Saturday, June 11, 2011

Once in Love with Amy

Always in Love with Amy

...and Other Scores of a Lazy, Hazy Friday Afternoon

Amy traces her tracks back to Trax on Wax

Friday afternoon, Amy I returned once again to the scene of the vinyl-consumption crime, Catonsville's record junkie supply house, Trax on Wax. Our mission: Amy was out to score more Godley and Creme and 10cc records, while I was determined to plunk down dollars for a Frank Sinatra Columbia Records long player that had escaped my attention, That Old Feeling (issued surprisingly late in 1956, by which time Sinatra was already recording at Capitol Records - in fact the cover features a Capitol-era photo of an older, post-Bobby Soxer Frank).

That Old Feeling (Columbia, 1956)

Though released in 1956, the record is a compilation of various recordings from the late 1940s and, like most of Sinatra's Columbia output, represents his "King of Swoon" Crooner Phase, which I dig just as much as his Classic Capitol Years. (These two periods are also known as The Skinny Years vs. The Hat Years.) And, quite "Frankly," it's not one of his best LPs (representing as it does the "in-between years" when he was transitioning from crooner idol to fedora-wearing swinger), though it does feature Bobby Hackett on trumpet on "Don't Cry Joe" and a great version of "Mean To Me" that ended up on the 4-CD set The Voice: The Columbia Years, but it contained one essential song that was near and dear to me: Frank Loesser's "Once in Love with Amy." You see, my girlfriend is named Amy, and, well I think my motivation here is clear.

According to Richard Peter's The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook - my favorite Sinatra guide and my most trusted reference source thanks to its inclusion of Ed O'Brien and Scott P. Sayers, Jr.'s "The Sinatra Sessions, 1939-1982" discography - most of the songs here were arranged by Sinatra's regular Columbia arranger Axel Stordhal; but "Once in Love with Amy" was from a December 15, 1948 New York City recording session arranged by Mitchell Ayers.

Though "Once in Love with Amy" is rightfully most associated with Ray Bolger, who sang it in both the 1948 Broadway stage production (winning a "Best Actor" Tony award for his efforts) and David Butler's 1952 Hollywood film adaptation of Where's Charley? (the film remains unavailable on video or DVD to this day - unfortunately yet another artistic enterprise tied up in legal entanglements), I had never heard Sinatra sing it, nor was this Columbia platter in my vast Sinatra collection (one destined never to be complete, as being a Sinatraphile requires financial - and storage - resources far beyond my means!) Amy, of course, was well familiar with the Ray Bolger version, as she fondly recalled her grandfather singing it to you when she was growing up (a phase she never grew out of!).

Watch Ray Bolger sing "Once in Love with Amy."

Now hear Frank Sinatra sing "Once in Love with Amy."
(Unfortunately, the only YouTube clip of Sinatra's version I could find is this Amy Pond homage that uses clips from Doctor Who!)

"Once in love with Amy, always in love with Amy
Ever and ever fascinated by her, sets your heart on fire to stay.
Once you're kissed by Amy, tear up your list it's Amy
Ply her with bonbons, poetry, and flowers, moon a million hours away."

For me Loesser's "Amy" lyrics aren't just words, but a testimonial that I as an Amy-lover can attest to on a daily basis, though I tend not to ply her with bonbons (her diet restrictions forbid them), poetry (she'd laugh at me - unless it was couplets penned by Elvis Costello) or flowers (she prefers bamboo plants); no, Amy is plied with more long-lasting "high-value" goods like records, jewelry, handbags, shoes, books about Queen or Steve Diggle and, of course, food.

"I'm Amy, Ply Me"

Susan Loesser recalls that the song was actually written six years earlier in 1942 when Frank Loesser, Peter Lind Hayes and Haye's wife Mary Healy were working for the Army's Radio Productions Unit in California. "Always an early riser, he [Loesser] would already be pounding away on a muted keyboard when Mary came downstairs at 6:00 a.m. She would bring him coffee, which he appreciated so much that he wrote a song for her: 'Once in Love with Mary.' Six years later it became Ray Bolger's show-stopper.'"

I'm so glad I finally discovered this song, as it's now my favorite *Amy* song. We all are either blessed or cursed with a Name Song, and Amy rightfully has felt cursed by the fact that the most famous "Amy" song is unfortunately that insipid ditty by Pure Prairie League. In my case, I had for years been taunted by "Tommy, can you hear me?" thanks to The Who's rock opera title song "Tommy" - a song I absolutely loathe - until local cineaste-musico (and all-around good-fellow) Scott Wallace Brown gifted me an extra copy of his beloved Twinkle (aka Lynn Ripley, a Swinging '60s Brit songbird best known for wearing a signature cap and later having her "Golden Lights" dug up by adoring fanboy Morrissey and recorded - much to Johnny Marr's dismay - by The Smiths) CD containing "Tommy" - her 1965 single that I consider the definitive *Tommy.*

Der Twinkle's "Tommy" (from German-language single)

(Twinkle's "Tommy" was actually a cover of a song by the American girl group Reparta and the Delrons - good luck finding that! - and yet another Name Song for Twinkle, who also scored with 1964's "Terry" and 1969's "Micky"). Naturally, this Tommy epiphany ensured my lifelong debt to and friendship with SWB! But I digress...

Of course, Ray Bolger isn't merely known for singing "Once in Love with Amy" and his starring turn in Where's Charley?, but is perhaps even more famous for his role as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, a film that paired him with the cowardly lion, Bert Lahr...whose son the theater critic John Lahr authored a wonderful Sinatra essay-and-photo coffee table book appreciation, Sinatra: The Artist and the Man (Random House, 1997) - which I scored a used copy of at Trax on Wax the same day! And I'm happy to report it's right up there with Pete Hamill's Why Sinatra Matters, if not on par with the definitive appreciation by Will Friedwald in Sinatra! The Song Is You.

While Amy was scooping up the post-Fab Four edition (that is, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman-era) 10cc Live LP and Godley & Creme's Freeze Frame (1979) and (their swan song) Goodbye Blue Sky (1988), I snatched up a second copy of Godley & Creme's The History Mix Vol. 1 (Hmmffphhht! - Amy got the better-condition edition on last week's trek to Trax).

No, it's not impetigo!It's merely cover art by Hipgnosis.

At the cash register, I spotted (and purchased) the store's lone CD - an 8-track Original Fetish "best of" collection called Pink on the Inside: Rare Cuts 1978–80. I remembered liking this humorous P.G. County band that existed a scant two years, but played The Marble Bar a whole lot back in the day. Their frontman was named Oxie Scrubb, and I used to have their disco-spoof single "Standing in Line at Studio 54" (b/w "I'm Glad Elvis Is Dead" - the band formed one year after The King's death, so Dead Elvis was still a fresh topic). Dave Nuttycombe wrote a great piece on the Fetish in 2005 for the Washington City Paper on the occasion of their 25th anniversary reunion show: "Punk on the Inside.")

Then it off to visit the Daedalus Books & Music Outlet store in Columbia, as we both were still lamenting the closure of their Belvedere Square store less than a month before and going through severe Remaindered Books-and-Music Withdrawal Syndrome, not to mention Dearly Departed Belvedere Square Daedalus Books and Music Employees Withdrawal Syndrome - also known as the "Sixth Stage of Grief" in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's Grief and Bereavement Cycle - for Cameron, Dave, Michael, et al will be sorely missed! Semper te amabo! Semper in animo meo es!

OK, once inside the cavernous Daedalus warehouse outlet, Amy quickly made a beeline for their unisex bathroom, which she was happy to report was every bit as clean and wonderful as its erstwhile Belvedere Square cousin (where Amy was a frequent flyer). Once we acclimated ourselves to the store layout, Amy headed to the New Age section while I - Eureka! - finally scored a copy of John Strausbaugh's book about "colostomy rock," Rock Til You Drop: The Decline from Rebellion to Nostalgia (Versa, 2001).

Besides being the editor of the New York Press and a former writer-editor at Baltimore's City Paper, John is also the brother of my next-door neighbor, the lovely Jane Strausbaugh, whose well-groomed lawn is considered the finest in the verdant suburban landscape of Rodgers Forge (my 'hood, homies!).

John Strausbaugh's Colostomy Rock tome

"Rock simply should not be played by fifty-five-year-old men with triple chins wearing bad wighats, pretending to still be excited about playing songs they wrote... thirty-five years ago . Its prime audience should not be middle-aged, balding, jelly-bellied dads." Calling rock a music of "youthful energies, youthful rebellion, youthful anxieties and anger," Strausbaugh says, "Colostomy rock is... the antithesis of rebellion: it's nostalgia. And nostalgia is the death of rock."

Strausbaugh's mission statement is hard to argue with, though everybody makes exception for their particular rock and roll darlings. To wit, Buzzcocks originals Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle are in their 50-something AARP years, and still delight audiences (especially those who, like Amy and I, missed them the first time around!), including a surprisingly young, new generation of fans. Maybe it's because they have continued, like Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson and other Elder Statesmen of Rock, to record new, interesting material - and not merely churn out the Greatest Hits Oldies Revue like some Maryland Public Television fundraising telethon.

Anyway, I can't wait to finish Strausbaugh's book which, far from being just another Baby Boomer rant (a la Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, Tom Warner, Dave Cawley, et al), promises to elevate his deserved skewering of culprits like The Rolling Stones, Rolling Stone magazine and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame beyond the-grass-was-greener-in-my-day ageism and be serious food for thought.

I also grabbed the BFI Film Guide to 100 Documentary Films because, well, you can never have enough BFI film guides; it featured a picture of Michael Moore from Bowling for Columbine on the cover, a reminder of the days when Moore was still a relevant and gifted filmmaker before he dropped all pretense to being just another agit-prop extremist. And, because my friends Dave Cawley and Tom Lehr are always recommending them, I picked up, respectively, Chip Kidd's beautifully illustrated Bat-Manga book (marked down from $29.99 to $7.99!) and a Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornadoes) double-CD retrospective for $5. I'm with the program now, boys!

Bat-Manga collects the writer/artist Jiro Kuwata's 1966 Batman comic-strips that originally appeared in the Japanese manga publication Shonen King. According to ComicsAlliance writer Chris Sims, the highlight of the collection is Kuwata's "Lord Death Man" manga that was actually an expanded reworking of an American Batman story that had run only a few months earlier in May 1966 called "Death Man"; Kuwata's Japanese version could take liberties that DC Comics' obeisance to the "Comics Code Authority" couldn't - like Lord Death Man being decapitated by Batman's batarang!

And I didn't realize Cartoon Network's "Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases" screens the Bat-Manga opening theme. It's pretty cool!

Watch "Bat-Manga Opening Theme."

The Doug Sahm budget CD is called He's About a Groover: An Essential Collection, and its 50 tracks cover the years 1957-1980, with disc 1 representing Doug Sahm's solo work and disc 2 focusing on his tunes with the Sir Douglas Quintet. At first listen, Doug Sahm sounds like Ray Charles with a Farfisa organ, but once I moved beyond the signature songs associated with the Texas rocker ("She's About a Mover," "Mendocino," "Wooly Booly"), there's some real songwriting substance there. One thing's for sure: Doug Sahm wrote songs to be played live - a Tex-Mex pub rocker dedicated to having a groovin' good time. I like - thanks for the tip, Tom Lehr!

And Amy scored All Music Guide's Required Listening: Classic Rock, a record review guide, because it was one of the few books we've found that actually mentions her beloved 10cc. It all comes back to her current obsession...for once in love with Eric, Graham, Kevin and Lol, always in love with Eric, Graham, Kevin and Lol!

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Blogger Unknown said...

I clicked on your site to try and find the first version I heard of "Once In Love With Amy" Bert Lahr was singing it. I heard it on an oldies station...Years ago. It's not on YouTube. Are you aware of that version?

10:50 PM  

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