It was always the unique and clearly defined stereo effect with two vocals which made me get weak-kneed and goose bumpy when I heard the folks' music back in the days of the Vanguard label. I had a part-time friend - some little redheaded guy who couldn't have been more than 5'6" - who had an older brother with his own apartment (whoa!) in the next big town over. We drove over there one evening on the weekend and the older brother was leaving for a hot date. He left his little brother and me in charge of the apartment, with beer in the fridge and a leather sofa. It was a trip deep into the bowels of living on your own; something we'd all been thinking about at that age.

As he shut the door on his way out to his adult adventures, I began to explore. Do you ever do that when you're left in a strange house? It's not that you're looking for anything to steal or anything to fuck up; it's just curiosity. Like a dog or a housecat does when you introduce them to a new home. They sniff every corner, don't they? What are they looking for? They don't know. Neither did I, when I opened up those double doors to a closet in the hallway between the living room and the small kitchen. There it was. I don't remember the brand name, but I can tell you that it was most likely the highest dollar turntable and receiver built in it's day. My eyes followed the wires deftly concealed behind the door trim. They ran down under the carpet. I scanned the room for a possible destination. And there they were, too, just as I had suspected. Two of the most lovely wood-cased speakers you could imagine, placed inconspicuously underneath bookshelves on either side of the room. It would not have taken a surveyor to see that if one was sitting in the middle of the leather sofa, the speakers would be exactly equidistant and perfectly balanced.

I fired the beast up. The turntable was turning. The receiver was receiving. Now it was only a matter of finding the correct 33 1/3 LP vinyl offering to place on the sacred altar. I flipped through the older brother's collection. Some of the pop material I knew, but most of it was foreign to me. I chose an album which had a picture of a young couple sitting on a sand dune, looking wistfully out at the ocean. That seemed deep enough to fulfill my teen angst requirement. He was cradling a nylon-stringed guitar under his arm. She was lovely. He was handsome. I pulled the tarry black awkward ancient storage device from its sleeve, noticing that the older brother had taken the time to replace the original paper album sleeve with an expensive plastic one. It was true. I was in the home of an audiophile and I was about to drive his equipment. I was quite excited and hoped, ever so badly, that this first choice of the evening would not disappoint me.

I carefully placed the needle on the LP and hurried to the leather sofa. Ian and Sylvia began with "Jesus Met the Woman at the Well." His strong voice in one channel as she chimed into the other with such pure separation and yet perfect harmony took my breath away. Then they launched into "Tomorrow is a Long Time" by some guy named Bob Dylan. Do I have to tell you that I had to find out who wrote that song? Do I have to tell you how that search changed my life?

I still listen to Ian and Sylvia to this day, but I thought I had learned all I could of the vocal duets back in that era. I thought I had lost any chance of finding something I'd missed back then. But there's this dammed website called Everything2, and there's this guy out in Hollywood who calls himself riverrun. And then there's this really good piece he wrote about Bud and Travis recently.

Now, instead of listening on speakers the size of small refrigerators, I am listening to Bud and Travis on two little speakers the size of a Rubik's cube as their older brother, the subwoofer, sits down there like a loaf of bread. Sure, it's an MP3 and not an LP. Sure, there is a lot of character taken out of the mix when you switch sizes and formats like that. But there is still that pure stereo chillbump when a song comes at you from two different places with two distinctly different voices. Then there's the oral orgasm when they harmonize. That's the trick with this sort of arrangement, you know. You've got to make sure that when the harmony hits, it's done tastefully and sparingly and perfectly.

After listening to all of the songs by this duo (an act I had never heard of before now) which my friend in Hollywood was nice enough to send me over these insane wires that no one understands, I have found that the one song I can't get out of my head is this one.

Joey, Joey, Joey was written by Frank Loesser for his musical, "The Most Happy Fella." You've probably never heard of that play, but it contains another fairly famous song he wrote called "Standing on the Corner (Watching all the Girls Go By)". It opened on Broadway in 1956. I first heard pure stereo in 1966. Soon, it'll be 2006, but music won't ever get any better than this.

Like a perfumed woman,
The wind blows in the bunkhouse.
Like a perfumed woman
Smellin' of where she's been.

Like Oregon cherries
Or maybe Texas avocados,
Arizona desert
Or Oregon pine.
She blows in and she sings to me
'Cuz I'm one of her own.
She sings:

Joey, Joey, Joey.
Joey, Joey, Joe.
You've been too long
In one town.
Now it's time to go, Time to go-o-o-o-o-o.
Joey, Joey, Joey.
Joey, travel on.

You've been too long
In one little town.
Now the harvest time's come and gone.
That's what the wind sings to me.

When the bunk I've been bunkin' in
Gets to feelin' too soft and cozy.
When the grub they've been givin' me
Gets to tastin' too good.
When I've seen all I want
Of the ladies in the neighborhood,
Then she sings to me.

Joey, Joey, Joey.
Joey, Joey, Joe.
You've been too long
In the same place.
Now it's time to go, time to go.
Joey, time to go.

CST approved

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