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FEDERAL 12070; APRIL 1952



Wait a minute, didn’t we just do this a few days ago?

Yeah, but that’s okay sweetheart, you can do it more than once in a week. You know what they say, practice makes perfect.

So does that mean this time around we’re going to actually hit the moon, or strike oil, or whatever clever euphemism they’ve come up with to indicate a successful venture between the sheets?

Umm… no comment, dear.


Down Low, Up High
We’re all for songs about sex.

Sex is great, music is too, and when you combine the two… wow! Magic!

But like anything else it’s gotta be done right. (Both sex and music, in case that wasn’t clear). If all you have for a song is the desire to be bad and shock people, then don’t be shocked when people say it’s bad.

But why should this be surprising? Any time a broader style, or just a specific component to an arrangement or a particular subject matter becomes popular in music then there’s a lot of attempts to capitalize on it and just hope the buzz around the original hit benefits your record as well without necessarily taking the proper steps to build on it.

With explicit sexual subjects having broken through any censorship or blackballing attempts with The Dominoes hit from last year at this time, Sixty Minute Man, it simply took a little longer for the copy-cats to appear… probably waiting to make sure arrests and ostracization of the perpetrators weren’t imminent.

Now that the world hasn’t ended just because rock artists have confirmed this dirty little secret about human activities, music producers are sticking their heads out of their foxholes, checking around and finding out that maybe this naughty topic might be worth pursuing some more. Maybe not surprisingly the same company that reaped the rewards from The Dominoes hit, the King/Federal conglomerate, were the ones most eager to jump on this bandwagon, releasing two such records this very month.

But while Todd Rhodes’ Rocket 69 was cleverly-written, nicely arranged and well played, Connie Allen’s vocals weren’t flirty enough, raunchy enough or enjoyable enough to meet the standard we expect for songs about carnal frivolity. It’s still a good record, but not nearly as good as it might’ve been with a singer who was actually taking pleasure in the act itself.

Dorothy Ellis on the other hand, after some well sung stylistic misfires, finally gets her chance to fully embrace the rock aesthetic on Drill Daddy Drill which has slightly different problems to contend with.

While she seems perfectly content to be reveling in her naughtiness, of which we fully approve, the sex – as interpreted musically at least – seems to be rather mechanical by nature.

Of course mechanics… drills… okay, I see where this is going. Let’s see if they know how to operate the equipment though.


If You’ll Hold Your Drill Firmly In Your Hand
Records are comprised of a few obvious components that all must work well together to result in a great record. If any of these are a litte bit off, even if the rest are really good, the final product suffers.

You would’ve never thought that Johnny Otis’s band would be a detriment to any record they appeared on. They were remarkably skilled, stylistically diverse with plenty of success to draw from in order to best achieve the type of sound that would bolster the material.

On Drill, Daddy, Drill the intent naturally is to convey the raunchiness in a way that is aurally explicit – think guttural saxes and sharp stabs of guitar over a churning rhythm, kinda like the sex itself – while also being something which lays down an addictive melodic groove that can stand alone.

But they fail pretty badly at all of that here, as they are focused on trying to convey the sexual activity via a series of weak rhythmic thrusts while the melody falls apart. Remove the vocals and lyrics, both of which are good, and the instrumental track would be chucked into the trash can. A lot of this can be blamed on the horn section, particularly jazz legends Ben Webster and René Bloch., two exceptionally talented musicians who are also exceedingly flawed musicians for not being able (or willing) to understand their roles here.

The common consensus has always been that jazz musicians are far more technically proficient than rock players based on the difficulty of their charts and the requirements for their style, etc., but that’s bullshit because if it were true and rock was so simple, then why do jazz greats butcher it so badly? Because they don’t like it? You’re being paid to play it, you joined this band willingly, so play it better or get the fuck out.

Unfortunately for us they stuck around and insisted on playing and the fact of the matter is these horns have no balls, so how can they possibly impregnate a song about sex (to use a very questionable analogy). This isn’t even heavy petting, as the term was then, it’s more like someone just entering puberty having strange feelings they can’t explain and thus can’t act upon. The horn break is so bad and so out of place on a song of this sort that you wouldn’t be at all shocked to find that they’d never used their hands to grab something a lot warmer, softer and wetter than a horn.

Naturally that leaves it up to an underaged girl to teach them what’s what in the bedroom and she damn near pulls it off too.


‘Til The Oil Has Flowed Away
The lyrics used, at least after a rather inauspicious but still too direct opening, are really inventive. It’s one thing to find one humorous and descriptive term to use as the centerpiece of a song of this nature, but they manage to come up with one for each and every stanza, all of which surpass the ones that came before it.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ellis (who, while only 16, was married by now so her experience in this department is not violating anyone’s puritan ethics), shows she knows exactly what each euphemism means… which only makes you wish she told the clueless band members who figured that she was giving them investment advice on Los Angeles’ still fertile oil fields when she tells them “set up your drill in the middle of my field” before launching into the Drill, Daddy, Drill refrain.

Ellis’s racy charms are on full display here with every sly wink and lascivious grin which is why it’s so disappointing that they couldn’t have matched that with a better conceived and better executed arrangement. There’s no rollicking piano to spice it up, they use ineffectual hand claps rather than a relentless slamming back beat to convey the action, and they let those limp horns commandeer the song like Catholic boarding school instructors teaching sex-ed.

Nothing here works musically except Pete “Guitar” Lewis whose responses shows he’s at least gotten past second base with a girl. Even so he only just manages to rescue the second half of that aforementioned instrumental break with some sharp licks which for some reason aren’t amplified enough making it sound as if his instrument isn’t quite… ahh… tuned properly shall we say.

As a result this record is all Dorothy Ellis who doesn’t disappoint. It’s an X-rated song and R-rated performance saddled with a G-rated arrangement.

Because we’ve penalized Ellis enough in the past for her misfortune to be associated with backward looking men on all of her previous sides on two labels, and since this is the song she’ll be remembered for and she’s so good on it, we’ll cut her a little slack in the final outcome all while wishing Johnny Otis’s band wasn’t so determined to prove they might’ve been vastly overrated by all of us.

The song as written though is not overrated as it’s the one record of the era bold enough to actually suggest “using another hole” when one runs dry and leave absolutely no doubt as to its meaning. Too bad they were willing to go that far but not willing to see Otis’s ability to effectively oversee a rock band has inexplicably run dry.

Maybe he’s the one who needs to get laid.


(Visit the Artist page of Dorothy Ellis for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)