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ALADDIN 3125; MARCH 1952



Oh no. Please tell me they aren’t trying this.

No… not the attempt to chronical every rock single ever released as we did with the advent of this crazy website six years ago today… but rather tell me that a bunch of soon-to-be musical legends we largely admire aren’t attempting to update one of jazz’s most indelible songs for rock ‘n’ roll by adding lyrics more than a dozen years after it landed.

Yup, that’s just what they’re doing.

Oh boy! Well, this can’t possibly turn out well… and yes, this time I might actually be referring to this website as well as this record.


I Can Hear My Heart Jumpin’
In 1939 jazz was the hottest music in America, not only commercially speaking where it had increasingly impacted mainstream pop music since its arrival on the scene at the dawn of the 1920’s when it was derided for being a bad influence on white America, but also creatively.

White folk, apparently unable to come up with any music worth the paper it was written on, had eventually come around on the idea that jazz was worth stealingco-opting… horning in on and jumped in with both feet.

Among the most successful in this musical immigration was clarinetist Benny Goodman who, while maybe earning the moniker The King Of Swing based more on genetics than anything, was still a monster talent in his own right and a groundbreaker of epic proportions as he led the first notable integrated band in the field without hurting his popularity in the process.

By the end of the 1930’s he was on top of the music world and had perhaps his most lethal sextet lineup of his career featuring Lionel Hampton on vibes and Charlie Christian on electric guitar, a relatively new innovation and an instrument whose vast potential would be exhibited on Flying Home, a dazzling display that announced the future in bold terms.

Three years later the same song played by some of the same figures (Hampton anyway) would set the music world on its ear yet again by unleashing a new approach on a different instrument, the tenor sax, as played by Illinois Jacquet whose solo was so revolutionary that it served as the template for most everything that followed in that department for years.

But here we are in 1952 and in rock ‘n’ roll, not jazz, and so the idea that the same song could perform the same feat for a third time in an entirely different setting was hard to fathom, especially when to do so they were attempting to affix lyrics to what had been a showcase for instrumental virtuosity.

That they enlisted Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for this task may seem like a major coup in retrospect, but the pair were still up and comers themselves, nowhere near as successful as Amos Milburn who’d have to try and make this mish-mash of styles, influences and ideas come across organically.

He didn’t have a chance.


We’ll Do All The Things We Wanted To Do
Pow, pow, POW!

The blaring horn blasts, straight out of jazz, that open this record in heart-attack inducing fashion may in fact be the high point of the performance and even they will have you diving for the OFF button if the volume is cranked up too loud by mistake.

Everything that follows is a train wreck.

Actually, being in a train wreck has been cited as more enjoyable than listening to this record by 92% of those unfortunate enough to have experienced both. At least if you survive the train wreck you have a good story to tell, with this record you have only a scarred psyche and a sudden hatred of jazz that is unwarranted because this ain’t jazz.

But it probably ain’t rock ‘n’ roll either, even though they try their best to convince you otherwise by throwing as much noise at you as possible.

It’s only when Flying Home cuts the engines and begins to sink back to earth like a lead balloon that it becomes remotely tolerable, primarily because that’s also when Milburn shuts his yap. Of course it isn’t HIS fault that they had him spewing so much gibberish in trying to mimic a scat singer high on caffeine, but rather it’s the fault of whoever’s bright idea this was.

But let’s circle the plane back to the 1939 and ’42 records this unmitigated disaster was taken from, both of which worked to great effect because they were instrumentals by jazz combos where trading off solos between instruments was the entire appeal. In that setting the frantic playing was designed to “Wow” you and both cases it did just that. Christian’s guitar solo in the 1939 version and Jacquet’s sax workout from ’42 were what everybody remembered, even now, a decade or more after the fact.

So Leiber tried replicating that wild rapid fire playing with Milburn’s vocals, cramming in so many words that the only real impressive feat is Amos’s tongue didn’t wind up in traction after spitting them out so fast. What he’s saying makes little sense and why he’s saying it makes absolutely no sense.

We’d absolve Stoller, who only wrote music and thus had no hand in perverting this composition himself, but he could’ve talked Jerry out of it or at least tied him up and locked him in a closet and saved us all from untold trauma, so he’s not getting off the hook either. Besides, if you’re so intent on having Milburn cut this song just keep it an instrumental. He had the band to pull it off reasonably well and since the piano hadn’t been one of the featured soloing instruments in the past, his version would have the ability to stand out by letting him show off his impressive chops on the keys in the process.

But no, they had to paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

Any way you look at it this has to be the worst thing ever to have Leiber & Stoller’s name attached to it and the same goes for Milburn, who at least manages a few moments where he and the band wrestle the song into temporary submission. My guess though is the ones who suffered the most from this debacle, besides those of us forced to listen to it for purely innocent studious purposes, were Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton whose names remained as songwriters on the label for the world to see.

I’m pretty sure they both wished this one came out on Modern Records instead of Aladdin so that Jules Bihari and his thieving brothers would’ve stolen writing credit and spared the two jazz legends the ignominy of having this monstrosity associated with them even if just in passing.


Every Time I Thought Of What I Did I Started Crying Too
Well, I gotta say this was sure a pretty crummy way to spend our sixth anniversary as a website.

Not only do we get a terrible record to review, but one that also manages to stretch the credibility of claiming this is a rock history resource.

Sure, we can console ourselves by saying that we were able to provide a crash course on jazz and its role in early rock evolution, but that’s hardly going to benefit anyone if they listen to Amos Milburn’s rendition of Flying Home and as a result then steadfastly refuse to listen to either the Goodman or Hampton versions because they’ve been so scarred by the experience this song put them through.

But once more this provides a vital lesson that far too many people in early rock – artists, writers, musicians and record labels alike – were frustratingly slow to learn which is rule number one is you should always look forward with your work, not backwards, if you want to matter.

Actually though, now that I said it, I realize that like most rules, rock ‘n’ roll learned how to break it.

But here they sure didn’t, because in this case the only thing that should be broken is the record over the head of those who made it.


(Visit the Artist page of Amos Milburn for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)