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We just spent a few thousand words trying to figure out the who, what, where and whens behind Jesse Belvin’s solo version of his and Marvin Phillips hit duet on Specialty.

The tangled mess that resulted didn’t seem to hurt that other version, which went to #2 on the charts, while the Recorded In Hollywood solo rendition charted regionally across the U.S., so presumably both companies made out alright.

But that’s the thing… they made out alright. The artists, as was always the case in rock history, were never quite as fortunate. Yes, Belvin and Phillips got songwriting credit on the Specialty release but whether that ever resulted in royalties for the massive hit is far less certain.

So while we can complain that Belvin’s label hopping makes charting his career much more difficult, confusing and frustrating, we can hardly blame him for indiscriminately cutting records for everyone and anyone willing to fork over a little bit of cash before he opened his mouth. He knew full well he’d never see another dime after that, but the results might get a hit record in the process which would mean more money the next time he sold his services this way.


Ain’t No Need To Cry
Looking back we have two options with assessing Jesse Belvin’s decision making process wherein he’d jump from label to label while rarely signing contracts, writing and selling compositions for quick cash but no credit, singing solo or with groups, the latter under a bewildering number of names, all seemingly in a concerted effort to drive us crazy in the future.

Option number one is to criticize him for not caring about his artistic legacy more, and for that matter not paying heed to his long-term financial stability since he was losing royalties in perpetuity if he signed away the rights.

But option number two actually makes more sense when you understand the conditions he was working under, where record labels were owned by thieves who broke contracts when it benefited them, such as refusing to pay those royalties, while enforcing their deals only when they stood to lose the services of a valuable star who wanted to record elsewhere.

In that scenario, Belvin was perhaps the only major player on the scene fully taking matters into his own hands, deciding that rather than get ripped off all down the line, he’d be the one deciding which terms he was willing to accept rather than taking the label’s word that they’d pay him royalties, bonuses and other pie in the sky promises.

In that regard he and John Dolphin were made for each other, as Dolphin’s Recorded In Hollywood label didn’t like contracts either, but offered anyone the opportunity to come in, cut a record and get whatever fee they negotiated, payable before the tapes rolled. That’s precisely what Belvin did with Hang Your Tears Out To Dry, which was needed to serve as the flip side of his re-done potential hit on the top half of this single.

He didn’t receive writing credit for it, as Dolphin gave it to himself via his Jacques pseudonym, but it’s clearly Jesse’s song from top to bottom. And while it was bound to get lost as the underside of his solo version of Dream Girl, the fact of the matter is this performance is actually much better than that one.

This is what they call an excess of riches… even though nobody got rich in the process.


In The Mornin’… Right Now
The theme alone should tell you what a clever songwriter Jesse Belvin was, as the title – and the line within the song – is humorous but not meant to actually be funny.

Tears are wet of course and hanging them out to dry seems on its surface to be a rather silly metaphor since you can’t actually “hang up” droplets of water as if they were laundry. But in the context of the song it’s still an applicable one because when you cry you tend to be sad and he’s encouraging you to dry your eyes somehow and get over the sadness.

Yet it’s not done for laughs, which actually works better because laughs in songs tend to diminish the more you hear them, whereas cleverness like this tends to increase over time because you start to pick up on it more.

But let’s put that aside and start with the musical side of the equation which features a tight driving track for something that is relatively moderately paced. After a slightly clunky start, it quickly finds its melodic sweet spot and cruises in third gear for the rest of the song, in the process making much better use of the piano and guitar than the other side did, especially the tenor sax solo which is tough and sinewy.

This is clearly Maxwell Davis’s work, as the session info (though not the label) states, which leads me to believe this was either a different session altogether, or that he came late or had to leave early since the other side sounds like Que Martyn who gets the label credit for both.

Keep in mind too that there’s a good chance this is a head arrangement which for other singers might pose a problem, but not Jesse Belvin, who shows off the pliability in his voice in order to stretch over measures where the instruments have yet to reach the end of their own lines, making it sound not only natural, but intricately planned out. This was always a trademark of his, giving those words even more impact when he held them, twisted them and suddenly released them in ways you never imagined.

Yet even that pales in comparison to the content of Hang Your Tears Out To Dry, which shows just how great a writer he was. Here Belvin takes the fairly standard theme of a girl who either lost the guy she loved, or didn’t get him in the first place, and puts such a brilliant twist on it that you do a double take when he reveals the guy in question was HIM!

That’s right, he’s consoling her by saying she’ll soon forget him because someone better will come along. Considering that Belvin himself was considered by every girl in his community to be the ultimate heartthrob, the guy they all loved and dreamed of being with, it’s almost a humble-brag if not for the sincere concern he has for her emotional well-being.

On top of that he set this up before that big reveal with one of the best stanzas you’ll ever come across which finds Jesse comforting the girl who is brokenhearted over him, by presenting something that may happen (or may not) but which he convinces her is inevitable by how ingeniously he phrases it.

Soon you’ll be dancing
And lookin’ in somebody eyes
Your heart’s getting real panicky
You’ve been restored back to sanity

For anyone who thought a break-up or an unrequited crush meant they’d be loveless for eternity, Belvin provides the reassurance that such feelings are only temporary and nails every nuance of emotion that she’ll have when she unexpectedly finds it again. That he does so in such a concise and emotionally impactful way is all the more impressive and you have to believe she was smiling through the tears as he said it to her.

From there on in he might as well just start taking bows. His first legitimate hit (the Jesse & Marvin track) probably hadn’t even been released yet, he was just nineteen years old and already was the best singer/songwriter in rock and he hasn’t even hit his stride yet.


Just You Wait And See
The funny thing – or scary thing if you want to take that perspective – is that there’s a good chance that Jesse Belvin composed this on the spot.

That was his writing method of choice of course, and if you want to be excessively picky and lob a criticism at Hang Your Tears Out To Dry you could say it’s a little short, even though it efficiently presents the problem, details the internal conflicts and wraps it up in succinct fashion with a deliciously self-deprecating twist in such a way that anything more would seem superfluous.

Whatever mythical songwriter you want to place above him in the pantheon of greats, you do so at your own risk, because here he not only comes up with a song that contains a poignant true to life story, but puts himself in the unlikely position of the would-be heel who comes across as charming and well-meaning at the same time.

For this he probably got twenty-five bucks and may never have given the song another thought.

Hit or not, surely John Dolphin got his money worth and then some. But unlike those artists who legitimately got ripped off, Belvin got what he asked for this – a few bucks and a record that spotlights his talents – and while the reasons why that kind of Faustian bargain was necessary to become a star remains the seedy underbelly of rock ‘n’ roll, one thing is certain… nobody who’s gotten to hear this could ever feel they were the ones being gypped.


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