Tuesday, July 1, 2014

One Song at a Time: "I Only Want You"

The Passions, a lesser-known but worthwhile doo-wop group.

The song: "I Only Want You"
Artist: The Passions
Released: 1960

Soundtrack to a college crush.
During all my years of schooling, an era of my life I tried to prolong indefinitely so as to avoid entry into the dreaded "real world," I only ever had one crush on a teacher. It was one of my college professors, a woman who taught courses on Spanish literature and culture. If you follow any particular major or minor long enough, you'll eventually have the same profs over and over again, and she was repeatedly one of mine. To maintain propriety, I'll avoid naming her or the institute of higher learning for which she still works. Let me cut you off at the pass by pointing out that she wasn't the busty, provocatively-dressed "Hot for Teacher"-type seductress you're likely picturing. No short skirts, plunging necklines, stilettos, or fishnet stockings here. Instead, this professor was a modest, sensibly-dressed brunette with a soft voice and a mildly nerdy vibe. I can never be sure why exactly I developed such a crush on her, but looking at her picture in the college's staff directory still makes my heart flutter to this day. Every crush needs a musical soundtrack, I feel, and for this one I chose classic doo-wop, in particular a track from 1960 called "I Only Want You" by the Passions. I discovered it on a Rhino Records compilation and loved it immediately, playing it over and over. AllMusic describes the Passions as "an above-average white doo-wop ensemble from Brooklyn." Apparently, they recorded for a few years, starting in the late 1950s, but never quite made it. This particular tune wasn't even one of their bigger hits, but it got my attention anyway. What was it that first caught my fancy? Was it the lopsided drum part, which emphasizes the second and fourth beats of each measure rather than the first and third, sounding like a pirate with a peg-leg running through a steel corridor? Maybe it was the descending pizzicato strings which "answer" the lead singer after every line of the verses? Probably it's just the unabashed erotic yearning of the lyrics, i.e. the fact that the guy in the song is just so consumed with lust for some young lady "every waking hour, every minute of the day." This poor dope can't even get a break when he falls asleep: "Even in my dreams, you are there it seems/I can always see your face." It reminds me of a line from Just Jaeckin's Emmanuelle (1974): "Real love is erection, not orgasm." That's the essence of "I Only Want You." It's the perfect combination of harmony and hard-on.

This is the second episode of this proposed series. I've changed the title from "Best Song Ever" to "One Song at a Time" to emphasize that this is basically an autobiography in the form of record reviews.

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