Thursday, 4 July 2013

Jackie Wilson 'Reet Petite'

Chart Peak: 1 (4 weeks) [No. 6 in 1957]


'Reet Petite' was originally a Top 10 hit around Christmas 1957. It re-charted at No. 63 on 25th November 1986 and had rocketed to No. 1 by 23rd December, staying on top for 4 weeks.
I won't claim it's any more than coincidence, but we switch from an album that ends with an oldie to one that starts with one. Now 9 was the first Now album of 1987, and the last to be released in an abbreviated single-CD form. It's been in the queue for this blog for quite a while - I bought my copy on the same day as Now 12, in fact - and finally shows up on the basis that I did Now 10 longer ago than Now 7, if you see what I mean.

One of the most unlikely Christmas Number Ones since people started referring to them, 'Reet Petite' was an exceptionally old track; at just over 29 years it set a new record for longest gap between chart debut and first week at the top. But it was also a very eighties hit inasmuch as it owes its renewed success entirely to a promo video. Of course, by 1986 we were well into the first golden age of the video: they were established enough as an important source of promotion that people were putting real effort (and budgets) into them, but there were still relatively few outlets for them in UK, so the smallish number we got to see tended to make a relatively big impression. Sadly, Jackie Wilson had died a couple of years earlier after a long period in a coma, so any re-release would have relied on a video in any case, but apparently this particular release was a purely opportunistic reaction to the rather cute claymation video which got an airing on a documentary. That would certainly explain why the cover of the single features a video still, as does the rather nice picture disc copy I snapped up a couple of years ago.
As it happened, though, the release did tie in with a bit of a retro-soul revival at this time, with many oldies revived by cover versions or use in adverts. In truth, this song was already a bit retro in 1957, drawing its title from Louis Jordan's 1948 US hit 'Reet, Petite And Gone' and its bold brassy production and Wilson's effervescent vocal recall Louis Prima and other acts from the jazz world. In fact, this is probably closer to the old big bands than to his other big hits 'Higher And Higher' and 'I Get The Sweetest Feeling', both of which were inevitably re-issued after this. It's a bright upbeat love song with no deep message, but Wilson sounds like he's having a whale of a time, rolling his "R"s and savouring every syllable whilst the well-drilled backing musicians provide a joyous accompaniment. Even though the song's twenty years older than I, it was instantly accessible to my younger self (not that I'd likely have paid attention to it without that video) and though I hadn't really thought about the song for a while, I was captivated all over again when I first played Now 9, even finding myself wanting to dance. A timeless classic and one of the greatest ever Now openers. It's also among the most important in pop history, since co-writer Berry Gordy used his proceeds from the record's initial success to set up the record company that became Tamla Motown. It also caught the attention of Van Morrison of course... but it was deliberate when Dexys Midnight Runners had that backdrop of Jocky Wilson, OK?

Available on: Reet Petite (Amazon Edition)

No comments:

Post a Comment