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PEACOCK 1505, JULY 1950

 
 

 

It should go without saying by this point in the proceedings, having meticulously studied rock’s first three full years of releases in painstaking chronological fashion, that the purpose of this journey is to show how rock evolved in real time… not just the genre itself, but also the reaction to it and the way it adapted new ideas and shed old ones along the way.

But it’s also helpful to show how each individual artist progressed from one release to the next… how their success (or failure) to connect commercially affected their output in their subsequent recording sessions.

Yet there are times when this is not as easy as it seems, such as when a new record label can’t seem to figure out which number follows which other number and so their releases seem to have been thrown into the market haphazardly when going strictly by the label information.

But not even the frustration of trying to discern what came along when can dampen our enthusiasm TOO much for Gatemouth Brown’s best effort to date.

 

 

Can’t You See?
The people who bought rock ‘n’ roll records in 1950 were hardly paying any attention to the release numbers found on the label. In fact more rock fans of that era simply listened to the records on a jukebox than purchased them to play at home, just like today music fans don’t own the songs outright either, they play them on streaming formats and so in both cases it was song titles, not record label numbers, that mattered.

So the idea that Peacock Records were doing any damage to their own cause by releasing their singles a fashion most unbefitting someone who’d presumably learned to count is silly to even contemplate, even though we have to point out that Peacock 1513 and 1514 were released in February while Peacock 1526 and 1531 were released in March, book-ending Gatemouth Brown’s last single, It Can Never Be That Way (Peacock 1508).

Now some four months later we’re finally getting to hear Peacock 1505. Honestly, did they just throw these in a hat and pull them out at random?

Though it may not have made any difference at the time, seven decades down the road it tends to cause problems when trying to put them in the proper release order so that we can sing their praises… and sing them we will here, because while Don Robey might have had a difficult time in numbering these records, their number one artist clearly had no difficulty when it came to making records.

Boogie Rambler might just be Gatemouth Brown’s most well conceived song in his long career and it should come as no surprise that it was a huge regional hit on the Cash Box charts at the time.

Granted the song might be somewhat generic by nature but the performance is remarkably fine-tuned and the entire concept is as perfectly suited for his voice, his personality, the band and the era of rock ‘n’ roll that we find ourselves in as this was released in the middle of summer 1950… the one thing we know for sure, not that they make easy for us.
 


 
 

I’m Confessin’ To You, Brother
When calling something “generic by nature” as we just did, it probably needs to be pointed out that doing so is hardly meant as an insult. In many cases it’s a compliment because it takes the essential ingredients of rock’s foundation and perfectly distills them in coming up with a new song based on that proven formula.

Never has that been more the case than on Boogie Rambler, a record which of course has the boogie as the prime component of its structure, but which presents it in such an intoxicating way that it transcends a lot of what we’ve come to expect out of such efforts.

The piano lays down the boogie in a very deliberate manner, creating an insistent rhythm that his vocals ride with ease while Brown’s guitar adds clipped accent notes, choking the strings to get a slightly distorted tone from them. The saxophone gets the first solo, a good one too, the first note seeming to rise from the floor like a dog stretching after waking up, and while it’s fairly succinct the vibe it gives off further establishes the uptown atmosphere this possesses.

When Brown himself takes the second solo the mood becomes a little more ominous, but the upbeat and aggressive spirit remains intact as he alternately spits out a few notes and then holds back between others to keep you off balance.

This whole time the piano is churning away, sometimes coming to the forefront if there’s no other instrument to compete with, other times receding to the background when the horn or guitar takes the spotlight, but the rock steady keyboard work is the lynch-pin of the entire record, creating the momentum that everything else plays off, not the least of which is Brown’s impeccable vocals which is where this goes from generic to stylized.
 

Ain’t No Fault Of Mine
Because he was so proficient on guitar – and later fiddle – and was generally considered a really strong songwriter to boot, it’s probably inevitable that his singing voice was a bit underrated… or at least not focused on nearly as much as it should be.

But Gatemouth Brown’s delivery, his vocal tones, his innate sense of rhythm were what made him such a potent rock artist. He sings with the impatience of youth, quick on the draw, not always sure of where he’ll land but anxious find out all the same.

On Boogie Rambler Brown’s focus is getting away… literally. The story is more of a sketch, as all we really get to know is he was caught with somebody’s wife or girlfriend and that guy is holding on to him presumably until his buddies get there to lay a whuppin’ on him.

I’m assuming Brown is suggesting he’s just an immature kid and this guy is older by the way he’s addressing him as “Mister”, unless of course Mr. Cheated On is holding an axe already necessitating his politeness, but it’s important to note that while Brown is clearly concerned about his welfare, he’s also subtly bragging in the process, telling the guy that this is what just he does – goes from town to town and sows his wild oats – and it’s nothing personal.

The lady he was sleeping with insisted she had no significant other, so if you REALLY want to lay blame maybe you should get on your woman for lying about her domestic situation when agreeing to sleep with him, or look in the mirror and ask yourself what your own shortcomings are that she’d be looking elsewhere for satisfaction.

You gotta admire his nerve if nothing else and while the plot doesn’t resolve itself, the mood of the song leaves little doubt that whatever the outcome, short of castration, he’s going to be in somebody else’s bed somewhere down the road.

All of this comes across in a way that doesn’t mitigate the potential consequences for his actions, but which almost gets you to think it’s all just part of the risk/reward balance of being young and on the prowl… fast and loose and full of juice as they say.

Surely many a listener found themselves singing along in high spirits, blissfully unaware of the dangers lurking behind the gusto it exhibits.
 


 

Want To Ramble All The Time
Everything about this record, from the incessant rhythm to the three pronged instrumental attack, the bravado of the lyrics and the attitude laden delivery Brown imparts it with, is fully realized and honed to near perfection.

If there’s a complaint to be made it’s simply that it’s too short, clocking in at under three minutes when a lot of boogies were stretched out to a half hour or more on stage meaning you know they could’ve let this one keep going for another twenty seconds without any loss of intensity. Had they done so maybe we’d have gotten a juicy conclusion that would justify Brown’s cocky demeanor, such as the girl showing up and telling off her old man before leaving with Gate instead for another romp in the hay.

If so, it’d have fit perfectly into the song’s identity. If rock music is ostensibly a style that continually looks forward, even when it borrows from the past, then Boogie Rambler fits that description perfectly.

The ultimate destination may not be known but these trips are rarely about getting to a fixed point on a map, musical or otherwise. Instead it’s the journey itself with all of its unexpected sights, sounds and experiences that are enough motivation to get you on the road in the first place.

Gatemouth Brown was speeding down that road now, shirttails flying the breeze with a shotgun pointed at his ass maybe, but around the next corner was always another town, another woman and another night of reckless fun to be had which makes it all worthwhile.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Gatemouth Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)