Thursday, December 8, 2011

Angel Of The Morning - Merrilee Rush

Merrilee Rush
(C. Taylor) Stateside OSS 8389


Chart Entry: 26th June, 1968
Highest Position: #1
Points: 102,616
From the album "Angel Of The Morning".


It was "divine intervention" when a struggling Chip Taylor finally came up with "Angel Of The Morning" following a two hour writing slump. After trying to string two chords together, without any luck, he composed the song in 20 minutes, stating in a later interview that he dreamed the song into existence rather than consciously wrote it. He uttered the line "There'll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can't bind your heart", and coupled with a slower version of "Wild Thing" which he had written a couple of years earlier, he soon had a hit song on his hands.

"Angel Of The Morning" was given to emerging teenage singer, Evie Sands, with promising signs of success until her record company went bankrupt two weeks after its release. Enter Merrilee Rush and her band, The Turnabouts, who were opening a series of concerts for Paul Revere & the Raiders. Paul and his band recorded an album along the way which set up a meeting between Merrilee and producer Tommy Cogbill. Tommy had been searching for the right voice to front "Angel Of The Morning", keeping a rough demo of the song in his back pocket for months. Soon, Merrilee had "Angel Of The Morning", and eleven other tracks for a complete album in the can.

It seems like a title of innocence, but "Angel Of The Morning" is actually about pre-marital sex, still a taboo subject at the time despite it being the late 60's, a time of free love. It was for this reason that Connie Francis, first offered the song, turned it down. Many artists have since recorded the song without change in subject matter, including Chrissie Hynde, Nina Simone and Juice Newton, who recorded the most successful version in the US in 1981. However, there was a change in meaning when Shaggy reworked the song as "Angel" in 2001, turning it into a homage to his girlfriend.

Merrilee Rush's version of "Angel Of The Morning" also found its way onto the big screen, featuring in the 1978 Harvey Keitel film, Fingers, and 1996's Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise makes a failed attempt to sing the song. It was also featured in the soundtrack to 1999's Girl, Interrupted featuring Angelina Jolie's Oscar winning performance as Lisa Rowe. Angelina Jolie just happens to be the niece of Chip Taylor!

There also an amusing commercial featuring "Angel Of The Morning" promoting the 2011 Toyota Highlander. It highlights just the sort of hell parents can inflict when overcome with the urge to sing the song...

There was little support for "Angel Of The Morning" in the UK charts, making it to #55 before dropping out of existence, but later that year, P.P Arnold did manage to hit the Top 30, her version peaking at #29. Juice Newton had similar trouble when "Angel" hit #43 but Shaggy had no problem with his re-imagined version topping the UK charts. The shame!

Merrilee needn't worry too much, though, soon finding herself with a US Billboard top ten hit when "Angel Of The Morning" hit #7 in June of 1968. It also graced the Dutch Top 5 but it was in Australia, New Zealand and Canada that she would top the singles chart. There was also some Grammys interest with a nomination for Best Female Contemporary-Pop Vocal Performance, losing the award to Dionne Warwick for "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?".

Merrilee Rush appeared in countless TV variety shows during the 60's and 70's, without any luck to follow up her #1 success. Only a couple of minor hits accompany her Australian success, "That Kind Of Woman" (1968, #59) and "Reach Out" (1969, #67). These days Merrilee is content with the quiet life in the countryside near Seattle, still performing the odd nostalgia show here and there.


Chart Run: (23 weeks in Top 100)
(Go-Set Charts)

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