In the course of putting together a funk & soul mix, I previewed the songs on a 1960s Capitol Records compilation album entitled, Super Soul-Dees! Volume 2:
One song in particular seemed to stand apart from the other tracks: “Tar and Cement” by Verdelle Smith. Certainly, Capitol’s 1960s soul roster skewed toward the pop end of the spectrum, but even this tune caught me by surprise with its folk-y sound and especially its lyric: a cautionary tale about the deep hit to the spirit that can occur when we convert nature’s beautiful landscapes into urban spaces.
As it turns out, “Tar and Cement” is an English-language version of an Italian pop song, “Il ragazzo della via Gluck,” originally sung by Adriano Celentano. Both songs were released in 1966, and Verdelle Smith’s version even went Top 40 here in the States — although you never hear it on oldies radio. Why is that, I wonder – it’s a beautiful vocal and great tune:
Based on this Australian’s first-hand account, it would appear to be true that Verdelle’s version, indeed, really did go all the way to the top of the National pop charts in Australia.