Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Grass Roots – "Midnight Confessions" (1968)

There's a little gold ring
You wear on your hand
Makes me understand

According to Wikipedia, this song “appears to be a musical dramatization of the midnight confession of the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale's love for Hester Prynne in the classic 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, The Scarlet Letter.”

The Reverend Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne
Butter my butt and call me a biscuit – I had no idea!

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I’m embarrassed to admit that until about an hour ago, I thought that the title of this song was “Midnight Confession,” singular – not “Midnight Confessions,” plural.

This song was released fifty years ago, and I’ve heard it hundreds (thousands?) of times.  Better late than never!

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“Midnight Confessions” was the last song I chose to include in the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.  But that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy of that honor than the other nine selections.

It’s true that the Grass Roots don’t have the cachet of the other artists whose singles were inducted in my hall of fame this year – artists like the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, and Marvin Gaye.

That may be because some view the Grass Roots as an ersatz group somewhat akin to the Monkees.

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The Grass Roots were the brainchild of the songwriting and producing team of P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri, who had recorded a demo of one of their songs they had written, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” with the help of a group of Los Angeles studio musicians.

P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri
Sloan and Barri’s demo was favorably received, so they went out to find a group willing to become the Grass Roots.  A San Francisco group called the Bedouins fit the bill.  They recorded a new version of “Where Were You When I Needed You,” and begin to perform using the Grass Roots moniker.

But the ex-Bedouins wanted to play more bluesy stuff, which got two thumbs down from Sloan and Barri.  So they recruited a Los Angeles band called The 13th Floor (not to be confused with the 13th Floor Elevators, the legendary Texas psychedelic group), who adopted the Grass Roots moniker and recorded the third version of “Where Were You When I Needed You” to be released under that name.

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The new incarnation of the Grass Roots cranked out over a dozen top-forty hits, the best of which are “I’d Wait a Million Years,” “Temptation Eyes,” and “Midnight Confessions.”  (My favorite Grass Roots song may be “Feelings,” but it failed to crack the Billboard “Hot 100,” so it is not eligible for the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME – unless I decide to change the rules, of course)

“Midnight Confessions” was the group’s biggest hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard charts.  It is absolutely mind-boggling that a song this good didn’t reach #1, but it didn’t.

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“Midnight Confessions” was written by Lou Josie, a Clevelander who had written and recorded several rockabilly singles in the fifties.  

A very young Lou Josie
Josie moved to Los Angeles 1961.  After a couple of years, he gave up recording and concentrated on songwriting.  “Midnight Confessions” was by far his most successful composition, and sounds like nothing else he wrote.  

Josie first gave the song to the Ever-Green Blues, a Los Angeles band that he mentored.  Their recording of the song is very similar to the Grass Roots’ recording – it has the same distinctive bass intro and very similar backing horn parts.  The only real difference between the two versions are the lead vocals – Manny Esparza of the Ever-Green Blues really cuts loose, while Rob Grill of the Grass Roots plays it relatively straight.

Click here to listen to the Ever-Green Blues recording of “Midnight Confessions.”

("Confessions," not "Confession" – it's
as plain as the nose on your face!)
Click here to listen to the Grass Roots recording, which fully deserves to have been named to the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon.

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