The Real Story of the Olympics (the musical group, that is)

It's time to tell the real, true story of the Olympics. As the self-designated "official historian" of the Olympics, it's my role to tell the truth you won't find elsewhere.By the way, this article, mercifully, has nothing whatsoever to do with the ridiculous fiasco occurring in Atlanta (city motto: Where the hell do you park?); no, this has nothing to do with well-paid amateur athletes who make more as amateurs than professionals who pursue careers like nursing or teaching, you know, work that actually helps people. This article is about the real Olympics, the four-man quintet from Los Angeles who had a series of hits, starting back in the summer of 1958 with the mis-labeled song "Western Movies" which, as I noted in an earlier article, should have been titled "Western TV Shows," but never mind that right now. We're moving forward here, plowing new ground.After "Western Movies" made the Top 10, the group eagerly followed it with a record about wanting to dance with one's teacher, called appropriately enough, though ungrammatically, "(I Wanna) Dance With The Teacher." The record peaked at number 71, according to chart expert Joel Whitburn who, like Dr. Science, really knows more than you do about, well, record charts.Having previously succeeded with a tune about western television shows, the group then recorded the epic "Private Eye," a tribute to the then-popular spate of television private detectives such as Peter Gunn, 77 Sunset Strip and others. Like "Western Movies," the record even opened with the sound of gunfire. However, the record-buying public wasn't too impressed and the song spent exactly one week on the charts.Now the story gets really interesting. The flipside (yes, boys and girls, back in the early days of civilization, 45rpm records featured two songs, one on each side. What a concept). The other side was the dance record, "(Baby) Hully Gully," an invitation to do a rather simple shuffle step that had caught on in Los Angeles, but nowhere else. That side spent a total of seven weeks on the charts, topping out at number 72. (History does not recall why the group so favored song titles with parenthetical captions, but they did. Just go with it.)Now, fast forward to a year later, early 1961. Record buyers loved a catchy tribute to, of all foods, peanut butter. Or is it instead a paean to the joys of oral sex? The lyrics urge one to "Take a lesson now... open up your jaw now... spread it on your cracker now...scarf now!" That's just one of the mysteries about this record. (A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste).The record made it to number 20 and became one of the great mysteries of rock & roll. Who recorded "Peanut Butter"? Like all great mysteries, there are many answers, all of which are said to be the truth. Certainly, the tune is exactly the same as "(Baby) Hully Gully," and the group sounds a lot like the Olympics and the instrumental track sounds identical to the earlier record. But the label reads "The Marathons," which is an Olympic event. So, who is it?The best version of the story goes like this: The Olympics, who put on a cool stage show -- today we'd say they knew how to bust a move -- were much in demand as a touring act, especially on the West Coast. It was time for a follow-up record, owed to their label, Arvee. In a pinch, another group was brought into the studio in LA and recorded over new lyrics over the old "(Baby) Hully Gully" track. The group who recorded this new version were said to be the Vibrations, an LA singing group who had an earlier hit in 1956 as the Jayhawks with "Stranded in the Jungle." However, at this time, the Vibrations had been signed to Chess Records which took a dim view of their group recording as the Olympics. After much legal pushing and shoving, "Peanut Butter" was released on a Chess Records subsidiary and credited to, "Vibrations Named by Others As MARATHONS" and then "Vibrations Recorded As MARATHONS." But if that wasn't confusing enough, Arvee Records, home of the Olympics, assembled an entirely different lineup of "Marathons" and released both 45 singles and an album by these folks, whomever they were. Were they just the Olympics or really another group? The album cover featured five guys posed around, appropriately enough, peanut butter. These Marathons look different from the Olympics but have you ever seen the two groups together? I didn't think so.The Vibrations went on to have a hit with another dance record, "The Watusi" which in turn sounded a lot like Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go." More letters from lawyers and record company executives. Then the Vibrations recorded for Atlantic Records, doing the original version of what was to later become the McCoys' number one hit "Hang On Sloopy."Now, back to the Olympics. Their next hit was "Big Boy Pete," which got as high as number 50. A garage band from Portland, Oregon, the Kingsmen, seeking a follow-up to their immortal "Louie,Louie," re-recorded the song with a more psychedelic and vegetarian orientation (Hey, it was 1965, what do you expect?) and "The Jolly Green Giant" went to number 4.Now this final piece of Olympic trivia. Here's the question: Who first recorded "Good Lovin"' which the Young Rascals took to number one? (No, it wasn't the Marathons or the Vibrations.)Oh, and it wasn't a typo above when I referred to the Olympics as a four-man quintet. Perhaps I should have said a five-man quartet since the composition of the group changed as rapidly as one devours a peanut butter sandwich, or as one competes in an Olympic event. Take a lesson now...

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