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Though the specific day these reviews are posted doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things, and frankly a week or so down the road the day of the week they appeared won’t even be known unless you check the dates on a calendar, both sides of this latest single from Joe Morris missed their ideal landing spot as they were prime candidates for a Thursday airing.

Ya know… #TBT and all.

It couldn’t be more obvious that each of these songs are clear throwbacks to earlier styles of rock that have disappeared from the current landscape of rock ‘n’ roll in 1952 and while there’s little hope that looking back like this will pay commercial dividends for Morris, that doesn’t mean we’re wasting our time taking a stroll down memory lane to remind ourselves of where we’ve been, what we’ve seen and how we’ve evolved over the last few years.


Lay Down In My Bed
Usually outdated ideas spell doom for any record trying to compete in a modern context, but in Morris’s case he shows his comfort with both the moody instrumental aired yesterday and today’s attempt at the kind of generic mid-tempo stories that were common in rock about two or three years ago.

The difference is while Ghost Train made its allegiance to a specific hit record pretty clear, with this side there’s no one record it draws from, but rather a broad swath of songs that used a similar sound and style without it ever truly breaking through as a “hit sound”.

But it WAS a fairly common sound in 1949 and ’50 which makes hearing it revived in 1952 on Bald Head Woman momentarily disconcerting before its familiar charms tickle our subconscious and send us back in time.

Often it had been pianists who specialized in this slower drawn-out motif, be it Little Willie Littlefield, Lonnie Lyons or – here’s a name you’ve surely forgotten – Charlie “Boogie Woogie” Davis. But while Elmo Pope does tickle the ivories here for Joe Morris’s crew, the song itself spreads its musical responsibilities a lot wider than that, as the horns ebb and flow at a glacier pace while the guitar hums and throbs like electrical wires stretched across a prairie during the first rustlings of a storm.

The overall effect is quite good, lulling you into a trance that is pleasant enough to keep you glued to the speakers even had it contained nothing else but that lurching melody. The fact that it’s got an interesting story to go with it however means you’ll be sticking around just to find out why this lady has no hair and whether taking a trip to the recent past for the musical structure was the best way in which to convey that story of the follically challenged woman.

Listen All You People
Because the two featured performers wrote this together this record is as much a reflection of singer Billy Mitchell as it is Joe Morris, for while Morris undoubtedly had a lot to do with swiping the musical cues from the last days of the Nineteen Forties, it’s Mitchell who hints at his future role with The Clovers thanks to the humor in the storyline without trying to oversell it as a joke-a-second novelty.

Though you’ll probably go… well… at least a few days without seeing a Bald Head Woman in everyday life, in rock songs they tend to be a little more common. Ironically the artist known as Professor Longhair got his only national hit singing about one, but here because the music is less frivolous the humor sneaks up on you a bit as the story gradually unfolds.

After starting off as if this were a mournful dirge, Mitchell comes in warning about what I assume is a pimp or a practical joker named Joe The Bear who “will take you to see a woman who ain’t got a grain of hair”.

Why this should disqualify her as an appealing partner is surely left to each guy’s personal taste, but suffice it to say Mitchell, and probably most listeners, prefer their women a little more hirsute. It’s not the shock of the revelation that causes Mitchell shock, but rather his apparent revulsion of her shiny cranium.

Of course that doesn’t stop him from having sex with her, though he manages to toss in a swear during the description which was a bigger deal at the time than it seems now, but then again so too was a woman without any hair, so we’ll play along since we’re interested in the reception to this in 1952, not today when such a thing would be less of an issue for most guys.

It’s Mitchell’s voice that convinces you to stick with this, and as the story unfolds he – and you – are won over by this shiny-headed lady. Apparently the sex was pretty damn good because he winds up sticking with her even as he takes one last humorous shot at her in the fade, as if to ensure he’s not the one being made fun of over his own decision to keep seeing her.

Humor that belittles somebody’s appearance is usually a sign of insecurity on the one making the jokes, as evidenced by the last line in this song, but before that Mitchell manages to make it less about her and more about him which takes some of the onus off. The explanation as to how she lost her hair in the first place also manages to put her in a better light, as least as far as most men are concerned, so while he might feel a little self-conscious about loving her, at least he’s not going out and buying her a wig just to spare himself the embarrassment of being seen with her.

It may not quite rise to the level of chivalrous, but it’s as close as you’re gonna get in Nineteen Fifty-Two.


Come Back Everyday
The pairing of these two songs is interesting but maybe not quite as meaningful as it’d seem on the surface.

You’d think this might be a sign that Atlantic Records felt that their best bet with Joe Morris was to appeal to the slightly older fan who increasingly felt out of step with the current trends in rock and by putting out a single that turned back the clock whichever side you chose, the idea that it’d pull in those disaffected listeners who were close to giving up on this music makes a lot of sense.

But that doesn’t hold up when you realize these were tunes hauled out of the vaults as Morris was in the process of retooling his band with different singers, as Laurie Tate, who gave him his biggest hits, was leaving and he’d had yet to find a suitable replacement.

Mitchell would be the next to go but considering that Bald Head Woman didn’t stir any interest his ultimate destination inserted into the label’s most successful group might seem a little odd.

He wouldn’t sing quite this way with The Clovers, at least not in quite this old-fashioned manner, but the acting ability he shows here was apparently what they were drawn to, so if nothing else this stands as a pretty good trial run for what was still to come out of him.

As for a record on its own merits, though this is good enough to enjoy it’s probably not a gal you’d take out more than once a month.


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