Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ethel Merman's Disco Album

For some people, Ethel Merman's disco album sounded the death knell for the entire disco movement. It seems that everyone from Mickey Mouse to Barry Manilow was entitled to jump on the disco bandwagon with impunity, except Ethel. Disco was considered beneath the Broadway legend by her fans, while disco junkies just couldn't get their heads around Mama Rose jumping into her best sequined boots and belting out a selection of showtunes under a mirrorball. The album sank without a trace and was considered a sad career low for one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century. Thankfully, this opinion is being revisited with the passing of time.

If you don't know who Ethel Merman is then you're either very young, not gay or completely out of touch with your cultural heritage! Ethel is an old school gay icon, a contemporary of Judy Garland, who experienced her hey day in the 1950s. Ethel was the queen of Broadway, before moving into films and television. As with most ageing gay icons, Ethel's choice of material became increasingly camp with age. She became a regular on "The Love Boat", had a recurring role on "That Girl" and most fabulously, played a villain on "Batman" called Lola Lasagne! With that career trajectory, it was only a matter of time before Ethel tried her hand at disco and the result is quite spectacular. Despite the backlash the album received on release, "Ethel Merman's Disco Album" is finally being recognised as an outrageously camp monument to a true legend.

The album has aged surprisingly well, probably due to the fact that it didn't sounded contemporary - even on release. Ethel sings 8 showtunes which have been given a disco make-over. A couple of the disco interpretations don't quite work but many of them do. The best known track is probably Ethel's disco version of "There's No Business Like Show Business". It is wonderfully camp but, in my view, one of the weaker songs. My personal favourites are "Everything's Coming Up Roses", "Some People" and Gershwin's brilliant "I Got Rhythm". In fact, the album is worth purchasing for Ethel's outrageous take on "I Got Rhythm" alone. Disco queens and fans of all things shiny and camp will fall for disco Ethel. I know I have!

The album can be purchased from Amazon and most other online retailers.

13 comments:

Robpop said...

O-MY! This was my first birthday present(that i remember!). I was five. FFFLAAAAAAAAAASHBACK CITY!!!

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an amazingly popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. They have rare audio files, photo's, lively discussions, and more!
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/

Trash Addict said...

Rob, you got the best presents! I had to make do with useless items like clothing :(

Dan - I love Judy, so I'll be checking out the Yahoo group. Thanks for the link!

Robpop said...

one of my mums hag fags bought it for me. my mum never remembers birthdays. Mine is in the next couple of days and my mum has nooooooooo idea. So her friends do the birthday thingy. On a related note....the second album(cassette) was Kylies Enjoy yourself..

MaryCherry said...

Mike, I love you. but seriously you're almost too gay to function!

I feel that Ms JackSin may throw down to soem Ethel...

Trash Addict said...

Aaron, I'll take that as a fabulous compliment! Ms JackSin would really throw it down to "I Got Rhythm!"

Rob, the first records I ever bought for myself were Kylie's debut and a "Women of Pop" collection that included Sinitta, Bananarama and Laura Branigan... Can you believe I actually HAD to come out with that collection?!

crazieynsf said...

hey there

here is cher, tina turner and ethel merman doing a tribute to the beatles on cher's variety show....enjoy!!


.mp3
http://www.zshare.net/audio/beatles-tribute-mp3.html

.avi
http://www.zshare.net/video/cher-beatles-tribute-avi.html

Trash Addict said...

Wow! Thank you so much! What a line up - I'm in gay icon 7th heaven!

BigBackDoor said...

I only ever knew one of her songs before ('...Showbusiness') so I thankyou for these,they're excellent.
I didn't know that that's what she looks like.
Like Bea Smith.

Trash Addict said...

With A Little Help From My Friends and We Can Work It sound amazing! What a treasure - Cher & Tina need to team up for an album of Beatles covers! Ethel sounds divine as always. Thanks again!

Jamie said...

My favourite Beatles Cover has to be Mae West doing 'Day Tripper'. Oh, and Charlotte 'Schlager' Nilsson/Perelli doing 'Ellinor Rydholm' the swedish cousin of 'Eleanor Rigby'.

Alyson with a Y said...

FINALLY some love for the best album of the 1970s!

This album is so, so good, I play it often - the 2nd best album of the 1970s by the way? Muhammad Ali vs Mr Tooth Decay, I implore (IMPLORE!) you to find a copy!

Alyson

Trash Addict said...

Alyson, I think I love you! Muhammad Ali vs Mr Tooth Decay sounds AMAZING! PS. Nice bird.