Saturday, 28 December 2013

Lost Lover - the Magnificents

Talking of the Magnificents' Lost Lover (see previous post), it has recently been uploaded to youtube, so here 'tis, as the B side of Off the Mountain, their soundalike follow up to their big hit On the Mountain.

It's an odd track - it's not really doo wopified, as, say, the Flamingo's version of I Really Don't Want to Know is. Is it a sendup? Not sure, but the guitar is a big part of the record and the singers do seem to be taking a back seat. Could it be as simple as their being told to record what sounds like a country song and their hearts weren't in it?

Yet there is a certain charm. I've listened a few times to the youtube version, which I presume is the original release, and it sounds like it might not be the take I'm familiar with on the Charly CD Smoochin' in Chicago, unless I'm hearing tiny differences which aren't there. But the possibility that the side on the Charly CD may be an alternate take is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility with that particular company. I've a Flamingos CD on their Instant label and the take of Get With It is one I haven't heard before. Anyway, have a listen to Lost Lover, about 2.30 in: 

Taking of the Magnificents, I am in the middle of reading lead singer Johnny Keyes' Du-Wop [sic], a first hand account of being in a doo wop group. It's not that long, and there are lots of photographs to fill out the pages, but I would say it's well worth hunting out if this is the kind of thing which interests you. It gives you all sorts of small details you won't find in Phil Groia's book or elsewhere.

I was interested to read, for example, that the backing musicians in the studio would take their cue from groups' acapella arrangements as worked out on streetcorners, but would then take exclusive credit for the subsequent instrumental arrangements, with no acknowledgement of their inspiration. This is partly explained by the fact there was usually an age gap between musicians and groups, and a snobbishness from the jazz-oriented elders, about what the young singers were doing.

This was a constant hazard of live performance as well as studio work: it was rare, according to Keyes, that acts would get a chance to rehearse properly with musicians for live gigs, leaving audiences disgruntled when the performance didn't sound like the record. It wasn't just about bands assuming the song only had simple changes. If musos became annoyed with a group they might deliberately play in the wrong tempo or favour another singer or group who had paid them, as in this example from the book:
"Well, this last tune is kind of strange. It's got a funny intro, and there's a spot in the middle that has a clean break."
"Now Junior, don't worry about that. We play that one all the time. Like I told you, no sweat. We got you."
That's exactly what he meant, too. They had us. They did what I mentioned earlier - the slow one's fast, the fast one's slow, including the main tune, the one everybody wanted to hear us sing ... the audience ... didn't know that the band had purposely messed us up because they were old and we were young dudes with a hit record.
When the band start to play On the Mountain in waltz time (!) the group stop and sing it acapella - but the audience only care that it's not like the record. Later, as they pass the headline act's dressing room he tells them: "That's my band. I pay them to make me sound good."

I spoke a few posts ago of my plan to give a talk on doo wop which would encapsulate everything in the space of sixty minutes. I still intend to do this, but it may have to wait a while. I have a play to work on - it's going to get a couple of performances at the end of January - so I may resort to a few reposts over the next month or a few youtube clips and brief notes.

Unca Marvy's page on the Magnificents can be found here. The top image is taken from there.

As far as I can tell, Johnny Keyes is still active - I saw an ad for a gig with other doo wop groups in June 2012. There is a page here which offers the book for sale directly (there is a postal address) but as the site is dated 1998 I don't know whether it's still active. I found a couple of copies relatively cheaply online.

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