Rock & Roll RePast: Vanilla Fudge “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”

Posted: June 28th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 7 Comments »

rock3imagesCorrected 6/30 7:50 am

Once, when asked by a local rag to name his favorite guitar players, Wink O’Bannon, a guy who knows his way around that ax, put Neil Young on the list.

Because, he offered, “Every solo Young plays sounds like the first one.”

Which I think of when I hear Mark Stein’s simplistic organ intro to his group Vanilla Fudge’s cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On’,” a hit out of Motown for The Supremes.

He keeps hitting and holding a high F Sharp (Maybe it’s G Minor, I’m not that astute.) as punctuation for the group’s bombastic version of the tune.

It’s like he keeps saying to himself, “This sounds so cool.” And, in the back of his mind, “Besides I’m not facile enough to play anything more complicated.”

It’s a garage band thing. It’s a white boy thing. And I’m thinking of VF and this unique, resonant cover because . . .

. . . in my most recent version of Snapshot Chronicles — You can read it here — I referenced a viable definition of “rock & roll” by Memphis provocateur Robert Gordon.

Which is essentially that it’s “white boys playing black music.”

Not all inclusive obviously, but clever, reasonably astute and cuts to the heart of the matter, even if more than a bit narrow as such complicated definitions go.

And it got me thinking, which is dangerous enough an exercise, but every once in awhile serves a legitimate purpose. Like now, when I tried to conjure up a good example for you that would fit Gordon’s definition.

Vanilla Fudge came soon enough to mind.

Clever sobriquet there, since the quartet had a penchant for soul-filled music. And, they fit the necessity of the definition in use, being Caucasian and all.

Tim Bogert was on bass and stiff hitting but jackhammer tight drummer Carmine Appice later hooked up with Jeff Beck. Vince Martell played guitar and the aforementioned Mark Stein, with his primitive but evocative organ chops.

And, in ’67, when the heavy rock era was just shattering the whole Top 40 programming model, and the kid down the street got a gig, carrying his albums to play on some weak FM station after midnight, Vanilla Fudge struck with this very white but very powerful cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic. It rose as high as #6 in the Billboard charts.

During Spring Break that year in Daytona Beach, none of the multitude of cover bands playing pool parties at the overbooked hotels could avoid the tune, even if they’d wanted to.

Vanilla Fudge’s version is ponderous, somewhat psychedelic, at least in this video. It’s presentation pretentious.

But it worked then. And it works now.

Just so you know where it came from, here are the Supremes lip syncing the original on some Spanish TV station, in a very funky, very black and white 60s video.

So, yeah, at least in this case, Robert Gordon’s definition fits to a T.

— c d kaplan

Correction: Mark Stein is the organ player for VF, not Vince Martell as originally presented. He’s the guy on guitar.


7 Comments on “Rock & Roll RePast: Vanilla Fudge “You Keep Me Hangin’ On””

  1. 1 Michael Sales said at 6:24 pm on June 29th, 2016:

    I love the Fudge’s version of the song, and I really, really love this video. These people are urgent. They mean it. They may even know that they are cramming most of their collective lives into this three or four minutes. They’re orgasmic.

    The tune is always great. It’s a platform where even I could sound good; so, they didn’t have to work for that. But, they take it ahead, take it someplace that its authors couldn’t have foreseen. It’s sort of like –and this may be apocryphal– when Dylan heard Hendrix play “Watchtower”, and exclaimed, “Oh my God! I don’t know if I can ever play that song again. He does it the way it’s supposed to be done!”

    The Sultans used to do a cover of a song…can’t remember the title…and Coz would break out into what I called “the Mexican hat dance”. He’d throw down a handkerchief and dance around like crazy. The crowd’d go wild! As they did with so many tunes, they took it ahead.

    Great blog! It kept me hangin’ on.

  2. 2 Michael Sales said at 6:27 pm on June 29th, 2016:

    The little guy in particular.

  3. 3 c d kaplan said at 6:28 pm on June 29th, 2016:

    Dylan played Hendrix’ version ever after.

  4. 4 Dave Schmitt said at 10:25 pm on June 29th, 2016:

    Hi – Just a comment or two – when it was Coz and the Counts – he made up lyrics to “La Bamba” – some Spanish sounding gibberish and the crowd always loved him – and Mark Stein is a great Louisville guitar player – but Mark Stein in VF played organ – minor details that don’t change the spirit of your piece – just a little more accurate.

  5. 5 c d kaplan said at 8:08 am on June 30th, 2016:

    Thanks, Dave. My bad. Corrected.

  6. 6 Tim S. said at 11:35 am on June 30th, 2016:

    I can see why Beck wanted Appice as his drummer. Mark Stein looks like he’s wearing a hair piece. Great song and good blog.

  7. 7 c d kaplan said at 11:41 am on June 30th, 2016:

    Thanks, Tim. Interesting, Appice is rather stiff, not much wrist play. But way heavy, and on the beat.

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