Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tim Curry - Read My Lips

Puddles Pity Party
I've mentioned before my meticulous obsession to assure that everything we publish has some kind of connection, as if AM were a long, one-sided conversation. So, as preface to this little interlude, I'll mention that I saw IT this past weekend. I've been fixated on clowns of late, anticipating seeing my favorite singing clown, Puddles Pity Party, next month at the Keswick in Philadelphia. If you haven't experienced Puddles, you need to, keeping in mind that you may very well question my integrity when you do. And of course there's Twisty from American Horror Story, who should bring both nightmares and tears, and from IT, there is Pennywise. Who would have thought that anyone could attempt to reconceptualize Tim Curry's haunting portrayal, but Bill SkarsgÄrd does a fine job in a film that I didn't find offensive, and that's a great compliment from a writer whose critical eye turns only to Rosemary's Baby or The Birds when it comes to the genre.

A long-winded paragraph simply to point to Tim Curry's hauntingly beautiful and forgotten LP, Read My Lips, as a connection to 1977. Coming off his portrayal of Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show in L.A. and the film, as well, Curry was clever in recreating a persona that reflected Rocky Horror, but like a good conclusion to an essay, transformed the idea for the next level. Read My Lips is one of those forgotten LPs that shouldn't be; a nightmarish take on Burt Bacharach stylings; you know, like if Bacharach were evil.

A great example is the male perspective on Joni Mitchell's "All I Want," in which Curry changes the lyric, "I want to knit you a sweater" to "I want a hand up your sweater;" that simplicity is genius. Curry's booming voice is the dark side's equivalent to Rick Astley and it works best on the Bacharach cover "Anyone Who Had a Heart," yet one of the most intriguing songs on the cabaret-oriented LP is the haunting "Alan," a cryptic ode most likely detailing the senseless pummeling of a gay man. It is a gripping work of storytelling.

The LP is chock full of musicianship from guitarist Dick Wagner and even some accordion from Nils Lofgren. "Alan's" production seems to point directly back to the work Wagner did with Alice Cooper, including the Cooper hit "Only Women Bleed," which he penned, and the frightening "Steven," both from Welcome to My Nightmare. Where Cooper was camp and vaudeville, Curry's debut was all about realism. 

It's Wagner's guitar that is so recognizable, though, particularly working with producer Bob Ezrin. Wagner, like Read My Lips, is often unmentioned in rock reportage and that is absurd, having worked with Lou Reed on Berlin and touring with Reed for Rock 'n' Roll Animal, the intro to which is an AM10 guitar duet. Wagner would go on that same year, as one of Bob Ezrin’s go-to players, to work with Peter Gabriel on Gabriel's debut.

Dawns on my that just because I saw IT doesn't mean there is a connection to you, dear reader. Ho-hum. And there is indeed no connection to the following article on a young Kate Bush, except that they both appeared on the scene in 1977, and that I scored both Read My Lips and The Kick Inside in near mint condition vinyl yesterday for $2.99 a piece. But let's see if I can manipulate it a little better: It to Pennywise to Tim Curry to Read My Lips to Dick Wagner to Peter Gabriel to Kate Bush. That's my Six Degrees of Separation. I know, it's kind of lame.