This 1957 Merv Griffin single usually goes for too much money on eBay, and because it's a "popcorn" standard. I got it for cheap, and probably because it's a Mexican pressing. But it sounds great--better than any of the YouTube postings, if I may be so humble.
So, what is "popcorn"? Well, you read the Wikipedia entry, and see if you can figure it out--I gave up. I mean, I get the background, but there seems to be no real-world definition of popcorn as a style or genre. See, there was a Belgian cafe in the late 1960s that played soul and ska, and which changed its name to the Popcorn (after James Brown's "The Popcorn") as its brand of DJ background caught on with dancers. The kernel that was ska and soul expanded to include 1950s and 1960s country, pop, and R&B (all of it mid-tempo to slow). Other such clubs popped up, pun intended. Apparently, at some point, someone heard Merv's Love Story and figured it was a perfect example of the popcorn style, since the style doesn't really have a firm definition, anyway. The Arthur Norman Singers doing The Lone Ranger Theme on Golden Records could be popcorn, for all I know. No, actually, that side is too lively. But a DJ could slow it down to 33 and 1/3. The 45 single, I mean.
I'm just trying to picture Belgians dancing to Merv Griffin. Did Merv know about this?
Anyway, popcorn is not simply pop that's corny (my first, and wrong, guess), though I suppose we could use that definition if we wanted to. For the sake of speculation (using clues contained in W.'s essay), I'll postulate that Merv's Love Story makes the grain--er, grade--because it's in minor mode and has kind of a tresillo or habanera thing going. I'm not good at naming Latin rhythms, because they overlap, as a rule. And so it took me several minutes of playing along on my keyboard to figure out that the bassline is unsyncopated--it's just (12)34--a half note, followed by two whole notes. The accent on the fourth eighth note is happening in the vocal chorus, on top of at least one other rhythmic event. I could have simplified all this to "It's got a Latin groove." But no--I had to take the complicated route.
Also, and maybe more importantly, Love Story features happy lyrics about the triumph of true love, only set to a melody that can hardly be described as cheerful--"dire" comes to mind. That might (emphasize might) be the most popcorn thing about Love Story--the mood of doom, only joined with words that are as happy as lyrics get. When I first heard this side years ago, I was expecting a last-minute twist--a train running over the lovers, or maybe the ground swallowing them up. But, no. It's like the Boulevard of Broken Dreams with sunny lyrics: "I wake up feeling fine each morning. I really love my lot in life. I'm full of glee, I'm so happy, etc."
Merv does well on both sides. As a singer, he recorded for (let me see) seven labels, starting with his very own, Panda. Then RCA, then Columbia, then Decca, then Carlton, Cameo, and Mercury. He started out strong on RCA, and it looked like he was on his way to the big time as a pop singer. But it never happened. After Merv became established as a talk show host, he sang on MGM, Zoo York, and Griffin Records, Inc. I wonder who owned that last one?
"A reminiscent melody that will stay with the listener."--Billboard, March 9, 1957. A "swingy rhythm":
DOWNLOAD: Friday Merv--Love Story/I'll Be Thinking of You (1957)