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COLUMBIA 30210; JUNE 1950



It’s a safe bet that the topic of appropriate song material was bandied about in the inter-office memo that was passed around at major record companies in the early 1950’s after some renegade in their ranks had the misbegotten idea to sign an actual rock act to try and bring them into the latter half of the Twentieth Century that was now underway.

Whoever wrote these guidelines however probably had only passing familiarity with the subject, as none of them wanted to subject themselves to actually listening closely to the hits that the indie labels were churning out in this field to get a better understanding of relevent content. However unsuited they were for the task they pressed on with decidedly poor results. But as crude and offhandedly insulting their suggestions may have been they did manage to land on one universal topic that had great potential.


Since that encompassed many different avenues of vice they cast a wide net, choosing different offensive stereotypes to exploit. Now granted rock artists themselves often exploited those same sinful topics, but the difference was found in their intent and the effectiveness of their approaches.

This being a major label chances were they were going to screw it up.


My Head Will Fall
Considering The Carols had started out as a gospel group before switching to rock in order to better their chances at exposure, it’s certainly fair question to ask just how much experience they had with hard drink and wanton sex.

Though they had little trouble getting you to believe they had the requisite familiarity with various bedroom activities on Please Believe In Me, their efforts to convince you they spent too many evenings with a bottle in their hand was a much harder thing to pull off, especially when faced with a song that was determined to treat the contents as a novelty at best and a culturally offensive trope at worst.

Who is most to blame for Drink Gin is something that probably can’t be settled. Its two composers include The Carols own pianist and musical arranger, James Worthy, along with Robert Bruce who was not a member of their group. I’m assuming the former handled the musical aspects while the latter wrote the lyrics and since the lyrics are the greater offender in the big scheme of things it’d be fair to lay the blame on him.

But there’s a third possible perpetrator of the crimes within and that’s The Carols themselves who came up with the vocal choices on their own, or at the very least signed off on them if someone else – a nameless Columbia big-wig or co-writer Bruce or the producer – was responsible for the direction this took.

Whoever was at fault for taking what might’ve been an interesting and fairly humorous look at the misadventures of some clearly amateur drinkers tying one on and somehow managing to turn it into a hapless farce there’s probably enough blame to go around for missing its mark so badly.

I Don’t Like It The Least Little Bit
The problem with this record is primarily the decision to turn it into a staged scene in which the various members of the group are in character while the others take turns on lead. As such they’re all acting drunk which in case you’re wondering is no more fun than being exposed to drunk people in real life while you’re fully sober, the only difference is that on record they probably aren’t going to fall into you or puke on your shoes.

It’s not helped by the fact that these interjections aren’t funny and constantly obscure the lead lines which at times actually show some mild inventiveness. By forcing the voices to compete with one another you wind up more frustrated than amused when they barge in on something that was just starting to connect.

All of which is a shame because these guys do have some genuine talent… they’re comfortable enough to switch off lead vocals, showing they all have the voices to handle that role fairly well. There’s a natural rhythmic ease to their singing and the melody itself, though sparse, is fairly catchy. The quality of the lines vary greatly however and some of the humor is pretty low and veers into degrading caricature, but other lines hit their mark better and with some fine tuning Drink Gin might’ve made for an acceptable B-side.

As it is though there’s far too much focus on what clearly doesn’t work, from the insipid chanting of the title phrase as a substitute for a more fleshed out chorus, to the spoken interruptions that they obviously think are going to provide laughs when all they really do is provide a potential defense for the charges of justifiable homicide someone might be facing if they decide to put an end to this torture in a rather abrupt and permanent way.

We won’t go that far, surely your own behavior the first time you took a few nips wasn’t much better than these guys and hopefully you acted better once you sobered up again, but there’s no getting around the fact that this was just a bad idea made worse by nobody in the room having the dignity to refuse to go along with it.

Could they have mixed a better cocktail out of this concoction of mismatched spirits? Probably, even if they wanted to keep the others providing critique they could’ve had them acting as the drunken singer’s voice of conscious scolding them for imbibing so recklessly, but even so chances are this record would best be served as an public service message for abstinence rather than a good rocker on its own merits.

Set Me Free
By all accounts The Carols’ decision to jump into rock ‘n’ roll was their own and they had no uneasiness regarding the moral ramifications of turning their backs on the head-bowing contingency they’d previously served.

As such they were willing participants in the resulting records, both the good and the bad. But maybe if their previous exposure to the music itself, or the activities featured in this music, was second hand that gives them some excuse for not recognizing right away that Drink Gin wasn’t humorous enough to justify its existence.

However, since they DID have plenty of experience as singers that ignorance about the quality of the subject matter carries no weight when it comes to signing off on a song whose basic structure isn’t any good regardless of what it’s about.

Columbia Records may have been under the impression that such things were perfectly acceptable in rock ‘n’ roll circles, but as any rocker, no matter how drunk and disorderly they are, would’ve gladly told them, what matters most is that the songs are stronger than the alcohol content they describe.

For lyrics that want you to believe this is 90 proof bathtub gin, the record tells you this is nothing but leftover bathwater scooped up and bottled just before it swirled down the drain.


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