22
Nov 04

FRANK IFIELD – “I’m Confessin'”

Popular4 comments • 1,436 views

#153, 20th July 1963

Frank’s last bow seems a good time to think about yodelling. It’s not as prominent here as on some of his hits, but he gets to bend the lungs a bit at the end of some verses.

I haven’t run a survey on it or anything, but I’d guess that people now would see yodelling in pop music as either weird or a bit naff. So what happened to it? Listening to a CD called the Ultimate Yodelling Collection at the weekend, I was reminded what a good way it is of expressing loneliness as well as liberation. Historically it’s been as associated with the Appalachians as the Alps. The only problem with yodelling is its flagrant artifice – there are few vocal techniques that are so utterly and obviously a technique, an aesthetic choice, undisguisable as a natural or spontaneous response to a lyric.

The fate of yodelling as a pop technique is a microcosm of an overall effect I think the 60s had on pop. Blues and gospel-derived singing forms – heard as more directly connected to a singer’s self-expression – flourished. More theatrical tricks and styles – the yodel, the spoken interlude, the intricate harmonies of doo-wop – fell away as the decade progressed. All have had their moments in the spotlight since, but often as novelties or self-consciously ‘retro’ turns to earlier pop styles. The 60s were a time of thrilling, explosive diversity for pop music, but Frank Ifield’s commercial demise reminds me that there were standardising forces at work too.

So here’s to Frank Ifield, whose “I’m Confessin'” is a strong, straight-backed performance of a sweet song, yodels and all.

5

Comments

  1. 1
    Joe Williams on 30 Aug 2005 #

    Next time anyone tells you that yodelling is weird or a bit naff, play them ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blue’ by Hank Williams and tell them they’re a fucking idiot.

  2. 2
    Waldo on 15 Apr 2007 #

    Hey cool it, Joe. Frank Ifield was as a yodeller closer to Venus Williams than Hank. I shouldn’t worry about it, son!

  3. 3
    Matthew on 26 Jan 2009 #

    Doctor Who is my favourite TV programme ever, so I was delighted to discover the other day that in the very first episode, aired in November 1963, Frank Ifield makes a tiny subliminal appearance as the pop star that some trendy schoolgirls at Coal Hill School are cooing over in a magazine. The Beatles would appear on the Doctor’s temporal scanner doing Ticket To Ride a couple of years later (“I didn’t know they played classical music!” says a disappointed Vicki), and then in the Noughties we’ve had Britney, Marc Almond and the Scissor Sisters, but Frank Ifield was there first. Who walked hand in hand with Pop from the start!

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 28 Jan 2015 #

    I can hear hints of yodelling in the Beatles high pitched Oooos but they are used as a form of punctuation rather than the gliding link from line to line that Frank Ifield uses here. There are stronger, and I suspect deliberate, hints of yodelling in Raul Malo’s vocals with the Mavericks. I find it charming in moderation. In Hank Williams case it seems an essential part of his ability to communicate deeper emotions than the lyrics alone can suggest but with Frank it seems a little random.

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