blast from the past: ship to california
last resort, series premiere

music friday: benny spellman, “lipstick traces (on a cigarette)”

With the return of Treme, it seemed like a good idea to pick a song that was featured in this week’s episode.

“Lipstick Traces” was written under a pseudonym by Allen Toussaint, and recorded in New Orleans by Spellman in 1962. Irma Thomas was among the backup singers. Prior to that, Spellman was best known, or at least most often heard, as the backup vocalist on another song written by Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law”. “Lipstick Traces” tells the story of a man who has lost his lover:

Lipstick traces on a cigarette
Every memory lingers with me yet
I’ve got it bad, like I told you before
I’m so in love with you, don’t leave me no more

A variety of people covered the song over the years, from the O’Jays to Ringo Starr to Alex Chilton. (Greil Marcus titled his expansive look at avant-garde art and politics, and their connection to punk rock, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century.) Here’s the original:

You can also hear Spellman on “Mother-in-Law”:

The flip side of the “Lipstick Traces” single was yet another Toussaint original, “Fortune Teller”:

This one also ended up being covered by many artists, including The Who, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. But perhaps the most famous cover version was by the Rolling Stones. A studio recording, it ended up on Got Live If You Want It!, with screams overlaid to create a faux-live sound:

Spellman was eventually inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame: