The PA at the local grocery store chucked up a genuine relic while I was buying burrito fixings tonight.
I heard the familiar-sounding dry wail of a harmonica, and sort of expected it to resolve into “Love Me Do.”
But instead it turned out to be a long-ago hit that influenced John Lennon’s use of harmonica on that song: Frank Ifield’s “I Remember You.”
Ifield was an Australian native who attained some degree of success as a sort of easy-listening country crooner in the U.K.
His cover of “I Remember You,” a Johnny Mercer co-write, pretty much owned the U.K. Number One slot during the second half of the summer of 1962. (It also became Ifield’s only U.S. Top 40 hit, reaching No. 5.)
The song would have been inescapable as the Beatles were preparing for the early-September recording sessions that produced “Love Me Do.”
While Lennon was later quoted as calling “I Remember You” a terrible song, he acknowledged noticing that its harmonica part was a successful, ear-catching gimmick.
(If the Net is correct — and those are five loaded words — both “Love Me Do” and “I Remember You” owe their harmonica parts to Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby,” which reached the charts before both of them. “Hey! Baby” is generally considered to have been the principal influence on Lennon’s harp playing, but “I Remember You” also reinforced to the Fab Four that the sound could lift a record out of the ordinary.)
Ifield has another minor place in Beatle history: He is the other performer on Jolly What!, a particularly shallow and transparent Beatlemania cash-in album issued by Vee-Jay Records in 1964.
The album, subtitled “England’s Greatest Recording Stars On Stage,” consists of four Beatles songs and eight Ifield songs — all studio productions, natch. It is noteworthy among Beatlemaniacs for its rarity and high price, and noteworthy to everyone else for its crassness.
(Vee-Jay used a pressing plant here in Allentown for some of its Beatles material, so it’s possible Jolly What! has a Lehigh Valley connection. I’m not gonna be so obsessive as to find out for sure, though. Sorry.)
Remarkably, Jolly What! shows up on a couple of 1964 charts from radio station KMEN in San Bernadino, Calif. — a reminder of just how eager stations were to obtain and play anything even remotely related to the Beatles.
Oh, yeah. As for “I Remember You,” it was pure cheese, and I collected my burrito fixings and checked out as quickly as possible.