Sep 1, 2012

Shirley's Best, Hattie Gets Ticklish, Plus Peggy Experiments And An After 'W' Secret Song!

Can you believe Shirley Bassey is 75? Yeah, I can't, either. She certainly doesn't sound her age; that clarion-call voice is as powerful as ever. She's one of the world's most beloved singers - yet incredibly, she's largely ignored in the U.S. What the hell is wrong with us? How can you not love a singer who was born above a brothel in a Wales slum, then went on to achieve international fame by singing (and loudly), "Go-o-o-old....finger!" When I first heard her trumpet that refrain, I thought my head would burst open. And she only got better from there.

Shirley's had many compilation CDs before, but this 2-CD set is especially yummy, running the gamut from her earliest hits to "History Repeating" and much more (including some of my favorites, like "Moonraker" and "The Liquidator"). Subtlety be damned! Shirley likes it big and loud and full of brass. Can you blame her?

For all you comedy lovers out there, do I have a treat for you today. Hattie Noel, as you might know, was a Hollywood actress in the 1930's and 40's - she almost nabbed Hattie McDaniel's role in "Gone With The Wind" - but she was also a singer who performed with the likes of Count Basie and Louis Armstrong.

If that weren't enough, she was also a stand-up comedian. Can you believe? Yes, there really were female comics before Phyllis Diller. It was Eddie Cantor who saw this special side of her. She was a regular on his radio show, and luckily, he brought her to Hollywood where she knocked 'em dead in stage musicals and comedy nights.

Given her gift for comedy, and particularly physical comedy, it's not surprising that she also worked as a movement model for animators; after filming her, the animators would trace, or rotoscope, her frame-by-frame movements so that the cartoon character's movements would appear more "realistic."

Along with many similar gigs, Hattie was the movement model for "Hyacinth Hippo" in Disney's "Fantasia" - a fact which Disney kept hidden for decades. And not, presumably, since it might appear racist, but because animators are loath to admit that a cartoon character's physical schtick came from someone else, especially in a sequence as famous as this one (but then they've also scrubbed the picaninny centaurs out of "Fantasia," too, so who knows what their mind-set is). At any rate, if you haven't seen "Fantasia," Hattie's sequence is a masterpiece of physical comedy, and now we know who to thank.

Her LP "The Tickled Soul Of Hattie Noel" is fascinating historically, but more important, it's just plain funny. And for those who think they didn't talk "that way" back then, you might want to scoot the crumbcatchers out of the room before you play this. Hattie is blissfully obscene in routines like "Licking Dicks," "The Frantic Hole," "Beauty Vs. Bootie" and "A Chinese Disease," to name just a few.

When my Cuban Luvuh was strutting (he does that naturally) (he is Cuban, after all) through our local record store, he found Peggy Lee's "Mirrors" and asked me if we had it. I had to think for a moment, because it seems like we have every single Peggy Lee ever released. But not this one.

Released in 1975, and a Cheerful Exclusive, "Mirrors" is Lee's experimental collection of non-narrative, "neo-cabaret art songs," written by "Jailhouse Rock" songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It's trippy, it's beautiful, even haunting at times, and unlike many concept albums of the period, each song builds on all the preceding songs - in terms of the music and the mood, not in a narrative sense (which is much easier).

As you might have guessed, this was all way ahead of its time (it was later re-packaged to include her hit "Is That All There Is?", but the LP still didn't sell). Is this Peggy Lee's masterpiece? I won't go out on that limb (yet), but it's certainly an unheralded "great LP."

The Secret Song File is all business today. Miss Bossy Pants. Miss Sassy Stilettos. Miss Galaxy Girl Guide. All it takes is a pose, as you can see below. What does that have to do with today's offering? Nothing.

Or maybe it does. Because today's young turks (*wink*) and captains of industry might cotton to this delightful, upcoming Brit-pop CD inspired, says the group, by a party scene which they were just too young to enjoy (I so-o-o-o have that problem. All. The. Time.). So now they're kind of, um, co-mingling with it (*wink*wink*). Anyway, "xoxo," as they say, only leave the "o's" out.

Always kiss both cheeks. It's klassier that way.

And, hey, the comment section is just itching for your gossip, hearsay and lingua franca! 


Daddy Squeeze Me! said...

I plan to have a field day with this hattie noel!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

She's delish, isn't she?

Kel said...

Hey CE-
Is anyone else having a problem with the Bassey. I downloaded all 3, but when I try to unzip, it just opens a new zip file- like russian nesting dolls. Any advice would be appreciated-thanks!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hmmm. Let me look into this and I'll get right back to you.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Kel, it worked for me. I downloaded all three files, double-clicked the first file, provided the password, hit return and all zipped files opened to one single file labeled "SB-BO." Inside that file are two files for each of the 2 CD's, labeled "1" and "2."

If you did the above and you're still having trouble, let me know, but as of yet, no one else has had a problem.

Bob said...

Thanks Cheerful.
I love Shirley's singing. We saw her in concert once in Toronto - once was enough. There was a half hour leadin act and then she sang for exactly 45 minutes. And that was that. Very disappointing. But she sure can sing.

Kel said...

For some reason, I'm not being asked for a password on file number one. I've tried this 3 x with the same results. I'm stumped. Thanks for trying to help. Maybe someone else has an answer or similar problem?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hey, Kel, I've provided a new link for Shirley, so give it a try. :)

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Oh, Bob, only 45 minutes?? That ain't right!

Kel said...

CE- Worked like a dream- Thank you for taking the trouble to do that! K

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

No problem. I'm glad you finally got it. :)

Anonymous said...

So what's the password to get hattie's cd? I don't see one anywhere. Did I miss it?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

It's near the top of the page, on the right side, in red lettering. :)