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MACY’S 5007; JUNE 1950



One of the enduring truths of rock ‘n’ roll is that it doesn’t grow old. New styles emerge to take the place of older forms of the music, but the intrinsic attitude of them all is to celebrate the kind of reckless behavior that is best exemplified in the young.

But to do this it also needs to pointedly distance itself from the views of previous generations. Usually it does so musically by focusing on a boisterous aggressive sound, but occasionally, in order to make the distinction totally clear, it does so by showing just what the elderly are missing out on by not being in the loop when it comes to enjoying this kind of music.

These efforts may not quite serve as a time machine for the retirement community but if it helps put a little pep in their step it proved its point.


Wanna Have Some Fun
The horns that open this sound slightly out of date… yet the guitar that answers them sounds as if it’s taken from the near future.

Therein lies the strange dichotomy of Old Woman Boogie – whether the dominant trait will wind up being the “old” part of the title, or the “boogie”.

Robinson’s weathered nasal voice is definitely leaning towards the former. He sounds worn down by life, slightly soused in the way his words seem to have no hard edges on their consonants to give them distinction, just a half step away from being slurred. They’re vocals as seen (or heard) through a glass of dirty water, the image still visible but not exactly pristine.

That submerged delivery means this isn’t the easiest fit in the genre at times, severing some of the connection a singer needs to make with a listener and robbing the message of a good deal of its vitality, which is a shame because the words he’s singing are a perfect fit in rock… in fact they’ve seemingly been directly inspired by another rock song.

I don’t think you could quite call this an “answer record” to Jewel King’s 3×7=21, though it comes pretty close to it. If it’s hijacked the plot though you’d have to call this a sequel from another time… 1992 to be precise, as Robinson informs us the subject of his song is ”3×21” – and for those for whom math is not your strong suit, that’s sixty-three years old in case you were wondering.

Obviously that line is a direct play on King’s song but then rather than directly comment on the earlier hit, Robinson doubles back to tell us that when this woman was twenty-one herself she didn’t have any fun and now in her old age is doing her best to make up for that and recapture her lost youth.

It’s a good premise… really good in fact if you were to emphasize the effect that listening to rock ‘n’ roll has on her rejuvenated mindset.

The lyrics don’t exactly make the most of that opportunity to show rock’s transformative effect on her however, as it chooses instead to paint Robinson as a gold digger, taking advantage of this dottering old lady’s desire to go out on the town as a way to get her to buy him things so he’ll accompany her and show her the hottest night spots.

It’s an interesting plot twist for sure but one they don’t have enough room to expand on in a song that runs barely over two minutes long. With an extra minute to include another stanza about their activities together once she accepts his “offer” to help her find the fountain of youth by hitting the clubs, getting her drunk and possibly even laid, then you’d have a more well-rounded song and some potential notoriety if you really pushed the boundaries of decency.

But as it is the record is more of a scene setter than a full blown story, though at least it’s Robinson’s good fortune to have some musicians capable of making that scene come to life.

Yes! Yes!
Like the vocals the backing music is a little bit disheveled but no worse for the wear. Like all boogies the bedrock is something so well-established that it’s almost hard to screw it up without some perverse effort on the band’s part to undermine it.

But just because the essentials are all present and accounted for – the piano anchoring the rhythm with drums to add some forcefulness – doesn’t mean you can coast on that alone and have it suffice. You need to bring something more to the table, both to give the song a more distinct identity as well as to bolster the energy of the track and make it propulsive enough to drag people along in its wake.

They do a fairly good job of that on Old Woman Boogie, first by the simple act of adding hand-claps to give a participatory feel to the rhythm, echoing the drummer and instilling a surging current to the music. They then draw attention to that all-for-one mentality with the vocal replies – “Yes! Yes!” – to each of Robinson’s lines.

All of this draws you in a little bit more and gives you a sense of camaraderie, allowing you to picture the kind of club setting where dozens of people are gathered to live it up and enjoy life, each one contributing to the vibe of the place by their attitude and enthusiasm alone. That lets Robinson off the hook somewhat for not going into details about the joints he’s taking this woman to, knowing that the band is replacing any details he could offer verbally with a more natural “aura” of those nightspots.

All of that comes to a head in the break of course, which are usually the defining moments of records like this… for good or for bad. Too mellow and the image they create won’t be enticing enough to want to visit by listening again, too hot however might lead some to want to throw Robinson out on the street for bringing down the excitement whenever he opens his mouth.

So the band stakes out a middle ground, the sax starting off higher in its range as the drums pulse in the background and the piano picks up the rhythm to ensure there’s a basic road map to follow. As it goes on the horn starts playing with more forcefulness, dropping down to a baritone range for emphasis, before taking off again with its most inspired and frenzied stretch.

It never blows the doors off the place, but it’s unbridled enough that there won’t be too many left in their seats when he’s done, no matter how old and decrepit they were when they entered.


I Want You To Buy Me A Cadillac
Essentially this was a song that was tailor made to keep Robinson’s options open as his career unfolded, making sure that he remained viable in the rock community while he pursued a concurrent career in the blues field.

The top side of this release, Answer To Wintertime Blues, was an attempt to follow up his labelmate, Lester Williams, hit from this past winter, which reeks of callous appropriation. I mean if someone had to be so blatantly crass by cutting such a record, shouldn’t that “honor” go to Williams himself?

But with that side clearly aiming to place Hubert Robinson in an entirely different setting then it was imperative to not completely sever his connection to the rockers in the process, hence we get Old Woman Boogie, generic by nature with just a hint of lyrical creativity to give it some character before letting the band do most of the heavy lifting.

It wasn’t meant to be a hit, nor was it good enough to become one, but it wasn’t a complete throwaway either and since it was doubtful that even with a much more focused and inspired effort than this Robinson would never ascend to greatness, we have to be grateful that he at least didn’t turn his back on us altogether.

Old women and young men… or vice versa if you prefer… all need some senseless excitement in their lives and since that’s been rock ‘n’ roll’s primary appeal from the start, this fills that prescription.


(Visit the Artist page of Hubert Robinson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)