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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Song "Hey, Baby" by Bruce Channel

Johnny Castle takes Baby Houseman to a remote, outdoor location to practice dancing.

The soundtrack plays the song "Hey, Baby" by Bruce Channel. The Wikipedia article about the song includes these passages.
"Hey! Baby" is a song written by Margaret Cobb and Bruce Channel, and recorded by Channel in 1961 ... He co-produced the song ... and released it on Mercury Records' Smash label. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, starting the week ending March 10, 1962.

The song features a prominent riff from well-known harmonica player Delbert McClinton, and drums played by Ray Torres. ...

While touring the UK in 1962 with The Beatles, McClinton met John Lennon and gave him some harmonica tips. Lennon included the song [Hey, Baby] in his jukebox .... .
The song's lyrics:
Hey, baby:
I want to know if you'll be my girl.

When I saw you walking down the street,
I said:
"That's a kind of girl I'd like to meet.
"She's so pretty. Lord, she's fine.
"I'm gonna make her mine, all mine."

When you turned and walked away,
That's when I went to say:
"Come on, baby, give me a whirl.
"I want to know if you'll be my girl."
The lyrics are irrelevant to the scene. In no part of the scene does Baby "walk down the street" or "turn and walk away." In general, the scene does not portray Johnny as the pleading character of the song's lyrics.

In the song's lyrics, the man is hesitant but trying to build up his courage to call out to the woman, who is walking away. In the movie scene, Johnny is standing on a log and facing Baby, who is sitting on the ground. She is the hesitant person. When he motions her to approach him on the log, she responds, "No!" She is the person who must build up her courage.

The song tells a situation where the man and woman have not met at all. She is not even aware of his existence yet. In this movie scene, Johnny and Baby already have been interacting for quite a while. Now their affection toward each other is growing to another level.


"Hey, Baby" is the most non-diegetic song in Dirty Dancing. Most of the movie's songs are diegetic; they songs are played from a sound source that is really present in the scene. The music comes from a radio in a car or from an orchestra in a hotel ballroom or from a record player in the room. The characters are aware of the diegetic music, and they usually dance to it.

No record player possibly can be present in the "Hey, Baby" scene. The dancing is minimal and is not coordinated with the song's melody or rhythm. The song's lyrics are not related to the setting or to the character's actions.

However, the song fits the scene beautifully, because the music is so relaxed and relaxing. Before this scene, Johnny's and Baby's dance practices were stressful. They practiced before large mirrors, where they both could see her awkward, faulty movements. They were practicing to publicly perform a quick-pace mambo dance.

Now, in order to relieve their mutual stress, Johnny has brought Baby out into the country, to a place with no mirrors or mambo recordings. Here they will practice only her balance, with slow and careful steps. After she has relaxed, at the very end, they will begin to practice the lift movement.

As the "Hey, Baby" scene begins, the two characters are at a remote brook, and the movie audience hears only brook water running. As the scene continues, Johnny and Baby continue to hear only the brook, but the movie audience hears the song "Hey, Baby".

The music fits scene's mood and setting. At the song's beginning, the predominant musical instrument is a mere harmonica. A drum plays, but quietly. As Baby's confidence begins to grow during the scene, the drum grows louder. As her confidence grows further, other instruments begin to play, with growing volume.  

The rural setting is illustrated musically by the easy-going melody, Channel's country-music voice, and McClinton's folksy harmonica.


The song's genre is rockabilly, which originated in Memphis, Tennessee, and which is described by Wikipedia as follows:
Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, dating back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western musical styles such as country with that of rhythm and blues, leading to what is considered "classic" rock and roll. Some have also described it as a blend of bluegrass with rock and roll.

The term "rockabilly" itself is a portmanteau of "rock" (from "rock 'n' roll") and "hillbilly", the latter a reference to the country music (often called "hillbilly music" in the 1940s and 1950s) that contributed strongly to the style. ....

Defining features of the rockabilly sound included strong rhythms, vocal twangs, and common use of the tape echo ... Initially popularized by artists such as Johnny Cash, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Bob Luman, and Jerry Lee Lewis, the influence and success of the style waned in the 1960s ...

Sharecroppers' sons Carl Perkins and his brothers Jay Perkins and Clayton Perkins, along with drummer W. S. Holland, had been playing their music roughly ninety miles from Memphis. The Perkins Brothers Band, featuring both Carl and Jay on lead vocals, quickly established themselves as the hottest band on the cutthroat, "get-hot-or-go-home" Jackson, Tennessee honky tonk circuit. Most of the requests for songs were for hillbilly songs that were delivered as jived up versions — classic Hank Williams standards infused with a faster rhythm.

It was here that Carl started composing his first songs with an eye toward the future. Watching the dance floor at all times for a reaction, working out a more rhythmically driving style of music that was neither country nor blues, but had elements of both, Perkins kept reshaping these loosely structured songs until he had a completed composition, which would then be finally put to paper. ....

The Saturday Night Jamboree was a local stage show held every Saturday night at the Goodwyn Institute Auditorium in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, in 1953–54. But of more historical significance were the then-unknown artists who came to perform at the Jamboree. They include: Elvis Presley, Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, Eddie Bond, Charlie Feathers, Jim Cannon, Reggie Young, Barbara Pittman,the Lazenby Twins, Bud Deckleman, Harmonica Frank Floyd, Marcus Van Story, Lloyd Arnold, and more. ...

Every Saturday night in 1953, the dressing rooms backstage were a gathering place where musicians would come together and experiment with new sounds — mixing fast country, gospel, blues and boogie woogie. ... Soon these new sounds began to make their way out onto the stage of the Jamboree where they found a very receptive audience.

The Wikipedia article about Bruce Channel includes these passages:
Bruce Channel is an American singer-songwriter best known for his 1962 million-selling number-one success, "Hey! Baby".

Channel performed originally for the radio program Louisiana Hayride, and then joined with harmonica player Delbert McClinton singing country music.

Channel wrote "Hey! Baby" with Margaret Cobb in 1959 and performed the song for two years before recording it for Fort Worth record producer Bill Smith. It was issued originally on Smith's LeCam label, but as it started to sell well it was acquired for distribution by Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury.

The song went to #1 in the US during March 1962 and held that position for three weeks. Besides topping the US popular music charts, it became #2 in the United Kingdom as well. It sold more than one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. ...

Channel toured Europe and was assisted at one gig by the Beatles, who were then still little known. John Lennon, who had "Hey! Baby" on his jukebox, was fascinated by McClinton's harmonica. .... The main appeal of "Hey! Baby" is probably the sustained first note, with a rhythmic pattern in the background. ...

Channel has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Below is a video of Channel singing "Hey, Baby" on a television show in 1962.


While touring England in June 1962, Channel and McClinton played at The Cavern, the club where the Beatles played as regulars. Channel's and McClinton's group was called The Barons. The Beatles and the Barons toured together through a series of concerts in various cities. The Barons were the main attraction because of their hit song "Hey, Baby".
A poster for a joint performance
of The Beatles and The Barons
in June 1962
McClinton has described his meeting with the Beatles as follows:
"Playing one night at a place called The Castle in New Brighton, this girl who had been following Bruce [Channel] said, 'You gotta hear this band that just got back from Hamburg, they're the hottest band in England,'" McClinton recalled.

The Beatles "were on the show we were on," he continued. "We all hung out backstage as we always did. It was a magic time. John was one of the guys who came back to our dressing room and wanted me to show him how I played on 'Hey! Baby.'"

Lennon thought McClinton played the passage on a chromatic harmonica, but that wasn't how the Texan achieved the signature sound."We shot the breeze," McClinton said. "He came out to three shows, and we hung out maybe 18 to 24 hours total during two weeks." ...
In September 1962 the Beatles composed the song "Love Me Do" for their first single record. They began the song with Lennon playing the harmonica, as McClinton had done with "Hey, Baby".

The Wikipedia article about the Beatles' song Love Me Do includes these passages about the song's harmonica introduction.
It was on the 4 September [1962] session that, according to McCartney, [producer George] Martin suggested using a harmonica. ... [Martin has said:] "I picked up on 'Love Me Do' because of the harmonica sound. I loved wailing harmonica. ... I felt it had a definite appeal." ....

Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby", with its harmonica intro, and a hit in the UK in March 1962, was one of the 33 songs the Beatles had prepared. ...

[The Beatles' manager] Brian Epstein had also booked American Bruce Channel to top a NEMS Enterprises promotion at New Brighton's Tower Ballroom, in Wallasey on 21 June 1962, just a few weeks after "Hey Baby" had charted, and placed the Beatles a prestigious second on the bill. Lennon was so impressed that night with Channel's harmonica player, Delbert McClinton, that he later approached him for advice on how to play the instrument.

Lennon [has said:] "The gimmick was the harmonica. ... We started using it on 'Love Me Do'."

The harmonica was to become a feature of the Beatles' early hits such as "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" and "From Me to You" as well as various album tracks.

Paul McCartney recalled, "John expected to be in jail one day, and he'd be the guy who played the harmonica."

Lennon's harmonica playing has been described in more detail in an article published in an article on the website The Pop History Dig. The article includes the following passage.
A part of the sound that distinguished “Love Me Do” and one that would become a part of the Beatles’ early trademark on several of their early songs, was the harmonica – played by John Lennon. Some accounts credit George Martin with urging that the harmonica be used in the song, while others report that it was the harmonica sound that had attracted Martin to the song, and was already part of how the Beatles had been performing it in the clubs. Lennon had learned to play the harmonica after his Uncle George gave him one as a young boy.

In 1962, around the time the Beatles were recording “Love Me Do,” there were two popular songs out with harmonica parts that had caught Lennon’s attention – “Hey Baby” by U.S. singer Bruce Channel (No. 1 U.S. March 1962) and “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield (No. 1, U.K. July 1962). ...

The harmonica sound would become a featured and background instrument on other Beatles songs including: “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Chains,” “There’s a Place,” “Thank You Girl,” “I’ll Get You,” “Little Child,” I’m A Loser,” “The Fool On The Hill” and “Rocky Raccoon.”

In 1969, the Beatles arranged for McClinton to play the harmonica in their song "Come Together" on the Abbey Road album. His harmonica can be heard prominently at about 2:20 and 3:15 in this video.

McClinton later starred in a video featuring his own performance of "Come Together". He plays the harmonica at about 2:20.

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