He wanted so badly to be taken seriously. I like to think that it was after the recording of this program that he began thinking of farther off fields to explore. (Not a linear expression, internet pedants.)
He acquits himself in it perfectly well, of course. It was just all made of awkward, even for a Jack Benny episode, and even with the understanding that Darin really was a fan. It's fun to watch, though! I didn't mean to post something with the idea that it would be just terrible to see.
Recently I'd been wishing there was a recording of him doing "I've Got the World on a String," but when I found one, it disappointed me. It's much too slow, like his version of "Fly Me to the Moon," only less touching. Michael Bublé emulated him beautifully for "Call Me Irresponsible," but made the best "I've Got the World on a String," really, by doing his own thing. Only, when I hear that one, I want to hear Darin, so. I keep hoping one day another "lost" recording will appear or be resurrected from the fire. Along with "Danke Schöen," and a few others.
He did slow torchy songs right, though, no doubt about it. So for Bobby Darin's birthday, touching some of us in the special place, here's "The Other Half of Me."
I think of him as someone who put grace into his efforts, and was always reaching a little bit farther than he could grasp, which, I think, is what we should all do. Maybe in the end he just gave up, but if so, it wasn't until after he'd poured the best of himself into his life and his work and created a quiet but solid legacy.
These are just phone pix with an old phone. I didn't have the energy for more better ones because I canned food today. And made a lot of chili. But someone on Google+ posted some of those really funny tragic album covers a little while ago, and I thought, well, these aren't tragic, but they are pretty interesting or odd. I've shared a couple before in lists of things.
If I'm too lazy to note the year of these albums as I type, I'll go back in and edit later. I canned food today, did I tell you that?
First, there were these LP compilations; instant music collections for people who wanted to appear cool without having to actually work at it. The covers demonstrate how to be cool in case anyone needs extra help. I have several; here are two of my favorites.
If Jackie Gleason presented it, it had class. I realize that for people who saw him only as Ralph Kramden or who just have no idea who this is at all, that's hard to grasp. But he was an arbiter of musical taste for awhile. The young woman's bag and gloves are of the evening dress variety, and those glasses were swank. These people drank wine. So this album would be good for those nights when the ashtrays were freshly emptied, the pillows fluffed on the naugahyde couch, and the Gallo Rosé was ready to pour.
This compilation is by The Dell Trio. Last time I looked them up, this album is what appeared. But it's been awhile. No matter. Despite the details on the previous cover, I think this one tried to appeal to a more cosmopolitan set. But that must be some music, because they've already abandoned their drinks to it. However, she's going to get distracted by something in a minute, which will annoy him, because he was just getting somewhere. He should have encouraged her to drink more of that old-fashioned first, maybe teasingly offered her an olive from his martini.
Here are a couple of ladies who knew just what I am talking about.
I will admit that I don't actually understand this cover, and it might be obvious to everyone else. But to me, the surprising thing is that Peggy doesn't have a matador on each arm, because I am fairly certain she could take two on at once.
Latin music was for lovers, you know, back in the 60s. And when people listened to it, they could pretend they were sexy. Or maybe actually be sexy; what do I know? I know that Doris Day was, and that despite the happy homemaker reputation she developed onscreen, there's probably a reason she was making this face, just out of camera view to the right.
Men didn't have to look sexy to sell albums the way women seemed to. I'm not sure what exactly it was they needed to convey, though...
This album won a Grammy Award in 1959 for best design. And by design they mean this actual cover right here. Frank is a sad clown. Probably because he was still working off his contractual obligations to Capitol Records before moving on to his own Reprise label. I dunno.
This is one of my favorite album covers of all time, but not because of the front.
Chatty Cathy was a really big deal around the time this record came out, and whoever designed this had the driest sense of humor in the world because I hadn't started talking yet. But anyway. The liner notes on the back are by the sublime and unequaled Stan Cornyn, who said this, "Martin: the biggest sex symbol to hit neighborhood taverns since the heyday of the Rheingold Girl, may she in our secret imaginations requiescat in flagrante delicto."
And then there was Tom.
Did you know that Tom Jones once lived in the Bel-Air mansion previously occupied by Dean Martin and did you further know they had the same birthday, 23 years apart? If Dean Martin had been only 31 when Happiness was Dean Martin was produced, I guess that wouldn't have been Chatty Cathy he was holding.
You can read this without the beginning, but if you wanna read the beginning, it's the first segment here. (it's 1395 words, but one of my favorite pieces of writing.) And tomorrow, or maybe, um, well, soon, there's a bit more to come.
Jack came around the counter then and sat down. "Tommy, Vinny probably didn't tell you the coolest thing of all about Tom Jones."
Vinny looked puzzled. "You got me there, Jack."
"Well, do you know his birthday? June 7. Dean Martin could be Tom Jones' dad, but they were born on the same day, at least."
"I never did know that, Jack. Got any more, born on that day?"
"Actually, I know of two. The actor Liam Neeson and…" Jack hesitated. "Another singer, as a matter of fact."
"Who is it?" demanded Tommy, "Julie London? She's a good one."
Jack laughed. "No, not quite. It's Prince." He watched as Vinny and Tommy worked out who he meant.
Vinny spoke first. "You mean that little guy, sang all them dirty songs back in the 80s? He was born on Dean Martin's birthday?"
Tommy laughed. "I remember, "Little Red Corvette." Yeah, that guy, he's really sharp. I don't know if I woulda said he's cool like Dino, though."
"Or Tom Jones?" Jack mused. "Tom Jones sang a Prince song, as a matter of fact. So that's something."
Vinny stared at him. "Tom Jones sang what, one of the dirty ones? You're kidding."
"He did." Jack said, "Let me go get my phone, I'll show you." He stood up and headed for the counter.
Tommy asked Vinny, "What does he mean, he'll show you? How's he gonna do that with the phone?"
"His cell phone, Tommy. Don't you know anything? His phone is smart. Smarter than you, I guess. It's got the internet on it."
Jack returned, and the three of them huddled around his phone as he called up a YouTube video of Tom Jones singing the Prince hit, "Kiss." Vinny and Tommy stared, open-mouthed, and watched the whole thing without speaking.
Then Vinny said, "Well, that was back before he got old, anyway." He shook his head. "I don't know what else to say."
"It wasn't 'Delilah,' that's for sure," Tommy muttered. "Hey, can you get Dean Martin on this thing?"
Vinny rolled his eyes. "It's the internet, Tommy. And it's Jack. He's probably already got it saved on there someplace, right Jack?"
"Don't call me that."
"Okay. Here. You'll like this." Jack pressed play, and they all leaned in again.
"That's good stuff there," Tommy said.
Vinny and Jack nodded. "Yeah," they both said.
All three sat quietly for a moment, then Tommy said, "You get porn on that thing?"
Vinny clipped him on the ear and asked, "What's the matter with you, Tommy?"
Jack just shook his head and laughed, heading back to work as the two old men started arguing again.
I will be catching up to 1992 in the birthday countdown tomorrow. Haven't felt well these past few days, and also I am stuck using the wee PC laptop in the evenings, which is limiting and frustrating. Always appreciative to have it, never thrilled by its sheer inelegance and awkward text formatting.
So. Bobby Darin. If you've read my blog since 2003, and who hasn't? you know he's one of my favorite, or I should rather say, most cherished topics. Today is the anniversary of his birth, precisely four months after my mother's birth, and were it not for a quirk of fate, it's likely they'd both be alive today, in the December of their years, at 76. Instead, he died at age 37, and she at age 53.
Bobby Darin is the reason for so much of what I appreciate musically and sensually. That can't be overstated. Even though he was always on the radio and somewhat in the consciousness of anyone who enjoyed 50s and 60s music, I "discovered" him in high school in the early 80s, when I heard "Mack the Knife" on some TV program and fell rapturously in love with it. But that song isn't the thing about the thing. It was the flipside, "Beyond the Sea," which did it for me. Mom made me listen to it. I don't know what the original flipside was, but with oldies, they'd just stick another hit on so you got to enjoy two old things you knew on one record. And it blew me away. No, it grabbed me and pulled me in.
So during an era when I was enjoying the Cars, the Go-Gos, Cameo, The Gap Band, and any New Wave thing I could find on broadcast TV, I fell in love with Bobby Darin, and, by extension, a whole world I'd barely paid any attention to while growing up. All that jazz was background noise, and then suddenly it was just what I needed.
He was short, arrogant, and wore a hairpiece. My vague memories of him from childhood were the same I had of the other singers of his ilk; terrible hair, terrible suits, a terrible need to fit in where they no longer belonged. But I've outlived him now by nearly a decade, and believe me, I get it, the whole thing.
Because I was wrong. We were wrong. The young people, in whose world we no longer entirely belong, need to own their space, and they need to do it their own way. But their space is so much smaller than they think it is. And it is a hell of a lot less cool than they think it is, because they're still constantly defining, judging, measuring, and they take themselves oh so seriously while they're at it, more, I think, with each generation, because each generation has the burden of so much more knowledge than did the previous one.
It's only a burden if you let it be, though, and at my age, it's very freeing to let quite a lot of that go. It's much sexier. After all, 47 is the new 37, don'tcha know.
My 13 year-old dim bulb son made a pop culture reference today in his virtual classroom that only the teacher and one other kid understood. Score! But also kind of a bummer. I said, "I think we should know pop culture, at least, that is twice as old as our age, so the older you get, the farther back you're able to go. Right now, you can go back around 30 years and I can go back around 90 years."
Whoa! Tin Pan Alley! But this is what I think.
There is a piece of my soul wrapped around my love for Bobby Darin, which began just about 30 years ago this month. It was just the beginning. I'd been exposed to many genres of much quality music my whole life, but that was the year I began discovering it as an adult.
That year, Charlotte Williams and I carefully constructed a list of the composite male. Basically, think Jeremy Northam on paper, before anyone knew who he was. Well, that's probably still my physical ideal, but I no longer match my personal ideal so that's something to confront, and besides, I know a great deal more about men these days. I now know why I found Bobby Darin so sexy and still do, even though it made me vaguely uncomfortable to admit it in 1982. It's also not an overstatement to say he's one of the reasons I think men are wonderful, the little dears. Because of Bobby Darin, I know that a man can be any height and have any amount of hair and really know how to make a woman drop her jaw in desire for him, for his manhood. It's one of my favorite aspects of humanity.
This live recording has much less polish and depth than the recording I first loved, but I think it's a treat for his birthday.
Here are a couple others I really love more now, though, which are in my file library here, and on the other computer I'd know how to make them play inline:
and you know, I've always wished there was a recording of him singing "Danke Schoen." He had the rights to the song, and gave it to young Wayne Newton to record for his new label, TM Records. I've read that Darin did actually do a recording of it, but that the tapes were lost in a warehouse fire in the late 60s. So, I don't know. Sigh.
Always funny, but actually most known as being said by Dean Martin, who probably got it from Joe E. Lewis…or from Joey Bishop, who wrote a lot of the Sands Hotel schtick. They all “borrowed” heavily from each other.
You see, because I'm not 14 or 74, I don't spend a great deal of time in shopping malls. I wouldn't know Adele if she bit me. I honestly don't know much about Alec Baldwin, who said this earlier? But I do know Dino...
I'm trying to decide which singer I'd have had a crush on if I was 30 in 1965. This would mean my formative music years came between 1950-1955, when crooners and 3 and 4-part harmonies were heavily featured on the radio. Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, The Ames Brothers, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Eddie Fisher, The Four Aces, just a bit of Dean Martin, and the beginning of Frank Sinatra's comeback.
"Rock Around the Clock" was released July 9, 1955. No way I wouldn't have loved that and launched into that sound, having previously dug the swing and bebop I heard around the house. But nobody swooned over Bill Haley, as far as I know.
Me being me, it's quite likely I've have been married by then. So the next ten years would be filled with clotheslines of diapers, learning to make over the old furniture my husband and I found on weekend hunting trips, listening to the radio and saving money for a TV. Now and then attempting to be glamorous in the late evening after the kids were in bed. Going to movies, of course!
I hope that doesn't sound depressing. It's how things were, for most women, a little easier or a little harder depending. Hopefully I wouldn't have married a man who thought of me as a golden ticket inside a candy bar wrapper, only to realize later that marriage and children would require patience, effort, and dedication, instead of being a trip to a magical wonderland with all the hard icky things shoved into a drawer out of sight. That's how things often are, as well.
Back to music and singers. My musical taste is a perfect fusion of my parents' tastes, with a bit of my time period thrown in. If they were born around 1910 instead of 32 and 36, they'd have been witness to the birth of popular song on radio, the developing pop orchestra sound, lots of slow sentimental love songs mixed with ragtime and a certain amount of kitsch. They'd be used to hearing singers belt out tunes through megaphones, and marvel when that was no longer necessary. They'd listen to the radio every evening, and, of course, would also own a gramophone player. I'd have had Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby and maybe Jimmie Rodgers records passed along to me that I'd eventually share with my own kids when they were little.
My husband would be into Leonard Bernstein, and he'd dig post-Romantic, Modern, and probably Neoclassic classical music. Maybe some West Coast jazz, which I'd try to like but mostly I'd listen to pretending I didn't feel a little restless. He'd sometimes indulge my taste for crooners, rock and roll, and what was then still called "race music," but I'd end up listening to it and singing along mostly while he was at work and I was at home surrounded by endless mounds of baby laundry.
So, all of that together brings me to age 30 in 1965, a pivotal year in many areas of pop culture. And probably around the time I'd start reforming my own identity.
Seriously, as I grow older, I realize that while I was right about us all being partly nature and partly nurture, nature takes the lead, eventually. My nature is to let other people have their way most of the time, and just indulge myself in the quieter solitary hours. But I've spent the past 15 years continually having to give myself permission to do that.
When I was little, I remember my mom listening to her Tom Jones record, Live in Las Vegas. She told me she wished she could see him in concert. Lots of her friends would rather see Elvis Presley, and she couldn't understand at all what they saw in him. I remember studying that album cover and thinking about what she said.
I decided she was right, but then, I was seeing Elvis from a 1970ish point of view. His best years were already behind him, poor man.
Tom Jones is totally a better singer than Elvis was, but Elvis was so weighed down by his circumstances, wasn't he? I'd have enjoyed hearing him in later years, as we've had the opportunity to do with Frank Sinatra (post-bitter My Way years,) Tony Bennett, and, well, Tom Jones. There's no question he had a good voice. But when Elvis was in his heyday, I doubt I'd have liked him anymore than my mom did, though I'm a bit more broad-minded about music and appearances, I think.
You know who Elvis thought was cool? Dean Martin. It's true. And in 1965, Dean was 48 years old, sexist and silly, but still smart, charming, and well, sexy.
Me being me, I think I'd have "discovered" him in those TV years, and crushed on him the way I'd surely be crushing on all the handsome Western stars and sitcom fathers. Who knows where that discovery would have led? Well, used record shops, mostly. The weekly TV variety show, of course. And looking through the newspaper for late night movie listings so I could revisit his younger years. I'd still have loathed Jerry Lewis, though.
Epilogue: A dozen years after giving birth in 1965 to someone a little like me but with more of a wandering spirit and aching soul, my record collection would cover WWII big bands through late 60s Motown, yet the car radio would be tuned to disco dance music unless no one else was around. Then it would be all about me and Dean, singing along with the 8-Track player.
I got new tires for my car today, after 4 1/4 years and 59,000 miles. My car's name is Ava Gardner and I love her like Sinatra loved Gardner, only without the yelling or the outsized manhood. But the tires were a bit overdue and I feel bad for letting her down for so long.
So here's a song to let her know how I feel, and to thank her for working so well on the way home when, on two separate occasions, someone pulled out in front of me with no room so that I had to brake really hard in order to not run into them.