The Brooklyn Bridge were never cool, but they were frequently entertaining. Their music was printed with the Four Seasons-esque matching-suit taste for schmaltz. They were doo-wop all growns up, sans the artistry and innovation often demanded by late ’60s pop listeners. Safe for mom and dad, a buffer to wrap around trippier acts; or rather, white bread to cleanse the palate after all that free love do-goodery emanating from the West Coast.
This middle-of-the-road need to amuse without exciting led to several pleasant 45s, but as lead singer Johnny Maestro’s vocal stylings reveal, nearly every song could have been handled more capably by the acts Maestro was aping. From Frankie Valli to Gary Puckett, Jon Sebastian to Dennis Yost, a Brooklyn Bridge compilation offers many voices, none of which seem to be genuinely Brooklyn Bridge. It’s urban, it’s dreamy, and at times it’s histrionic, but scratch the surface and you’ll find attitudes more suburban and parochial. I’m not complaining. Messages don’t always have to tower. They can be common, and when they appeal or provoke something simple in thousands of people they’re profound.
The Brooklyn Bridge’s “Your Husband, My Wife” is a creepier, more morally conflicted song than anything Gary Puckett recorded. And that guy was unhealthily preoccupied with young girls’ virginity. It’s proof that the band was split-marketed to parents as well as their kids. I mean, what 16-year old is going to dig songs about adultery and expectant motherhood (“Glad She’s a Woman”)?
So it’s very moving when a band of such work-a-day guys can turn out a truly moving song like “The Worst That Could Happen.” Originally a brilliant song by the Fifth Dimension, it becomes in the hands of a band like the Brooklyn Bridge a surprisingly touching, mournful, working class farewell. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for any story about coming in second. Maestro’s vocals pull away from the contemporaries he used for training wheels, and the singer sounds less like someone pretending to be brokenhearted and more like a man who’s honestly crushed. You can hear him collapsing from within.
“The Worst That Could Happen” is very simply one of the best songs by any band that didn’t possess a lick of independent vision. Its scope doesn’t tower, and it’s quite common. But its appeal is universal, and therein it is profound. It’s one of the few songs that compel to say aloud, “Oh, what a sad song.”