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Though this single, or at least the top side of the release, is what made this group stars, transformed the vocal group scene in rock as a whole in the bargain and for good measure solidified Atlantic Records’ growing prominence in rock ‘n’ roll, it was not what the artists themselves felt comfortable doing initially.

Instead THIS side is indicative of who The Clovers really wanted to be.

A polite, mannered, completely anachronistic and irrelevant pop vocal group.

Luckily for them however the audience – and record label – vehemently disagreed and so they were forced to settle for success, fame and lasting influence as a consolation prize.


Wonderful Music?
When meeting with Atlantic Records in early 1951 The Clovers had to thank their lucky stars that a respected and rapidly growing label would be interested in them after their poor showing on their lone Rainbow Records release just a few months earlier.

Those sides were bland pop and painfully out of date. Had they been allowed to continue to pursue this style on record with no outside interference we would not be writing about, listening to, or talking about The Clovers because nobody, including their own descendants probably, would have any idea they ever existed.

But they were fortunate because in the time between that release and their first contact with Ahmet Ertegun, multiple new rock vocal groups appeared on the scene and created waves with their initial releases and Ertegun – to his credit – saw the writing on the wall when it came to what the next big thing in rock might be and he needed a capable singing group and needed one quick.

The Clovers were it. Not based on anything specific they’d shown mind you, but simply because of their youth and availability.

Upon signing with Atlantic he group themselves may have assumed they’d occasionally be required to satisfy the company’s desire to focus on rock ‘n’ roll, but they surely expected – and certainly hoped – that the bulk of their output would be more along the lines of their stage repertoire of standards such as Skylark which the next month made up half of their debut for the label.

Maybe Atlantic was just humoring them with this, throwing them a bone as it were. Or maybe it was a demo session as some have speculated that only got used when the top side came out sounding so good and they wanted to get it on the market as soon as possible. But whatever the excuse for it seeing the light of day their attempt at a classy pop ballad went on to be widely regarded as perhaps the only worthless throwaway in their Atlantic tenure which tells you how misguided it was for them to think this kind of thing would ever be acceptable in the current musical landscape.

Serenading The Moon
Okay, obviously this song has nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll other than the ensuing career of the group cutting it, so you know going in it won’t be satisfying any of rock’s attributes and thus is patently unfair to be grading it in this context. We’ve become increasingly less lenient on allowing these records by rock acts leaning pop to be included here in recent years and if this were anyone BUT The Clovers it would not be reviewed.

In fact if this were held back for a B-side on their second or tenth single it wouldn’t be reviewed, just seen as a weird anomaly we’d spend all of fifty words ridiculing in the glowing review for whatever more appropriate A-side it found itself sharing a release with. But being their FIRST release on Atlantic makes this important, because we have the two roads laid out in front of them – the rock route which was where the hits and acclaim lay and the pop direction which is where irrelevancy and early retirement reside.

What we’re interested in is just how obvious this might’ve been at the time, and whether they had any real hope for eking out a living playing classier clubs and singing other people’s songs already famous… like Skylark, written ten years earlier by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael and made famous by the likes of Dinah Shore, Glenn Miller, Harry James and Bing Crosby, all of whom hit with it in 1942 on its way to becoming a standard.

A fine pedigree for a song, just not an appropriate one for rock ‘n’ roll.

Yet there are subtle signs here that The Clovers may have been capable of bringing something a little different to these types of songs as Buddy Bailey imparts his reading of it with a yearning soulfulness that is far removed from Ray Erbele’s efforts on Miller’s rendition that sounds as if he’s reading the lyrics for the first time as he’s singing and is incapable of understanding the emotions behind them.

Of course while Bailey sounds good in comparison to that steam-cleaned pop style that reigned a decade earlier, he doesn’t sound altogether revolutionary in a modern day rock setting as he had on the top side. Instead of being utterly consumed by passion, which might’ve been acceptable in this field even if it were frowned upon in the mainstream pop community, he instead is just expressing a nagging restlessness… hoping the girl he’s after likes him but not prepared to do much about it other than wax poetic to a bird flying by.

That’s pop music for you though, at least the mid-century version, where the emphasis remains on merely imparting a lovely melody and reciting clever symbolic lyrics without any semblance of human investment in the sentiments. Bailey lends a little feeling to it, but not nearly enough to transform the song beyond the mild drivel it remains at its core.


I Don’t Know If You Can Find These Things
It’s one thing for a lead singer to follow the accepted protocol to a degree when trying to adapt a song from one era or style to another, sort of grounding it in what’s come before, but if you want to want to change the impression of the song your easiest bet is to focus on altering the surrounding attributes… namely the musical arrangement and vocal accompaniment.

They do neither… well, that’s not entirely true, but the changes the make on Skylark have more to do with personnel rather than an altered game plan.

Musically they don’t have the string section – thankfully – that other renditions relied on for imparting a dreamy wistfulness and instead they have Frank Culley’s band which should be able provide some rougher textures to this should they choose to. But instead they shortchange the band, giving Culley – a last minute addition you’ll remember, as he wasn’t slated to play at all on the session – just a brief intro before giving way to his pianist Randy Weston who is busy but incidental behind the lead vocal.

The prevailing wisdom seemed to be the melody itself, as carried by Bailey’s vocal, was sufficient.

As for the other Clovers, this is where you’d think they’d contribute something positive since the song is so reliant on the vocals to create a distinctive mood, yet for the most part they’re merely supplying wordless sweetening which is competent but hardly notable.

The one voice that does get a chance to step out is Harold Winely, the bass singer, who completely trips up, singing off key in the bridge to such a degree that you’d think Jesse Stone would’ve stopped the take right there and had them start over, but since Bailey also hits a wrong note later on maybe they kept it all in to convince the group that this kind of material and delivery was not suited for them.

Or for us for that matter.

In Your Lonely Flight
The one constant over the years is that music continually updates its sounds for the needs of the current generation and attempts to hold back this progress always meet with failure.

The Clovers, by trying to artificially extend its lifespan by reviving songs like Skylark, were guaranteed to be unsuccessful as long as they stuck to this approach. Time doesn’t stop moving forward and artists can’t either.

With Don’t You Know I Love You they’d given the current audience something new to embrace, something that excited them, spoke to them directly by reflecting their tastes and experiences and in the process it helped to define this upcoming era.

This misbegotten side on the other hand tried pretending that those listeners didn’t exist, that their needs were less consequential than that of their elders who’d already had their time in the sun and been put out to pasture.

Down the road, long after The Clovers saw the light and embraced rock and became stars, they too would face the same ignominious fate once the next generation of rockers pushed them aside and came up with something new to replace them. It happens to everybody eventually no matter how big they once were.

But it’s because The Clovers were convinced to change their sound to meet the demands of today that they became idols for this generation rather than keep looking backwards and be irrelevant for eternity.


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