Tuesday, August 11, 2015

TALES OF MANHATTAN: The Cool Philosophy Of Babs Gonzales

In this 1959 album of rhymed poems set over a cool jazz beat, Babs Gonzalez posits himself as the hippest of the hip, here to school all you cosplay-wearin', video-game playin', indie "rock"-listenin' rubes 'n' cubes. This cat wants to pull your coat to, like, where it's at, ya dig?  A fun relic from the days when jazz was part of a low-down street culture, not today's boring, conservatory-trained "American Classical Music."

You will be forgiven for thinking that Babs was a Latina, going by his name and that album cover, but nope, he was a black man. Not much of a singer, he got by on sheer attitude. This album makes an interesting contrast to the Buddy Starcher album we posted last week - tho they are both spoken word over music, they're pretty much poles apart. Babs is everything Buddy wasn't: cool, cynical, urban, sophisticated, and non-white. A hipster, in the original sense of the word. If those two ever met, like matter and anti-matter, they might have annihilated each other.

Tales Of Manhattan: The Cool Philosophy Of Babs Gonzales

A1 The Hat Box Chicks
A2 Broadway - 4 A.M.
A3 You Need Connections
A4 'Dem Resolution Liars
A5 Manhattan Fable
B1 'Dem Jive New Yorkers
B2 The Squares
B3 A Dollar Is Your Only Friend
B4 The Cool Cat's Philosophy
B5 Ole Braggin' Freddie

I have no beef with today's trendy urban youth, they got their own thing. I just wish they hadn't stolen the word "hipster," esp. since they don't even seem to like it. In Bab's day, you had to earn that designation. After all, he named his memoirs "I Paid My Dues." The hip scene was a secret underworld society. They needed these code words, as this was the era before the civil rights/black power movement, and long before the decriminalization of, er, "reefers" ("tea," "gage," etc). In these songs you'll hear such slang expressions as: 

Cadillac boys = pimps
frail = girl
pound = $5 (a lot of money in those days)
black and whites = night and days
vine = a suit of clothes
long green = lots of money

Still can't figure the lingo? For further research, digeth:

Cab Calloway's Jive Dictionary

Slim Gailard's Vout-o-Reenee Dictionary

Del Close & John Brent: "How To Speak Hip" (booklet)
                               "                                  (album - individual mp3s)
                               "                                  (album)

Which is all well and good, but what's the lingo for modern life? We need words for: computers, the internet, blogs, cell phones; synthesizers, CDs, mp3s; gays and alternate lifestyle stuff; etc., etc., etc. Come on, you real hipsters, start coining!


rberven said...

WOW- this amazing!Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Cool, man. Like, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Well, we do say "surfing" the 'net.

Anonymous said...

This album is awesome! This site is awesome!

You have to keep this up. This is the coolest site I've ever found. So drop some money in his cup just to keep this site around.

I guess Babs' rubbed off like a viral cough so I just can't help but rhyme. What good fortune for us that it's still not a crime.

Mr Fab said...

Ha ha, diggin those rhymes the MOST, anon.

Rev. bIGhIG said...

Would you have his other classic "Weird Lullaby" on Blue Note?

Mr Fab said...

Don't know that one. More of his hip rhymes? I like that album title.