Back in September of last year your musical Dentist posted the first batch of cruelly neglected songs that deserved to be drilled into America’s musical brain, but were left neglected in a pile of dusty vinyl due to poor promotion, bad timing or plain old dumb luck. There is no attempt here to put any of these pop treats in any sort of order and if a video exists we will start with a link.
1.The Bell Notes – Shortnin’ Bread
This five piece bar-band from Long Island, New York managed a #6 chart placing with their raw, but easy rock song “I’ve Had It” (written by members Carl Bonura and Ray Ceroni). A few months later they hit #76 with the primitive ballad “Old Spanish Town”. The following year in 1960 they could only graze the charts for two weeks at #96 with the far superior rocked up version of the classic old folk tune “Shortnin’ Bread”. Over the years this song was done (pre-rock) as a novelty by the likes of Al Jolson, Nelson Eddy and the Andrews Sisters to name a few. One can only ascribe the poor chart placing to bad timing as kids were generally passing on the raw rockers of a few years prior in favor of the smoother sounds from Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, etc by 1960. This song was played by countless frat rock bands at keg parties, however, so it wasn’t a total loss.
2.Ellen Foley – Stupid Girl
If Ms. Foley is remembered at all it is as the lady who went toe to toe vocally with Meat Loaf on the single “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” from the 1977 LP Bat Out of Hell. Even then if you saw the video you stupidly saw Karla DeVito lip-syncing to Foley’s vocal track. Two years later Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter produced this stompin’ rocker from the Night Out album that never saw the charts. This was a cover version of the old Rolling Stones B-side to the single “Paint It Black” that was even more anti-female than “Under My Thumb”. The Stones’ version wasn’t terribly noteworthy other than the misogynistic lyrics, while when sung as a straight out rocker by a real woman it became far more powerful.
3.Sailor – The Secretary
Sailor was a very interesting band that never hit in the U.S. but did manage to grab the attention of the U.K. with fine songs like “A Glass Of Champagne” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. They utilized an interesting back to back nickelodeon keyboard setup with synth, glockenspiel, piano, etc. Lead singer/guitarist/composer Georg Kajanus was in the band Eclection then teamed with Phil Pickett to eventually form Sailor (Pickett was later in Culture Club and co-wrote “Karma Chameleon”). After Kajanus left in 1978 the band fizzled out only to reform in 1989 with this pop confection that again went nowhere in the U.S. (it was likely not even released here). Kajanus left again in 1995, but the band has continued with an assortment of lead singers and players.
4.Mel Taylor & The Magics – The Creeper
Mel Taylor was one of least well-known and best drummers of the ’60s. He recorded this song originally with his band the Ventures for their Walk Don’t Run ’64 LP then the following year again for his solo album In Action. This song was in the vein of “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris as a instrumental with great drum breaks and had a great descending fuzz-guitar riff. My buddy Dan “Mr. D” Campbell used to pound the sticks on our band’s version while I plucked the old Gibson SG through my Vox amp (waiting for the next door neighbor to call and ask us to turn the volume down). Taylor sadly died of cancer at age 62.
5.Eddie Floyd – Big Bird
This song was written in London while Floyd was waiting to fly back to the U.S. for Otis Redding’s funeral and was and odd flop only hitting #132 in late 1967. Eddie was backed by the Booker T & The MG’s who gave the song a tough rockin’ soul sound. He is probably best known for “Knock On Wood”.
6.Marshall Crenshaw – Cynical Girl
There was a period of time after “My Sharona” stormed the charts that tunefully pop acts got signed by record companies. The fact that Crenshaw scored a #36 hit in 1982 with his “Someday, Someway” might be a minor miracle considering how unfriendly the airwaves became to music that harkened back to the early days of rock so it is really not a shock this song didn’t tear up the radio. Crenshaw portrayed Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba, but this song was more Phil Spector wall of sound pop and came from his self-titled debut album. Ever since, he has plugged away at his craft writing smart catchy songs for a cult following. Of late he has been filling in as lead singer for the Smithereens following the death of Pat DiNizio.
7.The Ambertones – Charlena
The Sevilles barely dented the charts at #84 back in 1961 with their version of this L.A. evergreen seemingly covered by every teen band back in the day. The Latino bands like the Blendells and the Premiers that played this kind of frat rock maybe scored one hit and were gone from the charts. In 1963 the Ambertones (more Hispanics) tried with their rocked up version of “Charlena” but couldn’t score on the national scene. Too greasy maybe, but a true classic.
8.Don & The Goodtimes – Hey There Mary Mae
Don Gallucci was the 15 year old organist in the Kingsmen when they recorded “Louie Louie” then went on to form his own band that managed a couple of easy pop records in 1967. They seemed to be a farm team for Paul Revere & The Raiders with guitarist Jim ‘Harpo’ Valley and Charlie Coe defecting to the bigger act giving up the top-hats for Revolutionary War garb. Valley sang and played guitar at this point with the Goodtimes on this 1966 garage rocker reminiscent of “Louie Louie” with a Raiders feel. The song was written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri who wrote a ton of great hits for the Grassroots, the Turtles, etc.
9.Fingerprintz – Bulletproof Heart
This one is a real headscratcher as it sounds like a surefire hit at least in England and yet it didn’t make it on either side of the Atlantic. The song comes from their second longplayer Distinguishing Marks which was released in 1980. It had a great catchy synth riff, excellent echoy production and a singalong chorus. An inferior re-recording of this song did manage to become a hit a few years later in Europe for the Silencers which was Jimmie O’Neill and Cha Burns’ next band after Fingerprintz. Jim Kerr of Simple Minds also covered this fine song for his 2010 solo album LostBoy! A.K.A. Jim Kerr.
10.Johnny Rivers – The Customary Things
When Johnny stormed the charts starting with his #2 remake of “Memphis” in 1964 he was no overnight sensation. John Ramistella put out his first record in 1956 with his band the Spades at age 16. As a solo artist the renamed Rivers (supposedly at the suggestion of Alan Freed) put out eleven flop singles before making it big. Number six in that run was this rocker that apparently wasn’t ready for the radio in 1959.
11.Jerry Smith – Drivin’ Home
Piano man Jerry Smith is an artist that really deserves a career retrospective ‘best of’. Smith nearly had a hit in 1961 with “Lil’ Ole Me” as Cornbread & Jerry (with Bill Justis). He then was the catchy piano sound on the vocal songs by the Dixiebelles’ hits “(Down At) Papa Joes’s” and “Southtown, U.S.A.” ’63/’64. Under his own hame he hit with the instrumental “Truck Stop” in ’69 then he did a series of records as The Magic Organ for Ranwood. This catchy 1970/71 single did very little in the U.S. but oddly made it big in Australia.
12.The Kinks – I Need You
Your Dentist would have flipped the single “Set Me Free” or at least made this pairing a double-sided chart hit in 1965. One assumes that it was deemed too similar to “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night”, but similarity hasn’t stopped record labels before. The driving tambourine and rockin’ riff push along Ray Davies’ snotty vocal that would read on paper like a love song, but as sung would have made any civilized lady lock her doors in fear.
13.Steve Alaimo – Denver
We here in the Mile High environs were the only ones who understood the merits, but this 1968 Atco single deserved to be a hit (it could only get to #118). We have continue to be paranoid that there is a coastal bias that always skips over this part of the U.S. for everything from hit records to football hall of famers (where the heck is Randy Gradishar, Louie Wright and all the other great Broncos that should be in Canton?). Florida transplant Alaimo must have felt the same about his chart success as he had nine singles in the Billboard Hot 100 without ever reaching the Top 40 – the most by any artist. The song was written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham who wrote hits for the Box Tops. For some reason your’s truly has always pictured a remake of this song with a full-blown Phil Spector wall-of-sound but it likely won’t ever happen.
14.Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Yellow Brick Road
On Denver underground radio back in 1967, this childlike confection from the increasingly weird Don Van Vliet sounded mighty catchy. After the amazingly nasty garage/blues single “Diddy Wah Diddy” from 1966, the Safe As Milk album was all over the place musically. It had some blues (“Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes, I Do”), but also some weirdness (“Electricity”) that only hinted at the strangeness that would overtake the music by the time of Trout Mask Replica.
15.D.L. Byron – Listen To The Heartbeat
Sorta like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers on steroids, this was too in-your-face to go anywhere on the charts back in 1980 (plus it was really short at under 2 minutes). This track led off his This Day And Age album. As a performer he didn’t do much, but Pat Benatar scored big in 1982 with his song “Shadows Of The Night”.
16.Denver, Boise & Johnson – Take Me To Tomorrow
When this single came out in 1968, John Denver was three years away from his breakout success with “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Denver native Michael Johnson a decade before his hit “Bluer Than Blue”. This trio was what had become of the Chad Mitchell Trio (David Boise had joined in 1966) as they were legally blocked from using that name after no original members were left. This catchy up-tempo song written by John Denver was considerably better than the version he recorded as the title song for his second solo album. The original sounded much like what Peter, Paul & Mary were recording in the late ’60s (such as “Too Much Of Nothing”) while the newer version seemed to be an attempt at soul gospel with a cheesy organ. Someone needs to post a better version online than this tinny recording from a record.
17.Gene Pitney – Playing Games Of Love
Would somebody PLEASE post this song online?! This fine production can be found on the 1968 Musicor double LP The Gene Pitney Story which mixed new tracks with older hits. While Gene had 24 chart singles on the hot 100, this was not one of them. It was written by the prolific U.K. writing team of Carter and Stephens (“There’s A Kind Of Hush”). Pitney passed at age 66 in 2006 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002.
18.The Distant Cousins – She Ain’t Lovin’ You
During the garage band year of 1966 you would have thought that this trashy rocker by the team of Larry Brown and Raymond Bloodworth would have at least tickled the charts. With help from Bob Crewe (the Four Seasons), the song was an original composition with Crewe producing and a kitchen sink percussive attack arranged by Herb Bernstein who was involved with a ton of hit records such as “Go Away Little Girl” and “Knock Three Times”.
19.Hawks – Lonely Nights
Another record from the short but prolific but not very record chart successful power pop era, Hawks were from Iowa. The production in 1981 was handled by Tom Werman who also produced Cheap Trick among others. This catchy song was written by lead singer Frank Wiewel and was on their outstanding debut Columbia album Hawks.
20.Susan Lynch – Office Love
Paul Collins’ band The Beat never got the acclaim that their first two Columbia albums deserved so it isn’t any surprise that this album they helped with musically didn’t do any better chart-wise. This song has a controlled but insistent Bo Diddley percussive sound till the middle instrumental break when the electric guitars really break loose. It is about a topic not terribly politically correct at this point, but it rocks and that is all that matters. It came from her Big Reward album released at the beginning of 1982.
21.The Zombies – Indication
The young version of your Dentist was a rocker only so songs like “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” seemed too tame. In 1966 when Denver’s Tiger radio 950 KIMN played this stompin’ Zombies single, however, your’s truly whipped out to the record emporium and plunked down his 50 cents plus tax for the Parrot records vinyl. It is good to see them getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame if nothing else than on the strength of their fab Odessey and Oracle LP. Lead singer Colin Blunstone and organist Rod Argent put out some fine music on their own as well.
22.Clout – Whatever You Want
Clout were an all-female (most of the time) South African late ’70s rock band in the same vein as Fanny. This nifty cover of the 1979 Status Quo U.K. #4 hit was only found on the U.S. Epic records release of their Six Of The Best album.
23.Gene Summers & His Rebels – School Of Rock ‘N Roll
From 1958, this flat out rocks and maybe was too raw for the kids back in the day (or maybe was simply not easily found on the small Jan records label). Great vocals and piano interplay. Texas native Summers put out a series of hot rockabilly singles including “Straight Skirt” and “Twixteen”. Have to give a thanks to Dave Stidman of Denver’s Wax Trax for hepping the Dentist to these great rockers many years ago as when this came out only kiddie records were being played by my five year old self. This James McClung composition has become a rockabilly standard.
24.The Clockwork Oranges – Ready Steady
Italian band I Pooh were renamed after the 1962 Anthony Burgess novel for their 1966 U.S. single release on Liberty (and Ember in the U.K.) as the Italian name didn’t exactly shout rock and roll. Admittedly it is an odd amalgam of chugging British Invasion rock with Beach Boys “I Get Around” vocals and with their off English intonations didn’t stand a chance on the charts. It is still a personal guilty pleasure.
25.The Alan Parsons Project – To One In Paradise
The first album by this collective was the 1976 concept album Tales of Mystery and Imagination Edgar Allan Poe. They were never a band as such being made up of players and singers that were assembled for each album (though over time the late Eric Woolfson took on a larger role as singer). The Hollies’ backup singer Terry Sylvester handles the gorgeous vocals on this gentle ballad from that LP. It would have made a fine single. Sylvester is still out on the road and was a truly nice guy to talk with after a 50th anniversary of the 1964 British Invasion concert attended by the R ‘N R Dentist and Mr. D in Washington, DC at the Birchmere. (Still don’t know why he wasn’t the obvious lead singer choice during Alan Clarke’s absence from the band in ’72-’73 instead of the odd person the Hollies went with – Mikael Rickfors).