♫ Poor Side Of Town ♫ (Redux)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about wealth disparity, the poor, the homeless, people putting their children to bed hungry at night, being evicted from their homes, living in their cars.  Been there, done that, and while I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, I think that those who experience it have a greater empathy for those who live … on the poor side of town.  The rest seem focused on material ‘things’ and what money can buy them.  Thus, tonight I am replaying one I played back in July 2020, mainly because the title fits my current mindset.

I would have sworn I had already played this one by Johnny Rivers, but a search through my archives says otherwise.  I was probably thinking of Elvis’ In the Ghetto.  I was not aware of it, but this was Johnny Rivers’ only U.S. chart-topper.

Rivers co-wrote it with Lou Adler.  Marty Paich, who arranged for Mel Torme and Ray Charles, did the string arrangement.  According to Rivers …

“I had this tune I’d been working on, and I kept playing it for Lou. It took me about 6 months to finish. We cut it with Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn and Hal Blaine. I did my vocal performances live with the band. I sat and played my guitar and sang. There weren’t any overdubs. So we said it could use some singers and maybe some strings. That’s the time we got together with Marty Paich.”

This was a change of direction for Johnny Rivers, who had tired of the upbeat Go-Go sound that provided him with his early hits. However, he found his record company reluctant to tamper with a winning formula. He recalls …

“Al Bennett and those guys were goin’ Man. don’t start comin’ out with ballads. You’re gonna kill your career. You got a good thing goin’ with this funky trio rock sound, stay with that.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Poor Side of Town
Johnny Rivers

How can you tell me how much you miss me
When the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t even kiss me
That rich guy you’ve been seein’
Must have put you down
So welcome back baby
To the poor side of town

To him you were nothin’ but a little plaything
Not much more than an overnight fling
To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
And girl it’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town

I can’t blame you for tryin’
I’m tryin’ to make it too
I’ve got one little hang up baby
I just can’t make it without you

So tell me, are you gonna stay now
Will you stand by me girl all the way now
Oh with you by my side
They just can’t keep us down
Together we can make it girl
From the poor side of town

Oh, with you by my side
This world can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Johnny Rivers / Lou Adler
Poor Side of Town lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

12 thoughts on “♫ Poor Side Of Town ♫ (Redux)

  1. I’m sure if someone had asked me, before I read this post, who Johnny Rivers was, I would have said a singer, but I have absolutely no idea why I would think that. This song isn’t familiar but a bit of research tells me Rivers reached #10 with <>em>Summer Rain in February 1968, and #11 with Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu in February 1973. Other than that he seems to have done an awful lot of covers under various labels. none of which I can find on the NZ charts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard of “Rockin’ Pneumonia” or “Boogie Woogie Flu” … what odd names for songs!!! As Keith told us, he did a lot of covers for songs by Black artists that weren’t being played over here at the time due to Jim Crow racism. I’m not surprised that you weren’t familiar with him … it seems he didn’t do that well outside of the U.S.


      • It’s not two songs but a long title for one. Wikipedia tells me the original was by Huet Smith and released in 1957. There were no music charts here in those days so I have no idea if that version was played in NZ.

        It was pre television days in NZ at that time (television broadcasting didn’t start until 1960) so even if race was a factor it would have been of little consequence – it was usual for record sleeves of the day to be text only with perhaps the label logo. Thinking back to that era, photographic images were quite thin on the ground. How times have changed.

        Liked by 1 person

        • OH!!! I had no idea … what a name for a song, eh? At the bottom of the Wikipedia link you sent me are the chart details that show it hit #11 in New Zealand, so it must have been played and at least somewhat well liked there!

          Indeed, times have changed and not always for the better, unfortunately. Still, the ability to share and listen to music at the click of a mouse is, to me, one of the better inventions!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, this is a great song, but what I like about it most, is Rivers co-wrote it. He made a career of singing songs popularized by Black artists on radio stations that only played white musicians. When people ask what institutionalized racism looks like, this is just one example of many.

    This is also a key reason these Black performers traveled to Great Britain to perform so they could make money. The Jim Crow period was still in force in the US and had to taper off after legislation in the mid-1960s, for them to see more money here while performing. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, as happens often I have learned something new from you! I had no idea that Rivers promoted songs by Black artists that wouldn’t have otherwise been played on this side of the pond. I like that! Thanks for sharing that info.


  3. Pingback: ♫ Poor Side Of Town ♫ (Redux) | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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