Friday, February 20, 2009

"66: Stevie Wonder, the T-Bones

Stevie Wonder -- Uptight

Here's a good live clip of 16-year-old Stevie Wonder doing two of his greatest from the Mike Douglas Show from late 1966. Douglas, who was about as square as square can be (his hit was "The Men in My Little Girl's Life," and was popular at the same time "Uptight" was in early 1966) would surprise you -- he frequently had R&B and pop stars on his afternoon show, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously guest hosted his show in the early 1970s for a week while Douglas was away (lovingly captured on a DVD set). You rarely hear Stevie talk about being blind, but Douglas got him to mention it, if not say too much. How about that set -- asterisks were very big in the mid-60s. They dominated the Dating Game set, too. 

After hitting it big with "Fingertips Part 2" in the summer of 1963 Stevie had had only modest success by his later standards on pop radio, so "Uptight," co-written with Motown label songwriter Sylvia Moy providing the lyrics, was not only a comeback for him but a springboard for a wave of hits that would see Wonder hitting the charts in an almost unbroken line for the next twenty years. "Uptight," an uptempo, horn-driven shouter, finds Stevie cast as a poor boy "from the wrong side of the tracks" who loves a rich girl. With "Purple Rain Drops" on the flip on Tamla, it went to #3 in early '66. 

T-Bones -- No Matter What Shape 

One of those out-of-left-field smashes the Swingin' Sixties are famous for. The T-Bones were four session musicians produced by Joe Saraceno, who had hit the charts himself in 1958 with "The Freeze" as half of the duo Tony and Joe; he later turned to production, attaining success with The Marketts ("Out of Limits") and the Ventures (Walk, Don't Run" and many other hits).  "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In) was produced by Saraceno for use in an Alka-Seltzer commercial you see here. The Ventures indeed covered the song soon after on their Where The Action Is LP. "Shape" was on the radio at the same time as "Uptight" in early 1966, and made it to #3 on the Liberty label.

After one more minor instrumental hit, "Sippin' 'n Chippin," in the spring of 1966, the T-Bones weren't heard from again -- until 1971, when Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds stormed the radio that summer with "Don't Pull Your Love." Dan Hamilton, Joe Frank Carillo, and Tommy Reynolds were all in the T-Bones.

Oh, yeah -- the version in the commercial isn't the T-Bones recording. This is.

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