The inevitable sequel to a popular post, in this as in most cases far inferior to the original: Sure, there are exceptions to the law of declining sequel satisfaction – Say, notably, The Empire Strikes Back or Babe: Pig in the City – but I can assure you this one will disappoint. Go back and read the original here.
One great story song that was featured on the website a while back was Marty Robbin’s 1961 surprise hit El Paso. The story of Rosalita’s Cantina didn’t really launch the career of cowboy singer Marty Robbins, who had already topped the country chart a couple times and begun appearing on the pop chart, but it did make him a star. A decade later he wrote the eight minute sequel, “Faleena (From El Paso)”
He also wrote a song in the 80s called “El Paso City”, in which the narrator recollects a familiar song about El Paso while flying overhead. Robbins may be recognizing his own limited stardom when he sings, “I don’t recall who sang the song.”
The classic Motown records contain a variety of songs you could see as sequels, although they are not as explicitly narrative as Marty Robbins’ horse operas. For instance, here are two of my favorite Supremes hits, one of which seems to be a continuation of the first.
The tracks you heard were, of course, “Love Child” and “I’m Living in Shame”. Both are post-Holland-Dozier-Holland tracks, but do share mostly the same writers (Each credits four or five people). There’s a clear continuation into the second track, recorded about a year later, which is what makes “I’m Living in Shame” one of the most depressing Motown singles. My 45 of “I’m Living in Shame” is kind of noisy, sorry. Its probably been played a lot because its one of my favorite Supremes singles.
Another place I expected to find a variety of sequel songs was in the annals of progressive rock – Very few turned up, and after an afternoon of Emerson, Lake and Pink Floyd I lost interest. Sure, there’s “Another Brick in the Wall” parts I, II and III. Sure, there’s “Larks Tongue in Aspic”, in five parts spread over three albums and twenty years. These seem like ongoing pieces rather than song-and-sequel-song in the traditional-asinine-Harry Chapin sense. One feasible exception I found was on a Jethro Tull album, a track which seemed to comment on and extend the philosophical argument in their most famous record, Aqualung. As far as “concept albums” go, Aqualung is not particularly narrative. In fact, it seems to be jumping all over the place, although its pro-Christianity, anti-Church stance is not lost throughout. The first of these tracks includes the line “we are our own saviors”, for instance. Ironically, the great Lenny Bruce said it all better than the loquacious Ian Anderson in just thirteen words when he quipped that
Every day people are straying from the Church and going back to God.
Here, for your edification and enjoyment, anyway, is “Wond’ring Aloud” by Jethro Tull, followed by its sequel “Wond’ring Again”. Curiously, the liner notes from Living in the Past, the double LP on which this sequel of sorts was first issued, say it was recorded June 1970 at organ Studio in London, six months before the Aqualung sessions at the new Island Studio, also in London, suggesting “Wond’ring Again” was in fact recorded before “Wond’ring Aloud”. Twenty-some years I’ve been listening to Jethro Tull and they’re still blowing my mind!
Our original post introduced both sequel songs and response songs, although they really are two different things. A healthy collection of classic rhythm and blues 45s is going to include at least a few response songs, as it was a common thing throughout the 60s and 70s. Here, for instance, is an obvious example, essentially a remake of Percy Sledges 1966 #1 hit “When a an Loves a Woman”.
Esther Phillips was only the first of many artists to cover “When a Man Loves a Woman”, but in her defense none have done it better. In fact, this once-magnificent soul masterpiece has weathered a terrible downward slide – A #1 hit for Michael Bolton, inspiration for a film so bad it was written by Al Franken. What could possibly be worse?
And, okay, I promise just one more (But we could do this all night)…
Has any other song been so horribly abused? What did it ever do to us?
To make up for everything you just saw, I have a couple of pretty sweet response songs – The first of which is Lydia Murdock’s “Superstar”, one of a few songs inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”. It’s the best of the lot because its actually a pretty good song regardless.
And the second is a song that probably seemed pretty innocuous at the time it was issued – A humble debut by a Detroit group called the Miracles on the End label. At the time Barry Gordy and William “Smokey” Robinson wrote “Got a Job” as a response to the Silhouettes hit “Get a Job”, nobody would have imagine it would be the single that began the building of an empire that would change the course of popular music.
Here’s the Silhouettes classic followed by the auspicious Miracles:
And a goofy third answer song for today is a response to the Jean Knight hit “Mr. Big Stuff”. “I’m too Tough for Mr. Big Stuff (Hot Pants)” by Vicki Anderson:
Although the answer/response song is associated with classic rhythm and blues, its a form that also often appears in country music. One of Kitty Wells most well known songs, for instance, was a response to this chorus by Hank Thompson:
I didn‘t know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you‘d never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life
“The Wild Side of Life was a hit for the great singer/goatee model Hank Thompson. Kitty Wells responded with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, which became a hit of its own. Here they are together:
Today’s other country song/response starts with the Roger Miller classic “King of the Road”, one of my all time favorites. Miller, who rambled through an early career as honky tonk songwriter, drummer and drifter before stumbling onto the distinct style that would top the charts, is an underrated genius who fairly felt his serious compositions were disregarded. “King of the Road” may well have been his epitaph, but I’d say one could do a lot worse.
Jody Miller’s “Queen of the House” lampoons “King of the Road” from the point of view of a housewife. I wouldn’t say there is a strong feminist message to the song, but it’s certainly part of a general trend in 60s country towards women-oriented songs that hit it’s stride in the next decade with really great 70s records by artists like Lynn Anderson, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette.
The other thing about “Queen of the House” is that it is not, as sometimes assumed, one of Roger Miller’s three wives singing. So far as I can tell, Jody Miller and Roger Miller were of no relation.
Will there be a Sequel Songs – Part III post? I guesso, even if this one was a bomb – After all, that didn’t stop Indiana Jones. So, one more version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” for the road (Then never again, I promise):
Okay… maybe two:
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