Song Of The Day 8/3/2016: Freddy Martin Orchestra feat. Merv Griffin – “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts”

Week Of Lies (and plagiarism!) VI
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(From Rolling Stone, August 2, 1949)

Freddy Martin & His Orchestra featuring Merv Griffin
Self-Coconut
(RCA Victor)

(1) What is this shit?

(2) The band went home three hours ago, but the bandleader hasn't. He's slumped over a folding chair, white dinner jacket tumbled over the back, his eyes drawing a diagonal beam to the cigarette- and drink-spattered floor.

"I trucked in the baroque as a prodigy. From then on it was a matter of slow, almost deliberate degradation. You can reproduce all the etudes that came from quills with less convenience but more imagination than we have today. You can court the dames with your theory, your unbridled intelligence. You can woo leaders of business with your acumen, impress religious leaders with your spirit. You know what it comes down to? You know what it finally comes down to? 'How Much Is That Doggie In the Window.' 'Oh, my niece loves that song. Can you do it in a tango?' 'Ehhh, I don't know much about music, but that song about the doggie in the window, that sends me right uptown! Here's an extra quarter if you play it fast!'""

He puffs on his cigarette. "Hate the game, man. That's what I keep telling myself. Hate the game. Not the coconuts."

(3) "I was a junior at Sarah Lawrence," my friend said over espresso in a village coffee shop. "We were still a little green around the gills, I guess. But Freddy & Merv meant something to us. 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,' 'I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face'... It was hard to explain. It still is. But now I'm listening to these affectations, watching those pulsing little hand gestures... was it all a con?"

She puffs on her cigarette. "I just can't fathom that it's all come down to coconuts."

(4) PP: "It's such an unambitious album."

JW: "Maybe what we need right now is an unambitious album from Freddy Martin and Merv Griffin."

PP: "No. No we don't. We need Freddy and Merv to keep punching up. We need them to re-affix the stars in the firmament of the midnight sky, then come right back down and gaze at us threateningly. Freddy can just scowl and Merv can just keep badgering me, 'Did you get it? Did you get it? What do you think? Don't you have any response?'"

JW: "It's got some..."

PP: "...though it is really full of..."

PP & JW: "...coconuts."

(5) The Four Questions: The four sons gazed at the portrait on the wall of the tiki lounge. "It's a mural," said the first son. "It's art," said the second son. "It's black velvet, splattered with crappy paint by a Times Square junkie who only creates when he's hopped up on horse and can only pronounce every other consonant, and instead of urinating properly he decides to enact his fruitless vengeance against civilization by painting a gaudy picture of a palm tree with some offensive caricatured natives dancing underneath it." The fourth son was usually considered somewhat stupid, but he knew why they decided to come here instead of Carnegie Deli. "It's a coconut," he said.

(6) I once said I'd buy an album of Martin & Griffin selling pomegranates. I still would. But not an album of Martin & Griffin selling coconuts.

(7) Because of what happened in World War II, our fate is bound up with Griffin's whether he or we like it or not. Because Merv Griffin Sings Songs for People Who Don't Pay Much Attention to Subject Matter changed the world, the albums that follow it must – but not in the same way, of course. Sometimes he'd need coconuts.

(8) We went out and bought Self-Coconut not because we knew it was great music – it might have been but that's not the first question we'd ask – but because it was a Merv album. What we want, though, is a different matter – and that's what separates most people from auteurists – we want great music, and because of those three albums back in '45 and '46, we expect it, or hope for it.

If we are to be satisfied with Self-Coconut we may have to see it in the sterile terms of the auteur, which in our language would be translated as "Hey, far out, Griffin appropriating a British carnival barker. That's great, 'cause his Peruvian produce seller was really putting me to sleep." Well, it is far out, but if our own untaught perception of the auteur allows us to be satisfied with it, we degrade our own sensibilities and Griffin's capabilities as an American artist as well. Griffin did not become a force whose every movement carries the force of myth by latching on to tropical nutmeat relocated to a frigid climate and reduced to a makeshift game of inebriated skill – he did it by taking on the world, by assault, by seduction, and by carbonated, non-tropical beverages.

The novel (the film) (the song) is a subjective epic composition in which the author begs leave to treat the world according to his own point of view. It is only a question, therefore, whether he has a point of view. The coconuts will take care of themselves.


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