Bad Songs: The Wailers, “It’s You Alone”

Steve’s Sonics posting brought back the other, not very good Wailers, who I guess were known as “The Fabulous Wailers” because I guess we were supposed to think they were terrific musicians or something.

Aside from the fact that these guys could not hold a candle to Marley et al (I doubt they could execute a decent cover of a Marley tune, either), neither of the bands hit’s–Tall Cool One and It’s You Alone–have stood much of a test of time, although I did not realize just how awful both songs were till Steve’s post tripped the wires and I went in search of YouTube.

To prove the point, here are the Wailers a few years back “performing” It’s You Alone and it only makes me think of one thing.

And, that thing is when I started gigging regularly in bands, I made my friends and loved ones promise me that if I ever looked or acted like any of these guys in these Wailers, to either shoot me in the head, or tell me to stop: whichever came first.

What’s with the barefoot sax player, and how about the guy standing stage right? Yeah, standing. Value added. And the “featured guy” makes Bill Murray’s lounge singer act really seem seriously good, and not just funny ironic.

How pathetic is that?



18 thoughts on “Bad Songs: The Wailers, “It’s You Alone”

  1. Boy, this is a testament to why bands of old, gray-haired fat guys suck 90 percent of the time. And a ponytail isn’t the answer.

  2. Ouch. It’s like they said “‘Color My World’ isn’t banal enough, let’s take it to the max.” I’m playing in a Fun/No Fun reunion in July, it won’t be like this I promise. I’d rather die.

  3. Yeah, you really nailed these guys… Nothing says a band sucks like people STILL paying to see you perform, nearly 60 years after you formed… Talk about a crappy band.

  4. I really hate re-unions and “legacy bands” but I think you’re being a bit unfair here. This is the old fat past-middle aged version of The Wailers, and the live footage is pretty awful. Listen to the song that was recorded in 1966. You may think it’s an “bad” song, but it was written by a 17 year old Ron Davies, one of the best (and most underrated) American songwriters of all-time. If you don’t know who Ron Davies (he also wrote ‘It Ain’t Easy’) then shame on you. BTW, no one paid to see this show. It was at an outdoor festival. I’m not going to defend old dudes trying to re-live their salad days, but the fact is that The Wailers were once one of the most exciting garage bands to come out of the northwest.
    It’s easy to take down old men beyond their prime who are on their way out the door. At the time of this performance singer Kent Morrill had already had two surgeries for brain cancer. Does that excuse anything? No. But when you’re in your late 60s I kind of have to wonder if you’d have the history and the energy to get onstage. They’re all dead now. The reason people were still drawn to them 60 years after they got together was not only their music It was their setting the template for DIY, their “discovering” The Sonics and a pretty illustrious career for bassist Buck Ormsby as producer. It didn’t hurt that their original lead guitarist was Rick Dangle. But I don’t expect you guys to even know who he is.

  5. Denny-we might know more than you think. Enter Sonics up at the search window atop the page to search the site. Two pieces on the Sonics.I have the 45 of It’s You Alone. It is cheesy.

  6. I know plenty about the Sonics. In fact I’m a musicologist and publisher by trade and I know a great deal about the Northwest Sound. But The Sonics have nothing to do with my comments. It is the glee you and your readers take in putting up a crappy performance with terrible sound by a bunch of old men. Of course it’s awful. You might think the song is cheesy. Others don’t. What we like and what we don’t like is subjective, and I recognize we should all be free of judgement by the ‘music police’ and snobs like I used to be. Slapping my buddies on the back for being better in our musical tastes, and more in-the-know than those proles below us is the kind of elitism I had to give up long ago.
    The fact you don’t mention here is that the song was written by a world-class writer, Ron Davies. This was the first song that came close to being a ‘hit’ for him, but he’d go on to write many brilliant songs-one of which has been covered by scores of successful artists. Davies is considered to be one of the most influential American songwriters and as someone interested in songwriting I choose to look beyond whomever is performing the song, what they look like or how poorly it is performed and recorded.

    I’ve followed your blog, but not as closely as I should. I can see you have a distinct POV and much of it seems informed. In fact I enjoy many of the entries, although I myself often write (fairly, I hope) about music I personally don’t care for. I try to take in the total contribution of an artists work and would never present something to my readers to scoff at….especially such low hanging fruit as this post. And one word I avoid like the plague is “best”. That’s probably because I write about the history of music and musicians without offering too many personal observations on what I’m writing about. I understand that’s not the point of what you do.

    Whether a person likes or dislikes a song is completely subjective. It’s your blog, so make fun of whomever you want-even those old guys who when they were much younger helped shape a sound we now think of as modern rock. Or the fact that they were early practitioners of the D.I.Y. movement. But don’t expect everyone to be snickering with you. You should already know-I’m sure you already know-that people get really offended or protective and sometimes obnoxious in their musical likes and dislikes. You’ve presented this as a “bad song”. I say it’s a terrible outdoor recording by a bunch of fat old men who are all near death. and are probably bored to death with having to play the song for 50 years. In my opinion performance has nothing to do with the songwriting. I often hear songs I don’t care for, then come across some other artists’ interpretation and suddenly it all makes sense. That’s what I’m defending…and we don’t have to agree on why I think ‘It’s You Alone’ is a well-crafted song by an important writer. But for god’s sake, why make a judgment on the song’s worth by showing this crappy video?
    Anyway if this message is too long, I can’t help it-it’s in my nature. And if you think I’m being hostile, that’s not my intent. It is simply to point out a few things that I believe your readers have not taken into account, instead of just laughing at a bunch of old guys. I can look in the mirror and do that!
    BTW, my name is not “Denny”, it’s Dennis. My screen name often causes people to make that mistake. My fault, I know.

  7. Well, kudos to Dennis for a civilized response, and for the Ron Davies info. I always liked “It Ain’t Easy,” no doubt the only song recorded by both David Bowie and Three Dog Night, not to mention Dave Edmunds and Long John Baldry.

    For myself, there isn’t enough time to listen to all the great songs; I try not to waste a minute listening to bad songs. As for snobbery, well, in this world these days we should all have plenty to be snobby ABOUT, but should, I believe, choose our targets wisely. Why pick on the little guys? It’s like knocking Caleb Joseph.

    • look I am a dance band musician … i play , people dance i play hundreds of songs at hundreds of gigs, recently a couple hired us to play their 50th wedding aniversary . like many do they sent me a list of the dearest songs to them … love Me tender , Unchained Melody and “Its you Alone” wich I had never heard. when I gave it a listen I was floored THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST LOVE SONGS I EVER HEARD !! it will be on our Nortwest Rock set forever …. we are a Tacoma band just like the Sonics and The Wailers The Statics the Frantics The Ventures Kent Morrill was one of the greats… so too you critics I can only say “Whers your next gig ? i’ll stop by … and take your fucking broom away !

  8. I wrote the original post, and I liked the idea of the Bad Song category because it seemed funny. And it undercut the inevitable I Like This Song aspect of a blog like this.

    But in almost every case, in every post, and there haven’t been that many, someone who was personally affected by the judgement that their’s was a bad song stood up and said the joke wasn’t that funny. Which is why I stopped making the posts.

    This isn’t personal. Or maybe it is too personal to muck up with jokes better suited to late night TV.

    I personally admire every person who has ever strapped on a guitar, sat behind a drum kit, wrote a song, figured out how to play bass, and didn’t die young. And if they lived a little too long, good for them. That’s better than the other stupid idea.

  9. Did you bother to read the description under the video before you proceeded to show your “musical superiority” by trashing it? If you had, you’d know that it was musicians from several groups sitting in with The Wailers (who had the name a long time before Marley, by the way). Kent Morrill was already beginning the long, painful process of dying from a brain tumor, and yet he managed to get up on stage and perform. How many of you would do the same? And to make fun of my late husband, a founding member of The Daily Flash (look up Jack Of Diamonds on youtube), because he had a ponytail? Truly disgusting.

  10. Well, I personally apologize, Trapper, if I wrote anything that caused anyone pain. Never would that be my intention.

    And, I did like both Tall Cool One and It’s You Alone when they were hits: i bought both singles, in fact, still in the family. (we still have The Witch, too!).

    And, in retrospect both songs hit me as sort of toothless, I am sorry to say. and, i don’t mean that insultingly, i get playing out and just playing and i would never discourage anyone from performing live.

    that said, i wish my last memory of Willie Mays was not his falling on his butt in the wet outfield of Shea Stadium as my lasting memory. for I got to see Willie in his prime and that image is not what i prefer to remember, if that makes sense?

    irrespective, Peter is right in that humour is always at the expense of someone, meaning funny is indeed subjective. or, as my late wife, Cathy Hedgecock often warned me, “if it is only funny to you lawr, it is not funny.”

    again, my apologies.

    lawr michaels

  11. What a great song. I remember it as a teenager in Tacoma in the 60’s. Hadn’t heard in a very long time until in the 70’s Cliff Lenz had a music show and I believe they were on it. I was recently going over old radio music tapes and Pat Cashman played part of it on his morning show in 1999. Great ‘lost’ oldie.

  12. Being a northeasterner, I missed the whole “northwest sound” thing, but I recently discovered The Wailers’ “It’s You Alone” and think it is an excellent song, a beautiful and unexpected revelation in its original recording from a bunch of guys more famous as essentially garage rockers. (In the New York metro we only knew “Tall Cool One.”) But the magic of this song is in the Wailers’ original version with Ron Davies sounding a lot like Gene Clark, a major plus in my book. It’s Zen-elegant and lovingly performed. Ron’s sister Gail also cut a very nice country version of it. Both are on YouTube.

    So many of the snarky comments here reek of the “my taste is better than yours” stench of too much rock criticism. No band should be judged on one video made on a handheld phone with unbalanced sound, personality quirks notwithstanding (yeah, the barefoot sax player). You may not like it (this performance is “difficult” at best, I agree; I couldn’t get all the way through it), but hey, they were still out there making music for people who wanted to hear it, and I’m sure it sounded a lot better live.

    For another soft side of the Wailers in their musical prime, and a magically exquisite song and performance in my opinion, check their single released as The Breakers, “All My Nights, All My Days,” from 1965; it’s just gorgeous. I wish I could find a copy in stereo. I only discovered it a few days ago and it still brings tears to my eyes after at least a dozen plays.

    • Shortly before he passed, the Wailers’ original bassist Buck Ormsby replied to an email I had sent the Wailers about The Breakers “All My Nights, All My Days.” His reply: “It was the end of a recording session for ‘Wailer, Wailers Everywhere’ LP in San Francisco, and was basically a jam. Been playing concerts with The Beach Boys at the time and recorded it as a tongue-in-cheek thing. Decided to release it under a surf-type name, The Breakers, and see if anyone might recognize who it was. Came off pretty good.” He listed the lineup for the recording as Rich Dangle, guitar; Mike Bark, drums; Kent Morrill, keys, harmony vocals; Ron Gardner, lead vocal; Buck Ormsby, bass, harmony vocals & middle lead vocal.

  13. When I first heard “It’s You Alone” on KFRC in San Francisco in early summer 1966, I melted over the sentiment that flowed throughout the song. It made it up to #16 on their top 30, and actually did quite well on many west coast stations. I still have the single.

  14. Thank you, edinranchobernardo. At my advanced physical age (purposely undisclosed; mental is still not far past my teens!) I’m still interested in discovering all kinds of music, new and old. I can handle “I like” or “I don’t like” a song (one of my favorite promo men when I was music-directing a progressive FM station said that “I don’t like it” is the only acceptable reason for not adding a record). That said, “mine is better than yours” is seldom if ever a reason for anything except a pissing contest, and I have no time in my life for that.

    I’d still be appreciative to find stereo mixes of “It’s You Alone” and The Breakers’ songs, all of which I think would sound timeless in a more contemporary mix.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.