Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Egyptian Shumba: The Singles and Rare Recordings 1962-1964

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2002 at 12:00 AM

What I’d like to know is why Lou Christie shan’t go down in history as a rock genius? Because he didn’t go nutter like Brian Wilson or Phil Spector? His productions were battier than both of ’em put together, simply because they were the invention of a completely sane mind.

Did Brian Wilson ever equate misery with a song about “Summer Snow”? Did Spector ever make Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans whoop like Freddie Cannon or snarl like the Knights who say Nit, as Christie orders the Tammys to do on his “Outside the Gates of Heaven”? Not a chance!

If schizorock at its most frenetic means anything to you, you’ll want this import collection of Christie’s early Roulette sides, plus selected works by the greatest discovery since Velcro bra straps, the Tammys. Hear young Lou and his gypsy lyricist Twyla Herbert seizing all the divine inspiration the other greats passed on, writing the ultimate song about “Guitars and Bongos” and turning the recording booth into a confessional with “Have I Sinned.” It’s on these tracks that the Tammys’ incorrigible background vocals could be ignored no longer and Lou immediately secured them a recording contract on United Artists.

Besides rat-tat-tatting like Gabriel at Jericho, they put together syllables no human has ever joined in any language like “shoom a la la ooh” or “shimmy shimmy shimmy shy yi missin’ ish!” Lou furnished them with two first-rate examples of brat rock — “Take Back Your Ring” (where Linda chastises her beau for giving her bogus love) and “Part of Growing Up” (where the Tammys shout “grow up” like they’re heckling the visiting team). Linda, Gretchen and Cathy are so tough they made the Shangri-Las look like something Louisa May Alcott dreamed up — Linda, the youngest Tammy, actually told a TV interviewer her boyfriend had perpetually shredded lips on account of her braces.

Given to such bouts with candor, there was no other choice but that the brazen lip-shreddin’ Tammys teach the world to dance the “Egyptain Shumba,” 14 years before Steve Martin went Tut-Tut and 22 years before the Bangles merely walked like Egyptians.

When the Tammys aren’t bragging about holding hands with mummys on the Nile, they insistently rapid-repeat the word “dance” a mind-numbing 18 times, each time accompanied by a head-pounding drum. Their finest moment, “Egyptain Shumba” was a local top-40 hit in Pittsburgh and a top-30 hit in Cleveland, at a time when the world was too busy with the British Invasion to think Egyptian. Too bad, coz, when you get a song with head-splitting drums, a snake-charmin’ clarinet and three girls barking on all fours like wolverines singing “I wanna dance — aaahh!” with the same urgency supermodels purge desserts, well, rock can’t get much better without a kegger. Also, compiler Harry Young’s besotted liner notes are worth whatever Amazon’s charging for this CD. If it’s possible to love Lou Christie and the Tammys more than life itself, it’s Young’s sarcophagus to bear.

E-mail Serene Dominic at letters@metrotimes.com.

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