30 December 2009

Doo Wop Dialog[ue]: 5

(42/M/London, England)


Many thanks - I'm touched by your kind comments. I wrote a radio play about a doowop group - the first piece of serious writing I did - and during that process tried to articulate what it was about the music that moved me so much. One thing which I didn't mention in my previous posting is the male bonding thing - that these emotions which couldn't be articulated directly to each other by adolescent males are "safe", able to be exposed and shared when turned into this rough, vital art form.

I'm also fascinated by the contradictions: the Dells, self-professed "stone hooligans" outside the studio yet capable of that achingly tender, ridiculous yet touching song I referred to. And the idea of the spontaneous, direct outpouring of emotion – can’t remember the source but the image of a group singing at a corner, the lead turning to see a girl go by and launching into "Gloria" became the starting point of the play: the protagonist's unreal dreams of this girl and the gradually unfolding reality of the less than perfect relationship he develops with the flesh and blood woman.

And the poignancy of a frozen, perfect moment also seems at the heart of doowop for me: One Summer night, In the Still of the Night: I think Fred Parris had to add "(I'll Remember)" to avoid confusion with Porter's song title but that parenthesis is a clue to that sad pleasure in this music: its importance, its transience, and therefore its preciousness, is only fully appreciated in retrospect: "I never realised," sings Sollie McElroy in Golden Teardrops. Even that Dells song: sweet dreams "bring back the memory of you." As you might deduce I go for the ballads ...

A final thought. Doowop, lyrically, is often ridiculously naive - and I'm aware my distance from it both in time (b.1958) and place lends enchantment/romanticisation. But (much as I feel about the music of Donovan at his best) it's about looking at the world, at the possibility of love, with a sense of wonder rather than cynicism. Back to Dave Marsh: he tells of a hip record store customer mocking the Students' I'm So Young. Marsh says: "That's somebody' life. Who cares if it's corny and misshapen?" Amen.


Listen to I'm So Young and learn about the Students

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