Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Live!

Baby What You Want Me To Do Quintruple Whammy

Baby What You Want Me To Do was written at the tail end of the 50s by blues guitarist Jimmy Reed.

Not that he’d have known at the time, but Reed penned something of a blues standard. In its 50+ years amongst the canon of popular song, Baby What You Want Me To Do  has been recorded in a whole range of styles by a whole range of artists. Here are some of the better ones.

elvis 68 comeback 2

Ol’ Elvis Himselvis was Jimmy Reed daft, and by the time of the ’68 Comeback Special, after he’d strapped on a guitar for the first time in ages, was intent on sneaking the Jimmy Reed riff into as many parts of the set as his band would allow. Every time rehearsals stopped, The King would find his sweaty fingers forming around the swampy tune. With quiff collapsed and lip curled high, he’d be off and running, his band of A-list sessioneers falling in behind him with a forced goofiness and much hootin’ and hollerin’.  “We’re goin’ up, we’re goin’ down…” and off they’d go once again….


The Live Show:

elvis 68 comeback 1

Elvis, dressed head to toe in Wild Ones leather and looking like a Texas oil slick played his guitar with a twanging punk ferocity not heard since Gene Vincent Raced With The Devil almost a decade earlier. That he and his band were playing inside a boxing ring rather than a stage only added to the pugilistic undertones eminating from the Presley 6 string. Terrific. There are a couple of ’68 Comeback albums worth looking out for – the edited essentials Tiger Man and the warts ‘n all Memories; The ’68 Comeback Special album, which features more versions of Baby What You Want Me To Do than you could possibly ever need. Or perhaps not. If you buy one record this month…etc etc…

dee clark

Delectus ‘DeeClark was a ten-a-penny soul/RnB singer. Most famous for having fronted Little Richard’s band after the real Richard had his calling from the Lord, Dee Clark would’ve romped the 1958 series of Stars In Their Eyes, such are the carbon-copy facsimiles of Little Richard in his earlier records.

But Dee could turn his vocals to many styles, and inbetween the high camp quiff Richardisms and duh-duh-duh-duh doo-wop stylings, he found time to cut a version (above) of Baby What You Want Me To Do that instantly conjures up lazy images of the deep south and makes me want to pour a decent measure of sour mash, fire up a crawfish gumbo and let the good times roll. Terrific too.

everly brothers

Everyone should clear 5 minutes a week to hear an Everly Brothers record – you’ll feel better for it. Battlin’ brothers Don and Phil cut a version that is classic Everlys – a polite country-ish rockin’ guitar, some barrelhouse piano and enough good time vibes that belies the fact that they hated one another with a passion. You can imagine them in the studio sharing the mike, just as Lennon & McCartney would do a few years later, their close-knit harmonies fusing together like honeyed glue, all the while angling for greater personal share of the spoils, Don doing the low parts, Phil the outrageous highs.

Likewise Dion. Not Celine, just Dion. Clear 5 minutes a week etc. No stranger to Plain Or Pan, Dion’s take comes from the suitably named Bronx In Blue LP, a somewhat laid-back affair, all twangin’ acoustics and groin-botherin’ bass. It was nominated for a Grammy, dontchaknow? Unusually for a Dion record, his version was cut in the mid 2000s, when he wasn’t smacked off his face on Class A’s, and he doesn’t quite break into that doo-wop falsetto of his, but don’t let that put you off.

dion dimucci



Cover Versions, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

Born To Be With You Triple Whammy


Born To Be With You was an American top 5 single for The Chordettes in 1956. A largely forgotten piece of bobbysox balladeering, it’s a proto doo wop, proto girl group paen to a just-out-of-reach romance, all minor key melodrama and vocal harmonies. It was quite clearly an influence on the young Phil Spector a few years later. A few short calendar years maybe, but it might as well have been several lightyears, given what happened in the intervening years betwixt and between The Chordettes and the golden touch of Phil Spector. 1956 was Year Zero for rock ‘n roll. The year that Elvis and his gyrating pelvis appeared on television screens with the dual effect of horrifying the moral majority of Americans whilst galvanising youths everywhere into action.

Before Elvis there was nothing.”

John Lennon said that. And after Elvis there was everything. I’ll say that. Firstly, Tin Pan Alley songwriters and their ‘moon in June‘ blandfest of lyrics were given a huge boot up the arse and out the door. As they were leaving, in came bands who played their own instruments, wrote their own songs, presented themselves as a gang and dressed accordingly. In a few short years, the thrill of rock ‘n roll and all its attendant detritus was well in motion. But you knew that already.

Phil Spector was a bit of a throwback to that pre-Elvis era. The auteur of teen angst, he used assorted songwriters to pen the hits, before introducing the song to the musicians who would bend and shape it into Spector’s vision of a 3 minute symphony, before finally introducing the singers to the song and pushing them to the very edge of their limits in order to create pop perfection. Goffin & King. Ellie Greenwich. Jeff Barry. Writing for The Ronettes. The Crystals. Darlene Love. I’m sure you know them all. Phil even got himself a writing credit for coming up with the “woah-woah-woah” part at the end of Mann & Weill’s ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling‘. Clever man, that Phil Spector. Well, he was at one time…

dave edmunds

Spector’s influence reached far and wide, as far even as that hotbed of rock action, south Wales. In 1973, following the huge success of I Hear You Knocking (a favourite of John Lennon, coincidentally), and after a part in David Essex’s Stardust, Dave Edmunds combined his love of early 50s rock ‘n roll with the technique of Phil Spector and produced his own version of The Chordettes’ Born To Be With You. It’s terrific! A wall of 12 string guitars, stratosphere-scraping vocals and galloping, clattering rat-ticky-tat percussion. It’s measured. Precise. Perfect. By the time the brass ‘n slide guitar part comes soaring in, you’ll already have convinced yourself this is the best record you’ve heard all year. Someone like Glasvegas could waltz in and do it in the same style and make it sound even huger. “Coz ah wiz borrrrn…tae be wi’ yooo!” But for the moment, content yourself with Dave Edmund’s 40-year old version. I think you’ll like it a lot.

Pop Quiz Interlude

Q. Aside from The Beatles, name the only other rock/pop artists on the cover of the Sgt Peppers LP.

sgt pepper

A. Bob Dylan (top right, back row) and Dion (7th from left, 2nd back row. Just next to Tony Curtis and behind a wee bit from Oscar Wilde).

Dylan you’ve probably heard of. Dion too, for that matter. Dion was a duh-duh-duh-d’-duh-duh duh dude. His rasping, doo-wopping Noo Yoik Bronx vocal created monster hits. The Wanderer. Runaround Sue. A Teenager In Love. I’m sure you’re singing them now, ingrained as they are in the very fabric of rock ‘n roll.  Dion was also the Marti Pellow of his day – pop idol on the outside whilst rattling to the bones with heroin on the inside. When the hits dried up, Dion found himself label-less, friendless and definitely down and out in New York City. Following a religious epiphany (c’mon! what did you expect?!?) and subsequently ditching the drugs, 1975 found Dion working with Phil Spector on his own version of Born To Be With You.

dion 7

Ironically, it’s less Spectorish than Edmunds’ rollin’ and tumblin’ version. Dion’s is downbeat, introspective and melancholy, sounding exactly like the kind of record an artist makes when they know they’re in the last chance saloon; measured (again) and majestic. At just short of 7 minutes, it’s something of an epic. Jason Pierce of Spiritualized is said to be a huge fan of this record, which makes perfect sense. It’s almost Spiritualized in template, with it’s steady, pulsing riff and inter-woven sax breaks. And the background drugs story was no doubt the icing on the cake for our Jason.

Good records. That’s what they are. Play them. Enjoy them. Pass it on.