Monday, October 3, 2016

SHG: The Dovells: "The Bristol Stomp"

The Dovells: “Bristol Stomp”
Entered the chart on: 9/18/1961
Peaked on: 10/23/1961
Weeks at #2: 2
Song at #1: “Runaround Sue” by Dion

Not to obsess, but after listening to “Crying,” I went ahead and re-familiarized myself with Don McLean’s version and k. d. lang’s also for good measure*. And you know what? Both versions are very, very good! Neither is quite as spectacular as the original, at first, but both are performed by first-rate singers with reverence to the source material, yet who make the song their own. Isn’t that what good cover songs do?

Something tells me I’ll be referring back to this text in the near future.

Anyway, the Dovells. Is this the first “dance craze” record we’ve covered at Second Hand Goods? Was there really a dance to go with this song? Or did they just want to get their home-town some air-time on national, public radio. No idea if it’s actually true, but I understand the BBC banned this tune**, considering its lyric too salacious. “Bristols,” you see, is a slang term for women’s breasts.

Methinks someone at the BBC has a dirtier mind than any of us. What did they think this song was about? The mind boggles...

Oh yes, this is a Cameo-Parkway joint, so I think that’s a big, fat “yes” on the “is this a dance craze song or not?” Cameo-Parkway were the crassest of the early “youth-oriented” labels; they had no shame in jumping on any trend that came down the pike and exploiting it with ruthless abandon.

The thing that sticks in my mind about this, more than the insistent “The kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol, etc.” backing vocal litany, is that jaunty guitar strumming accompaniment. Trust me to notice something about the instrumental track!

I guess we’re in “white people trying to sound black” territory again, which explains Len Barry’s wailing lead vocal on this. I don’t dislike it, but he’s kind of all over the place, missing notes right and left. Is it just me? Maybe it is, because obviously a lot of people bought this record.

I don’t know, maybe I’d like it better if they used a different take, but I bet Cameo-Parkway wanted to rush-release this and get it out the door as quick as possible to exploit the ever-fickle teenage taste. Because that’s the Cameo-Parkway way.

Rating: 3

*Still haven’t worked up the nerve to check out the rendition by Dutch Schlager singer Gerard Joling. I’m still burned by the time I heard what Wayne Newton did to “In Dreams.”
**It did become a hit, albeit belatedly, for the UK nostalgia group the Late Show in 1979.

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