Ethel Merman (1908-1984), born Ethel Agnes Zimmerman, had a career that went all the way back to the days of Vaudeville. Her first big-time performances, in fact, were on Broadway in 1930. By the time she left Broadway in 1959, she was already a show biz veteran. She appeared in movie musicals with Bing Crosby. She cut her teeth singing the tunes of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. She had an operatic voice that could project to the back rows of a large theater without the need of a microphone, nailing each and every note with precision.
And, sadly, it is in this context that five years before she died, the septuagenarian dropped this bombshell of an album on the public: “The Ethel Merman Disco Album.” Here, Ethel sings some of her all-time Broadway smash hits, set to a Disco beat. Imagine getting down and funky to: “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, or George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”. Or Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out of You”. It is Disco ad absurdum, sung by your grandma.
Disco did not live long past the 1979 release date of this record. It was pretty much the final nail in Disco’s coffin. Thank you, Ethel. Thank you. Thank you.
I know that no one asked for this, but here is a comparison between the original “There’s no Business Like Show Business” and the disco version:
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Merman promotes her album on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:
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There are Broadway divas into disco, and there are comedians that are into Rap. Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) is known best for his “No Respect” standup sketch.
Not many comedians who get “no respect” get their trademark paraphenalia (a white shirt and red tie in this case) enshrined at the Smithsonian Institute.
This 1983 album, “Rappin’ Rodney” was the followup to his “No Respect” album. This album was released to lukewarm reviews. His rap parody is clueless in hindsight, but in its day it might have fetched him a few laughs.
I had promised that I would feature lesbians at some point. But portraying lesbians is way more difficult. In our culture, there are two kinds of lesbians that seem to strike a strong chord in the public consciousness. One is the depiction of really nice looking women with perfect complexions, hairdos, and body build, getting off on each other. This has been known in feminist literature as “the lesbian of male fantasy”. These are the lesbians that are depicted in porn, mostly, underscoring that up until now it has been OK to depict lesbians in certain contexts, so long as men are the ones depicting them, for the entertainment of male audiences.
Then, there are the lesbians that actually exist. That’s a whole other shooting match, and is a horribly complex topic, and it is why lesbians are more difficult to depict in an honest way. There are the Indigo Girls, and singers such as k. d. lang and Melissa Ethridge. There is the actress and talkshow host Ellen Degeneres. All of these celebrities look, well… not too glamourous, and, look, well, … kinda normal. Not much kitch factor there, and not many crappy album covers will come out of pictures of folks like these. That’s why hardly any are listed. But I’ll try.
I’m sorry…. I can’t look at this cover without laughing. I am sure Alix won’t appreciate it. This is Alix Dobkin and her 1975 album “Living With Lesbians”, featuring the Lesbian Power Authority. It is likely the musical answer to the following old joke:
Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: That’s not funny.
So, you see, you don’t look for kitsch like you do for gays. You look for women who take themselves WAAAAAAY too seriously. To the point where it would seem that they and their fans are the only ones not in on the joke. But let’s just say that, as stated in the first paragraph, there is a case that can be made for not being overly happy with the male gender.
Alix Dobkin was a pioneer in the area of lesbian songwriting and among the first to advocate for “women-only” space. She has promoted women’s rights and was out of the closet in the mid-60s, decades before it became fashionable and regarded as relatively normal. Back then, homosexuality was still regarded as a mental illness, and it was not declassified by the APA until 1973.
Oranges. They’re good for you. This 1977 anthology of lesbian songs and poems, is called “Lesbian Concentrate: A Lesbianthology of Songs and Poems.”
A bit corny, but in 1977, this is a groundbreaking work. This is the first various artists lesbian-only compilation in music history, to anyone’s knowledge, recorded on the Olivia label of Los Angeles.
Here is a link to enough info on this LP that will beat this topic to death. You also get a long list of Lesbian and feminist organisations. You get lyrics and pictures of all the performers, too.
The record was recorded with female engineers in a 16-track studio built only by women, with women-only performers.
This is another Alix Dobkin record, from 1973. I placed it here because I found it on another crappy album list, but this one actually borders on not being crappy.
It’s artsy, it gets the point across, and is not nearly as in-your face as the above album cover.
I believe there is a recent CD compilation where “Lavender” is combined with “Living” to make both albums in a single package, with a total redesigning of both covers. That would make it the third redesigning of both album covers that I have seen.
For those interested in reading more about Alix Dobkin, I provide you with this link.
These, unfortunately, are all the crappy lesbian covers I have. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. I am sure lesbians are as capable as any male (gay or not) to make a crappy album cover. But the results so far have been disappointing. I would urge those folks to get on the ball.
This was Fireballet’s second album, released in 1976, called “Two, Two”. These guys were supposed to be contenders for the top of the Classical Rock genre supposedly in the league of such groups as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson and Yes.
Fireballet was only known for their first album, “Night on Bald Mountain”. With this second album, they trivialise both themselves and their musical efforts, both with the cover, and reportedly, the music on the album.