‘Sassafras and Moonshine . . .’

I dug around this morning in the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in August 1965; the No. 1 record was Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” and the lowest-ranking single on the chart was “Little Miss Sad,” at No. 135, the only charted single for the Five Emprees from Benton Harbor, Michigan.

But I found myself not in the mood for any deep digging. It’s a busy week here: This Sunday, the Texas Gal and I will host our third annual End of Summer Picnic. The past few days, I’ve been washing floors and looking for dust (easy enough to find here) and making lists and shopping. So I’m a bit distracted.

Anyway, as I wandered through that Billboard chart, I came across Sandie Shaw’s “I’ll Stop At Nothing” sitting at No. 123. I didn’t find it particularly arresting, but I wondered if I’d ever written about the song “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me,” which was a No. 1 hit for Shaw in the U.K. in 1964 and went to No. 52 in the U.S. in early 1965. Five other versions of the song – including the original version by Lou Johnson (No. 49 in 1964) – have hit the charts, the most recent being Naked Eyes’ No. 8 version in 1983.

But it turns out I’d already written about the song back in early 2009. So I sat back and tried to put the brain in gear. And I thought,  “It’s a picnic week! What songs do I have about picnics?”

Well, in the mp3 stacks, there are three versions of Bob Dylan’s “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” which isn’t quite what I had in mind. And there are two versions of “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” which doesn’t work at all for me this morning (or maybe any morning).

But sandwiched between those were four versions of “Stoned Soul Picnic.” The first was songwriter Laura Nyro’s version from her 1968 album Eli And The Thirteenth Confession, followed by the 5th Dimension’s version – also from 1968 – which went to No. 3.

Sitting alongside those two versions of “Stoned Soul Picnic” in the search results was a surprisingly clunky Latin-tinged version of the tune by Mongo Santamaria, from his 1969 album, Stone Soul. And then there was a cover of the tune by Julie London.

London, who passed on in 2000, is maybe best remembered as a sultry-voiced singer of standards and torch songs from the late 1950s and much of the 1960s, maybe kind of a distaff version of Frank Sinatra. Her music from that era pops up on occasion here and is always welcome. Just as welcome are the interestingly selected covers of pop tunes from her 1969 album Yummy, Yummy, Yummy. Among those selections are the title tune, originally recorded by the Ohio Express; Bob Dylan’s “Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo),” and the Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

All of those are fun (and generally done pretty well in spite of whatever incongruity there may be), but the one that interests me today, given my preoccupation this week, is London’s take on “Stoned Soul Picnic.” I’ll be back Saturday.

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2 Responses to “‘Sassafras and Moonshine . . .’”

  1. Lisa says:

    Naw, I think Julie London is best remembered for her role in the 70’s TV show “Emergency!” Who didn’t love Nurse Dixie McCall!

  2. Paco Malo says:

    Incongruity is right: I love the vocal but the music and arrangement are too saccharine for my tastes. With a stripped down combo behind Julie, this would be a great cover.

    It’s cool you’ve got so many versions of this tune. Seems to me, that given the world around musicians at the time, Nero’s original is the only one that gives this picnic some stoned soul.

    (Bye the bye, I love your use of the term “played out” referring to both your garden and your taste for vegetables in the Saturday single post for today. I’ve only ever use “played out” in another context — as the song says: “Stoned Soul”, or while your playing classic R&B for that matter.)

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