August 10, 2010

A secret: The Great White Shank has a soft spot for ’50s and ’60s style doo-wop and pop. Truly.

Maybe because it’s from an era and a world I equate with being all innocent and simple, even though I know it wasn’t. And maybe that’s a good thing – after all, had I grown up in that era there’s a good chance with my luck I’d have ended up lying face down in some rice paddy in South Vietnam.

But more than anything else, I think perhaps it’s the harmonies that can nearly bring me to tears whenever I hear some of these songs. Romantic. Innocent. Clean. Simple. I dunno, it just makes me want to stroll into some half-empty Somerville bar on an early Saturday night, order me up a Sam Adams or two and a pizza, and play DJ on the jukebox until everyone gets sick of hearing the same kind of songs over and over. I mean, this stuff is the absolute freakin’ best.

I’m sure I’m missing some – and yes, dearies, I know I’m dating myself big time here – but here’s a Great White Shank “baker’s dozen” of great tunes from that bygone era:

13. The Duprees’ “Have You Heard” has great harmonies. Always loved their sound.

12. Marcie Blaine’s “Bobby’s Girl”. I dunno, I just like it – the echo applied on the chorus shows the hand of a very deft producer.

11. Etta James singing “At Last”. Bluesy. Wow.

OK, let’s get down to business.

10. Connie Francis doin’ “Lipstick On Your Collar” – a great early rock n’ roll tune. Turn this one up! Features a nice guitar solo in the James Burton style.

9. The Capris’ “There’s A Moon Out Tonight”. Listen to those harmonies at the very end. Unbelievable.

8. The Skyliners’ “Since I Don’t Have You” is simply mesmerizing.

7. The Duprees – again, one of THE all-time great vocal bands – singing “You Belong To Me”.

6. The Flamingos’ singing “I Only Have Eyes For You” behind that haunting arrangement and lonely piano. How romantic can you get?

5. Johnny Maestro and The Crests doing “Sixteen Candles”. Yowzah, that’s fine.

4. I’ve always loved The Poni-Tails’ “Born Too Late” – it just oozes cuteness.

3. Kathy Young and the Innocents’ “A Thousand Stars” is what freakin’ romance is all about. Great echo on that vocal. “Oh pretty baby won’t you hold me in your arms…”? I die from a thousand cuts, my darling…

These are, in and of themselves, great tunes. But there are two songs that, whenever I hear them, send me into the absolute ozone. Not Ronettes ozone, but pretty damned close. Whenever they come on the radio, Tracey knows better than to even breathe loudly, since my ears – hell, every fiber of my body – is tuned in to their exquisite sound. I almost feel unworthy to even listen to them, being the mere mortal I am. They are…

2. Ed Townsend’s “For Your Love”Madre di Dios, how can you beat those background singers and the incomparable sax solo? something about it makes my heart absolutely ache; if it doesn’t, yours you need to get yourself a transplant – fast!

1. Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – compares to The Belmonts backing Dion DiMucci on “The Wanderer”. I defy anyone – ANYONE – to find a song with the kind of sophisticated harmonies featured in this tune. Turn it up, WAY up, and listen hard – very hard!! – to the background voices, especially during both the middle eight and instrumental break. Two guys singing with vibrato, two aren’t – it’s what makes it, dontcha understand? Whoooooooooooooo! The absolute freakin’ best. Anyways, I die and go to heaven a dozen times whenever I hear those harmonies.

Madre di Dios, where did this music go? Where did the simply joy of singing about the love for someone go? I dare anyone to tell me this isn’t great stuff. Hmmm…maybe I was born too late after all.

Pool temp: 92 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:04 | Comments (4)
4 Comments »
  1. Dude…I have an entire collecton of Do Wop and the late fifties/early sixties cd’s…maybe, just maybe I will burn copies for you..there is one condition…you have to say, “I LOVE CHEESE GRITS.”
    It will be worth it…trust me.

    Comment by Jana — August 10, 2010 @ 4:18 am


  2. I LOVE CHEESE GRITS…on someone else’s plate. 🙂

    Comment by The Great White Shank — August 11, 2010 @ 7:53 am


  3. This stuff is usually a bit too pastel for my tastes but I have always loved The Wanderer. I usually prefer the edgier blues stuff from that era. There are a few, like Last Kiss, I can tolerate regularly. They’re more pop than doo-wop, though.

    Comment by Rob — August 11, 2010 @ 12:38 pm


  4. A little too “pastel”….? That’s a great phrase, I may try that on Jana – for example, “you know, Jana those cheese grits are a bit too pastel for my taste…”

    Or, to Dave E: “Y’know, Dave, that fish in your hand is a bit too pastel for my taste…”

    That’s great, thanks Rob – you made my day. 🙂

    (As you can probably tell, I’m easily amused….)

    Comment by The Great White Shank — August 11, 2010 @ 1:26 pm


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