Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ted Taylor—
I’m So Satisfied/ (Love Is Like A) Ramblin’ Rose


Released 1965 on Okeh
The Seth Man, February 2011ce
“Ramblin’ Rose” remains a total anomaly plus stand out moment for vocalist Ted Taylor during the years of 1962-1966 when he was signed to Okeh Records (with “Daddy’s Baby” the only other contender.) Taylor was a former member of The Cadets, the doo-wop vocal group who first cut “Stranded In The Jungle,” and later, became known for his slow soul ballads. Which beggars the question: how did this track sneak through? Perhaps it was the input of producer Billy Sherrill that made it such a screaming tempest of echo drenched drums and guitar crowned with shrill, fanfaring horns that continually and manically build then fall away to leave the vocals’ plea to come home in a surrounding canyon of silence. Or the talents of songwriting trio Marijohn Wilkin, Fred Burch and Obrey Wilson, who left enough emotional space in this insanely simple yet complex song to be covered by not only a white rockabilly pianist, a black soul vocalist but the proto-everything MC5. In terms of economic use of vocals and verse, this song is right up there in with “Wooly Bully” or “Surfin’ Bird” while a key to its robust nature might also lay in its scant lyrics -- which make about as little sense on paper as they do major sense blaring out from a pair of speakers because they’re meant to be felt, not reasoned out intellectually.

Retooled and revved up to impossible heights, “Ramblin’ Rose” would become The MC5’s opening salvo of their debut “Kick Out The Jams” album. Compared to The ‘5’s version, this adaptation by Ted Taylor is about as laid back as the version that Jerry Lee Lewis cut for Sun Records in 1962 is to Ted’s. Which is worth noting, because The Killer & His Pumping Piano opted for an arrangement of overall drawlin’ languidness at the speed of baby camel walk while Taylor’s is surprisingly up against the wall and with all its main elements intact in The MC5’s version: the lyrics, falsetto vocalising, the rambunctious riffing (although here it’s a horn section and not dual electric guitars) and guitar solo (though miles away from Brother Wayne’s unbridled attack, it’s still one understated and fluid tremolo’d raver.) Considering its ’65 vintage, Double T’s version is one sheer bombastic, soul elastic and testifying thing full of grit, no shit. And since the horn section keeps on ratcheting up throughout in a way all big, dirty, brassy and classy it’s no wonder The MC5 gravitated to it and wound up taking it up seven levels in intensity.

The backing instrumentation’s strident stop-and-start call and responses highlighted and propelled into pressure dropped extremes against Taylor’s crazily-rendered, taunting faux-femme vocalisations make this track a close companion of “Summertime Blues” or “Shakin’ All Over” in terms of this approach. After listening to “Kick Out The Jams,” “Vincebus Eruptum” and The Who’s “Live At Leeds” in succession, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine The Who circa 1969 letting loose with an amped-up edition of “Ramblin’ Rose” as a set opener -- with Moon letting loose with hilariously cracking falsetto vox from behind his kit, natch.