15 June 2014

The Wages of Sin - West Virginia/ Hey Hey Hey (Well I'm On My Way)



Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

Another absolute mystery, I'm afraid. "West Virginia" is the sole release from the obscure and largely undocumented Wages of Sin, and the lack of information about them probably indicates that they were  a studio group created for the purposes of this record - in the early seventies this had become highly regular practice.

Originally issued by Ronnie Dio's group The Elves to similar disinterest a mere few months before, "West Virginia" straddles an awkward line between bubblegum and garage, having the kind of kicking horns and soulful hollering vocals to draw comparisons with the likes of Paul Revere and The Raiders. The chorus is close enough to a stadium chant to make me think it might have stood a hope of being a hit, but despite the fact that this is a UK re-recording of the song, it still sounds far too damn American. The British, as a rule, are fine with celebrating American cities and states when they're halfway familiar through the television and cinema screen. New York, San Francisco, California, LA, Las Vegas, Detroit, these are all places we're happy to gaze upon in admiration and celebrate in song. West Virginia, on the other hand, isn't going to stir up many feelings of fondness or familiarity, largely because internationally it has a very low profile. Would anyone from the USA buy a celebratory British song called "Great Yarmouth"? I doubt it (very few people in Britain would either).

Still, this is cheerful enough, and thuds and punches its way through its celebration just enough that you almost want to visit West Virginia. Perhaps if Tony Christie had covered it, as he did with "Show Me The Way To Amarillo" which caused tourism in the city to leap up dramatically, everyone would be in business.

2 comments:

Arthur Nibble said...

West Virginia did become commercially acceptable over here some years later, when Olivia Newton-John covered the John Denver track which promotes the state. I take your point, though.

Great Yarmouth's claims to fame are / were the oldest football ground stand in England and the sadly recently closed 'worst waxworks museum in Britain'.

23 Daves said...

Yep, and there's "The Lights Of Cincinnati" as well. And "Wichita Lineman". A few songs about largely uncelebrated American regions and cities, but I think they're exceptions rather than rules.