Columbia Records - Jonathan & Darlene Edwards

Any time the P.A.G. Research and Looking At Things department comes across an ad for a record club (a ridiculous business model that deserved to die many deaths), they drop it in my inbox. It's always interesting to see what what "sweeping the nation" a hundred squillion years ago. My record collection being what it is, there's an even chance I own one or more of the featured albums. There was lots of good stuff happening in the sixties, musically speaking. Sergio Mendez and Esquivel spring to mind.

So what's in Columbia's newest SOUNDS ad?

Aaron Coplan'ds ballet "Rodeo" has been used to sell steaks for a long time. It sounds like a herd of cowboys playing violins on buffaloback while overcompensating for their unfulfilled dreams of gayhood. This quintessential American cowboy anthem was fantastically molested by Emerson, Lake and Palmer on their 1972 album Trilogy. ELP played the song double time, with a heaping helping of over-drumming, over-bassing, and phalange-shattering organ solos. It's a partially satirical tribute to the American tradition of overdoing everything with the sensitivity of a child-piloted bulldozer, and makes a great soundtrack to violent video games.

Hmm. Couple show tunes... Johnny Mathis... No surprise there... A little Ellington... More cowboy shit...
Hey! Wow! Jonathan and Darlene Edwards! Freinds, novelty music is wildly underrated. Quite often, it's a dated spoof of pop culture, that just becomes a baffling footnote in your media collection. You'll wonder why you bought Scary Movie in a few years. "A guy came out dressed like Spider-Man. Why is that funny?" "Because that was a popular movie at the time!" Cue crickets.

Jonathan and Darlene Edwards will always work. Some people have no tolerance for failed art. It just gives them goosebumps. The enlightened mind, however, has boundless appreciation for an artist putting him/herself out there and failing spectacularly. Even though the Edwardses (real names: were Jo Stafford and Paul Weston) were perfectly functional pro musicians (he pianoed while she sang), they are remembered now for acting clueless. The tragedy of artistic failure is deeply funny to me - even when faked - and it takes an artist of great courage to pretend they are completely inept. Apart from music like this, such failure can be found in Mystery Science Theater and various portfolio submissions from job applicants, but for differing reasons.

The Wikipedia article sums up the veiled genius of Jon and Darlene pretty well:

"Throughout the 1950s, Stafford and Paul Weston would entertain guests at parties by putting on a skit in which they assumed the identities Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, a bad lounge act. Stafford, as Darlene, would sing off-key in a high pitched voice; Weston, as Jonathan, played an untuned piano off key and with bizarre rhythms."

"As a publicity stunt, Stafford and Weston claimed that the Edwardses were a New Jersey lounge act that they had discovered, and denied any personal connection. The ruse triggered a national sensation as the public tried to identify the brazenly off-key singer and the piano player of dubious ability."

Their album "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris" won a Grammy in 1960, tying with Bob Newhart., who was a huge thing at the time. His brand of understated cleverness falls on deaf ears today, so The Kids won't recognize the name. As I get older and older, I like Bob more all the time.

I heard about the Edwardses from a friend of mine who had bought the album at a garage sale and converted the audio into MP3s. Some music is perfected with the crackle of vinyl, and the Edwardses are such an example. At the time, I was trying to eat a Subway turkey on wheat, which is a mistake when sonically embracing the funniest thing ever heard. I will always remember my first Edwardses experience while laughing a green pepper through my sinus cavities. Ah, Paris in the spring.

Yes, you can buy these songs on CD from Amazon. Yes, you should do it immediately. If you don't, you are a terrible person, and possibly a congressman.

Songs on YouTube. Some are from other J&D albums. Buy as many as possible until all money is gone. You won't regret it.

Paris in the Spring

The Last Time I saw Paris

Cocktails for Two

I am Woman

Stayin' Alive


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