Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Record I Bought in 2014

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.

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.

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: 


Timmy said...

Wow! Far flickin' OUT! A groove........

BobB said...

It's obscure, I'll give you that. Technically, it's not very good (what the hell is Rodney Keith Eskelin singing about anyway?). Rod(d) seems like a singer who stopped off at a local polka pub, asked the band to attempt rock 'n roll, and turned on a cheap reel-to-reel recorder. It's truly hideous. Just curious, how many records did you buy in 2014?

Bob Purse said...

Hey, BobB,

I'll grant you that there are all sorts of things "wrong" with it, technically. What that has to do with a record being singularly wonderful, I'm not sure. As a comparison, virtually anything you'll hear on contemporary radio today will be technically near perfection, and yet the vast majority of it is as hideous as you seem to think this is, with the notable exception of the works of the masterful M. Ward, among few others.

Generally speaking, the virtuosity of the performers on a record, and the exceptional nature of a performance, has very little to do with whether I fall in love with a record. Your mileage may vary.

I bought hundreds of records in 2014 - given that "The Beatle Boys" has been without question among my favorite 50 records of all time since shortly after I first heard it, I have no doubt that this is my favorite record I actually came to own this year.

I assume since you mention attempting rock and roll that you're referring to the flip side, "It's Shindig", since I was pretty specific about what he's singing about in "The Beatle Boys". "It's Shindig" is about the popular music program of the mid '60's "Shindig". I don't hear the comparison you make - I hear a Chamberlin being used as a one-man-band. It works to beautiful effect on "Beatle Boys", not so well on "It's Shindig".

I suspect that you and I simply have very different tastes. I have no interest in trading tastes.

Thanks for stopping by!


Anonymous said...

Wow, Bob B, you are WAY off.

This single is, and has always been, one of my favorite Rodd records.

This Bob B is probably someone who just accidentally came here, I seriously doubt he knows what song poems are.

Beatle Boys is fantastic, Bob, I totally agree. First off, the whole point of view of the author!! Secondly, he thinks the Beatles play mandolins! Thirdly, the melody is beautiful, and Rodd gives a very sensitive "performance", using his "humble joe" voice (for lack of a better word.)

I love how on the b-side, he goes flat ("channel 9"), awesome. Here's a guy who could sing his butt off, but he dials it down for this record.

A plus, Bob!!!!!!! Still recovering from the holidays, I'll email you soon!

(PS: Don't let so called BobB get you down, Bob, this guy is in la-la land. Almost tempted to call him a name, actually!)

BobB said...

Well, I'll take the high road and simply say I enjoyed your thoughtful response, BobP. Think you're prolly a real good guy and, yes, we don't see eye-to-eye on this absolutely hideous record/"song poem". So, so-called BobB rates it a D- or F+.

As for Anonymous, suspect he's an expert on little more than Rodd records (oops "song poems). Zero knowledge or musical taste, just a guy who's pissin' in the wind. That's why his so-called name is "Anonymous."

Anonymous said...

No offense, BobB, but if you are baffled by the appeal of "Beatle Boys" AND "It's Shindig" it's you who has no musical taste, and you've broadcast that loud and clear buddy. And seeing that it was hosted as an mp3 on ASPMA way back, that's now three endorsements, not to mention numerous people (both song-poem as well as Beatle fans) I've played it to over the years, never met someone who didn't "get it".

By the way, Bob (P), great to see where this falls in the scheme of things, ASPMA had this listed as an unnumbered acetate!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,Thanks for this wonderful (and Obscure) site chock full of rare, forgotten but at the very least stimulating records.Most of them to me really are a window into a forgotten era,and seem to represent a wonderful 'can do' spirit.
Rodd is such a facinating character,someone who would make a excellent subject of a biopic,he's like the Ed Wood Jr of the song poem 'business'.Where I live in the north of England his record 'Like The Lord Said' is considered a 'Northern Soul' classic,I sometimes wonder what he would of made of seeing hundreds of people dancing to his record on Saturday night.His musical legacy has certainly stood the test of time! best wishes, Martin