Listen/Download – PJ Proby – Don’t Forget About Me Listen/Download – PJ Proby – I’m Twenty Eight
I hope the dawn of a new week finds you all well.
The tunes I bring you today is something surprisingly groovy I picked up last year whilst out record digging.
PJ Proby is one of those pop singers whose name I knew very well – he manages to pop up quite frequently in accounts of the 60s for a variety of reasons – yet who’s music eluded me completely.
Despite reading about it countless times, I never heard his biggest US hit 1967s ‘Niki Hoeky’ (though I’d heard it performed by others) and all I knew about him was the famous story about how a pair of split trousers and the untimely release of his wedding tackle got him in all kinds of hot water in the UK (where he had managed to become quite successful during the British Invasion era).
I still don’t know a whole lot about him, but what I’ve found out is quite interesting.
Proby (nee James Marcus Smith) was born in Texas, but moved to California in the late 50s to try and become a movie star.
He became friends with songwriter (and Eddie Cochran’s girlfriend) Sharon Sheeley, recorded a couple of unsuccessful 45s, and after a recommendation from Sheeley and Jackie Deshannon, made the move to the UK where he had a string of hits in 1964, 1965 and 1966.
The tune I bring you today appeared on his 1966 LP ‘Enigma’, which as it turns out is really quite interesting.
Composed of a variety of cover material by writers like Ashford/Simpson/Armstead, Graham Gouldman, Goffin/King, Mann/Weil, as well as well know hits like the Four Tops ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’ (a pretty nice version!) and the Rolling Stones ‘Out of Time’ (also good), as well as the aforementioned ‘Niki Hoeky’.
Today’s selection is a Goffin/King number called ‘Don’t Forget About Me’ that reveals Proby to have been something of a vocal chameleon.
A really wonderful bit of mid-60s pop, ‘Don’t Forget About Me’ bears traces of the Wall of Sound, progressive pop and of course Proby moving back and forth between Scott Walker and Gene Pitney sounding vocals.
When I first heard this record, I wasn’t sure what to make of Proby’s voice. It is quite good, and he certainly wasn’t the only vocalist of his time to bounce back and forth between two (or more) sounds. His attempts at a soulful vibe aren’t bad at all, and his pop tunes, though occasionally bordering on the histrionic (not necessarily a bad thing in moderation) are good too.
The second selection ‘I’m 28’ also has a short but interesting history. It’s the kind of record that seeming couldn’t have been made at any time other than 1966, when the wall between straight pop and the underground was crumbling bit by bit. It was also recorded by Toni Basil (it’s the A-side of her sought after and extremely expensive Northern Soul 45 ‘Breakaway’) and was recorded in the UK by Friday Browne under the title ‘Getting Nowhere’.
I hope you dig the tunes, and I’ll see you all next week.