The Hassles – Mr William Joel on the left…
Listen – The Hassles – You’ve Got Me Hummin’ – MP3
I hope all is well on your end.
I was going to write up today’s selection a few weeks back, but when I sat down to work I rrealized that I had forgotten to take a picture of the label. This problem was compounded by the fact that by the time I figured this out, the 45 in question had already been swallowed by the record room. Having just completed the renovation of said room, I was in no mood to go looking for it, so I moved it to the back burner and figured I’d dig it out some time when I had the energy (physical and intellectual) to devote to the search,
Then, as is often the case, chance stepped in and while I was pulling records for my Funky16Corners radio show, I came across a stack of 45s, several of which needed to be photographed for Iron Leg, and adjusted the schedule accordingly.
The record in question is ‘You’ve Got Me Hummin’ by the Hassles.
If the song is familiar, that’s probably because it was originally recorded by the legendary Sam and Dave.
If the group name rings a bell, it’s because this record represents the very first recorded evidence of the musical talent of a minor recording artist of the 70s, 80s, 90s and the new century, a certain Billy Joel.
That’s right kiddies…the heretofore unthinkable has happened, that being the intersection of Iron Leg and the Piano Man.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t listened to and appreciated the music of Billy Joel, because I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a big fan, his music was a huge part of the zeitgeist of my youth, and despite having created a handful of songs I NEVER need to hear again (including all of his “list” songs, like ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ and its ilk), he is undeniably talented and a man with a knack for crafting memorable melodies.
By the time Billy Joel joined the Hassles in 1966, he had already played in a number of Long Island bands. He was a replacement keyboardist/vocalist for the band, and while I have no idea what they sounded like before he came aboard, one can only imagine him kicking the talent quotient up a notch or two.
Already a popular local act, the Hassles signed to United Artists and recorded their first album in 1967. ‘You’ve Got Me Hummin’ grazed the national Top 100 in the Fall of that year, making a much more substantial impression on local New York radio.
The Hassles version of the tune featuring co-lead vocals and organ by Joel is a pretty nice version of the tune, adding in light touches of psychedelic lead guitar to the whiteboy soul vibe. I’ve seen the Hassles compared to the Rascals, but I’d say that’s more likely due to the accident of geographic proximity, with their sound drawing much more from the garagey side of things.
If you get the chance, line this one up between the Sam and Dave original (which, naturally cannot be fucked with on any level, especially the Isaac Hayes piano line) and the cover from a few years later by Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, which makes for an interesting comparison, as well as a testament to the quality (and flexibility) of the Hayes/Porter composition.
It’s important to consider the depth and breadth of white acts covering contemporary soul material, looking at acts that approached these songs from a more reverent angle (i.e. those, like the Rascals that were trying to be soulful) and those, like the Hassles and Vanilla Fudge (a band that spent a lot of time reworking soul songs) who were rock bands grappling with soulful material and taking it down new avenues. The results may not have been transcendent, but I’m not inclined to hold them to a higher standard either. ‘You’ve Got Me Hummin’ may have started out as a ‘soul’ song, but at the end of the day, it was still a great song and open to all kinds of interpretation.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll see you all on Monday.