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The ongoing treatise on the role of B-sides continues…

Which choice do you make?

Do you take the opportunity to present a different aspect of an artist’s work, showcasing another singer in the group performing a song that is far removed from the top half, especially when it is their debut?

Or is it better to simply double down on their strengths and focus on what you’ve singled out as their selling point even if the material and performances aren’t quite up to par?

Not surprisingly Rainbow Records took the latter approach with The Five Crowns and did them no favors in the process.


Hopeless And Free
After some two thousand some odd reviews to date it’s pretty clear where our personal preferences lay when it comes to best utilizing the B-sides of singles.


This is especially true when it comes to vocal groups who have more options than solo artists simply because of the number of potential lead singers they have within their ranks.

Though some groups stuck exclusively to one lead throughout their runs, The Five Crowns divvied up the responsibilities with sixteen year old James “Papa” Clark getting the assignment for ballads while Yonkie Paul handled the faster material.

Yet this song, like the very good A-side You’re My Inspiration, is a ballad which means Clark gets another turn in front of the mic on a song that’s not as good as the first.

Additionally, though there are a few moments where he shines, on the whole Clark gives little indication here that he had it in him to be A Star and since this type of slow yearning song requires a strong lead with flawless vocal control, it may not be the wisest of moves to let audiences hear him struggle a bit to keep a firm grip on the proceedings.

The counter argument of course is it doesn’t really matter much, the other side was what was going to get all of the attention anyway, so if it was clear this wasn’t A-side worthy in its own right then it’s better to clear it off the decks now rather than hold it back to dump on the market later.

Sure, that may make sense, but so too would finding a faster paced song led by another voice that at least gave listeners a chance to hear them in a different context while letting the best Clark had to offer stand on its own.


A Lover’s Paradise
We might as well start by talking about Lover Patterson, a name familiar to rock history fans due to his underhanded machinations when it came to The Five Crowns and the subsequent transformation into The Drifters in late 1958.

Patterson had been the valet for The Orioles, hardly a very prestigious job, but he wasn’t planning on driving people around forever and had his eye on bigger things within the music world. Using the popularity of that group to further his own ambitions he managed to convince The Five Crowns that he was The Orioles manager, rather than just a glorified lackey, and while he proved to be a pretty relentless go-getter for the group, he also knew how to cut in on their profits, taking songwriting credit for both sides of their debut.

Who knows, maybe he DID write them, but somehow I doubt it. Whoever was the true writer though probably didn’t want to fight too hard to get official credit for A Star because it’s kind of directionless.

Right away Papa Clark gives an indication this won’t be the easiest song to navigate as he struggles to hold firm to the initial note, though he does get his footing on the first passage and comes across pretty well. Unfortunately that hit and miss pattern will continue and while he does hit more often than miss, it’s the misses you’ll remember because they have a tendency to break the spell he’s trying to cast over you.

That too isn’t the easiest of tasks because the song doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The general theme about a guy dreaming about the perfect girl is fine, but the title hook is pretty stilted and as it goes along he’s idealizing the girl to such an extent that it becomes pretty desperate… almost bordering on pathetic.

It doesn’t help that some of those later lines are awkwardly phrased, not always clearly delivered and aren’t supported by very robust or complex backing by the other Crowns save for a rather strained bridge by another member. There’s no musical interlude to shift your focus either, which means basically the entire weight of the record rests on Clark and what he’s saying.

At his best he still proves to be a worthy lead singer, but it’s also obvious that at sixteen years old in his first recording session he needs a little more woodshedding to iron out the inconsistencies and gain some confidence in his delivery if he wants to become A Star.

Joining him in that endeavor should be whoever actually wrote this song and together they might be able to come up with something that does credit to their abilities rather than shines too bright a light on their weak points and risks having you think that they’d merely lucked out on the better half of their debut.

I’d Be Worthless Without You Near
We started off criticizing the choice of this song, far too close in spirit to the vastly superior A-side, to serve as the flip since it brings nothing new to the table in order to maybe pique the interest of those listening in a different way than the top half.

We stand by that in theory but feel duty bound to tell you that in five years time another New York group, The Keynotes, would give us a great song called One Little Kiss which clearly takes bits and pieces – melodically and even lyrically – from this one.

Now let it be said that it’s improved in every single way, from the storyline to the singing, but it does show that when it came to vocal groups there was a lot of “loose inspiration” being handed down through the years, so there’s some proof that there was at least one bunch of kids who flipped this single over and got something out of A Star even if most passed it by completely.

In the end, though hardly a notable performance, it’s nothing that is going to derail the career of The Five Crowns. It’s biggest sin might just be that it comes off as a pale facsimile of what they did much better on the other side which sort of confirms why taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to B-sides to give us something different is so important.

After all, you’re only going to get some many chances to make an impression, it’s better to maximize those chances by making each one count.


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