Miss Brenda Lee
I hope all is well on your end.
Last week started off with the Nashville Teens post, wherein I gave a tip of the hat to Mack at Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye for turning me on to that particular record.
This will be the second week where I have to thank the man, for helping to solve a mystery I’d been wondering about for a long time.
Like most people (at least in the US) I heard the song ‘The Crying Game’ for the first time when it was covered by Boy George. It wasn’t too long after that when I tracked down a copy of the original version of the song by Dave Berry.
Though he’s not well known here in the States, Berry was very popular in the UK and Europe through the 60s. His version of ‘The Crying Game’ also has the added benefit of a very cool flip side in ‘Don’t Gimme No Lip Child’, a fine bit of Beat punk that features (like so many great records) the guitar of Jimmy Page (and will soon be featured here).
Flash forward a few years, and my father-in-law (bless his heart) brings me down a haul of something like 3500 45s, which I spent the better part of a summer digging through. Though I pulled a grip of soul, funk, garage and beat 45s out (some to sell/trade, most to keep, natch) I had a couple of stacks of curiosities put aside for future exploration. The record I bring you today was in one of those piles.
Brenda Lee hit the charts a few dozen times between 1957 and the mid-70s. Hers is a great example of a career that got its start in rock’n’roll (with some very hot, almost rockabilly sides) and ended up in country, with a major stop at the Christmas station with the perennial ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’. Aside from a bunch of appearances on the Nashville Network in the 80s, and hearing ‘Rockin’ Around…’ every holiday season, I hadn’t given Brenda Lee much thought.
Until, that is, I pulled today’s selection out of a huge pile of vinyl.
By the time I pulled out Brenda Lee’s version of ‘The Crying Game’ I was probably on my third run-through, working my way through stuff that didn’t catch my eye previously, and looking it up in record guides. The title of the song caught my eye, but I didn’t think it could be the same tune. Imagine my surprise when I popped it on the portable turntable and realized that it was!
I already loved the song, but after four or five consecutive spins it soon became my favorite version.
Now, not long after I picked up the Dave Berry original, I also grabbed a cover of the song by Ian and the Zodiacs. They too were British, so I figured covering a Dave Berry tune wasn’t at all unusual. I posted the I & the Zs version here at Iron Leg a little over a year ago, mentioned how much I loved the Brenda Lee version, and figure I’d never be able to connect the dots.
Enter Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye…
A few weeks back, Mack mentioned to me that he had found out that (contrary to my assumptions) Ian and the Zodiacs version of ‘The Crying Game’ had been a substantial regional hit (in Texas) in 1964. Brenda Lee’s version followed in 1965. Though I know of no direct connection, it seems likely to me that it was via the Ian and the Zodiacs hit that Lee (or someone associated with her) found the song.
That all said, Brenda Lee’s recording of ‘The Crying Game’ is mind blowingly good. It should serve as a reminder as to what a powerful voice she had, as well as her ability to take on an already melodramatic song and make it even more so, without getting sappy.
This is a powerful record.
It also brings into question why this song wasn’t recorded by a woman in the first place. Though I love the other versions mentioned, once I listened to Brenda Lee work it out it suddenly seemed odd as sung by a man.
That said, I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back later in the week with some slamming garage punk.