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9) The Platters – “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

 In 1959, the Hot 100 was still in transition between the easy listening and light jazz that had dominated the charts since the 1940s and the rock-based music that would become the pop of the ’60s and beyond.  Tommy Edwards had already scored a #1 in 1958 by adding a few rock and roll touches to his 1951 light pop hit “It’s All in the Game.”  The Platters were ideal as the next group to try bridging the gap between traditional adult pop and the harder new youth music.  The group had already scored mega hits “Only You” and “The Great Pretender,” which wedded doo wop with the smoothness and elegance of earlier pop vocal groups such as The Ink Spots.  This distinctive overlap of styles was emphasized when The Platters released “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” a Jerome Kern standard from his 1933 musical Roberta.  Their version departed from the dozens of jazzy covers by adding a solid beat and evenly phrased vocals that suggested rock and roll without scandalizing Kern’s widow (or adult listeners).  The result is a satiny enigma, romantic on its face but actually about how love blinds its victims against their beloveds’ treachery.  With hushed crescendos and restrained cries of anguish, lead singer Tony Williams nails the sound of emotional betrayal without letting a single Brylcreemed hair fall out of place. 7

Liner Notes

  • The Platters were one of minority of doo wop groups (if not the only one) with a female member, Zola Taylor.  Her presence may account for some of the smoothness of The Platters in comparison with other popular doo wop groups of the time. Taylor was also allegedly the second wife of Frankie Lymon (of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, best known for the 1956 hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”), though she was never able to produce a marriage certificate.

Hit #1 on January 19, 1959; total of 3 weeks at #1
9 of 963 #1’s reviewed; 0.93% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 07, 1959