My friend Moira Redmond has a blog called Clothes in Books. When she started it, I reminded her that Ayn Rand heroines favored high waisted gowns in the ‘Empire’ style, because she had, during her term as Fray Editor, remarked that any post mentioning Ms. Rand was likely to attract lots of comments.
Thinking about clothes in books led to my remembering the spate of pop songs about clothes, mostly “novelty” songs but a few straight-ahead rockers and sock hop squeeze ‘n’ shuffles, that crowded the airwaves during the late 1950s and early ’60s. One of the most memorable of these was Marty Robbins’ (photo above) 1957 ballad “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation.”
The clip above is of a 1981 live performance by Robbins, made just a year before the singer’s death.
In 1956, Carl Perkins recorded “Put Your Cat Clothes On,” though the record was not released until 1970. Perkins refers to “Blue Suede Shoes” in the lyrics, a nod to another song he wrote in 1955 and recorded in January of ’56.
1957 was a big year for songs about clothes. A New Jersey group called the Royal Teens had a hit with “Short Shorts.” The piano player is Bob Gaudio, who would later join Frankie Valli in the Four Seasons and write several of their hits, including “Sherry”.
1957 also gave us “Black Slacks,” by Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones.
1957 was a big year in fashion as well, as couturier Cristobal Balenciega introduced his shape shrouding sack dress. In 1958, Gerry Granahan expressed his displeasure in “No Chemise, Please.”
In 1959 thirteen year old Dodie Stevens (exactly my age then) hit the charts with “Pink Shoelaces.”
Bryan Hyland made the top ten and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1960 with “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” The modestly dressed woman in high tops who gives the spoken interrogatories is Trudy Packer.
Another 1960 release was the Coasters’ paleo-rap “Shoppin’ for Clothes,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had earlier penned “Hound Dog” for Big Mama Thornton, later covered by Elvis. Coasters member Billy Guy was working with the songwriters, and remembered a similar piece he’d heard on the radio. They searched record stores but couldn’t find it. Later they learned it was “Clothes Line,” written by Kent Harris and recorded by Boogaloo and his Gallant Crew. Harris was then given co-credit for “Shoppin’ for Clothes.”
I’ll close, as did many a school dance, with Bobby Vinton’s 1963 prom belly-rubber “Blue Velvet,” which later inspired a David Lynch movie.
I’ll do a second installment featuring songs from the late 1960s to the present. If anyone can think of clothes-themed songs from the period covered in this post or later, please let me know.