Jan 15, 2017

Joan Dims The Lights, Lillian Makes A Comeback, Plus Jose Does It Live And A Double-X Secret Song!

"Oh, Joan, behave!" said many a gal and guy to Joan Barton after listening to her 1961 LP "Low Lights & Laughs," or at least I like to think they did. The back cover promises "bawdy," "ribald," "adult entertainment," and warns that "such songs are hardly for children!"

Though they'd barely make a six-year-old blush in today's world (given machine-tooled goblins like this), Joan's sassy, winking delivery transcends time, especially on ditties like "Am I Doing It Right?" and "She Had To Go And Lose It At The Astor." And, yes, it's a Cheerfully Bawdy Barton Exclusive! for you and yours.

Joan had a checkered career. She appeared in few B-movie Westerns in the late 1940s, hit the nightclub circuit throughout the 50s and 60s in NYC and Hollywood, and for a time, was married to Earl Muntz, a pioneering TV huckster who was known as "Madman Muntz," his crazed pitchman persona for his used car lot (he became so popular that the lot was the 7th most-visited tourist site in all of Hollywood!).

She must have learned a thing or two from Muntz, because when she coos the lyric, "Mmmm, how I love that sausage meat," she sells it hard, or as the LP states, "straight from the belt-line with all the gusto of one who knows where the fun begins!"

And now, behold the lady who put the "yum" in "dayum!"

Yes, it's Lillian Roth, the wowza actress and singing star who hit it big in the early 1930s in movies, on Broadway, in concert halls, even the Zeigfeld Follies - and then it all came crashing down. There was the sudden death of her fiance, alcohol addiction, along with nefarious parents and husbands who flat-out stole her fortune and left her penniless. By the late 1930s, she wasn't just washed up, she was said to be "delirious," and found herself shuttled in and out of mental institutions for over a decade. But slowly, steadily, she rose from the ashes.

In one of the most spectacular comebacks in showbiz history, she shocked the nation in 1954 with her unusually gritty autobiography "I'll Cry Tomorrow," which was promptly made into a (somewhat sanitized) hit movie with Susan Hayward. She was also the first celebrity to openly admit to attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

In a flash, she was back on top, her name above the title in the Broadway musical "I Can Get It For You Wholesale" with Barbra Streisand, then the Kander & Ebb musical "70 Girls, 70." She also knocked 'em dead with her hugely popular nightclub act at NYC's Reno Sweeney. In the 1957 LP "Lillian Roth Sings" - a Comeback Lillian Cheerful Exclusive! - Lillian sings with undiluted power. Hers was not a "pretty" voice, but it was  deeply felt and tough-as-nails. She was, and remains, the survivor's survivor.

Lastly, a certain way-cool Puerto Rican-born singer/songwriter had better keep his passport up to date, because even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, a certain ferret-headed pile of orange excrement may not know this. Sad!

Jose's songs, as you know, have been a balm for rough times since the 1960s with their soothing blend of jazz, folk and pop styles (which somehow resist crossing the line into Muzak). This includes his best-selling single "Feliz Navidad," a breezy, now perennial, holiday classic which once more cracked the Billboard Top 100 this month on January 7th. Can you believe? Yet as much as I admire his songwriting and musicianship, I think it's his voice which seals the deal. It seems to come from the exact center of his chest - and without effort. Some things you're just born with. Here he is live at the Blue Note in 2006 and it's wonderful.

The Secret Song File, who's inured to politics (but heeds the tweets of a wise celebrity), has lately wondered, "Do you see me? Because, um, I see you." And yes, that's a whopper of a hint.

As you might have heard, this new studio LP from a noted group is being celebrated for it's yummy mix of R&B, pop, electro and unusually sharp song lyrics. But is it, as some critics are proclaiming, the "Best New Album of 2017?" The Secret Song File won't dignify this with a response, though she was heard to say, "Keee-ryst, it's only January!" She followed this with a expletive-laden rant of triple-x, or xxx, words. Or you might say xx words.

Chill, pick your fights. It's going to be a long four years. 

But by all means, blather and bombast in the comments, if you like!


Anonymous said...

Great finds!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thanks, super-secret Anonymous poster! ;)