Single of the week

Monkey Man (The Maytals)

The first hit single to use the term rock and roll in the title was Kay Starr’s 1956 number one hit Rock and Roll Waltz, the generally held view is that John Lennon was the first person to include the f-word in a song which he did in Working Class Hero in 1970, but Al Stewart actually who beat him by two years when he included it in his 1969 song Love Chronicles, but do you know who the first person to use the word reggae was?

Well it was Toots Hibbert; in an interview with Outline he explained its origins, “Yeah I’m the one who came up with the word reggae and is still very strong all over the world. Young people try to do it but they don’t capture it the way myself, Bob Marley and many other originals did. People are always trying to spell it reggae but I spell it reggay! The word was coming from the roots of Kingston in Jamaica. If someone didn’t dress properly then we called it reggae. You know, the word originally came from the streets but I was the first to coin it in a song.” People learnt about reggae from Toots and the Maytals and that first he recorded was called Do the Reggay.

Toots was born Frederick Hibbert in Jamaica and has just turned 75, as a teenager he moved to Jamaica’s capital, Kingston and met two musicians, Jerry Matthias and Raleigh Gordon who got together to form The Maytals and very quickly became a popular attraction in Kingston. In 1972 they appeared in Reggae’s most influential film The Harder They Come which starred Jimmy Cliff and featured an appearance by Prince Buster as the club DJ. The Maytals sang Sweet and Dandy and Pressure Drop the latter of which many have covered including the Specials, but the only act to chart with it was former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin whose version starts in a rock style and then the last 45 seconds turns into reggae.

Although it was requested by Mick Blee it’s actually for his cousin Gary who is a singer and has recorded a song called The Old East End Tonight which is featured in a recent film called The Rise of the Foot Soldier 3. Gary often sings at a club in Hornchuch in Essex and always getting requests for a song called Monkey Man as originally recorded by The Maytals. With lyrics like ‘Tell you baby, you huggin up the big monkey man’, ‘I’ve seen no sign of you, I only heard of you huggin up the big monkey man’ and ‘Now I know that, now I understand you’re turning a monkey on me’ he wondered what it was all about.

Well it seems a simple explanation as Toots revealed, “Well Monkey Man is all about a girl, a very good looking girl. I fell in love with her and then a monkey-looking man took her away from me but I thought she was in love with me. The guy was ugly and not good looking like me, ha ha!” It’s not a song that has been covered much, but whether a white act could get away with it in the day and age is doubtful as someone will complain!

Toots has been working and touring now for six decades, “I arrange, create and produce, I like to just work, work, work by myself,” he says, but is still respected not just by reggae fans but his peers as well; in 2005 he sang with Willie Nelson on the song I’m a Worried Man which appeared on the former’s album Countryman. The following year a number of reggae artists came together to record a reggae version of Radiohead’s OK Computer, which was billed as Radiodread and Toots contributed Let Down. On New Year’s Eve 2011 at a private party Toots duetted with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on a version of Louie Louie.

Now he’s collaborating with dance act Major Lazer whose 2018 album Music is the Weapon features Toots contributing new alternate vocals to the track My Number which is based on arguably The Maytals’ most famous song 54-46 was My Number, which, if you’re wondering where that title came from, was Toots’ prison number when, in 1966, he served 18 months for marijuana possession.

Please follow and like us:

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (Whitney Houston)

Once upon a time a record company would sign an act they believed it and give them money up front to record an album and even draw up an agreement for a two or three album deal. If their first one or two singles failed to chart, they would try again and re-promote until they succeeded. Nowadays, if an act is lucky enough to get a record deal they have to have instant success or they’re dropped, hence why many acts now don’t need or want a record company’s involvement because there’s too much expectation and stress. The singer of this week’s suggestion was signed to Arista by Clive Davis and she spent her whole career with the one label. In 2001, she signed the biggest contract in music history: an eight-album deal for $100 million. That does not happen anymore. We’re talking about Whitney Houston.

I Wanna dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) was suggested by Joanneblee not so much for the story but, as she puts it, “Just because it’s my feel good song and always puts a smile on my face.” I can vouch for that because if I’m DJing at a party or wedding and you get a particularly stubborn crowd, then this track is almost certain to get people up. Whitney, who was born in 1963 in New Jersey, was destined to be a star given her mother was the gospel singer Cissy Houston, her cousins were Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and her Godmother was Darlene Love so it was going to be hard for her to fail. When she was 11 she joined a gospel choir in her hometown of Newark and as soon as she reached her teens she went out on the road with her mother and occasionally join her on stage. She was introduced to Michael Zager who invited her to sing backing vocals on Life’s a Party – the non-charting follow up to Let’s All Chant – which then led to her to perform more regular backing vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls.

She joined Arista records in 1983 and the label lined her up with a whole bunch of top musicians and songwriters. Her first hit, Saving All My Love for You, was a transatlantic number one which was written by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin and originally recorded by Billy Davis Jr & Marilyn McCoo. George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, who together form Boy Meets Girl, wrote the follow-up, How Will I Know, for Janet Jackson who turned it down so they passed the song to Whitney Houston, and it became a US number one and was also part of her multi-million selling album, Whitney Houston. Merrill and Rubicam were asked to write for Whitney’s second album and submitted Waiting for a Star to Fall. The standards were extremely high and the song was rejected. They knew it was a good song so they recorded it themselves and it became both a UK and US hit in 1988. The couple thought they would try again and I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) describes a girl who is tired of dancing aimlessly. She wants someone who loves and appreciates her. Rubicam submitted it to Clive Davis, the head of Arista, who loved it, but her producer, Narada Michael Walden, felt it sounded more like a country song for Olivia Newton-John. Narada worked out an arrangement to make it funkier and then included Jim Gilstrap on backing vocals, Randy Jackson from the Jackson family on bass synth and Walden played drums. The song had a very bright sound and, unusually for the eighties, a calypso feel. It was included on Whitney, the first album to go straight into the charts at number one in both the US and the UK. The album also included a duet of I Know Him So Well with her mother, Cissy.

George Merrill explained in an interview with Song Facts what it was like for him, “I think the biggest deal for Shannon and me was that we had had this meteoric success with How Will I Know, that was the biggest thing that had ever happened for us in our career, and then to be asked to come up with another one, well, we just looked at each other. We thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of what this is about, it’s not about the one song and goodbye. This is part of the fun of it, this is gonna be something that we want to continue, so we just went to work.'” Shannon added, “That song got written pretty quickly, as I recall. We had a funky little garage studio at the time, and we just hung out in there one afternoon and wrote the song, and I know we tweaked it the next day, and started recording it on our little TX 4-track deck that we were using. Then a friend of ours had a larger, more comprehensive studio, so we recorded the demo of I Wanna Dance with Somebody and it was a kind of a rock version.” George said, “Shannon nailed the vocal on that one and I’m really proud of that demo, I think it still holds up. Our bass player, Leon Gaer, just really nailed it too. I think that really contributed to when it was played for Clive (Davis), I know that it really came across strongly.” Shannon concluded, “It was fun too, we recorded the song, mixed it, and then George literally ran to the airport with it and met Clive, who was getting on a plane, because he wanted it. And we thought, ‘Well, best get it to him in person and we’ll have more of an impact,’ so he took it with him and listened to it on the plane.”

The video for the song showed Whitney standing fairly still which you wouldn’t expect for upbeat dance track, but that was because Whitney couldn’t dance. Brian Grant, the video director, brought in choreographer Arlene Phillips to help solve the problem and Phillips came up with the idea of surrounding Whitney with real dancers and thus diverting the viewers’ attention away from her. But, Whitney did add a suggestion to the track whilst in the studio, which was her repeated lines ‘Don’t you wanna dance, say you wanna dance, don’t you wanna dance’.

It was in 1989 at the Soul Train Music Awards she met R&B singer Bobby Brown. He’d already had hits with Don’t Be Cruel and My Prerogative, but they began a relationship which led to them marrying in July 1992 – it lasted 14 years.

At the start of her career she had seven consecutive singles make number in America and her biggest international hit was I Will Always Love You which spent 10 weeks at number one in the UK and 14 in America. The track is taken from the best-selling soundtrack album of all-time, The Bodyguard. In 2001 she was the first recipient of the BET (Black Entertainment Television) Lifetime Achievement award.

In 2012 we received the shocking news that Whitney had died. She was found unconscious in the bath at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The official cause of death was accidental drowning and the effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use. Her gravestone in New Jersey has a teardrop shaped headstone bearing the epitaph I will always love you. She was just 48.

Please follow and like us:

Teenager (The Deftones)

Many artists go to great lengths to prevent their material from being leaked before they are officially released, but it wouldn’t have been too hard to get this week’s band’s material as the leader singer and primary songwriter has been very careless over the years about leaving their material in public places. He once left an advanced copy of the 1997 album Around the Fur in a Sony Walkman in a Times Square branch of McDonalds and then left a copy of the follow-up, White Pony, on an American Airlines flight. His bandmates know that he’s quite absent-minded and easily distracted – anyone would think he was a teenager – and that why that called him Waylaid! Anyway, the track in question is from the aforementioned 2000 album White Pony and is called Teenager.

The band are the Deftones and are a metal band from California who formed in 1988 and originally comprised lead singer/rhythm guitarist Chino Moreno, Dominic Garcia on bass, Stephen Carpenter on lead guitar and drummer Abe Cunningham. The line-up changed a number of times over the first few years, but Moreno and Carpenter have been the mainstays throughout. Cunningham have been there since the beginning but took a three-year break between 1990 and 1993. Chi Chang was the bass player between 1990 and 2009 but the current incumbent is Sergio Vega and they added Frank Delgado as the keyboard player in 1998 and he’s still there too.

White Pony, which is a slang term for cocaine, but there are apparently other meanings available, was a little bit of a change of direction from their previous album as the songs were melodic and Teenager is a prime example of that. Listen to it on the original album and it sounds scratchy is if playing if from an old piece of vinyl that had been skated on a number of times and has a trip-hop beat that gives it a great atmosphere, but the version on the 2005 B-Sides & Rarities album doesn’t include the scratching line but still retains the atmospheric texture. It’s a beautiful ballad of lost love.

Chino Moreno via the liner notes says, “This song, originally derived from a DJ Crook sample, had almost no real instrumentation. So when I heard the kids from Idiot Pilot covering this live, I got the idea to re-record it with them. The song itself is super simple, but I think that’s what I love about it. The lyrics were all written when I was 15 and living in Arizona with my grandparents. It’s pretty much about my first and only real date I ever had. It’s kind of corny, but it was the first time I got my heart broken.”

Chino took his inspiration from bands like Duran Duran and the Smashing Pumpkins, “I grew up with these type of bands, moody new wave and very melodic”, he explained in Mojo at the time. “Yazz and the old Cure stuff taught me how to write lyrics but the other guys in the band are a couple of years older and they grew up listening to Kiss and the like, I grew up listening to electronic music and that balance creates the records we make.”

In 1997, they signed to Madonna’s Maverick label, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and charted five albums with the most successful one being their self-titled in 2003. They are still recording and their most recent album, Gore, in 2016, included a new ‘alternative metal sound’ but provided them with a number five hit album, their highest to date in the UK.

They’ve never really crossed over to the main stream in the UK. They continue to have a cult following because of the eight albums they’ve charted so far with a cumulative total of 14 weeks on the album listing.

Please follow and like us:

Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)

You hear it so many times about a song being written in a matter of minutes and this week’s subject is no exception. It was whilst this writer was taking a shower in 1979 that he ‘wrote’ this song and in just 20 minutes. He, at the time, called it “A kind of silly song” which he almost certainly wouldn’t have expected to have become a world-wide hit, that song was Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

Cyndi Lauper, who made the song famous, was born Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper in New York on 22nd June 1953 and has always been quite eccentric. She has always chosen to wear off the wall clothing and a variety of hair colours. From the early 1970s she had performed around the Queens area of New York as a member of various bands and performing in various styles from Janis Joplin to Led Zeppelin as well as classic disco tracks. In 1977 she damaged her vocal chords and was advised that she may never sing again, but she was determined and did managed to regain her voice. Her manager introduced her to a saxophone player called John Turi and in 1980 the pair formed the band Blue Angel and recorded some demos of original music. Steve Massarsky, who was the Allman Brothers’ manager at the time, heard their demos and decided to buy their contract and thus became their manager. They recorded a self-titled album and the single released from it was a cover of Frankie Laine’s I’m Gonna Be Strong which was made famous in the sixties by Gene Pitney.

They split the following year and Cyndi almost gave up on a singing career, but in an interview with Irwin Stambler, she said “I decided to just go ahead and do it, though I hadn’t written many new songs. I broke my partnership with John Turi and I didn’t like the idea of just singing other people’s songs” In 1983 she began working with producer Rick Chertoff who was looking for material for Cyndi’s debut solo album, She’s So Unusual. “I selected song that allowed me to keep my integrity and I wrote some of my own songs too,” she said. Chertoff remembered the song and played it to Cyndi who loved it but wanted to make a couple of lyric tweaks, so Chertoff took her to meet the song’s writer, Robert Hazard. He was a Philadelphia-born singer/songwriter who had his own band Robert Hazard and the Heroes and were quite successful on the Philadelphia club scene in the mid-80s and he agreed to let her alter some lyrics to fit her wacky female persona. “It was originally about how fortunate he was ’cause he was a guy around these girls that wanted to have ‘fun’ – with him – down there, which we do not speak lest we go blind,” she said.

The track, which features legendary songwriter Ellie Greenwich on backing vocals, made number two both in the UK and the US. Over here it was kept off by Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax and in the States Van Halen’s Jump held her at bay. The song was on constant rotation on MTV because the video features the wrestler, Captain Lou Albano who was hired to play Cyndi’s father and her mother was portrayed by….her real mother. It was directed by Edd Griles and won the Best Female Video at the first ever MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. She said of the song in a 1999 interview with CNN, “I know some people dismissed the song as comical, but it wasn’t. The song was an anthem. It’s saying ‘We want to have a life, to have fun’. We don’t want to be wearing the shackles.”

Cyndi undertook a tour of the US and recalled in the Lucy O’Brien book, She Bop, “I was shocked at the reaction. I’d go out on stage and the audience would be filled with girls screaming, ripping at my clothes. I’d never heard girls screaming over a woman before.”

Her follow-up, Time After Time, reached number three in the UK, but  gave her the first of two number ones in America, the other being 1986’s True Colours. The only time Lauper reached number one in the UK was in 1985 as a part of USA for Africa’s We Are the World. She charted 17 UK hits, her last top 10 being a reggae-tinged remake of her debut hit this time slightly retitled as Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun) and samples Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love.

The song has been featured in various TV adverts including one for the Fiat Chiquachento and in films especially in the 1985 film which was named after the song and starred Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt and featured a cameo appearance by Lauper herself. It was also used in the 2014 film Walking On Sunshine where it was sung by Leona Lewis, Hannah Arterton and Katy Brand. There have also been a number of cover versions by the likes of Pearl Jam, Weird Al Yankovic who retitled it Girls Just Want to Have Lunch, Miley Cyrus and in 2000 Lolly took a version to number 14.

Hazard died unexpectedly after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on 5th August 2008. In the 2000s Hazard and his wife, Susan, ran an antique shop near their home in Old Forge, New York.

Please follow and like us:

Shame (Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King)

This week’s artist became a star by really being in the right place at the right time. Her parents both worked for a record company and when their daughter joined them one day she went to the bathroom and began singing where she was overheard by a producer who told her she was going to be a star.

It’s a fairytale story, but a true one. Evelyn King came from a family who were in the music/entertainment business, her uncle was an actor who had appeared in the first Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess and then went on to work with Lena Horne, her mother was a manager for a soul act called Quality Red and her father was a resident backing singer at The Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, so it’s not too much of a surprise that Evelyn was going to follow suit.

Evelyn was born in the Bronx in July 1960 but the family moved and she was raised in Philadelphia. Her parents both worked at Philadelphia International records and when Evelyn was old enough she got a job at the label as a cleaner. It was when an in-house producer, Theodore T. Life, a former member of the band Instant Funk, heard this voice coming from the ladies room that he discovered someone special. “I was cleaning the bathroom and singing Sam Cooke’s song A Change Is Gonna Come and this producer said he loved my voice and was gonna make me a star”, recalled King.

As a child her nickname was Bubbles due to the fact that as a baby she used to create spit and blow bubbles with it, which, when it came to preparing for her debut single and album, was changed to Champagne. Her debut album was called Smooth Talk and the lead single was Shame, a song written by Reuben Cross & John H. Fitch Jr. with lyrics seemingly about a man who is just using his woman for sex but she doesn’t want to believe it – ‘My mother says you’re playing a game and what you do to me is a Shame. Ooh, gonna love you just the same, mama just don’t understand’. “I was only 15 and I’s singing ‘Momma just don’t understand how I love my man’, my father wanted to shot somebody,” laughed King in an interview with Jason Lewis at L.A Sentinel. “My parents were listening to the words, but I wasn’t paying no attention. There’s a lot of that song that I never paid attention to lyrically because I just loved singing – and I would sing it.”

“I remember being at the Philly studios and Theo said he was going to introduce me to two guys who were Reuben Cross & John H. Fitch Jr. I was nervous and as skinny as a piece of straw and I just stood there and he said ‘I want you to sing this song we’re written to see how you can do it’. So I just started singing Shame and they loved it.”

The version that appears on Smooth Talk is quite different from the single that made the chart. It was only when two New York club DJs, Al Garrison and David Todd, gave the song a re-mix, beefed up the beat and extended it to a 12″ single version running to just over six and a half minutes that it gained airplay and became a hit single. In America it reached the top 10 on the singles chart, the dance chart and the R&B chart as well as peaking number seven in Belgium. In the UK, despite heavy club play – and I was one of them – it only just scraped into the UK singles chart at number 39 but spent an incredible 23 weeks on the chart. The nearest anyone has come to that was in 2016 when Joel Adams’ hit Please Don’t Go spent 20 weeks on the chart but climbed no higher than number 50. Can you hum it?!

She later signed to RCA and released several songs including I’m in Love which was the first to crack the UK top 30 but her biggest hit came the following year when club favourite Love Come Down reached number seven. By now she was no longer credited with ‘Champagne’, why? “As far as I’m concerned I’ve always been Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, it’s never been taken out…not by me anyway. I think the record company dropped it just to see what happened but I told them that nobody would know Evelyn King, but that’s what happened.

She continued to release albums, Face to Face (1983), So Romantic (1984), A Long Time Coming (A Change Is Gonna Come) (1985), Flirt (1988), The Girl Next Door (1989) and I’ll Keep a Light On (1995) and took a break when she married music director Freddie Fox. In 2002, Shame was featured in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and two years later became one of the first records to be inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.

She made a comeback in 2008 with the album Open Book and its lead track, The Dance, went to number 12 on the US dance chart. Her final album to date was 2011’s Outside the Skyline of which the single Everybody, a duet with Miguel Migs was released.

She said in a recent interview, “I haven’t stopped working since 1977, but, there are a lot of us that either gave up or said forget it. I refuse to say stop, give up or forget it. I haven’t left the scene,” she explained, “I love my fans, and I’m respecting them to say I don’t give up.”

Please follow and like us: