Friday, 1 January 2010

Doo Wop Dialog[ue]: 52

(42/M/London. England)


Now I don't want to turn the clock back (except for my lost posting) - I don't particularly want all my doowops to be imprisoned in a sonic murk. Let me hear the sighs, the intakes of breath if possible. And you can do wonders with poor sources - the most recent transfers of Robert Johnson put him in the room with you, apparently.

But there is something about some doowops, and certainly this recording, that make me never want to see a headline like "Master tape found in church basement." Don't tell me we've all been listening to a third generation copy for all these years, I don't wanna know. Because for good or ill, that IS ITSOTN - the thing that we have experienced, this strange sensation that several of us have been talking about on these posts - it's that sound and no other. Take away the murk and you risk taking away something else. Degas opposed the restoration of the Mona Lisa – he didn't want his memories messed with either. And we are part of ITSOTN, just as much as Fred Parris - I don't just mean those of us doing the postings, but everyone who listens, gathers it into themselves. Experiences it, as Mark says. The audience completes the circle.

Lots of doowops in my vinyl collection could do with a good sonic scrub down. But not this. So why ITSOTN in particular? Well, we've been talking about this elusive magic it holds for so many people. And I think it's because it lets us in in a way few other songs do. Just as you hear the friend on the cheapo tape recorder and somehow go through what you hear, flesh out the poor representation with all you know of that person, so ITSOTN encourages us to fill in the gaps, doesn't dazzle us with hifi brightness or slick singing. We take our memories and feelings and connect.

Besides, there's another reason why the sound of that record is totally right, couldn't be any other way. I compared it to an AM station, and I think, on some unconscious (until now!) level, we've somehow always responded to that association when listening to it, and that's why the muddy sound is not an issue (for most people). Even listening to it on CD, it feels like a transmission, being sent out right at that moment, emerging, laden with static, out of the mysterious, silent sky, out of the recesses of memory. It's Fred and the guys singing their hearts out right now, to you, reaching out through time and space from that church basement to touch and unite all of us: Brian in that star-filled bedroom, me walking over the bridge and looking up at the vast and unknowable night sky, Clarke, weaving the past and the present together with his rich, evocative images - strangers who haven't met, yet all mysteriously linked because on some level, despite our differences, we all feel Fred and the guys reaching out to us, answering a yearning in us.

And we tune in.


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