In the wee hours of the morning, television programming undergoes an incredible transformation. Programs and infomercials blur into a continuous stream of 1-800 numbers, 1-900 numbers and all my psychic friends are there. So are Nina Blackwood, Rex Smith, Tony Robbins (the sasquatch of schmooze) and the scrolling collections of music I love.
But as the song titles ride upward to heaven (after what I can only assume was a descension into hell), I turn to "More Music You Love," a mail-order catalog from the Beautiful Music Company. How could I not? The face of Dean Martin beckons me to this nostalgic catalog that is schlock full of nuts you've probably never dreamed of buying. Unfortunately, I have.
I'm here before you, dear readers, like a rickety warning sign over the quicksand pit of popular song; for amidst the music that should be buried at sea is also music I love. What is the thread that ties greatness to mediocrity to the downright stinky, I ask. Do not speaketh ye thy word of kitsch. Removeth thy tongue from yon cheek. In our post-smug, post-clever world, my need for identifying and appreciating sincerity is greater than ever. I will champion the artistically damned; I know that overachieving in awfulness counts. I am seeking extremes here, kids. Meet me at one end of the spectrum or the other.
Now, life is too short to pretend Marty Robbins still puts out good music, or that Mac Davis ever did, but as bogusness looms on the horizon of fashion, as renewed interest in Tony Bennett, Sinatra, and Tom Jones sweeps the land, the hovering heads in the "More Music You Love" catalog are simply waiting for a shot at the big time. But when Julie London whispers velevety songstylings mere pages away from Burl Ives' "Songs of Faith," I ask you to arm yourselves.
"More Music You Love"'s pages promise me, their valued customer, pretty much what you'd expect: musical treasures I'm sure to love. But there is nothing funny about Gomer singing, and the last time I bought a Boxcar Willie cassette, the lovable, singing hobo was bouncing on the shimmering pavement at 85 m.p.h. halfway through "Phantom 309". Oh, and Englebert Humperdinck? 'Nuff said.
But "More Music You Love" has some diamonds hidden in the catbox. Take Hank Williams, the man who gave country music a haunting heart and soul. Or Ray Charles, who trancended boundaries of soul, country, gospel, rock and jazz. (He overcame too many incredible odds to be remembered as a badly impersonated SNL caricature.) Or Perez Prado, the Mambo king at large; or Nat "King" Cole, who was 100% style, grace and poise. Some things may travel in and out of fashion, but style does not diminish.
The Beautiful Music Company also puts out a Christmas catalog. I have no doubt that if Santa could sing, he would sound like Burl (who makes one hell of a debauched, drunken Santa.) And a tip for you early holiday shoppers: Perry Como is the musical equivalent of fruitcake, and Bing Crosby singing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" sounds like a threat.
As for Slim Whitman, the Harmonicats or Don Ho, I'll leave you to your own opinion...those wee hours are approaching again, and it's getting hard to tell. </end>