Single of the week

Bobby’s Girl (Susan Maughan)

  

For anyone who has ever yearned for someone in their life, which is probably the majority of us, but never got it will be able to relate to this song. Bobby’s Girl is a simple song all about the local heartthrob called Bobby and all the girl want to be his girlfriend. Susan Maughan made the song famous in the UK towards the end of 1962, but, like so many songs of that era, the track had already been a hit in the US.

The original was recorded by Marcie Blane, who was born Marcia Blank in 1944 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was a musician who played piano in a band called The Catskills, Marcie followed in his footsteps and learned piano and guitar as a child and when the family moved to Queens, Marcie learned flute and then joined the school band. She also became captain of the cheerleaders and secretary of the dance corps. In 1962, Marcie was about to graduate when a songwriter friend of hers asked if she would like to record some demos of songs that he had written. Marcie recalled what happened in an interview in the 90s, “It wasn’t supposed to lead to anything, I was just doing someone a favour. I was only supposed to go in and cut the demo and leave.” Those demos were played to Marv Holtzman, the A & R man at Seville Records, who liked the songs but, more so, loved her voice. “The fellow at the record company liked me and offered me a contract,” Marcie offered, “how could I say no to that? I don’t think I ever gave it much thought. The first song they came up with was Bobby’s Girl. That was the first recording session. I went away to camp that summer to be a counsellor so no one at school even knew I had recorded that song.”

The song was written by Hank Hoffman and Gary Klein, a couple of Long Island songwriters who had been submitting their material to various publishers around New York. Eventually, Seville records, a small label owned by Danny Kessler and Murray Sporn showed interest. They had already had a minor hit with Ernie Maresca’s Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out), which later became a hit for Rocky Sharp and the Replays. Holtzman and Kessler had worked together a few years earlier at Okeh records but when they heard Blane’s demo of Bobby’s Girl they jumped on the idea of a teenage girl growing up and declaring that she’s not a kid anymore. The Blane version begins with the backing singers conveying the refrain ‘You’re not a kid anymore’ before Marcie comes in with the spoken passage ‘When people ask of me what would you like to be now that you’re not a kid anymore?’ and then begins singing with, ‘I know just what to say I answer right away….’

Marcie’s version reached number three on the Billboard chart, but did little else outside of the States. In October that year the British cover by Susan Maughan, who had begun as a singer with the Ronnie Hancock orchestra, was released. This was Susan’s fifth single released but her debut hit and made a very different arrangement by Wally Stott’s orchestra. It was a solid intro and her vocals open with ‘I wanna be Bobby’s Girl’ with no spoken passage at all. Susan probably stole Marcie’s thunder as her version reached number three in the UK, Israel and Ireland and number six in Norway.

In 1963, Bobby Rydell recorded a cover although an answer version might have been a better idea as, after all, he was called Bobby. His version borrowed the same arrangement as Marcie’s and adjusted it to his perspective with the slightly amended lyrics, ‘Say you wanna be Bobby’s Girl’ and ‘And if you were Bobby’s Girl what a faithful, thankful guy I’d be.’ There were, however a couple of answer versions in the shape of Stay Away from Bobby by the Sherry Sisters and She Wants to Be Bobby’s Girl by Dickey Lee. Surprisingly it hasn’t not been covered that many times but notably by Barbara Kay in the States but released in the UK on Woolworths’ Embassy label as Kay Barry and by Tracey Ullman in 1983 on her album You Broke My Heart in 17 Places.

Marcie recorded a couple more songs in the same vain, but wasn’t able to sustain the interest of her debut and by 1965 left the music business. She gave her reason in an interview with Bob Shannon from Goldmine magazine in 1988, “The music business was impossible for me to deal with. Everything changed. I felt very isolated and very lonely and I decided not to continue, I couldn’t. It was too difficult. I didn’t feel comfortable in front of a lot of people, with everyone making a fuss. I didn’t have the sense of myself I needed. It’s taken all these years to be able to enjoy what there was.”

Shortly after discovering Marcie, Marvin Holtzman spent some time in the UK and produced a few hits including The Bachelors’ I Believe. Klein became a successful producer, working with Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Glen Campbell, Barbra Streisand and many others.

Marcie Blane got married, had two children and was last known to be working as an education director at an arts theatre in New York. Susan Maughan’s career took a similar path to Blane’s by having two minor follow-up hits to Bobby’s Girl and then fading from the limelight. She too is married and is currently living in Eastbourne with her husband who is a theatre director.

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Fooled Around and Fell In Love (Elvin Bishop)

Question: what do Ai No Corrida by Quincy Jones, Killer by Adamski, My Coo Ca Choo by Alvin Stardust, The All-American Boy by Bill Parsons and Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through by Jim Steinman all have in common? The answer? The singers on the track are not the ones credited on the label, and that is also true of this week’s suggestion Fooled Around and Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop, a top 40 hit from 1976.

Elvin, who was born in California in 1942, was an original member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band after meeting the harmonica playing Paul in 1963 in their local neighbourhood. Elvin was the guitarist but in 1968 left and formed his own band the Elvin Bishop Group before going solo in 1975.

It’s so often said that the best songs come quickly and very often write themselves and that’s what Elvin said of this song. “The better a song is, the less story there is to it, as far as I can tell,” Bishop said in an interview with Carl Wiser. “The best songs just come rushing out. I don’t know if life squeezes them out of you, or if they’re just so right that they take no thought. I don’t know. Or if you’re given a temporary connection to the flow of the universe, or whatever it is. But that song just damn near wrote itself. It’s about a guy who callously played the field until one day when he falls madly in love with a girl he can’t stop thinking about.”

Elvin was teamed with producer Bill Szymczyk and were recording the album Struttin’ My Stuff and at the end of it, Bill told Elvin that he wanted one more track to fill the album and asked him if he had anything else. Bill said, “Well, there’s this tune I wrote and I’d actually tried to get a couple of other people to sing it, but somehow it didn’t work out,” and played him Fooled Around and Fell in Love. “We cut the track, it was a really nice,” Elvin continued, “I tried singing it, and I told Bill ‘That’s not buttering my biscuit, my vocal on this. My voice is very plain. It’s better suited for blues. We had a guy right there, Mickey Thomas (a former member of the Elvin Bishop group), who has the most amazing voice – he can sing a page out of the phone book and move people. I said to Bill, ‘why don’t we give Mickey a shot at this?’ to which Bill replied, ‘Well, that’s big of you.’ And I said, ‘well, I don’t think so. It’s just common sense, you know?’ Mickey just tore it up.”

Mickey Thomas recorded a couple of solo albums in the mid-seventies, but got his big break in 1979 when he was asked to replace Marty Balin in Jefferson Starship and sang lead vocals on Jane in 1980 and their biggest hits We Built This City and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

The song was brought to a new audience in 2014 when it was included in the Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Vol 1 soundtrack.

Bishop was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and also into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1998 as a soloist. He is still recording, touring and regularly releases albums, his last being Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio in November 2017 which received a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Oh, in case you’re wondering who was singing on the tracks mentioned in the first paragraph, Ai No Corrida was James Ingram and Patti Austin, Killer was Seal, My Coo Ca Choo was Peter Shelley, The All-American Boy was Bobby Bare and Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through was Rory Dodd.

 

 

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Are You Ready For Love (Elton John)

Serge Ramaekers did it successfully in 1993 with Freddie Mercury and Antonius Tom Holkenborg also made it work in 2002 with Elvis Presley so there shouldn’t have been any reason why it wouldn’t have worked when Ashley Beedle attempted it in 2003 and he proved it. What? Remix an old, fairly obscure track and make a number one hit out of it.

With Freddie, the original version of Living On My Own peaked at a lowly number 50 in 1985, the Elvis song, A Little Less Conversation, was only ever an album track, but Nike asked Holkenborg aka Junkie XL to remix it for a television advertising campaign. He did and when they sought permission from the Presley estate they refused unless the remixer agreed to change his name as they believed his name had a drug connotation, so he agreed to call himself JXL and all was sorted. This week’s suggestion is Are you Ready For Love which topped the UK singles chart 24 years after it first appeared, but it was put out as a test first.

The original track was recorded with producer, Thom Bell, at Sigma Sounds Studios in Philadelphia. Thom had invited the Detroit Spinners to record backing vocals and two versions of the song were laid down. One had all of The Spinners, the other with only lead singer Phillipe Wynne on backing vocals. It was the latter that was released as a single some two years after the recording. The other version is only available on the 1990s box set The Complete Thom Bell Sessions. The track wasn’t released until 1979 because Elton wasn’t entirely happy with the original mixes. He thought they were too cluttered, so asked sound engineer and producer Clive Franks to remix the track and make it less so. Clive remembered, “We mixed all the tracks in just two or three days, but I hate to admit, I’ve got no idea which mix was actually issued as a single – that was left up to Elton and John Reid to decide.”

First time round it just missed the top 40 in May 1979 possibly because, despite Elton’s popularity, radio didn’t seem to give much airtime to the track. The same year The Spinners, as they were known in the States, recorded their own version of the song and it appeared on their album From Here to Eternally. Later in 1979 Elton embarked on his first tour for three years, which included a performance in Israel, where only one westerner, Leonard Cohen, had performed before.

In the summer of 2003 Ashley Beedle remixed the track. Although little was done to the original sound, it became a nightclub smash. Its profile was boosted when Sky TV used it as backing music for their soccer coverage. When DJ Fatboy Slim heard it, he wanted it issued on his own Southern Fried record label.

In an interview with George Matlock, Ashley explained his role, “I like to think of the stuff as timeless. I live in two worlds, I’m in this group called X-Press 2 and we had quite a big hit in 2002 with a song called Lazy with David Byrne of Talking Heads. And when I DJ I produce on my own, I just look for the soul sounds. I grew up as a black music kid and my father had an amazing record collection which went right across the board. So I always carry that with me. The songs which grab me are the ones which motivate me. I’m not really a faceless techno bod. Although I’m a remix producer, Are You Ready for Love is a re-edit, that’s a totally different thing altogether. That’s where you’ve taken the elements of the track and you’ve enhanced the song, I have not added anything of my own. I have taken the song and restructured it in such a way that it’s a bit more for the dance floor. Re-editing was the first way of remixing, back in the early days of disco in the 1970s. Eventually when technology became more available, people started adding their own instruments and effects. The actual edit for me took a day. I would sit down, load it into a computer, and play around with it with my engineer. I then sent it to the cutter, and he rang back to say it’s not in stereo, it’s in mono. And I said it was meant to be in mono! I wanted it to be really punchy and to have that old feel. It was done at my friends studio in Forest Hill, south east London, called South of the Border. She has a studio in her house. But it has a certain sound in there, where I do a lot of my edits. It has a boxy feel to the sound.”

Initially, a strictly limited edition of 6000 pink vinyl 12″ copies were released which sold enough to enter the chart at number 66. Two months later, the track got a full CD release following its use this time by the Sky Sports channel to advertise the new season of football coverage. But the bizarre thing is that the remixed version does not appear on the CD single nor the cassette single. The first track is a 1979 re-issue and track two is full version which appeared on both sides of the original seven inch single. The remix, known as the Freeform Five Remix, only appeared on the B-side of the 12″ copy. So how many fans bought the CD, only to discover they already had it in their collection?

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Albatross (Fleetwood Mac)

This week’s choice is a number one instrumental named after a bird, the albatross, which is mentioned in the classic poem The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge. As a child Peter Green, guitarist and singer with Fleetwood Mac read the poem and it gave him the inspiration he needed for the song.

DJ Tony Blackburn once said this classic “It’s the most crushingly boring tune in the world. It just drones on. It starts, then it continues and then doesn’t go anywhere.” Many people have probably said that of Tony Blackburn.

Peter once admitted later that Albatross may have been drug influenced, he said, “I took two big LSD trips that went on forever and ever and ever.” In the late sixties and early seventies, Peter Green was ranked as one of the great guitar heroes alongside Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour. B.B. King once admitted that Peter Green was “the only guitarist in the world who could make me sweat.” The first time George Harrison heard it he said “it knocked me sideways.”

Some sources state that Santo & Johnny’s 1959 track Sleepwalk became an inspiration but it bears much more than a passing resemblance to a Chuck Berry 1957 instrumental called Deep Feeling which has many of the same elements including a call and answer style of guitar playing, and the permanent bass in the background. Chuck made no attempts to sue for plagiarism as Deep Feeling was, in turn, based on the 1939 country-tinged, Floyd’s Guitar Blues by Andy Kirk & his 12 Clouds Of Joy. The tracks in feel gives the effect of a calm sea and an airy breeze. Green only used four chords and Fleetwood only used timpani mallets so as not give it a heavy drum sound.

Peter explained further about the title, “I heard John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ cover of Jimmy Rodgers’ The Last Meal –  that’s the blues singer not the country and western one. I thought I would take it and develop it. I called it that because of that reference to the back of a giant albatross mentioned in the Traffic record Hole in My Shoe.”

Fleetwood Mac were formed in 1967 and comprised Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Jeremy Spencer. In August 1968, another lead guitarist, Danny Kirwin, was drafted in to give the group a jazzier feel. Although not evident on Albatross he is prominently featured on the B-side Jigsaw Puzzle Blues.

By 1970 Peter Green’s health was failing following his involvement with LSD and both he and Spencer quit. With various personnel changes including Stevie Nicks, Christine Perfect (later McVie) and Lindsey Buckingham, the group were elevated to supergroup status during the seventies and eighties.

In an interview in 2003, Peter Green said of Albatross, “I’d like to do that again on Hawaiian guitars with Eric Clapton. I always liked Eric’s playing: he was much better than Hendrix, although I thought Jimi was a great person.”

Musically, Albatross inspired the Beatles song Sun King which appeared on their 1969 Abbey Road album. In 2005 Marks and Spencer used it for one of their television adverts.

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Tossing And Turning (Ivy League)

Like so many acts, their first hit is not always necessarily where their career began. That is certainly the case for this week’s choice. The Ivy League first popped up in 1965 with Funny How Can Be, but the men behind it were very around the record business long before that.

The two men in question are the Birmingham-born John Carter and Ken Lewis. They began writing songs together and submitting them to various publishing companies, they travelled to London and got themselves a manager, Terry Kennedy who realised their potential and suggested they form a band and record their own songs rather than give them to other people. So in 1961 they formed Carter Lewis and the Southerners and released a number of singles, some of which featured a young Jimmy Page on guitar, which were extensively played on the BBC Light Programme, particularly Saturday Club. John Carter, who was born John Shakespeare in 1942 and Ken Carter who came into the world as Kenneth Hawker were the primary song writers many of which they wrote for other acts. Their first hit, as songwriters, came in 1963 when That’s What I Want by the Marauders just scraped into the top 50. The following year The Fourmost’s How Can I Tell Her got to number 33 and then a month later Brenda Lee cracked the top 20 with Is It True? Vocally they were first heard as the high-voiced backing singers on The Who’s 1964 hit I Can’t Explain.

In 1964, Carter and Lewis broke up the southerners invited studio engineer Perry Ford and formed the Ivy League and within a few months they had their first hit with Funny How Love Can Be which reached number eight and had been recorded by the Rockin’ Berries previously, but never issued. The following year they charted two songs, the number 22 peak of That’s Why I’m Crying and, this week’s suggestion, Tossing And Turning, a simple love song about a woman who has left and the subject has many restless nights now that she is not there anymore. It reached number three.

In 1967 they left to form The Flowerpot Men and had a worldwide hit with Let’s Go to San Francisco with session singer Tony Burrows on lead vocals. John realised that he preferred to write hits for other people and combined with getting bored of touring he left the band to concentrate on writing. He teamed up with another British songwriter, Geoff Stephens and together they wrote Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James for Manfred Mann. The same year Carter recorded a demo for Stephens’ outfit, The New Vaudeville Band. That demo was Winchester Cathedral which was a novelty song based on the 1920s vaudeville style particularly Rudy Valee. He cupped his hands round a microphone to sound like a megaphone and Stephens loved it so much he kept it as the finished article. It was released and became their debut single peaking at number four. Four months later Carter and Stephens penned the follow-up Peek-A-Boo and that reached number seven. Between them, the pair wrote three hits for Herman’s Hermits in the late sixties and in 1970 wrote Knock, Knock Who’s There? which was the British entry into the Eurovision song contest as sung by Mary Hopkin which came runner up in the chart as well as the contest.

Between 1970 and 1974 Carter released a few songs under various guises including Chelsea under the name Stamford Bridge which was co-written by Ken Lewis and a wonderful track called Dreams Are Ten a Penny under the name Kincade which sadly missed the chart.

Carter began writing songs with his wife, Gill Shakespeare and in 1974 formed a band called First Class as an outlet to release their songs. They reunited with Tony Burrows as lead singer but despite releasing over a dozen singles, Beach Baby became their only hit. One of the reasons for this was that none of the people involved with the recording had any interest in touring to promote the songs, so they sent a bunch of nobodies out on the road which proved a waste of time. John Carter had, by now, had enough and pulled the plug on first Class saying, at the time, “Making the First Class albums was a very happy and creative time. Who knows if we ever come up with another suitable song, maybe we will all get back together one day and record under that name again.”

He later turned his hand to writing television advert jingles including Rowntree sweet and Butlins holiday camp the latter being so catchy and popular that it was released as a single called The Sound of Summer by Starbreaker.

As for Ken Lewis suffered from depression and quit the music business in 1971 and moved to Tyneside. In the nineties he moved to Cambridgeshire but suffered from diabetes and died in a nursing home in August 2015.

John was on the board of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters and a member of the Performing Rights Society. These days he and his wife run their own publishing company and record production company which promotes his entire back-catalogue.

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