Rudy & the Gang: “Whatchoo lookin’ at?”
Listen – Can’t Get Enough of You Baby – MP3
Hey hey hey! Whatup Iron Leggers?
I come to you this evening courtesy of a wholly unexpected burst of energy.
The weekend has been busy, and as I inferred over at Funky16Corners, reality has rudely intruded upon my fantastic little bubble of blogosphericy (HEY! New word…10 points!). Nothing tragic but the kind of stuff that requires a little more attention than reg’lar old daily life.
This post came to fruition because I’ve kind of been circling the subject warily for about a week, and turning up new and interesting information along the way.
I first encountered ‘Can’t Get Enough of You Baby’ back in nineteen-and-eighty-five when it fell out of my radio courtesy of the Colour Field. Actually, though it was the Colour Field performing the song, the playing was courtesy of a long lost (and dreadfully lamented) local institution, WHTG-FM.
WHTG-FM was (back in the olden days) what folks in the biz – as it was – referred to as a “modern rock” station. Though that sobriquet would be replaced – rather objectionably – by “alternative”, in it’s early days, when New Wave was morphing into something a little shaggier courtesy of bands like R.E.M., WHTG-FM was one of only a very few commercial stations in the country with a focus on independent music, playing all kinds of stuff you’d never hear in a million years on one of the big mainstream rock stations. And – this is the good part – they were broadcasting right around the corner.
For a short while in the mid-80’s, WHTG-FM formed a golden triangle of a sort with a club called the Green Parrot, and possibly the greatest record store I ever patronized regularly (and I mean REGULARLY) Vintage Vinyl. This troika provided a fantastic little scene that made it easy for people with non-mainstream tastes to find great music, on the air, live on stage or on vinyl/CD. During this period the Green Parrot hosted a ton of great acts on it’s tiny stage. The ones I remember off the top of my head include the Dickies, Pylon, Social Distortion, Screaming Tribesman, and the Fleshtones.
Long story truncated slightly, it was great while it lasted.
Anyway, part of this was hearing the Colour Field on WHTG-FM, performing a great tune called ‘I Can’t Get Enough of You Baby’. Led by Terry Hall (late of the Specials and Fun Boy Three) Colour Field – in their brief existence – recorded a couple of great albums of atmospheric pop. It took me a while to find the 45 (which is odd since it was on a major label), but when I did I played it to DEATH.
Then, somewhere down the line someone heps me to the fact that this great tune is a cover of a Question Mark & the Mysterians tune.
“No shit?!” Said I, and I proceeded to seek out the original 45.
When I finally got it, it quickly became a fave.
So, here we all are some 20 years hence, and I pull out the Question Mark 45 to digi-ma-fy for the blog, and I start poking around on the interwebs for information.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Question Mark recording was not in fact the original, but was preceded by versions by the Toys and the Four Seasons!
Now, Question Mark and the Mysterians were – as evidenced by their recordings and their badass slouching in most pictures – the hottest bunch of Tex-Mex via Michigan punks ever. How they ended up covering a Four Seasons song (?!?!?) is unknown to me, but I hopped on iTunes and found both the Four Seasons version and the original by the Toys.
If you know the Toys, it’s probably via their huge hit ‘A Lovers Concerto’. The Toys hailed from Queens, NY, and found their way to composers Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell via a singing tryout at the Brill Building. They recorded ‘Can’t Get Enough of You Baby’ on their 1965 LP, and while it lacks the swagger of the Question mark version, it’s still pretty interesting.
Flash forward a year to the Four Seasons (a group that interests me a little more with each passing year) who recorded the tune on their 1966 ‘Working My Way Back To You’ LP. Their version – with Frankie Valli sounding like a rusty gate swinging in a hurricane – is my least favorite.
Question Mark hit it – and hard – later that year, and I don’t think I’m taking any great chances by stating that that theirs is the definitive version of the song.
One need only make a brief survey of the Question Mark catalog to observe that they always brought a delightfully lurid edge to their performances, due in large part to the Chicano space alien-isms of Rudy Martinez, aka Question Mark. They were garage snot writ large, but replacing the kind of suburban teen trying to sound like John Lee Hooker minstrelsy-lite* with an authentic toughness that sounds positively casual when laid next to most well regarded garage punk. They recorded two excellent LPs before trailing off in a cloud of small label 45s. They’ve made numerous comebacks over the years, and Question Mark hasn’t lost one iota of his Question Mark-ness. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that 40 years after springing onto the charts, he’s even more Question Mark-y than ever.
That said, sometime in the last few years the goons** who had the rights to the Cameo Parkway catalog finally allowed a legit reissue of classic Question Mark & the Mysterians recordings, which you simply must grab. Trust me, there’s a lot more there than just ’96 Tears’.
*Though I often wonder if the American kids, who were imitating Mick Jagger had any idea that he was trying to sound like Hooker and Muddy Waters….
** I had a message passed on from someone who worked on this reissue, and I should clarify that the “goon” reference was aimed not at the people who worked on the reissue (which is great) but at the person who sat on the Cameo Parkway masters forever (if you’re a music fan you probably know who I’m talking about).