I may have discovered a secret to going to the movies in Laughlin, Nevada, which, as I have mentioned from time to time, can be a little unsettling: I go to movies nobody wants to see, and save the blockbusters for trips to larger cities where people don’t wander from theater to theater like cattle seeking fresh grass. This week that added up to Chernobyl Diaries, a variation on the haunted-house genre with absolutely nobody in it but zero pretensions, and you know, it wasn’t bad for that sort of thing.
But anyway, we’re still turning red here on WMMCM, reaching back to the ’60s on a Monday with this one from Sam Zamudio and the boys:
Little Red Riding link for the e-mail people. Join the happy e-mail people!
One mildly surprising thing about this one from Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs: It was a number two hit as late as 1966. “Little Red Riding Hood” sounds more like a pre-British Invasion novelty song, not really the sort of thing one imagines hearing alongside early Beatles and Stones on American Top 40. (Though you might expect to hear it alongside the Animals — think Sam had heard Eric Burdon just once or twice?) But as we have mentioned before, the Invasion didn’t change things quite overnight; girl groups and pop novelties stood their ground alongside harder rock on the radio for a couple of years, before the real ascendance of FM. “These Boots Are Made for Walkin‘” was also a hit in ’66.
Interestingly, a variation of the “Red Riding Hood” lyrics dates back as far as 1958, on this recording by the Big Bopper, with similarly themed lyrics set over a standard rockabilly backing track. There seems to be some doubt about the background of this particular track, and Bopper’s “Little Red Riding Hood” may have been a B-side, but the lyrics are rather less tame than the Pharoahs’ version and it wouldn’t have been a single in ’58.
Sam and the Pharoahs’ version sounds, because of Sam’s cheerfully raunchy vocal, a lot racier than it actually is, which was of course the idea. The backup, with lazy-sounding tambourine and a slowly walking bass, is vaguely creepy, and it turns out this is an eager wolf — eager to declare his harmless intentions. After declaring, “You’re everything a big bad wolf could want,” he explains to Red that his only interest is in keeping her safe:
What full lips you have.
They’re sure to lure someone bad.
So until you get to grandma’s place
I think you ought to walk with me and be safe.
I’m gonna keep my sheep suit on
Until I’m sure that you’ve been shown
That I can be trusted walking with you alone.
Little Red Riding Hood
I’d like to hold you if I could
But you might think I’m a big bad wolf so I won’t.
He even declares his love — but then says he’ll try to “keep satisfied/just to walk close by your side” in the hope that she’ll see things his way before they reach Grandma’s. Though at the very end his good intentions are slipping a little:
“Owooooo! Baaaah! I mean Baaah!”