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DOT 1108; JULY 1952



It’s inevitable in a project of this size and scope that certain “under the radar” artists will make an ongoing case for critical reassessment. To that end it’s not altogether unintentional that Margie Day appears right after Ruth Brown this time around, as the latter was the undisputed Queen Of 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll while the former, despite some hits, was never that well known.

Yet the more you listen to both it’s not all that difficult to envision their fates being reversed if Day had landed with Atlantic Records at the time rather than Brown. She had a strong, expressive voice, a sassy demeanor and on top of it all Margie usually sounded as if she was having sly fun with what she was doing and that can’t help but be infectious.

Whether beset with bad luck or bad choices, or both, Day never climbed above the ranks of a second tier act in spite of records that could match most stars song for song.


Never Lose Or Gain
Once again we’re left trying to figure out how someone so talented could miss out on the consistent popularity and widespread acclaim rightly due her… and once again we’re met with the same nagging issues that bedeviled her.

For starters there’s the ongoing disastrous decision by Dot Records to credit The Griffin Brothers, not Margie Day, as the lead artists here, despite the fact they did not write or sing this and their playing is worst aspect of the record.

What’s the point in having a dynamic vocalist if she’s constantly being given the short shrift by her own label, especially when The Griffin Brothers are simultaneously getting their OWN singles to keep their names in the public’s mind? Can you imagine Atlantic doing the same to Ruth Brown and giving Harry Van Walls or Willis Jackson the lead designation and only added “Vocals By:” in small print?

But while that might explain the lack of name recognition Margie Day has been saddled with, it doesn’t excuse the fact that with The Clock Song (Let Your Pendulum Swing) they have what should be the ideal song to get her more notoriety thanks to a tune that is racy without being obscene and one which lets Day show off a lighthearted joyous delivery while at the same time allowing her plenty of room to smirk lasciviously at the listener who can envision all sorts of scenarios that are lurking in the shadows.

When recently examining Brown’s Top Three hit Daddy Daddy we were quick to point out its flaws in spite of the overall quality of the composition and here we have a record with similar problems in that what’s written works great, but what’s around it doesn’t live up to that promise.

The difference in the two is whereas Brown was the one who surprisingly struggled a bit to meet the demands of the very good arrangement on her record, here Day is the one being let down by the arrangement, which if you’re making an argument for her being on par with the biggest female star in rock is a point in Margie Day’s favor.


Now Run Along, Honey
Suggestiveness is a quality that is easy to spot but hard to teach. You either can pull it off or you can’t and Margie Day could definitely pull it off.

On the surface there’s nothing ribald about this tune. In fact there’s very little sensible about it either, as it seems to take the title a little too seriously, presenting the clocks as if they were people and referring to the way in which they keep time – at least the old fashioned grandfather clocks with their tick-tocking back and forth pendulums – as a willful act on their part.

If it were a literal translation then The Clock Song (Let Your Pendulum Swing) might contain some of the dumbest lyrics, certainly the least offensive, that you’d find in rock ‘n’ roll. With its early nursery rhyme quality it would even seem to be trying to drive home how harmless it was… which is why the twinkle in Day’s eye along with her salacious grin is so vitally important to making the song come alive.

How much sex you want to read into this is entirely up to you of course, but while you might win a claim on the witness stand that there’s nothing untoward about any of the lyrics, we’d remind you that it’s not always WHAT you say, but how you say them that matters.

How Day says these lyrics suggests that the pendulum swinging is the male sexual organ and the youthful owner of said apparatus is being encouraged to put it to use by a willing and eager Margie.

Each word she delivers gets saddled with a double meaning and if the words themselves aren’t enough to convince you of her kinky desires, then her hesitation moves and the way she draws out certain words until she makes them seem to be telling you something altogether different will make you think you’re hearing things that aren’t there.

That she does this so effortlessly only makes The Clock Song all the more impressive… which is why The Griffin Brothers putting absolutely no effort into giving her a backing track that was suitable for her aims is so frustrating, especially because they have so many more viable options which they flat out ignore.

If they’d tried using a grinding strip-tease arrangement that would certainly hammer the point home and may cause you to have to hose yourself down by the time the chorus ends. Or they could take a more in your face approach and simply give it a raucous beat with lusty horns, pounding piano and clattering drums to give her a suitable rhythm to ride… since it already sounds like she’s eager to straddle that horse as it is!

Instead for some reason they offer up a New Orleans Dixieland-esque track which lays back to such an extent that you wonder if it was interfering with their nap. As a result they sort of let the parade pass them by, slowing the entire song down and taking up valuable space with extended solos that add nothing exciting or interesting. In the process it winds up undercutting the risqué attitude Day imparts her vocals with which all but ensures that the record will struggle to make an impression unless you’re keyed in exclusively on the girl being hung out to dry by everyone around her.

Still a good record and a great individual performance, but one that could’ve been so much more with just a little effort.


Keep In Time
In the past we’ve seen Dot Records make bad decisions on material with her, trying to make her palatable for pop audiences, but you can’t say that’s the case with a song like this. If they wanted something more wholesome they’d have simply told her it was really about timepieces and forced her to treat it as such.

Instead The Clock Song (Let Your Pendulum Swing) was simply a case of the band getting some sort of an itch to try something different without realizing – or caring – that it contradicted their singer’s approach.

The problem is when Ruth Brown at Atlantic couldn’t quite get on the same page with her band they’d already built up enough of a track record where audiences would still flock to the record and overlook those issues because of their love for the singer.

Margie Day, even though she equals Brown’s recent turn – and perhaps surpasses it because she had less to work with – doesn’t have the same name recognition to make up for this record’s shortcomings… that is, if the audience was even aware to look past The Griffin Brothers name to find out who the real star is.

I know that to some this head to head comparison between an immortal and a short-lived comparatively minor act might strike some as far-fetched and even seem insulting to Miss Rhythm, but part of the fun of being a rock fan is looking for those with the talent to stand toe to toe with the legends and Margie Day had what it took to do just that.

Too bad her band, her record company and the public didn’t seem to realize it at the time.


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