The McCoys – Hang On Sloopy: The Best of the McCoys (1995): Forgotten Series

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She was a tramp, lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and everybody put her down. But the boy loved her anyway. That was the soap opera behind “Hang On Sloopy,” a plucky little pop rock nugget by the McCoys that soared to the No. 1 spot on the national charts in the late summer of 1965.

Although the Indiana band went on to score a couple of other Top 40 hit singles, including a cool copy of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and a bubbly remake of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Lets Go,” they are forever associated with “Hang On Sloopy.” Now, there’s nothing negative about that, but as we hear on 1995’s Hang On Sloopy: The Best of the McCoys – a Sony collection which centers on material recorded in 1965 and 1966 – but the McCoys dispatched a string of comparably strong songs ripe for rediscovery if you missed them the first time around.

Along with the trio of aforementioned tunes, the collection also features impossibly catchy cuts like “Say Those Magic Words,” “Runaway,” “I Can’t Explain It,” “(You Make Me Feel) So Good,” “Up and Down,” and “I’ve Got To Go Back (And Watch That Little Girl Dance).” Blooming with teen appeal, the McCoys skillfully fused sugar frosted pop polish with splashes of British Invasion bliss and garage rock aggression, resulting in a complexion that was just as fresh and radiant as their influences.

Packed tight with huge harmonies, muscular rhythms and hooks that snapped, crackled and sparkled, the band’s music frequently invited images of the Kinks, the Hollies and the Dave Clark Five into the fold. Ripping guitar flourishes, courtesy of Rick Derringer, further dotted some of the songs. He was only a kid, but was already an exceptional player. After the McCoys called it a day, Rick encountered even more fortune and fame with Johnny and Edgar Winter before embarking on a solo career, then forming his own red hot band.

Dripping with swagger and sweat, the super-funky “The Dynamite” pays visible respect to James Brown, while “Bald Headed Lena” additionally documents the McCoys in a soul mode. The melodic midtempo balladry of “Sorrow” is a sheer beauty, and the same can be said of a vibrant reading of Arthur Alexander’s “Every Day I Have To Cry.”

Hip to the constantly changing styles of the era, the band embraced psychedelic music with open arms and minds. Awash with eerie atmospherics, the Electric Prunes flavored “Beat the Clock” whispers and taunts its doom and gloom message with conviction, and then there’s the spellbinding “Don’t Worry Mother (Your Son’s Heart Is Pure),” which flickers with exotic belly dancing curves, moody vocals, explosive breaks and head spinning grooves. Both these acid informed statements hinted at what direction the McCoys would eventually travel in.

Come 1967, the band divorced their pop sensibilities and sought recognition on the underground circuit. A pair of albums followed, Infinite McCoys and Human Ball, that were ambitious and progressive, but failed to click in a big way. The band’s genre hopping repertoire of blues, rock, jazz, country and psychedelic goo soon wore thin, and they dismantled in 1969. Guided by enthusiasm, the right attitude, raw energy and fantastic songs altogether, Hang On Sloopy: The Best of the McCoys does indeed celebrate the best moments of the band.

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