June 5 – Forgotten Gems : Hugh Marsh

He’s had an over 40 year career in music, played with stars and on smash movies…but few have heard of Hugh Marsh. The seemingly anonymous violinist turns 68 today, so happy birthday to him. And it brings us to this month’s Forgotten Gem – his take on “Purple Haze”.

Marsh was born in Montreal and grew up in Ontario, largely in Ottawa. Unlike a lot of kids of the ’50s, he loved jazz and R&B and began playing violin at the age of 5. He would end up taking 13 years of classical training on it, and picked up some sax chops in high school too. For awhile he said he preferred the sax to the violin, but his real talent was the latter and in the ’70s he switched over primarily to an electric violin, opening up a whole new world of sound for him.

He began playing shows behind Moe Koffman, a respected jazz musician at the time, which drew the attention of Bruce Cockburn, the folkie who was starting to become an international star at that time. Hugh played in Cockburn’s backing band for a few years and worked on two of his albums, 1980’s Humans and ’83’s The Trouble with Normal, even playing some mandolin on a few tracks). By the mid-’80s, he was signed to Toronto indie label Duke street (who also had quirky Jane Siberry on their roster) and put out a solo record. Which got him the chance to do a second one, 1987‘s Shaking the Pumpkin, which is where the Forgotten Gem was from.

As we mentioned recently in regards to Joe Cocker taking on a Beatles song to cover, it takes some amount of guts to do a cover version of a “classic rock classic.” Which Marsh did with Jimi Hendrix’ iconic “Purple Haze”. Besides the electric violin and jaunty beat Marsh applied, the most obvious thing about the track is that it sounds like a Robert Palmer song. And with good reason. Marsh got Palmer to do the vocals on it and several other tracks on the album. Amazingly, the pair didn’t know each other until then.

I was a huge fan of Robert Palmer’s in the ’80s,” Marsh told Talkhouse, “and I would always try and find ways of getting ahold of somebody, not just the usual route…I read he was recording at Compass Point in the Bahamas, so I just went ‘Ok, I’ll send (a demo tape) to the recording studio. If he opens up the package, he can just put it on and see what he thinks.’” About three days later, Palmer called Marsh up and told him it sounded “great” and agreed to fly to Toronto to work on the record!

The pair remained friends after that, with Palmer apparently prone to calling Hugh up in the middle of the night to talk music. “He was a real musicologist,” Marsh remembers, “he was interested in World Music way before it became popular in North America.”

The song became a radio hit in Canada (it was the #55 record of the year at CFNY in his hometown Toronto for example) and in some markets in the U.S. when it was released there a year later.

Hugh’s had four more jazz albums since then and kept very busy. He’s been a member of Celtic singer Loreena McKennitt’s band for 30 years now. She calls him a “sound poet” but notes he refers to himself as a “music conversationalist, there to serve other people’s music.” More recently he’s toured with Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy and been a member of alt rock faves the Rheostatics. And if that’s not enough, he’s been a regular on the Hollywood scene, working on scores for, well, scores of movies including Sinbad, Shrek II and the Chronicles of Narnia. Sounds like he could be quite an interesting music “conversationalist”, doesn’t it?


May 19 – Fresh Spins : The Deep End

Is 64 the new 44? Judging from Susanna Hoffs, it might well be. Nothing about Hoffs appearance suggests a 64 year-old. Nor does her energy level. A year and a half after her album Bright Lights and only a couple of months since her first novel, This Bird Has Flown, came out, she’s back with another album – The Deep End.

Like most of her best work since The Bangles, it consists of only cover songs. Unlike her great works with Matthew Sweet (the Under the Covers series), many listeners – at least those old enough to remember her as the lead Bangle – may not recognize most of the tunes, since with an exception or two, she veers more towards modern songs from less-than-high-profile artists this time around rather than classic rock and pop standards. This has pros and cons attached. It certainly seems more like a coherent solo album than a collection of covers to me here, and I would assume many other listeners. The downside is that some of those classics were classics for a reason – they were brilliant songs. Some of the 13 here probably fall somewhat short of that.

Thematically it’s a love album, but one split between songs of lost love and lovers left behind and new love and the giddy feeling of looking for it. Soundwise, it’s coherent but varied. Allmusic describe it as “baroque folk”; bits of it seem quite country-ish (like “Pawn Shop” with its pedal steel guitar), others seem made-for-Quiet-Storm type radio. All the songs are played impeccably. No wonder. It was produced by Peter Asher, friend of Paul McCartney and hitmaker with Peter and Gordon, and she has a number of high quality session players like guitarist Waddy Wachtel, drummer Russ Kunkel and bassist Leland Sklar. Curiously Hoffs herself only sings; perhaps disappointing since she is a much more than proficient jangler of the Rickenbacker guitar. A number of the songs have tasteful string arrangements; “Only You” has a slightly odd, Medieval Faire-style trumpet appearing. Hoffs voice is still fine, not deteriorated any over time. But both the Bangles and the excellent works with Matthew Sweet do show that sometimes Susanna benefits from having someone singing along with her.

The album starts off boldly, with probably the best-known song on it – “Under My Thumb” , the Rolling Stones classic of misogyny. She turns the tables, makes it a feminist anthem and a bit perkier than the original. However, tackling a classic rock tune like that takes commitment and somehow, she seems to be a bit lacking in passion and conviction on it. It gets a bit better on the much less recognized, country-ish title track, originally by Holly Humberstone. She covers Squeeze’s “Black Coffee in Bed” and Yazoo’s “Only You”, as well as one by current Man of the Hour Ed Sheeran (“Afterglow”) but the highlights are ones which are obscure and she really turns into her own creations, most notably the upbeat, retro-’60s pop-sounding “Would You Be So Kind” (originally by Dodio), with some interesting time changes built in, the tasteful admonition to “move on, don’t be afraid” on Phantom Planet’s 2020 “Time Moves On” and “Say You Don’t Mind.” That is a lively and likable pop tune which sounds quite Beatlesque; something that would have fit in with the Rubber Soul era Fab Four. Perhaps that’s not so surprising when you learn it was written and originally performed by Denny Laine of Wings (and the Moody Blues before that) and put out by him in 1967. It’s the one song on here that screams “hit” to me and could easily have been that for the Bangles 35 years ago had they attempted it.

Early reviews elsewhere seem favorable for Hoffs. Allmusic give it 3.5 stars, describing it as “a blend of old and new…skilful and handsome”, while Ultimate Classic Rock note that she shines on cover songs, right back to things like Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love” for an Austin Powers movie. They figure “this latest trip into others’ songs is yet another delight and demonstration of good taste and guts.”

Here, I’m coming to agree with those assessments. At first listen, I rather thought “Afterglow” should have been the title track, not “Deep End”; the songs seemed to be a little on the laid-back side and at times just missing a dash of passion. Pleasant but a bit restrained. But upon a few more listens, the songs start to embed themselves in your consciousness and take on their own characters. It’s not as good as her best work with Matthew Sweet covering, well, covers, but it is a nicely-picked and played selection of songs that all have worth (oddly the Stones track is probably the “clunker” in the group) and do indeed show her ability not only to sing, but to pick quality songs. As such, she might remind you a bit of that other Peter Asher colleague of years back – Linda Ronstadt.

I give it 3.5 jangly Rickenbackers out of 5. Not a classic, but a fine likable pop record


May 12 – Were They Punks? It Wasn’t ‘Black & White’

Regular readers know we like The Stranglers here, and that calling them a “punk” group might have been a stretch. By the 1980s, they’d clearly evolved into a competent pop/new wave band and even in the early days, pigeon-holing them was never Black & White. Which happened to be the title of their third album, which came out this day in 1978.

No one could have accused them of being lazy at that point, it was their third album in a mere 13 months with a couple of standalone singles mixed in there as well. Arguably, a little more time spent on this one might have been beneficial but all things considered, Black & White was an interesting step forward for them. As with their two previous releases, it was produced by Martin Rushent and like those records, it had plenty of fierce-seeming lyrics that had to make you wonder if they weren’t having us all on just a little bit. But they also put in some lighter tunes which pointed to the direction they’d soon take, on songs like “Sweden”. Guitarist and main vocalist Hugh Cornwell had studied at a Swedish university pre-group and they released a fittingly Swedish-language version of it (“Sveriege”) over there, helping the album be the only one from their ’70s catalog to chart in Scandinavia. The band seemed a bit more confident with their instruments and even keyboardist Dave Greenfield got a turn at the mic on “Do You Wanna?”. They played the menacing “Curfew” in 7/4 time. Besides “Sweden”, the more notable songs on the album however would be “Toiler on the Sea” (listen for the reference to a flock of seagulls in it that inspired a certain other band when looking for names), and the raunchy, probably tongue in cheek, bass-heavy “Nice N Sleazy”. As well as their take on Burt Bacharch & Hal David’s “Walk on By” which was memorable to those used to a Dionne Warwick rendition, and a 7” single not originally on the LP. However, they slid copies of the single into the first 75 000 copies of the album.

Most, but all of the reviews back then were positive. Record Mirror gave it 4-stars, and Melody Maker figured while not quite as good as the ones which came before, they gave them credit by showing they could “enlarge their ideas and still come up with good tunes.” The NME figured that at least the album’s A-side was “by far the best work they’ve ever done.” The Trouser Press, on the other hand, found it mostly “forgettable”, an “inferior rehash of earlier work”, except for the single “Nice N Sleazy.” Years later, allmusic concurred somewhat, giving it 2.5-stars, calling “In the Shadows” just “plain silly”, much of the album to be filler but still noting it had “some absolutely stunning moments.”

The British public liked it well enough. It hit #2 there and went gold quickly, while “Nice N Sleazy” hit #18 – their fifth top 20 hit in a year there – and lives on in fame or infamy online…if you dare, look up a live performance of it from a Batterslea concert, which shows what can happen when one of the members of a group has a stripper girlfriend and she has a few friends and they all have a few bottles of libation. “Walk on By”, which spurred on a few comparisons to the Doors (particularly Greenfield’s keyboard solo) got to #21 there.

The Stranglers took a bit more time putting together their next album, but the wait was worth it for fans; most consider The Raven the best of their ’70s works.

May 7 – Roxy’s Choice of High Road Seemed…Odd

If you’re Canadian you might remember this record from 40 years ago. If you’re not, it likely is long-forgotten even if you were a fan and somehow noticed it in the first place. Roxy Music were sitting at #5 on the Canadian album chart this day in 1983 with The High Road, an oddball release in every way.

Although released worldwide at the time, only Canucks seemed to embrace it. Canada were late to the Roxy party, but arrived en masse in 1982. While “Love is the Drug” had been a big hit for them in Canada in ’76 ( a while after it was in Roxy’s native UK),otherwise they had barely a cult following in the Great White North…until Avalon. Their lush ’82 album went multi-platinum and spent a solid month at #1 there. So perhaps it’s no surprise they’d love this live follow-up, although it seems odd that it really didn’t take off in Europe, where the band had been one of the biggest throughout the ’70s.Particularly because it was only the second live record they’d ever released, and came at the end of an entirely different era in their history than Viva, their first one did.

The High Road was more aptly described as an EP than a full album; it contained only four songs, though it ran almost half an hour. Of the four songs, only one was an actual Roxy Music one, “My Only Love”, off 1980’s Flesh + Blood. There was an almost Roxy one, “Can’t Let Go”, a song Bryan Ferry had released on a solo record in ’78. But the two songs that stood out and seemed the most popular were both cover songs – “Like a Hurricane” and “Jealous Guy.”

Jealous Guy” was no surprise. They’d put it out as a single in 1981 as a tribute to John Lennon and while it was a #1 hit in Britain and Australia, it was all but unnoticed in North America. However, the slightly more robust and dynamic live version was a highlight, and usually encore, of their Avalon concerts. “Like a Hurricane” was a bit more of a surprise, a ’77 song by Neil Young that had become a regular when he performed “electric” sets. There’s no explanation that I can find of why Roxy liked the song and performed it, but their version worked and the passion of it seemed to fit singer Bryan Ferry like one of his tuxedo jackets.

The four-song release came out only on LP and cassette; it would seem to have never yet been put out on CD by itself, although fans can still get it that way as it was incorporated into a later live album, Heart Still Beating. There was also a video of it – VHS then later, DVD – but it was of another concert despite the same name and cover illustration. Odd. (By the way, the record was recorded at a Glasgow concert at the Apollo theatre there, a favorite haunt of at least one of our regular readers).

Allmusic rated it 3-stars but didn’t review it at all besides listing the songs and noting the band went on hiatus after it. The over-100 page special edition of Ultimate Music devoted to them barely mentions it, calling it “an odd affair… almost wilfully obscure.”

Obscure or not, it was a well-produced live record and gave a good peek at the band’s elegant yet energetic sound in the ’80s, with the trio being backed by five additional playing musicians (including Neil Hubbard on guitars and their frequent drummer who was never quite officially a member, Andy Newmark) and three backing singers.

The EP only got to #26 in the UK and a mediocre #67 in the U.S. but hit #13 in Australia and somehow hit it big in Canada, where both “Jealous Guy” and the Canadian-written “Like a Hurricane” found homes on rock and AC radio. Odd? Perhaps not.

April 21 – People Figured Nothing Compared To Sinead

Did you hear the one about the lady priest who had a fistfight with the oddball black rock star from Minnesota? Sounds far-fetched even for a joke, but it brings us to the song that hit the top 33 years ago. “Nothing Compares 2U” (sic) by Sinead O’Connor hit #1 in the U.S. this day in 1990. The same day, her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got took over the #1 spot in Canada, starting a highly-impressive 15 week run there. It was the apex of her career, and quite possibly the biggest hit single ever penned by Prince (who coincidentally, passed away on this day in 2016).

O’Connor, the usually bald Irish lass with the incredible voice had made herself known while only 21 with her brilliant debut, the Lion and the Cobra, which was a hit in her homeland and in Canada, as well as on some underground American stations. This lead single off her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, made her a household name pretty much worldwide.

While she wrote eight of the 10 tracks on the album, and did a great deal of the music herself (including guitars, keyboards and drums as well as arranging orchestral parts), this one was written by the Purple One. Prince had written it and recorded it in 1984 – the Purple Rain era – although he never released his version. His estate and Warner Bros. finally made it available posthumously in 2018. Somehow O’Connor knew of it though, and recorded it. While it was one of the few she didn’t write, she did everything on the record short of make the steel for the tape decks. While the album utilized session players like Andy Rourke (of the Smiths) on bass and Marco Perroni, Adam Ant’s first mate, on keyboards, on other tracks, the only other musician listed as taking part on “Nothing Compares 2U” was a Randal Turner adding some background vocals.

The song was one of the best hurting love songs of the ’90s, or any decade for that matter. It got to #1 in … well, if you can name the country, assume “Nothing Compares 2U” was a #1 hit there. The single went platinum in the U.S. where it was the #3 seller for the year, as it was in Canada. The difference there is that in Canada, the album went 5X platinum and was the biggest-seller of the year (in the States, it barely cracked the year-end 50.) It won her a Grammy for Best Alternative Rock performance… which she declined, because, well… Sinead’s Sinead. It also made her the first female to win MTV’s Best Video award.

Soon after, she said she was ordained as a priestess in a local variant of the notoriously male-oriented Catholic church, took a picture of the Pope on stage with her for an appearance on Saturday Night Live and well, things didn’t continue to go swimmingly for her after that. But her song remains a standout from that era. Slant calls it “a classic torch song she simply owns” and both Q and Rolling Stone have it in their 250 best songs of all-time; Time outdoes that including it among the 100 best.

So, you’d think she and Prince would have been thick as thieves, great friends appreciating one another’s musical talents and the royalty cheques rolling in, wouldn’t you? Well you might think, but you’d be wrong. She says he thought she had a dirty mouth and didn’t like that and says “I did meet him a couple of times.” He once invited her to his Minneapolis home and “we didn’t get on at all. In fact, we had a punch-up.” Because when it comes to wild stories, it seems nothing compares to Prince… unless it’s Sinead.

April 14 – Van Halen Found Sometimes Easy Does It

Over four years of regular touring, recording and living the rock star lives had worn Van Halen down a little…which made Diver Down a bit of a surprising album. The California glam-hard rockers fifth album came out this day in 1982.

They’d been touring extensively for Fair Warning, the previous album which had only come out mid-spring ’81. The band was tired and wanted a bit of down time…but their label, Warner Bros., were eager for them to keep at it and build their following. Their flamboyant frontman David Lee Roth had the idea that they could record a one-off cover song quickly, release it as a single and that would buy them some time to rest and think about another album. As Ultimate Classic Rock suggested, that “backfired in the best possible way.”

His first idea was the old ’60s Motown single “Dancing In the Street.” Guitarist Eddie Van Halen said “”I couldn’t figure out a riff…so I said, ‘look, if you want to do a cover version, why don’t we do ‘Pretty Woman’?” Of course, they ended up doing both. They quickly recorded their take on Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”…and Warner said “you’ve got a hit single on your hands!” And they wanted more.

So Van Halen called up their usual producer, Ted Templeman, and headed back into the studio in L.A. and quickly put together a new album, making it as easy as possible. They did “Dancing in the Street” and a Kinks tune, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” As Roth recalled later, “we’re capable of playing six different Kinks songs. In our bar band days, (we) played them into the dirt.” They even did a goofy cover of Dale Evans old cowboy ditty “Happy Trails”, a tune they’d once included on a demo and played at times when just fooling around. In all, they came up with a 12-song, 31 minute album of decidedly more pop-py rock tunes than they’d been known for. Calling it twelve songs is actually a bit of a stretch – four songs come in under two minutes, including two that are just instrumental intros to other songs – “”Little Guitars Intro” and “Intruder”, a chance for Eddie to show off his guitar chops going into “Pretty Woman” that they wrote specifically to make that song longer to fill a longer video they made! It was all a bit new for them and their fans, and the surprises even expanded into a nod to the New Wave that was increasingly popular. Both Roth and Eddie VH tried their hands at synthesizers a little on different tracks, something they’d incorporate more on their following record, 1984. And to add to the novelty, they even brought in Eddie and Alex’s dad, Jan, to play clarinet on “Big Bad Bill.

At the time, Rolling Stone, usually diehard fans of American rock & roll, panned it, giving it 2-stars. They said among other things that the Kinks song “lays bare all singer David Lee Roth’s shortcomings” and the record was “a cogent case for consumer fraud. Van Halen it appears is running out of ideas.” Later reviews would look on it a bit more fondly. Ultimate Classic Rock , for instance noted “despite being a hastily recorded collection featuring only four full, original songs (it) turned out to be one of the band’s most fun records.”

Fans agreed. The album spent over a year on Billboard charts, rising to #3 at home and #5 in Canada, their best showings to that point. (Britain, on the other hand weren’t enthusiastic, and it’s #49 peak there was their worst showing to that point!). The album is 4X platinum in the States, a lot of that from the popularity of “Pretty Woman”, their first rock radio #1 hit and their first foray into the top 20 singles chart in North America. Sometimes the hardest thing for a band to do is take it easy… but as Van Halen show, sometimes it’s also the best thing.

Unfortunately with Eddie Van Halen’s death in 2020 coupled with David Lee Roth’s retirement from music, it would seem the band has literally hit the “happy trails.” However, those itching for something new Van Halen-ish can check out Eddie’s (and Valerie Bertinelli’s) son Wolfgang who is busy following in his father’s footsteps and is working on a brand new album.

February 25 – Pointers Career Heated Up Thanks To The Boss

On this week in 1979, For the second time in two years, Bruce Springsteen saw one of his songs jump high into the Billboard top 10. And like the first time, it wasn’t recorded by him! Almost two years to the day since Manfred Mann hit the top with “Blinded by the Light”, the Pointer Sisters scored the biggest hit of their career to that point with their take on his song “Fire”. It hit #2 on this day 40 years ago.

Springsteen had written the song after seeing an Elvis concert and recorded it with Darkness on the Edge of Town. He liked it well enough but felt it didn’t fit into that album, so shelved it. Somehow producer Richard Perry (of Nilsson’s “Without You” fame) heard it and showed it to Oakland girl group the Pointer Sisters.

The Pointers had been around all decade long, starting as a duo of Bonnie and June, then known as Pointers a Pair, who’d sung backup for the likes of Boz Scaggs and Grace Slick. They added in two more sisters, Anita and Ruth, changed to their current moniker and got signed onto Atlantic Records. Although they had some decent success on R&B charts in the ’70s, they’d not done a whole lot on mainstream radio. They decided to change that with their late-’78 album Pure Energy. They brought in Perry to produce it, musicians including Randy Bachman, Waddy Wachtel, Toto’s David Paich (who plays keyboards on this single) and Jeff Porcaro, Elton John’s guitarist Davey Johnstone among others to work on it and covered songs like Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work”, Loggins & Messina’s “Angry Eyes”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Hypnotized”… and the Springsteen one.

It worked well. The album became their third to go gold at home, and broke through to the north in Canada, going platinum, but the real difference was this hit. The smoldering single that critic Christine Arnold notes “might well have been done by the Ronettes in the ’60s” got to #2 in the U.S., #3 in Canada (where they’d not been in the top 30 before) and topped New Zealand charts. As Anita says, it “became our first gold single…one song is played over and over all over the world. It really became a major hit for us and made a total difference in our careers.”

Indeed it did. they’d go on to notch six more top 10 singles in the ’80s with songs like “Slow Hand” and “I’m So Excited”, although that #1 rank remained elusive to them.

The Pointers continue on to this day, although with the death of Anita last New Year’s Eve, only Ruth remains of the original sisters. As for Springsteen, he’s done not too badly himself since then! And oh, the public finally did get to hear him do it himself – he released a live version of it as a single in 1987, although it only got to #46 on the charts.

February 20 – Nitty, Gritty And Hit-ty

A “gritty” autobiographical song helped make a career for one of the States’ longest-running bands. “Mr. Bojangles” peaked at #9 in the U.S. this week 50 years ago, making it the biggest hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

The 1971 hit was a cover version of a song written and first recorded by country artist Jerry Jeff Walker (who’d gotten to a rather lowly #77 with his take on it). Walker wrote the song after spending a night in a New Orleans jail for public drunkenness. In there he met an aging man who called himself “Mr. Bojangles” to avoid identifying his real identity according to the singer. Much of the song’s lyrics were pretty much what happened – Bojangles talked a lot about his life on the street, dancing for tips, spoke of a pet dog who’d passed away, and did some tap dancing in the cell to lighten the mood.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band covered it for their fourth album, Uncle Charlie and his Dog Teddy. The California country-rock band packed that 45 minute album with 21 songs, including ones written by Michael Nesmith, Randy Newman and a yet-to-be-famous Kenny Loggins (“The House On Pooh Corner”) . They’d begun about five years earlier as a throwback band using fiddles, banjos and other acoustic instruments. According to Jeff Hanna (who sang lead on “Mr. Bojangles”) it was mostly a way for them “to figure out how not to work for a living.” It seemed to work! The band is still going, with Hanna still a member. At various times, Jackson Browne and Bernie Leadon (later of the Eagles) were among the 22 members that have cycled through it. In 1977, when they were going by the name The Dirt Band, they became the first American band to be allowed to tour the USSR.

Hanna sang lead on the single, as well as playing acoustic guitar, but no washboard, unlike some of their songs! Jim Ibbitson added harmonies and among the other musicians was Wrecking Crew drummer Russ Kunkel.

The song hit #9 at home and #2 in Canada, where “The House on Pooh Corner” also made the top 30. Curiously, the album scored its best showing in Australia – #31 – where neither single was as big as in North America.

The song quickly seemed to attain “classic” status. Sammy Davis Jr. adopted the song as his signature for years in his live act and artists ranging from John Denver and Jim Stafford to Lulu and Harry Belafonte have recorded it since..

February 15 – Song Was Pretty Good Even If Subject Wasn’t

The scoundrel she was singing about might not have been any good, but the song was. Linda Ronstadt hit #1 on the Billboard Singles chart for the first – and only – time this day in 1975 with “You’re No Good.”

It was the lead-off single from her fifth solo album, Heart Like A Wheel, which allmusic correctly point out was the one where she “comes into her own” and fittingly, became a major star. That’s perhaps a bit surprising because it was released on Capitol Records… after she’d lept ship from them to join Asylum Records, run by her friend David Geffen and boasting her other, famous friends, the Eagles on their roster. Oftentimes in situations like that, the label the artist departed doesn’t put a lot of effort into promoting the record, but Capitol knew it was too good to waste apparently.

You’re No Good”, like all her hits, was a cover, but one most people didn’t recognize and she in effect made her own. It was written in the early-’60s by Clint Ballard and was first record by Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne’s sister. It wasn’t a hit, but in 1964 it was redone by the Swinging Blue Jeans, who did well with it in Britain (a #3 hit) but were ignored in North America.

Although it was a song she says is not one “I get a lot of satisfaction out of singing,” it was one she’d played in concerts long before the album came out. In fact, she sang it on the Midnight Special back in 1973. So, being a couple of songs short for the album, she suggested it to her producer, Peter Asher. It was a perfect fit. He says “she’d been doing the song already and it was always a favorite of mine,” referring to the Swinging Blue Jeans cover of it.

She sang it over a sparse guitar track then Asher and multi-talented Andrew Gold (of “Lonely Boy” fame) worked it up. Gold played the electric guitar (there was also a pedal steel guitar on it by Ed Black), drummed and played keyboards, while her former bandmate in the Stone Poneys, Kenny Edwards played bass. Surprisingly, not only does Linda not like the song that much she later said “”I thought the production was very good but I didn’t sing it very well.”

The public thought otherwise. It hit #1 and the B-side, a Hank Williams cover, “I Can’t Help It”, was a big hit on country radio, making it to #2 there. The album was her first to go platinum, and actually ended up twice that.

Oddly, although she became a major star with Heart Like A Wheel, she never had another #1 single, though she came close with the follow-up “When Will I Be Loved” and in 1989 with her Aaron Neville duet, “Don’t Know Much.”

February 7 – Dave Was Knocking On #1’s Door

The top of the charts could hear him knockin’… Dave Edmunds had his biggest success with “I Hear You Knocking” which peaked at #4 in the U.S. on this day 52 years ago. Elsewhere it did better, including #3 in Canada, #1 in Ireland and in Britain, where it spent six weeks on top and sold a robust three million copies… earning him a gold record, although with those sales it would seem it could qualify for multi-platinum. John Lennon called the stripped-down rock song from 1971 hit a “great one” .

Edmunds was born in 1944 and grew up listening to, and loving early rock and R&B records and brought that love to his music. This single was a cover of a 1955 single by Louisiana bluesman Smiley Lewis (whom Edmunds gives a shout out to during the song). Edmunds said he wanted to find a relatively-unknown but rocking blues song to re-record, he happened to hear this one on the radio and set about recording it. Although primarily a guitarist, Dave played everything on the single except the bass.

Although he’s not had quite as big a hit since, he was active recording in the ’70s and ’80s, often with bassist Nick Lowe. The pair formed the band Rockpile in 1976 and put out an album under that name in 1980 and collaborated on each other’s solo works, including Lowe’s hit single “Cruel to Be Kind” as well as Edmunds’ own “Girl’s Talk,” a song written by another friend of his, Elvis Costello. Edmunds has also produced a number of artists including Foghat, Status Quo and Stray Cats, always bringing his stripped-down, early rock sound to the records.