Jun 6, 2016

Peggy Hits London, Alma Giggles, Jaye P's First Time, Plus The Saint's Party And An Original Stupid Girl Secret Song!

Peggy got to me young, as I suspect she did with a lot of people. Hearing her sing "He's A Tramp" in "Lady & The Tramp" made me sit up from the couch when I was just a wee thing, along with the irresistible "We Are Siamese," which she co-wrote and performed (playing both Siamese cats!). And so any "newly discovered" Peggy is reason to celebrate, dont'cha think?

In this Peppy Peggy Cheerful Exclusive!, two previous recordings - an LP recorded in London, along with a live London performance - have at last been expanded and made complete, similar to how Judy Garland's Carnegie Hall concert was made complete and unabridged years later. Not only that, there's a bevy of alternate song versions, unreleased tracks and more.

She's in fine form here, sounding both hopeful, yet glamorously world-weary. No one has ever bested her at performing "Is That All There Is" - it belongs to her like "The Ladies Who Lunch" belongs to Stritchy - and when she croons "Mack The Knife," I'd argue that she owns that one, too. Many, like Frank Sinatra, have said that she was the toughest singer around, male or female. All I can add to that is this: the last time I saw her live, she was rolled out onto the stage, wheelchair-bound, her shoulder's slumped, all but hidden beneath her wig. I turned to my friend and whispered, "What a shame. This is going to be sad." Then her band kicked in, she started singing - and she was triumphant. And, yes, she sounded fantastic. Now that, kids, is how it's done.

Now for some fun with "The Girl With A Giggle In Her Mouth," as she was dubbed in the early 1950s. Behold the chucklesome Alma Coogan, here in her dressing room just seconds before hitting the stage.

I'm still trying to wrap my noggin around the fact that she was, for quite a long time, the highest-paid female performer ever in the UK (until the rock era hit). But the more you think about it, the more it starts to make sense. UK audiences had good taste, of course, but they must have had a deep desire to be tickled senseless, too (and really, who wouldn't want that post-WWII?).

In addition to her infectious music, she was also known for throwing lavish, and surely giggly, parties at her home, welcoming a host of celebrity chums, like Noel Coward and Audrey Hepburn. Her 1958 LP "I Love To Sing" very much earns its title. If you're feeling even the teensiest bit blue, her renditions of "Life Is Just A Bowel Of Cherries" or "Today I Love Everybody" are guaranteed to clear away the cobwebs - and how. Try not to smile when you listen. I dare you.

Remember Val Kilmer before he started enjoying just a few too many malteds? I kid, of course. Fat-shaming is so 2000-and-late. But really - seriously. Remember when he was svelte and did good movies like the "The Doors?"

In the late 90's, he was the lead in "The Saint," a movie which performed moderately well during its theatrical release, though it was quickly forgotten. But guess what? It's apparently gained some sort of cult following. Why, I don't know, because I haven't seen it (and probably never will). Anyhoo, what has lasted is the soundtrack, a surprisingly delicious time-capsule of late-90s electronica, considered by many (including me) to be electronica's first golden age. There's everything here you'd want, including The Sneaker Pimp's classic "6 Underground," and other essential tracks from Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers and more. Give a listen and you'll be whisked away to a truly wonderful age when ecstasy wasn't cut with speed. Remember? I know you do.

As you might also recall, we once chatted about singer Jaye P. Morgan and quite a few of you were stunned to realize that she once looked like this:

Since I posted her most recent LP, I thought this time around I'd post her first. If you're new to Jaye P. and only know her from 1970s and 80s-era game shows - she was hilarious as a judge on "The Gong Show" (and stunned the live audience by flashing her breasts during commercial breaks) - that's just one part of a career which started when she was only eighteen-years-old and hired as a vocalist for the Frank DeVol orchestra.

From there, she enjoyed decades of work as a popular vocalist on LPs, radio, then all but reinvented herself in the 70s, this time primarily an actress, guest-starring on most every hit sitcom of the day. I'm not sure why she sidelined her singing. But as you'll realize from her first LP, she brought a surprising amount of sophistication to what might have been a very ordinary collection of standards. Maybe it's her fluid, bell-clear vocals; they perfectly dramatize the lyrics, of course, yet they also suggest something more - and it's kept just out of reach, like a mellow lure. She was too urbane, I think, or perhaps too cerebral, for the time (the late 50s weren't exactly a musically discriminating era, like the late 30s and early 40s) (she would have made a knock-out film-noir temptress). Whatever the case, her LP holds up remarkably well.

Speaking of too sophisticated, Do I even have to? The Secret Song File epitomizes chic, savoir faire - with just a soupcon of no-good, low-down tawdriness. "Isn't that the recipe for life?" she asks. Some things are good for the ages, like a certain super-new CD from a 90s band with a tough-cookie lead singer who once marked stupid girls for what they were (tacky) (of course) (like this one).

But then we can't all be perfect, right? Some go to the extreme, turning themselves into garbage (*cough*). Lord, when a hint is practically backed up into your driveway and hand delivered, it's time to go. Just remember, if Peggy can sound flawless in a wheelchair, then you can do whatever it is you get up to (and don't tell me what it is) (I don't want to know) (unless it's naughty).

But isn't sophistication just a feeble excuse for decadence? 

Giggle like Alma in the comments, if you like!


tony said...

What a coincidence: Saw Peggy Lee on stage in the early '90's. She had a portable oxygen tank nearby. Once she started singing, one would not have noticed it was there. Peggy Lee Live in London IS superb. Watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5cIn2gAiN4

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Great clip! Thanks, Tony.

den81164 said...

giggle in her "voice" not mouth....love alma!!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Oops. You're right. My way sounds kinda porny. Sorry about that. :D

E Craig said...

Your blog is the best!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thank you, E. Craig! Much appreciated.