Flips - the best of the flip sides©JCMarion
One of the things that we all took for granted in the years of the popularity of the R & B vocal groups was the flip side-the piece of work that was so often a throw-away, a little remembered and quickly crafted two and one half minute space filler for the other side of the single.If a group was a proven winner, then the A-side very often followed a formula for success, that is the next release often was very similar in sound and style to what was the previous seller. When this happened the flip side was indeed an afterthought by the label owner and the producer. This was even more so when the label was a small independent, the neighborhood quicky that got out on the street in a matter of days. The more established labels, Atlantic for instance, never seemed to waste space-their flip sides were often great pieces of music in their own right, and many of them became chart sellers because of the excellence in the performance. The rest got by in varying degrees of success.
I have gathered together some of my all time favorite flip sides, ones that did not become popular on their own such as many of the Clovers sides, or others such as People Are Talking / Your Way by The Heartbeats, See Saw / When I'm With You and I Knew From The Start / Over And Over Again by The Moonglows. These are true flip sides, and over the years some have become famous and some of them have remained obscure, but in my opinion they are all worthy of many listenings and you will enjoy the music that these performers have recorded.
Two of the best and most famous of the fabulous flips are by the same group, The Penguins.When they recorded Earth Angel for Dootone in 1954, this one tune set the standard among the great majority of listeners for what the vocal groups represented in musical style. It was the single most influential recording for the new listeners of rhythm and blues. The flip of Angel was also a revelation to those listeners. The song was called "Hey Senorita" and seemed perfect for the inner city naighborhoods of L.A. in 1954. It captured the essence of the group style, seemingly recorded in someone's house to handclapping rhythm, without dramatic trappings of production, instrumentation, and sound studio engineering. Four voices that made you want to move to the beat and dance and/or sing along to the simple words and background vocals. In other words the perfect presentation of what this music form consisted of and was about. Many recording sessions, singers, and years have gone by without equalling the direct appeal of this tune. The next release on Dootone by the Penguins contained the flip side tune called "Ookey Ook" which was a straight dance song that contained instructions for the steps as part of the lyrics. The mid tempo boogie jump tune was excellently sung by Cleveland Duncan & co., this time with a rocking backup by a small combo with a blasting tenor sax break. It was the classic sound of R & B, which was soon to disappear.
Another west coast recording from 1954 that had one of the great flip sides of all times was The Wallflower (Roll With Me Henry) by Etta James & The Peaches. The song is called "Hold Me Squeeze Me" and is a bluesy ballad sung by Etta with backup by the three female Peaches and Richard Berry on bass. All five voices are great as is the backing combo especially the vibes, probably by old friend Johnny Otis. This was one of the great "grind" records of the day! One of the great west coast groups of the mid fifties was The Jewels. A big hit for them was "Angel In My Life" for Imperial. However since one of my all time favorites was the original "Hearts of Stone" by this group, I always have been partial to the flip of Angel called "Hearts Can Be Broken". This tune is a direct follow to Hearts of Stone", hard rocking all the way and changing the famous no, no, no chant into a yes, yes, yes this time. And listen to the unusual background vocal figure - humpty dumpty no less !
A stylish ballad called "Gone" by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters is on the flip of one of the all time rockers "What 'Cha Gonna Do" for Atlantic. Every outing for this group produced two great sides, but this one is just tremendous, and for some reason is seldom played which is a mistake. Clyde is at his best, and the windup is an excercise in superb harmony. The Solitaires were a solid New York group, and followed up their big hit of "The Wedding" with, what else ?, "The Honeymoon" The flip side of this Old Town release reveals a hard rocker called "Fine Young Girl". From the explosion of the opening guitar riff until the final "zoom zoom" chorus, this is a great performance. Despite sounding as though this side was recorded in an apartment house boiler room, it is a worthy listen. A blues ballad is the next one of my all time favorites - "Let Me Explain" by The Cadillacs. Another group that had many fine two sided releases, this time they outdid themselves on a flip side to perhaps one of the landmark songs of the entire age - "Speedoo" You would think that with all the copies of the original for Josie, that this tune would be better known, but that is not the case. It is a tremendous tune, with two different styles on the bridge, and it is enhanced by super instrumental backup by Jesse Powell & his band. LaVern Drake and the trailing falsetto on the wrap-up is priceless.
The Keytones big moment was a hit ballad called "Seven Wonders of the World", and then renamed "Wonder of the World" for Savoy. The flip of Wonder was another great ballad that could have very easily become the A-side and not missed a beat. It was called "A Fool In Love" and is a super flip side. It is a wistful ballad very well performed by an untested group at the time. The one feature that the A-side did have on this tune was the dramatic opening which like all good hooks, gets the attention of the listeners. But by all means, do not miss this great flip side. Another of my all time favorites is the flip of the very well remembered "Japanese Sandman" (or if you prefer, "Rang Tang Ding Dong"-as in "you guys say all the big things . . . . . . . . etc.). For a group known for this A-side and "The Juicy Crocodile" and "Be Bop Mouse", a ballad may be hard to imagine from this group. But - listen to "You Took My Love" which first of all is a great song, has great harmony styles featured, and is great to listen to. The solo lead, and then the two part harmony lead over the dramatic back up singing shows that these guys had the talent to do it all. Why their success wasn't longer lasting is one of those unanswered questions from the days gone by.
The Five Keys had a long and glorious run from the early days on Aladdin to the later days on the major label Capitol. It was on Capitol that a moderate hit called "Don't You Know I Love You" (which was one of the final 78 rpm records I ever bought, along with Whispering Sorrows by The Nutmegs) caused ne to turn to the flip side and discover a great tune called "I Wished I had Never Learned To Read". This was a great ballad with the Keys using the falsetto echo effect so well. The song (as you can tell by the title) was a ballad of lost love with the usual excellence by Rudy West. The final flip side favorite is by The Cleftones. They also had some good flip sides (Neki-Hokey for instance) but the one I'll always treasure is the flip of "String Around My Heart" which was called "Happy Memories" and featured lead by Berman Patterson. A bouncy up tempo rocker about the subject matter of the title, it has one of the great fadeouts in history on the "wonderful night last June" line when the rhythm instruments stop cold and the boys just keep on harmonizing. If I live to be 100, I will always remember this tune as the theme song of Copaigue Town Beach on Long Island during the summer of 1957, where it got worn out on the juke box at the snack hut. Happy memories indeed !
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