Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Electric Prunes – "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" (1966)

Then came the dawn
And you were gone

Today’s featured song was written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, the female songwriting duo who wrote most of the songs on the Electric Prunes’ eponymous debut album.

Producer Dave Hassinger reached out to Tucker and Mantz to do the songwriting honors for that album because he thought the band’s original songs were dreck.  

Annette Tucker later said that she and Martz wrote “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” in half an hour.  

Songwriter Annette Tucker
The band recorded the song at Leon Russell’s house.  James Lowe, the lead vocalist for the group, later gave this account of the recording of the song’s introduction by Electric Prunes guitarist Ken Williams, who played a 1958 Gibson Les Paul guitar with a Bigsby vibrato unit:

We were recording on a four-track, and just flipping the tape over and re-recording when we got to the end.  Dave [Hassinger] cued up a tape and didn't hit “record,” and the playback in the studio was way up: ear-shattering vibrating jet guitar.  Ken had been shaking his Bigsby wiggle stick with some fuzztone and tremolo at the end of the tape.  Forward it was cool.  Backward it was amazing. I  ran into the control room and said, “What was that?”  They didn't have the monitors on so they hadn't heard it.  I made Dave cut it off and save it for later.

Maybe that makes sense if you’re a recording engineer or a guitar player, but I’m neither.  So it’s all Greek to me.

“I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” made it all the way to #11 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967 — that’s fifty years ago this month, boys and girls.

I don’t know about you, but the song sounds just as crazy today as it did fifty years ago.  It’s surprising that it did as well as it did on the pop charts, but the music that was getting played on the radio in early 1967 was remarkably diverse.

Here’s “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ed Ames – "My Cup Runneth Over" (1967)

My cup runneth over with . . .  

“My Cup Runneth Over” was written for the Broadway musical “I Do! I Do!” – which opened in 1966 and ran for 560 performances.

The play has only two characters – a married couple, originally played on Broadway by Mary Martin and Robert Preston (and later by Carol Lawrence and Gordon MacRae) – and one set.  So it’s the perfect musical for a small theatre with a limited budget to mount.

In 1971, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Minnesota hired Susan Goeppinger and David Anders for a six-week run of “I Do! I Do!”  The play eventually ran for over 20 years – Goeppinger and Anders got married after performance number 500, and eventually appeared together over 6500 times.

Goeppinger and Anders in 1985
The title of “My Cup Runneth Over” comes from the King James Version of Psalm 23:

Thou preparest a table before me 
In the presence of mine enemies
Thou anointest my head with oil
My cup runneth over

A recording of the song by Ed Ames climbed up the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967, eventually making it to the #8 spot.

Ames played Mingo, Fess Parker’s faithful Indian sidekick, on the NBC television series, Daniel Boone, for six seasons.  (He was the child of two Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, but he was often cast as a Native American.) 

One night, he was demonstrating the tomahawk-throwing skills he had picked up in that role to Johnny Carson when something unexpected happened:

Here’s “My Cup Runneth Over”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Seekers – "Georgy Girl" (1966)

You're always window-shopping
But never stopping to buy

When I was a teenager, it seemed like the 1966 film Georgy Girl was on television quite often.  But I’m not sure I ever watched the whole movie, and it’s been a long time since I said goodbye to being a teenager, so I can’t say I remember much about the movie.

Here's the opening credit sequence:

Here’s how the Turner Classic Movies website summarizes the plot of Georgy Girl:  

Georgy Parkin [played by Lynn Redgrave] is a plump and somewhat forlorn creature who partially disapproves of her parents working as servants in the palatial London home of middle-aged James Leamington [James Mason] and his ailing, forever-complaining wife [who is portrayed by Lynn Redgrave’s real-life mother, Rachel Kempson].  

Resigned to her fate as one of life's misfits, Georgy shares a flat with a beautiful but cold and amoral violinist named Meredith [Charlotte Rampling], who regards Georgy as little more than an unobtrusive convenience who keeps the apartment neat and tidy.  In return, Georgy is able to share vicariously in Meredith's numerous love affairs, particularly a long-standing affair with Jos [Alan Bates], a madcap Cockney.  

One day, to her astonishment, Georgy is informed by Mr. Leamington that he would like her to become his mistress and that he has taken the trouble to have legal papers drawn up on their “agreement.”  Georgy, however, chooses to remain a virginal observer in her flat with Meredith, who reveals that she has become pregnant for the third time by Jos.  

On the previous occasions Meredith had undergone abortions, but this time Jos persuades her to marry him and have his child.  Georgy is thrilled to stay on at the flat and keep house for them.  While Meredith is at the hospital giving birth, Jos – first playfully, then seriously – seduces Georgy, and in the days that follow they live together idyllically.  

Consequently, when Meredith, who intends to put her unwanted baby up for adoption, learns of the love between Georgy and Jos, she gladly turns the infant over to them and blithely returns to her former life.  For a time Georgy and Jos are happy, but Jos soon becomes restless and a little annoyed at Georgy's lavishing all of her love upon the baby.  

In an attempt to regain Georgy's undivided love, Jos takes her on a boat trip and clowns about pathetically in the hope they can recapture their lighthearted intimacy.  Both realize, however, that something has gone out of their love, and when Jos eventually moves out, Georgy knows that the authorities will soon come and take her beloved baby away from her.  

All is not lost, however; for Mr. Leamington, whose wife has since died, comes to the rescue.  If Georgy will marry him, he will adopt the child.  Mr. Leamington thus wins his “Georgy Girl,” and Georgy happily keeps her baby and prepares for a life of upper-class matrimonial comfort.

Based on that plot summary, why would anyone want to see this movie?

Rampling is beautiful, and Bates is charming, and Mason is always compelling to watch on the big screen.  But their Georgy Girl characters are repulsive.  

Who’s the worst of the three?  My vote goes to Rampling’s truly despicable Meredith, but the two males are pretty bad.

Here's the final scene – not exactly a happy ending, eh?

*     *     *     *     *

The movie’s theme song was a worldwide hit for the Seekers, who were the first Australian pop music group to hit it big in the UK and U.S.  

Seekers lead singer Judith Durham
The song is heard at the beginning and end of the movie, but with different lyrics.  The lyrics for the “Georgy Girl” single varied from both movie versions.

“George Girl” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost out to the Born Free theme song.  

Here’s “Georgy Girl”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Paul Revere and the Raiders – "Ups and Downs" (1967)

Things was looking golden, baby
Everything was fine
You never made no sign
That you had changed your mind

I heard Paul Revere and the Raiders perform at Memorial Hall in Joplin, Missouri in the summer of 1966.

Memorial Hall in the 1960s
I was 14 years old, and heading into the 9th-grade when Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay, et al. came to Joplin.  (Why a band as popular as the Raiders came to little ol’ Joplin remains a mystery.)  I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited at a concert than I was that night.  (Sorry, Rolling Stones . . . and Kinks . . . and David Bowie . . . and all the rest.)

Paul Revere’s real name was Paul Revere – sort of.  (Actually, his real name was Paul Revere Dick.)  He continued to tour until shortly before his death in 2014.  

The photograph for this 1967 album cover
 was taken on the porch of a house in Joplin
If you never saw him perform live, here’s an excerpt from a fan letter to Paul that explains what all the fuss was about:

Like most people, my initial introduction to you was on television, radio and records, but none of those mediums gave me a real clue to the one-of-a-kind life force that was Paul Revere.  Sitting in an audience at my first Paul Revere and The Raiders concert introduced me to a larger-than-life dynamo of high-energy slapstick, outrageous and spontaneous humor and a genuine child-like joy. 

Paul Revere (circa 2010)
Paul Revere and the Raiders put out some great records.  Like the Monkees, they were always underrated – perhaps because they, too, were network-TV stars who always seemed to be having way too much fun.

“Ups and Downs” made its first appearance on the Billboard “Hot 100” fifty years ago this week, just as “Good Thing” was about to fall off that chart.

Here’s “Ups and Downs,” which sounds a lot like a Rolling Stones song:

And here’s the band doing “Ups and Downs” live on the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  The Smothers Brothers didn’t allow their musical guests to lip synch, but maybe they should have made an exception for Mark Lindsay, who absolutely butchered the lyrics:

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keith – "98.6" (1966)

Hey, ninety-eight point six
Her lovin' is the medicine
That saved me

The singer known as Keith (he was born James Barry Keefer) wasn’t exactly a one-hit wonder, but he was the next best thing to one.  

Keith’s fame was fleeting, but it was sweet while it lasted.  

From Rolling Stone magazine:

At the height of his career, Keefer was making $15,000 a week, and getting his back slapped by a Beatle, who told him what a great record his "98.6" was.  "John Lennon was standing next to me in a urinal in London," he said.

The singles Keith released just before and just after “98.6” (which made it to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in February 1967) did make it into the top forty, but just barely.  

He released a couple of albums that went nowhere, and he was arrested for draft evasion while on tour in 1968.  After a year in the Army, he released one more album – which flopped – then joined Frank Zappa’s touring band.  

“I think they brought me in to commercialize Frank,” Keith later said.  If that was the goal, it didn’t work.

According to his website, Keith legally changed his name to Bazza Keefer in 1988 to honor his mother.  (Go figure.)

*     *     *     *     *

“98.6” is simply a dynamite pop song, even if the title and the lyrics make no sense whatsoever.  

I think the best thing about the record is the arrangement, which was done by Joe Renzetti.  That arrangement is as cool as the other side of the pillow.  (Note especially the long instrumental introduction, which is quite unique.)

Joe Renzetti
Renzetti was a studio guitarist in Philadelphia in the early sixties, then moved to New York, where he arranged a number of hit records, including Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques, and Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.”  

In 1973, he arranged the music for the The Buddy Holly Story, winning an Academy Award for his work.  

Renzetti taught the three actors who played Holly and his bandmates in that movie (Gary Busey, Don Stroud, and Charles Martin Smith) how to play their instruments and sing, and they were filmed performing live for the scenes depicting Holly and his band in concert.

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly
Busey – who attended the same Tulsa high school that my college girlfriend graduated from –lost 32 pounds in order to portray the very skinny Buddy Holly.  (Holly weighed only 146 pounds at the time of his death.)

Here’s “98.6”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mojo Men – "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" (1967)

Baby, can’t you see
That I’m a desperate man?

The previous 2 or 3 lines featured “For What It’s Worth,” which I think you have to say is the best of the Buffalo Springfield’s songs.

Another Stephen Stills song that appeared on Buffalo Springfield’s eponymous debut album, “Sit Down, I Think I Love You,” was covered by the Mojo Men, a Summer-of-Love-vintage psychedelic group from San Francisco.

That Mojo Men cover climbed to #36 on the Billboard “Hot 100” about the same time “For What It’s Worth” was climbing to #7.

There’s nothing wrong with the Buffalo Springfield’s original version of the song, but I think I prefer the Mojo Men’s rather baroque, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cover, which was arranged by Van Dyke Parks, the eccentric musical genius who is best known for his work with Brian Wilson on Smile.   

The Mojo Men 
One notable thing about the Mojo Men was that they had a female drummer – Jan Errico, formerly the drummer and lead singer for another San Francisco group, the Vejtables.  Eric, who changed her name to Jan Ashton because she thought it sounded more British, was the cousin of Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico.

Here’s “Sit Down, I Think I Love You”:

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Buffalo Springfield – "For What It's Worth" (1966)

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

Most people think “For What It’s Worth” was a protest song about Vietnam, or civil rights, or some other big-ass sixties political issue.  But it was actually inspired by something much less significant: the Sunset Strip riot of 1966.

(Riots are coming back into fashion)
Los Angeles officials had responded to complaints from local residents and business owners about the traffic congestion and noise generated by the young people who flocked to the clubs along the “Sunset Strip” by instituting a 10 pm curfew.  

On November 12, about a thousand protestors – including Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda – congregated on the Strip to demonstrate against the curfew, blocking traffic and generally making a ruckus.  Fights broke out, store windows and car windshields were broken, and a city bus was trashed.

Rioters punish an innocent LA city bus
Stephen Stills seems to have stumbled upon the demonstration by accident.  After observing the melee, he headed back to Topanga Canyon and wrote “For What It’s Worth” in about 15 minutes.  

Buffalo Springfield recorded the song on December 5 – barely three weeks after the Sunset Strip riot – and it eventually climbed to the #7 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100.”

It’s one of the seminal songs of the sixties, but it’s not a song I would have expected to peak that high on the pop charts.

Tomorrow 2 or 3 lines will feature another Stephen Stills song that was recorded by Buffalo Springfield.

Here’s “For What It’s Worth."  (Nice chapeau, Stephen Stills!)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: