Okay, let me say right off the bat that I know it's possible, even likely, that many of you who read this site already have sound files of both sides of today's record. They were part of the song-poem website's downloads, and later were (and probably still are) in a WFMU blog post.
But this is easily the best record I bought this year, and if I'm going to have a site largely dedicated to song-poems, I don't know how I can overlook having acquired this one.
Both of those previous postings were also from a cassette copy provided to AS/PMA, and perhaps you'll find the song quality of the first song better here than in the previous recording (the flip side of my copy, alas, is beat to hell). The acetate also apparently left off the word "The" from the first song's title.
If this is old news to you, well then, maybe consider me to have perhaps taken a week off for the holidays...
Quite simply, this record, "The Beatle Boys", is my choice for the best Rodd Keith record I've ever heard, or ever expect to hear. This is, to my ears, a perfect record. Certainly not technically perfect, but I've always found technical perfection boring. But this record and song are just "right" in just about every way that a song or record can be "right".
Regular readers of this site know that I'm quite partial to the Chamberlin sound, and it's never been used more effectively than here. Right off the bat, the transition from the chord at the nine second mark into it's 7th chord, with that gorgeous little (organ setting) treble figure played over... well, it's only four seconds, but from the first time I heard this record over a decade ago, that just gives me chills. Masterful. The use in this section of what I think are sax settings is just as excellent.
And then, in the chorus he uses the ethereal, otherworldly "ooohs", to equally great effect, before returning to the earlier settings, continuing to add little keyboard fill ins in a most excellent fashion.
The lyrics are funny and sad at the same time, and aside from the weird decision to use the word "mandolins" (perhaps it flowed better than "guitars"), I can absolutely hear this as the real lament of guy whose girl has gone Beatle-crazy. The last line, while I'm sure not original in the mid-'60's, is still really funny. The melody is as indelible as any I can think of - it runs through my mind all the time. The melody in the verse in particular resonates with me about as much as a tune is capable of doing.
And then there's the vocal. Rodd was clearly able to perform lyrics which sounded like he meant every word; to become the voice of the person who wrote the song. There are countless examples. I don't believe any of those other records match the ache, longing and frustration I hear in his voice here (and on a sadly comic song, yet!). The inflection on such lines as "I don't get a chance", "I would shine my shoes, buy a shirt and a cane", "They will sing of love", and several other spots is enough to give me more chills. A vocal performance for the ages.
While perhaps not my favorite song-poem record of all (today, that is perhaps "Darling, Don't Put Your Hands On Me"), it is easily my favorite Rodd Keith record , and even on a day when I am the least interested in it, it would still rank in my top five song-poems. Every moment of it works perfectly on every level. In my imaginary version of the land of media, this would be a record that was well known and treasured by the millions who listen to oldies radio.
Download: Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings - The Beatle Boys
The flip side, "It's Shindig", is certainly no slouch, either. The lyrics are a lot of fun, and there are again a lot of cool things happening in the instrumental track. On the other hand, Rodd seems to have had fairly consistent trouble - on multiple records - staying with this particular backing beat, a go-go beat drum pattern which for some reason hits the turnaround every FIVE measures.
Sometimes that disconnect between that beat and the rest of the song adds to the otherworldliness of an already weird record - that's the case with my second favorite Rodd Keith performance, "The Watusi Whing-Ding Girl" - but here, on a straightforward song with some good, but normal lyrics, I find it a real distraction.
On the other hand, there are some lovely and cool moments here. I enjoy the minimalist solo (especially if I can ignore that the drumming by that point is in another song). But my favorite by far is the little melodic turn (and the vocal that contains it) from 0:27 to 0:32 - five seconds of vocal and tuneful bliss.
Download: Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings - It's Shindig
I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season, and that your 2015 is even better! Here's this year holiday greeting card from my family to you: