Saturday, 3 December 2016
Oliver: Sonny Til and The Orioles - Crying in the Chapel (29 February 1992)
This 1953 recording was played by Peel as a trial run for a feature that he and his producer, Mike Hawkes were conjecturing in which Peel would play favourite records from his childhood and teenage years. One sticking point was over a title for the feature, with Hawkes favouring Formative Favourites against Peel's idea of Pre-Pubescent Picks.
I'd never heard this track until listening to the 29/2/92 show. I had seen the title and knew Elvis Presley had had a UK number 1 with it in 1965, but I had always assumed it was about somone being jilted at the altar. Instead, and in a most gorgeously simple and touching way, the song is written from the perspective of someone overwhelmed by the glory of God. Peel was an atheist by all accounts, but he was fascinated by religious music and often quoted scripture in episodes of Home Truths.
From a Pre-Pubescent Picks point of view, Crying in the Chapel offers a reminder that outside of balladeers and country music, doo-wop was the next link in the chain of Peel's, and by extension, post-WW2 popular music's journey. Simple backings, velvet-voiced lead singers, harmonies stretching from the free-wheeling to gallows-tight - many times over the years, the Peel show would check out and reduce its soundscape to the aural equivalent of people singing under a streetlight. And time after time, the results would sound magical as this. So much so that 1992 saw something of a revival in the form. Boyz II Men were packaged as a gospel act but it didn't defy imagination to picture Sonny Til and the Orioles running through a track like End of the Road. While that glut of boyband acts that broke through in 1992/93 - Take That & East 17 at the top end; Bad Boys Inc. and Worlds Apart at the bottom end - may have been marketed as teenypopper Beatles/Stones...err...Freddie and the Dreamers for the 90s, but essentially they had their roots in doo-wop: One prominent voice out front and four others standing behind him and going "Oooh".
My own favourite Peel doo-wop selection predates the time of this blog. He played this in May 1981. An incredible performance and a wonderful melody.
Videos courtesy of Manny Mora (Sonny Till & The Orioles) and TheNickNicola (The Jive Bombers)
A recent upload by keepingitpeel on their Wordpress site features several episodes from Home Truths, potentially featuring Peel's encyclopaedic knowledge of quotable scripture.