Box Tops – Neon Rainbow

When you think of the Box Tops you think of The Letter, Cry Like A Baby, Soul Deep, and this one…which wasn’t as well known but it was their attempt at psychedelia.

The song was written by Wayne Carson Thompson and released in 1967. The track is featured on The Letter/Neon Rainbow. The song peaked at #24 in the Billboard 100 and #17 in Canada.

In 1970 Alex Chilton would walk away from the Box Tops. He lived in New York for a while after that and then moved to Memphis and joined Chris Bell’s band Big Star.

***Personal Story I’ve told in a post when I started: A bizarre personal story…a one in a million shot…Back in the 90s, I was trying to call a musician that was recommended but I dialed a wrong number and talked to Gary Talley the guitar player for the Box Tops for a good 45 minutes. He laughed and told me that I at least reached a guitar player but in Nashville, my odds were good getting one with any number. He was really cool and we talked about guitars and his touring etc… He was giving guitar lessons at the time.  He told me that other people have called him looking for Garry Tallent the bass player for Bruce Springsteen.

Talley recorded, wrote,  and toured with some of the best country musicians around.

Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Sam Moore (of the duo Sam and Dave), and others. He has written songs recorded by Keith Whitley…and many more.

Gary if you are reading…thanks for the encouragement and the tips.

Neon Rainbow

The city lights, the pretty lights
They can warm the coldest nights
All the people going places
Smiling with electric faces
What they find the glow erases
And what they loose the glow replaces, and life is love

In a neon rainbow, a neon rainbow

Moving lines, flashing signs
Blinking faster than the minds
Leading people with suggestions
Leaving no unanswered questions
You can live without direction
And it don’t hav’ to be perfection, and life is love

In a neon rainbow, a neon rainbow

But in the daytime everything changes
Nothing remains the same
No one smiles anymore
And no one will open his door
Until the night time comes
And then the…

City lights, the pretty lights
They can warm the coldest nights
All the people going places
Smiling with the electric faces
What they find the glow erases
And what they loose the glow replaces, and life is love

In a neon rainbow, a neon rainbow, a neon rainbow

The Box Tops – The Letter

Alex Chilton was sixteen when he recorded this song for the Box Tops. The Box Tops formed in Memphis Tennessee in 1967. They would go to have seven top 40 hits. This one was their most successful single. It peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, and #5 in the UK in 1967.

After the Box Tops, Alex Chilton would help form one of the best ever power pop bands of all time that no one ever heard of… Big Star. One of my all-time favorite bands.

Nashville songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson wrote the song after his father gave him the line, “Give me a ticket for an aeroplane.”

When the group recorded this they still did not have a name. One band member suggested…”Let’s have a contest and everybody can send in 50 cents and a box top.” Producer Dan Penn then dubbed them The Box Tops.

Rolling Stone magazine included the Box Tops original at number 372 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

The band was known for this song, Cry Like A Baby, and my favorite Soul Deep.

From Songfacts

This song is about a guy who gets a letter from his former love telling him that she wants him back, and the guy wants to fly out and see her immediately. 

Thompson gave the song to The Box Tops on the recommendation of his friend, Chips Moman, who ran ARS Studios and liked the sound of an unnamed band headed by then-16-year-old Alex Chilton, who auditioned for him in 1967.

Thompson played guitar on the recording. He didn’t like the singing, believing the lead vocal was too husky, and wasn’t fond of the production either. The addition of the jet sound “didn’t make sense” to him. When producer Dan Penn added the airplane sound to the recording, Wayne Carson Thompson clearly thought that Penn had lost his mind. He hadn’t – several weeks later it became one of the biggest records of the ’60s, and The Box Tops went on to score with a few other Thompson compositions, including their follow-up release, “Neon Rainbow” (#24, 1967), “Soul Deep” (a #18 hit in 1969) and “You Keep Tightening Up On Me” (their last chart hit, which peaked at #74 in 1970). A few years later, Thompson won a Grammy for cowriting the hit “Always On My Mind.”

At 1:58, the Box Tops’ version of this was the last #1 hit to be shorter than two minutes in length.

Cover versions were US hits for two other artists, The Arbors (#20 in 1969 – arrangement by Joe Scott) and Joe Cocker (#7 in 1970). Cocker’s version is a live recording featuring Leon Russell; a studio version appears on his album Mad Dogs & Englishmen.

The title is never sung in this song: his baby writes him “a letter.”

The Letter

[Chorus]
Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby, just-a wrote me a letter

I don’t care how much money I gotta spend
Got to get back to baby again
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby, just-a wrote me a letter

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more
Listen mister, can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once-a more
Anyway, yeah!

[Chorus]

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more
Listen mister, can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once-a more
Anyway, yeah!

[Chorus]

The Box Tops – Cry Like A Baby

It’s hard to believe this voice was coming out of a teenager… An 18-year-old Alex Chilton was singing this song with the Box Tops. The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #15 in the UK, and #3 in Canada. The band was successful with 10 songs in the top 100, 2 top ten songs and a number 1 (The Letter). The Box Tops were formed in Memphis in 1967. The most famous member would be future Big Star member Alex Chilton.

A bizarre personal story…a one in a million shot…Back in the 90s, I was trying to call a musician that was recommended but I dialed a wrong number and talked to Gary Talley the guitar player for the Box Tops for a good 45 minutes. He laughed and told me that I at least reached a guitar player but in Nashville, my odds were good getting one with any number. He was really cool and we talked about guitars and his touring etc… He was giving guitar lessons at the time.  He told me that other people have called him looking for Garry Tallent the bass player for Bruce Springsteen.

Cry Like a Baby was recorded at American Studios in Memphis, which was run by Chips Moman, who produced the album. Spooner Oldham played keyboards on the track in addition to co-writing it.

The Box Tops still tour with members Gary Talley and Bill Cuningham.

From Songfacts

This was written by Dewey “Spooner” Oldham and Dan Penn, whose other credits together include the hits “I’m Your Puppet” (a hit for James and Bobby Purify), “It Tears Me Up” (a hit for Percy Sledge) and “A Woman Left Lonely.” In our interview with Spooner Oldham, he told the story: “Dan Penn was producing The Box Tops, he had produced a #1 record called ‘The Letter.’ He recorded that in Memphis when he and I were both living there. So he calls me one day and says, ‘Spooner, will you help me try to write a song for Alex (Chilton) and the Box Tops?’ He says, ‘People have sent me some songs, but I don’t think any of them really fit. This record company’s been after me about three weeks for a follow-up single.’ And I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try to help write a song for you.’ We got together in the studio one evening with our little notes of our five or ten best ideas or titles. We each pulled one out and they eventually ended up in the garbage.

The next morning, we were getting tired and decided to call it quits. So we locked the doors, turned out the lights in the studio, turned off the instruments. Went across the street to the little café – name was Porky’s or something like that – and ordered breakfast. I remember I was putting my head on the table. There was nobody in there, I don’t think, but us and the cook. And I tiredly put my head on the table, my arms under my head, just for a few seconds. Then I lifted my head up and looked at Dan, and because I felt sorry that he needed another record and we were no help to each other that evening, I said, ‘Dan, I could just cry like a baby.’ And he says, ‘What did you say?’ And I said it again. He says, ‘I like that.’ So unbeknownst to me, we had a song started. By the time we walked across the street back to the studio, we had the first verse written. When we got in, he turned on the lights and the recorder, and I turned on the Hammond organ. He got his guitar out, and we put on a quarter-inch 90-minute tape, and we finished the song, just recorded a demo.

The next day or two in the morning Alex Chilton came in. I was so tired and weary I didn’t know what we had, if anything. I played the little tape demo to him and he smiled and reached out his hand, shook my hand, so I knew he liked it, anyway. And then we got in the studio and recorded it shortly, I think that day.”

In the tale of this song, a man previously took for granted the love of his caring, faithful girlfriend. He regrets how terribly he had treated her now that she’s left him. He now cries every time he sees her or even thinks of her.

This song is notable for its electric sitar, which was provided by guitarist Reggie Young. 

It wasn’t worth crying over, but this song stayed at US #2 for two weeks, kept out of the top spot by Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey,” which held the top spot for five weeks.

Cry Like A Baby

When I think about the good love you gave me
I cry like a baby
Living without you is driving me crazy
I cry like a baby
Well, I know now, that you’re not a plaything
Not a toy, or a puppet on a string

As I look back on a love so sweet
I cry like a baby
Oh, every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby
I know now that you’re not a plaything
Not a toy, or a puppet on a string

Today we passed on the street, and you just walked on by
how my heart just fell to my feet
and like a fool I began to cry

Oh when I think about the good love you gave me
I cry like a baby
Living without you is driving me crazy
I cry like a baby
I know now,that you’re not a plaything
I cry like a baby, cry like a baby

Every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby, cry like a baby
Living without you is driving me crazy
I cry like a baby, cry like a baby
I cry, I cry, I cry

 

The Box Tops – Soul Deep

A song by the Box Tops and their teenage lead singer Alex Chilton. This song peaked at #18 in 1969 on the Billboard 100, #9 in Canada and #22 on the UK charts. This has always been my favorite song by them. It was not as big as “The Letter” or “Cry Like a Baby” but it was their last top twenty hit.

Listening to his voice it’s hard to believe Alex was only 19 at the time this song came out. In just two years after this song was released Alex would be one of the founding members of Big Star.  Great song by the Box Tops

Soul Deep

Darlin’ I don’t know much
I know I love you so much
A lot depends on your touch
My love is a river running soul deep
A way down inside me it’s a soul deep
Too big to hide, can’t be denied
Love is a river running soul deep
I worked myself to euphoria
Just to show I adore ya
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for ya
Cause my love is a river running soul deep
A way down inside me it’s a soul deep
Too big to hide, can’t be denied
Love is a river running soul deep
All I ever, ever hoped to be
Depends on your love for me
If you believe me, if you should leave me
I’d be nothing but a jilted male
I know darned well, I could tell, but
I don’t know much
I know I love you so much
A lot depends on your touch
My love is a river running soul deep
A way down inside me it’s a soul deep
Too big to hide, can’t be denied
Love is a river running soul deep
My love is a river running soul deep
A way down inside me it’s a soul deep
My love is a river running soul deep
A way down inside me it’s a soul deep
My love is a river running soul deep
A way down inside me it’s a soul deep