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REGAL 3312; FEBRUARY 1951

 
 

 

If things had broken slightly different along the way this record might’ve been part of a Pop Music History chronicle under some bewildering term that we in this reality would call “Rock’s Alternative History”.

In that miserable world rock ‘n’ roll would’ve been consumed by the typical pop machinations by the early 1950’s, subsequently diluted by being mixed with a wide array of big-band, jazz and novelty musical derived sources, briefly promoted by the industry as something “lively and fun”, but soon discarded on the side of the road when the next fad came along, its carcass all but unrecognizable.

Looking back this record would’ve been one of the vaguely intriguing “what ifs” left behind from that time period. Yet because it was just a more raucous version of a song by an already established crazed renegade jazz act it would’ve almost certainly been passed off as little more than aberration.

In the real world in which we live that ignominious fate was avoided of course which only makes it more interesting to ponder those “what if” questions without having to worry about the dire consequences of that alternate reality.
 

 
You Should Know…
This hardly qualifies as breaking news, nor anything particularly shocking either, but the primary reason that so much of rock history has been distorted and has had its starting point moved from 1947 to having taken place somewhere in the mid-1950’s is because doing so was the only way white people could take any credit for helping to invent and popularize the most important music of the last hundred years.

Once that universal falsehood began to be challenged there was a rear guard attempt to hold onto some of the credit for rock’s birth by awkwardly bringing into the mix certain white “forefathers” who they’d laughably tried to claim had something to do with rock’s formation.

Hank Williams was one such figure who, by virtue of the fact he’s so revered and because some of his songs were cut by rock acts (most of which came ten years or more down the road) was dragged into the discussion about the ingredients which went into the so-called melting pot from which emerged rock ‘n’ roll.

This is typical nonsense of course. Williams was pure country from the top of his Stetson hat to the steel toes of his cowboy boots and everything from the twang of his voice, the instrumentation of his records and the audience he appealed to left absolutely no doubt as to this. But he was white and he came along at the same time rock did and you know how those Caucasians feel the need to claim credit for everything, so he got undue credit in some circles even though intelligent people saw this for the shameful attempt at cultural appropriation it really was.

There was another white character who was occasionally mentioned as having something to do with rock’s origins as well, this one however was far more likely at the time this stuff was actually happening to be considered a distant relation by the music industry itself… Louis Prima.

We’ve met Prima before when his late 1950 hit Oh Babe was covered by a host of acts, among them rockers Jimmy Preston, Wynonie Harris and Larry Darnell. In turn Prima covered some rock songs like Ruth Brown’s Teardrops From My Eyes.

With Yeah! Yeah Yeah! released at the very end of 1950 he delivered another song which proved ripe for the picking when it came to rock cover versions with Paul Gayten turning in a rendition followed almost immediately by Joe Morris.

If this trend continued and had more success there’d be a way for the mainstream industry to potentially curtail rock’s growing presence by showing rock acts and their labels that it might be more beneficial to set their sights on traditional pop acceptance rather than forging their own trail.

Luckily when Paul Gayten got the message something about that edict was lost in the translation.
 

I Said Fast… She Said YEAH!
The Prima original – which is damn near impossible get a hold of these days because it came out on his own Robin Hood label which has never been compiled in the digital age – was hardly a very rock-like effort on his part.

With its decidedly big band styled horns and his own vocals leaning heavily towards nonchalance it was undoubtedly chosen for rock covers less because of its content and more because Oh! Babe had done so well for artists in this field.

But Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! as written has a structure that Prima may not have emphasized enough but Paul Gayten certainly does, bringing the song a helluva lot closer to rock ‘n’ roll in the process.

It starts with Gayten’s own piano laying down the boogie foundation in brief but solid fashion before the horns come in to take over the main instrumental role. Their playing behind Gayten on the verses might still be a little old fashioned in the textures they’re applying, at least during the first section, but Paul’s vocal enthusiasm is not only far more authentic than Prima’s off-the-cuff manner, but also a lot racier.

Both are ostensibly talking about sex under the guise of dancing but Prima isn’t playing it up enough, instead making light of it in a way that the pop world insisted on to take away the implications of people actually being aroused by the act itself. Gayten on the other hand may have eased off playing the piano while translating the lyrics for the non-repressed audience because his hands were busy unfastening his belt and tearing off his shirt.

The difference is palpable. Though the song itself still isn’t raunchy enough to be at the forefront of rock when it comes to delving into this topic, the listener knows that the activities he and this girl will soon be engaging in after the record stops playing will be raunchy enough to make up for any musical moderation.

Apparently though the band wanted to get theirs too and since they don’t have girls waiting for them they decide to suggest instrumentally what depraved acts they have in mind when listening to Gayten describe these off-color goings-on.
 

Now, Now, Now, Now, Baby!
Though the rapid tempo, exuberant playing and wholehearted commitment of the band doesn’t vary from one musician to the next, their abilities to create the proper mood for this song – the rock version that Gayten is cutting that is – swings rather wildly from one cat to the next depending on their instrument.

This is hardly their fault… I mean, if we’re going to blame someone let’s target our criticism to the inventor of trumpets while celebrating the genius who came up with the saxophone because it’s the tonal qualities of those respective instruments which can break a record or make it work.

The horns that are the stylistic carry overs from Prima are doing their best to whip up excitement but their sound isn’t dirty enough to suggest more than simple adrenaline at play.

The pure rock-styled saxes though suggest a whole lot more than merely working off energy by doing the jitterbug on a dance floor. By the time Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! hits the instrumental break the saxophonist is going to get hauled in for indecent exposure, tearing off a solo that is rough and ready for action, screeching and wailing like a cat in heat anticipating what is awaiting him when he ascends the stairs for a mid-day tryst.

His eagerness in turn sets off the other horns which allows them to reach something that could reasonably called a satisfying musical climax. They still can’t hold a candle to the sounds emitted from either the tenor or baritone sax, but at least nobody can question their enthusiasm for the carnal acts being depicted in this musical orgy.

Meanwhile the drummer is beating off a rhythm that is pretty impressive provided you don’t get too close to be hit with any flying projectiles.

In the end the disparate musical forces may in fact be pulling at each other a little too much for this to be a flawless rock interpretation of a bizarre novelty pop-swing hybrid but Gayten and company make it work by sheer force and attitude.
 

You Don’t Say No, You Don’t Say Maybe
The funny thing about all this was the way it turned out for every one of the participants…

Prima, who got good reviews for it when it came along, didn’t get the expected hit out of it and by the summer was reduced to covering Rosemary Clooney’s monster pop novelty smash Come On ‘A My House and would subsequently leave the rocking experiments to another generation of wanna be white pop interlopers.

Gayten didn’t get a hit with Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! either as the rock community, maybe with a healthy dose of self-preservation influencing their decision, steered clear of it despite the authentic quality he added to the song.

Instead it was Gayten’s pure pop offering on the other side, Each Time, which received a glimmer of interest among older black audiences… which of course might have had equally negative repercussions had he pursued their ardor instead. Luckily for us he didn’t.

But while this song in each of its renditions seemed destined for fireworks, in the end it only fizzled and life went back to normal. Pop music stayed on the good side of town, proudly homogeneous and predictably boring, while rock ‘n’ roll’s progress continued unabated across the tracks, temporarily free from much interference from the respectable white community who wanted to kill it or corrupt it, which in the end pretty much means the same thing.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Paul Gayten for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)