...ah, but her music will live on.
Jo Stafford, one of the great Big Band/pop/jazz singers of the '40s and '50s, recently passed away at age 90. Though she recorded some classic sultry torch ballads with a honey-hued voice that made servicemen ache for home, she had another, slightly anarchic side to her that you won't find in the recordings of, say, Billie Holiday or Peggy Lee - a twisted side project she did with her husband, bandleader Paul Weston.
As "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards," she was the nasally, slightly off-key vocal half of the world's most inept lounge duo, while her hubbie was the accompanist, always attempting lush, beautiful piano stylings, and never quite getting there, like what Liberace would sound like after being pushed down a flight of stairs.
One of the motivations for the act was that they were secretly taking the piss out of their boss at Columbia Records, the notorious schlock-meister Mitch Miller. If he ever caught on, he never admitted it.
At first, Stafford and Weston wouldn't own up to the fact that they were Jonathan and Darlene. Their first album had liner notes claiming that they merely discovered the Edwards working a lounge in New Jersey. But the truth quickly came out and they became a novelty music sensation, even winning a comedy Grammy in 1963.
The humor was subtle - smart-alecks would put on their records at parties, and if you weren't paying attention, they sounded almost competent. But after a few too many flubbed notes, party-goers would choke on their martinis and ask, "Uh, who is this...?"
Historians take note! They were probably the first lounge parodists, preceding Richard Cheese, Bill Murray's "Nick" character on "Saturday Night Live," and, believe it or not, The Beatles - "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" was one of the first lounge parodies recorded. But Jonathan and Darlene started in the late '50s, after Stafford's mainstream singing career was winding down.
Most lounge satires emphasize the smarmy nature of the performers, but there was a naive sweetness to Jonathan and Darlene. You felt sorry for them. They were really trying to put on a great show, but everything was going wrong.
The Edwards made one last record, a single in 1977. It's one of the best song parodies ever. The Helen Reddy cover is funny, but The Bee Gees demolition just absolutely kills me.
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards "Stayin' Alive"
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards "I Am Woman"
Lots more of the Edwards' output can be found here, courtesy of the Cheese Factory.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Twink The Toy Piano Band creates a pastel pink audio candyland that, as demonstrated on his latest album, the aptly-named "A Very Fine Adventure," serves the odd task of creating children's music for adults. That is, music with all the cuteness and innocence (and toy instruments) of children's music without the annoying repetition and simplicity that real children demand (or have forced upon them) in their Barney singalong CDs.
I've written about Twink a few times here, so regulars will know what to expect with his latest: as usual, it's all instrumental (another trait you won't find too often in actual children's music). And, as usual, you get excellent album packaging/graphics, and well-crafted songs that are amusing without being overly jokey, and a surprising variety of musical moods and textures, from the soundtrack drama of "Lost in the Mysterious Mist" to the raucous distorted (!) toy piano rock of "Flytrap," to any number of songs of lite techno and groovy funk. The album's opener is appropriately dreamy and toe-tappin.
Twink - Three Bunnies In A Balloon
When I posted the article "Play An On-Line Toy Piano!" earlier this year, I asked for anyone who uses it in a recording to let us know. And we have one: a very silly British bunch called REET! feature a bit in their version of the "Chip 'n' Dale" theme.
REET! - Chip n Dale
Their entertaining MySpazz page has other goodies, like a video-game sounding 8-bit instrumental, a hard rock version of the "Cheers" theme, a very good bit of brooding atmospherics, and original comics. Make an album, guys!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
If believers in the UFO cover-up at Roswell are correct, an advanced race of superior beings came countless light-years across the universe to planet Earth...but didn't know how to land. Roswell was a US Army air field that was performing top-secret experiments and aircraft testing at the height of the Cold War, so if anything crashed it would, of course, be a security breach that would not be explained to the public. All of which makes the case for genuine alien contact at Roswell pretty shakey. Even a number of UFO believers dismiss it.
But don't tell that to UFOetry! He's a Los Angeles-based musician who just performed his multi-media show several times at that New Mexico city as part of their annual festival of all things flying saucer. The festival is all in kitschy fun, but Mr. UFOetry seems quite sincere.
He doesn't just sing about UFOs (actually, he doesn't really sing at all - he dramatically speaks the lyrics in true Shatner-esque fashion). One of his other songs is about another conspiracy theory: we never went to the moon. These conspiracy theorists must think that the American government is highly intelligent and super-organized to pull off this kind of hoax. They have a lot more faith in our politicians then I do!
UFOetry "We Never Went To The Moon"
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
James Houston is a recent graduate of Glasgow's School of Art. His final project is an incredibly ingenious version of Radiohead's "Nude" aka "Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)" performed on obsolete machines:
Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer - Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer - Drums
HP Scanjet 3c - Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array - Act as a collection of bad speakers - Vocals & FX
James Houston "Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)" (mp3)
Or better yet, check out the video on his page.
Don't be put off by the long intro - after one minute things get rockin'.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Music not touched by human hands: from New Zealand comes The Trons "...a completely self playing robotic junk band! They are made mostly from old computer and mechanical parts and play original songs using an array of old amps and instruments. They now have five gigs under their belt..." playing nice Velvetsy rock (with turntables):
The Trons "Sister Robot" (mp3)
The Trons "Sister Robot" (video)
Pretty durned amazing stuff. Musicians: robots will be taking your jobs soon! Why hire some greaseballs in tuxedos to play your wedding when you could rent some bitchin' robots?
Thanks to AudioPornCentral!
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
No, not the newspaper. I mean some contempo sounds returning us to the States, after our last globe-trotting exercise.
New Wave legends Devo, believe it or not, released a surf album in 2001 as "The Wipeouters." True, they're from Ohio, but they've been here in LA for so long that they seem to have soaked up enough sunshine to make an excellent, mostly instrumental collection of wild 'n' wacky guitar rock, with touches of exotica, electronica, and cartoonish sound effects. There aren't any songs on the order of, say, "Mongoloid" or "Beautiful World" but, somewhat to my surprise as I had written this band off by the mid-'80s, it's an entertaining album I've played almost as much as their old classics. They even sample the "Shut Up Little Man" guys!
The Wipeouters: "Surf's Up On Goon Island"
The Bonedaddys are a veteran LA club band with strong ethnic/exotic influences whose latest album features a song mixing surf guitar with African drumming. Which I think is a dandy combination.
The Bonedaddys: "Continental Drift"
RIAA, the Mad Dogs of Mashups, have a new 10 song summer collection called "Radical, Intense & Awesome!!" that goes beyond the usual acapella vs instrumental formula. Some songs might have 10 sources crammed into 3 minutes, plus campy movie quotes and Spike Jones-ish sound effects. Like this one, which features '60s e-z, '80s rap, '90s house, Wire, the Bay City Rollers, the Dead Kennedys, and Bob Marley:
RIAA: "It Is Such A Good Saturday Night"
Have an unsafe and insane Fourth!