Monday, August 06, 2007

Summer Means Fun

It would be wrong of me to claim full credit for the recent upturn in weather following the tireless promotion of some of the world's greatest summer songs on this blog, but, false modesty aside, it is too much of a coincidence for any of us to pretend that there's no link.

It would be just as wrong of me to rest on my laurels. To this end, I spent the best part of half an hour yesterday thinking what might constitute the next run of persuasive summery pop perfection to keep the sun gods smiling, and then digitising it.

Perhaps it would be churlish of me to point out that this service is provided for free and I expect no financial reward (although it would be appreciated if you bought me an ice cream if you're ever down my way); you might, however, want to go out and buy the records - or some suitable compilations - featuring the songs showcased here.

The theme today is surfin', and we start with Little Pattie's He's My Blonde Headed, Stompie Wompie Surfer Boy from 1963. If the truth be told, I think the title - which is obviously a little inspired by Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - is the best thing about this Australian number, but you decide.

Pattie, real name Patricia Amphlett, is the cousin of The Divinyls' Chrissie Amphlett. Will that ever come up in a pop quiz? I doubt it. But forewarned is forearmed.

You can find HMBH,SWSB on Girls In The Garage volume 11.

An even better surfin' experience comes in the form of Tell 'Em I'm Surfin' by The Fantastic Baggys. Numbering PF Sloan and Steve Barri, who earned a footnote in pop history (summer edition) by singing backing vocals for Jan and Dean, this 1966 single was the first of three they made.

There's a great interview with PF Sloan here, but if you don't have the time to read it all, here are some highlights:
You actually started in the music business when you were 12, didn't you?
Yes. In 1959, I released a single on the Aladdin label. One day I went to a music store in L.A. to buy a guitar, and Elvis Presley was also visiting the store at the same time, and he taught me a few chords! Then, when I was 16, I was in charge of A & R at an L. A. label! One of my most vivid memories from those days was in 1963, when a box of singles arrived from the U.K.. There was a very strong discrimination against British music at that time, and anything which came from there usually went straight into the bin! This particular box contained 4 demos by The Beatles, I think the singles were 'Love Me Do', 'Please Please Me', 'From Me To You', and 'Thank You Girl'. I realised their potential, and got them their first U.S. deal with the Vee-Jay label. Unfortunately none of these early records became hits! I later met them when they came to L.A., and saw their 1965 show at the Hollywood Bowl. But none of them were really interested in surf music! The Rolling Stones' manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, was totally into The Beach Boys and other surf groups. When he and Mick Jagger were in L.A., they heard some Baggys demos, and Mick loved them, saying they were "Fantastic!". And, unlikely as it sounds, that's how the Baggys really got their name

Did you ever work with the Stones?
Yes, I was actually the producer of the 'Paint It Black' session, although I wasn't credited for it. It was my idea for there to be a sitar on that record. I saw one in the corner of the studio, and I knew the song needed something a bit special, so we built it into the arrangement.

What was Steve's contribution to the Fantastic Baggys output?
He wrote about half of the second verse of "Summer Means Fun", and I let him do the vocals on that number. That was about it. Unfortunately, he has begun to claim that he wrote songs which he had absolutely nothing to do with, which has put a lot of strain on our relationship. Why would anyone who has had incredible success as a producer of artists like Michael Jackson, The Four Tops, etc., be concerned about a few insignificant surf songs? We worked together from 1963 to 1967, and then we separated, because we didn't have much in common. But in recent years, we've been getting along better. In 1985, I did a show at the Bottom Line, New York, and I performed "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann" at his request. Then in 1994, a tribute concert to me was held at the Troubador in L.A., where he now lives, and he appeared on stage with me, but we didn't perform together.

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