Sunday, February 19, 2006


What if 60's "lounge" singers had some rock-lyric sensibilities? What if Sinatra and Dino spent some time in Greenwich Village hipster joints?

Maybe they would've been like Bobby Cole.

Fortunately for them, they weren't, and had huge careers. Bobby, stubborn, cool, and writing his own lyrics, only made one solo album. But, to use one of his favorite words, it's...."unique." If someone asked Bobby's opinion of something, and he didn't want to hurt their feelings, he'd just call it "unique." But here, "unique" means...bold, Brando-tough and at times, dark.

No jazz-pop artist issued put-downs better than Bobby on "No Difference At All." The Italian tough guy isn't even impressed with sluttiness. Not compared to his new girl: "You're like Spicy Tales. She's Voltaire. She's the heart of Park Avenue. And you're Times Square." We used to kid Bobby, though. One line not only puts down rock ("She's a Debussy symphony, you're rock 'n' roll") but betrays his own conceits. More than one person chided, "Debussy never wrote a symphony!" Which kind of put a little dent in the singer's lip-curled gimlet-eyed put-downs of a girl no longer keeping up with him. He'd just shrug it off. Besides, he actually knew and studied music theory and could play a Mozart sonata with ease...and from memory.

"Heat" is as cool as it gets, the perfect rumbling piano work from Bobby, plus an ethereal lady backing him, as they both take a sprawling tour of the underworld on a night drippy with sweat or blood. Not many were writing lyrics with the word "incandesce" in there.

As for darkness, "I'm Growing Old" is Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" gone very bad. The singer here isn't looking backward fondly, he's accepting a very unpleasant future. The song puts a final chord on the forewarning of an earlier song here called "Lover Boy." In that one, he tells a playboy that Life will eventually provide the truth: "taking in exchange...your youth." Here, the truth is "I'm Growing Old," and its so painful Bobby told me that grown men in the audience would cry. That might also explain why Lou Rawls emphatically turned this song down when Bobby offered it. PS, Bobby had better luck when Nancy Sinatra covered one of his tunes. But that's another story, and for more, check out:
Update: the original link expired, and has been replaced by a link to the songs HEAT and GROWING OLD from the album.

HEAT in stereo
GROWING OLD Instant listen or download, no code words, pop-ups or porn ads.


Alban said...

Please!!! re-post this album, I really need to hear it!!!
Thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

please re-post!!

Stephen Marks said...

Not one word about his best song BY FAR "So Sleeps the Pride?" (by far his best melody with the lyric somewhere in between "It Was a Very Good Year" and "I'm Growing Old" I'm recording this song with a different lyric called "on Saturn's Ring". It's not better than his lyric, just my personal experience as opposed to his. Who do I speak to about using the song and the publishing rights?
Stephen Marks
(919) 452-8927

Ill Folks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ill Folks said...

Hi Stephen, yes "So Sleeps the Pride" is a stunner. I remember asking Bobby about other songs he'd written, and one night at Campagnola, with almost nobody else in the place, he performed it. What a great moment that was. Usually he stuck with hits and standards, since that's what customers and management expected.

Good question about publishing rights etc. Since it wasn't recorded, I'm not sure whether Bobby registered it with BMI or ASCAP (I forget which one he was with). He probably copyrighted it, but that's not the same thing as having someone administrating and authorizing rights issues. Things got pretty splintered after his death. In the subsequent years since, several of the inner circle have died, or gone into hospice care. I think that includes Jack, his one-time producer at Concentric.

Probably the best angle would be to contact Bobby's daughter, who, speaking of sleeping pride, seems to have wakened to what a great artist her father was. Not that I can't understand why she distanced herself from him during his turbulent and at times frustrating (for himself and his friends) latter years. Look for Stephanie Cole on Facebook, related to a Bobby Page or two. You can probably also leave a comment on one of the YouTube vids she's uploaded. Her account is "Stephanie Cole" (no strange alias!) and she's posted a few rare items and home movies. I'm pretty sure she'd be the one collecting royalties these days.

donald trump said...

I knew Bobby in N.Y.C. at the Alibaba Jazz Club. I have material on Pinterest about him. On the Pinterest site (1)type into the search box these words: -cloud songs- and then (2)below the search box select the small rectangular filter button saying -boards- and click on that. And, lastly I have many notes about Bobby posted on the videos on Pinterest that can be read by(3)clicking on the word -comments- while the video plays. I can be reached at donnytnumerouno on the gmail system.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, glad you knew Bobby in those glory days at Ali Baba. (“Wasn’t that a time!”)

Nice to see a little tribute on Pinterest. As to your comment about Bobby being straight, despite knowing Judy Garland…well, sure. We sometimes forget that Judy’s gay following grew to an extreme after her death, with her death being part of the trigger. Bobby and Judy were lovers, after all. So it wasn’t like he was a campy camp follower, any more than Sid Luft, David Rose, Mickey Deems, etc. etc. Bobby did have some gay friends but I don’t recall that they all sat around talking about Judy together.

As to Bobby’s fondness for “All The Young Girls Love Alice,” I wouldn’t read that much into it. It was a song about lesbians exploiting a young girl, and frankly I don’t think a gay man would find that subject too titillating, even if he was a member of NAMBLA. After all, it’s a negative song that presents lesbians as predators. As you say, he also liked “Painted Lady,” another song off the “Yellow Brick Road” album. (Ah, “Yellow Brick Road,” a Garland reference). So did Bobby have a thing for hookers, too? Nah, these were just songs. He also liked “Rocket Man.” All these songs were lyrics by Bernie Taupin, of course, who is straight, and not by Elton.

As to the comment, “I like to believe that he had a few glasses and slipped on the ice and hit his head.” I suppose you mean that you’d like to think his death was quick and he didn’t suffer much. That’s true enough. Fact is, it seldom snows in mid-December in NYC. Anyone dreaming of a White Christmas in NYC can keep on dreaming, ‘cause the odds are that it wont happen. Likewise, 74th and 1st Avenue is a busy area and stores get tickets if they don’t shovel the sidewalk etc. The odds of anyone slipping on ice and dying are also remote. Just where that story came from, I have no idea. There were two guys at a jazz music website who popularized that version, adding the wrong year it happened. I guess it was a small leap in somebody’s imagination from “they found him on the sidewalk” to “he must’ve slipped and hit his head.”

What happened was probably a heart attack. Maybe a fatal stroke. As to whether he had a few drinks, I don’t think anyone’s too sure, but it’s possible. According to Bobby’s girlfriend, he got the attention of someone who was sitting and looking out the window. This guy noticed Bobby was holding on to a pole (not sure if it was a No Parking sign pole or a lamp post). It looked like he was maybe dizzy or confused. He seemed to be trying to steady himself, or get his bearings. The onlooker kept looking, figuring that this somewhat elderly man would eventually continue his walk. Was this man having a stroke, or feeling weak with heart trouble? Was he just literally taking a breather?

Bobby slowly sank to the sidewalk, and an ambulance was called. I’m not sure if he made it to the hospital or died on the way.