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JUBILEE 5090; JULY 1952



Okay, after trashing the mere decision to cover a current pop hit on the flip side and further harm the careers and reputations of their top two rock artists in the process, some of you might look at the familiar title here – no doubt thanks to the later 1959 hit version by The Flamingos, an all-time rock classic – and say “Thank heavens, Jubilee Records is finally coming to their senses”.

Oh how wrong you are!

Remember, in 1952 though this song had just been cut in a good rendition by another rock vocal group, it was still unquestionably a pop standard and so unless the artists, arrangers, producers, band and record label involved actively took steps to ensure that it was going to be re-worked to conform to rock’s far different aesthetical requirements, this had every chance to be just as bad as the top half of the single.

Possibly even worse.


(Let’s) All Disappear From View
When choosing which side of a single to review first in this project the choice is sometimes obvious. If there’s a huge hit, usually we’ll go with that. A more lasting record? Ditto.

We could simply decide to do the A-side of each release first followed by the B-side, but sometimes those aren’t clearly designated and occasionally the flip winds up being the bigger and more important song in the artist’s career.

Maybe it shouldn’t matter – and for many of you it probably doesn’t – but for me it does because if at all possible I kinda like there to be a continuing narrative from one review to the next and if we’re going to spend two consecutive reviews tearing Jerry Blaine and his decrepit company, Jubilee Records, to shreds we’d like it to be done in a neat and orderly fashion rather than simply burn and pillage.

Since Once In Awhile was a current pop hit by one of music’s biggest stars, even though as a composition it was much older and had been already cut by The Ravens in 1948 and would be recorded by in the early sixties by Fats Domino, The Platters, and The Chimes (who had the only rock hit with it in 1960), it was clear that Jubilee was thinking of IT as the main reason for issuing this the same day as another Edna McGriff solo effort, which itself came just a few short weeks after another single she’d done.

I mean, why be in such a hurry to wreck her career unless you were pressed for time, right?

But in order to do so they needed something to put on the other side and it’s clear they’re not trying to siphon sales off a current best seller with I Only Have Eyes For You.

Oh, I know, maybe they WERE inspired to do it when they heard The Swallows rock version this past spring, but that wasn’t a hit, nor was Billie Holiday’s from this same year or Stan Getz’s instrumental rendition from 1951.

In other words, it was not about jumping on a hot record’s bandwagon as much as it was about simply grabbing a good composition to try and turn it into something suitable for Edna McGriff and Sonny Til… which is what makes the results all the more disappointing, because unlike the cover of the top half where the blueprint might be more rigidly adhered to for commercial purposes, here they have a lot more leeway – and a lot better song – and somehow came up with something even less appealing in the process.

Maybe Millions Of People Pass By (For Good Reason)
On every song we’ve covered in her brief career we’ve gone out of our way to praise Edna McGriff’s vocals, which are strong, confident, well-judged, technically proficient and emotionally grounded.

Even on the other side of this single, hardly the best showcase for a rock singer who is saddled with an arrangement that could curdle milk, McGriff came away sounding very good and made us feel a little guilty about criticizing the record so vociferously when it clearly wasn’t her fault at all.

But here we’ll add her to our list of those we’re going to criticize, even when admitting that she may have been just as disgusted by Jubilee Records choices as we are and sang I Only Have Eyes For You badly as a form of protest against their meddling with her once promising career.

You might say that’s far fetched, but I don’t know if there’s a more reasonable explanation for her suddenly sounding so dismal as this kicks off.

For starters she’s out of step with the music, taking this too fast and seeming unsure of where the rhythm should land. That in turn causes her voice to be stripped of some of its most endearing qualities, such as how well she holds notes and seems to look inward when singing in order to contemplate their meaning. Mostly this performance gives the impression of somebody trying to fall in line with people marching in lockstep while her own shoelaces are tied together.

Gone is the lilting melody, gone is the tinge of bittersweet dreamy romance in her voice and gone is our patience for Jubilee who is callously wasting our time yet again with their inept butchering of any and all records they lay their filthy rotten slimy disease-ridden hands on.

Of course maybe McGriff was thrown by the fact that with the solemn organ that kicks this off it sounds as if she’s entering a funeral parlor. She IS of course and when she sees her own name on the headstone my guess is singing this in tune will be the least of her concerns.

Thankfully Sonny Til is around to let her know that they can still have some fun in this musical purgatory brought about by that musical grim reaper known as Jerry Blaine, as when he starts singing with more zest than we expected it’s like Zombie Sonny clawing his way out of the grave for revenge.

He may not quite get it, but his appearance turns the song on its head to a degree, adding some off-beat funkiness to the proceedings and injecting some much needed emotion in the song. This spurs McGriff on somewhat and since they’re required to sing in harmony at various times she’s compelled to take his lead, but while their renewed vigor prevents this from flatlining completely, it can’t possibly bring it back to life and get the corpse dancing around the room.

I Don’t Know If We’re In A Garden (Or In The Seventh Circle Of Hell)
Speaking of death… thankfully as we write this Jerry Blaine has been dead fifty years and thus he’s unable to ruin rock ‘n’ roll more than he already did in his lifetime. He never managed to kill it entirely, but it clearly wasn’t for lack of trying.

So just how do we properly deal with him and his destructive nature in our ongoing history of rock analysis?

We’ve already skewered him for keeping The Orioles focused far too often on pop crossover material and we’ve been just as vociferous in our objections for trying now to do the same with Edna McGriff.

We’ve laughed at his recent obsession with Hawaiian guitar and churchy organs, both of which are prominent on I Only Have Eyes For You, and we’ve now ridiculed his decision to pair up McGriff with Sonny Til considering their voices don’t mesh well and the songs they’ve tackled are not duets by nature and thus there’s no creative reason to bring them together in the first place.

How much more do we have to say to convey just how harmful he was to the music we’re covering?

I mean, we’ve already raised the possibility of exhuming Blaine’s decaying corpse and lighting it on fire and unless we really want to get carried away and suggest hunting down his descendants and torturing them for his crimes, we probably have to admit that our only recourse is to keep mocking every boneheaded decision he made and attempting to trash whatever pitiful legacy he thought he left behind during his forty-five or so years in the music business as a singer, record label owner and distributor of note.

But since none of that will help revive the reputation of poor Edna McGriff, a teenage girl who deserved far better than to be stuck with this miserable record company run by a moron, I suppose we’ll have to keep being petty and call him every name we can think of while we have the chance even though that’s not going to satiate our lust for cold-blooded revenge.

Ahh, fuck it, let’s just get the shovels and lighter fluid and meet at the cemetery after all. Bring some marshmallows to roast and we’ll make a party of it!


(Visit the Artist page of Edna McGriff as well as Sonny Til for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
The Swallows (May, 1952)