Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dirk Bogarde Sings (Lyrics for Lovers, 1960)

 Good morning!

Whew, boy, do I have something crazy for you guys to check out this morning. When movie stars meet jazz records meet KITSCH TO THE NTH DEGREE... you come up with one of my favorite internet finds of 2014, thus far-- folks, meet devastatingly handsome British heartthrob Dirk Bogarde. Dirk Bogarde, movie star, say hello to my She Was a Bird readers. Dirk has something very important to share with you, courtesy of Decca records in year of our Lord 1960 (click on the player below the album cover to hear the audio):

I was reading this post on Dangerous Minds about Blow Up star David Hemmings's psychedelic folk rock record, David Hemmings Happens (you can't make this stuff up), when I scrolled through to the bottom of the post and saw this video, which may or may not have changed my life. Dirk Bogarde, actor, decided to be Dirk Bogarde, singer in 1960, and my, my, my. What happened next.

Let's let a better man than me give you an idea of what happens when needle touches groove, with regard to this album. Elvis Costello, quoted on the Dirk Bogarde website:
“Ever needed to get rid of unwanted guests in the early hours? Just reach for Dirk Bogarde’s Lyrics for Lovers, on which the actor inhales audibly on his cigarette before reciting Ira Gershwin’s ‘A Foggy Day’ amid a swathe of violins...”
Apparently, more than one person thought it would be a good idea to record twenty-five consecutive minutes of the actor just....READING....the lyrics to songs like "You Go to My Head" and "As Time Goes By". The Eric Rogers Orchestra provides a decent background of pretty, soft jazz/sixties' movie soundtrack versions of the songs (I'm reminded of the title credit music in something like Written on the Wind, Three Pennies in a Fountain, or The Best of Everything), but I cannot stress emphatically enough that this is not poetry, free verse, or selections from a play...this is just straight Bogarde reading the lyrics to "The Way You Look Tonight".

No, I get it, he's cute...but nobody's THAT cute.
I guess if I were a besotted teenybopper in post-war England, I might be able to better understand the appeal of this record. However, being grown, even being a fan of his movies, I can't lie, I kept literally shouting "HE'S NOT...NO! NO! WHAT IS HE DOING?!" as if I was watching some terribly mismanaged football play by my favorite team while listening to this record.  IT'S. SO. BAD. It almost comes back around to being good for how bad it is, but not quite. Dirk stammers and demurs and intones through track after track in a seamless, almost thirty minutes of weird, weirder, and weirdest. The CONCEPT is bad (though not new-- Rex Harrison and Richard Burton both speak through their musical selections in starring roles in My Fair Lady and Camelot, respectively, but their performances are far more charming), but the performance is worse. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" may be the nadir. Track listing:
  1. A Foggy Day
  2. The Way You Look Tonight
  3. Our Love Affair
  4. You Go to My Head
  5. Can't We Be Friends
  6. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
  7. Just One of Those Things
  8. Get Out of Town
  9. I Get Along Without You Very Well
  10. These Foolish Things
  11. Where or When (From Babes in Arms)
  12. As Time Goes By
These are some of my very favorite jazz standards (very Judy at Carnegie, which is the highest compliment I can pay a setlist). You could make a VERY GOOD mix cd of mid century vocalists and instrumentals, even, out of that lineup, but all the king's horses and all the king's men could not make poor Dirk into a crooner, and God, does it show on the album. I want to like it just for how crazy it is, but something about the way he murmurs his lines is so put-on and weird that you almost feel embarrassed for him. It reminds me a lot of The Transformed Man by William Shatner, which people have spent the last forty-five years mercilessly deriding (and which, I not so secretly kind of love). Yet, everyone KNOWS William Shatner is terrible at story songs! How is Dirk Bogarde not a million times more famous for similar crimes against popular music recordings? The recording also brings to mind James Mason's stab at the spoken word record market-- I have some tracks of him reading "Annabel Lee" and "The Tell Tale Heart" from this site, and apparently he also won a Grammy for selections from Lolita on an LP around the time the movie came out! The difference being, Mason's recordings are actually really good...embarrassment factor of zero. Maybe Dirk should  have listened to them before starting on his own project.

Straining plausibility and a pair of leather pants as a "ruthless bandito"
The Singer Not the Song (1953).
This contemporaneous review from Billboard magazine must have been written by someone taken in by those chocolate brown eyes and pillowy lips-- me, I'm no sucker for him! I see him for what he is! Take a look anyway:

It probably helps that he has some major street cred from his late career movie output. Though he'd been in the business for almost two decades by the time Lyrics for Lovers was released, Bogarde really didn't get serious about acting until the sixties' and seventies', emerging as a major art house star in movies like the groundbreaking Victim (1961), Joseph Losey's The Servant (1963), John Schlesinger's Darling (1965, with Julie Christie), Visconti's The Damned (1969), and Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter (1974, with Charlotte Rampling). I love each of those movies and his performance in them; I can't say the same for Lyrics for Lovers. Everyone is bound to have a hiccup or two in their professional career-- am I just glad this crazy of one is out there on the internet for all of us to see! (Courtesy of Kate at Scathingly Brilliant...without her Youtube upload of the whole record, I might have never heard this!)

I forgive you, Dirk...look at those eyes!
I was going to grab the copy of his autobiography I know the library has because I'd checked it out before- sadly, our weeding process has gotten to the "no circulation in 7 years" stage, and this book had last been checked in (returned from a patron) April 16, 2003. There's a little button where you can click on the last patron who checked it out....and guess who it was? Yours truly! I should have re-read it a month or two sooner and it might not have been on the bin on the way to the book sale. Oh well. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. You can actually buy this album on iTunes, I am not kidding...I'm trying to decide whether or not I should, given the sheer joy/indignation this album has tindered in my cold, cold heart.

So! Did you listen yet? What do you think? Hilarious or just flat horrible? Am I being too brusque in my blanket assessment of the album as awful/wonderful/awful again? Are you a Bogarde fan or have you seen any of his movies? What's the worst celebrity side project you've stumbled across lately?  Let's talk!

I gotta get back to work, but guys...check this out. IT'S ALMOST FRIDAY. We're almost there! Have a great day-before-the-day-before-we-don't-have-to-go-to-work, and I'll see you tomorrow for Photo Friday! Til then.


  1. I'm like a comment stalker these days but by odd coincidence I just listened to this album for the first time yesterday! Spooky!!!! It made me laugh and then yawn and then laugh again and then get angry....and then laugh again...

  2. I do like Dirk Bogard-but

    Trying to think what I have seen him in, I've seen him in the one with Judy Garland-my mind is a blank right now as to the title, and a movie where he comes back from war, pretending to be someone's husband. Titles elude me today!

  3. I actually like the record. Found it on a blog called Kelly's Lounge Soundz that was shut down in 2010 when a lot of music sharing blogs got wacked. Would like to see the back cover of the original LP. Kelly did not scan it.
    Going to link up your page here to my Exotica music facebook page.

    1. Hey, thanks for reading and linking back! :D Too bad about that music sharing blog, I feel like 80% of the stuff I listened to circa 2002 was via those kinds of sites-- the doors they opened up!! RIP.



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