Loyal Reader Corncobb has prompted this post, and rightfully so.

It’s odd that two men who gave us two of the iconic songs of the 1960s, Percy Sledge and Ben E. King, died within two weeks of each other in April. Sledge, who was 74, was best known for “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966. King, who was 77, performed and co-wrote (with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) “Stand By Me” in 1962.

People will go on writing songs about love and loss and devotion, but these new songs must always be measured against “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Stand By Me.” That’s the law, as enforced by the U.S. Office of Weights and Measures, a division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

While we’re remembering Mr. King, I invite you to join me in protecting artistic freedom by demanding a ban on CD reissues of classic albums that include hours of worthless bonus material. Two or 10 or 30 outtakes, intakes, or uptakes do nothing to improve ancient 12-song albums and in fact they can be harmful.

This happens to our blues pioneers all the time. It happens in jazz. Many of Ray Charles’ records have been stuffed like an old sofa. The Who’s Live At Leeds has been drowned in its own tears. Alas, this unfortunate tendency has also invaded Ben E. King’s catalog: I’m talking about his 1961 release, Spanish Harlem.

When “Spanish Harlem” became a hit, his label, Atlantic, immediately put King to work on an album so they could resell the song – but not, in the practice of the day, an album with one hit and a pile of unconnected baby food. The original 12 songs were all listenable and they all carried a Spanish influence; for example, “Amor,” “Perfidia,” “Granada,” “Besame Mucho,” and “Souvenir of Mexico.” It was almost a theme album.

But when Atlantic reissued Spanish Harlem decades later, they added eight songs that have nothing to do with anything, including that much-beloved Spanish ballad “Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear.” I hope King got a good payday out of this, because he deserved it, but listening to it this evening has given me heartburn!

Guest comment from Loyal Reader Corncobb
Mr. Corncobb, who is also my brother-in-law, has taken the time to write and to put this very useful list together. Listen up, Hobbits:

“By the 70’s,” Corncobb writes, “I had completely left the R&B scene, Run-DMSteve, so this Black Music Of The 70’s survey honestly had not piqued my interest much, but, as my CoA was in the decade before yours, the 60’s, I must make mention of the passing 10 days ago of one of R&B’s giants, Ben E. King, lead singer of The Drifters.

“I spent many a night at school sock-hops slow-dancing to 45’s, and at movie drive-ins, listening to AM radio & smooching (and fogging windows) with my date, to his/their songs such as:

* Stand By Me

* Spanish Harlem

* This Magic Moment

* I (Who Have Nothing)

* There Goes My Baby

* Save the Last Dance for Me

…and on the beach at night with my girl…

* Under the Boardwalk

Thanks for the sideways nudge to bring back the memories from mid last century, Run-DMSteve!”


  1. extraspeciald says:

    Well done, Mr. Corncobb!

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