Tuesday, September 13, 2016

SHG: The Drifters: "There Goes My Baby"

The Drifters: “There Goes My Baby”
Entered the chart on: 6/29/1959
Peaked on: 8/17/1959
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “A Big Hunk o’ Love” by Elvis Presley

Have we reached the apex of “malt-shop music” with this? It’s certainly one of those songs I’ve always enjoyed, and I had forgotten that Ben E. King was the singer on this one. More significantly, in the continued roll-out of rock/R&B numbers with higher production values of 1959, this is apparently the first “rock” record to feature a string section. This made it a game-changer, it seems Phil Spector was specifically inspired by this record.

So...I haven’t even re-listened to this and I’m already jittery with anticipation. Don’t disappoint me, now!

Well, I’d forgotten about that odd vocal intro. And then...[cascade of strings] “There goes my baby!...” It goes without saying that Ben E. King’s voice is flawless; spirited and confident and enchanting. There’s an undeniable vulnerability to his performance that makes this song personal.

The backing vocals and the string arrangement are what set this apart. That vocal intro recurs at odd points in the song, helping boost the lead, while the string part goes into a sort of bolero rhythm at one point. It’s easy to see how a lot of people were inspired by this. I rather hear this as a precursor to the Motown sound, with acts like the Temptations and the Four Tops obviously basing elements of their sound on this.

And it’s easy to hear why. This is truly inspired.

Rating: 5

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