Category: youtube music

So Sweet, So Cold, So Fair

Bogart apparently used to say that the Academy Awards were rigged, that to make judging fair every actor and actress should have to play Hamlet.

Which isn’t to say that I use it as some sort of competitive rating system, but I’ve had a long love affair with the song “St. James Infirmary Blues”, largely because of the difference in style each musician brings to the classic.

From the wikipedia:

“St. James Infirmary Blues” is based on an 18th century traditional English folk song called “The Unfortunate Rake” (also known as “The Unfortunate Lad” or “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”). There are numerous versions of the song throughout the English-speaking world.

The first I was familiar with was actually the Cab Calloway version:


It wasn’t long after that though that I stumbled into the most famous version, Louis Armstrong’s, with that long low note in the opening:


Eric Burdon and the Animals bring a White-guy-blues melodrama angle, but in my opinion the backup vocals take a lot of the fun out of it:


Joe Cocker does a nice job of giving it that ’70s blues twist:


Jack White of The White Stripes belts out my favourite modern rendition:


In the end though, it’s tough to beat the simplicity and lyrical embellishment of Danny Barker’s version:


That Louvin Feeling

Anything with the power and weight of religion, which can bring humanity to create great art, can also inspire the ridiculous. I’m still not sure how I label the Louvin Brothers.

Are you (are you) ready
For the great atomic power?
Will you rise and meet your Savior in the air?
Will you shout or will you cry
When the fire rains from on high?
Are you ready for the great atomic power?

Great Atomic Power, The Louvin Brothers


Ira Louvin was a great example of the dual personality that seems to permeate rural religion:

Their songs were heavily influenced by their Baptist faith and warned against sin. Ira Louvin was notorious for his drinking and short temper. Married four times, his third wife shot him three times in the back after he tried to strangle her. – Wikipedia



I’m just starting to realize how much Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and the work of Billy Van specifically, shaped my childhood.

[youtube=] lists Billy Van as Count Frightenstein, Bwana Clyde, Gorilla, Grizelda, Librarian, Maharishi, Oracle, Pet Vet, Singing Soldier, and the Wolfman – and yet he sells each one. The site also mentions that he was the child of a vaudeville family, which certainly comes through in the gags – the non sequitur jokes, the two man setups, the character work. Was Hilarious House of Frightenstein the last gasp of the classic vaudeville formula [for children, in a low budget broadcast, on an educational station]?


Ugly Kiddie Songs

I was watching the the glass teat the other day and was shown a commercial for some Minipops knock off CD for kids. The formula is familiar: take popular music (in this case Top 40 Hits of the ’60s through ’80s), clean up any lyrics that might be off-putting, then have some overly self-possessed children squeal it all into microphones while cousin Eddie and his band play backup.

This isn’t the commercial in question, but a demonstration of the genre:


I’ve been unable to locate the original commercial in question, but it contained a remake of a certain hit for Jimmy Soul, a hit re-written to tell children to do whatever makes them happy for the rest of their lives. Great message, and I could see some 5-year-old girl falling in love with those happy tones, tucking that song away as a secret method of brightening a bad day, and then hitting fifteen and suddenly encountering the original:



(I found Kris & Scott’s Daily Affirmation ably demolished that festering nugget.)