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DOT 1070; NOVEMBER 1951



Whenever you’re reviewing something from the annals of history, particularly that which has a strong aesthetic appeal which may differ greatly from the authenticated commercial appeal of these records at the time, it is natural to use your own current views to loudly disagree with the assessment of those who were around at the time… those consumers who were the intended target audience for the product at hand when it was originally issued.

This is only natural as people like to think their own personal judgement in such things as being infallible and most have the boundless ego to go along with it which encourages them to voice their opinions as if they were fact.

But of course this is a terrible habit to get into. After all, the purely subjective tastes of a handful of modern listeners can’t possibly be as relevant to the chronicaling of history as the verified tastes of the masses when the music was made and frankly it’s delusional and conceited to think otherwise.

…Except here, where it is entirely justified.


Somebody Else’s Fool
The arrival on the scene of vocalist Margie Day has been one of the more rewarding experiences on this trip through rock ‘n’ roll’s dusty back pages as she has proven herself time and time again to be one of the most skilled singers the genre had – regardless of gender – in these first four years.

Possessing a good voice but a great sense of character, Day has been a captivating performer, seamlessly embodying the roles her songs have laid out for her, usually smart and sassy with a healthy dose of uninhibited sexuality thrown in for good measure.

Two big early hits – Street Walkin’ Daddy and Little Red Rooster – seemed to put her on the brink of stardom but in spite of some excellent work to follow, including the phenomenal Sadie Green, she’d been unable to score another hit on the national charts.

Until now.

Although she continued to churn out some excellent records over the next few years for a variety of labels, Pretty Baby would be her final Billboard entry and while a hit is a hit is a hit and thus gives us some notice as to her viability as an artist, it hardly provides any indication of her true abilities as a singer.

In fact, it seems almost like a perverse joke that THIS unfocused duet would be the last shred of documented evidence that Margie Day was a force to be reckoned with in rock ‘n’ roll.


The Rotten Dirty Way You Do
One of the criticisms we leveled at Dot Records yesterday when covering the much better top side of this release, Stubborn As A Mule, was how by by giving the lead artist credit on these records to The Griffin Brothers they were depriving the vocalists from making as big of an impression in listeners minds, not to mention the fact that multiple releases by different singers at once, yet all coming out under the band’s name, was not the best marketing approach to make.

Yet in this case it worked as Pretty Baby inched its way into the Top Ten for a lone week… right on the heels of another record by The Griffins that had been issued at the exact same time featuring vocalist Tommy Brown.

The same Tommy Brown who is the anonymous male vocalist sharing space (but not sharing the billing) with Day here and whether or not that was the reason they held back Brown credit here, so he wouldn’t be competing with his own single, it was a rather strange choice to make. Why have a male-female duet without acknowledging there’s even a guy on the record?

The recent Tampa Red record of which this is a cover, similarly used a male-female duet and it didn’t make much sense there either. Maybe the thinking was for them to try and duplicate the success of Little Esther and Mel Walker on Savoy with these pairings, but unlike most of those where the vocalists trade off lines and thus each get their own perspective in the story line, here they’e singing in unison which is a bad idea. Their voices don’t mesh well at all – either tonally or in terms of staying in sync – and with a pace that’s far slower than Day prefers to sing in, it’s almost as if she’s an afterthought on her own record.

On top of that Brown’s voice overwhelms Day’s in the mix, whether that’s because of him singing louder, or being mic’d better or just being more forceful in his delivery, and yet even Brown isn’t entirely comfortable with the modest chugging rhythm here.

The Griffins, who lest you forget got top billing on this, aren’t adding anything of note either as they don’t get so much as an instrumental solo to show off their wares, making this a song that virtually any competent studio band could’ve carried out.

As for Day, you know she’s in trouble when the story winds up with “him” joining the Army in the face of romantic disillusionment. In other words they didn’t even bother changing the gender of the Tampa Red original, and yet somehow this throwaway became a hit and the commercial epitaph for Margie Day which is an ignominious fate any way you look at it.


I Can’t Satisfy You
Had this side not garnered any notice at the time, the score we’ve given it wouldn’t have changed – and even the criticisms would’ve remained the same – but the sense of outrage would’ve been comparatively muted because we’d see it for what it was – a bad decision on an irrelevant B-side.

But when audiences at the time began gravitating towards Pretty Baby in spite of its many flaws, the perception of the record changed, especially in retrospect.

Now this became a more “important” entry in Margie Day’s catalog which only makes the structural shortcomings all the more apparent.

There may be a few decent lines tossed in, and in spite of their incompatibility as vocal partners both Brown and Day are good singers with strong voices, but this remains more of an unmitigated mess than anything else and a complete misrepresentation of what Margie Day did so well.

Sometimes the public makes boneheaded mistakes and have to be held accountable for their actions. While their interest in this is important from an historical perspective, that same interest is inexplicable from a musical perspective which around here tends to matter just a little bit more.


(Visit the Artist page of Margie Day as well as The Griffin Brothers for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)