Thursday, May 28, 2015

Handy Man



It's been a year and a half since I last posted an entry here. I've been sucked into other social networking, and also trying to focus on, y'know, life and stuff. Maybe I'll pick up the pace here at The Songs in My Head, and maybe not. I tweet on music and culture at soozzip with a hair more frequency, so follow me there!

For now, the lilting mellowness of a tune from my youth, with Mr. James Taylor's "Handy Man." The "comma, comma, comma, comma, come, come," refrain was ubiquitous on 70s radio, a song not to be confused with Sammy Davis Jr's "The Candyman" and the weirdness that is Neil Sedaka also spelling out that useful bit of punctuation. But I actually didn't realize that the song is much older. It's easy to attribute to JT, since he was mainly known for singing songs he'd also written, but the song was originally penned by roots rock and R&B singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell (who also wrote "Don't Be Cruel," "Great Balls of Fire," and many other very influential rock tunes). It's a case of the long, vague memory thread of a song that's been part of the culture for a very long time, arriving in my head one random day in 2015, in the form I'm most familiar with. Likely you've heard a couple of these versions of the tune yourself:

The 1959 original, by Jimmy Jones:



The chart-topper, later that same year, by Dell Shannon and his distinctive clavioline:



And who knew that Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub even banged out an indie cover of the song for a John Peel session record?



Artist: James Taylor
Year: 1977
Rating: Warm

Artist: Jimmy Jones
Year: 1959
Rating: Luke Hot

Artist: Del Shannon
Year: 1959
Rating: Luke Hot

Artist: Frank Black & Teenage Fanclub
Year: 1997
Rating: Warm