Tuesday, August 16, 2011

53. Drifters, "Fools Fall in Love" (1957)


Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote this originally for the Drifters—the circa 1957 model of the Drifters, that is, which featured Johnny Moore on lead vocals—and to me it's one of the purest pieces of rock 'n' roll to be heard. Elvis Presley recorded it a decade later and came as close as anyone to getting a hit out of it, but of course missing the charts only cements the case on some level for its purity. Brash and supple, uptempo with a vengeance, entered into on a brushed drumkit and gently choogling sax, Moore's clarion yelp is all over it in a matter of seconds, powered by doop-a-doo-wop background moaners and chatterers, interrupted briefly only for a solo in which a guitar plucked on the lower strings carries on a conversation of some erudition with the aforementioned sax before Moore retrieves it again and drives it to a glorious sunset. Over and done, 2:30. It's not a typical Drifters song, although, to be fair, it's not exactly easy to defend the idea of a "typical Drifters" song in the first place. There's the Clyde McPhatter style typified by "Money Honey," or the Ben E. King style typified by "Save the Last Dance for Me." Rudy Lewis was the singer for "Up on the Roof" and "On Broadway." Johnny Moore was back for "Under the Boardwalk," but that's not very much like "Fools Fall in Love." I'd say you're better off going with the Leiber & Stoller label, because they've got the credentials and they're the ones who knew their way around this kind of easy-rollicking rock 'n' roll with such supreme confidence. Whoever gets the credit, it's one for the ages.

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