Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

Bobby Boy’s Old Curiosity Shop for June 2017

 Roaming in the Record Racks for More All-Time Favorites

Back in 2016 I did a list with notes about some of my favorite recordings from 1929 to 1958.   It’s been almost a year, and many things happened, but now we’re back in the groove, with an R-Spot needle chucked up in the tone arm, ready to dig some sounds from the Space Age.  Let’s blast off for another musical time trip.  All systems are go, and we have ignition (or at least some hot sounds).

I’ve Had It by the Bell Notes.   I found a discount copy of this song by an Italian-American group from Long Island while rooting through a bargain bin in San Luis Obispo during my “Bright College Days”.  It starts out with a tambourine and then has some wicked guitar work.

Fannie Mae by Buster Brown.  This blues number went all the way to #35 on the pop charts in 1960. I nearly wore out a 45 RPM copy and now have it on a compilation CD. Who would have guessed that the title would become the shorthand term for a government sponsored financial institution.  There’s a hint of this song in the Beach Boys’ Help Me Rhonda.

At Last by Etta James.  The song dates back to the Big Band era, but I look upon Ms. James’ recording as the definitive version.  I once got into a discussion about this number with a fan of Beyonce’.  I had to tell her, “Beyonce' borrowed it; Etta James OWNS it.”

Chains by the Cookies.  One of the many girl group numbers written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.  We could do a segue to Chains of Love by Joe Turner.

Da Doo Ron Ron by the Crystals.  I have this on one of my compilation CDs that I keep in the car.  There’s only one problem, when that Wall of Sound kicks in, I have to resist the impulse to put the hammer down and go “rockin’ down the highway.” According to one source, when this was recorded, Phil Spector wanted to take out the saxophone solo at the break; Steve Douglas, his main man on the sax, insisted that it belonged in the mix.  This is said to be one of the few times in recorded history that someone won an argument with Phil.

Be My Baby by the Ronettes.  It hit the charts in 1963, and now, over 50 years later, it still sounds great.  One night in the 1980s, I was driving south on 101 and stopped for gas on the south side of King City.  When I went inside the station to pay for the fuel, Be My Baby was playing on the radio.  I’ve forgotten whether this was before or after I saw Ronnie Spector perform at a San Francisco night club, and met Cassandra, a woman who loved '60s music in general and the Ronettes in particular.  She was annoyed that the local oldies stations didn’t play enough of her kind of music, and when they did, the DJ would chatter over part of the song.  I offered to make her a compilation tape, and she was thrilled.  She gave me her address and phone number-- the first time this had ever happened to me.  No, this did not turn into a torrid affair - we never so much as hugged - and she went back to her old home in New York about a year later, but it was still gratifying to know that I wasn’t a total loss when it came to meeting ladies who shared my interests.  (This was the period when my first wife had done a rather thorough job of wrecking my self-esteem)

Stop in the Name of Love by the Supremes.  I can’t hear this song without wanting to extend my hand like a traffic officer-- the way Diana, Mary and Flo do in the video.

I Can’t Let Go by Evie Sands.  Anyone who has followed the Old Curiosity Shop knows of my great admiration for singer/songwriter/musician Evie Sands.  I first encountered her music on a Rhino Girl Groups compilation CD, after first hearing Linda Ronstadt’s cover during the 1980s.  So I knew who she was when I saw her in person for the first time at Borders Pasadena in November 2000.  After getting on her mailing list, I learned that she had a gig at Borders Montclair, so I sent in some requests, including this song and “Angel of the Morning.”  I was thrilled when she dedicated those songs to me and have been a fan ever since.

I Saw Her Standing There by the Beatles.  Back before the Lads from Liverpool started taking themselves too seriously, they cranked out energetic numbers like this.

Help Me Rhonda by the Beach Boys.  It’s hard to just pick one or two Beach Boys songs, indeed, Adam Marsland’s Chaos Band can do a whole show of nothing but BB tributes.  This one first appeared as an album track titled “Help Me Ronda” which was quite a bit closer to Buster Brown’s “Fannie Mae,” but the version most of us know and love is the single-- just the thing for a rockin’ beach party. 

Think by Aretha Franklin.  Originally recorded in 1968, but probably best known from Ms Franklin’s scene in The Blues Brothers movie.  “You better think of the consequences of your actions.”  I have it on a home-brew compilation CD that I play in the car, and have to restrain myself from clapping along with “You need me” (clap clap) “and I need you.”  (clap clap)

Honky Tonk Women by the Rolling Stones.  Another group that makes it hard to pick just one, partly because they’ve been making records for decades.  But this one just edges out “Silver Train” because it hit the charts, going all the way to #1 when I was working night shift at the Santa Fe San Bernardino Radio Shop.  Since I worked by myself, I was able to boogie around the room when this came on the radio.  There’s an instrumental break in the song that winds up with a ding ding on a cowbell or similar instrument that just puts the icing on the cake.

Don’t Waste My Time  by John Mayall.  I just about wore out a Polydor 45 single of this one in 1969-70.  Many years later I found an extended live performance recording with plenty of tambourine, bass and harp, and that’s the one on my car compilation CD.

Silver Thread and Golden Needles by Linda Ronstadt.  There are actually two versions by Linda, and the song goes back to the 1950s, when Wanda Jackson recorded the original.  Then we had the Springfields from England in 1962, and a hard-to-find live performance by Janis Joplin from around 1965.  I like all of them, and I think there’s a cover by Dolly Parton.

Joy to the World by Three Dog Night.  There’s a Facebook group devoted to music of the 1970s (although they'll usually allow recordings from 1965-1985).  One of the members will pick a theme, and invite the group to post their favorite songs that fit. For example, “Now that we’ve gotten through Blue Monday, let’s light up TripleTuesday with your favorite ‘positive energy’ songs.”  Many of us like to hang out with Jeremiah the Bullfrog and share some of his “mighty fine wine.”

Let Your Love Flow by the Bellamy Brothers.  One of the most beautiful songs of the '70s, there are a number of videos featuring peaceful, scenic views to go along with this song.

I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash.  Dedicated to all the eye doctors out there, this Caribbean-flavored number is just the thing to get those positive thoughts going.

I Hear You Knockin’ by Dave Edmunds.  One of the scourges of 1950s music was “white-bread covers”-- R&B songs performed by white artists, often with modified lyrics that toned down some of the racier lines.  By the 1970s, record buyers were insisting on the real thing and if you wanted to cover a song, you’d better make it jump!  Thus we have Dave Edmunds covering a Smiley Lewis number from 1955, leaving out the New Orleans sax and piano and adding some slide guitar.

At My Front Door by Harry Nilsson.  From the album “Son of Schmilsson” which is probably best known for “You’re Breaking My Heart,” the song that only got played on the radio with strategically inserted sound effects.  “At My Front Door” was originally recorded on the VeeJay label by the El Dorados in 1955, and Dot Records had a lame cover by Pat Boone (who is a nice man, but should have stuck with “Love Letters in the Sand” and similar innocuous pop numbers).  Nilsson, on the other hand, rocks your socks off with an up tempo version.

Take it Easy by the Eagles.  The song that made Winslow, Arizona famous.  It’s not mentioned in “(Get Your Kicks) on Route 66” and the first time I set foot there was before the Eagles recording came out, when I took some photos during a stop on the way to Chicago on Amtrak 18 in 1971.  I bought the Eagles’ Greatest Hits CD at a shop that was literally “on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” when Pat and I were giving her cousin and his wife a tour of the great Southwest.  We stayed overnight at La Posada, the hotel and Amtrak station that was one of the last Harvey Houses.

Long Tall Glasses by Leo Sayer.  This is one of those '70s songs I could just about sing at a karaoke event without a cheat sheet.  I’ve often wondered who played the slide guitar on the recording-- it’s what really sold the song to me.  The old-timey piano ain’t bad either. 

Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel.  I’ve had this covered by request at Adam Marsland’s Chaos Band shows.  One night Adam started the intro on his 12-string “Big Bear” acoustic guitar, and said something like “We’d better play this or Bob will be [unhappy].”  He gets it going, then Teresa picks up the bass line, and Evie chimes in on her Carvin electric.  One night when we came to the break, he said “Hit it, Evie!” and our guitar goddess just aced the solo.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down by Elton John.  I get “Elton cred” when I tell fans of Sir Elton that I saw one of his Dodger Stadium shows back in Nov. 1975.  I went there with my younger daughter (who probably still has her Elton LPs from those days) one of her friends and her friend’s brother (who drove us over there from Duarte).  One of the highlights of the show was Elton singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” just as the sun set behind the grandstand, with the last rays shining on his percussionist, Ray Cooper.

Take a Chance on Me by ABBA.  There’s a dispute that will probably never be settled about male music lovers-- who do you like better, Agnetha (the blonde) or Frida (with the dark hair)?  Back in the early 2000s, my wife asked me what I’d like for my birthday.  When I suggested tickets to Mamma Mia, the stage show featuring the music of ABBA, she was a bit surprised, knowing my affinity for Joan Jett and old blues numbers with slide guitar.  I assured her “Oh, I love ABBA!” and we got some of the last tickets to the show at the now-vanished Shubert Theater in Century City. This was the original production, starring Louise Pitre.  Our seats were up in the peanut gallery, near one of the spotlight operators.  At intermission, I chatted with the spotlight man, who had previously worked Miss Saigon, and who told me how much better he liked this show: “Nobody gets shot, and everyone goes home with a smile on their face.”

To borrow a song title from Evie Sands’ Women in Prison CD, “I Ain’t Done Yet” but we’ll hit the Pause key and continue this list of favorite recordings in a later edition of The Old Curiosity Shop.  Meanwhile, support live music, seek adventure (but not too much adventure) and STAY STOKED!

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