For American audiences, the David Essex story is rather short and fairly typical of one-hit wonders. He appeared out of nowhere, starring in a film about 1950’s rock & rollers called That’ll Be the Day. He wrote his one and only American hit for that film.
He said “Rock On” was an attempt to create a song with 1950’s lyrics and 1970’s music and production. In that, he succeeded wildly. Recorded and released in 1973, the song went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, #3 in the UK and #1 in Canada.
Essex followed up that success with another star turn in Stardust, a sequel to That’ll Be the Day that brought his 50’s rocker right into the 1970s. (The two films are notable because Essex’s fictional band, the Stray Cats, inspired the creation of the real-life band fronted by Brian Setzer.)
Alas, Essex was never able to ever follow-up “Rock On” with another hit in the States. But not so in his native England. He charted 18 more singles in the British charts, including two #1s. His acting career has also flourished in the UK. He continues to appear in both live theater and television productions to this day.
So one could say that Essex has rocked on rather well.
MEET THE BEATLES - The Beatles (1964)
Any self-respecting Baby Boomers record collection begins with “Meet the Beatles.”
While there are certainly Elvis fans among our generation, most of us didn’t reach puberty until the 1960’s, when Elvis had already entered the Army and would never be as wild as he was before he went in. For most of us, Elvis was the music our babysitters listened to while the Beatles (along with the Beach Boys and Four Seasons) were the first group we could really call our own!
The True Story of the Shangri Las
The early sixties saw the rise of what are now called “the girl groups.” These were usually trios or quartets of female singers, usually working in a R&B vein. The Shirelles are perhaps the prototype, but they were joined by groups like the Blossoms, the Crystals and the Ronettes.
But there was one girl group whose public image was a little more dangerous. They were the Shangri Las.
The girls were all students at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens when they started performing together at school dances and other functions. The act consisted of two pairs of sisters: Mary & Betty Weiss and Margie & Mary Ann Ganser (who were identical twins).
The girls caught the attention of recording entrepreneur Artie Ripp who signed them to the fledgling Kama Sutra label. It was only after being signed that the girls decided to name themselves the Shangri Las (reportedly after their favorite Queens restaurant). There first few recording sessions produced nothing memorable and their first attempt at a single was a flop.
At this point a gentleman named Shadow Morton enters the picture. Morton has once been the boyfriend of Ellie Greenwich, who by 1964, had become a hit songwriter with her new boyfriend, Jeff Barry. When Morton dropped in to Barry & Greenwich’s office on day, a rivalry between Barry and Morton was created in an instant. Morton told Barry that he, too, was a songwriter. Barry called his bluff and asked him to come back in a week with a song.
We’ve been hearing this song since it first entered the pop charts in the fall of 1962, but how much do you know about its creation?
Bobby Pickett was an aspiring actor in L.A. who sang with a band called the Cordials at night while attending auditions during the day. One night as the group was performing a cover version of “Little Darling,” Pickett began a short monolog using an impersonation of Boris Karloff’s voice. The crowd loved it.
Pickett then sat down with fellow band member Lenny Capizzi and quickly worked up some monster-themed lyrics as a parody of Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time.” While the major labels were not interested in their song, writer/producer Gary Paxton was. Paxton was no stranger to novelty records, having written, sung & produced “Alley Oop” just two years earlier.
Paxton called in session musicians like Leon Russell and Johnny MacRae and quickly got “Monster Mash” recorded and released on his own Garpax label. Bobby became Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the session men were christened “the Crypt-Kicker 5.”
The little record from an independent label was an immediate smash (just as Bobby had boasted in the lyrics), reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during Halloween week of 1962!
Like the Frankenstein monster himself, the record refused to die, getting fresh airplay every year thereafter. It proved so popular that it actually re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and again in 1973 when it went all the way to # 10. The song was actually banned by the BBC in 1962 for being “too morbid.” Pickett had the last laugh when the 1973 re-issue also reached the Top 10 in the UK.
Pickett released several follow-ups to “Monster Mash” (some of which you’ll hear every Halloween here at Boomtown America), but never matched the success of his first release.
He went on a brief career as an L.A. disc jockey and also played bit parts in several low budget movies.
The song is still available on multiple compilations. Just remember, as Bobby said, “When you get to the store, tell them Boris sent you!”
Marty Balin’s influence on rock & roll both in front of the mike and behind the scenes was enormous. He soared to fame during the summer of love as one of the main singer-songwriters for Jefferson Airplane. He passed away over the weekend in Tampa, FL, where had had made his home. The cause of death is, at this time, unknown
Born Martyn Buchwald in Cincinnati, Balin got interested in music at an early age. He recorded two singles in 1962 for the small Challenge Records label. It was that label that changed his name to Marty Balin.
Relocating to San Francisco, Balin hooked up with musicians Paul Kantner, Skip Spence, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Signe Anderson in 1965. That same year, he and some partners also opened the hugely influential Matrix nightclub that was a launch pad for many Bay Area groups including the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Steppenwolf.
Jefferson Airplane became the first of those San Francisco groups to land a contract with a major label, recording their first album for RCA in 1966. Ms. Anderson, one of the Airplane’s lead singers became pregnant and left the band. She was replaced by Grace Slick. Drummer Spence also left and was replaced by Spencer Dryden.
It was the Airplane’s second album, “Surrealistic Pillow,” that catapulted them to superstardom. While Balin was sharing most of the lead vocal duties with Slick, it was Slick’s songs that became the group’s first hits. From then on, the media tended to focus their attention on Slick and who could blame them? In addition to her powerhouse vocals, she was also an extremely good-looking young woman. Tensions within the band escalated until Balin left in 1971.
The band then renamed themselves Jefferson Starship and continued along. By 1975, Balin had rejoined his old group; and this time, it was his songs that led to their biggest chart successes – “Miracles” “Count on Me,” “Runaway” and “With Your Love.”
Balin left the group again in 1978 avoiding the band’s slide into corporate rock as simply Starship in the 80s.
Balin recorded some solo albums and appeared with his former bandmates in various aggregations, including a full-fledged Jefferson Airplane reunion tour in 1989 and with a reincarnation of Jefferson Starship in the 90’s.
He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 and was still writing and singing right into this year.
Simon & Garfunkel achieved a phenomenal level of success with a minimal number of albums. The boys released just 5 studio albums during the 1960s and none of them were a live album.
It wasn’t planned that way. The duo had several of their shows recorded, but those recordings went unreleased for several years.
If you are a fan of Paul & Artie (and what Baby Boomer isn’t?), here is a list of all the official releases of their live albums:
Live from New York City, 1967 – This could’ve been their first live album, recorded at Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City on January 22, 1967. This was right before the release of the movie, The Graduate, that really catapulted them to the upper echelons of rock acts.
As such, it contains live versions of many of their earlier album tracks as well as a handful of tunes they never recorded in the studio.
For whatever reason, this album sat on the shelf for years. Five songs from the concert were included on a Simon & Garfunkel box set that was released in 1997.
When the live album was finally released in 2002, 35 years after its recording, one of the songs used on the box set (“Red Rubber Ball”) was omitted.
Live 1969 – The duo went on tour just after recording, but prior to the release of Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Columbia recorded many of these shows with the thought that they would finally release a live Simon & Garfunkel album. Why this album was shelved, no one is saying. Perhaps the fact that Simon & Garfunkel quickly went their separate ways after Bridge Over Troubled Waters decreased Columbia Records’ enthusiasm for the project.
Two of the songs from this album were the first live material released when “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her” and “Kathy’s Song” showed up on 1972’s “Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.”
The album finally had its first public release as a Starbucks-exclusive CD in 2008 before receiving a wide general release in 2009. It was also included as the second disc in a 2-CD reissue with Bridge Over Troubled Waters.
The Concert for Central Park – The third attempt at a live recording was actually the first to be released. It was recorded in 1981 when Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel had decided to reunite for a special benefit concert. The show in Central Park attracted more than 500,000 people. and was video-taped for HBO. A double album of the concert was released in 1982.
The success of this event led to Paul and Artie reuniting on a world tour and starting work on a new studio album. But the old tensions re-emerged and Simon had Garfunkel’s vocal tracks erased, releasing the album, titled Hearts and Bones, as a solo effort.
Old Friends: Live on Stage – The boys patched up their differences and embarked on another reunion tour in 2003. This album is compiled from a series of shows they performed at Madison Square Garden that year. This set is unique because it also features the Everly Brothers as special guests. Obviously, a huge influence on Simon & Garfunkel, Don & Phil performed a couple of their classic tunes and then joined Paul and Artie on “Bye-Bye Love” (which S&G had previously recorded for their Bridge Over Troubled Waters LP). The Everly Brothers solo songs do not appear on the CD, but are included on a DVD version of this release. This release also features one new Simon & Garfunkel studio song, “Citizen of the Planet,” a tune Simon wrote in 1980’s, but did not complete with Garfunkel until the time of this tour.
So, there you have it. Simon & Garfunkel have now released almost as many live albums as studio albums. Have fun listening!
In the very early days of rock & rioll music, magazines like 16 and Tiger Beat were the ONLY rock journalism you could find. We've come into position of a comendium of articles from 16's glory days (under the direction of Gloria Stavers) and we will be reprinting these vintage pieces from time to time.
The revival of interest in the music of the late 1950s and early 1960s that occurred in the mid-1970s hit Great Britain even harder than it did America. Bands like The Rubettes, Showaddywaddy and Wizzard scored huge hits on the UK charts with modern updatings of early rock sounds.
Here in the States, the hits were harder to come by, but one British import not only cracked the U.S. market, it became a bigger hit here than in its native England. The record was a tribute to the Beach Boys and the early 60’s surf music called “Beach Baby.” The artists behind the record were known in the UK as The First Class. In America, “the” was dropped and DJ’s simply called them First Class.
What’s the real story behind he song?
The True Stories Behind Rock’s “1-and-Done” Classics
“Angel of the Morning” (1968)
As is often the case with 1-Hit Wonders, the composer and producers of “Angel of the Morning” actually had long, successful careers, even if the Turnabouts did not.
The song was written by Chip Taylor, the same many who gave us “Wild Thing,” “I Can’t Let Go” and others. He has said the line “There be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can’t bind your heart” came to him out of the blue one morning. Within ten minutes, he had written the entire song.
He hoped the song would be the breakout single for a young lady named Evie Sands. But Evie would have a career filled with near misses. The small label that produced her version of “Angel of the Morning” went belly-up shortly after they released it. With no push from the label, the song died a swift death.
At this point, Paul Revere of “and the Raiders” fame enters the story. Revere had been pushing a Seattle band he believed in, Merilee Rush and the Turnabouts. Revere secured them a recording deal with hitmakers Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman. They gave “Angel of the Morning” to Merilee and her band and that version quickly became a million-selling hit.
Sadly, Merilee never cracked the Top 40 again although she continued to perform for many years.
One other interesting note, the Turnabouts guitarist Carl Wilson (no, not the Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys) eventually hooked up with two sisters named Anne & Nancy Wilson and helped them form a band called Heart.
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