In the course of putting together a funk & soul mix, I previewed for consideration 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:
“Tar and Cement” Verdelle Smith 1966
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. “Tar and Cement,” after its initial 1966 single release, indeed, would be the title track of a 1967 EP release in Australia, as well as New Zealand. EMI/Capitol would even release the song in Africa — says 45Cat: “Rhodesia chart entry (within the Top 10) 21 January 1967 with a #3 peak. South Africa chart entry 23 September 1966 with a #15 peak.”
Verdelle Smith bio from reverse side of EP
ABC Adelaide‘s investigative team, “the Baldies” — who had previously located Melanie Coe (young lady who inspired the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home“), Dolores Erickson (model on the cover of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’s Whipped Cream album), and Ronnie Rondell (the man on fire on the cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album — tracked down Verdelle Smith in 2008 [includes audio of their conversation].