I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s American Idol program. They were cutting the contestants down to 70 by combining them into groups of four and assigning them songs from the ’50s. The songs included some of my all-time favorite ballads, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (how true, how true), “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” They also did many up-tempo songs like “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Jailhouse Rock” that were well-done, but did not touch me like the ballads.
I hope my maturing granddaughters heard “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” as part of their education. Sorry, girls, but this is just how teenage guys are, and some never do outgrow that stage. Better you know this early on.
My favorite song back in high school was the semi-pornographic and banned from radio, “Work With Me, Annie.” Pat Boone later came out with an insipid remake, “Dance With Me, Henry” that still makes me gag. Once, Dave Hall and I even went to Philly’s packed Uptown Theater (the equivalent to NYC’s Apollo Theater) to see, as I remember, Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters. We were the only white faces in the crowd and probably within miles, but no one thought anything of it. Especially my mother, who never knew we were there.
I have seen these songs performed on PBS channels during their fund-raisers by the original groups, at least groups with the original name, no matter how tenuous the connection. The American Idol performances were much better. Songs about tortured love are best sung by the young, not old guys who should know better.
Despite the songs’ seeming simplicity, they were new to these very talented, young performers, and they struggled to get the doo-wop sound just right. But they all did fine, even those who had to be cut. Many gave the songs a modern feel while still remaining true to the original. I hope Comcast has it “On Demand” so I can watch it again.
The retro performances fit perfectly with American Idol, which is retro itself, referring back to a time when teenage culture really did have just one pop singer idol. Those days, too, are gone forever.