I went to Palm Springs a couple of weeks ago to check on the antique empire. I stayed with Robert. It was the first time I’d seen his apartment and apparently I said it was “like being in a store.”
He took offense thinking I meant impersonal and not homey. On the contrary. I meant like a candy store. I wanted to buy everything I saw.
His best story this time was about an affair he had with a man in his 80’s when he was only 20. The guy was a well connected Swede who took him to lunches at Greta Garbo’s Manhattan apartment. She was fun loving with a wicked sense of humor. The topic of “I vant to be alone” never came up.
The Swede’s connections were partially due to his work as one of the last bodyguards for Czar Nicholas II. At the time, everyone in St. Petersburg knew the Revolution was coming but expected it to be no big deal: a year or so of inconvenient exile, the new regime fails, the Czar returns to reclaim his throne.
Lesser royals led the evacuation then the palace staff followed. Nicky told the Swede to go on without him. He said they would rendezvous in Switzerland in a few weeks.
It didn’t play out quite the way they thought.
Robert: The Prive Collection
I’ve mentioned before these long drives are the only time my CDs get any use. On the way down it was a boxed set of Motown’s greatest. I couldn’t get over the beats to Money and It Takes Two. It was like hearing them for the first time.
Actually, I couldn’t get over the musicianship in general. It was stellar. When I was a kid I listened mainly to the lyrics in search of meaning, symbolism, profundity. Now I know it was the backing track that made those songs so great.
Where the profundity was in Please Mr. Postman back then, I’m not sure. I loved it then and love it even more today. It just clicks. The rifle shot “Wait!” opening. The clever lyrics that are so silly but sung so seriously. “Deliver the letter, the sooner the better.” The shuffling beat. And, an added bonus, annoyance to grown-ups of the era: “How can you listen to that?”
Ellie Greenwich said every hit song had to have at least one stupid element. When she first heard Going to the Chapel on the radio and how they sang “gonna get ma-aa-aa-reed,” she knew it would be huge. It was Top 40’s one-two punch: dumb words, brilliant musicians.
On my drive back I played the Kathleen Battle and Samuel Ramey recording of The Messiah. It sounded so airy and clear. It made me wonder whether highly trained operatic voices are recorded with auto-tune these days the way Cher is. She needs it, they don’t. Still a little extra boost couldn’t hurt.
I listened to it straight through until I got to the money shot, The Hallelujah. The repeat button was activated and for the next half hour I zipped up the 5 as it looped over and over. When I finally came to my senses I was going over 100 and the dashboard was flashing “out of fuel.”
It’s hard not to feel something emotional, religious or otherwise when listening to the Chorus. I choose otherwise. To me it’s about the triumph of man. All glory goes to George Frideric and to the men and women who can sing or play what he wrote.
The best part comes towards the end after the sopranos climb the scale with a call and response of “king of kings,” “lord of lords,” and “forever and evers.” The lyrics then become so repetitve it turns into a cacophony of propoganda. Hallelujah, whats-it-to-ya. Words are rendered meaningless. How they’re sung is not.
It took Handel about three weeks to compose The Messiah. When asked how he could accomplish something so astonishing in such a short time he replied, “I was moved.”
I hope he pronounced it “move-ed.”