Posts Tagged ‘lounge’

To prolong the suspense, or the agony, of our Spotlight Team’s series on lounge versions of pop songs, we pause tonight to consider the question Frank Sinatra would surely ask if he were still with us: How am I supposed to swing with the broads when it’s nothin’ but lugs in here?

Excellent question, Mr. Chairman. We have only a small pool of data to work with, but so far every practitioner of this strange art has been a white male. (The gentleman I’ll introduce tomorrow doesn’t break the pattern.) Where are the women? Why can’t we have an album of swinging rock music by Diana Krall or Cassandra Wilson?

Possible explanations: The women are not interested. They’re not nerds. The music is weird. They have better things to do. They don’t want to record an album of rock or hip-hop in the Las Vegas style and then have millions of middle-aged male trolls whine on Twitter that “You’ve stolen my childhood!”

There’s yet another question that Sinatra wouldn’t have thought of asking – Why is it that Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Richard Cheese, and tomorrow’s guest, who are all men, only cover songs by men? – but I don’t have an answer and frankly that’s quite enough diversity for tonight. Equality takes time, female readers, especially when you’re a male.

(Just to be fair: Cheese covered Madonna’s “Material Girl.” Isn’t that enough?)

Let’s check the inbox

When my friend Paul appeared on NPR after his first book was published, he quickly eviscerated the caller with the opening question. “That’ll teach her to participate,” he told me later.

It is with a similarly generous spirit that I turn to a just-received comment from a Mr. Jerry Kaufman of Seattle, Washington. Jerry and I met in a trench outside of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. The British accused Jerry of colluding with the Russians, but I just laughed. I knew he was good-bad but not evil.

At the time of our meeting, Jerry was an advanced music fan with a record collection I envied and who was about to form a New Wave or No Wave band called Pictures of Vegetables. You can tell right there that he and his bandmates (they might not all have known that they were his bandmates) cared not a bit for commercial success. I would’ve changed at least three words in that name, but then I’m a crass person who has a love-hate relationship with money.

Jerry writes: “So have you listened to a band called Nouvelle Vague? They do lounge covers of 1970s and 1980s songs (for example, ‘Blister in the Sun’).”

Excellent! A band I had never heard of. However, this collective of sexy French people plays bossa nova, not lounge. If you like Brazilian pop – even Frankie did – you’ll enjoy their debut album, Nouvelle Vague (2004), though I got tired of them messing around with their tricks a ways before the 14 tracks ended.

The highlights for me were The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton,” Modern English’s “I Melt with You,” The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” (one of my favorite songs), and the song that never fails to make me turn my head to hide my tears, The Dead Kennedys’ “Too Drunk to Fuck,” which sounds far better than the original when the lyrics are sung with a French accent.

Thank you for writing in, sir.

Tomorrow: We’re done!

 

This is Part III of our investigation of Las Vegas and what the Rat Pack can do with rock ’n’ roll. Tonight the Spotlight Team revisits a record I reviewed in 2013.

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Rock Swings released in 2005

Here’s what I said:

I respect Paul Anka for his creativity; he wrote for Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra, and how many people can say that? But Anka is also responsible for three crimes against humanity: “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “Puppy Love,” and the ultimate in offensiveness at the molecular level, “(You’re) Having My Baby.”

I stand by this statement, but after five years of thinking it over (I had nothing else to do), I must make two emendations:

1) The more I learn about Paul Anka, the more impressed I become. He’s recorded 45 albums, which puts him ahead of The Rolling Stones, Santana, The Muppets, and even Mannheim Steamroller. He’s been a success since I was a baby, and I was a baby when Athens fought Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, and also based on things my parents have said I believe I wasn’t a success being a baby.

2) I wrote that Rock Swings “just slips in as a Buy.” As we say in the porn biz, “This is so wrong.” I’ve learned to appreciate this record. I’ve learned to love this record. This is a fun record! It’s not only the best overall example of all this lounging around in the rock arena; if I had to make a list of the 50 best albums of the ’00s, Rock Swings would be 49th or 50th. (Full disclosure: I only know about 50 albums from the ’00s.)

I don’t know if Anka modeled any part of his career on Sinatra, but I’m convinced that if Sinatra had ever decided to play the same game as Pat Boone and Richard Cheese, the result would’ve been very close to Rock Swings.

And yet Rock Swings, as superb as it is, does not provide the ultimate thrill of this weird, lonely rock-as-lounge genre. Nor does it answer this question: Can you enjoy these covers if you’ve never heard the originals? Because up until this point, I knew almost all the originals.

In Part IV, we unveil the man and the mystery song that punctured the blood-brain barrier and inspired my co-workers to insist I wear headphones.

Soundgarden trivia

Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” was covered by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, Paul Anka, and, of course, Richard Cheese, making it the single most popular tune among Vegas-style crooners. I can see why Pat Boone passed on it – he was doing metal covers, and in 1997, Soundgarden wasn’t metal, it was grunge. That distinction is meaningless today. But the song is about as speedy as a 15-year-old retired corgi. It was perfect for Pat.