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DECCA 48135; FEBRUARY, 1950

 
 

 

Somewhere in the world almost every minute of every day two people are in the process of falling in love.

Most of the time these crushes are fleeting in nature, but at the time they’re happening each party hopes this will be one which will last. They dream their lives together will equal the giddy feelings of infatuation they both have when first they meet. Their expectations may be high but when you’re in the rapture of first love those expectations are often alarmingly easy to meet, simply because you choose to see the best in one another. Your differences, whatever they may be, are glossed over for the time being, deemed inconsequential in the big scheme of things all in the hopes that your interests will be compatible and your desire for one another will never wane.

Love is funny that way, isn’t it?

We know the statistics don’t come anywhere close to justifying this optimistic outlook, after all, half of all marriages end in divorce and most relationships don’t end up in marriage to begin with and to be honest most infatuations don’t even make it to the relationship stage.

So when you do actually wind up with the person you set out to get it’s understandable that you’d be unwilling to admit down the road that it’s just not working out and that you’d be better off apart. But love isn’t just funny, it’s also stubborn and so mismatched couples stay together and fight, lining the pockets of marriage counselors and bitching about their tattered relationships to friends and neighbors alike, all while everyone who knew them both way back when could’ve told them they weren’t right for each other all along.

Joe Morris and Decca Records didn’t listen to those who warned them their whirlwind romance should never make it to the altar, but thankfully unlike most dysfunctional couples who insist on dragging out their breakups over many long arduous years, these two hurried to divorce court about three months after getting hitched and we’re all better off for their deciding to end it as quickly and painlessly as possible.
 

 

You’ve Been Fooling Me Since The Day We Met
Since we’ve reviewed the first two releases of this pairing so recently it probably isn’t necessary to give a full blow by blow recount of their flirtation, hasty marriage, turbulent honeymoon and first skillet upside the head.

Suffice it to say Decca Records viewed Joe Morris, the former Lionel Hampton trumpeter turned rock ‘n’ roller, as a “safe bet” for their company to make a more serious foray into this newfangled uncouth music that was storming the charts and turning their respectable jazz stable into yesterday’s news commercially.

Meanwhile Morris, having seen firsthand the respect with which Decca treated Hampton over the years and knowing that rock music, for all of its hits in a relatively short time, was going to face an uphill climb to get even a fraction of that respect from the music world at large, decided that he could come back into the fold at one of the major labels and use that association to elevate himself to a position that he likely would never reach had he remained with a small independent label like Atlantic.

Needless to say both parties were misled.

Morris, who probably expected to be treated as a potential star and given free reign to record his own material was instead told to cut a bunch of cover records of recent releases that weren’t exactly a good fit in rock and then barely received any promotion for those efforts.

Meanwhile Decca’s ill-fated decisions were the result of trying to appeal to a market they didn’t understand and when those records didn’t reach the audience he’d left behind – who no doubt wondered what on earth he was doing – they became disgruntled and rush-released all three singles out in the span of three months before calling it quits and sending him packing.

Ignominious though it surely was for him, it was also the best decision that could’ve been made not only for Morris but for Decca themselves not to mention for those of us in the rock kingdom who didn’t want any delusions of musical grandeur out of him in the first place, but rather who simply wanted more of what he’d been doing before by giving us tight rock songs highlighting his top notch band.

Wig Head Mama Blues isn’t it and in fact its entire appeal lays in the title, giving credence to the saying You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover, especially if it comes out on Decca Records!
 


 
 

Almost Gone
When virtually everything they throw on this platter is ill-suited for connecting with a rock audience it’s best not to even delve into their thinking much and instead just count the ways this is wrong.

For starters the horn section, playing in unison (never a good sign), may not quite sound shrill but they’re certainly lacking any bottom – either a strong baritone or some guttural honks from the tenor – and as such they’re mistaking “pep” for “excitement” and wind up sounding grating instead.

Though we don’t exactly want that type of playing in the intro to go on for long the vocals come in too abruptly, not only in terms of the proper amount of time for a lead-in but also in the fact that Morris jumps right into the chorus after just a perfunctory lyrical set-up that sound as if the tune was rescued from Louis Jordan’s trash can.

If Morris actually had something worthwhile to convey in what he’s singing this quick transition might be more acceptable but instead Wig Head Mama Blues is a shallow put-down of a woman who draws his ire for being lazy and slick… or so he says. But later on he tells us she was out all night having ”a heck of a time”. I assume he means with her friends, or if we want to cast aspersions on her character then we’d assume it was with other men. Either way though that requires some effort and stamina and so it invalidates the lazy aspect of his critique and since she wasn’t making any effort to hide this from him, waltzing through the door at 9 AM, then it hardly qualifies as being slick either!

Whatever crimes she’s guilty of she’s basically flaunting it and that tells us less about her shortcomings as a human being and more about his.

Morris’s dissatisfaction with his woman may be understandable, especially if we believe her gallivanting about town includes infidelity – but it’s hard to feel much sympathy for his plight when he’s reduced to merely threatening to leave in a cracked voice that tells us he’s considering no such thing.

We, on the other hand, are already looking for the exits!
 


 

You Ain’t Did Nothin’ Yet
Because all of his accusations have the sound of desperation rather than specific grievances, we know he’s just reeling off whatever put-down comes to mind to vent his anger. Furthermore he tells us how bad of a catch she is – uneducated, fat, sleeps all day and so unattractive that he feels sorry for her because he’s going to dump her…

Well then GOOD RIDDANCE! Get rid of her, move on, let her be some other guy’s problem.

But of course we know he’s just putting up a front, stooping so low as to mock her for her store-bought hair, the relationship equivalent in this era of one kid shouting “And so’s your ol’ man!” in a playground war of words.

In many ways Morris sounds a lot like that kind of ineffectual kid grown up as he’s asked to carry far too much of Wig Head Mama Blues on his under powered voice, screaming rather than singing which makes him sound even more feeble in his protestations. No wonder this girl is treating him like dirt, he’s just gonna rant and rave some and then slam his bedroom door shut and fantasize that she’s now going to respect him since he laid down the law… all while she ransacks his pants to find his wallet and heads back out the door no doubt.

Some of this might be salvaged if the band were more sympathetic to his situation and added some muscle behind his painful cries, but while we know they’re excellent musicians they probably realized as soon as they ran this song down that it was so full of holes that their efforts would be wasted.

Instead we get a very busy extended solo, horns layered on top of one another but never really pulling together to build any drama for the supposed lyrical payoff that’s coming. It sounds as if it were done to distract you rather than galvanize you and without the type of rough and dirty solo a record like this calls for if it wants to drive its story home then it’s just a lot aimless noise signifying absolutely nothing.

Kind of like Joe’s stint with Decca come to think of it.
 

I’ve Got To Put You Down
What began with such high hopes for both parties – Decca and Joe I mean – quickly fizzled when neither of them were on the same page when it came to what was expected of Morris now that he was at a major label.

If Decca had genuinely wanted him to help establish them in the rock field they needed to leave him alone and let him basically do what he’d been doing with Atlantic.

Had Morris wanted to turn his back on rock and move back into jazz, which would’ve been a mistake but certainly understandable for someone with his background, then he needed to make a a much cleaner break from rock than this and not deliver, or be coaxed into delivering, records that were essentially stylistic mishmash, unsure of what they were even trying to aim for.

Maybe it’s fitting that his last single in his short stay at Decca was about a similar type of relationship with Wig Head Mama Blues serving as the stand-in for the big wigs at Decca itself.

In that regard we can excuse his unfocused vitriol a little more, maybe give him a bit of a pass on trying to vent his seething frustration with these wild claims against the one he put his faith in. That won’t help him when it comes to handing out a settlement in divorce court of course, but if he promises to put this unfortunate career interlude behind him and not bring it up again then we’ll at least vouch for him when he’s trying to land a date with someone else down the road.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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