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Though the top side of his debut single gets all of the modern acclaim, in some circles anyway, that wasn’t the side which actually got the credit at the time for the single’s relative success.

But assuming you’ve heard the more well-known side with its blatant ode to “rock ‘n’ roll” in the lyrics and haven’t heard this one but looking at the title fear it might be a more downbeat… even bluesy… song that would in a way negate the bolder statement Atlanta Boogie made, fear not.

This one every bit as unrepentant in its efforts to rock and roll you into submission.


When You Hear That Train Comin’ Round The Bend
A few weeks before his twentieth birthday Tommy Brown burst upon the scene with back to back uptempo rockers that he wrote himself and which left no doubt as to his natural musical inclinations.

But it wasn’t Atlanta Boogie, which was the credited hit around Georgia on the regional Cash Box charts, despite the obvious resonance for the locals with that title.

Instead it was The House Near The Railroad Track which gave notice that this kid might have some commercial potential.

Of course, in this case it wasn’t that audiences preferred one stylistic approach over another, because either side of this single they chose when dropping a nickel into the jukebox was going to give them more or less the same thing… a noisy fast-paced rocker with Brown sitting in the middle of it all, whooping up a storm.

But while the attitude and frantic arrangement of the two sides have similar objectives, this one is a little less proficient in what it accomplishes.

A Short Way In, But A Long Way Back
In a way this song is TOO out of control while trying at the same time to present a more orderly story, a rift that satisfies neither goal entirely.

As you may expect there’s an underlying train motif to the music of The House Near The Railroad Track which gives Jimmy Griffin’s trombone a very obvious role to play replicating the train’s horn in the intro while the drummer clatters along. But they quickly dispense with that and settle into a more shambolic arrangement with Buddy Griffin bashing away on the keyboard while the horns swirl around like a tornado was about to touch down.

Whereas the other side was wild but tightly focused, this side has a basic structure that makes sense but never deviates in its energy which makes it seem far more freewheeling and less captivating than it should be.

Everything here is full speed ahead from the start. There’s no moderation, no trading of parts, no changing melodic shifts. Each instrument is carrying a different riff but there’s no separation in what they play, the piano, horns, drums and bass are just piled on top of one another rather than letting each have their own space. Not only don’t they let one ease off while a different one moves to the forefront but they’re all maintaining their same lines throughout. It’s the basic concept headbanging music thirty years before that term was widely applied.

The solo is the only time things switch up as the tenor gets an opportunity to show off a little, but the excitement it may have generated in the midst of a more subdued song is lost here because it’s taking the same frenzied approach as the primary musical backing behind the vocals that preceded it. In a way it’s like having chocolate cake for a main course and then chocolate cake for desert too.

That’s not to say that there isn’t enough of a musical sugar rush to make it exciting, but unless you have a real sweet tooth for this kind of mayhem you might be hoping there’s something to offset it elsewhere in the song… like the story.

Everybody’s Talkin’ About What You Say And Do
Brown’s got a decent enough premise here, basic though it is, as he’s telling his woman he has to go out of town for awhile but to wait for him to return by train.


I mean it doesn’t seem very relevant on the surface but I suppose it’s one way to bring the theme into the story… except that’s the only way it’s referenced, as a means of travel, something she’d presumably know if she saw him off at the depot.

Now admittedly song lyrics don’t have to print an itinerary of each stop along the route, and we don’t even have to know why he’s taking the train rather than the bus. However if you’re framing the entire song around this mode of transportation then it should at least have a more interesting payoff related to it.

Aside from that intro there’s none of your normal musical cues a song called The House Near The Railroad Track might be expected to possess… no more horns and whistles blowing, no shuffling drums to suggest the wheels along the track, no slow build as it gets underway.

But more confusing are the lack of any lyrical points of reference involving the train, or better yet some euphemisms about how glad she’ll be when his locomotive pulls back into her station so to speak.

In other words the train forms the cornerstone of the plot except there is no plot device requiring it.

So when you combine the absence of any real objective in the song’s loose plot and the fact he’s just repeating a few stanzas which means nothing here gets advanced any further than what’s presented in the initial premise, you’re left with just a rough sketch of a story combined with plenty of vocal enthusiasm and a band determined to make enough of a racket to obscure points one and two.

Is that enough for a record to work?

Well, you wouldn’t think so, but… yeah, it kinda is. At least to a degree.

Open Up The Doors, Let Your Good Man In
Obviously this is a flawed record, but its flaws are centered around what this could be with a little more thought and effort put into the planning stages rather than what it is, which is a (sorry for the obvious pun) “full throttled” hang-on-for-dear-life performance.

No, The House Near The Railroad Track is definitely not a very deep song as written, nor one inventively played or sung, but where it tries to make up for that is their belief that this music doesn’t HAVE to make much sense in order to move an audience.

Granted this would undoubtedly go down better as the kegs were running dry after a long night of living it up at a party when you were no longer clear-thinking enough to notice its shortcomings, only its storming attitude, but considering that forms a big part of rock’s base appeal it gives you permission to overlook what it does poorly and still appreciate what it does well.

By this stage however, after so many artists have mastered both facets of the music, doing only one thing well won’t get you a headlining spot on the tour, but you’ll still have enough fumes left to get you back to the station after all.

What you do with your girl once you disembark is your own business.


(Visit the Artist page of Tommy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)