Friday, 15 January 2010

356: Camp Comedy Cash-In Records

When I posted about the 1966 single, “Boy Wonder I Love You”, I wondered as to whether people picked up on the odd suggestion of rabid homosexual fannishness it proposes at one point.

Well here some other records from the same period that go a lot further
What both the LP “These are The Hits, You Silly Savage!” and the single “Kay, Why?” are capitalising on is the new trend for camp humour on both sides of the Atlantic, growing throughout 1965 – 1966. Before 1965 camp comedy meant a humorous incident that took place in the army, the scouts or at little league (although this quote from a review of Kenneth Williams by Ken Tynan from April 1961 may or may not have been titivated for collection in 1967, but is proof that camp had a refuge in the theatre all along). What it’s also worth pointing out is that for some time tv and film critics and audiences were ambivalent, not entirely sure who camp humour was aimed at. Is it something that mainstream audiences can participate in, merely the latest exploitation, or is there still some secret homo code that deliberately excludes the uninitiated? Straight audiences in the UK enjoyed “Julian and Sandy”, not necessarily aware of how gay all the Polari words were. Contemporary reviews of the film of “The Loved One” were often unsure as to whether the film was pandering to a gay in-crowd or was intended for a mainstream audience. But judging from audience reaction, by late 1966, suggestions of homosexuality and “camp” were enough to get big comic rewards. At this time Alan Bennett can get a big laugh from his sophisticated BBC2 audience just by acknowledging the word “Camp”, let alone camping it up, and radio show “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again” gets showstopping guffaws from a few camp mannerisms and puns, because presenting camp characters is the cutting edge of humour.

“These are The Hits, You Silly Savage!” by Teddy and Darrel
from Mira, a LA-based studio
Dec 1966/Jan 1967?

If you really, really want, you can listen to the tracks here:

“Teddy and Darrel” were Theodore Charach and Darrell Dee. Theodore Charach appears as the narrator and one of the characters in the 1967 documentary “Mondo Hollywood” 1967. This may or may not be related to the fact that the film was music directed by Mike Curb, who was also the producer of this LP. Besides narrating, Charach also performs various novelty horror songs in the film, after openly admitting that he’s looking for a schtick (which I think explains “These are The Hits, You Silly Savage”). Charach would appear to have a natural thick-tongued lisp (a la Percy Dovetonsils), and an overly dramatic declamatory manner, so camping it up on this LP only requires so much effort.

To put any amount of effort into producing any LP would suggest those involved think they have some commercial possibility, that this campness is something au courant to which they can hitch their delusional wagon. It’s all put on in such a way that it’s more of a novelty intended for a straight audience.
When I describe this album of consisting of a load of lisping, purring, and camping through a selection of recent hits, with additional comments, and the occasional thrown in rough-trade appreciation, then it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. In practical terms, camping it up means Charach doesn’t even have to try to sing, just camply speak his way through the lyrics in a slightly high sissy voice with impromptu side comments. When he’s really camping it up I think he sounds more like Peter Lorre having a psychotic fit (hence possibly the attempt at horror novelty songs). Those songs which have become gay bar standards get the best results, so you can at least give Teddy and Darrel some credit for spotting potential this early on. Unusual, is that in the last track, “Hold On, I’m Coming” degenerates into a sequence of groaning and panting predating “Je t’aime” by a couple of years, and a final acknowledgement of the sexual component which has been only semi-suppressed through out this entire enterprise since unlike the English there’s not much actual innuendo or double-entendre.
“Silly” has been a word with unmanly connotations in America for a very long time. “Savage” too when used in a camp manner seems to crop up repeatedly. So “Silly Savage” gets reused a couple of years later as a band name by “Ben Gay & The Silly Savages”, 1973

1967 – “Kay, Why?” single by The Brothers Butch

This novelty I suspect is intended more for a gay audience. Well, how much is a straight audience willing to listen to a song which is a sequence of hardly disguised allusions to the practicals of sodomy?
“Kay, Why?”, yep, as the cover makes clear, alludes to KY Jelly, and then a lyrics which include “you made a mess/ slip through my fingers/ little squeeze / come again/ get to the bottom/ can’t get through”. Choruses of camp oohing. Just prior to piano solo, there’s a spoken part where encouragement sounds more like someone like sexually coaching a virgin – with the follow-up “Didn’t hurt a bit, did it?”
It's some escalation on the genial world of “Julian and Sandy”, more of an unacknowledged precursor to the single-entendres of Julian Clary.
Comparing these bitching, passive-aggressive London queens to Julian and Sandy, I think they sound more like Mick Jagger actually

Oh, and during a Christmas episode broadcast on 25 December 1967 The Monkees highlight the phrase “gay apparel” with a flash of limp wrists during a performance “Deck the Halls”. No laughter but then to highlight it too much, might have been to alert Network Standards.

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