Songs You May Have Missed #491


Tracey Ullman: “I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die” (1984)

Saccharine Alert! Tracey Ullman’s two mid-80’s albums may be too sweet for some, but for fans of bubblegum or 60’s girl group pop they are a treasure.

Despite Ullman’s dismissive attitude toward her short-lived career as a pop star, this may be the finest retro girl pop ever produced, making stuff by latter-day practitioners such as She & Him seem pale and watered-down by comparison. The first key element is the material: well-chosen, fairly obscure oldies mixed with more contemporary material by sympathetic writers such as titanic talent Kirsty MacColl. Then there’s the sparkling production, which takes the elements that made the original girl-group stuff so great and pushes it all over the top.

“I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die” was originally recorded by Peter Frampton’s pre-Humble Pie band The Herd (Pete’s at right in the below photo). Compare their version to Ullman’s and decide for yourself who sells the song more effectively. Even Tracey’s grunt (17 seconds in) trumps the boys. In fact it might just be the best girl singer grunt of all time.

the herd

The Herd

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Songs You May Have Missed #415


Tracey Ullman: “Long Live Love” (1983)

That Tracey Ullman would take on an old Sandie Shaw chestnut from 1965 seems particularly fitting, as Ullman’s shtick as a short-lived pop star was a revisiting of the sound and image Shaw epitomized 20 years earlier.

The multi-talented Ullman’s foray into retro girl-group pop in the mid ’80’s predated her later popularity as comic TV personality. Her musical legacy in America was that of a one-hit wonder, that one hit being the brilliant throwback pop gem and international hit “They Don’t Know”, a Kirsty MacColl cover.

But in her native UK she charted a total of six songs in the top 100 over a two-year period while recording for the punk Stiff record label. And as the infectious “Long Live Love” proves, Ullman had more than one fine musical moment before giving up her singing career.

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I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover! Part 2

In the interest of the betterment of your overall pop music knowledge/ability to spout random trivia…here’s another installment in the always popular (with me) I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover! series. Part 2 is subtitled: I Didn’t Know That Would Become a Series! Let’s dive in:


Our first three songs are examples of artists covering themselves; that is, revisiting songs they’d previously recorded with less well-known bands.

“Do Ya”-Electric Light Orchestra

Years Before Jeff Lynne’s “Do Ya” appeared on ELO’s 1977 A New World Record LP and peaked at #24 on the pop chart, he recorded a less polished version with The Move, a band that included English rock legend Roy Wood and another ELO member, Bev Bevan. Their version came with no strings attached.


“Somebody to Love”-Jefferson Airplane

Grace Slick’s band The Great Society recorded the original version of her “Somebody to Love”, as well as “White Rabbit”. Both later appeared on Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 Surrealistic Pillow album and are probably that band’s two most important/popular recordings. This clip suggests that Airplane was much the better band.


“Cherry Bomb”-Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Another member of The Runaways was mentioned in the previous post on this topic. This time it’s Joan Jett, whose “Cherry Bomb” was first recorded with that band. While both versions have their fans, neither exactly blew up (blew up I say) on the pop charts.


“Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)”-The Doobie Brothers

The Doobies proved their versatility in 1975 by following up their first #1 single–the bluegrass-flavored “Black Water”–with an old Holland-Dozier-Holland chestnut originally recorded ten years earlier by Kim Weston.


“They Don’t Know”-Tracey Ullman

British actress/comedienne and sometimes singer Tracey Ullman was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. although several of her singles were well-received abroad. Her schtick was to update the 60’s girl group sound, and “They Don’t Know” was an irresistible nugget of retropop. The backing vocals were supplied by the same woman who provided the song itself, Kirsty MacColl. Kirsty’s version is much the same–Tracey just upped the cute factor some.


“Big Ten Inch Record”-Aerosmith

This song certainly clashed stylistically with the rest of the classic 1975 Toys in the Attic album, but I think that was the point. It’s a safe bet to be the only Bull Moose Jackson song in most Aerosmith fans’ collections.


“Unchained Melody”-The Righteous Brothers

What we have here is your all-purpose guide to “Unchained Melody”, starting with the Righteous Brothers and moving backward in time. (We will ignore versions by LeAnn Rimes, Heart, The Sweet Inspirations and even Elvis Himself, all of whom recorded versions after the Righteous Brothers, none of whom should have bothered.)

The above clip is a little medley, a Bill Medley if you will, of snippets of the six versions of this song that matter. Here’s what you hear in succession:

  1. The newly recorded 1990 version done by the Righteous Brothers in response to demand created by the song’s inclusion in the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore film Ghost. This is not, however, the version which appeared in that movie. This version charted at #19 in 1990.
  2. The Righteous Brothers’ first hit version, which went to #4 in 1965 and climbed to #13 in 1990 after its inclusion in Ghost. Yes, incredibly they had two different recordings of their song chart at numbers 13 and 19 in the same year.
  3. Vito & The Salutations’ fast doo wop version from 1963. Sounds like a parody of the Righteous Brothers, but it actually came two years earlier.
  4. Roy Hamilton’s #6 hit from 1955
  5. Al Hibbler’s #3 hit from 1955
  6. Finally, Les Baxter’s #1 version, also from 1955 and the only time the song has gone to the top of the charts. If you count June Valli’s #29 hit of the same year, the song had four top 40 versions in 1955 alone, three of them top ten.

If you’ve always wondered why this song carries around such a strange title, it’s because Les Baxter’s original version was from the movie Unchained (which starred football star Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch).

p.s. Why don’t football players have nicknames like “Crazylegs” anymore?

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