Thursday, February 10, 2022

Love: (Who Wrote) The Book Of Love

The Monotones: (Who Wrote) The Book Of Love

My father loved this song. He grew up in Brooklyn during the heyday of doo-wop, and I remember him singing this song, loudly and as badly, when I was a kid. It’s a great song, and a fun song, and it provides a very simple primer for love: 

Chapter One says to love her
You love her with all your heart
Chapter Two you tell her
You're never, never, never, never, ever gonna part
In Chapter Three remember the meaning of romance
In Chapter Four you break up
But you give her just one more chance. 

As someone who has been in love for decades, I think that it’s pretty good advice, although I’m pretty sure that there are many more chapters in the book that weren’t discussed in the song (and in my case, it was me who was given that extra chance….) 

If Ted Lasso, one of my favorite TV shows from the last couple of years, can have been inspired by a series of NBC soccer promos, then why can’t a doo-wop classic be inspired by a Pepsodent jingle? According to Monotone Charles Patrick, he was in a store looking at sheet music for a different song called "Book Of Love" when the jingle, “You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent," came on the radio. He got the idea to combine the title with the melody from the jingle, turning "You'll wonder where the yellow went" into "I wonder, wonder who." Patrick completed the song with his fellow group members, and the rest is music history, with the song hitting No. 5 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 3 on the R&B chart in 1958. That story may be apocryphal. 

One of the most memorable parts of the song is the heavy drum beat at the end of the first line, which was a fortuitous mistake—when the band was recording the song, a kid outside the studio threw a ball that hit a window just as they finished singing the line. They liked the way it sounded, so they decided to put a drum hit in that spot. That story also may be apocryphal. 

The Monotones were formed in 1955 by seven residents of the Baxter Terrace housing development in Newark, New Jersey: Warren Davis, George Malone, Frank Smith, John Ryanes, and Warren Ryanes, in addition to Patrick (Charles' brother James Patrick, the seventh member, left the group before “Book Of Love” was recorded). All of the future Monotones began singing, presumably not in monotone, with the New Hope Baptist Choir, which included Cissy Houston and Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, all of whom were related to the Patrick brothers. 

Unfortunately, after “Book Of Love” the band’s releases were not successful, although as a resident of Tarrytown, and parent of two proud alumni of Sleepy Hollow High School, I was pleased to discover that they recorded a song called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” 

The Monotones disbanded in 1962, although there were reunions to revive “Book Of Love,” and over the years, new members replaced members who had died or retired.  For decades, a version of the Monotones were regulars on the oldies circuit. 

The song also lives on—it was in the soundtrack to American Graffiti and other movies, was performed by Sha Na Na at Woodstock, used as the theme in a version of The Newlywed Game in the late 1980s, was sung in an episode of Who’s The Boss, and has been used in video games.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022



Holy Love

You possibly or, more likely, probably don't know the song. It would be great if you do, and there may be some, but I fear the band of aficionados is more select and smaller than I would prefer. And, who knows, this may alert new ears to both the singer and the song, and I hope it can. The singer you may have heard of. Or at least, heard his voice. So who he? 

Strange Kind Of Love

James Grant, or the James Grant you will be more familiar with was the guiding force behind and in Glasgow white soul and white socks band, Love and Money, something I confess to finding a bit of a surprise. I mean, they were OK, but a bit sort of generic. Or so I thought then, pleasantly surprised by my currently designated dip in their repertoire, finding, instead, a smooth and rich sound redolent of, of all people, Jackie Leven. The song above, from their second and "breakthrough" album, "breakthrough" in that it produced their first chart appearances, in the lower reaches of the UK singles top 80, has an interesting pedigree, in that their drummer had left the band, necessitating some substitution. With big name producer Gary Katz having been signed to buff up their sound, he drafted in Jeff Porcaro from Steely Dan, the band he was better known as the producer for. Sloopy/Edgar Winter man, Rick Derringer, the 70s guitar ace, also appeared, as did an uncredited Donald Fagen. (And you thought he smooth sound seemed familiar....) Hindsight reveals this, Strange Kind of Love, to be a terrific album and I feel their memory, based more on their eponymous earlier single, Love and Money, has been wronged by my failure to give them a second go. Plus, if I am honest, the, um, mismatch between the dark brown honeyed voice and the somewhat gangly youth projecting it. (And he has, I can say, grown into his vocal timbre with appropriate grace and gravitas.)

Having failed to set the world alight, Love and Money lurched on to a further couple of albums, bedogged by issues with record companies: their 3rd album was initially rejected, ahead of coming out, substantively altered, on another label, the 4th then being, to all intents and purposes, self-released. Despite all this, that difficult 3rd album, when finally released, as Dogs in the Traffic, was seen fit to gather a number 30 in the Scotsman newspaper's all time top 100 Scottish rock and pop albums. they split up in 1994.

My Love Lives In A Dead House

Grant embarked on a solo career. Given he had now hooked up with the husband and wife, Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson, both of Capercaillie, this unsurprisingly is a rootsier effort, with strong country and folk flavours to the anthemic melodies. Sawdust in My Veins came out in 1998, and in the same year he was included as a guest in the prestigious Transatlantic Sessions. My Thrown Glory followed in 2000, with an album of other writer's poetry set to his music, I Shot the Albatross, bridging the gap ahead the album that produced the song that heads this piece. His high water mark, I would say, with the song also the name of the record, a splendid record of truly celtic soul, and well worth searching out. The song itself, despite the title, is neither religious nor sanctimonious, being more a spiritual ode to love, using the analogy of love being a higher force. I think. It uses holy in the same way as is, say, Steve Winwood's evocative Holy Ground, his hymn to the planet.

If You Love Me, Leave Me Alone
Blue Train

During these same years he also returned the favour, working on Karen Mathesons's solo albums, writing four songs for her first record, six for her second and two for her third, as well as providing instrumental ballast to the backing throughout. Indeed this has continued to the present, with her most recent album, 2021's Still Time, containing another four. 

The Dreaming Sea

His  own solo career continued with Strange Flowers, in 2009, ahead of a reunion concert of Love and Money, for the yearly Celtic Connections festival, in 2011, led to new work and an album, Devil's Debt, a year later.

Strange Kind Of Love

If his profile has seemed subsequently low, let's just hope it a hiatus. As the new songs with Karen Matheson have shown, his muse is still within him. He remains a loved figure on the Scottish live scene: a live solo disc of his 2016 Celtic Connections (again) gig showed updated and invigorated songs from throughout both his band and solo career. whilst it did not, sadly, include Holy Love, there is at least this glorious retread of Strange Kind of Love, the second song I featured earlier up the thread. Indeed, whilst I was researching this piece I learnt he has a couple of shows arranged for later in the year, in London and Edinburgh, details through his website. (This also reveals the possible enticing option of having him write a bespoke song with and for you........ )

Holy Love