Taking a break from the Expedition today to talk about a musical form that has been held hostage by corny nostalgia mongers for years, but deserves a fresh listen.
I grew up listening to old scratchy 45s. I love their cool remoteness, their texture, and mystique: they’re an aural species of daguerreotype. Certain genres of music require a certain setting to achieve any effect, and I think this is especially true of Doo-Wop. My enjoyment of Doo-Wop can only flourish under certain conditions: personally I can’t imagine attending a live performance by the Moonglows or the Fantastics, wonderful as they may be. It would leave me cold. It may seem perverse to say, but to me, hearing a live Doo-Wop performance is to hear it in its diminished form: no spell is being sung, just a performance. Doo-Wop is best when disembodied: it’s meant to be heard through a car radio, late at night on a lonely road, with its spectral keening trailing off into the night air. It is only then that Doo-Wop’s eerie, ghostly power can be felt. Doo-Wop’s sweet subject matter lends a kind of wry counterpoint to its sinister aura. The listener vacillates between joy and dread, which is fitting for a musical form whose heyday arguably coincided with the country’s. I think David Lynch would understand what I mean.