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Oct 03

DREAMWEAVERS – “It’s Almost Tomorrow”

Popular47 comments • 3,860 views

#43, 16th March 1956

The Dreamweavers knew – absolutely knew – their song was a hit, but nobody wanted to record it. At this distance we can only guess as to why – too sad, perhaps? Too defeatist? Too old-fashioned? So the group did something remarkable: they recorded it themselves. Their arrangement was primitive – just a piano and crooning voices – and their singer wasn’t the finest, with a wimpy voice and an audible lisp. But their instincts were right – “It’s Almost Tomorrow” was a smash. Self-written, self-produced, a portrait of male weakness and romantic defeat – The Dreamweavers had made the first ever indie record, and had taken it to the top of the charts.

In all seriousness, this is a lovely single (the jarring ending flourish aside). The singer is doomed and knows he is doomed – in the morning he will meet his lover, and it is certain that she will leave him. So sure is he of this that his best hope lies not in her relenting, but in tomorrow somehow not arriving. The tune is terribly pretty and vulnerable, a lullaby of abjection, and the delivery is almost comically pathetic – imagine Droopy the cartoon dog writing a 50s pop ballad. Except British. I don’t actually know for sure that the Dreamweavers were British but my goodness this record sounds it: its buttoned-down misery and polite hopelessness strikes a national chord which has kept on resonating down to this day. “The saddest songs are the lonely songs, so easily outgrown” – British pop hasn’t outgrown this yet.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    enitharmon on 20 Jan 2011 #

    Eli @ 22
    Many thanks for that link. It brought back a lot of memories and made an old woman very happy!

  2. 27
    Eli on 20 Jan 2011 #

    Glad to be of service, enitharmon!

    I also have tons of 78s; putting them online is another matter! Go on eBay and browse 78rpm records; you can see lots of examples there.

    A lot of the time they were replaced by ‘shop’ sleeves, thick card advertising the shop you bought the record from.

  3. 28

    Here’s a lovely one!

  4. 29
    nixonradio on 21 Jan 2011 #

    #11: I barely even remember writing that, truth be told (I just arrived because of an inexplicable spike in hits from here) and on rereading it I do slightly regret “various other unlistenable grey-voiced tw*ts”, but I wasn’t going for gratuitously nasty, and certainly not soul-destroying; if you love How Much Is That Doggie In The Window, O Mein Papa and I Believe, more power to you!

    I was just trying to imagine what that immediate postwar pre-Dansette era must have been like for teenagers, a generation for whom popular music existed but didn’t really cater – from my “don’t know, wasn’t there” perspective, at least. I find it fascinating, and not just on this level (e.g. whether Perry Como and Elvis ever happily coexisted in people’s collections), but even deeper – the whole notion of teens in 1953 who might have dug the Sex Pistols or Bananarama or Slipknot if they’d been born later, what did they listen to instead? Did people just make the best of whatever was available, or stay away from pop music altogether, or what?

    Anyway, sorry if I offended. I haven’t written anything of substance on that blog for a while (I have a whole Popular-inspired thing going on where I’m trying to review ever Motown record ever made, and which is taking over my entire life), but if I ever get back to it I’ll try and set the balance right with some nice words about some good early-Fifties records I actually like.

  5. 30
    Eli on 21 Jan 2011 #

    #29: Apology accepted! It did read as a little vicious, particularly the comment you quote. I accept that these singers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I doubt even rock ‘n’ roll kids in 1956 disliked them *that* much!

    I could probably write on this topic at great length… IMO, some “pre-rock stars” have voices that transcend the era, but have been sadly forgotten – like Johnnie Ray, who the young Bob Dylan was a fan of – and some, like Dickie Valentine, can verge on the bland side. “Pre-rock stars” a bit of a loose term anyway, as it lumps in Ella Fitzgerald with Ruby Murray. Both have their merits, but Ella wasn’t really a ‘pop star’, which Ruby certainly was. People seem to have forgotten that the early 50s was the birth of the modern-day pop star as we know it, thanks to Mitch Miller’s stable of acts (Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell etc). Not so very far removed from the X Factor ‘stars’ of today. Prior to that, the bands were (by and large) the stars, and sheet music sales far outstripped those of records. Listen to the Live LPs recorded by Dickie Valentine and Johnnie Ray – and hear the screaming girls! (I’ve no proof of who was in the audience, but I think we can all agree middle-aged women just don’t scream for their idols like that.)

    This clip really does tear apart the myth that teenagers disliked pop music before rock came along:
    http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=48369

    Teenagers are fickle; I can imagine half those girls switching their allegiance to Elvis a few years later. I think you’re right on both counts; they made the best of what was available, and some did perhaps stay away from pop music altogether – but I think the only ‘alternative’ stuff in those days was jazz, blues or classical, and it was often limited to Ted Heath and the like.

    Hey, songs like Doggie and I Believe aren’t high art by any means, but they’re just as disposable as any number of RnR songs I could name. I’m listening to every UK 50s hit in order, and I’m currently up to 1956. Some is forgettable pap, some is plain kitsch, but there’s a lot of forgotten gems in there.

  6. 31
    Mutley on 21 Jan 2011 #

    On the subject of pre-rock music choices for teenagers in circa 1953-1956, it is interesting to read the Music and Dancing section of the Wikipedia entry on Teddy Boys (precursers of punks and who would have dug the Sex Pistols) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_Boy, if only because it has very little to say. It claims that pre-rock’n’roll they were mainly listening and dancing to jazz and skiffle, and that they adopted Ken Mackintosh’s The Creep in 1953! I actually think that music was not so important to them until rock’n’roll came along. Girls screaming at Frankie Laine or Johnny Ray are part of an older tradition going back at least as far as Sinatra in the 1940s.

  7. 32
    lonepilgrim on 21 Jan 2011 #

    Regarding pre-rock stars: I was talking to my mum recently, after listening to a radio documentary on the history of the London Palladium, and she told me how when she was 15 she and a friend queued overnight to get tickets to see Danny Kaye at the venue in 1948. Around the same time she received a school report that said she ‘would achieve a lot more work if she spent less time day dreaming about Danny Kaye’.

  8. 33
    Eli on 21 Jan 2011 #

    @Mutley – indeed, they were called ‘bobbysoxers’.

    @lonepilgrim. Interesting, though I *think* his act was essentially that of a comedian, who may have sung a few numbers. I genuinely think Dickie Valentine et al were the first lot to be known chiefly as singers, and associated with particular songs. The early 50s was where modern pop music/stardom really began…

  9. 34
    the pinefox on 25 Jan 2011 #

    “I’m listening to every UK 50s hit in order” — is this for yet another blog I don’t know about?

  10. 35
    Tom on 25 Jan 2011 #

    Only just checked this fascinating revival out – Eli at #11: in the early days of Popular (i.e. before anyone was really reading it) I decided to embrace my ignorance, come to the records entirely clean, and not fact-check anything. So a lot of weird mistakes and assumptions got through! Nowadays I look at Wikpedia (not that THAT’s always accurate) because it makes the comments better if I haven’t made any silly errors.

  11. 36
    vinylscot on 25 Jan 2011 #

    wichita lineman – the Pettersen book is a real example of a missed opportunity. Originally intended to be an overview of the “beat-era” labels, his publisher forced him to widen the time scale of the book, thus diluting its intended message, and ensuring a much smaller selection of labels could be represented. Pettersen’s intended book would probably have been much more enjoyable, but possibly a bit more of a gamble for the publisher.

    For a fascinating look at early (and later) paper “45” sleeves, and a chance to buy them for 42p each, go to http://covers33.co.uk/index.php?cPath=30 I have no connection with the company, other than as a customer.

  12. 37
    wichita lineman on 25 Jan 2011 #

    I’m intrigued to know when the A&R man first appeared. Anyone have any ideas? Eli, you’re right about Mitch Miller who seemed to be A&R, manager and producer (he introduced overdubbing to pop on Patti Page’s Tennessee Waltz) all in one. But was there a sea change? Record companies grab the industry wheel from publishers in the early 50s but is there a book out there with a bit more detail?

    Thanks VS. I agree, but unlike some people on Amazon I think the book’s beter than nothing. There are early variations of Decca and Capitol 45s I have which Pettersen doesn’t mention but he’s right most of the time.

    Repro sleeves… they just don’t feel right!

  13. 38
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 25 Jan 2011 #

    Ralph Peer was in effect an A&R man, in the sense that he advised the people he was recording what to sing to him, and what not. (Actually so did Edison, though his advice was a bit caprcious, given that he HATED MUSIC, and was never reconciled to the way it had rndered frivolous his pioneering office dictaphone device.)

    (eg Edison to Rachmaninoff: “You’re a pounder, sir, a pounder!” — so Rachmaninoff didn’t get to record for Edison…)

    (haha I think I already gave both these names in answer to “who was the first producer?”) (plus the “pounder” story probably)

  14. 39
    wichita lineman on 25 Jan 2011 #

    Thanks Mark. Good call with Peer.

    But I suppose I’m thinking of A&R as in choosing the repertoire rather than just listening to somebody’s songs and picking the best one. Most of Mitch Miller’s acts seemed to hate at least one of the songs he gave them (esp. F Sinatra with Mamma Will Bark).

    Pre-war, band leaders did their own A&R as far as I can tell.

  15. 40
    Tom on 25 Jan 2011 #

    #37 Eli Wald’s How The Beatles Destroyed Rock & Roll suggests that the A&R and producer terms were pretty much inseparable when the former term first appeared, and that from the labels’ perspective the main point of the role was to cut out the conductor/bandleader figure who had become a middleman controlling the singers’ repertoire but increasingly less able to pull in an on-record audience themselves.

  16. 41
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 25 Jan 2011 #

    Pre-war there was a system called PLUGGING, in which sheet music publishers sent round an agent (the plugger) who found ways to “persuade”* band leaders to play — in particular to BROADCAST — te new songs just published as sheet music by the publishers in question. This was still; the era when records per se rarely got played on radio, and music shows were mostly hook-ups to live performances.

    (Apart from records called “transriptions” which were basically live shows recorded onto a shellac disc and the disc played at another time: though I think most transcriptions were spoken-word shows, for fidelity reasons…)

    *This was not always on the up-and-up, of course: the band leader did get to choose the material, but his reasons for choosing might not bave been much to do with quality of music.

  17. 42
    wichita lineman on 25 Jan 2011 #

    Thanks chaps. The title of Eli Wald’s book has been so contentious that it’s put me off the thing entirely, but I think I need it.

    Pluggers still exist in music publishing I assume. Most of the plugging action switched from publishing houses to record companies in the fifties – it was still about airplay, hence the payola scandal.

    I think British bandleader Jack Hylton was renowned for taking back handers in the pre-rock world.

  18. 43
    Tom on 25 Jan 2011 #

    Yes it’s a ridiculous title – the Beatles don’t even show up until the last or second-last chapter, and they don’t destroy anything very much.

  19. 44
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 25 Jan 2011 #

    The pre-war bands were essentially orgs which could — as per the modern idiom — have billed themselves: “The Paul Whiteman Orchestra feat.Bing Crosby”; the singer being a hireling (and more to the point fireling, as Bing was, for h3llraising) of the bandleader/arranger, who was probably a musician, but — as with Whiteman — might have been quite a mediocre one compared to some of his employees. The bandleader was the star, anyway — of course there was a lot more non-vocal music in pop then, which was (again as per the modern idiom) aimed primarily at the dancefloor.

    As many of you probably now, the first radioshow to make a thing of playing records only was Martin Block’s “Make-Believe Ballroom”.

  20. 45
    Eli on 27 Jan 2011 #

    @thepinefox – god no, I’d never do anything but comment on blogs if I did! All fascinating stuff though. Listening to the #1s in the context of other 50s hits gives you a much wider picture…

    Tom @35 – good to see you on these posts!

    @wichita – don’t think Mitch was manager to his artists, but he probably exerted a very powerful influence on their careers.

    EMI certainly had recording managers in the late 40s, which is when Norman Newell joined. But I don’t think he got involved with the technical side at all, unlike Mitch.

  21. 46
    Weej on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Sorry if this counts as comment spamming, but since Wichita mentioned Moondog briefly above I thought this would be a good place to mention the kickstarter for a documentary film about the Viking himself – nothing to do with me, I just want to see if, and it’s way off its goal with only 27 hours to go. – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2131638328/the-viking-of-6th-avenue

  22. 47
    Lazarus on 15 Apr 2016 #

    I don’t think that Keith at post #2 is active here any longer, and nobody replied directly to his comment, but yes! That’s the song I was trying to dredge up while I was listening to this earlier. It’s hard to convey, and I’m sure one of our learned musicologists could do it much better, but, as well as similarities in the melody, both songs seem to me to have a ‘lullabye’ feel to them.

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