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PEACOCK 1600, JULY 1952



This is an analogy that is bound to make people uneasy… which makes it either the worst way to approach this, or the best.

One of the more notable political movements over the past year has been the vindictive all-out assault on people who identify as trans carried out by the spiritual descendants of Nazi Germany who are determined to make life as miserable as possible for these people who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong other than to live in a way that makes them comfortable while making those whose business it is “none of” very uncomfortable by their mere existence.

These politicians have enacted laws to refuse to let them use public bathrooms that corresponds with their gender identity, they’ve led a widespread pushback on addressing them using the proper pronouns and even signed into law outright bans on allowing them to transition medically in some states… all done just to show their mentally ill followers that they’re standing up to wokeness.

Thankfully we’re not facing that here in music in 1952… not quite.

But we ARE faced with a decision on how to classify an artist who is in the midst of a musical transition of sorts from rock ‘n’ roll to something else and how we handle that delicate situation will invariably say more about us than it will about them.


Let Me Tell You How I Feel
Not that anybody who’s been around here long needs this reminder but the entire purpose of this site is to show the History Of Rock ‘n’ Roll, done chronologically one song at a time.

But rock ‘n’ roll is never a stagnant thing. It changes naturally over time. New artists with new ideas make new records in new ways and those new styles invariably become part of the defining characteristics of the current trends in rock ‘n’ roll at any given time.

If down the road those are replaced with different ones, those which are yet undreamed of and far removed from what we heard in the past, then they too will become a defining style of rock at that moment, yet they won’t negate the definitions that preceded it either.

So while in the 1970’s punk, reggae, funk and disco will be the dominant rock styles of the moment, they won’t make rockabilly revivals or some lingering vocal group harmonies get classified as something else entirely. They’re still rock… not very popular or widespread perhaps, but still classified under the broader genre title as it should be.

But what happens when a verified rock artist decides to move away from not only their own former rock approach, but away from ANY rock style currently in vogue? What if they move into another field of music with its own distinct parameters? Its own fans? Its own history?

What then?

Well, usually that’s when we bid them adieu. For instance when Conway Twitty transitions to full-time country star, we won’t review his records at all, despite our enduring fondness for his past musical life when It’s Only Make Believe was one of rock’s most crucial ballads in 1958.

But in some cases such as when artists shift into more adult pop territory to keep their aging fan base happy as they no longer can appeal to the kids who rule the rock tastes, that’s when it becomes a bit more problematic.

When does the band Chicago cease to be rockers? 1975? 1985? How about Whitney Houston who had a succession of killer dance rock hits in the 1980’s before becoming a full-fledged pop star? Or P!nk who defined the snotty punk rock aesthetic in the early 2000’s who a decade or two later was singing to adults who were scolding their own teenage kids for acting barely one half as rebellious as the now fully grown adult on stage they were cheering? If their work jumps the border to play to a different fan altogether base but still retains a hint of their past allegiance, what do we do with those records?

We’re getting our first test in that area with Gatemouth Brown, the rock act with a blues bent who with songs like Just Got Lucky starts emphasizing the latter while downplaying the former more than he has in the past.

When do the scales of balance tip too far to justify his ongoing inclusion? Obviously we’re not quite there yet, but with each one of these releases we face the inevitable break that will confirm the transition to another genre is complete.

But then again this is Gatemouth Brown we’re talking about and he’s never going to fully conform to anybody’s idea of what he should be.


Going To Play Awhile Tonight
When listening to this for the first time when do you realize a) it’s NOT an instrumental record and b) not strictly a blues record like it seemed it was shaping up to be?

The answer is the exact same moment as the extended guitar intro is 100% blues by nature… something you may wish he never let up and instead decided to treat this as his first full-fledged venture into that field.

It wouldn’t have been a hard thing to do. Drop the horns, alter the lyrical message and sing in a more subdued fashion and it becomes a blues record and we’d compliment him for throwing that audience – who let’s face it were just as tantalized and frustrated in equal measure as we were to this point – a bone.

But without the changes to those aspects of the record then Just Got Lucky remains a song with a split personality once he starts singing with a rock artist’s approach and is joined by horns that back up that position. Because those atmospheric elements are so diametrically opposed to the initial perception, that’s when the mid-point shift becomes almost too big of a stylistic divide to safely jump across.

The fidelity issues thanks to poor engineering of the session actually help create a more “bluesy” vibe to the record, especially as it affects the tone of the guitar, but it also has an interesting effect on the vocal, giving it a metallic echo while the horns sound almost submerged in water. That haunting distance it adds makes the vocal section, as well as the sax solo, the most interesting part of the record, not just because it’s the rock aspects being played up there, but because it gives it added personality that seems to suggest something deeper is at play in what he’s saying.

The guitar solo that follows is little more rocking than the intro and certainly well played on a technical level, but still rather subdued and seems more of a space filler than a commentary on the narrative which itself is sort of indistinct, as Brown is laying out his plans for the evening without the enthusiasm to match his words until the very last line.

Then again, that too might be fitting for the circumstances as maybe he can’t make up his mind whether or not to be happy about trying to score some action tonight either.


The Drinks Are All On Me
All artists, not just Gatemouth Brown, have every right to identify stylistically however they damn well please (and FWIW that goes for non-singing human beings when it comes to even more personal decisions).

It’s not our place to tell anyone what they should play, or who they should play with for that matter. As long as nobody is being hurt by these decisions, respect people’s choices even if you’d make a different choice yourself.

As a blues fan I’m not even bothered if Brown makes the jump to the other field and decides to stay there, whereas when Twitty goes country or Whitney or P!nk turn into adult contemporary pop acts their new music won’t connect with me much at all.

In fact if that longshot bid for immortality takes hold maybe one day I’ll do a History Of Blues chronicle like this and in that realm Just Got Lucky will get the same score for the same reason, only the words will be changed around a little.

Then it’ll be the sudden rock attributes butting in to what had been shaping up to be a pretty good blues song that draws our scorn, not because he doesn’t do these things well, but because it simply is too jarring a musical split within a single record to be easily digested.

On this platform it’s the rock parts – the mid-section in particular, from the start of the vocals through the sax solo – which hits our sweet spot and so that’s what we’ll praise and wish the whole record followed that path. But since it didn’t we need to reflect that in the scoring, acknowledging how it changed the perception of the record and caused it to have much less impact as a rock release… or if you prefer, how the parts WE like caused it not to connect as well as if it were treated as a blues release.

But hopefully, even when we don’t find the stylistic welding of two disparate genres to our liking, we’ll still be gracious enough to say that they were to Gatemouth Brown’s liking and since it’s his name on the record, that’s all that really matters in the end, isn’t it?


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