This week’s songs is one that had been any American hit four times but in the UK only once and that is as a cover of one of the members’ original. Confused? Read on.
The song in question is Spooky which is probably best remembered in the States by Classics IV and in the UK by Dusty Springfield but only after its inclusion in the 1998 film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Spooky was originally an instrumental by Atlanta-born saxophone player Mike Shapiro, who recorded under the guise Mike Sharpe where it reached number 57 in the US charts in January 1967.
The Classics IV were formed in 1965 in Florida as an instrumental cover versions band and featured the guitarists Buddy Buie, J.R. Cobb, Walter Eaton, drummer Dennis Yost and keyboard player Joe Wilson. They achieved their first taste of success with a local hit titled Pollyanna written by Joe South. The band started to attract attention because Dennis was one of the few drummers to play while standing up. When the band learned of a New York City group that had a small amount of success with a song titled Till Then, using the same name, they changed their handle to The Four Classics and eventually The Classics IV named after a classic drum kit that Dennis Yost owned. Over the years they have added and lost members but kept the IV of their name. Their audiences started requesting vocal songs and Yost then moved to lead vocals full time with Kim Venable replacing him on drums and a year later Dean Daughtry was brought in to replace Wilson.
Anyway, J.R Cobb heard Sharp’s instrumental and felt that he could do it more justice by adding lyrics which he did so with his Georgia-born friend Harry Middlebrooks. The band then recorded the song but wanted to keep the saxophone sound of the original so invited Mike Shapiro to play on it. There has been much controversy over the years as to who actually played the sax solo with many citing as Ray Jarrel. According to Joe Glickman who is the group’s official biographer, he states, it was Mike Shapiro, who wrote and recorded the original instrumental version of the song, who played the sax. He added in his Forgotten Hits newsletter: The reason he didn’t play on some of the other records (the ones Ray Jarrel did play on) was because Mike was a bit hard to work with in the studio. He had a very good concept of how he wanted the solos, which differed from Buddy Buie’s ideas of mainstream pop. There’s a bit of a tone-break at the end of the solo that Mike insisted on re-recording, but Buddy wouldn’t let him.
Stateside, Spooky reached a respectable number three in December of 1967, but once they’d hit the big time, the line-up was ever changing and often featured Atlanta’s top session players including drummer Robert Nix, while the touring membership included Dean Daughtry and Bill Gilmore on keyboards and bass, respectively, all late of Roy Orbison’s old band the Candymen. They had a stack of quality song provided by Cobb and Buie but with so many musicians coming and going it was hard to pin and identity to the band, so apart from Dennis Yost’s vocal, there seem little other point to the band.
So, in 1974, that led to James Cobb, Dean Daughtry, Robert Nix along with Buddy Buie, now taking a producers role, leaving the group and forming a new band called The Atlanta Rhythm Section, who would go on to have 17 American hits in the 70s and early 80s, including the two top 10’s So In To You and Imaginary Lover. In 1979 they recorded a cover their own hit Spooky which reached number 17 and became their only UK hit reaching a lowly number 48.
Dusty Springfield recorded her version in early 1968, but remained unreleased. Dusty wanted it as a single, but apart from Son-Of-A Preacher Man in 1968, her latter sixties hits in America hadn’t made much impact so the record company decided to leave it on the shelf. It eventually appeared on the B-side of her 1970 hit How Can I Be Sure. There have been many covers of the song including versions by Andy Williams, Martha & The Vandellas, REM, Joan Osborne and the version by Imogen Heap was used in the 2005 film Just Like Heaven. In 1997, the Bloodhound Gang sampled it on their debut UK hit Why’s Everybody Always Pickin’ On Me?
Dennis Yost attempted a solo career with little success and then turned his hand to song writing and production. In 1993 he moved to Nashville and began working with American singer Barbara Lewis. He wrote a song called Donor to help with her campaign of organ donation. In 2000 he had surgery on his throat after a rare condition affected his voice. Five years later he suffered a severe fall and was instantly admitted to a nursing home so he could have 24 hour care. He died in May 2008 of respiratory failure. The Classics IV are still together and continued to tour and their last album was released in 2011 called A New Horizon.