One of my favorite Bonnie Raitt cuts is the opener on her third album, 1973’s Takin’ My Time – “You’ve Been In Love Too Long.”
The album was produced by John Hall of
Orleans, and Raitt was backed by an A-list of musician friends. “You’ve Been in Love Too Long” features Hall
(lead guitar), the late Paul Barrere (rhythm guitar) and Bill Payne (keys) of
Little Feat, the great Jim Keltner (drums), and longtime collaborator Freebo
(bass). No wonder the song has such
snap, crackle and pop!
“You’ve Been in Love Too Long” is a cover of a 1965 Motown release by Martha and the Vandellas. The original cracked the Billboard 100 top forty at #36 but wasn’t a “success” by Motown standards – especially as the follow up to “Nowhere to Run” that reached #8 and stayed on the charts for 11 weeks.
I’m usually partial to originals over
covers, but not in this case. Compared
to Raitt, Martha Reeves track feels sluggish.
That isn’t an adjective that’s often used to describe a Motown
song. So the credit here goes to Raitt
This is the second installment of my
series on Rock music in movies. The
first covered Rock music in 50s films.
Today’s post explores the movies of the early 60s.
At the close of the 50s, the great
explosion of creative talent in Rock ‘n Roll was against the ropes. Elvis was in the Army and out of the
recording (and film) studio; Chuck Berry was in trouble with the law for a violation
of the Mann Act for transporting a 14-year old girl across state lines; Jerry
Lee Lewis was fending off a PR nightmare for marrying his 13-year old cousin
(once removed) before the divorce from his second wife was final; controversy
swirled around Little Richard’s ambiguous sexuality: a plane crash took the life
of Buddy Holly.
What filled the void? On the radio, it was bland covers of R&B
songs by the likes of Pat Boone. On-screen
we were treated to a slew of beach movies (Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Muscle
Beach Party, Surf Party) and “twist” dance movies (Don’t Knock the
Twist, Hey, Let’s Twist).
There were a few highlights though, both
involving my first crush – Ann-Margret.
In 1963 she starred in the film version
of Bye Bye Birdie. Birdie
told the story of a rock star (Conrad Birdie) that was being drafted into the Army. The gold lamé wearing Birdie was loosely
inspired by Elvis Presley. High school Birdie
fan Kim MacAfee (Margret) wins a contest that will have her meet and be kissed
by the star on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The theme song “Bye Bye Birdie” is sung by Margret at the beginning of the movie and is reprised at the end. In the first version, Margret plays up her youthful, girlish charm. By the end of the show, Kim is a mature woman, and her performance vamps it up! Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean!
A year later, Margret was starring with Presley himself in Viva Las Vegas – one of a handful of Presley movies that holds up.
The terrific title song – written by Doc
Pomus and Mort Shuman – rocks. It has
been covered by artists as diverse as Dead Kennedys, Nina Hagen, Stray Cats, and
“Suavecito.” It was a top 20 hit on Billboard in 1972 and was off the debut album by the San Francisco based Malo. The band was made up of Abel Zarate, Pablo Tellez, Arcelio Garcia, Richard Spremich, Richard Kermode, Luis Gasca, Roy Murray, and Jorge Santana, the brother of guitarist Carlos Santana, Richard Bean guested on the lead vocal for “Suavecito.”
Wikipedia claims “Suavecito” (Spanish for “smooth”) has been adopted as “The Chicano National Anthem.”
The song was written by Bean, Zarate and
Tellez. Bean wrote the lyrics in the
form of a poem. He has told the story that
the song is about “this girl in algebra class I had a crush on. I was in love. Maybe puppy love. I hated algebra.”
He claims his former classmate, at San
Francisco’s Mission High School, still has no idea he wrote the lyrics for her.
Fun fact: Bean’s great grandfather was Judge Roy Bean,
who, according to legend, earned the reputation as a “hanging judge” in Texas
For a very long time, I’ve been
ruminating on the idea to write a series of posts that address the subject of
Rock music in films. It has taken me a
long time to deal with the subject because it is better suited to long-form
journalism, or even a book, than a 500-word blog post essay. So, I’ve decided to attack it with a series
of articles, perhaps by decade. This is
the first in the series, covering the ‘50s.
This has become timelier since the passing of Little Richard last week.
Any discussion of Rock music in film must start with Blackboard Jungle (1955). The movie’s plot centers around a high school teacher that tries to educate at an inner-city, all boy’s school, many of whose students are juvenile delinquents. The only rock ‘n roll recording used in the movie was Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” But it was used to great effect over the opening credits and into the first scene.
It is often credited for starting the rebellious
teenage revolution of the ‘50s and kickstarted the popularity of rock ‘n roll
The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) was a
comedy starring the sexy Jayne Mansfield.
But it also provided a showcase for some of the best early rock ‘n
rollers, such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, the Platters, and
Here’s the title song, by Little Richard.
A week after The Girl Can’t Help It
was released, another youth-oriented film ended the year with a bang! Rock! Rock! Rock! (1956) came out just
before the holidays. Wikipedia describes
the flick “as an early jukebox musical featuring performances by established
rock and roll singers of the era, including Chuck Berry, LaVern Baker, Teddy
Randazzo, the Moonglows, the Flamingos, and The Teenagers with Frankie Lymon as
lead singer.” The movie didn’t have much
of a plot, but it did feature 21 performances of songs by those artists, and
others (The Johnny Burnette Trio, Connie Francis).
Chuck Berry killed it with “You Can’t Catch Me.”
How can we address rock ‘n roll in ‘50s films without mentioning The King’s best flick – Jailhouse Rock (1957). This movie, starring Elvis Presley, is a vehicle for his songs but also has a strong storyline (unlike most of his ‘60s films that have very weak screenplays). The title song is a classic! But the movie also includes the great Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller penned “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.”
This song is so good that it has been
covered by countless artists, not the least of which include The Beatles, Buddy
Holly, Joni Mitchell, Queen, Bryan Ferry, and Hüsker Dü.
Other films from the ‘50s with notable
rock ‘n roll soundtracks include Shake Rattle and Rock, Jamboree,
The Big Beat, Hot Rod Gang, and Go, Johnny, Go! Check ‘em out.
Stay tuned for the next installment of
Rock Music in Films.
Did you know that there is a secret Paul
McCartney and Wings album that you probably never heard? Well, not exactly, but close!
Wings finished recording Band on the
Run in October 1973. (It was released
in December ’73.) Their next project was
to help Paul’s little brother Mike — stage name Mike McGear – to record his
second solo album. McGear was recorded
in early ’74 and released the following September.
The lead vocals were sung by Mike (his
voice has a timbre that is like Paul’s), Wings performed all of the backing
tracks. Paul chose not to be credited on
the album, but he contributed bass, guitars, keyboards, piano, synthesizer, and
backing vocals (“What Do We Really Know?”). Paul also produced and co-wrote all the songs
(except opener “Sea Breezes” by Bryan Ferry), mostly with his wife Linda and Mike.
The McGear disc produced one moderate hit. The saxophone driven “Leave It” made it to #36 on the British charts. But that’s not my favorite track. I prefer the quaint, Beatlesque “Rainbow Lady.”
The first time I ever heard “Green Eyed Lady”, by Sugarloaf, was on AM radio in the summer of 1970. The song reached #3 on Billboard Hot 100, taking me, and the country by storm with its jazzy, prog rock.
There were three different single
versions. The first had almost no edits
but an early fade out to keep it below 6 minutes. That was deemed too long for ‘70s AM radio
airplay. The next version cut out all
the solos, and also cut out the track’s soul.
The final single version is the one most of us know. It runs about 3.5 minutes and contains an
abridged solo section. It attempted to
get a slice of the extended solo section from the nearly 7 minute album version
into a length that would be deemed “suitable” for radio.
But if you really want to enjoy this hit, you should immerse in the album cut with the Jimmy Smith inspired, Hammond B3 organ solo by Jimmy Corbetta.
How can you ignore the funky groove that
the band establishes from the very first notes?
And the keyboard and guitar solos kill it!
Many people put Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady”
into the “one-hit wonder” category. But
that’s not really the case. Sugarloaf
had another Top 10 hit with “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” in late ‘74/early ’75
– a track that was covered by Van Halen in concert, but never officially
“Green Eyed Lady” is a popular chestnut,
and still brings enjoyment to me every time I hear it.
I’m still pissed off that I wasn’t able
to go back to New Orleans last week to enjoy another French Quarter Festival. My wife and friends had so much fun last year
that we couldn’t wait to go back. But it
was postponed until October because this damned COVID-19 has us locked down!
Locked down? Yeah, locked down.
Down” is from Dr. John’s 2012 album of the same title. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach produced the set
and added his own brew of dirty guitar riffs, vocals, and percussion. This was the next to last album the good Dr.
released before his passing last June.
So, thank you, Dr. John, for giving me a
little of that swampy Nola funk to help me get through this coronavirus shut
I didn’t think
so. But you should know about him
because he had a very successful career in the music biz.
First of all, he
was the producer on Gene Clark’s best solo album (IMHO), No Other. If that was his only accomplishment, he would
be noteworthy. But there is so much
In the late 50s,
while still a teenager, he hooked up with Scepter/Wand records. Through the early 60s there, he wrote and
produced material for The Shirelles and several notable soul artists. He also produced ? and the Mysterians;
possibly even on their big hit “96 Tears”, though that has been a subject of
In the 70s he
worked with Clark, produced “Dead Skunk” for Loudon Wainwright III, co-wrote
the Three Dog night hit “One Man Band”, and produced the Dr. John, Mike
Bloomfield, John Hammond Jr. super session called Triumvirate.
interest to me is his association with all of the cats at ABC/Dunhill records
that were producing (Gary Katz) and playing on Steely Dan records – including
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
This led Kaye to
release two solo albums in the early 70s that allowed him full access to those
great artists. The first eponymous disc
is almost a Steely Dan backed record.
Becker, Fagen, David Palmer, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and, Victor Feldman all
make contributions, with Katz producing.
His second solo release, First Grade, even included two Becker/Fagen penned obscurities that they never recorded for Steely Dan. “American Lovers” is today’s SotW.
“American Lovers” was recorded around the time that Steely Dan was working on Pretzel Logic. While I wouldn’t claim that Becker and Fagen gave away their best song, it has the chord structure and lyrical intelligence we’ve come to expect from the boys.
bass on this number and Jim Gordon pounds the traps. Backing vocals are provided by Dusty
Springfield, Clydie King and Shirley Matthews!
Kaye died in
1994 in Warwick, NY, just a few miles from my hometown of Newburgh.
So the next time
someone asks if you’ve ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye you’ll say – “Hell
Today’s SotW is another guest spot by Michael
Paquette, who made his first contribution on February 1st. His passion for music is evident in this
salute to a soul obscurity by Percy Sledge.
Percy Sledge had a massive hit with the
first song he ever recorded in the southern soul studio, Muscle Shoals in
1966. “When A Man Loves A Woman” was a huge hit both here in America and
internationally and received even more recognition in the movies The Big
Chill (1983), Platoon (1987) and The Crying Game (1992). It originally reached #4 on the British
charts and upon re-release in 1988 hit #2.
He never had another US top 10 chart hit
but he did manage to have years of success with lesser known songs on the R&B
charts such as “Take Time to Know Her,” “Warm and Tender Love” and “It Tears Me
But “Out of Left Field” may have been his finest work. It was released in the spring of 1967 about a year after “When A Man Loves A Woman.” It is a tender love song about that first moment of suddenly found love. “Out of Left Field” is a great representation of Percy Sledge’s range and the strength of his voice to move listeners. It is a soulful song that could almost come off as a country tune.
The lyrics, written by Spooner Oldham
and Dan Penn who did so much work for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Box
Tops and Bobby Purify, leave an indelible mark on the Muscle Shoals sound through
their simplicity and genuineness.
and peaches in a paradise land,
love and sweetness have taken their stand
made a mountain of love
a little grain of sand.
out of left field
a lover and a friend
These are definitely lines that anyone
can relate to and words that could fit into nearly any genre of music.
This song remains a favorite of mine and it is another masterpiece from a seriously
“Out of Left Field” was covered by Gregg
Allman, Al Kooper and John Fred & His Playboy Band (of “Judy In Disguise”
Although many of Sledge’s songs weren’t
nearly as famous as his first hit, he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame in 2005 and was fittingly inducted by another soulful artist with a famous
voice — Rod Stewart.
Perhaps my all-time favorite Leonard Cohen song, among so many worthy possibilities, is “Famous Blue Raincoat.”
The lyric is written in the form of a
letter; where the letter writer confronts another guy (a friend?) about his
affair with the writer’s wife.
It’s four in the morning, the end
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening
And you treated my woman to a
flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody’s wife
What can I tell you my brother,
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I’m glad you stood in my way
To make the lyrics all the more
interesting, Cohen sings many of the lines using the rhythmic pattern called amphibrach. Amphibrach is where one long syllable is
placed between two shorts syllables.
Listen closely and you will pick up on it very quickly.
“Famous Blue Raincoat” is another
wonderful song on which string arranger Paul Buckmaster – most well-known for
his work with Elton John — lent his talents.