While you’re listening, the following blurb may be of interest.
SAM THE SHAM & THE PHAROAHS “Red Hot”
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs were unusual in several ways. To questions regarding the origins of the term “sham,” Samudio answered that it was “rhythm-and-blues jargon for shuffling, twisting or jiving around to music.” Before taking up the organ, Samudio “shammed” while he sang, so he found the term a fitting one for the band’s name. Also, being a novice on organ, he had to “sham” his way through playing. In addition, he and his fellow musicians were known for wearing Middle Eastern attire for their performances. Indeed, Samudio wore a “jewelled jacket and feathered turban.” He purchased a hearse that he called “Black Beauty” in which to haul his organ and his Leslie speaker, and the band toured in it from then on.
The song was originally performed by Billy Lee Riley and made an impression on the young Bob Dylan. At the Musicares Person Of The Year 2015 Dylan said:
“Billy Lee Riley became what is known in the industry, a condescending term by the way, as a one hit wonder. But sometimes, just sometimes, once in a while, a one hit wonder can make a more powerful impact than a recording star who’s got 20 or 30 hits behind him. And Billy’s hit song was called “Red Hot,” and it was red hot. It could blast you out of your skull and make you feel happy about it. Change your life.”
Technically Riley did have another hit in Flying Saucer Rock ‘N’ Roll but “Red Hot” is a killer song.
Recorded at Sun Records where Billy Lee Riley was competing for attention with the likes of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash. This stands up just fine against all those great artists:
ELVIS PRESLEY “Blue River”
Recorded in 1963 it was inexplicably shelved for a couple of years until it was released as a single in the UK in January 1966, reaching number 22, not bad considering that by then Elvis’s country rock sound was beginning to sound a bit old fashioned.
I love the home-made Youtube video that this guy has done for this song on Youtube, a real labour of love. Elvistheking35, Beat City salutes you!
THE ISLEY BROTHERS “This Old Heart Of Mine”
Funny how perceptions are different. I was totally under the impression that this song is among Motown’s most well-known, but for all its finger-clicking goodness a quick straw poll indicates that I’m in a minority.
For me this is the quintessential Motown track of this era. No intro beyond that trademark drum roll, then its straight into a groove that lasts for the rest of the track.
The song has been covered a few times but this is the best one I’ve found. Recorded in 1975 but only released in 2014, this is by the underrated Bettye Swann, who slows it right down and turns it into something else entirely.
MARTHA REEVES & THE VANDELLAS “Never Leave Your Baby’s Side”
If the Supremes had cut a song called “Never Leave Your Baby’s Side” then you’d just KNOW without hearing it that it was going to be a gooey loved-up number sung by a submissive-sounding Diana Ross.
The title is given a 180 degree twist here though. You can’t imagine any other female Motown singer delivering this performance. Martha Reeves takes a waspish “don’t mess with me boy” tone on the verses but there’s enough sugar and sweetness in the chorus for the casual listener to think its just a nice song about always being with your bay-bee. But the delivery of the line “watch out” is the giveaway.
Its the tale of a woman who doesn’t trust here man but she doesn’t sit around moping at home, she knows the score, that all men are the same in this respect, waiting to play around as soon as you turn your back. Not a song that could be covered in the present day without scornful – and lets face it accurate – accusations of an acceptance of How Men Are, but at the time this was as powerful a statement as a woman could make.
This song was the B-side to “My Baby Loves Me”, which actually WOULD sound more natural in the hands of the Supremes. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong, but I’d put a fiver on “Never Leave
Your Baby’s Side” having originally been scheduled as the A-side until they bottled out.
THE WHEELS “Bad Little Woman”
The Wheels (renamed The Wheel-A-Ways for the US release of this record, presumably to avoid confusion with Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels) came out of the same Belfast scene as Van Morrison’s Them – indeed, Morrison played saxophone in an early incarnation of The Wheels.
See the superb Garage Hangover for details on The Wheels and many other sixties garage rock bands.
THEM “My Lonely Sad Eyes”
The band may have been on the verge of collapse but that song indicates that they could still make a great record in early 1966. From the album Them Again that was My Lonely Sad Eyes, a pointer of what was to come from Van Morrison in his solo career.
LITTLE MILTON “We Got The Winning Hand”
This sneaked into the Billboard Hot 100 AT number 100 for one solitary week in early 1966. Little Milton with We Got The Winning Hand, backed with “Sometimey”:
MILLIE SMALL & JIMMY CLIFF “Hey Boy Hey Girl”
Millie Small is best known for The Hit (“My Boy Lollipop”) but she made some great records through the rest of the sixties and into the seventies. This track was made to give a boost to a young Jimmy Cliff, just starting out at the time.
THE EYES “My Degeneration”
The B-side to the second single by mod hopefuls The Eyes is both funny and knowing.
The song contained references to “a cup of coffee or two” which in the vernacular of the time meant .. well, we all know what “coming back for a coffee” means don’t we? I believe the modern equivalent is “Netflix and Chill”.
The humourless souls at the Tea Board attempted to sue the band because they seemed to be taking liberties with the “Join the tea set” chorus. Britain, eh?
CRISPIAN ST PETERS “You Were On My Mind”
Crispian St Peters could well have gone down in music history as a one-hit wonder but an interview with the New Musical Express in which he claimed that he’d written 80 songs that were better than anything the Beatles had ever produced, and that he was a better singer than Tom Jones and Elvis Presley (claiming that his own stage moves made Elvis look like the Statue Of Liberty).
This controversy – unusual for a singer who only had the one hit to his name – helped propel the proto-flower-power anthem “I’m The Pied Piper” into the charts.
So he went down in music history as the first (and possibly the only) TWO-hit wonder.
THE CYCLONES & THE CHECKMATES “The Dew”
The Singapore pop scene was thriving in late 1965 and early 1966 with bands like Naomi & The Boys and The Crescendos becoming big stars in their home country with their version of beat music.
The Cyclones were a duo comprising James and Siva Choy and they’re backed by instrumental surf / beat group the Checkmates on this record. There’s more bending of the notes than you’d expect from Western proponents of the form, giving it a definite sound of its own.
NEAL HEFTI – “Batman Theme”
The classic theme from the Batman TV show which debuted in January 1966, covered many many times by the likes of Link Wray, The Ventures and The Jam but to be honest none of those versions are as good as Neal Hefti’s original.
This is one of Hefti’s previous film themes. from the Jean Harlow biopic “Harlow” that came out in 1965, an instrumental version of “Girl Talk” which works better without the lyrics to my mind.
SPENCER DAVIS GROUP “Keep On Running”
Written by Jamaican singer and songwriter Jackie Edwards, “Keep On Running” could have been designed with Stevie Winwood’s soaring voice in mind and provided the Spencer Davis Group with their biggest and most enduring hit.
This is Jackie Edwards’ original version.
LEE HAZLEWOOD “I Move Around”
Signed to MGM Records after writing hits for the likes of Duane Eddy and (most recently and effectively) Nancy Sinatra’s breakthrough single “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, Lee Hazlewood’s career as a solo artist had stuttered somewhat up to this point.
His first single for the label is classic Hazlewood, a slow, dreamlike country tune with heartbreaking lyrics sung with his trademark flat, world-weary delivery.
He also recorded his own strange version of “These Boots Are Made For Walking” complete with running commentary – note the comment at 2:09 or thereabouts in particular.
THE BEAU BRUMMELS “Sad Little Girl”
A tune too good to tuck away on a B-side – the allegedly more commercial A-side was a cover of The Loving Spoonful’s “Good Time Music”, but that only just scraped into the Hot 100.
If only they’d pushed “Sad Little Girl” instead, who knows what could have happened?
THE FOUR TOPS “Shake Me, Wake Me When It’s Over”
Motown were early adopters of recycling.
Following standard label practice, this single by the Four Tops was covered by the Supremes later in 1966, on the album The Supremes A Go-Go.
MARVIN GAYE “One More Heartache”
Marvin Gaye with what comes over as a gritty remake of Can I Get A Witness with its sparse cool opening and relentless groove that just builds and builds.
Much like the earlier “Can I Get A Witness” in its sparse, cool opening which then drops into a groove which just keeps on building.
The B-side “When I Had Your Love” is another hidden gem
THE KINKS “Never Met A Girl Like You Before”
“One of our aims is to stay amateurs. As soon as we become professionals we’ll be ruined” – Ray Davies from the sleeve notes to the expanded rerelease of the album “The Kink Kontroversy”
THE SEEKERS “The Carnival Is Over”
A lovely, sad end-of-a-love-affair song that can be taken literally or figuratively, either way its heartbreaking.
The Seekers are underrated by most music historians.
Judith Durham’s voice could make the phone book sound poignant, especially when set against the strong unison male backing vocals. This is their cover of a Paul Simon song, “Come The Day”.