Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jackie Gleason

A story:

My mother had this cousin, well, I guess he was my cousin too. He wasn’t a first cousin, not even close, maybe 6th, which would make him, what, my 7th? 6th once removed? I don’t know.

This cousin, he lived in Chicago, and we did not live in Chicago, so we did not see him often, but I met him first when maybe I was about 13. He was a big guy, probably weighed 600 lbs, and old. He had come to Canada in the 30s, spent one year and then moved on to the US, and now he would have been 60 something at least, and he spoke very broken English, notwithstanding his having lived in North America for almost 40 years.

And so there we were in Chicago, it was 1971, and I was a kid, he and his wife, they had no kids. He was an oddball, had quirky sense of humour – quirky, but not really funny. But he was good natured, very good natured. And he gave me a gift. He said to me, I want to give you something. And he pulled out a record from his collection and told me that he’d always loved it and he wanted me to have it. It was a recording by Jackie Gleason, and until that moment I’d had no idea that Jackie Gleason was anything other that a comedian who had a weekly TV show that I did not watch. But apparently Gleason was a conductor / arranger, and here was one of his LPs, total elevator music, and I knew I’d never listen to it. And I felt bad, because here he was making a sacrifice for me, who knows why, and I had no use for it.

And I was wrong, you know. I thought I’d never listen to that LP, but I did listen to it – once. I said you know, it’s here, I have to listen to it at least once. And I was right, I had no use for it.

I now have this collection by the said Jackie Gleason, and I don’t remember where I got it, or when, though it was a relatively recent acquisition, “recent” meaning maybe not more than 12 years ago. It’s The Best Of Jackie Gleason, but it doesn’t have his only hit, which was Autumn Leaves, released in 1955.

Jackie Gleason

La La La La La La La La – Ok, that has to be either the best song title ever, or the worst. Vote.
You’re Driving Me Crazy – I have a version of Frank Sinatra doing this.
How Sweet It Is – This must be his theme song. Not the Marvin Gaye song, that’s for sure.
I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face – I don’t know, man, that doesn’t sound so great…
More – Gleason takes a stab at the theme from Mondo Cane. He is up against much competition. He takes it slower than the usual.
Alone Together – Not the Dave Mason song.
The Girl From Ipanema – The Stan Getz hit from 1964. The orchestration kills the bossa nova here, but it’s still a good song.
Melancholy Serenade – Lives up to its name.
Call Me Irresponsible – A hit for Jack Jones in 1963.
To A Sleeping Beauty – A thoroughly maudlin recitative from a father to his small sleeping daughter. Yech. He speaks this, accompanied by a mute organ, and it’s the only non-instrumental track on the collection. Jimmy Dean had a hit with this in 1962.


Anonymous said...

I know who you're talking about. How come I didn't get anything?

VSL Poltroon said...

Know what? it wasn't Jackie Gleason, it was Red Skelton.

I'm so embarrased...

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