Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SHG: Millie Small: "My Boy Lollipop"

Millie Small: “My Boy Lollipop”
Entered the chart on: 6/6/64
Peaked on: 7/4/64
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys

We’re going into what appears to be a lull in the Beatles’ popularity. It must have been a relief to the Beatles’ hate squad to see an old-school musical song by someone from the old guard (namely jazz legend Louie Armstrong* with the title song from Hello Dolly) topping the charts after that first rush of Beatlemania.

It turned out not to be the case. What really happened was that Capitol grabbed the reins of control over the Beatles catalogue, and began metering out their releases at a more moderate pace. So Beatles songs continued to top the charts for the rest of the year, and the decade, proving this was no mere fad like the Twist had been.

That said, let’s examine the case of the first artist on Second Hand Goods from a third-world country. Namely, an eighteen-year-old girl from Jamaica named Millie Small (née Millicent Smith). It wouldn’t be the first time Antillean music would make it to the U.S. pop charts. Cuban bandleaders like Perez Prado had topped the charts multiple times in the 50s, and then there was the calypso craze (spearheaded by Harry Belafonte and his “Banana Boat Song”) that came and went. This is the first time “ska” ever appeared on the charts, and unlike the “Banana Boat Song,” it wasn’t the beginning of a trend. In fact, poor Millie never scored a second hit**.

Well, I have a hard time believing she’s eighteen. Based on this, if you’d told me she was eight years old, I’d have a hard time refuting that claim. She has this voice that sounds like her ovaries never dropped. An “acquired taste,” I guess.

For sure the arrangement is what sells this song even if you don’t like Millie’s “little girl” voice. Those horn blasts are impossible to resist. There’s also an extremely raunchy harmonica part, which blasts into a solo in the middle eight that is by far my favorite feature of this song. I heard somewhere that it’s actually a young Rod Stewart blowing the mouth harp on this tune. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it’s a funny bit of trivia if so.

So...enjoyable, but based on this I can’t imagine her having a lasting career.

Rating: 3

*I have been known, on occasion, to offer up my own impression of Louie Armstrong singing the Schaeffer Beer jingle. It’s probably not something I should be doing, but there you are. **technically she did, as the follow-up single “Sweet William” was a top 40 hit. But peaking at #40 is not an unqualified success by any standard. Maybe when I finish this feature I’ll do songs that peaked at #40.

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