The Coasters

The Coasters’ Greatest Hits (Atco)

The Bayonets Love the Coasters: Oliver Leiber of the Bayonets (and THAT famous Leiber family) told us about his love for a Coasters comp.

Oliver Leiber: Growing up in our apartment in New York City in the early and mid ’60s, most of the records lying around the house were ones written and produced by my father and his partner. There were a few others (mostly blues records and great ones at that), but for the most part it was all Leiber and Stoller records, ones they had written or produced, or both. Of all the records, one in particular stood out, and I gravitated towards it both visually (the album cover!), and musically. I think I was about 6 or 7 when I finally figured out how to push the complicated sequence of buttons on what was obviously a state-of –the-art sound system for that era and clumsily drop the needle on the black vinyl disc. That was all it took and there was no looking back after that.



The album was The Coaster’s Greatest hits! I remember being mesmerized by a 1952 gold top Gibson Les Paul that one of the Coasters was holding in his lap on the front cover. It was the coolest looking ANYTHING I had ever seen and I wanted one from the moment I saw it (that would take another 40 years!). The picture of the Coasters with their cool looks, sleek suits, pompador’d hair (and THAT guitar ) drew me in…but it was the music that changed my life!

The tracks were infectious blues and R&B influenced rock & roll grooves, the voices were bluesy and soulful but also full of playfulness and humor at times. I loved Dub Jones’ bass voice

And I did my damndest to hit that low “don’t talk back”  every time it came around in the song “Charlie Brown” or the “DOWNNN” in “Down Home Girl.” But perhaps the thing that pulled me in more than anything else were the lyrics: they were all relatable stories, at once sexy (“Little Egypt,” “Down In Mexico,” “Youngblood”) and humorous (“Charlie Brown,” “Yakety Yak,” “Along Came Jones”). Even at 6 or 7 years old I was captured by how clever the writing was, and by the musical magic and artistry baked into this turning plastic disc. “How do they get the sound in there anyway?” The thought hurt my brain.

I didn’t realize it then, but this record would really serve as my blueprint for writing, producing and playing the rest of my life. I really haven’t been able to escape its influence, no matter how hard I may have tried at times, or how many years have gone by. There was so much for me to latch onto: great rock & roll grooves, bluesy pop melodies (sung by soulful black singers), killer session musicianship with airtight rhythm arrangements, and finally the songs themselves. It ticked all the boxes in my young “boy brain”: sex, humor, rebellion, high energy and maybe just a touch of taboo.

Of course, I didn’t understand all of the innuendo at the time — I thought “Poison Ivy” was literally about POISON IVY! But I suppose that speaks to the genius of those songs — it didn’t matter because they worked on both levels. A 6 year old kid could enjoy a funny song about poison ivy (and totally relate!) while a more savvy adult might glean that the song was about a woman who was perhaps indiscriminately passing around an STD: “she comes on like a rose, but everybody knows, she’ll get you in dutch, you can look but you better not touch Poison Ivy.”

This record and the songs on it made me fall in love with clever lyric writing, true rhymes (as opposed to near rhymes), great gravely black voices, and the high energy spirit of sex, danger, rebellion, and humor that it served up every time I dropped that needle down on it. It planted the seed.

“You say that music’s for the birds,

And you can’t understand the words,

Well honey if you did,

you’d really blow your lid,

‘Cause baby that is rock ‘n roll”.

 RIP dad, and thanks for the gift of rock & roll!

The Bayonets Love the Coasters: The Bayonets’ single “Argentina” is out now.

































































































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