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.


Sammy Reed said...

I found a YouTube video a few days ago of someone playing a New Image record from 1990! Unfortunately, "Ms. New Image" isn't doing lead, but it's a male singer who I would guess is Mike Thomas!

Timmy said...

I am CRYING now, as I sit here in my golden years listlessly listening to this absolute GEM of a record. It is not only MY favourite song of all time, but it HAS TO BE EVERYONE'S fav, forever!
Long Live The Goon Loon, or whatever it's called...

Timmy said...

I have carefully listened to the A-Side over & over again & again, & have realized some factual procedures. First off, the label on the 45 has the actual title of the song incorrectly printed. It should be: "The Prawn Dune". The vocalist begins singing it incorrectly as "The Prune Dune", but then gets it right, as in "The Prawn Dune". Later, he reduces it to: The Prone Dune". That would make sense, as a prawn is a creature that does have a unique walk & some idiot, trying to make a hit record by emulating the dance craze of the early 60's, would use that as a title for the "NEXT BIG DANCE". Is anybody reading this?

John said...

This is a fun record. The first thing that came to mind when I heard it was that it sounded a little like Frank Zappa. I just figured out why. Compare it to "Outside Now" from Joe's Garage. Same meandering vocal style!