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JUBILEE 5084; MAY 1952

 
 

 

Okay, now they’re just showing us up!

First they break away from their usual sad sack balladry with a guitar driven lament about drowning their sorrows in booze which allowed Sonny Til to break out a hoarse whiskey-soaked vocal technique that was miles away from the delicate croon we’d become accustomed to.

Now on this side he makes even that radical departure from the norm seem quaint by comparison to this completely unexpected uptempo kiss-off.

What the hell is happening? Has the world gone mad?

Up is down, black is white and The Orioles of all people are rocking up a storm.

Don’t for a minute tell me you saw this one coming!
 

 

Waiting Around For Hours
One way in which rock ‘n’ roll differed greatly from traditional pop music was in the way that singers frequently wrote their own material in rock, whereas outside of Peggy Lee very few classic pop stars ever lifted a pen to compose something for themselves.

A large part of this was necessity. Pop music had stables of songwriters dating back to Irving Berlin whose sole job it was to come up with songs that would then be sung by countless artists in competing versions. Singers were just the main instrument being utilized for this artform, not the creator of art themselves.

But Tin Pan Alley at the time wouldn’t think of writing something they saw as crude such as blues, country or rock and as a result increasingly it was left to the artists themselves to come up with something on their own to suit those styles and appeal to the needs of their respective audiences.

Sonny Til was hardly a prolific composer by any means, but Gettin’ Tired, Tired, Tired is his second co-write in two months and this one in particular stands out, largely because it’s far different stylistically than most of The Orioles catalog which hints that Sonny himself was getting tired, tired tired of singing one plodding ballad after another.

Of course the obstacle they face now in trying their luck with this type of upbeat song is the fact that a lot of rock vocal groups on the scene as of late have made their bones with nitro-fueled rockers these past two years and as a result the bar for them to meet is a lot higher now than it would’ve been back in the late 1940’s when the field for this sort of thing was wide open.

But one listen to this proves they were up to the task.
 


 
 

You Said That You Would Meet Me
Right away the saxophone of Buddy Lucas tells you this is not your normal Orioles record. When you then hear the bubbling organ and some electric guitar slashes behind it and the group themselves adding some nonsensical vocal rhythms you know you’ve entered an alternate universe.

This is NOT what The Orioles made their name on that’s for sure, but boy does it feel good to hear them finally starting to stretch out some more.

Of course for those of us who’ve been tracking such things in meticulous – and downright pedantic – fashion since their arrival on the scene in mid-1948 the sound of them cutting loose like this is almost shocking, but we need to always keep in mind that a 16 year old rock fan in 1952 was all of 12 when they hit with It’s Too Soon To Know and were barely hitting puberty when they made their names on all of those yearning ballads, so they’re naturally going to be judging this a little differently as a result.

For them Gettin’ Tired, Tired, Tired isn’t going to be compared to their past hits or the predominant style they exhibited in days gone by, instead it’ll simply get weighed against the latest hits by The Dominoes, The Four Buddies and The Clovers… heck, even gospel was getting into this more energetic and complex vocal style as The Bells Of Joy were cracking the charts with the bouncy effervescent Let’s Talk About Jesus when this came out.

So The Orioles had to live up to those expectations in order to do more than simply surprise their old school fans with something like this.

Maybe they don’t quite match the reigning hits of the day in terms of sheer dynamic punch, but this is still an impressive change of pace from Sonny Til who shows he can strut with the best of them with his rhythmic delivery that somehow combines flashes of hurt with reservoirs of confidence to create a shifting attitude that comes together in ways we never expected out of him.

Sonny Til, the human doormat, is actually telling this girl off… not taking her shit anymore and washing his hands of her once and for all. More importantly he’s not merely standing up for himself out of sadness and self-preservation as you might expect from him, but rather he’s dismissing her outright because he doesn’t doubt his ability to upgrade with his next girlfriend.

Wow, talk about a turnaround!

The others seem just as pleased with his newfound backbone as we are, lending their full-throated support with some rousing parts of their own, particularly Johnny Reed’s deep voiced interjections that seem to almost be taunting the girl as she walks away in shocked disbelief.

When Lucas lets rip with a vicious sax solo the rest of The Orioles are whooping it up with a boisterous insolence, almost envisioning the fun they’re going to have picking up chicks with their pal now that he’s free.

If there’s a complaint to be made with Gettin’ Tired, Tired, Tired it’s a small one and that’s in how they dial things back down after the party-like atmosphere achieved during the instrumental break. By this point we’re so worked up that we don’t want to restrain ourselves any longer, especially since for many of us we never thought we’d see the time when Sonny Til and The Orioles shed their subservient image and walked around with their shoulders back and heads held high.

But even if we’re forced to contain ourselves somewhat, we can’t help but think to ourselves that it’s a brand new day at last.
 


 

Guess I Better Grow Up And Wipe The Teardrops From My Face
When viewed through the modern lens, when major artists space out new releases to land every few years and manage to stay headlining acts despite the long spells of inactivity in the studio, it might not seem like The Orioles creative resurgence after a two year decline exactly qualifies as a “comeback”. But in the singles era things were different and it’s hard to see how this isn’t one when it seemed as if they’d all but given up on even trying to be creative while new groups came along to make them seem hopelessly outdated.

But over the past ten months they’ve overhauled their sound – if not quite transformed their image entirely – and have been consistently good with all sorts of diverse material… from cover songs to radical remakes of older songs taken from outside genres to finding new ways to tweak their ballads and now with Gettin’ Tired, Tired, Tired coming up with a record that can at least compete with the best uptempo songs by their younger competitors.

Maybe none of these more recent “experiments” can live up to their absolute best early ballads – and that’s without even taking into account their importance in the context of the time frame in which they were massive hits – but it’s songs like this which give their catalog the diversity it needs to show The Orioles were more than just a one trick pony.

Better late than never.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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