The November Playlist


It’s that time of the month where I go back and look by play count on my iTunes which songs I’ve been listening to lately, or what’s stood out to me alot over the last month, and try to understand why I’ve been listening to those songs.

1) Johnny Get Angry
Joanie Sommers (1962)

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Last month I rediscovered the “For those who think young” Pepsi slogan girls Northern Soul goodie “Don’t Pity Me” but I also remembered her delightfully sexist and possibly domestic violence riddled “Johnny Get Angry.” This lovely ditty about wanting a “brave man, a cave man” is.. so dated, even in 1962 it seemed at crossroads with other songs like “Don’t Make Me Over.” To make a more positive Bacharach/David/Warwick connection tho, the arrangement is stunning, with that low C&W guitar figure, the jazzy tinkling piano (that shows up in a lot of uptempo Bacharach/David tunes for Warwick and one of my favorite musical gimmicks from that team, because it always provides a neurosis to the songs) a delightfully smoky and weary vocal from Sommers and most likely The Blossoms doing early studio background work. An excellent time capsule.

2) Walking Back To Happiness
Helen Shapiro (1961)

I had heard of Helen Shapiro a half decade ago, and generally had that snobbery of “nothing good but Dusty Springfield” came out of England in the 60s. Then a few weeks ago Pandora decided to throw her cover of “It’s In His Kiss” on my Maxine Brown station. Although I didn’t particularly care for her cover, I liked her voice, so… I slowly made friends with her biggest British hit (and only chart success in the states) “Walking Back to Happiness.” It’s an odd peculiar slice of 1950s Rock optimism with a weird hint of more dignified Camelot early 1960s self determination, and then there’s the 14 year old Shapiro sounding like a seasoned 25 year old singer… very much the female Bobby Darin she was described as 5 years earlier….

….Next Brit Girl conquest… Alma Cogan (apparently I have a thing for Russian Jewish British Female singers).

3) You Can’t Come In
Jo Anne Garrett (w/The Dells) (1967)

Little Red Riding hood becomes a piece of proto-funk and an excellent vehicle for Jo Anne Garrett, and the transformation of the Wolves into lecherous men that scored with girls before is remarkably witty, clever… and I wonder why in the hell it never went anywhere.

4) There’s Gonna Be Trouble
Sugar Pie DeSanto (1966)

Little miss Sugar Pie knows of the other woman, and the other woman is showing up accidentally at the same time, due to the games her man runs, and his inability to keep stories straight. Two leading ladies are about to kick some ass. and you really hope to hear how this one ends. Gotta love a good story song.

5) Party Across The Hall
Yvonne Baker & The Sensations (1962)

I love songs about house parties, and this one particularly vivid: “In the corner stood my man Pete, he couldn’t dance cause he had bad feet.” To me it reminds me of the ridiculous fun in the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, otherwise I can close my eyes, listen to this song and think that I’m at a apartment party in Chicago in 1962. Similar in theme to Claudine Clark’s “Party Lights” but Yvonne is an actual adult and doesn’t need moms to give her permission to go. An appropriate song for these awesome winter parties that are coming up.

6) You’re The One I Need
The Temptations (1965)

An album track from The Tempting Temptations LP that I had long forgotten that is so smooth and so delightfully punchy and a little odd with the horn section to make it unique and, well cool, with Eddie Kendricks gossamer falsetto leading the action, and after a blistering Mike Terry Sax Solo, Paul Williams steps into the spotlight for a moment to provide advice that, Eddie actually recognizes in the song as “That’s good advice.”

7) You’re A Wonderful One
Marvin Gaye (1964)

Ok, it always seems that I’m always tearing Marvin Gaye down, and probably so, because the real reason I love this song is to hear Florence Ballard providing her vinegary backgrounds that stand out better than the “Hey Flo, stand back 17 feet from the mike so you don’t overpower Diane’s lead” characteristic of a good portion of her background work as a Supreme. When you think of it “Wonderful One” isn’t as good as the hits that proceeded it (“Can I Get A Witness”) or that followed it (“Try It Baby”) Other than to really hear Ballard soulfull go “Ooooh” and chirp “Wonderful One” rather mechanically in contrast to those “Ooohs” an odd spotlight of someone making the most of their moments in the shadows.

8) You Lie So Well
Marie Knight (1964)

In her early 40s during her secular recordings and clearly a gospel singer, Marie Knight makes a really odd choice for a shadow girl group singer. But given that her songs tended to be more adult, like “You Lie So Well” where she’s a woman wise enough to know when a man is lying to her, it gives her a credibility as an older sister to the teens and twentysomething starlets and ingenues associated with the genre. and it’s a cool uptempo romp also.. kinda in that northern mold that made a classic out of Barbara McNairs “Baby A Go Go”

9) Fantasy
The Four Tops (1965)

This is basically Kim Weston and/Or The Supremes “Just Call Me” with new lyrics that fit the jazzy Motown wants to be Burt Bacharach recording Dionne Warwick demos that get passed onto Chuck Jackson and Lou Johnson. A rare sub-genre of Motown unreleased material (and a theme that pops up every so often, notably on Chris Clark’s “I Just Can’t Forget Him”)

10) If I Remember To Forget
Little Anthony & The Imperials (1965)

One of the things that you forget about Little Anthony Gourdine is that, especially within the harmony structure of the Imperials and indicative of their mid 60s hits, you forget that he has a very precise and and accurate tenor that scales Teddy Randazzos melodies possibly better than anyone else. In this song the arrangement is closer to “I’m On The Outside (Looking In)” and gives him another chance to be the centerpiece of the song. love it.

11) California Nights
Lesley Gore (1967)

Lesley Gore’s last major pop hit is enough to convince anyone to stay in the Golden State, even if she’s not denoting anything specific about the scenery other than the beaches (which you know, north of San Luis Obispo are quite cold) that can be a romantic fallback. The song could titled “Viginia is For Lovers” and have basically the same lyrics, and that’s ok, as this song obviously serves as a template for Bob Crewe for “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” released shortly thereafter, the melodies seem to only have 6 notes separating them, and given the lack of Vegas camp associated with this number, it’s a good companion number to that Frankie Valli classic

12) Trouble Child
Barbara Mason (1964)

Naughty, rebellious philly soul about, oddly, a female delinquent, and Barbara’s first released composition. Although it’s not explicit, it does detail being a runaway, possibly promiscuous; extremely adult subject matters for a teenager to write for her first single release in 1964. Then again, given the sexually charged undercurrent of her breakthrough hit next year “Yes, I’m Ready” should we be surprised that her first release was so forward thinking.

13) Sweets For My Sweet
The Drifters (1962)

I love this cha cha, for the fact that it’s really just motivated by the lead and the piano. It’s a delightfully romantic song in the same vein of “I’ll Try Something New” and I’m a fool for lyrics about devoted romance.

14) Jack ‘O Diamonds
Ruth Brown (1958)

See what Gambling can do? It can leave you dead, your wife in strife and holding the bill for the funeral because you lost all the money because you decided to cheat at poker you asshole! Poor Ruth, but, considering the story line is incredibly sad this arrangement her version encourages enthusiastic singing along and dancing.

15) Trustin In You
The Fascinations (1967)

To close out were taking a track with beautiful chimes and guitar strumming from The Fascinations that is beautifully subdued and devotional set to a marching tempo, marching in the pursuit of true love and happiness, and having faith.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The November Playlist

  1. I hate “What’s Going On” “Mercy Mercy Me” and Let’s Get In On”. Furthermore, I dislike Marvin Gaye with a beard and dock workers hat. And “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is one of those ‘oldies’ that people like because they’re supposed too. It’s as good as “Judy In Disguise” or “Ride Captain Ride”, and that ain’t saying much.

    “That Stubbourn Kinda Fella” is the best Motown album ever assembled. “When I’m Alone I Cry” is another, and Gaye’s early and mid sixties work is beyond phenominal. But it’s that part of his career that is stellar. It was over when he did “Grapevine” contrary to annoying critics and musicologist’s who feel that’s when it started.

    “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” it literally sounds like him and Tammi Terrell are ripping each others clothes off during the performance, and again, power is in full swing.

    A superb list sir, and no doubts why this is my favorite soul blog.

    • I don’t necessarily hate the “What’s Going On” era of stuff, then again I don’t own any of it or go out of my way to listen to it. What I really hate is that it’s looked at as more “authentic” (to who, a bunch of guilty white liberal music critics and established African American critics that feel singing songs about the troubles of the ghetto is the only legit African American music experience). You can’t tell me “Try It Baby” (Berry Gordy’s own direct plea to Diana Ross, as acted out on record excellently by Marvin & The Temptations) or as you mentioned, the Semi-Autobiographic “Stubborn Kinda Fellow” (since he wanted to be a crooner like Vic Damone and was dragged by everyone into the field of R&B) are less authentic moments. There’s something delightfully raw and passionate about Marvin’s 1960s output that is lost in just about everything else that followed (the confidence and arrogance regular cocaine usage can give you). To me, listen to “Chained” and “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” and which one is the more impassioned performance… yup.

      • I could not agree with you more! Had Sam Cooke lived and signed with Motown, there’s a pretty good bet what songs would have been his hits. “Chained” “Baby Don’t You Do It” “That Stubbourn Kinda Fella” “Hello There Angel” etc…etc….etc….

        Bravo My man. Another superb article.

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