Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part One)

Learn about the secret screw ups behind some of the greatest songs you've ever heard.

Kathy Shaidle


February 19, 2013 - 7:00 am

Today, when every computer ships with GarageBand-type software, sour notes can be sweetened with Auto Tune, and radio stations broadcast focus-grouped computerized playlists, there seems to be no room for the serendipity — – or sheer incompetence and confusion — that helped create some of the greatest records of all time.

For instance, the ultimate irony of the urban legend that “Louie, Louie” is a “dirty” song (there’s a whole book about it) is that today you can just about make out what the FBI(!) couldn’t back in 1963:

The Kingsmen drummer’s frustrated “f-word” at around the 0:55 mark.

What you can’t hear are the backstories: the flukes, accidents, misunderstandings, coincidences, white lies, and willpower that wrenched classic songs from crazy recording sessions.

What you know about a particular recording can change the way it sounds.

If you’re my age, you’ve heard Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” about 10,000 times, which may be 9,999 times more than you ever wanted.

But you may not realize that lead singer Brad Delp “actually hits those high notes; there’s nothing electronic helping him.”

One of the more remarkable vocal pyrotechnics on an album where Delp’s singing gives Scholz’s guitar work a run for its money is on the passage where Delp’s ever-rising tenor rides into the first notes of the signature guitar solo, a move Boylan says was planned and executed flawlessly on virtually the first take.

You may also not know that Brad Delp committed suicide in 2007.

Now, give that 1976 recording one more listen.

See if it sounds… different.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

# 6: Rumors (1977) by Fleetwood Mac

Hey, I know!

Let’s all take tons of drugs, sleep with each other, break up, take more drugs, then lock ourselves in a studio and cut a record about it.

Maybe it’ll even be one of the biggest selling albums of all time!

(As you might imagine, there’s a whole book about that soap opera, too.)

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors was everything punk rock was rebelling against:

By the time it was made, the personal freedoms endowed by the social upheaval of the 60s had unspooled into unfettered hedonism. As such, it plays like a reaping: a finely polished post-hippie fallout, unaware that the twilight hour of the free love era was fixing and there would be no going back.

In the end, that battle ended in a draw.

Rumors may sound like brontosaurus mating calls to some ears today, but the re-engineered reissue is still selling pretty well.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

#5 — “Good Vibrations” (1966) by The Beach Boys

The most famous Beach Boy hated the beach.

Brian Wilson never even learned to surf.

So in a way, it’s weirdly fitting that Wilson’s songs were California to millions of listeners around the world, who would never set foot on the Pacific seashore, either.

Many of these eternally evocative tunes, which practically qualify for solar energy subsidies, were actually composed while schizoid Brian was safe inside his home, “sitting at a grand piano with his feet scratching and twisting in a homemade sandbox.”

The songs were mainlined straight from Wilson’s imagination into other minds and hearts without number, their perfect purity unsullied.

Oh, and he was partially deaf…

The pressure to surpass Pet Sounds and keep apace with the ante-upping Beatles set the stage for this obsessive-compulsive, career-derailing masterpiece. Wilson amassed hours upon hours of tape at multiple studios to cobble together his intricately segmented, cut’n'paste “pocket symphony,” reportedly spending anywhere between $16-50,000 to produce three-and-a-half minutes of weird yet accessible pop.

In The Beach Boys and The California Myth, author David Leaf said of the single “Good Vibrations”:

Nothing but perfection here. The Beach Boys’ first million-selling #1 hit…was a major technical breakthrough…the record that showed that anything was possible in the studio.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

#4 — “Tutti Fruitti” (1956) by Little Richard

That’s Little Richard (giving a rather subdued performance, actually.)

It’s 1956.

He’s from Mississippi.

He’s obviously black, probably nuts, and almost certainly “a bisexual space alien.” (He performed in drag as “Princess LaVonne.”)

If he was a character in The Color Purple or Ragtime, he’d also be dead.

In real life, of course, Little Richard became a highly influential and successful musician, who continues to perform today to adoring crowds.

But that success almost didn’t happen.

Not because the Klan was tailing his tour bus as he went from one mixed-race gig to the next — black clergymen gave him a harder time — but because producers subjected Little Richard to the standard “I love you — now change!” treatment so many other talented yet hard-to-label artists have endured.

A fed-up Little Richard went off to bang out some pent-up stress on the piano.

“Finally,” the producers exclaimed, “THAT’S the sort of song you should be doing!”

There was one catch:

Little Richard had been playing that particular little ditty, called “Tutti Fruiti,” in gay bars, and the lyrics were salacious, to put it mildly.

(In retrospect, the title should’ve been clue one.)

No problem: They cleaned up the lyrics, and Little Richard and the musicians laid down their tracks.

“Tuttie Frutti” sold 200,000 copies in the first week. The song made it to Billboard‘s  No. 17.

Alas, Pat Boone’s whiter, watered-down cover version hit No. 12.

It’s true: black rock and roll pioneers in the 1950s got ripped off by white promoters, producers, and performers –like the sainted Beatles — all the time.

But Little Richard wasn’t too upset about that; he called Boone “the man who made me a millionaire.”

And anyway, he didn’t have much right to complain:

Little Richard stole his entire persona from this poor guy you’ve never heard of:

YouTube Preview Image

Check out PJ Lifestyle next Tuesday for Part 2…


More on culture, technology, and music from Kathy Shaidle:

Vengeance Is Mine: The 5 Best Revenge Songs

The 3 Most Poisonous Movie Clichés of the 60s and 70s

(KATHY SHAIDLE is a blogging pioneer who runs FiveFeetOfFury, now in its 15th year. She's been called "one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our time," by MARK STEYN. Her NEW book is Confessions of A Failed Slut (Thought Catalog, 2014).
Click here to view the 12 legacy comments

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
The way the articles at PJM are augering into the dummy file remind of of the Rad Baron's last flight in France. It's all crash and burn. The only thing that Kathy Shaidle knows less about than music is head angling when she's about to be photographed. Or perhaps, writing.

Locating her point is like finding a needle in a haystack.

The beach was a Wilson inspiration? Does it matter?

If you don't surf, do you not like the beach?

Fact is, nothing captivated the Brian like Spector's wall of sound in be my baby by the Ronettes.

Tell me a little about T Bone Walker's influence on Chuck Berry. The 50 second musical outro in Morrison's touch me. Why the suspended 4th starting a Hard Day's Night is such an internet mystery. Unravel the Otis Blackwell all shook up controversy.

Highlighting the obvious isn't the mark of a good writer. If I were your ink, I'd be embarrassed.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
I don't know if this is on-topic or not, but somebody needs to be indicted for not promoting Bob Seger earlier in his career.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
The definition of Chutzpah is linking back to the article you've cribbed a third of this article from. Or is Johnny Lepper your alias?
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Daley says that Delp's vocal was " . . . planned and executed flawlessly on virtually the first take." Well, was it the first take, or was it not the first take? What is a "virtual" first take? This is poor writing. If it took 3 takes, say so.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
I think it is a stretch to mention Esquerita or whatever his name is in the same breath as Little Richard.

I go back to beginning of rock 'n' roll listening to Alan Freed on WINS up in my home in Canada when he was totally alone on the airwaves with this music.

Two things have to be understood. We didn't see the singers. It was all in the sound. In the US there was segregation but when we heard Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley, no one of our generation cared. Bill Haley and the Comets in the movie Blackboard Jungle brought the the music to the grand stage, but no one saw them. Then the country boys came along starting with Carl Perkins and of course Elvis and Jerry Lee and even Johnny Cash. Getting on TV for Elvis was a huge deal and the rockers didn't get on very often in the early days.

The sound was the thing and I must say from this one clip of Esquerita, his sound is inferior. I know them all from that era and I never heard of him Those who made it big, and there were only teenagers listening, it was the fact that they stood out on the airwaves and they made you dance.

In my own former life I was part of a group that is credited with making the first rock 'n' roll record domestically in Canada in 1958. Shhh Blast Off by the Asteroids. No one over 20 even knew what we were doing.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
View All