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The trend was around from the very start… rock vocal groups adapting pop standards for their own purposes.

It seemed a fairly sensible move at a time when nobody knew if more genuine rock songs would make a commercial impact, so adapting songs that had instantly familiar melodies, good lyrics and plenty of space to add distinctive characteristics that only these groups could provide was a safer bet to those not accustomed to taking chances.

But original compositions still took precedent, if only because it brought people to YOU rather than you using something already known to go to them, hat in hand, looking for recognition. Furthermore when these standards were handled in a way that was too tied to their pop origins and not invested with enough of what made rock fans interested in the group in the first place your chances at commercial success dwindled considerably.

By 1951 you’d think this trend would’ve died off as rock had proven its value time and again, but if anything it picked up steam as more and more groups entered the arena, all searching for songs whose titles would catch your eye at a glance and whose identifiable refrains would embed in your consciousness within a few bars.

This song in particular became one of the more enduring compositions in the rapidly expanding field and here’s where its transformation from pop standard to rock standard began.


Stole A Kiss In The Night
The song is perhaps the ultimate piano tune, something that if you ever take a formal lesson or screw around on the keys unsupervised, you will undoubtedly learn to play fairly early in your musical education.

Written by Hoagy Charmichael and Frank Loesser in 1938 its simple chords have been endlessly recycled in every generation giving it a timelessness that is virtually unmatched in the annals of popular music while its distinctive melody – up, up up, dowwwwwwn. Rinse, repeat – is easy to sing and impossible to ever forget.

On top of all that you’re given a natural percussive rhythm and lyrics that are broad enough to encompass any romantic situation, yet – at least in the best interpretations – avoid being sappy because they give the impression of being sung after you and your date have parted for the night and the guy is strolling home, a faraway look on his face, a smile that’s positioned halfway between bliss and contentment, singing this to himself as he dreams about what the next day will bring.

If you ever need to understand the allure of classic pop music, Heart And Soul is not a bad place to start, at least as a composition. It’s not just catchy, it’s tirelessly so. Of course the first rush of pop performers adhered to the style prevalent in the late 1930’s and early 40’s with their detached emotions, undercutting its strengths in the process, but apparently fulfilling the needs of an audience that treated lust and sex as perversion rather than entirely natural desires to be explored and enjoyed.

Though most of the early hit versions were solo performances, rock vocal groups found in it the perfect song to embellish with the group taking on the piano’s rhythmic role while the lead had an open field to run and certainly give voice to the underlying desires the song spoke to.

Here The Four Buddies make the crucial decision to give the lead not to their usual frontman, Larry Harrison, but instead hand it over to bass Tommy Carter which gave the wistful song a slightly erotic undertone that made it an even better fit in the dark shadows of night where rock ‘n’ roll thrived.

I Fell In Love With You
Right away as Carter’s voice rumbles into view, this is about as far removed from Bea Wein’s tepid and stilted lead on Larry Clinton’s original from 1938.

The difference in perspective is unmistakable. Whereas all of the pop versions prior to this, as well as after it, focused on the lyrics to convey the romantic longing, Carter is zeroing in on the internal hunger for the girl of his dreams, using sounds over sentiments to get his point across.

In fact when he actually starts singing he winds up screwing up many of the lyrics – which were pretty darn good – yet he makes his point clear all the same. Heart And Soul is about the feeling of falling in love, not the words used to describe it, at least in the hands of most rock groups.

The history of the song on record has always been one where bands – or should I say orchestras – had a tendency to overcompensate for the simple melody and try and dress it up. Even here The Four Buddies have to try and wrest the song from the musical arrangement including a far too insistent guitar that seems to think it’s the reason people would want to hear this record. Some of the licks are tolerable unto themselves but they’re mostly unnecessary. In 1951 however record companies still didn’t quite grasp the fact that a group’s voices alone could carry a song and anything else, especially if not subtly integrated into the vocal arrangement, was superfluous.

It’s not a flawless rendition by the group though, even if it’s a vast improvement over every other version that predated it. The lyrical misses aside, the others range from terrific to somewhat annoying as the first few times they share a refrain it sounds sublime and their wordless padding is first rate, yet they then try and inject a weird syncopated jazz-like vocal to their later spots which is woefully out of place and badly misjudged.

Each time they are about to run off the rails however Carter returns to rescue them by grounding the performance with the sheer gravity of his voice. Just so the others don’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth from their struggles down the stretch they’re kind enough to conclude the record with airy coda which wraps things up on a high note.


Begged To Be Adored
If you’re going to adopt a standard in rock ‘n’ roll you need to do something to set it apart and The Four Buddies unquestionably do this and then some here, paving the way in the future for other rock acts – most notably The Spaniels who also had a bass lead (the brilliant Gerald Gregory) on their 1957 version – to think outside the box when it came to this song.

Of course we don’t really like to talk about future renditions when discussing these records as if we were of their time, because obviously those later developments hadn’t happened yet, but we’ll make an exception to illustrate a bigger point.

Standards are constantly recycled, which is what makes them “standards”, yet Heart And Soul which had been cut by so many artists over the years, almost never had any innovative re-imagining of it until the rock renditions came along.

Whether it was the more creative musical arrangement given to it by The Del-Vikings or the all-time reworking of it by The Cleftones which turned it into an uptempo masterpiece, rockers seemed to understand what the pop acts didn’t, and that is music is a very flexible form of art. It doesn’t break when you bend it.

Sure, every so often a pop act might try something new – Joanie Summers injecting a tender vulnerability into her 1960 performance, or Irene Reid’s 1963 theatrical reading of it – but for the most part all of the pop acts over the years stuck to a conservative approach which not surprisingly is why pure pop music’s pull faded in time, replaced by the idiosyncratic personal versions of music favored by rock artists, all determined to make a song their own by sheer force of will.

We don’t have The Four Buddies alone to thank for that of course, but when it comes to this song they were the ones who got the ball rolling and that’s good enough to deserve some dap.


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