Sunday, July 3, 2016
SHG: Perry Como: "Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)"
Perry Como: “Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)”
Entered chart on: 2/5/1955
Peaked on: 2/19/1955
Weeks at #2: 3
I remember thumbing through my father’s junior high school yearbook, and they mentioned the class’ favorite singers. The #1 female singer was Patti Page (don’t worry, we’ll get to her) and the top male vocalist was Perry Como. It was a different time. By the time I was conscious, Eugene Levy was parodying Perry Como as Mr. Relaxation, performing a lobotomized rendition of “I Will Survive” while lying flat on the stage, barely able to stay awake.
Mean? Sure. Deserved? Eh, I don’t know. I’m not really au fait with the works of Mr. Como. Like I said, it was a different time. When I was conscious, Three Dog Night and Olivia Newton John were at the top of the charts. I’m not saying it was necessarily better...
Well, this is a lot more swingin’ than I expected! Swingin’ saxophones (one of which takes a solo in the middle eight) and BONGOS! Oh, the bongos! I was not expecting that! There’s also some crazy backing vocals on this. Well, the male vocals aren’t so crazy, but the female vocals... I swear one of them does this Yma Sumac grunt at one point! Those girls are enjoying themselves way too much!
I can’t help but notice that the Ray Charles Singers are responsible for the irrepressible backing vocal performance on this, which along with those fantastic bongos, make the tune. Yes, I know it’s not that Ray Charles (we’ll be covering him later, please be patient) but I thought it was worth mentioning.
This is, of course, our first instance of “whitewashing.” The original version of this song was performed by its composers, Gene and Eunice. For whatever reason, cover versions of it soon flooded the market, with Perry’s version topping the charts. RCA billed it as his “rock & roll” song, quite laughable with the aid of 20/20 hindsight but I’m sure that wasn’t the perception at the time. Realistically, they took a boilerplate R&B song and turned it into something like a mutant version of big-band swing. I’ve read reviews comparing this version to Spike Jones, and I can definitely hear that.
Compare this to the king of whitewashing, Dot Records’ poster-boy Pat Boone. It may not be rock, but Perry can at least loosen up and give a sprightly performance for the length of a two-and-a-half minute tune before going back to plying his trade of dreary, somber ballads. Pat could never remove the stick from his butt long enough to deliver a credible performance of an uptempo song.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to! I get that we’re all supposed to hate all that white-bread pre-rock stuff, but this is actually really lively and fun, Perry’s getting into the spirit of it, the backing vocals are off the charts and oh, have I mentioned how I love those bongos?