That There Squeakypony had me on a wild goose chase yesterday. He linked to a Mrs. Miller in a comment on my March 18 post. In my dotage, I am no longer master of my brain cells, and I mistakenly thought he was referring to a Mrs. Mills, even after I clicked on the link and suffered the aural assault of Mrs. Miller mangling "These Boots are Made for Walking." I thought, "I don't remember Mrs. Mills singing, just playing the piano." Then darling Gooooogle provided an album cover for Mrs. Mills in the hits for my "Mrs. Miller" search and it all came clear.
I don't specifically remember Mrs. Miller, but I can vaguely remember those kinds of performances on TV when I was kid. Some poor old dear who'd been successful in their day in their own music genre would attempt to "get down wit' da youff" and do horrid things to a current hit. Perry Como singing Beatle hits and such. Although I suspect poor, dear, sweet, presumably deceased Mrs. Miller was never very successful except as a novelty act.
Now we have the reverse phenomenon with rock stars singing oldies. And it's just as horrifying. I’m looking at you, Rod Stewart.
But finding the Mrs. Mills album covers, and this one in particular, reminded me of something. The album the cover for which you see here was in my father's record collection when I was growing up (and may, in fact, be lurking in my basement right now). My father was born in 1912, so the ragtime and honky tonk music of the 20s was the music of his youth. His generation's rap, in fact. And it was just as obnoxious to his parents as most rap is to us and just as hilarious to subsequent generations as rap will be in 20 years' time. Such is the fate of popular music.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard this album. I’d even know all the words if they could all be understood. The backup singers were somewhat inarticulate and, incredibly, at some points the altos seem oddly out of step with the sopranos, (surely it's the other way around?) making it even harder to make out what they’re singing. That fact that this wonky timing made it to the final recording tells me it was the style at the time, but it does my classically trained head in, I can tell you.
And, in a bizarre “you can’t make this stuff up” twist, when I was in London at the end of a school trip in 1972, we were taken to a variety performance of the type for which none of us would have willingly purchased tickets. Our teachers claimed it was the only show for which they could get 30 tickets. I’m still suspicious of that claim. It was the Des O’Connor Show, which was on TV at home at the time.
BUT!!! (I like big buts and I cannot lie) it resulted in me actually getting to see, in the flesh, the very Mrs. Mills whose music I had so often heard as a child. It was worth sitting through the rest of it (which wasn’t bad at all, just not to our discerning teenaged tastes) to get to see her so I could go home and tell my dad that I had. I highly suspect I was the only 16-year old in the audience quite so thrilled to be listening to Mrs. Mills. Unfortunately, in 1972, mobile phones hadn’t been invented, so I couldn’t immediately text my dad to tell him and had to wait days until I got home to do so.
So, in memory of me dear old da’ and thanks to Squeakypony, I give you the inimitable Mrs. Mills as I used to hear her at home as a child. Enjoy! Or run screaming, your choice.