Sunday, 5 April 2009

Battle of the Song No. 2 - You’ve Got Love

Johnny "Peanuts" Wilson – Brunswick 55039
Marty Wilde - (Wilde About Marty LP), Philips BBL 7342
Crickets – (Chirping Crickets LP), Brunswick 54038

The songwriter credits for You’ve Got Love go to Roy Orbison, Norman Petty and Johnny Wilson. I suspect that Norman Petty used as much ink in the process as Sheriff Tex Davis did in “writing” Be Bop A Lula. I think it’s fair to say that the song comes from the other two, The Big O and Peanuts. Anyway, it’s an easy going rock ‘n’ roll song that just oozes West Texas.

So contender number one is the songwriter himself, Johnny "Peanuts" Wilson. He’s sort of an unsung hero of rock ‘n’ roll and one who could have become a hero on the European rockabilly revival scene if he were still alive. Peanuts was born Johnny Ancil Wilson on 29 November 1935 in Riversville, West Virginia but grew up in Odessa, Texas. He joined Roy Orbison's Teen Kings in January 1956 and in doing so became a part of rockabilly folklore. The band included Billy Pat Ellis on drums, Jack Kennelly on bass and James Morrow on guitar and mandolin. Peanuts played rhythm guitar while Orbison was obviously the singer (not a bad one as I recall!!) and an underrated lead guitarist. They cut the now legendary Ooby Dooby and Rockhouse among others.

Sadly the band and Orbison split on December 14, 1956, with the Teen Kings going back to West Texas. On May 26, 1957, Peanuts had his first solo session, at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. With the remnants of the Teen Kings (plus the rumoured appearance of Roy Orbison on lead guitar) and the addition of the vocal group that Petty was using at the time, the Roses, they cut Cast Iron Arm and You've Got Love. Cast Iron Arm is now acknowledged, rightfully, as a classic, and was chosen as the a-side of Brunswick 55039.

You Got Love swings along with the beauty that seemed to come so easy to the Texas rockers of the time. It could have been sung by any Texan from Buddy Knox to Sid King. The Roses and Peanuts work in perfect harmony and the Teen Kings rock and sway – it’s a stunning piece of work that is so of it’s time and place. If you heard this for the first time, you would probably be able to guess that it was from the Norman Petty stable circa ’57/58. The best place to hear this and a handful of other Wilson rockers is on the Ace Records CD, "West Texas Bop". Highlights include the rockers I’ve Had It, My Heartbeat and Wilson's version of Orbison’s Paper Boy. He had some success as a country writer over the years but died in September 1980 of a heart attack, denying him a chance to enthral rockers across the Atlantic who bopping away to Cast Iron Arm.

It’s over the water we go for contender number 2. Cast Iron Arm and You’ve Got Love were released in the UK as Coral Q 72302 in 1957. which brings us along to contender number 2. By this time, London boy Reg Patterson was making his way as Marty Wilde. From mid 1958 to the end of 1959, Wilde was one of the leading British rock and rollers, appearing regularly on the tv shows, Oh Boy!, Boy Meets Girl and the 6.5 Special. Following a handful of hit singles, his label, Philips, got Wilde and his band, the Wildcats to cover a slew of American singles. The resulting album, Wilde About Marty came out in August 1959 and is an underrated album. It might not be up there with Bill Fury’s self-penned Sound of Fury, but it was the next best thing. The Wildcats were a quality outfit, about the best the UK could offer outside of Cliff’s Shadows. Big Jim Sullivan was no mean lead guitarist and Brian "Licorice" Locking on bass and Brian Bennett on drums, would eventually end up in the Shadows.

The album features some well known covers like Dream Lover, Splish Splash and Mean Woman Blues as well as a few lessor known including You’ve Got Love. Marty may have heard it on the b-side of the Peanuts Wilson, Coral single, but more likely via Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Either way, they laid down a great version. Sullivan replicated the Teen Kings guitar intro and Marty has the high, youthful voice that fits the song to a tee. His voice doesn’t really get the recognition it deserves. It’s slightly nasal which gives it something different and he never seems to be struggling to reach a note. There’s a touch of teen angst in the mix as well which never hurt with the songs he was cutting. He’s a quality act who is still performing to this day. The best place to pick up Marty’s version is the CD which pairs Wilde About Marty with it’s follow-up LP, Showcase.

Finally we have the Crickets version from their wonderful debut album, The “Chirping” Crickets. Buddy Holly and the Crickets had just broken through nationally with That’ll Be The Day and Brunswick were looking to capitalise with an album. Buddy was apeolific writer but at such short notice and with the constant touring, the guys needed a couple of numbers to complete the album. Touring schedules dictated that the only possible time at the end of September 1957, for Petty and the Crickets to get together was in Oklahoma. Petty bought his recording equipment to the Tinker US Airforce Base outside Oklahoma City for a session that yielded four songs, among them, Maybe Baby and You’ve Got Love.

The Orbison/Petty/Wilson song was an obvious choice. It had Buddy’s sound all over it, it was a strong ditty and good ol’ Norm could help himself to some more cash as co-writer (cough, cough) of the song. Holly’s guitar is crisp and the solo rings like a bell. The guitar work is better than Wilson’s but the backing vocals from the Picks seem a bit square compared to the Roses.

I love the song, and think all three versions are excellent but the winner for me, and not because he wrote it, or because the flip side is one of my wife’s favourite songs, is Johnny Peanuts Wilson.

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