Song Of The Day 8/14/2016: Hurricane Smith – “Who Was It”


The Hidden '70s, Part 2 – All right teenyboppers. Here's the second round of songs from the '70s that nipped along the bottom-esque rungs of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This week we focus on songs whose chart runs took place between the years 1973 and 1976, and we're starting with a song you won't be able to get out of your heads for at least a month. That's approximately how long I've been dealing with it.

Hurricane Smith (1923-2008) was a recording engineer and producer from England named Norman Smith. He started out as a staff engineer for EMI in London, which means he turned the dials for all of the Beatles' records until 1965. Smith's extremely steady nature and imperturbable demeanor led John Lennon to give him the nickname "Normal," which sounds just like something John Lennon would call somebody. Smith was out of the engineering game after Rubber Soul and went on to become producer of three of Pink Floyd's first four albums, including the Syd stuff. He also produced the Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow, Helen Shapiro, Kevin Coyne and a bunch of other bands in the immediate vicinity.

As a recording artist Smith took on the first name "Hurricane," probably from an old South Seas adventure movie from the '50s starring Yvonne De Carlo. His tunes borrowed heavily from pre-rock melodies. "Don't Let It Die" reached #2 in Britain, and "Oh, Babe What Would You Say" was a global hit, hitting the top 5 in both his homeland and America, taking advantage of a market that was showing affection for old-timey songs like "In the Summertime" and half of Tony Orlando's oeuvre. Smith was 49 when "Oh, Babe" got popular worldwide.

"Who Was It" (#49, 1973) was a cover of a song by Gilbert O'Sullivan, an artist I personally love, but who had some quirky narrative devices in his writing efforts. Like doing a dance song about his dog, or jumping off towers, or making an entire song one shaggy dog story. In "Who Was It," ostensibly about a too-eager, bordering-on-persecution paramour, it's this very strange bridge: "You and me both feel the same/We even look alike and like it's a bloomin' shame/That because we do/People think we're you/Know what I mean?" Well, no. No I don't. I'm guessing it's one of those Chinese dualism things.

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