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OKEH 6853; JANUARY 1952



Give him this much, as mostly indistinctive as he was coming out of the gate, Little Richard attracted the attention of other artists from the start.

Though he didn’t write this song, it had been one half of his debut on RCA back in November and while it didn’t do anything commercially, two months later The Treniers are covering it hoping to get some milage out of it themselves.

However considering that Richard’s version was appreciably better – and still wasn’t that exciting – then it stands to reason that even though The Treniers were the bigger name on a more trusted record label when it came to rock ‘n’ roll, this is one taxi that will be found in the breakdown lane on the side of the road with the hood up waiting for the tow truck to haul it back to the shop.


On My Trail
The one unanswerable question in this saga is why THIS, of all songs, was deemed promising enough by two artists (or two record labels as the case may be) to feature on singles when rock ‘n’ roll was storming the gates of potentially bigger sales in a vastly larger territory.

There’s absolutely nothing special about it as written.

Taxi Blues is a story about a guy who leaves his woman after a fight and rides around to avoid reprisal, either from the woman whom he “beat up” or the law – or her brother, father or ex-boyfriend if she was after more personal retribution.

The narrator is obviously not very sympathetic considering he cuffed her around and since he’s not saying anything to make her look good, nor admitting he was in the wrong and she didn’t deserve that treatment, we’re left without any information to fully take her side in this dispute, other than to say that no girl should have to deal with violence in a relationship.

In other words while it’s a very realistic scenario that happens far too often between volatile couples, the way it’s presented lyrically is not descriptive enough to merit our interest.

Which means the song on paper – a song that two artists with some current and future standing in rock thought worth singing – was more or less inconsequential when it came to content.

So what was it musically or vocally that seemed promising enough to both of these artists then… and what is it about their respective performances that might be appealing to anybody today?


Won’t Act Right
Provided The Treniers actually did hear this done by Little Richard before deciding to cut a version themselves – rather than having the song submitted to them – you have to question their decision on how to re-interpret this because they sapped whatever energy and intensity Richard’s had shown and reduced it to a dull, lethargic confession in which they don’t even take responsibility for their abhorrent actions.

I guess the one change they do make is the addition of some fear in the vocals by the end, as if they know the potential charges against them are going to be hard to beat, whether in a courtroom or the court of public opinion and are using the taxi to flee the city, rather than simply flee the scene and give them both a chance to calm down as Richard seemingly was doing.

But that only makes Taxi Blues even LESS appealing, for while Richard was just as in the wrong for his misdeeds – he too smacked his girl before catching the cab – he gave the impression as he drove around aimlessly that he was still caught up in the swirl of emotions that led to this and while that’s not excusing his behavior by any means, it does make the story a little more interesting and his fate more compelling.

By contrast the Treniers are worried about the consequences of their actions and looking to escape persecution and prosecution, and yet are remarkably blasé about it for much of the ride. Edgy maybe, but hardly emotionally distraught over it and certainly not remorseful in any way.

To further indict Claude Trenier, when he starts scatting along with Don Hill’s sax riffs it just comes across as incredibly insensitive, like he was trying to distract himself from his thoughts about how this might all be his own damn fault. The solo that follows is similarly out of touch with the storyline, sort of the aural equivalent of going for a leisurely ride through the park, which sort of tells you just how seriously they’re taking all of this.

Trenier only starts to worry down the stretch of the song when he realizes there’s a mob of angry defenders of his girl who are out looking for him, to which we can only say – “He’s right over here, we’ll help you hold his ass down while you all take turns beating him with anything you can lay your hands on”.

Come to think of it, hand me a bat so I can get some whacks in myself.


All This Wear And Tear
Let’s come back to the question that opened the main section of this review which is… what on earth did anyone see in this song in the first place?

Musically it’s nothing special. Lyrically it manages to be both offensive and surprisingly undramatic. Vocally there’s not much opportunity to show off good singing skills. Even the title, Taxi Blues, is hardly something to catch your attention.

We stated when covering the flip side of Richard’s debut that we might’ve been tempted to go a point higher with his Taxi Blues because his vocal intensity was pretty good, even if it’s a long ways off from what we’d get down the road from him, but while that version obliterates this one, hearing The Treniers sing this only confirms that the song itself isn’t worthy of being deemed an average record no matter who’s cutting it.

The idea that two such acts could deem this composition worth the time or effort only shows that neither of them, or neither of their labels, were all that good about picking material. One of the lines has them worried about landing in jail for their reprehensible crimes and while the statute of limitations has surely expired on those charges, the real crime is the choice of the song itself and for that they should all be thrown in jail.

The only thing this makes you want to do is hail a cab to go to a part of town where the jukeboxes are stocked with far better rock songs than this waste of time.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Little Richard (November, 1951)