No tags :(

Share it



Welcome to Part Two of “Roy Brown, The Interlude Period”.

Everybody is well aware that sequels are rarely as good as the first episode but this case is the exception. If waiting for new and exciting material from Mr. Brown has you antsy this will more than tide you over.


Going To Boogie Some More
As detailed last time out Roy’s expected career trajectory, not just in terms of success but just how he was being handled, changed dramatically when his debut did so well when released back in September.

Unfortunately they’d already gotten Roy back in the studio for session number two that same month (his first session had been in July, and they’d only cut two songs rather than the more traditional four, so the two month interval was fairly normal) and as a result they proceeded unaware that the record just coming out from that first session would alter his career, the entire musical landscape and, what the hell, let’s just come right out and say it, “life as we know it, forevermore”!

Consequently that second session found him tackling the types of songs that he’d have been resigned to doing had Good Rocking Tonight never been conceived, never been cut, or never been a hit, take your pick. Decent enough songs with a stylistic track record to go on that would always have possible hits scattered amongst them but containing nothing uniquely special that had the potential to be game changers. In other words he’d have just been one of many similar acts of the time fighting for the various scattered crumbs of a smaller market pie.

But of course Good Rocking Tonight HAD been conceived, cut and now, by November, was enough of a hit (though it still needs to be stated for those prone to quibbling with technical terminology, it was simply a regional hit, particularly in New Orleans, as the national Race Charts, as they were then known, went to just ten slots, giving far fewer songs the right to “officially” be called a HIT) to make the expectations for a “new” Roy Brown release quite different than they’d been just a few months earlier.

So the fact he’d already recorded four sides in September before that revolutionary song broke out meant that DeLuxe Records could either shelve those entirely while they brought him back in the studio to hastily cut something in the same vein as what they’d scored with, or they could put those sides out anyway and hope for the best while getting down to cutting something more appropriate as a follow-up to “Rocking”.

In the end they did both. Sort of.

Come On Back, Stop That Train In The Middle Of The Track
The first of those September sides, the strangely off-color Special Lesson No. 1, came out last month, meaning it was almost certainly rush-released. Now “almost certainly” means that there was plenty of labels (DeLuxe among them) which DID put out record after record on an artist, one on top of another, sometimes even two a month, flooding the market and just hoping something caught on.

Usually though, not always but usually, they would let something that was going good have the floor to itself a little longer than DeLuxe did with Good Rocking Tonight. So it appears, when studying the available information, including the fact they DID call Roy back for an October session coming on the heels of their September session – which definitely was unusual – that they were sort of clearing the deck for what he’d come up with then, getting these sides off the shelves, off the books and into stores in the hope they might get some casual interest from those who were digging his breakthrough, while all the time the label was really putting more of their hope in what was to follow.

After all nothing from September’s session had quite the same feel as Good Rocking Tonight and if there’s one thing we’ll learn time and again over the years about record labels it’s that most involved feel the best bet is to not deviate too much from a winning formula. That’s why these last two Roy Brown releases are being looked at as something more like an advertisement for Roy Brown the artist as opposed to serving as Roy Brown the ongoing show, where the episodes could be more carefully scripted, the performances more studiously directed and the end results more painstakingly presented than what we’re seeing here in the interlude.


We Boogied Last Night And Boogied The Night Before
But dissenting opinions ARE welcome here, as stated, and there’s nothing in the bylaws that say those dissenting opinions can’t come from the person who offered the original opinion just laid out above, so here it is:

If there was a song amongst that September session that DID have something in common with Good Rocking Tonight it was surely Roy Brown Boogie. Maybe they thought so too, pairing it with what was by FAR the weakest song he would ever cut, a pop ballad that is cringe-worthy coming from someone of Brown’s stature. So surely the hopes must’ve been that this side would satisfy those who expected Roy to rock rather than to warble, but in the process allowing them get both off the shelves before he really got down to charting his career course in earnest.

That said it’s also somewhat derivative of a thousand other boogie-based themes that sprang up over the years. It certainly doesn’t offer any new musical direction and it’s hardly pointing forward in any conceivable way, but it at least does a fairly effective job at conveying the wild unrestrained fervor that rock’s foundation was built upon and so it fits into Brown’s career arc rather nicely all the same as it is.

Helping that task immeasurably is the featured presence of the notorious Leroy “Batman” Rankins on tenor sax. As stated before and will be stated again many times over the next year or two the growing prominence and subsequent popularization of the tenor sax in the arrangements will in large part shape and define rock’s early sound, giving the music an aspect of freewheeling mayhem that will help to set it apart from everything else. This was a vital component that established the basic attitude rock would embody and so the addition of Rankins here was certainly notable for that reason alone.

The other horns however are still present and are especially dominant on the intro, which get this off to a sluggish start, not in terms of energy but rather vitality. They all play fervently but their tone can’t help but sound dated. There’s nothing they can do about it, they belong to another era after all and even though that era was barely starting to wind down there was already another far more exciting era that was launching with the tenor sax leading the charge.

Rankins was one of the better ones to come along, though criminally underrated historically, and once he makes his presence known the song kicks into overdrive. Here he gets not just a blistering solo to show off his wares. as a piano adds immeasurably to the feel by simply playing an undulating riff behind it, but he also gets a shout out from Roy himself heading into that solo – “Hey Batman, blow!” – announcing to one and all that a new day has arrived. His tone is tremendous, a full rich sound that swims in the darker hues of the music, and as it goes on he gradually ramps up the intensity without ever coming close to going off the rails. By the time he’s done if your shoulders aren’t grooving call a doctor because you’re probably close to expiring.


Straddle Those Rails
As a result the song is more vibrant instrumentally than anything else Brown cut to date, yes including even “that one”. It’s certainly not anywhere NEAR as earth-shattering in the objective historical sense, but it’s also not quite as interesting in the purely subjective sense either. Though more unhinged and dynamic on the surface there’s far less structure to it and it has little underneath that surface to draw you in, especially over multiple spins.

Lyrically it’s essentially a series of random exclamations about “wanting his boogie” (as if “boogie” were a physical object as opposed to an act or feeling). Brown is in fine shouting form but at times is overwhelmed by the horns and yet truthfully it matters not at all, for here Roy Brown is simply just another of the instruments, not the focal point. Though his voice is quite distinctive as always, you get the sense that it could be capably performed by another artist willing to wail exuberantly (and his former partner from that summer, Clarence Samuels, who we’ll be meeting soon, DID cut it, though obviously changed the title in the process).

In other words, title aside, unique to Roy Brown it most decidedly is not.

But even that doesn’t matter TOO much, after all when there’s a party going on and everyone’s having a good time does it really make much difference who invited you, or whose house you’re in the midst of trashing? You’re just happy to be there, hitting the floor with drunken abandon, undulating along to a song whose only purpose is to never let the energy flag.

With that rather limited ambition in mind it works just fine. As uptempo scene setting mood pieces go it may not be entirely memorable after the night is over and the hangover hits but until then you probably won’t be sitting still long enough to notice.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Clarence Samuels (December, 1947)