19 October 2005

the skyliners - "since i don't have you" (from the wcbs 101.1 25th anniversary, vol. 1: the 50's - silver anniversary edition lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : oh, you're not going to have it that easy this time.

the formation of my listenings habits could be drawn up schematically this way:
oldies--->soul--->rap--->new jack swing--->funk--->classic rock--->brit pop--->alt rock--->classic pop--->jazz--->pop pop--->indie rock--->blues--->classical--->???

filling in the gaps between genres are what i'll call the titans, individuals who were my favorite artist ever at one point, who changed the way i listened to records, and, thus, who i felt compelled to give representation to on this collection. they are: stevie wonder, marvin gaye, sam cooke, sly & the family stone, al green, james brown, prince, the smiths, david bowie, the rolling stones, the beach boys, orange juice, bruce springsteen, elvis presley, frank sinatra, bob dylan, and dexys midnight runners.

to the beginning! i've mentioned family trips before and the music that was played. the first four songs should give you an idea of the songs that soundtracked scenery and skies stretching from the jersey shore to the green mountains of vermont. (special mention should go to sweet, delicious & marvelous, a collection of soul covers perfomed by, of all things, the california raisins, bought specifically for one of these trips, and the first album i ever spent my money on.) compilations did the duty whenever we left our native new jersey; the now sadly lamented 101.1 wcbs fm held off the philly stations on trips to atlantic city.

what can i say about dion that i haven't said before? "i wonder why," w/ its staccato opening, places me back in time like nothing else. it sounds like the start of something big; in reality, its opening fanfare is more like taps for both doo-wop and the '50s. of course, no one told that to frankie valli, who would continue the spirit of the '50s up through the late 70's, and whose "rag doll," w/ the incomparable 4 seasons, fought the good fight against the british invasion, refusing to believe the news that either doo-wop or, generally, american music were approaching anything remotely resembling the end. his falsetto cry--one of his two vocal tones, the other being the shriek--of "i love you just the way you are" near the end is probably the greatest display of empathy and devotion that i've ever heard on record.

"if you don't know me by now," on the other hand, was the sound of something entirely new for me. my father is decidedly anti-rock & roll and for that reason so is my mother; hearing teddy pendergrass sing--who, naturally, i thought was named harold melvin; gamble & huff were names that would become important, too, but that's not until later--, teddy was the closest that i'd gotten to hearing the grit, passion and, well, unbridled sensuality of rock & roll (and, to a greater extent, of the stax and atlantic soul records that never made these compilations or wcbs). i remember sneaking out to my mom's car and putting this song on again; it seemed far too intimate and personal to listen to amongst mixed company. at the time, i couldn't imagine there was a force in the universe that could refuse teddy anything (if legend is correct, there rarely was). i hoped that when i grew up that i would sound exactly like him--i still try, too.

what the first two songs, at least, have in common w/ "since i don't have you" by the skyliners is that they're precisely the kind of music that the kids of today won't hear on commercial radio. indeed, "since i don't have you," if known at all, is probably known best in its cover version by guns 'n' roses. "since i don't have you" was released the year after "i wonder why," but it seems much older, unfamiliar w/ even the rudiments of rock & roll. it is instead a refugee from a era that probably even seemed bygone in 1950's america. the one nod to modernity was jimmy beaumont's vocal" bing, frank or tony would never have sung it like that: impassioned, strained, desperate, assured, few people in the history of rock & roll have ever sung anything like jimmy sings "since i don't have you."

the opening string swells make me ten years old again, sitting in the backseat of my parents' car, miming the opening harmonies w/ my little sister. you know, as lou reed says, those were different times--and yet it's precisely these moments--the staccato opening of "i wonder why," frankie valli's falsetto, teddy pendergrass's howl, jimmy beaumont's "yoooooooooou"s--though but seconds out of time, that shape perception, thoughts, and futures, that explain why i listen to what i do and why i feel compelled to tell you about it.

No comments: