Bird Robin Beijinger 1500 crop

go rockin’ robin ’cause we’re really gonna rock tonight

FOR MOST OF US, the pe­riod in our lives when we are most pas­sionate about music is our teenage years. Some­where around 13 or 14 years old, we start both in­tense for love and equally in­tense hate af­fairs with the pop music of the day. For me, this pe­riod was 1964-1969: to this day, most of my greatest loves come from this “era.” Most of the records and artists that I have loathed also orig­i­nated during this time.

For the most part, those records that I loved then, I love now—which I take as a sign of my good taste then and now. Even better, though, is that I out­grew my hates and many (most?) of the record and artists that I hated then I like now. Some have be­come faves so dear it’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve I ever har­bored any­thing but love for them.

This in­cludes records like “96 Tears” and “Mony Mony” and groups like the Beach Boys and the Four Sea­sons. (I tended to run screaming from falsetto voices and, if I re­member ac­cu­rately, my screaming was often pitched higher than Bri­an’s or Frankie’s vo­cals.)

By 1964, ’50s rock & roll hits were con­sid­ered “golden oldies” and while I had deep and long-lasting loves for music and artists from this era, I had not hates that I re­member. Hell’s Belles, I al­ways loved a few records by Frankie Avalon (“Venus” is a damn near per­fect pop record) and even teenaged Elvis wannabes (“Turn Me Loose”).

 

Elvis HoundDog PS

The ini­tial pic­ture sleeves pro­moted “Hound Dog” above “Don’t Be Cruel” as the A-side of Elvis’s third single of 1956. But the “Don’t Be Cruel” quickly over­took the in­tended hit side and RCA Victor reis­sued the sleeve with “Don’t Be Cruel” above “Hound Dog.” Both are very dif­fi­cult to find in any­thing re­sem­bling NM con­di­tion and if you do, it’s prob­ably a coun­ter­feit!

Those oldies but goodies

But there were ’50s records that I never con­nected with emo­tion­ally or in­tel­lec­tu­ally and so I sum­marily dis­missed them and rarely looked back. I don’t think anyone would fault me for saying that the “in­tel­lec­tual” con­tent of the lyrics of many of those golden oldies was ef­fec­tively non-existent.

And while a few would con­nect with me (“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” still bowls me over), I gen­er­ally con­sid­ered songs about dancing birds with guys tweeting in the back­ground to be back­ground music that could be tol­er­ated for its pe­riod nov­elty factor.

For­tu­nately, I have ap­par­ently been as wrong about dis­missing some of those ’50s hits as I was about hating those ’60s hits. And one of them was Bobby Day’s “Rock-in Robin,” the record with the guys making the silly bird sounds in the back­ground.

I didn’t choose to re­visit this hit from 1958: it popped up on YouTube while I was writing and for some reason, de­spite sixty years of ca­sual fa­mil­iarity with it, I “heard” it for the first time!

What a great rock & roll record!

 

BobbyDay photo close up 800

This is a pub­licity photo of Bobby Day, who cer­tainly hand­some enough to have con­sid­ered Hol­ly­wood had the recording busi­ness not panned out.

We’re really gonna rock tonight

Bobby Day was the stage name for Robert James Byrd. “Rock-in Robin” was written by Leon René under the pseu­donym “J. Thomas” (Jimmy or Jesse Thomas, de­pending). René also wrote “Little Bitty Pretty One” and “Over and Over” with Byrd.

Day recorded it using mem­bers of his former group, the Hol­ly­wood Flames. Ses­sion mu­si­cians in­cluded Barney Kessel on guitar, Earl Palmer on drums, and sax player Plas Johnson playing the pic­colo that mocks a bird’s call.

Below find the lyrics as tran­scribed by me:

 

BobbyDay RockinRobin 45 Class maroon dull 1 600

He rocks in the tree-top all the day long,
hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singing’ his song.
All the little birds on Jay­bird Street
love to hear the robin goin’ “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

Every little swallow, every chick­adee,
every little bird in the tall oak tree,
the wise old owl, the big black crow
flap-a their wings singin’ “Go, bird! Go!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

A pretty little raven at the bird band­stand
taught him how to do the bop and it was grand.
They started goin’ steady and, bless my soul,
he out-bopped the buz­zard and the oriole!

He rocks in the tree-top all the day long,
hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singing’ his song.
All the little birds on Jay­bird Street
love to hear the robin goin’ “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

Well the pretty little raven at the bird band­stand
taught him how to do the bop and it was grand.
They started goin’ steady and, bless my soul,
he out-bopped the buz­zard and the oriole!

He rocks in the tree-top all the day long,
hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singing’ his song.
All the little birds on Jay­bird Street
love to hear the robin goin’ “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

“Rock-in Robin” peaked at #2 on Bill­board’s Hot 100 but only reached #4 on the Cash Box Top 100. The B-side was “Over And Over” and on the R&B sur­veys, “Rock-in Robin” / “Over and Over” was a double-sided hit that reached #1.

 

BobbyDay RockinRobin LP Class 600

Day’s record was so pop­ular that tiny Class Record loos­ened their purse-strings and paid for an album. Un­like the single, it did not find a big au­di­ence and is a rather rare record today.

This dance is gonna be a drag

Both sides of Day’s single had a lengthy ca­reer in the Top 40: in 1965, the Dave Clark Five had their last #1 record in the US with their ver­sion of “Over and Over.”

In 1972, Michael Jack­son’s recording of “Rockin’ Robin” went to #1 on Cash Box but pooped out at #2 on Bill­board.

In 1986, “Bobby Day’s “Rock-in Robin” was fea­tured in the movie Stand by Me.

René and Day also wrote “Little Bitty Pretty One,” which was a hit for Thurston Harris in 1957, Clyde McPhatter in 1962, and the Jackson Five in 1972.

My fa­vorite ver­sion is former Lovin’ Spoonful member Zal Yanovsky’s de­light­fully stoned reading from his solo album, 1968’s Alive and Well in Ar­gentina.

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Bird Robin Beijinger 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of the page is of a red and brown feath­ered Eu­ro­pean robin who was first spotted at the Bei­jing Zoo in China on Jan­uary 9, 2019. This is only the third known Eu­ro­pean robin to land in Bei­jing, the pre­vious sighting was in 2014 While this robin is of Eu­ro­pean de­scent, the Chi­nese as­so­ciate it with Eng­land and have dubbed this par­tic­ular bird a “Brexit refugee.”

Postscript

Like those ’60s records that I can’t un­der­stand now how I ever hated them then, I’m baf­fled that I missed Bobby Day’s great singing all these years. Of course, this prob­ably means I’ve been missing other records from the ’50s equally great and that I have more new dis­cov­eries about past mis­takes still to come in the fu­ture …

 

 

 

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