Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Positively, Guilt-Free Wednesdays: You're Joking, Right?

First, please enjoy my favorite cross-dressing comedian, the brilliant Eddie Izzard and one of my very favorite bits.

Now, maybe Eddie Izzard isn't for you. But what about Engelbert Humperdinck, who is indeed, still alive?

I grew up in not one, but two homes. One in Greenwich Village and one in Sheepshead Bay, and members of both households were Engelbert fans, I was fed this stuff early on. But the truth is, I love his 60's hits. I don't own a dozen Engelbert albums. I own one, a Greatest Hits collection and there isn't a stinker on it.

Now, before you draw blood from biting your lips, or have smoke billowing from your ears as you try desperately to NOT type negative comments on this Positively, Guilt-Free Wednesday, let me offer this:

What do you think of Raul Malo and The Mavericks?

Most people, musicians as well, think The Mavericks, and especially the golden voice of Malo, are the shit. Well, their music is not so far removed from what Engelbert was doing in the 60's. As a matter of fact, Malo and The Mavericks have covered Engelbert at least three times to my knowledge, and possibly more.

I am all for good record-making, and Engelbert, with his session men that included the ubiquitous Jimmy Page, made some good records, including his biggest hit, "Release Me," which kept The Beatles "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" out of the #1 slot.

He had a powerful voice, with great range. And again, his 60's output, which is all I am vouching for here, had a sound of its own. I'd be proud to make singles this good.

No, I'm not joking.


Shriner said...

So I'm not going to debate the merits of Mr. Humperdinck.

But I will say that that one bit from that Eddie Izzard special has stayed with me and my family for a decade (maybe?) now? We frequently will do the squinty-eyed silent head shake/wide-eyed head nod bit and never fail to crack up after that. It's the simplest thing, but it was a killer.

Sal Nunziato said...

Well I would imagine from the comment about not debating that you find no merit otherwise you would’ve happily chimed in.

FurryBootsCityBoy said...

Engelbert - great voice, cr*p songs; Raul Malo - great voice, mostly great songs (with The Mavericks - not too sure about his solo stuff). That's yer lot!

Christine said...

This post brings back such memories! My mom would sing Englebert's songs at the top of her lungs, especially "Release Me", when she was pissed off at my father, which was both funny, and sad, because she really meant it. My sister and I took her to see him for her 70th birthday. She sat in second row, while we had crappy seats. Miraculously, somebody had two no-shows in their party in third row directly behind my mom, and generously offered my sister and I those seats! We all had an absolute blast, and it is a memory I will keep with me forever. I'm pretty sure I remember the Eddie Izzard bit being shown on a screen before Englebert entered the stage.

Just about all of my Jersey friends are HUGE Mavericks fans, and I do have a CD of their music made for me by one of these friends. (I just can't find it.) I enjoyed it, but didn't listen enough (before I lost it). I'm told their live shows are a great big party, and I'm sorry I haven't paid more attention.

Thank you for this post--listening to the songs brought tears to my eyes.

Sal Nunziato said...

There is nothing cr*p about the two songs I posted, or the other half dozen or so Engelbert hits. I mean, what makes "Dance the Night Away" a great song? Kinda cliche to me. But it's great because of the arrangement and how it is played and sung. That's called "making a record." But more important, I am amazed how difficult it is to simply not say anything at all. The whole point of Positively Wednesdays, was to be positive. We have 6 other days in the week to crap on the artists I post here.

Shriner said...

My enthusiasm for Eddie Izzard overrode any listening to the two songs posted. I had been looking for just the clip that had that bit for a while now and forgot what part of the special it was associated with. Sorry about that!

Both songs are solid, mid-60s pop songs. The second song reminds me a lot of "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" in it's structure.

Anonymous said...

one of our UHF channels has The Best of Ed Sullivan on in the evening, and it's a treat to see that generation of male singers - Engelbert, Sergio Franchi, Ed Ames, Tony Bennett (w/Count Basie! ad-libbing "I'd like to see Barry Goldwater at my feet, and be as rich as Harry Belafonte, on the sunny side of the street"), even Gary Puckett - in their prime.

Michael Giltz said...

Yes, it's very distracting to start a music discussion with a reference to my single favorite stand-up show of all time: Eddie Izzard's Dress To Kill in 1998. What a brilliant piece. He's the last stand-up act I've truly loved.

I know "Release Me" but not too familiar with the rest of Engelbert Humperdink, though God knows even before Izzard I loved the "screw you" attitude of a guy refusing to change his name when his name was that outrageous (and memorable! No fool he). So now I'll download a greatest hits set and see what we've got. Any ref to a similarity to Mavericks can only pique my interest.

Anonymous said...

But Sal, his name... his name.


Anonymous said...'s not his real name, y'know. It is the name of a famous past composer, tho. This is no knock on the original posting, just letting some of the responders to the post know.

vanwoert said...

After the Lovin. Man, that was a great radio song, as were all of Engelbert's sixties hits

Sal Nunziato said...

Good ears. A few of his songs, like You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, were either Italian or French pop tunes rewritten.

Lord Carrett said...

Hey Sal:

My dad owned a cocktail lounge in the 60's back when you'd hear Herman's Hermits and Engelbert Humperdinck side by side on AM radio, or a jukebox. To my young ears, Engelbert's output stood side by side with anyone on the jukebox (which also featured Ray Price's version of RELEASE ME). Ray Price used to joke in concert that he recorded "Release Me" so many years ago, that he doesn't tell anyone when he did it: "I just say that it was BH. BEFORE HUMPERDINCK."

So around 2015, when I got an offer to appear in concert with Engelbert, being a fan since childhood, I jumped at the chance.

He filled the theater, his fans were rabid, they were nice to me, and they went away happy. Engelbert was still in fine voice and the 50 years of stage experience showed. He had them in his hip pocket... if tuxedos even HAVE hip pockets. Mine doesn't.

I've always wondered why a guy like EH isn't as respected by the average music fan as his contemporaries like Tom Jones... and I can only guess it's because of the odd name. Personally, I've always been fond of weird names.

- Lord Carrett

Michael Giltz said...

Ok, help. A little online sleuthing has left me confused. One random reviewer claimed the 1974 compilation "His Greatest Hits" includes re-recordings, not all the original versions. Not the sort of thing a casual, uninformed fan usually says. His Wikipedia entry is woefully incomplete on individual albums and there are no official reviews on Amazon. (And of course Amazon often puts reviews of different editions together -- conflating a negative review of a poorly mastered edition of an album with the newly remastered highly praised edition of an album. ANYWAY..

On Spotify do I start with the 1974
His Greatest Hits
Best Of 20th century/Millennium Collection (2005)
or the slightly daunting 2 CD, but I assume it's all the original stuff
Gold (2005, with 44 songs)?

My guess is Gold though everyone starts with the same ten or 12 songs so I'd be fine playing the 1974 a few times before venturing further. Sometimes less is more.

--Eddie Izzard

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Totally down with the Dink. And, Raul Malo? Mavericks, solo, I’m pretty much an unconditional fan.


dogbreath said...

When I was knee high to a grasshopper Englebert was hardly ever off our UK TV screens, either as a guest on one variety show or another or in one of his own specials. My folks were big fans; me, not so much - or at lest I wouldn't have admitted to it. Now the years have passed and I've left the grasshoppers behind, I begrudgingly allow myself to admire his undoubted talents as a showman and entertainer. The big hits such as the ubiquitous "Release Me" will always get me singing along. As for Eddie Izzard: not only v funny but a serious political activist, humanitarian and all round good guy. What's not to like? The YouTube clip kickstarted my day. Cheers!

Sal Nunziato said...

@Michael Giltz

Whatever you start with, make sure it is NOT re-records. "Gold" is excellent. It has about 15 you need, 5 more that are pretty good, and two dozen you could take or leave.

buzzbabyjesus said...

In a way the name Englebert Humperdink, and Eddie's cross-dressing are equally non-intuitive career choices.

I'm not familiar with any of Englebert's hits, but if that's Jimmy Page on "Am I That Easy To Forget", it might be John Paul Jones too. That bass part is way cool.

The arrangement is not unlike what Dan aspired to on "Shannon In Nashville"

I have a lot of artist friends and I've learned that it's always possible to find something nice to say and mean it.

Bulletins From Mars Hill said...

I saw him in 1968 in Blackpool England. This was at the height of his fame in England. He was very impressive. What impressed me more was that I heard my Grandfather sing along to one of his songs on the radio. My grandfather never sang! My mum's best friend was in lust with him and this then 10 year old knew the words to all his songs. Then he went to Las Vegas and we never heard from him again! What A Bastard! :-)

Robin said...

Late to the party here but I love him! No guilt at all. Wonderful voice, really good records in the 60s. What a nice surprise logging on to see this. And yes, I always assumed my beloved Raul was a fan. Another singer who for some fall into the 'guilty pleasure' though not as much and he was never as big an idol as Engelbert was despite being dashing, is B.J. Thomas, my lord what voice and great phrasing too.

Michael Giltz said...

So thanks Sal for sending me (back) to Engelbert Humperdink. Just to be safe, I took the 10 tracks on his first and biggest greatest hits set from the "Gold" two CD collection and made a playlist, just in case that album had some rerecordings (which seems unlikely). Lots of fun and "A Man Without Love" is my new go-to karaoke song. Actually, the verse is kind of flat and really hard to maintain an audience's interest unless you have a strong voice like Humperdink...but boy what a killer, sing-along chorus.

You asked: why is Tom Jones considered cool and still has currency and is still listened to while Engelbert Humperdink is mostly forgotten (in the US; he seems much better remembered in the UK)? My first, out of the blue guess was: Tom Jones had a better manager? (Or was a better manager of his career?) BOOM! Reading Engelbert's Wikipedia entry, I discovered Gorillaz asked him to sing on one of their albums and his management at the time turned them down flat without telling him of the offer. He still seems gutted today (and no wonder), ultimately dumping his manager and hiring his son to take over his career (as Jones did when his manager died of cancer, which led right to a #2 hit in the UK and of course the Prince cover. More....

Michael Giltz said...

Why is Tom Jones cool and still listened to while the similarly great-voiced Engelbert Humperdink with some similarly great singles fairly forgotten in the US? To me, they're both very British (even European) artists, specializing in lots of songs perfect for pub sing-alongs. They both have excellent voices and some great singles. Their careers are quite similar: big success in the 1960s, both hosted variety shows (I think Tom's was a bigger hit), both made the usual career u-turns to stay "relevant" or find a new market, like Jone doing country in the 1980s, Engelbert doing the Philly sound and then gospel (first) w the Jordannaires, Jones acting in movies and doing hip covers, Engelbert doing "Lesbian Seagull" for the Beavis and Butt-head Do America movie, putting their sons in charge etc. It's like these two compare notes! So first, keep in mind they both still get a lot of love in Europe, probably closer in most people's minds than they are here. They both followed similar tacks but I think the moves by Jones just paid off more artistically and commercially. ("Kiss" really is killer.) Musically, also, I think Tom Jones has those crucial, early, panty-tossing hits that look to the future (sort of rock n roll), namely "What's New Pussycat" and "It's Not Unusual." Engelbert's signature songs look back to classic Tin Pan Alley, the wounded lover of "Release Me" and "A Man Without Love." Jones's songs were sort of contemporary at the time, while Engelbert's were always old school. You can imagine dads listening to Tom Jones but only Moms listen to Engelbert. Finally, I think Engelbert leans more towards Europe while Jones leans more towards America. Finally, his definitive first greatest hits set is poorly programmed -- the second track is "Quando Quando Quando," then the third track is "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize" and then the fourth is called "Spanish Eyes." Maybe I'm overthinking but that's just VERY European and I think you lose most dudes by the fourth song.