June 2 – Ringo Got A Little Help From His Friends

It was a big day for North American music fans 56 years back. That day in 1967 kicked off the “Summer of Love” … and signified that the ’67 The Beatles weren’t your daddy’s Beatles. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band hit the stores here that day, about a week after they had over in Britain (which was earlier than the label had planned to release it there; a story for another day).

The album was a landmark, both musically and culturally and we’ve looked at it before, as well as its iconic cover picture. So today we’ll look at one of its iconic songs – “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

The song kicks in directly seguing from the opening title track (meaning radio usually played both together since they merge on the LP) and stands out from the rest of the album because it’s sung by Ringo Starr. Or “Billy Shears” in his Sgt. Pepper alter-ego. By then the band typically allowed Ringo one song per album to sing and take a bit of the spotlight on. Mind you, it wasn’t til their “White Album” that they actually trusted to write the song. So this one was a Lennon/McCartney one, although generally it’s believed to be more Paul than John. Lennon himself verified that. While at the time of the album he said it was about “fifty-fifty” writing, by 1980 he said the song was “Paul, with a little help from me.” Paul is believed to have written the lyrics but John tweaked them and helped compose it, on piano. He had an injured index finger, leading him to play primarily with his middle finger… which led to the band’s working title for it, “Bad Finger Boogie.” The title changed, but wasn’t wasted. Apple Records first non-Beatles stars took the name “Badfinger” from it. No matter whose words and whose finger may have been sprained, it was seen as one of the last songs John & Paul actually wrote together, no matter what the publishing credits might show.

They wrote it specifically for Ringo however, and he rose to the occasion. He sang it superbly, even the prolonged high note ending it, at about 5 AM after they’d already done 10 takes of the song. Interestingly, on those recordings John played piano, producer George Martin was on a Hammond organ and George played lead guitar. Paul’s bass and a bit of John guitar (and cowbell!) were added in later. And it was the perfect song for Starr. After the band broke up, the others had gigantic success for varying lengths of time, but Ringo did OK for a couple of albums then disappeared from the charts. But not from the stage or fans hearts; his All Starr Bands over the last 30 years or so have been live music highlights for millions and feature Ringo … with a little help from his friends who could range from Todd Rundgren to members of Men At Work and Average White Band to Joe Walsh. Everyone loves Ringo, and he traditionally closes his live shows with the song. Even Paul has joined him on the song at least three times, including a Grammy Awards Tribute to the Beatles with additional help from friends like Stevie Wonder, Dave Grohl and Miley Cyrus! Everyone loves Ringo.

So too must Joe Cocker. The Mad Dog Englishman made his version of it (with Jimmy Page on guitar) his first album’s title and it quickly became his only #1 song in the UK. As such, it ranks in the rarified air with another Sgt. Pepper song – “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – as a Beatles song where a cover version not only exceeded the original in popularity, but actually hit #1.(The Lucy cover being by Elton John of course.)  Joe’s version was a hit in the ’60s, made his name known when he appeared at Woodstock and later was used as the theme song for the TV show The Wonder Years. Not everyone liked his gravel-road, bluesy rendition of it, but many did, including Paul McCartney. Cocker made it into an homage to Ray Charles and McCartney said “it was just mind-blowing. Totally turned the song into a soul anthem, I was forever grateful for him doing that.”

As many know, The Beatles didn’t release any songs off Sgt, Pepper as singles in ’67; relying instead on standalone releases of “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “All You Need is Love” to keep them on the airwaves that summer. They did release it in 1979 (to capitalize on the … well, not quite “popularity”… but the presence of the Sgt. Pepper movie) but it failed to hit the top 40 in major markets. The album however, was another story.


May 30 – The Beatles Booked Another Smash Hit

The Beatles were about as hot as you could be in 1965, particularly at home in Britain. But they had one critic at least. “Why do you always write songs about love all the time? Can’t you ever write about a horse, or a summit conference or something interesting?”

So asked Paul McCartney’s aunt Lil of the mop-top superstar. And he accepted the challenge, the result being “Paperback Writer” which came out as a standalone single on this day in 1966. Not a horse nor a summit but at least for Lil’s sake it wasn’t about love…unless you count the love of books. It’s suggested that Paul got the idea from his friends opening the Indica Bookshop of which he was the first customer. Whether or not that was the case, it was clearly a McCartney creation although credited to “Lennon/McCartney” as was their norm then. Lennon said it was “the son of ‘Day Tripper’, meaning a rock’n’roll song with a guitar lick or a fuzzy, loud guitar song. But it’s Paul’s song.”

Not only were the lyrics, about an aspiring novelist trying to hit the Best-sellers list a bit different than their ordinary fare upto that point, so was the sound which involved a bit more overdubbing than previous singles and more Paul… they amped up the bass parts a bit. Oddly it was John, not Paul, who requested that; he felt the band’s records lacked enough bass oomph til that point. So engineer Geoff Emerick boosted that instrument in the mix and had Paul try out a new Rickenbacker bass instead of his usual Hofner. Emerick noted it was “the first time the bass has been heard in all of its excitement.”

EMI in Britain put out the 7” on this day, with it being about six months since the Rubber Soul album was released and a couple of months before Revolver would be ready for the stores. While the band became known for the somewhat unusual practise of releasing singles that weren’t on the albums they were currently promoting, which might have been a way of getting radio play (from the single) without cutting into the LP sales, this one was simply because the record company felt they’d been too long without a hit single (weeks!) and needed one out quickly. They put a lot of effort into promoting it, some quite innovative and successful, some not so much. They initially promoted it using the infamous “butcher cover” photo with the band bloodied, standing around decapitated dolls… it also was used on a limited number of Yesterday and Today album sleeves before being pulled. This got noticed, but not in a positive way, so they quickly replaced that with other photos of the band, including on some editions a photo of them playing live, but with the photo reversed so George and John seem to be playing left-handed.

More successful was their decision to promote the song heavily on TV. They got them onto several British programs including Top of the Pops (which, Peter Asher noted, per usual, the BBC taped over on their master tapes to save money, leaving only one known copy of the appearance – a home taping without sound) and recorded a “promotional clip” – what would later be called a “video” – of it with the band at Chiswick House and its gardens in London. That would be shown on Ed Sullivan in North America and lives on in Youtube glory and elsewhere.

How did people react to the new, not-talkin’-’bout-love Fab Four. Critics mostly liked it. Cashbox for example said it would “continue their run of blockbuster singles”, calling it “a rhythmic, pulsating ode with an infectious, repeating riff all about the creative urge.” A few British publications sniped at it a little, thinking it a bit too experimental or “a trifle too clever for its own good.”

The public didn’t seem to think it too clever to enjoy. It debuted at #1 in the UK and spent two weeks on top in the U.S., making it their 12th #1 there. It also hit #1 in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany and quite a few other lands. It helped that American listeners wouldn’t be able to buy it on an album until the Hey Jude compilation in 1970. However, it might have signaled to discerning watchers that perhaps the Midas Touch was dimming a little for them; despite being a #1 it sold fewer copies in the UK than any single of theirs since “Love Me Do.”

The band must’ve liked the change though; Revolver delivered the most experimental sounds from them upto then and a wider range of song topics (“Taxman”, “Eleanor Rigby” etc) than fans had come to expect. Thanks Aunt Lil!

May 28 – John’s Birthday Gift To Fans

It’s John Fogerty’s birthday today, so a happy number 78 to him! And it’s an anniversary of sorts for his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival . They made their presence known on this day in 1968 with the release of their self-titled debut album. It delivered glimpses of the greatness soon to come through its eight songs and 33 minutes, but as a whole was a little lacking.

Although it only charted to #52 in the States, it eventually was one of nine CCR albums to go platinum and it introduced listeners to the band which as Allmusic say, were “gloriously out of step with the times.” By this time, CCR had been around for about five years in the San Francisco area, although the name itself was quite new. They’d begun as a group called the Blue Velvets while the members were still in school, then built a following as The Golliwogs. When Fantasy Records signed them, the new boss there Saul Zaentz (a name which would shape the band’s future and haunt Fogerty for decades) wanted them to record but hated the name “Golliwogs.” The album saw John take over lead vocals from his brother Tom, who had to admit, “I could sing but John had a sound!”. While John Fogerty wrote five of the tunes, including “Porterville”, a song they’d released as a single as the Golliwogs previously, the noteworthy singles were both cover songs from the ’50s: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You” and Doug Hawkins (no relation to Screamin’ Jay) “Susie Q.” Drummer Doug Clifford said of it “it was a rockabilly song that sounded like all of the other rockabilly songs” and he wasn’t too far off. However, John Fogerty wanted it on San Fran prog rock station KMPX, so they extended it out to over 8 minutes, added some feedback and “the little telephone box (vocals) in the middle which is the only part I regret.” It lacked the unique quality of later hits the band wrote but would still hit U.S. charts and be the first of 10 top 10 hits they scored to the north in Canada.

Decades later, few see it as a great work, but instead consider it an interesting introduction to a great band. Utimate Classic Rock for example, ranked it as the sixth-best (out of seven) of their albums. they thought “CCR were digging for treasure in the mud of Americana” and that it was a “sampler platter of what the guys… were into, from roadhouse rockabilly to Stax soul.” At the time though, fledgling publication Rolling Stone weren’t as impressed as they would later be by CCR. They liked John well enough, saying he was a “better than average singer” but other than that “there’s nothing else.” How wrong they were! By the end of the following year, they’d have four albums under their belt and four American top 10 hits:  “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River” and “Down on the Corner.”

May 15 – Turntable Talk 14 : Fab Four A Fab First

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks once again to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. If you’re keeping count, this is our 14th instalment…if you’re wondering about past topics, I indexed the first dozen here. For any new readers, briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columnists from other music sites, sounding off on one particular topic. This month, our topic is Feels Like The First Time. No, no, we’re not going X-rated here, we’re talking about a different kind of first – the first album our guests ever bought.

Today we have Max , from the Power Pop blog. There he regularly writes great bits about songs, power pop or not as well as at times looks back on classic TV like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek. His first time to the cash register:

Dave wanted to know the first album I bought myself. So that’s my next topic- Feels Like The First Time. Do you remember what the first album you bought was? LP? CD? Reel to reel, LOL? Why that one? Do you still have it? Would you want to ?

I didn’t know this album was a greatest hits package when I purchased it. I’m picking this album because of the personal connection to it…and it might be the album that influenced me the most in my life. I was only 8 years old and I bought it on vinyl. I do still have the jacket somewhere but the album was lost with all of the moving I did in my twenties.

Is this the best Beatles greatest hits album? No, not by a long shot but it was the first Beatle album (or any album) I bought and was not handed down by my sister or relatives. I had some money given to me by a relative and mom helped me with the rest. The first Beatle album I listened to was my cousin’s copy of Meet The Beatles…he let me borrow it for a while. The Hey Jude album sent me down the road of getting into music that was at least a generation before me…and I’m still in that generation. I don’t regret a thing, because I’m still discovering new old music and new music that has its influences.

My cousin kept telling me of this great song called “Paperback Writer” and he didn’t have a copy. He built the song up so much that I had to listen to it. Of course, back then there was no internet and no easy way to listen to a song. I found this album at a record store that I begged my mom to take me. I went through the Beatles albums and this one had “Paperback Writer”. I couldn’t believe these bearded guys were in the same band as on Meet The Beatles. So when I was 8 years old I got two albums… one was a birthday present… the soundtrack to Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang (that I requested), and then I bought this one. My mom asked…are you sure? A nod of my head and I bought a ticket to enter the Beatles world which I still reside.

It has a slight mixture of older, middle, and at that time, newer songs. This was a collection of non-album singles and B sides from the Beatles on the American Capitol label.

The album was conceived by Allen Klein (boooo) and Apple Records and released in 1970. The original name was going to be “The Beatles Again” but they wanted to capitalize on the hit “Hey Jude”. It was a nice album that should have included more of their earlier hits but it gave us a couple… “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Should Have Known Better”.

My favorite at that time was of course “Paperback Writer…that guitar and those backing vocals…were/are great! If that song would not have lived up to my cousin’s building…I may not have stuck with The Beatles. Remember, all I’d heard to that point was their first album with Capitol, Meet The Beatles, so I couldn’t believe that “Rain” and the rest came from the same band that played “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. I didn’t know the history. My 8-year-old mind thought…”What the hell happened?…” Where I am musically now…all started with this album purchase.

This album brings back memories of playing it on a green portable turn table I had at the time with removable speakers.

Like this but green…image001

the songs:

Can’t Buy Me Love
I Should Have Known Better
Paperback Writer
Lady Madonna
Hey Jude
Old Brown Shoe
Don’t Let Me Down
Ballad Of John And Yoko

May 10 – Who Knew The Band Would Be Around For Decca-des

Everyone makes mistakes. The thing that separates the winners from losers is often the ability to learn from those mistakes. In that, Dick Rowe is definitely a winner, and he proved it on this day in 1963. That was the day he signed the Rolling Stones to Decca Records…not long after turning down a chance to do the same with a band called The Beatles!

Rowe was the head of A&R for Decca in Britain. It was one of the better established record companies, dating back to 1929. By the WWII era, they were home to many of the most popular musicians of the day from Louis Armstrong to the Andrews Sisters. They also had a way of being ahead of their time. In 1954, they put out what would by most accounts be the first hit “rock and roll” record – Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.” No surprise then that when the Beatles got back home to the UK, Decca would have an interest in adding them to the roster. Rowe listened to them and alledgedly told their manager, “guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein” , although he later denied saying that. Whether he did or not, what is fact is that Decca didn’t sign the Beatles and by spring ’63, it was already becoming clear to all that that had been a huge mistake – Beatlemania was taking the world by storm. So when a Beatle suggested a new band to him, Rowe wasn’t going to mess up again.

The Stones had been rolling for about a year, but spring ’63 was very eventful as they’d just signed on with a young manager named Andrew Oldham… being a teenager, Oldham actually needed parents help to legally sign some contracts! But he had a good idea of how to make a hit. Bill Wyman remembers a day or two after signing him as manager, Oldham took the band shopping and bought them matching “tight black jeans, black roll-neck sweaters and highly fashionable Anello and Davide black Spanish boots” to wear on stage. Other times they wore suits. He soon changed his opinion and let them wear their own street clothes and grow their hair longer to provide a visual contrast to the Beatles who were seen as “wholesome” or “clean cut” for rockers. Oldham also recognized musical talent and urged Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to write more of their own material. for the first few months, all they played were essentially old Blues numbers and Chuck Berry covers.

Although he didn’t sign the Beatles, one might guess the London rock scene was quite small and close in the first half of the ’60s, so George Harrison kept in touch with Rowe. He told the Decca man that the Rolling Stones were the real deal and needed to have a deal. Rowe caught them in a show in early May at the Crawdaddy Club in London and signed them days later. Within a month, Decca issued the first Rolling Stones single – a Chuck Berry cover as it were, “Come On,” which got to #21 at home. They’d stick with Decca throughout the 1960s before forming their own label, appropriately enough Rolling Stones Records, in 1970.

At the time, Disc magazine suggested “The Beatles who recommended the Stones to Decca may live to rue the day. This group could be challenging them for top place in the immediate future.” And although they did, few would think the Beatles cared much about it. Most biographies suggest the two bands were friends and enjoyed the rivalry for chart dominance and in effect pushed each other to greater heights of creativity. It seemed guitar groups were on their way in, actually!

May 5 – Pizza In Case Fans Got Munchies…Convenient!

Long before anyone annoyed Don Henley by putting their sticker on a Cadillac, the Grateful Dead had their inauspicious start on this day in 1965. They played their first-ever show (by the time they’d wrap it up in the ’90s, they’d have recorded over 2000 with more untaped!) in a pizza joint of all places! I guess that’s awful convenient if your fanbase has a tendency to sometimes get the munchies.

Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and co. were at the time known as The Warlocks. They’d change that name later in the year when they found there was another band out east using the name – that band changed its own name to Velvet Underground! Anyway, Garcia and Bob Weir worked together in a music store and could “borrow” equipment and they had their first show at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park, CA, a suburb halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. The store posters listed it as “folksinging at Magoo’s Pizza” and fans who’d later go on to be hardcore Deadheads remember the place being filled mostly with high school kids and , according to one band historian, “Phil stood up on the redwood table and danced, the one and only time I ever saw him dance.” They continued playing the pizza place all month but soon would appeal to bigger audiences. By 1967, they were one of the top draws at the Monterrey Pop Festival; two years later, Woodstock. This was good, as apparently before too long Magoos stopped offering live music and by 2012, it ‘s storefront at 639 Santa Cruz Ave. was reportedly a furniture store.

Eight years after their one and only top 10 single (“Touch of Grey”) the Grateful Dead played their final show – their 2318th by most counts – some 30 years later, in July, 1995 at Soldier’s Field in Chicago.

April 26 – Wheatfield Grew Band’s Reputation Worldwide

Well, It was a big day in Canadian music history 54 years ago today as the Guess Who put out their first album… sort of. Wheatfield Soul was released on this day in 1969, in the U.S. Canadians had been listening to the offering from the pride of Winnipeg’s rock scene for a few months already at that point.

Nowadays, Canada is seen as a pretty major player in the world music scene, particularly in rock. Over the past three decades, the likes of Alanis Morissette, Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan and, lord help us, Nickelback have become international superstars coming out of the Great White North. Sum 41 led the vanguard of a new generation of punkers early this century and now Drake is huge in the hip-hop world.  But in 1969, Canada was still a bit of a musical backwater. Sure Paul Anka was from there and wrote popular songs, and Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot were at the front of an impressive folk music scene in Toronto, but when it came to rock… well, Canadians looked back to the motherland (Britain) or south to the States. This album, as much as any, changed that perception.

The Guess Who had in a way been around almost the entire decade in that cold Prairie city, led by Chad Allan and using various names always involving his name though. In 1965 they had a #1 hit at home (and top 30 in the U.S.) with their cover of “Shakin’ All Over.” Around that time, their label then, Quality thought it would be fun to build up a mystery about who was singing “Shakin’…” for some reason. Remember, it was the ’60s and umm, “experimentation” was in vogue! So although it was technically Chad Allan and the Expressions, the label shipped it to radio stations in a sleeve saying “Guess Who?” Well, the little ruse backfired… DJs played the track on radio, a lot, but introduced it as “here’s the Guess Who?” Not long before the band, and the record company decided they had no choice but to change the name to The Guess Who?

As 1965 went along, for some reason Chad Allan quit (good thing it wasn’t called “Chad Allan” anymore!) and a young Burton Cummings came in to take over the mic. A couple of unsuccessful albums followed in Canada, but in ’69 this one changed things.

Although an up-and-down affair veering all over the pop music world, while leaving no doubt as to where they came from (witness songs like “Lightfoot” for good ol’ Gord, and “Maple Fudge”) it hit gold with the great single “These Eyes,” their first to be played on radio with Cummings singing, and adding some neo-psychedelic keyboards as well. It zoomed to #1 in Canada on the small Nimbus label, but seeing how well it was doing to the north, RCA came in and signed them to the American market and put the record out, the single going to #6 there. (It should be noted that record-keeping then wasn’t ideal in Canada; some references listed it as only a #7 hit domestically.)

The album did fairly well, their first to make U.S. charts at all. The reviews were middling. As allmusic say, they were “Canuck rockers who dabbled in R&B, blues rock and summer of love anthems” and on this album they were a “band stretching and searching for direction” and dissing Cumming’s “imitating Jim Morrison” on “Friends of Mine”, decrying their lack of use of Randy Bachman’s great guitars but approving of “excellent production” and “These Eyes” which showed Cummings at his best and “the authority that the band would repeat on diverse chart songs…down the road.” Those would include the two-sided hit “Laughing” and “Undun” which hit #1 in Canada and saw both A-side and B-side chart both sides of the border, and later their tour de force, “American Woman.”

Bachman left around 1973 to start another successful rock band, BTO, while Cummings steered the Guess Who for a few more years. They were among the first inductees into Canada’s Music Hall of Fame and in 2002 won the prestigious Governor General’s Award for a lifetime achievement in the arts.

April 24 – A Rainy Night In NYC Led To Ray’s Legacy

Sometimes you can go home again. Ray Charles found that out this day in 1979 when his hit song “Georgia on My Mind” was officially made the State Song of his homestate after the state House voted 130-10 in favor of it.

Charles had been born in Albany, Georgia but had left it at quite a young age and had a bit of a tumultuous history with it, for instance refusing to play a segregated club there in the ’60s (although biographers point out this did not cause a riot as seen in his biopic). But by ’79, a Georgia farmer was in the White House and his old state was beginning to change.

Now, it’s worth noting that Ray didn’t write “Georgia On My Mind”. Nevertheless, the state designated his version as their official version.The song was actually written back in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and lyricist Stuart Gorrell. Gorrell would later say the tune was “composed on a cold and stormy evening in New York City. Hoagy Carmichael and I were in a third floor apartment overlooking 52nd Street with cold feet and warm hearts. We looked out the window and not liking what we saw turned our thoughts to the pleasant Southland.” Carmichael recorded it right away and other artists have covered it extensively since 1930, including The Band and Willie Nelson. It is in fact considered part of “the Great American Songbook”. But Charles version may be the best known and was the only one that was a chart-topper.

That happened in 1960 for Ray; although he’d been recording since he was a teen in the 1940s and had some success on R&B radio and charts, it was his first big crossover pop hit that introduced him to a wide audience. He’d go on to have two more #1 singles in the ’60s, “Hit the Road Jack” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, but this is the one that he may still be most famous for. And it won him two Grammy Awards as well, for Best Pop Performance by a Single Artist and Best Male Vocal Performance.

He played the song for the politicians at the State Capitol in Atlanta about a month before they voted the song in. He really had gone home again.

Most states have Official Songs; some have several in fact (Massachusetts has a ridiculous seven, including an official Glee Club Song) but most are old, traditional ones; only a handful are contemporary pop ones. Among the few are “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver in Colorado and another one of his, “Take Me Home Country Roads” as one of the Official ones in West Virginia. Perhaps oddest of all though is Ohio, which has … “Hang on Sloopy” as the Official Ohio Rock Song!

April 19 – That Fire Was Forging Gold For Cash

A hot new single was spinning this day in 1963, a rock standard that came out of backwoods Southern country. It was this day 60 years back that Johnny Cash lit the “Ring of Fire.”

The song which became one of the most iconic pieces from one of pop music’s pioneering country-rock crossover stars had fairly humble beginnings. It had been written about a year earlier by Cash’s future wife, June Carter, and Merle Kilgore, a country music manager who’d end up being Johnny’s best man at the wedding to June. June was already enamored with Cash although alarmed by his “very volatile lifestyle” and apparently wrote the lyrics about falling in love with “the Man in Black.” Her sister Anita recorded it first, but to little note. Johnny loved the song, and after waiting a few months to make sure Anita’s rendition wasn’t going to be a hit, he recorded it, adding Mariachi-style horns to give it a “south of the border” feeling.

Johnny’s earnest delivery and spicy music made it a hit, albeit not as big a hit as many might have guessed given how well-known the song is. It did get to #1 on Country charts, his fifth such chart-topper, it only rose to #17 on the overall Billboard charts. Still, that was his best showing since 1958, and it was popular enough for the record company to change the name of a “greatest hits” package of Cash’s that followed a couple of months later to Ring Of Fire, the Best of Cash. In time the single was certified gold. Remarkably, although it’s considered to be almost synonymous with him, he didn’t include it on any of his first six live albums – it finally made it onto the 1983 Konzert V Praze release.

It’s also become a garage-rock staple, with popular cover versions by The Animals, Social Distortion and Wall of Voodoo to name just a few. Stan Ridgway of the latter said “I used to play Johnny Cash music as a teenager. I grew up with a lot of it,” a statement probably true of a lot of younger Baby Boom musicians. Still, few disagree that The Man in Black’s remains the ultimate rendering of that ring. CMT consider it the fourth best Country music song of all-time while Rolling Stone have it among their 100 greatest of any genre.

And lest you wonder, you can thank the Cash-Carter kids for maintaining the song’s integrity. Daughter Rosanne says it’s “about the transformative power of love. That’s what it’s always meant to me and will always mean to the Cash children.” Therefore they vetoed an offer from Preparation H to use it in their advertising.

April 15 – Duet With Daughter Not So Stupid It Turned Out

The times they were a-changin’ as the Summer of Love approached. The Beatles were undisputed kings of pop and rock, riding high on their succession of hits and the soon-to-be-released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the Doors had entered and Bob Dylan was all-electric. There might not have been much room for the “old guard” anymore, but that’s not to say the past was entirely a dinosaur to the listeners of the day. Case in point, Frank Sinatra had the #1 song this day in 1967 – sandwiched between hits by The Turtles and the Supremes. That alone was an oddity, but weirder still, he had his daughter Nancy on it too. “Something Stupid” was not so stupid after all, it turned out!

While Frank Sinatra was by then not only a superstar, a fixture in Las Vegas and a household name, by ’67, his 27 year-old daughter might have been the hotter name, having made a splash the previous year with her sexy “These Boots Are Made For Walking” (which had one of the earliest examples of a music video tailor made for MTV, which wouldn’t arrive for over a decade from then.) Frank had ten previous #1 songs (a surprisingly low figure actually), the first all the way back in 1940, but had only done it once in the 1960s upto this one. Although only 52, nowadays the age where a pop star might be in his prime, he was seen as rather over the hill by many. He was determined to try and change that.

Something Stupid” was written by C. Carson Parks, whose brother was frequent Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Carson and his wife had recorded it in 1966, but to little popular notice. Lee Hazelwood, Nancy Sinatra’s record producer heard it and suggested it to her dad. The elder Sinatra agreed and they did it, using a bevy of L.A.’s finest musicians behind them, including members of the Wrecking Crew – Carol Kaye on bass, Hal Blaine on drums, none other than Glen Campbell on electric guitar and an orchestra conducted by another Wrecking Crew guy, guitarist Billy Strange.

Frank put it on his The World We Knew album, which also included his version of “This is my Song”, a prior hit for Petula Clark but written by one Charles Chaplin…yes, that Charlie Chaplin, the screen’s “little tramp.” If you get nothing else out of this column, you probably just got the answer to a trivia question that could stump any roomful of people!

The song was a massive hit, spending four weeks at #1 in the U.S. and earning Frank his second gold single. (It is likely that he had many other 45s that might have sold enough to get him one but Reprise Records likely didn’t file retroactive paperwork for songs from the 1940s or ’50s to get the awards). It was a #1 in the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland and other countries and to this day is the only #1 song with a father and daughter singing a duet. Nancy said of that, sarcastically we hope, “some people call it the ‘Incest Song’, which I think is really sweet!”

But that is where the story ended, at least in terms of Sinatras on top Billboard charts. It was the last significant hit for either Frank or Nancy. The tide had turned against Frank and seemingly Nancy’s boots marched out of the spotlight. It was also the last Americans heard of the song. Not so the Brits though. Robbie Williams did a cover of it, with actress Nicole Kidman singing the female part and it hit #1 in the UK in 2001.