More Stories Behind The Songs ... And The Rock And Roll Remakes
In addition to telling you some of the "Stories Behind The Songs",
we've also recently partnered with The True Oldies Channel in bringing you
"The Rock And Roll Remakes" Weekend!!!
It has quickly become a Fan Favorite over at the oldies station.
Here are just a few of the songs we've spotlighted recently:
ANGEL OF THE MORNING (Evie Sands ... and Merilee Rush) - During a couple of other spotlight features in the True Oldies Channel Remakes Weekend, we'll be telling you a little bit about Producer Chips Moman and Songwriter Chip Taylor. Well now we're going to tell you about the time these two "Chips" teamed up to create one of the most beautiful songs of the '60's ... "Angel Of The Morning" by Merilee Rush.
Songwriter Chip Taylor says that the whole song came to him in about twenty minutes. After strumming any variety of chords for close to two hours and coming up with nothing, he says the complete lyrics "There'll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can't bind your heart" flowed out of his mouth. In fact, today he laughs about it ... his first thought was "What is that? That's beautiful!" He then thought, "Nobody actually TALKS like that!!! Where did those words come from?" Incredibly, in one sitting, spread out over no more than twenty minutes, he completed the entire song. He says that during the entire process, he never once thought, "I'm gonna say this" or "I'm gonna say that" ... in fact, most of the time he was thinking "I don't even know what this means!" In his own mind, he feels that he didn't so much as WRITE this song as that he DREAMED it ... the way the lyrics flowed out, meshing perfectly with the series of chords he had been strumming ... there just had to be some kind of divine intervention. "I write melody and words at the same time and I hum nonsense things until something comes out. So I don't think about what I want to say ... I just let the emotion carry me. In this song, the emotion just totally took over and carried me. It was magic."
In hindsight, the song was really quite ahead of its time, even for the Swingin' '60's. Essentially about pre-marital sex (at a time where separate beds were being shown on television for married couples and Jeannie's belly-button had to remain hidden), the song still managed to capture a major audience, going all the way to #3 on the Cash Box Magazine Pop Charts in The Summer of 1968.
Singer Merilee Rush was born in Seattle, Washington, and was discovered by fellow Northwesterners Paul Revere and the Raiders, who quickly had her join their tour. They also lined up a management contract for her, put her on their TV Show, "Happening '68", and hooked her up with producers Tommy Cogbill and Chip Moman, who produced her first album and the monster hit single.
It really was the perfect marriage of artist, songwriter, song and producer. If "Wild Thing" was Chip Taylor's biggest hit as a songwriter, then "Angel Of The Morning" has to be his most magnificent. The record was exquisitely produced by Chips Moman and, if you listen closely behind all the lush, building orchestration and you'll hear a pedal steel guitar, an homage to Chip Taylor's love of country music. (In fact, when country / pop cross-over artist Juice Newton redid the song in 1981, it bested Merilee Rush's version, peaking at #2 in Cash Box and topping Billboard's Adult Contemporary Chart!)
But the very FIRST version of "Angel Of The Morning" was recorded by female vocalist Evie Sands, an artist that Chip Taylor had been working with for quite some time.
Evie Sands became known as "The Hard Luck Girl" around the recording industry.
Her version of "Angel Of The Morning" was released on the Cameo / Parkway record label literally DAYS before the label folded. Despite being the "most-added" record of the week by radio stations around the country, there was no product to distribute and her version of the single never even charted. Reportedly 10,000 copies of the Evie Sands single were pressed and ALL of them were sold within the record's first week of release. But by then, Cameo / Parkway was gone and there were no more singles to sell, so the song died an immediate death. It wouldn't be the only time Sands watched another artist take "her" record up the charts. She was the first artist to record the Chip Taylor tune "I Can't Let Go", only to see The Hollies' harmony-filled version become the hit ... and then become a hit all over again several years later for Linda Ronstadt. Her recording of "Take Me For A Little While" also stiffed ... yet the song became a hit ... in a much heavier arrangement ... for Vanilla Fudge. Evie Sands eventually did have a #53 Hit with yet another song written by Chip Taylor, "Any Way That You Want Me" ... but she's pretty much known in the industry as the girl who recorded very weak versions of some otherwise very popular hits.
In 1994, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders did a very nice version of "Angel Of The Morning" that was included on the soundtrack album for the popular television series "Friends" ... and, in 2001, reggae artist Shaggy put a Jamaican beat and some new lyrics and melody behind Chip Taylor's classic tune, renamed it "Angel" and took it all the way #1 on the pop charts.
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' (Barry McGuire ... and The Mamas and the Papas) - After a long stint with The New Christy Minstrels, scoring Top 40 Hits like "Green Green", "Saturday Night" and "Today", folk singer Barry McGuire decided to pursue a solo career.
He scored a #1 solo hit right off the bat with the rock protest anthem "Eve Of Destruction" in 1965.
Before the year was over, McGuire arranged an audition with his record company, Dunhill Records, for some of his old pals from the folk music circuit. The name of that group was The Mamas and The Papas ... and Producer Lou Adler was blown away by their sound ... he literally could not believe his eyes and ears ... which ultimately became the title of their first album! For their audition on that fateful day, the group performed "Go Where You Wanna Go", "Monday, Monday" and "California Dreamin'" ... ironically, these three songs would go on to become their first three singles!
After hearing them perform, Adler knew he needed to sign the group right away before any other label in town had the chance. Although the final details needed to be worked out, he asked leader John Phillips what he wanted in order to sign and John replied, "I want a steady stream of money coming from your office to my house." The truth was, The Mamas And The Papas were broke ... they were down to their last ten dollars.
As a means to financially help the group as well as give them a chance to get a little bit of recording studio time under their belts, Adler said that he would hire them to sing backup vocals on Barry McGuire's new album, "This Precious Time". Then, as yet another favor to help earn him some songwriting royalties, Adler had McGuire cut one of John Phillips' compositions for the LP ... a little tune called "California Dreamin'".
On close listen, you'll notice that the arrangement and backing track are IDENTICAL to the one eventually released as The Mamas And The Papas' version. In fact, for The Mamas and The Papas' recording, they simply removed Barry McGuire's vocals, inserted their own, and replaced what was once a harmonica solo with the flute solo we all know and love.
Once McGuire had recorded the track, John Phillips reportedly begged him not to release his version as a single so that HIS band could have a chance at the song. McGuire agreed, stating that, after all, it was John's song in the first place. It turned out to be an incredible act of friendship and kindness ... Barry McGuire would never have another Top 40 Hit ... but "California Dreamin'" launched the careers of The Mamas and The Papas.
By the way, Barry McGuire had some pretty impressive help on his first few solo recordings. Not only did The Mamas and the Papas sing background vocals on his "This Precious Time" album, but the backing group on his #1 Hit Single "Eve Of Destruction" was none other than fellow Dunhill group The Grass Roots!
All weekend long, Scott Shannon will be playing some great remakes from the rock era ... by any variety of well known and obscure recording artists. But if I had to pick the #1 Remake artist of all-time, I think it would have to be The Carpenters.
They were one of the HOTTEST acts of the '70's ... Brother and Sister Richard and Karen Carpenter ran up a string of twenty Top 40 Hits between 1970 and 1981 ... and they found their music virtually EVERYWHERE!!! In fact, we're featuring a couple of their remakes during our special True Oldies Weekend. Their first charted single was a slowed-down remake of The Beatles' classic "Ticket To Ride". (It went to #54 in 1970). Next came "Close To You", a Hal David - Burt Bacharach composition that bombed for virtually EVERYBODY else who recorded it until Karen lent her perfect vocals to the tune. (Listen this weekend and you'll hear Scott Shannon play the original version by TV's Dr. Kildare, Richard Chamberlain, who recorded "Close To You" as the B-Side of his 1963 Hit "Blue Guitar". Even Dionne Warwick, who had more Hal David - Burt Bacharach hits than ANYBODY, failed to have a hit with this song!) The Carpenters' version of "Close To You" topped the pop charts for four weeks during the Summer of 1970 ... and was it followed by ANOTHER smash hit, "We've Only Just Begun", which peaked at #2. Believe it or not, this song was originally featured as part of an Insurance Company television commercial!!! Next came "For All We Know", from the film "Lovers And Other Strangers" (which was anonymously written by Bread members James Griffin and Robb Royer, who won an Academy Award for their efforts!) The Carpenters hit #3 with that one. The beautiful ballad "Superstar" (#2, 1971) came from the pen of rocker Leon Russell ... and "It's Going To Take Some Time" (#12, 1972) was written by songstress Carole King, who first included it on her "Music" LP. In between, they went to #2 again with "Hurting Each Other", another song being featured this weekend in its original form by Jimmy Clanton.
"Sing" was a #3 smash in 1973 ... incredibly, this song was first done on the children's television series "Sesame Street" ... proving that Karen and Richard could find hit material from virtually ANY source!
"I Won't Last A Day Without You" bombed for its songwriter Paul Williams the year before ... but when The Carpenters did it, it soared to #12 on The Billboard Chart. They scored a #17 Hit when they redid Neil Sedaka's song "Solitaire" in 1975, and today that song is considered an American classic. In early 1975, The Carpenters hit #1 again when they did an updated remake of The Marvelettes' tune "Please Mr. Postman" and the following year they reached #12 with a remake of the Herman's Hermits Hit "There's A Kind Of Hush."
1976 found them going all the way back to the 1930's to revamp a song called "Goofus" ... and the following year they took "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" by Klaatu, a group rumored at the time to REALLY be The Beatles, all the way to #32. As we said, the source of their material was really QUITE outstanding ... yet they made everything from Sesame Street to Motown to Album Rock work, making each song work within the confines of their unparalleled soft-rock arrangements.
DEVIL WITH A BLUE DRESS ON (Shorty Long ... and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) -If If I'm being completely honest, I never really cared much for the Mitch Ryder rave-up medleys that he did in the mid-to-late '60's ... although they were clearly very popular with OTHER rock and roll music fans, as evidenced by Ryder consistently hitting the charts with these tunes.
One of his biggest was the medley he strung together of "Devil With A Blue Dress On" and "Good Golly Miss Molly", a big hit for Little Richard at the dawn of The Rock And Roll Era. Now the truth is, I never even knew there WAS an original version of "Devil With A Blue Dress On" until about ten years ago or so ... since his medleys sometimes featured a "hit" oldie along with some sort of original bridge piece ... and since "Devil" was never a hit ... I was VERY pleasantly surprised to discover THIS one!!!
It's by Motown's Shorty Long, best known for his novelty hit "Here Comes The Judge" ... a song inspired by the hit television series "Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In" ... but this track is SMOKIN'!!! (Ironically, Mitch Ryder would ALSO find inspiration from this television classic ... later the same year he would hit The Top Ten with a song called "Sock It To Me Baby"!)
Ryder grew up in Detroit where Motown was played regularly on the radio ... so odds are he was one of the few people who heard this song a few years before he decided to cut it himself. Let's face it ... blues tunes never really did much on the Pop Charts ... and this one didn't really have what's since become known as "The Motown Sound" ... but Ryder heard something there that inspired him and it worked ... his version of "Devil With A Blue Dress On" / "Good Golly Miss Molly" went all the way to #4 on the Billboard Chart.
THE GRASS ROOTS - Elsewhere on the web page today we tell you where to find the incredible story behind The Grass Roots' big hit "Let's Live For Today" ... but they seemed to have a knack of covering OTHER records and turning them into hits, too. For example, their first Top 40 Record, "Where Were You When I Needed You", was first recorded by Herman's Hermits as part of the soundtrack to their film "Hold On". "Midnight Confessions", a Top Five Single for The Grass Roots in 1968, first failed to chart for The Evergreen Blues Band. "Lovin' Things" was a British Hit first for Marmalade, the group who scored big on these shores with "Reflections Of My Life" and The Grass Roots took "The River Is Wide", a minor hit for The Forum in 1967, into The Top 40 when they cut it two years later. But The Grass Roots didn't ALWAYS know how to pick a winner. Lead Vocalist Rob Grill loves to tell the story of how the band turned down the song "Don't Pull Your Love" in 1971 ... only to see it top The Cash Box Chart for Hamilton, Joe Frank And Reynolds!
HANKY PANKY (The Raindrops ... and Tommy James and the Shondells) - Featured this weekend on The True Oldies Channel. "Hanky Panky" started out as the B-Side to The Raindrops' 1963 hit record "That Boy John". At best, it was a throw-away track written by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry ... but Tommy James, who just happened to work in a local record store up in Niles, Michigan, was familiar with the tune ... and when he saw the reaction another local band got when they performed he live, he quickly added it to his band's repretoire. That band was The Shondells ... and they first recorded it for the small Snap Records Label ... and it went absolutely nowhere ... but when a disc jockey out in Pittsburgh started spinning the record in heavy rotation three years later, Tommy James and the Shondells were on their way to an incredible recording career. James just published his autobiography, "Me, The Mob And The Music" ... and it's a pretty remarkable tale ... and THIS is the record that started it all.
HEY THERE LONELY GIRL (Ruby and the Romantics ... and Eddie Holman) - Featured this weekend on The True Oldies Channel - This one first saw life as "Hey There Lonely BOY" ... when Ruby and the Romantics reached #27 with it in 1963. Seven years later, a little gender-bending ... and the soaring falsetto of Eddie Holman ... made it a hit all over again, this time reaching #2.
HOLD ME, THRILL ME, KISS ME (Karen Chandler ... and Mel Carter) - One of the most durable oldies of all time is Mel Carter's 1965 Hit "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" ... in fact, it's been covered by any number of pop artists over the years ... but few people reallize that this tune dates all the way back to 1953 when an artist named Karen Chandler first took it into The Top Ten. Scroll back a few pages on The Forgotten Hits Web Page and you can hear Karen Chandler's original version.
HOT ROD RACE (Tiny Hill) / HOT ROD LINCOLN (Johnny Bond and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen) - For the full details behind THIS hit record, check out The Forgotten Hits Website ... just scroll down to the HOT ROD LINCOLN Section: Click here: Forgotten Hits - THE STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS
INDIAN RESERVATION (Marving Rainwater ... Don Fardon ... and Paul Revere and the Raiders) - One of the very first songs we ever featured in Forgotten Hits (some eleven years ago now!) was Don Fardon's version of "Indian Reservation". In fact, we were surprised at the time to find out that MOST of the folks on our mailing list were not familiar with Don's version ... because here in Chicago, Fardon's record peaked at #5 on our local charts back in 1968 ... and received quite a bit of local airplay. It didn't do all that badly on the national charts either, peaking at #19 in Cash Box and #20 in Billboard ... yet most of the folks who responded said that they had never heard his version before.
Of course the more familiar version is the one recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971 ... it went all the way to #1 on the charts ... but the haunting rhythm of the tom-toms, the screeching guitar and horns, and Don Fardon's deep baritone vocal on the original made this one sound different than anything else that was coming out of your radio at the time.
But a little bit of research tells us that Don Fardon's version was NOT the original version of this song after all! When we did our "Honest Injun" series a few years back, we discovered that the song was written by veteran songwriter John D. Loudermilk, no stranger to the pop charts over the years, having also written the hits "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" for The Casinos, "Tobacco Road" for The Nashville Teens, "Ebony Eyes" for The Everly Brothers and "Waterloo" for Stonewall Jackson.
John D. Loudermilk first wrote and recorded this song under the title "Pale-Faced Indian"
with REAL Cherokee Indian Marvin Rainwater back in 1959 but it never reached the charts. Rainwater is best remembered for his 1957 Top 20 Hit "Gonna Find Me A Bluebird".
After a lyric tweak here and there, Don Fardon's 1968 version was simply called "Indian Reservation" (although "The Lament Of The Cherokee" appeared in parentheses in the title). By the time Paul Revere and the Raiders got ahold of this tune, the parentheses portion of the title was expanded to read "The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian.")
Fardon (whose REAL name is Donald Maughn) was a British artist who had previously recorded with the group The Sorrows. (Their British hit, "Take A Hand", "bubbled under" on the Billboard charts here in the States.) Despite his solo success here in The States, Fardon's version of "Indian Reservation" wasn't released as a single in Great Britain until two years later. When it WAS finally issued in 1970, it went all the way to #3!!!
I have to admit that I was QUITE surprised when I first heard that Paul Revere and the Raiders had redone the song in 1971 ... they had written so many of their own hits, I couldn't imagine why they'd now be issuing a cover, particularly of a song so well known. (Way back in 1963, Paul Revere and the Raiders released a competing version of the garage band classic "Louie, Louie", only to see their rivals The Kingsmen score the major hit with that song.) Well, turns out (despite its massive airplay here in Chicago), "Indian Reservation" apparently WASN'T all that well-known around the rest of the country and America embraced Mark Lindsay's version (maybe it was the ponytail???), sending it straight to #1, the ONLY official #1 Record of their career! When Don Fardon's record hit #3 in England, Jack Gold, a Columbia Records Executive, approached Mark Lindsay about recording the song. (Lindsay says he's about 1/16th Cherokee and was intrigued by the song's message.) The original plan was for it to be a Mark Lindsay SOLO record ... he had already hit The Top 40 on his own with "Arizona", "Miss America", "Silver Bird" and "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind" ... and, quite honestly, The Raiders hadn't had a decent-sized hit in nearly two years.
Mark Lindsay agreed to cut the tune but wanted it released as a Raiders' single. (Since he was producing the band anyway, Columbia agreed ... in fact, the success of this "comeback" record helped to resurrect the band's career for a short time and their follow-up singles "Birds Of A Feather" and "Country Wine" also made The National Top 40.) Other reports state that Paul Revere BEGGED Lindsay to release the tune as a Raiders cut to give the band one more shot at a hit record ... in either event, Mark Lindsay's recording revitalized the band ... and "Indian Reservation" stands as the last of their five Billboard Top Ten Hits.
For years, there has been a recurring rumor that The Raiders' first (and only) Number One single was NOT sung by Mark Lindsay ... but give a listen ... this simply is NOT true.
I WRITE THE SONGS (David Cassidy ... and Barry Manilow) - One of the songs most identified with Barry Manilow is "I Write The Songs", a number one hit for Barry in 1976.
And while Barry wrote a number of the songs that he recorded over the years, he did NOT write this one. That honor belongs to Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys.
Bruce included his own version of this track on his solo album "Going Places" in 1977 ... and, over the years, a number of soft-rock artists have also recorded this song, which was deemed an "instant classic" when Manilow's version hit the airwaves. (Among the first to record it were Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and The Captain And Tennille, who toured as part of The Beach Boys Band for several years.)
But the VERY first artist to record "I Write The Songs" was David Cassidy, who had a Top 20 Hit in The U.K. with it about six months before Barry Manilow's version was released here in The States. In fact, Bruce Johnston produced Cassidy's version and even performs on the track along with fellow Beach Boy Carl Wilson.
re: LAST KISS (J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers ... Wednesday ... and Pearl Jam) -
Here's a song that's been a hit for three different artists over the years ... yet the man who WROTE the song never even made the charts with HIS version. For the COMPLETE true story behind "Last Kiss", be sure to visit our Forgotten Hits Website ... (we covered it in MUCH greater depth a few years ago):
Click here: Forgotten Hits - THE STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS
LET'S LIVE FOR TODAY:
Before The Grass Roots took THEIR version of this rock classic into The Top Ten in 1967, several OTHER groups ... in several different languages ... FAILED to make an impression on the charts with their renditions. For the COMPLETE story of how "Let's Live For Today' FINALLY became a hit, be sure to check out THIS piece on The Forgotten Hits Web Page: Click here: Forgotten Hits: Let's Live For Today
LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER (Neil Sedaka ... and The Captain and Tennille) -
The Captain and Tennille scored their very first #1 Hit when they recorded Neil Sedaka's "Love Will Keep Us Together" back in 1975. In fact, it was so successful that A & M Record re-released their EARLIER single "The Way I Want To Touch You" (which DIED on the charts the year before) hot on the heels of their #1 Record and watched it soar to #4 on The Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
The Captain and Tennille had done a fair amount of session work prior to making a go of it as a husband and wife duo ... and even toured as part of The Beach Boys' back-up band for a while. (In fact, Toni Tennille was the first NON-Boy to play with the band!!! And Daryl Dragon earned his nickname "The Captain" courtesy of Beach Boy Mike Love, who coined the phrase due to all the hats Dragon used to wear on stage!)
When Neil Sedaka made his comeback in 1975 (thanks to Elton John) his first LP released here Stateside was called "Sedaka's Back" ... and THAT'S where the first version of "Love Will Keep Us Together" appeared. Quite honestly, it's a pretty watered-down recording ... but The Captain and Tennille put just enough "pop" into their arrangement to not only take it to #1 ... but ALSO make it the biggest selling single of 1975! Listen closely to the fade out on the record and you'll hear them pay homage to Neil Sedaka when they sing "Sedaka's Back"!)
MANDY (Scott English ... and Barry Manilow) - When New York singer / songwriter Scott English first wrote and recorded this song, he called it "Brandy" ... and it became a VERY minor hit on the pop charts, peaking at #91 in 1972.
Our Forgotten Hits buddy Ron Dante produced Barry Manilow's version of the song in 1975 and the record became his breakthrough hit, going all the way to #1. But Barry decided to change the name to "Mandy", since a group called Looking Glass had already topped the pop charts a few years before with a completely different song called "Brandy" ... and he wanted to avoid any possible confusion by releasing a recording with the same name. (In fact, years ago we featured an out-take of Manilow rehearsing the song where he actually sings "Brandy" by mistake ... and then catches himself and corrects it!)
While Barry Manilow certainly wrote his share of hits, his BIGGEST records came at the hands of other songwriters. For a while there, he was the hottest act on the planet, scoring 18 consecutive Top 40 Hits between 1975 and 1980, including Top Ten smashes like "Could It Be Magic", "I Write The Songs" (featured above), "Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again", "Weekend In New England", "Looks Like We Made It", "Can't Smile Without You", "Copacabana", "Somewhere In The Night", "Ships" and "I Made It Through The Rain".
MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA (Jim Weatherly ... and Gladys Knight and the Pips) -
Singer / Songwriter Jim Weatherly was visiting his friends Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett-Majors one night in the early '70's in L.A. when Farrah had to leave for a trip to Houston. In fact, she was taking the midnight plane to Houston.
Something about that phrase clicked with Weatherly and he put his thoughts to music ... in fact, he recorded "The Midnight Plane To Houston" on his next LP. It wasn't a hit ... and not too many people ever got to hear his rendition.
Apparently a record producer by the name of Sonny Limbo (who was working with Cissy Houston at the time ... she's Whitney's Mom ... and Dionne Warwick's Aunt!!!) heard Jim's version and thought it'd be perfect for Cissy to record. He wanted to make a minor change however ... instead of "The Midnight Plane To Houston", he asked permission to change the lyrics to "The Midnight Train To Georgia". Weatherly reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation that he leave the REST of the song intact as it was written.
Thanks to a much more gospel arrangement, Houston turned an otherwise pretty wimpy sounding folk song into a much fuller arrangement ... but it STILL failed to make the charts. Enter Gladys Knight and the Pips and BOOM!!! A #1 Record! Houston became Georgia ... the plane became a train ... and the song became an absolute SMASH!!! (In fact, Gladys Knight and the Pips admired Jim's work so much, they went on to cut his compositions "Neither One Of Us" and "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" with great success ... as well as "Between Her Goodbye And My Hello", "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" and "Love Finds It's Own Way".)
Weatherly went on to have one major hit on his own ... "The Need To Be" went to #11 in 1974 ... but it was Gladys Knight's version of "Midnight Train To Georgia" that help to pay for quite a FEW of his airline tickets along the way!!!
You won't believe the incredible, true story behind THIS song ... a hit for Lloyd Price, Wilson Pickett and Tommy Roe in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. Get the full story on The Forgotten Hits Website:
Click here: Forgotten Hits - THE STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS
SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Mark James ... and Elvis Presley) -
After his discharge from the Army in 1960, Elvis Presley made dozens of lightweight movies and, in the process, relinquished his crown as The King Of Rock And Roll. Thanks to the artists of The British Invasion and the much-heavier, message-driven musical sounds of the mid-to-late '60's, Elvis' old schtick seemed pretty passe to everyone other than his most loyal allegiance of fans. But in 1968, he proved to the world that he could still rock and roll with the best of them when NBC aired his Singer "comeback" television special ... and the world saw a raw side of Elvis that they hadn't seen in a long, long time ... an image that did NOT come across in his films. Elvis knew that in order to maintain this newfound momentum, he would have to do a couple of things.
First, he'd have to take his show back out on the road ... and thus began "The Vegas Years" of Elvis' long career. Initially, the fans had to come to him ... and they came in droves from all over the world to see this new Las Vegas Spectacle. Within a few short years, he was back out on tour, playing major cities all over The United States.
But secondly, he would have to go back into the studio and record something worthy of this new musical era. And for that part of the plan, Elvis decided to go back to his roots and booked some studio time at the Memphis "American Sounds" Studio, run by producing legend Chips Moman.
Moman had put together an incredible string of hits in the mid-to-late '60's for artists like Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, Neil Diamond, The Box Tops, Booker T and the MG's and many, many others.
It was under Chips Moman's direction that Elvis recorded many of his so-called comeback hits: "In The Ghetto", "Kentucky Rain" and "Don't Cry Daddy" were all cut during these Memphis Sessions.
But the song that REALLY made the difference was "Suspicious Minds".
Incredibly, the song had just been released a few months earlier by its songwriter, Mark James, but it made absolutely NO impact on the charts. Moman produced that record, too, so he had a pretty good idea as to what he wanted to do with Elvis' version. Actually, the "new" arrangement remained pretty faithful to the original ... but there was magic in the studio that night and, after just four takes, EVERYBODY there knew that they had just cut a #1 Record.
"Suspicious Minds" topped the Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart on November 1, 1969, and it became Elvis' last official Number One Record.
THIS DIAMOND RING (Sammy Ambrose ... and Gary Lewis and the Playboys) -
Al Kooper, who wrote the #1 Gary Lewis and the Playboys Hit "This Diamond Ring", told me that he had originally written the song as an R & B arrangement, something he had hoped The Drifters would record.
But The Drifters weren't interested and turned the song down flat. After shopping it around to a few more uninterested artists, the song was finally placed with a guy named Sammy Ambrose, who did an arrangement closer to what Al Kooper envisioned ... which promptly bombed.
How Snuff Garrett heard a hit in this is a pretty amazing achievement in itself! This is a GREAT one to feature ... betcha hardly anybody's ever heard it before!!!
TWIST AND SHOUT (The Top Notes ... The Isley Brothers ... and The Beatles) -
Ask MOST oldies music experts "Who recorded the first version of 'Twist And Shout'" and nearly ALL of them will tell you that the song was first done by The Isley Brothers ... but this simply isn't true. Before The Beatles took it all the way to #1 on The Cash Box Chart, The Isley Brothers DID reach The Top Ten with their version in 1962. But before THAT version, the song was recorded by an unknown group called The Top Notes, who never even charted with THEIR version of this Rock And Roll Classic. Simply put, that's because it wasn't very good ... believe it or not, it was one of the EARLIEST productions EVER by Famed Record Producer Phil Spector ... but it totally bombed!!! Songwriters Bert Russell and Phil Medley hated Spector's version and arrangement so much, they took the song to The Isley Brothers, who cut a version pretty similar to the one The Beatles would record a year later ... but it was John Lennon's vocal ... one of the best of his career ... that pushed The Beatles' version over the top. (One critic recently said that you can literally hear his vocal cords shreading on the newly remastered CDs!!!) Any way you cut it, it's a CLASSIC!
WILD THING (Jordan Christopher and the Wild Ones ... and The Troggs) -
The song "Wild Thing" by The Troggs was an international, world-wide #1 smash back in 1966 ... but most people don't know that the song was originally inspired by and written for another group who never even made the pop charts.
Singer / Songwriter Chip Taylor says that "Wild Thing" was "written to order" after he was approached by record producer Gerry Granahan, who was looking for a new song for the band he was working with, Jordan Christopher and the Wild Ones.
When Granahan asked him if he had anything "in the can, ready to go" that the group could take a crack at, Taylor replied, "Well, I don't know if I do or I don't, but let me try to write something today for you."Over the next three hours, Taylor knocked out what would go on to be one of the biggest hits of the '60's ... although NOT for Jordan Christopher and the Wild Ones.
Taylor admits that, subconsciously, their name, The Wild Ones, may have acted as some sort of inspiration for the lyrics ... and he further admits that the stop / start rhythm was inspired by the early Carl Perkins rocker "Blue Suede Shoes". (At the time, he wasn't even sure what lyrics he would insert into those pauses ... but everything just sort of jelled together ... and, three hours after receiving the phone call from Granahan, Taylor went into the recording studio to cut his demo. He says that the demo he made that day became the template that The Troggs would follow when they cut the song several months later.) But first he brought the song to Jordan Christopher and the Wild Ones as promised.
"I don't know if it ever came out," he remembers. (It did ... but it never made the charts!) "They had an arranger that was arranging horns and strings and drum beats and stuff like that. So my cool groove all but disappeared with the horns and strings arrangement. It didn't have a great feel."When the song finally made its way to The Troggs' record producer Larry Page (by way of music publisher Dick James, the same guy who also handled all of The Beatles' song publishing at the time), they didn't know what to make of it.
Troggs' lead singer Reg Presley reportedly said, "This is either gonna be the biggest bomb or the biggest hit ever." Incredibly, by the time The Troggs' version was released as a single in 1966, it is believed that at least FIVE other versions of the song had already been recorded and released, with NONE of them garnering any attention.
"Wild Thing" would go on to hit the pop charts a couple more times, first as a novelty hit for Senator Bobby in 1967 and then again as a remake by the group Fancy ... they're the guys who that did that "ooga-chugga, ooga-chugga" version of the B.J. Thomas Hit, "Hooked On A Feeling." It was also a regular part of Jimi Hendrix's act for years
Chip Taylor would score several other hits on the pop charts as a songwriter ... but did you know that his REAL name is James Wesley Voight ... and that he's the younger brother of actor Jon Voight ... which also makes him Uncle to Angelina Jolie?!?!?! That connection ALONE should have been enough to inspire "Wild Thing"!!!
THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN (The Fifth Dimension ... and The Brooklyn Bridge) -
One of the most successful and prolific songwriters of the 1960's was Jimmy Webb ... artists like Glen Campbell, The Fifth Dimension and Richard Harris all scored major hits when they recorded Jimmy Webb classics like "By The Time I Get To Phoenix", "MacArthur Park" and "Up, Up And Away".
In fact, The Fifth Dimension liked Webb's music so much that in 1968 they cut an entire album of his tunes called "The Magic Garden", which Webb also produced for the band.
One of the tracks on that album was a song called "The Worst That Could Happen", which became a Top Five Hit the following year for a group out of Long Island, New York, calling themselves The Brooklyn Bridge.
They were led by lead singer Johnny Maestro, who had earlier scored several Top 40 Hits with the group The Crests as well as as a solo artist.
Today "The Worst That Could Happen" by The Brooklyn Bridge is remembered as one of the biggest hits of the '60's ... but it was FIRST recorded by The Fifth Dimension.
YOU'VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES (Bobby Parker ... Marv Johnson ... and The Dave Clark Five) Seems like EVERYBODY remembers the huge hit The Dave Clark Five had with this song back in 1967 ... it came at a time when MOST music fans had already written them off as past their time. And MOST knowledgeable music experts will tell you that the song was first done by Marv Johnson back in 1960 ... in fact, Marv's version was popular enough to ALSO make The Top Ten.
But a couple of years ago we discovered a version that dated back even further, done by the song's REAL songwriter, Bobby Parker.
It's another case of a young artist being ripped off by the system. Although Parker is the guy who wrote, first recorded and first copyrighted the song ... and released it as a single back in 1957 on Vee Jay Records ... the publishing credit went to Marv Johnson and a young Berry Gordy ... and so did the hit record! You'll find the whole amazing story right here on The Forgotten Hits Website: Click here: Forgotten Hits: You Got What It Takes
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