(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Someone Done Somebody Wrong Song by B.J. Thomas (ABC, 1975)


The born-again Christian phenomena, although it still exists today, was a uniquely 70s experience. A generation that took every drug imaginable combined with a search for self-fulfillment went completely out of control as the decade wore on and needed something or someone to help them get their shit straight. Why not bow down, admit you’re lowly and give in to a higher power? You could call yourself a ‘born again’ and start a new life with a new family and pretend that you weren’t snorting lines off of a teenage prostitute’s ass at behind a truck stop in Des Moines just a few months earlier. Plus you could help all of those other wayward sinners without the realization that you were a hypocrite, mostly because you turned off 99% of your brain.

B.J. Thomas was a popular singer who would pop out a Top 10 hit every few years since his cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry back in 1966. And once he had his first #1, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, he added some wealth to his fame. But by the time ‘Wrong Song‘ hit #1 in late April 1975, he was on the verge of going broke.

You see Billy Joe was pushing those royalty checks up his nose and into his veins and chasing the dragon. In fact by making ‘Wrong Song‘ a Gold-certified 45, we probably kept that junkie life going for him a little longer. But broke and busted B.J. did what many out of control hedonists did and gave himself up to Jesus and the Myrrh record label. That is usually the kiss of death for an artist, but sometimes it does allow you to cross over to the more forgiving Country chart, which he did in the late 70s/early 80s. Luckily for him, he planted the seeds to that new career here with this song.

The ‘Wrong Song’ was the song with the longest official title to ever hit #1 and it eventually sailed to top in Nashville as well. With its soft shuffle and perfectly in its place steel guitar solo, lots of folks dropped a dime in the jukebox to hear it and proceeded to stare into their mug of Schaefer. Or sashay onto the floor with a stranger to ease the pain of missing their baby. (In a perfect world, Please Mr. Please would have been on the B-side) Good to know that a percentage of that dough went to B.J. hanging out with Captain Jack.

I like to break this out at a karaoke bar after a bunch of drunk girls gets finished slurring and screaming Love Shack. It doesn’t just bring the mood down. It usually gets those ladies to leave, so they can get home safely. When I sing it, my mind wanders back to the 2nd floor of the J.C. Penney’s in Bay Shore, standing in line at the customer service department with my Grandma, restless and fidgety, until the opening guitar strum and Billy Joe’s vocals soothingly let us know it’s lonely out tonight…..

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by B.J. Thomas (Scepter, 1970)

This was the first song to hit #1 in the 70s and the first of 2 for Billy Joe Thomas. Written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David, it was written & recorded for the film, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Once you hear that opening ukulele lick, you immediately can visualize Paul Newman riding around on his bicycle. (What do you mean you haven’t seen this film? Put down your Twilight DVD and go out and rent it now!) In addition to spending the first month of 1970 on top, it also won an OScar for Best Song, a marked improvement over past winners, Born Free & If I Could Talk To the Animals.

B.J.’s mix of easy-going vocals with a hint of gruff soul made him the perfect singer for this song. And yet, he wasn’t the first choice. Supposedly Burt approached novelty singer Ray Stevens about singing it. Why? I don’t know. (Ray would have his first #1 later in the year with the ultra-serious, Everything Is Beautiful) It definitely wouldn’t have worked. And this is with Burt spending countless hours on set and watching dailies of the bike-riding scene writing music that would fit. And he thinks the guy who sang Ahab the Arab should sing Raindrops..?

Timing + Luck (+ Talent) = Success

The song, recorded and release at the end of 1969, sounds appropriately like a 60s tune. Even the fact that Bacharach & David were scoring a Western was kind of funny, given their pedigree of jazzy cocktail pop. But when it works, it works. And that’s why the singer matters. Lucky for BJ (Really? Couldn’t stick with Billy Joe?) that he recorded for the same label as Bach & David’s muse, Dionne Warwick or he might not have been given the chance.

By the way if you watch that scene and notice that the vocals sound different than on the 45, that’s because BJ recorded those while dealing with laryngitis, adding naturally a Western rasp to his vocals. When his throat was finally he recorded the version heard on the radio, which was a little smoother.

I’ve always dug this tune, especially the bridge. I just love the way it falls in to the song, even the 2nd time when Herb Alpert does his patented trumpet solo. And of course there’s the jazzy ‘slight return’ at the end. Betcha Jimmy Webb was jealous of its effective simplicity. Even the squares may have liked this one, I’m sure a line like ‘because I’m free. Nothing’s worryin’ me.‘ touched a nerve with everyone living through a turbulent time.