One of my favourite songs by one of my favourite groups, Something Changed by Pulp is quite unlike most of the songs from their era of fame in the mid-1990s. It’s a sweet love song, that ponders on how lives can be changed forever by the timing of random events. ‘What’s this got to do with a number 1 single from 1960?’, you might ask. Well, Jimmy Jones’s Good Timin’ is similarly themed, although it fails to move me in the same way.
Good Timin’ was written by Fred Tobias and Clint Ballard Jr (later to write I’m Alive, a 1965 number 1 for The Hollies) as a follow-up to Jimmy Jones’ smash hit, Handy Man. Jones was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1937. He was a tap dancer before joining the doo-wop group the Berliners in 1954, before they changed their name to the Sparks of Rhythm. The group recorded the song after Jones had left them in 1956. Now a solo artist, Jones decided to rework Handy Man with Otis Blackwell, who wrote two legendary UK number 1s, All Shook Up and Great Balls of Fire. Blackwell could do no wrong back then, and with his memorable whistle featuring on the track, it rocketed to the top 3 in the US and UK.
Good Timin’ has more energy than many of the number 1s of the 60s that precede it, but it’s a minor entry at best, and probably did so well off the back of Handy Man. Jones compares the timing of his relationship with that of the story of David and Goliath, pointing out that if it wasn’t for good timing, David wouldn’t have found the stone that he used to kill Goliath. Hmm, this seems a bit incongruous to me. I can’t help comparing it to Something Changed, which is unfair I know, but:
‘Do you believe that there’s someone up above/And does he have a timetable directing acts of love?’ is far more effective than:
‘If little, little David hadn’t grabbed that stone
Alyin’ there on the ground
Big Goliath might’ve stomped on him
Instead of the other way ’round’.
Ah well, Good Timin’ is more about the feel and sound I guess. Trouble is, that doesn’t do a lot for me either. Jones’s appeal lay in his falsetto, which was to be an influence on Del Shannon (of Runaway fame), but the way he sings ‘A tock, a tock, a tock, a tock’ in the chorus sounds ridiculous to these ears. Nonetheless, it was catchy enough to enjoy a three-week stint at the top.
Jones’s good timing started to run out after this song, with a few more hits troubling the charts before he faded into obscurity. He did however make the news when he sued Boy George, claiming he plagiarised Handy Man for Culture Club’s 1983 number 1 Karma Chameleon, changing ‘Come-a, come-a, come-a, come-a…’ to ‘Karma, karma, karma, karma…’. They settled out of court, with Boy George later claiming it took ’10 pence and an apple’ (according to New York Daily News‘ obituary on Jones). Jones was a fixture on the Northern Soul circuit for the last two decades of his life. He died in 2012, aged 82.
Written by: Fred Tobias & Clint Ballard Jr
Producer: Otis Blackwell
Weeks at number 1: 3 (7-27 July)
Actress Caroline Quentin – 11 July
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop – 13 July
Journalist Simon Heffer – 18 July