There's been a real debate amongst Rock'n'Roll erudites and scholars on who actually wrote the classic "Love is Strange" (which later made hits most notably for the Everly Brothers, later Sonny and Cher, and inspired Buddy Holly's "Words Of Love"... ), and that debate lately heated up when Mickey Baker, the writer of Rock'n'Roll's first guitar method and original hitmaker with Duet partner Sylvia Robinson (herself future founder of Rap's first hit label : Sugarhill Records... ! ), died last year... until I read a quote from an original interview printed on an article about Mickey Baker on the latest French Oldies magazine : "Jukebox magazine" that recounted what had actually happened...
The story goes like this : apparently, Sylvia who was a great fan of Bo Diddley's and used to attend a lot of his gigs, loved an original number which he would perform on stage that she thought would be wonderful for the duet act she was having with Mickey Baker at the time; it was called "Paradise", but remained unreleased since Chess rejected the track and Ellas "Bo Diddley" McDaniels had to register the song under his wife's maiden name "Ethel Smith" for contractual reasons. Now, Mickey disliked the tune, finding the original lyrics even ridiculous... he finally gave out to Sylvia's urging and rewrote the lyrics, readapting the tune as "Love is Strange", keeping the intantaneously recognizable gimmicky guitar riff by Jody Williams (which Williams had played on Billy Stewart's debut single "Billy's Blues" before!.. ) that was later used by Dave "Baby" Cortez in his 1962 instrumental song "Rinky Dink" too (...the mind boggles! )... and the rest is Rock'n'Roll HIstory!
Nevertheless, the co-writers of the song are of some dispute since, Sylvia Robinson claims that she and Mickey Baker wrote the lyrics, while Bo Diddley claims that he wrote them. However (according to Wikipedia source... ), it appears the first recorded version of "Love Is Strange" was performed by Bo
Diddley himself (! ), who recorded his version on May 24, 1956 with Jody Williams on
lead guitar (this version was not released until its appearance on I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958 in 2007... ); while Mickey & Sylvia's version was recorded several months later on October 17, 1956... hm!
Now, if you type the words "LOVE IS STRANGE" on the BMI website, they currently list the writers as all three : Bo, Mickey and Sylvia... !!!?
BAKER MICKEY SACEM 1863218 (French copyright )
ROBINSON SYLVIA BMI 26288282
MC DANIEL ELLAS BMI 63640292
Hm... What to think now? Love is Strange indeed! ;-)
(PS : The funny part is, despite the dispute, Bo Diddley went on to pen a song specialy for the Duo called : "Dearest"... ! ) :
Every once in a few decades, one guy stands out from the IN-crowd and really starts things moving and shaking, influencing a whole scene in the process, and those highly individual persons are still remembered in years to come as Urban Legend; this new series of articles is dedicated to such larger than life characters ...
There once was a Pop Boy about Barcelona town called Riccardo Julian, or Ringo for everyone, who was one of the very earliest "Mod" from the first revival not long after Franco's dictatorship... Things were moving up, what with all that Movida happening in those days and, instead of forming a band like his mates, since he couldn't play, he decided to be (super-) active helping to promote shows and organise mod weekenders and most of all, create the all-important Fanzine or "modzine" that would federate all the right people of the scene, putting bands from all over the country in touch with one another... soon enough, he was sort-of managing some of these bands himself (some of the most important ever of the country, like Brighton '64, Spain's own Jam, and the legendary Los Negativos of the mod-Psych revival that followed after the wake of Quadrophenia mods... ), helping to have them signed on major labels and put them on the National touring map; a tremendous feat in itself.
Those EARLY period from bands like the Who, the Move or the Jimi Hendrix Experience... even the Small Faces or Pink Floyd, Byrds... you name it, were more often than not their spontaneous Best; here's proof positive with an early '67 Live for German TV "Beat Beat Beat" of Jimi's Purple Haze : (Dig Mitch Michell's hair still sporting a Mod pomp', Jimi's just bought "I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet" Hussard uniform vest, perfect look, sound just right and not overwhelming, perfect modest stance ... )
As rock n roll got HEAVY in the late sixties and lost the "...and roll", a good chunk of the magic was lost forever, in this writers opinion. However, several groups delivered the heavy with a swagger and GROOVE that make the music enjoyable for those of us whose preferences don't run towards long plodding songs that might sound great under the influence of 'ludes.
The wildly named Damnation Of Adam Blessing were one such group from Cleveland, OH. The sound these fellas conjured up come across like some sort of cross between the Stax
rhythm section and the Jimi Hendrix Experience on these excellent cuts.
"Cookbook" (from their first LP, released in 1969) hit big in their home town but never broke nationally. Turns out
that singer Adam Blessing was leading a group called The Society when he saw a
group called Dust (not to be confused with the band of the same name
that released some LP's in the early 70's) perform. Blessing took the
core of Dust (Bob Kalamasz- lead guitar, Bill Schwark- drums), and Ray
Benich- bass) to create The Damnation. The group released four albums
until their end in 1973. While the lyrics to "Cookbook" may be dated and kinda silly, vocalist Adam Blessing delivers
them so well and with such conviction that it simply doesn't matter.
The 1970 followup LP (The Second Damnation, what else?) featured what is perhaps their greatest jam, 'Back To The River", which as a single seemed poised to break out into chart hit territory. Strip away the vocals and the track could easily fit on a Can LP, as the rhythm takes on that distinctly German "motorik" groove. The lead vocals and tripped out harmonies are majestic, and this track is a mini-masterpiece of hard hitting, late period psychedelia. The flip side, "Driver", grinds along with one of those dirty ass grooves that can be dropped into any biker or psych-ploitation film you care to view and it will make sense immediately.
I've read that these dudes opened for the likes of Grand Funk and Ten Years After; I can't imagine that they didn't blow those bands off the stage and don't understand why they didn't become massive- they were THAT GOOD!
During the summer of 1962, a brilliant 20-year old from the L.A suburbs saw his band get signed to Capitol Records, and their debut release for the label ("Surfin' Safari") became a minor national hit. Brian's talent was looming so large
that it couldn't be contained within The Beach Boys alone; compositions
written by Brian and Gary Usher were so prolific and the need to prove
his budding talent as a producer spread the legend out on to some other
cool records.Of course millions upon millions of words have been written about Brian and The Beach Boys, and they really need no other introduction nor biographical data. In full disclosure, I fully admit that I've "drank the Brian Wilson kool-aid" since I was a very young kid (my mom once drove all around L.A's south bay when I was 10 years old or so to find me a Beach Boys style candy striped shirt) so this particular genius fella is as highly regarded in my eyes as anybody else!
What strikes me about these two particular records is how great he was working with others at such a young age and, for all intents and purposes, so GREEN.
Brian moved out on his own during this period, and his roomate turned out to be Bob Norberg, a songwriter himself and one half of the duo Bob
and Sheri (Sheri being Sheryl Pomeroy). Brian and his father (Murray, then the Beach Boys' manager) saw hit potential in the duo, and Brian wrote and produced the gorgeous track "The Surfer Moon", and the Wilson family pressed it up on the Safari label. Judging by how rare this record is today (the few times it ever comes up for sale it goes for between $1500-$3000), probably 500 or so copies got pressed. A Beach Boys fan club pressed up a bootleg copy in 1981 on blue vinyl which was also VERY limited (1000 copies), which is my copy that you see here. Bob & Sheri's harmonies on the track are simply divine, and the sparse backing track is perfect for the mood of the song. Brian liked the tune enough to re-record it with the Beach Boys in 1963. The flip side ("Humpty Dumpty") is a quickie novelty, but it's fun nonetheless.
The same month (September '62) that "Surfin' Safari" began ascending the charts, Brian
went into the studio to cut a record that was strongly influenced by
both Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion" and the massive amount of twist
records that had littered the scene since 1960. While "The Revo-lution"
isn't exactly on par with the sophisticated tracks Brian began to
compose in the coming months, it certainly is cute and the play on the
word revolution is pretty damn clever. As my wife, hearing it for the
first time this morning said (before knowing of Brian's involvement)
"that's an interesting one! nice play on words". When I told her the
story and of Brian's involvement, she said 'THAT figures!!!".
"Rachel" is L.A session singer Betty Willis, and she shows off her
gorgeous voice in a sublime way on the b-side, "Number One". On "Number
One", Brian wears his Four Freshmen influence on his sleeve with a
melody that's so pretty it's almost corny. But like the rest of this
man's work, the sincerity cuts through any cynicism and "Number One"
completely melts me into a puddle.