Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ich bin Musik, und Ich schreib' die Lieder, Dept.

When I was just a teenage sobsister in the hands of the wily Jesuits, I studied German for three years. Now, the third year was a wash because all we did was sit around, bullshit with our charming German-born teacher and play Skat, a popular German card game. The second year we spent learning endless vocabulary under the tutelage of another German-born teacher, considerably less charming and determined to convince us that we were the academic elite.
Very "Will to Power," very "Tomorrow Belongs to Me."

So, it was left to the first year to actually, you know, learn how to speak the frackin' language, which we sort of did at the hands of a patient Jesuit who stressed pronunciation above all else. He had a whole routine about the mouth being like a basketball court, and umlauted vowels were pronounced down by the basket and other vowels at the top of the key. Or something. It's enough that I remember enough of it to misremember.

Anyhoo, one of his paedagogical tools was German-language versions of popular songs. Well, popular in 1963, apparently, because all we listened to was "Komm, gib mir deine Hand" by The Beatles and "Die Antwort, mein Freund, ist ganz allein der Wind" by Bobby Dylan and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which didn't even make sense in English. In that spirit, I offer you this corking version of "Downtown," likely sung by that pet of a girl, Petula Clark, who, if her Web site is any indication, has recorded in all the world languages, plus Quechua and Hmong.

Was the German market so strong in the late '50s and early '60s as to justify rerecording songs in that language? For that matter, was the Spanish-language film market so strong in the mid-'30s as to justify concurrently filming movies, as was done to, for example, Dracula, with Spanish-speaking actors? "Yes," to both, apparently. In the former case, my theory is that there were a lot of unemployed translators in Britain who'd been idle since the days of breaking Jerry's codes. Which should not be confused with "Jerry's Kids."

At any rate, follow the link to Pet Clark and a blast of 1964. I'll be putting on my white vinyl boots and joining you in a min.

From the excellent April Winchell Web site. Spend a week or two there.

No comments: