This is a mix of punk and pop from the 70’s and 80’s influenced by doo wop music.
Doo wop’s vocal harmonies had a big influence on 1950’s rock’n’roll like Buddy Holly, and later 1960’s girl groups like The Ronettes. It's easy to see how it could influence pop music, but punk? Pretty much all of the elements found their way into punk at some point. The simple lullaby melodies, the “shoo be doo”s, the "oooh wah oooh"s, the "sha la la"s, the saxophone solos, the call and response, the dramatic spoken-word intros... Slow it down to half speed and replace the electric guitar with a crooning bass vocalist and you've got doo wop.
I've been compiling and distilling this for a while now and I think I've got most of the major players covered, obvious ones like the Ramones, and not so obvious ones like Richard Hell. In my opinion, this is one of the most fun forms of music.
"its a crash course for the ravers..."
Blondie ~ Denise
-a cover of a doo wop song by Randy and the Rainbows [you gotta love the names of doo wop groups! Which is another way doo wop influenced punk, almost all doo wop groups had names that began with “The”. ] from the album Plastic Letters.
The Cars ~ Slipaway
-Ric Ocasek wrote this and gave it to Ian Lloyd. I like The Cars’ version better, which wasn’t an official release, but can be found on Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology.
Buzzcocks ~ Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
-always been my fav Buzzcocks track. From Singles Going Steady
Ramones ~ Do You Wanna Dance?
-originally written by Bobby Freeman in 1958, The Beach Boys version was probably the most popular, but its been covered by T. Rex, John Lennon, and The Mamas & The Papas too.
Plastic Bertrand ~ Le Petit Tortillard
-a little known classic by the guy who became famous for “Ca Plane Pour Moi”, more about him in a minute...
David Bowie ~ Hang On To Yourself
-from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. Bowie originally wrote this song even before Hunky Dory and gave it to a band called Arnold Corns, who released it on a single with Moonage Daydream [another Bowie song]. The single was a failure. Bowie was testing some of his material and concepts out on Arnold Corns, but when the Ziggy character started to gel, this song fit in nicely on the album and he reclaimed it. Rise and Fall wasn’t the complete concept album that everyone thought it was. Some of it was written before the Ziggy character existed. [paraphrased from Strange Fascination by David Buckley]
Marshall Crenshaw ~ Rockin’ Around In NYC
-I think of Crenshaw as the Buddy Holly of the 80’s. Holly was definitely one of his influences. Not to de-emphasize his originality - Crenshaw was an extremely talented songwriter. Check out his album Field Day, kind of a lost gem. This song is from a compilation of early stuff called The 9 Volt Years.
Ramones ~ Let’s Dance
-the Ramones can’t seem to go wrong with the cover songs. This one was a huge hit for Chris Montez in the early 60’s. The Beatles covered it and The Silicon Teens gave it the new wave treatment in the early 80’s. It’s on the Ramones first, self titled album.
The Misfits ~ Hybrid Moments
-as a kid I always thought the Misfits were straight-forward hardcore punk, and at a glance they are. But if you go back to their earlier recordings, theres more stuff like this song. [Go even further back and they had a synthesizer!] Turns out Danzig was a huge Marilyn Monroe fan and named the band after her last movie. Fifties nostalgia and hardcore punk don’t sound like they would mix well, but the Misfits pull it off.
Nikki Sudden ~ Channel Steamer
-Sudden was originally in the post punk outfit Swell Maps. This is the single from his first solo record in 1982.
Joan Jett ~ You Don’t Know What You’ve Got
-this is from her self titled solo debut album. That’s the one that had Bad Reputation and Do You Wanna Touch Me on it
Ramones ~ Slug
-one of my favorite Ramones songs. Not sure what the lyrics are about really. [A girl who turns into a slug?] I would imagine Joey got the idea from some horror movie he saw. If anyone knows please leave a comment.
Suburban Lawns ~ Anything
-my favorite obscure 80’s band. Sounds like if Olive Oil [Popeye’s girlfriend] started a punk band. Their most recognizable song is called “janitor”. This one is SO doo wop! This is the song I had in mind when I said slow it down and take out the electric guitar…
Elvis Costello ~ Welcome To The Working Week
-from My Aim Is True, his 1st album. Brief and to the point, catchy and clever, a perfect Costello moment.
Richard Hell & The Voidoids ~ The Kid With The Replaceable Head
-lately this is my fav Hell song. It was featured in Susan Seidelman’s first film called Smithereens. Richard Hell himself plays a character in the film. There are some other great songs in it too. If you’re young and rebellious and moving to the big city [or ever have been] you should see this. Seidelman later directed Desperately Seeking Susan.
Misfits ~ Last Caress
-doo wop horror punk, amazing.
Elton Motello ~ Sha La La La Lee
-originally by The Small Faces, Plastic Bertrand also covered this song.
Plastic Bertrand ~ Ca Plane Pour Moi
-Roger Jouret, aka Plastic Bertrand, played drums in Elton Motello for a bit, which explains why Bertrand and Motello played many of the same songs. This one has the same exact backing track as Motello’s infamous “Jet Boy Jet Girl”. Its rare that 2 bands will share the same recording, each with different lyrics. It’s like the bizarro opposite of a cover song, where two songs share the same lyrics and the backing tracks differ. The title of this one means “this life’s for me” and the lyrics are interesting to say the least. Many [Americans] of my generation [including me] first heard this song in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
Le Volume Était Au Maximum ~ Nian!
-Le Volume is from Quebec and fronted by a guy called Johnny Love. This one is a wild card, as it’s not from the 70’s or 80’s, but I am invoking my creative license here. It plays so well with Plastic Bertrand! Yes, I could have told you that these guys hung out with Bertrand and Motello as well and you probably would have believed me. But I’m not shiesty like that :)
Blondie ~ XOffender
-apparently, this one is about a prostitute who falls in love with a cop. But how do you ask a cop on a date when you’re a prostitute? Tricky situation. This song will walk you through it.
The Nerves ~ Hanging On The Telephone
-I was surprised the first time I heard this. I always thought Blondie’s version was the original, but The Nerves wrote it. The Nerves only released one EP [ever] in 1976 and this song was on it. The other songs are good too, shame they broke up.
Marshall Crenshaw ~ Run Back To You
-also from The 9 Volt Years compilation. Love the chord progression in this one.
Pretenders ~ Kid
-one of their first singles to hit the charts. Released in 1979 before their first [self titled] album.
David Bowie ~ Drive-In Saturday
-this is another song that Bowie gave to another band before taking it back and putting it on his own album. He gave this one to Mott the Hoople, but they never released it. Its tells of a dystopian future where people have forgotten how to make love and resort to watching vintage “video-films” for guidance.