Slip another dime in the jukebox…

When you hold down the buttons, you want to make sure that the sounds spilling from the grill are the mightiest. It’s your calling card, your reason for selecting those three tracks, the three minute symphonies that tells the room who you are; some records were just made for such situations and The Titans’ tale of cow-milking and rock ‘n’ rolling is just one of many mindless anthems created for such a moment; an RnB scorcher ‘No Time’ sums it all up life on the farm in just two minutes and 23 seconds. Good work fellahs!

The late great rockabilly/rock ‘n’ roll singer Don Cole specialised in such things. The Phoenix based singer and songwriter who turned out a brace of sides under his own name and also as Tony Castle. His ‘Squad Car’ instrumental is a rattling classic while ‘Lie Detector Machine’ is a disturbed 1961 novelty like no other. Back in 1958 he also penned The Hawks’ cheeky ‘A Little More Wine, My Dear’ and in ’62 he was behind Gary Smith’s homage to The Twilight Zone. This was a man who knew his way around a 45.

The homage, the novelty single, the bizarre one liner, the brain-worrying instrumental and the sound of some strange sound effect were all tools to trust; Elvis is given the nod by Don’s namesake, Sonny Cole with the eerie ‘I Dreamed I Was Elvis’, while The Threeteens offer ‘Dear 53310761’ reciting Presley’s US service number; they continue with their numeric understanding on the algebra-friendly ‘X+Y=Z’ elsewhere on this set.

Another Phoenix resident was Bud Spudd (real name? Well, yeah.) who opens disc one with the wild dance craze ‘The Mash’. Bud was in fact Little Junior who was picked up for his James Brown-like holler by some Phoenix producers in search of a voice for their funky anthem. In a similar groove, the Johnny Otis-produced Lenny Johnson tune ‘Walk Ginny Walk’ features Johnny ‘Guitar Watson’ on guitar who also delivers his own tune, ‘The Bear’ on disc two. Meanwhile, RnB legend and ‘Swim’ dance trend champion Bobby Freeman keeps the fingers clicking with the soulful ‘Sinbad’ before the could-have-been-huge (they toured with Elvis and the big ‘O’) Sid King And The Five Strings deliver the gorgeous ‘Purr, Kitty, Purr’. It all works on seven-inch. No, really… Bandleader and rockabilly icon Jules Blattner proves the fact with the hokey gem ‘500 Pound Canary’ and the novelty vibe is embraced by Al Katraz And The Breakouts on their slapstick classic ‘Charlie And The Bank Job’; Hurricane Harry’s death row ode ‘The Last Meal’, ‘The Little Martian’ by Jan Amber and Arthur Godfrey’s stab at marriage guidance ‘Heap Big Smoke (But No Fire)’ further underline the medium’s breadth and there’s even romance in the air (with a few legalities pending) on both Louis Jordan’s ‘That Chick’s Too Young To Fry’ and Donald Woods And the Vel-Aires’ ‘Death Of An Angel’.

As with any jukebox selection, there are tunes here that beg the question, ‘did that all really just happen in under three minutes?’ Bob Taylor’s ‘Peach Fuzz’, The Gamblers’ ‘Time Machine’,  Al Casey’s ‘Night-Beat’, The Daywin’s ‘Heartbeat’ and The Renegades’ closing salvo ‘Geronimo’ are all raucous explosions of mayhem, while Bob Wilson And The Easy Dealers’ ‘Ain’t No Freckles On My Fish’ is as odd as the title suggests. The nature ramble continues with Mark Anthony’s boisterous ‘Wolf Call’ which is mirrored by Kim Garri And The Rhythm Rockers’ ‘Big Bad Wolf’, one of several sides showing the hand of legendary out-there rock guru Kim Fowley; he’s also in command on Jack B Nimble And The Quicks’ ‘Like Keyed’, the gorgeous girl group soul of Yolanda And The Naturals’ ‘My Memories Of You’ and the simply madcap take on ‘Moonlight In Vermont’ by The Crenshaws. Likewise on The US Rocket’s flipside to their take on ‘March Of The Siamese Children’, the swaggering, sax-friendly ‘Bodacious’.

Those quirky, bar room-friendly talking points continue with a couple of beatnik-honed oddities; Cindy Malone’s ‘Weird Beard’ and Dick Summer’s ‘That Goatee’s Got To Go’, and the honking goose that pre-empts ‘Love Blood Hound’ by KC Mojo Watson is a sound you’ll find impossible to describe properly, as is the strange but sincere version of ‘Zindy Lou’ by The Mariners (which was originally a hit for The Chimes).

A well-polished set of wheels was always a source of inspiration back in the day and songs about just that were plentiful;  Faron Warmer’s ‘Cruisin’ Central’ and Vernon Green And The Medallions’ ‘59 Volvo’ take stage centre here and the inevitable sound effects add muster to their bravado as is also the case on Doug Harden’s magnificent cloud-busting ‘The Storm’.  Every song has a concept of one sort or another, well apart from Bob Strauss (with Donald George Orchestra And Chorus) whose ‘Nameless’ simply namechecks the current trends and goes one further by claiming that whatever he’s got is beyond description. Enough said.

Weather conditions and bragging rights on white walls are not all there is here; we have a study of deep romantic pursuits (Larry And Dixie Davis’ oddball ‘Mental Cruelty’), worries about the end of the world (Loy Clingman’s ‘(Those Ole) Uranium Blues’), doo wop wonderment at class rules and what’s cool in school (The 4 After 5s’ ‘Hello Schoolteacher!’) and the sound of a men who gargle with Domestos (Teddy “Mr Bear” McRae & His Orchestra on ‘Hi’Fi’ Baby’ and Leroy Thomas who features on The Kinglets ‘Pretty Please’) The Kinglets boast a truly rocking sound as do The Memories on ‘Little Bitty Girl’, a regular hoofer as are Little Ike with the Jimmy Beck Orchestra’s breathtaking ‘She Can Rock’ and Bill Johnson And The Four Steps Of Rhythm’s barometer-addling ‘You Better Dig It’, jukebox gems that definitely say more about the selector than money can buy.

For the more mellow and considered among us, Billy Kent And The Andantes ‘Take All Of Me’ is an aching piece of romanticism – The Andantes including Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps and Jackie Hicks who would go on to sing on records by Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and many others – and there is a similar tale of love and loss from Lonesome Lee (Hazlewood) on Lonely Travelin’, a neat piece of wandering guitar holding the whole thing together.

And so, that’s 50 tracks, 50 songs to make you wonder, wander, kick off your shoes and put some more money in the jukebox. Perfect.

Dave Henderson, MOJO magazine, 2021

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