Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DEAF COMEDY JAMZ: A Sh*tty Taste: Tiny Tim & Brave Combo's "Girl"

DEAF COMEDY JAMZ is a new (hopefully) weekly feature on music. First up is Rob Baniewicz of the sketch group Meg & Rob.

Franklin Mills Mall had "The Wall." Actually, it had two; one on each end of the mile-long stretch. The "used" bin was where I honed my music taste as a grade/high schooler. I was exceptionally cheap, even as a kid, and it was useless for me to buy nice things. With CDs, I'd undoubtedly scratch them minutes after their purchase, rendering the discs unplayable and worthless. To compensate, I bought a lot of used albums. But you see, in order for a CD to deserve a spot in the "used" bin, it had to have been found unfit for aural delight and discarded by the original purchaser. This is where I picked up my shitty taste in music. And this is why I have a copy of Tiny Tim & Brave Combo's "Girl".

While my friends scoured over used bins looking for copies of Pearl Jam's "Vitalogy" and Live's "Throwing Copper", I sought after albums I could buy in jest. When I found the Tiny Tim & Brave Combo album, I didn't even look on the back for the song list. I knew Tiny Tim from Tiptoe (Through the Tulips) and I knew that he had been married on the Tonight Show....but I had no knowledge of the music contained within his CD. I only knew that the album would be played once, laughed at, and discarded next to my stack of David Lee Roth post-VH outputs. At least that was the plan. Until I fell in love with how terribly genuine the album was.

Tiny Tim was a late 60s novelty act. A guy who would be considered an early predecessor to William Hung. Upon listening to the album, I found myself in an alternate world (think Sliders) where Tiny Tim was never a joke and "Girl" existed as his Greatest Hits. Songs I once knew as classics became unrecognizable, yet mesmerizing in the hands of this band. It was no longer a Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Sinatra or Garland cover; Tiny Tim became the first singer of these songs and no other versions existed. The tracks are infused with such obsessive mania that Brave Combo seems to acts merely as the house band, keeping Tiny Tim in his seat and on his meds.

Some of the highlights of this album include the title track "Girl", a Beatles tune, reimagined as if Jabba the Hutt was singing to Slave Leia. There's a creepy, disgusting genuine croon to his love, yet something demented is inherently contained within. "Bye Bye Blackbird" is also a favorite, the beautiful longing of Joe Cocker and Nina Simone noticibly absent. Instead, the song is strangely hopeful. In "Stairway to Heaven," Tiny Tim seems to mimic the sounds of a piano bar in Twin Peaks with his warbily cover jauntily sleazing it's way along.

Listen to "Stairway To Heaven":

The true gem of the album is his cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude". The track begins in the ether, with weird moans coming out of nowhere before exploding into a robust cha-cha. Immediately the failures of the Bee Gees' Sgt. Peppers' film redux come to mind but soon you're transported away into not thinking of much at all. This isn't meant to be a serious cover - but it's not a parody either. It's in this regard that Tiny Tim transcends the point of a cover because there's no attempt from the beginning at a reverent reimagining. Instead you have an outsider doing exactly what he wants with music he apparently cares little about being true to.

Listen to "Hey Jude":

In an age where Daniel Johnston gets a documentary and NYC art show and Henry Darger gets documentary treatment, my shitty taste in music unearthed an outsider among outsiders. It's amazing to think how Tiny Tim might have been a shooting indie darling had he not been so prevalent in the beginning. Due to the fact he got his fifteen minutes, no one wants to champion him to the public. Which is kinda sad when I think about it. But then I'll turn on 'That Sly Cigarette', a reinterpretation of an old timey song from 1898, where Tiny Tim goes off on a tangent about how the cigarette is misunderstood just because it gives you cancer, and I think to myself... maybe he wanted it that way.


Jaime said...

Tiny Tim, a true professional, died on stage. His last words, in response to the question, "Are you okay?", were "No, I'm not." which I feel is one of the most beautiful responses to the question of life, death, and the human condition that any man has had.

Dave T said...

Listening to his version of Stairway, I wonder if he is Richard Cheese's biological father.

Pruneface said...

I like this new column. Someone should review Shatner's first album, the Transformed Man.