DEAR JERRY: I have what once seemed like an easily resolved musical mystery. Only problem is that no one I've asked has known the answer. Then I discovered you!
This is about two similar songs from the 1960s, both of which were very popular but only one of which you ever hear anywhere.
One is “Paperback Writer,” by the Beatles. The other title is the mystery one.
The connection between the two is, at least in part, they have nearly identical melodies. The similarity is especially evident once you get past the opening five seconds of “Paperback Writer,” when the guitar begins.
Furthermore, “Paperback Writer” is obviously about writing a book and the other song mentions things written in the daily newspaper.
I can tell you that it seems to have vanished from everyone's memory.
Does this ring a bell with you?
Joey Moss, Clearwater, Fla.
DEAR JOEY: As loud as the ones Paul Revere and his sidekicks rang while galloping across the Massachusetts countryside in 1775 on their Midnight Ride. Nearly 193 years later, another Paul Revere and his sidekicks, all in strikingly similar Colonial attire, galloped into the Top 20 with “Too Much Talk” (Columbia 44444).
The two hits are briefly similar in spots, but the overall sound is quite different.
Yes, “Paperback Writer” is played often whereas I don't recall hearing “Too Much Talk” even once since it was a hit in 1968. This does seem odd since it is one of Paul Revere and the Raiders' 10 biggest hits.
“Too Much Talk” is one of the 55 tracks on the double CD set, “The Legend of Paul Revere (Featuring Mark Lindsay)” (Columbia C2K-45311).
DEAR JERRY: I am deeply saddened by the recent sudden and unexpected death of Gene Pitney. He is one of the very best singers of the '60s.
Most folks heard Gene Pitney when “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away,” came out in 1960, but I recently read that he recorded some doo-wop style songs before that.
Since the focus of the story was his big hits, they didn't even mention any of the early recordings.
Might you be able to fill in the blanks?
Sheryl Stuben, New Haven, Conn.
DEAR SHERYL: Now there will be no more blanks.
About two years before signing with Musicor, and release of “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away,” Gene recorded four tracks in Hartford with a local group named the Embers.
Those songs are: “So Tired;” “Darkness;” “Victory;” and “Runaway Lover.” Surprisingly, “Victory;” and “Runaway Lover” are recorded in stereo.
You'll find these four on the 1990 LP, “Unreleased Gems of the Hartford, Connecticut Groups” (Relic 5085), along with eight other tracks by the Embers, Serenaders, Larry Lee, and 5 Bell Aires.
As the title suggests, none of these '50s tracks came out before 1990.
You asked specifically about Gene's doo-wop tracks but I should also mention he did four songs with Ginny Arnell, for Decca Records.
These came out on two singles in 1959, credited to Jamie and Jane. DEAR JERRY: “Sugarfoot Rag,” a Red Foley hit also recorded by Jerry Reed and others, begins with a line that I have never quite understood: “Gonna get out my sycamore and shine up my shoes.”
When it comes to shoeshines, what is a sycamore?
Dale Crawford, Dutton, Ala.
DEAR DALE: I suspect those shoes are about to be shined with a typical bristle and wood shoe brush, the body of which once belonged to a sycamore tree.
IZ ZAT SO? Though “Sugarfoot Rag” is appropriately credited to vocalist Red Foley, guitarist extraordinaire Hank Garland must also be acknowledged.
Garland, co-writer of the tune, is so closely associated with “Sugarfoot Rag” that it became his nickname: Hank “Sugarfoot” Garland.
Coupled with “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” (Decca 46201), this double-sided smash ranks as one of the biggest country hits of the '50s.