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CHESS 1458; MARCH 1951



Quick, without glancing up at the title again, what’s the name of this song?

You forgot already, didn’t you?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone and despite it being the B-side of an immortal song, few casual listeners have ever heard of this, let alone heard the song itself.

If you’re one of those who hasn’t, instead of feeling guilty or ashamed about it maybe you should consider yourself somewhat lucky because it’s really not very good at all.


Why’d You Treat Poor Me This Way?
With all of the commotion surrounding the (widely overstated) importance of the top side of this release it sort of helps to deflect the dreaded label of “one hit wonder” when it comes to Jackie Brenston.

Of course he is one but artists tend to be associated with one thing above all else and for Brenston it’s the impact of Rocket 88 that overwhelms the discussion.

Come Back Where You Belong is the definition of a throwaway cut. Generically constructed, poorly sung, badly arranged, terribly played, indifferently recorded.

This was the same date, the same band, in the same studio with the same man, Sam Phillips, at the helm.

It’s easy enough to pass something off as merely a bad song or bad performance, but when you sit down to study all of the surrounding evidence maybe it’ll make you think a little differently of the praise for the classic side… It’s not that IT wasn’t a great record in every conceivable way – it is – but rather, that one is great because Jimmy Liggins wrote a great song that Brenston, Ike Turner and the rest of the band effectively remodeled.

However when left to their own devices at this point they were incapable of creating anything remotely memorable.


My Lovesick Heart Is Starvin’
Brenston gets credit for writing this, and he may very well have came up with lyrics, but the music was put together by the band with Turner at the helm and it’s not anything to be proud of.

Featuring droning saxophones with a sluggish guitar and aimless piano, everything here is out of whack. Brenston’s voice is unsuited for the slower tempo, drifting in and out of key to the point where you think it must be intentional (is it POSSIBLE he’s trying to imitate Professor Longhair and failing miserably?) and though the song uses a standard theme wherein a man is distraught over his girl leaving him – which I suppose explains his cracked voice – it doesn’t take the time to explain any of it but instead chooses to let him just cry his heart out over his plight.

If this were real life you might feel sorry for Brenston, because he’s clearly broken up over being dumped, but records need more than abject misery to sell them to the public who don’t know the participants – or more accurately, knows they’re fictitious – and thus need a little bit more to relate to on a personal level than what we get on Come Back Where You Belong.

For starters there’s no backstory, nothing to let us know who these people are, how long they were together or why she left him, all relevant and important points to make when telling a story. Strike one.

Then there’s nothing being done to advance the plot, to give some indication of what Brenston is doing to rectify this ordeal, whether he’s taking responsibility for her leaving, trying to win her back or perhaps track her down if she left in the middle of the night, or if he’s moving on altogether. We don’t know where this is headed because he doesn’t know, he’s too wrapped up in his own sorrow to remember to convey any of these details to us, the people who are paying money to hear him tell this story. Strike two.

Finally there’s no resolution to be found. At the end he’s right back where he was at the beginning, moaning about her departure, blubbering like a fool and – should she happen to hear this – giving no reason why this girl would want to reconsider… or frankly why we should care one way or another if she does. Strike three.

A few halfway decent lines, or partial lyrics, keep it from being completely devoid of meaning, but it’s not so much a proper song as it is an expression of grief and if you’re going to do that it helps to devise a better musical structure to make it appealing enough to wade through the river of tears he’s shedding in the process.

The Moon Is Risin’
Here’s where a really great band, led by someone who’d have a well-earned reputation as a great bandleader, needs to step in and provide some relief, but instead all that’s provided here is more reason for dismay because clearly this hasn’t been worked out well beforehand.

Now maybe being studio novices they didn’t know how many songs the standard session required, but they wound up cutting six sides, two more than usual, so it’s not as if they didn’t have material… it’s just that material like Come Back Where You Belong wasn’t much more than a basic outline.

It’s an aimless sound, content to merely match Brenston’s mood rather than contribute anything to heighten the drama or conversely to add some hope to an otherwise dejected sounding record. Instead they’re merely passengers here, frequently clashing with Brenston and adding to the muddled sound.

The horns are terrible, heading off in their own direction and out of tune besides, while Turner is breaking out all of his bag of tricks on piano to fill in the gaps with no rhyme or reason. Willie Kizart, because he chooses the simplest path with his guitar, comes across best, but even that is simply in comparison to the others who are dreadful.

Two moments of sunlight manage to ever so briefly break through the dark clouds. Early on the horns play a lick that sounds a lot like Jimmy Forrest’s Night Train, except that song was still almost nine months away from being cut (though it was adapted from a Duke Ellington song, which just shows the shared musical language of all these artists that were coming up at the time).

The other halfway decent sound they get is at the very end – not because it is mercifully over, but rather because they close it out with a well-worn, but welcome, flourish that at least suggest competency, which frankly is more than the rest of this indicates.

Won’t Come Home
You don’t want to make too much of a poorly conceived misfire cut during the first recording session a group had, especially when the flip side was so musically inspired and thrills all who hear it even now, seven decades later.

But… we kinda have to.

The reason is because of what it tells us about that magnificent top side, something we’re naturally curious about and heavily invested in after all these years.

Even if you didn’t completely pan this woebegone effort, there’s little chance that anyone would actively seek out the band that cut Come Back Where You Belong simply because there’s nothing here that is notable in any way. Not the song itself, the playing or the singing… or the production for that matter.

If you look long enough I’m sure you’ll find a few other monumental rock singles where something seemingly new and innovative was paired with a song from the same date which doesn’t even hint at the brilliance of the first side, but I’m not so sure you’d ever find a pair where the disparity in quality and creative vision was ever this wide.


(Visit the Artist pages of Jackie Brenston as well as Ike Turner for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)