Thursday, August 02, 2012

Norridge Mayhams Last Gasp

Within the greater song-poem world, Norridge Mayhams has always been something of a hero to me. Not only did he do it all himself, he often did it quite well. In a career lasting over 40 years, he went from Gospel to Raunchy Blues, from Latin-tinged idiosyncratic records to straight ahead pop and rock and roll. He wrote both the words and music for most of his songs, and in the early days (through at least the late '50's) even sang on several of his records, in addition to releasing them on at least three of his own record labels. He even wrote a hit song, "We'll Build a Bungalow". One of his records, the earlier of at least two versions of his song "Mary Ann McCarthy", remains one of my three or four favorite song-poem records.

So it was with considerable sadness that I listened for the first time to today's record, which is among the last that Mayhams produced. As described at the AS/PMA site linked above, shortly after his final triumph, the 1976 double album capturing a good 15 years worth of his best material, Mayham's life began to fall apart. As heard here, just three years later (in 1979), not only has he moved on from some truly wonderful styles of music, and into the most mindless version of disco possible, but he is also expressing his grief at the death of his dear wife, Shirley. The words are actually touchingly sweet, but when paired with the stupid beat, the obnoxious synth, the out of town guitar and single trumpet notes (not to mention the crappy production), the effect is fairly depressing. My guess is that it is Norridge Mayhams himself singing here. If so, it's with (in what was probably his 70's) a shadow of the life-affirming voice from his records of two and three decades earlier.

Download: Seaboard Coastliners - Sweet Shirley 

"Sweet Shirley" was actually the b-side. The less said about the truly mindless a-side, "Dance Dance All Night Long", the better, but here it is:

Download: Seaboard Coastliners - Dance Dance All Night Long

By the way, at least one further Mayhams record may have been released, if the order suggested at AS/PMA is accurate, that one featuring what may be this same recording of "Dance Dance" along with a disco remake of "We'll Build a Bungalow"


Darryl W. Bullock said...

Wow - what a find...and what a horror. But I can't believe that's Norridge on vocals on Sweet Shirley, it doesn't sound anything like him to me. Even as you say he'd have been in his 70s he would still have his accent...and that higher-pitched nasal quality is completely missing.

Timmy said...

Sure sounds a lot like someone trying fantastically to emulate the great vocalist Bryan Ferry.