Jan 1, 2016

Happy New Year's From Dorothy And Barbara, Plus Silly Creatures And A Re-Boot Secret Song!

If you survived New Year's in one piece (or two), congratulations! No, really. Years ago, I got so wrecked I didn't who was what (or where) (you know how that goes) (don't you?) The only thing that saved me was shuffling over to one of those fast-vanishing diners in the West Village. That's where me and my friends soaked up the booze with day-old bread, runny eggs and greasy bacon. I don't miss it.
I suppose the kids nowadays go to tasteful, gluten-free, flavor-resistant bistros - which I'm not knocking, by the way (yes, I am), because their food probably (hopefully) has the added benefit of staying down. This is a plus for New Year's day.

A better way to herald in New Year's is with music. And who better for this task than Dorothy Lamour? Believe it or not, Lamour did not arrive in Hollywood fully formed in a sarong for Bob Hope to fawn over in a series of "Road To..." comedies with Bing Crosby ("Road To Morocco" is still my favorite). She was already well established as a popular big band singer in Chicago - which lead to vaudeville, radio - before signing with Paramount in 1936.

Because she first hit it big on screen in "The Jungle Princess," she was typecast as "the exotic gal" in a string of tossaway movies. But at least she got to sing in most of them, and she certainly wasn't complaining; she was a hard worker who knew when the gettin' was good. "I was the happiest and highest-paid straight woman in the business," she once said. When asked if she'd ever studied acting, she quipped, "No. Can't you tell?"

She may or may not have studied singing, but she's a pleasure to listen to, and not only for the camp value (though that's there) (and in novelty songs like "The Moon Over Manakoora," she's in on the gag). As you listen to the collection - a Dorothy Does It Cheerful Exclusive! just for you, which starts out rough in terms of sound quality (but stick with it) - see if you aren't soon hypnotized by her lush, perfectly pitched vocals. She sings like melted caramel.

And now let's move up a few decades to the fabulous Barbara McNair:

McNair, as you know, had much success on Broadway and TV, and Motown's Barry Gordy wanted a piece of the action. He signed her in the early 1960's, hoping she'd become a nice, safe, "middle-of-the-road" singer. She accomplished that, of course, but she had other ideas, too - and to say that they butted heads is putting it mildly. True to his reputation, Barry banished most of her efforts to the vaults, like the swingin' "Baby A Go-Go" and many-many more (I hate it when you hear story's like that). Happily, they're all here in this delicious Barbara Motown collection. At last.

I love rummaging through the Internets and discovering music and artists I've never heard of. Invariably, there's a reason I don't know them because they suck, but sometimes, I'm delighted by what I hear. The other day, I was tooling around and came upon the music duo Slim & Slam:

In the 1930s and 40s, Slim and Slam, aka Bulee Gaillard and Leroy Elliot Stewart, popped on the scene with a string of irresistible, tongue-twisting jazz songs, their most popular (which, like me, you've probably heard before) being "Flat Foot Floogie With A Floy Floy." It was their first record and it was a smash:

Along with their loopy lyrics, make no mistake, they were real musicians - they collaborated with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie - and managed to create their own jive language, which they called "Vout Oreenee" (don't ask me what that means because I don't know). They're well represented in "Silly Creature Songs," a 2013 collection which includes their song "Chicken Rhythm," along with many other giggly tunes, like The Jazz Pilots' "Go Swat A Fly" and Will Bradley's "Boogie Wooglie Piggy." It's perfect music for New Year's day. No thinking; just blissful absurdity.

The Secret Song File refuses to get a selfie stick, though she understands why people want to snap her picture. She'll smile politely - but just once. If you're not satisfied with the picture, tough. Get it right the first time, because she's already slinking her way back to the bar. This attitude of having not a single f*ck to give is currently best exemplified by a 60-ish actress/writer/raconteur starring in a monstrously huge movie sequel. She really-really doesn't care what you think of her age or her weight or her dog, which is as it should be.

Back in the day, The Secret Song File enjoyed the first two movies in the series (she refuses to call them #4 and #5 because she does not do nerd), and always had a soft spot for the movie's score, which is both enjoyably silly and grand, as if a ten-year-old boy had just discovered an orchestra's brass section (then doubled it), and slightly scary, too, as if Leni Riefenstahl were anointed house composer for you-know-who. The soundtrack for the "re-boot" isn't all that different from the previous six, but it's still a nice way to ring in New Year's day once you're off the couch and properly mobile (it's also good for cleaning up, because it propels you along and you don't have to think about it).

In Ancient Rome, the de rigeure way to cure a hangover was to eat a canary. 

Chew on that in the comments, if you like!


boppinbob said...

Thanks for the past years wonderful postings and musical gifts. Was up to 02:30 this morning after partying with kin. And yes had a rather large full English brekkie with buttered toast to soak up the new Year skimmish.
All my very best wishes to you and your kin for a fantabulous 2016.

RayKay said...

Happy New Year, Cheerful Earful!!!

And thank you for another great Barbara McNair.

tony said...

All the best for you in 2016!

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry said...

Add my name to the list of Dorothy Lamour fans.