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Andy Sullivan: Against The Grain

In 1968, the group Classics IV released a song called “Spooky”.  The first time I heard that title, without hearing the song, I thought “Oh, a Halloween song”.  No, I’m not kidding. Well, that’s not what it’s about.  It was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharp (Shapiro).  Written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr, which charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the U.S. pop charts.  Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Blue for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”.  It became a Halloween favorite and reached #3 in the U.S.  Atlanta Rhythm Section covered the song in August 1979.  Their version peaked at #17 in the U.S.  I’m partial to the 1979 version (for obvious reasons) but both are good. 

I learn a lot of items and tidbits from Michael Des Barres’ show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage (SiriusXM channel 21). The song “Go Now” is best known as a Moody Blues song from 1964. If you’re thinking you don’t know it, I’m betting you’d know it if you heard it. The song was originally recorded by Bessie Banks. A 1962 demo recording by Bessie of the song was heard by songwriters and record producer Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who re-recorded it in ’63 with arrangement by Gary Sherman and backing vocals from Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother). The song reached #1 in the U.K., #2 in Canada and #10 in the U.S. 

For the last one this week, I’m going WAY back. “Puttin’ On The Ritz” was written by Irving Berlin in May, 1927 and published in 1929. Fred Astaire and Harry Richman were just 2 that recorded the song in 1930. It was a musical that year. Fast-forward 52 years  later, in 1982 Indonesian-born Dutch singer Taco Ockerse, known professionally as Taco, had his biggest stateside hit with his synth-driven version of this Berlin classic. In fact, Taco’s entire catalog was made of classic covers. 

The expression “Puttin’ on the Ritz” means to dress fashionably.  It makes sense, then, that the song was used for several clothing store commercials back in the ‘80’s. I remember being home, this was before school days, and I heard the song on a commercial. I thought “wow, that’s catchy”.  Well, I guess that’s what I thought - I was 4. 

I hope you enjoyed this trip down musical memory lane as much as I enjoy writing them. 


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