No tags :(

Share it

PEACOCK 1526, MARCH 1950



This seems like as good a place to state this for the record as any, so let’s call this review a public service announcement, or even a legal disclaimer when it comes to some of the subject matter written about in the cause of promoting rock ‘n’ roll…

Drinking booze is not healthy, drunk people are usually far more annoying than cool and to be honest a lot of the fun you think you’re having when you and your buddies are shit-faced drunk wouldn’t get any of you to crack even a slight smile when you were fully sober.

Sorry to break the news to you and debunk the legend that we here have helped perpetuate over the last few years of hyping the drunken reprobates of rock ‘n’ roll and their good natured odes to guzzling wine, beer, whisky and all sorts of other legal embalming fluids, but that kind of “fun” is mostly an act and high time you all knew it.


Drove Your Troubles Away
A large part of the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll rests in the illicit nature of the music. But the fact of the matter is no music of the last hundred years in America has ever been criminal to write, perform or listen to. Frowned upon?… Yes. Sometimes banned from the airwaves even, but not illegal to possess.

So if you’re an artist trying to convey a sense of rebellion (or at least some societal disapproval in your music) to promote yourself and to attract an audience similarly dissatisfied with the status quo you need to find a way to do so that is universal in nature and can be presented in a way that’s far more enjoyable than merely stating your opposition to some legislation or local ordinance even when using melodic rhyming couplets to do so.

Hence the popularity of flaunting the generally accepted rules of decorum for civilized society. Now occasionally this may include actual odes to some felonious behavior, murder, beatings and theft among them, but those are not quite a surefire way to encourage communal singalongs unless you’re a resident of Cell Block Number Nine.

But drinking on the other hand implies all sorts of vague improprieties, from the mild (such as underage imbibing) to the wild (your run of the mill drunken orgies) and anything and everything in between.

Essentially if you pour a drink in a song, at least one to celebrate with rather than to drown your sorrows in (though that too is a common trope in music), you’re suggesting a certain festive environment and then letting the audience’s own imagination – and experience in such settings – fill in the blanks, making it a pretty effective and rather harmless method of establishing a boisterous mood.

Of course some artists… (not naming names but it rhymes with “My Homie Paris”) are prone to taking these things overboard and singing about alcoholic debauchery in more authentic terms, sometimes going so far as to show up for the recording session dead drunk and delivering a record which is the musical equivalent of a bad hangover.

Therein lies the problem for a lot of songs dealing with drinking – not the fact that the artist will be a souse themselves, and just so there’s no doubting this point Iona Wade sounds perfectly sober here – but rather the co-called “merits” of drinking aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be… just like songs about drinking don’t always go down smooth and often leave those ingesting it feeling kinda sick, as Come On In shows.

Groovy As An Avenue Movie
The lazy, swaying horns (some might call the first few bars they play “drunken horns” but I won’t stoop to anything quite that obvious), set a very moody scene which then gets overturned when they change their approach on the dime, as if the saloon doors have just swung open and the down and out subject enters into this den of inequity.

Of course it fits the story that follows, which we’ll get to soon enough.

Musically though this is more harmless bubbles than anything else. The horns may play in a more sprightly manner but they’re the wrong horns, high and ineffectual, joined at the hip and more concerned with efficiency than bedlam.

This raises a few pertinent questions, such as where pray tell is the rhythm section? They’re in the studio maybe but are clearly nursing a pretty bad hangover. The pianist? Don’t disturb him, he’s passed out on the keys. What about the guitarist? Poor fellow is sprawled out on the floor, face down in a puddle of his own bile, unable to play.

For a song with a title Come On In it’s amazing how many musicians turned down the invitation and stayed away or showed up in name only to collect a paycheck for their next night on the town.

As a result this is one social gathering that’s really not all that social. The horns are the only ones making any noise and it’s definitely not the noise that we’d expect… or want. Even when the tenor sax gets a solo, normally the cue for all hell to break loose at these kinds of establishments, he takes it rather easy, giving us a drink with a lot of ice cubes rattling around, plenty of soda water but little in the way of intoxicating spirits… or musical spirit for that matter.

At least he manages some melodic grit which is more than can be said for the guy sitting next to him at the bar, trumpet in hand, who apparently slipped into the club when the doorman was bending over to tie his shoe because we know trumpeters are only getting into a rock bar with a fake I.D. and sure enough the drink he offers up with his horn is weak, tasteless and overpriced.

If you want to say the musical backing is mostly unobtrusive, you’d be right, but you’d be wrong if you said that unobtrusiveness was something worth singling out as a recommendation. No, this won’t offend you by what they’re playing, but it won’t excite you either and that’s where we have to wipe down the bar and ask Ms. Wade if the point of her ducking in this gin joint was simply to get in out of the rain.

Listen To The Music Play
Earlier we mentioned that most songs with a drinking topic had one of two standard themes, opposite by nature but both fairly workable in their aims. Unfortunately Wade spent her last quarter on a drink and didn’t have it left to flip to help her pick a side and so rather than focus on just one of those themes – drinking to have fun or drinking to forget your misery – she combines the two.

Learning that scant bit of information you might think that’s the reason why Come On In fails to amount to much, a song that can’t decide its own mood certainly isn’t likely to impart a memorable feeling in those who hear it, but that’s actually not the problem here at all.

The story itself makes reasonable sense… she’s telling someone down and out to join her for a drink and presumably as they get liquored up the other person’s trouble will be washed away, or as she puts it, “drown your troubles in bubbles”.

But unfortunately this is not some festive party that’s already up and running that she’s inviting him to, nor does she herself have anything to celebrate on this particular night. Furthermore the two of them don’t seem to have a single thing in common other than they happen to have wandered into the same place. Does that mean she’s just being friendly and beckoning some lonely looking fella to join her and have someone to commiserate with?

Mmm, not exactly. Actually, by the sounds of it Wade is either a prostitute or a gold digger, or if we’re being generous just some barfly who wants her own drinks paid for by a random guy and is willing to provide company, a few laughs and con-committal flirting in exchange for a couple rounds of gin… her choice of drink, not his, it should be added.

It’s a business transaction in other words and the currency in her world is alcohol, or the means with which to obtain alcohol, and the payoff – like the song itself – is only mildly alluring since her other options are going home alone after finishing the contents of her own glass, or getting someone else to fill that glass back up so you don’t have to drink alone.

Don’t Let It Get You Down
So let’s push back from that sticky bartop, grab our coat and hat – remember, men still wore hat-hats back in 1950 – and wander back out onto the street and break down the topic while waiting for a cab to take us home.

In life as in song booze is often just a crutch for those whose lives are not meeting their expectations and as with any crutch, real or figurative, it doesn’t heal the source of the problem, merely transfers the burden to something else.

It may taste alright going down, it certainly can liven up a dull evening, but its cost is prohibitive if you rely on it too much. That’s true of the theme of drinking in rock ‘n’ roll as well. Like so many of the songs using it as a crutch, Come On In (Drink Some Gin) promises more than anyone is capable of extracting from this well-tapped bottle.

This is merely an attempt to use the topic of drinking to cover the inadequacies of a having a quick recording session with not much time to work out other ideas.

In those situations when the last drop has been drunk, your pockets are usually going to be empty, your eyes will remain unfocused and your musical self-respect for stooping this low to begin with will not have been miraculously salvaged… and if anything the regard for your collective talents will have been lowered a bit in the estimation of those soberly analyzing you.

Iona Wade might’ve felt pretty good belting this out, or belting them down as it were, but when she wakes up tomorrow the record it resulted in will just be a vague, hazy, half-remembered night of no real importance.

Bottoms up.


(Visit the Artist page of Iona Wade for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)