In working on a post about the early part of 1966, I checked out the Billboard Hot 100 for January 29 of that year, forty-seven years ago today, and I noticed that four covers of the Beatles’ “Michelle” were in the chart:
By David & Jonathan at No. 36
By Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra at No. 78
By Bud Shank (with Chet Baker) at No. 82
By the Spokesmen, bubbling under at No. 106
Three of them are pretty disposable although the version by the Spokesmen, which went no higher, is interesting because it has – to my ears – a little bit of the sound of Sonny & Cher to it. The Spokesmen, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, were from Philadelphia and in 1965, had gone to No. 36 with “The Dawn of Correction,” an answer record to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” One of the group’s members, David White, had been a member of Danny & The Juniors, and another Spokesman, Johnny Medora, wrote “At the Hop,” Danny & The Juniors’ No. 1 hit from 1958.
David & Jonathan, a duo from England, aren’t nearly as interesting. Both wound up producing the studio group White Plains, and along the way, Jonathan (Roger Cook) founded the group Blue Mink and David (Roger Greenaway) was a member of the Pipkins. Their cover of “Michelle” did get to No. 18. Two other singles, “Speak Her Name” in 1966 and a 1967 cover of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home,” bubbled under.
The very middle-of-the-road version by Billy Vaughn went one spot higher in the next week, peaking at No. 77. Vaughn’s “Michelle” is more notable for being the next-to-last of the forty records Vaughn got in or near the Hot 100 between 1954 and 1967; “Sweet Maria,” which bubbled under at No. 107 in 1967, was his last. Whitburn notes that Vaughn, a native of Kentucky, had more pop hits during the rock era than any other orchestra leader.
The best of the four “Michelle” covers was the version by saxophonist Bud Shank, with help from trumpeter Chet Baker. Pulled from Shank’s Michelle album, the record peaked at No. 65 and marked Shank’s only appearance in the Hot 100. It’s unique, it’s got saxophone, and it’s got trumpet, so my liking it should be no big surprise.
I’ll be back Thursday, with – I hope – that brief and puzzling tale from early 1966.