When I was picking a track to feature this week for Funky16Corners and Iron Leg, it didn’t occur to me that there would be a link between the two.
Brian Hyland was a dependable pop hitmaker for the 1960s, with his first mark on the charts in 1960 and his last (and biggest) hit in 1970.
That last hit was a cover of the Impressions ‘Gypsy Woman’, written by the mighty Curtis Mayfield, who is the featured artist at Funky16Corners this week.
That said, the track I bring you today comes from right in the middle of Hyland’s hitmaking years.
I first heard 1965’s ‘The Joker Went Wild’ on a 1966 aircheck from WOKY in Milwaukee, WI. I have no idea how I’d never picked up on the song before, with all of the oldies radio listening I do, but when I heard it I dug it right away.
As it turns out, there were a few reasons the tune resonated with me.
Initially, it struck me as the kind of thing that – with a little more kick – would have been a Northern Soul outlier, the kind of four-on-the-floor pop song that the soulies dig (especially with the vibes accents).
Second, the arrangement rang some bells, which is because the record was arranged by no less a light than Leon Russell, and produced by Russell and Snuff Garrett.
‘The Joker Went Wild’ sounds like it would fit on any of the Russell-arranged records by Gary Lewis and the Playboys from around the same time.
Written by Bobby Russell, who also composed ‘Sure Gonna Miss Her’ (for Gary Lewis), as well as the huge hits ‘Little Green Apples’ (for OC Smith) and ‘Honey’ (for Bobby Goldsboro), ‘The Joker Went Wild’ was a significant hit in the summer of 1966, making it into the Top 40, and Top 10 in many markets.
Though Hyland is thought of as a “teen” pop singer, he made an effort to record more mature material as the 60s moved on.
It’s a groovy track, and I hope you dig it.
See you next week.
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