Saturday, October 22, 2011
THE PENTAGONS - FOR A LOVE THAT IS MINE
But you can't do that today, fellas. You'd probably be arrested or become the victim of a drive-by shooting.
This record has always been one of my favorites ever since I heard it on a cassette tape a friend gave to me back in the '90s (did I really just use the phrase "back in the '90s"? SHEESH!!). I already knew the group from their hit "To Be Loved (Forever)", but wasn't aware of this one. It became one of my many 45 rpm-based obsessions from then on.
The Pentagons were formed in San Bernadino, California in 1958 by brothers Ted and Kenneth Goodloe, along with Joe C. Jones (not the Joe Jones who had the hit with "You Talk Too Much"), Carl McGinnis, Bill James and Otis Munson. They made their first trip to Los Angeles, and cut one single for Specialty Records ("It's Spring Again" b/w "Silly Dilly") which promptly went nowhere. Otis Munson left the group shortly afterward, and was replaced by Odie Jones (Joe C.'s brother - so now the group had 2 sets of brothers).
The group practiced some more, and on their next trip to LA in 1960 they hooked up with producers George Motola and Lee Silver. Doo-wop collectors know Motola's name and revere him as one of the fathers of West Coast doo-wop. Motola wrote songs like "Goodnight My Love" by Jessie Belvin, "Shattered Dreams" by The Youngsters, and produced the Shields' "You Cheated" for his Tender label. He also wrote (with his wife, Rickie Page) Eddie Cochran's "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie", and also won a settlement against 1980s rockabilly group The Stray Cats for changing his original lyrics for dirtier, filthier ones when they remade the song. Motola and Silver had a label called Fleet International Records, and the Pentagons had a fantastic new song (written by Ken Goodloe) called "To Be Loved". Motola and Silver released it on Fleet Int., and it really started to sell in the LA area.
Enter Bob Keene. Keene had been a fixture on the LA scene for years, first hitting paydirt with his Del-Fi label, which most famously recorded Ritchie Valens. After Valens' death in the plane crash, Keene started another label (named after Valens' biggest hit), Donna Records. Keene was always on the lookout for new talent, and heard the Pentagons' record all over LA radio, so he made a lease deal with Motola and Silver to release the record nationally. It came out on Donna in January, 1961, and by the next month it hit #48 on the pop charts (though, strangely enough, it didn't hit the R&B charts).
Motola and Silver quickly brought the group into the studio for the follow-up, which was this record. This time around, however, a new person joined the Pentagons' management team - Lester Sill. Sill was the ORIGINAL Los Angeles record production maven, giving folks like Phil Spector their start and working with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller early on in their careers. So when he joined the management team, the group was understandably thrilled. The new record was again leased to Donna, but Lester Sill had bigger plans. He had been working with Jamie Records for several years, producing some of Duane Eddy's biggest hits, and wanted the Pentagons for that label. Since the Pentagons were not signed directly to Donna Records, this was no problem, so Sill signed the group to Jamie. When Bob Keene found out about what Lester did, he basically dumped the new single on the market and gave it no promotion whatsoever.
Which was a shame, since this is a gorgeous record. Swathed in echo, the lead singer (I've never been completely sure whether the lead was Joe C. Jones or Kenneth Goodloe) is "walking alone in the dark" wondering whether or not he'll ever find a love of his own. There have been dozens of doo-wop songs with this same theme, but none of them have the air of abject loneliness and longing that this record has.
A couple of side notes here: I have NO idea why my copy of this says "NEW VERSION" on the label - I have never heard (or heard of) any other version. Also, apparently Bob Keene was soooo P. O.'d about losing this group that when he put out a comp CD of doo-wop songs from the Del-Fi/Donna vaults in the late '90s (remember the '90s?), he listed this song as "Walking Alone" and stated that it was previously unreleased!!
The Pentagons went on to have one hit for Jamie ("I Wonder", #84 pop) and several flop follow-ups. Lester Sill soon lost interest in the group (though he did record Joe C. Jones solo as "Joel Scott" for Philles Records, his new label from his short-lived partnership with Phil Spector) and they soon faded away, making one more 45 for the Sutter label and then re-appearing a few years later as The Themes, whose "Bent Out Of Shape" 45 on Minit is a Northern Soul collector's item.
For me, this record encapsulates many of the reasons I love group harmony music. Of course, the hardcore doo-wop freaks have either a) never heard of this record or b) dismiss it in favor of things by groups like Sonny Til and The Orioles (yawn). Which proves that 95% of record collectors have no idea what good music is, but music collectors (no matter what the format) will always know where the good stuff is.
The Pentagons - For A Love That Is Mine (Donna 1344) - 1961