Frank’s Faves on Fridays

December 17, 2010

I’ve just noticed that this week’s suggestions are songs exclusively from the 60’s. That’s more than alright by me.

Len Barry – “1-2-3 (1965)

Neither the song nor the artist looked familiar, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I pressed “play”. When it started, two songs immediately came to mind: 1) Edwyn Collins‘ “A Girl Like You” (1995); and 2) Martha and the Vandellas‘ “Dancing In The Street” (1965). But when Len Barry started singing, it dawned on me: “I know this song!” As I was enjoying Len’s singing, and the beat, and the instrumental accompaniment, I was reminded of another song: from 0:36 to 0:34 in “1-2-3” is a bridge from the first verse to the second, and that bridge reminded me of the “think it o-woah-ver” bit in The Supremes‘ “Stop! In The Name of Love” and made me think that Len was going to start singing the chorus of that – but Len sang the second verse of “1-2-3” instead. I liked how the middle eight (0:56-1:11) went all subdued and slightly weird, and how the weirdness was heightened by the amount of echo (or “reverb”, for all you techno lingo lovers out there) on his voice. Maybe all that echo was already there throughout the entire song but I couldn’t hear it with the rest of the song powering along in its Motown-y way. My final (and supercilious) verdict: A Mighty Good Song.

Spanky And Our Gang – “Lazy Day” (1967)

I’m familiar with Spanky And Our Gang, as I recently acquired one of their greatest hits compilations (apparently there are plenty of ’em – I have the one from 1999). Listening to this 1967 song, I’m amazed at how much it reflects the year in which was recorded. I mean, could this have been recorded in any other year? It sounds so 1967. Although I’m not an enormous fan of the melodies in it (considering it’s sounds like a prime Sunshine Pop song, the melodies are a bit too dreary for me), I like how it’s an amalgam of Sunshine Pop, Baroque Pop, Easy Listening, and with a hint of Brian Wilson (that dit-dit-dit-dit organ at the start). From listening to “Lazy Day” again (as well as the rest of their greatest hits album), I can see how Spanky And Our Gang may have been thought of as a poor man’s Mamas & The Papas. However, for me the big difference between the two is Spanky And Our Gang’s musical and vocal accompaniment – it sounds much more ornate than the M’s & the P’s. But all this rabbiting on isn’t letting you know what I think of the song. I sort of like it. I like the musical and vocal arrangement, but I’m not keen on the melodies.

Garry Miles – “Look For A Star” (1960)

It sounds like a Fifties song! Boy, this is cheesy. And as I typed that, an organ popped up, playing a chord that just made the song a whole lot cheesier. I like the pizzicato guitar playing (which I think is the result of the guitarist playing with his or her palm on the strings and plucking enthusiastically – so I guess it should more accurately be called ‘muting’). Whilst looking for more information about this song and artist that I’d never heard of before, I found out that “Garry Miles” was a pseudonym of Buzz Cason, purveyor of fine Bubblegum. As you know from an earlier post, Buzz is the dude who wrote “Groupie“, the song that had my friend Col (Hi, Col!) and I scurrying off to email Buzz to ask him what the lyrics were. (Unfortunately, we never heard back from Buzz. Ah, well.)

Jewel Akens – “The Birds And The Bees (1965)

A soon as I saw the title of this song I was singing the chorus in my head. What a catchy, catchy song. Now that I’ve played it in my head, it’s time for me to listen the actual song. Oh yeah. That’s great. I love how the background vocals sing the main words in the chorus (“Birds”, “Bees”, “Flowers”, “Trees” etc). Excellent. Because I haven’t heard this song since I was a wee nipper, I didn’t notice some of the technical aspects of the song (well, when you’re five years old you tend to just focus on the bit you can sing) such as the distinctly odd guitar sound, the woodblock on the off-beat (in the left channel), the hand-clapping accompaniment (which sounds like lots of hands slapping lots of knees). They’re all nice little touches that add to the enjoyment of the song. Love it.

Bonus instrumental:

Cliff Nobles – “The Horse” (1968)

I read on Wikipedia that Cliff Nobles was a singer whose only hit was this track, an instrumental. A singer whose only hit was an instrumental! Oh, the indignity! What an unfortunate way for a singer to be remembered. I also read on Wikipedia that this song was the B-side instrumental version of the A-side, “Love Is All Right“. I must admit that I like both versions, but I prefer the one with words because of the singing – it’s urgent and soulful, and really suits the song.

Thanks for those, Frank. I really liked your suggestions this week.