Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Wailers’ One Love at Studio One archives released

Simmer Down at Studio One

The Wailers

Released: May 28, 1994

Recorded: 1963-1966

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: reggae

The Wailing Wailers at Studio One

The Wailers

Released: May 28, 1994

Recorded: 1963-1966

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: reggae

One Love at Studio One

The Wailers

Released: February 28, 2006

Recorded: 1963-1966

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: reggae

Tracks, Disc 1 (Simmer Down):

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. This Train
  2. Simmer Down (1963, --)
  3. I Am Going Home
  4. Do You Remember
  5. Mr. Talkative
  6. Habits
  7. Amen
  8. Go Jimmy Go
  9. Teenager in Love
  10. I Need You
  11. It Hurts to Be Alone
  12. True Confessions
  13. Lonesome Feeling
  14. There She Goes
  15. Diamond Baby
  16. Playboy
  17. Where’s the Girl for Me
  18. Hooligan
  19. One Love
  20. Love and Affection
  21. Tell Them Lord *

* Added on to Simmer Down for the One Love collection.

Tracks, Disc 2 (The Wailing Wailers):

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. And I Love Her (1966, --)
  2. Rude Boy (1966, --)
  3. I’m Still Waiting
  4. Ska Jerk
  5. Somewhere to Lay My Head
  6. Wages of Love
  7. Wages of Love (alternate)
  8. I’m Gonna Put It On (4/66, --)
  9. Cry to Me
  10. Jailhouse (1970, --)
  11. Sinner Man
  12. Who Feels It Knows It (11/66, --)
  13. Let Him Go (12/66, --)
  14. When the Well Runs Dry
  15. Can’t You See
  16. What Am I Supposed to Do? (1965, --)
  17. Rolling Stone
  18. Bend Down Low (4/67, --)
  19. Freedom Time
  20. Rocking Steady

The Players:

  • Bob Marley (vocals, guitar)
  • Junior Braithwaite (vocals)
  • Peter Tosh (keyboards, vocals)
  • Bunny Wailer (percussion, vocals)
  • Cherry Smith (backing vocals)
  • Beverley Kelso (backing vocals)


4.486 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)

Quotable: “This collection traces reggae’s musical and philosophical DNA down to its R&B, doo-wop, Rastafarian, ska, and rock steady roots” –Eugene Holley, Jr., Amazon.com

About the Albums:

One could “write tomes telling the story of the Wailers before Chris Blackwell took them global” JT with 1973’s Catch a Fire. One could also gather volumes worth of music, so determining which to get can be daunting. Essentially this era can be broken into Studio One recordings (1963-1966) and Upsetters recordings with Lee “Scratch” Perry (1968-1971).

In regards to the former, “the Wailers cut more than 100 tracks” JT for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One label in Kingston, Jamaica, between 1963 and 1966. “Energetic and ragged,” SL “these historic sessions…showcase the embryonic stage” EH when “the group was just called the Wailers, without the ‘Bob Marley &.’” JT

Marley “the acknowledged leader of the group from the start – and the only one with previous recording experience.” JT His “compositions were clearly the Wailers’ strongest fare” SL but Marley “was by no means the best singer (just the most charismatic) in the group.” SL “Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and band baby Junior Braithwaite, whose piping tones gave the group its distinctive sound” G1 “sang lead on a large number of their songs.” JT

The Studio One era is best captured on Heartbeat’s 2006 41-track One Love at Studio One, an expansion “by a couple of tracks Heartbeat’s earlier release under the same title from 1991.” SL This is also a “spiffing up” JT of 1994’s Simmer Down at Studio One, Vol. 1 and The Wailing Wailers at Studio One, Vol. 2.

“While its greatest value is probably archival, there is a wonderful sense of musical exploration and joy in these tracks, which include original compositions, ska covers of American hits, doo wop exercises, island mento standards, spirituals and gospel pieces, and even renditions of songs by Bob Dylan and the Beatles.” SL

Several unreleased tracks and alternate takes – like Marley and company’s riff on the Beatles’ And I Love Her, EH although it “leaves much to be desired,” JT and a rare rehearsal track, Wages of Love – reveal their stylistic range and work ethic.” EH

Most of these songs were “done on Dodd’s Ampex 350 portable one-track tape machine, which means these are largely live-in-the-studio performances, many of them with backing from the Skatalites,” SL although “the Mighty Vikings, Rita Marley, …and many of Jamaica’s finest musicians” EH are featured as well. “In most cases this material is taken from the original session tapes and is presented without the overdubs found on other collections of this material. The in-depth liner notes, culled from hundreds of hours of interviews, by Wailers authorities Roger Steffens and Leroy Jodie Pierson, piece together the Wailers formative years at Studio One.” EH

The Simmer Down collection (disc 1 of One Love) kicks off with This Train, “recorded in 1966…, but the rest of the set proceeds in chronological order.” G1The Wailing Wailers, disc 2 of One Love, “starts in mid-1965, where its predecessor ended, and continues chronologically through the end of 1966. It was during this period that Jamaican music was shifting, slowing down from the exuberance of ska into the slower tempos and richer sounds of rocksteady.” G2

“The Wailers’ first single, Simmer Down, is one of the defining tracks of the ska era, addressing the violence of the Kingston slums in the patois of the people who lived there. The Skatalites provide the breathtaking rhythm track and horn arrangements, and Kelso, Tosh, Wailer, and Braithwaite harmonize the title under Marley’s rough-throated verses. For a one-track recording, there's an impressive amount of detail in the mix, and the song became an instant smash when Dodd played it at his sound system dance the same night it was recorded, quickly moving 70,000 copies. If that doesn’t sound like a big number, consider that in the 1960s the total population of Jamaica was less than two million.” JT

“A number of the songs here were recut to greater or lesser effect in later years, including Mr. Talkative (aka ‘Mr. Chatterbox’), Lonesome Feeling, ‘Love and Affection,’ and, of course, the mighty One Love. This music has been too long neglected by archivists, and now fans can hear where it really all began for this iconoclastic band.” G1

“One…remarkable thing about this compilation is the sheer number of songs that don’t feature the distinctive Jamaican off-beat accent. Right into 1966, the Wailers regularly recorded straight r&b and rock ‘n’ roll tracks…the band’s outright jaw-dropping version of Dion’s Teenager in Love. Indeed, the Wailers continued to record non-reggae songs all the way through their 1970 Island debut Soul Rebels.” JT

“From a historical perspective, some of the most interesting tracks are their versions of the spirituals Sinner Man, Amen, This Train, and Tell Them Lord,” JT a track added to the One Love repackaging of the two previous discs. These “impassioned takes on Christian songs…function as interesting precursors of their later embrace of Rastafarianism.” JT

“Braithwaite, an original member of the group and the first to leave, was Dodd’s favorite voice in the group, and he gets his high tenor out in front of the harmonies on Habits and It Hurts to Be Alone.” JT The latter features Braithwaite’s “delicate and emotional lead vocal…[and] a nice guitar line from Ernest Ranglin (which telegraphs that the song was actually a clever rewrite of the Impressions’ ‘I'm So Proud’).” SL

“By the time of 1965’s One Love, Dodd had upgraded to a two-track machine, and songs like Rude Boy,” SL “which later became the basis for ‘Rebel’s Hop,’ and HooliganJT “helped establish the Wailers as spokesmen for the ghetto and the warring gangs of dance crashers who ultimately brought the sound systems to their demise in the late 60s.” JT

Songs like I’m Gonna Put It On, which featured Dwight Pinkney on guitar alongside his band, the Sharks, SL and the Wailers’ “steamy version” G2 of “the lovely soul ballad I’m Still WaitingSL “began to hint at what the Wailers would become.” SL

The group’s initial phase closed with “1965’s rude boy anthem Jailhouse,” SL one of countless Jamaican singles of the period that extolled the fearlessness of the rude boys when confronted by the authorities.” JT The song also shows the Wailers “working with the new and slower rocksteady rhythms, and while there were still plenty of horn lines present, the manic, skipping ska pace becomes less prominent,” SL thus forming “the bridge from ska to reggae.” JT

“In 1966, Bob Marley went to Delaware to earn money for a planned Wailers label, and Bunny and Peter recruited Constantine Walker to fill his place, recording numerous Wailers sides while Bob was gone. Marley’s elevation to iconic status overshadowed Bunny and Peter’s estimable solo output, and the Bob-less tracks here show that either one would have been capable of leading the group. The two share lead vocals on the stunning rocksteady tracks Who Feels it Knows It and When the Well Runs Dry. The harmonies are noticeably sweeter in the absence of Marley, and What Am I Supposed to Do vies with Alton Ellis’ Why Birds Follow Spring and the Paragons’ On the Beach for the prettiest rocksteady song.” JT

“Tosh and Bunny [also] recorded the ominous gospel gem ‘Sinner Man’…and Peter’s attempt at a straight rock recording, Can't You See. Also worth noting here is Bunny’s version of Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ which keeps only the song’s chorus while rewriting the verses with lines like ‘Time like a scorpion stings without warning.’” SLRolling Stone, a fine version of the Bob Dylan classic, was recorded at the final session the Wailers held with…Dodd.” G2

“With Marley back from the States later in 1966, the group recorded” SL “one final single at Studio One, which they self-produced and Dodd distributed – Bend Down Low/Freedom Time.” G2 The former is “a song that prefigures the group's later work with producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.” SL

“All these curiosities add up to very solid set, but all of the alternate takes and rarities make it” JT “the definitive Studio One Wailers collection.” EH “To put it in evolutionary terms, this collection traces reggae’s musical and philosophical DNA down to its R&B, doo-wop, Rastafarian, ska, and rock steady roots.” EH

“There is an undeniable joy in the music on display, and its pure archival value is immense,” SL but “casual Marley fans may find it all a bit half-baked and primitive.” SL “For newcomers, it might be best to start with Marley’s 70s material (it’s more of a kick to hear the title track of this comp if you already know the version on Legend and Exodus, not to mention U2’s ‘One’) and work your way to this set via the Skatalites and some Studio One compilations. If you dig that stuff, One Love at Studio One will likely make you very happy.” JT

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 3/26/2008; updated 5/6/2021.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

50 years ago: The Platters hit #1 with “The Great Pretender”

The Great Pretender

The Platters

Writer(s): Buck Ram (see lyrics here)

Released: November 3, 1955

First Charted: December 9, 1955

Peak: 12 US, 13 CB, 13 HR, 111 RB, 5 UK, 13 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 26.13 video, 73.90 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

As the first R&B vocal group to top the pop charts, RS500 the Platters ushered in the doo-wop era RS500 with “The Great Pretender.” The term “doo wop” didn’t exist at the time, though. Gus Gossert, an oldies DJ on WDBS in New York City, started using the term (which was actually coined by record collector Stan Krause, who helped produce Gossert’s shows) around 1970 to describe this style of music. SF

The Platters were, at one time, “the most successful vocal group in the world.” NPR They were “one of the Fifties’ quintessential ballad groups,” RS500 “heirs to the smooth crooning style of the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers.” RS500 They were the “first black act to garner popularity from white audiences.” NPR

The legendary Buck Ram, “a titanic figure in doo-wop,” RS500 managed the group. He wrote “The Great Pretender” and co-wrote two other major Platters hits, “Only You” and “Twilight Time.” He wrote this “in about 20 minutes in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in order to have a song to follow up the success of ‘Only You.’” WK Ram “was pushing fifty when the song hit” RS500 and became the first of the Platters’ four #1 songs on the pop charts; it was their second of four #1 songs on the R&B chart.

The song “describes a man who deals with his heartbreak by denying it – he’s mastered the art of smiling through the pain.” SF However, lead singer Tony Williams is singing not just about the loss of romantic love, but about “alienation: ‘Too real is this feeling of make believe/ Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal.’” MA

Freddie Mercury of Queen recorded the song in 1987 and took it to #4 on the UK charts. Chrissie Hynde named her rock group “The Pretenders” after this song. SF


First posted 4/16/2020; last updated 10/28/2022.

Friday, February 10, 2006

100 years ago: “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” hits #1 – for the first time

Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie

Byron G. Harlan

Writer(s): Harry Von Tilzer (music), Andrew B. Sterling (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 3, 1906

Peak: 19 US, 13 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Harry Von Tilzer, born Harry Gumm in Detroit in 1872, was one of the few successful songwriters of his era, serving as inspiration to other composers such as Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. RA He wrote thousands of songs in his lifetime, of which more than two thousand were published. RA Von Tilzer fell in love with show business at an early age and at age 14 ran away to join the circus. By the next year he was touring with a repertory company playing piano and composing songs. His big break came when his song “My Old New Hampshire Home,” with lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling and William C. Dunn, was published in 1898 and sold more than two million copies. PS

He and Sterling worked together again on this Tin Pan Alley landmark song. “The song told the story of a couple, Joe and Nellie on a Sunday morning, looking forlornly through the window at the rain with her sweetheart by her side. It was a shame it was raining as there was a picnic at the old Point View and she also longed for a trolley ride to show her brand new gown.” SM

One legend says Von Tilzer and Sterling were inspired to write this when they were sitting in a hotel lobby and overheard a groom consoling his bride, “Just wait ‘til the sun shines, Nellie.” RA A variation of that tale had just Sterling hear a man utter the phrase to his wife when they had to postpone a trip to Coney Island. RCG Another account says Von Tilzer read a newspaper article about down-on-its-luck family in which the reporter declared, “the sun would once again shine for them after the storm.” PS Still another take suggests Von Tilzer heard someone standing outside a theater during a rain shower say, “wait ill the sun shines.” TY2

“The theme of the song about being optimistic when its raining, that sooner or later the sun will shine through was a theme picked up around 30 years later during the Great Depression by the New York Stock Exchange and it is traditionally sung by floor traders every Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.” SM

“Nellie” was originally written for an unsuccessful Broadway show called The Kissing Girl. Tilzer’s original tune was “a slow and deliberate march” RCG but in later years became a jazz favorite in a faster version. RCG Winona Winter introduced the song in vaudeville DJ and then it became popular via versions by Byron G. Harlan and Harry Talley. They each took the song to #1 while Prince’s Orchestra recording from the same year also went top 5.

Mary Martin and Bing Crosby dueted on the song for the 1941 film The Birth of the Blues. In 1942, Gale Storm sang it in Rhythm on Parade and the song served as the title for a 1952 film. It has become “a staple of ensembles and barbershop quartets or for sing alongs in schools and homes”. PS


Related Links:

First posted 2/10/2016; last updated 12/15/2022.

50 years ago: “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” hit the charts

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers

Writer(s): Frankie Lymon, Herman Santiago, Jimmy Merchant (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 10, 1956

Peak: 6 US, 6 CB, 2 HR, 15 RB, 13Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 15.6 video, 54.19 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Frankie Lymon was “one of rock & roll’s first teen prodigies, [but also] one of its earliest tragedies.” RS500 By 25, he was a penniless heroin addict. RS500 However, in his brief life, he contributed “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” which has been called “the perfect combination of commercial pop and doo-wop music.” SJ At thirteen, Lymon became the youngest artist (at that time) to top the U.K. charts. SF He had a voice that had yet to succumb to puberty and the moves and personality which served as a model for future child pop stars like Michael Jackson. FR He used “tricks learned form the likes of Dinah Washington and Ruth Brown, just given whatever veneer of maleness a thirteen-year-old possesses.” DM He also had an ability for “working the crowd like a young James Brown with absolutely no self-consciousness at all.” AH

It helped that Lymon had “a gorgeous falsetto voice ad knew how to use it.” AH Lymon, “through the sheer yearning of his vocal, …makes the record unforgettable.” DM As was usually the case with rock-tinged R&B and doo-wop songs by black artists in the mid-50’s, a white group – this time the Diamonds – covered “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” but this time the original by the Teenagers did better on the charts. This is partly because the Diamonds were adults and “simply couldn’t compete with the novely sound of a boy who sounded prpubescent, singing in falsetto.” AH Lymon “influenced almost every vocal group that followed,” AH including the Four Seasons, Jan & Dean, and the Beach Boys. AH

Richard Barrett, leader of the R&B group the Valentines, discovered the Premiers, as they were then called, and introduced them to his record label owner George Goldner. SS Goldner had also recorded the doo-wop classic “Gee” by the Crows. Herman Santiago was supposed to sing lead, but in more conflicting tales, was either sick that day SJ or was just bumped because Goldner liked Lymon’s delivery better. KL

It should come as no surprise that with all the conflicting tales surrounding the song, the writing credits are also a matter of dispute. One account says that Lymon wrote it for his girlfriend, TC but member Jimmy Merchant says the group used to perform in the hallway of the building where member Sherman Garnes lived. A tenant named Robert offered the group some love poems from his girlfriend to see if they could make any into songs. SJ

“Robert’s girlfriend” does not show up in any writing credits, but a lot of other names do. Early vinyl pressings credited Lymon, Santiago, and Merchant. WK The song was later attributed to Lymon and Goldner, who eventually sold the rights to Morris Levy, a label owner notorious for claiming copyrights on songs he didn’t write. SF A 1992 court battle awarded credit to Santiago and Merchant WK but were returned to Lymon and Levy when, on appeal, a judge agreed that Levy hadn’t written the song, but that the lawsuit had been filed too late. SF Yet another source says a lawsuit awarded Santiago and Garnes with authorship. DJ It is, of course, the only incident in the history of recorded music of disputed royalties over a hit song. Ever.


First posted 4/30/2021; last updated 4/1/2023.