Joel Goldenberg: Smith and others on the S list

Cher and Sonny

We now plow on with the always special S list, starting with a one-hit wonder:

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Smith (aka A Group Called Smith): I discovered this California-based late 1960s group on one of Rhino Records' Have A Nice Day compilations (those CDs were the high-fidelity equivalent of K-Tel Records LPs, but with less songs per disc). This group not only covered the Shirelles' hit Baby It's You, but refashioned it wonderfully into a Joplin-esque blues-based song. Love the instrumentation, which is played in a stretched-out, tough fashion.

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Hurricane Smith: Okay, I take it all back. Short Shorts by the Royal Teens is not the most irritating oldie of all time. The 1920s pastiche Oh Babe What Would You Say with a voice that is the equivalent of nails scratching on a blackboard, is. This was "performed" (or inflicted) by the Beatles early-years engineer, Norman "Normal" Smith.

Is it just me, or do the songs and fashions of 1972 in the UK seem particularly slovenly? Judging from pictures I've seen, even of the normally immaculate Paul McCartney, that may be the case. For that reason, the song is perfect for its era.

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O.C. Smith: This artist's big 1968 hit, Little Green Apples, should be afflicting me with sugar shock, notwithstanding the soulful vocal performance. Instead, it fills me with the warm and fuzzies.

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Soft Cell: This group, featuring lead singer and eventual solo artist Marc Almond, is responsible for one of the few 1980s synth hits that I like, Tainted Love. It grabs your attention from the start and never lets go. A somewhat lesser known fact is that the song is a cover version of a 1964 hard-hitting single by Gloria Jones, who was later Marc Bolan's (glam star T. Rex) girlfriend. I like both versions equally.

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Sonny and Cher: I watched their 1970s variety show religiously when I was growing up, and of course, everyone likes I Got You Babe, one of the most popular duet choices at karaoke bars along with Summer Nights from Grease with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. But my favourite of their songs is the much lesser known Leave Me Be. Sonny's voice is a bit too flamboyant, but Cher's singing is absolutely volcanic on the chorus, and there's a great Wall of Sound production. This is one of those "put on repeat" songs for me.

When I first heard this Sonny and Cher song, I knew I had heard it somewhere before. It took a while before I realized my first listen was a version by the British Invasion group The Zombies. The Zombies version is all soft and airy, and still good, but I now prefer Sonny and Cher's rendition.

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David Soul: One of the stars of the 1970s cop show Starsky and Hutch had a sizeable hit with Don't Give Up On Us, an oh-so-sensitive ballad. Yet somehow, I can't visualize an actor playing a tough guy having such emotive vocals. One of my guilty pleasures.

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Joe South: As a singer, I could never get used to South's drawl. But as a songwriter — he's responsible for some of my all-time favourite songs — Walk A Mile In My Shoes as performed live by Elvis Presley, Rose Garden as made into a big hit by Lynn Anderson, Hush as performed by Deep Purple and Down in the Boondocks by Billy Joe Royal.

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Spandau Ballet: And here's another one of those '80s synth hits I like. True exudes elegance galore.

Next time: The Spinners (who deserve a lot of writing space) and others.

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