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REGENT 1041; OCTOBER 1951

 
 

 

One of the sociological aspects of rock ‘n’ roll we’ve been chronicling over the genre’s first four years is the number of female acts taking the stage. Though gender equality is still a long ways off in 1951 the tide has started to turn as of late and some of rock’s most successful and/or talented artists to emerge the last few years have been the fairer sex.

But one area that has lagged behind in that regard is the vocal group domain… until now that is, when a new group, short-lived though they may be, called The Falcons flew into view with their first record in an effort to make this corner of rock a little more diverse…

Finally!
 

 

You Never See Me When I Go By
Despite the rather obvious groundbreaking nature of The Falcons in rock history, their limited output and lack of any hits means they’re something of a mystery in the annals of the genre.

Consisting of the three siblings, sister Goldie “Boots” Alsup backed by her two brothers Earl and George, and rounded out by baritone Bert Palmer who was guesting from The Four Buddies, they cut a lone session for Savoy in August which resulted in two singles… released two whole years apart, showing that the lack of sales of this debut meant they were hardly a priority for the label.

So with that information in tow – without hearing the material – you’d probably come to a few conclusions, the most obvious being the records probably weren’t very good which, combined with low sales totals, made them an immediate afterthought to the company.

Perhaps they were simply hoping the presence of a female lead singer was going to be a novelty they could exploit – though clearly they didn’t try, not even promoting How Blind Can You Be when it came out – and when it failed to draw shallow attention for that aspect they more or less gave up on the act.

But the fact is the record is very good and the female lead, while certainly not intended as a gimmick, at the very least adds some unique textures to the song unavailable on other records at the time, and so that leaves another explanation that probably makes the most sense which is that… Savoy Records didn’t really know what the hell they were doing any more.

Strange, I know, considering they were the first of the indie labels of the 1940’s to find success and one of the first to capitalize on rock in late 1947, but their missteps have begun to outdistance their master strokes by a wide margin the longer this music reigns supreme in rock and it won’t be long before they virtually throw in the towel on rock ‘ n’ roll altogether and revert back to smaller genres with less competition.

With all that in mind The Falcons therefore were probably destined to be a footnote from the very start.
 


 
 

A Beautiful Haze
With a brief electric guitar opening that would be a staple in this field for the next half dozen years, echoed by the male harmonizing voices, Goldie Boots – a name which is hell on search engines – comes into view… a little anxious and almost (but not quite) outrunning her coverage in her pacing on the first line, but sounding really appealing vocally and in terms of a storyteller as the song unfolds.

This was an early writing effort by Clyde Otis, someone who achieved his greatest success at the end of the decade for a variety of artists, the theme he comes up with is really strong because it focuses on a general heartbreak as opposed to one borne directly out of a specific event.

Goldie is distressed that the guy she wants to be with doesn’t notice her at all and the hollow ache she feels over this when she sees him and he never even notices her is palpable in her singing.

In many ways this is a more restrained prequel to Robyn’s immortal Dancing On My Own, without the masochistic self-destructive determination to feel worse but putting herself in a position to be ignored.

By contrast Goldie is suffering in the shadows, hoping that something will change even as she seems to know that she’s got no shot at him. They’ve never even met and so this is more of a remote dream that she has somehow convinced herself is a lot more discernible to him than he’s letting on, hence her asking incredulously How Blind Can You Be? when he doesn’t respond to her silent longing.

Yet in spite of her placing far too much confidence in his mind-reading abilities, you never fail to be moved by her plight, simply because everybody at one time or another had a crush on someone who was oblivious to it, probably for the same reasons that Goldie’s wished-for fella is in the dark about it… namely you didn’t make it obvious how much you wanted to be with them.

That connection with a common source of emotional pain, as discomforting as it might be for those in the listening audience to admit, goes a long way in making you empathize with her. But as gripping as this aspect is, it’s not her willful delusions that are the biggest selling point here, it’s her vocal choices as she brings out the subtle melodic wrinkles of the song – particularly the way she surges at times when she describes her greatest fantasies – and how the whole thing just seems to coast along effortlessly.

Her support crew are far more discreet, humming along modestly for the most part before joining her for some harmonizing on the title line. But even without a more complex arrangement, and no instrumental solos whatsoever, the song never feels too sparse or clunky and that’s a testament to how endearing Goldie Boots is in the lead role.

It may not quite be a masterpiece, there’s a few times she strains too hard for a note, but it’s hard not to be won over by the effort and sincerity of her performance and if it’s structured a little simplistically, that’s probably just another way of saying that is it’s structured classically since that’s what the vocal group songs of this era were known for. When you carry it off without any false steps as The Falcons do here, who can really find fault with that approach?
 


 

Set You High On My Throne
Obviously one really good side of one record does not make for a successful career, but something this powerful right out of the gate usually results in a more sustained presence on the scene than these Falcons (not to be confused with the Detroit proto-soul group of that name in the late 1950’s) were able to enjoy.

Historically speaking, even putting aside the fact that coming out in the pre-crossover years on 78 RPM only which made later record bin scouring all but impossible for retro-enthusiasts, the groundbreaking nature of the group should’ve assured them of at least some notoriety.

Instead we can all join in asking How Blind Can You Be to those who overlooked them at the time as well as in the years since because this is about as confident a first step as we’ve seen any vocal group take, especially one entering a studio for the first time.

It’s doubtful this record will ever be widely re-evaluated to bring it the attention and respect it deserves, there’s just no real audience for that kind of historical revisionism any more, but if nothing else this is one cut that should always at least be lurking in the corners of those dark closets for those willing to go digging around hoping to find something worthwhile left behind.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of The Falcons (ft. Goldie Boots) for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)