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: