No tags :(

Share it

RPM 365; AUGUST 1952



At each stage of the game there’s bound to be players who get all the headlines and earn a lion’s share of the praise for records that are bound to make the nightly highlight reels.

But at the same time there are always going to be those who are overlooked for their winning contributions even though they’re almost as vital in how rock ‘n’ roll is moving up in the standings.

One of the more underrated secondary stars in rock ‘n’ roll during the 1952 season is Rosco Gordon, who despite having a few huge hits tended to be almost taken for granted and thus historically overlooked.

Maybe it was because he was so quirky that he seemed to be existing in a neighborhood all of its own in the rock community. Or perhaps it was that he made everything sound so easy that you didn’t stop to appreciate the ability required to come across that way, as most failed to realize just how diverse he was while constantly crediting him for just one major innovation.

Or in this case it could be because what he planted here wouldn’t blossom for another two full years by which time most people had forgotten he had once been a pillar of rock’s starting lineup.


Won’t You Let Me Know?
The last record we looked in this chronological journey through rock ‘n’ roll came from rising star Lloyd Price as he scored his second and third national hits with both sides of that release, giving him three Top Five hits from his initial two singles.

Yet as impressive as that feat was commercially, artistically it was another matter as both of those sides were blatant thefts of previous hits… including ironically his own #1 smash from his debut!

We criticized this troubling tendency he was showing even as we tried making some concessions owing to his youth (just 19 at the time) and inexperience. We praised Dave Bartholomew’s band for their work and even credited Price at times for his singing and/or lyrical adjustments to the source material. But in spite of that, in the end we gave only fair to middling grades because of their blatantly imitative nature.

So what does that have to do with THIS song, you ask? What classic hit is this one copying that we should be aware of?

None. But rather it’s what all-time classic hit is going to be stealing from What You Got on Your Mind in the future that makes this a little more interesting.

Unlike the Price songs however the source material found here would be more well disguised and while everyone knows and loves the massive hit record down the line that came out of this, there are few, if any, who were even aware of this song that seems to have melodically “inspired” it in the first place.

Then again it could just be that those who had heard this record hadn’t been able to stop the ringing in their ears in the two years since they listened to this one to be able to hear the similarities.


You Can’t Love Me And The Man Next Door
The way this starts off – crashing cymbals, rollicking piano and soon joined by drunken horns, all colliding like they were rousted out of bed on a ship at sea in the midst of a typhoon – you might question what fool would be lifting anything from such a calamitous track as this.

When Rosco Gordon comes in sounding a little less inebriated but by no means fully sober, you still can’t quite place it. But then the melodic worm starts digging around in your ear and if you slow it down just a hair you’ll faintly hear Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle And Roll echoing in the distance.

Now look, it’s not a direct lift by any means, just as that song wasn’t taken intact from Johnny Otis and Mel Walker’s Baby Baby Blues last month either, but both of these songs have similar patterns that songwriter extraordinaire Jesse Stone appropriated for his classic for Turner.

Lyrically of course the Turner classic is a few steps up on What You Got On Your Mind… maybe a whole flight or two of stairs in fact. But Gordon was always an effective lyricist even if he wasn’t a poet and here, despite not using many words in the abbreviated story, he gets the point across just fine.

His beef is with a girl who may or may not be his steady chick. Chances are she was just an occasional bedroom dalliance that he became increasingly reliant on to satisfy his carnal urges when he was hard up late at night and then became miffed when he discovered she was doing the same with men other than him. So his indignation is not altogether righteous but still understandable when taking the male ego into account.

There’s honestly not much more to it than that, for even after the instrumental break he more or less reveals that the bigger issue he’s having with her is her apparent unavailability on this particular night when he’s got a case of blue balls that need attention. It sounds like she winds up squeezing him into her busy schedule, but by now we’re less concerned with their activities and more interested in just who the hell the band members are getting it on with, because they sound as if they’re having an honest to goodness orgy!

We Rock, Baby!
The musical side of the equation is never clean, never pretty, never even tightly focused, but it more than makes up for that with the runaway freight train energy they display and the simple but well conceived overlapping parts.

It’s those same instruments – drums, piano and horns – that are causing this ruckus and each are sticking to a pretty basic approach, but the way in which they compliment each other makes this entire record surge forward from start to finish. No wonder What You Got On Your Mind clocks in at under a minute, you couldn’t keep this up for long without some highly concentrated caffeine taken intravenously.

The sax solos are actually the most under control sounding part of the entire thing, as the tenor plays a bit more melodically than he had while honking away in the background before the baritone jumps in and tries mimicking that without much success but somehow still keeping up appearances in between some flatulent notes.

For all we know Gordon may not even be paying attention by this point. My guess is he’s hastily tearing off his clothes as he wraps up his last verse and cuts the whole record short while his pants are down around his ankles.

The bulk of the record was too hot for Jesse Stone to touch, but like a good surgeon he cut away just what was needed for the transplant and left the rest of the body to the morgue where four days went by before it stopped spasming and could finally be pronounced dead and put in the ground.


Rock All The Time
Most of the output Rosco Gordon released over a decade as a recognizable name with some big hits scattered about were rather laid back by nature.

He wasn’t a balladeer by any stretch of the imagination, but he was somebody who gravitated towards a consistent mid-tempo funky sound that suited his personality, his unusual vocal tics and his odd musical sensibilities.

But it’s nice to hear that from time to time he was fully capable of ramping things up with something as raucous as What You Got On Your Mind.

There might not be nearly as much meticulous craftsmanship to be found here as in his best remembered songs. The story is rather slight, the lyrics are decidedly blunt and without any flair or wit, and the rhythm contains none of the idiosyncrasies he was known for.

Yet buried in the avalanche of noise was a melody that had obvious legs to it, showing that even when he wasn’t putting out much effort – probably because he was hoping somebody else would be putting out for him herself – he still managed to come up with something worthwhile and a whole lotta fun.


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