Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Coasters, The Platters, and The Marvelettes: Together At Last At Twilight Time

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing three doo wop/vocal groups from the 50s and 60s perform under one roof. Let me correct that: I saw the current members of three doo wop/vocal groups perform under the same roof, because I'm pretty sure there are few surviving members of The Coasters, The Marvelettes, and The Platters still alive. Despite that, you’d never know that you weren’t listening to the real thing.

All three groups had several hits that harken back to the days of pre-Beatles rock and roll (in fact, the Beatles performed The Coasters’ Young Blood and Searchin’ on the BBC, covered The Marvelettes' Please Mister Postman and John Lennon and Ringo Starr each recorded The Platters' Only You (And You Alone) during their solo careers. It was a time when performers could actually sing and harmonize and often choreographed simple moves while on stage. I can't remember the last time I heard any of these groups on the radio. Today's oldies stations very rarely delve into the treasure chest of anything on vinyl before the Fab Four came along, as if they invented the music genre and anything before the British Invasion is considered pap. I'm not knocking John, Paul, George, and Ringo, by the way; I just wish that radio station managers wouldn't forget the glorious songs that topped the charts during the 50s and early 60s. The chance to see them perform live, even if they weren’t the original members, was a treat.

If you’re familiar with The Coasters, who opened the show, you could probably surmise by their whimsical hits such as Yakity Yak (which was sung, rather badly, by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Twins) and Charlie Brown that their stage persona is a gas as well. Wise cracking with glittery suits, they immediately made it clear that this was a party, as they interacted with the audience and brought them to their feet by performing the aforementioned hits, as well as Searchin’, Poison Ivy, and Young Blood.

The Marvelettes were an all-girl group that had pleasant vocals, but could benefit from the guidance of a professional wardrobe designer. Their spandex gowns were extremely unforgiving to their less than svelte figures, and combined with the stage lighting it was pretty obvious that they weren’t wearing bras; thankfully, there were only adults in attendance. They covered Heat Wave (which was not a Marvelettes hit), Please Mister Postman, and Don’t Mess With Bill, which was preceded by a bit of comedic dialogue and the assistance of a male audience member, who was all too happy to get down with three braless women in front of hundreds of people.

But the most outstanding portion of the show belonged to The Platters, sans Herb Reed, one of the original founding members who is still alive. They oozed class and elegance (their female member wore a beautiful pink gown with matching gloves that put the Marvelettes’ garb to shame) and immediately launched into Only You (And You Alone), Twilight Time, The Great Pretender, and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - all unforgettable melodies reminiscent of a time when boys actually asked girls out on dates and made out in the backseats of their father’s Chevy. They also performed The Shirelles’ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and Jackie Wilson’s Your Love is Lifting Me Higher, each member demonstrating powerful vocals that made my eyes teary at times.

The only disappointment during the evening was that the four member backing band (which included a lead guitarist trying way too hard to emulate Eric Clapton in appearance and playing) overpowered the first two groups, to the point that if you weren’t already familiar with the song being sung you’d be rendered helpless in deciphering the lyrics. They were also strangely devoid of a saxophone player, which means many of The Coasters’ hits didn’t sound anything like the original recordings. The sound quality was much better during The Platters’ stage time, because their ballads required a softer touch. That, and having to listen to one member of The Coasters constantly ask the audience who was still in love – a little annoying to a single woman who had taken her mother to see the show!

But these were minor gripes. It was a fabulous show that I'll never forget and hopefully not the last time I’ll get to hear such harmonizing in person.

4 comments:

cisum1 said...

Yes you saw a fake group acting like they are The Coasters. But while your seeing that group they are taking away from the real group "The Coasters". These group go out and perform as The Coasters while the group The Coasters are still working. They take the public for a ride and also take the fame and money out of the pockets for the real groups. It might be fun to watch but The Coasters are still alive and singing.Carl Gardner Jr. of "The Coasters"

Anonymous said...

It is ironic how these fake groups can get away with stealing from the original artists. Unfortunately the public is being duped because they loved the songs so much of the 50's and 60's that they support these fake groups by going to watch them perform the original artists hits. The Coasters, The Platters and Drifters still are performing and
I mean The Real Deal.

GoRetroGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GoRetroGirl said...

So it sounds like these groups are "The Great Pretenders." I don't think anyone in the audience knew that these were fake groups (I sure didn't.) The concert was advertised in a local venue that I love (and who brought us the authentic Glenn Miller Orchestra last month.) If anything, I would blame the artistic directors or anyone involved in the booking progress of theaters and make them more aware that this practice is going on. Perhaps the real groups need to make the public aware on their websites that they're the real thing (if they haven't done so already.)

Has anyone ever written an article about these fake groups? Sounds like a well written expose in a magazine (AARP would be a great publication) would warn people and help the real groups get the proper publicity that they deserve.

Nonethless everyone enjoyed the show, and each singer sang beautifully.

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