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COLUMBIA 30179, DECEMBER, 1949

 
 

 

 
There was surely no better name for an artist during this era than Mr. Google Eyes…

Not because it was catchy and gave the teenaged singer a memorable handle with which to be searched out in the future, but rather because his byzantine recording career, the wheres and whens of the recording sessions and the subsequent releases and what companies were involved, were bound to make even the sanest of individuals googly-eyed themselves when trying to keep track of it all.

So be forewarned… this is not a review for those who like things neat and orderly.
 

 
Went Out And Got A Job
When we met a singer by the name of Joseph August, a/k/a Mr. Google Eyes, for the first time back in August, appropriately enough, it was an ordeal trying to sort through decades of misinformation to get the particulars of that release straight. Once we did so we breathed a sigh of relief, glad it was done with and that we were able to move on to more sensible things.

But now, much to our consternation, he’s back and making our eyes spin uncontrollably once again with his next confusing turn as a recording artist.

On paper you’d think this one would be a little easier to figure out. For starters it was a cover record of an enormous hit by Larry Darnell, and because of that we knew the earliest this could’ve been recorded was when Darnell’s For You My Love was first released in October.

It also came out on Columbia Records, a major label which presumably kept better records than independent companies whose session files were used to wrap dishes in when the company went under and thus lost forever. Even so the exact month of release is a little fuzzy. We’re pretty sure it came out in December but it might’ve gotten put out in early January 1950. If that were our only problem, as frustrating as it may be, we’d consider ourselves lucky. But as with anything that Mr. Google Eyes was involved with that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
 

Take My Love
Here’s what we DO know. Unlike August’s first session this from last summer, this wasn’t cut in New Orleans where he was from, but rather it was recorded in New Jersey. That’s where Coleman Records was located. Coleman, you may notice if you aced spelling in first grade, is slightly different than Columbia. They share a couple of the same letters but are hardly the same outfit.

What this tells you is that Columbia probably had nothing to do with its recording.

Once again some of this is based on August’s own admittedly spotty claims over the years, but he was adamant that he made four records for Coleman before Columbia picked up his contract in late 1949. That part makes sense. A normal session was four songs after all, but did August mean four sides or four records (IE. eight songs, thus two sessions)?

He said that after cutting those first sides (two or four he doesn’t specify) down in New Orleans, Coleman took him to New Jersey right after his debut, Young Boy broke, five days later he claims, to sing at the hotel the Coleman Brothers (a black gospel group with a myriad of other enterprises around New Jersey) owned, paying his mother $750 to convince her to let him go.

So did they record him again up there?

The answer would appear to be yes, unless someone was fudging the session info after the fact, because later on Coleman Records would release another single by him which has the recording date of November 21, 1949… the same day as he cut For You My Love which ONLY came out on Columbia.
 


&nbs;

Now this raises the rather obvious question: Wouldn’t Coleman Records, having gotten a regional hit out of their first release on August have wanted more releases from him to keep their coffers full? That’s how record companies make money after all, by getting hit records. But another way to make money of course was to sell a hot artist’s contract to a bigger company… like Columbia. In a deal like that they could also include the already recorded masters they had of Mr. Google Eyes that had yet to be released and let the new company choose what to issue themselves.

Though there’s a little unresolved conflict with that theory still to surface, more than likely that’s what happened in some form or fashion.
 

A Party Planned For You
I’m sure by now you’re probably saying: All of these confusing machinations just for a cover record!?!?

Yup, but that was the standard practice of all companies in the 1940’s, especially the major labels who sought to pounce on any record that showed commercial potential. Since Columbia had no one on their roster capable of usurping Darnell’s single in the rock field – though they could’ve focused on trying to score with the song in the adult markets with the artists they DID have, as they actually did with Pearl Bailey of all people! – then it stands to reason they’d want to bring in someone who gave them the best chance at being convincing with their attempt to score with rock fans.

Unfortunately Mr. Google Eyes – either in an effort to make the song his own, or merely out of deference for Darnell, a friendly rival from back in New Orleans – alters the delivery which made the original so compelling and in the process manages to strip For You My Love of much of its emotional potency. But that’s not to say that some of what August brings to the table isn’t worthy of admiration either, for he’s actually pretty decent on this.

After a rather uncertain opening few stanzas where he’s clearly grasping for something to latch onto he finds it by revving up his delivery, pouring on a good deal of lusty excitement turning what had been a mournful lament in Darnell’s hands into a much cruder come-on… which ironically is exactly the type of thing Columbia Records wouldn’t want to encourage, further evidence maybe (circumstantial though it may be) that Columbia had nothing whatsoever to do with its recording.

But while Mr. Google Eyes gives his reading of this plenty of punch and sounds really strong on the choruses as a result, the problem is – comparatively speaking anyway – it’s not quite as gripping a performance as the more despondent Darnell take on it.

With some tweaking though it certainly could match Darnell, albeit in a totally different way.
 

Said Goodbye To All The Mob
The great thing about a song like this is how flexible the story is. Darnell’s approach was to treat it as if he were at the end of his rope and his thus the song was a desperate plea to a girl which took full advantage of his natural singing style which was designed to wring you dry emotionally.

August on the other hand presents For You My Love as the declarations of a horny teen who is merely looking to get laid, not necessarily forge a lifelong commitment to the girl in the process. Though that’s certainly far more common a position to take in rock, thereby making it stand out less in a field already overrun with songs using this perspective, but at the same time nobody can claim this approach doesn’t have a good track record in drawing in appreciative listeners which might be enough to make up the difference when it comes to connecting with listeners.

But alas he’s let down by the wonderfully named band backing him on this, Billy Ford And His Musical V-8’s, who hardly sound as if they’re equipped with that powerful engine which was new to the automotive scene at the time, but rather are driving an under-powered four cylinder car that has trouble climbing steep hills or passing Mrs. Turnipseed, the spindly old widow who rides around town on her bicycle.

If August was going to transform this from a ballad to an uptempo performance then it’s up to the band to acknowledge that and help him in his cause. It’s not hard to do, you just need to provide more noticeable heft behind your vocalist so the two are working in tandem together. Yet Ford and company seem oblivious to the changes Mr. Google Eyes brought to the table. For starters there’s no solid backbeat, the piano’s weak left hand is carrying that role without much enthusiasm and the saxophones that could add a lot of muscle with just little fervent blowing in between the lines are largely silent.

When those saxes do get a chance to shine in the instrumental break the baritone is half-wheezing in the background while the tenor never takes this out of second gear. Where are the rude and raunchy honks to give this some character? Where are the escalating notes to convey the singer’s mounting arousal? Where are the back and forth refrains with the baritone to suggest fisticuffs breaking out among the males in town over this beauty?

If a record that is trying to convince you that the performer at its center is barely able to contain his exuberance then it stands to reason that you need a supporting cast that will at least match that exuberance. Sadly they fall well short in that regard here. If the best you can say is it’s “passable” that’s just a more polite word for “hardly noticeable”.

But what IS noticeable – and what is worth docking the record a full point for having the myopic vision to include – is the vocal lead-ins they provide throughout each chorus for Mr. Google Eyes to respond to with his testifying.

This was not part of Darnell’s version obviously, as he was wailing away in misery to himself, so conceptually the addition of a back and forth vocal exchange is really smart. Unfortunately they gave the job to a group of accountants who happened to wander by the studio during their lunch break because this is as bad as you can possibly sound singing something that is supposed to be rousing by nature. I’ll give you 20-1 odds that they didn’t even loosen their ties while serving up their woeful parts.
 

Nothing In This World I Wouldn’t Do For You
Is it enough to sink the record aesthetically? No, but it probably was enough to sink it commercially, even with Columbia’s added promotional muscle. That in turn probably helped to convince the company to bail on Mr. Google Eyes when this, and its follow up, fell flat in the marketplace.

All of which might suggest that they did indeed just buy up a few masters from Coleman and put them out as if they were the ones responsible for them in the first place. But while that might indeed be the case – and probably is – there’s a few loose ends that call even that into some question.

Joe August himself said that Coleman paired him with Billy Ford & His Musical V-8’s and they would accompany him on both sides of this as well as the other record Columbia would release on him early in 1950. But that record was cut two weeks later, December 1st, as was another record released on Columbia by none other than… Billy Ford & His Musical V-8’s! Now a split session was not an unusual turn of events if the main performer didn’t have enough material for four sides. It would make perfect sense for Coleman Records to not just put these two entities together, but also to record the group under their own name.

What makes less sense though is Columbia Records – when snatching up the Mr. Google Eyes masters which they clearly hoped would help them make some headway in rock – also being amenable to not only buying Ford’s groups two masters, but then actually putting them out at the same time rather than dumping them in the trash. Yes, they could afford to throw a record with little chance for success into the marketplace but why bother?

Unfortunately the answers to that still aren’t clear and there’s even MORE confusion still to come in a few months time when we meet up with all of these characters again on a record that will eventually, years later in fact, come out on a Columbia subsidiary that wasn’t even around as we speak.

In other words, the Mr. Google Eyes story is not going to get any clearer when we run into him again down the road.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Mr. Google Eyes for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)
 
 
 

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
 
Larry Darnell (October, 1949)