by Robert Wilkinson
Mike Stoller and his partner Jerry Leiber were two of the greatest songwriters of rock and roll. Today we have some great videos of everyone from Elvis to the Beatles doing their hits! It’s also the birthday of hitmaker Neil Sedaka, another major talent of the Brill Building.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mike Stoller (March 13, 1933) with partner Jerry Leiber (April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011) wrote some of the most famous songs of the second half of the 20th century over a 60 year collaboration. Mike wrote the tunes and Jerry wrote the lyrics for such amazing songs as "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Love Me," "King Creole," "Yakety Yak," "Searchin'," "Young Blood," "Love Potion #9," "Kansas City," "Charlie Brown," "Drip Drop," "Poison Ivy," "Stand By Me," "Spanish Harlem," "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Riot in Cell Block #9," "On Broadway," and the immortal Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," among the many that shaped a couple of generations of musical fans.
They created the hits of the 50s and 60s, and their songs were done by many of the greatest of rock and rollers, including Elvis Presley, Dion, the Coasters, the Drifters and Ben E. King. They created a joyous new musical songwriting style by combining blues, jazz, and pop in a sound that captivated millions over decades. They also produced more major hits than I can list here.
Over their career, they had 15 No. 1 hits in a variety of genres by 10 different artists. Among the performers who took their hits to the top of the charts we can include Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Otis Redding.
... they created a string of ground-breaking hits that are some of the most entertaining in rock and roll, by using the humorous vernacular of the teenagers sung in a style that was openly theatrical rather than personal, songs that include “Young Blood,” “Searchin’,” and “Yakety Yak.” They were the first to surround black music with elaborate production values, enhancing its emotional power with the Drifters in “There Goes My Baby” and influencing Phil Spector who worked with them on recordings of the Drifters and Ben E. King. Leiber and Stoller went into the record business and, focusing on the “girl group” sound, released some of the greatest classics of the Brill Building period.
Here are a few of the songs that made the team of Leiber and Stoller immortals:
From the Steve Allen show in 1956, Elvis doing "Hound Dog."
From the movie, here's "Jailhouse Rock"
From a 1956 Ed Sullivan performance, here's the King performing "Love Me"
By the Coasters, their timeless teen age lament, "Yakety Yak"
Also from the Coasters, a very funny 1959 live lip-synched performance on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show of "Charlie Brown." Here’s the original studio single with King Curtis wailing on sax on “Charlie Brown”
From 1956, the Coasters’ original studio version of the Lieber-Stoller hit, “Ruby Baby.” For the more famous version from a few years later, here’s the legendary Dion DiMucci live on television in 1963 with his unmistakeable New York attitude belting out “Ruby Baby”
From 1957, a great live performance by the original Coasters on the Steve Allen show of “Searchin’”
Here’s the Silver Beatles in 1962 with Paul on lead vocals offering up their studio version of “Searchin’”
From 1958, also with King Curtis on sax, the original studio version by the Coasters of “Three Cool Cats”
From 1962 with George singing lead, here are the Silver Beatles giving us their studio version of “Three Cool Cats”
From 1959, the Coasters in the original studio version of "Poison Ivy"
From 1963, the original Rolling Stones studio release of “Poison Ivy”
From 1962, the original studio version by the Coasters with King Curtis on Sax grinding out “Little Egypt”
As we originally saw in the movie “Roustabout,” here’s the King mugging for the camera while giving us a slick performance of “Little Egypt”
From 1965, the Coasters in a live performance of “Along Came Jones”
Here’s a later vintage of the Coasters in a live performance of “Young Blood”
Last year I had a very early Beatles audio-only version of “Young Blood” but this year it’s nowhere to be found.
It’s gone again! Last year I had the fantastic video performance from “the Concert for Bangladesh,” of the great Leon Russell preaching the gospel of “Jumping Jack Flash/Young Blood,” but this year it’s gone. So this year we have the audio of that iconic performance! ”Jumping Jack Flash” followed by “Young Blood”
From 1954, the Robins’ original studio version of “There’s A Riot Going On (Up In Cell Block Number 9)”
From the 1987 Montreux Jazz Festival, here's the great Ben E. King, ex-lead singer of the Drifters in their immortal Atlantic era, doing his signature hit, "Stand By Me"
Here's Ben E. King doing another of his greatest, "Spanish Harlem"
From Hullabaloo in 1965, a live performance by Jay and the Americans of an iconic tune written by Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller, Cynthia Weil, and Barry Mann. It was originally a scathingly satiric commentary on the lack of civil rights at the time, “Only In America” (Originally written for the Drifters, it is not the tune "America" from West Side Story.) From Songfacts: The song was written at a time before integration, and the lyrics were originally about racism. It had the following chorus: "Only in America, land of opportunity, can they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me. Only in America, Where they preach the Golden Rule, will they start to march when my kids go to school." Atlantic Records had a problem with the lyrics, and insisted Lieber and Stoller change them to be a satiric message of patriotism, which so upset Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann they demanded changes in their contract to give them more control over future songs.
Here’s the original Drifters’ studio version of “Only In America”
From Shindig 1964, the great Jay and the Americans in a very real live performance doing the very funny "Come A Little Bit Closer"
From the Mike Douglas Show in 1969, another live performance by Jay and the Americans of the iconic “Come A Little Bit Closer”
From 1959 on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show hosted by Dick Clark, here’s Wilbert Harrison in a live performance of “Kansas City”
And from 1964, here are the Beatles live on Shindig with Paul singing the lead on “Kansas City”
We'll close today with one of my faves when I was too young to mention. Here's Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock" doing the Leiber-Stoller hit, "(You're so square) Baby I Don't Care." For another great version, here's Buddy Holly doing "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)"
We'll close this birthday tribute with a live performance by Queen in 1986 at Wembley Stadium bopping a version of "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)"
You can check out both of these legendary songwriters at the official Leiber-Stoller website
You can check out more at the Mike Stoller site at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
Thanks for all the fabulous tunes across the decades, Mike! Glad you’re still with us. You are one of the immortals of rock and roll!
It’s also the birthday of another legend, Neil Sedaka (March 13, 1939), a remarkably talented singer, pianist, composer and record producer. From wiki, “Since his music career began in 1957, he has sold millions of records as an artist and has written or co-written over 500 songs for himself and others.” This Brill Building star has some major tunes to his credit, and today we have a few of his best. So without further ado, here’s the music of the great Neil Sedaka!
Neil’s first record in 1956, with the pre-“Lion Sleeps Tonight” Tokens! “While I Dream”
From the same year, Neil and the Tokens giving us “Don’t Go” and “Come Back Joe”
Live on Dick Clark’s show, here’s a very young Neil belting out “Ring A-Rockin’”
This one came when Connie wouldn't let Neil look at her diary! From 1958, the studio version of a Neil Sedaka tune that went to #14 on the Hot 100! “The Diary”
And now for the hits!
“Oh Carol” (1959 - #9)
“Stairway to Heaven” (1960 - #9)
“Calendar Girl” (1961 - #4)
“Little Devil” (1961 - #11)
Here’s a great compilation of two performances in one clip from Shindig, 1964! “Calendar Girl” and “Little Devil”
“Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (1961 - #6)
“Next Door To An Angel” (1962 - #5)
“Laughter in the Rain” (1975 - #1)
We’ll close with his signature hit “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (1962 - #1)
For the encore, a great 2015 performance of a slow version of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”
Neil, thanks for the soundtrack of my preadolescence! You were all over the radio in the 60s, and we all loved your music!
Copyright © 2017 Robert Wilkinson