Friday, August 19, 2016

Kid Stuff from Connie Francis

When last we convened, I mentioned the varied career of Connie Francis. Give her credit; she appealed to everyone. If you liked folk music or movie theme songs, if you were Italian or Jewish, if you wanted a pop song sung in a foreign language, if you liked teen pop like “Stupid Cupid” or oldies like “Among My Souvenirs,” a record store owner could direct you to the big Connie Francis rack. Not that she had a big rack. But she was nice looking, wasn’t she?

Probably the most dire examples of Connie's flexibility, are her children's albums. In deference to Connie’s views on piracy, and the blog’s own views on ethical sharing there's only one sample from each lp. Let's allow record dealers and re-issue labels to make a living. Enough with the rationalizations, or acting like Fascistic babies and thinking FREE music is an entitlement and that it does no harm.

“Connie Francis and the Kids Next Door” was an awfully cheap trick. Recorded on MGM’s cheap “Leo the Lion” label, Connie doesn’t even sing on all the tracks. If you were thinking of spending $10 or $20 or whatever JUST to hear Connie Francis try a Jewish accent on “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” fuggedaboutit. That song is sung exclusively by the brats, er, kids. And no, it’s not funny and no threat to the Allan Sherman original.

One must remember (or try to forget) that back in the day, there were horrible singles such as Mitch Miller's "The Children's Marching Song (Nick Nack Paddy Wack) featuring the annoying and brash vocals of pre-pubescent pests.

Connie does guide the little monsters through some other silly pop tunes of the day, including "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" and "Henry VII." Adults and kids singing together is usually a “novelty” at best. Like a pitted olive with an almond stuck in it, an adult-and-kids novelty may be oddly amusing ONCE, but you’d really prefer something else. And you don't want a second helping. Tom Glazer’s “On Top of Spaghetti” comes to mind, or "Consider Yourself" from the Broadway show "Oliver," or anything from “The Sound of Music.” Did you know that Phil Ochs recorded an entire album of kid favorites with “The Campers?” No, he didn’t put his name on that one!

The album notes gamely try to make something more about this brat-worst than it is. It’s not just some contractually obligated experiment Connie Francis was roped into doing; it’s some kind of educational breakthrough. Imagine if YOU were in a record store, pondering whether to buy this thing. The notes might put you over the edge:

“Have you ever heard songs sung in childrenese?

“Childrenese, devised and recently popularized by Dr. Haim Ginott, is a new and understanding way of talking to and with kids.

“Why not the same approach to get through to them musically…that the most understanding and receptive way of singing to children is to sing with them.

“Connie Francis knows this, and a better kid-terpretor of tunes you’ll not find. Having wowed an audience at her own singing debut at the age of four, she is more kid-conscious, musically, than any pop artist around…with six youngsters [4 of them 11 years old, 2 of them 14] adding their sing-along sparkle to Connie’s irresistible talents, the result mirrors the magnetism of the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, for you find you’re quickly drawn into the act yourself. A spin or two and you’ll also be do-re-me-ing, hellomuddah-ing and itsybitsyteenieweenieyellowpolkadotbikini-ing!”

Haim Ginott was a highly respected therapist and author at the time, not quite as prone to turning up on TV as often as Dr. Joyce Brothers, but his self-help books were (and probably still are) quite useful....much more than a bunch of kids singing "England Swings" or "Do Re Mi" or "A Spoonful of Sugar" in dodgy stereo.

At one time, it seemed that Top 40 radio’s demographics were geared not only to teenagers, but to the pre-pubescent. How else do you explain The Chipmunks or Herman’s Hermits? Or doo-wop? A budget album back then called “Pops for Tots” collected all the novelty songs that not only amused teenagers, but their kid brothers and sisters, too, things like “The Witch Doctor” and “Western Movies.” One shudders to think that today's 11 year-olds are happily listening to violent rap and chuckling.

Good-hearted Connie went along with all kind of ideas from her record label, including a kiddie concept album about cute animals, like “Pinky the Penguin.” Really, even if the album was officially declared public domain and MGM insisted it would NEVER be released on CD or as an iTunes download, you might not want to hear more than one track. “Pinky the Penguin” is plenty.

Some popular vocalists got some attention late in life (Johnny Cash, for example) and others didn’t (Patti Page). Some 50’s singers are still in high demand (Tony Bennett, for example) and then there’s Connie Francis. It would be nice if the Grammy Awards or Kennedy Center Honors gave Connie a salute. A mention on a blog, plus a download of “Pinky the Penguin” and a Herman’s Hermits cover isn’t quite enough, is it?

Connie and the Kids Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter

Connie Francis Pinky the Penguin


Crystal S said...

You do realize that this album was recorded for the child audience, right? I remember borrowing this album from the public library when I was very young (yes, many years ago) and my little brother and I had quite a lot of fun with it!
Anyway, thank you for this article. I'm glad I stumbled upon it!
P.S. You reeeally don't like kids, do you. Lol

Ill Folks said...

lol, yes, I know Connie's album was intended for kids. She covered a wide range, doing albums for Italians, Jews, Germans, holidays, etc. Few singers were more eclectic in trying to have something for everyone!

As to the last line, well, I'll quote W.C. Fields. "I like children. Girl children. Around 18 or 20." But I'll extend that for quite a few decades.