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DECCA 48226; JULY 1951



In the singles era the usual approach record companies took was cutting four songs in three hours, thus giving them two singles from these efforts.

Though naturally the labels, artists and producers would like to have four good songs come out of these sessions, they’d be happy to settle for two good ones, thereby allowing both of those singles to have clear and marketable A-sides.

If those were strong it really didn’t matter what was on the flip-side, other than for posterity, or so the thinking went.

Dave Bartholomew and Tommy Ridgley gave Decca Records just that with two solid top-sides and two flip sides that had slightly different – and arguably lower – aims, this one included.


I Can’t Believe That It’s True
It’s doubtful any creative artist is dismissive of any opportunities to make good music when they enter a studio and of course nobody could ever accuse Dave Bartholomew of lacking ambition, so this song wasn’t a complete throwaway.

It WAS however something which clearly didn’t have as much time or effort put into it as their two showcase pieces from the same session.

Assuming that Tommy Ridgley came up with the lyrics – not entirely a safe bet since Dave did write plenty of lyrics himself – they’re going to draw much of the scorn for seeming sort of thrown together with no rhyme or reason, but the musical side of the equation, which falls more on Bartholomew as the arranger even if Ridgley may have contributed to it in the planning stages – is hardly up to his usual standards either.

As a result Once In A Lifetime becomes one of those tracks which you could comb through for a few good ideas to pull out and use later for other songs, but the finished product winds up seeming like an afterthought… something to round out the session with, knowing that it wasn’t going to have the responsibility of selling the single or the artist… or the producer for that matter, who clearly had bigger aspirations in mind than this stop on the recording carousel.


Driving Me Crazy
The problems here start early and are attributable to Bartholomew who gives this a classy bandstand styled horn introduction that’s much too smooth to be a perfect fit on a rock record. After he gets that out of his system the arrangement takes on a laid back veneer with piano at the forefront but with those horns still a little too frothy in the turnarounds.

The best part of the song is the melody which is largely carried by Ridgley’s vocals… but therein lies the second weak spot of Once In A Lifetime, which is what he’s singing is a series of complaints in search of coherent plot. Rather than craft a good story Ridgley creates a story that should be used as the textbook definition for schizophrenia. He comes right out and tells this girl he loves her but she drives him crazy because she treats him mean.

Okay, that part makes some sense I suppose, guys fall for the wrong girl a lot and why should be any different. He’s being very up front about his issues with her, saying he hopes she learns to love him too but I have a hard time believing him because when she tells him she DOES love him he says he doesn’t believe her!

Maybe the problem isn’t the girl after all, Tommy, it’s you.

Because there’s no sense being made – he goes from saying she she’s sweet to telling her she’s mean in under two seconds – we turn to the manner in which all of this is being delivered for some clarification but Ridgley doesn’t change his approach whether singing her praises or decrying her very existence. No matter how well his voice carries or how much emotion he’s putting into this, if he doesn’t grasp the situation in a way that sheds some light on his character then we’re hardly likely to be won over by him.

Even the title makes no sense, as he crams it in as a way to imply that her affection is rare but then contradicts that by bringing up additional examples of her better side, meaning it’d have been more appropriately titled “Once In Awhile”.

Though the music behind this is carried out smoothly as you’d expect anytime Bartholomew is heading the band, there’s really only one moment of inspiration in the track, a (lesser) variation of what worked so well on the top half, Anything But Love, but here the breakdown featuring some nifty compact little drum flourishes by the great Earl Palmer are largely obscured by the showy horns.

It’s not quite aspiring to be a classy pop-leaning tune thankfully, but it’s steering clear of being a more down and dirty rocker too, all of which means it’s little more than subpar material that’s somewhat compromised stylistically to boot.


Down The Road I’ll Go
In the course of two careers that each lasted decades, this will hardly be widely remembered when recounting either Dave Bartholomew or Tommy Ridgley’s forays into the studio, but it does raise the question of just how calculating Bartholomew in particular might’ve been when it came to his dealings with Decca Records.

As this was his only session for them you wonder if it wasn’t intentional to give them just two two good songs while producing substandard material – albeit done with a fair degree of competency – for the flips.

If he’d hoped to stay at Decca, surely he knew that while they might be looking to him to help them get their foot in the door of rock ‘n’ roll, their goals would be to water it down to better fit in with their pop, jazz and older big band blues motifs, all of which Bartholomew might’ve had some interest in pursuing at one point.

But now he HAD to see that rock was the better bet for making a name for himself, because he would be free to follow his own muse, not to stick with production concepts left over from Benny Goodman’s era and thus it’d be better to look elsewhere for long term stability.

If he was using Decca merely as a stopping off point to better bolster his credentials to the independent labels where he’d flourish, he did just fine, landing at King in mid-summer before working freelance for Specialty and Aladdin, getting huge hits in both of those stops with their artists before being lured back to Imperial where he’d go on to cement his legend.

To that end Once In A Lifetime becomes more understandable. He’d already gotten two strong cuts down, plus a jazzy instrumental, so this was the kind of cut just to round out the session, a chance for Ridgley to presumably show off his vocal ability and a way for Bartholomew to mess around with a few ideas and see how they’d fly.

Though it fails to provide much of value it also doesn’t show him to be completely mailing it in. Rather than treat the major label as the pinnacle of success as previous generations had done, Bartholomew surely knew bigger and better things awaited him once he left Decca Records behind.


(Visit the Artist pages of Dave Bartholomew and Tommy Ridgley for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)