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:

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