Bettie Page demonstrating how to fill out a pair of fishnet tights
This Dr Sketchy (held at the ever-dissolute and nicotine-stained Royal Vauxhall Tavern) represents my first time DJ’ing since 1) Bestival and 2) getting back from my long weekend in Paris. (I might well do a separate blog on my Parisian misadventures). I’d gone straight into work on the Monday morning after getting back from Paris late Sunday night, and had a really draining week. So I was pretty dead on my feet and mellow at this Dr Sketchy.
For this night, Dr Sketchy’s own glamorous promoter / stage manageress Clare Marie was on emcee duties. The burlesque performer was curvaceous redhead Violet Strangelove (who doesn't appear to have a website for me to point you towards, sadly). And as an added bonus, the bill included a special musical guest: Gracie and The G-Spots. With effervescent blonde Gracie on smoky vocals (she can really belt it out!) accompanied by keyboardist and saxophonist, they tore through some great jazz and cabaret standards (“Whatever Lola Wants”, “Stormy Weather”, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”) plus some more raunchy material I assume was original compositions (songs about lesbian sex, and how to not lose your page in Fifty Shades of Grey while masturbating!).
Early on when the RVT was still filling up and I was easing my way into things with exotica and lounge music, I played “Misirlou” by Martin Denny and “Les amours perdues” by Serge Gainsbourg. Just to be perverse, am posting videos for two different interpretations of these tracks!
Korla Pandit performing "Misirlou" on his TV Show Korla Pandit's Adventures in Music in the 1950s
I’ve got to thank Moses Longpiece for turning me onto Korla Pandit (I have no CDs by him, which I clearly need to rectify). Eerie, sensual and hypnotic, the enigmatic Pandit was one of the pioneering godfathers of exotica, to be mentioned in the same breath as Denny, Les Baxter and Yma Sumac. In the early 1950s he created a sensation on American TV with his own daily 15-minute programme Korla Pandit’s Adventures in Music. Every episode featured Pandit (sporting his signature jewelled-turban) seated at his Hammond organ (often playing piano simultaneously), inscrutably silent but wielding his dreamy liquid doe eyed-gaze at the viewer while he played. Apparently the sight and sound of this mysterious Indian musician cast a potent spell on his audience, especially love-struck housewives. It’s not hard to see why: in surviving clips, the dusky and androgynously pretty Pandit packs a genuine erotic charge. (Thankfully, an amazing amount of Adventures in Music seems to have survived; you can find a treasure trove of Pandit in performance on Youtube).
All of this is already fascinating enough. In 2001, though, Los Angeles Magazine published an article entitled “The Many Faces of Korla Pandit” which tore the lid off the facade Pandit had scrupulously maintained until his death in 1998. The piece revealed that Pandit was in fact a light-skinned African-American born John Roland in Missouri in 1921. To bypass the racism of the period, he re-christened himself as the Mexican “Juan Rolando” and played Latin music. Later on, he found fame by adopting the jasmine-scented persona of New Delhi-born Indian organist Korla Pandit – and kept his secret intact for decades, even from close intimates. How incredible! In this regard, Pandit has much in common with Anglo-Indian Hollywood actress Merle Oberon, who denied her mixed race origins and would pretend her dark-skinned sari-clad Indian mother was her maid, or notorious literary hoaxster JT LeRoy.
In 1994, not long before his death, Tim Burton cast Pandit as himself for a memorable cameo appearance in Ed Wood. (The only Tim Burton-Johnny Depp film I’ve ever liked). It makes for a nice epitaph for Korla Pandit.
Read more about Pandit here, or on his own official website.
My reverence for quintessential French beatnik chanteuse Juliette Greco is pretty well-documented. Here is the high priestess of French chanson in 1959, at the height of her witchy Morticia Addams beauty, singing the great Serge Gainsbourg song “Les amours perdues” while reclining on a giant slowly-revolving record, her drowned Ophelia hair spread out like long black seaweed beneath her. Exquisite!
Juliette Gréco - Les amours perdues (1959) by sylvainsyl
Finally: I posted this blog using the new blogger.com interface. What a nightmare! Like Facebook with Timeline, the change to the new interface had long been threatened and wasn’t optional. It was simple, elegant, functional and user-friendly before. Creating this post took about five times longer than normal – ugh! I’d be curious to hear how other bloggers on here are finding it.
Moon Mist - Les Baxter
Xtabay - Yma Sumac
Misirlou - Martin Denny
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Les amours perdues - Serge Gainsbourg
Run - Jeri Southern
Cocktails for Two - Claude Duphiney
I Remember You - Chet Baker
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Mallet Men
Drive-In - The Jaguars
Fever - Nancy Sit
The Mexican - The Fentones
Little Ole Wine Drinker Me - Robert Mitchum
One More Beer - The Earls of Suave
When I Get Low I Get High - Florence Joelle's Kiss of Fire
Frenzy - The Hindus
Madness - The Rhythm Rockers
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
You Done Messed Around and Made a Mean Woman Mad - Julia Bates
Screwdriver - Luchi
Night Scene - The Rumblers 8 Ball - The Hustlers
La valse des si - Juliette Greco
The Immediate Pleasure - John Barry (Beat Girl soundtrack)
Willow Weep for Me - Nina Simone
Night Walk - The Swingers
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby? Ann Richards
The Beast - Milt Buckner
Love for Sale - Eartha Kitt
Margaya - The Fender Four
Caterpillar Crawl - The Strangers
Oo Ba La Baby - Mamie Van Doren
Scorpion - The Carnations
Sick and Tired - Lula Reed
I Walk like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Baby Blues Rock - Carl Simpson
Are You Nervous? The Instrumentals
Dance with Me, Henry - Ann-Margret
The Flirt - Shirley and Lee
Yogi - The Bill Black Combo
He's The One - Ike and Tina Turner
Let's Twist Again - Johnny Hallyday
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
Strollin' After Dark - The Shades
Mack the Knife - Hildegard Knef
Begin the Beguine - Billy Fury
One Mint Julep - Sarah Vaughan
I Was Born to Cry - Johnny Thunders and Patti Paladdin
Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby - Elvis Presley
Dragon Walk - The Noble Men
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Get Back, Baby - Esquerita