You're the National Gallery/ You're Garbo's salary /You're cellophane
June 9, 2016 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Happy Birthday Cole Porter! In 1990, Red Hot + Blue, an AIDS benefit album was released featuring covers of Cole Porter's music by an electric array of performers accompanied by a TV special with music videos from the likes of Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders. Notable tracks include "Miss Otis Regets" by the Pogues and Kristy MacColl (video Neil Jordon) "Don't Fench Me In" by David Byrne "You Do Something To Me" by Sinéad O'Connor (video John Maybury) "Have You Evah" by Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop (video by Alex Cox) "From This Moment On" by Jimmy Somerville (video Steve mcclean) and "Ev'ry We Say Goodbye" by Annie Lennox (video by Ed Lachman)
posted by The Whelk (37 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
♫ ♬ ♫ This was very important to 15 year old me ♫ ♬ ♫
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:43 AM on June 9, 2016 [14 favorites]

I played the fuck out of this album. I can hear every version even now and I'm sure I haven't played it in a decade or more.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Ahhh, the U2 cover of "Night and Day."
posted by praemunire at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

Man, I am 13 years old again. It was such a good album and I didn't even know who Cole Porter was. (That all changed in high school when a closeted friend gave me a bunch of Truman Capote books and I read Answered Prayers.)
posted by Kitteh at 10:05 AM on June 9, 2016

How about Ernie Ford and Liberace's version of Night and Day?

Night and Day was supposedly written about The Alcazar in Cleveland, OH. Stayed there when I visited CWRU in the 80s, but it wasn't very lively at night or day.
posted by lagomorphius at 10:06 AM on June 9, 2016

kd lang's So in Love still makes me cry.

It's amazing to think how groundbreaking this album was. But it was.
posted by rtha at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

Nice post! I would only add Tom Waits doing an amazing primitivist It's Alright With Me (video by Jim Jarmusch). And of course, The Thompson Twins reminding us of the original context of -- and proper response to -- the question Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

When I was in college I played piano accompaniment to a woman's senior project which was a one woman show of Porter songs. It was my first exposure to Cole Porter and his musical brilliance, and it left a deep mark on me.

Fast forward a few years. I'd figured out my sexuality, had come out as a rather militant confrontational queer, and then Red Hot + Blue was released. MIND WAS BLOWN. There is so much to love about this album, with a few missteps. But, to be honest, even those missteps have become golden as the decades have passed.

It took until 2006 before the VHS video album was finally released on DVD, something I thought was a crime because it was such an amazing thing to own back in the day. I'd put it on during parties as video/audio spackle and it was always received well.

This album introduced me to a lot of artists that I completely did not know in 1990. It also had some very VERY pointed videos: Erasure's Too Darn Hot was a real standout and call to action during those heady days of people dying literally every day from HIV complications.

And then, there is my utter favorite (so hard to choose from these tracks, because SO MUCH AWESOME)... kd lang's utterly heartrending interpretation of So In Love. So powerful, just musically, but you add in the video, and holy fucking wow.

The album sparked some tiny renaissance in interest in Cole Porter. I still await a full on realization by any era of modern culture that Porter is one of the most witty lyricists and skilled melody writers we have ever seen on this planet. A lot of the shows he helped create are not that interesting (and get less so as historical "this was okay then, it's not okay now" norms move us further and further away from his actual time of being alive)... But his music, that music... That needs to be known and needs to live forever.
posted by hippybear at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you haven’t heard Ella Fitzgerald’s take on the songbook, you really should! “Love for Sale” is kind of meh to my ears, but the rest is darn near perfect.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:33 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I loved the Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop duet and listened to it many times, and now decades later I can see the video for the first time. Old me and young me are both delighted.
posted by zippy at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The link in the FPP says "Fench" but I am prrrrrrretty sure it should be "Fence." I have the confidence to speak up here because I can still sing that one from memory, at a volume that would make a Viking blush. (Most of the rest of the songs, too, come to think of it.)

As a teen I knew most of these numbers in their original format. Hearing them sung by pop singers really caught my attention: for example, never before or since have I much cared about Jody Watley, but her cover of "After You, Who" still makes my eyes widen.

What an awesome album.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2016

I don't remember how I discovered this album, but it was at a time when I was on the verge of fully coming out but not having quite got there in my full-on life yet. I didn't know much if anything about Cole Porter. I didn't know he was gay. I didn't really know (or admit) that I myself was gay. I knew I liked this music, though, from the dark, skittering Neneh Cherry cover of "I've Got You under My Skin" on down the line, and I knew I liked the in-your-face politics of the album and its artwork and its promotion. Absolutely bowled me over. And then, it had the added later benefit of triggering my memory that I liked Cole Porter songs and I discovered Ella's songbooks (all of them, not just Cole Porter's, although the Porter is the best). Which was probably the most startling, spellbinding, amazing, emotionally fulfilling, life-changing musical discovery ever for me.
posted by blucevalo at 10:37 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

(I just watched the video for "In The Still Of The Night" and...what the hell? That's worse than a Vine. Has the art & style & vocabulary of video really changed that much in so short a time? I mean, obviously it has, but didn't they think anyone would notice that those backgrounds appear to be from different cities/states/countries??)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:41 AM on June 9, 2016

During the one-woman show I helped with back during my college days, we performed Love For Sale as a slow burning torch song, full of regret and remorse for the life that was chosen. It is so often performed as an upbeat number, but with a simple lamp post on stage and being done as the opening song of the second act with a costume change from a woman's tuxedo jacket plus tights in the first act to a slinky evening gown, it was an outstanding number and earned a standing ovation for all 3 performances we did.
posted by hippybear at 10:42 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I love this album so much! So glad to see it get some love.
posted by suelac at 10:45 AM on June 9, 2016

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention (stupid me) that I also discovered in Cole Porter what an actual genius is, as in unparalleled master of the idiom from A to Z, creator of some the most perfect popular songs ever to be written, songs that will stand the test of time for the next 500 years if we're still around. And all this from someone Gerald Murphy described as looking this way at Yale in 1910: "I can still see his room. There was a single electric bulb in the ceiling, and a piano with a box of caramels on it, and wicker furniture, which was considered a bad sign at Yale. And sitting at the piano was a little boy from Peru, Indiana, in a checked suit and salmon tie, with his hair parted in the middle and slicked down, looking just like a Westerner all dressed up for the East."
posted by blucevalo at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I love love love this album, and I love love love Ella's songbooks, but the Cole Porter one especially.

Last fall, I was passing through Williamstown, MA, and I made a point of finding Cole Porter's house (which is on land, lots of land, under starry skies above). Selfies were made. Selfie was then added to my OKC profile, which some found... puzzling. Suffice to say that if you don't know who Cole Porter is, or don't see why Cole Porter is the tops, you and I aren't destined for forever anyway. Ca c'est l'amour.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:25 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Red Hot and Blue, for all that I love the other brilliant musical works that came out in the 90s, is STILL my favorite album.
posted by happyroach at 11:27 AM on June 9, 2016

"Yeah...and I got invited to Pia's house...Pia Zadora's house..."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:39 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

This was the first of two dozen or so albums produced by the Red Hot Organization. Among the others I've heard, my favorites are the first Red Hot + Rio and Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon, while Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtrip, the Trip Hop entry, will put you right in the middle of a hip coffee house ca. 1996.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:50 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Man, I know U2 isn't exactly hip anymore but I was still surprised to see Night and Day left off. One of my favorite all-time covers.
posted by kmz at 11:51 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Down in the Depths of the 90th Floor" by Lisa Stansfield was one of my favorites on this album. "When the only one you wanted wants another" deeply resonated at that particular time because I was so in love but he loved another.

The entire album is great. I still sing these songs all of the time because of this album.
posted by narancia at 12:20 PM on June 9, 2016

Oh, I loved this album. So much. I played it over and over the subsequent summer for my best friend and whenever I was in the car. For me, however, this was my first real introduction to Kirsty MacColl (whom I'd heard ambiantly but had never really identified before), and for that alone I'd be grateful to the album. Having the benefit of interesting, sometimes iconoclastic takes on songs I already loved was a wonderful bonus.
posted by julen at 12:42 PM on June 9, 2016

Lovely recall - even as I loved the album, I didn't realize how powerfull it was
posted by mumimor at 1:19 PM on June 9, 2016

Don't Felch Me In
posted by chavenet at 1:48 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love this album and play it a lot. And, thanks to hippybear, I've just ordered the DVD I didn't even know about. More fun to come.
posted by MovableBookLady at 2:45 PM on June 9, 2016

O man I grew up on this album. It defines my arrival to SF. And Sinead singing about voodoo in that blonde wig was far freaking out. Nthing precious love for KD, and others. The one I still think about a ton is "Miss Otis Regrets". So sad. Such an amazing compilation.
I was sad that nobody on the album covered "The
A Bar on the Piccola Marina. One of my faves. It's almost a Porter parody of Porter. See also the Penis song Cole Porter parody from Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. Pretty sure Porter Would approve.
posted by asavage at 2:57 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I remember watching that on network TV. Amazing.
posted by acrasis at 4:01 PM on June 9, 2016

I was just listening to some of my old Red Hot DVDs over the weekend. I forgot how great and inventive the arrangements were. For instance, the way the chord changes are withheld through most of Jimmy Somerville's "From This Moment On" -- when they finally kick in I just feel like crying.
posted by How the runs scored at 4:52 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

What a swell party this is!
posted by corey flood at 7:03 PM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have been wandering around the Wikipedia pages for the Red Hot Organization, and reading about all the "Red Hot + Whatever" albums that are still being made, and my mind is blown. I mean, a 3-disc album of Dead covers, which is the 2016 release and the 25th in the series?!? And there's also albums of Gershwin and Ellington covers?

Holy cow, this is GREAT! Thanks, the Whelk!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:32 PM on June 9, 2016

I taped the Red Hot + Blue video special off MuchMusic (Canadian MTV) and watched it till the tape degraded...still have the CD and I still love it. Those songs are burned in my brain. I can sing along to them all.

The only one I don't like is the Tom Waits one...and I love Tom Waits. But oh man, sometimes if I want to make mr hgg laugh I just make a squinchy face and growl, "IT'S THE WRONG TIIIIIIME/AND THE WRONG PLAAAAACE." Never fails.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:56 PM on June 9, 2016

To me, the best Cole Porter collection will always be Verve's three volume collection, the variously titled The Cole Porter Songbook, most especially Night and Day, The Cole Porter Songbook Volume 2.

I mean, with track lists in toto like this,
Disc: 1

I've Got You Under My Skin - Dinah Washington
Love For Sale - Shirley Horn
Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) - Louis Armstrong
Anything Goes - Ella Fitzgerald
What Is This Thing Called Love - Mel Torme
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To - Helen Merrill
At Long Last - Bill Henderson
I Love You - Anita O'day
Just One Of Those Things - Louis Armstrong
It's De-Lovely - Sarah Vaughan
Always True To You In My Fashion - Blossom Dearie
I Concentrate On You - Fred Astaire
I Get A Kick Out Of You - Dinah Washington
In The Still Of The Night - Billy Eckstine
Easy To Love - Billie Holiday
Night And Day - Ella Fitzgerald
Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye - Betty Carter

Disc: 2

I Get A Kick Out Of You - Louis Armstrong
My Heart Belongs To Daddy - Anita O'day
I've Got You Under My Skin - Ella Fitzgerald
After You, Who? - Helen Merrill
So In Love - Dinah Washington
Too Darn Hot - Mel Torme
Just One Of Those Things - Sarah Vaughan
Get Out Of Town - Shirley Horn
Love For Sale - Billie Holiday
From This Moment On - Anita O'day
Night And Day - Fred Astaire
Give Him The Ooh-La-La - Blossom Dearie
Ev'rything I Love - Morgana King
Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable To Lunch Today) - Ella Fitzgerald
All Of You - Helen Merrill
You're The Top - Louis Armstrong
Most Gentleman Don't Like Love - Betty Carter

Disc: 3

What Is This Thing Called Love? - Charlie Parker And His Orchestra
Love For Sale - Al Cohn-Zoot Sims Quintet
Begin The Beguine - Art Tatum
My Heart Belongs To Daddy - Dizzy Gillespie Quintet
Get Out Of Town - Roland Kirk Quartet
Easy To Love - Sonny Stitt Quartet
I Get A Kick Out Of You - Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet
Night And Day - Stan Getz And Bill Evans
Just One Of Those Things - Bud Powell
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To - Ben Webster And Coleman Hawkins
Anything Goes - Tal Farlow Trio
I Love You - Oscar Peterson Trio
I've Got You Under My Skin - Bill Evans And Jim Hall
I Concentrate On You - Max Roach Sextet
....there isn't a Cole Porter collection in the known universe to compare -- it is peerless.

I mean, So in Love by Dinah Washington ? I Get a Kick Out of You by Louis Armstrong with Oscar Peterson ? These are like the 20th Century versions of Longinus's citation of Sappho's poem of jealousy in On the Sublime -- nothing can hold a candle to them.
posted by y2karl at 10:24 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Volume 2 appears to be on Google Music, albeit under the collection title I Get A Kick Out Of You. Volumes 1 and 3 can't be seen.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:53 PM on June 9, 2016

To tell the truth, I should have stuck with just Volume 2 -- that is the heart of it, the quintessential.

Had I the energy to get up and whip out the lap top instead of tapping on this phone, I would have linked the YouTubes of those two songs -- and, for a fact, I did a post with Louis Armstrong's I Get a Kick Out of You. I will link to it tomorrow and the Dinah Washington, too.
posted by y2karl at 11:45 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's Porter's astonishing skill as a lyricist that always strikes me. The full version of You're The Top is very seldom sung, but well worth checking out. In the later verses, you can see he's challenging himself with ever-more-impossible rhymes, and yet pulling them off triumphantly every time.

That song, as we know, repeatedly underlines how great someone else is by contrasting this with the singer's own lowly nature. This fragment seems particularly appropriate in 2016:

I'm the nominee of the G.O.P.
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

Like all Porter's songs, this one gains an extra dimension when heard in the context of the full show - in this case, Anything Goes. That way you get a sense of the character singing it and where the song's emotional content is coming from.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:08 AM on June 10, 2016

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