Saturday Single No. 345

Despite being aware every day that I can always learn something, on occasion the things I learn make me sit back in my chair and murmur, “Whoa! I had no clue!”

Looking for inspiration – or at least a good hook – this morning, I sorted the 68,000 mp3s for the word “June.” I thought I might chronicle recordings made in June over the years, and if I were very fortunate, there would be something very good recorded on a June 8 in the past. (I have recording dates for maybe ten percent of the mp3s in the digital stacks; that still gives me enough to play with, at least when looking for months if not specific dates.)

So I sorted the “June” results chronologically and began going down the years, familiarizing myself with the 400 or so listings. How about “Little Old Cabin in the Lane” by Fiddlin’ John Carson, recorded in Atlanta on either June 13 or 14 in 1923? Or any one of four sides by Ma Rainey recorded in Chicago during June 1928? I moved on.

Charlie Patton had a busy day in Richmond, Indiana, on June 14, 1929; I have eleven tracks he recorded that day. Eight Junes later, in 1937, Robert Johnson had a busy two days in Dallas, recording twenty tracks (some of which were alternate takes), including “Hell Hound on My Trail,” “Love in Vain” and “Stop Breakin’ Down.”

I wandered through the 1940s and the 1950s, noting recordings by Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters and Eddie Bo. And as I reached the midpoint of the 1960s, I scrolled past “Slow Down” and “Matchbox” from the Beatles’ 1964 Long Tall Sally EP. And I stopped, seeing a track I’d not noticed before.

In 1978, Bear Family Records released Johnny & June, a collection of tracks recorded mostly in 1964 and 1965 by Johnny Cash, some of them with his wife, June Carter Cash. A rip of the album came my way some time ago, and I didn’t dig into it very much as all. I dropped it in the files and let the tracks come up when they might. I did dip into it when I looked at covers of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” but beyond that, I let it sit.

But because I sorted for the word “June,” the entire album showed up in today’s sort, and I saw a title that startled me: “Thunderball,” recorded May 12, 1965. My 007 detector started to ping. And through a little bit of digging, I learned that Cash either offered or was invited to – it’s not entirely clear which from a little bit of research this morning – provide a title tune for the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, which came out in 1965. In any case, Cash’s version – which describes the story – wasn’t used. The “Thunderball” theme that was used – sung by Tom Jones – had lyrics from Don Black that equated “Thunderball” with the film’s villain. John Barry wrote the music.

I imagine that had I heard Johnny Cash’s tune as I watched the film’s opening sequence in 1965, it would have long been the norm when I thought about the film and its soundtrack, and the Barry/Black composition would have been an interesting curiosity when it showed up on the expanded soundtrack CD. But having seen the film at least a few times and having heard the Barry/Black/Jones version many times more than that, it’s the Johnny Cash version that seems a bit out of place. Nevertheless, it’s interesting, and thanks to YouTube user BYWPodcast, who paired it with the opening sequence from Thunderball, Johnny Cash’s take on “Thunderball” is today’s Saturday Single.


2 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 345”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Thanks for sharing a true left-fielder. The Cash “Thunderball” sounds like the first step in the evolution of Vaughn Monroe’s “Riders In The Sky” into Johnny’s 1979 country version.

    Should a ‘Thunderball’ remake ever be shot in Dodge City, we’re all set.

  2. Paco Malo says:

    Interesting is not a strong enough adjective. If that film had Cash’s instead of Jones’ cut setting the tone, my life would have been different. For one thing, I wouldn’t have discovered Johnny singin’ to felons and mob bosses.

    Yah Shure nailed it: an early take of “Riders in the Sky”.


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