Sunday, February 22, 2015

Betty Smith's "Hand Jive": The hit that never was


The hand jive was supposed to sweep the nation in 1958. The clapping game, which originated in England and was later depicted in the film Grease, was "destined to become the biggest teenage fad in the history of the record business."

So said London Records, the label that released the original version of "Hand Jive" by the Betty Smith Group. Billboard reported that Smith's "Hand Jive" was the hottest selling record in Denver at one point, and London's ads said that one spin of "Hand Jive" in New York had elicited over 1,000 inquiries from listeners.

London promoted the record heavily, taking out full-page ads in the trade magazines to offer DJs free records and free instructions on how to do the hand jive. The clapping game was said to be a great alternative to dancing in spaces where "the dance floor is too crowded" or "where dancing is not allowed." The label issued an entire hand-jive album by Betty Smith, Music For Hand-Jiving, which was accurately billed as the "first hand jive LP."
Smith sang the lead vocal on "Hand Jive," but—despite all of these promotional efforts on behalf of the hand jive—American DJs flipped her record and played the instrumental B-side instead. The B-side was a smoky saxophone version of the song "Bewitched," a tune from the 1940 musical Pal Joey that was originally known by its full title, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." The song had been a hit for several artists in 1950, including Doris Day and Gordon Jenkins. Somewhat surprisingly, Smith herself was the saxophone soloist on her group's rendition of "Bewitched." The record reached #51 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A competing hand-jive song, "(Six-Five) Hand Jive," was released in two versions: one by Don Lang & His Frantic Five and one by the Show Brothers. Both groups were British. Neither of these records were hits either.

It would take an American act, Johnny Otis, to break through with a hand-jive song. That song, "Willie and the Hand Jive," was a Top 10 hit on the pop and R&B charts in 1958. Eric Clapton put the song in the Top 40 again with his 1974 remake.

Betty Smith playing her saxophone
As for Betty Smith, she released a few more singles on London, but none were hits in England or the United States. Malcolm Lockyer was the musical director on Smith's early recordings, and she continued to work with him into the 1970s. In 1974, they released an album titled I'm Old Fashioned on the British label Contour Records, which specialized in easy listening and budget recordings.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

G Stands for Go-Betweens: Speed problems

G Stands for Go-Betweens is a lavish—and expensive—four-LP and four-CD box set from Domino Records that compiles the first five Go-Betweens singles, the first three Go-Betweens albums, a live set from 1982, three discs of rarities, and a thick booklet that Robert Forster wrote. (The first 600 copies included books from the library of the late Grant McLennan, and Music Weird is compiling a list of those titles here.) Despite the deluxe presentation, a number of listeners have noted speed problems on some of the tracks. This post will provide details on the tracks that need speed correction.

Archie Moore's review on Sound It Out from January 25 noted the speed problems: 
All of the non-single material from the 1999 release 78 ‘Til 79: The Lost Album appears here, but it’s significantly slower than on that CD, sounding slightly sluggish and tuned-down (i.e. it seems that the slower speed is incorrect and accidental, a tape transfer error, not a correction). It is possible that this has been addressed and/or fixed since I got the digital review copy.
This problem hasn't been addressed, because my standard release copy has the same problems.

The songs from The Lost Album aren't the only ones that sound slow, though. Here's the breakdown:

Life as Sweet as Lemonade  
Tracks 3-22 are slow

Skeletons That Cry  
Tracks 7-11 are slow

I haven't heard from Domino Records yet about whether these CDs will be remastered to correct the speed problems. At the very least, the downloads for purchasers should be corrected, but the best possible outcome would be for the affected discs and LPs to be remastered and replaced. Considering the price of the set and the attention to detail that otherwise went into it, these problems are surprising and upsetting.

If you have additional comments about the speed issues on G Stands for Go-Betweens or run across additional reviews that mention them, please let me know and I'll add them to this page.

Update (March 19, 2015):

Another review has noted the speed issue. This is from Boston Hassle:

Previously heard selections appear here at significantly slower speeds, which begs the question as to whether the Lost Album contained sped-up mixes to make the band sound more sprightly, or if this box set contains slowed-down mixes. Because there can be no logical reason for the latter, we must conclude that we are now hearing the Go-Betweens’ earliest demos at their original speed, and it’s not a flattering discovery.

Monday, February 2, 2015

G Stands for Go-Betweens: Grant's books

[Updated November 18, 2020]

The first 600 copies of Domino Records' limited-edition Go-Betweens box set G Stands for Go-Betweens: Volume 1 and the first 400 copies of G Stands for Go-Betweens: Volume 2 included books from the library of Grant McLennan, who died in 2006. I'm using this page to compile a list of the books that buyers received. If you are one of the lucky fans who received one or more of Grant's books, please send the authors and titles and I'll add them to the list. 

These titles include the three books I received with my copy of the first volume as well as titles that have been posted on,, Twitter, and Right Here: The Go-Betweens Appreciation Society group on Facebook. 

One of my three books was Fireworks by Angela Carter. I was excited to get it, because Grant wrote a song titled "Angela Carter" for the 1995 Jack Frost album Snow Job. The book is signed by Grant and dated 1982. Grant must have kept his books in alphabetical order by the authors' last names, because a lot of people have received bundles of books by authors whose last names start with the same letter.

People are finding interesting things inside Grant's books. Many of the books, like my Angela Carter one, are signed and dated by Grant. Photos, receipts, and tickets have also been found. For longtime Go-Betweens fans, it's a magical experience to hold these little scraps of Grant's life.

  • Diane Ackerman – The Moon by Whale Light
  • Alice Adams – Rich Rewards
  • Michelangelo Antonioni – Blow-Up
  • Michelangelo Antonioni – L'Avventura: A Film by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Max Apple – Zip: A Novel of the Left and Right
  • John Ashbery, Lee Harwood, Tom Raworth – Penguin Modern Poets 19
  • Steven Bach – Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate
  • Nicholson Baker – A Box of Matches
  • Nicholson Baker – The Size of Thoughts 
  • J. M. Barrie – Peter Pan and Wendy
  • Jean Bedford – Sister Kate: A Novel
  • Madison Smartt Bell – Ten Indians
  • Dianne Benedict – Shiny Objects
  • Pinckney Benedict – The Wrecking Yard and Other Stories
  • John Berger – About Looking
  • John Betjeman – Collected Poems
  • Caroline Blackwood – The Fate of Mary Rose
  • Maurice Blanchot – The Sirens' Song
  • Louise Bogan – The Blue Estuaries
  • Paul Bowles – Collected Stories
  • Michael Bracewell – England Is Mine: Pop Life in Albion
  • Kate Braverman – Wonders of the West
  • Joe Bob Briggs – Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In
  • Bill Broady – Swimmer
  • Kevin Brownlow – The Parade's Gone By
  • Luis Bunuel – My Last Breath: The Autobiography of Luis Bunuel
  • Robert Burns – Auld Lang Syne and Other Songs
  • James M. Cain – Double Indemnity
  • Ethan Canin – Emperor of the Air
  • Peter Carey – Illywhacker
  • Kent E. Carroll – Closeup: Last Tango in Paris
  • Angela Carter – Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces
  • Brian Castro – Birds of Passage: A Novel
  • Raymond Chandler – The Blue Dahlia
  • John Cheever – The Stories of John Cheever
  • Tracy Chevalier – Girl With a Pearl Earring
  • Rene Clair – Le Silence Est d'Or, La Beaute du Diable, Les Belles-de-Nuit, Les Grandes Manoeuvres
  • Nic Cohn – WopBopaLooBop LopBamBoom
  • John and Dorothy Colmer – The Penguin Book of Australian Autobiography
  • Laurie Colwin – Another Marvelous Thing
  • Robert Coover – Gerald's Party
  • Douglas Coupland – Hey Nostradamus!
  • James Crumley – Bordersnakes
  • Beatrice Davis, ed. – The Illustrated History of Australian Verse
  • Marele Day – Lambs of God
  • Don DeLillo – Great Jones Street
  • Don DeLillo – Libra
  • Rick DeMarinis – The Burning Women of Far Cry
  • Isak Dinesen – Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales
  • Harriet Doerr – Stones for Ibarra
  • Stella Dong – Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City
  • Michael Dransfield – Drug Poems
  • Michael Dransfield – Inspector of Tides
  • Robert Drewe – The Bodysurfers
  • Andre Dubus – Broken Vessels
  • Nick Earls – Zigzag Street
  • Umberto Eco – The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • Modris Eksteins – Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age
  • Louise Erdrich – The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year
  • James Fenton – Terminal Moraine
  • William Fifield – Modigliani: The Biography
  • Ross Fitzgerald & Ken Spillman, eds. – The Greatest Game
  • Lydia Flem – Casanova, or the Art of Happiness
  • Richard Ford – Rock Springs
  • Raimond Gaita – Romulus, My Father
  • John Gardner – The Wreckage of Agathon
  • Helen Garner – Monkey Grip
  • William Gaunt – Victorian Olympus
  • Theofile Gautier – My Fantoms
  • Tim Gautreaux – Next Step in the Dance: A Novel
  • Kaye Gibbons – A Virtuous Woman
  • Ellen Gilchrist – Drunk with Love: A Book of Stories
  • Mikal Gilmore – Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll
  • Fran Gordon – Paisley Girl
  • William Goyen – Had I a Hundred Mouths
  • Sara Gran – Come Closer
  • Henry Green – Caught
  • Andy Greenwald – Miss Misery
  • Geoffrey Grigson – Collected Poems 1963-1980
  • Todd Grimson – Brand New Cherry Flavor
  • Kirsty Gunn – The Keepsake
  • Rosalie Ham – The Dressmaker
  • Knut Hamsun – Hunger
  • Seamus Haney – The Spirit Level
  • Jim Harrison – After Ikkyu and Other Poems
  • Sonya Hartnett – Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf
  • Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms
  • Amy Hempel – Reasons to Live
  • Kristin Henry – One Day She Catches Fire
  • Edward Hoagland – Heart's Desire
  • A.M. Homes – The End of Alice
  • Maureen Howard – Natural History
  • Ted Hughes – Birthday Letters
  • Jim Hunter, ed. – Modern Poets Two
  • Ingo Schulze – 33 Moments of Happiness
  • Paulette Jiles – Blackwater
  • Diane Johnson – Lying Low
  • Denis Johnson – Resuscitation of a Hanged Man
  • Edgar Johnson – Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph
  • R.S. Jones – Force of Gravity
  • Ben Jonson – Three Comedies
  • Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas – Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Frank Kermode – Shakespeare's Language
  • Chip Kidd – The Cheese Monkeys
  • Sibylle Knauss – Eva's Cousin
  • Malcolm Knox – A Private Man
  • David Krauss – Sean O'Casey & His World
  • Jean de La Fontaine – Selected Fables
  • Julia Leigh – The Hunter
  • Craig Lesley – Winterkill
  • P.J. Livingston – Flacco's Burnt Offerings
  • Kate Llewellyn – Dear You
  • Lorca, selected and translated by J.L. Gili – Lorca
  • Bret Lott – The Man Who Owned Vermont
  • Naguib Mahbouz – Palace Walk
  • David Malouf – Fly Away Peter
  • Christopher Marlowe – The Complete Plays
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez – No One Writes to the Colonel
  • Douglas A. Martin – Outline of My Lover
  • Peter Matthiessen – At Play in the Fields of the Lord
  • Peter Matthiessen – Far Tortuga
  • Peter Matthiessen – Men's Lives
  • Peter Matthiessen – On the River Styx
  • F.M. Mayor – The Rector's Daughter
  • Geraldine McCaughrean – Fires Astonishment
  • Roger McDonald – Shearers' Motel
  • Cyra McFadden – Rain or Shine: A Family Memoir
  • John McGahern – Nightlines
  • John McPhee – The Control of Nature
  • Gillian Mears – The Grass Sister
  • Anne Michaels – The Weight of Oranges/Miner's Pond
  • Andrew Miller – Casanova
  • Henry Miller – The Books in My Life
  • Rick Moody – The Black Veil
  • Frederic Morton – A Nervous Splendor
  • Andrew Motion – The Lamberts: George, Constant & Kit
  • Les Murray – Subhuman Redneck Poems
  • Vladimir Nabokov – Look at the Harlequins!
  • Vladimir Nabokov – Pale Fire
  • John Nichols – An Elegy for September
  • Howard Norman – The Bird Artist
  • Dan O'Brien – Spirit of the Hills
  • Robert Olmstead – America by Land
  • John Osborne – Inadmissible Evidence
  • Ignacio Padilla – Shadow Without a Name
  • Rob Pascoe – The Winter Game: The Complete History of Australian Football
  • Noel Perrin – First Person Rural
  • Joan Perucho – Natural History
  • Lilian Pizzichini – Dead Men's Wages
  • George Plimpton, ed. – Poets at Work: The Paris Review Interviews
  • Caroline Polizzatto – A Trick of the Light
  • Anthony Powell – Books Do Furnish a Room
  • Anthony Powell – Casanova's Chinese Restaurant
  • Anthony Powell – The Military Philosophers
  • Frederic Prokosch – The Missolonghi Manuscript: A Novel
  • E. Annie Proulx – Heart Songs and Other Stories
  • Elizabeth Redfern – The Music of the Spheres
  • Jean Renoir – My Life and My Films
  • Elizabeth Riddell – Selected Poems
  • Peter Robb – Midnight in Sicily
  • Bruce Robinson – Withnail & I
  • Dilys Rose – Our Lady of the Pickpockets
  • Salman Rushdie – Midnight's Children
  • Scott D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino – Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati
  • Saki – The Best of Saki
  • William Saroyan – Dear Baby
  • Steven H. Scheuer, ed. – Movies on TV, 1975-76 edition
  • Max Schott – Murphy's Romance
  • W. G. Sebald – After Nature
  • W. G. Sebald – The Rings of Saturn
  • Richard Selzer – Confessions of a Knife
  • Richard Selzer – Mortal Lessons
  • Bob Shacochis – Easy in the Islands
  • George Bernard Shaw – Major Barbara
  • Steven Sherrill – The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break
  • Elizabeth Smart – Necessary Secrets: The Journals of Elizabeth Smart
  • Lee Smith – Family Linen
  • Frank Stanford – The Light the Dead See
  • Robert Stone – Bay of Souls
  • William Styron – The Confessions of Nat Turner
  • William Styron – Darkness Visible
  • Gloria Swanson – Swanson on Swanson
  • Tacitus – The Annals of Imperial Rome
  • Emma Tennant – Wild Nights
  • James Thurber – The Thurber Carnival
  • Ian Townsend – Affection
  • Guy Vanderhaeghe – The Englishman's Boy
  • Clinton Walker – A Football Life
  • Clinton Walker – Golden Miles: Sex, Speed and the Australian Muscle Car
  • David Walton – Evening Out
  • Maria Warner – The Skating Party
  • Evelyn Waugh – A Handful of Dust
  • Patrick White – The Vivisector
  • Ellen Wilbur – Wind and Birds and Human Voices
  • John Williams – Stoner
  • Richard Williams – Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector
  • John E. Wills – 1688: A Global History
  • Tobias Wolff – The Night in Question
  • Charlotte Wood – The Submerged Cathedral
  • Gaby Wood – Living Dolls
  • James Wright – Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • Denise Young – The Last Ride
  • Maurice Zolotow – Billy Wilder in Hollywood