Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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June 03, 2009
redemption in 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Deserved thanks unto YouTube user & popscholarly blogger     GeoSilverMore, TiR says, for contribution to the internets, for the time being at least, of the under-three minutes of 60s pop heaven that is the Vogues' "Land of Milk and Honey" (1966).

The song appears approx. 7+1/4 minutes into a compilation video, here.

We seriously flipped out for a little while over this record in spring 2008.

As part of our engaged contemplation of its awesomeness, we of course gathered all the info about it that we could, as is our obsessive     wont. We then filed away the research and did nothing with it, as also is our wont. The posting of the YouTube video, a month ago, gives us at last a flimsy excuse to sweep out our files a bit, by posting some links.

On the songwriters:
One of our first discoveries was that the record's songwriters, John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, were the same team responsible for the immortal "Son of a Preacher     Man." Then we realized that the same pair wrote "Love of the Common People."

The two seem not to have written many songs together. But, for those they cowrote: Boy, what a bull's eye hit rate.

Looks like some other compositions by the couple were sung by Bobbie     Gentry and Jackie DeShannon.

Hurley seems to have put out a few albums under his own name on the RCA and Bell labels in the early '70's, according to some of the on-line vinyl & auction sites. The same sources suggest the true quality of rockin'ness on these albums, insofar as his backing musicians are said to include guitarists James     Burton, Larry Carlton and Buddy     Emmons, bassist Jerry     Scheff, drummer Ronnie Tutt, and percussionists Milt     Holland and King     Errisson.    Hurley apparently died in 1986 at age 45 of liver failure.

Not too much additional info on Wilkins, unfortunately. One fun thing: He reappeared some years back to do a cameo appearance in a video for a remake of "Preacher Man," viewable on-line here. The remake and its video are . . . unusual.

On the production team:
Cool, but what gave the record that sound?

(The track's gorgeous & sweeping vocal harmonies go without saying.)

The 45's physical label attributes production to "Cenci-Hakim-Moon."

A webpage that connects Co&Ce label co-founder Nick Cenci with a backing band, The Racket Squad, is here. Did they play backup here? Unclear.

Cenci sounds like a colorful character, if not exactly a Spectorish soundmaker/arranger guy. John H. Rook's wonderful detail on Cenci, the Vogues and the music industry of 60s Pittsburgh is here. Cenci, we gather, was an influential and tireless record promoter and music industry figure in Pittsburgh back then. However, apart maybe from hooking the Vogues up with some backing musicians, it's not clear what, technically, he may have had to do with the sound of this record (Though we wonder about things like: Who was the recording engineer? What studio was used? What recording equipment and technology? Possible clues on this, below.).

Cenci -- perhaps feeling that his contributions to the Steel City have been sufficient -- seems to have become something of a anti-tax     crusader in recent years.

Jack Hakim, similarly, seems primarily to have been a Pittsburgh area record promoter & distributor.

Tony Moon, however, displays the apparent credentials of an actual record producer. Moon's training as a musician and skill as an arranger come through in this page -- about the 1960 record "Alley Oop." This webpage has him cutting Vogues tracks at RCA's legendary Studio     B in his city of Nashville, then overdubbing them in Pittsburgh. Was the magic of Studio B the source of this record's attention-commanding, glowing presence of sound and immediacy of feel? We'd like to imagine so.

The same     Moon later became a Nashville area restaurateur. Let's hope his food was as terrific as his records.

Not that any of the above necessarily explains the song's allure to us. On the one hand, for example, there are its great, great lyrics: a structured, three-act narrative that moves from abyssal isolation and nihilism to salvific, embodied contact and release, though the tug of the nihilism is much more vividly conveyed. Like "Son of Preacher Man," the concrete imagery is blended with enough generality (in this case, for e.g., the absence of gendered pronouns) to enable this listener at least to establish an immediate relationship with the story, through picturing it in the mind's eye while transposing it into their own experience. However, the drama here unfolds under a combat of moral forces that feels as if the outcome of the struggle carries almost Miltonian stakes. Yeah, sounds like teenage love.

On the other hand, is it not a kinda flawed song, by some criteria? No bridge, not even an instrumental solo or break; nothing really to vary or change it up musically, except a modulation skyward, before the last, redemptive verse. TiR nevertheless considers the record's main flaw, at the moment, to be that it ends too soon, or too abruptly.

["Why does the music have to end?" asked Warhol -- who would repeat-play the same 45rpm record compulsively while he worked -- in later inspiration of MMM's final locked groove.]

Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned sources clarify whether the Vogues' record was inspired by a similarly named, early 60s Broadway musical with Molly Picon -- -- as this Usenet post speculates.


Finally, our same worthy YouTube user's posting of Del Shannon's version of Boyce-Hart's "She" enables us to compare its virtues against that of the Suicide Commandos'.