Pop Archives

The Atlantics - I Put a Spell On You (1966)

(Jalacy J Hawkins)
Australia Australia
#29 Sydney

I Put A Spell On You was also recorded in the 60s by Adelaide band Travis Wellington Hedge (B-side, 1967, Graham Gobles was a member, pre-Mississippi/LRB); and by New Zealand band The La De Das (album track, 1966).

The Atlantics were a versatile, creative and skilful band formed in Sydney in 1961. By 1963, at the peak of their nationwide success, they were:

Theo Penglis (guitar)
Bosco Bosonac (bass)
Peter Hood (drums)
Jim Skiathitis (guitar)
This core instrumental line-up was supplemented at various times by solo vocalists Harvey Foster, Eddie Moses or Kenny Shane.
Johnny Rebb (see Hey, Sheriff) who joined the band in 1966, is heard on vocals on I Put a Spell On You. The Atlantics had previously backed Rebb for solo singles including his 1963 charting single Ain’t I’m A Dog, recorded in August 1963 sessions.

The Atlantics were best known as an instrumental band and are remembered as such (see, for example, the official site). Their biggest hits were two original surf instrumentals that rank among the world’s best of the era: Bombora (July 1963, #1 Australia, #3 NZ YouTube) and The Crusher (November 1963, #7 Australia YouTube).

As Atlantics guitarist Jim Skiathitis explains in an interview with Steve Flack [YouTube], the four instrumentalists didn’t sing much but they did perform with a succession of stand alone singers … out the front, a familiar configuration from Cliff Richard & The Shadows and other pre-Beatles bands. After an unsuccessful surf-themed single with their latest vocalist Kenny Shane (October 1963) they apparently reverted to a four-piece instrumental line-up.

The Atlantics’ first instrumental hit, Bombora, was still lingering on the charts when their second, The Crusher, entered the charts at the end of November 1963. The Crusher’s chart run overlapped with the Beatles’ domination of the charts from the Australian summer of 1963-64 and into the following months of 1964.*

The British Invasion was arriving, when many Australian bands that had specialised in guitar instrumentals would switch to the guitar-and-vocals approach of the British beat bands. As Peter Hood of The Atlantics remarked of this period, We thought we still had a good sound and we wanted to develop it further. We were also getting into more vocals ... (quoted at Milesago). In Jim Skiathitis’s words, After the Beatles hit … we discovered we had voices.

The Beatles and their ilk knocked [surf music] for six late last year and if it’s going to come back it’s probably got to be now or never. I can’t see any signs of it coming back with any strength … The big American summer surf season is just winding up and it has not produced much in the way of the surf music which proved such a bonanza for our local groups last year.

Sydney DJ Bob Rogers, Herald Sun column, 27 Sept 1964 [full story]

Post-British Invasion line-up of The Atlantics with a new look:
Jim Skiathitis, Johnny Rebb, Theo Penglis, Bosco Bosanac, Peter Hood.
Photo: Bosco Bosanac/The Atlantics.

* Footnote:
When The Beatles were at #1 and #2 on Top 40 station 2SM’s survey for 17 January 1964, 6 out of the Top 40 were Australian surf records. All of them were original compositions, as were three others further down in the Top 100. Two of the tracks had Australian placenames in their titles.
 • On 20 March 1964, two months later, 10 out of 40 were Beatles tracks (including all of the Top 6), and there were zero Australian surf records. Even if you allow that the chart mainly reflects 2SM’s current playlist, these numbers are revealing.

The March survey still had at least four US surf tracks (depending on how you classify them) by artists that included The Beach Boys and The Surfaris.

Australian surf tracks in 2SM’s Top 40, 17 Jan 64:
#4 Little Pattie – He’s My Blond Headed Stompie Wompie, Real Gone Surfer Boy
#14 The Atlantics – The Crusher
#17 Little Pattie – Stompin’ At Maroubra,
#20 The Renegades – Kahuna (Australian instrumental)
#23 The Delltones – Hangin’ Five
#26 Johnny Devlin – Stomp The Tumbarumba
Outside the Top 40:
#45 Digger Revell – My Little Rocker’s Turned Surfie
#49 Atlantics – Bombora
#59 The Statesmen – Beachcomber (Australian instrumental)

Sources, further reading:
1. Ian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop.
2. Atlantics history at Milesago.
3. Wikipedia article on The Atlantics.
4. Pete Hoppula’s Atlantics discography at Wang Dang Dula
5. Atlantics official
6. Atlantics interview with Steve Flack for Guitar Heroes – Issue 86 (at YouTube).
7. My blogpost Bizarro Shadows World Down Under is about Australian instrumental groups and their response to the British Invasion.

Thanks to Stephen McParland and Terry Stacey.

Alan Price Set - I Put a Spell On You (1966)

(Jalacy J Hawkins)
Influential version
#9 UK #80 USA #8 Melbourne #37 Brisbane #7 Adelaide #15 NZ

The Alan Price Set was formed after Price quit as keyboardist with The Animals.

They had 7 records in the UK Top 40 (1966-1979) including I Put A Spell On You (1966, #9), Simon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear (1967, #4, wr. Randy Newman), The House That Jack Built (1967, #4, wr. Price), Don’t Stop The Carnival (1968, #13, wr. Sonny Rollins) and Jarrow Song (1974, #6, wr. Price).

I Put A Spell On You was recorded by a number of 60s artists including Manfred Mann, The Animals, Them, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Fever Tree and The Five Americans.

1966 single (bonus track on 1996 reissue of 1966 album The Price To Pay)
Live performance 1966 (via Peter- ClipstoneFilms at YouTube)

Nina Simone - I Put a Spell On You (1965)

(Jalacy J Hawkins)
Influential version
#49 UK (1965) #28 UK (1969)

Single on Philips (UK) January 1965, on Philips (USA) April 1965

Reissued in UK May 1965 with a different B-side.

Reissued again in UK January 1969 and recharted, with Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood as the B-side.

Also on album I Put A Spell On You (1965).

Hugely popular and hard to categorise, American singer-pianist Nina Simone (Eunice Kathleen Waymon 1933-2003) was classically trained, and her early work as an accompanist, piano teacher, and bar singer was seen as means towards becoming a full-time classical pianist. Musical encyclopaedist Donald Clarke characterises her work as equal amounts of blues, jazz, folk, gospel, show tunes, adding up to love and protest.

The song is often identified with Nina Simone, and her autobiography was named after it.

Further reading: The Nina Simone Database: About Nina (illustrated chronology).

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell On You (1956)

(Jalacy J Hawkins)
Original version

Singer and pianist from Cleveland, real name Jalacy Hawkins (1929-2000) whose R&B career started in the early 50s and morphed into a wild and macabre sub-genre of rock’n’roll after the release of I Put A Spell On You on the Okeh label in 1956.

Claims that I Put A Spell On You had been recorded as long ago as 1949 appear unfounded. Hawkins had recorded the song for Herb Slotkins’s Grand label in 1955, in a more sedate ballad style, but these sessions were not released at the time (although they were issued on a 1991 CD, From Grand And Gotham). Herb Slotkins is sometimes given a writer credit for the song, but it is listed at BMI under Jalacy J. Hawkins alone.

Alternative title: Spell.

References: Posts by honeydhont and Joop Jansen to the Problemsolving Forum at The Originals website (discussion no longer online). Account at Screamin’ Jay Hawkins His Golden Years (one page of a comprehensive site on SJH). SJH himself discusses the genesis of the record in a 1983 interview with Stuart Colman.

Bryan Ferry - I Put a Spell On You (1993)

(Jalacy J Hawkins)
Later version
#18 UK #39 Brisbane #35 NZ

CD single on Virgin March 1993 (Single Mix) and on album Taxi April 1993.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - I Put a Spell On You (1968)

(Jalacy J Hawkins)
Later version

Single on Fantasy, Creedence’s second single on that label, also on their self-titled debut album.

Lengthy and – for the time – progressive version with an inventive arrangement.

Sonique - I Put A Spell On You (2000)

(Belofski - Pleeth - Allen - Elkan - Hawkins)
Later version
#36 UK

Single on Orange Records by “British pop diva/deejay” (All Music) b.1965, also recorded in S’Express.

Also on her debut album Hear My Cry (#6 UK, #9 Austria, #2 Switzerland).