SONG: Yakety Yak
ARTIST: The Coasters
Listen to it here:
Yakety Yak was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1958 and recorded by the Coasters that year. It spent 7 weeks at number 1 on the R&B charts and was part of the reason the Coasters were so popular. Leiber and Stoller described the song as a ‘Playlet’ – a snapshot of teenage life. Yakety Yak also features legendary sax player King Curtis. The song has seen continuous popularity through the decades, has been covered multiple times and has been used in countless movies and TV shows.
The Coasters were formed on October 12, 1955, when two singers from the same doo wop group joined Atlantic Records (the group saw a steady rotation of singers through the years). The songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller began collaborating with the Coasters and together they released a string of fun, campy hits, starting with Down in Mexico in 1956, and followed by Young Blood/Search’ in 1957. Searchin’ was the Coasters’ first US top 10 hit and was the biggest R&B song of 1957. Yakety Yak was the Coasters biggest hit and was followed by Charline Brown, Poison Ivy and Along Came Jones, which didn’t see as much success as Yakety Yak did. A shift of musical taste saw a decline in popularity for the group in the 1960s, but they did see minor chart success in 1971 with Love Potion No. 9, a Leiber and Stoller song that was originally written for the Coasters but instead given to the Clovers. Several counterfeit “Coasters” groups toured in the 1970s, with original Coasters member and legal name holder Carl Gardner quashing them as quickly as he could. Leon Hughes is the last surviving member of the original group and performs with a different group. The Coasters continue to perform on nostalgia tours and oldies shows.
Leiber and Stoller said the song is “a white kid’s view of a black person’s conception of white society.”
The Coasters are the first group who were inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.
Whyyyyy was I so surprised to see that the Coasters are Black? Whenever I heard this song in the past I just imagined a bunch of white nerds. I can kind of hear it now though. What did people in 1958 think when they heard this song for the first time? Was it a hoot? Was it neat? Did they also recognize it as the novelty song that it actually is? Is this a good song? It’s hard to say. It’s fun and cute and instantly recognizable. The lyrical content I feel like is a precursor to Parents Just Don’t Understand – do all these chores or you’re grounded, essentially. A universal theme. I’m not gonna lie though, the musicianship is actually really good. That vocal harmony is TIGHT. The perfect unison on “YAKETY YAK”. The saxophone is used appropriately – the solo is good and in tune and not overly fromage. The rhythm section is really together too, and is really the engine keeping the song moving. I don’t think that I can say this is a bad song, it’s novelty executed very well.
Ah yes, another rock song with saxophone! This song has so much novelty to it, with the bass voice when the band drops out and stuff, but there’s also a lot of interesting things going on. The piano is comping and playing off the bass, and the tenor sax is playing off of the singers. The tenor player has a bright, cheerful tone, and his solo is actually pretty fun. The song is high energy and there are almost drum fills in it! Maybe for the first time ever on this list! I love how this tune starts out with the just totally full forward singers in harmony and the rest of the band just falls into place and chugs right along with an infectious amount of energy. As far as novelty songs go, this one is pretty good!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
Lee Perry is afraid he will reggae no more:
2 Live Crew scratches in with their version for the movie Twins:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: