Sunday, September 2, 2012

Woody Allen sings "September Song"

Y'know, if you asked me abaht it, I'd have to say this: it's, kind of like a lwoong lwoong time from May to Decembah, which is when my pahrents go to Flahhrida every yeahh and stay there for, like, six months or something, and I haven't gahht time for things like, y'know dating, when I nevah know whethah the gehrl is  going to "dig" me or not, not that I think "dig" is the proper expression for what you'd cwall, amorous attachment to someone that lasts more than, say, two minutes? (pause for laughs and bodily contortions). Speaking of two minutes, I was trying to figure out why my gehrl friend awll-wees calls me "minute man". (pause) I asked my analyst abahht it and he said it had something to do with an egg timer. That I should use one. Becwosse my egg timer lasts at least twice that lwoong,you know? But then she said to me, honey, your time is up and it hadn't even, you know, beeped yet. Am I supposed to be singing a swoong here? Sahrry. I haven't got time for that, y'know, "waiting game" they twoahhk about in the sahhng, because to be hahhnest with you if I wait much lwwoonger I'm going to be dead! (riotous laughter, applause) Being dead isn't exactly conducive to amorous attachment unless you're, y'know, one of "those" people, and I'm nahht, I sweahh! No matter how it looks, I've never been that desperate.  I know it's very stylish right now to be a zahhmbie and all that sort of thing, but most of my gehrl friends have been zahhmbies to begin with! The sahhng says something about the days dwindling down. Reminds me of how I always go over-budget on my pick-chas. You know, the cash dwindles down.  (scattered applause) By the way, if you wondah why I cwaall them "pick-chas", it's becwooahs my cinematic style hasn't really changed since, you know, Take the Money and Run, when wooa-di-ences really appreciated good cinematography and really hot gehrls. I'm kind of an old-fashioned guy, y'know, I don't use a computer, in fact even typewriters are too modern for me, so I use a unique system, maybe you've seen it, it's called a Gutenberg? Run by hamstah, and hand-cranked when the hamstah dies. Most of my budget goes into replacing all the hamstahs that die of ex-woahh-stion after printing out all those pages, and besides, the Humane Society has been getting after me for some reason. So I spend a lot of twoyyme hand-cranking, you know? It's given me carpal tunnel so I can't indulge in my favorite athletic activity. Guess I'll just have to take up synchronized swimming. Thank you very much, good night. 

Feel like I'm made out of Emmental

This is, or will be, my last word on September Song, I hope. It's now wearing a bit thin now after I was hoodwinked yesterday into thinking Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holliday recorded the exact same song with the exact same arrangement in the exact same vocal style.

Turns out both of them were by Sarah Vaughan, but someone(SOMEONE, not me!) had mislabelled one of the two videos and posted it as Holliday's rendition. There. Mystery solved. What embarrasses me is that I didn't get on to it right away: I did twig on the arrangement, which sounded so much the same that it puzzled me. But because I was expecting to hear two different vocal performances, that's what I heard. Sort of.

I was trying to find some strange versions of this song sung by comedians on variety shows like Ed Sullivan, just to prove that they could be Serious Artists If They Wanted To Be (which they couldn't). Rodney Dangerfield was one of them, I swear. He sang Fool on the Hill, I think, on  Hollywood Palace. I thought he also sang September Song, but I couldn't find any reference to it.

And I DO remember Milton Berle singing it, probably on the Muppet Show.  I found him offensive at the best of times, though the legend of his oversized penis is kind of entertaining. Once during an infamous dick-comparison in a bar somewhere, someone had the audacity to challenge him. His accomplice, probably a gangster in a zoot suit, whispered in his ear, "No problem, Miltie. Just take out enough to win."

I like the concept, if not the execution.

So I find this instead, and think: God, Sammy Davis. I used to buy his albums, incredibly, and marvelled then at how much he sounded like Frank Sinatra. He does, in his phrasing more than his vocal timbre which is actually warmer and smoother. Most singers try for beauty, and Sinatra didn't bother because he had Something Else. He appeared to think with his voice, and I don't know if anyone else has ever done that. (Some men think with their penis, but that's another story.)

A couple of things put me off Sammy Davis. He became more and more Sammy Davis as he got older, and disappeared into the sunken trough of Living Legend. There was all that Candy Man business, followed by the appalling Sweet Gingerbread Man ("Feel like I'm made out of peppermint, uh-huh, uh-huh"). In the mid-'80s I saw the beef-on-a-stick skewering of Davis on SCTV, in which Joe Flaherty nailed him as a histrionic white guy in an Afro spouting show-biz hyperbole. Then I saw Jim Carrey's grotesque impersonation of him, which many found offensive. Well, yes, it WAS offensive, but that was the whole point.


With these situations, I find it useful to go back and actually listen to the recording(s) in question. It surprises me how often I am - surprised. For one thing, this arrangement (the factor that ruins nearly everyone else's version with sickly suds and squeaky, cheesy violin glissandos) is much cooler, dominated by saxophone, with a Rat Pack sound that suits his performing style. During "the days dwindle down" bridge, the accompaniment takes on a doo-wop quality that reminds me of the Platters (who also recorded this, though for some reason I don't like their version).

I think the song got sort of sung-out in the '60s and you don't hear it any more, not much anyway. It has that godawful introduction ("when I was a young man," and blah-blah-blah, as if we cared) that in some versions literally takes up half the recording. When I found the reference to limping around toothless in the original, it took something away from the song's charm.

You don't expect Quasimodo to stand up there singing a love song.