The Righteous Brothers

TrackSingle / Album
Little Latin Lupe LuRight Now! / In Action!
My BabeRight Now!
Try To Find Another ManPye 7N 25297 / Some Blue-Eyed Soul
You’'ve Lost That Lovin'’ Feelin'’You’'ve Lost That Lovin'’ Feelin'’
Hung On YouPhilles 129A / Best of
Unchained MelodyPhilles 129B / Best of
You Can Have HerSue WI4018 / In Action!
JustineSue WI4018 / In Action!
(You'’re My) Soul and InspirationVerve VS 535/ Soul & Inspiration
Rock ‘'n'’ Roll HeavenGive It To The People

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Contributor: Peter Viney

The BBC did a programme called The World’s Richest Songs, which were the ten earning the most money for songwriters. Predictably it’s topped by Happy Birthday which through complex legal moves is still in copyright, though written in 1893. Then comes White Christmas, one of three Christmas songs in the ten. The Beatles only have one entry, Yesterday at #4.

On the TV programme, which artists got played twice? Only The Righteous Brothers. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was #3. Unchained Melody is #5. It has been recorded by 650 artists, but The Righteous Brothers version is the best-selling. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ is claimed to be the song with the most number of radio plays ever, at 8 million broadcasts. It sits with Be My Baby and River Deep Mountain High in the trinity of Phil Spector’s greatest productions. Let’s take them song by song.

Little Latin Lupe Lu
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield’s story starts before those huge hits. They were part of LA group The Paramours, who had recorded There She Goes (She’s Walking Away), later added to Righteous Brothers compilations. Medley and Hatfield recorded Little Latin Lupe Lu as a duo, and it was written by Bill Medley. They needed a new name, and black fans used to say ‘Righteous, brother!’ as a version of (say) ‘Cool, man!’ or ‘Well done, chaps!’ and they chose to call themselves The Righteous Brothers. Little Latin Lupe Lu is 1962 (a hit in 1963), and garage band in its core simplicity. Bill Medley says it was SO basic he used to deny having written it. The thing is, The Righteous Brothers did “simple” but with a big band sound and stacks of horns. It was covered by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The Kingsmen, The Chancellors and Paul Revere and The Raiders, and fits with Louie Louie and Hang On Sloopy as classic garage band. The covers all took it back to rock group size. I first met it through The Kingsmen’s raucous 1964 version, and was motivated to seek out the original, which is far and away the best. This discussion on versions of the song knocked me out of my seat watching High Fidelity where it is repeated.

My Babe
The Righteous Brothers were doing big, big R&B productions, covering the same ground as British counterparts like Alexis Korner, Alex Harvey, Long John Baldry, and the early Rolling Stones: Just Want To Make Love To You, This Little Girl Of Mine, Fannie Mae, Let The Good Times Roll and Georgia On My Mind. Their claim to be major innovators of white R&B / soul is fully justified by this early stuff. Try I Just Wanna Make Love To You. Or My Babe. My Babe, written by both of them, and NOT the Little Walter song, was their second single. This has the full big band, more Big Joe Turner than Muddy Waters. My Babe edges past I Just Want To Make Love To You because it’s written by them.

Nothing could be better
Than to see her in a sweater
And a tight skirt
That won’t quit!

Bill Medley was exercising the producer role, and long before Spector sought a sound with single takes of “live in the studio” with large ensembles playing all together. He says he was seeking “leakage” with the drums “going all around the room.” In this situations drums are picked up on all the mics.

Try To Find Another Man
The Righteous Brothers next move on Moonglow Records was the Some Blue-Eyed Soul album, possibly coining the expression ‘blue-eyed soul’. Try To Find Another Man was written by Bill Medley. We’re pre-Spector here, but they are already working with Jack Nitzsche on arrangements. This one is the B-side of Bring Your Love To Me (Medley-Hatfield), which has deep bass horns and soaring strings, and a Latin swing to the middle eight. They were combined in Britain on a Pye International 45. Both are great songs.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil with Phil Spector, who added the “Gone, gone, gone … whoa oh!” bit. It was Spector’s biggest hit. He had seen The Righteous Brothers live in San Francisco, and did a deal for North America and Britain, leaving Moonglow the rest of the world. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ran to 03:50. Phil Spector blithely had 03:05 put on the American labels because he felt the truth would stop DJ’s playing it. Most of us would think, hang on, they’ll find out as soon as they play it, but Phil’s ruse worked. It got to #1. What’s the secret? There’s Bill Medley’s deep voice, with Hatfield’s impassioned higher voice held right back for the middle. When Hatfield asked what he was supposed to do while waiting to come in, Spector said “Go straight to the fucking bank!”

The lyric is superb:

You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips

It’s been in the UK Top Ten three times too: 1965 (#1), 1969 (#10), 1990 (#3).

Hung On You
Hung On You was the A-side of the follow up, written by Goffin/King. Oh, yes “with Phil Spector”. I used to have a deal with my cousin in Toronto. I’d send her the latest Cliff Richard single, and she’d send me a rising Canadian single in exchange. Thus I have Hung On You on the original Philles label. It is full on Great Wall of China scale Wall of Sound. Unaccountably, this magnificent record got flipped … The record it compares with for mega-production is Just Once In My Life, but if forced to choose, I prefer Hung On You. I’d had it a while before I thought anything much about the B-side …

Unchained Melody (1965 version)
One of the most successful B-sides ever, and it was flipped on release in Britain. Bobby Hatfield sings on his own, perhaps in recompense for being under-utilised on the previous big hit. The song was written by Alex North and Hy Zaret for the prison film Unchained, and had no title, so just got called the “Unchained Melody”. In 1955 Jimmy Young was at #1 with his version, while Al Hibbler was #2 with his version, and Liberace was #20. Spector was so careful in choosing A-sides (and getting his name on them) that the 1965 hit from a B-side was a surprise to him. It had a whole new run when it was used in the film Ghost in 1990. It was re-recorded for the accompanying CD, but the film used the 1965 original, which could only be found on 45. The huge success of the original prompted them to try to repeat the formula with Ebb Tide, then with (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons, You’ll Never Walk Alone, I Believe and The White Cliffs Of Dover. Note that I have included none of them.

You Can Have Her
After their successes with Philles (London American in Britain). Sue Records, part of Island, issued their earlier work on the LP In Action! in 1966. You Can Have Her was from the Ahmet Ertegun produced American album This Is New on Moonglow released in 1965, and was an April 1965 single in the USA. A great proto-soul track, and Atlantic distributed Moonglow, hence the Ertegun production. It was Sue 1966 in Britain.

Justine
Justine was added as the B-side to You Can Have Her when the two were released in Britain (it hadn’t been the American B-side), and was produced by Ahmet Ertegun. Definitely a double A-side. Justine is a Bill Medley production of big band soul, that starts out like Little Richard backed by Jerry Lee Lewis, and then develops into a Ray Charles shouter. Harmonica solo comes in from nowhere. The song is like a potted history of R&B. It was written by Don Harris & Dewey Terry.

(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration

They quit Philles in1966, and moved to MGM’s prestige Verve label, known for jazz (or folk on Verve Forecast). Bill Medley had always wanted to produce, and took another Mann / Weil song and the same session guys that Spector had used. The result sounds like Spector’s wall of sound. It also uses the Lovin’ Feelin’ formula: deep Medley, then high Hatfield. It’s a major attempt to copy Lovin’ Feelin’, but also the best attempt. I’m not sure about the sincere spoken bit by Hatfield, though it does give a quiet space before everything including the kitchen sink piles in to finish the song. It gave a title to their first Verve album, Soul & Inspiration. Stand By is a standout track. They followed it with a Bill Medley song, Go Ahead And Cry. It begins with a huge unaccompanied choir then Bill Medley rumbles in with strings sawing away. It’s wildly overdone of course, but that’s their trademark, and again they use Hatfield to contrast in the middle. I love it, number eleven on the list. A further Verve song was a cover of Island In The Sun, and here they unfortunately steamrollered a lovely song into the ground. There’s a live album, One For The Road on Verve, recorded with The Blossoms on support vocals. They were a great live act.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven
A reunion hit in 1974, five years after they broke up. It reiterates the cliché If there’s a rock ‘n’ roll heaven well you know they’ve got a hell of a band. The cliché is starting to irritate me as the rock stars of my youth start to die in increasing numbers, as indeed has Bobby Hatfield. There’s always someone posting online, tears dripping on the keyboard, that whoever has just shuffled off this mortal coil is now up there “jamming with Jimi and Janis.” I’m afraid I’ve done it myself, especially when they’re the second or third of a group to die. The song name checks Jimi, Janis, Otis, Jim (sing a song to light my fire), then there’s Bobby (gave us Mack The Knife), Jimmy (Croce) who touched us with Bad Bad Leroy Brown. I think they all jam with Jimi, Janis and Otis up there because the single name says it all, as do Buddy and Elvis. Other names you have to explain. But it’s a good melody and performance from the Give It To The People album. The title track is their rock and roll history, and much in the same vein. When they re-did Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven for the 1990s Reunion! album (which was rather their second reunion album) after the repeated success of Unchained Melody, this got lengthened to update the obituaries and include Elvis, John and Marvin.

The “Gold” double CD on Polydor has 48 tracks, and most everything you’ll need plus Medley and Hatfield solo material. The Verve single Island In The Sun / What Now My Love is missing, but don’t worry. You don’t need it.

The official Righteous Brothers web site

Righteous Brothers Discography

The Righteous Brothers biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #212

2 Comments

  1. Andrew Shields
    Mar 3, 2014

    Great list about two of the greatest singers ever…

  2. Andrew Shields
    Mar 4, 2014

    Should have mentioned Al Green’s great version of ‘Unchained Melody’ here. Not as good as the Righteous Brothers, but pretty close…

    Joni Mitchell also included a short segment of it in her fine song ‘Chinese Cafe’…

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