Friday, October 10, 2008

Boss Tracks, My Girl Sloopy, The Vibrations

At 33 years of age, most of the songs I review here were already ripe with age before I was even an idea in my parents mind. Hell my parents probably hadn't even met when this gem hit the market. The up-side of missing out on all this great music when it was first released, is that I can be taken completely by surprise by a song that is common knowledge for the sixties generation. A few weeks back, me and my buddy were spinning records at a club. Seemingly out of the blue, my buddy threw on this infectious record with a sturdy dragging beat and a chorus that immediately stuck in my head for days. The McCoys version of "My Girl Sloopy," retitled "Hang on Sloopy" after the chorus, proved to be a killer and instant floor filler. All around me people were waving their hands in the air, singing "Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on." Most people in their twenties and thirties who, like me, had no business with this record what so ever.

Digging into the elusive past almost made me feel like I had been living under a rock. It turns out that Garage Gods, the Kingsmen already had their version, it just wasn't on any of the LPs I own. The Five Yardbirds appeared to have a version as well, but I'm not much of a Yardbirds fan, so Sloopy managed to elude me. I scored the McCoys' version on E-bay immediately after that evening spinning records. Turns out that the McCoys were just a mask the Stangeloves briefly wore to get the record out while their smash hit "I Want Candy" was still in the charts. The Strangeloves were touring with the Dave Clark Five at the time, who had expressed the desire to put Sloopy to wax for themselves. The Strangeloves, who wanted to do the song for themselves, realized that the Dave Clark Five would probably outsell them, so they rush released their version as the McCoys, with Rick Zehringers from Rick and the Raiders on lead vocal. After "Hang on Sloopy" hit, the Raiders changed their name into the McCoys officially. The rousing little Rock and Roller the McCoys made it into would eventually become an institute as the official Rock song for the state of Ohio and Ohio University.

The story doesn't stop there. Because the song was renamed after the chorus by most artists who covered the song, I totally missed the original version by the Vibrations, released in 1964. "My Girl Sloopy" was written by the great Bert Russel, who got the quirky name Sloopy from jazz musician Dorothy Sloop Heflick, born and raised in Ohio, she recorded the forgotten classic Dixie and Sloopy in New Orleans, where she made name for herself as a piano player. I don't think Russel had ever expected the song to become an anthem, but the deceiving simplicity of the song along with the theme it addresses makes "My Girl Sloopy" more than just a little infectious ditty. In just two lines Russel made "My Girl Sloopy" a song about social stratification. "My girl Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody tries to put my Sloopy down," the song opens, with of course love eventually triumphing over adversity as Sloopy's lover begs her to hold on. Something the authors of House Concurrent Resolution no. 16 recognized which made "Hang on Sloopy" Ohio's official rock song, making Ohio the only state in the US to have one. Not bad for a little R&R boozer.

The working class lament that is buried under that infectious beat makes "My Girl Sloopy" the perfect cover for Springsteen to do. Oddly enough he only did the song twice. Once in 1984 together with singer John Eddie, who is ironically best 'known' for his album "Who the Hell is John Eddie," in the mid eighties when they shared the stage for one of Eddie's shows. The second time Springsteen included a snippet in Light of Day when the Reunion tour touched down in the great state of Ohio. If you ask me though, "Hang on Sloopy" should be his next single and close his set at this year's Super Bowl.

"My Girl Sloopy"


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the original version by The Vibrations, it’s very difficult to find this version anywhere. One correction; the song is affiliated with Ohio State University, not Ohio University.

Anonymous said...

the vibrations were one exciting group,that i saw perform many times at the apollo theater.these guys were showstoppers they always put on a great show.its a shame thats this group never gets any respect for their great my opinion they are the best group that i ever saw period.its about time that the vibrations start to get the honor that they deserve.sincerely yours,michael mcgehee

Anonymous said...

the vibrations were one great group i saw them many times at the apollo ! those guys were out of sight.its a shame that this group never gets any credit for their great talent.thanks for posting their hit sloopy.if you ever saw this group live in person you would never forget them.these guys were highly skilled performers who always put on great shows.its about time that the vibrations start getting some respect.sincerely yours,michael mcgehee