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When you succeed right out of the gate the fear on your second effort is that you’ll fall back… a victim of the dreaded sophomore jinx. Yet even if you do, that earlier triumph gives you enough room to fail and fail again before you’re eventually cast aside.

But if your first attempt was good yet had only some regional success without becoming a bonafide hit there’s not going to be quite the same amount of leeway given if your follow up doesn’t improve upon your first showing.

If it fails to even meet those early returns that’s when you could be in trouble.

For a vocal group that had started in gospel The Majors must’ve been praying that this single kept them in business or else they might have to get those robes out of storage and try and convince the parishes that their foray into rock ‘n’ roll was the work of the Devil.


It’s Just A Pose
As it’s been awhile since our first and only meeting with The Majors, and with almost seventeen hundred songs we’ve covered to keep track of, it’s unrealistic to expect you to remember every detail of each artist and song, so a refresher course is in order.

The Majors had formed as a gospel group in Brooklyn back in the mid-40’s before switching to secular material which highlighted the voice of Jimmy Beckum, their ace in the hole who’d done such a good job on their debut, You Ran Away With My Heart, that it sort of obscured the rest of the group’s miniscule contributions.

Derby Records was pleased enough with the scattered sales it drew and brought them back in the fall to record some more, although looking at the material you may wonder what they had in mind for the group’s future direction.

Laughing On The Outside, Crying On The Inside is a well-known standard with three Top Ten versions in 1946 by Dinah Shore, Andy Russell and Sammy Kaye, none of which have vocals that come close to expressing the actual emotions the lyrics effectively reveal.

If that’s the type of sterile performance Derby Records wants out of The Majors to try and position them adjacent to pop, maybe with the group in agreement to get their foot in the door of a few classier venues for club work, then maybe here’s no hope whatsoever for them going forward.

But in spite of the steam cleaned pop pedigree the song has to its name, this performance is miles away from that ignominious fate, as Beckum makes sure that there’s enough genuine emotion shown to make clear their intent to remain firmly in the rock camp.

Make Believe Is All I Do
Let’s circle back to the pop versions for just a moment to make clear that for what the 1940’s – and for that matter 1950’s – pop scene was built on, a world in which those aforementioned performances were perfectly in line with the requirements of the day no matter how blanched they seem to modern ears.

They’re tastefully sung, the orchestras backing the singers are highlighting the sweet melody in a way that is almost subliminal rather than overt, sticking well in the shadows, swelling to convey the emotion the vocalists are forbidden from revealing themselves.

It’s music designed to set a vague dreamy ambiance rather than to challenge the listener with deeper questions or to conjure up painful memories.

The Majors are hardly going to completely subvert this, otherwise the song would hardly be very recognizable, but Beckum makes sure they aren’t going to blindly follow their lead down a dead end street either.

Because there’s a minimum of instrumentation – the most prominent being an intermittent saxophone which adds color but doesn’t seem to comment on the proceedings – it means the entire weight of Laughing On The Outside, Crying On The Inside falls on lead vocal.

The other members are mostly muted, weakly humming just enough to be heard behind him but otherwise staying above the fray. Unlike the pop renditions where the singers skirt over the implications of the lyrics however, Beckum immerses himself in them, wringing out his soul in the process by living each and every word in the real time.

Cause I’m Still In Love With You
Luckily for him the words are quite good as the story finds the narrator with a new girl at a dance while still in love with his old flame, trying in vain to not show anything is amiss, but knowing he’s failing miserably because the pain in his heart over this breakup is so acute.

It’s a timeworn story for music of course, Smokey Robinson in particular mined the same theme countless times at Motown, while the low rider classic by Sunny And The Sunliners’ Smile Now, Cry Later covered much of the same ground in heartbreaking fashion. Even Robyn’s 2010 banger, Dancing On My Own, is essentially the same perspective with the intensity ratcheted up to eleven.

The key to Laughing on The Outside, or any one of those other songs in a similar vein, is to make you feel the same conflicting emotions the singer is experiencing, the way your pride is fighting back against your misery because you don’t want to appear affected by the actions of somebody else, for if you do then you’ve shown you aren’t the one in control of your own happiness in life.

It’s a brutal experience to endure, though all of us have presumably done so at one point or another, ever since sadistic teachers threw seventh grade kids in a gymnasium on a Friday night with the opposite sex and watched them like bugs under a microscope for entertainment purposes to find out who among them were having their heart broken by seeing their crush dancing with somebody else under the basketball hoop.

Beckum never fully cracks, but at times he comes perilously close and as such you believe his grief over this situation is real, whereas you scoffed at Billy Williams, the vocalist for Kaye, when he tried convincing you of the same thing. The situation may be identical, but the feelings being expressed clearly are not.

Happy With Someone New
Who knows, maybe the pop singers were on the right track with their dry readings, as it seems they were the only ones who had ice water in their veins and therefore were successful in hiding their true feelings from the world, which of course is what the lyrics of the song claims is the goal.

But what stood rock apart from pop music from the very start was the lack of inhibitions shown by its artists when it came to ripping off that mask and putting your joy and your fears, your anger and your relief, your lust and your pain in the spotlight for others to observe from a safe distance.

The Majors may not go full-Clyde McPhatter on Laughing On The Outside, Crying On The Inside and break down sobbing here, but Beckum also doesn’t try to conceal the hurt he’s feeling and in doing so he forges a connection with everyone, male or female, who’ve had to navigate the difficult road of caring enough about somebody that it leaves you vulnerable if they should decide to leave you.

Thanks to its hokey piano interlude rather than a more atmospheric saxophone and the lack of more robust vocal support it may not go nearly far enough to get us to be fully invested in the story’s outcome, but it’s far more authentic than the pop versions ever were and because of that we’d have no reluctance to offer Jimmy Beckum a handkerchief if not a shoulder to cry on as his world comes crumbling down.


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