KING 4361; APRIL 1950



After just satiating our appetites enough with the top side, Wild Bill Moore apparently decided he could get us to bite on paying another 35 cents for desert if he just piqued our interest enough by giving this side of the record an appetizing name.

Like many a weary traveler facing another couple of hours on the road ignore our skepticism as we dig the change out of our pockets and place the order. Before we even get a chance to dig in however we’re let down as soon as the server places it in front of us on the counter and we realize this isn’t what we had in mind at all.


Early Morning Wake Up Call
We won’t waste too much time with this one as we’ve pretty much covered the up and down stylistic directions of saxophonist Wild Bill Moore, who sometimes went balls to the wall to prove his worth, such as on the declaratory statement, We’re Gonna Rock, and other times kept his tie fastened, his shirt-sleeves buttoned and his playing mild enough to not scare off the flies that have gathered in this café.

In some ways we can understand his frustration at being asked to whip people into a frenzy every time out. For someone schooled in music who’s capable of so much more, that kind of single-minded intensity is not all it’s cracked up to be, hit records or not.

So Moore alternated his approach and even managed to score with some of the low-key stuff like Bubbles, but that’s not what he did best, it’s not what the audience craved the most and when you’re making your first appearance on a new label renown for its devotion to rock ‘n’ roll and name this side of that initial single Rock Bottom you had best hope that the word which is most appropriate for describing the music contained within is the first one rather than the second.


On The Clock
Let’s start with the positives. Despite our warnings that might suggest otherwise, this is not some glorified supper club mood music hiding under the veil of a rock title. It’s also not pure jazz trying to sway the rock fan into giving that rapidly fading major style another chance. Nor is it something entirely aimless and unsure of itself, throwing in a little of this and a little of that from every type of music in creation hoping that it somehow all comes together as something reasonably coherent and musically acceptable to someone.

But neither is Rock Bottom a full-fledged unapologetic rocker through and through. The kind of song that starts off by punching you in the face before really getting nasty.

No, this sits somewhere in the middle. Rock by design but not by desire. At least not completely. Instead it’s more like an idea they had on the studio floor when needing another track and thought, “Yeah, this’ll work well enough… hell, it’s only a B-side, who’ll really notice?”.

Hardly the most ambitious of intentions, especially for an artist making his first appearance under this label’s banner. I mean, you HOPE he hadn’t run out of ideas completely because we all know Syd Nathan screams at the rooster each morning for not crowing loud enough to suit him, so I can’t imagine him being too pleased when this is one half of your much anticipated debut for his company.

It’s not like even Nathan will be fooled by this one either, for it starts off by cribbing the melodic hook from Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here, a record that first was released in 1917!… Nothing like staying current Wild Bill.

Maybe he didn’t want to get sued over it which explains why he even cut the melody short which also sort of negates any chance it’ll have to connect with someone who recognizes it. With that out of the way Moore descends into some vague improvisational exercises, some fairly suitable I suppose, a few honks and a brief riff or two that we’d ascent to hearing with a little more embellishment, but he never sticks to any of it very long before moving on to something else – unrelated, mostly uninspired and uninteresting to boot.

This record is in many ways the musical equivalent to blindfolding someone and letting them wander around while you sit back and watch with a detached smile. Yet there’s no chance for even anything memorable to happen for your childish amusement because there’s nothing in his way for him to bump into, the ground is perfectly flat and so he’s not likely to fall over, but it’s hardly any method for getting someplace you want to go.


Quitting Time
Records like this are probably the hardest to really analyze. For starters there’s no lyrics to talk about, thus no vocals to assess, so we’re already shorthanded when it comes to topics to delve into.

But more frustrating than that is there’s a sense that everyone involved was simply going through the motions, nobody really trying to come up with anything innovative or exciting, yet all of whom were good enough musicians to give a passable performance on a song that was utterly indistinct in every way.

While there’s no way to really break down such a performance on musical grounds, luckily there’s a pretty succinct way to do so on creative grounds… TRY HARDER!

That’s it. Simple really. Put some more effort into impressing someone – be it the producer, the other band members, various hangers-on in the studio, or (a novel thought) the rock fans who’ve bought enough of your records to transform you from an anonymous sessionist to a headlining star.

How hard is it to do when you know you have a recording session on such and such a day to come up with a few ideas in advance – a riff, a hook, a groove, a unique tempo or arrangement, anything you can build something interesting around. Then call up Henry Glover who’s going to be overseeing this date and tell him you want a tympani or glockenspiels or tom-toms or penny-whistle for the session, whatever you might need, and make sure he has them on hand. Meet with the band over beers and toss around ideas so that when you head into the studio you won’t be scrambling to come up with something modestly appropriate as the fourth cut in a three hour session.

This is your career, dammit, and if you don’t put in more effort than this there’s always someone else eager to take your place.

None of that preparation necessarily means the end results will be a vast improvement on this – Rock Bottom, despite its title suggesting otherwise, isn’t awful – but at least you’ll have something you put some sweat into, took some risks on and had some personal investment in the outcome.

Songs like this though seem like nothing more than a bunch of musicians looking at the clock as the minutes pass and quickly working something up on the spot so they can get home to their wives and kids before dinner is out of the oven.

If that’s what you want to do with your career, fine, there’s bound to be some studio orchestra at a pop label in need of a tenor sax.


(Visit the Artist page of Wild Bill Moore for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)