Tuesday, July 19, 2016

George Melly goes cheerfully to THE ELECTRIC CHAIR

What about Liverpool's George Melly?

Well, based on the odd "Send Me to the Electric Chair" below, American listeners might get the idea he was some kind of cross between Lord Buckley and Judy Henske. He obviously was eccentric, and didn't let being white prevent him from enjoying raucous jazz. In fact, the traditional blues in this song might have you tracing it against Henske's "Oh You Engineer" (written by Shel Silverstein) and the barrel house melody from "Low Down Alligator."

Melly, as you might guess from the photo, kept working almost till the end. Van Morrison was a fan (appearing on "The Ultimate Melly," released a year before George died. With encouragement like that, George kept getting up on stage, resisting cancer treatment, continuing to tour, and vowing to have a damn good time to the end. Only a month or so before he died, he was performing with the Digby Fairweather Band.

George Melly died July 5th, 2007 at 80 (He was born August 17, 1926). An eccentric with varied tastes, he was nearly tossed out of the Navy during World War II for distributing "anarchist literature." He haunted art galleries, championed surrealism, and played in jazz bands that favored New Orleans-styled rhythms. Noting that it wasn't a good idea to quit a day job, or to avoid steady payment, Melly temporarily retired from music in the 60's and 70's to become a film and television critic for The Observer. He also wrote for Punch, for the Daily Mail's satirical newspaper strip Flook, and scripted the 1967 film "Smashing Time."

Ultimately realizing that he could show most performers a thing or two, George returned to the stage, performing original material as well as classics from the days of Bessie Smith and Jelly Roll Morton. He put out a bunch of albums, helmed the British Humanist Association, worked to bring recognition to his comedy idol Max Miller, and when new wave became popular in the late 70's, why, there was George, recording "Old Codger," especially written for him by The Stranglers.

He was legend enough to write three autobiographies, which accentuated his musical interests as well as his bisexuality. He was married, but was considered, at least by one friend, "a mighty camp heterosexual." He was a cheerful exhibitionist. At parties he might strip naked and twist his bulky body from man to imitation woman, and then on all fours, a bulldog!

One of the last of the bohemians, in later years his coy garb and eye patch making him look like a butt pirate, Melly could discuss art with an intellectual, or sing dirty songs to a bar maid. Typical of his flamboyance was his appearance at a 1985 exhibit, "Salute to British Surrealism." The paintings weren't the show: "The entire art world had come from London for the opening and there was George wandering around naked."

The track below is delivered with a hip howl:

"Judge yo' honor, hear my plea...I don't want no sympathy, I slit my woman's throat! I found her with another man, I warned her 'bout it before. I took a knife and...the rest you oughta know! Oh judge, judge, good Mister Judge...wanna pay a visit to the devil down below..."

Melly was way too lively to really want to off himself before his time...in fact, it took a sly Ill Folks photo-collage to actually stick him into an electric chair.

Here's an electrifying performance from the Unchained Melly Instant download or listen on line. No waiting, code numbers or porn ads.

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