Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Man's Got To Do What A Man's Got To Do: Frankie Laine: "Where The Winds Blow" and "Blowing Wild"

Though these two are not chronologically exactly the next two in line, I felt it imperative to put them together as two songs that were both follow-ups to "I Believe" that show the other side of Frankie Laine - not one that is strong and confident, always, but still passionate and (somewhat) doomed.

"Where The Winds Blow" is an outlaw song, only we have no idea what the outlaw has done, just that the sherriff is after him and will 'bind him' to an oak and dangle him low - why? Did he kill someone? We have no idea, but if it's a hanging offence then no wonder he has to keep going through the rain and snow into the hills, he can't even see his gal as he has no time to lose, and he doesn't want her to go with him. He is seriously on the run and his fate is to keep wandering until he can get out of town, out of the county, maybe even out of the state. Will he run and run, or hide? Even he doesn't know. He has to be brave as he has no choice, and he doesn't want to be pushing up any daffodils anytime soon. The music is slow, the background singers give it a sense of gravity and awe - because it's Laine singing it, it's hard to believe he has done something wrong - surely someone so noble is innocent? Westerns often turn on the smallest of moments, but there are always clear good guys vs. bad guys. It's hard to think of Laine as being bad.

"Blowing Wild" is the name of a movie about oil and desperation (all movies about oil tend to also be about desperation, if not insanity). Marina is the name of the woman who has trapped our noble singer in a web and while he once escaped her, here she is again, and he wants to be free - free, as far as I can tell, from not just her but the black gold as well. If Laine sounded determined before, now he is nearly manic, cursed and pleading and the backing singers sound like they are trying to give a strong notion of the hero's slim grasp on sanity, going up and down vertiginously - as if the singer's life were at stake. 1953 was Laine's year; I am guessing both of these songs were successful in part due to coming in the wake of "I Believe" but they show how haunted and blunt he could be.

One more thing: rock and roll (which still doesn't exist) often likes to laud the lonely, the brave - in short, the outlaw. But here we have two songs full of angst and longing, by men who have no way out. They are proud, they have their dignity (just), but there is none of the rock arrogance about these men. They have done what they had to do, and will have the nerve and nobility to continue, no matter what, even if it means death. Such four-square solidity can only be admired, but not envied.


mike said...

On "Where The Winds Blow", it's the distinctly "blowy" backing vocals which make it for me. And "Blowing Wild" doesn't exactly blow, either! A surprisingly good crop of Number Twos thus far...

wichita lineman said...

I agree that Blowing Wild is astonishing, the borderline sanity of the singer and his stoicism clearly predating two of the greats of the immediate post-r&r era, the strong-jawed Roy Orbison and Del Shannon. Both must have looked to Frankie Laine's darker hits which stick out like black gold in the general syrup and candy of the early 50s. Joe Meek too, I'd guess, especially for his John Leyton 45s.

Great project, by the way!