A young Anthony Perkins looking very much like a teen idol on the cover of his 1958 jazz record, ‘From My Heart.’
Anthony Perkins is so well-known for his portrayal of Norman Bates, the cross-dressing killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that it often eclipses the fact Perkins was an exceptionally talented actor and had experienced success before playing the role which has often overshadowed his large body of work. Prior to 1960 Perkins had been busy working in television, since the age of 21, while appearing shoulder-to-shoulder in films with cinematic legends like Sophia Loren, Gary Cooper, Lee Van Cleef, Audrey Hepburn (whom Perkins serenaded in the 1959 film Green Mansions), and another infamous future horror icon, a young Betsy Palmer—the fictional mother of hockey-mask slasher Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th. During this time—specifically in 1956—Perkins made an appearance on NBC’s Goodyear Television Playhouse which required the actor to sing. The portrayal got Perkins an offer of a record contract with Epic, which he accepted. So yeah, I’m here to tell you Norman Bates knew how to swing like Sinatra, baby. This is a fact.
While it’s true Perkins scored a bonafide Top 30 hit with “Moonlight Swim” a single released in 1957, unfortunately his musical career never really went anywhere commercially except number 24 on the Billboard charts the same year. Much like the determined Norman Bates, the actor wasn’t deterred and released three albums over the course of two years. So you know, I’m not here to poke fun at the fact Anthony Perkins (who, as a singer, went by Tony Perkins) for making a bunch of mellow jazz pop. I really dig his obscure contribution to musical culture as well as the image of Perkins kicking out the feel-good jams in a recording studio in Hollywood during the 1950s. And, as it turns out, he’s a very talented vocalist with legitimate emotive skill and range. Of course, all this makes sense as Perkins spent his fair share of time on the stage throughout his career. Perkins, as many of you may know, is also the father of excellent alt-folk rocker, Elvis Perkins.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention there are a number of songs in the elder Perkins’ catalog which become alarmingly sinister-sounding (especially lyrically) if you consider they are being crooned out by the future Norman fucking Bates, such as “Accidents Will Happen,” “The Prettiest Girl in School,” “Why Shouldn’t I,” and “Why Was I Born.” I’ve posted a few tunes by Perkins for you to ponder below. You will never be able to look at Psycho the same way again, that’s for sure. I also included some choice photos of Perkins as a preening pop star, and a black and white clip of Perkins performing “If You Can Find Me, I’m Here” on the television show Evening Primrose in 1966, which is pretty much golden.
Perkins in the recording studio sometime in the 1950s.
Tony Perkins on the cover of his single “The Prettiest Girl in School”/“No No No. It Isn’t True” showing us a little Norman Bates in the face in 1958.
The cover of a French-pressing of one of Perkins’ albums.
Because it is too great not to share, here’s Perkins spinning some vintage vinyl.
“The Prettiest Girl in School.”
Perkins was a huge fan of Elvis Presley. Here’s his version of “Moonlight Swim” which Elvis performed in 1961’s ‘Blue Hawaii.’ The song was originally recorded by Bing Crosby in 1937.
“Hit the Road to Dreamland.”
Footage of Perkins on the television show, ‘Evening Primrose’ performing “If You Can Find Me, I’m Here.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Steve McQueen visits Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh on the set of ‘Psycho’
‘The Giggler’: The horrific serial killer from Boston whose calling card was ‘laughter’
When satanic serial killer Richard Ramirez terrorized Willis from ‘Diff’rent Strokes’
The Boston Strangler does Sinatra: Albert DeSalvo’s creepy single, ‘Strangler in the Night’