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CHESS 1472; JULY 1951

 
 

 

Virtually everything wrong about the independent record business in the 1950’s can found in this one release.

We have a rapidly growing label that will soon attain a stature on par with virtually any company in the field which is being operated by someone with a disturbing lack of morality and who in this instance is associated with another figure on his way to becoming an enduring icon who had similarly allowed his own commercial ambitions to override his integrity.

The result of this partnership was a record that is a blatant lie in every way.

Come to think of it, maybe the only honest thing about this whole ordeal is the title of the song, which suggests that you might want to get juiced yourself so the twisted saga these deceitful swindlers foisted on us will be easier to take…

Or more pointedly, easier to forget when you sober up the next day.
 

 

I’ll Treat You Right
I’m sure many people reading these reviews are a bit… let’s say “surprised”… by the casual way in which we dismiss, criticize and challenge the legacies of the record label owners of this era, many of whom are almost revered figures for their roles in bringing this music to the masses.

But why would any intelligent person view them that way to begin with?

Think of it this way: The person selling you your new car didn’t design it, build it or tune the engine. Yet what they DID was try to snow you on its actual cost, low-balled you on the value of your trade-in, scammed you on the options and made excuses for whatever you were promised that somehow didn’t go through.

It’s hardly a stretch to say that record company bosses made car salesmen look scrupulously honest.

In other words, they too were just fast-talking salesman who had absolutely no hand in the making of the music you were buying. But whereas in the automotive field at least the designers of the cars, the engineers and the people on the assembly line got the wages they were owed, in music the record companies did all they could to steal the songwriters credit, then swiped the publishing while they were at it and refused to pay the artists royalties.

In this case they actually went so far as to deny Jackie Brenston the opportunity to even follow up HIS OWN #1 HIT when they issued Juiced… a song that was released under Brenston’s name yet performed by another artist entirely!

Now you might claim that Brenston didn’t deserve as much credit for Rocket 88 as bandleader Ike Turner did (questionable, but at least up for debate), or that neither Brenston or Turner deserved as much credit for the song as its originator Jimmy Liggins whose Cadillac Boogie they blatantly ripped-off. Okay, fair enough.

But Brenston deserved a helluva lot more credit for it than Leonard Chess and Sam Phillips combined as neither of them were at all capable of making a single record if left to their own devices, let alone a #1 hit, since neither one could sing, write or play an instrument.

So today we’re getting a record that should be a victory lap for an artist who isn’t even on said record thanks to the conniving rats who stood to reap the commercial returns for their deception.
 

If You Get High, Come Go Home With Me
As if the subterfuge over the person singing on this record wasn’t enough to contend with, we also have something that further implicates this bunch of sinister crooks if you look at the label number Chess 1472. Though it won’t become evident for a few months, the next Jackie Brenston release will come out on Chess 1469.

What they did was to schedule and print up a single that Brenston HAD recorded as his follow-up, only to pull it back at the last minute for an impostor because they felt that it was smarter to have a song that could be passed off as a thematic sequel to the drinking aspect which was at the center of his big hit.

For this they turned to Billy Love, who at the very least gets writing credit for Juiced, but not credit for actually performing the song… not that it’s anything to brag about.

I’ll let Sam Phillips incriminate himself on this matter, since he does it so effectively. “Chess was screaming at us for more top notch product, so I recorded Billy Love (and) used that as the follow-up and issued it under Jackie’s name. I bought it off Billy for Jackie”.

So, let’s get this straight. You thought you had a better chance to appease Chess with Love’s record than anything Brenston might do, so in one fell swoop you ruined the chances for a sustainable career for BOTH of them? How magnanimous of you!

We already bitched about Brenston not having the opportunity due him to follow-up his own hit and now being forced to have his reputation go down the drain if this song was bad, but if it were any good then it’s Love who doesn’t get any credit for it to launch his own career with. Nice. On top of this Phillips had the audacity to CHARGE the hundred bucks he paid Love for the session against Brenston’s royalties!

There are truly not enough vile words in the dictionary to accurately describe the ethics of Sam Phillips.

But all this underhanded deception for what exactly? A noisy, sloppy, unfocused song that substitutes random mayhem for the controlled exuberance of a couple of hep-cats cruising around in a flashy new car just looking for a good time.

Hardly seems like an upgraded model to me.
 


 
 

Let’s Stop The Clock
The thinking was that Billy Love could sound convincingly like Jackie Brenston… though presumably not as much like him as Jackie Brenston could, which leads you to ask why not give this song to Brenston and have him sing it instead? Love would still get credit for the composition, be stiffed on royalties of course, but probably get the same cash handout that he got for singing it and Jackie would have a “more appropriate” sequel to perform.

But alas, that never occurred to Phillips and so Love sings it instead. Whether or not he’s trying hard to imitate someone else vocally or not, the fact of the matter is they’re not very similar, something exacerbated by the frantic pace he sings this at.

The scenario being laid out might justify the frenzied vocals as Love is aiming to get Juiced, preferably as fast as possible. Unlike the laid back joyride of the record that inspired this, here it sounds like an inexperienced high schooler whose parents left on vacation for a week who’s eager to get the keg party started. But since he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing he’ll be passed out before the sun goes down while his family’s house gets trashed.

The band is just as out of control as he is, careening around the studio with no firm destination in mind, each musician trying to create as much racket as they can in the process. The electric guitar gets the most run time early on and you wish somebody pulled the plug on their amp. Compare this out of control playing to the intense focus of Goree Carter… or Willie Kizart for that matter, and the difference is palpable, where a skilled guitar not only would produce a better sound by knowing how to rein it in, but actually a more exciting one as well.

The sax that gets the second break is equally over-matched, blasting away indiscriminately and providing absolutely no quality music in the bargain. The pianist and bassist sound like the only two who’ve used their instruments before this session, although the band does manage to at least calm things down – comparatively speaking – behind the vocals which helps somewhat, whenever someone takes a solo Love starts hollering out encouragement and things go off the rails again.

My guess is that Love is just yelling to be heard over the din and with a greedy look in his eye is telling Phillips that if this is what Sam was after then he’s got at least three dozen other aimless hyperactive performances he could churn out for the same fee.
 

All Get Loose
Because of the ridiculous amount of promotional hype they poured into this – plus an audience who hadn’t yet learned what nefarious deeds Chess was capable of carrying out to get at their pocketful of coins – this cacophonous record managed to make a number of regional charts, albeit just for a lone week for any of them not named Chicago, where the company used their local clout to keep it selling for a few more weeks to be able to save face.

Though the contents of Juiced are pretty poor, they might not be quite as terrible as we’re grading it. The unhinged wild act he puts on is a little forced maybe, but it’s not inauthentic at least and Billy Love only did what was asked of him. Of course since that included selling his soul to a pair of devils we can’t let him off the hook entirely.

If we wanted to go out of our way to be exceedingly generous and give credit for musical anarchy alone we might’ve been persuaded to bump this up a single point. But considering all of the slime we had to reach through just to get to the record in the first place, we aren’t about to be lenient to the detestable low-lifes responsible for this con job.

Let’s put it this way… if the record business was like the automotive industry, this release certainly would’ve violated the lemon law and every one of us would be in for a refund.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist pages of Jackie Brenston for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)