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FEDERAL 12072; MAY 1952



Oh good god, what fresh horror is this?

Not the contents of the record itself, but rather what is this doing even being released in this manner?

Are you telling me that someone decided it was actually a good idea to issue another single – coupled with a song they’d already released in the winter no less! – just a month after their all-time best single which was rising on the charts and would soon hit Number One?

What are they thinking?

Oh that’s right, they’re a record company which means that you need to have a lobotomy before you’re qualified to run the label.

Never mind then, just carry on.


We Were Two, Now You Made Us One
Over the course of chronicling every possible release in rock history we knew there’d be recurring themes popping up, one of which would be the actions of the record companies these artists worked for and the logic (ha-ha) behind their decisions.

We’d figured this would be only an occasional point to raise, something necessary to explain a few particularly bewildering maneuvers a label employed from time to time as sort of a side issue to the main subject which is the music itself.

Needless to say it’s become one of the major stories of rock ‘n’ roll as one company after another continues to shoot themselves in the foot with bad song choices, terrible arranging ideas, misguided stylistic avenues and highly questionable release schedules.

The only saving grace for rock’s commercial prospects is that because every label was guilty of these errors in judgment the public soon realized the entire industry was run by morons and this nonsense was to be expected.

Today Federal Records’ head honcho Ralph Bass steps back into the uncomfortable glare of our spotlight to make sure that he’s not left out of the roll call of dimwitted knuckleheads by releasing a record by his only bankable act, The Dominoes, who’ve had an almost flawless series of singles to date, that is all but guaranteed to be ignored by distributors, jukebox ops and the general public who, if they even know about it, will see it as a worthless leftover.

No, not the song itself, for Love, Love, Love is another well-written original by Billy Ward that features bass vocalist Bill Brown out in front, but rather the problem here is that they put it out at a time and in a manner which has virtually no chance to succeed commercially.

That’s what happens when you inexplicably stick a new song like this on the back of a song that most fans of the group already bought just a few months ago when it had first been released with When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano on the flip side.

I’m sure they’d argue that song, which had been a timely one when it was released since the swallows DID make their annual pilgrimage back to the mission in California each March, was no longer relevant, but let’s be honest, rock fans were probably not comprised of many ornithologists who cared about the migratory habits of birds.

Another explanation they’d likely give is that with the top side, That’s What You’re Doing To Me, still residing in the charts they hoped they’d be able to possibly secure a hit with a new B-side… but that’s a long shot since most people weren’t even aware of it being issued again with this song on it, nor were jukeboxes likely to restock the single just because of that.

Which leaves only one conclusion to draw as to why they did such a thing – they’re idiots.

While All The People Stop And Stare
It’s sad that such a good performance had to be almost guaranteed anonymity because of the label’s cluelessness, especially since we’ve gone awhile without a Bill Brown performance out in front… which is hardly surprising when Clyde McPhatter is the usual frontman of your group.

But Brown was without question one of the best bass leads to come from the Jimmy Ricks school of rock ‘n’ roll and since he had just left The Dominoes in February it’s nice to get one last look at him on a catchy song that may not quite be major hit material, but is a welcome contrast to the more emotional McPhatter sides, or for that matter even the racier Brown-led numbers from the past.

In fact maybe that was why they put this out now, just to get it off the books since its lead vocalist wasn’t around… though that doesn’t make too much sense either since if it did stir some interest they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it in live venues anyway.

But let’s forget the inexplicable whys and wherefores and focus instead on the song and on Brown who invests this ode to Love, Love, Love with genuine joy, sounding totally captivated by the sheer elation of being in love as much as the affection he has for the woman who’s made him feel this way.

As with most Ward-written songs it’s got good lyrics that are tightly focused and descriptive – particularly winning is how he phrases the bit about making it feel as it he’s floating – thereby leaving no uncertainty about the subject matter. As Brown goes on he gets increasingly worked up over this magical sensation he’s experiencing and the song briefly kicks into overdrive before he eases off the gas so as not to outrun the somewhat minimal arrangement its saddled with.

That’s what keeps this from really being top shelf stuff for the group, even though it still is better than a lot of what their competition sees as A-side material. This was cut at the same session as Brown’s tour de force Sixty Minute Man a full year ago and while that one really let the instruments run wild to add to the excitement, here they’re merely hinting at some potential arousal as the guitar adds some nice licks but otherwise it’s just content to ride along unobtrusively.

The same could be said for the other Dominoes who though they sound really nice behind him, aren’t really given much to do. The record starts off with all of them prominently crying out “dah-da-da-dat” before shifting to a quieter “do-do-do-doot” refrain which cushions Brown’s lead throughout the record but doesn’t really add much to the performance on the whole.

Not surprisingly they let themselves go a little when Brown does, soaring with more improvisational flair behind him, but for the most part this record is almost exclusively built around the man who was no longer even with them by the time it came out, marking the end of the classic lineup of The Dominoes just a year and a half after they first exploded on the scene with Brown out in front on one half of their debut.


Don’t Let Me Go
Speaking of recurring themes and side issues to the main narrative of reviewing the records, here’s our opportunity to make clear that for as brilliant a writer, arranger and vocal coach Billy Ward was, he was also an insecure tyrant who applied his military training to his group, treating them like 12 year old boys at a Catholic Boarding School, levying fines for everything from unshined shoes to breaking protocol by speaking to their chauffeur!

He’d recently forced Brown to shave off his mustache which is demeaning enough but at least had the excuse of wanting to present a more youthful clean cut image to the public. What was totally indefensible though was everything else he did, including isolating the group on the road and confining them to their rooms at night, not letting them fraternize with other artists – staying at separate hotels to ensure it – and even making them drink warm milk before bed!

Now I’m sure he’d justify it by claiming he was worried about The Dominoes getting into the kind of trouble that could derail their career – sleeping with underage girls, drinking, drugs, the usual roll call of issues that were prevalent on the chitlin’ circuit. But when he did all this while also paying them slave wages, even charging them for their stage outfits he had them wear, that’s dehumanizing and Brown had enough.

Needless to say he had no Love, Love, Love for Billy Ward, but thankfully he had been taught music well while under his tutelage and will soon appear on King Records as the leader of the knock-off group The Checkers, who were no slouches in their own right.

Meanwhile The Dominoes rolled along without him, first with former Marshall Brothers’ group bassist Raymond Johnson taking Brown’s spot on stage – including at The Moondog Coronation Ball – for a few months, though he never recorded with them, before David McNeil, formerly of The Larks who themselves were breaking up due to lack of pay (do you sense a trend here?) would be permanently installed as the group’s bass voice and get a notable lead of his own down the road.

But nobody they ever had in that role was as good as Bill Brown and it’s sad to see to him go, though I suppose we can be thankful for the convoluted way this record came out which at least gave us the chance to properly say goodbye.


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