IMPERIAL 5196; JUNE 1952



Pop culture terms tend to catch on quick but die slow, at least in the not-always up-to-date vernacular of adulthood.

In the early 1940’s the term “bobby-soxers” was used to designate the teenage female fans of Frank Sinatra and over time it morphed into a broader description of that age group as it related to music fans in general.

By the time rock ‘n’ roll was king in 1952 the fifteen year old bobby-soxer who once swooned for Sinatra at the start of World War Two was now a 25 year old housewife not interested in this new brand of music, and since those for whom that term was originally used were all white they probably weren’t even aware rock existed yet.

But that didn’t stop record labels from reaching back in the past to appropriate the term if they were in need of a recognizable phrase to slap on an instrumental record in another style altogether.


From The Back Corner Of The Sock Drawer
When it comes to sax instrumentals in 1952, we’ll take ‘em no matter what the name, or named them.

Who knows, maybe Joe Houston himself came up with it, though that’s pretty doubtful unless he was playing it on stage for awhile beforehand.

It doesn’t really matter much, of course, but it does show that each generation has images, terminology and references that are important for tribal reasons if nothing else. I’m sure that if Frank Sinatra, or his most devoted fans from the earlier days, were actually aware of Bobby Sox Ramble, they’d feel a twinge of uneasiness over seeing it attached to a rock record even if it doesn’t explicitly refer to them.

After all, you can’t rightly say that it fits the music or suits the new breed of fan who gravitated towards this kind of song so it doesn’t fit, as I’m sure they’d be the first to point out. But then again it’s only a B-side and whatever they called it doesn’t matter nearly as much as what it contains.

Though not as good, as exciting or as distinctive as the top half, the more appropriately titled Hurricane, this song is at least something that might just keep those aging bobby-soxers on the sideline for fear of pulling a hamstring.


Rambling On My Mind
As this starts the boogie the piano lays down is comforting and reassuring, especially when Joe Houston’s arrival is somewhat relaxed and low-key by contrast.

It’s not that he’s taking it easy… he’s swinging with a confident understated power for the bulk of this actually… but we know right away that he’s mostly just improvising something basic, straightforward and without any frills.

As a result Bobby Sox Ramble is the kind of song that won’t necessarily get people OUT on the floor if they’re sitting down or standing around talking with their friends, but if they’re already dancing it also won’t compel them to go back to their table and sit this one out.

In other words it’s a good mid-set number – either to ramp things up gradually from a slower song you were using to sway with your baby under the dim lights, or if you’d been thrashing around to an uptempo raver, then this is one that will help you to decompress and get your heart rate down to manageable levels.

So that means it’s flexible, yet also somewhat nondescript.

Houston’s melodic instincts are pretty good, it’s catchy enough as it plays without being truly memorable, though he’s misfiring on some of the notes, straying off-key every now and then without derailing the overall momentum. Luckily the pianist and drummer just keep barreling along at 35 miles an hour, windows down, enjoying the scenery as they cruise by.

Because of its comfort level with its own limitations we’re prone to go along with it and not nit-pick its shortcomings. But if you insist on looking for flaws we could say it’d have been a good idea to let both of those supporting instruments get a few moments to solo in, maybe a quick drum flourish leading into an eight or twelve bar run for the piano before handing things back to Houston.

But even without that Houston switches things up enough down the stretch by finding new melodic threads to pull which keep this from ever feeling stale or completely uninspired.

Yeah, it’s just filler – whether on wax or on the bandstand – but there are surely worse ways to spend three minutes of your life than grooving along to this.


(Visit the Artist page of Joe Houston for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)