Thursday, June 18, 2015

Let's introduce Tennesee Williams and the band

One of my pet peeves going to concerts is when the singer interrupts a song to throw in some patter or introductions. Songs tell a story and the illusion is destroyed once the singer steps out of the moment. It’s insulting to lyricists. What if performers did that in dramas? 

Imagine a production of STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh on stage. The play is barreling to an explosive finale when:

Blanche: So, farewell, my friend! And let there be no hard feelings....

Stanley: Was this before or after the telegram came from the Texas oil millionaire?

Blanche: What telegram? No! No, after! As a matter of fact, the wire came just as -

Stanley: AS a matter of fact there wasn’t no wire at all! Hey, how ‘about this dialogue? Tennessee Williams, ladies and gentleman!

Blanche: Oh, oh!

Stanley: There isn’t no millionaire! And Mitch didn’t come back with roses ‘cause I know where he is. Playing Mitch, the great Karl Malden. Wasn’t he something, folks?

Blanche: Oh!

Stanley: There isn’t a goddam thing but imagination!

Blanche: Oh!

Stanley: And lies and conceit and tricks! Which reminds me, we couldn’t do this without great lighting and Harold Foonman and his crew is the best.

Blanche: Oh!

Stanley: And look at yourself! Take a look at yourself in that worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for fifty cents from some rag-picker! And with the crazy crown on! What queen do you think you are? A nice hand now for Lisa Moorvoritz and her wardrobe department.

Blanche: Oh – God...

Stanley: I’ve been on to you from the start! Not once did you pull any wool over this boy’s eyes! Wow. I sound like an Elvis record. You come in here and sprinkle the place with powder and spray perfume and cover the light-bulb with a paper lantern, and lo and behold the place has turned into Egypt and you are the Queen of the Nile! Sitting on your throne and swilling down my liquor! I say – Ha! –Ha! Do you hear me? Ha –ha –ha! You’d be laughing too. This is real liquor, folks! I love doing this show!

Somehow I think you’d lose the impact.  It's great to introduce the band, just wait until the song is over.  Thank you. 

26 comments:

Oat Willie said...

The line "play enjoyed by all" speaks for itself! The music thing happens more often with nostalgia acts (see PBS during pledge drives) but I got hit personally at a blues fest when Rick Derringer stopped playing his one hit, "Rock & Roll Hoochie Coo", to plug his new blues album.

Carol said...

I'm laughing at Oat Willie's Simpsons reference. As a theatre geek, that's one of my favorite episodes. Stella! Stella! Can't you hear me yell-a!

As for the music, in my opinion, I don't mind if intros happen during the really long, boring guitar solos. Or drum solos.



Pat Reeder said...

I recently read an article by a long-time NYC critic who has sat through thousands of cabaret shows. It was a list of annoying things that he wishes performers would knock off already. One was introducing the accompanist after every solo and just before sliding back into the dramatic lyrics. Considering how over-the-top many modern cabaret songs are, you can imagine how jarring it is to hear, "Mark Greenblatt on slidewhistle, ladies and gentlemen! (SINGING) And now, I'm bathed in tears with my heart ripped from my chest..."

BTW, my personal pet peeve is songs like that. My wife is a singer, so she gets a lot of song demos from modern cabaret songwriters. Many spew out a thousand words telling us how they felt when their lover left, then how they felt about feeling like that, then how they feel now about feeling how they felt then, etc. etc. It's like eavesdropping on their therapy sessions. Johnny Mercer just wrote, "I took a trip on a train, and I thought about you." Learn how to edit, people!

And please don't think my hatred of overly emotional songs means I have no feelings. For your information, I just proved I am not a robot.

Mike Barer said...

I remember you broached this subject a while ago.

Stoney said...

Would you consider Bruce Springsteen the worst offender or does he position his patter so it's non-intrusive?

If you ever want to shut Tom Petty up when he starts babbling mid-song just toss up a firecracker. i saw that happen once in the late 80s.

Ever heard the album "Fun With Elvis On Stage"?

Curt Alliaume said...

Springsteen usually does his patter before songs begin.

One of the most annoying to me (although not mid-song) is the endless introduction by the drunk guy before Steely Dan's live version of "Bodhisattva" from the 1970s. It's funny *once*; after that it becomes progressively more annoying - and it makes me long for the days of vinyl where I could drop the needle down in the middle of the track.

Stoney said...

Since it's Paul McCartney's birthday it should be noted that he gave a proper introduction to a band member on the 1974 single "Junior's Farm". "Take me down Jimmy." (McCulloch)

Kosmo13 said...

It's not just intrusive, it's also self-defeating. What I hear at concerts is: ".... and playing guitar for us tonight is..."

By then the audience has picked up on their cue that they're supposed to applaud the musician's fine work and have started clapping, whistling and cheering their approval. By the time the speaking singer finally says the name of the instrumentalist, the audience is making so much noise, I can't hear the person's name and I still have no idea who they are.

If the singer is going to credit the band members, the singer should say the name first before launching into the person's description.

Stoney said...

I just remembered; six months ago a radio station in Syracuse, which was going non-stop Christmas music, played Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" minus the spoken intro. Hmmmm!

Stuart said...

(concert comment, not play) I think it really depends on the setup. As a veteran of hundreds of concerts, I've seen it done well, and seen it done... not so well.

For example, many years ago Jimmy Buffet used to actually build the band intros into a song. Really well done. Now he does it in between songs.

The Grateful Dead never intro'ed any member.

And there's Sly & The Family Stone's "Dance to the Music", where several band members are introduced as part of the structure of the song, the lyrics themselves. "Cynthia and Jerry got a message that's sayin'..."

Anonymous said...

When I took improv lessons at second city, we were taught to never break the scene. A couple instructors mentioned the worst offender was Joan Rivers. She would stop, and start talking to the audience. "Wow can you believe that?", "I have a Ford, but never this problem", etc.

Anonymous said...

Genius HuffPo headline today, the same day as a horrific hate crime in South Carolina: "What It's Like Shopping At Forever21 In Your Thirties".

Cronkite would be so proud of journalism today.

Jason said...

Anoynmous Huff-hater:

So your view is that if a crime occurs, there should be no articles anywhere about anything else? Ooh, here's a Fox News headline today: "Potty-mouthed London mayor trades barbs with cabbie"

Eric J said...

"Somehow I think you’d lose the impact. It's great to introduce the band, just wait until the song is over."

Not unlike DJs talking over the music on the air. Used to drive me nuts.

Actually, the first time I heard "Dark Side of the Moon" I thought the DJ had left his mike open.

Jason said...

"Not unlike DJs talking over the music on the air."

I've heard tell of a mystical DJ who had the power to speak exactly up to the end of the music intro. Even heard him do it on a reunion radio shoaw a month or two ago.. Hmm, who WAS that?

Todd Everett said...

Have you seen "Clipped" yet? Workplace comedy set in a Boston business (barbershop) that you have to walk downstairs to. Leading character is a failed baseball player. One of the supporting characters, who seemingly drinks a lot (well, a bottle of something for breakfast) is played by George Wendt. (Boss is a short guy who is hated -- in a loveable kind of way -- by his staff).

It's billed as "A TBS Original."

Anonymous said...

Jason,
Nope. That's not my view at all.

Thanks,
Anonymous Huff-hater.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Springsteen traditionally does the band introductions during "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." Of course since the passing of "The Big Man" It adds a certain poignancy to the song.

GS in SF said...

Intros are usually not done by "bands." They are often done by artists who are solo but have used the same backing band for years -- like a Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffet and even Weird Al. They sometimes are done by a lead singer with a known and named backing band, like Springsteen AND the E Street band or Tom Petty AND the Heartbreakers. The reason is that the lead person knows that he or she is getting all the glory but that such glory would not be there, or would be lesser, without the band and it is a nice thing to do to make sure the audience appreciates that it is not just the lead singer that is making this all happen. Bono will often shout out "The Edge" for effect, but I do not recall him ever giving a shout out to Adam Clayton or Larry Mullens, Jr. Though for fun, perhaps try at home in your best Bono Irish-accent: "ladies and gentleman, Larry Mullens, JUNIOR... whooo." At least we now know why poor Larry is never given a shout out.

Perhaps here is a question for Ken... does he want the song to remain the same as it was on the record? Or is an acoustic version of a hit song appreciated? Or a different riff or a medley used on a standard song? Because while a talk over may take someone out of the moment of the song, I think all music is like improvisational jazz. I do not think the same can be said for all plays.



LouOCNY said...

ntros are usually not done by "bands." They are often done by artists who are solo but have used the same backing band for years -- like a Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffet and even Weird Al. They sometimes are done by a lead singer with a known and named backing band, like Springsteen AND the E Street band or Tom Petty AND the Heartbreakers. The reason is that the lead person knows that he or she is getting all the glory but that such glory would not be there, or would be lesser, without the band and it is a nice thing to do to make sure the audience appreciates that it is not just the lead singer that is making this all happen. Bono will often shout out "The Edge" for effect, but I do not recall him ever giving a shout out to Adam Clayton or Larry Mullens, Jr. Though for fun, perhaps try at home in your best Bono Irish-accent: "ladies and gentleman, Larry Mullens, JUNIOR... whooo." At least we now know why poor Larry is never given a shout out.

The evolution of Stones inroductions is very telling. All through the Sixties they NEVER did intros - although there was a nice tradition of bringing Charlie out front to introduce a song. Then in 1970, when they started add a horn section, an a piano plater other than Stu, Mick would introduce Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Nicky Hopkins. THEN, starting with the 1972 American tour, Mick would introduce everybody - with no mention of course! Then after Ronnie Wood joined, along with Billy Preston, the intros got a little amusing - a good example of which is on the LOVE YOU LIVE album, with Mick pointing out everyone's supposed fetishes - "Bill Wyman just wants to take photographs of girls legs!" and Woody interjecting "Old bum's rush Jagger here!"

D. McEwan said...

Of course star actors making their first entrance, and stopping to take a bow when they're greeted with applause, happens all the time, takes you right out of it. At Melodyland Theater once, I saw Martha Raye in The Solid Gold Cadillac. When some first-row late-comers arrived 20 minutes in, Martha stopped the show, said: "We've all been waiting for you. Here's what you missed." The she recapped the play up to that point. When caught up, she said: "Now can we get on with the play? Thank you. Try being on time next time. Everyone else was." It, of course, took you out of the play, but it was also delicious. Dame Edna does that sort of thing to latecomers, but she's not doing plays. She'll ask latecomers where they came from. "Torrance." "Torrance. That is a long drive. I came all the way from Australia, and I still managed to get here on time."

I'm sorry, but the pedant in me can't take it. Marlon Brando did Streetcar on Broadway opposite Jessica Tandy. Vivian Leigh played Streetcar in London opposite someone else. Leigh and Brando only played it together in the movie.

D. McEwan said...

Of course star actors making their first entrance, and stopping to take a bow when they're greeted with applause, happens all the time, takes you right out of it. At Melodyland Theater once, I saw Martha Raye in The Solid Gold Cadillac. When some first-row late-comers arrived 20 minutes in, Martha stopped the show, said: "We've all been waiting for you. Here's what you missed." The she recapped the play up to that point. When caught up, she said: "Now can we get on with the play? Thank you. Try being on time next time. Everyone else was." It, of course, took you out of the play, but it was also delicious. Dame Edna does that sort of thing to latecomers, but she's not doing plays. She'll ask latecomers where they came from. "Torrance." "Torrance. That is a long drive. I came all the way from Australia, and I still managed to get here on time."

I'm sorry, but the pedant in me can't take it. Marlon Brando did Streetcar on Broadway opposite Jessica Tandy. Vivian Leigh played Streetcar in London opposite someone else. Leigh and Brando only played it together in the movie.

D. McEwan said...

Sorry about the double post. Computer glitch. And it won't let me delete it.

emily said...

Blame it on Harold Foonman.

johnro401 said...

It's okay D. McEwan, latecomers will catch the second comment if they miss the first (but you should get someone to look at that twitchy finger.)
john

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