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A slightly unusual entry this week, a 1956 instrumental single that was released in two parts.  You’ve heard this tune even if you didn’t know the name as it’s been covered by a long list or artists from James Brown (with The JB’s) to Bill Haley and Buddy Holly.  The Beach Boys even took a shot at it on their 1963 classic release Surfin’ USA.

Written by Bill Doggett, Billy Butler, Clifford Scott and Shep Shepherd, this instrumental R&B tune peaked at number 2 on the chart for three weeks and was the hottest selling R&B tune of 1956.  Butler, by the way, was a huge guitar talent and played with many of the jazz greats of the day as did Shep Shepherd who played drums in Benny Carter’s group in the 1940’s.

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Bill Doggett was a native of Philadelphia and was a jazz and R&B behind the organ.  He played with stars like The Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald.

I’ve included both parts below as recorded by Doggett along with Brown’s version.

Enjoy….

 

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The Doobie Brothers’ “China Grove ” hit the airways the year I graduated from high school.  A track from their Captain and Me album it became one of their most popular songs.  The Doobies were an eye-opener (or maybe ear-opener) for me on a number of levels but mostly it was that they were driving rock music with arrangements other than straight up blues.   As I was raising myself on a self-prescribed diet of The Stones, Humble Pie, The Allman Brothers and a long list of Brit rockers, their uniquely arranged tunes were well…music to my ears.  Not quite jazz yet but it was clearly headed towards it.

The song was written by Tom Johnston and refers to a real life town in Texas not too far from San Antonio.  For me the heart of this song is the opening driving chord riff.  Played partially in a clave rhythm, the riff sets a distorted beat behind the solos.  Also, listen for the subtle bass turnarounds that run up into the verses.  Very well done.

If you’re new to The Doobie Brothers, Captain and Me is a great place to start although the best tracks here are all found on every DB compilation or Greatest Hits set.

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Enjoy….

 

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More of a local cult-classic, The Fugs were formed in Greenwich Village in the mid-1960’s.  Two local poets, Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, formed the band as an outlet for their satirical anti-war, pro-drug ravings.  With Ken Weaver behind the drums they enlisted the talents of Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber of the Holy Modal Rounders.  The name of the band is a euphemism for “f%&k” as used my Norman Mailer in his novel The Naked and The Dead.

The band was around for years, took a break in the early ’80’s and reunited for concerts in the late ’80’s.  They were relatively cohesive until Kupferberg’s death in 2010.

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True Bohemians, and very much representative of their time and the golden age of Greenwich Village, The Fugs were the realdeal.  The track “Kill for Peace” is a sharply satirical song that brings home the sarcasm of a nation killing what it doesn’t like.

Check out a sample of the lyrics….

Near or middle or very far east
Far or near or very middle east
If you don’t like the people
or the way that they talk
If you don’t like their manners
or they way that they walk,
Kill, kill, kill for peace
Kill, kill, kill for peace
If you don’t kill them
then the Chinese will
If you don’t want America
to play second fiddle,
Kill, kill, kill for peace
Kill, kill, kill for peace
If you let them live
they may subvert the Prussians
If you let them live
they might love the Russians

Enjoy….

 

 

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There aren’t a lot of protest songs that hit #1 on the Billboard charts (“War” by Edwin Starr is another that comes to mind) but in 1965 the stars were in alignment and a former commercial fisherman named Barry McGuire found himself with the biggest hit in the country.  It also launched McGuire into the ranks of the one-hit wonder.

The song was written by P.F. Sloan and McGuire recorded it over two days in July of 1965 using top-notch L.A. session players known as The Wrecking Crew.  The vocal mix was intended to be re-done bit the song was leaked to radio and it took off from there.  The song was previously offered to The Byrds and The Turtles but both rejected it (this despite The Turtles’ previous success with recording Byrd rejects).

According to McGuire, he recorded the song in one take on a Thursday and was awoken the following Monday morning with a call from the record company telling him to turn on his radio.

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Some of the lyrics were considered too controversial at the time…

The eastern world it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war but whats that gun you’re totin’?
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Take a look around you boy, it’s bound to scare you boy

And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Yeah my blood’s so mad feels like coagulating
I’m sitting here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth it knows no regulation
Handful of senators don’t pass legislation
And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it’s the same old place
The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor but don’t forget to say grace

And tell me
Over and over and over and over again my friend
You don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction
Mmm, no, no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Not everyone agreed with the sentiments of the song and “The Ballad of the Green Beret” by Sgt. Barry Sadler was released as a response shortly thereafter.   Some radio stations (incl the BBC) banned the song from air play and claimed that it was “an aid to the enemy in Vietnam”.  This sounds like the 1960’s version of Sony’s “The Interview” movie!

Enjoy….

 

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Critically acclaimed as one of the greatest American R&B and Pop songs ever written, “Boom Boom” is instantly recognizable as John Lee Hooker.  Hooker recorded it in Chicago in late 1961 and released it as a single on Vee Jay Records.  It’s been covered by countless bands including a very cool version by The Animals just a few years later in 1965.  Hooker himself re-recorded it in the late ’60’s and re-titled it “Boom, Boom, Boom”.

Although Hooker was primarily known as a solo performer he often used a small backing band in the studio.  For this session he had certified R&B royalty behind him with Joe Hunter on piano and the famed Funk Brothers out of Motown, James Jamerson on bass, Benny Benjamin on drums, and guitarist Larry Veeder. Hooker used to like to say that he needed “big-eared sidemen”.

Hooker wrote the song during an extended gig at the Apex Bar in Detroit.  Whenever he showed up late for a gig the bartender at The Apex would exclaim “Boom, boom, – you’re late again”.  It struck Hooker that it was the basis of a song.  Musically, it is a signature Hooker style with guitar work that mirrors boogie woogie piano style.  The song was performed by Hooker in The Blues Brothers movie.

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John Lee Hooker – Mr. Lucky indeed!

Enjoy….

 

 

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Something more appropriate for a mid-winter listen, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” from October 1966.  Among my more favored S&G songs, HSOW was originally intended as a stand-alone single (remember them?) but ended up being added to the 1967 Bookends album.   The song was written by Paul Simon and they demo’ed it during the recording sessions for the earlier Parsley, Sage… album and later recorded it at Columbia’s Studio “A” on 30th Street (aka “The Church”).

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Japanese import sleeve

The song was famously covered twenty years later in 1987 by The Bangles for the soundtrack of Less Than Zero and they absolutely ripped it apart and rocked it better than Paul and Art.  They deserve all due respect for their treatment of this classic tune.  While the guitar riff dominates the tune, listen for Debbi Petersen’s outstanding drumming on this.

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In a perfect response to The Mamas and The Papas California Dreamin’ Paul offers the following very NYC-like observation…

I look around,
leaves are brown
And the sky
is a hazy shade of winter

Enjoy….

 

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I posted about Iris awhile back after hearing her gem of a tune “When My Morning Comes Around” but I recently heard her take on the conditions in our country today.  Written back in 1996, “Wasteland of the Free” is just the right level of anger and, for me, just the right level of perfect.  It’s rare that I hear an artist who just got it so right.  Go, Iris….

“Wasteland of the Free” – by Iris DeMent

Living in the wasteland of the free…

We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
and their speech is growing increasingly unkind
They say they are Christ’s disciples
but they don’t look like Jesus to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got politicians running races on corporate cash
Now don’t tell me they don’t turn around and kiss them peoples’ ass
You may call me old-fashioned
but that don’t fit my picture of a true democracy
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got CEO’s making two hundred times the workers’ pay
but they’ll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
and If you don’t like it, mister, they’ll ship your job
to some third-world country ‘cross the sea
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

We got little kids with guns fighting inner city wars
So what do we do, we put these little kids behind prison doors
and we call ourselves the advanced civilization
that sounds like crap to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got high-school kids running ’round in Calvin Klein and Guess
who cannot pass a sixth-grade reading test
but if you ask them, they can tell you
the name of every crotch on MTV
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
Some guy refuses to fight, and we call that the sin
but he’s standing up for what he believes in
and that seems pretty damned American to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

While we sit gloating in our greatness
justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free

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Listen……

 

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In last week’s Pop Archaeology post I mentioned that The Buckinghams covered Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy” when they first started out.  That seemed like a good segue into digging up the original for this week’s post.

I really can’t do James Brown enough justice here and I promise I’ll get to a deeper dive on James very soon.  There’s a reason he was known as The Godfather of Soul. His career covered six decades and he brought his energy and talent to multiple genres including being considered a pioneer of funk.

But onto “I’ll Go Crazy”. Released as a single in 1960, it was Brown’s fourth R&B hit and was also later recorded for Brown’s “Live at The Apollo” album.

The song has been heavily covered by bands including The Rolling Stones, The Kingsmen,  Tommy James And The Shondells and The Blue Magoos.

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Enjoy….

 

 

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Off the tracks of the Anthology of American Folk Music (AAFM) comes Buell Kazee’s “The Butcher Boy”.  Buell, an old-time music banjo picker laid it down on Brunswick in 1928 and it’s one of the best cuts on the collection.  It’s an old British folk song that’s been covered many times.

As summarized in the Wiki entry on the AAFM….

“….a butcher’s apprentice abandons his lover, or is unfaithful toward her. The lover hangs herself and is discovered by her father. She leaves a suicide note, which prescribes that she be buried with a turtle-dove placed upon her breast, to show the world she died for love. This narrative use of the turtle-dove is derived from Old World symbolism; it is analogous to the folk song interment motif of a rose, briar, or lily growing out of the neighboring graves of deceased lovers.”

The tune of The Butcher Boy is used for the American song Ballad of the Green Berets by Barry Sadler.

Enjoy…

 

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Released in July 1958 by Conway Twitty, this cross-chart classic weighed on my mind as to whether it was an unearthed pop archaeology artifact or a rock masterpiece.  It was that close…. but since it seems mostly a country hit here it is.

Penned by Jack Nance and Conway Twitty, the single topped both the U.S. and UK charts. It was Twitty’s only number-one single on the pop charts of either country.  It went on to be a hit in 22 countries and to date has sold more than 8 million copies.

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I do need to confess that despite all the polyester leisure suits and the puffed up hairdo, I’m a huge Conway Twitty fan.  For me, he’s like the poor man’s Elvis.  Or perhaps he’s just Elvis without Colonel Tom, a 5-lb bacon sandwich, and a stomach full of Dexedrine.  I also get the sense that his image portrayed the attitude “that’s right, I’m not Elvis. But I can kick his Tupelo-born ass.”.

As long as I’m comparing him to Elvis, I’ll add that Conway apparently never needed a comeback.  How’s this for a statistic? He had 55 number one hits.  55.  That record stood for years and was only recently eclipsed by George Strait.  Twitty died at the early age of 59 from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm.  Perhaps had he lived longer he’d have had a few more songs at numero uno.

The song has been covered by a lot of musicians – including numerous remakes by Twitty himself.  It was a big hit for British rocker Billy Fury and headed back into the top ten when Glen Campbell covered in 1970.   The shock punkers “The Misfits” covered it too and, once again, I find my self giving them credit for doing something unexpected and doing it well.

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  1. Conway Twitty
  2. Glen Campbell
  3. The Misfits
  4. Bon Jovi

Enjoy…..

 

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Danny

I haven’t posted a piece on an unsung hero of rock ‘n’ roll lately but guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar certainly fits the bill.  I first became aware of Danny back in the seventies through his work with Jackson Browne and James Taylor (you’ve no doubt heard his work even if you didn’t know it was him) but pretty soon his name was popping up in the credits on lots of music I was devouring at the time.  Still happens today.

I’ll take a closer look at this native New Yorker’s career but first a brief aside, does anybody else think he’s a ringer for actor Judd Nelson?  Perhaps Judd could play Danny in the next VH1 Behind the Music episode!?

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Judd 

Kortchmar came into the music scene in NYC in the mid-1960s with the band The Kingbees and soon after joined The Flying Machine.  The Flying Machine included a yet-to-be-famous James Taylor.  The Taylors and The Kortchmars families knew each other from summers in Martha’s Vineyard and these talented two became friends.  After The Flying Machine broke up in 1966 (“sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground“) Danny moved to London to hone his chops as a session musician.

In 1967 Kortchmar joined The Fugs, (I have a post about them scheduled for late February) and eventually ended up in a trio called The City with the Fugs’ bassist and a young Carole King.  The City didn’t last but it did land Danny on the tracks of Carole’s breakthrough monster album Tapestry.

The rest is music history with Danny backing everyone you can imagine and even having a few solo attempts.  Also, for you Spinal Tap fans, Danny does a cameo as Ronnie Pudding (Spinal Tap’s bass player in their early years) in the “Gimme Some Money” video segment of the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

 

Here’s to a true unsung hero of rock ‘n’ roll….

  1. “It’s Too Late” – w/ Carole King
  2. “New York Minute” – Don Henley
  3. “For Sentimental Reasons” – Danny Kortchmar (solo)
  4. “Steamroller” – James Taylor (Live)
  5. “Gimme Some Money” – Spinal Tap

Enjoy….

 

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Here’s a goofy sort of tune about a drunkard who suspects his wife of cheating on him only to hear her claim the most absurd excuses which he goes on believing.

Coley Jones is credited with recording this first but it has been covered (with other bawdier verses added) and renamed by many artists since then, including The Dubliners.

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The Dallas String Band was a very early blues outfit that also has the distinction of being one of the few black string bands in music history.  The group is credited with breaking some racial barriers and along the way recorded a dozen sides for Columbia Records starting around 1927.  Following the group’s break-up, a few of the members, including Coley Jones, went on to release solo records as well.   Blues historians, at least the Texan variety, are happy to tell you that The Lone Star state was recording and releasing blues records before Chicago or the Mississippi were on the music map.

 

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The group, was later billed as Coley Jones & the Dallas String Band and it included Sam Harris on guitar and Marco Washington on bass.  As a solo artist Jones (on guitar)was quite prolific but is often viewed as something of a hack, a travelling minstrel player of the day, and uneven in his performances.  One thing he did do however, which caused people to take notice, was that he switched to mandolin, an instrument not overly prevalent in early blues.  (There were other blues mandolinists, including more well-known stars like Yank Rachell and Johnny Shines, and even Sonny Boy Williamson added one to his band.)  Another claim to fame for Coley and the guys was that they explored playing outside of the standard keys used in square dance music (G, D, and A) and even braved the harder realms of playing in F.  Finally, once they had evolved into a well-known blues tour de force in the mid-1930’s the legendary T-Bone Walker joined the band.

Lyrics (Abbreviated)

First night that I went home
Drunk as I could be
There’s another mule in the stable
Where my mule ought to be

Come here honey
Explain yourself to me
How come another mule in the stable
Where my mule ought to be

Oh crazy oh silly
Can’t you plainly see
That’s nothing but a milkcow
Where your mule ought to be

I’ve traveled this world over
Million times or more
Saddle on a milkcow’s back
I’ve never seen before

Second night when I got home
As drunk as I could be
There’s another coat on the coat rack
Where my coat ought to be

Come here honey
Explain this thing to me
How come another coat on the coat rack
Where my coat ought to be

Oh crazy oh silly
Can’t you plainly see
Nothing but a bed quilt
Where your coat ought to be

I’ve traveled this world over
Million times or more
Pockets in a bed quilt
I’ve never seen before

The third night when I went home
Drunk as I could be
There’s another head on the pillow
Where my head ought to be

Come here honey come here
Explain this thing to me
How come another head on the pillow
Where my head ought to be

Oh crazy oh silly
Can’t you plainly see
That’s nothing but a cabbage head
That your grandma sent to me

Enjoy….

 

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Peggy Lee in 1950

Beyond Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald, I don’t focus much on big band singers, male or female, although some of the greatest songs of the WWII era and the fifties was hallmarked by the crooners who fronted the bands and became the face of the most popular music of the day.

Among the largest luminaries of that era was Peggy Lee.  Born  Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, she came from a large, very dysfunctional family.  She started singing professionally on KOVC in Valley City, ND, changed her name to Peggy Lee at 17, and her talent eventually landed her the prime gig as the vocalist for the Benny Goodman Orchestra.

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She had her first Number One hit in 1942 with “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place” and followed it up the next year with another in “Why Don’t You Do Right?”.  These records sold a million copies and made her a star.  Peggy’s style was unique and she honed it to perfection.  Both sultry and sophisticated, she was the image of glamour and West Coast cool.  Listen to her vocals below…she literally purrs.

One distinguishing aspect of her career was that she was a prolific and talented songwriter.  In the late ’40’s she was one of the hosts of The Chesterfield Supper Club and also hawked their product (back when that was thought to be okay).

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She is most famous for her cover of the song “Fever” written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport.

Over the course of her 60-year-long career, Peggy won three Grammy Awards (including the Lifetime Achievement Award), an Academy Award nomination, the President’s Award, and many others.

Enjoy….

Axiscover

A must have for any serious classic rock collector, Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love was the 2nd studio release from the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  A masterpiece in every sense, Axis was released in the UK in December 1967 but was delayed in the USA until 1968 as the record company was concerned it would interfere with sales of the Experiences’ very successful debut earlier that May, Are You Experienced.  An interesting note to the legend, Hendrix left the master tapes to Side A in the back of a London taxi and the entire side had to be re-recorded.

I think it’s hard to imagine how hot this talented trio of Hendrix, Redding, and Mitchell must have been when they stepped into Olympic Studios in London in May 1967 to start work on this.  They were continuing the same sessions that produced Are You Experienced and were really at the top of their game.

Jimi Hendrix & The Experience Mason's Yard Studio London 1967

Tracks like “If Six Was Nine”, “Little Wing”, and “Spanish Castle Magic” are the brightest gems here (with the latter two being performed on a regular basis) although “Up From the Skies” was the only single released from the album.  The greatness of this album lies, not surprisingly, in Hendrix’s guitar playing.  Just incredible.  But what also sets it apart was how Jimi and his mates were moving into jazz influences and drifting away from straight up electric blues.

Another aspect of Axis that shouldn’t  be overlooked is Jimi’s contributions behind the mixing board.  Lots of vocal and spoken overdubs here and lots of very well-done special effects such as tape loops, backward echoes, channel panning, fuzz tones, reversed solos, and the like.  An art form in themselves, Hendrix had just as much mastery of them as he did his Strat.  Chas Chandler and Eddie Kramer, the producer and chief engineer respectively, liked the layers and overdubs and Hendrix had free reign.   The track “Little Wing”, covered so famously by both Derek and The Dominoes and Stevie Ray Vaughan, represents the first time Jimi played through a Leslie speaker.

Jimi was a huge perfectionist and tempers in the band sometimes flared as Jimi wanted re-take after re-take.  As an example, the Redding-penned track “She’s So Fine” took 23 takes to nail.

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[Rock Trivia:  “Spanish Castle Magic” refers to the Spanish Castle club that was located in Des Moines, WA.  Just outside Seattle, Jimi jammed there a lot with local bands when he was first starting out. Picture below…]

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If you don’t have a lot Hendrix in your collection, this is a good place to expand that.

  1. “Little Wing”
  2. “If Six Was Nine”
  3. “Spanish Castle Magic” – Live from 1/9/69 (46 yrs ago last week!)
  4. “Little Miss Lover” – alternate take not used on final album

Enjoy…

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This week’s dig is a 1966 pop classic never even made the charts but is still a gem here at The Eclectic Ear.  Look closely at the label on the 45 RPM of “Outside Chance” and you’ll spot that it was co-penned by the late Warren Zevon for The Turtles.  The song also appeared on a later Zevon release of early demos from when he first started out.  I’ve provided both Warren’s and The Turtles versions below.

The Turtles were a California born band led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, who later known as Flo and Eddie.  Probably best known for their 1967 hit “Happy Together”, the band first came to attention by covering Dylan’s  “It Ain’t Me Babe” in 1965.

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The Turtles had the vocal harmony chops down perfectly and, on “Outside Chance” you can listen to a resemblance to the primary riff to The Beatles’ “Taxman” which was written by George Harrison and recorded in April 1966.  The melody line is different but the underlying riff and beat is there.  It can be most clearly heard in the intro.  I’ve added it below as well.

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Enjoy….