For this Dr Sketchy (at The Old Queen's Head in Angel), the emcee was Ophelia Bitz and the performer / model was Cherry Shakewell: I defy anyone not to have fun with cabaret and burlesque royalty like these two. Plus it was the first Dr Sketchy for me to unveil my week-old new tattoos (they’d finally healed, stopped flaking and were presentable at last).
I eased into proceedings with some Latin exotica (mambo, the 1965 Eartha Kitt Canta en Espanol album) before journeying into deep vintage sleaze. Cherry Shakewell’s image (bouffant blonde hair, thick false eyelashes, white lipstick) evokes Russ Meyer-esque 60s go-go dancers so while she posed I went heavy on 1960s sex kitten / babydoll-type tracks by the likes of Bardot, Nancy Sinatra and Ann-Margret. Obviously Jayne Mansfield (the punk Marilyn Monroe, who died for our sins) is an eternal touchstone: her track “Suey” always sounds to me like the tortured inner monologue of a go-go dancer gyrating from the confines of her glittery go-go cage – the perfect soundtrack for Cherry’s pose. I also decided long ago that "Cherry" by The Jive Bombers should be Ms Shakewell's theme song.
Star-struck: When Jayne met Marilyn
Another tune I play a lot lately is "You Can't Stop Her" (1959) by Bobby Marchan (1930 -1999), the African-American New Orleans-based rhythm & blues singer best known for fronting Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns. Driven by raucous sax, the song has a vibe similar (both musically and lyrically) to Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In fact Marchan and androgynous Queen of Rock’n’Roll Little Richard could be seen as soul sisters or fellow travellers: when he was scoring hit records with The Clowns Marchan dressed in male clothing, but prior to that he’d gained local notoriety as a blonde-wigged female impersonator and emcee billed as Loberta in evocatively-named dive night clubs like the Dew Drop Inn and Club Tijuana. In his consistently amazing blog The Houndblog, James “The Hound” Marshall writes about Marchan’s fascinating life and career, uncovering the subterranean drag queen influence in blues and rhythm & blues (and therefore rock’n’roll itself), the kind of angle usually airbrushed (bleached? Deracinated?) out of the hidebound “straight” (in every sense) rock history limited to Elvis, The Beatles and those endless “100 Greatest” lists. (For a nicely-researched thoughtful piece about the queer sensibility that throbbed in the background of blues and R&B, read this).
The Bronze Liberace: a very young Little Richard
Esquerita in full cry
Marshall mentions that both the outrageously seedy Esquerita and Little Richard also started out as at least quasi drag queens at the beginning of their careers, too. Little Richard’s drag stage name was “Princess Lavonne”, and some of his best known songs are supposedly coded tributes to his old drag queen friends: “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Long Tall Sally.” (“Tutti Fruiti”, of course, is legendarily a paean to anal sex). In the repressed pre-civil rights 1950s middle class white parents were anxious enough about their kids listening to (and being corrupted by) the likes of Little Richard, Bobby Marchan and Esquerita: just imagine if they’d really known the full story! Freaking out the squares – it’s a wonderful tradition. As Marshall concludes in his Bobby Marchan profile...
“Of the many untold secrets that still hide up the rumpled skirt of R&B and rock’n’roll history, one surprise you will find is a black cock, and I’m not talking about roosters.”
Until next time -- take it sleazy!
Little Richard: What a beauty ...
Chihuahua - Mina Où Es-Tu Ma Joie - Caterina Valente Babydoll Mambo - Belmonte and His Afro-American Music Chihuahua - Luis Oliveira and His Bandodalua Boys Historia de un Amor - Eartha Kitt Eso - Conjunto TNT Snow Surfin' Matador - Jan Davis Scorpion - The Carnations Sea of Love - The Earls of Suave Flower of My Heart - Sparkle Moore Indescribably Blue -Elvis Presley Lover's Land - Margaret Lewis Love Letters - Ike & Tina Turner Little Things Mean a Lot - Jayne Mansfield Tonight You Belong to Me - Patience & Prudence Hearts Made of Stone - Rudy Gray Oh Lonesome Me - Ann-Margret Commanche - The Revels Baby Come Back - Esquerita Nosey Joe - Bull Moose Jackson Oo Ba La Baby - Mamie van Doren Stop and Listen - Mickey & Ludella Fever - Nancy Sit Raunchy - Bill Black Combo Don't Be Cruel - Bill Black Combo Makin' Out - Jody Reynolds Angel Face - Billy Fury The Girl Who Invented Rock'n'Roll - Mamie van Doren Cherry - The Jive Bombers Sugar Town - Nancy Sinatra Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot The Swinger - Ann-Margret You Can't Stop Her - Bobby Marchan The Big Bounce - Shirley Cadell Open the Door - The Cochran Brothers Rip It Up - Little Richard Astro-Sonic - Jimmy Haskell & His Orchestra What a Difference a Day Made - Dinah Washington Chattanooga Choo Choo - Denise Darcel Wine Spo-Li-Oli - The 5 Strings Cry - Timi Yuro Look for the Silver Lining - Chet Baker Yes, Sir That's My Baby - Ann Richards Blues in My Heart - The John Buzon Trio Cha Cha Cha du Loup - Serge Gainsbourg Love for Sale - Hildegard Knef Crawlin' - The Untouchables Beat Girl - Adam Faith (Beat Girl soundtrack) Womp Womp - Freddie & The Heartaches Honey Rock - Barney Kessel Dragon Walk - The Noble Men Suey - Jayne Mansfield Groovy - The Groovers 8 Ball - The Hustlers Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend - Julie London Do It Again - April Stevens Mack the Knife - Eartha Kitt You're My Thrill - Dolores Gray Strip-tease - Nico (Strip-tease soundtrack) Misirlou - Laurindo Almeida Summertime - Little Esther You Know I'm No Good - Wanda Jackson Jealousy - Billy Fury Lover - Peggy Lee Caravan - The John Buzon Trio Czterdziesci Kasztanów (Forty Chestnuts) - Violetta Villas