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KING 4525; APRIL 1952



Is this the sequel to the top side?

Though it’s highly doubtful King Records, or even The Swallows themselves were thinking in those terms, it sure sounds like that was the intent, doesn’t it?

A similar pace, the same fragile mood and a story covering the emotional fallout after the plea to be together on the first side met with cruel rejection.

If that were the case, like most sequels, what was so fresh the first time around largely fails to recapture the magic in part two and has you wishing they went in another direction altogether.


To Be Again With You
With King Records having been using the double A side labeling method for the past few years in an effort to give both songs on a single equal chance for airplay on the handful of radio stations playing rock ‘n’ roll, the fact remains that technically speaking the AA designation is the plug side, making the A-side in fact the B-side in normal terms.

Didja get that? There’ll be a test later.

What that means is Beside You was the company’s choice for the potential hit and audiences agreed, as that spent a month in the Top Ten. It was the better song too, but just so we cover all our bases here, let’s forget the A and AA markings and the fact that song made the charts and just consider for a moment if we were 15 in 1952 with two nickels burning a hole in our pocket and saw The Swallows had a new single in the jukebox. We can listen to them both but which we choose to hear first is just a matter of random luck.

If we started with You Left Me would our views of it be any different without the specter of the much better flip burned into our brain?

Maybe a little, though it’s impossible to state definitively unless we WERE listening to that first, but it’s still hard to conceive that this side would knock us out in even the best of circumstances.

The differences on the surface between the two sides may be slight, but when they encompass the very things that pull at us, both as human beings and rock ‘n’ roll fans, it’s not that hard to see why the other side grabs us while this side’s grip is far more tenuous.


Who’s To Blame?
Let’s start with what we HEAR first, which is the halting piano which is also what the other side had as its primary accompaniment. The difference is the style in which this is played, particularly on the more florid intro.

It may only last all of six seconds, but those six seconds are as loud as any alarm when it comes to warning us of the more pop oriented mindset this has. What it comes down to is simply technique. The other had a languid nonchalance to it, a stumbling momentum in the progression aided by the guitar accent notes, all of which gave that a feeling of looseness that suggested the song was laid back and comfortable in its own skin.

This side however is much more formal and rigid in its presentation. Whereas the other sounded almost improvised, this sounds as if it were excessively practiced for a piano recital as the notes fall into one another in a graceful motion. In doing so they let you know this is staged. It’s an act designed to manipulate your feelings rather than letting the artist’s own feelings impact yours and immediately we don’t entirely trust the story that is to follow.

The second problem they have is the subject itself. You Left Me is an unambiguous statement already staking out the hurt before we even learn what happened. The other side leaves the emotional outcome in doubt, with each listener left to interpret things however they choose, whereas this side leaves absolutely no room for debate. He’s hurt and doesn’t care who knows and he really doesn’t even care if we sympathize with him because he’s so wrapped up in his own feelings.

The lyrics are more blunt as well, not helped by the fact that pity is a very hard thing to elicit on demand, and while the sentiments themselves are accurate in depicting heartbreak, there’s no memorable images, no poignant lines, no slight shift to cynicism or bitterness or even ironic admiration to the girl… anything to suggest the conflicted feelings that accompany all real life romantic loss. Instead it’s merely wallowing in sadness and while we may acknowledge his pain, we’re not sympathizing much because he doesn’t provide us with any context beyond the sorrow to latch on to.

But that being said, there ARE elements of this record which are very well done. Though Eddie Rich’s lead vocals sound a little more nasal than we’d like, his delivery is very well-judged in terms of pace and vocal pressure, getting across much of the meaning by how he uses his breath – inhaling and exhaling on the notes themselves rather than between them – to convey vulnerability.

Even better is the more prominent role of the other Swallows, particularly the gently swelling bass vocals of Bunky Mack which gives the song added depth and during the turnaround adds the slightest bit of rhythm to this so it doesn’t grind to a halt altogether.

Of course the few times they sing words they creep towards pop sensibilities, but luckily those moments are few and far between and as long as they don’t change the entire outlook it’s not going to have too much effect on what is already a compromised track.

On the whole it may sound reasonably nice, but like the false front scenery in cheap movies, if you open the door there’s not a lot behind it besides an empty stage and some wires.


It Hurts Me to Think That You Would Desert Me
We failed to mention what is probably the most obvious drawback to pairing this with the far superior top side and that’s the mere fact that they’re doubling down on the tender ballad approach to begin with.

The Swallows may be balladeers at heart, but they’ve shown their ability to be vibrant rockers with a salacious edge and the first rule in the singles era is – or should be – to give record buyers two distinct sounds on each release.

You Left Me fails to do that, delivering not just a similar type of ballad, vocal delivery and stark arrangement, but one that isn’t as good in any of those departments as the other side.

Though sad songs are no less vital in the big scheme of things (after all even in rock ‘n’ roll life is not always sunshine, lollipops and rainbows – or if you’re Wynonie Harris drunken parties, mind-altering drugs and promiscuous sex) when you pair two songs of a similar feel on one record and ask audiences to choose, chances are unless they’re masochists the majority are going to gravitate towards the one that embodies contentment in the face of uncertainty and has a modicum of hope and optimism flowing through its veins.

Far better to save this one for the flip side of a much different record where maybe it wouldn’t suffer by comparison.

It’s still a reasonably pleasant performance to hear, but not something that demands you to listen again and again to try and unlock its secrets since it wears everything on its sleeve.


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