Today’s song is ‘ Loco-Motion’. This is a 1962 pop song written by American songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. ‘Loco-Motion’ was originally written for Dee Sharp, but Sharp turned the song down. The song is notable for appearing in the American Top 5 three times, each time in a different decade: in 1962 by the American pop singer ‘Little Eva’ (U.S. No. 1); in 1974 by the American band ‘Grand Funk Railroad’ (also U.S. No. 1) and finally in 1988 by the Australian singer Kylie Minogue (U.S. No. 3).
The song is a popular and enduring example of the ‘dance-song genre’’. Much of the lyrics are devoted to a description of the dance itself, usually performed as a type of line dance. However, the song came before the dance.
'Loco-Motion' was also the second song to reach No. 1 by two different musical acts in America. The earlier song to do this was ‘Go Away Little Girl’ which was also written by Goffin and King. It is one of only nine songs to achieve this feat.
King and Goffin wrote ‘Loco-Motion’ in the hope to have it recorded by Dee Sharp, who had a smash hit with ‘Mashed Potato Time’. Sharp passed on the song leaving the opportunity open for Eva Boyd, who had recorded the demo. Boyd's version was released, and her name was changed to ‘Little Eva’. Boyd was actually Carole King's babysitter, having been introduced to King and King's husband Gerry Goffin by ‘The Cookies, a local girl group who would also record for the songwriters.
In the United States, ‘Loco-Motion’ was the sixth most successful single of 1962, according to Billboard. It was also the third most successful single of 1962 in South Africa. Little Eva version reached Number 2 on the UK charts. It re-entered the chart some 10 years later and almost became a top 10 hit again, peaking at Number 11. ‘Loco-Motion’ is ranked Number 359 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’.
I’d been living in Canada around three months when I first heard this song being sung by Little Eva. The song instantly appealed to me. I was working on the National Pacific Railway (NPR) at the time and I lived in Montreal. My occupation with the railway was a modest job of low wages (waiter to the train patrons), but it enabled me to see many places far west of Montreal that I never would have otherwise seen, and at no travelling cost to myself as I visited them as part of my job.
The train journeys would comprise of both short and long runs. The long runs might take three days to reach their destination and then after an overnight stop or 24-hour stop-over, we might spend another three days returning to Montreal. Winnipeg was thousands of miles away from Montreal and going through Calvary (which is called God’s Country by the locals) was simply breath-taking. The train would pass through hundreds of miles of prairie without seeing one human dwelling, apart from an isolated farm. I would often see a ghost town of perfectly sound abandoned dwellings; huts built before the mines had been worked out and then deserted by their owners after the mine had shut down. With the mine being the sole source of employment (and the only reason to live there initially), all the houses became worthless and the town rapidly emptied; leaving tumbleweed and scavenging coyotes as the only future visitors to pass through.
When it snows in Canada, it snows! Coming from England, twelve inches of snow might represent a ‘depth’ that would cause many difficulties. There are parts of the American continent though, where houses in the more open spots might be entirely covered above the rooftop level. I will never forget seeing wooden homes where the snow had completely covered the chimney and where the occupants might be marooned for weeks until it thawed. Some have been known to be trapped inside their homes for a month or more, especially as many had no neighbours for miles. The Canadians refer to such snowy periods as ‘the baby months’ as there is nothing like a man and wife being marooned in their house for a month during a very cold spell for increasing the population count.
They say that whatever is being measured, America has bigger ‘this’ and better ‘that’ than any other nation striving to hold the position of ‘Top Dog’ on the international stage. While Japan pipped America to the post by having the world’s first high-speed rail line between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964 (the Bullet Train, which today can travel at 185 mph over 1,5000 miles across the country), America has always held the record for having the longest trains. There would be so many carriages on the trains I worked on that it would take me a full shift to walk down and serve each carriage of catering customers and then repeat the return journey. On long journeys, I would work 4 hours on, followed by 4 hours rest, and then four hours back on duty again.
When I was 'off shift' on lengthy train runs, I would sit in the storage compartment with the side-door open, dangling my legs in the open air as I gazed at the wild and beautiful landscape we passed through. I can well understand how some American country folk would hate to live in the towns and cities of the USA. It would be akin to making a true Romany traveller live a settled life in a three bedroomed house with a fenced garden.
Hearing today’s song reminds me instantly of my brief time working on the trains of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Fond memories! I dedicate today’s song to my Facebook friend, Cindy Sonday from Michigan, U.S.A. Thank you, Cindy, for being my Facebook friend.
Love and peace Bill xxx