Does the song “Sand in My Shoes” sound familiar? It should: it’s an embarrassing 1964 rip-off by the Drifters of the Drifters, written and recorded immediately after their previous song, 1963’s “Under the Boardwalk,” was a big hit. Here, notice the resemblance?
Of course you do; that was the idea.
I’ve always regarded such blatant self-parody by artists to be the sign of desperation, greed and creative cowardice. This time of year you may be forced to hear lousy Christmas record by the Royal Guardsmen called “Christmas Bells.” The group had one lame hit, a song the debuted during one of the periodic “Peanuts” crazes, called “Snoopy and the Red Baron.” For those of you who aren’t collecting social security, Snoopy’s fantasies about being a World War I flying ace from the top of his doghouse increasingly dominated the strip during the Seventies, when cartoonist Charles Schultz found that he couldn’t be funny and decided to be cute. The band recorded not one but two near identical clones, the Christmas version being, mercifully, the last, and then vanished into the obscurity it richly deserved. Okay, I can understand that strategy when you’re a hack band and you know it: see how much you can squeeze out of your one lucky pay day.
It’s less excusable with better artists. Petula Clark’s follow-up to her iconic “Downtown” was a nearly identical ditty with the same theme called “I Know a Place,”
and it was a hit too, but then all of Petula’s records sounded a lot alike. That was the only outright rip-off, though. I still don’t know what to make of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap: all four of their big hits “Woman, Woman,” “Over You,'”Young Girl,” and “Lady Willpower,” sound the same to me and are basically about the same situation. Was this intentional self-plagiarism or just a lack of imagination?
For the most part, really outstanding artists don’t copy themselves just to get a cheap hit, because the don’t need to, have some artistic integrity and respect for their fans, or if they do, you don’t notice it. Connie Francis, the queen female pop vocalist of the Fifties, had a hit with “Follow the Boys” that was obviously intended to evoke her previous hit “Where the Boys Are,” (it was also a movie theme), and I must admit, I love the rip-off as much as the original, maybe more. It’s just a good song, Connie is great as usual, and all is forgiven….
But for the Drifters, one of the great pop groups of all time, to not only rip off themselves but do it badly and obviously with “Sand in my Shoes”–well, that’s just disappointing. They were better than that.