Life Could Be A Dream!

The Chords - Cat Records 104

Produced by Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler
Written by by Jimmy Keys, Carl Feaster, Claude Feaster, Floyd McRae, and William Edwards.

Chart Action: R&B #2 (2 weeks) in July, 1954; Pop #5.

Possessing one of the most exhilarating rhythmic undercurrents in all of Rhythm and Blues, music historians celebrate this track as the first of its kind to crossover from the R&B charts to the Hit Parade. The song's title, according to Atlantic Records mythology, refers to the sound of an atomic bomb explosion, its refrain a confirmation of the resilience of life in spite of destruction. Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, A&R staff and lead producers of vocal talent at Atlantic Records, pioneered the mixture of boogie woogie rhythm and vocal grittiness that became known as rock and roll by the late 1950's.

The robust exuberance of the bass voice signifies on the heavy harmonic timbres achieved by 1940's Black vocal groups such as The Ravens, The Dominoes, The Orioles, and The Modernaires. The sophistication of the vocal arrangement, though, derives from the harmonic pop style of mid-fifties Four Freshmen ("Poinsciana", "Graduation Day"), a group whose vocal fluency and colorful impressionism resonate throughout The Beach Boys repertoire.

The dirtier, earthier sound of The Chords was a product of Ertegun and Wexler's unique studio aesthetics. The producers sought a hard, driving rhythm section to propel teenage audiences into feverish dance reverie. If their 1950's Atlantic singles lacked the polyrhythmic complexity of 1940's Black dance singles, it was because Wexler sought to explicitly address a larger (read: whiter) audience. By articulating rhythmic gestures more explicitly, and by eliminating the chaos and frenetic pulse of earlier Black-oriented music, they created the rhythmic essence and harmonic aura of what would become Rock n Roll.

Discovered in 1951 by Joe Glaser of Associated Booking (a leading New York black talent agency) in a Bronx subway, The Chords -- Carl and Claude Feaster (lead and baritone), Jimmy Keyes (first tenor), Floyd "Buddy" McRae (second tenor), and Ricky Edwards (bass) -- landed a contract with Atlantic Records under Jerry Wexler after this fiery-hot subterranian session.

The 45 single was originally backed with "Cross Over The Bridge"--with a super-funky saxophone solo by Sam Taylor--and is worth $500 if in above-average condition; a second version released in September 1954 with "Little Maiden" is worth $100. Later versions by The Crew Cuts (#1, 9 weeks), Stan Freberg (#14) and Billy Williams Quartet (#21), while more often played in the mid-fifties by white radio, lacked the unrestrained jubilation and sensuality of the Chords version. Intended as a parody, Stan Freberg's version mocks the diction of popular musicians--a misdirected critique, since The Chords enunciate crisply.

Life could be a dream!
If I could take you up in paradise up above
If you would tell me I'm the only one that you love
Life could be a dream sweetheart
Hello hello again--sh-boom--and hopin' we'll meet again

Oh, life could be a dream
If only all my precious plans would come true
If you would let me spend my whole life lovin' you
Life could be a dream sweetheart

Every time I look at you
Somethin' is on my mind
If you do what I want you to
Baby, we'd be so fine