One song to the tune of another: a new look at Dylan

By Arron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

It being the time of year for being jolly and silly (at least in the parts of the world where we are), Aaron has come up with a new series for Untold Dylan based around songs that have the same name as a Dylan song.

So, since we are currently looking at “Blood on the tracks” in the “All Directions at Once” series we’ll start with “You’re A Big Girl Now” which was recently considered here.

Now the idea of this new series is that having revisited Bob’s song we then present one or two songs by others with the same name, with a short paragraph about the track/band.  And if anything interesting turns up, we just follow that lead and see where it takes us.

Also, just to ensure that no one takes this too seriously, after each track we each give the track a score out of 5 with the scale something like this

  • 5 – Amazing : As good as Dylan’s song
  • 4 – Great piece of music
  • 3 – Decent enough
  • 2 – OK I suppose if you like that sort of thing
  • 1 – Oh for goodness sake turn it off

OK, here we go…

The Stylistics – You’re a Big Girl Now

Released in 1971, (so it could be argued that Bob stole the title from this track) this was the Stylistics’ first single, although it was not a big hit. The band would achieve considerable success later in the 70s with singles such as “Betcha By Golly Wow” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

Aaron’s view:  As for this song, I’d never heard it before and I really enjoyed it. The chorus has a nice melody and lead singer Russell  Thompkins jr has an amazing voice when he sings the verses solo. It’s brought down slightly by the “talky” bit towards the end, I wasn’t a fan of that bit.

Tony’s thought: “Arghhh…   I find the phrase ‘You’re a big girl now’ pejorative enough, but when followed by “no more Daddy’s little girl” I really had to work hard to avoid turning it off.  Agree totally about the talking part at the end.   Why do people put talking parts into songs?  Do some people really like this?

But I had a vague remembrance of the Stylistics so I went looking and found this… not really my style but better than  “You’re a big girl now”

  • Aaron’s score – 3.5 out of 5 (docked half a point for the end bit).
  • Tony’s score – Minus 10 out of five.

The Bell Notes: You’re a big girl now

The Bell Notes were an early American Rock n Roll band from New York. The single was released in 1959.

Aaron: Again, I’d never heard this one before. Nice little rocking number with a fairly wild (for the time) guitar solo. It’s a bit light weight but still most enjoyable!

Tony: This is very much of the type for 1959 with the deep bass voice coming in with the occasional line.  Reminds me a little bit of the Coasters, and is the sort of thing that Chubby Checker was doing the twist to a year later.

Hearing this track set me off on the sort of musical journey that I adore… finding out who the band were, and what they got up to.  And as ever there is a little nugget to be found because the band played in a bar that Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith) played in, in his youth.  Tyler also covered the Bell Notes song “I’ve had it”.

Allegedly the recording session for that track cost $50. It got to number six on the Billboard charts.    They had other minor hits, before breaking up in 1962.

This is a reworking of a African American song from the 19th century, maybe even earlier.   Shortening bread is a bread made of corn meal and/or flour and lard.

This is the thing I love doing – tracing songs back, especially when as a result I learn more about bits of history from beyond my own country.   One article I read in putting this little piece together told me “During the Jim Crow period a typical American kitchen had many products with images that portrayed blacks in negative ways; these included packaging for cereal, syrup, pancake mix, and detergent; salt and pepper shakers; string holders; cookbooks; hand towels; placemats; grocery list reminders; and, wall hangings. Any object found in a kitchen could be-and often was-transformed into anti-black propaganda.”

And (and here I hope American readers will excuse my ignorance – I am British and although I know some American history, my knowledge is very limited, as American history was not much taught in schools in rural England when I grew up, and I include this for anyone like me who is unfamiliar with the term) I also read that a  Jim Crow law was a law that enforced racial segregation in the South from the 1870s through to the civil rights movement.

Jim Crow was taken from the name of a minstrel routine (Jump Jim Crow) and became a derogatory phrase for Afro Americans.  So I learned something.

Did the Bell Notes know they were being racist in singing that song?  I doubt it.  The song was certainly around in England in the 1950s, and I doubt many people knew of its origins or meanings then.

  • Aaron’s score – 3 out of 5.
  • Tony’s score – 4 out of 5.

Untold Dylan

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