Gene McDaniels – “Tower Of Strength” (1961)
I sometimes think that this is the greatest thing ever recorded in the history of everything. I love it more than words. (I’m going to try very, very hard not to overuse the word “love” here, because my natural urge is to simply describe the various aspects of this song with an excited “Yeah! And I love that bit too!”) Now, let’s break this song down into the individual components that I think contribute to this possibly being the greatest thing ever recorded in the history of everything:
- The spoken introduction: “[Take] 22. Swingin’ 22…” I can dig it, cat.
- That drunken trombone. Excellent.
- Those sharp intakes of breath at the end of each chorus make me laugh every time. Every single time. By the way, is that a chorus? Does this song have choruses? And verses? Does it actually have a traditional song structure? But when this song is so over-the-top in every way, does it matter? (Note to self: no, it doesn’t.)
- The Gene Pitney-style staccato singing. Beyond magnificent.
- That falsetto “me-eeeeee!”.
- The musical backing. It’s groovy, baby.
- The little instrumental break that appears at 1:34 for no particular reason. Is it a solo? A middle eight? What is it? Well, whatever it is, it lasts precisely eight seconds. Genius.
- The song was released in 1961, the year I was born. Destiny.
It could go on and on (and in excruciating detail) about many other aspects of this song, but then I probably wouldn’t get around to the other songs you’ve suggested (or even not get around to finishing this post).
Micheal Smotherman – “Crazy In Love” (1982)
This was a disappointment. (But then anything after “Tower Of Strength” would have been a disappointment). It’s a nice song. I didn’t think the rhythm suited the song. It sounded like a sort of gumbo-ya-ya, New Orleans-ish, Mardi Gras-esque track. (It put me in the mood for Professor Longhair‘s Crawfish Fiesta. I love that album.) I’d have preferred it be treated like a Hudson Brothers song such as “If You Really Need Me“, or “Lonely School Year“, or even “With Somebody Else” – those kinds of styles. But despite how “Crazy In Love” was recorded, I liked it. I thought Mr Smotherman’s voice was a little weak, especially in the higher register (I know that I’m in no position to criticise anyone’s voice, because my own singing voice is awful), but it suits the song. I’m mighty glad you suggested this, because I was completely unaware of both Micheal* Smotherman and “Crazy In Love”. Incidentally, I liked it more the second time I heard it. And a little more the third time. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to hear it.
(*It took me a while to find out that Micheal Smotherman’s first name is actually Micheal, not Michael.)
Joe Jackson – “Hit Single” (1991)
I can’t really think of any comments – positive or otherwise – to make about this song. It just is what it is. It’s Joe Jackson being his usual sneering self. (Or maybe not. In the YouTube video above, Joe introduces the song by saying that it’s about being single, not about having a hit song.) The tunes are OK, the lyrics are OK, and the instrumental backing was typical of Joe’s backing band at the time (clean and punchy). However, I couldn’t quite see the point of the drums starting out fast and then slowing down before the song begins properly. I must admit that whenever I see the name of Joe Jackson I instantly think of “Happy Ending” which is probably my favourite Joe Jackson song of all (despite considering his debut album great all the way through). As far as I’m concerned, “Happy Ending” is pretty close to a perfect song.
(A non-Frank suggestion)
Joe Jackson – “Happy Ending” (1984)
Robin Ward – “Wonderful Summer” (1963)
Very nice. Robin Ward has a lovely voice. Sort of like Annette Funicello, but even sweeter. Lovely. And the song’s lovely, too. I’m guessing that Robin Ward was a one-hit wonder (assuming that “Wonderful Summer” was a hit). If so, I wonder how many other one-hit wonders-with-wonderful-voices there are out there. I dare say you’d have a fairly good idea, because I never got to hear these forgotten artists in Australia.
The main tune of this was one of the first things I ever learned to play on a guitar. It’s a great tune. It’s a great song. Great! The version you sent me sounded suspiciously newish (the bass and drums sound distinctly modern and un-60’s), so I have a feeling that it wasn’t the original. I just found out that Paul Mauriat re-recorded “Love Is Blue” (along with a number of other tracks) in 1994. The version you sent me sounds like it’s the re-recording from 1994. Yuk. The YouTube video here is the far better original.
Incidentally, there have been plenty of different versions of “Love Is Blue” but this particular one may interest readers of the blog:
I don’t know about you, but I think this is weird. It’s an easy-listening song, but with Jeff Beck playing over the top of it. Jeff Beck.
Thanks again for the suggestions, O Frank. Apart from the “it doesn’t do anything for me” song by Joe Jackson, this week’s tracks have been absolutely magnificent. I like those songs!