When old met new, and new won

Maybe you’ll recall a post I did not too long ago about the days when I was an adolescent at the Manse, when every middle-of-the-road singer used to appear on TV variety shows (Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett, etc.) and sing exactly the same songs. Apparently each one thought that he or she could do the definitive version of Do You Know the Way to San Jose, or Send in the Clowns, or whatever song happened to be omnipresent on the airwaves at the time.

Well, I got a rather hilarious reminder of that the other night. A while back Raymond gave me a delightful gift, a special-edition boxed set from the Carol Burnett Show. (Admit it, you loved it back in the day. Who didn’t?) It has highlights and conversations with the cast members, of course, but also several full-length episodes. One of which I sat down to watch.

The musical guest – as he often was on Carol Burnett – was Steve Lawrence, surprisingly sans Eydie Gormé on that particular night. And the showpiece number Steve decided to do for the episode was his own version of Harry Nilsson‘s Without You. (Yes, I understand that Badfinger originated the song. But you’ve got to admit that Harry Nilsson nailed it.)

For sheer entertainment value and hilarity, there’s nothing quite like watching a middle-aged, middle-of-the-road singer in about 1972 trying to perform a song that’s been a radio hit among “the young folks.” Steve was trying his darnedest to be cool. And it just didn’t work at all.

I always loved that Harry Nilsson single. I had it on a 45 that got played over and over and over again. Steve Lawrence may be considered a smooth singer, but man, he got nowhere near the notes that Harry hit – or the sheer raw emotion.

So yeah, in this case, chalk one up for the kids. Or at least, the people who were kids in 1972.

Don’t believe me? Have a listen:

25 thoughts on “When old met new, and new won

  1. Hi Katherine,

    Gotta love it! If you wish to up your sheer entertainment value and hilarity, how about watching a middle-aged, middle-of-the-road couple in a 1971 The Lawrence Welk Show performing a song that’s been not only a radio hit among “the young folks” but one that they are oblivious as to what the song lyrics mean. I give you the over-the-top Gail Farrell and Dick Dale singing Brewer and Shipley’s song “One Toke Over The Line”.

    • That is PRICELESS, Bert! I have a friend, Earl, a former colleague, occasional commenter here, and all-round fount of knowledge on all things odd and funny, who drew that video to my attention once upon a time, but it truly needs to be hauled out every now and then as a reminder of how hilarious the culture clash sometimes got in the ’60s/’70s. I miss those days!

  2. Magnificently terrible. Nicole nails it. As does your description of Steve Lawrence trying his darnedest to be cool. I wonder how that Brewer and Shipley song got past the Lawrence Welk programmers? Someone was chuckling up his sleeve, I’ll just bet.

  3. Make it stop, make it stop! It hurts. So you wanna play dirty do ya! I see your Kojack and raise you a Spock. And to make it worse, doing a song nobody but nobody should have done other than CCR. Bad on soooo many levels.

  4. Ears … spurting. Must … try to remember … Ike and Tina version … instead, can only summon … is this an ear dagger which I see before me?… aieeeeeeeeeeeeee … Mrs. Miller!

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