The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Heroes of Popular Culture #27

Christmas with Mitch and the Gang: Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!


swac said...

We had a couple of Mitch Miller albums around when I was a kid, I always found something a bit creepy about those full-on vocals and the lunkheaded 4/4 rhythms.

Then there's his rather wretched treatment of Frank Sinatra and his utter antipathy towards rock and roll ... I can't even imagine how he felt about Columbia signing Bob Dylan.

But I am a sucker for some of those Rosemary Clooney novelty hits. Botch-a-Me!

Of course, not to be confused with Hum Along With Herman.

Tom Sutpen said...

According to the interview which appeared in 'No Direction Home: Bob Dylan' (the doco Martin Scorsese has his name on), Miller claims he just didn't see the point of a label like Columbia, with its pedigree and commercial provenance, signing someone who, by his standards, couldn't sing, and couldn't play anything other than the Guitar and Harmonica; neither of which he could claim any conventional notion of virtuosity.

What I suspect he really meant was that he saw no avenue through which Columbia could shape Dylan into, say, the Jewish Johnny Mathis in the same manner he sought to turn the pre-Atlantic Aretha Franklin into a kind of Black Streisand.

His treatment of Sinatra is legendary; and despite all his later denials, it's pretty obvious he had an immense and very personal dislike for the skinny guy with the Voice and did everything he could to destroy his recording career.

When you think about it, it's a testament to Frank Sinatra's will that he managed to survive, in the same period, not only Mitch Miller's attempts at sabotage, but Louis B. Mayer's as well.