All posts by Ticeman

Crash & Heartbreak

Record companies, not to mention insurance companies, have long recognized the link between motor vehicles, teenage operators, and unfortunate results.  For the insurance guys this has resulted in higher rates & claims.  For the record industry it’s led to a bunch of hit records, particularly in the late ‘50s & early ‘60s.

For oldies aficionados, few names evoke a more immediate response than J. Frank Wilson – “the Last Kiss guy”.  Not much of a recording career, but when you place #2 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1964, who cares – this song is the KING of the ‘Crash & Heartbreak’ segment forever.  BTW, the line “I gotta be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world” has always frightened me a lot – jeez, I hope that’s not how it works.  Anyway, here’s J. Frank and his biggest hit:

The next selection is designed to wring every ounce of teenage angst out of the listeners and it clearly succeeded because when it was released in 1959 it was actually banned on a host of radio stations because it was “too sad”.  It eventually fought its way through to the top of the Billboard Charts but wow, “too sad” to play???  Speaks to the era, I guess.

Teen Angel is a simple story song with a tragic plot: car stalls on the railroad tracks, boy & girl make it out safely, girl gets creamed when she goes back to fetch his HS ring.  Hey look, people die all the time trying to save pets, so who are we to judge her motive (I’m sure it would have taken months to get the ring replaced & by then – who knows – he might have moved on).  Anyway, grab some tissues and listen up:

Although it’s clear that guys are always driving (I mean, we’re talking ‘50s-‘60s) so far it’s been the girls who’ve paid the price.  Now it’s time to turn the tables with the Shangri Las’ ballad about that bad boy, The Leader of the Pack.

Pretty thin story line but it’s tough to convert a modern-day tragic tale (good girl, motorcycle hood, dad hates him, skid, crash) into Romeo & Juliette…UNLESS someone has overlaid the song onto video from Marlon Brando’s Wild One movie.  The song’s still a top pick but the video makes it better (listen but don’t watch if you’re a purist):

A Touch Of Motown

Flight of Fancy – imagine that in the late 1800s all promising British authors were funneled into a single publishing house – Londontown – because no one else would take a chance on Brits.  Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Hardy, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Kipling, Stoker, Wells, Verne, Wilde.  And Londontown pumped out bestsellers at a pace theretofore unequaled because it ignored the prejudice against Brits, focused on the talent, and people LOVED it.

Fast-forward to the 1960s–90s and the real-world, real-company that created the real-funnel of incredible black talent into their studios – Motown.  Londontown didn’t happen because it wasn’t necessary – Motown did happen because it was necessary – and, man, was it good at focusing on the talent.

Just like the Brit authors, it’s pretty much impossible to “rate” Motown artists – so for me at least it all comes down to memories & the songs that pop to mind right this minute.

‘My Girl” by the Temptations will always be #1 on my Motown list.  Memory: junior year at college, 8 am Sunday morning before Temptations afternoon concert, all alone standing behind David Ruffin to buy a newspaper at the quad.  Tall, slim, shades and wearing a leather jacket with fringe – absolutely the coolest guy I’ve ever seen.  And then, later that afternoon he stepped forward & sang this.

Smokey Robinson is the quintessential Motown artist, i.e., the best – song writer, producer, performer – the perfect representative.  His songs cut through macho bravado and address feelings that guys actually have but never express – tough terrain.  I think the best of his very long list of great tunes is “Just To See Her”.

One of the first & most unforgettable Motown songs from my youth  was a boy-girl duet that continues to make the rotation on pop stations to this day.  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, is classic Motown R&B and is certainly on the short list of most important records produced by the label.  Plus, of course, it’s a really cool song.

Thanks, Motown, for creating such a great platform for the dozens of artists you sponsored through the years – unbelievable variety of talent, unforgettable list of songs.

Let’s Go Nuts

“Oldies” used to signify some kind of ballroom dancing, where the last thing you’d ever hear was “Let’s Go Nuts”.

Sorry if that’s what you’re looking for, but “oldies” to me means “vintage” which means “proven” which means any time in the past 50+ years which, for some of us, means “blow the doors off”.  Here’s a taste for the wild-men out there:

“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.  There’s simply no other song that captures its era better – sex, drugs, and rock n’roll – GO FOR IT, BABY!

“Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard.  If you don’t think this is among the best R&R songs EVER, we need to talk.

And then we come to Ayl Rose…scary, huh?  Makes me uncomfortable too.  But this is one kick-ass song! Guns n’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine

Face it, the world would be a much duller (and quieter) place without guitars and skinny, drugged-up guys screaming into a mic.   Let me know if you agree (or not).