Paul McCartney at Yankee Stadium 7/16/11

Sir Paul

Paul McCartney at Yankee Stadium 2011


Alex Chilton

I just woke up so I have to get this dream down right away,

I was in a deli, standing behind this guy when I realized it was Alex Chilton.  I said to him, “You’re Alex Chilton.”  He turned and smiled.  I said, “You wrote and sang The Letter, when you were in the Boxtops.  I have a later album of yours, when you were on your own.”  I tried to remember the name of the album but couldn’t.  He didn’t say a word and neither did the other guy he was with.  They just continued to smile.  Chilton was waiting for the turkey sandwich he had ordered.  The alarm sounded, I woke up.  Damn, I wish I could remember the name of the album.  Gotta get ready for work.  I’ll look for it later. 


I’ve been wracking my brain all day, trying to remember the name of the album,  (notice I’m talking album, not tape or CD) to no avail.  I’m thinking about the dream off and on throughout.  Earlier in the dream I was in another deli, but there was seating in this deli and in that part of the dream, or maybe it was an earlier dream and I merged them,  I had ordered a turkey platter with stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce and I was arguing with somebody about the food.  Many of my dreams include arguing-it’s a constant theme with me, this arguing.  Maybe the next go-round with therapy, (a whole other subject) I’ll ask about the constant arguing.  Anyway, at work I was trying to remember the name of the album and then I started wondering if the Alex Chilton in the dream looked like the real Alex Chilton.  Dream Alex had light, curly, afro-ish hair and he was smiling-almost laughing.  Him and the guy he was with were exchanging knowing glances and I wondered what that was about.  Neither spoke throughout this probably 90 second dream, but it was so vivid.  I pulled the album when I got home.  It was third from the last, of course.  As I’m looking at the covers I keep asking myself what made me buy some of this music because alot of it seemed so middle-of-the-road, but maybe time and constant radio play has made it seem so?  Men At Work, A Flock of Haircuts/Seagulls, Fleetwood Mac, Tears for Fears (and Mad World wasn’t even on it), Pat Benetar (ugh).  I must have had to order some of this stuff from Columbia Record House and had limited choices…..I know, simple justification, you’ll say.  OK, OK, in my younger life I may have been more MOT Road.  SO, I get to Alex and the picture is familiar.  His face is like that in the dream.  I haven’t looked at that cover in 15+ years.  So, I ask, what brought me to him, or him to me?  Who knows.  Maybe I should lay off the Tylenol PM. 

I’m rambling here.  The name of the album is “Feudalist Tarts”.     

The Flinstones

Animator Joseph Barbera, half of the legendary duo of Hanna-Barbera has died. Barbera, 95, created a host of cartoon characters, from the Flintstones to the Jetsons and Tom and Jerry.After founding their animation studio together, Hanna and Barbera went on to create iconic characters that live on today, from Yogi Bear to Scooby Doo.Joe Barbera was born March 24, 1911, in New York City. He tried his hand at many professions that included banking and illustrating magazines before stumbling into animation. In 1937, he moved to Hollywood to join the fledgling MGM animation unit. It was there that Barbera meet Bill Hanna.Media critic Leonard Maltin says the two made a natural team. “When you are dealing with 24 frames a second, a gag has to be timed to the split second,” Maltin says. “Bill Hanna had that skill. Joe Barbera’s great strength was gags… no one was faster or more inventive or more precise than Joe Barbera.” Hanna and Barbera’s first MGM cartoon, Puss Gets the Boots, was released in 1940. It was not only a hit but it was the first cartoon featuring a cat named Tom and a mouse named Jerry.Hanna-Barbera went on to work exclusively on the Tom and Jerry series for the next 17 years, until MGM closed down the animation unit in 1957.”There they are with seven Academy Awards on their shelf and a smooth-running machine,” says Maltin, “a wonderful staff of designers, artists and animators and background painters — and they are all out of work, overnight.”Of the time, Barbera said, “I found myself in a position to go out and sell, and sell the new cartoons we were creating.”In 1957, Hanna-Barbera formed their own production company and sold their first new cartoon, Rough and Ready, to television. With full sound available, the pair needed voices for their work. In the person of Daws Butler, Hanna-Barbera found many: The actor became the voice of most of their classic characters, including Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Elroy Jetson.For the next three decades, Hanna-Barbera produced a long string of uninspired but popular cartoon shows, including Scooby Doo, Where are You? and The Smurfs. Their work also included several successful motion pictures, like an animated version of Charlotte’s Web and a live action Flintstones film. Barbera continued to work after Bill Hanna’s death in 2001. And in 2005, at the age of 94, Barbera directed his first Tom and Jerry theatrical short since 1957.Together, Hanna and Barbera were pioneers who forged the way for shows like today’s The Simpsons and South Park.Independent producer Joe Bevilacqua is producing a documentary on

My Love Affair With John Glenn

I was a kid, living at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico when I became aware of the space program. I decided I was in love with Astronaut John Glenn, and wanted to travel with him into space. Each day after school I would get my paper and pencil and go sit in front of the big blue post office box a few blocks away from my house and write him letters. Sometimes I brought my 5 year-old sister with me. The letters basically said the same thing: “Dear John Glenn, I love you and want to travel in space with you. I saw you on T.V. and I am not afraid to go in a spaceship to explore the galaxy. We can get married and travel together. Please write back to me and let me know when you will come and get me. My sister can’t go, she is too young. I live at 134 Lemay Street.”

I would then fold the letter, (sans envelope and stamp) and put it in the mail box. I would hide to watch the postman pick up the mail, (remember, it’s a Federal CRIME to touch mail or mail boxes that are not yours) to ensure my letter went on it’s way. I waited. In fact, I’m still waiting.

Melanie Safka – Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born 2-3-47 in Astoria, NY) is a singer-songwriter and is known simply as  Melanie.  She performed at Woodstock.  The inspiration for “Lay Down” apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set. A gospel-boosted genuine one-off that combined high drama with Melanie’s trademark hippy sincerity, the recording became a hit in both Europe and here in the spring and summer of 1970. The B-side of the 45 single featured Melanie’s spoken-word track “Candles in the Rain”. In 1970 Melanie was the only artist to brave the court injunction banning the Powder Ridge Rock Festival and played for the crowd on a homemade stage powered by Mr. Softie trucks. Her biggest US hit was the novelty-sounding 1972 number one, “Brand New Key”. She has been awarded three gold albums. Three of Melanie’s compositions were hits for The New Seekers: “Look What They’ve Done to My Song Ma”, “Beautiful People” and “The Nickel Song”.

Since 1969 Melanie has released almost one album a year. With one exception her albums have been produced by her husband, Peter Schekeryk. Her three children – Leilah, Jeordie and Beau-Jarred – are also musicians. Beau-Jarred is a guitarist and accompanies his mother on tour.

In 1999, Meredith Brooks covered “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” with backing vocals by Queen Latifah.  The 2003 hip-hop track “The Nosebleed Section” by The Hilltop Hoods sampled “People In The Front Row”.  In 2004 Melanie released Paled by Dimmer Light, which is co-produced by Peter and Beau-Jarred Schekeryk, including “To be the one”, “Extraordinary”, “Make it work” and “I tried to die young”.

Although she is viewed by many as the definitive “flower child” she identifies herself politically as a Libertarian rather than a Liberal. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.


Dream Lover Bobby Darin

There’s been considerable discussion about whether Bobby Darin should be classified as a rock & roll singer, a Vegas hipster cat, an interpreter of popular standards, or even a folk-rocker. He was all of these and none of these. Throughout his career he made a point of not becoming committed to any one style at the exclusion of others; at the height of his nightclub fame he incorporated a folk set into his act. When it appeared he could have gone on indefinitely as a sort of junior version of Frank Sinatra, he would periodically record pop/rock and folk-rock singles whose principal appeal lay outside of the adult pop market. At one point he started calling himself Bob Darin and recorded songs with vague anti-establishment overtones that could be said to be biting the largely bourgeois hands that fed his highest-paying gigs. It may be most accurate to say that Darin was, above all, a singer who wanted to do a lot of things, rather than make his mark as a particular stylist. That may have cost him some points as far as making it to the very top of certain genres, but also makes his work more versatile than almost any other vocalist of his era.

When Darin had his first hits in the late ’50s, he was a teen idol of sorts, albeit a teen idol with much more talent and mature command than the typical singer in that style. The novelty-tinged “Splish Splash” was his breakthrough smash, followed by “Queen of the Hop” and the ballad “Dream Lover.” There was a slight R&B feel to Bobby’s delivery that may well have influenced R&B-pop/rock singers such as Dion, though it would be an exaggeration to call Darin a blue-eyed soul man. In late 1959, he found a new direction when the swinging “Mack the Knife,” a tune from Brecht-Weill’s Threepenny Opera musical, made number one. The song came from an album of pop standards, heralding his move toward light big band jazz, which was consolidated by the Top Ten success of “Beyond the Sea” in 1960.

In the early ’60s, Darin had mostly abandoned rock for the adult pop market, becoming a huge success on the Vegas-nightclub circuit, and moving into the all-around entertainer mode with starring roles in movies (including one as a non-singing jazz musician in John Cassavetes’ Too Young Blues). He also continued to score regular hits with the likes of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “Things,” and “Lazy River.” To keep people guessing, there was also a hit cover of “What’d I Say” and some country tunes (one of which, “You’re the Reason I’m Living,” made it to number three on the pop charts). Around 1963, he put a folk section into his nightclub act that employed guitarist Roger McGuinn, then a couple of years away from fame as the leader of the Byrds.

Darin didn’t make the expected retreat into Rat Pack land when his records stopped making the upper reaches of the charts in the mid-’60s. In 1965, there was a rather nice self-penned jangly folk-rocker, “When I Get Home,” that become a British hit for the Searchers. Another 1965 flop, “We Didn’t Ask to Be Brought Here,” was an unexpected antiwar tune. When he made his return to the Top Ten in late 1966, it was with a cover of a gentle Tim Hardin folk-rock song, “If I Were a Carpenter.” His final Top 40 hit the following year, “Lovin’ You,” opted for material by another major folk-rock composer, John Sebastian.

Darin may indeed have been far hipper and more politically aware than the average nightclub act, covering tunes by Dylan and the Rolling Stones, participating in a 1965 civil rights march to Alabama, and penning some Dylan-influenced songs of his own in the late ’60s. It doesn’t seem accurate to say that this was the true Bobby Darin, shedding his show-biz skin for something that came to him more naturally; in 1967, the same year he covered Jagger-Richards’ “Back Street Girl,” he also recorded material for an album entitled Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Dolittle. By the early ’70s he working Vegas and similar joints again, exchanging his blue jeans for a tuxedo, and hosting a TV variety series. In a much odder turn of events, he was now recording for Motown, though these efforts met little success.

Afflicted with a rheumatic heart, Darin was always aware that his time might be limited, and he died near the end of 1973 during open-heart surgery. He left behind a considerable quantity (and diversity) of recorded work, and underwent a critical reevaluation of sorts, especially among rock critics, which might have aided his election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. A 1996 four-CD box set, divided into thematic discs, attempted to put his wide-ranging efforts into perspective. In 2004, actor Kevin Spacey starred as Bobby Darin in the feature film biography Beyond the Sea. Spacey also directed the film and sang Darin’s songs for the film, which were released as the film’s soundtrack. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide & Wickipedia

Marty Robbins Don’t Worry

No artist in the history of country music has had a more stylistically diverse career than Marty Robbins. Never content to remain just a country singer, Robbins performed successfully in a dazzling array of styles during more than 30 years in the business. To his credit, Robbins rarely followed trends but often took off in directions that stunned both his peers and fans. Plainly Robbins was not hemmed in by anyone’s definition of country music. Although his earliest recordings were unremarkable weepers, by the mid-’50s Robbins was making forays into rock music, adding fiddles to the works of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. By the late ’50s, Robbins had pop hits of his own with teen fare like “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation).” Almost simultaneously, he completed work on his Song of the Islands album. In 1959, Robbins stretched even further with the hit single “El Paso,” thus heralding a pattern of “gunfighter ballads” that lasted the balance of his career. Robbins also enjoyed bluesy hits like “Don’t Worry,” which introduced a pop audience to fuzz-tone guitar in 1961. Barely a year later, Robbins scored a calypso hit with “Devil Woman.” Robbins also left a legacy of gospel music and a string of sentimental ballads, showing that he would croon with nary a touch of hillbilly twang.

Born and raised in Glendale, AZ, Robbins (born Martin David Robertson, September 26, 1925; died December 8, 1982) was exposed to music at an early age. His mother’s father was “Texas” Bob Heckle, a former medicine show man who told his grandson cowboy stories and tales of the traveling show. Robbins became enraptured by the cowboy tales and, once he became a teenager, worked on his older brother’s ranch outside of Phoenix, concentrating more on his cowboy duties than his studies. Indeed, he never graduated from high school, and by his late teens, he started turning petty crimes while living as a hobo. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy to fight in World War II, and while he was in the service, he learned how to play guitar and developed a taste for Hawaiian music. Robbins left the Navy in 1947, returning to Glendale, where he began to sing in local clubs and radio stations. Often, he performed under the name “Jack Robinson” in an attempt to disguise his endeavors from his disapproving mother. Within three years, he had developed a strong reputation throughout Arizona and was appearing regularly on a Mesa radio station and had his own television show, Western Caravan, in Phoenix. By that time, he had settled on the stage name of Marty Robbins.

Robbins landed a recording contract with Columbia in 1951 with the assistance of Little Jimmy Dickens, who had been a fan ever since appearing on Western Caravan. Early in 1952, Robbins released his first single, “Love Me or Leave Me Alone.” It wasn’t a success and neither was its follow-up, “Crying ‘Cause I Love You,” but “I’ll Go On Alone” soared to number one in January 1953. Following its blockbuster success, Robbins signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose and joined the Grand Ole Opry. “I Couldn’t Keep From Crying” kept him in the Top Ten in spring 1953, but his two 1954 singles — “Pretty Words” and “Call Me Up (And I’ll Come Calling on You)” — stalled on the charts. A couple of rock & roll covers, “That’s All Right” and “Maybellene,” returned him to the country Top Ten in 1955, but it wasn’t until “Singing the Blues” shot to number one in fall 1956 that Robbins’ career was truly launched. Staying at number one for a remarkable 13 weeks, “Singing the Blues” established Robbins as a star, but its progress on the pop charts was impeded by Guy Mitchell’s cover, which was released shortly after Robbins’ original and quickly leapfrogged to number one. The process repeated itself on “Knee Deep in the Blues,” which went to number three on the country charts but didn’t even appear on the pop charts due to Mitchell’s hastily released cover. To head off such competition, Robbins decided to record with easy listening conductor Ray Conniff for his next singles. It was a crafty move and one that kept him commercially viable during the peak of rock & roll. The first of these collaborations, “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation),” became a huge hit, spending five weeks at the top of the country charts in spring 1957 and peaking at number two on the pop charts, giving him his long-awaited breakthrough record.

After “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation),” Robbins was a regular fixation on both the pop and country charts until the mid-’60s. The Burt Bacarach and Hal David composition “The Story of My Life” returned Robbins to the number one country slot in early 1957 (number 15 pop), while “Just Married,” “Stairway of Love,” and “She Was Only Seventeen (He Was One Year More)” kept him in teen-pop territory, as well as the upper reaches of the charts, throughout 1958. In addition to his pop records, Robbins recorded rockabilly singles and Hawaiian albums that earned their own audience. During that time, he began a couple of business ventures of his own, including a booking agency and a record label called Robbins. He also ventured into movies, appearing in the Westerns Raiders of Old California (1957) and Badge of Marshal Brennan (1958), where he played a Mexican named Felipe. The films not only demonstrated Robbins’ love for Western myths and legends, but they signalled the shift in musical direction he was about to take. Over the course of 1958 and 1959, he recorded a number of cowboy and western songs, and the first of these — “The Hanging Tree,” the theme to the Gary Cooper film of the same name — became a hit in spring 1959. However, the song just set the stage for Robbins’ signature song and biggest western hit, “El Paso.” Released in the summer, the single spent six months on the country charts, including seven weeks at number one, while hitting the top of the pop charts. A full album of western songs, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, became equally successful, reaching number six on the pop charts, and by the mid-’60s, it had gone platinum.

“El Paso” began a very successful decade for Robbins. “Big Iron,” another western song, followed its predecessor to the Top Ten of the country charts in 1960, but it wasn’t until 1961 that he had another huge hit in the form of “Don’t Worry.” Fueled by a fuzz-toned guitar (the first country record to feature such an effect), “Don’t Worry” spent ten weeks at number one and crossed over to number three on the pop charts. The following year, “Devil Woman” became nearly as successful, spending eight weeks at number one; it was followed by another number one, “Ruby Ann.” Between “Don’t Worry” and “Devil Woman,” he had a number of smaller hits, most notably the Top Ten “It’s Your World,” and for the rest of the decade, his biggest hits alternated with more moderate successes. With his career sailing along, Robbins began exploring racecar driving in 1962, initially driving in dirt-track racing competitions before competing in the famous NASCAR race. However, car racing was just a hobby, and he continued to have hits in 1963, including the number one “Begging to You.” The following year, he starred in the film Ballad of a Gunfighter, which was based on songs from his classic album.

Robbins’ chart success continued throughout 1964, before suddenly dipping after he took Gordon Lightfoot’s, “Ribbon of Darkness” to number one in spring 1965. For the remainder of the year and much of the next, his singles failed to crack the Top Ten, and he concentrated on filming a television series called The Drifter, which was based on a character he had created. He also acted frequently, including the Nashville exploitation films Country Music Caravan, The Nashville Story, and Tennessee Jamboree and the stock-car drama Hell on Wheels. Though “The Shoe Goes on the Other Foot Tonight” reached number three in 1966, it wasn’t until “Tonight Carmen” reached number one on the country charts in 1967 that his career picked up considerably. During the next two years, he regularly hit the Top Ten with country-pop songs like “I Walk Alone” and “It’s a Sin.” Robbins suffered from a heart attack while on tour in August 1969, which led to a bypass operation in 1970. Despite his brush with death, he continued to record, tour, and act. Early in 1970, “My Woman My Woman My Wife” became his last major crossover hit, reaching number one on the country charts and 42 on the pop charts and eventually earning a Grammy award.

Robbins left Columbia Records in 1972, spending the next three years at Decca/MCA. Though “Walking Piece of Heaven,” “Love Me,” and “Twentieth Century Drifter” all reached the Top Ten, most of his singles were unenthusiastically received. Nevertheless, he sustained his popularity through concerts and film appearances, including the Lee Marvin movie A Man and a Train and Guns of a Stranger. In March 1974, Robbins became the last performer to play at the Ryman Auditorium, the original location of the Grand Ole Opry; a week later, he was the first to play at the new Grand Ole Opry House. The honors and tributes to Robbins continued to roll out during the mid-’70s, as he was inducted into Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame in 1975. That same year, he returned to Columbia Records, and over 1976 and 1977 he had his last sustained string of Top Ten hits, with “El Paso City” and “Among My Souvenirs” reaching number one. Following this two-year burst of success, Robbins settled into a series of minor hits for the next four years. In October 1982, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Two months later, he suffered his third major heart attack (his second arrived in early 1981), and although he had surgery, he died on December 8. In the wake of his death, his theme song to Clint Eastwood’s movie Honky Tonk Man was released and climbed to number ten. Robbins left behind an immense legacy, including no less than 94 charting country hits and a body of recorded worked that proved how eclectic country music could be. ~ Hank Davis, All Music Guide & Wikipedia

Desmond Dekker

There are times in my life when a song causes me to have a physical reaction to it. This is one of those songs. It opened up something inside my brain-an exposion, of sorts, that took me over. I knew when I heard “Israelites” that something had changed and shifted in my world. Later, I realized I could recognize when music was about to change how people were going to reacted to it in great sweeping waves. Does anybody else feel it? Tell me what songs they are and why they changed how we listen to music.

Probably no other Jamaican artist has brought more international acclaim to his island home than Desmond Dekker, barring, of course, Bob Marley, but Dekker came first. Most people’s introduction to the island’s unique musical sound came via the singer’s many hits, most notably “Israelites” and “0.0.7. (Shanty Town).”

Born Desmond Dacres in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 16, 1942, the star-to-be was orphaned in his teens. Left to earn a living on his own, he apprenticed as a welder. It was his workmates who first noted his vocal talents, as the youngster sang around the workshop. With their encouragement, in 1961 the young man decided to have a go at recording and auditioned for both Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and Duke Reid at Treasure Isle. Neither man found anything remarkable about this young hopeful and sent him on his way. Not discouraged, Dacres next tried his luck with Leslie Kong, owner of the Beverley’s label. He auditioned before the stable’s biggest hitmaker, Derrick Morgan, who immediately spotted the young man’s potential. However, it was to be two long years before Kong finally took him into the studio, waiting patiently for him to compose a song worthy of recording.

In 1963, Dacres presented Kong with “Honour Your Father and Mother,” and the producer knew the wait had been worth it. Upon its release, the song’s heartfelt message soared to the top of the Jamaican charts. Having been renamed Desmond Dekker, the new star followed up with “Sinners Come Home” and “Labour for Learning,” which were also successful. However, it was with his next release, “King of Ska,” that Dekker’s star was truly established. Backed by the Cherrypies, aka the Maytals, the boastful song, a raucous celebration of ska in all its glory, swiftly attained classic status and remains one of the genre’s masterpieces. Before the year was out, Dekker had found his own backing group, the Aces, a quartet of singing siblings — Carl, Clive, Barry, and Patrick Howard — initially known as the Four Aces. Together the five men cut a slew of excellent ska-fired singles, such as the jubilant “Get Up Edina,” the advice to “Parents,” the bouncy love letter “This Woman,” and the sublime “Mount Zion.” All were big hits.

However, as can be seen by the titles, Dekker’s initial appeal was as a respectful young man (admittedly with a penchant for admonishing misbehaving young ladies). That would all change in 1967. Derrick Morgan helped set the stage with his trio of rudeboys-go-to-court songs beginning off with “Tougher Than Tough,” which featured Dekker and his brother George on backing vocals. Wisely, Dekker himself steered clear of what swiftly turned into a judicial soap opera, instead he rocketed “0.0.7. (Shanty Town)” into the Jamaican charts. Set to a sturdy rocksteady beat, the song quickly became a rudeboy anthem and established Dekker as a virtual rudeboy icon. Across the water in Britain in the wake of its own mod revolution, the Jamaican singer was seen as one of the mod’s own. The single looted and shot its way into the U.K. Top 15, and Dekker immediately set off on his first visit to England. The response there astonished him, and he was trailed everywhere by mods almost acting as informal bodyguards. More rudeboy hits followed, including the indeed soulful “Rudy Got Soul and “Rude Boy Train.” Others were often in keeping with the more temperate subjects of Dekker’s past: the religious-themed “Wise Man,” “Hey Grandma,” the warning for “Mother’s Young Girl,” the lovelorn “Sabotage,” the bouncy “It’s a Shame” (wherein another girl gets a telling off), and the inspirational “Unity” (which took second place at Jamaica’s Festival Song Competition that year). One of the most evocative was “Pretty Africa”; one of the earliest repatriation songs composed, it’s haunting beauty and yearning quality has kept it a strong favorite. “It Pays,” another hit from 1967, features some of the most exquisite falsetto harmonies ever to be recorded and showcases the Aces as their best. Although none repeated the success of “0.0.7.,” Dekker remained a powerful force in the U.K. and a superstar at home. Many of the hits from this era were included on the singer’s debut album, which was naturally titled after “0.0.7. (Shanty Town).”

In 1968, the singer unleashed the mighty sufferers’ lament “Israelites” on an unsuspecting world. For half a year, the song simmered on the U.K. charts, finally coming to a boil in March, when it topped the chart. Meanwhile in the U.S., the song had also begun to rise, peaking thee months later just inside the Top Ten. Dekker had achieved the dream of every Jamaican artist, to break into the U.S. market. He was the first to do so, at least with a pure Jamaican song. Although Dekker would never put another single so high into the U.S. charts, his career continued unabated both at home and in the U.K. The heartbreak of “Beautiful and Dangerous” was the perfect theme for another smash, as was the exuberant “Shing a Ling” and the equally infectious “Music Like Dirt.” For the more religiously minded there was “Writing on the Wall,” but what did buyers of that popular single make of the highly suggestive and equally successful “Bongo Girl”? Before the year was out, the Beverley’s label gathered up a group of hits from the year for the Action! collection.

In 1969, the upbeat “Problems” spoke directly to the Jamaican public, who bought the single in droves. But the year was defined by “It Mek,” wherein another girl gets her comeuppance. Dekker composed the song about his rambunctious younger sister. Initially released to muted response, the original was a charmer but lacked punch; the re-recorded version was much stronger and smashed into the Jamaican chart, then soared into the Top Ten across the water. “Pickney Gal,” however, although very successful in Jamaica, did less well in the U.K. As to be expected, Beverley’s rounded up this year’s hits for a new album, Israelites. In the U.K., fans were treated to This is Desmon Dekker, which the Trojan label also released in 1969, a virtual nonstop chart-busting party, drawn from the three Beverley’s sets.

By the time the ’70s dawned, Dekker had relocated to Britain and was spending most of his time touring. However, he continued releasing excellent singles, as always backed by the superb Beverley’s All Stars house band and accompanied by the exquisite Aces. Neither the band nor singers have ever received the credit they were due. The former’s flawless and sympathetic performances powered every one of Dekker’s songs, while the latter’s sublime soaring vocals and perfect harmonies helped define his sound. Unusually, Dekker’s next hit would not come from his own pen, but another’s. Leslie Kong had to argue vociferously to convince the singer to cover Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” but in the end, Dekker put his faith in the producer. He was rewarded with a timeless masterpiece that was a smash on both sides of the Atlantic. The song titled yet another hit-laden collection, released by Trojan in 1970 as well. In retrospect, it was fitting that Kong’s two greatest stars should have combined talents in this way. In August 1971, the great producer, still only in his thirties, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Unlike virtually every other artist on the island, Dekker had spent his entire career under Kong’s wing and was devastated by his death. (Barring a few very early recordings, Cliff had as well and was equally distraught and directionless in the aftermath.) The definitive collection of Dekker’s work with Kong is found on the Trojan label’s Original Reggae Hitsound of Desmond Dekker and the Aces compilation.

Initially at a total loss of how to now proceed, eventually Dekker found his way, and over the next few years, he released a steady stream of fine singles. However, he seemed to have lost his grip on Britain and none of his releases charted there. In hopes of remedying this situation, in 1974 Dekker joined forces with the pop production team Bruce Anthony (aka Tony Cousins) and Bruce White. Their session together resulted in the singles “Everybody Join Hands” and “Busted Lad,” released in the U.K. by the Rhino label. They had little impact however, but in 1975, another song from the session, “Sing a Little Song,” charmed its way into the British Top 20. A sugary offering with lush production, it was far removed from the work Dekker had done with Kong. A new album, titled Israelites, and not to be confused with the Beverley’s album of the same name, was also released this year. Although it featured a ferocious version of the title track, it then sank quickly into syrupy waters, much like “Sing…” After that and for the next five years, Dekker disappeared off the U.K. radar almost entirely. He continued to release records in Jamaica, although they were sporadic in comparison to his prolific output in the ’60s.

However, as the ’70s came to a close, the 2-Tone movement gave fresh impetus to the singer’s career, and Dekker inked a deal with the independent punk label Stiff. His debut for them was the wittily titled and Dekker album, which featured re-recordings of past hits, backed by the British rock band the Rumour. The Rumour, of course, were famous as the group behind Graham Parker. A series of singles also announced his return, with the first, a re-recorded “Israelites,” almost breaking into the Top Ten in Belgium. That was followed by “Please Don’t Bend” and a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” A fourth single, “Book of Rules,” was especially strong and produced by Will Birch, best known for his work with power pop bands. Dekker’s follow-up, 1981’s Compass Point, in contrast, featured mostly new compositions and was produced by Robert Palmer. Both it and the single “Hot City,” however, did poorly. Regardless, Dekker was in big demand on-stage, where he continued to be accompanied by the Rumour. As the 2-Tone movement disintegrated, so too did Dekker’s revival. In 1984, the singer was forced to declare bankruptcy, although this was less a reflection on him than on his past management.

Dekker veritably disappeared from view for the rest of the decade, with only Trojan’s 1987 Offical Live and Rare album breaking the drought, which was recorded during an enthusiastic live club appearance in London. A new version of “Israelites,” utilized in a Maxell tape ad, brought the singer back into public view in 1990. The following year, Dekker released King of Ska, again featuring re-recordings of past glories. Two years later, he entered the studio with an equally revitalized Specials for the King of Kings album. And although this set too featured old hits, this time around the vast majority weren’t Dekker’s own, but his personal heroes, including, of course, Derrick Morgan, the man who had discovered him.

In 1996, Moving On appeared, not one of Dekker’s best. However, the Trojan label has continued to keep the singer’s back catalog to the fore. Beginning back in 1974, when they released the humorously titled Double Dekker, across Sweet 16 Hits (1978), The Original Reggae Hitsound in 1985, and 1992’s Music Like Dirt, there’s never been a dearth of excellent Dekker material for fans to revel in. Other labels have jumped in on the action, and the shelves have quickly filled with compilations of the singer from varying stages of his career. Dekker’s vast catalog of music, songs that defined the ska, rocksteady, and reggae eras have provided the singer with a rich legacy that has rarely been equaled. On May 25, 2006, Dekker passed away at age 64 in his London home. ~ Jo-Ann Greene, All Music Guide & Wikipedia

The Left Banke-Walk Away Renee

This New York group pioneered “Baroque’n’Roll” in the ’60s with their mix of pop/rock and grand, quasi-classical arrangements and melodies. Featuring teenage prodigy Michael Brown as keyboardist and chief songwriter, the group scored two quick hits with “Walk Away Renee” (number five) and “Pretty Ballerina (number 15). Chamber-like string arrangements, Steve Martin’s soaring, near-falsetto lead vocals, and tight harmonies that borrowed from British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Zombies were also key elements of the Left Banke sound. Though their two hits are their only well-remembered efforts, their debut album (Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina) was a strong, near-classic work that matched the quality of their hit singles in songwriting and production.

The group’s internal dynamic wasn’t nearly as harmonious as their sound, and their history goes some way towards explaining their short career. Initially, the group made some recordings that were produced by Brown’s father, Harry Lookofsky. When these recordings failed to interest companies in signing the band, the Left Banke broke up, Brown moving to California with the group’s original drummer. A backing track for “Walk Away Renee” had already been completed, and the other members overdubbed vocals in Brown’s absence. The song was released on Smash and became a hit, and the musicians reunited to tour and continue recording.

Unfortunately, the group, which showed such tremendous promise, was quickly torn asunder by dissension. Due to the nature of their music (which often employed session musicians), the Left Banke’s sound was difficult to reproduce on the road, and one could sympathize with Brown’s wishes to become a Brian Wilson-like figure, concentrating on writing and recording while the rest of the musicians took to the road. A variety of guitarists, as both session musicians and ostensible group members, flitted in and out of the lineup; Rick Brand, credited as the guitarist on the first LP, actually plays on only one of the album’s songs. Adding fuel to the fire, Brown’s bandmates wanted to oust Brown’s father as the act’s manager. In early 1967, Brown went as far as to record a Left Banke single without them, using vocalist Bert Sommer.

That single (“And Suddenly”) flopped, and for a brief time in September 1967 the original members were recording together again. After just one single (“Desiree”), though, Brown left for good. Most of the group’s second and final album, The Lest Banke Too, was recorded without him. While it still sported baroque arrangements and contained some fine moments, Brown’s presence was sorely missed, and the record pales in comparison to their debut. Brown went on to form a Left Banke-styled group,Montage, which released a fine and underappreciated album in the late ’60s. He later teamed up to form Stories with vocalist Ian Lloyd.

There were some confusing son-of-Left Banke recordings over the next few years, although the band really came to a halt in 1969, after the second album. Brown, Martin, and unknown musicians made a few recordings in late 1969; then, oddly, the original group reformed for a fine early 1971 single on Buddah (“Love Songs in the Night”/”Two by Two”), although the record itself was credited to Steve Martin. And the original group, minus its key visionary Michael Brown, made an album’s worth of ill-advised reunion recordings in 1978. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide & Wikipedia