Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Fleetwoods

The Fleetwoods The Fleetwoods were the mirror image of The Teddy Bears, Two gals and a guy, with the guy singing lead. They were famously not named after the Cadillac. In fact, they were named for a Seattle telephone exchange. And how many people now know what a telephone exchange is. Nine. Nine people know. When I was a kid, our exchange was Edison. The problem now is that searching online for The Fleetwoods gets you mired in Fleetwood Mac, so you have to minus out the Mac. They didn’t think of that in the 50s.

Two guys and a girl. The guy’s name was Gary Troxell. One of the girls was Gretchen, the other was Barbara. Gary always seems to have one arm round each.

This album was called The Very Best Of The Fleetwoods, and I suppose that that’s what it is. All but one of their top 40 hits are here; missing is Lovers By Night, Strangers By Day. Their two top 100 records that didn’t make the top 40 are not here. The one about downtown was not on the album; it came straight from the single.

And I don’t know why Gary dressed like a sailor…

The Fleetwoods:

Come Softly To Me – The love song as invitation. It’s the delivery that’s everything here; even the sexual overtones (they never say the words “to me” in the actual song) are muted. “Let me whisper in your ear” is the message.. And The Fleetwoods whisper their way into our hearts. A number one record in the spring of 1959.
The Great Imposter – Not to be confused with The Great Pretender. A recurring theme in pop music – Silence Is Golden by The Four Seasons / The Tremeloes, Is She Really Going Out With Him by Joe Jackson. How frustrating it is when such a nice girl throws herself away on someone unworthy. This song found itself on the American Graffiti soundtrack and found a whole new audience for the group. From the fall of 1961.
Graduation’s Here – Graduation is such a milestone in one’s life, whether it’s high school or college or university. In pop songs, though, it’s always about saying goodbye to a loved one. But perhaps that’s just the only level on which the medium can deal with it. This was just in time for the 1959 grad. Play it alongside Graduation Day by The Four Freshmen, Your Graduation Means Goodbye by The Cardigans, What Good Is Graduation by The Graduates, and you’ll have a whole ceremony. You won’t even need Elgar.
We Belong Together – The Robert & Johnny hit was a declamation.. When The Fleetwoods do it, it’s so gentle that it’s just a statement of fact whispered from one lover to another.
Mr. Blue – Wow. Just wow. Just close your eyes, listen to the tune. They don’t write them like this, haven’t for many years. The song tells of heartbreak so profound that effects one’s very identity. Call me Mr. Blue, formerly known as Mr. Fleetwood (not). This was number 1 in the fall of 1959.
Tragedy – Describing the loss of a romance as a “tragedy” is a bit over the top, but no one ever accused pop music of a lack of drama. The Fleetwoods do this Thomas Wayne hit in their usual gentle style, suggesting not so much “tragedy” as “mishap.” From the summer of 1961. Brian Hyland was to revive it about 6 years later.
Runaround – Not The Regents hit. It’s called Runaround but what they sing is “run around,” about the frustration of loving someone who won’t commit. It’s a bit odd given the cross gender singing here, but uncertainty as to who is not committing to whom just gives it a bit of a piquant flavour. From the summer of 1960.
Sure Is Lonesome Downtown – Think Johnny Rivers doing Poor Side Of Town and you get the idea. Here it’s more about how a special person infuses a place with meaning.
Goodnight My Love – Their rendition of this song was a revival I guess, coming as it did in the summer of 1963, so long after the style that created it has dissipated. One of the girls does the lead on this, reminding one perhaps of The Fontane Sisters version.
Confidential – Just another way of saying that what’s between us is between us, no kissing and telling…
Outside My Window – Stevie Wonder did a song with this title on The Secret Life Of Plants, which was, altogether, his most underrated moment. No matter. This is from the winter of 1960.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gary was in the Navy during the time they had hits.

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