Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 06/29/2019

Searching For Videos

Searching for lost oldies isn’t all that difficult if you have a library full of the Record Research books–pick a year and run down the lists of songs.

Once I’ve picked out a song for one day’s lost or forgotten oldie, step two requires finding a video for it. YouTube is an excellent place to search for videos since almost everybody can view them there for free. I pay extra each month so I can avoid the ads that can get in the way, but that makes sense for me given the number of hours I spend on YouTube every…single…day.

Ideally, I want to see the performing artist in the video, although it’s nice to have a storyline that matches the song. There have always been artist performances on television shows, but for a long time in the past, those had poor fidelity mono sound. While you may want to point to the advent of MTV in 1981 as a starting point for modern videos, other earlier examples exist:

  • Multiple storylines included hit records for three singers in episodes of the Donna Reed show in 1961-1962.
  • Ricky Nelson’s video for Traveling Man in 1961 interspersed lip-synced performances with film clips that matched the lyrics.
  • Brian Hyland’s performance of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show in 1960 had an elaborate story told with props and a very young girl in a bikini.
  • They created a video for Jailhouse Rock by Elvis by simply pulling footage from the film in 1957.

Going back further, we find other short videos lifted from films and early television performances and even short films created to include musical performances. While many of the performances were live, as time went on they tended to become lip-synced videos.

One cure for the poor sound quality of older videos exists on YouTube thanks to Smurfstools Oldies Music Time Machine. That channel takes existing old footage and edits, restores, and remasters the sound and video with high-quality results. Sometimes the stereo version of the songs replace the low-quality or mono sound, but sometimes the original recordings only exist in mono. For those videos, they may use some kind of stereo simulator to replace the sound.

I do sometimes have a problem with sound edits. While modern sound editing has come a long way since I used an app on mono streaming in the early nineties to produce stereo sounds, it still sometimes doesn’t sound “right.” They mixed most records in the fifties and sixties down to mono, and I listened to them over mono radios. Sometimes nothing else will sound exactly the way I remember the songs except the original mono recording.

There’s an even sneakier problem: due to the way they recorded and mixed music before modern recording devices existed, for a lot of records, the only “true stereo” mix will have vocals coming from one speaker and instruments coming from the other speaker. You can hear the problem if you listen to the mono mix and the stereo mix of Five O’clock World by The Vogues. I would much rather watch the Drew Carey Show version of the song in mono than listen to the “true stereo” version. I would even prefer the synthetic stereo version from Smurfstools with the original video of the group lip-syncing.

Another problem comes from the existence of re-recordings. Stereo album versions are often new recordings of the songs. Worse yet, many groups have re-recorded their songs as a way to make money after their careers have faded. Fortunately, federal law finally began requiring that record companies label re-recordings. How can we find the original single versions of the records? Bob Moke used to work for Sirius XM Satellite Radio and he appears to be on a mission on Facebook and YouTube to make the original music available to all of us. His YouTube channels the78prof and the45prof have links to most of the original recordings of the hit records from 1938 to 1960. You can also find those by entering Jukebox 1960 or Jukebox 1959 etc. back to Jukebox 1938 on Facebook. While I may not use his copy of a record, I can always count on his copy to be the original version.

While he has put a lot of effort into finding the best quality sound for each record, YouTube makes the task more difficult by observing copyrights. Since YouTube potentially pays somebody when a user streams songs online, the owner of any recording may want to prevent anybody else from uploading music to the site so only their copy gets played. The owner can get YouTube to remove unauthorized copies of music, and sometimes the person who uploaded the song gets penalized. Bob gets around that problem by sometimes linking to an authorized copy of the original record instead of uploading a new copy himself.

I discovered the problem when I created my first book, and some links in the book stopped working. I now try to avoid broken links by looking for videos they list as being “provided” by a record label.

Finding a video to link in isn’t always an effortless task, which is why I often link in more than one video!

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 06/28/2019

D.J. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) released their first single while Will was still in High School, Girl’s Ain’t Nothing But Trouble. The song sampled the theme song from I Dream of Jeannie. That choice turned out to be a little bit of trouble as well. It ended well for the duo when Jive Records signed them to their label. Their first album for Jive did not produce any standout singles, but their second album made them superstars.

The first single from He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper was Parents Just Don’t Understand. The video for the single went into heavy rotation and the disc was awarded a gold record. Their second single was A Nightmare On My Street, which got up to #15 before it stumbled.

For years fans debated the existence of a video for Nightmare that included cameos by Richard Englund, the original Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street films. It has been reported that New Line Cinema sued over the video, causing it to vanish for a few decades. In 2018 a video resurfaced on YouTube. The video clearly looks like it was made in 1988. While it does not feature Robert Englund, it does include footage that might well be from some unnamed horror films…and it does mention Elm Street in the rap and refer to a monster with claws as Fred. Big warnings at the start and end of the video inform viewers that it has nothing to do with the Nightmare films, the same kind of warnings that were on the album.

A reworded version of Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble was released next, and a year later the group put out I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson, but neither record got any higher than the bottom half of the Hot 100.

The duo had their biggest hit with Summertime in 1991 and followed that up with a few more singles that reached the top twenty. Will Smith went on to a solo career in television, movies, and music, but the original duo still performs in public from time to time.

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 06/22/2019

When we go back to the mid-fifties we encounter records that no longer get much airplay simply because it was so long ago that almost no radio stations are playing records from that era.

The Diamonds were a group of singers from Toronto, Canada, who moved to New York City to seek fame and fortune. They appeared on television on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and released a pair of unsuccessful singles in 1955 and 1956. The group eventually signed with Mercury Records, and their first release on that label was a cover of Frankie Lymon’s hit Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Their follow-up singleChurch Bells May Ring also did fairly well, getting up to #14. Listening to that record now one thing is immediately clear to me: it sounds entirely wrong.

I grew up on Long Island in the fifties, listening to countless radio stations on an old 1940s radio. Top Forty didn’t exist yet, so radio was a mix of pop vocals, lingering radio drama and comedy shows that hadn’t quite made it to television yet, big band music from the forties, and (fortunately) a few stations that played rhythm and blues music. My parents put me to bed with the radio set to the Make Believe Ballroom, but it wasn’t long before I figured out how to turn one of the dials and find something else to listen to. One of those R&B stations was probably where I first heard the Willows version of Church Bells May Ring.

The Harlem vocal group was previously known as the Dovers in 1950, and later the Five Willows, before finally settling in as the Willows. They recorded several singles that did well. Near the end of 1955, the group signed with Melba Records. They wrote and recorded Church Bells May Ring as their first release for the new label. Fun note: Neil Sedaka played the chimes on the recording!

While the Willows may have only gotten up to #62 on the pop charts, their record went up to #14 nationally on the R&B charts in 1956, and that’s also the recording that sounds “right” to me. The group never found their way onto the national charts after that and disbanded in the mid-sixties. Like many doo-wop acts from the fifties, the Willows reformed in various lineups and have appeared on some of the PBS doo-wop specials.

The Diamonds made a career of covering other groups; their biggest record came a year later when they covered Little Darling by the Gladiolas and took the record up to number two. Ten more top forty records followed, but by 1961 the hits were finished. The lineup changed constantly over the next forty years, allowing public appearances to continue to this day.

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 06/21/2019

Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and were playing and singing together by the early seventies and eventually named themselves the Gap Band. Their big break came when they backed up Leon Russell on an album in 1974. That exposure led to a contract with Mercury Records, and soon their funk-style music was bouncing around on the R&B charts. In 1980 they had their first #1 R&B hit with Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me), a song that I admit having never, ever heard. While that song didn’t cross over to the pop charts very well, in 1982 they released their second #1 R&B hit, Early in the Morning, and that song did get up to #24 on the Hot 100.

Their follow-up to that hit was You Dropped A Bomb On Me. While the record only got as high as #31 on the pop charts, it barely missed getting to the top of the R&B charts. The song is still instantly recognizable, and I simply don’t believe anybody can watch the first ten seconds of the video without smiling or laughing out loud.

The group even got to appear on American Bandstand, although they upgraded their wardrobe a bit and brought along a huge group of musicians to back them up.

While their days of top forty pop singles may have ended in 1982, the band continued to have top ten R&B hits into the nineties.