The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, December 27, 2000

The 'Leap Of Faith Factor'

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Some recordings are of a particular time, and when that time passes, they no longer resonate. Then there are the classics, songs that seem ageless, that speak as eloquently now as they did when they were released. The other day I was looking through this one particular shelf of CDs where I'd stashed some albums I'd bought on impulse — and then forgotten about. There, with cellophane still around it, was this Beau Brummels "best of" collection that Rhino Records put together. I put it on, and right away "Laugh, Laugh," one of the group's three top-40 songs back in the mid-'60s, filled the room. It's a British Invasion rip, and the group, San Francisco boys, all wore Beatle haircuts and mod duds back in 1964, when the song was released. But rip or not, "Laugh, Laugh" is a classic song. What makes it great isn't just writer/guitarist Ron Elliott's skill in setting a believable story line about teenage rejection to a memorable melody. You could say it's Sal Valentino's vocal performance, the mournful quality in his voice as he delivers advice to a girl who's been jilted by the guy for whom she dumped the singer's character ("I hate to say it but I told you so/ Don't mind my preaching to you.../ Wouldn't believe me when I gave advice/ I said that he was a tease..."). You might decide the song's power comes from the way the harmonica riff's bittersweet tremolo interacts with the slight waver in Sal's voice. In trying to define a single element, I think you'd be missing the point. "Laugh, Laugh" succeeds because of the "leap of faith factor." The brief instrumental intro leads you right into the story, and without even realizing what's happened, you're there inside the song. "Laugh, Laugh" was a hit in 1965 — 35 years ago — yet when you play it right now, it sounds fresh and alive. I guess some might dismiss it as dated and old-fashioned, but I don't buy that. Consider that just a few years ago Pearl Jam scored the biggest hit of their career with a cover of the decades-old pop hit "Last Kiss," and there was nothing updated about their approach to that song. I feel the same way about certain blues recordings, such as Lightnin' Hopkins' "Once Was A Gambler," which he recorded in the early '60s and which just sounds as timeless and relevant today, nearly 40 years after its first release. Classic recordings are like that.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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