Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sunday night is... Calloway and Boop

The pleasures of living in a metamorphic world in which everything is a haunted pun. Calloway turns into Michael Jackson into a dancing walrus and everything else turns into everything else. Keep the children far hence. Ah, home sweet home.

ps Some blog comments come in so late they feel like comments made to an empty room when everyone else has gone. I don't know why this is. I try to answer them - most recently Hayley in the Teechers' post some time back. I get an email to say I have an unmoderated comment, one that refers to months ago. They are generally perfectly good. Hayley's came in five minutes ago. Apologies, Hayley. Not my fault.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark Granier said...

I have loved Minnie The Moocher since I heard Cab Calloway for the first time, well over a decade ago. FAR better than MJ. 'Kicking the gong around'... fabulous. Goes well with Betty too. Thanks for that.

George S said...

I think Jackson could dance well - and sing. Don't you think there is some similarity in the movements, Mark?

Calloway is a delight, of course. More sheer fun than Jacko ever was.

James said...

Cab, and everything else in "Stormy Weather" - yes, absolutely presaged everything good and bad in music since, but no one's held a stage like him. How many wasps did he swallow in his time? He even half-upstaged the Nicholas brothers in their brief but unforgettable glory. Mick Jagger meets Duke Ellington meets Fear of A Black Planet.

Have you seen his radio ads - meaning, 1930s ads selling actual radios, using adultery and its prevention as a selling point - on Youtube? Like this:

The similarity between Cab, MJ, Marvin and the rest - yes, definitely.

Mark Granier said...

"I think Jackson could dance well - and sing. Don't you think there is some similarity in the movements, Mark?"

Absolutely George, surprising similarity, I should have made that clear. And yes, of course Jackson was a good dancer, and a good singer too in his own way. Jackson's dancing was impressive, but it often seemed limited to a series of slick, self-consciously aggressive jaggy arm movements, tight twists, kicks etc. He never really seemed happy.

I would have to watch and compare more examples to be sure, but the difference that strikes me immediately is that Calloway's dancing seem far more openly joyful and improvised, less constricted; as you say, "more sheer fun".

Same with Jackson's singing, either something glossy and tense about it, music to pump iron to, or it was all syrupy schmaltz. 'Billy Jean' was good though, maybe his best (though the video, as usual, casts Jackson rather boringly in the role of hero/angel).

Jackson was part of the MTV generation of course, and pop by then was much more carefully choreographed. Still, I always remember Paulin's wonderfully tetchy verdict, maybe 20 years ago, on that TV litty chatterbox show (where everyone else was talking about Jackson's latest album as if it was a very serious, very solemn work of art): Paulin said Jackson's singing reminded him of Teflon: "non-stick music." (I know I've referred to that Paulin remark before, but this seemed an even better place for it).

George S said...

Yes, James. Many thanks for that. I had actually seen the radio advert and considered using it some time. It reminded me very strongly of the sleeping-car train scene in Some Like It Hot.

And I agree with both Tom Paulin and you, Mark, about the teflon aspect of Jackson's music, but it is extremely good teflon, the best there is. It's a bit like the Andrews Sisters - pure gloss. It's just that with the Andrews Sisters we have a more complete sense of history and that lends them substance. It may be that Jacko's own music will start gathering its own historical cocoon. Michael Jackson as a shipwreck - a glossy private liner - covered in barnacles. Jackson is still good to dance to.

After all, it's only pop. Not Music. Not even in the Tom Paulin 'authentic' sense. I remember how TP disliked the Schubert lieder as sung by Ian Bostridge and how he dismissed Tennyson. Some of that dismissal has a soundbite gloss and teflonness of its own.

But then we all - myself included - have to be wary of that.

Mark Granier said...

I agree George, wariness is good, especially when one has a fondness for aphorisms, as I do.