Mae West and Somebody’s Chyldren
I hope the new week finds you well.
The summer it at an end, and so we return to a semblance of normalcy – or what passes for it here at Iron Leg – with regular, non-podcast/radio show posts.
The Iron Leg Radio Show will continue on a monthly basis (next show on 10/7, live ta Mixlr.com/Funky16Corners) with the Funky16Corners Radio Show (soul/funk, live every Monday at 8PM) and my show on WFMU’s Give the Drummer Radio, Testify! (freeform, live every Wednesday night at 10PM) both continuing weekly.
This week I confront you with the unlikely spectacle of septuagenarian screen legend Mae West fronting a rock band, and – in one of the unlikeliest results ever – succeeding (at least sporadically).
West, who was a hugely successful, influential and occasionally scandalous star of stage and screen in the 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond was, like everyone else from showbiz past, attempting to catch up to the pop culture explosion and affix her caboose to the rock’n’roll gravy train.
Her attempt, the 1966 Tower LP ‘Way Out West’ is – confounding all expectations – pretty good. West is backed energetically by Somebody’s Chyldren on a variety of cover material, from Bob Dylan, Roy Head, the Beatles and John Lee Hooker among others.
The track I bring you today, her version of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates ‘Shakin’ All Over’ is a killer.
West manages to carry off a lot of this material by virtue of her attitude. This is no mere cash-in. West seems to have actually made a serious attempt to groove on the songs, and the band is excellent.
Whoever selected the material put a lot of thought into what kind of things matched up with West’s persona and delivery.
Naturally, you need to wipe the image of a 72-year-old fronting a rock band, but in the annals of weird celebrity albums, ‘Way Out West’ is near the top for listener satisfaction.
Producer David Mallet also worked with Ian Whitcomb, ironically a young man working in older styles, and produced a few records for Somebody’s Chyldren under a few different names for a few different labels.
I hope you dig the track and I’ll see you next week.
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