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At a certain point you have to get worried. I mean, c’mon, no rock act in history has started off this strong before, notching three #1 hits in their first four releases for Atlantic after being convinced upon joining the company to drop their pop aspirations in favor of rock ‘n’ roll.

Their one miss for the top spot was arguably their best record too, stalling at #2 on the charts while its flip-side made it to #3.

If judging strictly by commercial returns the bar is now set so high that you could actually consider anything less than a chart topper to be an utter failure.

Like this one… a record that flopped miserably, only reaching #2 and prompting Atlantic Records to consider dropping the floundering group from their label altogether!


Hey Now!
Whenever a new artist makes a consistent impression on the public, not to mention doing so with records that meet any and all criteria for greatness even without such a commercial return, it’s great to be able to fully explore how they met those goals at first before the inevitable sense of repetition set in as creativity and experimentation are jettisoned while formula takes hold.

Yet somewhat miraculously that hasn’t happened yet.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, each release is distinctively The Clovers… arrangements leaning heavily on slinky piano riffs over which we get earthier hep-cat vocals that other vocal groups hadn’t employed before… but each of these singles, and even each of the B-sides, have tweaked that approach noticeably to keep them from growing stale.

Whereas their most of their earlier hits were slowed-down drawn-out affairs, records which hinted at unstated menace alongside their lyrical come-ons, Hey, Miss Fannie is decidedly uptempo. Yet in spite of the quicker pace and livelier vocals, the overall ambiance remains pretty similar, which is a feat unto itself.

Maybe it’s the voices themselves, a slightly thicker vocal timbre and slightly drawn out vowels at play that give their records their distinctiveness. Maybe it’s the surprisingly good songwriting of Atlantic owner, Ahmet Ertegun – yeah, we haven’t found evidence he stole credit from someone else… yet. It could be the way Jesse Stone arranged them, letting the piano give the song character, while laying heavily on the bottom to establish rhythm and then adding the sax on top for atmosphere and to get you dancing in the break.

But the tempos they’ve used in putting this across have shifted over time and while Buddy Bailey has taken lead on all of their hits so far, we’ll get much the same effect when they’re more democratic with their frontmen in the future as Bailey got drafted immediately after this session was cut in August.

So that means it’s gotta be something in the water, or maybe the position of the sun relative to the recording studio, or… I know, witchcraft! That’s it! Definitely some occult thing.

But whatever it is, the most amazing aspect of it is that for all of their commercial success and aesthetic brilliance, somehow other companies were not trying to shamelessly rip it off themselves yet, leaving the field wide open for them to clean up with another gem.


Walks So Groovy, Talks So Sweet
The first thing you notice of course is the increased tempo from their earlier hits.

Not that this FEELS like a rousing uptempo song because of Buddy Bailey’s tone which somehow suggests lethargy even when at full speed, but it’s refreshing at least to see that with all of their success they’re still confident enough to mess with that success to keep them from growing stagnant.

This is also a slightly different approach when it comes to content, for so far their records have routinely bordered on dejection if not downright self-loathing for romantic missteps.

Though Hey, Miss Fannie still finds Bailey and company merely seeking the company of a woman, rather than already having gotten her (and lost her, or found romance wasn’t all it was cracked up to be), his enthusiasm can’t help but reveal how optimistic he is about winning her over, almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion.

The result is infectious in ways even their best sides hadn’t been, simply because this is designed more for singing along, or even just riding around with the top down with your buddies rather than listening while sitting by yourself as if in a trance as they specialized in before this.

Everything in the arrangement is geared towards this new outlook, from the infectious “Hey Now” entrées into the choruses to the way that Bailey seems to be gaining in confidence as he goes along. The others are providing only minimal support with little distinctive to add verbally, just some melodic humming really along with a few interjections, but their presence is constant and adds immensely to the overall feel.

The booting sax solo which gets your shoulders moving also finds the gang whooping it up in the background, a telling sign for anyone who still thinks the outcome of this proposition is in doubt. Fannie may want to resist his cruder approaches, but when the performance is so engaging sound from top to bottom, how could she possibly turn him down?

Like most of their records the content of Hey, Miss Fannie isn’t that deep, nor is the story all that fleshed out (the one exception being the Rudy Toombs penned hit), yet they find ways with the way the vocals are presented to give the impression that the plots are more robust than they actually are.

To that end Ertegun’s lyrics are fairly direct, but at least diverse in their commentary as he’s giving you lines that are more catchy than clever and designed to be enjoyable in the moment rather than reveal secrets when undergoing more thorough examination later on. But with the overall feel of the record being one of pent-up enthusiasm busting loose, that’s hardly the worst compromise to make.

The rest of their hits, especially the three songs we’ve ranked above this, were all something that pulled you in like the gravity from a black hole, riveting your attention on each detail and making it all but impossible to turn away. By contrast this is more like zipping past that chasm in space at something approaching light speed, noticing the details only in passing but not minding at all as you zoom on by eager to explore a different part of their musical galaxy.


You Sure Look Fine
More than any other rock act we’ve seen thus far the consistency of their output – in this style anyway – means there’s just degrees of separation between their releases, some of which just comes down to personal taste.

In other words there’s no real drop-off in quality from one to another. There are differences to be sure, and arguably Hey, Miss Fannie is the furthest away from the pack in terms of key identifying features thanks to its quicker gait and more upbeat outlook, but it still fits perfectly in their broader persona.

Maybe that slight variation of the formula makes it more approachable from a modern viewpoint though because rather surprisingly this is actually their fourth most played song on Spotify, two of which were from the later fifties crossover era which naturally had more ears to catch at the time than the era we’re in now.

While this side doesn’t quite have the quirkiness that the absolutely top-shelf all-time classics share, this is so irresistibly catchy it can’t help but make you feel good which goes a long way to justifying that enduring popularity.

The Clovers are hardly the early 1950’s vocal group you’d think of first when looking for an upbeat song to get stuck in your head, but they handle this approach with such ease that it’s now becoming apparent there’s nothing they couldn’t do.


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