1968: was it a good thing?



1968: was it a good thing?

Postby peterchecksfield » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:34 am

Obviously the big record sales in 1968 (after a decade of struggles) were well deserved, but I can't help thinking that Jerry & the people around him were suddenly very afraid to be musically adventurous. Once they'd found a successful 'formula' they seemed very reluctant to move away from it (at least for 4 or 5 years).

Here's just some of the more adventurous things Jerry did during 1960-1967:

* Instrumentals ('In The Mood' / 'I Get The Blues When It Rains')

* A motown cover ('Money')

* A twist update of an old R&B song ('I've Been Twistin'')

* Rocked-up Hoagy Carmichael ('Hong Kong Blues')

* UK invasion-influenced R&B ('Bread & Butterman')

* Harpsichord instead of piano ('Seasons Of My Heart' / 'Rockin' Pneamonia & The Boogie-Woogie Flu')

* Protest song / car commercial ('Lincoln Limousine')

* James Brown influenced funk ('Shotgun Man')

In late 1967 he was starting shows with the very modern sounding 'It's A Hang Up Baby', & in early 1968 he was singing songs inspired by Shakespeare! But all of this suddenly went out the window once 'Another Place, Another Time' hit the charts.

Of course, he made many fantastic recordings during the late 60s & early 70s, but the arrangements & instrumentation quickly became very predictable. Even when he was recording unadventourous country songs a few years earlier we'd hear things like a baritone sax solo ('Skid Row'), something which never would've happened in 1969.

Thoughts anyone?
Last edited by peterchecksfield on Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:43 pm

the arrangements & instrumentation quickly became very predictable


Being Devil's advocate, I might suggest that, at the time, Don Gibson didn't agree ...

Rocked-up Hoagy Carmichael ('Hong Kong Blues')?.... You want rocked up 1920s jazz music? Try "Sweet Georgia Brown".... or "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone"

You want a controversial song with a message? ..how about "Reuben James"

Harpsichord instead of piano? Big deal! How about drums, guitar, fiddle - all used in performance on TV circa 69/70!!

Post 1968 success also allowed JLL to record and issue a Gospel album which, unless it had been on a low-budget, local market basis, probably wouldn't have happened... whilst recording occasionally for low-budget labels could well have been how he'd have ended up, in between just playing the occasional Richard Nader shows alongside lots of erstwhile teen-idols with bubble-perms and fat guts.

Heck, the adventure started in 1968...(okay, that's maybe putting it a little too strongly!)

But the answer to the question 'was 1968 a good thing?' - absolutely YES!

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Postby peterchecksfield » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:00 pm

Andrew McRae said:
Being Devil's advocate, I might suggest that, at the time, Don Gibson didn't agree ...

Rocked-up Hoagy Carmichael ('Hong Kong Blues')?.... You want rocked up 1920s jazz music? Try "Sweet Georgia Brown".... or "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone"


Two fantastic recordings, though they still had a very nashville/country backing.

You want a controversial song with a message? ..how about "Reuben James"

I forgot about that one! I've always really liked this (though for some reason it's amongst Peter Hayman's least favourite JLL recordings). We won't mention 'Black Mama' though...

Harpsichord instead of piano? Big deal! How about drums, guitar, fiddle - all used in performance on TV circa 69/70!!

Unfortunately the 'Many Sounds' shows weren't widely seen, but at least 'Mystery Train' in Sweet Toronto / Keep On Rockin' was.

Post 1968 success also allowed JLL to record and issue a Gospel album which, unless it had been on a low-budget, local market basis, probably wouldn't have happened... whilst recording occasionally for low-budget labels could well have been how he'd have ended up, in between just playing the occasional Richard Nader shows alongside lots of erstwhile teen-idols with bubble-perms and fat guts.

OK, I'll give you that (oops, I think my argument is wearing a little thin now!).

Heck, the adventure started in 1968...(okay, that's maybe putting it a little too strongly!)

But the answer to the question 'was 1968 a good thing?' - absolutely YES!


OK, maybe you're right. But I sometimes wonder what would've happened if the success had come a few months earlier & with 'Soul My Way'. At the very least I think we would've had many more great 'soul' songs like 'You Don't Miss Your Water' & 'Hold On I'm Coming', but much sooner...I still think he concentrated a little too much on country music for 3 or 4 years, & it wasn't until 1972 / 1973 that he (or the people around him) felt confident enough for him to record exactly as he wanted.
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Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:30 pm

But I sometimes wonder what would've happened if the success had come a few months earlier & with 'Soul My Way'. At the very least I think we would've had many more great 'soul' songs like 'You Don't Miss Your Water' & 'Hold On I'm Coming', but much sooner


You and me both! I have the same fantasy. And, with no disrespect to Jerry Kennedy, I sometimes wonder 'if only' "Soul My Way" had actually been recorded in Memphis, by Quinton Claunch and Stan Kesler, with the Goldwax team - how much more 'low-down and dirty' might it have been? JLL could have been the king of 'blue-eyed soul' in '67.. an intriguing might-have-been.

One of the cruellest ironies in JLL's recording history is that when he finally got to a studio with Kesler in charge it was 200 miles too far east, at the wrong end of the Teneessee section of 'Interstate 40', leading to the eponymous crap issued in 1974... in my book the nadir of Jerry's recording career.

At least we did eventually get a decent gritty southern soul album out of Memphis, in the shape of "Southern Roots"
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Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:37 pm

I still think he concentrated a little too much on country music for 3 or 4 years,


I can see your point, but I think it's sometimes too easy to overlook the variety that was actually on offer in amongst the 'standard' country material of 68-71. If push came to shove, I'd probably take "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" as my favourite set from that period, and I'd argue that 'buoyed' by the preceding commercial success, Jerry Lee (and those around him) did allow a quite adventurous approach on that one, with a broad range of songs and 'styles'.

And, of course, another project/album which definitely would never have seen the light of day but for the 'license granted' by commercial success of '68 was "Together"...
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Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:56 pm

Instrumentals ('In The Mood' / 'I Get The Blues When It Rains')

* A motown cover ('Money')

* A twist update of an old R&B song ('I've Been Twistin'')

* Rocked-up Hoagy Carmichael ('Hong Kong Blues')

* UK invasion-influenced R&B ('Bread & Butterman')

* Harpsichord instead of piano ('Seasons Of My Heart' / 'Rockin' Pneamonia & The Boogie-Woogie Flu')

* Protest song / car commercial ('Lincoln Limousine')

* James Brown influenced funk ('Shotgun Man')


One further thought occurs... I think a lot of people might argue (in some cases with a certain amount of justification) that many of the recordings you've identified are amongst some of the least popular or least well-regarded in Jerry's long recording history. So perhaps we're a conservative bunch, and don't actually like too much experimentation?! (? - that should start some interesting discussion!). Though I'd definitely excuse 'Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie-Woogie Flu' and 'Hong Kong Blues' from that!
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Postby peterchecksfield » Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:14 pm

Andrew McRae wrote:
I still think he concentrated a little too much on country music for 3 or 4 years,


I can see your point, but I think it's sometimes too easy to overlook the variety that was actually on offer in amongst the 'standard' country material of 68-71. If push came to shove, I'd probably take "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" as my favourite set from that period, and I'd argue that 'buoyed' by the preceding commercial success, Jerry Lee (and those around him) did allow a quite adventurous approach on that one, with a broad range of songs and 'styles'.


I agree that this is one of his greatest albums, & it seemed to be the first time since his 'comeback' that he really loosened-up (lots of great ad-libs!).
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Postby peterchecksfield » Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:21 pm

Andrew McRae wrote:
Instrumentals ('In The Mood' / 'I Get The Blues When It Rains')

* A motown cover ('Money')

* A twist update of an old R&B song ('I've Been Twistin'')

* Rocked-up Hoagy Carmichael ('Hong Kong Blues')

* UK invasion-influenced R&B ('Bread & Butterman')

* Harpsichord instead of piano ('Seasons Of My Heart' / 'Rockin' Pneamonia & The Boogie-Woogie Flu')

* Protest song / car commercial ('Lincoln Limousine')

* James Brown influenced funk ('Shotgun Man')


One further thought occurs... I think a lot of people might argue (in some cases with a certain amount of justification) that many of the recordings you've identified are amongst some of the least popular or least well-regarded in Jerry's long recording history. So perhaps we're a conservative bunch, and don't actually like too much experimentation?! (? - that should start some interesting discussion!).


Whether they all actually 'work' or not isn't that important (to me anyway), what's important is that they were willing to experiment. For instance, compare the Smash version of 'Rockin' Jerry Lee' to the Elektra recut. The Elektra version may have been wilder, but the arrangement was mostly very predictable (though no-one could've predicted just how bad those backing singers could sound!). The Smash version in comparison tries to do something a little different to what is basically just another mediocre 12-bar rock & roll song.


Andrew McRae wrote:Though I'd definitely excuse 'Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie-Woogie Flu' and 'Hong Kong Blues' from that!


I agree with those too, but I'm also probably one of the few people on the planet who thinks 'I've Been Twistin' is one of the greatest records ever made! :shock:
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Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:29 pm

I'm also probably one of the few people on the planet who thinks 'I've Been Twistin' is one of the greatest records ever made!


I agree! But only, perhaps, in the literal sense, given that it really was 'made', by splicing together two different recordings!!
:wink:

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Postby Henry » Fri Aug 03, 2007 2:10 pm

peterchecksfield wrote:
(though no-one could've predicted just how bad those backing singers could sound!).


Hello you Experts
Well i don,t agree with you Peter that the backing singers sounds bad.Actually i like those courus lines"Rockin Jerry Jerry Lee i,m the rockiest guy on piano that you ever did see"
I just reasently bought the cd "Pretty Much Country" and i really miss the backing singers at the song"My Fingers do the talking".To bad they edited away the"Do the Walking Do the Walking Do the Walking"

Nice to read all your comment anyway.Rock on
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Postby Perk » Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:02 pm

Well i don,t agree with you Peter that the backing singers sounds bad


Same here. I have never been fond of backing singers overall, but for once i actually liked them on the Elektra cut of "Rockin Jerry Lee".

Perk



[/quote]
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Postby bluesinc. » Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:53 pm

fame should have come sooner, or maybe not with another place another time, maybe they should have tried one more, whatever....
it´s too much country for me 69-72, these are the records i play at least. in 73 they started trying out something again, like 63-68. i´m more interested in such recordings tahn in most of these similiar country songs
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first there was dorothy and then came jane, look out myra you´re looking insane, c´mon jaren you´re struttin´ the stuff, i think i´ll take pumpkin cause i can´t get enough
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Postby martin bates » Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:47 pm

At any time during Jerrys career he has recorded in a variety of styles,and during the 'country' period that was no exception; but did his personal life & circumstances affect his recordings around this time ? the split with Myra,loss of his parents, the Church recordings,Gospel album the 'tear in my beer' ballads..........a lot of those songs seemed to be "touching home" (sorry) .....as he got on his feet again emotionally as well ,possibly. financially he started to strutt his stuff a little more.

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Postby Rocky » Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:19 pm

Guess it depends if you lived in North America or Europe/UK if 1968 was a good thing. By 1967, Lewis was nearing the final days of his Mercury contract, when they took him country. He was selling about ten of each release. Then he hit big-time with the red-necks and shot to the top of the country charts. If this had not happened, and they kept him in the rock/blues field, I'm sure he would have faded into obscurity. No other labels wanted to sign him by late 1967. The British invasion and the group-thing had taken over the charts. Going the country music route brought him back. In the late 60s and 70s country music was big in North America. Lewis was re-discovered. By going country he was later able to return to the pop charts with such hits as "Me and Bobby McGee", "Chantilly Lace", and "Drinkin' Wine". He then had some say and was able to bring out such albums as "London Sessions" and "Rocks On". He only lost it when he brought out such horrible tracks as "Meat Man" and "No Headstone on my Grave", both of which bombed and made NO charts.
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Postby peterchecksfield » Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:39 pm

Rocky wrote:If this had not happened, and they kept him in the rock/blues field, I'm sure he would have faded into obscurity.


I'm sure he wouldn't have, no more than Fats, Richard & all the others did...

He might've even stayed in better shape if he'd had less financial success later on.
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