We all have stuck in our heads the relatively unknown songs and records that we feel others somehow missed. Songs we remember and appreciate like no one else! The kind of songs that when mentioned usually only elicit a blank stare. The kind of song that creates an instant bond with the few rare souls that do know what you’re referring to. You know…THAT song. We’ve all been there.
The Royal Guardsmen – ‘Bears’
Let’s begin with a catchy and unusual song from an unusual band. The Royal Guardsmen were a sextet from Ocala, Florida that managed to make a career writing ridiculous songs about the characters from the Sunday funnies cartoon ‘Peanuts’ by Charles Schultz. For every person that found these guys weirdly charming, another would find them perfectly unlistenable. They are chiefly remembered by history as a novelty act (to put it kindly) responsible for ‘Snoopy vs. The Red Baron’ and ‘The Red Baron Returns’. And although it might surprise you, this didn’t exhaust their Snoopy-themed material, which included such gems as ‘Snoopy for President’ and ‘A Snoopy Christmas’, etc.
However, in a rare departure from their Snoopy-themed material, the Royal Guardsmen did manage to hit upon a funny little gem of a song with a great groove, a punchy chorus and layered with Beatles-esque harmonies and hooks (who could be quite silly themselves). Take a moment and listen to “Bears” and wonder why it got so little attention, unlike the more famous raccoons or octopi favored by the Beatles.
The Knickerbockers / Linda Rondstadt – ‘Lies (1982)’
In 1965 the world was consumed by a debut single from a bar band out of Bergenfield, New Jersey who wanted to release a record that could compete with and sounded like The Fab Four – and amazingly enough – THEY DID! That ambitious bar band was The Knickerbockers and their breakout song was ‘Lies’. Chances are, if you were listening to music in the summer of 1965, you heard this song every day and you loved it. ‘Lies’ became an instant classic, and has been covered by dozens of artists since. However, there’s only one artist who I think managed to capture the power, energy and magic of the original…and that was Linda Rondstadt in 1982! The Queen of Everything included it on her ‘Get Closer’ album and she knocked it out of the park, but have you heard it? Probably not! Well, let’s change that.
The Zombies – ‘Leave Me Be’
Our number three choice for yet another song you didn’t know you didn’t know, comes from an English band that nobody doesn’t like: The Zombies! Remember ‘Leave Me Be’? I bet you don’t! It was originally slated as the bands second single in November of 1964, the followup to their monster International smash hit ‘She’s Not There’. However, the good news/bad news for The Zombies was that ‘She’s Not There’ was such a huge record it completely overshadowed their intended followup! It didn’t help that the early reception for the new track was so lackluster that it wasn’t released as a single in the U.S. and didn’t even make the charts in the U.K. However the band believed in the song and pushed hard, with ‘Leave Me Be’ ultimately being released as the B-Side of their third single ‘Tell Her No’. I can still clearly remember the rush I felt the first time I turned over my new 45, dropped the needle on ‘Leave Me Be’ and fell in love with my new favorite Zombie’s song!
Linda Rondstadt – ‘She’s A Very Lovely Woman’
Our penultimate track for our Fab Five, is yet another incredible record from “The Queen of Everything, Linda Ronstadt! Have you ever heard “She’s A Very Lovely Woman”from back in 1971? This beautiful song about “A bad woman” was originally written and recorded by a young singer songwriter from Hawthorne Calif. Emitt Rhodes and his band The Merry Go Round it was their second single from their debut L.P on A & M in 1967! Linda was a fan of Emit and The Merry Go Round and loved the song from the beginning and after a few clever lyrical twists Linda gave the song a feminine’ perspective and made it her’s as only “The Queen can do! It was only released as a non-L.P. single in 1971, for reason’s we can’t fathom, but when it came on the radio, we would fall each time for our “very lovely” Linda!
Emitt Rhodes -‘Tame The Lion’
Our number one choice comes from the incredible Emitt Rhodes! As the 60’s drifted into the history books, so did The Merry Go Round! But all the while Emitt Rhodes continued to develop and grow as a singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist. In 1969 after the breakup of The Merry Go Round, Emitt would record three albums where he wrote, produced, arranged, engineered, sang and played every instrument and note of music on his recordings! This eventually lead to a biography about his unusual career called “Emitt Rhodes: One Man Beatles”
Which brings us to our final pick and personal favorite of the songs you didn’t know, you didn’t know! “Tame The Lion” a furious and beautiful anti-war masterpiece that somehow only emerged as a b-side from Emitt’s 1973 album “Farewell to Paradise” Have you ever heard it? Here’s your chance!
Now that I’ve shared a few of my obscure favorites, please feel free dear reader to share your own with the world in the comments section below. Hopefully, a few of our friends here at SMS will recognize them!