Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Elaine Baker, where are you now?

Here's a sweet 'n' lovely version of Sandie Shaw's Puppet On A String. I bought this curiosity via the bay on a whim because it had some strange appeal with hardly anything being known about it.
In my imagination it could have been an undiscovered recording of a mega famous superstar, but I'm not recognizing any pre-fame voice here.

Elaine Baker, who is she? The name is common enough to hit 25.000 at google, and that didn't lead to anything conclusive. There's an opera singer, an actress or radio DJ with the same name here and there, who knows....
The single has no recordcompany label on it. All the label reads is monaural (= mono), the artists name, the composers and some numbers.

So dating the record is up to us. It must be later than 1967, the original puppet year, as the other track My Love, My Love's The Same has a distinctive early disco feel about it. 1972?
The version of Puppet On A String is a bit of an odd blend of romantic Jamaican rhythms and horns with the singer taking a few detours in the original melody and lyrics. Puppet could easily be one of the many versions recorded in Jamaica, but the other track is so un-Jamaican that it makes it a bit doubtful.
Another fact that could point to Jamaica is the misspelling of songwriter Coulter as Coulteer. That occurs on a few other Jamaican coverversions.
The fact that there's no record label is also a point towards Jamaica.
I discarded the possibilty of the record being a cheap pop-tops style copy as the other song is composed by the singer herself and Puppet is far from a plain copy.

A romantic idea that appeals to me is that Elaine Baker just wanted to make a record, spent a few pennies / cents on it and 23 copies were pressed for friends and family. Elvis did it, so why can't Elaine?

All in all, I know nothing, which is great really. So, Elaine Baker, wherever you are, if you read this, just drop us a comment. (anyone else that knows something more is very welcome too)

Puppet On A String was already featured a zillion times at Eurocovers in 2007. If you use this link you get the posts which feature versions from all over the world.

1 comment:

Yaddah Yaddah Yaddah said...

If you don't have this information already, there was an Elaine Baker who was from Bay City, Michigan, born in 1926. Her grandfather was one of the few black people in the area when he arrived here in 1856 (census states he was the eighth "colored" out of a total population of around one thousand at the time) Her grandfather probably got here with the help of the abolitionists and became a lawyer along eventually with two of his sons, one of which was Elaine's father. She went to Europe after WW II and was known as an opera/concert singer who toured in Europe and lived in Germany. If she was the same woman who was the actress who was in the 1972 Movie "Whity" she would have been in her late 40s during that time. But at this point and with this incomplete information this connection may be an incorrect assumption to make. There are pictures of her family on the Bay City Historical website and it would take a dedicated person to compare to anything from that movie or another source. Maybe the living Baker family descendants would have some information that could confirm or not any connection to the record you have. I live in Bay City and it is a short walk to any of her family's (former?) homes and business places. And if you're interested in local musical trivia, yes this is the "Bay City" of the Bay City Rollers, the birthplace of Madonna, and the hometown of "? and the Mysterians" who did the song "96 Tears" and still perform in local venues. I'm hoping this is her on the record - that would be kind of cool.