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RPM 369; OCTOBER 1952



A rock artist who sounds unbalanced enough on his OWN material suddenly “trying” to cover a current pop smash has all the earmarks of a disaster… which is why we’re eager to hear just how bad he can make this.

The only question I suppose is deciding whether we should give him a low score if he delivers a particularly bad attempt, as is the standard approach we take for all records no matter their sources, or in this case should we actually reward him with a better score if he seems to deliberately make a mockery of this mainstream trifle?

Either way I’m pretty sure we just blew whatever surprise we had in store when it comes to the aesthetic assessment of this record.


Try As I May
This should be a rather quick burial… err… I mean a rather quick review of a rather inconsequential record.

Not that it isn’t worth our time, despite what you might think, for whenever the rock industry thinks about covering pop songs it’s always good to explore why and ridicule them mercilessly for that decision.

But this isn’t the first time a rock act has tried to score with this, as Todd Rhodes brought in LaVern Baker to help in Trying to put this over back in July and while that actually stirred a little action, the back story of the song itself – it being a smash for The Hilltoppers – hasn’t changed in the last three months to give us a new angle to explore.

What HAS changed though is the type of rock artist now taking a whack at it. Whereas Rhodes’ band was a veteran crew capable of delivering any type of music with a professional polish, and Baker herself was a versatile singer with prodigious pipes who clearly relished sinking her teeth into a dramatic song such as this, the same can’t be said for Rosco Gordon and his crew of Memphis session players.

For all of his vocal charm and rhythmic quirkiness, Rosco Gordon was as unlikely a candidate for Trying to do justice to this song as anyone you’d find in rock ‘n’ roll.

Maybe it’s only potential consolation was that if you were looking to poke fun at pop music by having a rock act sing this straight, then Gordon was the guy you wanted for the job.

We hope that’s what Sam Phillips had in mind when he put the lead sheet for this on Rosco’s piano music stand and turned on the microphones, ready for whatever cacophonous racket he came up with.


I Put My Foolish Pride Behind Me
It’s asking a lot of Rosco Gordon to take any song this seriously for a full three minutes.

Though he makes what seems to be a sincere effort at first, delivering the opening stanza in rather dramatic fashion while showcasing the fairly nice melodic rise and fall of the composition, he can’t possibly keep it up for long. Sure enough in the second stanza he sounds as if he might be having a seizure, his voice cracking, losing the key… in fact he’s not even close to finding the door the key fits into!

It’s at that point you have to assume this was a giant put-on. An April Fool’s prank that came along six months too late to make sense, because there’s no other explanation for this otherwise.

For starters the tempo is far too slow for Gordon to handle. He was always at his best when he was riding around in a ramshackle sleigh without any brakes, but here he’s got to keep Trying to reign himself in and we can imagine his eyeballs spinning in his head as it drags on endlessly.

Each attempt to stick within the original tune’s marked lanes is more futile than the one that came before it, such as him climbing the scale like a ladder into the clouds until he’s deprived of oxygen and plummets back to earth like a dead sparrow. Or how he mangles the word “possess” by sticking an “r” in there, which sort of makes you wonder how much worse the alternative takes on this were if Phillips chose this one to send to the Biharis… unless of course you were thinking that this was his form of devious payback for their dustup over Gordon’s services a year ago.

The band is given little to do which only makes things worse for Gordon’s aching vocal chords, as the horns are trying to cushion the blows as he careens off the guardrails, but don’t provide much help. At least he’s not going fast enough to wind up scattered across the road when he crashes into one fixed object after another.

By the end he sounds like the last guy in a karaoke bar, six drinks past drunk, singing to the bartender who is seriously contemplating jabbing an ice pick into their eardrums to stop this aural torture. If nothing else at least it led to one of the more humorous Billboard reviews of the day…


So before we get implicated in this crime against music by talking too long about it, let this serve as a lesson to any and all rock labels who think it might be a good idea to cover a pop hit.

Sure, it’s doubtful that any of them will wind up being as atrocious sounding as this one, but since there’s little to no upside in doing this sort of thing to begin with, it always helps to look at – or in this case listen to – the worst case scenario and ask if you could live with yourself after unleashing something this destructive onto the unsuspecting world.


(Visit the Artist page of Rosco Gordon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)