I’ve seen Joe perform quite a few times now but I’m still jealous of my Bay Area folks who may get to see him at Yoshi’s next weekend. Joe tends to come through L.A. with some frequency but his Bay Area trips are fewer and far between.1
At least this time around, Joe is doing things up proper, with several appearances. On Thursday, he’ll be at the Bayanihan Community Center (free!) and one night later, he’ll be at the Milk Bar. If you don’t catch him this time around; you have no excuse!
As it were, I just got this in the mail today:
Joe Bataan: Crystal Blue Persuasion
From 7″ (Uptite, 197?). Also on Singin’ Some Soul.
This is Joe’s version of Tommy James and the Shondells’ massive hit, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” but according to Joe…he was supposed to release his version on single first. This is what he told me last year when I was interviewing him for the liner notes for Singin’ Some Soul:
What happened was that Tommy James had recorded and Morris Levy offered the song to Jerry [Masucci], for me to do it. And it was on [James’s] album, and they had no intention of releasing it as a single. But after he heard my rendition of it, he immediately released Tommy Jamesâ€™s record. That was supposed to be my road to fame. ‘Cause we definitely knew that we were gonna go â€˜popâ€™ with that song and that we probably wouldâ€™ve got some support from Morris Levy and Roulette Records. Well, that didnâ€™t transpire. What [Levy] did was a double-cross, in I guess, business terms. He went and released Tommy Jamesâ€™ record. And of course Tommy James, you know, it went off to the Top 10 in the Billboard Charts.
And while he did that, I released mine, and of course, mine went to number six in New York on [WW]RL. And we sold a lot but nothing like he did, his was a million seller, and what it did was, he took the Black stations from me! Iince then, Iâ€™ve performed it in front of Tommy James. Everyoneâ€™s always said that my rendition was better. I donâ€™t want to argue about that, but we had more going on with it.
- In 2005, I wrote a piece for the SF Bay Guardian about Joe’s first trip back to S.F. since 1975. ↩
with all due respect to Joe Bataan, who’s clearly a very talented singer, IMO he does himself a disservice w/the whole “jilted out of a smash” story . . . we all know Morris Levy screwed a lot of people out of a lot of things, so Joe’s take on it sounds plausible, but more likely, Levy never had any intention of releasing Joe’s version first . . . James & Shondells, regardless of what anyone thinks of their music, was a proven maker of smash singles. They catered to the fat market–pop/rock and radio hits. James wrote the song, why would Levy choose to allow another artist w/much less hit potential, release it first?
All that aside, listening to the two versions objectively, James’ version is significantly stronger, mainly due to better production . . . Joe’s sounds busy from overuse of the backing singers . . . James, on the other hand, is lean, with an alluring bongo track upfront, light, airy guitar and his very strong vocal performance on top.
Interestingly, James has said the original unreleased take they recorded on it was shelved because he felt it was over-produced . . .
I don’t doubt Bataan’s word or recollection, and even that many people have expressed a preference for his version (perfromers tend to hear a lot of what they want to hear, espec from fans, handlers, etc.)
Anyway, it’s a nice track and interesting footnote to music history; thanks for posting, but he’s got too much talent in hiw own right to make much of this little sidetrack.