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Some people who are genuine fans of sweet pop vocal harmony of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s must wonder if we’re being cruelly sadistic when throwing certain groups into the fire on these pages.

Maybe they wonder if we take a perverse delight in skewering these polite and harmless efforts. Surely at best the artists frequently in our crosshairs are defenseless targets, unable to offer up any counter offensive to the sometimes vicious take-downs of their life’s work.

Do we also take pleasure in pulling wings off flies, crank calling old ladies and taunting small children until they cry?

No, to all of the above… including the repeated torture of these pop leaning groups. But while it’s not necessarily enjoyable to criticize their futile attempts at moving in on rock’s territory, it IS instructive when trying to fully grasp what made rock ‘n’ roll so revolutionary for its time if we can simultaneously study those who tried to associate themselves with rock but always fell woefully short of authenticity in the field.

A position that The Blenders have faithfully held down since their inception.


Patiently Waiting
We know the backstory of these guys well enough by now to understand their stylistic dilemma as the music world at large came to grips with rock ‘n’ roll… how they’d formed in the wake of The Ravens upsurge when an early former member of that group put together these guys to take advantage of that popularity and after a decent first effort saw their chances for legitimacy compromised by the lure of opportunity as Decca Records came calling, seeing in The Blenders a chance to possibly get their foot in the door of this new market while still retaining the veneer of respectability in the process.

We know full well that plan was a disaster waiting to happen, but major companies felt their high musical standards were unimpeachable and thus their preferred approach would surely win out in the long run.

Instead the more rock progressed, both artistically and commercially, the more these acts who were pitched as rock but leaned heavily towards pop were going to be exposed as frauds by the very audience you were trying to pull in, all while the mainstream audience you relied on for sales in every other department turned a blind eye towards them for being TOO radical in comparison to the records of artists who were less exciting than listening to paint dry..

On a purely technical level it may have been nothing to get upset at, even soulless people need music to listen to I suppose… but what concerns us is the waste of their talent and the transparent pandering to our market. These were shallow compositions with unchallenging parts containing no emotional investment or creative inventiveness… like the dreadful flip, My Heart Will Never Forget, the kind of song your grandmother cheerily hummed along to while in the grips of senility.

But on You Do The Dreamin’ they attempt to reconnect in the most tenuous way possible to what got them this position in the first place by exhibiting just a hint of rock touches around the margins.

No, it’s definitely not enough to make this worth your time or mine, yet here we are all the same if only to pick through the specific parts to show what makes something rock, what makes it pop and why those two elements are so incompatible most of the time.

A boring lesson that everyone needs to learn at some point or another.

All That You Long For
First the good… as in “first” because it’s the initial sound you hear… the guys singing an overlapping harmony with Ray Johnson’s light bass rising and falling while the others weave their way around him.

Simple, yet effective for rock and even if they don’t take it nearly far enough to get a rise out of most of us, you can certainly see how that basic structural approach forms a foundation for so many – far better – rock songs.

The key is in its moving parts. The bass is what grabs you, giving off a sense of deeper emotional qualities while the others provide the melodic foundation that can be taken in a number of different ways going forward.

Unfortunately for us the direction they take it is straight to Your Hit Parade territory, where everything is dumbed down for the masses.

The backing vocals become mere window dressing, adding nothing of value other than filling space. At least if they were doing something more ear-catching it’d distract you from the biggest offender, Ollie Jones on lead, who effectively neuters his delivery by forsaking all attempts at singing from the chest where the power comes from and instead is content to lightly coax out sounds from the back of the throat, like singing a lullaby to a sleeping child.

Actually a lullaby would be preferable to You Do The Dreamin’ because there’s nothing here resembling a meaningful story about a clearly fictitious relationship they’d read about on a greeting card.

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating… how on earth the human race managed to reproduce when the widely accepted views on love and relationships was so utterly passionless is the biggest mystery of last century. It’s virtually impossible to find even a hint of genuine desire in most pop songs of the day, let alone lust.

We know this constant repression of feelings must be why so many chose to spend their days looking for Communists under people’s beds. Of course maybe if they got laid once in awhile those beds would be getting used properly and they wouldn’t have had the time to be such paranoid busy-bodies.

While we hope The Blenders sex lives were more interesting than Mr. and Mrs. White Middle Class, they certainly aren’t going to risk offending that constituency by bragging about it on record so instead they sing a love song with a complete absence of any feeling whatsoever, a fitting record for an era when married couples on television still were forced to sleep in separate beds, but a sorry effort if they thought this was going to stir the loins of the rock audience who were busy getting it on with each other in the shadows.


Make Them Come True
So how does this lightweight drivel that even Billboard magazine rightly mocked as pop have ANYTHING to do with rock ‘n’ roll other than the by-now distant origins of the group themselves?

Well, admittedly not much save that brief intro and a slight sign of a pulse in the bridge before sinking back into the artificial world of refined music. But then again, that’s the point of this, isn’t it? In order to know why rock ‘n’ roll took off, you have to see what it blew up to get there.

The Blenders had the ability to be a viable rock vocal group. They’d gotten off to a fair start and Johnson would soon land in The Dominoes as Bill Brown’s replacement (albeit briefly) while Ollie Jones and Abel DeCosta would form The Cues and become of the most in-demand backup vocalists in mid-50’s rock circles, so the personnel here certainly wasn’t the problem.

The problem was in their choices.

Whatever promise they had The Blenders allowed themselves to become irrelevant to the music’s direction because they fell in line with the prevailing mindset of the day which felt that these kinds of insincere sentiments which were designed not to offend rather than trying to excite you was the best road to success. In doing so they gave up their own identity – whatever that would’ve been if left to their own devices – and adapted one that that got the same ringing endorsement from the establishment as Mom and Apple Pie.

You Do The Dreamin’ was the sound of the status quo. It was the music for a world in which rock ‘n’ roll never took over. Though it managed to contain a few moments where some nagging itch for realism was scratched, it quickly subsided – or was forcibly told to settle down – and retreated to the land of make believe where no genuine expressions of human longing were ever uttered.

It was music that was meant to pacify, not stimulate. To accept the world they handed you rather than demand a better one. To conform, not revolt.

To go to sleep and dream rather than wake up and live.


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