Posts Tagged ‘Doo-Wop’

Big Daddy: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

bigdaddy_sgtpeppersSgt. Pepper as originally envisioned in 1959

Big Daddy is a retro doo-wop group that first appeared in 1983 with their debut What Really Happened to the Band of ’59. The band’s fictional backstory involved an aborted USO tour of Vietnam that resulted in their being held captive through the ‘60s and ‘70s. Given only sheet music to work from, they spent the years applying their ‘50s stylings to contemporary songs. Their debut featured ‘70s and ‘80s hits cleverly reworked in the style of well-known 1950s acts. Barry Manilow’s “I Wrote the Songs” was taken up-tempo in tribute to Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop,” Rick James’ “Super Freak” was given an Everly Brothers harmony treatment, The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” is mellowed with the sound of the Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me,” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” is sung as a cappella street corner doo-wop. The new arrangements were impressive in their own right, but the group’s musical talents made the results both terrific novelties and surprisingly listenable music.

Additional albums in 1985 (Meanwhile… Back in the States) and 1991 (Cutting Their Own Groove) extended the joke by mashing up Bruce Springsteen with Pat Boone, the Talking Heads with Harry Belafonte, Dire Straits with Tennessee Ernie Ford, and A Taste of Honey (or Kyu Sakamoto, originally) with the Beach Boys. As on their debut, the depth of the group’s imagination and the quality of their musicianship merited listening past the novelty. In 1992 the band waxed their final album, a tour de force recreation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as if it had been waxed in the late ‘50s. In place of the fab four’s psychedelia you get the title tune as it would have been rendered by the Coasters, “With a Little Help From My Friends” as crooned by Johnny Mathis, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” as a Jerry Lee Lewis barn burner, “Lovely Rita” given the Bo Diddley beat of Elvis’ “His Latest Flame,” and a Freddy Canon-styled, sound effects-filled take on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”

There’s sax-lined doo-wop, Dion-inspired braggadocio, Spector-styled baion beats, beatnik poetry, baritone-voiced R&B, a cappella jazz vocalizing, and the album closes with a brilliant Buddy Holly styled recreation of “A Day in the Life” that blends “Peggy Sue” and “Everyday” into Lennon and McCartney’s individual sections of the original. The piano sustain of the Beatles’ original is given over to the descending sound of the music dying. Unfortunately, only two of Big Daddy’s original albums ever made it to CD, along with a greatest hits collection, and all are currently out of print. You can find them on the secondary market, though, and they’re all worth the hunt. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]