Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MECCA - Arabs Killed Gene Pitney? Covers incl Spanish + Valerie Loeffler

Above, Valerie Loeffler, who may be the only female to attempt to cover "Mecca." And below, well, the highly individual journalism and oh so coherent critical views you've come to expect here.
If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder if Gene Pitney REALLY died of a heart attack. Could he have been murdered by some crazed hummus-faced armpit-bearded Allah-kazam? They’re a bit touchy and humorless, aren’t they? (They might not even be laughing at this very moment while reading this!)
Who is behind almost every bombing and cowardly attack on unarmed people? It ain’t the Druids. It’s the bunch that believes in circumcising WOMEN, killing cartoonists, and going into a raving fatwa denying “freedom of speech” to anyone that disagrees with them. With most people, “I don’t believe what you believe” isn’t an invitation to a beheading. So…
MAYBE somebody slipped Pitney a heart-stopping drug because he equated “Mecca” with his girlfriend’s house! Sacrilege! Radical Islam, awakened at the turn of the century, flew planes into U.S. buildings and blasted London transit. So, some Habib Falafel overdosing Pitney over "Mecca" isn’t that far-fetched. After all, Gene died in Great Britain, where they can slip polonium-210 in your tea in a restaurant and get away with it faster than you can say Litvenenko.
If I'm being honest, that teeny-tiny bunch of radicals who have hijacked “a fine religion” have killed people for much less. I mean, these are people who get touchy even if you try and compliment them. Like: “You know, I really like your stinky halal food.” or, “Danny Thomas did a great job playing a Jew in “The Jazz Singer.” Or “You fuckers sure know creative uses for pressure cookers.”
Those who insist we can’t expel every Muslim allay our fears by muttering that only 10% or 20% of the Muslim population support or approve of terrorists who want to make the world all-Muslim all the time. Okay, that’s several MILLION maniacs (more than Natalie Merchant could imagine). Given that it only takes two or three to blow up a Boston marathon, a Paris theater, a Brussels airport, or a mental health hospital in San Bernardino, who is to say ONE of ‘em didn’t off Pitney?
We’ll never know for sure if some Jihadi Jay anti-American didn’t get to Gene when he turned up in Cardiff. I quote Pitney’s tour manager, James Kelly: "He was found fully clothed, on his back, as if he had gone for a lie down. It looks as if there was no pain whatsoever."
Suspicious, huh? Kelly remembered that the last show Gene performed was happy. And you know how Muslims feel about “happy.” They hate it. James Kelly: “Last night was generally one of the happiest and most exuberant performances we've seen out of him. He was absolutely on top of his game and was really happy with the show." And was his encore…”MECCA?” And was there someone in the audience wearing a frown without pity?
Coincidence: “Mecca” began its climb up the charts in April of 1963…and Gene was found dead in April of 2006. How many years is that? Exactly 43. If you check the Koran, note what page you find after 42.
43 also happens to be the number of days it takes for fig yogurt to reach its expiration, and frankly, what can happen to fig yogurt can happen to Gene Pitney.
Mecca is a holy destination. It's possible a Catholic would be mildly irked if a lyric went: "That brownstone house where my baby live's like the Vatican, THE VATICAN, to ME!" A Jew might raise an eyebrow over: "My baby's birthday is holy like Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur, to ME!" So to have an Arab overreact these days, to the point of jihad, is hardly surprising, is it? If you saw a news item about a Muslim stabbing somebody for joking that visiting Disney World was like Mecca for the wife and kids, would you really be shocked?
When “Mecca” first appeared, Arabs were fairly peaceful, if you weren’t Jewish. Omar Sharif even got along with Peter O’Toole.
"Mecca" was just an odd novelty with a faux-Middle East arrangement and some snake-charmer clarinet playing. Ok, so it wasn’t authentic. It offended nobody at the time, and neither did "Little Egypt” by The Coasters. People enjoyed harmless ethnic stereotypes, and the charts embraced ethnic music from Nicola Paone's "Blah Blah Blah" and Horst Jankowski's jaunty "Walk in the Black Forest" to the foreign babblings of “Volare” and “Sukiyaki.”
There was nothing nefarious about John Gluck Jr., a co-writer of “Mecca.” He was a professional who worked with anyone who had a tune that needed some lyrics. (I’m assuming he wrote the lyrics. It seems that way.) Born in Ohio (1925-2000) he worked with Richard Maltby on “Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes” (recorded by the Mills Brothers) and “Beloved Be True” (vocal by Russ Emerick).
With Diane Lampert he co-wrote “No One Home” (recorded by Alan Dale), “Little Lovin’” (performed by Mimi Roman), “Pinch Me” (done by Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads), “Can’t Wait for Summer” (sung by Steve Lawrence), “One Teenager to Another” (from Brenda Lee), “Precious Years” (a single by Glenn Reeves), and “Nothin’ Shakin’,” (yes, The Beatles performed it on a BBC broadcast). Not to mention “Wacky Wacky.” Forget I mentioned it.
With Bob Goldstein John co-wrote “The Other Girls,” a flip side for Jay and the Americans, and with Ben Raleigh, he co-wrote the Connie Francis tune “Blue Winter.” John took sole credit on “That’s Me Without You” by The Wilson Sisters, “Up Jumped a Rabbit” by Frankie Lymon, and “The Bridge” by The Harbingers and also The Cowsills.
Now, what about “Mecca?”
It was a co-write done with the exotic-named Neval Nader, who had Middle Eastern music in his blood, and was born Neval Abounader in Utica (1917-2009). This is not a joke: Neval served in World War 2 and then tried for a career in cartoons and art, marketing his novelties under the pseudonym Screwloose LaTrec.
Neval discovered he had a talent for music. When he needed lyrics for an exotic melody, John Gluck provided it. Just another ballad about young lust, the twist was in making the Middle Eastern melody part of the story line. The girl could’ve been given an Egyptian name, but a cleverer idea was turning her home into “Mecca.” Instead of loving a girl from the wrong side of town, our hero (frantic, high-pitched excitable Gene) was hot about the street where she lived. He had an almost religious view of it, which hints that the girl's parents may be Middle Eastern immigrants. Well, he probably considered her TWAT to be “Mecca,” not the house, but this was 1963.
Exotic, driven by the haunting ‘Mecca…MECCA…MECCCCCAAA” chorus, abetted by some screaming cat-goddess in the background, and wailed by the greatest siren-voice in pop history, the tune was the best thing the Nader-Gluck team produced. But it wasn’t the only thing. Though not as prolific as some of Gluck’s other partners, Neval Nader wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He provided the music for The Fleetwoods’ “Lovers By Night, Strangers By Day,” which was the flip side to the Randy Newman-penned “They Tell me It’s Summer.” The team also scored with “Trouble is My Middle Name” recorded by The Four Pennies and “Punish Her,” which Bobby Vee took into the Top 20 in 1962.
John Gluck’s most famous co-write was still to come. With Herbert Wiener and Wally Gold, he concocted the music for “It’s My Party,” the Lesley Gore smash. By this time Gluck had been hired (along with veterans Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs) to work at Aaron Schroeder Music. Any number of people would be called in to help punch up a song. In this case, the name of one guy was left off. Seymour Gottlieb had the idea for the song, if not much of the lyrics. It was based loosely on events at his daughter Judy’s 16th birthday party.
While “It’s My Party” was instantly covered by a number of artists (notably Helen Shapiro), few have dared improve on Pitney’s “Mecca.” The Cheetahs offered a fairly insane and nauseating cover in 1964 for Philips. Playing it for punk laughs, New Zealand’s goofy Otis Mace took a shot at it in 1981. Let’s just say he was several years too late to be Elvis Costello, and that Split Enz were more authentic eccentrics.
Just two years ago, the group Varjokuva recorded it in Finland as “Mekka,” for their album “Tahti.” They finished it off with fresh lyrics in Finnish, as sung by eye-chart favorite Kyösti Mäkimattila. I think it won an award at the annual Lajso Music Festival, held in a graveyard in Croatia. The winner gets to leave the graveyard.
IF you want to say something nice about Arabs, it’s that they usually try and learn the language of the country they’ve invaded. (It's Latinos that don't want to learn INGLES.) Leaning English makes it easier to send threats to the local newspaper, as well as demands to government officials: “Attention infidels, we expect free housing, all our holidays off, and very light inspection of our luggage when we travel. Do not expect us to dress like you do or believe in your decadent ways. Respect our customs or we’ll kill you.”
Back in the early 60’s, many American pop stars re-recorded their songs in foreign languages, often French, German or Spanish. Below, Pitney burns his uvula on a Spanish translation of “Mecca.” Egyptian pop, Spanish lyrics with too many syllables…this IS an earache. Spanish, Mr. Dylan assured us, is a loving tongue, but maybe only when spoken by Ricardo Montalban or sung by Jose Feliciano. 
Below, rounding out the odd covers is the only female cover version I've found. It’s from Valerie Loeffler, who recorded it back in 2009 when she was apparently a student at Gateway Regional High School (in New Jersey). She performed it in a local coffee house, pausing from her versions of Natalie Imbruglia and Anna Nalick tunes. She sang “Mecca” in honor of her grandma. Yes, the old, old lady played some old, old Pitney songs for the young girl, and surprise-surprise, one ancient tune was weird enough to find favor. Why the song is credited to "JEAN" Pitney, I dunno.
Valerie takes a sincere stab at “Mecca,” which is more than you can say for most young girlies. Too many of today's shaven babes stick to wispy and baldly off-key Taylor Swift covers, expecting guyyyysss to join their Facebook or YouTube fan club. [update, July 2017: in deference to a comment left by her mother, I point out again, this is a 2009 cover. She was young. If you want to see the more mature Valerie, go to YouTube where she's posted cover versions of other tunes, circa 2011 and 2015, with ukelele. These have gotten about 70 hits, compared to 450 for Pitney, but that's the allure of "Mecca," right? Now back to the original post.]
 Valerie might not completely nail those high pitched blasts of “MECCA,” but who did? Only Gene Pitney, and that’s why the Arabs killed him. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, because this is an irreverent blog that is often full of put-ons.
All seriousness aside, most Islamites are very nice people as long as you leave them alone, tear down your church or synagogue and build a mosque, and put your wife in a fucking bee keeper’s outfit.
Oh yes, you are allowed to chew on dates, but if Papa Omar gets mad, you’ll have a misadventure with his mates.
PS, the second most upsetting possible Arab murder of a beloved creative artist would be Bob Clampett. He worked on Warner Bros. cartoons but later created the “Beany and Cecil” TV series. In one episode of the cartoon show, he had a gag in which Cecil the sea serpent announced he was going over to “Mecca Records” in order to…”mecca record.” This may have been enough to put Bob on the hit list, since the Ayatollah met with several Hamas terrorists and determined Cecil was a cartoon character, and would therefore be hard to murder.
Below, five difference variations on Mecca, including Pitney’s in Spanish. Blue Gene, baby, shall I mourn you with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief? Shall I ask why in the world people are killing each other over a fucking imaginary friend they can’t prove even exists?
Well, Gene, here’s hoping you’re reading this in heaven (the real deal, not the one full of goats).
Gene, may you be sitting on a cloud wanting something to eat, and a waitress comes over and shows you where. Or didn’t you know heaven was 24 hours from Tulsa?
































GENE PITNEY MECCA (en Espanol) OTIS MACE MECCA
THE CHEETAHS MECCA
VARJOKUVA MECCA (LIVE)
VALERIE LOEFFLER MECCA (LIVE)




6 comments:

Timmy said...

Bravo! Well stated, in all accounts. This little gal's version isn't as spirited as Pit's, but like you say, who can hold a candle to his flame? At least she gave it a go, good for her! I do dig Pit's version en espanol, tambien. Well, nice knowin' ya, Salmon...

Ill Folks said...

Lol. Yeah, some of my posts just get a Grrrr, or a nyuk, but this one could get a fat Wah.

MommaBL said...

Not happy that you used my daughters name and photo for your article WITHOUT her permission. She sang this many years ago.

Ill Folks said...

Hi Momma, meaning no disrespect, and no profit. Thought it might be a nice (if minor) plug for her. A problem for all reporters, and even humble bloggers, is how hard it is to locate people for permission when it might be needed. In this case, this is a not-for-profit informational-type blog. Its purpose is solely educational...in this case, mainly to discuss the continuing impact of "Mecca." Thanks for adding the detail, that this was an early performance, and I wish Valerie good luck. Good luck being, that people typing in her name, will find more than this article!

James F said...

My god this article is racist and pathetic....did you seriously write this as something serious??

Ill Folks said...

James, of COURSE it's not serious. Jeez, the PC brigade comes to the Ill Folks blog? OK, if you're just surfing in on a Google wave, and not a regular reader, I understand. But no, the intent was to not take Radical Islam that seriously, and make fun of conspiracy theories, etc. etc. And not take Gene Pitney too seriously either. That voice did have a dash of chipmunk in it, after all! Maybe I should begin some of these ridiculous entries with Steve Allen's wry, cautionary, "All seriousness aside..."