Rolling Stones Soundalike Albums

In the inevitable Beatles vs. Stones (straw man) debate, I intensely resent having to pick sides, since the very idea of one without the other is laughable at best.  Nevertheless, this lifelong Beatles fan takes a certain fiendish thrill in devoting an entire blog post to those albums in which non-Stones groups play nothing but Rolling Stones tunes.

Kicking off this Stones-ploitation trend, appropriately enough, is their manager and svengali, Andrew Loog Oldham, who would arrange “polite” instrumental versions of early Stones songs for 1965’s The Rolling Stones Songbook under the name Andrew Oldham Orchestra. The Verve, you may recall, sampled the album’s final cut – “The Last Time” – for use in the dramatic opening strains of their huge 1997 hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony” but would not get to enjoy any of the royalties generated (sales, Nike ads, sporting event performances) due to the hardball tactics of the composition’s holder of copyright, ABKCO’s Allen Klein — as this exclusive excerpt from Fred Goodman’s new biography makes clear.

Rolling Stone imposter-Andrew Oldham OrchJoe Pass – as noted early in this blog’s existence – would release his seminal survey of mid-60s Stones, Stones Jazz, the following year in 1966.  But a couple of other notable ‘Stones-centric’ albums would hit the marketplace that same year:  (a) Baroque ‘n’ Stones by The New Renaissance Society and (b) A Tribute to The Rolling Stones by The Pupils.

BAROQUE ‘N’ STONES:  hanna-Barbera Records  +  THE PUPILS:  Tribute to the Rolling Stones

Rolling Stone imposter-a1Rolling Stone imposter-b1

How fascinating to discover that ‘The Pupils’ were, in actual fact, cult “mod” band The Eyes, whose 1966 (UK-only) EP sells for hundreds of pounds/dollars at auction (and would include their cheeky retort to The Who — “My Degeneration“).

“19th Nervous Breakdown”     The Pupils/The Eyes     1966

Four years hence,The Winstons would record their unabashed tribute to the Rolling Stones, notable primarily for its provocative “jail bait” cover, while two years later, The Collection would issue the only album of their career — a musical salute to the Stones, naturally — with a similarly risque front cover image.

     The Winstons     1970                                   The Collection     1972

Rolling Stone imposter-c1Rolling Stone imposter-d1

1972 would also bear witness to one more cash-in effort, Rolling Stones Vol. 2 (unclear whether Vol. 1 was ever issued), by the confusingly-possessive Monkey’s Pop Group, whose only known LP was issued on French label, Les Tréteaux.Rolling Stone imposter-dd11973 would bring five (count ’em) Rolling Stone tribute albums, including —

(1) a pair of delightfully kitschy covers from the “group” Rockery:Rolling Stone imposter-e1Rolling Stone imposter-ee1

(2) the one and only recording from The HotShockers released on German label, Auditon:Rolling Stone imposter-g1(3) the stylish and slyly misleading cover for Rockin’ Stones Party from France’s (not Jamaica’s) Fabulous Five:Rolling Stone imposter-f1(4) Million Copy Hits Made Famous by the Rolling Stones by The Flash (Starring Denny Jones):

magnification not included

Rolling Stone imposter-i1(5) a tribute album by a Dutch musical ensemble that departed at recording’s end with such frenzied haste, history never had a chance to record its identity:Rolling Stone imposter-h1By the 1980s, unfortunately, it was clear that Stones-ploitation’s Golden Age had passed.  Flash would issue Keep on Rolling in 1981 – impressively on CBS imprint, Epic – while that same year would see the release of Rolling Hits’ one and only album, Rolling Hits Medley, incredibly on major labels (Mercury, Polydor, Philips) in at least 10 countries, including Peru.

Rolling Stone imposter-k1Rolling Stone imposter-j1

I was perhaps five when I encountered my first soundalike cash-in album in the form of a Beatle knockoff group, The Liverpools (as previously recounted), and then again not long after when I got suckered by one of those TV ads for 18 Golden Hits of 1971, as rendered by The Sound Effects (though it is possible I fell for the previous year’s 18 Golden Hits of 1970, which does not even bear the name of the artist-for-hire).

Golden Hits of 1971UDiscoverMusic, similarly, writes of a curious and confounding time “when cut-price soundalike recordings ruled the British charts” — 45 years ago, to be precise, when there was a brief change in the chart eligibility rules, and before you knew it, Top of the Pops 18 was dislodging The Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favour from the #1 spot!

Baroque & Stones-x

“Uh Oh”: Jet Age Moderne

ABC once broadcast a 4-part television special in 1960 called The Frank Sinatra Timex Show:  Welcome Home Elvis.  This was to be the hip-swiveler’s first television appearance in three years since being discharged from military service.

Poster Art by Al Hirschfeld?

Frank Sinatra TimexAt one point, Elvis threatens to get upstaged by a fresh, jazzy near-instrumental but for the phrase, “uh oh” that sounds as if voiced by a pair of “nutty squirrels” (i.e., poor man’s Alvin & the Chipmunks):

“Uh Oh”     The Nutty Squirrels     1959

Uh Oh” – the debut single by The Nutty Squirrels, a creation of Sascha Burland and Don Elliott – would enjoy release in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia & New Zealand.  The duo would follow “Uh Oh” with “Uh Huh” (a 4-song EP) and a third single, “Eager Beaver” b/w “Zowee” — all tracks from their debut Hanover album — before making the leap in 1960 to almighty Columbia, who issued an LP and Christmas 45.

Nutty Squirrels LPIn 1963, The Nutty Squirrels would issue a 45 on RCA and one final LP (A Hard Day’s Night) on MGM the following year.

Nutty Squirrels MGM LPWikipedia claims that [1] “The Squirrels actually preceded the Chipmunks on television in an animated cartoon, but with much less success”; [2] “Uh Oh (pt. 1)” just about grazed the Top-40 (#45), while “Uh Oh (pt. 2)” climbed to #14 Pop and #9 R&B in 1959; and [3] The Squirrels would have one last fling with commercial success in 1976 as “Shirley & Squirrely” via a CB-radio novelty single, “Hey Shirley (This is Squirrely),” that reached #48 Pop and #28 Country.

Felix & His (Cash-in) Guitar

“Cerveza” by Boots Brown (see previous post about rock/pop’s Latin roots) was only one of the more obvious attempts to cash in on the runaway success of “Tequila” by The Champs in 1958.  “Chili Beans” by Felix & His Guitar also does a great job of appropriating that familiar riff while at the same time adding a melodic counterpart that might possibly have kept the legal wolves at bay:

“Chili Beans” b/w “puerto rican riot”     Felix & His Guitar     1958

Felix & His Guitar (backed by The Hot Peppers) released one other recording in 1958, “Two Tacos” b/w “Summer Love” — and then nothing more.

Two Tacos 45

“Beatle Crazy”: Will Somebody Pass the DDT?

Thanks to the research staff at Ace Records for the great story behind Bill Clifton’s attempt to cash-in on the initial Beatles hysteria, 1963’s “Beatle Crazy” – probably the only Beatle tribute song done in a talking blues style.

Beatle Crazy 45

Clifton, who was born into a wealthy family in Baltimore County, Maryland, defied family expectations about his professional aspirations and chose to pursue his passion for bluegrass music, leaving West Virginia University to sign with Blue Ridge Records as part of the Dixie Mountain Boys and perform live on WWVA’s “Wheeling Jamboree” radio program in the 1950s.  Clifton later gained distinction for having organized the first bluegrass festival in 1961 at Oak Leaf Park in Luray, Virginia.

Ace takes the story from here:

In 1963, Clifton left the States and re-located in England, settling in Sevenoaks, just outside of London with his wife and four children.  Under the stewardship of a talent manager named Pat Robinson, he began securing radio and TV spots and, with the field virtually to himself, bought a Stetson hat in a London store to add a touch of authenticity to his cod Western image.

In November 1963, Robinson took Clifton into Regent Sound, a low-budget studio in London’s Denmark Street favoured by the Rolling Stones, to record “Beatle Crazy”, a song penned by Geoff Stephens, a schoolteacher from Southend striving to make it as a songwriter.  Though somewhat overshadowed by Dora Bryan’s “All I Want for Christmas Is a Beatle” (the first known Beatle tribute), “Beatle Crazy” notched up steady and substantial sales well into the New Year and went on to become Clifton’s calling card during his three-year English sojourn (it was released in the States in April 1964).

Clifton eventually returned to America where he continued to perform at bluegrass and folk festivals in his role as roving ambassador for the bluegrass cause.  Geoff Stephens would go on to to pen many hits including “The Crying Game” and “Winchester Cathedral.”

“Beatle Crazy” does feature a few great lines – such as, “These guys between them, they sure got some hair.  I’m losing mine, don’t seem fair” – but the knockout punch comes at the end of the song, literally, when chemical weapons become involved:

The Buggs: Low-Budget Beatles

Upon playing the debut (and only) album by The Buggs, once discovers that the band – in their particularly mercenary bid to piggyback off The Beatles’ success – utilized song titles as simple vessels for parking exotic English place names and popular dance moves, with no consideration whatsoever for the song’s actual lyrics.  For example, you will find not a single reference to the Tower of Parliament in the song “Big Ben Hop” — but you will find references galore to a spunky lass nicknamed “Sassy Sue.”   Similarly, you won’t find any mention of England’s capital city in “London Town Swing” but rather a tale of unrequited love that is underscored by the singer’s anguished refrain, “Why won’t you love the boy who loves you?”:

Love the Boy Who Loves You – The Buggs

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Love the Boy Who Loves You” by The Buggs.]

Beetle Beat - The Buggs

Given the wild disparity between song titles and actual lyrical content, Zero to 180 – as a public service – has created this song title conversion chart to help guide the listener toward greater truth and accuracy:

   Nominal Song Title                  Actual Song Title

           “Liverpool drag”                                            “Why won’t you leave that man?”

           “Swingin’ Thames”                                           “We belong together”

           “East end”                                                       “since you went away”

           “mersey mercy”                                              “you got me bugged”

           “teddy boy stomp”                                         “i’ll never leave you”

           “soho mash”                                                    “just one look”

           “big ben hop”                                                   “sassy sue”

           “london town swing”                                     “love the boy who loves you”

 

Beatle Buddies: Not Actually Pals

Of all the records released in the wake of Beatlemania (click here for a comprehensive illustrated list of Beatles covers & cash-in albums) the one-and-only album by The Beatle Buddies easily wins the award for best cover, with its menacing take on Meet the Beatles:Beatle Buddies LP

Fortunately, mixed in with the Beatle covers, there are a few originals – such as,”I Waited“:

I Waited – The Beatle Buddies

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear ”I Waited” by The Beatle Buddies.]

Did the four young ladies enjoy a close personal relationship with the lads from Liverpool?   That’s a puzzle that might not ever get solved, as little to no information exists on the web about these four (unnamed) artists  – which only makes the back cover liner notes that much more hilarious in retrospect:

“The Beatles created one of the most phenomenal musical events since Elvis, and the whole world is infected with Beatle sounds.  Our contribution is unique in that we are offering the Beatle Buddies, a group of young gals that have their own sound, in the true Beatle tradition.  They have a distinct and definite originality in their presentation.  The girls are cute and very talented.  We think that their names and sound will last long after the Beatles are gone.  Listen to their harmony and style and we think you will agree that these girls are a real find in the recording business of today.  A single record is being prepared from this album which should be heard nationwide very soon.  So here we go — Beatle Buddies.

Perhaps the record label’s emphasis on quantity and affordability [“Diplomat Records – your best buy in entertainment”; “fine records need not be expensive”; “Diplomat recordings offer many additional hours of listening pleasure”] explains why Diplomat, with its limited finances, might resort to legally artistic marketing strategies.

And no doubt these strategies worked, as I can affirm firsthand as a tot when a close (and unsuspecting) family friend visited one day and brought with her a new “Beetles” album as an offering of joy for the youngest Beatlemaniac in the household – only to receive this:

Beatle Mania - The Liverpools

“Chained to Your Heart”: Cycle Soothes the Savage Beast

The soundtrack album to 1969’s notorious biker film, Cycle Savages (starring Bruce Dern) remained out-of-print until reissued on CD in 2012.  This album contains rare cuts by cult psych bands Orphan Egg and The Boston Tea Party – with the latter contributing standout track, “Chained to Your Heart”:

Cycle Savages LP

“They’re the ungrateful, the uninhibited, the undisciplined and the never-challenged!  Their power – the grinding roar of their cycles and the stench of burning rubber in their wake as this breed of savages journeys from area to area searching for trouble – their cry is  ‘rev-up-and-ride’ — in short, it’s their warning to beware!  This wild group of the 70’s is known around the country as the CYCLE SAVAGES.  They steal women, initiate them into their pack, and then sell them on the black market of crime.

“What does the ‘chopper,’ as it is often referred to, represent to this segment of today’s youth?  Is it merely an inexpensive mode of transportation, or is it a means to some sort of common identity?  The motorcycle is a symbol of individuality, independence and freedom.  Jerry Styner’s original musical score, composed specially for Cycle Savages, genuinely expresses the feeling behind the story – the uncertainty of today’s youth in their search for identity, power and an unknown future.”

Soundtrack album executive producers:  Mike Curb & Casey Kasem.

Released 1970 on American International Records.

“Last Wave of the Day”: Lights Out for Surf?

Along with “Hit the Surf” by the Sea Shells (see previous post), “Last Wave of the Day” by The Riptides – from the Mondo Hollywood soundtrack album – is another late surf-era track from 1967 that begs the question:  who recorded the last original era surf tune and when?

Last Wave of the Day – The Riptides

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play ”Last Wave of the Day” by The Riptides.]

Mondo LP

Important to note that, by this point in the band’s history, the bassist had left the group – and yet this in no way deterred The Riptides from submitting a bass-less recording for the film’s soundtrack.  Years later, however, The Riptides would admit on their Burbank, California high school website that, without bottom end, the song “suffered as a result.”

Mondo Hollywood

For Mike Curb, Music & Politics Do Mix

The same person who wrote “Last Wave of the Day” – Mike Curb – had also started his first record label, Sidewalk Records, in 1963 when he was only eighteen.  Curb would go on to run MGM’s record division and later, prompted in part by Ronald Reagan, successfully run for Lt. Governor of California in 1978 and serve under Governor Jerry Brown (essentially as Acting Governor when Brown made his run in 1979-80 for the Presidency).

Pop & Rock’s Latin Roots: “Cerveza”

The Drifters’ original 1961 version of “Sweet for My Sweets” has a distinct Latin feel – which brings to mind a piece of writing by Dave Marsh that I found to be illuminating some years ago, still do.

In his 1984 article for The Boston Phoenix – “Rock and Roll’s Latin Tinge” – Marsh recounts how, in his frustration over failed attempts to convince a colleague that Latin forms were, indeed, a significant factor in the evolution and development of rock and roll, he compiled (with the help of John Storm RobertsThe Latin Tinge) this somewhat detailed list of rock & roll’s Latin roots and influences:

+ Bo Diddley’s beat (derived from the mambo);

+ Professor Longhair’s piano rhythms, which extend to New Orleans pianists from Fats Domino to Allen Toussaint;

+ Chuck Willis’ “C.C. Rider” & Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” (both grounded in the rhumba);

+ The Drifters and their use of the Brazilian baiao rhythm;

+ Ritchie Valens (whose big hit, “La Bamba” was a Mexican folk song);

+ “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians, a band of Chicano migrant workers;

+ “Land of 1000 Dances,” both because Chris Kenner was a Longhair disciple and because Cannibal & the Headhunters, who did the best version of the song, were Chicanos from East LA;

+ Surf music, whose entire guitar style, the raison d’etre of the form, can be said to derive from “Malaguena” and similar Mexican-American standards;

+ The Premiers’ “Farmer John,” an impeccable frat-rocker written and performed by another East LA band;

+ Such doowop groups as The Teenagers and Harptones, all of which had key Latin members;

+ The Sir Douglas Quintet and the rest of the Tex-Mex bands;

+ The boogaloo (based on the Latin bugalu, which was popularized in 1966 by Joe Cuba’s instrumental version of “Bang Bang”);

+ Santana (Woodstock’s breakout stars who famously fused rock and Latin American music);

+ War’s low-rider rock and its trickle-down effect on Stevie Wonder’s midseventies records;

+ The slick psychedelicized salsa of Earth, Wind & Fire during their “Serpentine Fire” period;

+ And finally the disco movement, which continues to adapt Caribbean rhythmic accents and arrangements.

 

In 1958 one Latin-flavored instrumental went to the top of the pop and R&B charts – “Tequila” by The Champs.  What a long and healthy life that song has lived, as indicated by the number of cover versions on Wikipedia (e.g., George Benson having recently visited the tune on 2011’s Guitar Man).   Of course, there were near-covers, as well, such as “Cerveza” by trumpeter Shorty Rogers using the alias, Boots Brown.

“Cerveza”     Boots Brown & His Blockbusters     1958

The Accidental Hit

“Tequila” was written by Dan Flores (the one who also played the “dirty” sax solo), but because he was already under contract with another label, the songwriting credit is attributed to alter ego, Chuck Rio.  “Tequila,” however was originally a fun jam song that was recorded impromptu at the end of a recording session at Hollywood’s Gold Star Studios for Dave Burgess (a rockabilly artist under contract to Gene Autry’s Challenge label) by his backing musicians.  The song was originally the B-side to Dave Burgess’ “Train to Nowhere” – a single that was (ironically, perhaps) not going anywhere until DJs began playing the flip side, thus making “Tequila” the first pop instrumental to hit number 1 on the Billboard charts (and, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, “the first instrumental group to go to the top spot with its first release”).  What’s funny is that “The Champs” didn’t exist until this song unexpectedly blew up large, at which point one had to be created in order to tour off the success of that song’s sales.Latin-America

Pioneering Pop: The Melodica on Record

You may not know the melodica by name, but you might have seen one or, more likely, heard one at some point in your life.  Essentially, the melodica is a wind-powered keyboard that sounds much like a harmonica:

Melodica-x

Wikipedia tells me that the “modern version” of the melodica (also known as the “pianica” or “blow organ”) was invented by Hohner in the 1950s, although its more primitive forebears go back to 19th-century Italy, apparently.

I first encountered the instrument in the 1980s during college via Joe Jackson’s ska-inflected “Pretty Boys” and the great side-two opening track off New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies album, “Your Smiling Face.”  Around the same time, someone lent me an album by Augustus Pablo, a dub reggae musician and producer who almost single-handedly popularized the melodica and inspired others to see it as something beyond simply being a “kiddie instrument.”

Wikipedia also tells me that composer, Steve Reich, was the first to use the melodica as a “serious” musical instrument on his 1966 composition entitled, “Melodica” (which would be released 20 years later on the 3-LP compilation of experimental works, Music from Mills, by Terry Riley, Morton Subotnick, and Ramon Sender, among many others.).  Fortunately, serious music is outside the scope of this blog — and besides, as the person behind the electronic music blog, Orpheus Music, even admits, Reich’s piece is “certainly not among [his] better works”.

Moreover, I have discovered another musical artist who committed the melodica to tape around the same time as Reich but utilized the instrument within a composition that was aimed at a broader audience.  Who, you might ask, first pushed the boundaries of pop to include the lowly melodica?

Cover art for GERMAN market

Bee Gees LP - Germany

Incredibly, it’s The Bee Gees.  Their second album – originally released in Australia in 1966 under the title, Monday’s Rain (later Spicks and Specks, but repackaged here in the States as Rare, Precious & Beautiful on Atco) – includes a catchy, Beatles-y composition, “Tint of Blue,” that features an instrumental break whose haunting melody is played on the melodica:

“Tint of Blue”     The Bee Gees     1966

The first person who can find a melodica on a pop recording prior to 1966 wins the lucky two-dollar bill that I keep in my wallet.

ARGENTINA CASH-IN LP (with pugilistic cover concept) that includes “Tinte de Azul”

Bee Gees vs Beatles LP I - Argentina

¡UPDATE!  Click on link to November 29, 2017 melodica piece