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MODERN 20-807, MARCH 1951



There are few things we tolerate less than artists that are stuck in neutral when it comes to creativity.

The entire premise of the site is to show how rock ‘n’ roll evolved over time and here we are revisiting a group who once again are recycling past glories that are now almost two years old, essentially just re-writing their past songs, stealing ideas from old arrangements and trying to shallowly cash in on the faint recognition those things may elicit in listeners.

But who’s at fault here?

Did Modern Records encourage The Robins to duplicate an earlier song, or was Bobby Nunn just trying to get more milage out of a song they’d already done for another label by changing the title and the lyrics but keeping almost everything else?

Either way the victim in all of this is the record buyer who gets recycled goods in new packaging.


Come Back To Me
As we’ve said before the record industry tends to view music simply as “product”, like a grocer views lettuce or canned peaches. If people buy something on your shelf, you need to replace it with the same thing so they can buy it the next time they’re in the store.

But music doesn’t work that way, or at least it shouldn’t. The musical experience is one that rewards creativity, diversity and new ideas, new sounds… new records.

Yes, some old records become classics and certain songs become standards that are done countless times by countless artists, but it’s rare those remakes – or older re-issued sides – have a great impact on the current scene when they’re heard again.

For that you need something that is fresh, which is why it’s so frustrating that the record industry constantly seems to be sabotaging themselves by trying to squeeze a few more drops of water out of a dry sponge simply because once upon a time it had enough liquid in it to keep them all from going thirsty.

Since leaving the oversight of Johnny Otis in the winter of 1950 The Robins were particularly prone to revisiting their past and initially we figured it must be the shortsighted record companies who’d rather believe audiences were complete idiots to buy a barely concealed re-hash of a far better original record than to try and come up with a new original record that would sell on its own merits.

But what if it was The Robins who were the ones selling themselves short by going back to the well looking to dredge up a hit based on yesterday’s successes?

Their latest effort in this regard is called Rockin’, just about the only new thing about it, but while the “Taub” writing credit was Modern’s standard procedure for stealing of half the songwriting royalties, the other writing credit went to Bobby Nunn himself, The Robins’ lead singer and primary songwriter within the group itself.

It’s doubtful the Bihari brothers would add his name to the credits if he didn’t write a word – more often than not they’d remove his name even if he wrote the whole song – so it would appear that Nunn turned this song in himself, either hoping to pass it off as something new or figuring the Biharis wouldn’t care as long as they couldn’t get sued for swiping it from another publishing company.


Going Down To The Station
At least give Nunn credit, he wasn’t trying to revive a HIT record here, but rather their first record under their own name – and just their second overall – from way back in the spring of 1949.

Back then this was called You Sure Look Good To Me, a pretty decent first effort by the group who were trying to establish themselves as a Ravens styled act with a slightly different – more humorous – edge to them.

That record wasn’t based on laughs though, but rather youthful inexperience reflecting their recent days in school. But it’s now three years later and that’s a long time to be staying after class, so with Rockin’ they come up with a new story to update it for their current circumstances as a once popular music group who were facing an uncertain future after breaking up with their one-time steady squeeze… more or less.

The setting they choose for this is not surprisingly a romantic split that has left them down in the dumps and so it’s a far cry lyrically from the song on which it was based which found them hoping to connect with a girl on the way to school.

Who knows, maybe they DID get together back then and now she’s dumped him, but while the plot is different, everything else on this record we’ve heard before.

Same melody, same vocal inflections, same pace, same basic structure right down to the piano intro.

Why bother spending another seventy nine cents on it if you already have their first version of this?

How Long Will I Be In Misery
Okay, okay, so you’re one of those who could care less you’re being served regurgitated food with fresh parsley on the side and being charged full price for it… all you care is if the plate, or the record, fills you up and tastes alright going down and one listen to this and it sounds okay.

The Robins certainly haven’t forgotten how to deliver the song at any rate and I’d be more than happy to admit that they’ve actually improved their deliveries, they sound more confident, their blend is tighter, their timing is sharper and Nunn’s voice has a far more melodic quality to it here than the last time we heard him delivering this tune.

Since the storyline to Rockin’ is also different isn’t that enough to qualify as a new record? Or at least an upgrade to an old record?

No it’s not and here’s why…

What if EVERY rock act this year did the same thing each time out? Took one of their old songs, dressed it up in a new suit, and gave it to you in various forms throughout 1951? Looking back at that year we wouldn’t have any sense of what the music of 1951 was like because we’d be hearing the music of 1949 (in their case) or 1948 or 1950.

If they repeated this charade again in 1952 and ’53 what would be the point of even making records any more? If I wrote the same review for every release here, just changing the title and artist, you could stop after reading one or two because you wouldn’t be getting anything new out of them.

Music captivates us because it’s always changing, each new record offers the promise of something we’ve never heard before. Maybe most of them fail to live up to our previous favorites but once upon a time those favorites were brand new themselves and if those artists had chosen instead to merely re-make an even older song of theirs then that “new” favorite record of yours wouldn’t exist.

Yeah, I know, maybe this was just one side of one record by one group who were seeing their opportunities start to dwindle, but it’s a good bet that had they kept trying new things more opportunities would’ve presented themselves a lot faster than they did.

So while in a vacuum maybe this does sound as good, or even slightly better, than You Sure Look Good To Me, but that one sounded better for May 1949 than this does for March 1951 because that one was fresh back then and hinted at something new waiting for us just over the horizon while this record has us looking back at where we’ve already been.


I’ve Been Blue All Day
I know there are probably many who feel that performances that have good qualities to them by artists that are still appealing should be given a lot more slack than what we’ve shown here, but that’s not the only thing we’re trying to show with this project.

You’re free to listen to these twice cooked records they serve you, enjoy them and praise them all you want. The most important opinion when it comes to music is always your own.

But what’s not opinion is the simple concept of progress itself which states that in order for something to advance it has to keep moving forward.

Rockin’ goes backwards.

Yes, it sounds more self-assured and therefore some might say it make for better listening, but guess what, if we all went back to fifth grade I’m sure we’d handle the things that tripped us up back then a lot more confidently the second time around too. But doing so wouldn’t improve our lives now one bit.

The Robins need to understand this and until they do these kind of efforts are a waste our time and a waste of THEIR time as well.


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