Classic Nuggets: The Jarmels, “A Little Bit of Soap”

I am not sure why pop/soul songs of the early 60’s have been jumping into my brain of late.

Earlier this week it was Dick and DeeDee’s The Mountains High. This morning it was Ruby and the Romantics Our Day Will Come, which I promptly went to on YouTube.

I found the original, plus a pretty good cover by Amy Winehouse, but in the process, there popped up a bunch of other great like songs from the era. Tell Him, by the Exciters, One Fine Day, but the Chiffons, Easier Said Than Done, by the Essex, and this tune.

The songs, and those of the Brill Building and Motown were not only so finely written and crafted, but they were a lot like the movies of the Hollywood system in the late 30’s and 40’s, when it just seemed the competition was tight and everything produced–or at least released–was a the top of its respective game.

It did make me realize that times have changed, and there is no real vehicle for simple pop tunes like these any more. It is rock, or alt, or headbanger, or rap, or house music, but the old homogenization of the pop charts where The Impressions and Conway Twitty and the Beachboys and the Four Seasons and Marvin Gaye could all share Billboard space seems to be long gone.

For, though there were specific genres back in the 60’s, the big deal was to have a cross-over hit, like A Little Bit of Soap, which made it on the soul charts, but also made it on the Billboard Top 100 as well.

Maybe with the death of radio it was inevitable for genre selection to be driven by Pandora and her ilk, but irrespective, it doesn’t seem like bands and songwriters and producers labor to produce little two-minute-plus gems as they did when radio was in its heyday. Not that I am longing to return to those old times, but I did start a new category call “Classic Nuggets” just to cover these lovely little works of musical art.

Let’s start here, anyway, with the Jarmels.

Thanksgiving Break: Rick James, “Super Freak”

I was playing the album this tune is on recently, and my teen daughter got a little weirded out (Dad! Why are you playing that?) by this one.

It is weird. And obviously and cravenly catchy, but I came upon this video today and it strikes me that while it is as sordid as the song, it is also at the same time as sincere as when Rick says, That girl’s alright with me. That’s a strong message of acceptance, for folks to do/be what they want/are, which seems like a good message (even if you’d prefer your daughter grow up to be someone their fella would take home to mother).

Have another cranberry.

Thanksgiving Breakfast Blend: Danny Kaye, “The Dodger Song”

As I have probably written before, when I was little, I did not realize I was contrary.

But, I was a Dodger fan in Northern California during the 60’s, so that should have told me all I needed to know.

In 1962, this song by Danny Kaye, made the local charts for obvious reasons.

And, Peter’s Wilco/DiMaggio posts made me think of this song (of which I can still remember all the words).

This is a pretty cool video, by the way. Leggo city (all we had were Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets).


Breakfast Blend: Norman Whitfield by Proxy

In 1970 Motown masterminds Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (Money, among many others) wrote a song called War for the Temptations that was not released because it was deemed to be too radical.)

Whitfield and Strong then wrote Ball of Confusion, which is psychedelic and strong (like Sly Stone’s stuff), but politically ambiguous. Certainly radical, but hard to pin down. The Temps had a No. 3 hit with that.

At the same time, Motown released a version of War sung by Edwin Starr (who coincidentally wrote Shades of Blue’s great song, Oh How Happy!), that went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

Whitfield then recorded a version of Ball of Confusion with his younger and more political group, the Undisputed Truth. Not that Ball of Confusion is a radical song, but Whitfield and Strong, two of the greatest songwriters of the pop era, were always trying to do something bigger. Good for them. What’s interesting is that all three groups, the Temptations, Edwin Starr, and the Undisputed Truth, were signed with Motown. It’s like Berry Gordy knew he could channel Whitfield and Strong’s creative energy into more sales and profits! Different strokes, and all that.

Night Music: Brother D with Collective Effort, “How We Gonna Make a Black Nation Rise”

Those opaque Good Rats’ lyrics about going to the city and organizing reminded me of this highly pleasurable bit of agitprop from 1980. And I’m not kidding.

And when Brother D says, “Look at the so called Indian, look what happened to him,” he might well have been talking about the Good Rats’ Injun Joe. Right?

Dibbe dibbe dize.

Afteroon Snack: Cage the Elephant, “Cigarette Daydreams”

I always think that I don’t post enough stuff with contributions from newer bands, and, I really like this band (well, the band is really the vehicle for singer/songwriter Matt Shultz) a lot, and this song has a nice dreamy almost John Lennon quality to it. As does Shultz’ voice at times.

Really a sweet tune as we all try to relax during the calm, prior to the onslaught of turkey and family and football.

Which isn’t a bad thing, I might add.

Lunch Break: Freddy Martin, “Pico and Sepulveda”

Pico and Sepulveda 2008

Pico and Sepulveda 2008

One of the delights of living in Los Angeles in the 1970s was the Dr. Demento radio show on Sunday nights. A collage of perverse novelties and exercises in bad or misbegotten taste, reveling in whatever drives men and women to create awful yet catchy music.

One staple of the show was a tune called Pico and Sepulveda, which starts out like Cab Calloway and ends up like Devo. As fine as the tune is, the video is just as fine.

Breakfast Blend: Good Rats Plus

Peppi Marchello was the Good Rats’ singer, and the single constant throughout the band’s career, which ended when he died in 2013.

This is a band, the obit quoted Rolling Stone calling “the world’s most famous unknown band.” We don’t need Rolling Stone to tell us that that’s a rock remnant.

The Daily News says their 1974 album, Tasty, was their most successful, and that their biggest hit was the plaintive and slow-stomping Injun Joe.

And here’s a bootleg of a jam from 1974, with Tommy Bolin (who was in the James Gang for a while), Carmine Appice (the drummer in the Vanilla Fudge, and Beck, Bogert and Appice, of course) and the Good Rats. They’re playing at Ebbet’s Field, a famous small club in Denver Colorado in the early 70s.

Up All Night! More Dimaggio. Via Pomplamoose.

The music making entity called Pomplamoose has been around for a while. They do cute covers of classic songs, with clever arrangements that build off their cute parts. She’s a cute singer. He’s a cute musician.

Their videos have generated 100s of millions of YouTube hits, which is good for them, and they recently went on tour to support their new album. I know nothing about the album or the tour, but they posted an accounting yesterday on Medium of what it means financially to be an internet sensation on the rock touring road.

Interestingly, they hired a real band to accompany them, which was expensive. And I think reflects well on their motives. It was also probably the reason they lost money.

All in all, I’m not a fan. Too cute. But as far as too cute goes, I like them, which I think is too their credit (since I have great taste). And not only did they go all transparent about their tour, which is a good thing, but they happened to cover Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson, which is a pretty good Joe Dimaggio song. Yesterday was his 100th birthday, if he was alive.

Night Music: Wilco and Billy Bragg (Woody Guthrie), “Joe Dimaggio’s Done It Again”

Joe Dimaggio was born 100 years ago today. Last year we posted the great Teddy Powell Band tune, Joltin’ Joe.

This year, Wilco and Billy Bragg’s rendering of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics, from their second Mermaid Avenue album. Happy Birthday, Joe.

I don’t know why Joe Dimaggio has so many songs. There is, of course, that Simon and Garfunkel song, and Les Brown’s original hit recording of Joltin’ Joe. I think I prefer the Teddy Powell version.