Five Things: Wednesday 25th December

Cover Girl: Julie London
Michele’s request for a Julie London Christmas album hits a snag. She never did one. But with a little internetting and some Indesign, Julie’s Miss December (from her album, Calender Girl) becomes a fully-fledged seasonal treat.

Christmas-Julie

“Oh the shark has pearly Teeth, Dear…”
Michael Gray on Bobby Darin: “Bobby Darin’s singles were part of my adolescence, and all these decades later I’m still impressed by his work, the multiplicity of his talent and his human decency. He was a songwriter, singer, actor, pianist, guitarist and mentor to RogerMcGuinn; he conquered the pop charts and then dinner-jacket showbiz, yet came to see that turbulent times called for songs of social conscience. As a person he was gracious, articulate, sharp and funny. He was a talented actor, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1963.

As for his records, well OK, not “Splish Splash”, but “Dream Lover”, produced by the Erteguns, was one of the most shimmering records of 1960 – and was followed, very surprisingly, by the best version of “Mack the Knife”, with Darin unarguably the master of this radically different genre. Then came “Beyond the Sea”, a more than worthy successor that didn’t try to replace the Charles Trenet original (“La Mer”, a timeless track blemished only by the ridiculously over-hearty male voice choir at the end). I still love it. I loved a number of his later records too, though often preferring the B-sides. Neil Young said this of him: “I used to be pissed off at Bobby Darin because he changed styles so much. Now I look at him and think he was a genius.”

He sang duets on TV with an extraordinary range of people from Stevie Wonder to Judy Garland, from Dinah Shore to Clyde McPhatter and from Linda Ronstadt to Jimmy Durante. He sang “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” with Judy Collins in 1969; he could sing “Cry Me A River” and “Lonesome Whistle Blues”; he could play bluesy harmonica and convincing drum solos; and do fine imitations of Hollywood stars.”

Lovely, and true. Check the version of “Lonesome Whistle Blues”. In a week where I watched Mumford & Sons and The Old Crow Medicine Show’s self-regarding documentary, Big Easy Express, (loosely inspired by Festival Express), the ability to inhabit a Hank Williams song is not to be sneezed at. Darin’s really there, the young pretenders not even in the same State.

Thinking of Bobby Darin, I remembered that Mad Magazine’s opinion of him was less complimentary
Somewhere I have this issue, but found what I was looking for on BobbyDarin.net: “In Oct. 1961, the pop culture magazine Mad introduced a feature entitled “Celebrities Wallets.” It was drawn by George Woodbridge and written by Arnie Kogen. The Magazine stated “With this article, MAD introduces a new feature, based on the proposition that you can tell an awful lot about a person by the scraps of paper and cards and bills and photographs and money he carries around in his wallet. Since we are all basically nosey, we thought it would be exciting to see what famous people carried around in their wallets. So we sent out a special research team to pick some famous pockets…”. Bobby Darin was their first subject.

Darin

Emil & The Detectives, National Theatre
I know it’s a kids’ show, but I was one once, and this – well, this was my favourite book. My copy, foxed with age and with its black and white line drawings badly coloured in, is a treasured possession. I was not let down, especially by the extraordinary Expressionist set design and the Weimar-esque pit band, led by Kevin Amos. Their verve, and the wonderful score by Paul Englishby, added immeasurably to the experience. The choreographing of the children, the commuters and the cycling is really clever, and the use of light to create a city and its sewers, breathtaking. If you’re around, find an excuse to go…

On the way to and from Emil, great busking…
In sheet rain, almost vertical, turning the Hungerford footbridge across the Thames into a swimming pool: Tuba and Melodica, playing “Winter Wonderland”. Tuba. Melodica. Now that’s a combination. Then a clarinettist, playing only the sax solo from Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”, but looping it and using the echo to play around himself. Fabulous. I don’t know if we were paying them for their inspired choices or their fortitude…

Well, that’s a hundred posts reached. Whew! All best to every one of you reading, and have a sterling seasonal sojourn. Back, in some form, in 2014.

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