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DOT 1019; DECEMBER 1950



Today songs are able to be heard at all hours of the day and night, anywhere you are – as long as it has wi-fi – music is available to stream.

But once upon a time they had singles that you had to actually go to a store… miles away sometimes… to buy the physical record and then you had to carry it home to play on a machine that would spin this record around in circles while a needle in the machine picked up the sounds embedded in its grooves and somehow, through some form of wires I’m told, it would come out of the speakers so you could hear it – I know, it sounds crazy but apparently it’s true.

These singles cost 79 cents and you’d get two songs on them. The A-side was almost always the one with the most promise commercially while the primary goal of the flip side was to be just good enough to appreciate the extra value you were getting without being so good that it could’ve been held back a few months to release as the next A-side instead.

Today’s cut is the epitome of that kind of thinking… a good song that’s worth hearing but one whose more subtle allure might not be enough to make you race out to get by itself.


Double Trouble
All of our usual check-marks for an ideal B-side are found here.

We get a song that has a much different theme, a different tempo and a decidedly different arrangement than the racy uptempo Little Red Rooster that had featured riffing horns, a boogie piano and Margie Day delivering a ribald sexual lecture with a smirk on her face.

But here on Blues All Alone everything has been flipped as Day is down in the dumps, not on top of the world and The Griffin Brothers band is laying back rather than charging forward.

Because the whole aura of the song is a complete turnaround from what we just heard, it provides Day with the chance to impress in a different way which, even if the song isn’t nearly as good, can pay long term dividends by piquing the interest of listeners for something else in this vein down the road.

That’s the one advantage of these two-sided releases back in the day, you could give artists far more flexibility with their output, whether it was to scratch a creative itch, to get a writing credit and the royalties that were alleged to go with that or to simply show a different side of themselves, displaying the kind of versatility that might help them get more gigs as club owners would know they could handle a variety of approaches.

Of course it helps if you can do these things with a fair amount of class rather than just stumbling through something not in your wheelhouse and luckily Day is up to the task here.


Over My Head
The first line Day sings has an uncanny resemblance to Little Esther and this is hardly a fortuitous coincidence. Their normal singing voices are not this close, yet Esther was SO popular at this point that if you could turn people’s heads with a faithful imitation right out of the box, you’d have their attention for what you do when you shift back into your usual tone.

Day handles this transition quite well and as such it doesn’t break whatever spell she was able to cast in those first few moments. Once that passes her voice swells, she holds her notes for dramatic effect and then downshifts into a pleasant dreamy tone.

You may be more captivated by her saucier persona on her two hits to date, but you can’t complain about her vocal textures here as she offers another side to her.. more vulnerable, more reserved…

Or not.

Out of the blue she raises the volume and intensity, giving us a sterling example of her deceptive power in the bridge, refocusing your attention on her just when the lazy melody of the first section might have you starting to drift. The effect is a good one even if the underlying song that is used to justify this change is somewhat limited.

Blues All Alone is a lament, something she’s basically getting off her chest to ease herself of the pain of being unceremoniously dumped, and while her emotional conviction is effective, the lack of motivation from his end leaves the story with a pretty big hole in it.

It shouldn’t matter much, after all if SHE knows the backstory that’s the important part, but Day herself claims she has no idea why he left and without this information we may feel bad for her since she’s so broken up over it, but we’re left to respond only to the pain his departure wrought which is not quite as rewarding for us as musical voyeurs who tend to want plenty of juicy details.

It’s still an impressive vocal performance though and it’s nice to hear her stretch out in this way but that extra component that might serve to push this into a higher stratosphere is missing. Without it we’re left reacting to a technical display of virtuosity rather than having a deeper emotional connection forged by her plight itself.

Left One Stormy Night
Because of the structure of this composition – a woozy succession of verses interspersed with dramatic stop-time transitions – we know the backing track is going to be scaled back considerably from her more vibrant songs.

As a result of that structure the ability of the Griffin Brothers to do something designed to impress you on this is severely limited… unless of course you’re impressed by just basic solid musicianship and a sense of restraint which will allow Margie Day to get the big moments on the record.

If that is indeed the case then you’re in luck because they also wrote Blues All Alone and clearly viewed their job on it as doing nothing more than setting the mood and getting out of the way.

Yet within that limited palette they provide solid atmosphere, both brothers featured prominently with Buddy’s piano tinkling away like the hours spinning down the drain at a bar after midnight while Jimmy gets his trombone to provide the weary moans of somebody who has realized they have no hope left but haven’t yet spiraled into despair.

They rise in unison heading into Margie’s more impassioned vocals before settling right back down again, supporting her in her time of need, but also humoring her because they know that she’s just coming to grips with her fate and once it sinks in she won’t even want them around anymore.

Such is the state of a bruised and battered heart.


Seems You’ll Never Leave Me
Heading into the Christmas season in 1950 you were pretty lucky if you were a young rock ‘n’ roll fan with plenty of good records coming out as the year wound down. You could grab a handful of nickels and pick and choose which you wanted to listen to on the jukebox and if it were well-stocked you seemingly couldn’t go wrong no matter your choice. If you had a little more cash in your pocket you could treat yourself to some records to have for keeps rather than blow that loot on presents for your friends and family.

Though it was undoubtedly the A-sides that would be the most important factor in which singles you purchased, if there was a decent B-side on the record then that could make a difference when you were counting out your last seventy nine cents for one more gift for yourself.

Blues All Alone provides that for you, giving you another side of Margie Day to consider… slow not fast, looking inward rather than projecting outward.

The wild side of her persona exhibited on the top half of the single will certainly be what pulls you in and gives you the most listening pleasure for your money, but after the party’s ended, everyone’s gone home, the lights are out and you’re alone with just your thoughts and your record player, the anguished torment she shows here will close the night out on a different note and make you glad you chose this single over the competition.


(Visit the Artist page of Margie Day as well as The Griffin Brothers for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)