The Cars – Just What I Needed

Ric Ocasek wrote this in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts where he lived. Benjamin Orr the bass player sang it. The 2-track demo recorded by the band became the most-requested song by a local band in the history of WBCN, a popular rock station in Boston.

The song peaked at #27 in the Billboard 100, #17 in the UK, and #35 in Canada in 1978. The song was on their self-titled debut album that peaked at #18 in the Billboard Album charts in 1979. The Cars set the bar high with their debut album with two songs (My Best Friends Girl, Just What I Needed) in the top 40 and one song (Let The Good Times Roll) just missing it at #41. At least 6 out of the 9 songs on the album is still being played on classic radio.

From Songfacts

This established The Cars as one of New Wave’s leading hitmakers and helped get them a deal with Elektra Records.

Lead vocals were by bass player Ben Orr, but it was written by lead singer/guitarist Ric Ocasek. Orr died of Pancreatic cancer in 2000.

This was the group’s first single. The Cars evolved from a trio called Milkwood.

The group’s manager took the Cars’ demo tape to two Boston radio stations and got it regular airplay before the group re-recorded it and released this as a single.

Seven years after it was first released, this made its second appearance on a single – this time as the B-side of the Cars’ last Top 10 hit, “Tonight She Comes.” >>

This song was used in the opening credits of the Oscar-winning film Boys Don’t Cry starring Hillary Swank. 

This was used in Circuit City ads when the electronics store used the slogan, “Just What I Needed.”

Just What I Needed

I don’t mind you coming here
And wasting all my time
’cause when you’re standing oh so near
I kinda lose my mind
It’s not the perfume that you wear
It’s not the ribbons in your hair
I don’t mind you coming here
And wasting all my time
I don’t mind you hanging out
And talking in your sleep
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been
As long as it was deep
You always knew to wear it well
You look so fancy I can tell
I don’t mind you hanging out
And talking in your sleep
I guess you’re just what I needed
I needed someone to feed
I guess you’re just what I needed
I needed someone to bleed

Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby

When I heard this song for the first time I liked it…the line “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts” got my attention. It is a well-written song with great imagery.

The song peaked at #40 in the U.S. Billboard Adult Top 40 in 2000.

Adam Duritz the songwriter/singer has finally admitted to how he wrote the song Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby. According to an interview he did he admitted he wrote the song about a person who falls in love with an idealized version of someone and not who they actually are. In this particular case, the character falls in love with an actress on a screen, Monica Potter.

Image result for monica potter

From Songfacts

This song deals with memories and hope (both the false ones and all the far-searching dreams). Mrs. Potter is a movie star who Adam Duritz is looking up at, admiring, and wanting her to be a part of his life. This song has a very dreamy feel about it all the way through, as does the video clip. Duritz says he wrote the song after going to a movie and wondering what it would be like to fall in love with a girl on the screen. 

Duritz had some particular insights here, as he has dated a litany of actresses, including Mary Louise Parker, Jennifer Aniston, Samantha Mathis and Emmy Rossum.

It was written about Monica Potter from the movies Con Air, Patch Adams and Saw. He says that after he wrote the song, he had dinner with a couple who brought an actress friend along. She and Duritz hit it off, and he invited her to the recording session, where he announced her as “Mrs. Potter.” She went out of town for a few days, during which time Duritz wrote a few songs inspired by their quick separation and long phone calls: “Colorblind,” “Four Days” and “Kid Things.”

When she returned, they started dating. Their producer Dennis Herring had given her a tape from the sessions, which she played for Duritz when he told her that they were having trouble mixing the song. One take on the tape sounded really good, so Adam played that one for the band and used it on the recording. They realized that they had overcomplicated the song, so they stripped it down, working from that one take.

This song runs 7:46, but Adam Duritz tells us that it took him only about 8 hours to write. “It’s a longer song, but it’s one sitting,” he said. “I would always sit in that feeling for a while.”

Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby

Well I woke up in mid-afternoon cause that’s when it all hurts the most
I dream I never know anyone at the party and I’m always the host
If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts
You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast

Well, I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame
I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame
If you’ve never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame
And though I’ll never forget your face,
sometimes I can’t remember my name

Hey Mrs. Potter don’t cry
Hey Mrs. Potter I know why but
Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me

Well, there’s a piece of Maria in every song that I sing
And the price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings
And there is always one last light to turn out and one last bell to ring
And the last one out of the circus has to lock up everything

Or the elephants will get out and forget to remember what you said
And the ghosts of the tilt-a-whirl will linger inside of your head
And the ferris wheel junkies will spin them forever instead
When I see you a blanket of stars covers me in bed

Hey Mrs. Potter don’t go
Hey Mrs. Potter I don’t know but
Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me

All the blue light reflections that color my mind when I sleep
And the lovesick rejections that accompany the company I keep
All the razor perceptions that cut just a little too deep
Hey I can bleed as well as anyone, but I need someone to help me sleep

So I throw my hand into the air and it swims in the beams
It’s just a brief interruption of the swirling dust sparkle jet stream
Well, I know I don’t know you and you’re probably not what you seem
But I’d sure like to find out
So why don’t you climb down off that movie screen

Hey Mrs. Potter don’t turn
Hey Mrs. Potter I burn for you
Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me

When the last king of Hollywood shatters his glass on the floor
and orders another
Well, I wonder what he did that for
That’s when I know that I have to get out cause I have been there before
So I gave up my seat at the bar and I head for the door

We drove out to the desert just to lie down beneath this bowl of stars
We stand up at the Palace like it’s the last of the great Pioneertown bars
We shout out these songs against the clang of electric guitars
You can see a million miles tonight
But you can’t get very far

Hey Mrs. Potter I won’t touch and
Hey Mrs. Potter it’s not much but
Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me

The Searcher… Elvis Presley

Whenever I start reading about someone (In this case Elvis Presley) I usually dive deep into them. I’ve watched a few documentaries on youtube and the Comeback Special.

Last week Slightly Charming (I highly recommend checking out her blog) recommended this documentary on Elvis and it is the best one I’ve watched about him. It’s an HBO production with commentary by Priscilla Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Robbie Robertson, and many others.

It is a two-part documentary around 3 hours long both combined. Much like the Peter Guralnick books I’ve been reading it is very even-handed but it doesn’t pull any punches.

Elvis was an interesting person. A poor southern boy who gained fame and fortune quickly and handled it well considering what he was going through until his mother passed away. After that came the Army stint in Germany and from there while his fortune and fame grew his artistic credibility went down. In the mid-sixties, while The Beatles, Dylan, and the Stones dominated the charts…Elvis, a big influence to all three was stuck in a cycle of bad movies and bad soundtracks that he didn’t want to do.

The documentary goes over Colonel Tom Parker his manager, The infamous Memphis Mafia, Las Vegas, and the failed marriage to Priscilla.

The one thing this film does is concentrate on his music and not the parody he turned into at the end of his life. I found myself rooting for him during the 1968 Comeback Special. He had the spark back again and his voice was the Elvis we heard in the fifties. After the dismal movie soundtracks, he made this great comeback special but then it slowly started to go down. There was still good music to come but the end was in sight.

This great documentary is worth the time to check out.

 

 

Big Star – Thirteen

Big Star was the best band never heard. Not a bad song on the first album. The song was originally featured on the 1972 album #1 Record. It was released as a single by Big Star with “Watch The Sunrise” as the B-Side, on Ardent Records, but was mislabeled as “Don’t Lie To Me”. Chris Bell and Alex Chilton were the two main songwriters.

Bell and Chilton wanted to emulate the Lennon/McCartney formula as much as they could, so they shared credit on many of the songs on #1 Record even though there was, in fact, little writing collaboration between the two. “Thirteen,” was entirely Chilton’s creation

Alex Chilton said about this song: “I don’t know where it came from but I made up this wild bit of guitar in 15 minutes. You don’t hear many 20-year-olds doing that.”

From Songfacts

Frontman Alex Chilton wrote this acoustic ballad about two kids in love with Rock & Roll and each other. He explained to Rolling Stone that it’s simple musically as “I was still learning to play and stuff.”

The couplet “Won’t you tell your dad to get off my back/Tell him what we said about ‘Paint It Black,'” refers to the Rolling Stones song “of that title.”

This was ranked #396 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs. They described it as, “one of rock’s most beautiful celebrations of adolescence.”

Artists who have covered this include Evan Dando, Garbage, Elliot Smith, Wilco and Kathryn Williams.

Thirteen

Won’t you let me walk you home from school
Won’t you let me meet you at the pool
Maybe Friday I can
Get tickets for the dance
And I’ll take you

Won’t you tell your dad, get off my back
Tell him what we said ’bout ‘Paint It Black’
Rock ‘n Roll is here to stay
Come inside where it’s okay
And I’ll shake you

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of
Would you be an outlaw for my love
If it’s so, well, let me know
If it’s no, well, I can go
I won’t make you

Don McLean – Vincent

Just a beautiful song and it’s close to perfect. The song was obviously inspired by Vincent Van Gogh. Underneath the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, there is a time capsule that contains the sheet music to this song along with some of Van Gogh’s brushes. This song is often played at the museum.

The song peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, and #3 in Canada. It was on the album American Pie.

Don McLean: “In the autumn of 1970 I had a job singing in the school system, playing my guitar in classrooms. I was sitting on the veranda one morning, reading a biography of Van Gogh, and suddenly I knew I had to write a song arguing that he wasn’t crazy. He had an illness and so did his brother Theo. This makes it different, in my mind, to the garden variety of ‘crazy’ – because he was rejected by a woman as was commonly thought. So I sat down with a print of Starry Night and wrote the lyrics out on a paper bag.”

McLean was going through a dark period when he wrote this song “I was in a bad marriage that was torturing me. I was tortured. I wasn’t as badly off as Vincent was, but I wasn’t thrilled, let’s put it that way.”

 

From Songfacts

The words and imagery of this song represent the life, work, and death of Vincent Van Gogh. A Starry Night is one of the Dutch impressionist’s most famous paintings.

The lyrics, “Paint your palette blue and gray” reflect the prominent colors of the painting, and are probably a reference to Vincent’s habit of sucking on or biting his paintbrushes while he worked. The “ragged men in ragged clothes” and “how you tried to set them free” refer to Van Gogh’s humanitarian activities and love of the socially outcast as also reflected in his paintings and drawings. “They would not listen/They did not know how” refers to Van Gogh’s family and some associates who were critical of his kindness to “the wretched.”

“How you suffered for your sanity” refers to the schizophrenic disorder from which Van Gogh suffered. 

This song and Van Gogh’s painting reflect what it’s like to be misunderstood. Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” after committing himself to an asylum in 1889. He wrote that night was “more richly colored than the day,” but he couldn’t go outside to see the stars when he was committed, so he painted the night sky from memory.

Talking about the song on the UK show Songbook, McLean said: “It was inspired by a book. And it said that it was written by Vincent’s brother, Theo. And Theo also had this illness, the same one Van Gogh had. So what caused the idea to percolate in my head was, first of all, what a beautiful idea for a piece of music. Secondly, I could set the record straight, basically, he wasn’t crazy. But then I thought, well, how do you do this? Again, I wanted to have each thing be different.

I’m looking through the book and fiddling around and I saw the painting. I said, Wow, just tell the story using the color, the imagery, the movement, everything that’s in the painting. Because that’s him more than he is him.

One thing I want to say is that music is like poetry in so many ways. You have wit and drama and humor and pathos and anger and all of these things create the subtle tools that an artist, a stage artist, a good one, uses. Sadly, this has really gone out of music completely. So it makes someone like me a relic because I am doing things and people like me are doing things that utilize all the classic means of emotional expression.”

There could be some religious meaning in this song. McLean is a practicing Catholic and has written songs like “Jerusalem” and “Sister Fatima” that deal with his faith. The “Starry Night” could mean creation, with many of the other lyrics referring to Jesus. McLean has said that several of the songs on the American Pie album has a religious aspect to them, notably the closing track “Babylon.”

Josh Groban recorded the song for his self-titled debut album, which was released in 2001 when he was just 20 years old.

The British electronic artist Vincent Frank aka Frankmusik (check out “Better Off as Two”) was named after this song.

Irish singer Brian Kennedy sang this song at footballer George Best’s funeral.

According to the movie Tupac, the Resurrection, Gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur was influenced by Don McLean, and this was his favorite song. When he was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in 1996, his girlfriend put this tune into a player next to his hospital bed to ensure it was the last thing he heard.

This soundtracked the moment on the “‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky” episode of The Simpsons when Lisa becomes interested in astronomy.

Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)

Starry, starry night 
Paint your palette blue and gray 
Look out on a summer’s day 
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul 
Shadows on the hills 
Sketch the trees and the daffodils 
Catch the breeze and the winter chills 
In colors on the snowy linen land 

Now I understand what you tried to say to me 
And how you suffered for your sanity 
How you tried to set them free 
They would not listen, they did not know how 
Perhaps they’ll listen now 

Starry, starry night 
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze 
Swirling clouds in violet haze 
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue 
Colors changing hue 
Morning fields of amber grain 
Weathered faces lined in pain 
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand 

Now I understand what you tried to say to me 
And how you suffered for your sanity 
And how you tried to set them free 
They would not listen, they did not know how 
Perhaps they’ll listen now 

For they could not love you 
But still your love was true 
And when no hope was left inside 
On that starry, starry night 
You took your life as lovers often do 
But I could have told you, Vincent 
This world was never meant 
For one as beautiful as you 

Starry, starry night 
Portraits hung in empty halls 
Frameless heads on nameless walls 
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget 
Like the strangers that you’ve met 
The ragged men in ragged clothes 
A silver thorn, a bloody rose 
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow 

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me 
And how you suffered for your sanity 
And how you tried to set them free 
They would not listen, they’re not listening still 
Perhaps they never will

David Bowie – Rebel Rebel

The guitar riff is worth it even if Bowie wouldn’t have sung on it. When I learned this on guitar…though not hard but it sounded great.  When I’ve been in bands that played it live it never fails to get a good reaction. The song peaked at #64 in the Billboard 100, #5 in the UK, and #30 in Canada in 1974.

Bowie’s guitarist, Mick Ronson, quit in 1973 in order to pursue a solo career, so Bowie played guitar on this song… Bowie said this: “When I was high school, that was the riff by which all of us young guitarists would prove ourselves in the local music store. It’s a real air guitar thing, isn’t it? I can tell you a very funny story about that. One night, I was in London in a hotel trying to get some sleep. It was quite late, like eleven or twelve at night, and I had some big deal thing on the next day, a TV show or something, and I heard this riff being played really badly from upstairs. I thought, ‘Who the hell is doing this at this time of night?’ On an electric guitar, over and over [sings riff to ‘Rebel Rebel’ in a very hesitant, stop and start way]. So I went upstairs to show the person how to play the thing (laughs). So I bang on the door. The door opens, and I say, ‘Listen if you’re going to play…’ and it was John McEnroe! I kid you not (laughs). It was McEnroe, who saw himself as some sort of rock guitar player at the time. That could only happen in a movie, couldn’t it? McEnroe trying to struggle his way through the ‘Rebel Rebel’ riff.”

 

 

From Songfacts

This song is about a boy who rebels against his parents by wearing makeup and tacky women’s clothes. It was a defining song of the “Glam Rock” era. Characterized by feminine clothes and outrageous stage shows, Glam was big in England in the early ’70s. Bowie had the most mainstream success of the glam rockers.

Three years before this was released, Bowie admitted he was bisexual. The announcement seemed to help his career, as he gained more fans and wrote more adventurous songs.

Bowie did an episode of VH1 Storytellers in 1999 where he introduced this song with this yarn:

I can tell you about the time that I first met Marc Bolan who became a very, very good friend of mine. We actually met very early on in the ’60s before either of us were even a tad pole known. We were nothing; we were just two nothing kids with huge ambitions, and we both had the same manager at the time. And we met each other firstly painting the wall of our then manager’s office.

“Hello, who are you?”

“I’m Marc, man.”

“Hello, what do you do?”

“I’m a singer.”

“Oh, yeah, so am I. Are you a Mod?”

“Yeah, I’m King Mod. Your shoes are crap.”

“Well, you’re short.”

So we became really close friends. Marc took me dustbin shopping. At that time Carnaby Street, the fashion district, was going through a period of incredible wealth and rather than replace buttons on their shirts or zippers on their trousers, at the end of the day they’d just throw it all away in the dustbin. So, we used to go up and down Carnaby Street, this is prior to Kings Road, and go through all the dustbins around nine/ten o’clock at night and get our wardrobes together. That’s how life was, you see. 

I could also tell you that when we used to play the working men’s clubs up north – very rough district – and I first went out as Ziggy Stardust, I was in the dressing room in one club and I said to the manager: “Could you show me where the lavatory is, please?”

And he said: “Aye, look up that corridor and you see the sink attached to the wall at the end? There you go.”

So, I tottered briefly on my stack-heeled boots and said: “My dear man, I’m not pissing in a sink.”

“He said: “Look son, if it’s good enough for Shirley Bassey, it’s good enough for you.”

Them were the days, I guess.

In 1972, Bowie produced “Walk On The Wild Side” for Lou Reed, which is another song celebrating transgender individuals.

An alternate version appears on Bowie’s compilation album Sound And Vision. On this version, Bowie plays all the instruments, bar the congas, which are played by Geoff MacCormack.

The Diamond Dogs tour was an enormous production. It featured moving bridges, catapults, and a huge diamond that Bowie emerged from.

The album cover was painted by Dutch artist Guy Peellaert. It shows Bowie as a dog in front of a banner that says “The Strangest Living Curiosities.” The cover caused some controversy because the Bowie dog had clearly not been neutered. An alternate cover was released with the appendages airbrushed out. Mick Jagger had shown Bowie artwork that Peellaert had done for the not yet released Rolling Stones album It’s Only Rock And Roll. Bowie quickly got a hold of Peelaert and had him design the cover for Diamond Dogs, which was unleashed to the public prior to the album by The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger was none too happy about this. David Bowie has this to say about the incident: “Mick was silly. I mean, he should never have shown me anything new. I went over to his house and he had all these Guy Peellaert pictures around and said, ‘What do you think of this guy?’ I told him I thought he was incredible. So I immediately phoned him up. Mick’s learned now, as I’ve said. He will never do that again. You’ve got to be a bastard in this business.” 

The lyric, “We like dancing and we look divine,” is a reference to the famous drag queen known as Divine, who starred in many John Waters films, including Pink Flamingos and Hairspray.

The transgender musician Jayne County claims Bowie based this on her song, “Queen Age Baby,” which was recorded a month before “Rebel Rebel.” County told Seconds magazine: “After one of his shows, me and Bowie were chatting. I had just signed to MainMan at the time and had all these great ideas kicking around, and I told David I had the best idea in the world. I told him I wanted to do a whole album of all British Invasion hits. Six months later he comes out with Pin-Ups [Bowie’s cover album]. I was flabbergasted! When I would say anything to anyone, they would just laugh and say I was paranoid. I said, ‘Something’s up here.’ They took me into the studio to record. I recorded ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Mexican City,’ ‘Are You Boy Or Are You A Girl?,’ ‘Queen Age Baby,’ all these incredible lyrics I had come up with. So I sent him all of my tapes and not long after that, Sherry is sitting at the house in Connecticut. Bowie called her up and said that he wrote this great song called ‘Rebel Rebel’ and plays her this demo. She listened to it and said, ‘This sounds like one of Wayne’s songs.’ Basically, ‘Queen Age Baby’ is the mother of ‘Rebel Rebel.’ If he had never heard ‘Queen Age Baby,’ he would have never written ‘Rebel Rebel.'”

This song was created in a spate of spontaneous inception. Alan Parker, the guitarist on “1984,” recalled to Uncut magazine: “He (Bowie) said, ‘I’ve got this list and it’s a bit Rolling Stonesy – I just want to piss Mick off a bit.'”

“I spent about three-quarters of an hour to an hour with him working on the guitar riff – he had it almost there, but not quite,” Parker continued. “We got it there, and he said, ‘Oh, we’d better do the middle…’ So he wrote something for the middle, put that in. Then he went off and sorted some lyrics. And that was us done.”

Rebel Rebel

Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo 
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo

You’ve got your mother in a whirl 
She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl
Hey babe, your hair’s alright
Hey babe, let’s go out tonight
You like me, and I like it all
We like dancing and we look divine
You love bands when they’re playing hard
You want more and you want it fast
They put you down, they say I’m wrong
You tacky thing, you put them on

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

Don’t ya?
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo 

You’ve got your mother in a whirl ’cause she’s
Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl
Hey babe, your hair’s alright
Hey babe, let’s stay out tonight
You like me, and I like it all
We like dancing and we look divine
You love bands when they’re playing hard
You want more and you want it fast
They put you down, they say I’m wrong
You tacky thing, you put them on

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

Don’t ya?
Oh?
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo 
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

You’ve torn your dress, your face is a mess
You can’t get enough, but enough ain’t the test
You’ve got your transmission and your live wire
You got your cue line and a handful of ludes
You wanna be there when they count up the dudes
And I love your dress
You’re a juvenile success
Because your face is a mess
So how could they know?
I said, how could they know?

So what you wanna know
Calamity’s child, chi-chile, chi-chile
Where’d you wanna go?
What can I do for you? Looks like you’ve been there too
‘Cause you’ve torn your dress
And your face is a mess
Ooo, your face is a mess
Ooo, ooo, so how could they know?
Eh, eh, how could they know? 
Eh, eh

Ernie K Doe – Mother-In-Law

A fun song with a sense of humor. It stays with me on one listen. Apparently, it stayed with others because it peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100 in 1961. Unfortunately, this was Ernie’s only top 40 hit.

This song was written by Allen Toussaint, who was Ernie K-Doe’s producer. Toussaint came up with the song when he was playing piano in his family’s living room, messing around with bits of a song he had heard from the gospel group the Harmonizing Four. Trying to think up lyrics, he came up with the title and quickly fabricated the story about a guy who is put through hell by his mother-in-law.

After researching this song…I found a picture of Ernie and Led Zeppelin in New Orleans.

Image result for ernie k doe and led zeppelin

From Songfacts

K-Doe’s real name: Ernest Kador. Born in 1936, he remained a popular singer and radio personality in New Orleans until his death in 2001. While best known as a singer, K-Doe was also an accomplished drummer.

The song plays on the stereotype of the meddling mother-in-law who feels the man who married her daughter isn’t good enough for her. Most songs of this nature would be labeled “novelty” records, but K-Doe’s sincere delivery kept that tag off the song in most publications.

Toussaint didn’t have a mother-in-law at the time – he was single – but he kept hearing comedians making mother-in-law jokes on TV, so he knew it would get a reaction. Toussaint says that his grandmother was horrified when she heard it, but forgave him later.

The bass singer on this track who repeats the “mother-in-law” refrain was Benny Spellman. The success of this song caused a running argument between K-Doe and bass singer Spellman as to who was responsible for the hit. Spellman prevailed upon Toussaint to write a song for him to record, “Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette).” When Spellman recorded it, K-Doe sang backup vocals.

Allen Toussaint thought Ernie K-Doe would be a good fit for this song, since Ernie was known as a showman, and for making outrageous self-promotional statements. K-Doe claimed that this song “will last to the end of the Earth, because someone is always going to get married.”

This was by far the biggest hit for K-Doe, whose other chart entries were “Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta” (#53, 1961), “I Cried My Last Tear” (#69, 1961), “A Certain Girl” (#71, 1961) and “Popeye Joe” (#99, 1962). His 1970 song “Here Come The Girls!” was sampled by the Sugababes for their 2008 UK hit “Girls.”

In 1994, K-Doe opened a bar and music venue in New Orleans called “The Mother-in-Law Lounge” with his wife Antionette. After Ernie died in 2001, Antionette kept the venue alive, preserving Ernie’s memory with a fully costumed, look-alike mannequin of the singer. The lounge was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but reopened a year later. Antionette K-Doe died of a heart attack on February 24, 2009, which was the day of Mardi Gras.

K-Doe claimed that he fished the song out of Allen Toussaint’s trash can and recorded it because he related strongly to its sentiments: his mother-in-law was living in his house at a time of marital turmoil. In our interview with Toussaint, he explained what happened: “I wrote four songs for him to do, because we always recorded four songs at a time, and ‘Mother-In-Law’ was one of them. When I tried it out on him the first time, he began to shout and preach at it and I really didn’t like his approach to it. I thought it was a waste of time to try to get him to do it, so I balled it up and put it in the trash can, like I did with other songs. One of the backup singers, Willie Harper, thought it was just a wonderful song, so he took it out of the trash can and said, ‘K-Doe, why don’t you calm down and listen closer to the way Allen is doing it and try to do it like that? This is a good song.’ So he calmed down and didn’t preach at it, but did it like it finally came out.”

This song was recorded in New Orleans at J&M Studios, which was also where Little Richard and Fats Domino recorded. Allen Toussaint was a regular at the studio, sometimes recording his own material, but usually doing session work.

Mother-In-Law

Mother-in-law (mother-in law), mother-in-law (mother-in-law)
The worst person I know, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
She worries me so, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
If she leaves us alone, we would have a happy home
Sent from down below
(Mother-in-law) mother-in-law, (mother-in-law), mother-in-law

Sin should be her name, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
To me, they’re about the same, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
Every time I open my mouth, she steps in, tries to put me out
How could she stoop so low?
(Mother-in-law), mother-in-law, (mother-in-law), mother-in-law

I come home with my pay, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
She asks me what I make, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
She thinks her advice is a contribution
But if she will leave that will be a solution
And don’t come back no more
(Mother-in-law), mother-in-law, (mother-in-law), mother-in-law

Mother in law, mother in law, oh