A few years back there was a meme/thread going around among film bloggers who listed something like “Ten Movies that Explain America.” I missed it.
I’ve thought since, about assembling a “Ten Albums that Explain America.” Given how few movies that aren’t westerns (and by no means all of them), or “concert films” from the sixties, have had anything to do with “America” as either an idea or an actual country with a specific history that marks if off from the general run of nation-hoods humans have assembled through the ages, I think this would make a least a little more sense.
And I might still get around to it…in the meantime, just having the idea buzz around in my head is keeping me alive to the possibilities of what I might include. This week the buzzing lit on my latest acquisition from the Bear Family’s exhaustive series on doo wop, Street Corner Symphonies.
As of now, I’m up to 1954, which was the consolidation year after the quantum leap of 1953. 1953 had the Drifters doing “Money Honey,” the Orioles’ “Crying in the Chapel,” the Harp-Tones’ “Sunday Kind of Love,” the Prisonaires’ “Just Walking in the Rain,” the Crows’ “Gee” and the Clovers’ “Good Lovin’,” just for starters. With the music trying that hard to keep up with itself (and the world starting to take notice), 1954 was bound to find everybody catching their breath.
And, at least the way the Bear Family disc is sequenced, that’s pretty much what happens, even on sides as luminous and epochal as “Earth Angel” and “Sh-Boom.”
Then, without warning, out of the foggy night of long ago, the final three tracks emerge and they are this…
I mean, who needs albums (or movies) to explain America?
And who needs ten?
The mystery, the warning, the sweetest possible epitaph.
How much further could you go, really?
And remember, it’s fine to disagree with me…But, if you click over, failing to listen to the end is a crime that can’t be punished except by itself.