b/w Toodle Loo
Robert Gordy – “Bob Kayli” – was Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr’s youngest brother, and this was his fourth record; it had been over a year since Bob’s last release, Small Sad Sam, a flat, boring recitation of someone else’s unfunny parody of yet another person’s hit record, and Hold On Pearl would be his last bow as a performer.
This really is rubbish, though. A jaunty, uptempo novelty rock song (the “comedy” clearly signalled right from the start with some winsome cowbells) about Bob’s girlfriend, the eponymous “Lucy Pearl”, who keeps getting herself into life-threatening danger and “laughing like mad”, causing our hero to call out the title as he comes to her rescue (“It’s your Bob-by / Coming for you!”)
The whole thing is poorly-acted and poorly-sung (the screaming high notes at the end, Bob losing all control and screeching at the top of his voice, are probably meant to be funny in their badness, but I’m really not in the mood for this shit today).
The chorus is actually quite catchy, annoyingly, even if Bob is mugging all the way through it in the hopes of getting a cheap laugh like some third-rate warm-up comedian, but any goodwill is dissipated by the stupid lyrics (at one stage, when the narrator thinks Pearl has fallen to her death over the edge of a cliff – I know, it’s funny, funny stuff, but stay with me – his reaction is “My heart was heavy, I was feelin’ sad”).
Oh, and that’s before I even get to the genuinely dreadful ending: our hero ends up almost drowning – or possibly actually drowning, it’s hard to tell – and so the music just suddenly cuts off to be replaced by a couple of seconds of underwater gurgling that sounds like a toilet being flushed.
Is there anything in the world of music more painful than an unfunny comedy record? Especially one like this, sung by an amiable enough bloke, a palpably nice guy who, deep down, really only wants to make you smile? He doesn’t succeed, not even a flicker, and so ends the putative career of Bob Kayli, recording artist and would-be comedy star. He settled into a far more accomplished role as Robert Gordy, vital Motown administrator, head of the Jobete publishing company and sometime actor, and never again made any more records (though one more comedy track, (There’s Always Room For) Love In A Movie, did surface on A Cellarful Of Motown! Volume 3; it’s nothing short of excruciating).
This was originally scheduled to come out as Tamla T 54062, but a last-minute switch to (appropriately enough) the Gordy label saw that catalogue number go unused. The song, astonishingly, wasn’t finished with – Little Lisa suffered the ignominy of seeing her own gender-reversed version released as her only Motown single, despite a fine stock of unissued material, on VIP in 1965. It hadn’t improved with age.
The jaunty, catchy chorus is almost (almost) enough for me to knock this up a notch (bam!), but I can’t bring myself to do it. While I’d grudgingly concede Hold On Pearl perhaps isn’t quite as horrible as Small Sad Sam, we’re only talking relative degrees of awful here, and this doesn’t deserve anything more than the bare minimum. Sorry, Bob, but this is crap.
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!)
Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
- Little Lisa (August 1965)
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“Time Changes Things”