Monthly Archives: February 2010

That ’70s song, Vol. 8

Forty years ago, Mike was one of my buddies in junior high school. Then I moved away, and we didn’t see each other for 34 years.

When we finally met up again after all those years, Mike gave me a CD of songs he liked. One of the tunes was familiar, but I couldn’t come up with the name or the artist. It turned out to be “Baby, It’s You” by Smith, a No. 5 single in the latter part of 1969.

Dig around for some information on Smith, and the phrase “one-hit wonder” keeps popping up. That, and continuing appreciation for Gayle McCormick’s earthy, bluesy lead vocals.

One day, I found Smith’s debut album in the dollar bin at my local record store. “A Group Called Smith” is chock full of nice covers, including “Baby, It’s You.” Certainly worth tracking down, but we’ll get to those another day.

Smith’s second LP, “Minus-Plus,” also found in the dollar bin that day, has more original material. One such tune made a run into the middle of the Top 40 in the last week of February 1970. Here in Green Bay, it was one of 20 “hit-bound” singles on WDUZ, which as 1400 AM ranked only a Big 14 on its chart.

“Take A Look Around,” Smith, from “Minus-Plus,” 1970. It’s out of print.

This song was written by guitarist Jerry Carter and bass player James Richard Cliburn. That raises a little mystery, because Carter and Cliburn appeared on the first Smith album but not the second. McCormick and drummer Bob Evans were the only holdovers, surrounded by a new set of guitarists.

So I wonder whether Smith wasn’t McCormick surrounded by session musicians. After all, one of their producers was Steve Barri, who recruited musicians to play his songs in another band. You may have heard of that band. The Grass Roots. But the story goes that Smith was discovered by Del Shannon in a Los Angeles nightclub in the late ’60s.

Regardless, it was the last song to chart for Smith, which broke up shortly thereafter. McCormick went on to a brief solo career, then is said to have returned to her native St. Louis and left the music business.

One last thing: This week marks the third anniversary for AM, Then FM. Thanks, everyone.


Filed under February 2010, Sounds

“Hello, Daddy, hello, Mom …”

And now, a sneak preview of a film I’m looking forward to seeing.

Updated March 8: And now, the official trailer of that film.

“The Runaways,” starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie.

Premiering March 11 in Los Angeles, March 17 in New York, March 18 at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and who knows when — if at all — in our corner of Wisconsin.

I also wonder …

A) Whether my 15-year-old son and his friends will be interested in seeing this.

B) And if so, what they’ll think of it.

I promise to report back with their review.

In the meantime, enjoy this cover of the Runaways’ signature song, co-written by Jett and producer Kim Fowley. It was the first cut on the Runaways’ self-titled debut album in 1976.

“Cherry Bomb,” Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, from “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth,” 1984. (The buy link is to a 2-CD package also featuring “Album,” their 1983 LP.)


Filed under February 2010, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vol. 7

Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the first bands I really dug. Today, I rarely listen to them.

Part of it is having heard it all so many times. I know every note, every line of the good tunes.

Part of it was the realization one day that although Creedence introduced me to swamp rock and roots rock — and I am grateful for that introduction — there are more authentic sources for those kinds of music. Creedence was, after all, four guys from northern California. They weren’t born on the bayou. They just sounded like it.

Few bands were hotter than Creedence in the third week of February 1970. They managed a rare feat, putting both sides of the same single in the Top 10 — the downbeat “Who’ll Stop the Rain” backed with “Travelin’ Band,” a wild rave-up reminiscent of Little Richard.

Apparently a little too reminiscent of Little Richard, whose music publishing company sued Creedence in 1971 for cribbing it from “Good Golly Miss Molly,” which Creedence had covered on its “Bayou Country” LP in 1969. (They settled out of court.)

I was reminded of this not too long ago when Deadspin excerpted Greil Marcus’ story about a memorable episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” during which Little Richard interrupts a bitter sparring match between “Love Story” author Erich Segal and New York critic John Simon.


From “Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Greil Marcus, 1975.

WHEEE-OOO, indeed. So, did “Travelin’ Band” borrow from “Good Golly Miss Molly”? As always, you be the judge.

“Travelin’ Band,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, from “Cosmo’s Factory,” 1970.

“Good Golly Miss Molly,” Little Richard, 1958, from “Little Richard’s Grooviest 17 Original Hits,” 1968. It’s out of print, but the tune is available digitally or on just about any greatest-hits compilation.

Also worth noting: If you are somehow new to Creedence, or simply wishing to fill the gaps in your collection, you may wish to check out “The Singles Collection,” which was released last November. It has 30 singles from 1968 to 1972. It’s a two-CD box set with a DVD. The set also is available as 15 vinyl singles — reproductions of the original 45s. Either way, they’re the original single mixes, many of them mono.


Filed under February 2010, Sounds

From the request line

From time to time, we do requests here at AM, Then FM. Our last post drew a request for more Boyce and Hart.

So tonight, as Bobby Hart celebrates his 71st birthday, here’s a little more from Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the celebrated pop songwriters who put out three albums of their own stuff in the late ’60s.

When I picked up “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite” the other day, I knew just two songs on the LP — the single of the same name and the cover of “Two For the Price Of One.” So we’re exploring this together.

Here are a couple of cuts from the flip side of that LP.

“Goodbye Baby (I Don’t Want To See You Cry)” was released as a single in late 1967 or early 1968, but didn’t do much business in the charts. Written by Boyce and Hart, it seemingly is inspired by the Beatles from their “Magical Mystery Tour” period. Anyone else hear echoes of “Penny Lane” in this one?

Kent Kotal, who’s written extensively about Boyce and Hart on his Forgotten Hits site, quotes Hart as saying this tune caught the attention of the Beach Boys:

“Bruce Johnston approached me at the point where Brian Wilson wasn’t producing the Beach Boys anymore (after “Smile” unraveled in 1967) and asked if Tommy and I would be willing to produce their next session.”

However, Hart also said he and Boyce never did so:

“Unfortunately, we were too busy with our own careers.”

“I’m Digging You Digging Me” sounds good enough to have been a single for either Boyce and Hart or the Monkees, for whom they wrote several hits. Alas, no. But it’s another fine bit of sunny pop goodness.

Both tunes by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, from “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite,” 1968.

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Filed under February 2010, Sounds

For the love of …

So this was Valentine’s Day at our house …

My lovely wife likes those cards with music chips, and I was fortunate enough to find a good one. You can’t go wrong with “Happy Together” by the Turtles. She got her flowers a couple of days ago, so she could enjoy them before Valentine’s Day … when she and her friend took off for Vegas. The moms are taking a little vacation.

Our 15-year-old son is with his girlfriend at the movie theater. He’d hoped for a day on which he’d sweep her off her feet (meaning, be driven over so he could pick her up), then have lunch and take in a movie. It was bargained down to him meeting her at the theater and them going to a movie with a bunch of their friends.

He’s a little hacked off at his girlfriend’s protective parents.

And, no, I didn’t get to go to Vegas today, but it’s cool. There was, after all, a record-digging session after we dropped the moms at the airport.

A year ago at this time, my friend Larry over at Funky 16 Corners turned me on to a cool record I’ve been seeking ever since. But I’m starting to think “Two For the Price of One” by Larry Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson never got shipped to our corner of Wisconsin. To Milwaukee, maybe, but not here.

Larry describes that tune, from the 1967 album of the same name, as:

“A veritable stick of dynamite with Williams and Watson batting the lead vocal back and forth like a hot potato, dropping all kinds of jive. The arrangement is fast and furious, but the vocals are the highlight.”

It was not to be had today, either, but there was a nice consolation prize. There, tucked neatly into a batch of sunny pop goodness from 1968, was “Two For the Price of One.”

But not the original. A cover. If you’ve heard the original, you may find it a little hard to believe who the “gangster of love” and “son of a gun” are on this one. Check it out.

“Two For the Price of One,” Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, from “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite,” 1968.

Boyce and Hart, great songwriters in their own right, chose this as the only cover on that 1968 album. They chose wisely, even if their version doesn’t quite measure up to the original.


Filed under February 2010, Sounds