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ALADDIN 3162; NOVEMBER 1952

 
 

 

Do we really have to do this?

I mean, which part of this entry is the most distasteful?

Is it the shameless nepotism wherein the label owner’s stepdaughter gets a release?

Is it the fact she’s got The Flames in tow, sullying their reputation in the process?

Or maybe it’s the appropriation of a hit country song that yet another label thinks is credible material for the rock audience.

That’s the one good thing about it… they give you three equally viable options to hate it.
 

 

Thinking Of You
No matter what you may think, music taste is based largely on exposure in your formative years.

It’s not like kids in the swing era had different wiring in their ears than kids who grew up on punk rock wherein the sounds vibrated off their eardrums in a unique way that was not replicable decades later.

You like what you like largely because it’s popular during your era, thus answering your mother’s question… “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”.

Yup, and we’d all go down singing the same damn songs too.

Now those of you who are exceptions to the rule, don’t start thinking you’re better or more discerning because of this because chances are you just gravitated towards something well outside your peer group’s taste because you were not popular or not comfortable in their company. In life when they don’t let you play in their reindeer games you desperately try and use that outsider image as a badge of honor… and we then make fun of all you freaks for shining that red nose in public!

But aside from generational tastes, there’s equally strong regional tastes. Most Scandinavian kids probably aren’t listening to Brazilian Choro, yet if they’d been transplanted there at 5 years old chances are they would be.

Within the confines of America, particularly at the mid-century point, the divisions between genres was very rigid for the most part and was based largely on age and race. Church going white adults were hardly digging The Soul Stirrers gospel group, white kids in the suburbs in 1952 were probably completely unaware of Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, and black rock fans were not interested in country music and would not have known Midnight existed unless Margie Day, and now Patty Anne, hadn’t both cut the song in an ill-advised attempt to bridge the markets because their labels were owned by white adults who were completely oblivious to this fact of life.

Chances are though, even AFTER both of those covers were released, black kids were not aware of the song… and for good reason.
 

Nothing At All
In the review for the Margie Day version of this song we panned it mercilessly and since Day has long been one of our favorite artists – when she’s allowed to sing original songs that is! – that dismissal of it doesn’t bode well for Patty Anne Messner who we only mentioned once in a review for someone else.

That means we’ll just refresh your memories by saying that Eddie Mesner married a black divorcée whose daughter, Patty Anne, was given the chance to record for her stepfather’s label. This wasn’t quite reprehensible as you’d assume, as she actually did have some marginal talent as both a songwriter and a singer… though chances are she wouldn’t have earned releases on her own without the familial connection.

Surely the choice of Midnight for her to record was made by her stepdad who has proven with his ongoing attempts to ruin Amos Milburn’s career with country music covers, he had a sick fetish for this type of thing. But since we don’t have much – if any – investment in Patty Anne as an artist, as we did with Milburn or Margie Day, this is slightly less problematic… but only slightly.

The real issue here is not so much the topical nature of the song, but that even with a different instrumental lineup that doesn’t sound bad on its own thanks to Maxwell Davis emphasizing the rhythmic side, the melody itself is so unshakably country that you feel like you’re wearing somebody else’s clothes and what self-respecting rock fan would wear cowboy hats and boots unless they were at a Halloween party?

If this were just Patty Anne alone on this record we wouldn’t be reviewing it, but if we happened to bring it up we wouldn’t criticize it much. Granted it’s not very convincing in a rock setting, but she sounds fine. Not a great voice, but not bad either.

The same can’t be said for The Flames, who ARE the reason why this is being written about, and surely they wish we left well enough alone and skipped over it completely because when they emerge from the faint harmony vocals behind her and get their own section they are terrible. Not only don’t they had anything stylistically to bring it closer to their normal rock vocal group approach, but the way they deliver this – flat and unenthusiastic – makes you want to check their credentials at the door.

Granted they were probably aghast about having to do this… and you know damn well they didn’t get paid for embarrassing themselves this way… but if you’re forced to do something and your name and reputation are on the line you better try harder than this.

Anytime the boss’s daughter who’s being given this chance to keep her mother happy comes out looking better than an experienced rock group who are the worst part of the record, maybe it’s time these flames get doused for awhile.

Then again, maybe we could use them to light Eddie Mesner on fire and put an end to these sort of attempts from any artist on Aladdin.
 

I’ll Be Damned If I Can Not Dance With You
I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up a timely coincidence that shows what happens when talented artists on their own volition try and cross these boundaries for creative reasons, not merely commercial aspirations.

As this review goes up Beyoncé is sitting atop the Country Singles Charts making her the first black female to do so, and joins Ray Charles as the only black rock artist to top both the R&B Charts and the Country Charts.

Which brings us back to the opening section about you tend to like what you were exposed to growing up and growing up in Texas country music would’ve been inescapable for her to some degree, just as Brother Ray in Florida absorbed country music and played in a country band while still a teen. We’ve seen Ivory Joe Hunter dabble in country-flavored rock and down the line people like Solomon Burke and Arthur Alexander will as well… to good effect.

I’m not sure Patty Anne particularly liked country music, or heard much of it for that matter before being instructed to cut Midnight. She does a decent job at it but the song’s construct just doesn’t work with rock’s sensibilities… unlike Beyoncé’s self-written Texas Hold ‘Em does, largely because Bey includes enough of her own persona and stylistic touches in it, meshing it well with the more overt country aspects. It’s nowhere near her best work by any means, but it’s effective (less so 16 Carriages).

By contrast while Patty Anne can’t be criticized for her own effort here, we can heap all the criticism on Eddie Mesner for thinking this was a good idea.

The lesson is this… artists, not their fucking record labels… or for that matter kids, not their fucking parents… are the only ones qualified to be making decisions on what concerns their own lives and careers.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of The Flames for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)
 
 
 

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
 
Margie Day (November, 1952)