Thursday, August 29, 2013


So much of the music world is gormless these days. YOU fill in the pun punch line.

The big surprise of August 10, 2013 was that anyone actually cared and remembered Eydie Gorme. Must've been a slow news day. Miley must've been tongue in cheek.

From my previous post on Patti Page, it might be supposed that Eydie Gorme (August 16, 1928-August 10, 2013) was a great favorite, and that I've got all her vinyl. Well, no. I'm fond of two singles. "Blame it on the Bossa Nova" remains a cute novelty, but "Yes My Darling Daughter" with the weird siren ending, is my favorite. Both 45's are a bit played out, but aren't we all.

Though I have no big cache of Gorme albums I respect the middle of the road. It'll save your ass when the lights suddenly change.

For most of her fans, listening to Eydie Gorme, and her hubby, was just a time to relax and not have to go anywhere in any direction. Just look straight ahead and listen.

Eydie, who began her recording career with big bands in 1951, had retired in 2009. No cause of death was announced, so blame it just on bein' olda. Her Jewish parents were from Italy and from Turkey...and just to make things more exotic, she was fluent in Spanish...which made her a big favorite in Latin countries. Most obits headlined her for her "Bossa Nova" hit from 1963, which left 50 more years unaccounted for. What did she do in all that time? Nothing much...she and husband Steve Lawrence toured, put out mild albums (there was a very cute one, "It's Us Again" custom-done as a promo for a shampoo dollar bin intro to them when I was a kid), and gave ordinary middle-aged people like themselves something to listen to.

This obviously didn't include ME in the 60's, but I could appreciate a good tune well sung, and "It's Us Again" had a few of those. Not enough for me to choose them over The Beatles when I had the money to buy a new album! Once in a while I'd see her, him, or both on TV, and think, "Well, they're singing a nice version of..." some Broadway show tune. Nice, not definitive; Steve and Eydie never laid down a great cover on any American standard...nothing to rival an Ella or Sinatra...but they were comfy for their suburban audiences at venues such as Westbury Music Fair, or for the tourists coming to Vegas.

It was always easy to dismiss both Steve and Eydie because they sang so many annoying "get happy" songs that were corny at the time and are moldy now…crap like "Wouldn't it Be Loverly," "Without You I'm Nothing," "Ain't Love," "Would You Like to Take a Walk," and the ultra-irritating "Wherever We Go (Together)." They didn't present themselves as swingin' cool cats, which gave Louis Prima and Keely Smith more creds.

Eydie's solo albums were jarringly full of lame show tunes including "Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair" or God-awful oldies like "Button Up Your Overcoat." It wasn't until the late 60's that she (and Steve) settled down and began to cover the newer songwriters. Certainly, guys like Jimmy Webb and even McKuen had MOR-type pieces for them that had a little more taste than "Toot Toot Tootsie." For a while in the 60's Billboard had a chart for "Easy Listening," the "elevator music" not yet banished from office buildings. Gorme scored a Top 10 hit there in 1967 with "If He Walked Into My Life" and "Tonight I'll Say a Prayer" in 1969. But in the 70's and 80's, the music-buying public was younger, and that was that...a whole bunch of middle-aged singers were adrift from their record labels and simply working on stage.

Steve and Eydie didn't mind. Their audiences supported them. They, like Dean and Frank, knew they were too old to try for hit singles, and gave up trying. Give 'em credit for being themselves. Back in 1962-1963 when Steve scored a legit Top 10 with "Go Away Little Girl" and Eydie followed with "Bossa Nova," middle-aged listeners were still buying 45's as much as teenagers. Back then Acker Bilk, Louis Armstrong and Percy Faith could be in the Top 10 shoving Elvis around. But by the end of the 60's the demographics had changed. Eydie's song was written by Mann and Weil, and Steve's by Goffin and King...and both these writing couples knew to focus on writing for teens, not an older married couple.

Eydie (and Steve) had deceptively strong talent, both in singing and in acting. As a duo, they arguably (go ahead, see if I care) created the template for Sonny and Cher, and other husband and wife duos...coming out with a smile but giving little zinging wisecracks to each other in between songs. It broke up the monotony of going from "Moon River" to "Fly Me to the Moon." Both were pretty funny doing sketches on the old "Carol Burnett Show." Both got little credit for having very strong pipes. Gorme, it should be noted, was Streisand before Streisand was.

This girl from the Bronx could belt...and for many listeners, loud was synonymous with passionate. Gorme's audience probably was mostly people accustomed to shouting conversation above the din of a subway car, and sleeping through the sound of police sirens, so voices like hers and Barbra's were considered normal volume. Put on a Julie London album? Can't hear that whispering shiksa! It's possible you hadda have a "New Yawk" state of mind to have a fondness for Eydie and Steve...and fortunately for them, they thrived via New York venues, New York-based TV (Steve and Eydie met when they were regulars on Steve Allen's "Tonight Show") and Broadway. In the UK, average-looking Gracie Fields was "Our Gracie." For average middle-income middle-aged types, Steve and Eydie were "our neighbors," considered friends. Family.

You'll hear a prime example of Gorme the Belter on a live television version of "As Long as He Needs Me," the showstopper from the Broadway musical "Oliver."

For balance, your other download is "Softly as I Leave You," which shows more of her talent. Gorme almost never had a serious music critic write about a new album. One reason was yes, the album was likely to be nothing but covers, and she was an ordinary looking married woman who sang in two predictable styles: perky or overly dramatic (with a lotta vibrato). Given the right song and arranger, she could compete with most any of her contemporaries. That's the case with "Softly as I Leave You," from her "Don't Go To Strangers" album. She sings here with sensitivity as well as her trademark panache.

GORME As Long As He Needs Me (live television)

GORME Softly as I Leave You (from her "Don't Go to Strangers" album)

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