84) The Rooftop Singers – “Walk Right In”

Issues about whether a recording or band is “authentic” are usually beside the point in a blog about pop music.  But what happens when musicians, particularly musicians in a genre that fetishizes authenticity, are constantly undercut by their own artifice? Such is the case with The Rooftop Singers and “Walk Right In,” a cover of a 1920s jug band blues number by Gus Cannon.  At least The Rooftop Singers don’t hold the song so sacred that they plod through a solemnly faithful version of it, as most other folk groups of the era would have done.  I admire their attempt to recontextualize the song in a contemporary fashion.  The problem is that it’s so square.  Much like a forced curse word spoken by someone unaccustomed to swearing, all the pseudo-hep touches – the jazzy flourishes, interjections of “Daddy!” and insistence on (crisply, precisely) enunciating the word “sit” as “set” – just emphasize the group’s white-bread, clean-cut personas.  It’s easy to criticize old music that sounds dated to modern listeners, but Cannon’s original sounds more timeless to my ears than The Rooftop Singers’ take.  Then again, I can’t imagine there was ever an era when this version of “Walk Right In” sounded credible. 4

Hit #1 on January 26, 1963; total of 2 weeks at #1
84 of 976 #1’s reviewed; 8.61% through the Hot 100


Filed under 04, 1963

5 responses to “84) The Rooftop Singers – “Walk Right In”

  1. I didn’t think this song was that bad until I listened to the original version. Hearing it a second time, I see what you mean: it sounds like they covered it for use in a laundry detergent commercial or something. Still, the guitar rhythm and vocal harmonies are catchy (and for someone who loves Spoon so much, I thought you would appreciate the mathematical precision with which they’re performed).

    Outside the context of the original version, I think this deserves a slightly higher rating. You’ve certainly reviewed worse on this blog—and you’re not even into the mid-90s yet, with venerable classics like Ini Kamoze’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper.” (I can’t wait for that.)

  2. I agree it’s not terrible, but it’s not something I’d really care to listen to again. I think 4 is a fair representation of how I feel about it – a mild dislike, not an outright dismissal. (5 would be neutral, while 6 is a mild recommendation.) Grades are essentially arbitrary, though. Depending on when I would have posted my thoughts on “Hey Paula,” for instance, the grade would have been anywhere from 4 to 7!

    At the rate I’ve been going, I won’t get till the mid-’90s till the 2020s. But I’ve been listening ahead to the ’70s and trust me, you don’t have to wait long to get to some serious pop horror. Any decade where “(You’re) Having My Baby” can top the charts is a decade I’m relieved to have missed out on.

  3. This song does sound very ‘stilted’ to me. This was a ‘dad favorite’ at my house growing up…hated it as a kid, having a hard time appreciating it now!

  4. bill s

    I just thought I’d throw in a comment from the old fart’s point of view. From the folk song era when this was most popular, this was a huge hit! In the time, and it also applies to what was being played on the radio in rock and roll, there were never references to the original version, better or worse. So as a stand-alone, I think it still sounds pretty fresh. The female vocal and great 12 string still get me singing! BTW, that Final Jeopardy question was a MF!

  5. teiresias

    I hope this isn’t a necropost, but I have to say, every time I’ve suffered through this song, I’ve thought “What the everloving hell are they doing to that poor guitar?!”

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