B-side of All The Good Times Are Gone
(Written by Howard Hausey)
Briefly confusing intro aside – sparse, echoing Japanese drums and bells which (for a couple of seconds) had me hoping in vain this might be interesting – the final Mel-o-dy Records B-side we’ll ever cover here on Motown Junkies manages to live right down to expectations. Indeed, so bad is The Great Titanic that it somehow damages the label’s reputation even further, something I didn’t think was even physically possible. But this isn’t just a load of absolute irritating nonsense, it’s a load of absolute irritating nonsense in phenomenally appalling taste.
This is a jaunty, bouncy, good-time country number, where Howard and his pals gather round the pie-anna with their fiddles and banjos for a hand-clappin’, tambourine-shakin’ singalong, telling the story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic through song.
Yeah, you read that right.
Even without the eye-poppingly poor taste – and honestly, The Great Titanic could scarcely have been any more shockingly crass – this would still be a terrible record. For starters, Howard Crockett is quite unable to decide what he’s trying to do here; he veers between singing in a low-rent Johnny Cash impression and just reciting the lyrics in a would-be sombre spoken word intonation, and can’t make up his mind, resulting in a messy and uneven delivery that trips him up eight or nine times.
The song itself is similarly mired in no-man’s-land, the chorus a full-on upbeat affair, the choir chanting with barely-disguised glee: And the great Titanic went down, went down! The great Titanic went down! She was the biggest ship that had ever been built, but the great Titanic went down!, followed each time by another upward key change, each one jauntier and less appropriate than the last. But the lyrics… Jesus, the lyrics.
Crockett spends the record’s entire running time veering between a flat recitation of some of the known historical details of the ship’s last night, and a sensationalist account for ghoulish rubberneckers looking for illicit thrills and religious satisfaction that God’s will has been done. Bizarrely enough, and perhaps most offensively of all, considering Crockett is a man who’s spent his entire Motown career trying to cheaply win tears from his audience over the most mawkish, trite and sentimental faux-country platitudes, a man who once welled up with fake sobs (in a song written by someone else, no less) over his character’s father having grey hair, there’s not a single trace of sympathy or emotion as he recounts the horrific deaths of 1,513 people.
(Indeed, if anything, he sounds faintly amused, as though Captain Smith’s (supposed) hubris meant that the victims got what was coming to them, as though this is a morality tale about the sin of pride and what happens when you get too big for your boots. 1,513. Well I’ve got another number for you, Howard.)
Appalling on pretty much every level, this is one of the worst Motown records of all time – a fitting way, perhaps, to close out the history of one of Motown’s least-loved labels.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
(Or maybe you’re only interested in Howard Crockett? More fool you.)
“All The Good Times Are Gone”
“Lonely, Lonely Girl Am I”