Nino Tempo and April Stevens
Nino and April on Shivaree, with bagpipes and the T-Bones…
Ready to have your minds blown?
A couple of years back I grabbed the most excellent Rhino ‘Where the Action Is’ set.
There was a lot on there that I’d heard (or already had on vinyl) but there was also a grip of absolutely incredible stuff that was new to me.
Among the tracks that really knocked me back on my heels, was the record you see before you today, ‘I Love How You Love Me’ by Nino Tempo and April Stevens.
I was already a fan of their work, especially their biggest hit, ‘Deep Purple’ (long a fave of mine) but I had no inkling they had anything as game changing as this up their sleeves.
There was probably a gap of a few years between when I first heard – and fell in love with – the track and when I finally scored the 45.
When that hot little biscuit finally fell through the mail slot, I had my mind blown all over again.
Rhino set the standards for quality reissues, and the annotation is generally second to none, but the notes in the box set missed a something very interesting in regard to this record.
As you’ll see when you look at the label, the notes to ‘Where the Action Is’ omitted one crucial detail, that being that the band on the record (credited right there on the label) was none other that the mighty Guilloteens!
The Guilloteens on Shebang with Casey Kasem
Hailing from Memphis, bit having settled in LA for their recording career, the Guilloteens (billed on the 45 as the ‘Guilloteenes’) waxed some incredible 45s for HBR and Columbia, especially the savage ‘Hey You’.
Though he is best known for his performing partnership with his sister, Nino Tempo was also an early associate/acolyte of Phil Spector’s. I have no doubt that his time in the studio with Spector had an influence on this record.
The word that comes to mind when I think about this record is ‘inspired’.
How Tempo decided to take the Paris Sisters 1961 hit and toss it into the blender with 1965 folk rock and a fucking set of bagpipes (?!?!), and managed to alchemically take all that incongruity and convert it into just over two and a half minutes of magic is one of the truly remarkable (if obscure) achievements of mid-60s pop.
There’s just no reason any of this should work, but no matter how many times I listen to this record (and it’s up in the hundreds now) it just keeps sounding better and better.
The Paris Sisters original was (surprise!) a Phil Spector production. Despite having a melody that at first listen seems syrupy, the record has a cavernous, hypnotic sound.
Tempo’s treatment of the tune, re-casting it in a Byrds-y jangle is stunning. He tears the song from its somnambulistic origins, gives it an au-go-go tempo, and even tosses in a little bit of fuzz guitar for the longhairs in the crowd.
But then, there’s the bagpipes.
I can almost see Tempo, like a bug-eyed mad scientist huddled behind a rack of bubbling test tubes having a eureka moment and pulling a Scotsman out of a sack.
There’s not a single, logical path from ‘I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better’ to ‘Loch Lomond’, yet the addition of the bagpipes – which Tempo has said were inspired by the modal guitar sound of the Byrds – is pure genius.
Interestingly, Nino and April’s ‘I Love How You Love Me’ went Top 40 in a number of regional markets, and a year later Paul and Barry Ryan copied the arrangement and had a Top 20 hit with the song in the UK.
It’s a great, great record and one you ought to download and push on your friends as a public service.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll see you next week.