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FEDERAL 12077; MAY 1952



On the surface this record is the least distinctive of the four titles cut at the initial recording session of The Royals, the only recordings with all five original members before Hank Ballard joined them a month later.

Unlike the two yearning ballads that were the highlights of those initial releases which were brilliantly constructed and sung, or the more exploitative flip-side of their debut which featured Wynonie Harris in an unexpected guest role, this one sounded like something that a rock vocal group would just sort of casually toss off… suitable for release but not aiming to be a hit.

And it wasn’t a hit. But it may just point the way to another that was for somebody else down the road.


I’m Too Weak, I Can’t Be Strong
With its piano opening and the light rattling drumming, faint vocal harmonies emerging from the mist as Charles Sutton’s lead comes into focus, the song has a vaguely generic feel at first, seemingly related to a hundred and one similar type of doo wop songs over the years.

You know the ones I mean… mid-tempo musings on love, seemingly ambiguous in their intent, for while they may lay down a definite perspective on the subject the accompanying music and vocals appear much more uncertain, as if they’re holding back on offering a firm opinion on the matter.

These are the kinds of records that proliferated the rock vocal group scene over the next five years or so, allowing a great many interpretations for both the artists themselves, who could tweak a number of elements within to suit their own creative whims, as well as the audience who could read into the narrative what they wanted, simply by choosing which outlook to focus on.

This would seem not to be the case with a record where the title itself is so straight forward, but the song itself is much hazier in its intent.

Not only does the music give off a rather nebulous aura – lots of pretty notes amounting to nothing in the way of a clear direction – but the lyrics are just as fuzzy, something evident in the very first line when Sutton declares “I can’t explain…” and then goes on to present conflicting statements from start to finish.

Basically he wants someone who doesn’t want him and try as he might he can’t reconcile this in his own mind. He expresses doubt regarding the depth of his feelings, shows resentment because this girl has left him and reveals how sad he is over that development before casting doubt as to his very future itself… but each time he refutes it all by announcing I Know I Love You So in spite of all of that internal turmoil he’s experiencing.

That uncertainty gives each listener the opportunity to see this as either a proud manifesto of all-consuming love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and thus is something to be admired… or as a case study of someone coming to grips with making the wrong choice in life and having to be slowly weaned from the feelings of desire and hope that still permeate his soul.


You Took My Heart
Whichever side of the fence you fall, you’ll get something to validate that interpretation here, as Sutton’s quavering voice and tentative delivery during the parts that question his own feelings gives way to a more confident vocal as he tries to overcome his own doubts.

The others are more muted on this than they have been on other songs, but aren’t going silent by any means, offering up an almost ghostly presence with their wordless “oohing” behind him on most of it. They do however see fit to hand the bridge over to Henry Booth, which is provides a nice tonal shift if nothing else.

Booth also gives his lines – which are merely repeating some of Sutton’s – more of a choppy feel, not quite staccato in nature but almost as if he’s forcing himself to say them, which in of itself might imply he’s not quite convinced of the conclusion he’s reached. Since his lines are the ones suggesting displeasure with how he’s been treated you could even say that he’s more forgiving of her actions than Sutton, hence it could be his “side” of the main character’s persona that is more adamant about his belief that I Know I Love You So even though Booth himself never utters those words.

Even with all of the complex emotions being tossed into the blender here, the song is the weakest of the the four sides cut at that session because it remains more musically unfocused… well, at least for 1952 that is, because if you happened to have access to a time machine back then you might’ve taken a quick trip three years into the future and found its musicial descendent in a better song.

Listen to this again and it shouldn’t be too difficult to see that one fan of this otherwise commercially stillborn single was Chuck Willis, already enjoying some critical – or aesthetic – acclaim for his work, but soon to match that with a commercial success as a one of the premier singer/songwriters of the decade.

What set him apart from many of his contemporaries was the fact that not only did he write his own songs, but he also would pen many classics for other artists, thereby allowing himself to expand the types of songs and perspectives he showed.

For The Cardinals he would write the Top Ten hit The Door Is Still Open To My Heart which unmistakably borrows part of its melody and some of its viewpoints from this record.

Willis improved upon it by tightening up the vocal line, giving it a firmer sense of melodic progression and adding a defter lyrical touch, but it’s clear that he drew inspiration from this group when writing a song specifically designed for a vocal group.

If nothing else this shows that while The Royals may not have been breaking through with the wider public yet, they were impressing those in the know from the very start which bodes well for their future careers.


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