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Whaddya say we get it out of the way and just jump from one rendition of this dubious conceptual idea to another and be done with it?

Not that Paul Gayten’s cover of the Louis Prima workout that we just covered yesterday was bad. Far from it. But we can’t expect lightning to strike twice with the same song, can we?

No… that’d be too much to ask.

Rock ‘n’ roll as a whole may have the power to fight back an onslaught of heinous character attacks and coordinated efforts to undermine its musical identity, but when singled out from the herd there was no guarantee that each and every rock act will show the same indomitable spirit when encountering songs from the outside world designed drag them back towards a more respectable brand of music.

Sorry Joe, you’re gonna have to fend off this attempt at conformity on your own.


There’s Nothing Like It Anywhere… Oh Yeah, That’s What You Think!
Let’s just start by saying the chances that Joe Morris, a former aspiring jazz musician before rock corrupted his musical soul for the better, would throw all of his chips behind rock ‘n’ roll on THIS song wasn’t promising.

For starters he had to have seen what Lionel Hampton, his former boss when he was but a trumpet-playing sideman in the mid-1940’s, had attempted with his own cover of Louis Prima’s Oh! Babe last year and while Hamp didn’t get a hit in the black community with it, he did sell some in the pop community, sort of bridging the gap between demographics.

Now with Prima’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! clearly designed to attract the same cross-cultural interest depending on the version, there was a narrow window for Morris to fill the Hampton role, especially since the expected white pop renditions were already hitting the market with Jerry Grey on Decca and Peggy Lee on Capitol jumping on the song right away.

Oddly though the reaction for this song, no matter the artist, was far greater in the trade papers than on the street, which is hardly surprising considering the reporters made almost all of their recommendations on anticipatory sales based on past returns. The public, even the white pop fans, were far less apt to jump to the same tune without a better reason than that and neither Grey nor the usually infalible Lee turned in convincing performances on this tune.

It was a novelty after all, and novelties either strike you immediately as humorous and engaging or they don’t and this one didn’t.

Paul Gayten had sidestepped that fate by eliminating the novelty aspect altogether and focusing on the underlying sexual connotations that were merely faintly hinted at in the others, but while that made his a far better record, it didn’t result in too many sales or jukebox spins either.

All of which made Morris’s attempts, whichever route he chose, one that was bound for failure. Commercial failure for sure, but aesthetic failure too if he weren’t careful.

All You Gotta Do Is Holler
Right away you know he chose wrong.

The horns are closer in spirit to his Hampton days than his rock output, playing that blaring riff with crisp good cheer as the drummer rides the cymbal just to drive the point home that this is going to be a few steps further away from rock ‘n’ roll than Paul Gayten’s record.

They’re playing energetically – that’s the whole point of the song after all, no matter who’s doing it – but it’s an artificial enthusiasm created by the notes on the page, not the passion of musicians.

Things get worse when Morris himself starts to sing, primarily because he’s not a singer. I know, I know, he’s sung on record in the past and done okay, but now that’s he got Laurie Tate on board as his vocalist – who delivered two huge hits with her first two releases no less – you’d think he’d realize that it was better to have someone who sang as their primary occupation handling these chores rather than someone for whom it was a sideline after leading the band and playing the trumpet.

Now it has to be said that despite her success, Tate’s days with Morris’s band were coming to an end, if they hadn’t already. Her last session with them came at the end of November and though she still has a few more releases yet to come she would depart the group at some point in 1951 so she could start a family. It’s likely she was still performing with them when this was cut in mid-January but the other voice taking the Keely Smith part at the end does not sound like Tate, though it could be.

Surely if it was her Atlantic would want to promote this fact since she was such a star now, so it’s more likely someone filling in the role. It’s worth noting that our friend Jimmy “Baby Face” Lewis, was contracted to sing on this session, but my guess is he’s the background voice on the choruses, not the one raising his voice to sound like a 16 year old girl but you never know.

Then there’s the fact that Joe Morris had just brought in his first outside male vocalist in Billy Mitchell – who sang his first lead at that same session – but he’s not the other lead for sure.

So what we’re left with is some confusion… other than the fact that Morris himself took the vocal lead for Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, maybe hoping to establish himself as a singer because he knew HE wasn’t going to leave the band high and dry down the road!

But that doesn’t mean he’s the right man for the job from a technical standpoint as he clearly doesn’t have the voice for it. He sounds like what he is – an amateur singer with rather ordinary vocal chords.

On top of his pedestrian voice his stylistic choices in terms of how he delivers it are all wrong. He’s playing up the same novelty aspects that Prima did. It didn’t work for Louis, a much more engaging personality, and it sure isn’t working for Joe. In fact the way he’s singing only draws more attention to how awkward the primary hook – the rapid fire title line – is without the right attitude behind it.

It’s not quite abominable, Morris is too musically skilled for it not to have the proper rhythm and pacing, but it’s pretty weak sauce all the same… at least until the sax comes in to forcibly remind his boss just what genre of music they belong to.

Here Is A Boogie You Should Know
When Johnny Griffin left Morris to return to jazz we have to admit Joe’s prospects for maintaining his standing as one of the best bands in rock was in question. Griffin’s scorching sax work had always been the high points of their records and even if his heart was in jazz his lungs were committed to rock… as long as he was being paid to do so anyway.

But our fears were apparently unfounded because someone – we know not who for sure – stepped in and on Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! delivered a tenor sax break for the ages, one that Johnny Griffin himself would’ve bowed down to and which is frankly the one component of this record that ensures its place in the rock pantheon.

For thirty five seconds the saxophone does its damnedest to shred your speaker cones with some furious playing while the other horns contribute an effective pocket-sized riff behind him. Whoever it is – Budd Johnson, Frank Culley, Willis Jackson, all of whom cut tracks for Atlantic during early 1951 behind others – is on fire here and may in fact contribute the single best element of any of the versions of this song.

Down the stretch they all start ramping up their playing but Morris himself sends them all sprawling just when they get up to speed by intruding with a squealing trumpet line, a fitting ending for a compromised track.

Dance, Kiss, Fast, Slow
What rock labels hadn’t yet learned was that when you’re covering a rising new release you’re forced into making quick decisions on adjusting the arrangement to be suitable for your artist and your audience.

Rather than waiting for inspiration – and avoiding cutting any song without being legitimately inspired by new ideas – they had to rush to get it out and more often than not they’d only tweak the original formula.

That tweak on Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, letting the sax blow up a storm, was a good one, but still not enough to bump it up more than a notch or two higher than what this uninspired novelty might’ve been otherwise.

That may keep it out of the red numbers and allow Morris to not have to hide his face when he entered the Atlantic Records offices, but it wasn’t going to help this cross into the more sophisticated crossover jazz realm that Hampton had a hold on, nor would it be enough to sway rock fans to wade through the first half of the record just to get to the good stuff waiting them in the back half.

All of which proves once again that it’s usually best to leave these songs to the squares and focus on making them and their music irrelevant with more exciting original material that those kinds of artists could never hope to cover with any credibility.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Paul Gayten (February, 1951)