Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Strangers In The Night

The Wrecking Crew: Part 5

Although it's apparently taking me over half the year to get through this awesome series, we all know it's well worth it. Featuring the top-notch L.A. musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, our next recording is the traditional pop song "Strangers in the Night," composed by Bert Kaempfert. Originally part of an instrumental score for the movie A Man Could Get Killed, the song was made famous by Frank Sinatra in 1966. Reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Easy Listening, and UK Singles chart, it won Sinatra the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year. Despite Sinatra's strong hatred of the song, it was his first #1 song in 11 years and his most commercially successful album. The song's most memorable and recognizable feature is Sinatra's scat improvisation of the melody with the syllables "doo-be-doo-be-doo" as the song fades at the end.

Originating in mid-1965 as a band project by the L.A. songwriter/producer duo of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, The Grass Roots began with demo recordings using Wrecking Crew musicians.
Songs like "Where Were You When I Needed You" included Sloan on lead vocals and guitar, Larry Knechtel on keyboards, Joe Osborn on bass, and Bones Howe on drums. When moderate interest in the group arose, the producers found a new band that would incorporate The Grass Roots' name and cut a new version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" with the band's lead vocalist, Willie Fulton. The producers would go on to groom a third identity of The Grass Roots before they became a big success, but in the meantime, the second version of this single peaked at #28 on the charts in mid-1966. Here's performance of the temporarily Willie Fulton-lead Grass Roots.

The music of pop singer Bobby Vee also included the session musicians of the Wrecking Crew. With his biggest success in the early '60s, Vee has had 38 Hot 100 chart hits, 10 of which hit the Top 20. His career actually began amid a tragedy, on "The Day The Music Died" in 1959 when the three headline act line-up (Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Booper) were killed in a plane crash. Vee, then age 15, with a quickly assembled band of Fargo, North Dakota schoolboys volunteered and were given the job of filling in for Buddy Holly and his band who were scheduled for a local engagement. Their performance there was a success, which eventually led to Vee's career as a popular singer. Reaching #3 on the Billboard chart, #2 on the Easy Listening, #9 on the R&B, and #3 in the UK in 1963, here's "The Night Has a Thousands Eyes."

One of the first female singer-songwriters of the rock 'n' roll era, Jackie DeShannon had a string of hit song credits from the 1960s onwards. Using the WC musicians, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" was a smash single for DeShannon in 1969, reaching #4 on the Hot 100, #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and even #1 on South Africa's hit parade. Composed by DeShannon with her brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday, it sold over million copies and was awarded a gold disc. It was performed as the closing number at the Music for UNICEF Concert, broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. Here's a feelgood performance by a talented Kentucky girl.

We all know The Monkees began as a made-for-TV band who weren't allowed to play on their own recordings for their first two albums. Knowing the recipe for success, the producers used the Wrecking Crew studio musicians for these albums and other recordings featured on The Monkees TV show. Written and produced by Monkee Michael Nesmith, "You Just May Be the One" featured guitarists Glen Campbell, James Burton, and Al Casey, bassist Robert West, and drummers Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon. The song features the doubling of regular bass with Danelectro (or "dano" bass) played by one of the guitarists, and the dano bass' distinctive twang gave Nesmith's 1966 tracks a country flavor. The doubling of the bass proved difficult to master as some 35 takes were needed before the backing track was completed. A remake of this song was recorded by the band for their third album Headquarters in 1967. Here's the earlier version with the WC musicians that was used several times during Season One of the TV series.