Saturday, December 05, 2009

Johnny Yen's One Hit Wonders: "Deep Purple," by April Stevens and Nino Tempo

Steve Van Zandt once observed that it's harder to create "Louie, Louie" than "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band"-- it's harder to produce a memorable three-minute pop masterpiece than it is to write an entire classic album. One-hit wonders have always had a special place in my heart. They frequently have interesting stories-- for instance, the fact that the singer on "Louie, Louie" was not the singer toured with subsequent to "Louie, Louie" charting. More on that another time. I'll occasionally feature One-Hit Wonders and their stories.

My first One-Hit Wonder is April Stevens and Nino Tempo's "Deep Purple." April Stevens and Nino Tempo were actually brother and sister Carol and Antonio LoTempio, who hailed from Niagara Falls, New York. They took an old big band standard that had been popularized in the 1930's, and covered in a doo-wop style in the '50's, and added their lovely melodies. In the demo tape of the song, Stevens forgot the lyrics to the second verse and recited the lyrics as her brother sang. The producer thought that her spoken interludes were "cute" (I'd probably say "sexy" is a better description) and kept it in the song, over brother Nino's objections-- he didn't like the idea of someone talking over his singing. The harmonica was reportedly awful on the demo, and was kept in (rerecorded) over the producer's objections. Happily, both made the final cut, and are key parts of the song.

Though both Stevens and Tempo continued to work in the music business, "Deep Purple" was their only big hit, hitting #1 in the Billboard "Adult Contemporary" chart in late 1963, the week before John Kennedy's death, despite being tagged, amusingly, as "rock and roll." The song was awarded the 1963 "Best Rock and Roll Song" Grammy the next year.

After nearly 50 years, the songs still stands as a great little piece of pop candy.

There are three bits of interesting trivia about the song. The song was originally the B-Side of the single. The original A-Side was "I've Been Carrying A Torch For You So Long That I Burned A Great Big Hole In My Heart," and is the longest-titled flip-side to a number 1 single ever. The group "Deep Purple" was later to get their name from the song because Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother, who loved the song, repeatedly asked if his band was going to perform the song. Also, the song would later become a hit for one more brother and sister duo-- Donny and Marie Osmond had a top twenty hit with their cover of it in 1976.


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Erik Donald France said...

The main vocal sounds a little like Maria Muldaur, eh? Nice work -- I had no idea. Funny on the DP band inspiration, too . . .

Churlita said...

I love that song and had forgotten all about it. I might have to get that from iTunes. I think my daughter would love it.

Johnny Yen said...

That's funny that you mention Maria Muldaur-- "Midnight At The Oasis" is going to be one of the next ones I feature.

Same for me-- I'd completely forgotten it and I heard it a few weeks ago on the Sirius Radio Sixties station.

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