THE FT TOP 100 SONGS
93. Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers – “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”
I loved doo-wop when I was little. The black-and-white photographs on record covers, smiling boys in ill-fitting suits, close harmonies and bubblegum and soda floats and school hall dances and all those things that only existed in made-for-tv movies set in the fifties. My dad taught me to jive, in the living room, trying not to make the record skip, a few rudimentary moves that I never quite got right.
‘Why do fools fall in love’ does a pretty good impression of being doo-wop, but it’s not really – it can’t be, because after the bouncing bass lead-in and the open-vowel blast of backing vocal, Frankie Lymon bursts in and takes everything over. You can almost imagine the recording: one mike, maybe two, and the rest of the group have been shunted right to the back of the room so their harmonies only drift forward when Lymon’s treble yell tires itself out.
I don’t remember how to jive, but my body thinks it does: some songs, there’s this twitching, this demand.
And then Jimmy Wright’s sax blurts up from somewhere, and it’s a contest between boy and reed for who can be the rawest, the loudest, the most absurdly fun, the most catchy, and this song was never about falling in love, always about making people move. The swing beat shuffles, the double-bass jumps and loops – whyy does my he-aart skip a cra-a-zy-y beat, sings Lymon, and it sure don’t sound like a question.
Birds sing, rain falls, fools fall in love. So what? We should be dancing.