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Well THIS is sure interesting!

We have Dave Bartholomew, the artist, singing a song that he first wrote for a female vocalist in late 1949 which also marked his first hit as a producer for Imperial Records who he just rejoined in that capacity earlier this year… while he was still cutting records as an artist for a rival label.

But the professional intrigue, while noteworthy, is not nearly as compelling a topic to consider as the narrative one when it comes to the choice of the song itself and the accompanying gender switch required, all of which makes this a rather unexpected entry in his catalog as a performer.


What’chu Want To Do?
Whenever we see talented artists we’ve come to know and appreciate over time here, leave us – as in no longer release more records, not necessarily kick the bucket – it’s rather depressing.

Not only do we not get to listen to any more material from them, but we rarely – if ever – get to talk about them anew, other than to perhaps find a way to mention one of their songs when discussing someone else’s record and post a link to that review hoping people will check it out.

That’s the situation we find ourselves in today and while we can’t add any fresh details to the sadly abrupt departure from the rock landscape of Jewel King, we DO have reason to delve back into her one lasting treasure, 3×7=21, the song from which this one is taken.

It won’t be the last time that Dave Bartholomew overhauls that composition, borrows elements from it, or otherwise re-imagines the song for other acts either, which shows just how durable a record it actually was.

But THIS re-working of it as Mother Knows Best by Bartholomew the singer was not something we saw coming, if for no other reason than the topic of that song was about a girl just coming of age who wanted to get it on with a man.

Somehow I don’t think the plot is going to be quite the same here, no matter how supportive Dave’s mother is of the idea!


Tend To Your Business
Okay, first thing’s first here… does he or doesn’t he change the primary motivation of the lead character once he assumes the role of narrator for the story?

It’s pretty safe to assume the gender change of the vocalist will mean a gender change for the object of affection (that’d REALLY be ahead of its time if it wasn’t!), but changing that brings with it some fairly troubling side-issues of its own, namely a guy on the prowl for sex has a tendency to come across rather differently, especially since THIS is a 33 year old man who may be hunting for a girl barely out of school.

Well, that’s what lyrics are for, to give us the answers to these potentially unsettling questions, so let’s get to it, shall we?

It seems that the girl is still 21, as he keeps the multiplication formula intact here, but now he’s claiming to just be 18.

But while that sidesteps one potentially concerning issue, it actually renders the ensuing story a lot less powerful, to say nothing of the fact that we know Dave Bartholomew far too well – and his voice sounds far too mature – to pass muster as a teenager.

Granted, Chuck Berry would make a career singing this kind of thing when he was nearing that age, but he also went to jail as an off-shoot of that habit in real life, even though he was railroaded in that particular case. But I digress.

Anyway, the focus here is Mother Knows Best, which tells me that Dave’s Mom should stay out of her son’s music decisions, because as good of a song as the original was, the adjustments he felt compelled to make to keep that initial premise intact undercut its effectiveness, as he winds up complaining about things that a real-life 18 year old boy would be actively participating in himself!

There was an easy and rather obvious solution to this and that was to simply tell the truth in the lyrics. Have him present the same exact situation – he falls for a 21 year old, his mother warns against marrying her, they don’t listen and go through with it anyway – and show how his mother really DID know best all along when the girl runs around to be with the “bobby-soxers” her own age. That make a lot more sense.

This needless confusion mars what otherwise is an excellent arrangement that slows everything down from the original rendition while also shifting the focus from horns to guitar with Todd Rhodes’ decidedly non-New Orleans band, creating a more somber atmosphere than Jewel King’s eager expectation for such an act had required.

Even Dave’s vocals, never the surest bet to make when it comes to him pulling it off, are quite good, certainly fitting for the storyline anyway as he balances early certainty with a rueful aftermath by merely altering his inflections. So that’s why it’s sad to report that just one line – one number in that one line really – winds up pulling this down and turns this into nothing more than an afterthought.


All I Have To Lose
There will be those who claim – with some justification – that singers are like actors in a way, playing a part that isn’t meant to be taken as fact, and as if proof were needed we don’t care that Cary Grant’s mother in North By Northwest, played by Jessie Royce Landis, was just three years Grant’s senior in real life.

But the fact is, Dave Bartholomew was adapting a song he’d previously written and already changing things about it to suit the new perspective and plot twist, most of which worked really well. What didn’t was the age he gave himself, not just because it was so blatantly false from what we already knew (Bartholomew’s specific age might not have been known by those buying this, but he’d been making records since 1947 which means he’d have been 13 then if you believed his claims here), but because it causes the story itself not to make much sense.

He undermines the best point it could’ve made for the story at hand if he’d simply remained his own age, fell for a much younger girl, was warned by his mother that it might not work because of the different stages of life they were at, and then had the girl prove to be too immature to settle down, showing that Mother Knows Best after all.

In other words, our complaint here is not a criticism of lying about your age, because we as a species really shouldn’t care about what minute a person was born anyway, instead it’s a literary criticism related to plot which is always a much more unforgivable sin.

All of which is a shame because everything else here is carried off surprisingly well. But as a result of his vanity, or merely a re-write that didn’t go far enough, instead of us singing the praises of an unlikely re-working of a past hit we’re left to watch it be easily forgotten… kind of like an impetuous marriage that didn’t take come to think of it.


(Visit the Artist page of Dave Bartholomew for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)