The Songs Of Pomus & Shuman

Artist: Various Artists
Format: 3CD
Bar-code: 5060342021397
Cat No: NOT3CD139


The concept of a songwriting partnership, one partner covering the lyrics and the other the music, is a long-established one. Rodgers and Hammerstein, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, the Gershwin brothers…the list is endless. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were arguably rock’n’roll’s first great teaming – but when the Brill Building started cranking out pop hits in the early Sixties you could add Sedaka and Greenfield, Goffin and King and Mann and Weil to the roll of honour.


Often overlooked and underrated but well worthy of your record-buying dollar are Jerome ‘Doc’ Pomus and Mort Shuman. They made a fascinating pair; former blues singer Pomus (born Jerome Solon Felder in New York in 1925) had written occasional hits for the likes of Joe Turner (‘Boogie Boogie Country Girl’) and Ray Charles (‘Lonely Avenue’) in the mid Fifties before taking Shuman, a dozen years his junior, under his wing.


Interestingly Pomus had similarly been mentored by Leiber and Stoller, whose Jewish heritage he shared. They had taken his ‘Young Blood’ and, while giving him a share of the writing credit, re-worked it to suit the Coasters. A royalty cheque for $1,500 was well beyond what Pomus, who’d overcome boyhood polio to perform, could make as a singer: his future direction was clear.


He linked with the also Jewish Shuman because he felt the younger man had his finger on the pulse of the fast-emerging rock’n’roll genre. While Pomus usually wrote the words and Shuman the melody, the demarcation was by no means strict. Shuman was a pianist whom Pomus had met when he (Mort) dated Doc’s younger cousin; they moved into offices in New York City’s legendary Brill Building and the story began.


The seven years Pomus & Shuman operated as a team kicked off when Dion & the Belmonts took ‘A Teenager in Love’ to the US Number 5 spot in 1959. Their first chart-topper came within a year. The Drifters’ ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’, so often the closer to dances in the Sixties and thereafter, is, suitably, the final track of our collection. The music aped Leiber and Stoller in its Latin feel, while the simple lyrics almost felt like they might have been translated into English.


The Drifters would prove reliable customers for Pomus-Shuman material. Another was Elvis Presley, whose manager Colonel Tom Parker was using the natural break of two years’ national service to reposition his boy as a Hollywood star and all-round entertainer. Songs like ‘Little Sister’ (later revived by Ry Cooder), ‘Surrender’ and ‘Mess Of Blues’ (Pomus’ all-time personal favourite) were all grist to the King’s mill.


Like Leiber and Stoller, Pomus and Shuman’s music straddled the racial barrier, both in terms of performer and audience. They even managed to grant Elvis imitator Fabian a little credibility with ‘Turn Me Loose’; the Rolling Stone History Of Rock’n’Roll calls the track, found on our first disc, ‘a fine bluesy number’.


There are a number of interesting oddities alongside the better-known hits here. Del Shannon’s version of ‘(Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame’ is featured rather than Elvis’ better- known rendition. It was a track on Shannon’s first album and could have been a hit but Elvis’s intervention meant it was a single only in Australia.


Recordings included here by British artists like Cliff Richard, Jess Conrad, Adam Faith and Marty Wilde were generally covers of American ‘originals’ and proved less successful. The exception is ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, disc one’s opening track. While the Drifters were first to record it, as heard here, Merseybeat foursome the Searchers covered it in 1963 for their first Pye Records single. They scored a UK Number 1 and, while their version failed to chart in the US, their 12-string pop sound inspired the home-grown Byrds.


Pomus and Shuman co-wrote songs both collectively and individually with Phil Spector, and moved to London to write after the impact of the Beatles and the British Invasion. From there, Shuman moved to Paris and became a performer and writer of one-man shows, breaking the partnership.


He wrote with others in the mid Sixties while in the UK; ‘Sha-La-La-La-Lee’, penned with singer/actor Kenny Lynch, hit for the Small Faces while ‘Here I Go Again’, recorded by the Hollies, was a co-write with Clive Westlake. A stage show, Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris, for which he wrote settings for Brel’s words, was imported to America and would be an off-Broadway success.


Doc Pomus appeared to have stopped writing, apart from a brief link with US new waver Willy (Mink) DeVille, until returning to the scene in 1980 by writing an album of material for BB King with help from Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr John.


Pomus and Shuman died within a calendar year of each other in 1991. While Doc was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year it took his partner another 18 years to earn that accolade. Not that it makes much difference – the pair’s musical relationship will forever be enshrined in the songs you have just purchased.

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1. Sweets For My Sweet – The Drifters
2. Little Sister – Elvis Presley
3. A Teenager In Love – Dion & The Belmonts
4. School Of Heartbreakers – Ral Donner
5. Don’t You Dare Let Me Down – Conway Twitty
6. Turn Me Loose – Fabian
7. Pajama Party – Bobby Pedrick Jr.
8. Angel Face – Billy Fury
9. You’re Teasing Me – LaVern Baker
10. Teenage Heartache – Ray Peterson
11. Foxy Little Mama – Little Tony And His Brothers
12. (You’ve Got) The Magic Touch – The Platters
13. Seven Day Weekend – Gary U.S. Bonds
14. Souvenir Of Mexico – Ben E.King
15. Comes The Day – Rusty Lane & The Mystics
16. Sorrow Tomorrow – Bobby Darin
17. Boogie Woogie Country Girl – Big Joe Turner
18. I Ain’t Sharin’ – Sharon Jimmy Darren
19. Two Fools – Frankie Avalon
20. Misery’s Child – Richard Hayes
21. The Snake And The Bookworm – Cliff Richard
22. Sun Glasses – The Shades
23. You Be My Baby – Ray Charles
24. Spanish Lace – Gene McDaniels
25. You Never Talked About Me – Del Shannon


1. Surrender – Elvis Presley
2. The Tiger And The Mouse – Connie Francis
3. Don’t Fly Away – Jan & Dean
4. Go, Jimmy, Go – Jimmy Clanton
5. If You Need Me – Dave Sampson
6. I Count The Tears – The Drifters
7. (Since You’re Gone) I Can’t Go On – Bobby Darin
8. Carryin’ That Load – Ray Charles
9. Stampede – Danny Valentino
10. Kiss And Make Up – The Crowns
11. Teenage Tears – James Darren
12. I Need A Girl – Big Joe Turner
13. Your Other Love – The Flamingos
14. Would You Stand By Me? – Billy Fury
15. Hey Memphis – LaVern Baker
16. Ginny In The Mirror – Del Shannon
17. A Texan And A Girl From Mexico – Anita Bryant
18. This Magic Moment – The Drifters
19. Havin’ Fun – Dion
20. Once Upon A Time – Ricky Valance
21. Footsteps – The Skyliners
22. People Gotta Talk – Ersel Hickey
23. Hushabye – The Mystics
24. I’m On Fire – Tommy Bruce & The Bruisers
25. I Dig Girls – Bobby Rydell


1. Hound Dog Man – Fabian
2. Too Hot To Handle – Jimmy Simmons
3. Little Ship – The Delicates
4. (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame – Del Shannon
5. Doin’ The Best I Can – Elvis Presley
6. Rag Doll – Jess Conrad
7. Lonely Avenue – Ray Charles
8. Sweet Talk – Bobby Comstock & The Counts
9. I’m A Man – Adam Faith
10. So Close To Heaven – Ral Donner
11. Say The Word – Mickey & Sylvia
12. It’s Been Nice – Marty Wilde
13. Too Good – Little Tony & His Brothers
14. Love Roller Coaster – Joe Turner
15. Senor Big And Fine – LaVern Baker
16. Wait – Jimmy Clanton
17. Happy Time – The Skyliners
18. My Island Of Dreams – Clyde McPhatter
19. Mess Of Blues – Elvis Presley
20. It’s Not True – Ricky Valance
21. (Wake Up) Miss Rip Van Winkle – The Tibbs Brothers
22. Music Man – Danny Valentino
23. Plain Jane – Bobby Darin
24. I’ve Cried Before – Dion & The Belmonts
25. Save The Last Dance For Me – The Drifters