Thursday, December 17, 2009

LADIES FIRST: "Hanky Panky!" - The Raindrops > Tommy James > Rita Chao

ROCK Sex is debuting a new feature that will rotate regularly in the future: LADIES FIRST.

Today's spotlight could also be called "She Did It First". Rock'n'Roll was always made by men and women from all genres and backgrounds. But at the end of the day, sexist marketers and lazy journalism reduced it to a cock fight; male male white man yadda yadda yeah. This blog is one long reality check in general, and here very specifically.

Many of the songs we grew up on assuming were originated by tough men were in fact trailblazed by cool women. Here's our first example...


Famed hitmakers Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich wrote scores of classic songs that we all love. For one of their girl groups they had to come up with a throwaway B-side in twenty minutes. So THE RAINDROPS recorded this song...

THE RAINDROPS -"Hanky Panky" (1963)

Soon after, another girl group did their take on it, with more Rockin' swing.

THE SUMMITS -"Hanky Panky" (1963)

Tommy James heard a local Indiana garage band cover it. He was unsure of the lyrics, from that quick impression, so in true "Louie Louie" fashion he kind of fudged and improvised them. It became a leftfield hit that ignited his career.

TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS -"Hanky Panky" (recorded 1963, hit in 1965)

In Singapore women again took up the call. But this time Rita Chao sang James' version phonetically (making an unintentionally delightful lesbian anthem), while Nancy Sit sang it in her own language.

RITA CHAO & THE QUESTS/ NANCY SIT -"Hanky Panky" (1967)

"Hanky Panky" was meant as filler, but it lasted because it was so brazenly about sex and being proud to love having sex. What's cool is that despite all the changes in its handoff, that core randiness never gets lost.

Now that's Rock'n'Roll...the very name of which came from slang for rockin' and rollin' in bed.

© Tym Stevens

See Also:
-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist

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