Picture sleeve for "Cough/Cool" b/w "She"
The Misfits were formed in January 1977 when Glenn Danzig, who had been in several garage bands such as Talus and Whodat and Boojang, decided to form his own band. For weeks he wrote songs and played with friends and old bandmates, trying to find a suitable lineup for the new band. The first Misfits lineup consisted of Danzig (electric piano, vocals), Jimmy Battle (guitar), Diane DiPiazza (bass guitar), and Manny Martinez (drums). After only about a month of practicing, Battle and DiPiazza left the band, and Martinez suggested his friend, Jerry Caiafa (a.k.a. Jerry Only) as the new bass player. Although Caiafa had only been playing bass for two months, he was added to the lineup, and the trio entered the studios to record their first single: “Cough/Cool” b/w “She”. This is today’s featured single.
“Cough/Cool”, true to punk form, runs only 2 minutes and 14 seconds, and starts off with Danzig playing a monotonous-sounding one-note melody on his electric organ (apparently connected to a fuzz box), joined a few seconds later by Manny Martinez’s drums. Although the track could have benefited from better production, The Misfits deliver a raw yet powerful performance here. The lyrics are barely decipherable, but Danzig’s tuneful bellow still penetrates the rather muddy-sounding mix. The dystopian lyrics seemingly describe a city suffering a disease epidemic, and were undoubtedly inspired by horror movies: “Cover your face when you walk by/Drench your visions in darkness”. The electric organ dominates the sound mix, while Jerry Only noodles around on his bass guitar. And then there is the chorus: “Spit up blood when you cough/Cool, cool, cool/Cough, cool, cool, cool”. There is an interesting-sounding keyboard solo towards the end, before the song comes to an abrupt end. Although the musical accompaniment is spare (there is no lead guitar on the track), The Misfits nonetheless get a lot of mileage from Danzig’s electric piano and Manny’s drum-playing. Listening to the track, one begins to understand the band’s initial appeal, if not the renewed interest that has developed in the 1990’s and beyond (an interest that prompted Jerry Only to form a new Misfits lineup in an attempt to cash in on the band’s cult status).
“She” is an even shorter track (1 minute and 22 seconds), and moves along at a fast pace, making it seem even shorter. This time, Jerry Only’s bass dominates the sludgy sound mix (although Danzig’s electric piano is also quite audible), and the melody is not something that seems hard to play: a grand total of 3 chords are used (A, G, and FF), as The Misfits play a simple-yet-catchy tune. The song reminds me of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” in the way in which the melody and the lyrics move along quickly, as if the musicians are constipated. [In fact, before forming The Misfits, Glenn Danzig sang in bands where, according to him, he sang “mostly Black Sabbath songs”, so the idea that “She” was inspired by Black Sabbath doesn’t seem all that farfetched.] The lyrical content is about a woman (the “She” of the song title) that seems to be skirting the line between virtue and vice, with lines like these: “She walked out with empty arms/Machine gun in her hand/She is good and she is bad/No one understands”. And this: “She was virgin vixen/She is on the run”. In fact, the seemingly oxymoronic phrase “virgin vixen” can be seen as a sign that even at this early stage, Glenn Danzig had a lyrical flair which was in evidence more fully during his work as a solo artist. The Misfits pack quite a sonic assault into this brief song, and in spite of the low production values, “She” is a great punk song.
The single (catalog #: 101) was issued on the band’s own Blank Records in August 1977 (it was recorded in June 1977). The single was recorded at the Rainbow Studio and mastered at Spectrum Sound in Brooklyn, New York by Rich Flores. Only 500 copies of the original single were made, and copies of this single are said to fetch about $2,000 on eBay. The image shown here is of the picture sleeve of the reissue of the single. The original release apparently had a picture sleeve as well, although I’m not sure if it was the same picture sleeve used for the reissue. This is also the only Misfits release on which Jerry Only is credited under his original name, Jerry Caiafa. After his name was misspelled on the liner notes of this single, he adopted the stage name Jerry Only. The band would undergo many personnel changes over the next six years, eventually adding a guitarist (Franche Coma, who would be the first of several guitarists), and replacing Manny Martinez with a succession of different drummers. Danzig and Jerry Only would be the only constants during this period, and the band broke up after playing a final concert in Detroit, Michigan on October 29, 1983. In 1995, Only reformed The Misfits without Danzig (after reaching a legal settlement with Danzig that allowed Only to use The Misfits’ name and images, but splitting merchandising rights between Only and Danzig), this version of the band has also seen several personnel changes, with Jerry Only remaining as the one constant through the revival era.
Picture sleeve for The Cars' single "Just What I Needed". The cover model is Natalya Medvedeva, a Russian-born model, journalist, and musician who died in 2003.
Long before The Cars had formed, Rik Ocasek (rhythm and lead guitar) and Benjamin Orr (bass guitar) met at a party in Columbus, Ohio and began performing as a duo, covering rock and roll classics. After deciding that Boston would be a better place to break into the music business, Ocasek and Orr relocated there. There they met keyboardist Greg Hawkes, who had studied music at the Berklee School of Music, and the three, along with lead guitarist Jas Goodkind, combined to form the folk band Milkwood. They released an album called “How’s the Weather” (1973) on the Paramount label. The album failed to chart. After Milkwood, Ocasek and Orr formed Richard and the Rabbits with drummer Thomas Tapley (the name was suggested by Jonathan Richman). Hawkes joined Orphan, a soft rock band, and Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture, a musical comedy act fronted by Martin Mull. Ocasek and Orr eventually performed as an acoustic duo called Ocasek and Orr, and performed at the Idler coffeehouse in Cambridge. Eventually, Ocasek and Orr teamed up with guitarist Elliot Easton (who also studied at Berklee) and formed the band Cap’n Swing. This band also featured Kevin Robichaud on drums and a jazzy bass player, which clashed with Ocasek’s more rock and roll leanings. Eventually Ocasek got rid of the bass player, the keyboardist and the drummer. Robichaud was replaced by David Robinson, whose main claim to fame up to that point was as the bass player for Jonathan Richman. Hawkes joined the band, and Robinson suggested a new name for Cap’n Swing: The Cars. The band spent the winter of 1976-1977 playing throughout New England, developing and honing the songs that would comprise their debut album. Local station WBCN started playing the demo of “Just What I Needed”; this led to a contract with Elektra Records. “Just What I Needed” b/w “I’m In Touch with Your World” was released as the lead single from their self-titled debut album. This is today’s featured single.
In “Just What I Needed”, The Cars recorded a song that captured their blend of garage rock energy and new wave finesse in a perfect mixture. Rik Ocasek’s deadpan vocal delivery seems ideal for the lyrics, which is an interesting play on the traditional love song: “I don’t mind you coming here/Wasting all my time/’Cause when you’re standing oh so near/I kinda lose my mind”. The protagonist’s attitude seems to cross over from indifference to a more menacing attitude with the chorus: “I guess you’re just what I needed/I needed someone to bleed”. Bassist Orr also lays down an appropriately restrained backing vocal during the chorus. The musical accompaniment complements the lyrics well; the interaction between Easton’s guitar and Hawkes’ cool, almost hypnotic synthesizer melody is great, and about 1 minute and 48 seconds into the track, we even get a brief Easton guitar solo. Ocasek’s vocal delivery becomes more insistent towards the end, and the music builds to an appropriate crescendo before ending. Producer Roy Thomas Baker made a crystal-clear, radio-friendly recording, and as a result, “Just What I Needed” got considerable radio airplay, helping the song become a Top 30 hit; it is still a staple on classic rock stations throughout the United States.
Red vinyl version of the "Just What I Needed" single.
The B-side of this single, “I’m In Touch With Your World”, is a much more restrained, low-key song with nonsensical lyrics: “You can tuck it on the inside/You can throw it on the floor/You can wave it on the outside/Like you never did before”. Unlike the previous track, in which the duel between Easton’s guitar and Hawkes’ synthesizer were key to the musical content, on this track, Easton guitar seems much more fey, save for a brief period during the chorus. Hawkes’ synthesizer punches through the musical landscape on occasion, giving the song an appropriately otherworldly sound. While “I’m In Touch With Your World” lacks the pop-like sheen of “Just What I Needed”, it nonetheless showcases The Cars’ ability to craft clever, memorable songs.
This single (catalog #: E-45491) was released on May 29, 1978. It was issued with a picture sleeve (the picture on the cover was identical to the cover of the debut album, with the name of the band and the track listing across the top. It was also issued, with the same catalog number, on colored vinyl. The success of this single would prove to be only the beginning for The Cars, who eventually would go on to become the most successful new wave band. The first album peaked at #18 and remained on the Billboard album chart for 139 weeks, spawning two more charting singles. The second album, “Candy-O” (1979) was also successful, spawning such hits as “Let’s Go”. The third album, the more experimental “Panorama” (1980), was not as successful, producing only one Top 40 single (“Touch and Go”), but it nonetheless went platinum. The next album, “Shake It Up” (1981), was seen as a return to form; the title track became a Top 10 hit, and another song from the album, “Since You’re Gone” was also a hit. The band took a break for solo projects, but re-emerged a few years later with “Heartbeat City” (1984). The first single off the album, “You Might Think”, was a major hit and also boasted a groundbreaking video. Other hits from the album included “Magic”, “Hello Again”, and “Why Can’t I Have You”. Their next album was “Greatest Hits” (1985), which contained one new track, “Tonight She Comes”, which was released as a single and reached the Top 10. Their next studio album, “Door to Door”, contained the Top 20 hit “You Are the Girl”, but the album failed to approach the success of previous albums, and in February 1988, The Cars announced their breakup. Benjamin Orr died in October 2000 from pancreatic cancer, but the surviving members of The Cars placed a photo of themselves together at a Boston studio on their Facebook page, suggesting the possibility of a band reunion.
"What Our Love Needs" b/w "Groove Me" 45 RPM single
Many people have heard of the late great King Floyd, and most of those people remember his Top 10 hit from 1970, “Groove Me”. But how many people know that “Groove Me” was actually the B-side of his first Chimneyville Records single, “What Our Love Needs”? And that single is today’s featured single: “What Our Love Needs” b/w “Groove Me”.
King Floyd was born in 1945 and began performing in public at the Sho-Bar as a singer as early as 1961, but his fledgling music career was soon put on hold by a stint in the military. Following his discharge from the army in late 1963, he migrated to New York City, performing for about a year before moving to California. Through composer/arranger Harold Battiste, he met DJ Buddy Keleen, who in turn brought him to the Original Sound label, which issued his first single in 1965. This was followed by the Battiste-arranged album “King Floyd: A Man In Love”, issued by the Mercury subsidiary Pulsar in 1967, and featuring songs co-written by Dr. John. The album failed to make an impact, and King Floyd returned to New Orleans in 1969 to work for the post office.
In 1970, Wardell Quezergue, a composer of R&B scores, persuaded Floyd to record a single for Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi. “What Our Love Needs” was issued on Malaco’s Chimneyville subsidiary, with “Groove Me” on the flipside. The single did not start to take off, however, until a George Vinnett, a New Orleans DJ, flipped over the record and started to play “Groove Me”. The record became a local smash, and Atlantic Records scooped up national distribution rights; eventually the song reached #6 on the Billboard singles chart. King Floyd quit his post office gig and embarked on a national tour. The follow-up to “Groove Me”, “Got To Have Your Love” (taken from Floyd’s self-titled Atlantic album) also reached the Top 10.
“What Our Love Needs” has a laid-back funkiness to it that one would expect from a mainstream soul track circa 1970. For a pop record released by a relatively small record label, it has a pretty full sound; it starts off with drums and a lightly strummed lead guitar; there’s horns and a flute on the track, as well as a string section, the drum track and bass guitar give the song a sense of meter without overpowering the rest of the music. The lyrics, in which the protagonist argues the case to his significant other that they shouldn’t fight so much (“Our love needs more kissing/And not so much hitting”) are delivered with a tender-laden reverence. Some of the analogies are a bit corny (“‘Cause when two people are in love/They stick together like a hand inside a glove”), but Floyd sounds so sincere that it’s pretty easy to forgive him.
There’s no question that “What Our Love Needs” is a good song, but it’s easy to see how the quirky playfulness of “Groove Me” won in the court of public opinion. Artists often took more chances on the B-sides of singles, being bolder and more experimental, and arguably, that is the case here. In some ways, the sound is similar to “What Our Love Needs”: we still get the lightly-strummed guitar, the solid but not overpowering drums, and of course the horns, but from the opening seconds of the song, when Floyd greets us with a “Uh! Awww! Sookie, Sookie now”, we get the idea that this song is a little different. Supposedly, Floyd’s original inspiration came from a love letter he wrote to a college girl who was a co-worker at a box factory he was working at in California; the girl quit and he never delivered the letter. In 1970, Floyd re-worked the words in the letter into funky, percolating jam. And there are some great lines here, too: “You’ve become a sweet taste in my mouth, now/And I want you to be my spouse/So that we can live happily, nah-nah,/In a great big ol’ roomy house”. The song has almost a proto-reggae sound to it, although Floyd’s sound might more accurately be described as southern soul. The horns punctuate the sound more noticeably that on the A-side, and they are the real difference-maker here.
The single (catalog #: Chimneyville 435) was issued nationally on the Chimneyville label; the top half of the label looked like a brick wall and the lower half was orange. When Atlantic picked up the national distribution rights, they added (“Distributed by Cotillion Div. of Atlantic Recording Corp.”) to the bottom edge. However, the single was later re-issued as part of Atlantic Records’ Oldies Series (Atlantic OS-13104), with a green Atlantic label (it looked similar to the classic red Atlantic label with the Atlantic logo across the top, only it was a lime-green label).