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DOT 1042; MARCH 1951



Now it’s starting to make sense a little…

Not GOOD sense mind you, but at least you can see what Dot Records was thinking by releasing two singles featuring Margie Day at the same exact time, even though it was confusing record buyers, trying the patience of distributors now being asked to throw their weight behind two releases on the same artist and frustrating jukebox ops who now have to decide whether to take up two spots on the machines for the same artist at a time when Day’s single from last December was still drawing nickles, making it potentially twelve percent of their entire selections focused on just one singer.

So business wise this was every bit as stupid as you’d think.

But the reason behind it was they had their eyes on bigger frontiers… as in pop crossover potential by giving audiences a more restrained Margie Day to contrast with the sexually brash ball of fire she’d established herself as already.

Mmm, yeah, now that it’s put that way… they were even stupider than we thought!


You’ve Left Me
Okay, first thing’s first here, most of the “versions” of this that seem to be available online, be it Spotify or Youtube, are wrong. It’s not this song, it’s not Margie Day singing and so if that’s how you search for songs that you don’t own so you can hear them, try Internet Archive instead or click the album link below to buy the CD or stream the track from Amazon.

Now… as for the song itself. It’s probably not worth all that effort to hear it to tell you the truth, especially if you’re a rock fan whose dug the previous Margie Day efforts where she left no question as to where her musical allegiance lay.

We’re not criticizing her for expanding her repertoire necessarily but we are focused on rock ‘n’ roll history here, not someone’s desire to leave us behind for supposedly greener pastures, even if only temporarily. Since Day and The Griffin Brothers wrote the song we’ll compliment her for taking matters into her own hands when it comes to setting forth to do something different, but that doesn’t mean we have to like that direction when presented to us.

The fact is if more people liked Your Best Friend that would probably be a bad omen for rock’s future by suggesting that its most promising artists who were breaking through commercially with really invigorating material could succeed just as much, or more, if they would just forsake it for something more tolerable for the mainstream listener.

But then again the idea of upward mobility, or what passes for it anyway, is always lurking in the shadows and so you can see how Dot Records might’ve encouraged this sort of thing. A hit rock record in 1951 would sell about 50,000-100,000 copies. The biggest hits of the entire year might reach a quarter of a million in sales and every so often, usually over a year or more of steady sales, one or two smashes might get a half a million.

By contrast those numbers are doubled or tripled or even quadrupled for a pop hit with the same level of appeal within their own market since the pop market was far bigger.

Of course the one thing they were all forgetting in their naïvety was that the average mainstream pop music listener was a middle aged white person with little or no tolerance for artists of a darker hue than anyone this side of Frosty The Snowman and sure weren’t going to buy these records no matter how much they pandered to them.


You May Roam, Dear, Far From Home
To be honest I’m not entirely sure Margie Day was going for pop acceptance here, even if The Griffin Brothers – and surely Dot Records – may have been.

Though the content of the song is very mild-mannered compared to her best work, it’s really the arrangement which takes on a pop sheen here, because it sounds as if Day is aiming squarely at Little Esther in her delivery.

She’s nowhere near as nasal of course and has a better traditional voice, if not quite the expressiveness on slower material, but Esther always went in for these kinds of classier torch songs and there’s a definite vocal similarity here that gets a little obscured because it’s not being set off by the type of musical textures that Johnny Otis always gave Esther.

Day’s work here though, at least in a technical sense, is fine. Not great, just okay, but not a detriment to the song at any rate. Her tone is a little shrill, but then again if she’s channeling Little Esther that’s to be expected. Instead the real problem she’s faced with is the fact the melody is too bland for the lyrics.

Your Best Friend is a song about heartbreak and though the lyrics are relatively simple they’re effectively conveying her emotional state which is key to this having any chance of working. She’s the devoted faithful partner of somebody who could care less about her. He may not be cheating on her, in fact it’d be even more devastating to her I think if he wasn’t cheating, but he just doesn’t have time for her and doesn’t even care that he’s neglecting her. Maybe he’s taken her for granted but it seems by what she’s telling us that he just is a cold loveless person by nature and she can’t understand it.

That’s gut-wrenching if presented properly but there’s so many things wrong with it musically that those feelings never translate.

For starters it’s too fast. You want this drawn out to the point of almost standing still so she has to pull each line from the depths of her soul. But the way they frame this she has to rush to get them all out until they pile up on each other. Secondly the melody needs to be much darker, aurally suggesting the depths of the pain to make the words hit harder, horns crying amidst an otherwise stark backing.

Instead we get pleasant, polite supper club piano that even has a slight giddy-up to it. It’s lounge music where nobody – including the musicians – are paying any attention to the song they’re playing, though considering the crossover aims of this you couldn’t really blame them.

There’s One Thing I Know
For all the criticism we’ll lay at the feet of ignorant record companies who continually tried to undermine rock’s progress – some because they truly detested it musically, others because they saw it as commercially inconsequential or harder to authentically churn out and still maintain quality control over it – the fact is, sometimes artists themselves were as much to blame when it came to not fully believing in its potential.

Sad, but entirely understandable.

When society constantly denigrates your culture, belittles your natural forms of expression, dismisses your efforts out of hand, or steals from your innovators and attempts to replicate their art while at the same time watering it down and then elevating the imitators while neglecting the originators, it’s no wonder that you start to believe your artistic successes are not that successful after all.

The Ink Spots whitened their sound and found mainstream acceptance. Nat “King” Cole did the same. By contrast those artists who hadn’t “sold out”, including rock artists, all failed to reach the same level of mass acceptance and looked as though they never would. So why wouldn’t The Griffin Brothers who played better than most white bands, or Margie Day who could put a song over just as well as Dinah Shore, not see the benefit in trying to compete on their terms?

But what they didn’t realize was the deck was stacked against them, the fix was in. Sure The Ravens singing standards or Ivory Joe Hunter playing light piano ballads might get a modicum of respect for their classy presentation but it was always going to be conditional… as in, “they’re not bad… for colored acts”.

Your Best Friend is taking that same road while not realizing it’s a dead end. Margie Day wasn’t going to be a pop act because of what she was at birth, not what she did in the studio.

The reason we’re still talking about rock ‘n’ roll three quarters of a century after its arrival is because efforts like these failed. What succeeded was pursuing legitimate expressions of their unique shared experiences, not seeking to appease the mainstream, but rather looking to upset them. Because that music was authentic it ensured a much deeper connection with its audience and in time the movement spread and ironically made the most respectable pop increasingly weak commercially by comparison.

Nobody told that to them yet however and so we’re still going to have to suffer through more of these misguided attempts along the way.


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