Sunday, October 12, 2014

Adventures In Recordland, Post #6: The Bs, part 2

I cut down a little and only did three albums today. Well, technically four. I'll explain that in a moment.

#1: The Bangles- "Interchords"/"Tell Tales interview" (1986)

Record companies pulled a bit of a trick on buyers here. "Interchords" is a promotional record released to plug their album "Different Light" (see yesterday's blog) in 1986. It consists of an interview with the group and several cuts from the album. The "Tell Tales" album, it turns out, is the exact same interview with a different DJ asking the questions and the original answers spliced in from the other album to make it sound like they're in the same room together! I found this out the hard way. But at least "Tell Tales" is a picture disc, so that makes it collectible. Anyway, it's an interesting interview from when the group was at its peak, they sound like they're having fun together, and it gives you an idea of their songwriting process. There's nothing very unusual about it as interviews go, but for a Bangles fan, it's a fun footnote.

#2: Dr. Murray Banks- "How To Live With Yourself, Or, What To Do Until The Psychiatrist Comes" (1965)

I've had this album since I was about ten years old and have always been rather fond of it, so it was fun to hear it again.
The late Dr. Murray Banks (he passed away as recently as 2008, aged 91) was a psychology professor who toured for many years as a lecturer and after-dinner speaker. He made a series of albums about various topics- some are straightforward, but on others, especially this one, Dr. Banks uses a lot of humor to get his point across. He discusses the psychology of human behavior and human desires, an interesting subject in itself, and illustrates his various points with funny stories. He does it quite well- many of the stories are genuinely funny, and get a tremendous response from the audience. He also seems to have a natural instinct for performing- he ad-libs when a joke doesn't go over ("Would you explain it to this side of the room so we can go on?"), does character voices, and overall comes across as a charming entertainer, as well as making some interesting observations about human nature. Of course, this album is fifty years old, so some of the psychology is a bit dated, but the roots of his ideas are timeless, as is much of the humor.

#3: Belle Barth- "If I Embarrass You, Tell Your Friends" (1960)

Belle Barth, birth name Annabelle Salzman, was a comedienne who told dirty jokes in nightclubs after hours. This album, her first, sold a million copies. Barth is something of a cross between Sophie Tucker and the late Joan Rivers, with a dash of Redd Foxx's raunchiness.
Back in 1960, of course, dirty jokes were to be told strictly between adults in the privacy of their homes. Today, you can hear much dirtier stuff than this every day on television. In fact, Barth sometimes pulls her punches- instead of saying all the dirty words, she'll substitute Yiddish, or use cute euphemisms like calling male private parts a "yo-yo"- although that's undoubtedly because she would have been arrested at the time for using a word like "penis" onstage, even in a 4 A.M. show. So, her material comes across as slightly naughty and coy by today's standards rather than the outright filth it was probably perceived as at the time.
But is she funny? Sometimes. There are certainly a few good one-liners in there, but a lot of it is bantering with the crowd and the kind of thing you would find in the average dirty joke book. It's an enjoyable album for those who like the risque Borscht Belt style, but I'm not in a hurry to buy more of her albums.

That's it for today. See you tomorrow for some Count Basie!

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