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Oh ‘Kitty’ You’re So Fine?: Toni Basil’s 1982 smash first released by UK band in 1979
09.08.2014
10:39 am

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders

Tags:
Toni Basil

Mickey 45 sleeve (US)
 
It’s all about the beat. It doesn’t take more than a moment after pressing play on one of the most famous songs of the 1980s before just about anyone who has even a toe in the pool of pop culture is able to recognize Toni Basil’s “Mickey.” But relatively few realize it had a former life under another name and that Basil played such a large role in its success.

Smash and Grab cover
 
The British band Racey were discovered by producer Mickie Most in 1978, and their second 45, “Lay Your Love On Me,” was their first hit. Written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, the Chapman-Chinn partnership had already proved extremely successful, and the duo were known for penning strong and winning material for a number of acts, most notably Sweet (“Ballroom Blitz,” “Blockbuster,” etc.). Racey’s debut LP, Smash and Grab, was released in 1979 and though the hits continued, they failed to crack the coveted U.S. market. Smash and Grab featured a number of Chapman-Chinn songs, including a catchy number called “Kitty,” which, for some reason, wasn’t released as single.
 

 
Toni Basil was a show biz veteran when “Mickey” began scaling the charts in the early 1980s. Her first single came out in 1966 and she appeared in a few movies, including Easy Rider and dancing with Davy Jones in the Monkees’ Head. She also had directed videos, but was primarily known in the industry as a choreographer.
 
Word of Mouth cover
 
“Mickey” appeared on her Word of Mouth LP and was released as a single in 1981. Though it took a while to take off, by late 1982 it was a smash, going all the way to #1 in the states. It was one of the first songs to benefit from having a popular video—which Basil choreographed, produced and directed—on MTV.

Basil changed the title of the track to fit her gender, and chose Mickey as it roughly rhymes with Kitty. She also wrote the “Oh Mickey you’re so fine/You’re so fine you blow my mind” hook—a hook so massive that it can’t be overlooked when considering the song’s popularity.

I was always a cheerleader and I remember the echoing in the basketball court of cheerleaders, of us, stomping, chanting. I said I would do it if I could put the cheerleader chant on it. The record company asked me not to put the chant on because they were concerned it would ruin the rest of the tune.

There has been much speculation over the years as to what “Mickey” is about. Some believe the song is about Micky Dolenz of the Monkees; others think the song alludes to anal sex! Here’s what Basil had to say on the matter:

It’s not about anything dirty. You change the name from boy to girl and they read anything they want into it! When it’s a guy singing about a girl, it’s a sweet line. But when a girl sings it, it must mean butt fucking!

Oh, Mickey
 

No matter what anyone might think regarding the lyrics, one thing is certain: Basil essentially took an already appealing pop song and turned it into a #1. It is now considered one of the most iconic songs (and videos) of the entire 1980s. But she received no writing credit, and after 30+ years she claimed she had only earned about $3,000 in royalties from “Mickey.”
 
Mickey 45
 
Love it or hate it, Toni Basil’s colossal hit was a pop culture moment in 1982 and refuses to leave our collective consciousness. Long live the beat, I say!
 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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We have Pat Boone to thank for the most psychotic and deranged rockabilly record of all time!

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Marty Lott aka Jerry Lott aka “The Phantom” was born near Mobile, Alabama in 1938 and moved to Leakesville, Mississippi during infancy. He played country music on stage at school which progressed to playing country and western at Paynas Furniture Store in Lucedale, Mississippi. Jerry started entering and winning local performing contests which led him to start touring. It all changed in 1956 for Marty and so many others, when Elvis Presley came along, opened his eyes and charged his soul with rock and roll.

“Love Me” was written in ten minutes and recorded in Mobile at Gulf Coast Studio in the summer of 1958. It is one of those rare, lust-filled, psychotic explosions that, in one minute and twenty nine seconds, packs more punch than most punk records did and is considered by many to be the wildest rock and roll song ever recorded. It had to wait until the new decade to see a release.

Lott told Derek Glenister:

“I’d worked three months on the other side of the record. Somebody said, ‘what you gonna put on the flip-side’ I hadn’t even thought about it. Someone suggested I wrote something like Elvis ‘cause he was just a little on the wane and everybody was beginning to turn against rock ‘n’ roll. They said, ‘See if you spark rock ‘n’ roll a little bit’... so that’s when I put all the fire and fury I could utter into it. I was satisfied with the first take, but everybody said, ‘let’s try it one more time’. I didn’t yell on the first take, but I yelled on the second, and blew one of the controls off the wall.”

“I’m telling ya, “it was wild. The drummer lost one of his sticks, the piano player screamed and knocked his stool over, the guitar player’s glasses were hanging sideways over his eyes.

 
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Lott, known at this time as The Gulf Coast Fireball left Mobile for Los Angeles to shop his master tape around. On a truly bizarre impulse he followed Pat Boone to church one Sunday morning and convinced him to give the tape a listen. It was Boone’s idea to rename Lott The Phantom, even agreeing to issue the record on his own Cooga Mooga label. Eventually Lott signed a contract with Boone’s management but the single of “Love Me” b/w “Whisper Your Love” was released on the label Boone recorded for—Dot Records in 1960, packaged in a nifty picture sleeve, normally reserved only for the really big stars here in the States.
 

 

“Aahh, uhh, let’s go! Uhh
Press your lips to mine
And whisper I love you
Gotta have chance that lasts
To do the things we wanna do
Don’t hesitate, I can’t wait,
Love me
You set my soul on fire
Every muscle in my body’s burning with desire
Baby kiss me do
Make me know you’re mine
Love me with desire
Oh honey, this is fine
Don’t hesitate, I can’t wait,
Love me
Aahh!
I want you to be my bride
My heart’s a runnin’ wild
Got to make you mine
If just for a little while
Don’t hesitate, I can’t wait,
Love me, love me, love me, love me…”

 
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Sadly in 1965, Jerry’s wife took her own life, and shortly thereafter, in 1966, while still attempting to tour, The Phantom was involved in a near fatal auto accident in York, South Carolina. After his car tumbled 600 feet down a mountainside he was left paralyzed below the neck. Lott continued to write songs, but never recorded again. He passed away on September 4th,1983 at the age of 45.
 
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Ever the rock ‘n’ roll purists The Cramps chose the song to be one of the first ones they learned, going so far as to make a flyer that they put up around New York City before they ever even played their first gig proclaiming “LOVE ME” featuring the baleful gaze of Cramps guitarist Bryan Gregory.
 
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The Cramps play “Love Me” at the Napa State Mental Hospital in 1978

A new generation was introduced to the likes of The Phantom in the late 70’s/early 80’s through this and many European (i.e. bootleg) rockabilly compilation LPs. Fanzines like Kicks, which later morphed into Norton Records and Kicks Books were the first in America to dig deep and write about The Phantom.

As usual, rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form is always discovered 50 years too late by those who wish to use the music to sell stuff. I got an email requesting the cover of the “Love Me” single last week from a music supervisor working for an advertising agency. He couldn’t tell me who, but “Love Me” by The Phantom was going to be used in a huge ad campaign and they needed the artwork for the iTunes download that they will be making available in conjunction with the ad. It was just announced that the song would be used in the latest Southern Comfort campaign. More money will be earned, hopefully by a family member of Lott’s (though I highly doubt it), by the use of this song in this ad than Jerry Lott probably made in his entire music career. It just seems odd the way they used it, like I’m watching TV with the sound down and listening to a record.

I think I need a drink.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Who was that masked man? ORION: The Man Who Would Be King

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s marvelous custom Mosrite guitars


 
Of all the psych era’s strivers, I have the softest of soft spots for The Strawberry Alarm Clock. They embraced so many of the era’s musical and fashion tropes so thoroughly they couldn’t help but instantly become a badge for psychedelia (and psychedelic kitsch) itself. They made a huge impact crater with their 1967 debut LP and single, both called Incense and Peppermints (I didn’t even need to tell you that, did I? I’m guessing that song has been playing in your head from the moment you read the band’s name in the headline). They followed up with 1968’s more modestly successful but still worthy Wake Up… It’s Tomorrow, but that would be the end of the band’s classic lineup. In the years after Tomorrow, the band cycled through a number of membership changes, and every subsequent release saw diminishing returns, which, combined with internal struggles over musical direction as the psychedelic era petered out, splintered the band by 1971. Notably, their guitarist Ed King would join up with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and flautist/guitarist Steve Bartek would resurface a few years later as Danny Elfman’s second-banana in Oingo Boingo.
 

 
But in just a few short years of existence, that band got to do tons of cool stuff. The massive success of Incense propelled the band to countless TV appearances, and prominent performance segments in the film Psych-Out and the notorious Roger Ebert/Russ Meyer clusterfuck Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. They appeared on the debut episode of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and one of them even served as a bachelor on The Dating Game, and won.

But as much fun as all that must have been, I’d ponder giving it all up in exchange for the other amazing perk of being a SAC—these amazing custom-built Mosrite guitars, one of which has been enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution.
 

 

 

The SAC Mosrite on display with the Chinery Collection at the Smithsonian

In 2009, The Unique Guitar blog  ran this amusing and opinionated account of these guitars’ creation. The blogger seems not to have cared much for folk or psych.

[Luthier Semie] Moseley’s fortune came and went and came back and went again. Moseley guitars that sold for up to $300 in the 1960’s are now being sought after by collectors and bring in tens of thousands of dollars. There are over 30 companies making copies of Mosrite style guitars.

Which brings us to The Strawberry Alarm Clock.

In the late 1960’s, about ten years after The Folk Scare, we encountered another music problem that came to be known as The Psychedelic Era. This was characterized by guys usually dressed in clothing they bought from women’s clothing stores (that’s where Hendrix got his attire…you don’t believe me? Check it out!) who imagined they could play guitar which led to writing really awful poetry to complete their musical scat. Essentially these fellows just made extremely loud noise through powerful Frigidaire sized amplifiers and sang their meaningless bad lyrics.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock was one group that actually showed some skill and put together some tunes that people enjoyed. So the music powers that be got them a lot of air time on the radio and a lot of face time in concerts. I won’t go into all the Alarm Clock’s history. Suffice to say, “Incense and Peppermints” is still one of those classic songs no matter how hard you try, you can’t get out of your head because you’ve heard it since 1967 due to 47 years of radio play.

Somehow Moseley hooked up with the Alarm Clock and was commissioned to design as set of two guitars and a bass for the group. These guitars all had Mosrite style parts, pickups, vibrato and bridges, but also had the bizarre feature of being surrounded by a wooden frame.

After finishing the bodies, Moseley shipped them to famed California artist Von Dutch. He was known for unusual auto pin striping and painted body designs as well as painted designs on surfboards. Due to his involvement the guitar became known also as The Surfboard Guitars.

 

 
It strikes me as incredibly weird that there don’t seem to be any photos or videos of the band actually playing, or even just posing with these. If someone made me something this beautifully bonkers, I’d be showing it off ’til you wanted to kick me. So since there doesn’t seem to be any motion footage of these guitars, and since you’ve surely already heard “Incense and Peppermints” more than enough times in your life, here’s some rare footage of the band’s segment in Laugh In, wearing rain gear and wrecking a car with sledgehammers, because the Summer of Love was OVER, maaaaaaaan.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Video Killed the Radio Star — but who killed it first?


 
It’s one of the most widely known bits of pop culture trivia—when MTV launched in August of 1981, the very first music video it showed was the prophetic “Video Killed the Radio Star,” a popular single from the Buggles’ Age of Plastic LP. That alone made the cutesy synthpop novelty into the stuff of unforgettable legend, but the telling of the legend typically excludes the song’s origins. Multiple versions of the song predated the one we all know. Buggles Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes had been members of Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club, with whom they originally wrote and recorded the song. There were multiple single versions, like this much more revved-up take on the song than we’re used to:
 

Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” US single
 
This more polished version was the UK single:
 

Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” UK single
 
And here’s a live version from 1979, after the Buggles’ version had become popular:
 

Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” live, 1979
 

 
The Camera Club was quite an incubator for talent. Thomas Dolby was an early keyboardist for the band, and Horn and Downes famously and incongruously went on from the Buggles to join Yes. Later still, Horn became the producer/architect of the radical early work of Art of Noise, while Downes stayed with Yes’ guitarist Steve Howe in the massively successful prog/pop supergroup Asia. Other Camera Club members went on to play in Re-Flex and The Soft Boys, but Woolley himself remained a mostly behind-the-scenes talent as a producer and songwriter, though he has maintained a performance and recording profile—as a theremin player! The man’s CV is actually quite enviable, with credits that include Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm, plus film music for Caddyshack, Toys, and Moulin Rouge.

Motion footage of Woolley in performance is maddeningly elusive—ironically, and kind of comically, no video seems to exist of the original version of “Video Killed the Radio Star.” But on that hunt, I found this clip from 2004—evidently only the Buggles’ second ever live performance of the song, featuring Horn, Downes, and Woolley, plus the original backup singers from the ‘70s single, who still sound just absolutely terrific.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Tiny Tim reissued—on Edison cylinder: Next, we clone the dodo!
09.11.2013
09:08 am

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders
Pop Culture

Tags:
Vinyl
Tiny Tim
Obsolete

tiny tim lp cover pic
 
In a wonderful bit of news for far-gone vinyl collectors looking to up the stakes on unnecessary depths of obscurantism, the Ship to Shore Phonograph Company is releasing a version of “Nobody Else Can Love Me (Like My Old Tomato Can)” cut by musician/antiquarian/delightful freakshow Tiny Tim - on the utterly obsolete Edison Cylinder format. Per Hyperallergic‘s Allison Meier:

Only 50 of the cylinders were recorded by Benjamin Canady (aka “The Victrola Guy“) who has been working with ongoing experiments of recording on old Edison cylinder phonographs. As the Vinyl Factory points out in their coverage of this momentous music resurrection, the cylinder record hasn’t totally vanished — Beck also used this tech recently as inspiration for his tracks cut into a beer bottle this year — but there’s been no wide release for the round records since the early 20th century. And if you decide to buy one of the Tiny Tim recordings for $60, it’s quite likely you’ll have no way to play it, although they each do come with a digital recording of the song blaring from some antique phonograph horns. This isn’t the analogue age, after all.

 

 
If the only bells the name “Tiny Tim” ring for you are Dickensian, he was an out-of-left-field media star in the late ‘60s. Even in a decade as indulgent of oddities as that one was, Tim’s (nee Herbert Khaury) weirdness stuck out farther than most. He was a musician of an old-timey archivalist bent, and he might have made a fine fit for the early ‘60s folk revival if that movement hadn’t been so grimly earnest. His stage presentation was disarmingly odd - coming off as a pudgy, sartorially randomized, lysergically Jewy hybrid of Carl Sagan and Danny Devito’s Penguin, he sang hits and obscurities from the turn of the 20th Century to the Depression era in an improbable falsetto. He rose to fame and had a massive hit single with “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” thanks to appearances on TV comedy/variety shows that appreciated his eccentricity, most notably Laugh-In and The Tonight Show. It was the latter program on which, at the height of his fame, Tim notoriously got married in front of an audience of over 20 million. As he was utterly genuine in his love of the music he performed, his act fell out of step in changing times, which inevitably led to his waning popularity. Though he did eventually add some modern material to his repertoire, doing so only served to underscore his diminished stature from a popular conservator to a fringe dwelling novelty act. He died in 1996 of a heart attack suffered onstage in Minneapolis.

Here’s the seldom-seen A Special Tiny Tim from 1970:
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Violinski: One hit wonders perform their musical shit sandwich, ‘Clog Dance,’ 1979
07.11.2013
08:18 am

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders

Tags:
Violinski


 
Violinski was the side project of Electric Light Orchestra’s Mik Kaminski. Their “Clog Dance” was a huge hit in the UK in 1979, reaching #17 in the singles chart after BBC Radio 1 used the instrumental number under the reading of the Top 40 countdown.

It’s terrible. Not much else to say about it. I doubt that even The League of Gentlemen‘s hapless former rocker “Les McQueen” would would look back with fondness had he been in Violinski and not the rhythm guitarist of “Crème Brulee”...
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Hey Baby, I’m Your Telephone Man’: ‘Sexy’ double entendre novelty hit of the 1970s
05.31.2013
12:45 pm

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders

Tags:
Meri WIlson


 

Singer/model Meri Wilson recorded several double entendre novelty songs—inane, catchy ditties totally inappropriate for little kids to sing—which is, of course, why her naughty little number “Telephone Man” became so unstoppable in the summer of 1977:

“Hey, baby, I’m your telephone man
You just show me where you want it and I’ll put it where I can
I can put it in the bedroom, I can put it in the hall
I can put it in the bathroom, I can hang it on the wall
You can have it with a buzz, you can have it with a ring
And if you really want it you can have a ding-a-ling
Because-a hey baby, I’m your telephone man”

Those of your reading this who are of a certain age are no doubt groaning in pain at the memory.

Wilson had a follow-up number called “Peter the Meter Reader.” She later updated her biggest hit to “Internet Man.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘White Bird’: The ultimate 60s hippie anthem?
05.14.2013
11:36 am

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders

Tags:
It’s a Beautiful Day


 
Thomas McGrath’s post this morning about Kenneth Anger, Bobby Beausoleil and the Manson Family reminded me that I should look for a live clip of It’s A Beautiful Day’s classic “White Bird” and post that. It’s been lingering on my DM “to do” list for quite a while now.

White Bird” is a song that most music fans (at least those of us of a certain age) will instantly recognize. It’s a Beautiful Day were “Summer of Love” San Franciscan contemporaries of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Santana and their lilting rock, jazz, folk, classical style was unique in that context. They were neither very “proggy” or “fusiony. They certainly weren’t very psychedelic, either, but they made lovely music that still evokes an era splendidly, even if they are remembered primarily for just this one song. “White Bird” is one of the ultimate hippie anthems and has been a staple of FM radio for decades.

Ironically, bandleader and violinist David LaFlamme later said of “White Bird,” that the oh so pretty ditty was inspired by living in gloomy, soggy Seattle without a car:

“Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from ... We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.”

The group was managed by Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape minder Matthew Katz, but the association was apparently an unhappy one and the band went through various personal changes before finally breaking up in 1974. Lead singer Patti Santos died in a 1989 automobile accident, but LaFlamme keeps the It’s A Beautiful Day flame burning with occasional live appearances and reunion shows.

In the clip below, taken from the 1972 documentary Fillmore, It’s A Beautiful Day perform “White Bird” while Bill Graham pontificates on the flower power generation. Sadly, they cut away to Graham speaking just as LaFlamme was about to go into his violin solo.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Daft Punks: Do ‘The Crunch’ with The RAH Band, 1977
05.13.2013
09:32 am

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders

Tags:
The RAH Band


 
Yesterday when I posted “‘Pepper Box’: The funkiest space-disco synthpop rare groove record of 1973,” it occurred to me that I should also post another long-forgotten instrumental one-hit wonder, “The Crunch” by The RAH Band, a studio “group” helmed by Richard Anthony Hewson.

Hewson is an English producer, arranger, conductor and multi-instrumentalist who has worked with the likes of The Beatles, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and Carly Simon. He was the sole member of The RAH Band and played all of the instruments himself.

When the song made it to #6 in the UK pop charts in 1977, a band was put together for a Top of The Pops performance (that’s not Richard Hewson playing the keyboards). Although this video is crazy and great, the original track is still way better than even this super-flipped-out live stomper. Despite what’s seen in the clip, the original song’s arrangement used no synthesizers, only electric guitar and an organ with pedal effects.
 

 
The Rah Band returned in 1985 with another hit record (and another TOTP’s appearance), “Clouds Across the Moon.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Pepper Box’: The funkiest space-disco synthpop rare groove record of 1973
05.12.2013
08:38 am

Topics:
Music
One-hit wonders

Tags:
Pepper Box


 
I dare you to listen to this insanely catchy instrumental number and then try to scrub it out of your head. As with Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” and “Apache” by The Incredible Bongo Band, two similar hit instrumental songs of the same vintage, it cannot be undone. You’re stuck with this “Pepper Box” by The Peppers for life after just one listen (mind you, not that this is a bad thing!)

‘Pepper Box’ was originally supposed to be a TV commercial jingle, but producer Roger Tokarz, thinking he might have a “Popcorn” on his hands, held back and offered his client something else. Tokarz asked Pierre Alain Dahan and Matt Camison to expand on his theme and “Pepper Box” was born, ultimately selling over 3.5 million singles.

I read the above album cover being described as “self explanatory” on the Internet. That cracked me up.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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