Posts Tagged ‘Pat Boone’


Plenty of classical and jazz musicians have crossed over to rock ’n’ roll, but not many crooners. Where are the interpreters in the style of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett?

There’s a stream of jazz musicians interpreting rock today, and as for classical musicians, that stream is a Class 5 whitewater adventure. You can’t swing a sackbut in a concert hall without hitting yet another eager band of classical musicians who are ready to step up and throw down: 2Cellos, The Harp Twins, The Vitamin String Quartet, and, my favorite, Bella Electric Strings.

Qualifications for membership in Bella Electric Strings:

1. Must be white, female, and under 30
2. Must dislike food
3. Must play the violin

But who is performing the rock (and hip-hop) repertoire in a lounge/swing style? In this, Part I of a four-part investigation by our Spotlight Team, we look at our first competitor: Pat Boone.

In a Metal Mood released in 1997

Boone, who made his reputation defusing black music for white teenagers in malt shops, goes for broke on 12 hard-rock classics, from Judas Priest to Led Zep. Sorry, Pat, no sale. The 1950s big-band arrangements and the chorus of women from the lite-rock channel are silly. Boone’s voice isn’t suited to this work; it’s smooth, seamless, and not at all steamy. Mitt Romney could’ve recorded this disc.

Of the 12 songs here, Dio’s “Holy Diver” works best as a bouncy lounge number, but Boone’s bland voice gets in the way. He doesn’t do too badly with Nazareth’s “Love Hurts”; the original moved at a Boone-like stroll. Unfortunately, that lack of speed makes the original and the cover boring.

His version of Van Halen’s “Panama” achieves some warmth, probably because Van Halen gave us a show tune with killer guitars. But when he gets to the spoken-word part about driving a car on a hot night and reaching down between his legs, he reminds you that he’s Pat Boone.

In a Metal Mood is not bad for a man who released his first record way back in 1956 (it was called Howdy!, the most inoffensive title in the history of titles), but, also, not good. I will say this for Pat: I’m convinced he was serious when he conceived this project. Plus he’s got titanium balls (though no common sense) for covering Metallica and Jimi Hendrix.

Am I experiencing a jab of guilt, or is it just an undigested bit of beef?

Sometimes even Run-DMSteve must be fair. Pat Boone in his prime had a fine-tuned voice with some power behind it, and he made what changes he could to keep his career going for decades. He had a record in the Billboard Top 40 every week for four consecutive years. In the decade of the ’50s there was only one artist who outsold him and that artist was somebody named Elvis. I don’t care for Boone’s music and this particular project was ill-advised, but look, he tried.

This is more than I can say for the 14 or so artists who put together Lounge-A-Palooza in the same year, all of whom should’ve been stopped at the border and incarcerated in wire cages and separated for months from their instruments. Sadly, this includes Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, who covered Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Compared to them, Pat would’ve thrown up his rawkfist.


Call me Scooter

Writing is dark and lonely work, and no one has to do it. No one will even care much if it doesn’t get done at all, so that choosing to do it and to try to do it well is enough of an existential errand, enough of a first step, and for whatever my money and counsel’s worth, enough of a last step, too. (Richard Ford)

No one has to do it. And because no one has to do it, because no one is standing over you with a whip and a chair, it’s very easy not to do it. I’ve written more words in my favorite coffee shop in Portland and on the fifth floor of the Vancouver Community Library than I have at home. That’s because both places have plenty of plugs for my wheezy laptop (the coffee shop also has raspberry coffee cake) and I can’t connect to the Internet in either. Well, I might be able to connect if I knew their wireless passwords, but I’ve never asked, and even if I knew them, my laptop would probably refuse to cooperate. It’s a real pal that way.

Today, after an interview for an editing job, some miscellaneous job-search stuff, and a walk in the fleeting sunshine, I got down to the business of fiction. But because I was working at home, I was immediately distracted by my email. I dealt with a couple of recruiters, answered messages I didn’t have to answer, and shut it down.

Then a question arose in what I was writing, and instead of scribbling it in my notebook to look up later, as I would if I were between bites of raspberry coffee cake, I succumbed to the Great God Google. Of course, I spent more time online than I needed.

I finally got in my hour and a half, but I would’ve been more efficient if I could learn to keep our instant-gratification culture at arm’s length. I probably could’ve hit two hours. If you blow 30 minutes online, you don’t get those 30 minutes back somewhere else.

Elizabeth Benedict said it best: “Write like a maniac. No one else will do it for you.”

Tomorrow’s challenge: How to end Chapter 5!

Random Pick of the Day
Paul Anka, Rock Swings (2005)
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.”
Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’ what you’re thinkin’ of me
Havin’ my ba– [sound of Hulk smashing puny human]

But admit it, Run-DMSteve, the man can sing. Rock Swings, an album of covers of mainstream and alternative hits from the 1980s and ’90s, stomps Pat Boone’s I’m In a Metal Mood (1997) into the dirt. Boone doesn’t take his metal originals seriously, plus he wouldn’t know how to deliver a song if he worked for FedEx.

Rock Swings is not Richard Cheese and his deliberately cornball covers (Aperitif for Destruction, 2005). Anka rearranges his choice of songs to find their essence, then delivers them as if they were the American songbook. Not every song works, but frankly I was stunned by his interpretations of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Throw in Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and you’ve got a disc that just slips in as a Buy.