Monday, August 15, 2011

The Angst-Ridden Hits of R. Dean Taylor

Motown Records created its Rare Earth subsidiary specifically for white artists and named it in honor of the cowbell-clanking combo that had been sending Motown covers like "Get Ready" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" up the charts. One of the label's other signings, R. Dean Taylor, was a Canadian who already had a Motown track record, having co-written the Supremes’ “Love Child” and the Temptations’ “All I Need,” among others. All of the singles Taylor charted with in the US under his own name - all of which happened in the early seventies - bristled with angst.

1. R. Dean Taylor - "Indiana Wants Me" (Billboard #5, entered 9/5/70). Written and produced by R. Dean Taylor. 45: "Indiana Wants Me"/"Love's Your Name" (Rare Earth 1970). LP: I Think, Therefore I Am (Rare Earth 1970).

Taylor's one all-out smash takes the point of view of a killer on the run. The first pressing's opening sirens - a radio no-no - disappeared on future pressings.

2. R. Dean Taylor - "Ain't It a Sad Thing" (Billboard #66, entered 2/13/71). Written and produced by R. Dean Taylor. 45: "Ain't It a Sad Thing"/"Back Street" (Rare Earth 1971). LP: I Think, Therefore I Am (Rare Earth 1970).

Here Taylor marches in step with the times and worries about the environment. Although the sentiment was downbeat, the whistle chorus was definitely upbeat.

3. R. Dean Taylor - "Gotta See Jane" (Billboard #67, entered 4/17/71). Written by R. Dean Taylor and Ron Miller. Produced by R. Dean Taylor. 45: "Gotta See Jane"/"Back Street" (Rare Earth 1971). LP: I Think, Therefore I Am.

Taylor's third charting single was nothing but romantic desperation, stomach-knots and remorse, and you sort of hope, for the good of both parties, that he doesn't find Jane. This was first released in 1967 on the V.I.P. label with "Don't Fool Around" on the flipside.

4. R. Dean Taylor - "Candy Apple Red" (Billboard #104, entered 7/31/71). Written and produced by R. Dean Taylor. 45: "Candy Apple Red"/"Woman Alive" (Rare Earth 1971).  LP: (no album appearance).

We know Taylor well enough by now to brace ourselves for trouble. "Candy apple red" is the color of his lost lover's lips, yes, but it's also the "color of his life" as he watches it "slip away." Here's the bridge: "I can't turn back...things are turning hands are numb... here it comes... here it comes..." Are those sirens I hear?

5. R. Dean Taylor - "Taos New Mexico" (Billboard #83, entered 4/15/72). Written and produced by R. Dean Taylor. 45: "Taos New Mexico"/"Shadow" (Rare Earth 1972). LP: (no album appearance).

"I'm serving time in Taos, New Mexico," goes the chorus, after which "he'll never leave" his girlfriend Maria alone. He's in jail, but the cheerful flutes and Mexican brass suggest it might be best that way.

1974 Bonus:

R. Dean Taylor - "There's a Ghost in My House" (UK #3). Written by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and R. Dean Taylor. Produced by Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier. 45: "There's a Ghost in My House"/"Let's Go Somewhere" (Tamla Motown 1967).

In the UK Taylor is best known for this frantic, fuzzed-out track from 1967 that reached #3 as a 1974 re-release thanks to its popularity in the "northern soul" clubs where forgotten American R&B records filled the floors. Co-written with Motown's Holland, Dozier and Holland, it compares the horror of infidelity with that of paranormal experience.

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