Showing posts with label Bob Gerard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bob Gerard. Show all posts

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Intoxicating Sound of Incompetence!

The story behind this record - well, my story of this record begins not long after I started collecting song-poems. This was well before I'd ever looked at eBay, and what little online record buying I did was through independent websites and GEMM. And it was in looking at the latter one day, probably in 1999, that I saw a Tin Pan Alley release called "The Proon Doon Walk" for sale. Being short on funds at that moment, I saved my finding for later, but when I went back to buy it, it was gone. The title stayed with me, and I always wondered about fabulous, bizarre title that got away.

Flash forward more than a dozen years, to a point at which I received one of the occasional e-mail unsolicited offers to be sold some song-poems (this has happened a few times since I started posting song-poems). Among those offered - all of them listed by record number, for easier comparison with my previous collection - was TPA 402. When I got my purchases, I was overjoyed to see that this one was the very same "Proon Doon Walk".

And while great or weird song-poem titles often turn out, once heard, to be among the duller records in the genre, I'm glad to say this is the exception. It helps that this record was clearly recorded around the same time - and I surmise, listening to it, by the same people - as TPA 390, just 12 records earlier, which contains the wonderfully awful "Snow Man", also sung, as are today's songs, by Bob Gerard.

I simply can't get enough of this deeply, deeply weird record, and would love to have been at the recording session to see if everyone was trying not to crack up the whole time. It's an intoxicating listen.

Like "Snow Man", "The Proon Doon Walk" contains some of the most incompetent bass playing ever heard outside of a first timers music lesson. The bass player literally doesn't seem to be playing the same song as the rest of the band. That's okay, though, because even the guitarist seems to be in his own world at times. At the start of this record, it sounds to me as if at least two different songs are beginning.

And all of is just the underbelly to a ridiculous lyric - listen carefully to the directions, and try to do this dance (perhaps you can contemplate what "Proon Doon" means, too). And those words are set to a repetitive, virtually tuneless melody, featuring Bob Gerard's vocal, in which he demonstrates absolutely no recognizable singing techniques, save for the occasional excited interjection ("YEAH!"). Then there's the momentary addition of reverb at the 1:14 point, which then disappears just as quickly (it has to, the whole song is only 95 seconds long!).

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this song is that writer Nathaniel Eing submitted it not only to Tin Pan Alley, but also to the notably un-rock-and-roll oriented Noval records, where it was released as Noval 138, as "arranged by Jay". I would LOVE to hear what this lyric sounds like paired with the slow, lugubrious arrangements favored by the folks at Noval. I don't know which one came first, but Noval seems like the older label to me (I could be totally wrong). In imagining the Noval version, I'm also picturing Mr. Eing's reaction to it, his decision to try again with Tin Pan Alley, and then his reaction to this mess.

But that will have to wait until another day, if at all. And really, isn't it enough to hear the Tin Pan Alley version? For my money, it's one of the more off-kilter things I've ever heard on a 45.

The flip side, "Wandering Eyes", features some of the same half-assed bass playing - seriously, is that a gut-bucket and string? - but the rest of the band manages to hold it together in workmanlike style for a marathon 107 seconds this time, and Bob Gerard just sounds like a guy singing Karaoke, rather than the completely over-his-head singer heard on the A-side.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Not Quite Norah Jones

Upon picking up today's record, titled "Come Away with Me", I was immediately put in the mind of Norah Jones' gorgeous, sultry and immaculately performed hit record of the same name. Upon putting the needle to the record, I was immediately pulled away from that mindset, and sent instead to my imagined site of this recording session.

By this point in the Tin Pan Alley story, they had moved about as far as possible from their origins, wherein established performers and backing musicians performed often first-rate renditions of song-poem lyrics. That had been in the mid-'50's. This record appears to date from about 1969, when the near talentless likes of Bob Gerard fronted an equally inept backing band on material such as today's record and the immortal "Snow Man".

It certainly sounds like ol' Bob is reading this tune for the first time, as he goes along, and he sounds hesitant at several points, failing to follow the melody at all at a few others. The bass player sounds like he's a bit more on board here than on "Snow Man", but he's still clearly not up to the task, flubbing more than a few notes of his own.

Then there are the words, in which "baby" is enticed to come to a land where there are flowers everywhere, rainbows and strawberry clouds in the crimson sky, lollipop trees, floating birds, fairies, and rabbits which chase eagles. Naturally, you'd come to the same conclusion I did, and which is confirmed by the lyrics - this is the place "where boys turn into men". Yeah.

In comparison, "Stepping Out", heard on the flip side, is downright competent. In comparison. Only in comparison. At least the guitarist, whose chording is prominent on the track, seems largely to know what he was doing. Bob Gerard still doesn't seem to always know where the tune is going until he gets to it. The track itself is distracting enough that you might miss this deeply thought out lyric:

You see folks around the town
Standing, walking sitting down

By the way, this weekend, I posted a rare vanity release from Tin Pan Alley, over at WFMU's Beware of the Blog. It's fairly hideous, and for some (me included), that makes it worth a listen or two. You can find that post here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Living Forever

After I began writing today's post, I discovered that one of the two songs was actually not only part of the original AS/PMA site's downloadable songs, but that the same song was also recently featured on Darryl Bullock's magnificent "The World's Worst Records" blog. Usually I check for such things, but it slipped my mind, and now it's too late to start on another pair of songs for the week. That said, the flip side of the record has its own joys to discover, so I'll feature that one first:

Today, we have some wishful thinking on the part of the song-poet in "I'll Never Stop Livin", a claim that seems unlikely at least. I have to wonder if the writer asked for a Calypso flavored track, and if so, if he was in the least satisfied by this emotionless reading of the lyrics, played by a combo that doesn't exactly sound like they know or care what they're doing. Certainly they don't have any of the verve needed to make a Calypso performance work.

But the biggest attraction here - and I must make note it to the greatest degree possible - is one of the dumbest lyrics ever:

"I went to a party last night, where I met a girl that I met"


Meanwhile, is it snowy where you are? It's supposed to be like that here in Chicagoland, but we're missing it, and the same is true for much of the U.S. This has been a lousy winter for those of us who actually love winter, and I include myself in that number.

To make up for it - and as indicated, this one is probably already being shared out there - a snowy number, "Snow Man" by Bob Gerard. But first, a few words on incompetence:

Incompetence, thy name is Tin Pan Alley. By the 1960's, this one time semi-legit semi-song-poem doo-wop label had made the full transition to the cheapest of cheap song-poem factories.

Listen no further than todays 1 minute, 35 second offering, in which not even three musicians (okay, maybe there are four of them) and a singer can figure out how to play the same song at the same time. Much of the credit, or blame, must go to the bass player, who seemingly only knows how to play a single three note pattern, and has no idea how to tune his bass, or what song is being played.

Seriously, this is the worst bass playing I've ever heard on a song poem, reaching the level on that great vanity record, "O Sing to Me". But Bob Gerard, on lead vocal, doesn't exactly sound like he cares about what he's singing, and the whole group sounds like they were late for something and ready to get this record made: