Usually, I pick a specific song for these Saturday outings. But I also like to note 70th birthdays of certain notable folks. Well, I missed the 70th birthdays of both Bill Medley and the late Bobby Hatfield, the Righteous Brothers.
And I wasn’t aware of the 75th birthday of Hatfield (August 10, 1940 – November 5, 2003) until Brian Ibbott did a Righteous Brothers-driven Coverville 1088, also featuring Joe Jackson.
Bill Medley’s 75th is coming up on September 19. So I’ll honor them between the two birth dates. Links to all songs mentioned, and to Coverville.
In 1963, Little Latin Lupe Lu was their first charting single, getting to #49 in the US, followed by a bunch of less successful songs on the Moonglow label.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was their first major hit single and their first release on the Philles label in late 1964. It went to #1 in the UK, #1 in the US pop charts for two weeks, and #2 on the US Rhythm & Blues charts in 1965. “Produced by Phil Spector, the record is often cited as one of the peak expressions of Spector’s Wall of Sound production techniques. It was one of the most successful pop singles of its time, despite exceeding the then standard length for radio play. Indeed, according to BMI, it was the most played song on American radio and television in the 20th century, estimated to have been broadcast more than eight million times.”
The follow-up single was the Spector-produced Just Once in My Life, #9 US pop, #26 US R&B.
If you’re DJing a wedding reception, and you decide to be creative by playing songs people should like, but they aren’t dancing very much, put on Unchained Melody; I speak from personal experience. The song went to #4 US pop, #6 US R&B, #14 UK in 1965. Then, as a result of being featured in the movie Ghost, with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, it was reissued and went to #13 in the US, and #1 in the UK, in 1990. “Medley has consistently said that he produced Unchained Melody, intended only as an album track, but copies of the original 45 release credited Spector as producer.”
The B-side of Unchained Melody, Hung on You, only went to #47 US originally, but separately went to #2 on the US adult contemporary charts in 1990.
Ebb Tide was the last of the big hits on Philles in the US, reaching #5 US pop, #13 US R&B, and #48 UK in 1966; Hatfield singing the title at the end gives me chills. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” b/w Ebb Tide was re-issued and went to #3 in UK in 1990.
White Cliffs of Dover, while a stiff in the US (#118 in 1966, after they had left the label), it got up to a respectable #21 in the UK. Ebb Tide and Dover appear on the only Righteous Brothers LP I owned, Back to Back.
“The singers did not get along well with Spector personally and their contract was sold to Verve/MGM Records in 1965. Their next release in 1966, (You’re My) Soul and Inspiration was a Phil Spector sound-alike song, produced by Bill Medley, who was able to fully simulate the Spector style of production.” It was one of the relatively few 45s I ever bought. It was #1 US pop for three weeks, #13 US R&B, #15 UK.
“After a few more top 40 hits… their popularity began to decline. They eventually split up in 1968, which lasted more than six years.”
“In 1974, they signed with Haven Records…distributed by Capitol Records. They scored another hit with Alan O’Day’s Rock and Roll Heaven, a paean to several deceased rock singers: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Otis Redding, Jim Croce, and Bobby Darin are among the mentioned.” It went to #3 in the UK, but failed to chart in the UK.
Bill Medley had the greater commercial success as a solo artist, including 1987’s (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, with Jennifer Warnes, #1 in the US, #6 in the UK. It was used as the love theme from Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze (him, again) and Jennifer Gray. He “continues to perform including in Branson, Missouri.
“Bobby Hatfield was found dead in his hotel room in Kalamazoo, Michigan… shortly before he was due to perform at a concert with Medley at Western Michigan University’s Miller Auditorium. According to the autopsy report, the cause of his death was attributed to cocaine leading to heart failure.
“The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2003.
2 thoughts on “Music Throwback Saturday: the Righteous Brothers”
“Hung On You” was the intended A-side of Philles 129; it was the DJs who flipped it over and made “Unchained Melody” a hit. “Unchained” was track 3 on the Just Once in My Life album, while both “Ebb Tide” and “Hung On You” were on the subsequent Back to Back LP, suggesting that Spector basically pulled it out of the vault with no expectations. Given Medley’s production work for the Brothers’ Verve work, which is Spectorian to its very core, I’m inclined to believe that Bill actually did produce “Unchained.”
Still, “Unchained” presented a further problem for Medley, who didn’t sing a note on it, but who was always asked to sing it during his solo career. (Paul Simon, I suspect, has similar issues with “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”)
Once again, some of these songs I’ve never heard before…