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For years professional songwriters – the Tin Pan Alley careerists – were in the job of creating songs with universal appeal to be sung by countless artists in many different styled renditions, so it stands to reason that the stories in the songs were rather broad by nature.

They dealt with the same issues naturally, ones relating to the shared human experience, but there was a general sense that the situations presented were not specific to the artist in question.

In rock ‘n’ roll they were. That was – and is – one of the main selling points of the music, an artist’s persona, their perspective and the way in which the audience related to it were every bit as much of a draw as the notes being played and the instrumentation that went with it.

Jesse Belvin was only eighteen years old however and his experience in life itself was still rather limited which you’d think might hurt his ability to put across a story of any depth. Yet here, the way in which he’s ruminating on love, both found and lost, might be even more impressive precisely because it was coming from somebody who was working it out for the first time in real life as he went… kinda like the fans who were gravitating to it.


When I First Met You…
As you can tell from the intro the main theme of this review will be Jesse Belvin’s songwriting, whereas on the top half we focused more on his singing.

He’s still singing here – and singing just as well – but whereas the primary appeal of Baby, Don’t Go was in his vocals – the way he phrased things, his intonation and how deftly he toyed with the melody in his delivery – what stands out on this side is how he crafted the song so that the story sits front and center.

Don’t get me wrong, he uses many of the same techniques to deliver this one too, but while on the other side those tricks helped to fill out a rather simple composition, here he’s brought some added thematic depth to the proceedings and so naturally you’ll want to focus on those.

* = Here’s the disclaimer where we’re obligated to say for the handful of old timers in our audience who claim not to care about lyrics, that they’re going to comprise a good deal of the narrative in this review. So your time might be better spent stewing prunes for dinner, or scrubbing laundry by hand on your washboard rather than reading an in-depth interpretation of some kid’s views of teenage love, which by now might be too far in your own past to remember anyway.

Feel free to skip ahead to the score at the bottom of the page so you can have something new to grumble about besides complaining of all the automated calls you keep getting on your landline phone*

The title here (which he changed from Jesse’s Blues in the demo version) is an apt one for anyone dealing with love, as no matter the age it never quite seems to be as simple and straightforward as you’d like it to be, so Confusin’ Blues pretty much sums up the frustration of trying to figure out how the person you like so much seems determined to drive you crazy.

Because of that maybe the fact that Belvin so accurately sums up the internal reaction to this problem shouldn’t be a surprise, but that he does so in such efficient clear-eyed fashion, traversing the highs and lows with colorfully inventive descriptions of his feelings shows that even though he had just gotten his diploma from Jefferson High he was more than ready for the master’s course in creative writing.


That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be
While the feeling of being without the one you love might be widely shared, the ways in which you can express those feelings vary greatly.

We’ve heard songs so far that are distraught over such break-ups and we’ve encountered those who are angry about it, bitter and even vengeful towards the girl. There have been some who’ve pitied themselves and are looking for sympathy and others who even claim not to care, suggesting they’re better off without them.

Jesse Belvin on the other hand occupies a middle ground, one a little more introspective, more grounded, yet also more troubled by this outcome.

No wonder he called it Confusin’ Blues, because confusion and uncertainty over the cause of this split, and whether or not he should’ve seen it coming, make up the dominant thoughts in his mind as he wrestles with the events that led to this.

The key emotions here are the fact that he’s genuinely hurt by what happened, yet resigned to it all the same. He’s working through his feelings in real time, telling us how idyllic it seemed when he fell in love with her but then how quickly it turned.

Clearly he fell for the wrong girl and so there’s bound to be some second guessing involved as he tries to see how he could’ve been duped so easily. Yet he refrains from really laying into her, not because he’s taking the blame himself, but because blaming her won’t lead to the self-awareness he needs to avoid this fate again in the future.

Though the basic plot is pretty standard, the way in which he delves into it is anything but typical. What’s really interesting is to see how he uses “a child’s old play toy” as the analogy, reminding us of just how young he was without overtly calling attention to it. Though it is a natural thing to call to mind for someone at this stage of life, he sounds like an old soul delivering it.

Epitomizing that dichotomy is how he’s still holding out hope in the last line that she might come back, even though it doesn’t seem as if he views that as the solution to his problem, let alone thinks it’s likely to actually happen. Instead it comes across as somebody still in love with the first impression of the girl, that innocence he saw in her and the boundless possibilities it suggested. It’s not HER he wants back, it’s the feeling of falling in love when everything is untainted by reality, before the inevitable discovery that people aren’t always what they seem.

Belvin’s weary voice, the equally aching saxophone of the great Maxwell Davis who delivers an arrangement that appears sparse at a glance but has multiple layers of instruments to always keep the focus on something different, makes this a truly atmospheric gem, one that countless kids in their late teens going through the same thing could listen to alone in their bedrooms and realize that when it comes to love, nobody really knows what they’re doing… but sometimes they sure sound great doing it.


Right From The Start
Despite his youth, Jesse Belvin obviously wasn’t a novice when it came to music, after all few kids his age could say they’d already sang lead on big selling records and toured the country.

But it wasn’t necessarily the experience he picked up in the studio or on the road with Big Jay McNeely that had taught him well, for he’d already had an intuitive sense of what do even back then.

Instead what Confusin’ Blues showed was that there are simply some people overflowing with natural talent who understand something so completely that it seems effortless. From the very beginning it was as if music seeped from Belvin’s pores.

His songwriting, his vocals, his manipulation of the latter to alter the impression of the former, were things that aren’t easy to learn unless you instinctively grasp them, perhaps without even realizing how unusual those skills really are.

The audience knows how rare this was however, as do other musicians, and though he was not yet old enough to vote, chances are that those who heard him at this stage of the game would’ve cast their vote for Jesse Belvin when asked what young artist was going to be a star.

Rock ‘n’ roll may have always been geared towards the youth perspective, both artists and audiences, but those with a few miles on their odometer in this business had at least been able to claim with some assurance that when it came to making great records there were certain things of value that you could only gain through experience.

Jesse Belvin just proved them wrong.


(Visit the Artist page of Jesse Belvin for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)