Some weeks there are multiple tracks from our AM Gold series deemed good enough to make the all-important Spotify playlist. Oh sure, there may be a few dissenting opinions about some songs. That’s kind of what this ongoing discussion is all about. This week one track gets in, and it wasn’t even close for the other five. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
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#11: Dionne Warwick, “This Girl’s In Love With You” – #7 U.K.
David Lifton -Â It’s strange that they went with Dionne’s version instead of Herb Alpert’s more famous original take from a year earlier. This is OK but I prefer Alpert’s. It’s cheesy as hell but I love theÂ crescendoes and the crashing piano part.
Jack Feerick – More musical pointillism from Burt â€˜nâ€™ Hal, this time with a country-shuffle beat, complete with fake Floyd Cramer piano runs. As with â€œRaindrops Keep Fallinâ€™ on My Head,â€ itâ€™s funny to hear Bacharach and David doing a pop pastiche, because theyâ€™re usually out in front of the curve. Itâ€™s like hearing Stravinsky doing hank Williams.
Say, dâ€™you figure thatâ€™s a real kazoo, or a $500-an-hour session horn player mimicking a kazoo?
Jon Cummings -Â Of all the BachaCrap we’ve covered,Â this must be the nadir. Herb Alpert’s original version — recordedÂ after Herb asked Burt whether he had any unused songs sitting aroundÂ (which might lead one to believe that Burt wasn’t entirelyÂ enthusiastic about “This Guy’s” himself) — was an inexplicable #1.Â Herb’s singing is just amateurish, though I suppose it matched theÂ comatose tune and banal lyrics. But Dionne, who probably intended theÂ song as album filler (since it had already been a hit), simply soundsÂ bored on her version. And why not? It’s dreadful. I’m going to stopÂ bashing on this song now, lest I get too worked up, but not before IÂ note that our extended Bacharach-fest in this column has made meÂ renege on my long-held certainty that Jim Morrison was the mostÂ overrated musical artist of the ’60s.
#12: Oliver, “Good Morning Starshine” – #3 U.S.
Lifton -Â Regardless of my feelings aboutÂ HairÂ (especially this song), it was definitely a great business decision to allow pop singers to record covers. The songs are capturing a moment rather than advancing the story, so they don’t need the context of the show to stand on their own (as opposed to, say, “Send In The Clowns”). Without these songs being as successful as they were, I doubt the show could have lasted as long as it did on Broadway.
Feerick – Roma, roma ma, Ga ga, ooh la la…
Iâ€™d forgotten the African feel of this arrangement â€” all the percussion and Zulu guitars, and is that a thumb piano I hear? Steel drums, maybe? Itâ€™s slower than I remember, too â€” with a kind of lazy, post-coital bliss. Which is appropriate, I guess.
You know that feeling, though â€” when itâ€™s too late to sleep, maybe even into the wee hours of the morning, and maybe you have to work in a few hours and maybe you donâ€™t, but youâ€™ve been up all night and not thinking about the morning, thinking only about each other, and itâ€™s afterward and youâ€™re warm and happy, physically exhausted but not sleepy, not yet, and everything isÂ so quiet, so quiet; the trains that run by all the time have stopped, and there is no sound of traffic, and you get up and stretch and stand at the window and thereâ€™s a pale radiance of pre-dawn, and your loverâ€™s skin looks like mother-of-pearl in the light of the dying moon coming through the glass, and you look away and look down and thereâ€™s aÂ deerÂ as God is my witness, a deer come from who knows where, grazing at the bushes outside your building, so unlikely that it may as well be a unicorn, and you call your lover from the bed to come and see, and for a long moment itâ€™s just the two of you in the pallid light in the presence of a private miracle.
You know that feeling, right? Thatâ€™s the feeling that â€œGood Morning Starshineâ€ utterly fails to capture. Note to Rado and Ragni: â€œlazy and stupidâ€ is not the same as â€œinnocent.â€ And Oliver, God bless him, sings it way too hard.
Cummings -Â The song is a trifle, built almostÂ entirely on two nice bars of melody and a lot of lyrical mumbo-jumbo;Â and Oliver’s performance is massively overblown — particularly thoseÂ ridiculously extended background notes. Yet somehow it’s easy toÂ understand the appeal of “Good Morning Starshine,” simply because itsÂ message is so facile and positive. Those commenters on YouTube whoÂ reminisce about singing the song to their newborns can’t be deniedÂ their sentimentality, and it would be rude for us to try. (BTW, Jack,Â I don’t hear anything African in it — except, perhaps, a dippyÂ hippy’s not-close approximation of what an African chant sounds like.Â But HairÂ was billed as “a tribal rock musical,” wasn’t it? Why wereÂ both Hair and Woodstock able to get away with use of the wordÂ “tribe”? No wonder Russell Means and Leonard Peltier got so pissed offÂ during the early ’70s…)
#13: Jay & The Americans, “This Magic Moment” – #6 U.S.
Lifton -Â I can never hear anything by Jay & The Americans without thinking of the stories about when Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were in their touring band before forming Steely Dan. They’d take bets nightly on whether or not Jay would hit the high note on “Cara Mia.” Other times, just for fun, they’d play the song down half a step without telling the guitarist so Jay would get mad at him for being out of tune.
FeerickÂ – “This Magic Moment” passed, for Jay and the Americans, in about 1958, never to return.
Cummings -Â The Drifters’ original hit really should haveÂ been enough. It’s a great song to hear on the radio, or as a sock-hopÂ cliche in American GraffitiÂ or Grease. But in comparison with theÂ original, J&tA’s version sounds (at best) like a Johnny RiversÂ knockoff — and (at worst) like one of those anonymous cover versionsÂ that appeared on sub-K-Tel hits anthologies (Adam VIII, anyone?). TheÂ fact that J&tA’s charted higher with the song (in 1969!) than theÂ Drifters did takes the crime into Pat Boone territory.
#14: The 5th Dimension, “Wedding Bell Blues” – #1 U.S., #16 U.K.
Lifton -Â Well, at least there are noÂ sassafrasÂ and moonbeams in this one.
Cummings -Â My favorite 5th Dimension track, and anÂ irresistible backstory. We talked back in 1968 (when dealing with theÂ 5D’s “Stoned Soul Picnic”) about the mystery of Laura Nyro’sÂ longstanding cult appeal, and while I’m not as much a naysayer as someÂ of you guys, I’ve never been entranced by much of her music (or any ofÂ her albums). However, the melody line behind the phrase “But am I everÂ gonna see my wedding day?” is perfect in its plaintiveness, andÂ Marilyn McCoo’s voice has never been on better display than it isÂ here. PLUS, there’s that backstory: Nyro wrote the song back in ’66,Â and threw the name “Bill” in there for no particular reason. Then, aÂ couple years later, the 5D’s producer suggested they record the songÂ — at a time when McCoo and Billy Davis had become engaged, but hadn’tÂ gotten around to setting a date. I’m a huge sucker for serendipityÂ like that — not to mention the bookend that “Wedding Bell Blues”Â provides to “You Don’t Have to Be a Star,” which I adored when I wasÂ 11.
And yet … if we’ve already got the Cowsills’ “Hair,” Three DogÂ Night’s “Easy to Be Hard,” and “Good Morning Starshine” on thisÂ edition of AM Gold, why did the bozos at Time-Life not just go aheadÂ and put “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” on here as well, instead ofÂ saving it for the “’60s Generation” set that we’ll probably never getÂ around to covering while I’m alive? Ah, marketing…
Feerick -Â In other woids, just from waiting around for that plain little band of gold, a poy-son can develop a cold.
#15: Junior Walker & The All Stars, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” – #4 U.S., #13 U.K.
Lifton -Â A brief respite from the detritus in this installment. Yeah, it lacks the intensity of “Shotgun” and “Roadrunner” but it still sounds pretty good.
Feerick -Â It seems like a long way from â€œShotgunâ€ to this, but really, both of them are lessÂ songsÂ per seÂ than chants on which to hang sax solos. â€œWhat Does It Takeâ€ just happens to have a couple more chords.
Cummings -Â Isn’t this song heard much more frequently asÂ an instrumental these days? I hadn’t heard the lead vocals from thisÂ track in years, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the context inÂ which the instrumental hook is (or was) heard all the time, prettyÂ recently. Somebody help me out. In any case, the vocals are kind of aÂ mess, but that hook is a classic right up there with “Tighten Up” orÂ “Soulful Strut” (or “Shotgun,” for that matter).
#16: Mercy, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” – #2 U.S.
Lifton -Â It’s been a while since we’ve had a song that I had never heard before. Or maybe I had, and I fell asleep after about a minute of this piece of crap.
Feerick -Â For me, this song succeeds (where, say, â€Good Morning Starshineâ€ fails) in capturing the honey-drenched daze of new romance. Simplicity doesnâ€™t have to be simplistic, and â€œLoveâ€ manages to be plain-spoken without being insulting â€” all while the gender ambiguity of the lead voice adds a little shading; maybe â€œLove,â€ like love itself, isnâ€™t so simple after all.
Cummings -Â The first minute of this song featuresÂ the words “sunshine,” “flowers” and “love,” which made it suitable forÂ pop radio in 1969, in a monkeys-with-typewriters sort of way.Â Musically, it’s kind of like “Crimson and Clover” after a lobotomy.Â This song (and the group) were featured in a B movie called “FireballÂ Jungle” — which, if you think about it, doesn’t seem like a very goodÂ idea at all … a fireball in a jungle? Anyway, an interesting littleÂ twist to Mercy’s one-hit-wonder status: Wikipedia says that followingÂ the initial success of “Love” on an indie label, an LP emerged featuring the original single along with a batch of other songs by aÂ quickly formed act called “the Mercy.” A lawsuit pulled that recordÂ off the shelves, and the original Mercy got a Warner Bros. contractÂ and a one-way ticket to chart oblivion. Though the band’s leader, JackÂ Sigler, continued to trot out a version of the group as a touring actÂ as recently as 2005.