Johnny Rivers – Secret Agent Man

The opening guitar riff is worth the price of admission for the song. It’s one of those riffs you are required to learn by law if you want to be a guitar player. It was written by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri. I always liked the song but it really made an impression on me when a band named the White Animals played this song when they opened up for the Kinks in the early 80s.

The opening lick was written for a CBS TV Show called Danger Man. After the short theme caught on, they wrote a complete song around it. Sloan said ” When the title of the show was changed to Secret Agent, he says it was a breakthrough. “That changed everything,” “The lyric just came together in no time at all. It just worked immediately.”

The song peaked at #3  in the Billboard 100 in 1966.

From Songfacts

This was the theme for a TV series called Secret Agent, starring Patrick McGoohan. Unlike many TV themes, the song held up on its own with a distinctive dueling guitar sound.

This is an example of “Spy” music. The sound implied action and was associated with James Bond movies.

P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, who at the time was just starting the band The Grass Roots, wrote this song. Secret Agent was a US adaptation of a hit show in England called Dangerman, and CBS needed a 15-second theme to replace the British version. Sloan wrote of the song (from his website): “Somebody thought I should do a full length instrumental of the song. So I did. Meanwhile, the song was picked by CBS and Johnny Rivers recorded the quick 15-second song for the TV show. The Ventures, the genius guitar instrumental group, heard the demo and recorded and released the song way before Rivers even had a finished song. The publishers asked me to finish the song, Rivers recorded it, not one of his favorite songs back then, but he’s happier with it now.”

Some of the artists to record this song include Hank Williams Jr., Devo and Blues Traveler.

This was used in commercials for Wal-Mart and also for Chase credit cards. Some of the many movies to use the song include Repo Man, Bowfinger, Can’t Buy Me Love, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

According to P.F. Sloan, Johnny Rivers didn’t like this song and was content to record just the quick TV version until The Ventures charted with it. Both acts recorded for subsidiaries of Liberty Records, and the label was able to convince Rivers to record it.

Sloan told us in 2014 that Rivers had clearly embraced the song. “I saw him about two months ago and I’ve got to say he did an absolutely killer version,” he said. “Johnny must have sang that song half a million times, and he still sings it with so much gusto, and the audience goes nuts. That’s something great to see.”

The Ventures instrumental version peaked at #54 US on March 26, 1966. Rivers’ version hit its peak on April 23. His rendition is substantially longer, running 3:03 vs. 2:17.

Secret Agent Man

There’s a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes another chance he takes
Odds are he won’t live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number, I know they’ve take away your name

Beware of pretty faces that you find
A pretty face can hide an evil mind
Ah, be careful what you say
Or you’ll give yourself away
Odds are you won’t live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number, I know they’ve take away your name

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number, oh they’ve taken away your name

Swingin’ on the Riviera one day
And then layin’ in the Bombay alley next day
Oh, don’t you let you let the wrong word slip
While kissing persuasive lips
Odds are you won’t live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number, oh they’ve take away your name

Secret agent man

Johnny Rivers – Summer Rain ——— Songs that reference The Beatles

All summer long we were dancing in the sand, Everybody just kept on playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Ok, I’m cheating a little on this kinda… It doesn’t mention “Beatles” but Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the Beatles alter ego on the Sgt Peppers album.

This song was a hit for Johnny Rivers and it was written by James Hendricks. Summer Rain was on his Realization album released in 1968. It was written about the Summer of Love in 1967. The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100, #10 in Canada in 1968.

I like Johnny Rivers…he was strictly a singles artist and had some good songs. He did chart a lot of covers in his career. He had 29 songs in the top 100, 9 top ten songs and 1 number 1 (Poor Side of Town).

I first heard this song in the 80s on a local oldies station at the time… 96.3 in Nashville.

 

Summer Rain

Summer rain taps at my window
West wind soft as a sweet dream
My love, warm as the sunshine
Sitting here by me, yeah
She’s here by meShe stepped out of a rainbow
Golden hair shining like moonglow
Warm lips, soft as her soul
Sitting here by me, now
She’s here by meAll summer long we were dancing in the sand
Everybody just kept on playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”We sailed into the sunset
Drifting home, caught by a gulf stream
Never gave a thought for tomorrow
Let tomorrow be, yeah
Let tomorrow be
She wants to live in the Rockies
She says that’s where we’ll find peace
Settle down, raise up a family
One to call our own, yeah
We will have a home
All summer long we were grooving in the sand
Everybody just kept on playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Winter snows drift by my window
North wind blowing like thunder
Our love is burning like fire
She’s here by me, yeah
She’s here by me
Let tomorrow be
Songwriters: James Hendric

Johnny Rivers – Poor Side of Town

This song has always stuck with me because of that odd guitar riff. The song was written by Johnny Rivers and Lou Adler. Johnny had 29 songs in the top 100, 9 top ten hits, and one number one song. This is the one chart-topper Rivers achieved. It hit #1 in the Billboard 100 in 1966.

The song was on his Changes album that peaked at #33 in 1967. With this album, he moved into a more soulful, contemporary direction with his music. Instead of basic guitar-bass-drums, he added orchestral sounds from horns and strings.

 

From Songfacts

This is Johnny Rivers’ only American chart topper. He co-wrote it with Lou Adler. Marty Paich, who arranged for Mel Torme and Ray Charles, did the string arrangement.

Johnny Rivers: “I had this tune I’d been working on, and I kept playing it for Lou. It took me about 6 months to finish. We cut it with Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn and Hal Blaine. I did my vocal performances live with the band. I sat and played my guitar and sang. There weren’t any overdubs. So we said it could use some singers and maybe some strings. That’s the time we got together with (arranger) Marty Paich.”

This was a change of direction for Johnny Rivers, who had tired of the upbeat Go-Go sound that provided him with his early hits. However, he found his record company reluctant to tamper with a winning formula. He recalls, “Al Bennett and those guys were goin’ Man. don’t start comin’ out with ballads. You’re gonna kill your career. You got a good thing goin’ with this funky trio rock sound, stay with that.”

Poor Side of Town

How can you tell me how much you miss me
When the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t even kiss me
That rich guy you’ve been seein’
Must have put you down
So welcome back baby
To the poor side of town

To him you were nothin’ but a little plaything
Not much more than an overnight fling
To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
And girl it’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town

I can’t blame you for tryin’
I’m tryin’ to make it too
I’ve got one little hang up baby
I just can’t make it without you

So tell me, are you gonna stay now
Will you stand by me girl all the way now
Oh with you by my side
They just can’t keep us down
Together we can make it girl
From the poor side of town

(So tell me how much you love me)
(Come be near to me and say you need me now)

Oh, with you by my side
This world can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town