Tag Archives: Hang On Sloopy

T.G.I.F. – Ten Rocktober Chart Toppers

Since it’s Rocktober, I thought I’d revisit the charts.

When I was growing up in New York City, the local stations made a big deal about their weekly countdowns, and every week music fanatics (like me) were glued to the radio, ready to jot them down as they were played and guess which songs finished where. Forget Dick Clark and Casey Kasem, in NYC it was all about WABC and WMCA. At the end of the year they’d do their annual countdown and even mail you the final list if you sent in an envelope. Somewhere in a dusty attic box, I still have a few that I treasured as a kid.

I guarantee that when pop culture historians look at the tail end of the 1960s, they will rate that period as important to music history as the Industrial Revolution was to Western Civilization. Living through it was amazing. But even looking back on how the charts morphed over a decade, it’s obvious that a seismic shift had occurred.

So this week I give you Ten Rocktober Chart Toppers – the Number One hits from the first week of October. It’s only going to get stranger each Friday.

1963) Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton) – The early 60s was crooner heaven, as well as a haven for single-named teen idols. Four lads from Liverpool changed all that the year prior, but you don’t build Rome in a day. I can’t listen to this song anymore without picturing Dennis Hopper.

1964) Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison) – I still can’t believe that voice came out of that head. Orbison’s growl on the bridge just made a cool song even cooler – even Van Halen couldn’t ruin this gem.

1965) Hang On Sloopy (The McCoys) – The Ohio State National Anthem, this garage rock chestnut featured a teenage Rick Derringer and still sounds great. A very underappreciated band who cut some great pop sides and then morphed into Johnny Winter’s best band. (This rare version has the extra verse)

1966) Cherish (The Association) – Not quite rock, I know, but you must have that slow grind song for the prom, and this was it – plus it covered the pain of unrequited love! And if you want to punish this great vocal group for being wimpy, you have to give them props for “Along Came Mary”.

1967) The Letter (The Box Tops) – Teenage Alex Chilton hooked up with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham and cut one of the gruffest, blusiest vocals ever recorded. Absolute killer stuff, in and out in under two minutes and always sounds fresh when you hear it.

1968) Hey Jude (The Beatles) – Beginning its nine week run atop the charts, an instant sing-along classic and one of the longest tracks in chart history. Whatever happened to those guys?

1969) Sugar Sugar (The Archies) – If he could make a gazillion dollars with four actors, how much could Don Kirschner make from four cartoon characters who wouldn’t insist on playing their own instruments? This was the song that dethroned “Honky Tonk Women”…I am not making that up.

1970) Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Diana Ross) – Motown ruled the charts in the 60s but this version pales in comparison to the 1967 version by the great Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – a hit three years earlier.

1971) Maggie May (Rod Stewart) – Single and album simultaneously blew up and made rooster head a star. For a couple of years he and The Faces made the best music on Earth and then Rod followed the money, which he is still doing forty years later.

1972) Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me (Mac Davis) – And you wonder why people said “rock is dead”? Other 1972 chart toppers included “Candy Man” from Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson’s turgid “Ben” and Melanie’s screeching “Brand New Key”. The year was so lame that Gilbert O’Sullivan’s nasal “Alone Again Naturally” spent four weeks at the top, lost its place and then floated up again like a dead fish for two more.

Thankfully, album rock was there to save the day.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rousing Rockers

It’s involuntary, almost Pavlovian.

You’re somewhere – anywhere – and that song comes on. You find yourself smiling no matter what the discussion is about…the hips start to shake a little bit…the air guitar is sitting there in the case ready to go. And sure enough, whether you’re bellowing out your car window or softly singing the words under your breath in the store, you’re all in. If you’re in a lively pub, you join in with several other people you don’t even know, as all inhibitions disappear and you bond in the most common language this planet has…music.

I thought about this the other day when I was howling out the car window with Warren Zevon as “Werewolves of London” was blasting out of the speakers. Some songs just…resonate. They don’t have to be very lyrical (“Hang On Sloopy” isn’t exactly Shakespeare); in fact you might not even understand a word you’re saying (“Louie Louie“). But the best ones are usually a song that was massively popular but also resonates with some feeling of angst – lost love, alienation, rebellion.

Lots of people sing along with the final chorus  of “Hey Jude“, but not with as much passion as they will when”What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding” or  “Rockin In The Free World” comes on the jukebox (at least not where I hang out!)…and if the song was a monster when you were in your prime bar-trolling years, so much the better.

So here are Ten Rousing Rockers will release your inner teenager and break the ice in any social situation as you raise your glass, throw your arm around a stranger and share a moment. And since it’s Friday, why not start right this minute? Life’s too short to wait for five o’clock.

01)Brown Sugar” (The Rolling Stones) I said yeah..yeah..yeah…whooooo!

02)Born To Run” (Bruce Springsteen) Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

03)Love Shack” (The B-52s). I got me a car as big as a whale!

04)Rock and Roll All Night” (KISS) And party every day!

05)Maggie May” (Rod Stewart) Maggie, I wish I never seen your face!

06)You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC) She was a fast machine, she kept…what clean?

07)Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Southern Man don’t need you around anyhow.

08)We Gotta Get Outta This Place” (The Animals) If it’s the last thing we ever do!

09)Love Stinks” (J. Geils Band) And so it goes ’til the day you die.

10)Wild Thing” (The Troggs) You make everything…groovy.

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Blast From The Past: Rick Derringer

I’ve been a fan of Rick Derringer‘s music as long as he’s been making it. I played The McCoys singles to death, devoured every album he made with Edgar and Johnny Winter, defended every solo album against a horde of haters, and air-guitared to every axe duel he had with Danny Johnson on those Derringer albums. Now 62, he’s spent the better part of the last two decades recording blues and smooth jazz records and being a vocal supporter of Christian and Conservative issues, although he still tours and cranks out the classics (albeit sometimes with slightly altered lyrics).

His omission from the hallowed halls in Cleveland is an injustice; his body of work as a recording artist and producer and performer is proof positive of an amazing legacy. Iconic songs like “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo“, “Still Alive And Well” and “Hang On Sloopy” will continue to make kides jump out of seats long after he’s gone. And while I would love for him to crank out one more great rock’n’roll album, I’d happily settle for that country album he said he would make not long after All American Boy was released…

Cheap Tequila

I thought of him today for two reasons; I was playing the album whose review you will find below, and I saw that he will be a featured player in Ringo Starr‘s 2010 All Starr Band, which should do wonders to remind people that he is still out there playing with spirit and fire. Ringo has always been generous with the spotlight, and I’m sure those three songs mentioned above will ring out from summertime stages.

Here’s a link to the tour dates from Rick’s site.

Bear in mind that the review below was written ten years ago (almost to the day) for Consumable Online. A lot has changed since then – that great new label folded, Live In Cleveland did get released, and it’s now been an astonishing forty-five years that Rick Derringer has been rocking the world. Take a bow, Mr. Derringer.

He may not be in Cleveland’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but Rick Derringer was enshrined in mine years ago. From teen idol to third Winter Brother to guitar god to pop guy to blues man, Derringer has strapped on that guitar, hit the stage and kicked ass. Unfortunately, previous concert documents have not effectively captured what live audiences have enjoyed for so long. Derringer Live was good but spotty, and the King Biscuit release featured his last, weakest band lineup and too many guest stars. Only the radio promo Live In Cleveland  (there’s irony for you!) came close, but if the legitimate release has never made it to CD, don’t hold your breath for the promotional disc. A travesty.

Now that’s changed, thanks to Phoenix Media Group. With thousands of hours of live music tapes and radio  broadcasts at their disposal, the Phoenix Gems imprint will be used to get some classic (and in some cases, unheard) concerts out to the public. The first four releases feature The Tubes, Omar And The Howlers, Spirit, and this Derringer concert from late 1998 in Boston. Live At The Paradise Theater was the same show (and perhaps the same master tape) that was supposed to be released in 1998 under the Archive Alive label, but was shelved when the King Biscuit disc hit the market two months before. The sound quality is phenomenal, and if all Phoenix Media‘s shows are this crisp and clear, the market for live concerts just changed dramatically.

The first Derringer band, with axe whiz Danny Johnson, was more riff and jam oriented. After Johnson left, Derringer kept bassist Kenny Aaronson and brought in drummer Myron Grombacher. Recording as a trio (with some help from old pal Dan Hartman), If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You found Rick steering his band towards shorter, single oriented material. Needing a second guitarist for the road, he selected Neil Geraldo (who, with Grombacher, would anchor Pat Benatar‘s band for years afterwards). Although the band was only together briefly, Geraldo plays some great barrelhouse piano and trades leads on guitar, Grombacher is tireless, and Aaronson is an inventive, fluid anchor on bass. Sure, there’s the requisite speed-noodling on “Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo” and “Beyond The Universe,” and this talented group kept up with Derringer step for step.

What makes this disc really special are the moments when they absolutely rip through Derringer’s best mid-career songs. “Teenage Love Affair,” “Let Me In” (always Derringer’s best vocal) and the Chinn-Chapman hit “It Ain’t Funny” are on fire, while the finale of “Roll With Me,” “Back In The U.S.A.” and “Long Tall Sally” contain Derringer’s best work since the Roadwork album with Edgar Winter. The band was hot that night. Rick Derringer shows no signs of slowing down after over 35 years of rocking the world. Let this CD hold you over until he rocks your town again.

Ricky wiki

Some clips from the 2008 Derringer reunion tour.

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Blast From The Past: Johnny Winter And

Guitars? Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

Guitars? Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

I was watching a recently released DVD titled Johnny Winter Live Through The 70s, which contains some amazing early footage of one of rock’s best and most underrated guitarists. The footage varies in quality, but from acoustic blues runs to television performances to stage madness, Winter’s blazing fretwork is astonishing. I was very pleased to see Randy Jo Hobbs accompany him in a duo setting as well as on two clips from Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert (with Richard Hughes manning the double-bass drumkit). But I was surprised and disappointed that there was no footage that included Rick Derringer, because that’s when and how I jumped on the Johnny Winter bandwagon.

Johnny Winter And was the name originally used when Winter picked up The McCoys as his backup band. The McCoys had a massive pop hit with “Hang On Sloopy” and featured brothers Rick and Randy Zehringer (Rick would later change his name to Derringer) and bassist Randy Jo Hobbs. By the time this album was recorded, Randy had been replaced by powerhouse drummer Bobby Caldwell (Captain Beyond). I was familiar with The McCoys and had a few singles (I still like “Don’t Worry Mother”!) but knew little of Winter; in fact when I was on vacation with the family in Florida and a group of kids at the hotel asked me to go with them to Pirate World, I thought we were planning to see Jonathan Winters!  What I saw that night blew my mind, rearranged my brain and changed my life. To this day I’m not certain what parts of the album were from Florida and what was from the Fillmore, but it’s among the five best live rock records ever made. Seeing that show live was like opening the door to a blast furnace and getting every hair singed off your body in a nanosecond…and loving it.

If I could boil down the appeal of this album to a couple of words I would say passion and tone. From the moment that Caldwell’s drums launch “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” into orbit until the last note of  “Johnny B Goode” bleeds out, this band is on fire. And tone? Winter’s slide guitar work in “Mean Town Blues” is a master class, and Derringer’s rhythm and second leads define the word chunky. Whether blazing through Chuck Berry songs like two runaway trains or delicately dancing a slow blues, this was Guitar Hero material long before the game was invented. Beside and behind them, Hobbs and Caldwell are like a volcano belching molten lava (in perfect time, of course). This was four guys plugged in and gone, no commercial intent, no posing – just foot-to-the-floor rock’n’roll.

Johnny Winter plays Rolling Stones songs better than they do (“Silver Train”, anyone?) and his version of “Jumping Jack Flash” is amazing, but when he lets out that otherworldly howl before ripping into “Johnny B Goode” you know that he’d also gone after Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis that night. It’s almost forty years later and the hair on the back of my neck still stands up at that moment, just like when the smoldering cauldron of “It’s My Own Fault” starts to bubble over during the second solo. I don’t think Winter or Derringer were ever better than on this album.

My God, folks – this album retails for $6.99 on Amazon. Seven dollars for a life-changing experience is a pretty sweet deal, and I suggest you get a ticket on this ride ASAP. I’ve got this masterpiece on vinyl, on CD, and living in my memory forever, singed hairs and all.

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