Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Strange Tale of Jody Reynold's 'Endless Sleep' and other Death Discs.

To mark the passing of Jody Reynolds earlier this month I've decided to dedicate this post to death discs.


Although murder, misfortune and mortality have always been popular themes in music, Reynolds 1958 hit Endless Sleep ushered in a golden era of largely teenage variations on the subject of death.

The craze reached its zenith in the 1960 when Ray Peterson's Tell Laura I Love Her (which prompted Marilyn Michaels to answer Tell Tommy I Miss Him), and Mark Dinning's Teen Angel both charted despite featuring fatalities.

In August that year Bob Luman's pleaded Let's Think About Living but it fell on deaf ears and the trend continued on into the sixties.

In the UK, Johnny Leyton, whose cover of Tell Laura I Love Her had lost out to Richie Valance's version the previous year, hit with Johnny Remember Me in 1961. Although it didn't explicitly say that the girl he'd 'lost'was dead the echoey chorus left little doubt that the gal was in the ground.

Produced by Joe Meek and written by Geoff Godard the track had apparently been blessed, from beyond by the grave, by Buddy Holly. The pair contacted the bespectacled plane crash victim via weegee board and on hearing their plans for Johnny Remember Me apparently commented "See you in the charts". (See Death Discs by Alan Clayson).

Jan and Dean, who "made surf, cars and simply being between the ages of thirteen and eighteen seem like a mid sixties version of God's grace" (The Dustbin Of History Greil Marcus ), hit in 1964 with Dead Mans Curve which dealt with a drag race fatality on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard in LA.

Also that year Twinkle had a UK hit with Terry the tragic tale of her biker boyfriends untimely demise.

The following year another biker bit the dust in The Shangri La's delirious teen melodrama The Leader Of The Pack, which, with its kitchen sink and all production, surely represented the genres artistic high water mark.

What follows is a random, and by no means definitive, list of some of my favourite Death Discs:

Endless Sleep: Jody Reynolds

Growing up in Oklahoma Jody Reynolds first love was Western Swing.

As he told John Stafford:"I sure did listen to the radio. I loved western swing. Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, Eddy Arnold - I loved stuff like that."

Moving to Arizona in the early fifties Reynolds tastes changed when he heard Elvis Presley on the radio.

Although Reynolds didn't record Endless Sleep until 1958 he told the Phoenix New Times in 2001 that he wrote it in 1956, right after listening to Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel five times in a row on a jukebox.

In doomy echoey style the song told the tale of a boys desperate search for his girl, who he fears has drowned herself after they had had a fight. It was issued by Demon Records in March 1958.

"Demon was in Los Angeles. Herb Montei, who later became my manager had a publishing company in Hollywood. I'd been playing rockabilly or rock 'n' roll or whatever you want to call it for about three years, and I was playing a date in San Diego and a guy at this club said to me, "If you want to record, you should send some stuff to Herb Montei." I didn't have many songs, but I sent him a couple of things and he turned them down. Then I made a demo of Endless Sleep and he liked it a lot, so he found the guys at Demon Records for me."

Apparently the record executives in LA were unconvinced that suicide would sell and persuaded Reynolds to end the song with the boy running into the ocean and rescuing his girl. Ironic that a record that could claim to be the first of the teenage death disc's nobody actually died after all, though the gloomy mood of the record swamps its nominal happy ending.

The people at Demon also felt that although Reynolds was a more than capable guitarist the record people decided to draft in Al Casey:

"I played my own guitar all my life but on that session, for some reason, the record people just wanted me to stand there and sing and not play"
"The guitar riff came from my childhood memories of hearing the funeral bell in Oklahoma" Reynolds remembered. (quoted in Mojo April 2009)

Endless Sleep reached number 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. In the UK it provided Marty Wilde with his first hit entering the UK charts in June 1958 it reached number 4 and stayed in the charts for fourteen weeks.

Reynolds continued to record through out the fifties and early sixties. In 1963 Reynolds recorded Stormy written and produced by Lee Hazlewood.

The following year Bobbie Gentry would make her debut recordings duetting with Reynolds on Stranger in The Mirror/ Requiem for Love.

Reynolds would never again repeat the sucess of his first recording and eventually quit the music business to work in real estate in Palm Springs.

He died on the 7th November this year aged 75.

Further reading here and here

Ode To Billie Joe: Bobbie Gentry

Musical prodigy, Gentry was born Roberta Lee Streeter and her early life was spent in rural hardship in Chicksaw County, Mississippi.

Gentry's grandmother traded a cow to provide the piano on which Gentry wrote her first song, My Dog Seargent is a Good Dog when she was just seven years old.

In 1955 14 year old black teenager Emmet Till was brutally beaten and then shot, a 75-pound cotton gin fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire to weigh down the body, which was then dropped into the Tallahatchie River ,where it was subsequently found by fishermen. Those responsible were acquitted and later admited to the killing. At the insistence of Mamie Till, Emmet's mother, photographs of the boys beaten and disfigured body appeared in the press. This horrible event caused widespread outrage at the treatment of African Americans.
Bob Dylan articulated this disgust in the song The Death Of Emmet Till in 1962.

One wonders what impact it had on young Bobbie Gentry. Is it, perhaps,in some slight ghostly way, on Mama's mind in Ode To Billy Joe when she comments: "Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge"?

In 1957, when she was thirteen, Gentry moved to California to be with her mother , graduating from Palm Valley School in 1960 Gentry funded attendance UCLA (studying philosophy) and the Los Angeles Conservatory by working as a nightclub singer, under the name Bobby Gentry, and as a secretary.

As already mentioned she made her recorded debut in 1964 with Jody Reynolds.

Subsequentlty Gentry continued to perform and in early 1967 Capitol Records producer Kelly Gordon heard a demo and signed her to Capitol.

Released later that year her debut single for Capitol was Mississippi Delta/Ode To Billy Joe. Despite the A Side being a scorching swampfunk classic it was the sparse, sineous, southern gothic of the B Side that the DJ's warmed to and which climbed to the top of the pop charts.

In the wake of Ode To Billy Joe' s success I believe all subsequent Gentry singles had the intended playside on the B- side.

In many respects Ode To Billy Joe is not typical of the death disc genre, in contrast to the teen histrionics of, say, Leader Of The Pack, Ode to Billy Joe deals with death, a suicide at that, with almost callous offhandness. The demise of Billy Joe MacCallister in the Tallahachie River treated as just another piece of county gossip. The family patriach best sums up the mood when he says: "Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense, pass the biscuits, please"

Ode To Billy Joe won Gentry three Grammys (Best New Artist, Best Vocal Performance Female, Best Contemporary Female Solo Vocal Performance) whilst the song itself won a further Grammy for arranger Jimmie Haskell.

The other big Grammy winner of 1967 was fellow Capitol records signing, Glen Campbell ,who picked up awards for both Gentle On My Mind and By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

Capitol paired Gentry and Campbell the following year. The sleeve notes of the resultant album gushed:

"They have the affinity, one for the other, that's unusually rare - striking to hear because of it's rightness and it's absolute simplicity.....singly they seem like the first of a new breed, these two, whose every effort runs true - writing, playing, singing - performing what they feel as they feel it, so that what emerges rings true. these talents stay with the taem too,losing nothing and gaining a new dimension."

In 1970 Gentry scored a hit with Fancy which tells the story of a young impoverished womans journey from poverty to wealth by being "nice to the gentlemen."

Recorded at Rick Hall's Fame studio's it featured Travis Wammack on guitar: " I played her little guitar on that. Rick asked her, he said 'Bobbie would you mind if Travis played your little bitty Martin? I'd like to try and duplicate the Ode To Billie Joe sound. She said 'sure'. it took me a while because it was a little bitty small scale double eighteen Martin guitar." (from Country Got Soul 2 sleevenotes)

The album brought Gentry another Grammy nomination.

Fancy was a hit again in 1991 when it was covered by Reba McEntire, but by that time Gentry had been in self imposed exile from show business for 13 years. Her last public appearance was as Johnny Carsons guest on the Tonight Show Christmas 1978, since then little has been heard from the Garbo of Chicksaw County.

Back on The Road: Nancy Sinatra And Lee Hazlewood

The B side of Nancy and Lee's 1971 Reprise release Did You Ever? Back on The Road is a from- beyond- the- grave- twist- in - the- tale record.

It details, in the first person narrative, the life of two tramps who, in the final verse, wake up in a town were their feet and backs hurt no longer . Although it's never made explicit it becomes clear, to the listener but not the songs protagonists, that the town is heaven and our two hero's are dead!

I've written at lenght about Nancy and Lee elsewhere in this blog.

Seasons in The Sun: Terry Jacks

When Jacques Brel originally wrote Le Moribund it was as an acerbic tragi -comedy in which a dying man lets his wife and friends know that he has always known of her multiple infidelities. Brel claimed to have written it in a Tangiers whore house.

It first became Seasons In The Sun when it fell into the hands of Rod McKuen .

Before becoming the "most popular poet in the world" Rod McKuen had apparently worked in psychological warfare during the Korean War. He moved to San Franscisco in the sixties and began churning out poems and albums.

"My first experience with Brel", Mc Kuen recalled in the sleeve notes to Rod McKuen Sings Jacques Brel "consisted of doing an unauthorized adaptation of Le Moribund, which I called Seasons In The Sun."

In McKuen's adaptation the dying man apparently forgives his wifes infidelity though her lover was his friend , though a few lines later he does threaten to haunt his faithless spouse!

"I (McKuen) subsequently learned that Brel had received a my recording ..after returning from a long and tiring tour of France. he remarked that he had been so pleased by someone doing something for him without requesting or expecting anything that he immediately returned the compliment by adapting (McKuen's song) The Lovers into French." (quoted in the sleeve notes to Rod McKuen Sings Jacques Brel)

It marked the beginning of a professional relationship between the two men that was to last some ten years.

The Kingston Trio released the Brel/McKuen version in 1964, and one of those that heard it was Canadian Terry Jacks:

"I heard their version and I didn't like the translation. But there was still something about that song" he told DJ Barry Scott.

Jacks had first come to prominence as part of The Poppy Family who enjoyed a number two hit in 1970 with Which Way You Goin', Billy, originally intended as the B- Side to The Poppy Family's cover of Reynolds aforementioned Endless Sleep.

In 1972, in the wake of Brian Wilson's mental collapse, Jacks was approached to produce the Beach Boys. Jack's recalled Seasons In The Sun :

"With lines like 'But the stars we could reach were just starfish on the beach,' I thought , here's a great song to produce for the Beach Boys. I had this idea for the song and I went down there and I worked really hard on it. we cut all the tracks, got the voices on and we were getting ready to do some sweetening, but it was too much for brian to have somebody from outside come in and produce. We never finished it. It was too bad. I came home , almost having a nervous breakdown." (from We Had Joy We had Fun by Barry Scott).

Shortly after returning to Canada Jacks learnt a friend of his was dying:

"I said it must be terrible to have to tell your best friend and your father - and he had a little girl - that you are going to die. It must be a terrible feeling. So I rewrote the words to Seasons In The Sun about a young person dying. They were telling their best friend,their father and their little girl that they're going to die."

Jacks recorded it with Link Wray and issued it in late 1973 on his own Goldfish label in Canada, where Jack's had recently enjoyed number 1 success with Concrete Sea.

It was an instant hit. Signed to Bell for US and European distribution Seasons In The Sun went to number 1 in America for three weeks and in the UK for four weeks. It was the first record a young Kurt Cobain purchased.

Despite changing the lyrics and sugaring the tune to within an inch of its life the writing credits featured only Brel and McKuen's names "It was an inventive treatment," the latter grudgingly admitted, "so I was glad he'd taken a song of mine, that hadn't been a hit, and made something of it" (from Jacques Brel The Biography by Alan Clayson)

Jacks returned to the Brel/Mckuen songbook for his follow up, that old chestnut If You Go Away, which failed to sell as well as Seasons In The Sun peaking at number 68 in the US in 1974.

Its follow up fared even worse and Jacks retired from the music business on the proceeds of his smash hit version of Seasons In The Sun.

Stan : Eminen

Hip Hop probably has the largest body count of any musical genre with murder a lyrical staple, Eminen, however, channelled the spirit of The Shangra La's in this masterstroke of storytelling.

Born in Kansas City Marshall Mathers aka Eminen aka Slim Shady moved to a predominantly black neighbourhood in East Detroit when he was eleven years old.

"When I came to Detroit hip hop was huge...Everybody loved rap and from there i just grew up on it. I think I was fourteen when I wrote my first rhyme and it was just like LL Cool J. as I started getting older I started learning how to put words together, I started to get good at it." (from The Hip Hop Years A History of Rap by Alex Ogg with David Upshal)

Eminen gained a reputation for his freestyle skills at local throwdowns.

Unlike some other white rappers like say, Vanilla Ice, hip hop was as natural to Eminen as the blues were to Elvis Presley or Jimmy Rodgers. Like these two before him he had absorbed a style more usually associated with another race and used it to tell his own story. As he says in his forthcoming book The Way I Am :" In real life rap is all that I really know how to do well."

Still when his first album, Infinite, emerged in 1996 Eminen found himself castigated for his colour:

"The album got stepped on and I got a lot of criticismfrom it: 'Your trying to sound like Nas! You're trying to sound like AZ! You're white, you shouldn't rap, you should go into rock 'n' roll'. Just a lot of criticism, just a lot of bullshit that I was hearing." (from The Hip Hop Years A History of Rap by Alex Ogg with David Upshal)

In 1997 Eminen was second placed in the Rap Olympics:

" I took second place to a hometown favourite or something. It was bullshit. Everybody knew I got robbed there." (from The Hip Hop Years A History of Rap by Alex Ogg with David Upshal).

The Rap Olympics did serve to bring Eminen to the attention of Dr Dre which resulted in 1999's The Slim Shady LP which entered the US album charts at number two and brought the rapper to mainstream attention whilst his work on Rawkus maintained his credibility in the underground.

" An underground following has to be there, you've got to start off there or you don't have nothing to fall back on" said Eminen (from The Hip Hop Years A History of Rap by Alex Ogg with David Upshal).

Stan was issued in 2000. Over a 45 King backing track it tells of fandom gone horribly wrong. In its first three verses Eminen reads the letters of a fan. Over a rhythm is provided by what sounds like a felt tip pen scribbling away on paper it becomes increasingly clear that this fan is one sick puppy:

"Sometimes I even cut myself to see how much it bleeds
It's like adrenaline, the pain is such a sudden rush for me"

Increasingly irate that his idol won't reply to his letters the troubled Stan prepares one final letter to tell his idol that he is driving off a bridge with his pregnant girlfriend in the boot:

"Well, gotta go, I'm almost at the bridge now
Oh shit, I forgot, how'm I supposed to send this shit out?"
says Stan admist the sound of car tyres squealing, crashing and splashing in a production that the sacred Shangra La's themselves would have been proud of.

In the songs final verse Eminen plays himself sitting down to reply to his disciple during the course of this verse Eminen assures Stan that he is valued as a fan and that maybe he should get some counselling: "I just don't want you to do some crazy shit".

Eminen then begins to describe a story he'd read of a man who drove his car off a bridge with his girlfriend in the boot..
"and in the car they found a tape, but they didn't say who it was to
Come to think about, his name was.. it was you
Damn!" ...concludes the song.

Stan was the third single taken from The Marshall Mathers LP . Two further albums followed before Eminen disappeared from public view in 2005.

In 2006 Eminens best friend DeShaun Holton from D12, a rap act that rode the coat tales of Eminens patronage to chart success of their own, was murdered.
"I have never felt so much pain in my life...It was a year before I could really do anything normally. I had days when I couldn't even walk, let alone write a rhyme."(from The Way I Am by Eminen)
Despite a hiatus of some three years Eminen was voted The Best Rapper Alive by readers of Vibe magazine this year.

It seems likely that a new Eminen album will be with us in the first partof 2009.

The picture accompanying this post is from Ingmar Bergmans The Seventh Seal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

O.V. Wright Memorial Fund Update


Red Kelly has been doing sterling work on behalf of The O.V. Wright memorial fund, culminating in this I-wish-I-could- be- there gig.

Check it out:

And if you don't already know the incredible story of Red & Lattimore Brown check Red's blog here and here.

Also since I'm directing you all round the world wide web, and although this has nothing to do with O. V. Wright, I've written a short piece for the mighty Barstool Mountain which you can read here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Marty Robbins and the El Paso Saga

“Here’s a piece of trivia for you,” said Lee Hazlewood challenging his interviewer, Richard Hawley, “Who covered Elvis Presley and beat him?” Hawley didn’t know. Hazlewood, who had been a DJ in Phoenix at the time, may have felt some sort of local pride as he told him “Marty Robbins! Elvis had That’s All Right on Sun Records and Marty Robbins, he’s from Phoenix, and he came right along and covered it and knocked the hell out of it.”

By December 7th 1954, when Robbins recorded That’s All Right, Presley’s version had sold somewhere in the region of 25,000 copies and Presley’s second Sun single Good Rockin’ Tonight had already been issued. Still the fact remains it was Robbins, not Presley, who steered the song to the charts. Robbins’ version got to number 7 on the Disk Jockey chart and number 9 on the Best Selling chart in 1955.

Robbins had been signed to Columbia Records by Art Satherley, in 1951 on Little Jimmy Dickens recommendation. Dickens had been impressed by Robbins talent after appearing as a guest on a local Phoenix TV show that Robbins hosted.

English man Satherley is widely recognised as one of the architects of country music having brought, in addition to Robbins, Bob Wills, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and, Robbins’ boyhood idol, Gene Autry to the Columbia label. Satherley left Columbia the year after signing Robbins, in May 1952. Despite this, except for a three year hiatus in the early seventies, Robbins would stay on the Columbia label throughout his career.

The relationship between label and artist was not always a happy one.

In late 1955, the year that Robbins’ That’s All Right hit the charts, Robbins recorded Singing The Blues, at Owen Bradley's famous studio with Owen Bradley himself playing the piano. It became a country smash the following year and was making in roads on the pop charts when Columbia, to Robbins’ irritation gave the song to label mate Guy Mitchell to record as a pop song. Mitchell went on to sell some 3 million copies.

A lesson learnt, Robbins went to New York to work with Mitchell’s producer, Mitch Miller, and arranger, Ray Conniff. Whilst there Robbins recorded his own teen pop composition A White Sports Coat And a Pink Carnation , which went to number two in the pop charts and The Story Of My Life which gave Burt Bacharach and Hal David their first taste of chart success reaching number one in the country charts and number fifteen in the Billboard charts in 1957.

Also in 1957 Robbins founded his own label, Robbins, among whose first signings were Tompall & the Glaser Brothers'. Robbins was impressed by the brothers’ tight harmonies and duly released their first single Five Penny Nickel which was written by Chuck Glaser. Although the brothers signed with Decca in ’59, Robbins remained a fan.

1959 saw the release of Robbins first foray into Western songs: The Hanging Tree recorded whilst still in New York with Ray Conniff's orchestra for the Gary Cooper movie of the same name. Written by Jerry Livingston and Mack David The Hanging Tree’ hit the charts in March and was nominated for an Best Music, Original Song Oscar in 1960.

Perhaps with a confidence inspired by that records success Robbins returned to Nashville the next month and began work on an album of Western Songs despite the reservations of some senior Columbia record personnel.

Recorded on 7th April 1959 the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs contained twelve western themed numbers including one, Running Gun, written by Tompall and Jim Glaser and four of Robbins own compositions Big Iron, In The Valley, The Masters Call and, of course, the Grammy award winning El Paso.

Robbins recalled in the sleeve notes to CBS’ 1982 release Marty Robbins Biggest Hits: "El Paso was a song that I had threatened to write for almost three years. As I was going through El Paso one Christmas I happened to see the sign El Paso City Limits and I thought to myself that’s a beautiful name, I’d like to write a song about it. Then the next year when I went through El Paso the name caught my attention again and I remembered my idea of wanting to write a song. The same thing happened, I forgot about it. So the third year through there I thought to myself, this is the third time I’ve said I’m going to write a song about this city, and the words and the melody just started rolling out of my head… I didn’t stop to write it down; I wrote it in my mind. In fact it was like watching a movie.”

El Paso was released as a single in October 1959, a month after the album’s release, and reached number 1 in the country charts on December 21 that year and the top of the pop charts in January 1960, all this despite a running time of 4.19 minutes in an era when radio stations demanded that songs didn’t exceed three minutes. Columbia was so worried about the songs running time that they did release a special radio only single which had the full song on one side and a shorter “radio friendly” (2.58) version on the other. Most stations had the good taste to play the full version.

It’s hard to imagine how Columbia edited El Paso. So elegantly is it written that not a word or note is superfluous.

“I probably wrote it less time than the songs actual length, which is 4.37, ’cause the words were coming so fast. But it was exciting ‘cause I really didn’t know how it was going to end. I kept waiting to get to the end, and finally, when I did, I remembered it ‘cause it was just like a movie. All of this came to me about nine in the evening, and I sang it over and over in the car all night long until I got to Phoenix the next day where I wrote the words down.” wrote Robbins for Marty Robbins Biggest Hits.

When Gene Autry sang of South of the Border it was a place of Mexicali Rose’s and Gay Ranchero’s. Robbins’ El Paso, is an altogether darker place.

Told in the first person it is the tale of a cowboy who falls for a “Mexican maiden”, Feleena who works as a dancer in Rosa’s Cantina in El Paso. So consumed with jealously is he, and despite his great love, he views Feleena as some kind of wicked Siren.

"Blacker than night were the eyes of Feleena
Wicked and evil while casting her spell
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden
I was in love, but in vain I could tell "

One day she is entertaining another, “a handsome young stranger”; he challenges the stranger to a duel and shoots him.

In the wake of this action Robbins, in the character of the songs protagonist, in a moment of terrible clarity and tells us:

Just for a moment I stood there in silence
Shocked by the foul, evil deed I had done

It’s a masterful touch, increasing our sympathy for the killer who we now see as an essentially good, if flawed, man.

Then its back to the action, thoughts of racing and running dominate as the cowboy flees into the “bad lands of New Mexico”.

Unable to return to El Paso and his loved one the cowboy reflects on the emptiness of his life. He pines, before resolving: “My love is stronger than my fear of death”.

So the cowboy, taking his life in his hands he returns to El Paso intent on seeing Feleena again despite the dangers. Sure enough the town’s law enforcement people are waiting, despite knowing this he urges his horse on to Rosa’s until…

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side

And the way Robbins sings “side” rising to a falsetto tells us as much as the lyrics about that first bullet finding its way into the cowboys body.

Now fallen from his horse he is staggering to the back door of Rosa’s (the same back door that he had fled through four or five verses earlier, the songs sure sense of place is one of its great strengths.) when a second bullet goes “deep in my chest”.

In the final verse Feleena, “from out of nowhere” finds her dying beau and so the cowboy enjoys (in the songs final line) “one little kiss and Feleena, goodbye”.

Nashville A Team guitar-slinger Grady Martin played the Tex-Mex flavoured nylon string guitar that is so integral the songs haunting quality.

"Grady Martin could play three or four notes, and they'd mean 100 times more than any other person that would play 100 notes, he'd just make so much out of everything he played - the best taste you've ever heard." the Nashville A Team bass player Bob Moore who also played on El Paso recalled in an interview for The Tennessean newspaper.

Expanding on this theme, Bob’s wife, Kittra Moore, told listees at “Bob says of all the guitarists he's known and/or worked with, Grady Martin had the most commercial ear of any guitarist EVER. Grady knew what the public could understand and what they wanted to hear. Assertive guitar breaks that made you say "wow" then, back into the meat of the song.”

The Glaser Brothers supplied background vocals.

El Paso must have still haunted Robbins’ imagination and six years later he returned to the story, this time, in the third person, Robbins tells Feleena’s story. Feleena (From El Paso) appeared on Robbins’ The Drifter album and clocks in at a whopping 8.18 minutes, but again not a word is wasted.

This time the supernatural undercurrent that had been hinted at in El Paso is expanded on. We are told that Feleena was born during a stormy night, a storm that ceased at the sound of the childs cries..

Amid streaks of lightning and loud desert thunder
To a young Mexican couple, a baby was born;
Just as the baby cried, thunder and lightning died.

The tempest proves prophetic and Feleena grows to be as restless and capricious as the elements themselves;

When she was seventeen, bothered by crazy dreams
She ran away from the shack and left them to roam

Arriving first in Santa Fe, Feleena discovers how to profit from her charms but still that fateful restlessness won’t let her be:

Restless in Sante Fe, she had to get away
To any town where the lights had a much brighter glow
One cowboy mentioned the town of El Paso

Arriving in El Paso Feleena makes her way to Rosa’s Cantina. With its playful internal rhymes that are just a joy, Robbins’ tells us:

It was the same way, it was back in Sante Fe
Men would make fools of themselves at the thought of romance
Rosa took heed of, the place was in need of
This kind of excitement, so she paid Feleena to dance

And so some 4.30 minutes in and the stage is set for the story we know from El Paso. Robbins’ dispatchs the story in a few verses but if El Paso is a western Othello with the hero brought low by his own jealousy Feleena (From El Paso) is more like a western Romeo and Juliet...

Quickly she grabbed for, the six-gun that he wore
And screamin' in anger and placin' the gun to her breast
Bury us both deep and maybe we'll find peace
And pullin' the trigger, she fell 'cross the dead cowboy's chest”.

Then in a final mythic flourish Robbins adds:

Out in El Paso, whenever the wind blows
If you listen closely at night, you'll hear in the wind
A woman is crying, it's not the wind sighing
Old timers tell you, Feleena is calling for him

In death Feleena has returned to the elements that raged at her birth and so, together with that of her cowboy escort, Feleena’s restless spirit still haunts El Paso.

Robbins’ returned to the Columbia label in 1976 and for his first single, on his old label, returned once again to El Paso.

El Paso City the final part of the “El Paso Trilogy” apparently came to Robbins in a manner similar to the first. It reminds me of High Plains Drifter, the Clint Eastwood western, released three years previously.

Directed by Eastwood High Plains Drifter revisits the Man With No Name character from A Fistful Of Dollars that had helped to make Eastwood a star, it plays with and complements the myth both of that character and the Leone movies and, like El Paso City it also has a supernatural element to the tale.

El Paso City doesn’t feature any of the previous songs protagonists. Instead the songs first person narrator is in an aeroplane flying over El Paso and recalls Robbins own 1960 hit song:

I don't recall who sang the song but I recall a story that I heard
And as I look down on this city I remember each and every word

Despite singing in the first person, as in El Paso, the songs narrator is clearly not Robbins who, after all, could not plausibly have forgotten the song that furnished him with one of his biggest hits.

The narrator character is increasingly troubled by the memory of the song and its subject with which he feels a closer than usual kinship

" My mind is down there somewhere as I fly above the badlands of New Mexico
I can't explain why I should know the very trail he rode back to El Paso"

Talking to himself begins to muse on the possibility of reincarnation:

"Can it be that man can disappear from life and live another time
And does the mystery deepen 'cause you think that you yourself lived in that other time"

El Paso City, unlike the two previous songs in this saga does not end with a death, though the thought of death haunts the narrator as he muses

"A voice tells me to go and seek;
another voice keeps telling me
Maybe death awaits me in El Paso"

We never find out.

Robbins was, perhaps, satisfied simply to have brought the saga into the present with this last mystic musing and was able, finally, to lie to rest the myths of El Paso.

Writing in the sleeve notes to CBS’ 1984 release Marty Robbins Long, Long Ago the Chicago Tribune journalist Jack Hurst complains that in the wake of El Paso there was a “tendency ever after to view (Robbins) primarily as a cowboy balladeer” yet as he goes on to point out “his magnificent voice could handle any kind of music with ease and his mind could devise any kind of song it wanted to sing.”

Mort Goode in the liner notes to Hallmark records 1972 release Marty Robbins Favourites makes the point “(Robbins) has made his success singing Country and Western, ballads, blues Hawaiian, Spanish and gospel and is always able to move emotionally between songs that may be totally different in nature and message”.

Certainly its true that Robbins talent both as a singer and writer was too great to be satisfied with only one style but as I grew up listening to Robbins it was the western songs that really caught my boyhood ears, even songs that had no particular cowboy elements, such as I’ll Be Alright, seemed to me, to come straight from the wild west to our family cars tape deck.

In the very late seventies or early eighties when I was twelve or thirteen years old I was lucky enough to see Robbins at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool, a stop off on the way to a big annual country festival at Wembley. I was uncomfortable at the idea of going to a gig with my parents and was more interested in punk music than western songs by this time. I wore, I remember, a Crass patch on my t-shirt and was generally a sulky unpleasant presence.

A few songs into the show and the audience began to shout out requests and Robbins and the band would play them. On, I think, Mr Shorty Robbins played alone as the band didn’t know it and when he finished he made some remark about wishing his doctors could’ve seen him then!

Even a sulky-snot-nosed-wannabe-punk like me knew when he'd seen a great show (although I didn’t know then that this sort of request taking was a staple of Robbins Grand Ole Opry appearances).

Marty Robbins died of a heart attack on December 8 1982.

Further reading here

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Nickel And A Nail

"Oh I once had love
and plenty of money
But some way, somehow
You know I failed, yes I did
Now all, all I have
in my pocket, its a shame
All I can give account of
right now is a nickel and a nail..."

Born in Leno, Tennessee in 1939 Overten Vertis Wright was something of a musical prodigy, his professional gospel singing career began when he was just six years old at the Temple in Eads. Stints with other gospel acts such as The Jubilee Hummingbirds, The Spirit Of Memphis Quartet and the Harmony Echoes followed.

Possessed of a voice that Barney Hoskins memorably described as being like "Sam Cooke in terrible pain" O.V Wright was tempted from the path of gospel righteousness by Roosevelt Jamison.

Jamison was a remarkable man. Starting as a mere orderly in the City of Memphis hospital he managed to qualify as a medical technologist. To learn what he needed Roosevelt attended the lectures of Dr L.W. Diggs working as his slide projectionist since segregation at the University of Tennessee made it impossible for him, as a black man, to be a student there.

At one time Jamison had harboured ambitions as a singer but decided concentrated on songwriting and managing gospel acts instead as friends had told him his timing wasn't good.

One of the acts he was involved in was The Harmony Echoes which featured both James Carr and O.V. Wright as vocalists.

Jamison recalled in a 1988 copy of Soul Survivor magazine:"O.V. was very concentrative. He would think about a single note or phrase for a long time and note arrangements aloud... O.V. worked on perfection. He used to like spending hours at the piano hitting notes and trying to reproduce them with his voice."

Wright who in addition to gospel singing was working as a garbage man at this time and wanted to break into R&B field, where he saw an opportunity for commercial success.

In 1963 Jamison, who was married with a child, had fallen in love with a nurse who worked at the same hospital as him:

"One day we were sitting at a little drive-in place where we would all go and get sandwiches and things and the moon was shining bright, and I just started messing with this poem about how I roamed the prairies, searched the universe, trying to find ways to express just how strong my love is." (Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick)

This poem would form the basis of Wright's first hit on the tiny Goldwax label but not before Jamison had tried to pitching it to Memphis' big R&B label Stax.

"Well y'know, I had written this song and I wanted to find out if there was any interest in it, so I brought it to Stax. Steve Cropper was there when I walked in and I showed him the song I had written on paper. He asked me to sing it if I could, but I found it difficult without any musical accompaniment. So Steve began plunking on the piano while I sang onto a tape machine." Jamison recalled (Soul Survivor number 9 Summer 1988).

Jim Stewart, head of Stax apparently passed on the song believing it too gospel and so Jaminson turned up one night at Goldwax founders Quinton Claunch's place;

"I heard a knock on my door at about ten o'clock and found Roosevelt Jamison, James Carr and O.V. Wright standing there. They had this little portable recorder so we sat right down on the floor and listened to some tapes. Both of them just knocked me out, and I made moves to sign 'em on the spot" said Claunch. (Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted Barney Hoskins).

Claunch didn't much care for the That's How Strong My Love Is either:

" I brought a tape of that song to Quinton's house and played it for them but they didn't really care too much for it. The song that they were interested in was There Goes My Used To Be. When the single was released, That's How Strong My Love Is was the B-side and There Goes My Used To Be was on the A-side. When the D.J. 's got it they preferred the B-side and played it instead." recalled Jamison.(Soul Survivor)

At about the same time Stax ,despite their purported lack of interest in the song, decided to cut That's How Strong My Love Is with their biggest star, Otis Redding.

Jamison says "My understanding is that later, while they were working on an Otis Redding session, Steve brought out this song. Otis liked it and wanted to record it. When they went to cut the song, they found it wasn't long enough. They tried to get in touch with, me but couldn't reach me, so Steve came up with a little sketch at the end that went something like: "I'd be the ocean, so deep and wide / To catch all your tears whenever you cried." I had nothing at all to do with that particular verse. I wasn't even aware that Otis was cutting the song until after it was released. If I had known, I would've supplied them numerous other verses..."(Soul Survivor)

DJ A.C. Williams, known as "Moohaw" , at WDIA in Memphis suggested to Stax that Otis' single be flipped to plug Mr.Pitiful in order to give O.V.'Wright's version a chance to break.

A more serious problem came in the shape of Peacock Records owner Don Robey.

Robey, a Texan, owned the Memphis gospel label Duke to which The Sunset Travellers were signed when O.V. Wright had sang with them. Wright did not believe the contract included his work as a solo artist but Robey felt differently. Goldwax owners came to a deal whereby they retained the rights to the hit single That's How Strong My Love Is but surrendered any claims to the artist O.V. Wright.

Speaking to Tim Perlich for Soul Survivor magazine in 1988 Roosevelt Jamison said:

“Y'know, personally, I doubt that any such contract between O.V. and Don Robey ever existed. If there was, I never saw it. That was only part of the reason why O.V. left Goldwax though. O.V. had an engagement to do a show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for some local D.J. named Dickie Doo, but Quinton Claunch refused to give us the money for gas to get there. Ricky Sanders, Earl Forrest and I went with O.V. and did the show anyway, but after that incident O.V. went straight to Texas.”

Jamison stayed with Goldwax and he and Wright never worked together again:

"Me and O.V. shook hands, and O.V. told me if I ever wanted to go with him, and leave all this other stuff alone, I could have fifty percent of his salary. But I never did do that" (Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick).

So in 1966 Robey put O.V.Wright on his new R&B label, Back Beat, and, in a stroke of genius, assigned Willie Mitchell to produce him.

From Ashland Mississippi, Willie Mitchell was a music man through and through. Whilst at school Mitchell had become a trumpet player and played on early B.B. King sides.When drafted into the army, in 1950, he had a job DJing for Special Services and subsequently worked with Vic Damone's 18 piece road band.

From the middle of the fifties he had settled in Memphis and his band ,which had a residency at The Plantation Inn, was the acme of cool. Mitchell was also a face on the recording scene A&Ring, producing and arranging for a variety of Memphis' independant labels including most famously for Hi Records.

Mitchell had a vision which he articulated thus:

"I wanted to cut a record that would sell black and white, combine the two, you know in a pleasant kind of music. With O.V. Wright and Bobby Bland (who Robey had also brought to Mitchell to work his production magic on), their style was too strong in one direction, it was too rough. I wanted to add more class to it. O.V.'s music was a little more laid back; Bobbys had a little more spark to it. But I was trying to get a combination of the two" (Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick)

In his autobiography Take Me To The River Al Green, with whom Mitchell would most profitably realise this vision says of Mitchell :

"He was by inclination, a jazzman, given to a smooth uptown instrumental sound that made the most out of every note. By trade however he had become familiar with the stompin', shoutin' dance floor rattlin' style of cut loose R&B"

This is not to say that the records Mitchell cut with Wright were not a success. Commercially the sides Mitchell cut with Wright at Back Beat, such as Eight Men and Four Women and You're Gonna Make Me Cry, were hits. Artistically they and others like, say, Lets Straighten It Out or A Nickel and a Nail represent something of a high water mark in Southern Soul.

Wright recorded with Mitchell at Hi records for much of the seventies but drug abuse took its toll and in November 1980 aged just 41 Wright died of a heart attack.

Wright had never been careful with money as his brother Eddie Lewis said: "O.V. went to the top, he had some of the greater things. I thought he would settle down and take some of the money where it would keep coming back to him. He didn't. He just wanted diamonds and fast cars." (Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick)

Willie Mitchell paid for a funeral and the gravestone was supposed to be covered by insurance, but somehow it just never came through so O.V. Wright lay in an unmarked grave at New Park Cemetery.

On the 9th March this year Preston Lauterbach of the excellent Back Roads Of American Music blog posted to the Southern Soul Group that anonymous soul fans had placed a marker on James Carr's grave at the same cemetery.

Preston's comment: "Hopefully the same group has some love and a little more dough for O.V. Wright who still lies in an unmarked grave nearly 30 years after his premature death." spurred the group into action with people asking how they can help mark the resting place of this great artist.

So Preston, Red Kelly (of the awesome B -Side blog ) and Southern Soul Group member Ricky Stevens joined forces to make this dream a reality by establishing The O.V. Wright Memorial Fund.

You can donate to this fund via PayPal (or any credit card) by visiting either The B- side, Backroads or clicking the image in the sidebar here.

UPDATE (from Red Kelly and the O.V. Wright Memorial Fund)
Just a note to let you know that we have set up a home page for The O.V. Wright Memorial Fund:
Hopefully it will provide all of us with a central location for news and updates on our joint project, as well as an easier URL
to direct potential contributors to in the future.
We would also like to acknowledge thodse who have donated already (that would be you) on the site, however we didn't want
to do it without your permission. If you'd rather we didn't print your name, please let us know.
Those of you with 'blogs' and websites, we will be linking to you as well... so if you have any cool sidebar images or anything to send us, we'll definitely use them...
Together we can do anything.
Thanks again!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rock Around The Clock

The Rules

1. The lyrics or title must mention the time precisely. The Wee Small Hours, Lunchtime, Dinnertime, Crying Time, Sugar Time, Hammer time etc. do not count. Midnight and noon, however, do.

2. Each song can only be used once. So, for example, Dolly Parton's Nine To Five can only be used for 9 o' clock or 5 o' clock but not both.

3. The 24 hour clock is welcome but entries such as Paris 1919 (John Cale) or Disney Girls (1957) (The Beach Boys) do not count. And aren't that funny.

4. If the hour is not mentioned in the songs title then the relevant lyric must be quoted.

5. All songs must've been commercially available at some point.

6. Songs are not neccesarilly listed in their original version but rather in the version which is best known. By me, at least.

7. Sonny Dae and His Knights masterpiece, Rock Around The Clock is disqualified.

Here we go.....


In The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett)

Midnight At The Oasis (Maria Muldaur)

Down in The Tube Station At Midnight (The Jam)

Midnight Train To Georgia (Gladys Knight and the Pips)

Midnight Train (Johnny Burnette and the Rock'n' Roll Trio)

Moanin' At Midnight (Howlin' Wolf)

Round Midnight (Dexter Gordon)

Rockin' At Midnight(Roy Brown and his Mighty Mighty Men)

Midnight Midnight (Mickey Baker) (Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

Twelve O Clock At Night Ted Lewis (Thanks BlizzB)

Thanks to Kimberley James for these

Midnight Blue (Kenny Burrell)

Midnight Blue (Louise Tucker)

Midnight Blues (T-Bone Walker)

"Goodbye, pretty mama,
Lord, get yourself a money man,
You take that midnight train to Memphis,
Lord, leave me if you can,
Oh, take that midnight train to Memphis..." Train,Train (Blackfoot)

Midnight Storm (The Stanley Brothers)

"One O' Clock in the morning..I'm Funky
Two O' Clock in the morning...I'm Funky
Three O' clock in the morning...I'm Funky...
(etc until..
...) Eleven O' Clock in the morning...I'm Funky
Twelve O Clock in the morning... I'm Funky
All around the clock ...I'm Funky Funkiest Man Alive (Rufus Thomas)

After Midnight (J.J. Cale)

Thanks are due to Richard Gibson for these three entries:

Midnight to Six Man (The Pretty Things)

The Midnight Special(Leadbelly / Creedance Clearwater Revival)

Midnight Rambler (The Rolling Stones)

After Midnight (Restless)

Walking After Midnight (Patsy Cline)


One O' Clock Jump (Count Basie Orchestra)

(Thanks, Anonymous)

"Now Ruby started rockin' about one o' clock...." Rock 'n' Roll Ruby (Warren Smith)

"I mean I came when it was coming up to one
Yes my oneness
At one o'clock last morning..." One O'clock Last Morning, 20th April 1970 (Gilberto Gil) (Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)


Breathe(2am) Anna Nalick (Thanks Kimberley)

"Two o'clock in the morning, something's on my mind..." Happy Ending (Mika)

Quarter to Three (Gary 'US' Bonds) (thanks Anonymous)

"Its quarter to three, theres no one in the place 'cept you and me..." One For My Baby (Frank Sinatra)


Three o Clock In The Morning Don Byas (thanks BlizzB)

Thanks to Kimberley for these two:

3AM (Oar)

3AM (Matchbox 20)

3AM Eternal (KLF)

Three O'Clock Rock (The Five Reasons)

Wednesday Morning 3AM (Simon & Garfunkel)(Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock) (Bob Marley) (Thanks to Joel)

"At three o' clock that morning I awoke in an unfamiliar room... " Tunnel (Pulp)


Four O'Clock In The Morning (The Pogues) (Thanks Anonymous)

Four O'Clock Blues (Esther Bigeou) (Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

Four In The Morning (Faron Young)

"You give me Faron Young, four in the morning ..." Faron Young (Prefab Sprout)

"Four in the mornin' and they haul Rubin in,
Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs." Hurricane (Bob Dylan) (Thanks Joel)

"At four o' clock the normal world seems very,very,very far away..." Sorted For E's and Wizz (Pulp)

"Its four in the morning, the end of December..." Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen)

"At four o' clock in the morning , I was sleeping in my cell...." Riot In Cell Block No. 9 (The Robins)

"We’ve both been sound asleep
Wake up little Susie and weep
The movie’s over, it’s four o’clock
And we’re in trouble deep..." Wake Up Little Susie(The Everly Brothers)
(Thanks due to Alicia for pointing this one out)

"I'd like to remind you, at four in the morning,

my world is very still.

And the air is fresh under diamond skies,

makes me glad to be alive..."
Blue Collar Bachman Turner Overdrive (thanks to Harry Wilson for that)

"This morning at four - fifty, I took her rather nifty...." Up The Junction (Squeeze)


"Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins..." She's Leaving Home (The Beatles)


Six O'Clock in the Morning (Five Royales) (Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

"There's something special 'bout six o'clock
In the morning when it's still too early to knock
And the dusky light shines down on the block
And reflects up and down on the hands of the clock
Six o'clock, six o'clock..." Six O' Clock (The Lovin' Spoonful)

"Waking up at 6 a.m. on a cool warm morning
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol..." Thats Entertainment (The Jam)

"The killer's hands are bound with chains
At six o'clock it starts to rain
He'll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers..." Hells Ditch (The Pogues) (Anonymous comes up trumps again)

"I got up at half past six..." Paperboy Song (Jilted John)


"At 7am on a brand new day
I'm gonna start it in the perfect way..." Noise, Noise, Noise (The Damned) (thanks Anonymous)


"He's heading for the Waterloo line,
To catch the 8 a.m. fast, its usually dead on time,
Hope it isn't late, got to be there by nine..." Smithers-Jones
(The Jam)(Thanks to Richard Gibson )

"NBC will not be able predict the winner at eight thirty- two or report from twenty nine districts...." The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Gil Scott Heron)


Nine to Five (Dolly Parton)

Nine to Five (The Meters)

Nine to Five (Sheena Easton)

"Nine to five, your minds dead, but your bodies alive

six to ten its the same old thought again..." Woman Alive (R. Dean Taylor)


Ten O'Clock (? And the Mysterians) (Thanks for that Bird and for this...)


11 O'clock Tick Tock (U2)


About Noon (The Mar-Keys)

Tonight at Noon (The Jam)

Noon Rendezvous (Sheila E.)(Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

"Look at that big hand move along, nearing high noon..." Do Not Forsake Me (Tex Ritter)

"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, The Japanese don´t care to, the Chinese wouldn´t dare to, Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one..." Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Noel Coward)

"I used to live in New York City
Everything there was dark and dirty
Outside my window was a steeple
With a clock that always said twelve thirty..." Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) (The Mamas and The Papas) (Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)


One PM Again (Yo La Tengo)

(Thanks to Richard Gibson again)


(thanks to Anonymous for this):

"I should be clocking in at eight but I'm a little late
Can't blame my baby,'cause I took her on a date,
Two 'til ten then it's Friday again..." Here Comes The Weekend(Dave Edmunds)

Two O Clock Jump (Harry James) (Thanks BlizzB)


"Ain't it hard to stumble
And land in some funny lagoon?
Ain't it hard to stumble
And land in some muddy lagoon?
Especially when it's nine below zero
And three o'clock in the afternoon." Outlaw Blues (Bob Dylan)

"Well, the whole thing started at 3 o'clock fast,
It was all over by quarter past." Talkin' World War III Blues (Bob Dylan)

(Thanks Joel for those two)

3:10 To Yuma (Frankie Laine)

"You got Manny in the Library
Working off his hangover 3:30
You get the spleen at 3:15
But it's 3:13..." Winter (Hostel - Maxi) (The Fall)


Life Begins At Four O'clock (Bobby Milano)

"Four o'clock in the afternoon
and I didn't feel like very much.
I said to myself, "Where are you golden boy,
where is your famous golden touch?" Dress Rehearsal Rag (Leonard Cohen)(Thanks Joel)

"Take the last train to Clarksville, and I'll meet you at the station.
You can be be there by four thirty..." Last Train To Clarksville (The Monkees)


Five O'Clock Whistle (Ella Fitzgerald) (Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

Just Who Is The Five O Clock Hero? (The Jam)

Five O'Clock World (The Vogues)
(Thanks, once more, to the tireless Richard Gibson)

Five O' Clock Drag Duke Ellington (BlizzB again!)

It's Five O' Clock Somewhere (Alan Jackson) (Thanks to Harry Wilson)

"Most any afternoon at five

We'll be so glad to be alive"

Cocktails For Two ( written by Arthur Johnson and Sam Coslow it is best known in a version by version Spike Jones and his City Slickers although it originally featured in the 1934 movie Murder at the Vanities) (Thanks Harry Wilson)

"When I see the 5 oclock news
I dont wanna grow up" I Don't Wanna Grow Up (Tom Waits) (Thanks again, Joel)

"And a five o'clock shadow boxing all around the town..." Pasties and a G- String (Tom Waits)

"The next day at five o'clock, she heard a rifle shot
Quickly she ran to the door, that was facin' the pass... " Feleena (From El Paso) (Marty Robbins)

"Out of my brain on the five fifteen
Out of my brain on a train.." 5.15 (The Who) (thanks again, who ever you are)

"And he comes back at five thirty..." A Well Respected Man (The Kinks)

5.45 (Gang Of Four)


"Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower..." End of the World as We Know It (REM)

"Alone at six o'clock - you drop a cup ...." Private Hell (The Jam)

"Its six o'clock on the dot and I'm halfway home..." Advert (Blur)

"At six o' clock their mummies and daddies will take them home to bed..." Teddy Bears Picnic

"Now he calls at six/he wants a date at eight" Mean, Mean Man (Wanda Jackson)


Seven O'Clock News (Simon & Garfunkel)(Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

"I was sittin' home alone one night in L.A.,
Watchin' old Cronkite on the seven o'clock news.” Black Diamond Bay (Bob Dylan) (We have Joel to thank once more)

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'.

"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."

At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said,

"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"
The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald Gordon Lightfoot

"What time is it? (It's seven o'clock)
Just one hour more
What time is it? (It's eight o'clock)
Now I'm at her door And my heart is beating fast
The moment's here at last..." What Time Is It ? (The Jive Five)

"I asked her for a date
She said a quarter to eight..." Peepin' Eyes (Charlie Feathers)

"My baby told me when I left home
I'll give you your last warning
You better get home by a quarter to eight
I don't mean tomorrow morning..." I Can't Go Home Like This (Ray Price)


Dinner at Eight (Rufus Wainwright)(Thanks to Bird Yoshikawa)

"I don't stay out late, don't care to go;

I'm home about eight,

just me and my radio.

Ain't misbehaving, saving my love for you..." Ain't Misbehaving Fats Waller

"She gets too hungry, for dinner at eight..." The Lady Is a Tramp (Frank Sinatra)

"Step in my Rocket and don't be late, Baby, we're pulling out about half past eight..." Rocket 88 (Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats featuring Ike Turner)

"We meet every night at eight
And I don't get home till late
I say to myself each day
Baby oh long long live love..." Long Live Love (Sandie Shaw)

"You have a date for half past eight tonight some distant bell starts chiming now..." Girl Don't Come (Sandie Shaw)

"Oh Colette
Half past eight
Don’t be late
Don’t forget we have a date Colette
How I love you Colette
Oh be on time and say your mine Colette..." Colette (Billy Fury)


Nine O' Clock Sal (Leroy-Hayes-Leary-Ingham) Ladds Black Aces


"We were the first band to vomit in the bar,
And find the distance to the stage too far,
Meanwhile it's getting late at ten o'clock,
Rock is dead they say,
Long live rock..." Long Live Rock (The Who)
(once again thanks are due to our anonymous benefactor!)

"Came in last night at half past ten..." Move It On Over (Hank Williams)


Eleven O' Clock (Morphine) (Thanks Bird)

Seven Minutes To Midnight (Wah!)

11.59 (Blondie)

So there you have it.

Does this folly teach us anything?

It could be argued that it simply demonstrates that I have too much time on my hands.

But it also confirms that popular music is, for the most part, a creature of the night. Midnight is the rockingest hour of the day but the melancholy of four in the morning comes a close second. 21.00 proved a surprisingly difficult slot to fill and the actual hours of a working day are, by and large, comparatively unserenaded...unless you know different.

Questions, corrections and additions are all welcomed.

The picture accompanying this post shows John Harrison's revolutionary timepiece known as H4, one of five clocks he built between 1730 and 1770 in an attempt to solve the longitute problem. Further details here. Horology, its the new rock 'n' roll, trust me.