Chip Taylor is the composer of “Wild Thing”, the proto-punk surefire smash by the Troggs. If this was his only contribution to our music then it would be enough. He made everything groovy. Of course there are so many more great songs, some I am still discovering. In the 1960s he worked in that hothouse of creativity & dodgy deal-making around the Brill Building in New York. Chip has stories about the great & not-so-good of the record business which make it sound like a branch of disorganized crime. He seems to have survived because he is a dude & he could write hit songs. Chip Taylor, born James Wesley Voight, is the brother of the actor Jon & is Angelina Jolie’s uncle…a dude. Here’s one of his top tunes.
Oh Yes ! How great is this ? Very. The wonderful Evie Sands singing the equally fine “I Can’t Let Go”. Chip was writing in New York but there was always a Memphis influence. Down in Nashville Chet Atkins, pivotal guitarist turned influential producer, had signed a deal where he pretty much took any songs that Taylor wrote. With that kind of track record our man got to make his own records too. Evie Sands was unlucky. The first 45 that was Taylor-made for her was blind-sided by a rush released cover from a hotter artist. Her original recording of “Angel Of The Morning” was overshadowed by Merrilee Rush who had the world wide hit. She has that East Coast cool, a solo Shangri-La. Evie should have come to the UK. We love our blue-eyed soul women over here. She would have given her admirer Dusty Springfield a run for her money. Instead Ron Richards, a production associate of George Martin, took the song for his own band of British Invasion hit-makers, the Hollies. “I Can’t Let Go” became one of the run of impeccable, harmonious classics released by that fine Manchester band.
Chip Taylor had quite a routine through the 60s. He had a young family to support & needed a regular source of income so for the first couple of hours in his day he studied the racing form. He called his bookie with his selections & then the music world passed through his office in search of a song or a deal. He seems to have never been too precious about his songs, getting them recorded was the thing. He is one of a small band of writers who’s songs could be rock, pop, country or soul. Really, Chip wrote songs that you know even if you don’t know him. He even, along with the Abba guys, has a credit on the title track of the Ali/Foreman movie “Rumble In The Jungle”.
Well O to the M to the G ! When I started this post I had another favourite soul song planned. I knew that Chip Taylor wrote “Welcome Home” but I thought that I knew that there was no video of Walter Jackson promoting his 1965 R&B Top 20 hit. So here it is, my new favourite musical thing. used as the title track of Walter’s Okeh collection. I do like my soul singers to be raw but the Chicago duo of Jerry Butler & Walter Jackson are the nonpareils of the smooth soul serenade…resistance is futile. The one that got away is “Country Girl, City Man” the terrific follow up to “Storybook Children” by the hit soul/country duo billy Vera & Judy Clay. it’s a treat.
Through the 1970s Chip Taylor began to record his own records. They are lovely country records filled with simple, direct, mature songs. Man, there were so many awful middle of the road singer-songwriters hanging about in the middle of the road at this time. Chip’s LPs really did deserve a wider audience, we would never have had to listen to Neil Diamond or Dr Hook. By 1979 Chip had added blackjack to his track gambling skills. There were no records for 15 years & he made a living as a professional gambler. “Sometimes there’s a man— I won’t say a hero, ’cause what’s a hero? This is Dudeness of a Newman or McQueen order.
Chip did come back to music of course, writing songs was one of the things he did better than many. In 2001 he met Carrie Rodriguez & for the last 10 years they have collaborated on a lot of music. I suppose it gets called “Americana”, a term which I think means that it sounds like The Band. Chip has such a facility , the songs are just so listenable. Last year he released an LP with the New Ukrainians which is dark but still warm. A man in his 70s if not raging against the passing of time then getting a little cranky about it. “F**k All The Perfect People” is the title track &, y’know, we could adopt less fitting theme songs than this. If you are offended by the lyrics then here is a little beauty for you from the very same man.
Yep Chip gets 4 clips because his contribution to the music is just bigger than most. He is a true legend who could & should be telling us his great stories of all the artists, movers, shaker & sharks who have crossed his path. Over at his website, rock and roll joe, there are appreciations of unsung heroes. It is precisely what the Interwebs are for. Of course, the stories about the villains would be just as interesting but Chip strikes me as being about the positive after over 50 years in the music business. That’s good yeah ?