52 GIRLS"Rosetta" /
Alan Price & Georgie Fame
Putting Alan Price and Georgie Fame together made no sense. What was this, the land of Dueling Keyboards? I loved Georgie Fame and the Famous Blue Flames' mid-60s classic "Yeh Yeh"; I adored Alan Price's organ solos on Animals' hits like "House of the Rising Son" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." Not only were they both keyboard whizzes, they both had smoky sexy voices with Northern accents. Together? Wasn't that too much of a good thing?
Silly me. The key thing (no pun intended) was how much these two entertainers enjoyed each other, how they fed off of each other's snappy pop energy. Their 1971 LP Fame & Price Together is packed with gems like "Home Is Where Your Heart Is," "That's How Strong My Love Is," and the Randy Newman satire "Yellow Man."
Or Exhibit A, "Rosetta," the big hit single off this wonderful album.
Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Fame & Price Together was produced by Mike Smith, the same producer who turned down the Beatles when they auditioned for Decca Records. It was written by someone named Mike Snow (anyone? anyone?) and was also recorded that same year by the popular German artist Klaus Wunderlich, known as a genius on the Hammond organ. There's something about this song that keyboardists love.
Well, for one thing, keyboardists like to show off their lightning-fast finger work, and this song's swinging tempo offers such an opportunity, leapfrogging up and down the keys as it rattles along. Duelling Keyboards indeed -- the faster Georgie goes on his verse, the faster Alan has to go on his. And look at that video -- they're both having a fine time amping up the tempo, yet never losing the snappy swing of it. Rock AND roll....
I suppose this song could be called a novelty. Proper girls -- girls who get songs named after them -- are not supposed to be hell-raisers, but here's our Rosetta: "Well, my little girl is a sweet little girl / But she does things that make your eyebrows curl / You let her loose for a Friday night / You know it's gonna end in a fight." What? (I do love that image of making your eyebrows curl, and the way Alan rolls the R on Rosetta? Bestill my heart.)
She's hardly a dainty thing. "Rosetta drinks her whisky neat / She gets in a fight and she might get beat." This is way before the Spice Girls introduced the concept of Girl Power, remember. But in the hard-drinking Geordie culture that Price and Fame (from Newcastle and Lancashire, respectively) grew up in, a lass who can put away some liquor is a lass to be respected.
And respect her he does: "So I go round on the Saturday night and ask her if she feels alright." (Cue up a hammering set of descending chords, almost as if he's traipsing down the steps to her basement flat.) "Rosetta, are you better, are you well, well, well . . . " I love those repeated well-well-wells, their sassy harmonizing, which somehow morph into a sort of tut-tutting commentary -- as in "well, well, well, what have we here?"
In verse two they go out again, but her reputation precedes her: "Knocked on the door but we couldn't get in / 'Cos the boss don't want no fuss." They find another bar, Rosie ends up passing out, he has to take her home and pour her into bed. And a second round of well-well-wells ensues.
But he doesn't sound exasperated or critical of his little spitfire -- both vocals are full of joviality and yet tenderness. (Don't think too hard about the fact that each verse is sung by a different bloke -- so long as they're happy with it, more power to you, Rosetta.)
That chipper syncopation, half boogie-woogie and half music-hall softshoe, is nothing but high spirits and good will. This is a song that never fails to make me feel happy. I love how their voices blend on the chorus, how the pianos pound together. Too much of a good thing? I think not.