Monday, 11 February 2008

GEORGE N' SONNY SANDS: Down By The Ocean


Co-written by Bob Crewe and producer Gary Knight and released towards the end of 1966, "Down By The Ocean" sounds like the Righteous Brothers standing on the bottom rung of the steel ladder dissolving into the acids of hell; the sounds of the deep waves which ricochet throughout, and indeed unbalance, the record are akin to red hot flames a-blazing, or perhaps an even scarier, greyer limbo - it is like a fatal "Unchained Melody" with its ghosts sucked down the autumnal caverns of a Porter Ricks or a Maryann Amacher.


False downstroke caresses of piano sweep into a creep of doom with fractured, Doors-anticipating electric piano curlicues and Joe Meek soprano backing singers as either George or Sonny Sands speaks on how "I feel the world slipping away from me" before both voices jointly grasp for oxygen: "I'm walking lonely through the silver sand," singing as though trapped halfway down the Greenwich Tunnel, "just wishing you were here to hold my hand," following which a frightening call-and-response downward helter-skeltering scream of "No? NO! No? NO!!" with the backing singers seems to unplug the dam of restraint before being resealed by the open lament of the chorus ("Drowning in my tears/I'm crying out baby baby BABY why did you leave me?") and finally defused by Wilson vibraphone tinkles.


But then the low strings and brass resurface, together with the whirling time tunnel of waves above which the singers at times struggle to be heard: "The moon above is shining on/The sea below that roars 'she's gone';" their conclusion being an exhausted-sounding "But what's the use of living without you?" It is the promise of "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" after having been rejected. The middle eight is a catatonic kaleidoscope; their grief at the washing out to sea of "the love, the love you gave to me" is answered only by a forlorn bank of French horns acting as foghorns - the implication clearly being that she cannot come back.


Or could she? After a brief dolorous interlude ("I'm so lonely"), resentment and hatred now raise their unexpected heads - "I love you so I wish we'd never met/To never know the face I can't forget!" they roar, finally coming to land with a choral "I'm gonna do without you baby - no, no, no, NO!" (it could be a hasty "what am I gonna do without you baby" but repeated close listening suggests the former) and the track lumbers off the shore, like a distraught, overdue trawler, out of sight, clearing the beach so that the Shangri-Las of "Past, Present And Future" could walk down it.

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