Tue | Sep 25, 2018

The Music Diaries | Special preference for LPs, 45s and more

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
The Drifters performing at The Regal Theatre in 1960.

The days of vinyl records have seen a plethora of international hits from across the globe, with countries like the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), and Jamaica being among the front runners.

In an interview published in The Sunday Gleaner on May 31, 2015, Patricia Chin, co-founder of VP Records, said: "Vinyl is the heart of the music industry, and represents the true sound of music. It's like gold ... it never changes. You get the real sound like in the studio. If the vinyl is not the heart of the music, then I don't know what is."

Long-playing vinyl records (LPs) with 10 or more songs were a popular choice for buyers and listeners, because they allowed them the opportunity to hear a particular artiste or genre in one package. However, many early releases first appeared as singles - 45rpm (45 revolutions per minute) records - thereby offering not much of a choice to buyers. They however had advantages: Disc jocks and sound system operators found it easier to select a particular song, because there would be no need to search for a particular track as would be the case with an LP. Also, the smaller 45rpm version is much easier to carry around.

The single 45rpm vinyl record had a recording on both sides, termed A- and B-sides, with the A-side being the intended hit. Very rarely would one find a record with outstanding hits on both sides, and more so, Number-one hits on both sides of the same record. There may have been other cases, but the phenomenon has been known to occur twice in international popular music. The year was 1964 when the Drifters - a US singing group - recorded Under The Boardwalk on side A, and I Don't Want To Go On Without You on side B of the same vinyl record. In that same year, The Maytals - a Jamaican trio - laid down It's You and Daddy as the A- and B-sides respectively of a record at Dynamic Sounds Recording Company in Kingston, Jamaica. All four recordings went to the top of the Jamaican charts.

The stories surrounding the production of these recordings are startling and interesting ones, and are worth reciting. The book Reggae Routes, by Kevin O'Brien Chang and Wayne Chen, quotes Daddy as a slow R&B melody, which Toots states was inspired by a real dream. Along with the A side, It's You - a Ska number, they were probably the biggest two-sided hits in Jamaica's popular music history. Interestingly, the book states: "When Daddy was laid down for the Maytals' first album with Dynamic Sounds, their manager Ronnie Nasrallah felt it was a weak track, so it was relaid as the flip side of It's You. It's You dutifully became a massive hit, spending several weeks at the top of the charts. One night, RJR deejay Tony Verity accidentally played the wrong side, and suddenly Daddy became a song everyone wanted to hear." It went on to spend some time at the top of the charts.

 

DOUBLE-SIDED HIT

 

The story concerning the Drifters' double-sided hit was even more startling, with sorrowful and melancholic undertones. In the spring of 1964, the group was offered a song titled Under The Boardwalk by two guys named Artie Resnick and Kenny Young. A recording session was planned for May 21, 1964, at one of Atlantic Records, top studios. Assembled to perform were Rudy Lewis - lead vocalist - along with Johnny Moore, Charlie Thomas, Eugene Pearson, and Johnny Terry. But against the backdrop of high expectancy and excitement associated with the upcoming session came the unexpected news that Lewis died in his hotel room the night before under unexplained circumstances. It sent shock waves through the group and the entire music fraternity, including Jamaica, where they were very popular. I remember clearly the day that the news came while I was in class at Kingston College. It was as if the lesson stopped, because every other teenage boy was an ardent Drifter fan, especially for the songs that Lewis led. On the lips of almost everyone at the time were: Upon The Roof, Please Stay (Don't Go), Mexican Divorce, On Broadway, and Some Kind Of Wonderful, all led by Lewis. They represented the most lucrative, exciting, and successful period of the group's existence.

Having left a pall of grief on the Under The Boardwalk recording session, one would have thought that it would have been cancelled. That was, in fact, contemplated, but the session eventually went on as planned, with Johnny Moore stepping into the breach. As it turned out, Moore's sorrowful vocals transformed a summer novelty into a luminous soul classic. The sadness of the occasion was then captured to perfection, when Charlie Thomas took the lead on the slow melancholy B-side - I Don't Want To Go On Without You. Amazingly, both recordings climbed to number one on the Jamaican charts. Thomas, who was the longest-serving member of the later Drifters lineup, made other worthwhile contributions as a lead vocalist on Feel Good All Over, Down At The Club, Sweets For My Sweets, When My Little Girl Is Smiling, Room Full Of Tears, and You Can't Love Them All.

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