No tags :(

Share it

DELUXE 3189; September, 1948



Sequels = The bane of creativity.

Case in point: Roy Brown.

You’ve Heard The Story
Ask most writers about what attribute among their skills they value most and I’m sure the majority of them, or at least the majority of the successful ones, will single out that of inspiration. The initial idea that gets them to actually sit down, roll up their sleeves and dive into such a mammoth task as creating a clutch of unique characters, a vivid setting and an interesting, hopefully fairly complex, plot.

The actual writing skills that are applied to the job AFTER inspiration hits are mostly those which can be learned to a degree. From the basics – how to spell and use proper punctuation – to the more advanced – sentence structure, pacing, plot points, story arcs, character development – those are all things which can be worked on and which get better with practice. They may never be something everyone can excel at, but at least they can be reasonably taught, learned and applied.

What can’t be though, what is simply a divine gift from above, is the ability to invent out of thin air a captivating story concept, the idea itself, something which is further fleshed out by the same creative id that either comes naturally or never comes at all. You can plausibly be successful without it, but you can’t ever be transcendent if you’re lacking it.

Which brings us to sequels which are by definition the intentional corruption and manipulation of that skill, designed to take advantage of the positive reception to the original authentic creativity by simply rehashing or reconfiguring the story points that are already known and attempting to pass off the watered down retread as something equally appealing.

If you liked Fast And Furious then you’re sure to love Fast And Furious Part 13!!!!!!!!!!

We all know how that turns out. Diminished effort leads to diminished expectations which results in diminished interest and diminished success, all of which then leads back to the creator of the inventive original chapter being considered washed up.

Now there ARE multi-part offerings in film or books that were planned from the start which are excluded from this generalization, and no doubt there are just enough legitimate exceptions to the rule which allow more wayward souls to think that churning out a sequel might have some rewards beyond simply the box office. After all, they let themselves believe, the audience already knows the characters, likes them, feel invested in them, so the biggest obstacle to succeeding with a story – getting the public to give the story and characters a chance – has already been taken care of. But The Empire Strikes Back aside, rarely will the second chapter live up to the first and before long if you keep it up you’ll have Ewoks running around the forest with visibly bored actors who are just going through the motions and there to cash a paycheck and then nobody wins.

Music was no different in that regard.

On Her Way Back Home
Roy Brown was rock’s first star, the man who truly set into motion rock ‘n’ roll itself, to this day one of its most influential artists ever, particularly vocally, by most accounts a dynamic live performer as well, and someone who was remarkably diverse in much of the material he offered up.

After first connecting with a rousing call to arms for his entire musical generation with Good Rocking Tonight which kicked this whole party of ours off to begin with just one year ago this very month he subsequently showed that he could tackle everything from emotional gravitas (‘Long About Midnight) to swaggering boasts (Mighty, Mighty Man) with equal skill.

He also seemed to be taking a more active role in tweaking, shaping and polishing the sound of rock as the months wore on. During his first session he was at the mercy of the studio band assembled to back him and their slightly outdated horn charts had somewhat hampered the message he was delivering.

But his own band, featuring the notorious Leroy “Batman” Rankins on tenor sax, took over in the studio down the road and ramped up the excitement while providing sympathetic backing to his more introspective moments. In other words, he wasn’t content to just be a passenger on his own journey to stardom, he wanted to be at the controls and thus far it had been paying off.

Key words: “Thus far”…

Waiting At The Station
When listeners have put their collective faith in an artist and wait anxiously for their next release, expectations soaring that the artist in question will continue their upward trajectory and in a sense validate that listener’s own commitment to them in the process, there can be no worse feeling than when you are handed something that’s little more than a half-hearted, ill-conceived, utterly shameless and transparent ploy to swindle you out of your money for the apparent sin of liking the original.

You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut, stabbed in the back and kicked in the balls.

When you finally rise from your knees on the sidewalk, bile still dangling from your bottom lip after vomiting from that last vicious blow, eyes watery and unfocused, ears ringing and left gasping for breath, pockets emptied and no one in sight to complain to or exact revenge upon, you slowly get your bearings as you try and make sense of it all.

Now I don’t want to kick you when you’re already down but the truth is though you should’ve seen it coming.


Everything about this, from the insipid title, Miss Fanny Brown Returns – so you’re sure not to miss the connection of course – to the simple recounting of every main plot point of the original, as if he’s trying to cram for a test on the first record’s story and wants to be sure to have each base covered, reeks of laziness.

Miss Fanny Brown (part one let’s call it) had presented two characters with very well defined personas. You had the naïve young narrator falling for an older chanteuse who then left him lovelorn, sending Roy into an emotional tailspin, his heart broken by something he was too inexperienced to handle, or to head off before it happened.

Then you had the woman herself, already out of the picture when that song began and thus presented in the past tense. Although we never meet this woman her part is very clearly drawn because unlike Roy we’re experienced enough (presumably) to fully grasp her role.

She’s an aging hussy, using her wiles and her still potent body to get what she needs from a virile kid. She never intended to use him for anything but a temporary port in the storm, a place to spend a night or two, maybe a week, get some free meals around town, have some attention lavished on her, maybe some gifts, before moving on down the line, either because she’s running from something or someone, or simply because that’s what she’s been doing so long it’s the only thing she knows. Her conquests have become her reason d’etre in life, the proof of her existence in a way, and the young buck still green with naïveté is just a tool to satisfy that need.

It’s nothing personal, kid.

Roy’s heartbreak and bewilderment at “losing” her without an explanation, seemingly without reason, forms the underlying emotional pull of the story. The fact he IS so green is what gives the song its impact and the scene of him wailing about how she just left on the morning train without a word spoken is a haunting image. It showcased Brown the actor, fully inhabiting his role, getting us inside the character’s emotional upheaval until we sympathized with him completely.

Just Around The Bend
So what do they do here on Miss Fanny Brown Returns? Basically they invalidate the ENTIRE PREMISE of the first record!!!

Not only that, but it does so in the most unimaginative way possible: The first stanza repeats what we already know, then the second tells us the bitch is coming back!


Why? Because without that convoluted turn of events there’d be no sequel!

It doesn’t matter to them if this plot twist makes sense, it doesn’t matter to them that Brown’s well-crafted persona from the original is wiped out completely here and that his authentic grief brought on by his lack of worldliness is changed to ill-suited elation (but apparently neither he, nor you, are supposed to acknowledge, or even be aware that this tramp’s actions were entirely in character the first time around).

No, you’re just supposed to accept this story as if WE misread the entire first act, which of course we didn’t because THAT time around they did it so well.

Now they hint at a reason to explain this ridiculous change of direction, the fact she realizes that at her age she won’t be able to keep on doing this forever and in the gullible Roy she might’ve had a good deal that would’ve enabled her to be treated well and be taken care of (though, let’s face it, unless she underwent some religious conversion at the next stop along the line she was still going to be a whore who slept with any guy she ran into at the market or walking down Dumaine, so this charade wouldn’t have lasted long unless Roy was a total sap).

But rather than explore THAT angle, which at least would’ve kept the rather edgy concept intact, maybe even ramping up her heartless manipulation in the process by showing us how brazenly she’s using him thus setting Brown up for an even bigger let down in the future, they cast all that aside and make believe that this unlikely couple is now somehow going to play house together, living happily ever after. That is was true love after all!


Getting Older Every Day
Not only does this storyline fall flat, uninspired and unbelievable, but it changes our impressions of the first part of the story, the one we DID like and find authentic.

Even the sharper, more vibrant playing of the band here, whether due to better recording techniques or woodshedding in the intervening months and seeing what works by their reception on tour, can’t redeem this. With a solid sax solo by Rankins thrown in the midst of it all the sound of this record isn’t nearly as terrible as I’m grading it, so if you’re one of those who could care less about lyrics you may actually find this moderately appealing.

But I’m not one of those people. I demand that all involve actually make a legitimate stab at creativity and don’t treat me as an idiot who will overlook the lack of any such effort and will casually lower my own standards to accept their shameless recycling job. I’d be a sucker if I let them off the hook for their blatant manipulation of the original story, as big of a sucker as Roy Brown is for taking this over-the-hill harlot back as if nothing happened.

The INTENT here on their part is without redemption and it’s on that aspect with which it will be judged and judged harshly.

Like all sequels conceived under similarly unambitious conditions, we’re asked to suspend our beliefs, to ignore what we’ve already come to accept, and to change our perceptions of something that was entirely credible just so we can be force-fed an implausible and utterly lame turn of events that neither improves or advances the story, in fact irreparably damaging the previous story entirely. That’s just something that can’t be supported, even moderately, for fear that doing so will give the green light to others to make similarly misguided decisions in the future.

Sorry Fanny, get your skanky ass back on that train and head on down the line.


(Visit the Artist page of Roy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)