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ALADDIN 3107; OCTOBER 1951

 
 
 

 

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, for god’s sake, NO!

Enough of this!

(Okay, deep breaths… just relax, it’ll be alright, let’s all calm down)

Are we better?

No, not really, but we’ll try and keep emotion out of this and with a level head focus only on the reasons why this release confirms something we’ve known from the very start, which is the biggest obstacle all artists and musical styles have when it comes to making their mark upon the world is… the short-sighted, untalented, conniving, slimy, disreputible morons who sell it to us.

Alright, now I feel better.
 

 

Wasn’t Doing Right
Most music fans rarely give thought to the people who stand to profit off it. We know they exist, are pretty sure they’re ripping off their artists, lying about sales to trade papers and cheating on their wives, their taxes and their diets, but we don’t really think about them day to day, do we?

Probably not… at least until you decide to start writing about the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll just for fun and that’s when you begin to burrow deeper into the stories behind these records that built an empire of sound and realize the entire operation was constructed on the most illogical and structurally unsound foundation imaginable, all of it run by sleazy hucksters without a whit of common sense between them.

It’s pretty safe to say that the only musical note any of them actually recognized was the ring of the cash register bell if they happened to make a sale.

When they DID make a sale… or many sales on a single record… they inevitably wanted that good fortune to continue unabated and rather than trust the artist who came up with that original concept to actually come up with another one, they simply instruct them to repeat the formula of that initial hit. After all, they figure that the public is just as stupid as they are and will flock to the stores and jukeboxes after being instructed to Have Another Drink And Talk To Me.

But not even the promise of a tall cool one on a hot day could get us to want to exchange pleasantries with record company owners like Eddie and Leo Mesner, who’ve now derailed the natural creative evolution of their newest act, Peppermint Harris, by making a talented songwriter sing somebody else’s recently released song to serve as a convenient thinly veiled sequel to Harris’ huge debut hit for the label, I Got Loaded.

That Big John Greer’s original was so good means that Harris has an uphill battle just to pull even with the original but he does have one advantage… namely he’s got Maxwell Davis with him to try and re-craft it in a way that will make it more than something better left in the bottle.
 


 
 

Ain’t Looking For Any Trouble
In the course of his career, Peppermint Harris wrote virtually every song he recorded… with this being one of the rare exceptions.

While at times we’ve been a little hard on Harris for pursuing two different musical paths in his formative years before sticking more or less with rock for awhile now, the fact is we couldn’t criticize him TOO much because at least they were HIS ideas. If he wanted to keep one foot in two genre because he personally found blues to his liking, that was entirely his right.

But when record labels start meddling and decide which direction to pursue – and then force material on artists who are used to writing their own stuff – we’re naturally going to be a little skeptical of the results… which is a shame because Peppermint Harris does a good job with Have Another Drink And Talk With Me, even if he alters its delivery to give us the same heavy-lidded drunken stupor he offered up on his last hit.

Or should we say because he alters his delivery…?

Really that’s the big story here and depending on your perspective this either gives the record a fresh twist of originality by taking it far away from Greer’s methodical detective work on his single… or this change, which finds Harris downing a fifth or more himself while after the same information, is merely a cheap exploitative trick designed to conjure up what we liked so much about his previous record.

The truth is, it’s both.

The change disrupts – and almost perverts – the actual story at the heart of the record, changing the perspective from an innocent man who is out to track down a lead on his girl’s reputed infidelities by plying a witness with drinks while he remains sober to better assess the drunk’s verbal cues and instead makes Harris in Big John’s role as the jilted boyfriend no better than the guy he’s asking about this alleged affair by having him seem like a drunk too.

Does it conceivably still work plot-wise? Well, sure, it might… after all, maybe the fact that Harris is sloshed all the time is what caused his girl to look around for someone who remembers to unzip his fly before taking a leak, but the song was written to accentuate the narrator (singer) being a lot more clever than the eyewitness which is where the humor comes from and Harris’s inebriation changes that too much to still connect… at least on that level.

But on another level it does manage to sound really good because of what they replace it with. We already know that Harris can play this character well and with his sleepy mellow voice he’s pretty endearing here even if he’s not nearly as sympathetic as Greer was.

Meanwhile Davis is chipping in with a nice varied arrangement from the purposefully clunky piano opening, some reverberating guitar fills and “hollow” drumming making the musical track easier to get into provided you could care less about the lyrics.

Since lyrics DO matter, they’re a vocal record’s primary identifying feature after all, this change is naturally going to be something of a drawback, but because everything else is so good it’s not a deal killer either.
 


 

Tell Me Again
Whichever record you choose as the superior version the reasons you lean towards probably say more about you than the record you picked.

Those who lean towards originality, a strong plot and characterization by the performer will surely lean to Greer who truly embodies the role and maximizes the humor in the composition.

Those who just want to have a pleasant listening experience where everything sounds good going down may be more inclined to favor Harris whose so at ease here that it hardly matters what he’s singing about.

Neither choice is wrong, just different.

Maybe the best way to put it is this: Have Another Drink And Talk To Me was meant to be an unimaginative cover song taking shallow advantage of Harris’s recent persona on record, yet the talents of those involved elevated it past that by showing creativity of their own.

We can – and do – call into question the actual motives of this creativity, which was surely done to imitate their earlier record more than it was to re-tell the story from a different perspective, but since they pulled it off so well regardless of their intentions, we can’t find too much fault with the end results.

I will say this though… I am fairly certain that Greer’s detective work paid off in the end. Either he found there was nothing to the rumors regarding his girl’s wandering eye and slept better at night as a result, or he discovered her infidelity and broke it off with her and moved on.

Peppermint Harris on the other hand undoubtedly passed out on the barroom floor while his girl headed to Acapulco with the first able bodied upright man she found and never returned.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Peppermint Harris for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)
 
 
 

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:

 
Big John Greer (September, 1951)