No tags :(

Share it






Okay, you know why most of you came here, so you might as well admit it.

You have little or no interest in how The Hollywood Flames, under whichever name they were credited as for this release, perform this song and you’re hardly even curious about the convoluted record company machinations that saw it released on two different labels – with two different flip sides – in the span of three months.

No, you’re here because you’re fans of The Beach Boys, the leader of whom was all of nine years old at the time this record came out.

But that’s okay. If we can get our hooks in you by getting you to read a review that is a full decade before we run across our first release on that legendary group, maybe you’ll stick around until we get to those teenage kids in their Pendleton shirts who will start a musical revolution down the road.

That’s us, building an online empire by any means necessary.


A Starlight Dream
We’re gonna make you wait a minute or two – and no, don’t skip ahead either – to first cover the actual group singing this song and why this is appearing here today, after two other sides by the same act, albeit under a slightly altered name – Hollywood’s Four Flames – on the Unique Record label.

Of course you COULD just go back and read those two and get the same information in far more interesting fashion, but we’ll be courteous of your time and limited attention spans to recap it in the briefest terms.

The Hollywood Flames, as they’d be most frequently called, had signed to Unique Records, a label recently begun by saxophonist Sherman Williams, and since his company had limited distribution being brand new he immediately leased all of their sides to Fidelity Records, a new subsidiary of Specialty Records, a much more well established label.

Art Rupe, the president of Specialty/Fidelity, listened to all of the masters and decided that Unique had made a poor decision on their A-side and so they pulled Dividend Blues off of that release and replaced it with this song instead to serve as the flip to W-I-N-E, the obvious standout track of that single.

This one was hardly an inspired choice, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Unique still had the rights to all of the material and could issue what they wanted in whatever form they wanted and two months later, in January 1952, they put out Tabarin as the group’s next single backed with something entirely different that we’ll get to in due time.

Now… as to the reason all of you newcomers came here now (even though by this point we’re already four full years into rock’s history which we’ve painstakingly chronicled one record at a time) is because of the guy who wrote this song, one Murry Wilson… hardly a songwriter vying with Irving Berlin, George Gershwin or his own son Brian Wilson for that matter.

Yet give him credit, for he DID manage to beat the odds and get a few songs published and performed on record which inflated his already huge ego even further, but like most who try to make it in this field he found no real success and became increasingly bitter and jealous of his talented offspring when they bested him before being old enough to vote.


They Seem To Understand… Actually, No They Don’t
Okay, so the song itself. A decidedly old-fashioned subject – meaning tavern – which clearly Wilson felt was inspired and rather unique (no pun intended) and would help it to stand out.

Maybe it did, but not always for the best, because nobody buying this was at all familiar with the term and even though it’s not hard to figure out what it means when David Ford sings it, I’m sure a lot of people just assumed it was misspelled and mispronounced, not that it was anything clever as Wilson had hoped it’d come across.

We wish we could say that the odd title was the only thing about Tabarin that was a little unsuitable for a rock record in 1951, but basically everything else is misfiring too.

Ford, taking just his second lead vocal, is dancing with this girl at what sounds like a classy affair, but the narrative is a little clunky with some stilted lines and a confusing plot in which he seems to be dancing with someone who is NOT his girl and maybe his girlfriend finds out, I’m not really sure, but he winds up alone, mourning the loss of someone he waltzed around the floor with at one point or another. They really should’ve handed out name-tags at this affair to help us keep track of who’s who.

What saves the record from disaster is the voices themselves. They may not have any better idea what’s happening on the record than we do, but they definitely know how to cover up for any confusion with some breezy harmonies while letting Ford add plenty of tender emotion to his lines.

There are parts that work better than others, even on paper, as the bridge is kind of nice even if the others inch it uncomfortably close to pop at one point, but without much instrumental support – piano, vibes and guitar, all of it well back in the mix – it’s the voices that are asked to carry this.

They do all they can with it but since the melody wanders too much (and borrows rather noticeably at times from the standard In The Chapel In The Moonlight), the story isn’t clear enough and there’s no strong vocal hook it’s more a case of them keeping it from going under than it is with them truly lifting it up, but you definitely come away from this knowing these guys can all sing.

As for the songwriter… well, let’s just say all three of his kids must’ve inherited that skill from their mother.


Watching Other Loves Begin
Believe it or not this won’t be the only time we encounter the many moods of Murry Wilson, songwriter… in fact, The Flames themselves will prove to be gluttons for punishment and record another of his compositions – albeit under an alias – down the road.

But let’s not be too hard on the Wilson paterfamilias. He wasn’t completely bereft of talent, but like most who put pen to paper he fell short of contributing anything of lasting value. That’s not a crime.

There’s a few good ideas here and a few that needed some re-working – like the title Tabarin itself – but maybe the real issue was simply that he was already an old thirty-four, the son of an abusive alcoholic and as a result someone who had to grow up fast. He’d lost an eye in an industrial accident in his twenties, had three kids to raise on limited income and like a lot of people his dreams far exceeded his abilities to see them to fruition.

The Four Flames were themselves struggling to see their own dreams come true and a record like this wasn’t about to change their fortunes. But their talents were a little more apparent and unlike Wilson they were in the right place at the right time, kids who were fully immersed in the music of the day and ready to capitalize on it if they could just get a good song on a strong label.

It’d take awhile, but they’d reach those goals eventually.

When you get right down to it that’s probably the real difference in how we view others. Those who succeed we tend to treat more kindly than those who don’t, maybe because when you succeed you can be somewhat content with your achievements rather than bitter and resentful of others who made it, which makes dealing with them a whole lot easier.

As Murry Wilson proved over time with his tyrannical behavior over his more talented offspring, it’s a helluva lot harder to not be affected by your failures when you keep trying but never make the grade.

This one doesn’t make the grade.


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