Thursday, 4 September 2014

Richie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" (1962) is one of the coolest records ever released

But I have a terrible admission to make...

I consider myself a semi-expert when it comes to early '60s music, but this one passed me by until last week. Not the song, of course, because pretty much every band from Liverpool and Manchester did a version of it back then. I think the first one I heard was by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, but - unfortunately - theirs wasn't much cop, mainly because the normally reliable Mr. Kidd inisisted on pointlessly complicating the melody. The Beatles, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, The Searchers, Freddie & The Dreamers (actually not a bad version!) all did it at some stage, and Dave Edmunds voiced a great version for the 1974 film Stardust.

But somehow I never noticed American R&B/Soul singer Richie Barrett's 1962 original. And it is an absolute classic. Of course, it's based on "What'd I Say", and it's a Ray Charles pastiche, what with the relentless electric piano and the plashy consonants and the expressive scratchiness of the voice. But as it's brilliant in its own right, who cares? UK bands no doubt loved it for its sheer toughness - which testosterone-fuelled youngster wouldn't enjoy snarling phrases such as "pickin' up my honey like a yellow dog", "is makin' me very, very mad", and "is breakin' the padlock off my pad". Lots of attitude.

I don't know whether Prefab Sprout or Pickettywitch ever did a version of it, but I'll keep looking, just in case...

Meanwhile, here are a few other classic early '60s R&B tracks I've only just caught up with. I'll start with the Isley Brothers' "Just One More Time", a highly energised gospel-style soul stomper in the style of "Shout" and "Twist & Shout", from 1961:

Here's the great Bo Diddley in almost lyrical mode in 1961 with "I Know (I'm Alright)" (of which the Stones did a great cover version):

Laverne Baker's "Hey Memphis" was a lively, note-for-note "answer" record to Elvis's 1961 hit "Little Sister":

"Homework" was the brilliant opening track on side 2 of the J. Geils Band's eponymous debut album, which I bought as an import for a small fortune in 1970. Here's Otis Rush's brilliant 1962 original:

I'll end with 1962's "Bad Mouthin"" by a singer known only as Willie B on the label. Most of the information I've found on the internet suggests he's the white country/rockabilly singer Darrell McCall. But I doubt very much whether the singer - or the backing musicians - are white. Could he be Memphis Willie B, who died in 1993? No idea - but whoever he was, he left behind at least one great little record:


  1. By all means keep looking but I am pretty sure the many covers of Some Other Guy do not include one by the Sprouts. On the other hand, they were able to play music with more than one chord which is more than you can say for Bo Diddley. I prefer the version by the Big Three for its rawness to the Richie Barrett original which is bit too Lieber and Stoller for me - with the electric piano so far up in the mix that Richie had to double track his vocals to get heard (or to try to sound more like Ray Charles).

    I think one of the reasons why the early to mid 60s British pop scene was so exciting is that the groups which formed were limited by cost or ability in the instruments they could play so most of their R and B cover versions were therefore unadorned by the horns, strings and female backing singers that US over-producers favoured at the time. I would love to hear the Rot Orbison back catalogue re-issued with just drums,bass, guitar and vocals.

    By the way, The Beatles' version is famous for being the only existing TV footage of the Beatles live at the Cavern Club.

  2. …or even the Roy Orbison back catalogue if his brother Rot was unavailable.

  3. (a) There is no such as thing as being "too Leiber & Stoller". There just isn't.
    (b) The Big Three version is the best of British - but not a patch on the vibrant original.
    (c) Bo Diddley, being a popular music genius, didn't need more than one chord to create stonkingly wonderful records which will live for all eternity (although he did occasionally use three, as I discovered when I did a cover of "I Can Tell").
    (d) The stripped-down (by necessity) British R&B sound produced some classics - especially The Animals and The Stones, who really did produce tracks to rival the Americans in terms of liveliness and attack - but on the whole, I'd take the US versions 95% of the time. Man's music, d'you see? Ben E. King's early '60s stuff was smothered in everything you object to - but it's all glorious. (Just listen to "On the Horizon", that string-filled wonder).
    (e) Just leave Roy's back catalogue alone, you barbarian - why monkey with perfection? On the other hand, I think Rot's might benefit from the odd tweak.

  4. A great blog-thanks.Talking of Roy O,there was one record of his that seemed to pass under everyone's radar: "I Drove All Night."Simply magnificent.

  5. I too love the music of Roy Orbison as long as I don't actually have to watch the great man because frankly he gives me the creeps [this started with Freddie Starr as a ventriloquist's dummy singing "Glue Gayou"]. Also, there was Dean Stockwell miming to "In Dreams" in Lynch's Blue Velvet [1986] while Dennis Hopper got up to all sorts of funny business on the side and Rebekah del Rio [with the Spanish flag painted on her eye-lids] doing her version of "In Dreams" in Lynch's Mullholland Drive [2001] and collapsed dead at the end. I can't recall wether Lynch included a reference to the "Big O" in Wild at Heart, but as the film came out in the same year as Pretty Woman [1990] perhaps he cut it out? There is something unsettling about Orbison. I live on my own and don't have any friends.

    1. Yes, The Big O was certainly no oil painting and those dark glasses and the weird Bolero jackets he adopted later on - not to mention his sad take on an Elvis Vegas-era stage outfit after that - didn't do much to hide the fact that he was a geeky-looking bloke with squinty little eyes. How he survived high school in Texas is a mystery. Still, his talent was vast, his music was wonderful and he seems to have been a very nice chap indeed.

      As for your claim not to have any friends, SDG, you are (it is rumoured) an OAP living in Scotland, which I'm pretty sure means that you are constantly attended by teams of fat, short-haired lesbians in boiler-suits being compassionate by calling you by your first name and feeding you deep-fried chocolate bars and cans of Tennents Extra. Or have I got this all wrong?