Top 5: Happy Summer Days

We have spent so much time in 1976 at this blog lately that we need to set the Wayback Machine for another era.

We have made our way to Jamestown, North Dakota, a couple of times previously, including a memorable trip to April 1966, when we found the station’s music survey inhabited by several interesting records that were bigger in eastern North Dakota than elsewhere. If we go back to that same place during the week of July 22, 1966, we find that the station was playing the hits that would last forever—“Wild Thing,” “Hanky Panky,” “Summer in the City”—but they also gave significant airtime to records less enduring, and for our purposes, more interesting.

5. “Spring Fever”/Tony Pass (up from 6). Written and produced by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, with Ellie singing backup, and a damn fine summertime record. Not one of the great forgotten records of the age or anything, but definitely deserving of more than general obscurity. On the other hand, however . . .

9. “Happy Summer Days”/Ronnie Dove (up from 13). The MOR cheese that is “Happy Summer Days” hasn’t stood time’s test especially well. Neither has Ronnie Dove  himself—I can’t think of another 60s artist who charted more but gets less radio play today. He hit the Hot 100 20 times between 1964 and 1969, and five of those made the Top 20, but you may not know any of ’em. Dove played a show at my college sometime around 1979, but nobody I knew—even the older music geeks who were more far obsessive than I was—had ever heard of him.

12. “It’s You Alone”/The Wailers (up from 20). Also known as the Fabulous Wailers, this band formed in Tacoma, Washington, in the late 50s, and took “Tall Cool One” onto the charts in 1959 and again in 1964. “It’s You Alone” bubbled under the Hot 100 for a few weeks. An edition of the band is still together today. Their website contains this unusual claim about the Pacific Northwest: “The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who,  The Kinks & David Bowie all can be linked to this corner of the country by their quotes or music.” I have no idea what the hell that means.

20. “Peter Rabbit”/Dee Jay and the Runaways (down from 16). In mid-60s Milford, Iowa, Dee Jay and the Runaways built their own studio and formed their own label, IGL (for “Iowa Great Lakes”), partly because they didn’t want to go all the way to Minneapolis to record, and partly because they saw a good business opportunity in selling studio time to other aspiring Iowa artists. (Three hours of studio time and 1000 copies of your single on either the IGL or Sonic label cost $345, and the Runaways would back you if you needed a band.) “Peter Rabbit” was picked up by the Smash label from Chicago and just missed the national top 40. It was the top-selling single of the 60s by an Iowa band.

40. “She Ain’t Loving You”/Distant Cousins (debut). There’s not much about this band on the Interwebs. I suspect they were from Ohio—Toledo, maybe?—although “She Ain’t Loving You” was one of several singles released on Date, a Los Angeles label. (One of them was called “Mister Sebastian (Write Me a Song),” referring to John Sebastian of the Lovin’  Spoonful.) “She Ain’t Loving You” sounds like what you’d get after you locked the Four Seasons in the garage for a week.

When I got into radio 30 years ago, I was as guilty as anybody of wanting to play the big national hits, and of not caring about local and regional bands and their obscure singles. If I had it to do over again, maybe I’d be a little less dogmatic and a little more discerning.

“Peter Rabbit”/Dee Jay and the Runaways (still in print, believe it or not, so this song will be coming down after the weekend; buy it here)

4 responses

  1. I saw the Distant Cousins (Larry R. Brown and Ray Bloodworth) perform “She Ain’t Lovin’ You” on what was probably ‘The Lloyd Thaxton Show’ at the time the record was a hit on both KDWB and WDGY. Credit Bob Crewe for making them sound like the Two Seasons; Bob co-wrote the tune with the duo and produced it. The actual 45 on Columbia’s Date subsidary didn’t include the wowsy, off-speed startup on that YouTube cracklefest dub. Yikes.

    “Happy Summer Days” has always worked for me in a “Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer” retro-flashback kind of way, and I do seem to recall hearing it sporadically when in season on XM’s pre-Sirius-merger ’60s channel. Ronnie’s 1967 recording of Neil Diamond’s “My Babe” is pretty decent, too.

  2. BTW, I bought that Arf Arf label Dee Jay & The Runaways compilation you linked to when it first came out. It’s Needledrop City, with tracks – including “Peter Rabbit” – often taken from scratchy and/or worn 45s. Unless you’re a diehard fan, I’d avoid it.

    For “Peter Rabbit” from the original master tape, get Eric’s ‘Dick Bartley Presents: Classic Oldies 1965-1969’ compilation, which also includes a few Chicago favorites by the Ides Of March, New Colony Six and the American Breed.

  3. I love the Date label, lots of greats on it (early Peaches and Herb, the Zombies come-back era and the cool Will-o-Bees who covered Screen Gems stuff like Monkee tunes and had the first version of “Make Your Own Kind of Music” etc). Always thought of it as a NYC label though.

    This Brown and Bloodworth have an interesting history too. Did other stuff for Bob Crewe’s Dyno-Voice label and some tame but neat garage band things (I wanna say “Open Up Your Door by Richard and the Young Lions, later covered by the Romantics). And Larry Brown ended up writing some big hits with Irwin (ving?) Levine by Tony Orlando and Dawn…..

    All of this done without Wikipedia; kids don’t try this at home. Owww, broke my arm patting myself on the back. (sorry this heat’s getting to me….)

    Agree with you jb on Dove’s chart action versus airplay. As a young collector we’d plow through stacks of Goodwill 45s and find loads of Dove’s record (on the Diamond label) and had no idea who the hell he was.

  4. […] Top 5: Happy Summer Days (jabartlett.wordpress.com) […]

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