It’s not often that a real rarity gets to grace the adbreaks. As in one of those tracks which would fetch a small fortune if you owned it on the original vinyl and it was in mint condition. But that’s what we’re starting with today.
According to the ever-authoritative Record Collector Price Guide, Real Wild Child, performed by Ivan and issued on MCA’s offshoot Coral in 1958, is worth in excess of £200 as a seven inch and, surprisingly perhaps, approximately half that amount as a 78.
It’s a piece of late period rockabilly which sounds sparse enough to have been recorded in somebody’s garage but was almost certainly cut in Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico. And it’s the song McDonald’s has been using to underpin a recent Spicy Chicken McBites ad starring a dude dressed as an astronaut.
So who is this mysterious Russian whose name is on the label of this genuine slice of 1950s jive? Well, it’s not Buddy Holly although that would be a good guess. The Ivan in question is actually Jerry Ivan Allison, drummer in Buddy’s band The Crickets and co-writer of some of the goggle-eyed one’s biggest hits like That’ll Be The Day and Peggy Sue.
So he may have taken it to Number 68 on the Billboard charts, but Allison wasn’t responsible for the original version of Real Wild Child. That honour goes to the legendary Johnny O’Keefe and his band The DJs, generally regarded as Australia’s first bona fide rock’n’roll stars, who were all over the radio with it when Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ world tour touched down in Oz at the end of January 1958.
And we don’t use the term ‘legendary’ lightly here either because, as any Aussie will tell you, O’Keefe’s career assumed near mythic proportions Down Under over the next 25 years. A bit like Johnny Halliday and Cliff Richard rolled into one. Indeed there was even a musical based on O’Keefe’s life – entitled Shout! The Legend Of The Wild One – which was a big hit among Sydney theatergoers in the late 1990s, twenty years after the man’s death from an overdose of prescription drugs in 1978.
Back in the late 1950s it could be claimed Allison stole O’Keefe’s thunder, at least as far as getting his foot in the door to the US market was concerned. But even though the song was soon covered by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and erstwhile Shadows bass player Jet Harris, it wasn’t until Iggy Pop took it to Number 10 here in the UK in 1986 that Real Wild Child began to achieve the success it richly deserved.
Since then Lou Reed, Status Quo, Joan Jett and even Alvin and The Chipmunks are among the many and various artists who have put their names to it and it has been heard in blockbuster movies like Crocodile Dundee and Pretty Woman. None of which can have done the value of Ivan’s original pressing any harm at all.
Oddly enough our next song this month also had to cross continents to become a hit. It’s the American spiritual He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, which Currys PC World has licensed for its Christmas campaign supporting Apple iPad computers.
In 1957 top UK arranger and orchestra leader Geoff Love – who loungecore fans will immediately recognize as the man behind the intensely MOR output of Manuel And His Music Of The Mountains – took a 13 year old schoolboy from Bethnal Green by the name of Laurie London into Abbey Road studios and, not to put too fine a point on it, gave the gospel staple a smooth skiffle makeover. The result was a Top 10 smash on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sadly that was virtually that for London, whose career went into a tailspin soon after. The song, on the other hand, went from strength to strength. Mahalia Jackson, Jackie DeShannon, Odetta, Perry Como, Andy Williams and Nina Simone all have the title in their discographies while Hollywood stars like Dustin Hoffman and Steve Buscemi have sung snatches of it in character and on film.
And the version to be heard in the Currys ad? That’s by two veteran R’n’B stars Etta James (who RC readers will know is quite a favourite in adbreak circles) and Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson, a talented saxophonist turned vocalist who worked with just about anybody who was anybody in the 1940s and 1950s, had a clutch of minor hits on Mercury in his own right but never quite made the premier league.
The two came together at Marla’s Memory Lane Jazz And Supper Club in South Central LA in 1986 to record a live album called The Late Show which was subsequently released on Fantasy.
The band behind them included seasoned players with long histories of their own like guitarist Shuggie Otis, organist ‘Brother’ Jack McDuff and tenor sax man James Wesley ‘Red’ Holloway. And outfront James and Vinson put in bravura solo performances of their own signature songs as well as handful of duets, all of which belied the fact that she was in her 50s while he was soon to succumb to cancer aged 71. Some would have it that the slightly schmaltzy choice of The Whole World… lets the rest of the album down. But it certainly seems to work for Currys!
Which just leaves us enough space to take a brief look at a chucklesome clip Nike have put together to launch its new aerodynamically designed Ordem soccer ball. This one features top golfer Rory McIlroy supposedly taking on Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney over 18 holes. It’s silly, of course, but the bit of Bing Crosby singing the clubhouse classic Straight Down The Middle is not to be missed.
Recorded in 1957 specifically for a short movie designed to promote the new Pro AM celebrity golf tournaments (in which the Old Groaner had a substantial interest) this cleverly written Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen swinger never saw the light of day on record until Crosby’s catalogue began to be re-compiled after his death in 1977.
And even now, nearly 35 years later, you can hear Straight Down The Middle on Spotify and buy it as a digital download. But you’ll be hard pressed to find it on CD. And vinyl? Rare as hens’ teeth and worth a fortune!