Monday, April 19, 2010


"The Awful Tale of Maggie May" is typical of the overbaked style of a known irritant by the name of Ian Whitcomb. Whitcomb's brand of necrophilia is to "improve" on classic old tunes by his nudge-nudge wink-wink delivery. As Herman's Hermits demonstrated with "I'm Henry VIII," there's nothing wrong with having fun with an old tune, as long as you show some respect. Especially when the old version showed a damn lot more musicianship than yours. "Awful" is the word for Ian's version of "Maggie May." It's too bad The Beatles didn't release a full version of the old classic, which they clearly enjoyed messing with during the "Let it Be" rehearsals. John & Paul sang with raucous delight, while witless Whitcomb camps it up, mugging and miming all the way through. Oh who's a clever boy, then?

The first time you hear "Maybe" by Bobby Pedrick, you'll have to agree that most falsetto singing is an embarrassment to the male gender. With the right song, Lou Christie could be hilarious ("The Gypsy Cried") and so could Frankie Valli (on "Walk Like a Man" he sounds like a silly screaming queen). With the wrong song? "Maybe" sounds like Bobby was the victim of a budget vasectomy. But, it turns out, he was in his teens when he recorded this thing. No wonder he changed his name when he grew up! Robert John Pedrick became…Robert John. Old habits die hard…including falsetto. The re-named Robert John used it on his two hits, "Lion Sleeps Tonight" (the 1972 cover version) and "Sad Eyes" in 1979. "Maybe" they're more tolerable than this track, which would be perfect to play in a loop at your neighbor's barking dog.

They call it "scat" because it's shit. Even Ella Fitzgerald can try one's patience, much less a much lesser performer such as ex-Norman Mailer wife Carol Stevens. In 1957 Time magazine enthused that she "wears wicked black sheaths and Vampira makeup, and is visually and musically the most striking of the new girl singers." Then cautioned that she might "sound like a cat trapped in a rain barrel, but somehow manages not to."

"In a Mellotone" (1957) opens with some guy hunching his back over his keyboard, knocking out some chords for Ms. Stevens, who comes in with: "Doodle ooh doo doo. Doodle ooh doo doo. Doodle ooh doo doo. Doodle ooh doo doo." You think she'll finally start singing some lyrics...but those ARE the lyrics, and they are repeated a brain-numbing number of times. (At CD Universe, all the songs on her "That Satin Doll" album are available as mp3 files except THIS ONE. Wise move.) You don't want to snap your fingers, you want to snap her neck.

Stevens began an affair with Norman Mailer around 1969, and they had a child together in 1971. Two years later, at Norman's 50th birthday party, he remarked to the crowd of over 500: "“A lot of people ask me why I associate with so many worn-out, older women. Well, I’ll tell you why. Because they’re all the same once you get past the old, worn-out part.” Which didn't mean he was mellowing, as he broke up with Carol a year later. But, in an odd twist, six years later, in 1980 he and his wife Beverly got divorced, and a month later he and Carol got married. And very quickly divorced. The marriage was done only to "legitimize" their daughter. A month later, Norman married his fifth and last wife, Norris Church. (Mailer may hold some kind of celebrity record for having two divorces and two marriages within 3 months!)


Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. Re-upped with a better service. For those who may only want a particular song:


Download or listen on line. No capcha codes. No porn ads. No percentage going to the blogger for his "hard work." The hard work was done by the artist.


ian whitcomb said...

I'm sorry you find me an irritant."Maggie May" was recorded in 1965 as a throwaway. I'm not proud of it but since then I've written a few books,provided songs for a few movies, and at my concerts tried to spread a little happiness.From the picture you use I guess you've been to my website so you know what I've been up to. I'd love to convert you but I guess it's no use.Your loathing puzzles me.
Ian Whitcomb

Ill Folks said...


I wish I could say I'm a fan, but obviously what I wrote I believe.

Which doesn't alter the fact that you have been a great success and brought smiles to thousands and thousands of people.

I'm not one of those "love to loathe" people, really. 95% of the blog is devoted to praising people. I do indicate that sometimes an irritating song is actually catchy and entertaining...and invite people to download and make their own choices.

I'm sure some who download will say "Hey, Ian's brash attitude is in the same category as New Vaudeville Band or Maxie Miller," and it might bring you some new fans.

From the vinyl and CDs of yours that have crossed the pond, I've
just found them campy, and in a little more of a jeering way than for example Tony Randall's "Vo Do Dee Oh Doh" albums for Mercury years back, or some of the recreations of British Music Hall to be found on "Pig 'n' Whistle" albums (Canada) or Derek Lamb's Folkways album which did cover such tempting-to-parody tunes as "She was Poor But She Was Honest."

Peter Sellers' "My Old Dutch" is an example of a song that can be taken two both satire and tribute.

When I first bought your stuff I sincerely hoped, "Great, here's a guy reviving the old music in stereo..." as Herman's Hermits did, rather than as Julie Andrews did for her whiz-bang album of Music Hall. But I guess the temptation to camp it up and wink to the audience is too great.

I'm sure you've had a few critics mention this before. But I'll take you up on the invitation and try and find some Ian Whitcomb material of a newer vintage. I'd love to be converted, too. Frankly it's too easy to be smarmy. When I was about to post this entry, I even thought, "Now wait a minute, illfolks is supposed to be promoting obscure good people and there are plenty you've yet to cover...this may be crossing the line..."

But I also figured people might find your song, and the other two, bizarrely entertaining as the set of 20 I'd posted earlier.

If I find something I like of yours, I'll post it and let folks know. Camp artistes can be brilliant...I told Tiny Tim that my favorite song of his was "Bring Back those Rockabye Baby Days," which I'm sure was hated by many a disc jockey and reviewer at the time.

I keep an open mind, which is why something whistles through my ears when the wind blows.

Timmy said...

I for one of many, LOVE Ian Whitcomb. He was a true British Invader & has since been a great DJ & performer. This is a great web-site, but you may have injected your own foot where it tastes sorta like plankton.

Ill Folks said...

Hi Timmy,

I did check Ian's YouTube stuff, and he's grown into the "nostalgia" material pretty well.

I think he covers the Music Hall material with less camp than he used to. I still find the old novelty albums and singles very hard to take.

As for his "British Invasion" rock songs, I'm sure they're up to the standard of Gerry & the Pacemakers or Herman's Hermits...that's not my area of "illness."