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DECCA 48158; MAY 1950

 
 

 

Though the likes of Pat Boone, Georgia Gibbs and The Crew Cuts all get barbs thrown at them for eternity for their insincere pop covers of Black rock songs in the mid-1950’s – and rightly so, for they’re musically and culturally condescending – the practice itself of covering songs dates back as long as there were records.

It may not have always been quite so nefarious as it became when attempting to appropriate other cultures, but the reasons behind it were no more honorable no matter who and what was being covered.

The Blenders were suddenly shaping up to be the prime offenders of this movement in rock circles, though because they came from the same background as those they were ripping off it allowed them to skirt the more serious charges that might’ve been levied at them.

But no matter how you framed it this distasteful practice did their own reputations no good, for once you’re seen as being mere opportunists in rock it’s a hard stigma to shake.
 

 

If I Pretended
No early rock fan – nor regular reader of these pages – need reminding that the first, the most successful and the most influential rock groups were The Ravens and The Orioles. Together those two groups had already accounted for more than fifteen national hits and many more regional hits since rock began in mid-1947.

The Blenders of course were formed out of the remnants OF The Ravens as former pre-rock era member Ollie Jones put together this group in attempt to capitalize on their style and fame and initially did so with admirable conviction on Come Back Baby Blues.

When the major labels who’d looked down on rock ‘n’ roll realized the inevitability of its continued appeal they began to make halfhearted overtures to it by recruiting acts that could pass muster as rockers but also tone down that approach to be presented as pop artists as well in order to try for broader appeal.

The Blenders were the “beneficiaries” (or “victims” if you prefer) of this backwards thinking when Decca Records signed them in early 1950 and attempted to not just position them as competitors to The Ravens and Orioles, but in fact tried to take their place in the minds of listeners by covering their records!

Needless to say it didn’t work. Their bland cover of Count Every Star on the top side of this single couldn’t hope to match The Ravens definitive version released just a few weeks earlier, and while The Orioles themselves had been hamstrung by the middling content of Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart, they at least had the incomparable Sonny Til to lend it a modicum of emotional earnestness to make it palatable.

Not so for The Blenders, who somehow manage to take a lightweight composition and make it even more weightless by their singing.
 

I Make Believe
We constantly refer to the term “context” around here to remind ourselves just how these records have to be viewed in order to understand their appeal – or lack thereof – as well as their place in the larger rock world at the time. Sometimes that’s not always easy to do when faced with a group like The Orioles who despite being blessed with a truly great lead in Sonny Til frequently let us down by sticking to a rigid formula in a series of similarly downcast tales of heartache.

When we rail against the songs we usually spare Sonny the bulk of the criticism but looking back at the original version of this particular song it becomes apparent we still might have undersold his contributions because one listen to The Blenders turning in an even more insipid rendition makes Til’s efforts seem almost Herculean by comparison.

The lyrics of course haven’t changed which means Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart is stuck with the same subservient perspective wherein the singer must shed his pride and self-respect to meekly ask what it would take this girl to to show her affection for him in a more overt way.

The lack of confidence is a hard thing to overcome, particularly among rock fans who tend not to want to admit to such internal doubts, especially publicly. The fact that lead singer Ollie Jones is apparently in a relationship with the girl only makes this line of nervous questioning all the more galling.

He’s essentially probing her to find out if it’s really necessary for him to fawn over her to keep them together but by asking this he’s still showing that even were he to stop bringing her flowers, throwing his coat over puddles for her to walk over so she doesn’t get her feet wet, and his fetching her the morning paper like a Labrador Retriever, he’d still be the same sap that he always was, he’d just be able to stop bowing and genuflecting every two seconds.

Jones sings this nicely in a purely technical sense, his voice is soft and pillowy, which certainly helps matters because it’s also something you’re sure to fall asleep to. There’s no angst in what he’s singing like there was – faintly – when Sonny Til sang the same words last winter. But whereas Sonny sounded in turmoil over this issue, Jones merely sounds as if he’s singing it as a way in which to flatter his girlfriend even further.
 

You’re Not On My Mind
Naturally such a weak and deferential tact on the part of Jones means the rest of the singers and the arrangement itself need to fall in line so as not to make him appear any more pathetic than he already is.

As we all surely know the best way to achieve this docile appearance musically is to treat it purely as a pop song, framing it with fragile bells and a faintly groaning horn, all of which recedes to the background once Jones comes in, not so much playing their notes as merely hinting at them.

In the break the musicians – if you insist on calling them that – come back to the forefront but without any more assertiveness than before, inhabiting a decidedly pre-war musical mindset for a feeble attempt at post-war conquest.

The one – and only – act of protest against complete surrender comes when bass singer James DeLoach takes on the role carried out in The Orioles version by their baritone, George Nelson, and with his deeper voice manages to add just a little urgency to the proceedings… even dare I say it, a little eroticism, by playing around with the melody before things quiet back down and he’s forced to sit in the corner, facing the wall for his mild attempt at showing someone among them has a heartbeat.

As such Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart gives up any and all chance to be taken seriously as a rock song while the group willingly hands over their credentials as rockers, a sad fate for an act that not long ago had hopes of providing fans with a viable alternative to The Ravens and Orioles.

Those two groups themselves still falter when it comes to consistently delivering on their promise but they rarely, if ever, capitulate this wholeheartedly, especially on a record that was conceived from the start to be a rock – rather than pop – song.
 

If We Should Part
If it’s any consolation to their surely embarrassed decedents, as a pop record this would be an average release for the times… well sung, pleasantly melodic, a passable story with somewhat shallow sentiments. The pop charts of 1950 were full of similar efforts that all took their place next to one another for a few weeks before being replaced by something else equally competent and equally nondescript as well, destined to be forgotten by the fall.

But rock ‘n’ roll was a style that was designed on being both more immediate when it came to making a strong impression on its listeners, as well as being more lasting thanks to the tumultuous changes the music constantly was promoting and this fails miserably on both counts.

If The Blenders wanted to move comfortably into the pop world now that they were on Decca, that was their business. We’ll wish them well and purge them from our collective memories.

But if they were going to be among those who used rock ‘n’ roll as a stepping stone to something else, or worse yet, to appropriate it and then water it down for mainstream consumption, then that we have a problem with.

Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart comes at a moment where that question as to their future direction still remains unanswered. Because they began as rockers however they’ll continue be treated as such and not surprisingly they’ll get slayed every time for being so passive and obsequious as this.

That should serve as a warning to any act facing a similar question in the future, whichever side you choose, stick with it and don’t look back.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of The Blenders for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)
 
 
 

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
 
The Orioles (January, 1950)