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DELUXE 3219; APRIL, 1949

 
 

 

There are times around here when trying to review practically every record to come down the pike in rock history where we can offer something a little more substantive than merely noting who the bass player was on a particular track, or detailing how various record companies heartily patted the artists on the back when they walked in the studio, only for that artist to find that in doing so they had also lifted their wallet out of their back pocket with the other hand.

Those tales are interesting for sure, hopefully somewhat informative and maybe even entertaining to boot, but aside from trying to give the proper credit to those who created rock ‘n’ roll and kept it going one record at a time all of these years it could be argued that our efforts are not otherwise accomplishing much.

Which is why every once in awhile we’re happy that we get the chance to provide a public service with what we write and today is just such a day.

The topic is sex.

Hmm… yeah, I figured that’d bring back any reform school dropouts who were fearing a boring lesson in civics or a detailed presentation on the importance of flossing after meals.

Instead we’ll talk about the birds and the bees which is a topic that rock ‘n’ roll has never had much trouble delving into.
 

 

I’ve Been Waiting A Long, Long Time
Our guest lecturer today is Clarence Samuels, a loud uncouth singer out of New Orleans who may not have been present at the creation of rock ‘n’ roll… the big bang as it were… but he was there to see the baby being born and spent the next few decades sort of insinuating that he may have been more involved in the bedroom antics that led to its birth than history has recorded.

None of that is exactly true, which gives you some idea of the kind of boastful person we’re dealing with here, but we can’t fault Samuels too much for feeling left behind once his former co-headliner at The Down Beat Club, Roy Brown, became the celebrated father of rock ‘n’ roll and left Samuels in the dust. Though they may have started out on equal terms Brown was the one who got the recording contract, Brown was the one to score a hit with not just Good Rocking Tonight but another dozen or more to follow, and Brown was the one who influenced an entire generation of artists who sang with the unbridled passion of church while singing about far more sinful topics… such as, yeah, you guessed it, sex.

Samuels meanwhile was reduced to being signed by Aristocrat Records in order to pull a fast one on the public, as that company’s A&R man Sammy Goldberg viewed him as the best chance to capitalize on Brown’s popularity as well as to take cynical advantage of this new music’s rising stature by covering two of Brown’s songs.

In future years Samuels would claim that it was he who wrote one of the songs they both cut, Lollypop Mama, but while it’s certainly plausible he did it’s also somewhat unlikely simply because Brown’s subsequent career as a songwriter dwarfs that of Samuels and while we can’t outright dismiss the idea that it might’ve been Clarence who penned it, we also can’t simply take a disgruntled man at his word with no verification or compelling evidence to suggest otherwise.

Whoever wrote it though was hip to the sexual activities which would form much of the rock songbook over the next seven decades and since it was a topic they both would explore with some gusto in the future I think it’s fair to suggest that each of them had a little experience in the bedroom.

Brown was still single however and had in fact been run out of Texas after sleeping with the wife of the man whose club he was appearing at which led to his arrival in New Orleans in the first place and it would be Brown whose wayward libido would almost get Samuels killed when Roy had an affair with a California woman visiting New Orleans whose husband found out about it and confronted Samuels, who was then masquerading as Brown on a tour of the Golden State on the basis of his two cover records, and it was only the wife’s interjections claiming he wasn’t the philanderer in question which spared Samuels the indignity of being killed for infidelity without having had the ahh… “pleasure” of performing the deed with the woman he was accused of having his way with.

Come to think of it, maybe Samuels didn’t write Gimme! either, because after enduring these types of ordeals you’d think that sex would be the LAST thing on his mind.
 

Until We Finished School
Let’s pick a somewhat neutral starting point for the analytical part of the review, namely the music itself even though there’s hardly much here to critique.

The majority of this song is delivered with stop time vocals, meaning the backing musicians play just a few notes then abruptly stop to mark a dramatic transition for each of Samuels’ lines. The sound is so sparse it’s almost as if there’s not enough being played to really even count as a song. Aside from the churning horns behind Samuels during the chorus, there’s no melody whatsoever in the main structure of Gimmie!, just a few singular blasts and an all too brief rolling piano to set things up at the start.

If not for the two horn solos here you’d ask yourself why they bothered paying standard session fees to even have musicians in the studio when they cut this… actually AFTER hearing the two solos you might ask why they bothered paying any of them if this is all they were going to contribute.

The first solo, an alto sax sounding something like a drunken clarinet, wanders around aimlessly, offering nothing of substance – no insistent riff, no mesmerizing lines, no raunchy interjections, which considering the subject matter of the song itself those sounds are somewhat glaring in their absence. This is the solo of someone who hasn’t been outside to hear the new sounds in the air since about a week after V-J Day in August 1945.

The second solo, this one on the trumpet, at least makes the effort to sound energetic but unfortunately a trumpet sounding energetic is a little too close to reveille and not close enough to rock ‘n’ roll debauchery. The longer it goes on the further removed from rock it gets until it might actually pass the saxophone in its hasty retreat back in time… like say 1943.

If the piano, which is the only other instrument that makes its presence known during those stretches, actually stepped to the forefront and played only what he was already laying down it’d be a major improvement, maybe not enough to completely alter our perceptions of the record overall, but it’d go a long way to getting us to believe they were aware that we in the rock kingdom even existed.

Samuels for his part however knows we exist and he’s playing up to us. Unfortunately he’s also playing with fire when it comes to handling this topic and that, my friends, is where the fun and games come to a screeching halt.
 

Against The Rules
The premise of the song sheds any subtlety along with the singer’s clothes which doesn’t bode well for it being a well-thought out idea. Now we can accept many things that skirt the edge of decorum in songs, including guys who are hard-up for some action and are declaring their intent to hit the town in their finest threads to try and score with whatever willing young lady they meet. We’ve even celebrated role reversal when it was the voluptuous Chubby Newsom who was coyly, but blatantly, luring us into her boudoir to umm… “help her into bed” (notice I didn’t say help her fall asleep, because sleep was not her intent nor that of any red blooded male listening to her) on the indiscreetly named Bedroom Blues.

Though the acts they’re hinting at might be pretty transparent there’s at least as much flirting going on beforehand as there is action once the lights go out which means you can enjoy the give and take between the sexes before they start…ahh… “giving and taking” from each other so to speak.

But there’s also one very important aspect to those songs that Gimmie! absolutely lacks and that is the word CONSENT.

Even such notorious sex fiends and out and out reprobates like Wynonie Harris and Crown Prince Waterford, who were always one morals charge away from being castrated for their transgressions, had the common sense and dignity to let the girl’s response – or lack thereof – dictate their aggression. Waterford may have been crowing about scoring with a Coal Black Baby in a way that her mother would turn crimson hearing about, but the girl was clearly a willing and enthusiastic partner by the sounds of it.

Harris meanwhile, who usually couldn’t even walk by a shapely mannequin in a store window without hitting on her out of sheer reflex alone, actually resorted to paying for his urges to be met on She Won’t Sell No More when that was all that was available to him to get his rocks off. Neither of them however, nor anyone else on a rock record to date, forced themselves on anybody as Clarence Samuels does here.
 

You Know What I Want
The lyrics of Gimmie! aren’t just boorish but in fact they’re bordering on criminal. At the very least even if he refrains from actually assaulting her should she resist his demands there’d be an older brother or angry father on the rampage for Samuels if they heard his actions on this record.

As you can tell from the witty and to the point title, he starts off insisting she simply “give him” what he wants, which is obviously sex. He’s pretty clear on the point that she doesn’t even have to be at all into it just so long as she lays back, spreads her legs and not stab him in the back with whatever sharp instrument might be lying within reach. After all by the sounds of it he won’t take long, maybe twenty or thirty seconds tops, then he’ll be on his way and she can have the rest of her day to do as she pleases, maybe go shopping or get a manicure or her hair done.

…Or buy an axe, some rags and lighter fluid and go looking for him to give him what he deserves in return for his thoughtful consideration for her time.

Just so the kneejerk apologists for these kind of actions don’t accuse us of not studying the lyrics enough after we’ve heard his blunt demands, we’ll freely acknowledge the fact that these two are dating and have been for some time. He also attempts to abruptly change the implications down the stretch and come up with an alternative meaning (the technical term for this is “alibi”) as he reveals that what he really wants his her hand in marriage, as he tells her he’s going to the courthouse to get a marriage license and he “don’t care what you say!

So much for “I do”.

But that’s not what the story really means. Or rather, he spends the majority of the song laying out exactly what it means until he tries to pull a fast one with the last second bait and switch, thinking it’ll be deemed clever to lead us on that he wants one thing but actually is talking about something else and so he’ll be let off scott free from any unsettling implications. But not here he won’t because by then the damage is already done.

The details that make up the first two minutes of the 2:25 record are bluntly obvious and that’s what is meant to make the impression on listeners and that is precisely where Gimmie! fails all moral tests. Don’t let his substituting marriage for sex fool you for an instant, what he wants is sex and if marriage is the only way he can get it then that’s what he’ll do to have her.

The lyric that makes your skin crawl is when he says, “Well you told me I could get it ever since I was nine / You’ve grown up and developed and OOOH how fine / And I want it!”.

Whatever bat to the head, cap in the ass response you’d like to offer this clown, be my guest, I’ll see that and raise you an even more drastic reply. There’s nothing that can be defended about a song like this. The marriage loophole at the end was intended to take the onus off it which tells you that he knew all along how reprehensible the majority of the lyrics were intended to be… yet he sang them anyway.
 

I Don’t Care What You Say
Yeah, I know… he wasn’t serious, he never expected anyone to think he was, it’s just fiction and it’s trying to get a rise out of the type of guy who might feel similarly frustrated by his lack of getting laid, and it wasn’t like he was laying out a blueprint for how to coerce it from an unwilling partner in real life.

But while the particulars of all songs ARE mostly fiction a song’s sentiments are always based on real life, that’s precisely why they connect with audiences.

When Roy Brown is bemoaning a lost love we’re smart enough to know that he didn’t REALLY get left at the train station by Miss Fanny Brown but we buy his distraught act because we can picture a similar situation where that response would be applicable. When Amos Milburn is telling us about the wild party that’s going to be had in Chicken Shack Boogie we may not be there alongside him, drink in one hand, girl in another, having ourselves a blast, but we can vividly imagine it because we HAVE been at parties that fit that description and so the feelings he’s conjuring up are what we can relate to and thus we can enjoy them in that sense.

In the future when Shirley Owens of The Shirelles sings about voluntarily giving up her virginity to her longtime boyfriend, her doubts and fears of the repercussions of that act form the emotional gravitas of Will You Love Me Tomorrow, making it a realistic look at the conflicting thoughts that accompany such a step in someone’s young life.

Unfortunately Gimmie! is also realistic… in fact it’s all TOO realistic.

One out of every six girls is a victim of date rape at some point in their lives. These girls know their assaulter, might be in relationships with them and may have even willingly had sex with them in the past and enjoyed it. But when they say “No” there are far too many guys like Clarence Samuels out there who instead of hearing it, respecting it and heeding it, instead ignore it and forcefully say “gimmie” and take it anyway. Any song that makes light of that, condones it or tries twisting it into something harmless and humorous doesn’t deserve anything but condemnation.

I know that’s probably not what you were expecting when starting out this review in such a lighthearted manner, was it?

Well, every 92 seconds another girl is sexually assaulted in this country and they probably weren’t expecting what happened to them either.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Clarence Samuels for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)