Bobby Lewis, the R&B singer behind “Tossin’ and Turnin’” — one of the biggest hits of the early Sixties — died in late April at the age of 95.
Billboard confirmed Lewis’ death Saturday, nearly two months after the singer died after a bout with pneumonia.
The Indianapolis-born singer is best known for the original version of “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” which he recorded in the fall of 1960; in the summer of 1961, the single began a seven-week run atop the Billboard Hot 100. “Tossin’ and Turnin’” was also named Billboard’s Number One single of 1961, besting songs like Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and Elvis Presley’s “Surrender.”
In 2019, Rolling Stone placed “Tossin’ and Turnin’” at Number One on our list celebrating the 20 Biggest Songs of the Summer: The 1960s, acknowledging its lengthy reign atop the Hot 100 and its 3 million copies sold.
“Tossin’ and Turnin’” would later be covered by artists like the Supremes, the Kingsmen, the Marvelettes and Kiss’ Peter Criss and feature in early Sixties paeans like National Lampoon’s Animal House and American Graffiti.
Despite the success of the track, Lewis would only release one more Top 10 single during his career, 1961’s “One Track Mind”; both singles were released on Beltone Records, which folded by 1963. Lewis recorded one single on the ABC-Paramount label (“Stark Raving Wild”) before his recording career came to a halt.
In a 2011 interview with NJ.com, Lewis, then nearly blind and living in Newark, New Jersey, reflected on the song’s history and its enduring legacy.
“American Graffiti kept it going. When it came out in Animal House, I took my tape recorder to the theater. I wished I had a video camera. I taped it off the screen. What a beautiful scene — John Belushi in a garage all by himself, just sittin’ and listenin’ to ‘Tossin’ and Turnin’,’” Lewis said.
“They never stopped playing it. They haven’t stopped yet. They’re still playing it.”
My good friend and writer Alan Paul, who I’ve known and worked with for many years, interviewed Dion for the Wall Street Journal and managed to also grab some phone time with Bruce Springsteen, who appears on Dion’s fabulous new record Blues With Friends. Springsteen was very candid in revealing how his wife Patti was the driving force behind the entire session for the song “Hymn To Him,” working out her stacked vocal harmonies and guiding him through his guitar solo, performed on a Gretsch guitar.
Here are a few excerpts from Alan’s full conversation with Springsteen, taken from his personal blog and reprinted with his approval. Do check out the full interview. Alan has also written excellent biographies of the Allman Brothers Band (One Way Out) and Stevie Ray Vaughan (Texas Flood) (with Andy Aledort), available at bookstores, online and his personal site.
Alan’s entire Dion story is available at the Wall Street Journal here.
The Recording Session:
“Patti was really kind of producing the session, so she gave me a lot of direction as to where to go. She’s quite good at production.”
“She had all these different vocal parts and it was just incredibly creative. It was really something… I didn’t know where she was going with it until she was finished, and she spent quite a few hours just very carefully layering part after part after part until something really happened. It was a great day in the studio.”
Playing the guitar solo:
“I picked up a Gretsch guitar, which has a tremolo bar on it. That’s what Duane Eddy played, so that defines a little bit the sound you’re going to get, where you’re going sonically, and Patti was assisting melodically and just telling me what she was hearing, and I really was there supporting her.”
“She made it easy and it was fun. It’s an incredible song and it’s really just very, very difficult to write well about that subject and not sound preachy. He just wrote a beautiful hymn.”
The saxophone solos on Dion’s classic hits:
“First of all, it all swung like crazy. You put on “Ruby Baby,” “The Wanderer, “Runaround Sue” … all of these things have a swing, you know? And then the other thing is the sax… the great, great sax solos.”
The need for saxophone in his music:
“Obviously when Clarence and I got together, and after Clarence passed away and Jake [Clemons] got in the band, I said, “These are some essential saxophone parts that you just need to know if you are going to work in our band.” The sax solos from the Dion records are certainly part of that.”
“I wanted those big, swinging sax solos. That sound! All of these solos… you can hum them. They’re melodic and built from such concrete melodically. [Sings “The Wanderer” sax solo.] You can sing them and I wanted people to be able to sing Clarence’s solos. They’re formal. They are not improvisations. They’re actually quite formal. That just, I don’t know, it just ingested into my music somehow.”
“I love Dion and I have, gosh, since I heard ‘Teenager in Love’ on my mom’s radio as a small boy. That was the first thing I heard, and you know we became friendly over the years and he’s just one of those guys whose artistic curiosity has never left him, which is very unusual for musicians. It usually fades, or they lose it somehow, but Dion has remained musically curious throughout his entire life and made all kinds of different kinds of records and has continued using what is probably one of the great white pop voices of all times in creative ways. That’s very inspiring.”
Country star Margo Price was supposed to release her new album That’s How Rumors Get Started last month. The world had other plans. Not only did the pandemic force her to delay the LP, but her husband, guitarist Jeremy Ivey, got sick.
Things are just getting back on track for Price. Her husband is finally getting better, and That’s How Rumors Get Started has a new July release date. And today, she went on CBS This Morning to talk about dealing with COVID-19 and play a few songs.
After the interview section, Price and her band performed remotely from their own respective porches and living rooms for the show’s recurring Saturday Sessions segment. She covered Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed” and played her own songs “Drifter” and “Letting Me Down.” Watch below.
Beloved Scottish band Travis are back with the first new music from their stunning ninth studio album 10 Songs – out October 9th on BMG. The first single from 10 Songs is “A Ghost”, which arrives with an impressively animated video directed and drawn by frontman Fran Healy, with his 14 year old son Clay leading the beautiful cinematography work – all done whilst in Covid-19 isolation.
Co-produced by both Fran and Robin Baynton (Coldplay, Florence & The Machine), and recorded at RAK Studios as 2019 turned into 2020, 10 Songs is an album about the way life comes at love and what love does to weather those challenges. It’s grown-up. There’s sizzling synergy in abundance, and many of it’s songs benefit from the almost psychic sense of mutual attunement that comes from being in a band whose line-up hasn’t changed in its entire collective lifetime.
There’s also inspired cameos to be found, including synth work from Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, lap steel from Greg Leisz (Beck, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen) and vocals from Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles that came about from a chance exchange on Twitter.
It’s been twenty-five years since the four members of Travis first set foot in a Glaswegian rehearsal room. At various points along the trajectory between then and now, the band have sold millions of albums, they’ve been the subject of the award-winning feature length documentary Almost Fashionable and Fran has elicited acclaim from Paul McCartney, Elton John and Graham Nash – all songwriters whose ability to divine a timeless melody out of thin air has sustained them through the decades.
And today marks another new chapter in the band’s extraordinarily prolific and unflappable career. 10 Songs is yet another body of work that showcases Travis as one of the UK’s finest songwriting exports.
Of the intensive work that went into making the video for “A Ghost”, Fran says:
The video for ‘A Ghost’ started out as a mocked up picture of me and three ghosts playing the last chorus of the song in a deserted alleyway. It looked cool so I took that image and back engineered a story out of it. Just when everything was ready to shoot, the world went into lockdown, so we had this great song with no way to make a video. Frustrated and in an act of desperation, I decided to draw it. I did a test to calculate how long it might take me. 16 hours for each, 10 seconds of footage. It worked out that it would take around 30 days which landed exactly on the deadline date. So I drew and drew and drew and drew. 2,500 drawings later, it was done.
One day, I was watching a sequence back and when it got to the end of what I had drawn, it flashed and went into live action. It looked great. This was the moment I realised I could shoot the mock up picture of me playing with my band of ghosts in the alleyway. This helped in 3 ways. 1. Filming the last 47 seconds would save me 10 days of drawing. 2. I could recruit my 14 year old son, Clay as the cameraman. He has a drone camera so could shoot it remotely and could use it as part of his school video project 3. Most importantly, we could film it socially distant.
It was the most bizarre video shoot I have ever worked on. You realise how important proximity is to getting things done when it’s taken out of the equation. But we did it and it turned out great. Clay has to wait till we release the song to hand in his video project.
Travis are Fran Healy (guitar/vox), Andy Dunlop (guitar), Dougie Payne (bass) and Neil Primrose (drums).
10 Songs comes available as Standard CD, Heavyweight vinyl plus Deluxe 2CD and Deluxe 2LP (red and blue vinyl) including 10 Demos. Pre-Order 10 Songs HERE.
Reflections on a backstreet New Orleans cruise with the doctor and his infinite gris-gris gumbo
By BILL BENTLEY
R.I.P. DR. JOHN (June 6, 2019). Who knows why I bought this album in 1970? There was just something otherworldly about it, which proved to be true way more than I could ever have imagined then. Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John, created music that opened up a whole new world for me, zeroing in on New Orleans as a place with infinite secrets and absolute frivolity.
Flash-forward 25 years and Mac and manager Stanley Chaisson are steering the big cream-colored Oldsmobile to the curb in front of Tujague’s bar on Decatur Street in the French Quarter one sunny afternoon. We’re scheduled to do interviews that day for Mac’s new album Going Back to New Orleans, but duty calls.
We start cruising around all the backstreets of the City that Care Forgot, with Mac giving a colorful commentary about his years running those streets as a young musician, someday to change the world with his poly-personality of sounds that can never be equaled.
He was looking that day for a certain cologne he favored, as well as a hard-to-find denture cream. We hit several drug stores, with a continuing commentary from Mac about the incredible players and some of the problems life in the Big Easy had bestowed on him. I sat in the backseat, my head spinning, trying to understand how in the world I ended up there. In the end I chalked it up to divine providence. It was like a living dream.
“I’d look at Mac then, and come to understand that our lives hold secrets which don’t really need to be explained.”
Sometimes he would turn around to me and say in his oh-so-unique drawl, “Billy knows what I’m talkin’ ’bout – don’t ‘cha Billy?” I was sure learning, that beautiful day.
We stopped at a hospital in Metairie to visit his ex-father-in-law, and then went to Bozo’s restaurant, a place where Mac was proud to report, “Pete Fountain’s father used to shuck oysters here.” Of course he did!
I think of those years working and being buddies with Mac Rebennack as a gift for staying alive. Even the period before he pulled himself together when he’d come to my office at Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, sit on the long orange couch and take a little catnap, the cigarette burning down to his fingers.
I’d look at Mac then, and come to understand that our lives hold secrets which don’t really need to be explained. Rather they are here to inspire us forever as we move ahead, staying in the dance and sharing what we see.
The last time I saw Mac was backstage at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of years ago. We had a short talk, and I kissed his hand when I was leaving. I’m not sure why, but I just felt that’s what needed to happen. He’d given me so much, both in music and a way of understanding life.
Mac looked at me, with a heartwarming soft smile only he had and both eyes twinkling, and said softly, “I’m gonna see you down the road, Billy.”
Yeah you right, Mac, yeah you right.
Bill Bentley has long been one of songwriting’s best champions. The author of `Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen,’ he’s a native of Houston. He was music editor for the L.A. Weekly from 1980 to ’82, and then a publicist at Slash Records first and then an exec at Warners Bros. and has championed many of the great artists of our time, including Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, The Blasters, Green Day, X, Lou Reed, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Doug Sahm, ZZ Top, Wilco, Neil Young and more. He got his first drum set in 1965 and still has it. He’s been a deejay, record store clerk, publicist, writer, concert promoter, record producer and a&r director, sometimes all at once. He’s worked at KUT-FM, Austin City Limits, L.A. Weekly, Slash Records, Warner Bros. Records and Vanguard Records. He still plays drums. He also has a fondness for producing tribute albums, and has done them for Roky Erickson, Skip Spence, Sir Doug Sahm, and Lou Reed. He’s known to have been especially kind to music journalists, even.
Mariah Carey joined the cast of the sitcom Schitt’s Creek during the Obamas’ virtual graduation special on Sunday. The cast, who were all performing in-character, sang a rendition of Carey’s “Hero” before Carey herself popped up for a message to the Class Of 2020: “To all the teachers and professors — especially those who had to deal with students like me, who never really showed up to school on time. You rose to the occasion and helped these students reach the finish line.”
The TV show referenced Carey many times throughout the years that it was on. The series finale, which aired this past April, had a character singing Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” at the altar during a wedding. Carey herself was also a fan and sang some “Always Be My Baby” during the graduation special bit.
It’s unusual for a band to release a rarities set after just two albums, but The Record Company are an unusual band in the way they iterate quickly. Their debut, Give It Back to You, was Black Keys-inspired modern soul blues and 2018’s All Of This Life put more of an emphasis on the band’s vocals. But listening to these outtakes and b-sides, it’s striking to hear a band that’s so strongly rooted in more straight-forward blues and classic rock. It’s not often that these kinds of albums surprise the listener, but The Record Company manages to show some dimensions that they haven’t yet shown on their studio albums.
“Darlin’ Jane” is low-key, with hiccups of harmonica over a Bo Diddley beat. They instantly nail the Grateful Dead sound, all the more impressive since The Record Company is a trio. Bassist/guitarist Alex Stiff and drummer/keyboardist Marc Cazorla provide some heart-breakingly lovely background vocals that give the tune a vintage 1960s sound. In case you consider the Dead comparison some sort of acid flashback, a few songs later they take on the Workingman’s Dead‘s “New Speedway Boogie.” Singer/guitarist Chris Vos lacks Jerry Garcia’s reedy earnestness, but his aura of coolness pulls the classic into the present, giving it both a contemporary sheen but also an old-fashioned erosion. If you listen carefully, you recognize this as The Record Company, but the tune is surprisingly faithful to the original.
These kinds of rarities albums often feature plenty of covers, and the Record Company have some nice choices. Their take on Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” shows off the band’s blues chops. Cazorla provides some beautifully laid-back blues piano and Vos checks in with impressively authentic harmonica work, all making you wonder if The Record Company might be more blues band than rock band.
And like any good album, just when you think you have it solved, the band throws a wrench in the works. In this case, the wrench is The Record Company’s creative take on the Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want.” It’s a bluesy version of a rock-rap classic, with The Record Company replacing the original’s shrill guitar hook with something more Albert King. It’s another song The Record Company has tackled live quite a few times, and it’s a fun crossover between two wildly different music worlds. It’s also the track I’ve had on repeat for the past week.
The interesting thing about non-hit compilation albums like this is that the music often has a different vibe from regular album cuts, since the tunes were probably seen as lower-stakes. “Ain’t Love Warm” has a down-home, country blues vibe and appeared as music on the TV show Suits. Having a stand-alone song on a beloved cable legal drama is different from needing it to work in the context of an album. That’s the beauty, and ultimately fascinating thing, about Early Songs & Rarities: it gathers all of these disparate songs in a single place and reveals a completely cohesive album, almost like a secret puzzle assembled over time. A puzzle that will probably even appeal to those who have yet to discover this always engaging band.
The Beastie Boys played a huge part in all of our upbringings, so when we learned the news of Adam Yauch’s (MCA) passing on May 4, 2012, we decided to pay tribute right then and there, and try out a bluesy cover of “So What’cha Want.”