Christmas Special: Bob Seger and the Last Heard/The Staple Singers/A440: Bob Seger and the Last Heard — “Sock It to Me Santa”, The Staple Singers — “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas”, A440 — “Santa Klaus Is Coming, Yeah!”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 24, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

679) Bob Seger and the Last Heard— “Sock It to Me Santa”

https://www.discogs.com/master/1419447-Bob-Seger-And-The-Last-Heard-Heavy-Music-The-Complete-Cameo-Recordings-1966-1967/image/SW1hZ2U6MzYwMTY0MjA=

‘66 A-side by Bob Seger (see #233, 234). Mark Deming says that it “is a Christmas novelty that burns like Mitch Ryder on trucker’s speed” (https://www.allmusic.com/album/heavy-music-the-complete-cameo-recordings-1966-1967-mw0003002528). The song makes Nick DeRiso beam:

Seger settles into a shimmying, rockabilly-meets-R&B groove that probably made Mitch Ryder beam with paternal pride. The lyrics? Pure mid-century hipster cool: “He’s dressed real mod, from his head to his toe! He’s lost a little weight, but his jelly still rolls! . . . . Come on, Cupid! Don’t just stand there looking stupid!” There’s a reference to Batman, too, but you get the idea. Sock-hopping Yuletide fun.

https://somethingelsereviews.com/2011/12/21/one-track-mind-bob-seger-and-the-last-heard-sock-it-to-me-santa-1966-2011-reissue/?amp=1

Bob Seger was writing and performing garage rock classics in the mid-sixties? Who knew?! Well, if you lived in Detroit at the time, you knew. Dave Marsh said in Rolling Stone in ‘78 that:

Bob Seger . . . . grew up in Ann Arbor[, Michigan]. It was tough enough to be a townie in a college town, but it was far worse if your father went off when you were ten, leaving your mother, you and your brother to tiny apartments, cooking on hot plates.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/bob-seger-not-a-stranger-anymore-42962/

Wow, I went to law school in Ann Arbor, and I didn’t know!

Then came the music. Cut to Mark Deming in All Music Guide:

[Seger’s mid-sixties singles are] as passionate and powerful a celebration of “the big bad beat” as you could hope for, and Seger’s first step into inarguable greatness. . . . proof that Seger was a major talent as a singer, songwriter, and frontman right from the start, and this is as good as Midwestern rock of the mid-’60s gets.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/heavy-music-the-complete-cameo-recordings-1966-1967-mw0003002528

680) The Staple Singers — “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas”

Sublime Stax single (‘70) by the Staple Singers, lamenting that people were “too busy fighting wars, trying to make it to Mars . . . too busy having fun, drinking with everyone”.

Rob Bowman:

[T]he Staple Singers embraced an impressive stylistic diversity while always staying true to their roots in gospel harmonies. Led by Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the quartet first rose to stardom in the gospel music community before detouring into folk and a socially conscious gospel and R&B hybrid, then enjoying their greatest success with a handful of soul music hits for Stax Records in the ’70s. Throughout their evolution, the constants in their work were the rich blend of their vocals, delivered with a churchy mix of joy and restraint . . . and in the Stax era, the glorious lead vocals of Mavis Staples. . . . [B]y 1937 [Pops] was singing and playing guitar with the Golden Trumpets . . . . Moving to Chicago four years later, he continued playing gospel music with the Windy City’s Trumpet Jubilees. A decade later [he] presented two of his daughters, Cleotha and Mavis, and his one son, Pervis, in front of a church audience, and the Staple Singers were born. The[y] recorded in an older, slightly archaic, deeply Southern spiritual style . . . . In 1968, the Staples signed with Memphis-based Stax. . . . [They] were now singing entirely contemporary “message” songs . . . . In 1970 . . . Al Bell started handling production chores, taking the group down the road to Muscle Shoals, and things got decidedly funky. . . .

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-staple-singers-mn0000577235/biography

681) A440 — “Santa Claus Is Coming, Yeah!

‘67 garage “classic” gets you in the spirit, yeah! Jason Ankeny tells us that:

Houston psych-punks A440 formed in 1966 but did not release their first album until 12 years later. Roster information on the band’s earliest incarnation is slim . . . . [with three singles to their credit]. But A440 remained a constant of the Houston live scene for a decade until they signed to 20th Century Fox to release their debut LP Ulysses, the Greek Suite. . . . [T]he double-album set was a strange, rather anachronistic concept record inspired by ancient Greek myth that, released at the peak of the disco era, made absolutely no commercial impact.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/a440-mn0000921055

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