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APOLLO 1190; MARCH 1952



One of the recurring themes around here is the importance of varying your sounds from one side to the next on a single.

It’s a fairly simple concept: If you don’t like that, maybe you’ll like this instead.

While this side of The Larks latest single is taken at a slightly faster pace than the flip, it’s not exactly uptempo by any means making it fairly similar all things considered. But that’s not what we take issue with when it comes to the difference it’s lacking.

No, the real problem with this song is it inhabits the exact same wussy pop attitude that the top side has and when you’re trying to confirm your status as a rock vocal group then doubling down on your bet for a losing stylistic hand was certainly not the way to go about it.


My Thoughts Return To The Thing We Used To Do
The idea that music must speak to the generation coming of age at the time is nothing new. Listeners in the 1910’s that swooned over Irving Berlin songs felt a personal connection to it every bit as much as fans of Baby Keem do today. The older establishment railing against the Jazz Age in the 1920’s was just as much about their feeling that the musical trends had passed them by and made them irrelevant as it was about perceived obscenity in the music itself.

Rock ‘n’ roll took this to the extreme as it broke a stranglehold on the types of music that were acceptable for twenty years or so and accentuated the generation gap in many of its performances. Which is why it’s always so disheartening when a talented group like The Larks kept returning to older musical forms an a misguided attempt to court, or at least appease, an entirely different, far older and in this case far whiter, audience.

The beautiful vocals featured on songs like In My Lonely Room can obviously be admired by anyone regardless of age or DNA, but the fact is they were delivering those vocals with a focus on white pop appeal thanks to a senseless edict from record companies who felt the dominant rock audience apparently wasn’t worth the time.

These attempts failed of course because the primary fan base of rock steered clear of these songs, knowing their tastes were being deemed unimportant. So rather than become stars The Larks broke up soon after these singles flopped. Though they’ve been championed in the years since for their undeniable talent, it’s hardly surprising that the praise for many of these offending singles mostly came from white fans of later vintage who naturally weren’t nearly as affected by the massive cultural disconnect these records originally engendered.

So once again, as with the top side of this, we can find plenty to praise about the voices themselves, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to justify, let alone recommend, the songs they’ve been saddled with in a futile attempt to find commercial success in a market that didn’t want this in the first place.

Am I To Blame?
Upon first hearing this song I naturally assumed it was a pop song they were covering, or possibly one they were reviving from a much earlier era.

That turns out not to be the case after all. Its writer, Jacqueline Stanfield, saw it published by Apollo’s in house company, Bess Music, named for the label’s owner Bess Berman, so that means it was either submitted to them by Stanfield, or written upon request when looking for material for The Larks.

Bess Berman was stone deaf it should be noted.

No, actually she wasn’t, but listening to In My Lonely Room she might just as well have been because this is a pop song through and through, as nothing but a pop song would ever use the lyrics that include the words “a haunting refrain” in a non-ironic manner.

The whole thing is sappy as can be and far too wordy in trying to convey what really should be a primarily emotional response to a broken relationship. Not only is Gene Mumford’s character forced to dissect his feelings in a whimsical fashion, but the lines themselves prove they’re hardly worth the effort.

Take for instance the line “You told me we were through right from the start”. Hmm, I believe if the girl was saying from the very beginning this wouldn’t work then it meant they never actually hooked up, but what do I know?

More pertinently, what does Stanfield know? My guess is “very little” because by her story it sounds like she’s never even been kissed, let alone been in a relationship and thus is not writing from experience at all, but rather trying to string together heartfelt sentiments with no basis in reality.

Yet even so Mumford sounds really good singing this tripe and while he’s not bringing as much inventiveness to his reading as he did on the last side, he probably feels he doesn’t have to because this has a slightly more natural melody which helps to a degree.

What helps even more is David McNeil whose bass interjections in the harmonies anchors the whole thing and gives this just a little bounce to its step as well as grounding the feelings Mumford is expressing in a way. As stated the thoughts themselves are flowery and silly – “our dreams have passed like the smoke out of the blue” – but at least McNeill’s “doo-doo-doo-doo”’s carry with them more emotional gravity than anything Mumford says.

Even so, we can’t possibly give the record credit for anything more than that. It’s yet another example of Apollo Records showing why they were never going to be more than a marginal player in the rock field as long as they had a hand in gathering material for their artists.

The Larks may in fact be able to sing anything, but rather than settle for just “anything”, you want them to sing something with merit for once and this ain’t it.


All That’s Left Is A Memory Of You
If you measured songs only in terms of technical quality, things such as singing in key and adhering to the melody, then it’d theoretically be far easier to get a passing grade, regardless of musical tastes or contextual attributes.

A song like In My Lonely Room is well sung and has the requisite structural framework to hold up as a competent piece of music. Yet it’s not being praised and not being recommended because there are other factors that overwhelm these, something easily seen with a few standard questions that should be asked when grading every artist’s work as it comes along.

Does it boost The Larks career? Does it fit into the current rock landscape? Will it advance the musical form in ways that will benefit the entire genre in the future?

No, it does none of these things, and worse yet it doesn’t even try to do them.

Some nice harmonies aside, the overall sound here is anachronistic and while you’re always free to enjoy it, chances are that mentality – if it had been prevalent back in 1952 – would’ve assured that the entire rock genre got diluted and engulfed by mainstream pop before we even reached the mid-1950’s.

That’s obviously not anything we’d be willing to endorse.


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