Nobody But Me

The Isley Brothers were on a dance kick in 1962 after "Twist and Shout" had become the biggest hit of the trio's five year career. In early '63 they stormed the dance floor even more forcefully with "Nobody But Me," twistin', shoutin', doing the Mashed Potatoes and Popeye like no one else (or so they claimed in the lyrics). Midway through, Ronald Isley cut loose with 'no, no, no, no, no...,' repeating the word 33 times in a row, forgoing any lyrical diversity in his frenzied state. Five years later the song was a hit for a band from Youngstown, Ohio and suddenly people in all 50 states were going around singing 'no, no, no...' with similar abandon.

The Human Beingz started making records in 1966, about two years after formation; lead singer and guitarist Richard Belley, guitarist Joe Markulin ("Ting" to all but certain obstinate relatives), bassist Mel Pachuta and drummer Mike Tatman comprised the '66 lineup that remained as such for another thousand days. The band's early recordings were Americanized versions of British hits; their first single that year on the obscure Elysian label coupled two U.K. smashes that hadn't done so well in the U.S.: The Who's "My Generation" and The Yardbirds' "Evil Hearted You." A second single, "Hey Joe," landed a little late to compete successfully with the hit version by Los Angeles band The Leaves. Other ill-fated efforts were little more than inferior knockoffs: "Gloria" (originally by Irish group Them and later Chicago's Shadows of Knight), "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (the instantly-famous Bob Dylan song) and "The Pied Piper" (an L.A. hit for The Changin' Times and really big one on both sides of the pond for Brit Crispian St. Peters). These last tracks were released later on the Gateway label, but what the Human Beingz really needed in the quest to establish themselves was original material...or at least a remake of a song that wasn't as commonly known as what they had done up to that point.

Richard Belley, Ting Markulin, Mel Pachuta, Mike Tatman

A rep from Capitol Records caught their act in 1967 at a small nightclub and signed the band to a contract. "Nobody But Me," one of the group's favorite oldies, was recorded in multiple layers during an extended recording session helmed by producer Lex de Azevedo; the early-'60s dances referenced in the lyrics of the original were updated to reflect current dance trends ('Shingaling! Skate! Boogaloo! Philly!'). The 'no, no' part remained intact, but with three less 'nos' in a row than the original...but wait! At the end, singer Belley got more carried away than Ron Isley had, repeating the dissenting word (perhaps the most commonly-used in the English language, the song's overuse notwithstanding) at least 40 times in a row right down to the fadeout, quite possibly a new high for repetition in song. Capitol brass loved the unbridled blast of energy and it became the band's debut single, but somewhere along the way a mistake was made in the group's name; pressings of the 45 credited The Human Beinz. The single hit the charts in December 1967 and spent all of February '68 in the top ten. The new spelling became permanent.

The follow-up, unfortunately, sorely lacked the driving force of its predecessor. Their rock rendition of Bobby Bland's roof-rattling 1962 hit "Turn on Your Love Light" retained the repetition gimmick with the line 'A little bit higher' taking up the song's final 50 seconds (out of two minutes and 13); it spent a few weeks in the lower rungs of the national chart in March '68, overlapping the still-hot "Nobody." Two albums were released and there were only two more singles for Capitol, both of which sank into the cold waters of the Mahoning River shortly after arrival. Regardless, there was a silver lining: Beinz records sold well in Japan and they toured there in 1969. Disillusioned by their short-lived association with Capitol Records, though, they broke up shortly afterwards.

"Ting" Markulin kept the group going over the years with a new batch of backing players. He's still disgruntled over the one-letter difference in the band's name and has, just for spite, been known to do an occasional show (usually close to home) under the banner of the Human Beingz (you say to-may-to, they say to-mah-to). Note to Ting: get over it already. The Isleys' gassed-up 'no, no, no...,' taken to even greater extreme by The Human Beinz, is now a pop standard, but the buck didn't stop there. Three years after "Nobody But Me" attacked the radio dial, Bill Withers used the word, or what sounded like it, in an appealingly similar way with his hit "Ain't No Sunshine." In his case it was a two-word phrase repeated 26 times and the differently-spelled word in question had a whole other meaning: 'I know, I know, I know, I know, I know...'

- Michael Jack Kirby


Nobody But Me