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Oftentimes the flip side of a cover record rushed to market to take immediate advantage of the popularity of the song in question is little more than a throwaway… a commercial sacrificial lamb destined to be ignored and quickly forgotten when the cover version fails to click in the onslaught of similar releases by other acts.

In this case the cover version actually became a hit, which presented another problem for the song sharing space with it on the single, for while it was a minor regional hit in its own right it ultimately got obscured by that far bigger side, blunting its own momentum on its way to the charts.

So rather than be a group that might’ve scored three national hits in their first year on the scene, this one was simply a frustrating case of “what might’ve been”.


Makes My Love Come Down
The overriding concept of this site is to chronical rock’s evolution one step at a time and judge the records that were released on their own artistic merits and try and tie that in to how their creative advances steered rock’s overall direction.

The scores given at the bottom of each page, subjective though the may be, are based on that general theory of how good the record sounds for its specific point in history in rock ‘n’ roll.

Yet in real life we know that commercial success holds a greater sway over the future choices being made in any artistic endeavor. A hit spawns imitators, a miss tends to be shunned.

That’s not always the case of course, there have been a number of huge creative leaps made that fell on deaf ears initially but which influenced the next generation to follow suit and reap the commercial rewards down the line, but for the most part the headlines of history are written in the bold face type of Billboard and Cash Box magazines.

So too are artists histories determined largely by the size and number of total hits an act had and in the case of The Cardinals, a very talented vocal group who’d already scored two hits in their first few releases thanks to Shouldn’t I Know and the top side of this single, their cover of the pop smash The Wheel Of Fortune, they were in position to establish themselves as genuine stars if they could score another in short order.

Kiss Me Baby was likely the song that would’ve done so had been a separate release rather than sharing space with the hit on the other side which split the loyalties of listeners not to mention perhaps splitting the reporting of the record’s popularity by retailers, some choosing “Wheel” and some picking this one when sending in their sales reports.

Because The Cardinals were on the same label as The Clovers, a group that had scored two #1 hits in their first releases, anything that fell short of that could mean the label would start to shortchange them a little, whereas on a smaller label with no bigger stars maybe The Cardinals would’ve gotten a more concerted push and climbed to the top of the mountain instead of stalling halfway up.

It’s not fair to blame this song for failing to crack those national charts and blunting their momentum though, for it was just a victim of circumstance.

Make Me Know You’re Mine
The first thing you notice is the song’s pace… it’s quick, energetic and a little frantic, three things you wouldn’t have necessarily associated with The Cardinals based on their ballad success.

The company’s blurb for it in one of their ads referred to it as a “buck-dancer”, a term that had gone out of style but which refers to a solo tap dance which means a lot of herky-jerky movements.

That describes Kiss Me Baby pretty well actually thanks to the stuttering piano intro, the overlapping backing vocals with an emphasis on the bottom, the quirky off-beat drums and the atypical lead of Ernie Warren which shows a more flamboyant type of emotion than his usual quiet yearning.

A few years down the line The Coasters first record for Atlantic called Turtle Dovin’ borrowed some of the melodic elements from this, slowed down slightly and highlighted by guitar rather than piano, but it’s fairly obvious they were distant cousins if nothing else.

In this way the record can’t help but sound a few years ahead of its time the way Warren and the other Cardinals trade vocals back and forth with the increasingly eccentric musical arrangement with trembling guitar notes and the kitchen sink percussion.

Because of this innovative approach you wish the story its writer, Atlantic prez Ahmet Ertegun, came up with was more interesting than the relatively unfocused come-ons to an anonymous woman… anonymous because not only do we not know much about her with what we’re told, but we’re not even sure that Warren knows her all that well even though they wind up making out before long.

in that way it’s crude without taking advantage of that crudity, direct rather than dirty, enthusiastic rather than exciting.

One-track mind songs can be good as any other type of composition, but there needs to be something a little more memorable about the way it’s told than this one which relies a little too much on the vocal energy and not enough on what they’re putting across with that energy.

Still, for a change of pace from their usual romantic longing this is definitely welcome and shows that The Cardinals, as well as arranger Jesse Stone were adept at coming up with a distinctive sound that distanced it from everything else being done on the label at the time.


Come Back And Move Some More
We always preach the need for diversity… in music as in life itself… and this provides the perfect example of why that’s the case.

The Cardinals were in danger of being slotted into the “next generation Orioles” bag, something they themselves (being from the same neighborhood) surely weren’t completely opposed to, but with Kiss Me Baby they had the chance to break free of that image. Had it been a bigger hit you could definitely envision their future path being a lot more interesting as after proving they could pull in listeners with two distinctly different types of songs they’d be encouraged to do so again.

I’m not really sure why that didn’t happen anyway. Surely Atlantic saw this was taking off in certain regions, hitting the Top Five in Atlanta and New Orleans where it enjoyed a particularly long stay in the regional listings, so while the upper half got the official credit for the single’s success, this half certainly accounted for a fair share of the sales if nothing else.

Maybe it was true they were better on heartfelt ballads, but everybody needs a Plan B, or a different style for B-sides as it were, and this kind of thing contrasted nicely with the slower songs and was definitely worth pursuing more than they did.

It wouldn’t have been their best hit had things broken a little differently, but a hit is a hit and with one more under their belts early on, in a much different vein than the others no less, there’s no telling how their career might’ve progressed from here.


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