September 11, 2005

Wishing Well




"Wish Someone Would Care" (Irma Thomas)
Irma Thomas, Imperial, 1964

Looks like she gets her wish

I heard a DJ on KRVS, the public radio station here in Lafayette, play this a few days ago. And, of course, as you often see things with new eyes after a life changing event, you can also hear songs with new ears. With Irma’s heartfelt wish voiced on this single, I flashed on all of those images of the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast from the last two weeks. The thoughts keep running through your mind of what it must be like for them; but you don’t really know. So this one’s for them, because it’s not always about getting your groove on. And sometimes it does seem that nobody cares. . . .

“Wish Someone Would Care” is one of the few songs
Irma Thomas has written during her long career (that have made it to record, anyway) and is first rate. As the A-side of her first single for Imperial Records in 1964, it was also her most successful record, reaching #17 on the Billboard R&B charts. Between 1961 and 1963, Irma had made six classic but not nationally recognized singles (such as ”Ruler Of My Heart” and “It’s Raining”) with Allen Toussaint for Joe Banashak’s Minit label in New Orleans, which was distributed by Imperial. In 1963, Irma’s went to Los Angeles to record for Imperial, and, working with H. B. Barnum, brought forth this hit. She relocated there; and, over the next few years, the label (which had been bought out by Liberty) released a total of nine singles and two albums on her. But none of them had the commercial impact of “Wish Someone Would Care”. Of all those Imperial sessions, just two songs seem to have been done in New Orleans (“Take A Look” b/w “What Are You Trying To Do”). The rest were either West Coast or New York (Jerry Ragovoy) productions. Irma’s work for the label was not consistent, mainly because some of the material pushed her too far towards pop, where she could sound rather cold and unconvincing at times. The popish B-side of this single, ”Breakaway” worked well for her, though, and was a hit in her hometown. But it is records like “Wish Someone Would Care”, “Time Is On My Side” and “I’m Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry” that should make us glad she had this run with Imperial.

I’m not going to belabor the other details of this song. It’s words are simple and sincere; and she delivers the emo (my daughter’s term) convincingly. The uncluttered, rather stately arrangement doesn’t get in her way, either. All I can say to Irma. and every other person harmed in some way as a result of that damn hurricane, is that I hope you soon get that wish in the form of the help you need to carry on.

Note: You can find much of her Minit and Imperial work on two CD compilations, Kent's Time Is On My Side and Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans on Razor & Tie, both available at amazon (Can't get the link to work. You're on your own) or elsewhere.

5 Comments:

Blogger Larry Grogan said...

One of the great NOLA ballads.

12:20 PM, September 12, 2005  
Anonymous dc in chatt'nooga said...

Hi, Dan-

Irma is awesome. Had the opp to hear and meet her briefly a few yrs back--still sounds great. Funny, a friend who's on npr up here's givng me an hr. on Fri for a show, and this was def on play . . . "Hercules" lyric is also very timely.

I just got a pre-release copy of Guralnick's Sam Cooke bio, DREAM BOOGIE, and the author's note really it home. Quotes W.E.B. DuBose (sp?) about the separateness of cultures during segregation, and how that affected Sam's view of the world. Looks like it's going to be an amazing read . . . about 800 pgs.

thanks for your time and commitment to great n.o. music--obscure and otherwise!

doug

6:24 AM, September 14, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Yeah, Doug, Irma's voice has just gotten better with age, to my ears.
Always a pleasure to hear her live.

Congrats on that Friday slot. Sounds like you are doing it up right.

I've got to get that Cooke book! Sorry, couldn't resist. Sam used some New Orleans players, sucn as drummer June Gardner, for example; and Harold Battiste arranged "You Send Me". Thanks for the heads up.

11:45 AM, September 14, 2005  
Blogger Calvin said...

I'm wondering who played the drum track for 'Wish Someone Would Care'? Was it Earl Palmer? Thanks...

5:49 PM, August 14, 2007  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Well, Calvin, Earl Palmer played on thousands of sessions; and there is no complete listing of what he's on; but I think 'Wish Someone Would Care' and its flip,
'Break-A-Way', are excellent possibilities. These sessions were cut in Los Angeles in late 1963, where Earl was a premier studio drummer. Using him for Irma's sides would make sense (if the music business ever makes much sense). But I've never seen any documenation of this. Earl's biography, Backbeat, doesn't mention it - but, as I say, it would have been a much longer book, had they listed all of his work! Let me know if you ever find anything certain on this.

9:18 PM, August 14, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home