Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mickey & Sylvia

Mickey & Sylvia were not husband and wife. They weren’t even girlfriend and boyfriend. Not according to Mickey, anyway. What they were, according to legend, was teacher / pupil. Sylvia got Mickey to teach her to play guitar, and she convinced him, somehow, that they ought to be a duet.

Mickey was Mickey “Guitar” Baker, who ended up being a venerated session player, and Sylvia was Sylvia Robinson, who recorded Pillow Talk, and founded, or cofounded or something, Sugar Hill Records and was therefore a rap midwife.

And together, they were unlike anyone else in the annals of pop / rock / R & B. This collection, which I picked up Pyramid Records, has seven of their eight hits – missing is Lovedrops, who knows why. They did a single called Love Is A Treasure which was not a hit, but I know it exists because I found it, the single. It wasn’t on the collection.

Mickey & Sylvia:

Love Is Strange – I guess that’s probably an understatement. This song was written by Bo Diddley though it doesn’t sound like it. He credited it to his wife, Ethel Smith. As the two parlay, singing together, Mickey treating us to some for the 50s sophisticated electric guitar, then trading love insights (how do you call your lover boy), we are treated to a song that has no parallel in pop music. It was hit in the winter of 1957 (their only top 40 hit), was covered later by Buddy Holly whose version was released posthumously in 1969, with The Fireballs accompanying his vocals, it was a hit for Peaches & Herb in 1967 (that was the version I grew up with) and Wings put it on their first album in 1972.
What Will I Do – All kinds of terrible things apparently. Rather a desperate attachment I’d say. From the winter of 1961.
I Got A New Idea On Love – Cute, but I doubt that it’s a new idea.
Love Will Make You Fail In School – “Sylvia, are you doing your homework??” Concentrate on your studies, don’t get sidetracked by extra-curricular interests. A warning in song. Until the end – then Sylvia, wonderful Sylvia, proclaims that, in fact, it’s school that will make you fail in love. Put those books away and come and …. Truly inspiring…
There’ll Be No Backing Out – This is about one thing, and one thing only. Squeezing, not teasing. I don’t know who the sax man is, but he’s good…
Bewildered – Not to be confused with Bewitched (Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald) this Love Is Strange soundalike was a hit of sorts in the winter of 1958.
No Good Lover – Mickey treats us to his solo vocal and his guitar pyrotechnics. Sylvia also takes the mike. Bluesy.
Dearest – And here they do a kind of ballad, though it’s not too different from their usual fare. From the summer of 1957. The flip side of There Oughta Be A Law.
Say The Word – A call-me-any-time song.
Love Is The Only Thing – A nice thought – not true, but a nice thought. They go kind of smooth here, harmonies throughout, a bit heavier than usual on the orchestration.
There Oughta Be A Law – Typical complaint, I do the work, you do the play. Nice. This is kind of the typical Mickey & Sylvia humour, complete with the “Mickey!,” “Yes Sylvia!”. But there is an undercurrent of bitterness here, until the end. “There oughta be a law keeping us together.”
This Is My Story – A little different. A remake of the old Gene & Eunice hit from 1955. Also done by The Crew Cuts.
Love Is A Treasure – I guess it is, after all.

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