And now for something completely different…
Fellow Hobokenite Bruce Ornstein, who knows me from his little boy’s Music Together days, approached me at the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day parade and asked me to help him out with a film project he’s working on. It’s about a gay vampire and it has a musical number, and would I help him record the demo to help the actor learn the song?
How could I say no?
The song, “Ha Bloody Ha,” was penned by the incomparable Enid Levine, seen here as she appeared some 27 years ago in the early days of nu-wave pop…
I’m pleased to say that she’s lost none of her verve and her hair is still an impressive mop, though the tassles seem to be long gone.
At Bruce’s urging, I took the bus to NYC last week to meet Enid and hear the song (I’d seen and heard a version captured on a cell-phone camera but that wasn’t going to be enough to go on). She and her dapper husband (also named Bruce) met me on west 51st street, an address that housed, according to Enid, a little club where we could use the piano and work out the tune.
Well, the “little club” turned out to be The Lambs, “America’s first professional theatrical club, established in New York in 1874. The Lambs was named after a club by the same name in London, England, which flourished between 1869-1879. The club’s name honors the essayist Charles Lamb, and his sister Mary, who — during the early 1800’s — played host to actors and literati at their famed salon in London.” [from the Lambs website]
So suddenly I’m standing on the same ground once trod by W.C. Fields, Lerner and Loewe, Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin, hanging out with this luminary songwriter and her husband, the club’s former president. And I’m there to learn a gay vampire anthem. I’m not making any of this up.
Needless to say, I was slightly intimidated. I’m a children’s entertainer from Hoboken who burnt out his vocal chords in college singing in a frat-rock band. What the hell was I doing here?
Bruce put me at ease a little by announcing that he was headed down to the bar to see if there were any drunken actors hanging out. At the time I thought that was a no-brainer — try to find a bar in NYC that DOESN’T have drunken actors hanging out. But looking back now I think he actually meant Drunken Actors, like Peter O’Toole maybe.
Mercifully, Enid was able to shift the song down a few steps into a key that my worn-out pipes can handle. And when I tried a few bars she was full of praise and enthusiasm. And the song is actually fun to sing, it has some dirty words and innuendo and I could hear someone like Freddie Mercury doing it justice (as opposed to li’l ol’ me, who’ll just be doing it).
I met with Enid again this week to make a usable recording of the song, using Garageband. I now am using a Mac laptop, and so I packed it up and trundled it into the city along with my MIDI keyboard. I met Enid in the lobby of the Hyatt next to Grand Central Station, and we found a table in a ballroom where we could set up. So much for security in post-9/11 Manhattan.
So now I have a MIDI recording of Enid’s piano part. With a few clicks I can drag the lower notes out to make a bass part, and a few more clicks turns the piano into an electric guitar, and whammo, a rock song. Doing the vocals will be the hardest part. I’ll post more about the finished product and the movie it’ll appear in, watch this space….
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