Sunday, April 19, 2015

"PETER GUNN" Obscure Lyrics to Famous Instrumentals

"But...I want to sing along..."

If a song has a catchy melody, SOMEBODY is going to insist on putting words to it. The question is how stupid are the lyrics going to be?

A while ago, the Don Ho version of "Hawaii Five-0" was presented here. And now, an even more criminal act: lyrics to Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn."

Henry Mancini seemed to specialize in melodies so artful, most any lyrics would seem clumsy. A few themes managed to escape without rotten words ("Experiment in Terror," "Pink Panther," "Hatari,") but too many were seriously wounded by Johnny Mercer or by the team of Livingston and Evans. "Days of Wine and Roses" was lame. The waltz theme for the thriller "Charade" get awful lyrics of lost love among stage actors. Mercer imagines:

"Fate seemed to pull the strings. I turned and you were gone. While from the darkened wings the music box played on. Sad little serenade, song of my heart's composing: I hear it still, I always will. Best on the bill. Charade!"

Worse, of course, was the huge hit "Moon River." Mercer called a body of water a "huckleberry friend." Anyone care? Of course not. People don't pay too much attention to lyrics, they just want to hear a voice.

Enter classy Sarah Vaughan, a jazz singer capable of doing the best she can with flaming lyrics that light a torch and burn through one of the best instrumentals ever heard on TV. It should forever STAY an instrumental. But out of morbid curiosity...

"Every night your line is busy. All that buzzin' makes me dizzy. Couldn't count on all my fingers all the dates you had with swingers. Bye bye. Bye baby! I'm gonna give you goodbye and go right through that doorway. So long! I'm leaving! This is the last time we'll meet on the street going your way..."

Well, it could've been worse, some stuff about a Peter being a gun...

Sing more of Livingston & Evans' words, Sarah:

"Don't look surprised, you know you've buttered your bread.

So now it's fair, you should stare at the back of my head."

Peter Gunn

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