No Wave singer Cristina, AKA Cristina Monet-Palaci, was a Franco-American Harvard drop-out, lingerie model and writer for the Village Voice when she recorded her legendarily cynical version of the Peggy Lee standard “Is That All There Is?” in 1980. The witty, sardonic remake was produced by August Darnell (better known in his guise as Kid Creole) and released on ZE Records, the label run by her boyfriend/later husband Michael Zilkha.
On “Is That All There Is?” Cristina emotes like a world-weary debutante on a coke jag. One reviewer wrote “If Jackie Kennedy had made a record, it would sound like this.” True, but a slightly more decadent Jackie O… this is not middling boredom on display, this is ennui deluxe!
Celebrated songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were so furious when the original lyrics of their 1969 Grammy-winner: “Then I fell in love with the most wonderful boy in the world. We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes. We were so very much in love” became “And then I met the most wonderful boy in Manhattan. We used to walk by the river, and he beat me black and blue and I loved it. I could kill for that guy,” that they had an injunction against the recording that lasted for 24 years.
This 12” record used to be so difficult to find that when you could locate it, it would sell for $100 bucks. It was practically a requirement for serious record collectors to have a copy. Despite the relative scarcity of the vinyl, the song became a cult hit in New York clubs and was a signature tune played frequently during Rodney Bingenheimer’s early 80s “Rodney on the Roq” radio shows. To this day, it is apparently still the record holder of the top requested song title on BBC Radio 1.
Tom Waits, wedding singer, on America 2-Night in 1978. Waits croons “Better Off Without A Wife” after a snarkily funny intro by Barth Gimbel (Martin Mull):
“I think there’s no better way to really make a tribute to these people than through music. And fortunately we have a very special guest with us… Mr. Tom Waits! And when he plays and sings, it’s almost like music.”
Waits had appeared the previous year on Fernwood Tonight before the show moved to Alta Coma, California (“the unfinished furniture capital of the world”) and changed its name.
While Waits’ appearance on Fernwood Tonight from 1976 has been viewable on Youtube for awhile, this America 2-Night clip is a bit of a rarity.
“I get a little choked up on occasions like this. Actually the closest I have ever been to a marriage is… I was the best man at a friend of mine’s divorce.”
Former Page 3 girl Samantha Fox racked up an impressive string of hit singles when she retired as a topless glamour model and went into dance music. If you are old enough to have watched MTV in the 80s, you are likely to recall her biggest hit, “Touch Me (I Want Your Body),” which was #1 in seventeen countries.
But what about her lesser known “Love House”? Written and produced by Ferdi and Rob Bolland, the South African brothers behind Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” smash, “Love House” was one of the very first “Acid House” songs to break into the mainstream charts, but is less recalled—and less respected—today than contemporary late 80s genre hits like “Theme from S’Express” and A Guy Called Gerald’s “Voodoo Ray.” There must be thousands of 12” records of this accidentally brilliant song in the cut-out bins just waiting to be rediscovered by younger DJs.
“Love House” (and the remixes it spawned, including the “Black Pyramid Mix” produced by dance music legend Kevin Saunderson) samples from Bohannon’s “Let’s Start the Dance,” Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks,” “Just That Type of Girl” by Madame X and Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two.”
Although I’ve always been a big Kate Bush fan, I can’t lie to you and tell you that I find her music videos and TV appearances (for the most part) anything other than totally laughable, at least the performances from the earlier part of her career. I mean, come on! Even her staunchest fans would have difficulty defending goofy clips like this one.
Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh obviously feels this way, too. Witness his spot-on “interpretive” parody of Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” on the BBC’s 2011 Let’s Dance for Comic Relief and compare it to the original.
One YouTube commenter wrote “I would go lesbian for Noel Fielding.” Another quipped “It really looks like this is something he does every Saturday regardless of comic relief.”
Well, practice makes perfect…
Update: Below, a comparison video. Thanks to Ana Phylaxis for the heads-up!
Pee Wee Marquette is another of those characters who, like Moondog, found a niche in New York’s cultural ecosystem and carved out a life for himself “back in the day.”
It was not probably what you’d call a very good life, but, what the hell, he’ll remain a sort of Jazz legend long after we’re all forgotten. Pee Wee was the 3 foot 9 inch announcer and MC at Birdland, the famous NYC nightclub, and can be heard on the intros to countless classic live Jazz records from the 50s and 60s.
There’s even a complete CD that came out in 2008 consisting of nothing by Pee Wee’s intros, which are made all the more entertaining by Pee Wee’s deliberate mispronunciation of the names of key acts. You see, Pee Wee would pretty much make life miserable for Jazz acts at Birdland unless they paid him a “tip.” Thus, Horace Silver was “Whore Ass Silber” until Silver relented and paid ($5 in the later years, which was a lot for that time).
The diminutive, but cantankerous, Pee Wee would elbow a non-payer in the groin, blow cigar smoke in their faces, and do even less pleasant things (like telling Bobby Hutcherson to “pack your stuff and get on out of here, we don’t need you”). For this and other reasons he was dubbed by his “pal” Lester “Prez” Young as “half a motherfucker.”
According to legend (and I don’t think this story is on the Internet anywhere), trombonist Bill Watrous once caught up with Pee Wee, who was working the door of the Hawaii Kai restaurant on Broadway in his later years (dressed in a turban and a Nehru jacket, he’d stand outside and try to rustle up paying customers). Watrous saw Pee Wee getting dressed down by some tough guy, claiming that all sorts of harm would befall Pee Wee unless Pee Wee repaid the money he owed or whatever that matter entailed. Watrous saw the tough guy turn to leave and make for the stairs and then saw Marquette run over and stab the toughie in the ass several times with a switch blade before returning to his post, acting as if nothing had happened.
In the book Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, Mort Lewis, one-time manager of the Dave Brubeck Quartet recalled Marquette:
There was a black midget, Pee Wee Marquette, who was the master of ceremonies at Birdland. And every act that played there, the musicians had to give him fifty cents and he would announce their names as he introduced the band. Dave Brubeck gave him fifty cents, Joe Dodge gave him fifty cents, and Norman Bates gave him fifty cents. Paul Desmond refused to pay one cent. And when Pee Wee Marquette would introduce the band, he’d always say, in that real high-pitched voice, “Now the world famous Dave Brubeck Quartet, featuring Joe Dodge on drums, Norman Bates on bass,” and then he’d put his hand over the microphone and turn back to Joe or Norman and say, “What’s that cat’s name?” referring to Paul. Then he would take his hand off the microphone and say, ‘On alto sax, Bud Esmond.’ Paul loved that.
Some have questioned whether Marquette was actually female, and just passed as a male, but I’m pretty sure that, had that been the case, it would have made it into the legend somehow or another. Plus, his voice sounds distinctly male to my ears. Interestingly, Pee Wee was interviewed in the mid-80s by David Letterman, so somewhere out there there’s video of William Crayton “Pee Wee” Marquette, telling stories of the old Birdland from his point of view, but (Internet scrub that I am) I wasn’t able to find it.
A compilation of Pee Wee Marquette’s exuberant Birdland intros:
Here comes the Super Brother—James Brown hitting the spot and getting mystical about education (“The only way you can live is to know. And to not to know, you can never live”) on Soul Train in 1973. He gives a slower, funkier version of “Sex Machine” (listen to that guitar) and impressive versions of “Try Me,” “Get On The Good Foot,” “Soul Power” and the excellent “Escapism.”
Here’s an interesting interview with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, shot on a roof in downtown Manhattan in 1988. This footage is completely raw and unedited, with cuts and sound interruptions intact. As such, it takes Kim a couple of minutes to get into the swing of things, but she talks about life as a woman in a rock’n'roll band, art, sex, playing bass, her projects Harry Crews (with Lydia Lunch) and Ciccone Youth, and she reads extracts from a book called So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. The interview is about 20 minutes long and is split into two parts.
A few years ago, there was a several gigabyte torrent file going around of every Clash performance from American television, a separate folder of the British TV clips, another consisting of their European television appearances and one that was marked “miscellaneous.” It was gold, to say the least. (The same guy had other similar mega-torrents of The Smiths, The Fall and Mott The Hoople. Naturally I snatched all of them. You know who you are, and if you are reading this, God bless you!)
One of the jewels in that digital crown was this Clash concert in Paris, live from the La Palace nightclub in 1980 in support of London Calling. Exciting, well-shot (with cameramen onstage) and the band is as tight here as you are ever likely to see them.
Train in Vain
I Fought The Law
Wrong ‘Em Boyo
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
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