Bonnie and the Treasures

Phi-Dan 5005, 1965
Billboard: #77

It doesn't really sound that much like Ronnie Spector, does it? Rumors to the contrary apparently notwithstanding, Charlotte O'Hara sang lead on this Mark II version of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, produced by Spector protégé Jerry Riopelle and issued on a short-lived Philles subsidiary label. The song, by Brill Building experts Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, is a Shangri-Las-y tale told by a teenage girl who can't understand why her boyfriend was suspended from school - for the length of his hair, fercrissake. "Land of the free," indeed. This little story was full of contemporary resonance, and I don't mean recording-studio echo either, and it probably would have been an enormous hit had Capitol not released a far blander version with country-crossover artist Jody Miller, who charted at #25.

Where can I get this on CD?
I've never seen this on CD. In the Seventies, Spector licensed much of his catalog to Polygram, which issued a series of LPs on the Phil Spector International label for distribution outside the US; some of them can still be found with a little leg/mousework.

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Jimmy Cross

Tollie 9039, 1965
Billboard: #92

If the Teenage Death Song wasn't dead itself by 1965 - and it wasn't - it certainly wasn't because Jimmy Cross didn't do his darnedest to put the last few nails in its coffin, so to speak. A preposterously funny sendup of the genre in general and of "Leader of the Pack" and "Last Kiss" in particular, Cross' one chart record, written by Perry Botkin, Jr. and Gil Garfield, is impossible to describe without giving away the joke, but I assure you, he does get his baby back, one way or another. Putting a B-side on this would have been overkill, so flipping this disc will turn up something called "Play the Other Side", which is actually the instrumental track, sans vocals and sound effects - a cue to deejays worthy of Phil "Tedesco and Pitman" Spector himself.

Where can I get this on CD?
This song was a staple on the Dr. Demento Show, and the good Doctor's 30th Anniversary compilation (Rhino R2 79787, 2 discs) features a decent disc transfer - in stereo, yet.

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Nella Dodds

Wand 171, 1965
Billboard: #96

Philadelphia in 1965 wasn't quite the R&B powerhouse it would become in the Seventies, but its local music scene was very much alive. A combine called Dynodynamic Productions, comprising Weldon McDougall of the Larks, Jimmy Bishop, Luther Randolph and Johnny Styles, took young Nella Dodds under their collective wing and put her in front of basically the same band that backed up the Larks. The first Dodds release was a Supremes LP cut, "Come See About Me", which charted at #74 and would likely have gone higher had not Motown decided to put their own record out as a single, squashing Nella in the process. The next release was "Finders Keepers", written by Kenny Gamble, who was about to become half of a Philadelphia R&B powerhouse himself. If "Finders Keepers" resembles anything, it's Earl-Jean's "I'm Into Something Good"; it's the same easy-going groove, heated up by staccato brass. Dynodynamic kept on releasing Nella Dodds sides through the Sixties, though ultimately their biggest hit as a production team was Barbara Mason's "Yes, I'm Ready". As for Nella, she presumably retired into Real Life somewhere.

Where can I get this on CD?
The British enthusiasm for what they call "Northern Soul" has made many of Nella's recordings available once again. "Finders Keepers" (and "Come See About Me", for that matter) can be had on Sweet Sound of Success, a compilation from the Scepter/Wand vaults issued by Ace Records' Kent subsidiary (CDKEND 112).

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The Ides of March

Parrot 304, 1966
Billboard: #42

For those of us who loved the British Invasion, this jangly pastiche of Searchers guitars and Hollies harmonies, issued on London Records' Parrot label, erstwhile home of Tom Jones and the Zombies, was a wonderful addition to the '66 airwaves. How were we to know that the Ides (or, as they were once billed, the "I'des") hailed from the highly-unBritish Berwyn, Illinois? Then again, it probably wouldn't have mattered if they'd hailed from ancient Rome; while no one would have ever accused them of being wildly original, they were a truly solid band with decent songwriting chops. "You Wouldn't Listen" was written by guitarists Larry Millas and Jim Peterik and drummer Mike Borch, with Peterik taking the lead vocal. Chicagoland ate it up, and after a false start with the Windy City's own Mercury label, London leased the track and put it out nationally on Parrot, where it stalled just short of the Top 40. After years on the label and only one other chart item (the Byrds-y "Roller Coaster"), the Ides decided to change direction, and noting that other Chicago bands, including, well, Chicago, were selling tons of records with horns, they delivered a single to Warner Bros. that fit right into the mold - Peterik's "Vehicle", which brought the Ides to #2 with a song that sounded nothing like them. At least they finally got a hit.

Where can I get this on CD?
Sundazed has issued the Parrot singles and various other pre-"Vehicle" material on Ideology (SC 11067).

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Raymond Lefevre and His Orchestra

Four Corners of the World 147, 1968
Billboard: #37

Perhaps it was all Paul Mauriat's doing. After his version of "L'Amour Est Bleu", retitled "Love Is Blue" for its late-1967 release on this side of the pond, spent five weeks at #1, the American record industry must have sensed that there was a market for French instrumental pop - although this really doesn't explain how Kapp Records' tiny "international" label got this song released the very day "Love Is Blue" first topped the charts. More to the point, "Soul Coaxing", a title inflicted on us because we presumably couldn't pronounce "Ame Câline", is a better song, an insistent piano tune surrounded by strings and wordless voices and more strings, and unlike the sappy words forced upon "Love Is Blue", composer Michel Polnareff's original French lyric is heartbreakingly lovely, even in English translation:

    The caressing soul searches for a free heart
    All day, all night, for its life
    The caressing soul searches for a nest
    By the sun, by the stars, for its home.
    For life, or for perhaps more,
    For life, or for perhaps less....

(And thank you, V.)

As for Raymond Lefevre himself, he released dozens of records in his native France, though only a handful managed to reach an audience in the United States - rather like Paul Mauriat, come to think of it.

Where can I get this on CD?
The Eric label has this out on a CD called Hard to Find Orchestral Instrumentals (CD 11507). Coincidentally, "Love Is Blue" is on there too.

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Matt Lucas

Smash 1813, 1963
Billboard: #56

Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On", recorded in 1950, is justly revered by fans of classic (i.e. no orchestral backing) country music. Most of them, I suspect, would be shaken out of their cowboy boots by Matt Lucas' wild rockabilly waxing. Born in Memphis, Lucas had left home as a teenager, hoping for a motion-picture career; while he never did much screen time, he did establish himself as a capable drummer, and eventually he returned home to the Delta. Back in Memphis, he cut "I'm Movin' On" for the Renay label, with a frenzied vocal and his own drum part, which simulated the song's railroad train at least as successfully as, say, Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231. The local white radio stations, thinking this R&B shout was the voice of a black man (heck, so did I at first), passed on the record; eventually, Rufus Thomas at WDIA broke the record through, and other Southern stations followed suit. Mercury's Smash subsidiary picked it up for national distribution, and it bounced its way into the middle of the charts. The musical arbiters of the time didn't have much use for such a seeming anachronism as rockabilly, and Lucas faded from national attention, but his record remains, and, I am happy to report, so does he.

Where can I get this on CD?
No release that I know of. I don't even know if Polygram has a master tape.

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The Move

United Artists 50928, 1972
Billboard: #93

While the Move were reliable hitmakers in the UK throughout their existence, their only US chart appearance came with a record that signaled the end of their existence. After 45s on Deram, A&M and Capitol had all stiffed, United Artists, which had signed the Electric Light Orchestra, successor to the Move, wound up with a handful of Move singles that were doing lower-than-average business in Britain. "Do Ya", in fact, was the B-side of "California Man", Roy Wood's best Jerry Lee Lewis impression; "Do Ya", however, was something entirely different. Written by Jeff Lynne, who would lead ELO following Wood's departure, "Do Ya" is pure riff-driven crunch, with the treble cranked up to a Spinal Tap-like 11. Richard Cromelin, in his liner notes for UA's Split Ends compilation LP, explained it this way: "It takes a long time to hear all the words, it gets a little bit shorter every time you hear it, and it sounds great over a tinny portable radio." What more could you want? Jeff Lynne later recut "Do Ya" with ELO (on A New World Record, 1976), and while the riff was there, the edge was gone. Naturally, the ELO version was a far bigger hit.

Where can I get this on CD?
EMI's compilation Great Move (CDP 7 96060 2) is probably the easiest to find. EMI's Harvest label has also issued a Jeff Lynne compilation (Message from the Country: The Jeff Lynne Years, 1968-73, CDP 7 92585 2), which includes sides from the Idle Race, the Move, and ELO.

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MGM 13882, 1968
Billboard: #80

MGM Records' overwrought "Bosstown Sound" promotion generated a lot of press, a few records, and arguably one memorable single. And "Can't Find the Time to Tell You", sung by its composer Bruce Arnold, didn't sound anything like the sort of refried psychedelia being vended by its Bosstown stablemates like Beacon Street Union; if anything, it was Air Supply a decade early, and every bit as lost in love. "Can't Find the Time" stiffed at #116 in its first release, in early 1968; after "Brown Arms in Houston", off Orpheus' second album, crept into the Hot 100 the next spring, MGM saw fit to re-release "Can't Find the Time", and this time it did marginally better. But despite its lowly chart position, the song is still remembered, and occasionally redone; a band called Rose Colored Glass issued a version in 1971, and Hootie and the Blowfish (!) recorded a version for the soundtrack of the Farrelly brothers' 2000 film Me, Myself & Irene.

Where can I get this on CD?
Varèse Sarabande's Varèse Vintage imprint is working up an Orpheus compilation; for now, you can get the 2:55 45 edit (it ran 3:25 on the LP) on their Dick Bartley Presents Collectors' Essentials: On The Radio, Volume Four (VSD 5974).

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The Roosters

Philips 40504, 1968
Billboard: #106

First off, this is not the Roosters which included the pre-Yardbirds Eric Clapton. Nor is it the L.A.-based group that put out "One of These Days" in 1966 on the "Progressive Sounds of America" label. So who are these Roosters? Probably a group of sharp studio pros, under the guiding hand of producer Snuff Garrett. "Love Machine" was written by James A. Griffin and Michael Z. Gordon, and these guys we know; Gordon wrote, sort of, "Out of Limits", the Marketts' reworking of Marius Constant's Twilight Zone theme, and Griffin is the chap who would later keep David Gates from turning Bread into something completely white and fluffy. "Love Machine" itself is a strange little bop, one of the few pop tunes I can recall with both vibes and wah-wah guitar; whoever it is on vocals, he sounds like Gary Puckett on Dexedrine. Whether this would be a Good Thing or not is left as an exercise for the student.

Where can I get this on CD?
You're kidding, right?

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Copyright © 2000 by Charles G. Hill
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