Song of the Week: Judy in Disguise (With Glasses), John Fred and His Playboy Band

 Click here to listen to “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)”

I realized that we’re actually a little skimpy on vintage content right now, so today I’m digging up a one-hit wonder recorded in 1967. It’s a song that I used to hear on my local oldies radio station as a kid, before it disappeared when that station went under corporate control. I re-discovered it a few years later on the soundtrack to the film “Pirate Radio,” one of my favorites.

This song really has it all: a horn section, strings, a sitar outro, a singer that sounds like a less whacked-out Donovan, and light psychedelic elements. In a way, it almost seems like a crass approach to songwriting: let’s just throw out bunch of hip musical touchstones and see what sticks. Maybe the kids will like it!

Yet for some reason this over-caffeinated approach to hit making works, and I think that’s because the rhythm section on the song is so tight. You can’t say no to that drum and bass intro, and the bass part is wisely kept up in the mix throughout. The song grooves along on the strength of this bass line until about 00:37, when the horns come in. The horn hits and the groove have always made me feel like this is more of a R&B song than anything else—it’d be interesting to hear a version of this sung by Sam Cooke.

Despite the R&B undercarriage, the psychedelic elements don’t sound out of context. They add to the song’s character and keep it playful—it’s about stealing someone’s glasses, for God’s sake—even if they do feel a little tacked on. The song is a nice record of a time when, increasingly, anything was possible in a recording studio: if you wanted to bring in a string section, it was no problem. Want a sitar player to play literally seven notes in the last five seconds of the song? Go nuts.

So just enjoy this for what it is: a stylistic experiment, sure, but above all, just a blast to listen to.

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