Monday, March 16, 2009

Lookout Mars! You're Our Next Stop

Got a random twin-pack of B-sides today, far-out rockers with an outer space theme. Don’t confuse these with your more general paeans to teenie-weenie and little green men. These two got a more specific destination in their sights, namely Mars. First up is “Rocket” by Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones, the flip for the single “Penny Loafers and Bobby Socks.” Penny Loafers ain’t too shabby a side either, but my copy rates a lowly VG. Besides, it’s not a very hard record to find, so, fuggit, I’ll post only the B-side.

This was s’posed to be the ‘tones big follow-up to “Black Slacks,” alas, their one and only hit, released earlier that year, 1957. That earlier song featured backing vocals by label-mate and future sun-tanned midget Paul Anka. But don’t hold that against ‘em. As the title would suggest “Black Slacks” elaborated on sartorial themes, rather than outer space travel. Some say it finished the sentence that “Blue Suede Shoes” started about a year and a half earlier. Anyway, about “Penny Loafers” and “Rocket” the November 11, 1957 issue of Billboard had this to say: “’Black Slacks’ is still going strong and the similar styled version of ‘Penny Loafers’ could click in all fields. Fine guitar work helps sell the side. Flip ‘Rocket’ is a rockabilly novelty that can also go well.” Novelty? By now they all sound like novelty numbers, wouldn't you agree? That fine guitar work was provided by Joe Bennett and young Sparky Childress swapping licks. (See them at work in the clip below.) Too bad for them “Penny Loafers” failed to chart. In fact all their subsequent records failed to chart. These chart duds make up the Sparkletones’ best sides. They include “Rocket” and “Cotton Pickin’ Rocker.” ABC Paramount dropped the group by 1959.

Next up is Horace Heller’s “Ed’s Place” b/w “Hello World.” Info on Horace Heller is hard to come by. All I know is that he released these sides in January of 1959, on Dollie Records, of Nashville, TN, the label founded and owned by one-time Grand Ole Opry manager and music publisher Jim Denny. Dollie’s stable of odd-balls also included Johnny Wiggins (Ernest Tubb’s “Singing Bus Driver”) and rockabilly Curtis Gordan.

“Hello World” features a hep hillbilly rap, delivered by “the first cat on Mars.” Exactly how he got there or what’s his brand of rocket fuel remains unclear, tho he does confide this much: “I don’t know how I got here/ I had a hit and drag/ with a miss on a jag/and here I am.” While space travel can be a gas, this number reminds the listener that the come-down’s a bitch; looking back toward Earth, Heller finally admits “Like man, I want to get down!”

The A-side, “Ed’s Place,” another novelty narration set to a swanky lounge groove, is mainly a murder ballad, complete with foley effects, about the dangers of shooting your honey’s other man with a high caliber gun. Altho it departs from the outer space theme, I include it ‘coz it’s so weird. Both sides have been reissued. “Ed’s Place” pops up on Crypt’s “Godless America” comp, while “Hello World” is included on the comp “Rock’n’Roll the Untold Story, vol. 6.”


JamesChanceOfficial said...

Hey Bob - Thanks for linking to me. You are duly linked into my Google Reader now and I will happily share the obvious wisdom that you put forth here!


Bob Pomeroy said...

Back atcha Tim. Thanks for the link-up and the praise. Someday yr gonna have to give me some layout tips!

JamesChanceOfficial said...

Anytime. I'd be happy to...although there are people out there a whole lot better than me.

The RedBoy said...

I think I read in an interview somewhere that the Sparkletones originally broke up because they were all so young (like 14-16) they weren't allowed in any of the clubs to play.

Great clip. Glad to see you got that mean ole' turntable workin'.