Al Kooper, 1967, stage managing at Monterey Pop (in stereo)
Now, I’m not talkin’ about earBUDS that are really bad for your ear canals and can cause hearing damage; I’m talkin’ about a comparatively inexpensive, dependable set of the recording studio diehards — SONY Studio Monitor headPHONES MDR-7506s. Now that’s the way to listen to your iPod, computer, movies on your computer, etc. It’s great sound and pretty comfortable as well and if you don’t overamp the volume, they're much safer than those earduds. Okay — the preacher has stepped down and the former college professor now stands in his place once again.
I am queer for stereo mixes on headphones, especially songs that were recorded before stereo mixes and then gone back to and mixed in stereo. The reason I am perverted in their favor is that they are incredibly educational to someone such as myself (who produces and engineers recordings) who could not exist without a strong knowledge of the oldies listed here today. I can learn so much more by listening to these stereo mixes than one-dimensional, one-track monaural ones. I am not putting down mono — I am just preferring stereo myself for various reasons.
So here are ten amazing tracks that are not often heard in... uhhh... educational stereo!
Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.
We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.
1. "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted" — Jimmy Ruffin (2:52)
This was a landmark track for Motown. It was the only hit for Temptations lead singer David Ruffin’s older brother Jimmy and it was an amazing composition, especially musically. The music was written by William Weatherspoon and Motown arranger/composer Paul Riser. The lyric was written by Motown lyricist James Dean (!). It was a hit in the summer of 1966, and is even more striking in stereo. There was originally a spoken intro that was removed at the last minute in the mix by producer Mickey Stevenson, leaving that elongated unspoken instrumental passage in its place.
2. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" — George Jones (3:16)
If you’ve never heard this, grab a tissue before it starts. This is as good as a country record can be — one of the strongest lyrics of all time, a perfect vocal by legend George Jones, and perfect accompaniment and arrangement. Flawless production finishes off the package and it’s a great bonus to hear it in stereo. It was written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman. I will be eternally jealous as a songwriter... and fer sure as a vocalist.
3. "You Made Me So Very Happy" — Brenda Holloway (2:38)
This is where it all started — an obscure Motown track by an artist I got hooked on early. Grabbed the song, wrote an arrangement, and then got kicked out of the band I started and the rest is history. But this is the historical part you’ve NEVER heard — the original version I got it from. I also took ANOTHER Brenda track, "Together Til the End of Time," and cut it with Mike Bloomfield — but that's for another column, innit? This just sounds great after all this time (THIS version, that is).
4. "Surf City" — Jan & Dean (2:25)
Ya know that guy who's always sitting with Jack Nicholson at every Laker game? That’s Lou Adler of Monterey Pop, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Carole King, and Cheech & Chong fame. A lotta people don’t know he produced many of this duo’s hits. And here’s one of the biggest, in true stereo. “I got a ‘34 wagon and we call it a woody!” Surf City, here we come — outta BOTH speakers!
5. "Brother Louie" — Stories (3:21)
“Louie, Louie, Louie, Lou-EYE...” LOVE THIS! The guy behind the Left Banke, Michael Brown, formed this band along with lead singer Ian Lloyd. They had a couple of albums of original material but they covered UK band Hot Chocolate’s song “Brother Louie” and shazam — they had a huge hit in the States. So wha hoppens? Brown leaves the band to start The Beckies, which lasted one album, and Ian recorded nothing close to "Louie" as a follow-up 'cause he didn’t think it was the right direction for him. Thank God you can still get it AND in a great stereo mix.
6. "Any Day Now" — Chuck Jackson (3:22)
Back in the early '60s, Florence Greenberg, Luther Dixon, and Marv Schlachter of Scepter Records recognized the brilliance of songwriter Burt Bacharach and gave him carte blanche to produce all their artists. They were paid back immediately with their female discovery Dionne Warwick and then BJ Thomas, The Shirelles, and Chuck Jackson. Chuck made a few Bacharach singles, the best of which was “I Wake Up Crying.” For the life of me I cannot find a stereo mix of that great track. But this one is a beaut. With studio stalwarts Paul Griffin on keyboards and Vinny Bell on guitar, Bacharach's clever arrangements are almost three-dimensional in Scepter's Sensational Stereo. Here comes one NOW!
7. "True Love Ways" — Buddy Holly (2:59)
Clocking in at 2:59, which is eerily the month and year he died, this was one of his last sessions at the Pythian Temple in New York City. Most of his whirlwind catalog was cut in Clovis, New Mexico by songwriter/producer Norman Petty. In the end, Buddy started writing different songs and tried them with orchestras in New York produced by label A&R man/arranger Dick Jacobs. I like the behind-the-scenes intro on this gorgeous posthumous stereo mix from the '80s. Sam 'The Man' Taylor, a NYC studio legend, plays the wonderful tenor sax ad libs throughout. This was cut four months before Buddy died.
8. "Along Comes Mary" — The Association (2:27)
I believe this was their first of many hits, but what a strange composition this is. I actually met the author a little while later and he was, err... different. First off he was saddled with the moniker Tandyn Almer which was, at the least, memorable. The song is all over the place but the record somehow works and has actually stood the test of time. It still sounds original as all get-out almost 50 years later. That's when ya know you’re listening to something special. In stereo. However, this week's 'really useless coiffures' award is embarrassingly accepted by the Association below, even though they are still glaring at me.
9. "Fool for Ya" — The Impressions (2:44)
The music of Curtis Mayfield always spoke to me in a special distinct way. He was a first-rate songwriter with an amazing lyric arsenal as well as guitar-crafted chords and melodies from his unique tuning methods. And then that gospel-tinged singing voice of his. A career of fortunate assistance: first Jerry Butler and then massive amounts of hit singles with his group The Impressions. This is late-period Impressions, just before Curtis went solo. This 6/8 time stunner has a middle instrumental that actually steals the whole show — a swaggering gladiator-like section that totally takes you by surprise and then takes you back to the song you quickly forgot about for 20 seconds. Absolutely cinematic in stereo, ain’t it?
10. "Oh Happy Day" — Edwin Hawkins Singers feat. Dorothy Morrison (4:07)
Well, this is one of the most left field top ten singles I ever heard in my whole entire life. Magnificently recorded in an empty church with a Sunday service choir and piano trio, the simplicity of it easily draws you in. But then there is that lead vocal. At first you think it’s a guy — but little by little you realize this is a woman with a truly unusual voice. And while I’m guessing there are at least 35 people in that studio not counting the control room, there is unified magic going on here but led charismatically by Dorothy Morrison's versatile vocal. I never tire of hearing this because of the dynamics and the uniqueness of it. Nobody on this list can follow her performance here. Which, sadly, brings us to the end of this week’s carrying on. So have a happy, HAPPY day, oh, happy day...
Keep your headphones on a bit longer and listen to:
- Rare Stereo Mixes, Part One
- Rare Stereo Mixes, Part Two
- I also have a retrospective interview featuring the story of the mucho-delayed Rick Nelson album I produced decades ago that was just released two months ago. The interview will run at Forgotten Hits from Monday, August 6 through Sunday, August 12. Who knows? You might enjoy it!