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One of the signs of comedic genius, maybe best exemplified by The Marx Brothers in their film heyday, is when the person in question is making fun of somebody to their face, yet the target of that humorous put-down isn’t entirely sure of the intent, thinking – perhaps – it’s actually a compliment rather than an insult.

Your eyes… they shine like the pants of a blue serge suit

Though Mickey Baker wasn’t known to be a sarcastic wit, this record seems to be trying to channel the derisive attitude of Groucho Marx, making it one big put-on.

The problem with that approach in music however is there’s a really good chance it’s going to be taken literally, in which case the whole thing winds up falling flat.


I Never Feel So Bad In All My Live Long Years
One of the things we know about Mickey Baker beyond the basic biographical information is that he was something of a musical snob who revered jazz but merely tolerated rock ‘n’ roll, playing it simply because it paid better. But because he played it so well for so long, sometimes that matter of tastes merely gets brushed aside as an irrelevant quirk.

Yet in 1952 Baker was still a relative newcomer in the field, he’d only just started playing sessions this past year after all, and so he had no reason to think rock music would ever become his claim to fame. It was little more than a part-time job, one he excelled at because of his skill but not one he particularly was proud of either.

When he parlayed that into his first recording contract with Savoy Records, he learned quickly enough that they hadn’t signed him to play jazz on his own releases either, but to give them another rock act to bolster their dwindling roster in that department.

He complied, because that’s what he was paid for, but he probably wasn’t thrilled about his assignment. That being the case it’s hardly a stretch to think that on the self-penned Love Me Baby he decided to write a send up of rock ‘n’ roll, yet one still authentic enough to pass muster with the label.

In other words it was something of a private joke, a commentary on how lame and simplistic he felt this music was, the confirmation of which came when nobody really noticed that he was poking fun at the music itself, or for that matter ridiculing those who might actually like this kind of thing when done straight.

Yes I Do
The guitar riff Mickey Baker plays in the opening is intentionally crude which, if you knew how good of a musician he was, would tip you off that this is not meant to be taken as an authentic rock record trying to score a hit. But since the names of session musicians were hardly known to the wider public at the time, how good he really is on the instrument is something that would fly over most peoples heads.

Of course if it became a hit, that would actually prove the point Baker was trying to make, which is the more generically half-witted it was, the more the rock fanbase would embrace it.

As he was friends with another jazz-aligned session musician drafted into lead artist service as a rock act by Savoy, saxophonist Hal Singer, whose intentionally crude Cornbread, became a smash in 1948 only to find that he was forever resigned to making like-minded follow-ups, maybe Mickey should be careful to make sure not to play into what the rock fan craves.

He needn’t worry with Love Me Baby, which not only features him singing, which was never his strength, but also because he’s choosing to downplay his guitar playing ability to make a point about how simplistic rock songs tend to be, giving this little sonic appeal for those who missed the stab at humor.

As for the song he’s given himself it helps to realize the lyrics are intentionally pointless, filled with stupid proclamations of love that he sees proliferating the songs he’s been forced to support in his side gigs. But if you don’t get the joke it just makes for an exercise in redundancy.

Who knows, maybe an entirely different joke flew past us when it was titled Love You Baby on the 45 issues. More likely it was so non-descript that nobody noticed, or cared much if they did.

To pull this off properly it’d have been better if he adopted some sort of exaggerated voice to make his lampooning more obvious. That’d happen in a few years time once Elvis Presley provided the perfect star to use as the model (though to be fair, this sort of points ahead to that breathy delivery Elvis would employ).

But without telegraphing the pun more, Baker is left to use his own somewhat bland voice and since his guitar solo, the one thing that could theoretically invigorate the record, carries on this farce to the end by not showcasing anything really wild, you might be standing in line asking for a refund… which knowing Herman Lubinsky’s reluctance to part with money would make for the biggest joke of all.


I’m Wastin’ Lotsa Days
Despite our criticism of the results, we can’t fault the idea itself, even if we don’t agree with Mickey Baker’s assessment of rock ‘n’ roll being somewhat beneath him.

If you think we’re reading far too much into his intentions here and want to insist this was a perfectly legitimate effort to adapt to this style, then it’s even a bigger indictment on him because without that explanation Love Me Baby isn’t even worth as much as we were willing to credit him with.

But that’s the tricky balance of being sardonic… you need someone in the audience to take what you’re doing at face value for it to be an effective form of parody, but if everybody listening treats it as a poorly executed authentic rock song, then what’s the point?

The real problem might just be that Baker was about four or five years ahead of its time with this, as not enough people outside of rock’s main demographic were yet aware of the genre’s attributes to find a sympathetic ear for this form of caricaturized goof on the music’s appeal.

So we’ll leave it to the guy we referenced at the start of this exercise, Groucho Marx, to provide the final word on this sort of thing. Though we’re pretty sure he’s not referring specifically to Mickey Baker, he might as well be.

“With a little study you’ll go a long ways… and I wish you’d start now!”


(Visit the Artist page of Mickey “Guitar” Baker for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)