FUNNY MEN WHO GOT HENDRIX STARTED

Observer Magazine 8.12.13 had an extract from a new biography of Jimi Hendrix – Starting At Zero: His Own Story (Bloomsbury) – put together by Alan Douglas and Peter Neal from Jimi’s own words, written and reported.

His first band, he recalled, “used to play stuff by people like the Coasters”.

That’s enough for me to set out on a little essay on the Coasters, who were probably the best combination of funniness and funkiness to come out of the 1950s – partly because they were among the first  to pick up on the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, when the writers were both still just 18, and were rewarded with first refusal on lot more.

The Coasters spun off from a Los Angeles doo-wop outfit called The Robins, billed as Bobby Nunn and the Robbins when they recorded what may have been Leiber & Stoller’s first sale, That’s What The Good Book Says http://tinyurl.com/lutzrov/ – in 1951.  Actually, there is some disagreement in the internet histories and Jimmy Witherspoon might have just beaten them to it with Real Ugly Womanhttp://tinyurl.com/oojawrc/

Anyway, the following year, Lieber & Stoller wrote Kansas City, first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield and later a hit for Wilbert Harrison.  They went on to help launch Elvis by supplying him with Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Love Me and Don’t.  They provided Leader Of The Pack to the Shangri-las and Is That All There Is? to Peggy Lee and Pearl’s A Singer to Elkie Brooks.  And much much more.

But through the 50s and 60s, their fallbacks and favourites were The Coasters, who just got them so well and did them so well, despite an ever-changing line-up.  Together, they charted 24 times.

An earlier essay in this series – http://tinyurl.com/o2oqjar/ – discussed Hog For You Baby, a song which only saw the light of day because Lieber & Stoller wrote it just on the funny side of filthy and the Coasters made it work that way.

Another good example of transgression made comical was Everybody’s Womanhttp://tinyurl.com/m9pj8gh/ –  which has never had much attention but which is a startlingly candid confession of a young man’s antsy-pantsiness.  It was on the flip side of D.W. Washburn when that was released as a single, in 1968. Far as I can see,nobody has ever posted the lyrics, so here they are, for the record …

Look at that beautiful strut,

On the girl in the yellow hat.

You know I love her butt,

Why can’t my  baby look like that.

Everybody’s woman looks better to me than mine.

Everybody’s woman looks better to me than  mine.

I’m sitting in the church on Sunday,

Trying for a better life.

But I can’t take my eyes,

Off the deacon’s pretty wife.

(chorus)

I went to see my doctor,

To straighten out my head.

I told him my problems,

And this is what he said …

(chorus twice and fade out).

I would have recommended the Coasters version of Down Home Girl, later made famous by the Stones, as perhaps the most soulful production to come out of the five-star collaboration under discussion, but a bit of research puts me right.  On YouTube, ScotIrishLass80 has pointed out that it was written not by Leiber and Stoller but by Stoller (the words man) and Artie Butler, a session musician and studio geek.  She also, rightly, says the Coasters were not the first to record it and the first version, by Alvin Robinson, is the best … http://tinyurl.com/5svvymy/

Finally, I do not want to waste a nice little discovery – an edit of the Coasters version of Down Home by TNA Soundsystem, two guys called Tim Edwards and Andrew Willson of Playa Del Rey, California. Hear it at http://tinyurl.com/q2ou2am/ and check out Tim’s blog at http://aeso.wordpress.com/ for more interesting reworkings.

* For more like this go to https://hack4hire.wordpress.com/category/online-and-off/

Advertisements
This entry was posted in a) the front page, aa) online and off and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment welcome, if you can - site still unfinished.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s