought on by heroin use just five days before his 33rd birthday, got back together for a reunion show that was sponsored by the Chicago radio station WLS.  They began touring again, while the group members maintained their solo careers.

Marty Grebb ended up touring with Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Chicago, Eric Clapton, and Dave Mason, until he passed away in 1980.  Giammarese found his solo voice and launched a productive career as a studio singer for national TV and radio advertising producers.  Tufano followed his heart to California, and found home base in film/TV work.  Nick Fortuna immersed himself in rhythm and blues, playing gigs across Chicago, with groups including Music Power ‘69, Jimmy V and the Ambassadors, and Baby Huey and the Babysitters.  Fortuna later started his band, Crystal, with Billy Corgan Sr., and other talented musicians.

After performing in several select dates in Chicago, Tufano left for good, leaving Giammarese and Fortuna the only remaining original members.  The duo and a newer influx of members continue keeping themselves busy by going on the oldies “package tours” playing with the Turtles, the Grass Roots, Micky Dolenz, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and Mark Lindsay.  In 2004, they released a CD with The Cyrkle Take 2.  In the new millennium, the Buckinghams continued to release albums of new material, as well as several compilation and live recordings, the latest being Up Close: CD and digital downloads in 2010.  Giammarese and Fortuna are the only original Buckinghams who have still been active up to the present.

In the 1993 movie Hot Shots! Part Deux, Charlie Sheen playing the dazed Topper Harley said, “That’s right, Cindy.  It’s twenty three minutes past the hour, and now here’s the Buckinghams with ‘Kind of a Drag’ –“.  Please don’t ask me why he said that, because he said a lot of crazy things in that movie.  In 2009, The Buckinghams had the honor of being invited to once again headline the entertainment for the Bipartisan Illinois Agricultural Ball for the inauguration of President Barack Obama for the Presidential Inauguration festivities.  Later that year, The Buckinghams were honored to be selected as new inductees into the 2009 class of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

Kind of a drag
When your baby don’t love you
Kind of a drag
When you know she’s been untrue

Oh oh, listen to what I’ve gotta to say
Girl, I still love you
I’ll always love you
Anyway, anyway, anyway

Kind of a drag
When your baby says goodbye
Kind of a drag
When you feel like you want to cry

Oh oh girl, even though you make me feel blue
I still love you
I’ll always love you
Anyway, anyway, anyway

Oh, listen to what I’ve gotta say
Girl, I still love you
I’ll always love you
Anyway, anyway, anyway

J is For Just My Imagination

The Temptations had a #1 song with ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)’ that was recorded on their 1971 bestselling Sky’s The Limit fourteenth studio album.  The guy in this song is one step away from becoming a stalker, but mostly he is harmless, as he understands that his desire for this girl exists only in his imagination and in reality, she doesn’t even know his name.  He sees her everyday walking past his window and he gets romantic ideas about her, imagining that she will run away with him.  In his mind, she is the perfect girl for him and he sees them getting married, living in a house together and raising their (two or three) children.  At night he prays that she will not meet another man or fall in love with anybody else but him.  He is never going to forget this imaginary love, as he continues to hope that his fantasy will come true.  This guy is suffering from the halo effect, because he has created such a positive impression about this girl that nothing else will ever influence his opinion of her.

‘Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)’ was written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield and Motown CEO Berry Gordy brought them together in 1966 to work on recordings for The Temptations.  The team is probably best known for their hit ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, which became a big hit for a number of artists.  Motown producer and composer Norman Whitfield often worked with lyricist Barrett Strong and they wrote this song together a few years before it was released.  Whitfield directed the career of The Temptations, and managed to introduce new ideas and he had full creative control over their psychedelic sound period, but when he thought it was time for them to change direction, so they could stay on top of the charts, he pulled this soft, reflective, peaceful, narrative song out of the mothballs for them to record and it became the third of four #1 hits by the Temptations and it became one of the group’s biggest hits ever.  Motown achieved 79 records in the top-ten of the Billboard Hot 100 between 1960 and 1969.  Following the events of the Detroit Riots of 1967, and the loss of key songwriting and production team of Holland–Dozier–Holland that year over pay disputes, Gordy moved Motown to Los Angeles.  After Motown quit Detroit for Los Angeles in 1972, Strong left the company, returning to singing via a contract with Epic Records, then he switched to Capitol Records, and Whitfield also bid adieu to Motown in 1973.

Eddie Kendricks who was an original member of the group sang lead vocals on this track, and this was his last single with them, as Kendricks left for a solo career soon after the song was released.  It was also the last song for another original member Paul Williams, who remained on salary as an advisor, but was plagued with personal problems, being separated from his wife, owing back taxes, being under treatment for alcoholism as his health deteriorated.  He committed suicide in 1973 at age 34.  The other members of The Temptations of this recording were Dennis Edwards, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams and 11 members of The Funk Brothers played the instrumentation on this song including guitarists Dennis Coffey and Eddie Willis.  Other personnel on the track included Bob Babbitt on bass, Jack Brokensha on vibraphone, Jack Ashford on marimba and Andrew Smith playing drums.  The strings and horns by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra were overdubbed later.

The Temptations were originally called the Elgins, and they were formed in 1961 from the coupling of two vocal groups together that were based in Detroit, those being the Primes, who were originally from Alabama, and the Distants.  That same year they signed with Motown and for the first several years of their career, Smokey Robinson was the Temptations’ primary producer and song writer.  In mid-1966 Shelly Berger was hired by Motown to manage the Temptations and Supremes.  Billboard magazine ranked the Temptations #1 in their most recent list of the Greatest R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of All Time, and in November of 2019 because of the soul group’s success since the 1960s, with the ensemble having tallied a record 16 #1s on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (which began in 1965) and 14 leaders on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (which dates to 1958), including its longest-leading hit single, the eight-week #1 ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ in 1966.  The act scored 43 top 10s, including having at least one in each decade from the ‘60s through the ‘90s.  Billboard named them one of The 125 Greatest of All Time Artists.  Rolling Stone magazine named them among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in September of 2020, the editors of Rolling Stone commented that the Temptations are “Indisputably the greatest black vocal group of the Modern Era,” and they listed the group’s 1973 Anthology album among the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”  The Temptations were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by
I say to myself you’re such a lucky guy
To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true
Out of all the fellows in the world she belongs to me
But it was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me
It was just my imagination runnin’ away with me

Soon we’ll be married and raise a family (oh yeah)
A cozy little home out in the country with two children maybe three
I tell you I can visualize it all
This couldn’t be a dream for too real it all seems
But it was just my imagination once again runnin’ way with me
Tell you it was just my imagination runnin’ away with me

Every night on my knees I pray, dear Lord, hear my plea
Don’t ever let another take her love from me or I would surely die
Her love is heavenly, when her arms enfold me
I hear a tender rhapsody, but in reality she doesn’t even know me

Just my imagination once again runnin’ way with me
Tell you it was just my imagination runnin’ away with me
No, no, I can’t forget her
Just my imagination once again runnin’ way with me
Just my imagination runnin’ away with me

I is for I Will Follow Him

‘I Will Follow Him’ reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for Little Peggy March who was born Margaret Annemarie Battavio in 1963, just a month after her 15th birthday and to this day, she’s youngest female artist to claim the top spot on the Hot 100.  Peggy broke the record set by Brenda Lee, who was 15 years and eight months old when she went to #1 with ‘I’m Sorry’ on July 18, 1960.  Originally this song was an instrumental called ‘Chariot’, performed by Franck Pourcel and his Orchestra.  Petula Clark recorded it with French lyrics, over the original music and it reached #1 in France in 1962.  The same music was used for ‘I Will Follow Him’, but with completely different lyrics.  This song was one of the nominees for the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Rock and Roll Recording.

Lyricist Norman Gimbel put English lyrics to this tune.  Gimbel took Portuguese lyrics written by Antônio Carlos Jobim for a bossa nova song and wrote his English version of these lyrics for the song ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ in 1964.  He’s probably best known for Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’ which he wrote with his frequent writing partner Charles Fox.  He had a string of theme tunes to hit TV shows, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Wonder Woman.  Gimbel teamed up with Charles Fox and scored another top 10 hit in 1973 with the Jim Croce song ‘I Got a Name’.  Norman Gimbel died on December 19, 2018 at the age of 91.

When Peggy March was 13, she signed with RCA and released her first single ‘Little Me’, from the Broadway musical by Neil Simon that starred Sid Caesar, and because of this song she was called “Little Peggy March”, which everyone thought was cute.  Peggy was beginning her freshman year of high school when she recorded this song.  She was taken out of school that day and driven to Newark, which was a two-hour drive from her hometown of Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  She got to meet with Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, who were cousins, songwriters and big-time producers.  They gave Peggy the sheet music and she didn’t like that song, thinking that it was too repetitive and it would be an earworm.  It’s also not an easy song to sing vocally, because it springs octaves.  It was very different because of the way it goes up.  They recorded it in a three-hour session where she was in an isolation booth, because her voice was too loud.  The strings were picking her voice up, so she had to be isolated.  She remembers drinking my Coca-Cola and singing her heart out.  It took 13 takes to make the single.  In those days, there was no going back and redoing one word, you had to do the whole thing over and over and over again till it was right.

March remembers that this song was stuck at #2 on New York radio station WABC, unable to surpass The Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine’.  Then, one evening while she was washing the family’s supper dishes, she was listening to the countdown and when the DJ got to #2, it wasn’t ‘I Will Follow Him’, so March figured her song had fallen down the survey, but then the DJ announced there was a brand-new #1 song and they played her single.  She was all alone in the kitchen standing over a sink of soapy water and her song reached #1.  When Peggy was living in Germany with her husband Arnie Harris in the ’90s, she was invited to perform at a gala for Sheraton Hotels in Frankfurt.  She rehearsed ‘I Will Follow Him’ and an American girl in her 20s who was living in Germany asked her, “What other songs from Sister Act do you do?”

I will follow Him
Follow Him wherever He may go
And near Him, I always will be
For nothing can keep me away
He is my destiny
I will follow Him
Ever since He touched my heart I knew
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep
Keep me away, away from His love
I love Him, I love Him, I love Him
And where He goes
I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
I will follow Him
Follow Him wherever He may go
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep
Keep me away
I will follow Him
Follow Him wherever He may go
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep
Keep me away, away from His love
I love Him
Oh yes I love Him
I’ll follow
I’m gonna follow
True love
He’ll always be my true, true love
Now until forever
I love Him, I love Him, I love Him
And where He goes
I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
He’ll always be my true love
My true love, my true love
From now until forever
Forever, forever
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep
Keep me away, away from His love