Some older readers may remember 45 rpm records, and the excitement of B-sides—those obscure and unheard songs that never made the radio. Sure, there were groups like the Beatles whose singles were basically two A-sides, but for most artists in the sixties and early seventies, the B-sides were more purposely less commercial and more mysterious. Some were even the A-list song played backwards, like Yellow Balloon’s eponymous release with “Noolab Wolley” on the flipside. Even this had a charm of its own.
Miriam (Linna) remembers those days. Her debut release features 11 less known tunes from an earlier era and one original that stylistically resemble the other tracks. She covers artists such as Neil Young, Bobby, Darin and the Ramones, but plays songs you probably never have heard like: Neil Young’s “There Goes My Babe”, Bobby Darin’s “Not For Me” and the Ramones’ “Questioningly”. She turns these disparate compositions into melodramatic pop epiphanies. They offer a whiff of when the aim of a good song was to capture your attention and beating heart for just a couple of minutes and make you feel and think vaguely dangerous thoughts.
The songs have sad titles. There’s Del Shannon’s “My Love Has Gone”, the Hollies’ “So Lonely”, Gene Clark’s “So You Say You Lost Your Baby” and Tim Buckley’s “It Happens Every Time”, whose collective hipness, esotericism, mournfulness and just freakin’ cool attitude allow Miriam to treat them as the artifacts they are. We live and love in a different era. These retro-styled homages to a period when one actually took the time to listen to both sides of a single as a mystical fetish ritual that bonded one to the 45 reveal what we have lost.
Nobody’s Baby contains only 12 cuts and clocks in at around 30 minutes long. One might be behooved to listen to tracks in pairs as if one was the hit song and the other the B-side. That would make the CD the equivalent of six 45 rpm records. Back in the day many of these titles originally appeared, one could annually purchase singles at Sears’ after Xmas sale at three for a dollar. Times have changed.
But the music here hasn’t. Yeah, it can be nostalgic and if one listens close, one can hear the echoes of stolen riffs in the production meant to evoke the past and create an artificial authenticity. Even the one original song here, Miriam and Sam Elwitt’s “Let Him Go Now”, sounds right out Brill Building girl-group production. That’s a compliment of high order. It should be mentioned here that Miriam provides all the vocals on the album and Elwitt plays all of the instruments with the exception of Gregor Kitzie on violin and viola and David Eggar on cello. The electric guitars, the drums, etc. are all Elwitt.
Reparata and the Delrons’ “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now” lies at the heart and center of the record. The tear-jerking cry of independence, insolence, and despondency capture what the album represents to the modern world. It’s an instinctual cry that says like was better then, even though it still sucked. But like the hero of that Stephen Crane poem, one’s bitter heart tastes good when savored and comes with a good beat you can dance to.