So, have you figured out the pattern yet? It’s still early, I know, but congratulations to those who correctly deduced that Zero to 180 is paying tribute to Allen Toussaint (who left us exactly one week ago) by taking a little “time walk” – one that began last Friday with 1965‘s teaching tool for antonyms, “The Word Game” (preschool parents take note). Yesterday’s piece shone the spotlight on 1966‘s literary-themed “Omar Khayyam,” a song whose mysterious allure worked quietly in the background until, decades later, it was discovered that the song had seized the imagination of dance fans worldwide.
Which brings us to 1967, pop’s peak year, and the one and only duet by Lee Dorsey and Betty Harris — “Love Lots of Lovin'” — which features some percussion that really pops:
“Love Lots of Lovin'” Lee Dorsey & Betty Harris 1967
This “regional breakout” – written, arranged & produced by Allen Toussaint – alas, just bubbled under (#110) nationally in December, 1967 and did not receive the wider recognition it deserved. Billboard, who predicted the song would reach the Top 60, had this review in its November 25, 1967 edition:
“Teamed for the first [and, sadly, last] time, this duet will fast become a hot seller, right up there high on the Hot 100. Pulsating blues rocker penned by Allen Toussaint serves as strong material for them, and they wail all the way through.”
Lee Dorsey Betty Harris
“Love Lots of Lovin'” – released domestically in 1967 – would not be issued in the UK for another two years.
1967 US release 1969 UK release
Billboard’s biography of Betty Harris states that “Harris planned to support [“Love Lots of Lovin'”] on tour with Otis Redding, but on December 10 , the soul giant lost his life in a plane crash.”
Browsing 45Cat’s database for 1966 singles associated with Allen Toussaint, my eyes were immediately drawn to an A-side entitled “Omar Khayyam” by The Rubaiyats, issued on Toussaint’s own Sansu label. As it turns out, the band’s name is inspired by the term for “a collection of Ruba’i” (as in the Persian poetry form), with the best known example likely being the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
“Omar Khayyam” The Rubaiyats 1966
The Rubaiyats are, in actual fact, Allen Toussaint and Willie Harper — Toussaint would write both sides of their only single. “Omar Khayyam” would be a B-side upon initial release in the US in September, 1966 although the two sides would flip (so says 45Cat) with the single’s 1968 release in the UK.
Houghton Mifflin & Company- First edition, 1884 – thanks to Book Graphics
As further proof of the song’s viability: Vintage Vinyl is offering a special 7-inch release, “Omar Khayyam” b/w “Do Me Like You Do Me” by John Williams & the Tick Tocks – $13.99 (“two collectible Sansu sides back-to-back for the first time … of huge interest to Northern Soul collectors, Mod and R&B fans worldwide.”) Vintage Vinyl provides the UK history related to this song:
“First played at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on the UK Action label but originally recorded for US label Sansu in 1966. This hard-to-find original became a Mod and rare soul classic and has, in recent times, enjoyed a revival on the Northern Soul circuit.”
Check out this art nouveau-inspired 3rd edition published by Bernard Quaritch in London in 1872 – bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe of London (tip of the hat to Dartmouth).
Did you know of the cursed special “Sangorski Edition” of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — on Business Pundits‘ list of 15 Weird and Mysterious Books?
“Is it possible for a book to be as cursed as the Hope Diamond? If so, the Sangorski special edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is. This book is a work of art in and of itself: the cover is bound in leather, features a jewel-encrusted peacock on the front, and is emblazoned with gold leaf. Its designer, Francis Sangorski, spent months designing it, and two years to finish its creation. It’s a legendary book, both because of the elevated artistry of the book, and the tragedies that seemed to follow it.
Sangorski’s original copy sank with the Titanic. Before he could recreate it, Francis Sangorski drowned, six weeks after the ship — with the book — foundered in the Atlantic. Stanley Bray, Sangorski’s partner, spent six years recreating the second copy of the book from Sangorski’s original drawings. The book was then destroyed in the London Blitz. It took Bray another 40 years to finish the next copy, which was donated to the British Library after his death.”
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is an enormously influential literary work (650 different editions, translated into over 70 languages, illustrations by 150 artists) whose reach extends into literature, cinema, music. computer games, and television (e.g., 6-episode story arc in The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show about the “Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam“).
Important to keep in mind, though, that Edward Fitzgerald (as the UK’s Telegraph points out) is, in his English translations, “deliberately altering, combining and developing the verses of Omar Khayyam, a 12th-century poet who is remembered as a talented astronomer-mathematician, but not as a great Persian poet like Sadi or Hafiz. Many of the quatrains attributed to him have been falsely ascribed.”