31 December 2009

Doo Wop Dialog[ue]: 39

(42/M/London, England)


I read your Gloria piece again while listening to the Cadillacs. It really is a wonderful, precise piece of writing; I found myself listening to that extended "meee" with more pained enjoyment than ever. Again, you're so lucky that this was the soundtrack to your youth, there to enhance each experience rather than something you had to seek out. I went to a rock'n'roll club as a teenager but it was all in the frantic, jitterbugging mode favoured by the Brits, and no doowop ballads. Much the same in London now, sadly.

Anyway, as a sort of appendix to what we've been discussing about Gloria, I've now found the reference to the original song in the book by Gribin and Schiff I referred to. Because of the distinction I made (don't know if you agree yet) between Gloria as the ultimate expression of aching teen sensibility and GT as adult, it’s worth quoting the lyrics in full:

Gloria, it's not Marie, it's Gloria
It's not Cherie, it's Gloria
She's in your every dream

You like to play the game of kiss and runaway
But now you find it's not that way
Somehow you changed it seems

Wasn't Madeleine your first love
It was just hello goodbye
Wasn't Caroline your last love
It's a shame you made her cry

What a fool you are
You gave your heart to Gloria
You're not so smart cause Gloria
Is not in love with you

(Leon Renne, 1946)

The authors say "Whether the borrowing was accidental or purposeful will never be truly known," but the fact that Esther Navarro's name didn't appear on the first pressing of the Cadillacs' version (she was their manager) suggests she did. But the differences - and apparently the melodies are different, too - are fascinating. It's not first person, so you don't get a direct route to his subjective experience of his anguish, and it's hardly first love and all that wonder and innocence we've been talking about - more like poetic justice: as Bob Dylan, that poet (arguably) outside our remit (unquestionably) might put it: "How does it feel?"

That memory of the live performance of Gloria seems more appropriate here, where he gets what he deserves: not malign fate but karma. Gloria Mk.1 reads like a song aimed at adults, and because we're not privy to the guy's inner emotions, we can't feel the sympathy in GT, because we've got no idea how he responds to this blow (unless there's an even more obscure answer song waiting to be unearthed).

But it helps to show what a great piece of work Esther Navarro's conscious or unconscious borrowing of elements led to. As you say, even the title puts the emotions on a par with religious fervour and suggests the purity of that longing: Marie and Cherie are not his cast-offs but girls who did not awaken in him that divine longing.

Put that way, the word sounds camp (as in: "Too too divine, Dahling !") but I mean precisely that: that the wish to make contact, the ability to perceive beauty, maybe where others don't, in another, probably equally flawed, individual is a triumph of that imaginative power we all have that links us to some higher power, whatever you want to call it, or at least brings out our potential to be better than our workaday selves (I'm a long-lapsed Catholic, people, so I'm not particularly selling anything here).

The flip side of the coin, of course, is raging hormones and erector sets and hey, maybe this girl would be incredibly pretty to any pair of teenage male eyes straining at their sockets (“Va va VOOM!" is, I believe, your singularly infelicitous American term) and it's also about the naive belief that someone else will be the quick-fix solution to all your problems as opposed to bringing a whole new set of their own ... but there still seems something noble going on in that longing.

(I'm almost done here but will switch to a new post to avoid having to cut for length. Back after these important messages...)

"... suggests she did" puzzles me as I reread it. Suggests she did what? Know that the borrowing was deliberate? In the Matt the Cat interview cited a few posts ago Earl Carroll, perhaps diplomatically, says that she was "She was a business lady, lovely lady. She was a lady, number one, but she was a business lady and she knew the business." He praises her professionalism in knowing exactly what her artists needed: Cholly Atkins, introduced to them by Navarro, "took us under his wing" - and there is a reference in Nowhere to Run to the young Ben E King's heart thumping as he watched the Cadillacs' dance routines up close.

The relevant bit from my review of a Mills Brothers CD, The Anthology (1931-1968):

Of particular note, if you are interested in their effect on later vocal groups, is the song Gloria, a distant relative of the doo wop standard (associated with the Cadillacs); but without the abject pain and idealisation in the reworking (this early Gloria is cheating on, rather than spurning, the lovelorn adolescent). This is, I believe, the second recording of the song (the original was by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers).

But according to wikipedia there were two other recordings of Goria Mk. 1, one recorded the same year as Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (featuring Charles Brown) by Ray Anthony (above), and one recorded the previous year, 1945, by ex-Ellingtonian Herb Jeffries as part of the Buddy Baker Sextet.

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