Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Emmylou Harris : You Never Can Tell

When you are young you think you know.

You know how the world works.

You know just how things are going to turn out.

But you find out the world is a much stranger place than you thought.

People – your parents, your friends, your one and only love, strangely decide to behave in ways you never expected.

The 16 year old school no-hoper strangely turns out to a world-beater by 25.

Volcanos erupt. Impregnable Walls are torn down.

True Love sometimes turns out to be exactly that.

You learn not to make such definite snap judgments.

When things happen you didn’t see coming you’re not outraged.

Instead you smile a wry smile and say ’C’est La Vie – it goes to show you never can tell’.

 

And, if you’re a great songwriter reflecting wryly on life and love you decide to write a song filled with acute observation, humour and wisdom.

At least, that’s what you do if you’re Chuck Berry – even if you’re in Prison when the inspiration strikes.

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Chuck was, of course, a writer of both inspiration and deliberation.

There’s immense craft in the song.

The story is told in four short verses.

‘C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell’ is an arresting and immediately memorable lyric hook neatly and beautifully rhythmically encapsulating the moral of the song.

The AAAA Rhyme scheme is used with finesse and wit building up rhyme by rhyme a complete picture of the situation.

Chuck delights in marrying his New Orleans Creole Rhythm with a French name for teenage spouse, Pierre, and playfully using both madamoiselle and Madame, in the correct order, to signify that the truly in love couple have indeed rung the chapel bell.

So, married life begins with a well stocked Collerator just crammed with those dinners they wolfed while watching their favourite shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if they mixed that ginger ale with something a little more potent!

I was delighted to discover that ‘Coolerator’ was a genuine brand name (see image below) and that the refrigerators were manufactured in Duluth – making it certain that they would have been known to Bob Dylan and very likely stocked in the family electricals store.

 

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin’ worked out well
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They bought a souped-up jitney, ’twas a cherry red ’53
They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

 

Chuck always delighted in his references to US Car Culture and I have to admit that from the first moment I heard You Never Can Tell I sorely longed for a ‘Cherry Red ‘53’!

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I haven’t got mine (yet).

But, I surely did get me a fine Hi Fi Phono and boy, as all my neighbours will tell you, did I let it blast!

And, taking pride of place among my 700 or so 45s there will always be a high stack of Chuck Berry singles.

Because he was the greatest songwriter of the primal Rock ‘n’ Roll era and because nothing lifts the spirits like three minutes of prime Chuck Berry!

Consider that You Never Can Tell was preceded by, ‘No Particular Place To Go’ and succeeeded by, ‘Promised Land’ – a run of classics that would have worthily constituted a lifetime’s achievement for another songwriter/performer.

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I should draw your attention to the glorious piano playing of Johnnie Johnson for once foregrounded in this song.

Released from dramatic guitar playing duties Chuck concentrates his genius on his sly and smooth vocal.

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Of course, it was a given that once a new Chuck Berry song hit the airwaves and Jukeboxes that a flood of cover versions would appear.

So many to choose from for our Immortal Jukebox!

Let’s kick off with Emmylou Harris and her aptly named Hot Band more than kicking up their heels!

 

 

Emmylou and Co hit that shuffle rhythm from the get go don’t they.

Glenn D Hardin on piano and Hank Devito add colour with England’s own Albert Lee providing the stellar guitar.

What an apprenticeship in the big time this was for the young Rodney Crowell!

Naturellement he was in love with Emmylou  – putting him in company with all red blooded music fans of the time!

Now we let the arm come down on something really special.

You want a demonstration and distillation of the spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen and Jukebox afficianados the whole world over I give you the one and only Ronnie Lane with Slim Chance!

 

 

Now that’s a New Orleans second line party!

That’s ginger ale laced with the very finest bourbon!

That makes the big toe in your boot shoot straight up to the sky!

Every time Ronnie Lane strapped on his bass and stepped to the microphone he put his whole heart and soul into his performances exuding sheer glee in the music he was making.

The same holds true for Bruce Springsteen.

I love this version of You Never Can Tell from Leipzig in 2013.

Bruce takes the crowd request and coaches the initially sceptical Band until they produce a wonderfully ragged celebration of Chuck Berry’s anthem.

Chuck Berry will always be the heartbeat of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Thank God apostles like Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Lane and Emmylou Harris ensured that the message still resounds.

 

 

And, even today, somewhere in Chicago or Cairo someone is saying – you know we could really do a killer version of that Chuck Berry ‘C’est La Vie’ song.

It goes to show you never can tell where a great song will end up except that it will surely keep traveling on.

Christmas Alphabet : S for Springsteen – Santa Claus is coming to Town

Sometimes you should just make the introduction and get the hell out of the way as fast as you can.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls I give you Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band (featuring Clarence Clemons as Pere Noel!) with:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Bruce knows how to throw a party!

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice I hope you make the List.

In memory of a Big, Big Man – Clarence Clemons.

Springsteen, Bowie, Richard Thompson & The EasyBeats all have Friday on their minds!

Damn that alarm! Always too early. Every day. Every day.
 
Funny how I know the alarm is bound to ring yet somehow it’s always a surprise.
 
Another day. Here they come, rolling out their carpet of misery.
 
Mournful Monday. Terrible Tuesday. Woeful Wednesday. Tormenting Thursday.
 
Still, still … I got Friday on my mind. Friday on my mind.
 
Guess Mama was right – I should have listened in School.  
 
Maybe then I’d have a job that meant something to me instead of this endless grind where I’m treated as if I’m no more than a cog in a wheel.
 
Got to get through.

Monday morning punch the clock.
 
Monday night punch the clock.
 
Tuesday morning punch the clock.
 
Tuesday night punch the clock.
 
Wednesday morning punch the clock.

Wednesday night punch the clock.
 
Thursday morning punch the clock.
 
Thursday night punch the clock
 
Friday Morning punch the clock.
 
Friday night punch the clock.
 
One of these Friday nights I’m really gonna punch that clock!
 
 

 
 

I do my job. As well as they’ll let me.

Anyway they ain’t said I broke no rule.

Maybe one day if I keep my nose clean I’ll get that raise in pay they been promising for so long. Maybe.

Until then I’ll keep my mind fixed on Friday when I ain’t just one more guy on the shift.

My time. Off the clock.

My time. Off the clock.

Friday on my mind. Friday on my mind.

An undeniable hit from the first second of the intro!

And, a massive 1966 worldwide hit it proved. Top 20 in the USA, top 10 UK, No 1 in The EasyBeats Australian home and also in Holland.

In Australia it’s an iconic symbol of the emergence of a far away continent into pop culture consciousness.

So it’s been voted Australia’s best song of all time as well as being safely lodged in their National Sound Archives Registry.

The song was written by Henry Vanda and George Young lead and rhythm guitar respectively. Dick Diamonde held down the bass with Gordon Fleet behind the drums. The impassioned vocal courtesy of Stevie Wright.

All their energy and talents mesh together here perfectly to lay down a pop classic that always comes up no matter how many weekends it has kickstarted.

Friday on my mind is a wonderful adrenaline rush of a song that sums up a universal feeling. The sense of gathering excitement is brilliantly realised.

Perhaps they were able to capture such a feeling because as the sons of migrant families to Australia they were hyper alert, as migrants often are, to the signals of culture all around and desperate to make their mark in their new world.

They met up at Villawood Migrant Hostel and via intense practice and stints at ‘Beatle Village’ venue in Sydney they became a formidable live band ready to conquer a continent and take on the world.

Their second Australian release in 1965, ‘She’s So Fine’ had launched them into pop orbit and brought them adulation at near Beatles level at home.

But the epicentre of the pop world in 1966 was London. So it was there in September with Shel Talmy (producer of hits for The Kinks) at IBC studios that they recorded the record that will always define their career.

Let’s return to the term, ‘hyper alert’. Perhaps the single artist in the modern era who most exemplifies that quality is David Bowie.

Sharply intelligent, artistically omnivorous and hugely ambitious he hoovered up every influence in the 1960s air (and in all the decades thereafter) right up to his majestic sign off with, ‘Blackstar’.

His 1973 record, ‘Pin Ups’ celebrated the 1964 to 1967 world that David Jones/Bowie moved in before his own career ascended to the stratosphere.

Bowie lends, ‘Friday On My Mind’ his own wild glamorous sheen.

Now, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is well known to be tuned in to the blue collar life.

Growing up in New Jersey his ears will have pricked up at the skewering of working class realities captured by The EasyBeats.

And, Bruce pays his dues. So, arriving to tour Australia he has no hesitation in pulling out, ‘Friday On My Mind’ and bringing the full force of his personality and the drive of the E Street Band to lift the roof off!

As the 21st Century approached Playboy Magazine decided to ask a series of musicians for their choices for the music of the millennium.

Playboy assumed that the responses would be choices of music from the 20th century and for all but one contributor the assumption proved correct.

The exception was the list provided by English guitar and songwriting genius Richard Thompson.

Richard must have delighted in producing a list that included both, ‘Sumer is Icumen In’ and, ‘Oops! … I Did It Again’.

Richard as a teenager was playing and attending the iconic 1960s clubs like the UFO. And, who,knows that he crossed paths with The EasyBeats. He certainly recognised a classic guitar figure when he heard one.

There’s a caricature of Richard a misery laden, doom and gloom merchant. In truth he’s a serious musician with well honed wit who can turn his considerable gifts to any subject he chooses.

Listen to him give Friday another dimension.

Few songs appeal so powerfully to so many artists.

Vanda and Young with The EasyBeats have succeeded in keeping Friday on our minds eight days a week.

The Boss, The Band & Buddy Holly & The Strypes blitz Bo Diddley!

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

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A true message, a strong signal always gets through. People are waiting. People are always waiting for a true message. And, especially when you are in your teens you seem to spend your life waiting. Waiting for the person, the thing, the sound which will release you from the prison you seem to have been entombed in for so long.

Oh, you don’t know what it is you are waiting for, exactly. How could you? You just know as you stare for hours and hours at the walls of your bedroom that something, something big, something important, something meant just for you, is on its way.

Something, out there somewhere, is coming. And, you know, you just know, that when it comes you will recognise it and fall upon it like a hungry wolf. It is bound to take you somewhere you’ve never been before opening up a whole new life. A whole new world.

There is always a Promised Land to long for, to believe in with all your heart. Whatever sensible people, older, wiser people tell you, YOU know that the Promised Land is real and just over the horizon.

In 1950s America the musical message, the true musical message came through the ether on radio waves. Border radio stations with 50,000 watts of power sent the message to distant parts of the land. And, in distant parts of the land people were waiting. People were waiting.

Sitting in his car, late at night, in Lubbock Texas with his friend Sonny Curtis, Charles Hardin Holly always and forever after to be known as Buddy Holly, tuned in to stations playing Blues and Rhythm and Blues music and had an epiphany.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

‘Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring …..’

And that was it! If a smart young musician who already knew his Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Louvin Brothers and who knew the young Elvis Presley could incorporate this thunderous rhythm into the songs he was writing (oh yes, this was a young man who was going to write and record his own songs and play the hell out of them on the Fender Stratocaster he had bought for the princely sum of $249.50) then surely the world beyond Lubbock would sit up and take notice.

So, when he got to Norman Petty’s Clovis, New Mexico studio in 1956,’Bo Diddley’ was one of the first songs he tried out with the ever faithful Jerry Allison on the drums.

That version didn’t see the light of day for many a year but Buddy now had THAT RHYTHM in his bones. And, so when he came up with a song called, ‘Not Fade Away’ it was pounded out to Bo’s immortal Rhythm.

Gathered, in Clovis, on May 27 1957, Buddy now a certified star, turned to the Rhythm and with Joe Maudlin on bass and Jerry Allison on cardboard box drums he laid down a record which was a great tribute to Bo and one which would perk up the waiting ears of Paul McCartney and John Lennon in Liverpool and in the outer reaches of London, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard (and we know what they then did!)

Listening to Buddy here you hear the sound of someone entirely present in their work. Present in the mixture of choppy propulsion and gleeful, aint it grand to be alive lyricism of his guitar work. Present in the distinctive alluring timbre of his vocal style.

Present in the easeful assurance of his lyric which characteristically combines assertiveness and romantic sweetness. Buddy Holly had one of the most vivacious sounds ever achieved in Rock n’ Roll and his blend of instrumental flow and aggression with tough yet tender songs set a template for generations of musicians that followed him. Few have ever caught up with Buddy.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Fast forward to 1963. Up in Canada, the big lonely, Arkansas native Ronnie Hawkins has found his niche purveying prime rockabilly and rock ‘n ‘ roll to the denizens of the toughest bars in Toronto and any other town where there’s an audience ready for a band filled with crack musicians led by a natural showman.

Ronnie Hawkins is a figure out of myth. A bear of a man, a larger than life hustler, a supreme tall tale teller some of whose juiciest takes may even be true no matter how outrageous they seem. Ronnie has been down all the blue highways and seen just about everything a man can see and not go blind.

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One thing about Ol’ Ronnie; he may not be even close to being a great musician himself but he sure as hell can spot one when he hears one. And, given that Ronnie helmed the hottest band in Canada which offered a young musician a full date book, the opportunity to hone their musical skills and the promise of unlimited carnal delights, there was no shortage of would be members of The Hawks.

Joining The Hawks was like a raw recruit being sent to the toughest possible military base for intensive training. If you survived there was no other band’s ass you couldn’t kick to kingdoms come.

And, by 1963 when Ronnie and the latest vintage went into the studio to record Bo’s classic, ‘Who Do You Love’ Ronnie had assembled the best band he would ever have. A band that had talent to burn, fire and finesse and the stamina to play all night long, night after night after night.

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On drums and vocals the only American in the troupe, Levon Helm (the eldest at 23). On rhythm guitar (soon to switch to bass) and vocals Rick Danko, on piano and vocals Richard Manuel and on guitar, a prodigy, Robbie Robertson. Completing the line up for this record was another stellar axeman, Roy Buchanan, here on bass.

Waiting in the wings was the greatest musician of them all the mighty Garth Hudson who was a revelatory master of the organ, the accordion and a bunch of saxophones. On that day in 1963 as they launched into, ‘Who Do You Love’ they brought all Bo’s ominous pealing thunder to the song while adding strike after strike of earth scorching lightning which lit an unquenchable match in the hearts of anyone who ever heard it.

This set of Hawks, as we know, would go on to collaborate with the greatest popular music artist of the 20th Century, Bob Dylan, accompanying him on epochal tours and making distinguished contributions to his recordings.

As, ‘The Band’ their first two albums would be certified masterpieces melding all the traditions of American music into a glorious seamless whole in songs of depth and fervour. The whole project of Americana music might be seen as trying to explore the territory opened by The Band.

But, in 1963 they were not Rock aristocrats – they were hot as hell sons of guns and their playing on, ‘Who Do You Love’ has rarely, if ever, been matched for incendiary passion. Robbie Robertson’s guitar playing here is simply astounding.

It’s as if Ronnie Hawkins had chained him up for a month, without his beloved guitar and then given it back saying, ‘You don’t get to keep it unless you set this studio ablaze!’

Robbie Robertson conjures more magic out of his guitar here in under three minutes than most guitarists manage in a lifetime. Out front Ronnie intones Bo’s lyric with lip smacking relish conscious that this record must be his finest hour.

 

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

The message certainly got through to a kid growing up in Freehold, New Jersey. The songs Bruce was drawn to, enraptured by, were songs filled with drama. Songs that swept you up and away with their passion. Songs that were emotional twisters. Bruce got Bo.

Bruce Springsteen has always understood that it’s essential power of rhythm that holds a song together. And as a writer and performer he has always understood, in a way that few others have, that a great artist performing on stage is invoking timeless ritual energies that have to have their being confirmed and released through rhythm now controlled, now unleashed, now controlled, now unleashed until the ritual is complete and artist and audience are elated, exhausted and free.

Bruce gets Bo. In particular he gets, the howling past the graveyard depths of ‘Mona’ which in some mysterious fashion called forth his own song, ‘She’s The One’. So often in concert he runs the two songs together doffing his cap to Bo and proving his devotion to tradition by adding to it not merely copying it.

The version I’m featuring here is from a spectacularly intense concert he and The E Street Band gave at LA’s Roxy in July 1978.

You’d think Bruce and the band would have needed to take an ice bath to recover after that! This is Bruce using every muscle and sinew to inhabit the spooked landscape of Bo’s song. Bruce shape shifts to become a shamanistic vessel for THE RHYTHM. Listening to this I would never quibble with his honorary title as, ‘The Boss’.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Over in Britain and Ireland in the 1950s and early 60s just knowing the name of Bo Diddley showed that you were one of the musical elect. He wasn’t exactly a household name and was very rarely played on the radio.

His records had to be tracked down in record shops like Dobells in London, NEMS in Liverpool or Belfast’s Atlantic Records who might stock or might order for you those precious 45s of Bo Diddley or Mona.

These singles issued on the black and silver London label and later on the yellow and red Pye label were fetishistic objects for a core group of fanatical rhythm and blues fans who included such future luminaries as Dick Taylor of The Pretty Things (named after a Bo Diddley song), Eric Burdon of The Animals and Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Being an R&B devotee was akin to joining a secret confraternity. Once you had heard Bo you were a changed being.

The hallmark of being an R&B band that really knew their stuff was that you could lock into THE RHYTHM you had learned from Bo and through ecstatic dance take your audience to a whole new level of consciousness. So, if you were in the know and danced at The Cavern, The Marquee, The Flamingo or Club A Go Go you wouldn’t go long without that Bo Diddley Rhythm starting to take you over.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Now, it’s undoubtedly the case that the 1960s represents the high water mark of the Blues Boom in Britain and Ireland. But, the signal, the Rhythm never went away. The signal continued to be sent and received.

In the 1970s out of the Thames Delta and the extraordinary landscape of Canvey Island came a cutthroat crew, Dr Feelgood, who committed themselves 100% to the rhythm every time they launched into their tempestuous version of Bo’s I Can Tell.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen lead singer Lee Brilleaux’s eyeballs out attack on the song or stood open mouthed in amazement as Guitarist Wilko Johnson ricocheted across the stage strafing everyone with machine gun lead and rhythm licks.

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Dr Feelgood will get their own post here soon!

The signal still gets through.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

As the 20th Century came to a close far from hip metropolitan Dublin four boys were born in Cavan who destined to be nothing less than mojo men.

By 2012, while still schoolboys, Ross Farrelly (harmonica, vocals), Josh McClorey (lead guitar/vocals), Peter O’Hanlon (bass, vocals) and Evan Walsh (drums), bursting with energy, home recorded a debut EP which featured a series of R&B rave-ups on songs by Billy Boy Arnold and Slim Harpo.

The killer cut being their 100 miles an hour down a dead end street take on Bo’s, ‘You Can’t Judge A Book ..’

The Strypes get Bo.

You can see that as they strut their stuff on stage.

You can hear it in every note they play.

When you get down to it, when you really get down to it, Rhythm rules.

And you either get the rhythm or you don’t. You’ve either got it or you haven’t got it.

The Strypes have definitely got it!

If you get a chance to go and see them Go!

A true message, a strong signal always gets through. People are waiting. They will always be waiting. And, Bo Diddley’s message and signal will always be out there – waiting to be picked up.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Bomp-ba-domp-ba-domp, ba-domp-domp.

Hey, Bo Diddley!

P.S. If you havent read the previous post on Bo himself – what are you waiting for!

 

Bruce Springsteen & Manfred Mann : Pretty Flamingo!

‘In quella parte del libro de la mia memoria dinanzi a la quale poco is potrebbe leggere, si trova ina rubrica la quale dice: Incipit Vita Nova …….

In that first book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life.’

(Dante from Vita Nuovo)

‘Yonder comes my lady, rainbow ribbons in her hair …. Nobody, no, no, no, nobody stops me from loving you baby … And you were standing there in all your revelation! It’s too late to stop now!’

(Van Morrison, ‘Cyprus Avenue’)

‘Some sweet day I’ll make her mine, pretty flamingo
Then every guy will envy me
‘Cause paradise is where I’ll be
Pretty flamingo, pretty flamingo.’

(Mark Barkan)

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There really are moments when the course of your life is irrevocably altered. Moments when your history, your story, becomes divided into Before and After.

After such a defining moment you look at and experience the world around you as if it were an entirely fresh landscape glistening with new possibility.

Epiphanies are lightning strikes to the dormant consciousness; quickening barely acknowledged dreams into blood pumping, temperature raising life.

And, so often they occur without warning.

One moment you’re a regular fellow shooting the breeze with the guys on the corner of the block and the next, the next, you’re a hopeless, helpless fool prepared to mortgage your entire future for this girl, no , The Girl … If you just could – if she just would, if she just would, if she just would!

And, this can happen at any stage of your life.

It might happen, as it did, for the 9 year old Dante Aligheri on first glimpsing the divine vision of the crimson robed 8 year Beatrice Portinari in a Florentine Palazzo.

It might happen, as it did, for the teenaged Van Morrison obsessively haunting the tree lined avenue, so close and yet so far from his working class East Belfast home, as a rainbow-ribboned vision of beauty came into view.

It might happen, as it did for me, at 40 plus, in a worthy seminar about third world debt – suddenly realising that the woman I had just met was without any shadow of doubt the woman I must captivate because she was the woman I was going to marry, the woman I HAD to marry .. If I just could, if she just would.

Mark Barkan, a jobbing Brill Building style songwriter, in early 1966 through some divine inspiration came up with a perfect pop song, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ which captures, as few pop songs have ever done, that moment of abandonment to the dream of finding the love of your life.

The lovely image of the crimson coloured Flamingo, simultaneously familiar and exotic, brilliantly captures the sensual glamour of the beauty who, simply walking by, turns an ordinary day into a never to be forgotten one.

The original and in some senses definitive version of the song was by the Manfred Mann group who took it all the way to Number 1 in the UK in May 1966. It went on quickly to become an anthemic world wide hit.

This is a very 1960s beat group record brim full with youthful energy and vigour. The brash guitar is loud and upfront as the song starts and remains powerful as it beats on throughout; perhaps portraying the rib pounding rhythm of the protagonist’s heart as he comes to terms with his new, captive, situation.

The background wash of keyboards and the lovely woodwinds point to the escalating wonder and desire for one who seems so out of reach and out of sight.

You can almost feel the sigh as she walks by with that crimson dress that clings so tight.

Vocalist, Paul Jones, manages to capture the wonder and the longing of the situation as well as the bewilderment.

I love the, ‘Huh!’ he inserts as he contemplates whether he really could and whether she really would!

This incarnation of the Manfred Mann group had Manfred providing jazz chops on the Hammond Organ, Mike Hugg on drums, Jack Bruce (only very briefly a member) on bass and Tom McGuiness on guitar.

I’m assuming that the gorgeous flute work was provided Mike Vickers who had only recently ceased to be in the band.

The group had become a strong musical outfit through intensive gigging from from the very early 1960s. They combined musicianly multi-instrumental prowess and a love of jazz, R&B and Soul music with a flair for picking top quality songs from the emerging titans of the American songwriting scene (Carol King, Greenwhich/Barry and the peerless Bob Dylan).

I think you can hear their musical togetherness and attack in, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ reflecting their joy in music making and the thousands of road miles they had travelled together.

Their version of, ‘Pretty Flamngo’ should always be in any representative collection of the finest 1960s pop.

A song and a record like, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ was certain to light a flame in heart of would be tough but tender songwriters the world over.

So it is no surprise that the 16 year old Bruce Springsteen, listening to his radio in Freehold, New Jersey should have been bowled over by the song and kept it bright in his memory in the ensuing decades as he progressed from a tyro writer and performer to a global superstar.

I would hazard a guess that along with the operatic arias of Roy Orbison the echo of the yearning of, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ was somewhere in the creative mix in Bruce’s mind as he wrote ‘Thunder Road’one of his indisputably classic songs.

The magnificent opening of that song with the vision of Mary’s dress waving as she dances across the porch recalls for me the sashay of the Flamingo as she brightened up the neighbourhood and constricted the throats of every guy who wished she would let him be the Guy, not just one of the guys. The Guy who had made her his!

Listen to Bruce’s live version of Flamingo from 2014.

He performs the song solo, virtually acapella, and introduces the song with a meditation outlining how the song tells a story, a primal story, that’s always true and current.

For men as long as they breathe will fall in love with a girl, the Girl, as she passes by your porch.

He muses, sotto voce, as he begins to play the song that, ‘You’re always…. ‘. I think we can take it that by this he means that we are all always hoping that this time, today, will be the moment when could and would miraculously coincide so that together you take up residence in the longed for paradise.

Bruce, the mature twenty-first century Bruce, performs Flamingo with a wry romanticism that includes real erotic charge as well as an almost elegiac plangecy.

It may be that has something to do with Bruce’s inevitable recognition that his days as one of the guys on the corner of the block are long past – no matter how fondly remembered.

The consolations of such a realisation are however beautifully captured as Bruce’s own flamed haired beauty, his wife Patti Scialfa, joins him duetting at the microphone.

Sometimes all your dreams of the sweet day when you make the Girl, the fabled Flamingo, your very own turns out to be more than a daydream.

It turns out to be what you were living for before you knew what you were living for.

Notes:

As the ornithologists among you will know the name Flamingo derives from the Iberian, ‘Flamengo’ (with the colour of flame) is a highly distinctive wading bird prone, eccentrically, to standing on one leg.

The Flamingo, which can vary in colour from light pink to Dantesque Crimson, is in the genus Phoenicopterus from the family Phoenicopteridae. Don’t you just love the Greek language and Taxonomy!

Manfred Mann:

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Their 60s output is a cornucopia of delights and you will be amazed at how many of their songs are already in your own mental jukebox (take just, ‘The Mighty Quinn’, ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ and,’ 5-4-3-2-1′ for starters!)

The succeeding Chapter 3 and Earth Band have intriguing catalogues with regular forays into the Dylan and Springsteen catalogues as well as radio classics such as, ‘Joybringer’ and, ‘Davy’s on the road again’.

More Flamingos!

As a pop classic Flamingo has been covered innumerable times. The versions I recommend are:

The Everly Brothers – an ineffably tender rendition from their 1966, ‘Two Yanks in England’ record.

Elvis Costello – a rave-up version (powered by excellent drumming) where Elvis turns spa like Montreux into a sweaty simulacrum of 60s beat dives like Liverpool’s The Cavern or London’s The Marquee.

He is joined by the brilliant songwriting team from Squeeze Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook along with his own mentor Nick Lowe. Their obvious collective pleasure, as hardened songwriting professionals, in playing such a glorious pop confection is a joy to behold.

Paul Weller – has recorded Flamingo acoustically and also performed a tremendously rousing live version where he shows how acute his ear for the merits of the 60s pop song has been since his emergence from the punk pack.

Many thanks to the writer of this classic song, Mark Barkan, for commenting on this Post and for providing some intriguing background.