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SAVOY 738; MARCH 1950



After yesterday’s more “experimental” turn by The Robins that adorned the A-side of their latest release, this B-side is more typical of their standard musical game plan.

On it The Robins place Bobby Nunn, their bass singer, out in front making them the most obvious, but also the best, of the Ravens-derived vocal groups that came along in the last few years. Like Jimmy Ricks of The Ravens, Nunn’s job is to deliver a sly, slightly ominous sounding lead where his power of suggestion carries a lot of the weight of the song, almost as if you’re being expected to grasp the underlying meanings he hints at with his vocal tone rather than just take each word he sings at face value.

Whichever approach is your preference though keep in mind that the other side worked so well because it was playing off the more well-known style of The Robins primary output like this one.


When I Was Making Lots Of Money
Any time you have one group owing as much of their appeal to the precedents laid down by another (even more popular) act in the same vein you always tend to question their creativity some. Since Johnny Otis put these guys together a year earlier with the express purpose to compete with The Ravens by appropriating many of their tactics you’d be forgiven if you thought the well would soon run dry.

But already The Robins have shown they weren’t beholden to someone else’s ideas, and here, unlike most Ravens records which tended to either minimize the other group members presence in the background or have them contribute more poppish-singing, Our Romance Is Gone features some sublime tight harmonies by the other Robins, sounding modern and even slightly ahead of the curve.

Despite what a lot of casual observers must be thinking, this decision wasn’t one Otis himself made as the song was written by – and therefore vocally arranged by – The Robins themselves and you can sense their eagerness to make sure they all get to contribute something meaningful to the overall sound.


Leave You All Alone
The theme itself is hardly breaking new ground. We have yet another break-up to report in the love lives of musicians – I’ll refrain from speculating why none of these young successful guys could keep a girl they liked for longer than a week – and so the basic story is not going to offer much in the way of lyrical surprises, unless of course you count the fact that Nunn isn’t bemoaning her loss at all but rather is wishing her a fond farewell.

Once again this isn’t exactly a novel idea, even The Ravens tackled similar theme in one of their first, and best, pre-rock sides, Bye Bye Baby Blues, and yet more often than not a breakup on record results in some hand-wringing, handkerchief clutching histrionics by the guys who are too broken-up by the loss to suffer through it in blessed silence.

But Nunn isn’t among those weeping Willies, he’s got grievances of his own, although he’s respectful enough to cloak his kiss-off to this girl in the veil of sorrow by his downcast delivery. As such Our Romance Is Gone, despite the resolute lyrical position he adopts throughout, is really a song about the internal conflict over being forced to come to that decision to part company.

It works pretty well in that regard too, as Otis’s vibes take center stage adding a reflective tone to Nunn’s assertions of having been done wrong by her which nevertheless are tinted with a shade of remorse about how it all went down. Bobby knows he’s making good points, the most damning of which comes when he suggests that she was in it for his dough, but when the relationship ends and you go your separate ways there’s really no winners and that feeling comes across here pretty effectively.

Considering its similar theme to the more adventurish A-side, There Ain’t No Use Beggin’, that you could envision that song as something of a sequel to this, merely taken at a slightly later point in the timeline of events following a breakup. But aside from sharing a similar point of view there’s not much more these two sides have in common, which is a testament to the group’s versatility.

Here the other Robins are providing mostly wordless harmonies behind Nunn, but while they aren’t asked to do much, what they offer is rock solid, giving Our Romance Is Gone a haunting quality and a strong melodic base from which to work, their voices subtly rising and falling to signal the upcoming shifts in Nunn’s declarations.

To be honest they’re boring parts to sing, just a lot of “oohing” and humming, but when it adds so much atmosphere to the performance you need singers who understand the importance of their roles and don’t undersell their deliveries out of either boredom or petulance. At the end they’re even rewarded for their patience, contributing a nice back and forth exchange with Nunn to close it out in which they actually get to sing real words and seem to be gently pushing Nunn to declare his intentions more emphatically so he could stick the knife in deeper to the girl he’s saying goodbye to.

Going Away And Have My Fun
The band is mostly staying out of the lover’s spat turned farewell tour as Johnny’s vibes take on the job of primary accompanist while Pete Lewis chips in with sharp but purposefully not lethal guitar accents which sound great in how sparingly they’re used.

The sparse track is one of the strong points of Our Romance Is Gone, adding immeasurably to the melancholy ambiance they’re going for, but within that bare bones arrangement are plenty of quality touches that don’t escape notice.

Dig Johnny’s momentary spryness on the vibes when Bobby boasts about “making lots of money” that adds subtle pride and enthusiasm to the boast, or Pete’s impatient scratching when Nunn recounts his past mistakes when this couple broke up before and he came crawling back, suggesting it’s an uncomfortable memory he was forced to dredge up.

It’s interesting that aside from the drums, and probably bass way in back, there are no other instruments here – no horns, not even to provide a wistful coda and no piano to contribute to the stark melody – but that was one of Otis’s hallmarks as a producer. Despite having a deep band he didn’t feel the need to use each player on every song just because they were there. He chose the specific instruments best suited to each record and let the others sit out altogether.

As a result his records never feel cluttered and here it gives The Robins room to breathe, focusing the attention on the story and the mood where it can make its greatest impression.


This Time I’m Really Done
In the long history of rock ‘n’ roll it’s the truly inspired performances which are far more celebrated, records that are so exuberant – or so emotionally distraught on the other end of the spectrum – that they provoke an immediate visceral response in listeners which is so powerful that you can’t help but want to tap into it over and over again. When compared to those tracks songs that don’t even try for that deeper connection may be seen as somehow lacking.

But records like Our Romance Is Gone really deserve nearly as much respect as their more vainglorious counterparts, as these are put together with such great care so that each component is allowed to contribute something of value without detracting from any other aspect. Though these records may be much more workmanlike in their presentation, when viewed against songs that fail to meet their meticulous standards you can see how impressive that work really is.

This might not be the song that would be many people’s choice to be the centerpiece of a presentation on why rock ‘n’ roll in the year 1950 was as solid as it was, but it’s a record that was perfectly representative of that very premise and if nothing else the more of these all-around solid efforts you have to choose from the better your case will be made to anyone doubting the quality of the year in question.

Oh, and don’t look now but as of late it was The Robins who were the ones churning this stuff out with the most consistency giving plenty of evidence that they’d far surpassed their initial objective of merely being another more famous group’s West Coast doppelganger.


(Visit the Artist pages of both and The Robins and Johnny Otis for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)