Monday, March 25, 2013

As We Neil Before You This Monday Morning

... No ... that's not a typo ...

Because this morning we're bringing forth five GREAT examples of Forgotten Hits written by none other than Neil Diamond (all recorded by other artists) ... plus, as an extra special bonus, one by Neil himself!

Now we ALL know that before he started his own recording career, Neil pounded the pavement as one of those so-called Brill Building songwriters, trying to place his wares with any available or interested artist who just might be the one to help open the door that would ultimately make him rich and famous.

We ALSO all know that Neil's songwriting career blasted off into the stratosphere when The Monkees cut their #1 Hit "I'm A Believer" (a tune Diamond had written and intended to record himself) in late 1966 ... it topped the charts for seven straight weeks at a time where The Monkees were actually more popular than The Beatles.  (Neil would score another defacto #1 Hit some 22 years later when UB40 took his decades-old composition "Red Red Wine" to the top of the charts in 1988!)

But in between that time, some other artists recorded some great Neil Diamond material that just seems to have fallen by the wayside over the years ... so today we present five of them for your consideration.

First up ... "My Babe" by Ronnie Dove, a #40 Hit in 1967.  Actually this one came along right at the end of Ronnie's hit streak.  Between 1964 and 1967, Dove hit The National Top 40 a dozen times ...but it would be THIS record that ended that run of good fortune.  Too bad ... because I always thought it was a pretty good tune.

Also in 1967, Lulu cut "The Boat That I Row", a record that charted in several areas of the country before everybody in radio flipped the record over and started playing "To Sir With Love" instead.  Honestly, on the one hand, it was a good move ... the title track from the smash Sidney Poitier movie went on to reach #1, stay there for five weeks and, on many charts, wound up being the biggest record of the year!  However on the OTHER hand, it's really too bad ... many of us think that "The Boat That I Row" deserved to be a hit in its own right.

After Neil Diamond reluctantly gave away "I'm A Believer" to The Monkees (he had wanted to record it himself, thinking that this might be the one that ultimately broke his own career), Monkees Musical Mastermind Don Kirshner promised Diamond that he would get The Monkees' next single, too, as compensation for his selfless, generous move.  (Honestly, I don't think anyone has ever heard Neil Diamond complain about the royalty checks he received when the #1 Group in America cut his song and took it to the top of the charts for a couple of months!)  True to his word, Kirshner made sure that Diamond got what he had promised him ... and he did ... and, before anyone knew what had hit them, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" also made its way to top the charts.  The Monkees would go on to record a few other Neil Diamond tunes along the way ... and, back in the day when virtually EVERYTHING they recorded got radio airplay (thanks in large part to these songs being featured as part of their weekly television series, typically in the musical madcap romps that ended each episode), we all fell in love with Neil's "Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow", too.  Never officially released as a single here in The States, radio played it like one ... so we're sure this one will sound good to your ears again after all these years!

Probably my FAVORITE Neil Diamond forgotten non-hit (by him, anyway), has got to be "Sunday And Me" by Jay and the Americans.  Neil knocked it out of the park with this one, completely capturing the Jay and the Americans sound while still holding true to his own sound and identity.  Although it climbed to #18 nationally in 1965 (this was Neil Diamond's first MAJOR hit on the pop charts), you NEVER hear it anymore ... and that's a shame ... because it's a GREAT song.  (I'll bet you play it more than once today yourself!!!)  We last featured this in our series "A Month Of Sundays" many years ago ... and it got a great reaction then, too.

Finally, we've got a beautiful track by Vic Dana, another artist (like Ronnie Dove) that you might not typically think of in the Neil Diamond vein.  But Vic nailed it when he cut "If I Never Knew Your Name" back in 1970 ... and this one snuck into The Top 40 at #39.  (Here in Chicago it was a major hit, reaching #7!)

ONE FOR GOOD MEASURE:  You can't salute the music of Neil Diamond without featuring at least SOMETHING by Neil Diamond himself ... so I've chosen his #8 Hit from 1967, "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon".  Once he broke thru with "Cherry Cherry" in 1966, Neil hit The National Top 40 an incredible 30 TIMES between 1966 and 1980.  I understand that all these years later, radio can't play them all ... but THIS one deserves a spin once in a while.  (Urge Overkill did an outstanding rendition of this song in the cult movie classic "Pulp Fiction", too!)

Hopefully you found a few diamonds in the rough today with our very special Neil Diamond feature salute.