Thursday, 22 January 2009

Story Songs #3 - Kinks, Elvis, Jerry Reed, Jim Croce, Keith West, Mark Wirtz

Third in a series - find more stories on How Marvellous...

I'll confess to struggling to think of more songs that arguably relied upon a good story to make the charts, at least without the terrors of actually researching the subject (rather than the details); however, a tune came into my head whilst walking, which memory said was more reminiscing than story-telling... but on reflection, I think it fits the bill perfectly, being by far the biggest selling Kinks single for many years, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Come Dancing - The Kinks
State of Confusion (1983)
website | buy

Hmm, well while I conjure up something else that proves my point, it'd be a shame not to air some other story-songs, right?; although at the risk of seeming to ignore Jerry Reed's undoubted talents - it's possible that a decent tale helped more than a little to propel this next tune to the dizzy heights of #53 in the US Country charts in 1967. Elvis loved the song, and especially the guitar sound, which Jerry reprised on Elvis's cover version, recorded in the same year.

Mildly interesting to note that this only hit #43 for Elvis after it's '68 release, but reached #28 in the US and #1 in the US Country chart in 1981.

On to the music then...

Guitar Man - Jerry Reed
The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed (1967) - tho' this is from a later compilation

Ever the populist, I'd better include the more famous cover.
Guitar Man - Elvis Presley
originally a 1967 single

both the above are annoying shortened - that's compilations & best-ofs for you I suppose.

My memory (or lack of it) suggested a much greater amount of story-telling on this next one than listening to it revealed; a vivid imagination perhaps?, and given the oh-so-catchy chorus, this doesn't fit the bill really; it'd likely have been a hit without the meagre background story we get. Still, it certainly suggests a story, not least because of the title & origin, so it's in.

Excerpt from a Teenage Opera (Grocer Jack) - Keith West
7" single - 1967
This version is from A Teenage Opera: The Original Soundtrack Recording (1996)

Given the 1967 release, when I was just three years old, it's slightly odd how well I remember Grocer Jack - maybe it was a Junior Choice favourite of Ed Stewart?.

There was another (two according to Wirtz, but wiki says four) single release from the same Teenage Opera project, although despite Tony Blackburn plugging it, #38 was all that 'Sam' managed. Easy to see why, I'd say - no über-catchy chorus, much weaker melody; even a special radio-edit didn't help. OK then, we're talking stories, & Sam has one too, so let's give it a whirl.

Sam - Keith West
7" single - 1967
A Teenage Opera: The Original Soundtrack Recording (1996)

Being somewhat of a completist, here's the only other song I can speedily find from the intended Teenage Opera production, which I gather was hoped to be an animated musical, in the Yellow Submarine vein. No Keith West this time - I think it's Mark Wirtz, who conceived the whole thing, on vocals... also a single release on Parlophone in '68

(He's Our Dear Old) Weatherman - Mark Wirtz
A Teenage Opera: The Original Soundtrack Recording (1996)

The 'original' soundtrack recording is a bit of a fib. to put it mildly; the album's an ok listen, but certainly doesn't represent Mark Wirtz's vision of the project... see his comments about the release.

Back to the plot now, and saved by the bell - my brain just spouted out Bad Bad Leroy Brown, which I believe illustrates the (near forgotten) point splendidly (even allowing for Jim Croce's subsequent hits); it's also stupendously good - nice to end on a high note.

Bad Bad Leroy Brown - Jim Croce
7" Single - 1973

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