Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rock critic Douglas Wolk is hosting National Solo Album Month for the second year in a row, the manic idea of writing and recording an album in a month with no collaborators, no other musicians. I gave it a whirl last year and crashed and burned in a 7-song pile-up due to technical recording problems, didn't finish. Never even listened to what I recorded after the month was over. Between the holiday madness (which I mostly love) and my revulsion at the election results, I just booted it.

But. I did write a bunch of songs, a few of which I still like. So I signed up to give it another whirl. One cover song allowed.

I'll probably use some "found" lyrics, just as I did last year. If you, dear reader, happen to have any interesting bits of verbiage lying about that you think might be nice accompanied by or set to music, feel free to send them my way. I'll do my level best. Alex Ross suggested some a couple weeks ago.

This comes at a very good time for me, just when I'm tempted to take a long nap on my poached laurels for just about finishing my band's album (which was 60% done already a year ago -- long story!).

utopian fictioneer

I have recently been given reason to doubt the provenance of the name of this blog (read comments). According to an anonymous commenter, evidence exists that poet Marianne Moore doctored "The Ford Correspondence," in which the phrase "Utopian Turtletop" made its debut, to make it funnier. Since she apparently edited the letters after they were sent (and I haven't seen the evidence, but it's hard to imagine somebody inventing it), I have to wonder whether she invented the entire thing. Very strange.

I remember reading somewhere that when Miss Moore (as she was known) edited "The Dial" literary mag, she used to piss off poets by suggesting edits; in particular, if I remember right, Hart Crane really got pissed. James Laughlin, in his book "The Owl of Minerva," reports, "For a reading of younger poets at The Grolier Club in New York in 1948 Marianne Moore rewrote the last two stanzas of this poem. . . . In her letter Miss Moore asked: 'Can you condone it?' I could indeed." So rewriting someone else's work and passing it off as theirs was something she is known to have done. It's hard to imagine a big company like Ford condoning such stuff today.

the funny little ironies of showbiz

In the film "Singin' in the Rain," Debbie Reynolds plays a singer-dancer who dubs another actress's songs without credit. This is not uncommon in the movies. Bobby McFerrin's father sang Sidney Poitier's part in the '50s movie of "Porgy and Bess." (I've never seen the movie but stole my parents' copy of the soundtrack LP, which gives credit to Robert McFerrin as it shows Poitier emoting on the cover.) Audree Hepburn didn't sing her role in "My Fair Lady." Rosanno Brazzi didn't sing his role in "South Pacific." (My friend David Isaacson wrote a play about "South Pacific" and Rosanno Brazzi's career, among many other things. I played Brazzi, and mouthed the songs onstage as another actor sang them behind me. I did get to sing at one point, in a really nasally, brash, unromantic voice. I got to sing in the context of telling an old, corny joke based on "South Pacific."
Knock knock
Who's there?
Sam and Janet
Sam and Janet who?
"Sam and Janet evening"
Fun role. Terrific play -- 1988. The last play I acted in.)

I got the soundtrack of "Singin' in the Rain" out from the library, the notes of which, without comment, credits the singing on Debbie Reynolds's big ballad to Betty Noyes. Reynolds sang the comic banter numbers but didn't have the pitch control or timbre for a slow torchy number, so she mouthed the song for the cameras as someone else's voice emerged. Which is just what the movie is about!

I remember hearing somewhere that the Partridge Family stole one of its plots from the genesis of the show. The TV producers wanted to hire a real family band, the Cowsills, to be the stars of a TV show about a family band. With one caveat: They wanted the Cowsills to fire their mother and let Shirley Jones play the role on TV. The Cowsills said No. Partridge Family plot: TV producers approach the band to star in a TV show about a family band, with one caveat, that they fire their mother and let an actress play the role. Keith and Danny and Lori and the rest say, No. Man, if I'd've been a Cowsill, I'd've been pissed.

Right now I'm listening to Michael Caine butcher the Roy Orbison ballad "It's Over," from the "Little Voice" soundtrack, which I got from the library -- it's a hidden track -- I didn't know the CD had it. Rock on!

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