Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


 DEAR JERRY:   Two years ago I requested your help identifying a song played in a Breaking Bad episode ("Full Measure") from Season 3.

If you recall, that one turned out to be "Crapa Pelada (Testa Pelata)," by the Italian group, Quartetto Cetra.

Now the producers have done it to us again, by using a song in the show without a clue as to where it came from.

This tune is heard in its entirety over the opening credits, in the Season 5 episode "Ozymandias."

All I can say is this song is lyrically appropriate to the storyline, except for "money's gettin' scarce."
—Len Bristow, Albuquerque

DEAR LEN: You got that right. Walter White's (Bryan Cranston) cash stash was indeed down to roughly $11 million at that time.

Ah yes, that wonderful yet unidentified music. It is "Times Are Getting Hard," probably the best track from the Limeliters self-titled album, but never released as a single. This, their debut album, was originally issued by Elektra Records in March 1960, in monaural (EKL-180) and stereo (EKS-7180).

Rarely do songs undergo a complete name change, but this one did.

Subsequent Limeliters albums list "Times Are Getting Hard" as "Take My True Love By the Hand," and that includes compact discs of the 21st century, among them two repackages of the original Elektra LP.

So why the change?

If based on the number of times the lines are sung, consider the following:

"Times Are Getting Hard" is not heard at all, but "times are gettin' hard" is sung only twice.

"Take My True Love By the Hand" is also not heard, but "take my true love by HER hand" is sung five times.

If repetition were a factor, and we're not saying it is, then "goodbye to everyone" should be the title. You'll hear that line 12 times!

Song title notwithstanding, this is a classic folk song that showcases some beautiful whistling and singing by the one and only Glenn Yarbrough.

Elektra's "The Limeliters," Mr. Yarbrough, plus Alex Hassilev and Lou Gottlieb, didn't chart at all in 1960, but when reissued a little over a year later, it was a much different story. By then, RCA Victor signed the trio and their first album for Nipper, "Tonight: In Person" (LPM/LSP-2272), made the Top 5, eventually spending over 18 months on the LP charts.

Buoyed by that success, plus the folk music boom in general, even the Elektra reissue entered the Top 40.

Along with the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary, the Limeliters led the contemporary folk scene in the early '60s. Unlike these other two trios, the Limeliters managed to succeed without the benefit of even one Top 50 single.

The Limeliters of the current century, Andy Corwin, Gaylan Taylor, and Don Marovich, were as surprised as anyone to discover "Times Are Getting Hard" (a.k.a. "Take My True Love By the Hand") on the Emmy-winning Breaking Bad. Andy Corwin posted this reaction:

"First, the Limeliters are still around, still recording and still touring. This I know for sure, because I am a member of the group.

"As for 'Times Are Getting Hard,' we haven't been performing this song in recent years, but now I'm thinking that we should probably bring it back."

By doing so, Andy, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

You could even combine the two by adding a subtitle: "Times Are Getting Hard (Take My True Love By Her Hand)."

No matter what title you use, that tune would now be the highlight of your concerts.

 DEAR JERRY: I heard a snippet of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport," by Rolf Harris, and, reportedly the Beatles. Did they really sing with him? If so, when and where? I've never heard of a connection between them.
—Marsha Billings, Birmingham, Ala. 

DEAR MARSHA:  Rolf Harris was the host of the BBC radio show, "From Us to You," recorded in London on December 18, 1963, to be broadcast the day after Christmas, also known as Boxing Day.

The Beatles sang 10 songs, including the UK's No. 1 hit at the time, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." They also clowned around while backing Rolf Harris on a wacky version of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport."

Harris created four new "Kangaroo" verses especially for this show, one to lampoon each of the Beatles.


IZ ZAT SO? In a see-saw pattern of sorts, Rolf Harris' two biggest hits couldn't seem to click simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" made the UK Top 10 in the summer of 1960, while the U.S. release did absolutely nothing. There's no indication it made anyone's chart here.

That is until 1963, when a newly-recorded version came out in the U.S. Then, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" reached No. 3 on Billboard, but did nothing in the UK.

In December 1969, Rolf's "Two Little Boys" began six weeks as Great Britain's No. 1 hit. Meanwhile, in the States, MGM's release of "Two Little Boys" didn't even bubble under, meaning it failed to enter the Top 135, or so.


Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:   Visit his Web site:

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