Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spanky and Our Gang -- "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" (1967)

Now I wake up Sunday morning
Walk across the way to find
Nobody waiting for me
Sunday's just another day

Terry Cashman is best known for his phenomenally popular baseball song, "Talkin' Baseball" -- which pays homage to 1950s baseball in general and to "Willie, Mickey, and the Duke" in particular (meaning Mays, Mantle, and Snider, respectively).

Terry Cashman
But Cashman was a successful singer-songwriter and record producer before he wrote "Talkin' Baseball."  He was a member of a folk-pop group called Cashman & West that recorded six albums, and he co-produced Jim Croce's records.

In 2009, Carl Wiser of Songfacts interviewed Cashman, who gave him this account of the genesis of the song that became Spanky and Our Gang's biggest hit:

One day [songwriter Gene Pistilli] came into the office, and he had this chord progression he came up with.  Most simple rock and roll chord progressions in the key of G would be G to E minor to A minor to D.  And Gene came in with a change which was instead of going from G to E minor, he went to E major, and instead of going to an A minor -- the typical rock and roll kind of thing -- he went to an A major, so it made it sound different.  And when he played it for me, I started singing this melody to it.  
And you know, it made me think of a girlfriend that I had a few years before.  We used to walk in the park on Sundays, and that whole story became the idea for the song because she left him, and the love affair was over, that Sunday, that special day would never be the same.  We wrote the song very quickly . . . and we did a really, really good demo of the song.
I was the head of the publishing company, so my job was to take the songs that we had made around to the various producers.  I sent it to Lou Adler at Dunhill Records, which was associated with ABC for the Mamas and Papas.  He said, "Hey, this is a great song.  But John Philips, is doing mostly his own songs right now."  So, okay, fine.  The Left Banke sounded to me also like a group that could do this song, but they passed on it.

Spanky and Our Gang
  And then with nobody in mind I went to a producer named Jerry Ross, who was a very hot producer.  He had produced "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" for Jay and the Techniques, and "98.6" with an artist called Keith.  So I played him the demo, and after about 16 bars he took the needle off the vinyl, and he said, "Has anybody else heard this song?"  And I said, "Well, Lou Adler turned it down for Mamas and Papas, and Left Banke turned it down."  And he said, "Well, don't play it for anybody else. I have this great group."  
And he played me a demo of a record that Spanky and Our Gang had done, and they had all these vocal harmonies.  A couple of months later he cut the song, and it was a smash hit. It was something that really put me on the map in terms of the music industry.

Spanky and Our Gang took its name from the "Our Gang" comedies, a series of short films produced by Hal Roach in the 1920s and 1930s.  In the 1950s, 80 of the shorts were syndicated for television under the title "The Little Rascals."  My friends and I grew up largely on a diet of "The Little Rascals" and "The Three Stooges," with some Roy Rogers and Gene Autry thrown in.  (And let's not forget Captain Kangaroo.) 

 The lead singer of Spanky and Our Gang was Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane.  She got the nickname from another band member who thought she looked like "Little Rascals" star George "Spanky" McFarland.  That's not exactly a compliment.

The lyrics of "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" are relatively generic -- no better and no worse than dozens of other AM radio hits from the 1960s.  What makes this song so memorable is the vocal harmony, which I think is the equal of the Mamas and the Papas or any other male-female singing group.  There are few songs that are more satisfying to sing along with -- so turn up the volume and enjoy yourself.

Here's "Sunday Will Never Be the Same":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon: 

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