Eddie Allen Poe Was A Swinger

Eddie Allen Poe was a swinger.
He loved to enjoy that good whiskey
and chase them little ladies all over the place,
understand what I mean?         (The Raven)

Milords, miladies!  It has been brought to my attention that I have not been featuring nearly enough tuxedo-clad, aristocratic, hep-talking. pith-helmeted, American stage-performing, linguistically acrobatic monologists born in 1906.  For this I can only extend to you my humble apologies and usher you towards, a most singular LP, Lord Buckley A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat; released on Frank Zappa’s Straight Records in 1970.

Need some back story? Richard Myrie Buckley was born in a gold rush town in California to English parents and by the late 1920’s was performing as an emcee at dance contests.  By the 1930s, a wealthy fan, Mr Al Capone* was bankrolling him at a club in Chicago Named Chez Buckley.  It was in Chicago that Richard ascended to the aristocracy as he mixed with the jazz musicians, hep cats and swingers of the era and fell in love with, what he termed ‘zig zag talk’, the hipsterisms and jive talk of ‘our beautiful Negro brothers and sisters’.  His stroke of genius was teaming this hip speak, hurtling along to the far-out rhythms of jazz itself, with a delightfully fruity aristocratic bearing and persona, which became his act until his untimely death in 1960.

Now so much, so quaint and old-timey you might think, but there was a lot more to the Lord’s estates than his front lawn would suggest.  He was a man who clearly, deeply loved, cherished and understood language – his hip speak wasn’t a mockery, anything but, it was a celebration of the elasticity and joy of speech and expression.  He applied his schtick to all manner of sacred literary cows – the Gettysburg Address, Julius Caesar (by ‘Willie the shake’), Poe’s ‘The Raven’ and, controversially at the time, in ‘The Nazz’ to the story of Christ.  None of this was to mock, just to seek humour and alternate meanings, those urges ring true today and they certainly appealed to a certain brand of cynical beatnik in the 50s/60s.  I was partly raised on the 1959 album Lord Buckley In Concert, Lord help me.

A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat, released 10 years after Buckley’s passing and recorded in 1956, is a collection of routines that sound very much like they were recorded on a cheap dictaphone hidden in a passer-by’s underpants, but are definitely no worse for the occasional retake, level drop, wow and flutter.  Lord Buckley’s voice, a spellbinding thing, sometimes takes you unawares, leaping at you too loudly at opportune moments.  The power is in the performance, even if there is a nagging feeling that you’re doing the aural equivalent of watching a heavyweight champion on the long slide down the man’s intelligence crackles around you.

The LP opens with the least accessible, least fathomable track the man possibly ever recorded, ‘The Bad Rapping of the Marquis de Sade’, where Buckley claims that the man guy was ‘a very royal French nobleman, from a very wealthy family, that dug the chicks’ and proceeds to tell a tall tale, or two about a disreputable feast.  The language is dense with detail and playful throughout^, you just need to relax back into the current and get swept downstream for the ride.

Next up is a piece entitled ‘Governor Slugwell’ about the absurd pomp and ceremony attending the speech of a corrupt, corpulent, inarticulate bloated plutocrat good ‘ol boy.  Lord Buckley does all the voices of the crowd, the Irish cop, the female bystander, the brass band and drummers; it’s a real triumph of mania.  The fact that the governor can barely string a sentence together doesn’t seem to worry his electorate.  Good job that could never happen in real life, eh readers?**

“My friends, I – hmmm, ehhh, would like to say that, ooohp, I’ve never before, rahum, have been greeted by such, urrrrhp, warmth and urrrrrb, beauty. Hmmpt – I’ll be there in a moment, Mary. Now, I would like to say that things are going so well and so, hmmmpt  beautiful with me. My, ah, Rolls Royces are all running fine, urrrpt, three more oil well came in, hmmm, I just popped the water works last week, urrrrrpt, I’ve had the gas works for quite some time. Hmmm. And things are going at such a magnificent rate urrrpt, that I believe that it is possible for each and every member of this great state – the Employees Association shall receive a substantial raise in salary amounting to … “

‘The Raven’ is a wonderful reimagination of the Poe pourri.  Lord Buckley juxtaposing the highfalutin, with the rootin’ tootin’ at a million miles an hour, all the while keeping a masterful sense of poetry and space.  Like every other teenage goth, I am much taken with swinging Eddie and this is anything but disrespectful.  The verbal dexterity deployed here is nothing short of wowissimo.  ‘The Train’ is the straightest piece on board this platter and uses the poet’s trick of matching the rhythm to that of the train, what Buckley adds though is an astonishing ability on the sound effects – it’s a minor rap, but a goodie.

The closing track on A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat is ‘The Hip Einie’, which is nothing less than the biography of Albert Einstein, a zig zag tale of the goofing king of the space heads.  Okay, so there are no instruments but this is pure jazz, in tone, structure, rhythm and riffage.  This video is a good attempt at it:

Lord Buckley was a massive influence on all manner of cats like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Tom Waits, Arlo Guthrie, George Harrison and Bob Dylan to name but a few^*  I was fairly shocked at just how well-represented he was on Spotify too, it shows someone is still listening.  A chaotic man with a chaotic life and an enthusiastic dabbler in certain banned substances he ended up being broken on the corrupt, bureaucratic wheel of New York City Cabaret Card system – despite the best efforts of his friends Ed Sullivan, Quincy Jones, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton.  Such is often the fate of a man ahead of his time, a hipster far too far ahead to goof.

In a 1958 interview with Studs Terkel Buckley was asked for a hip farewell, his reply still stands as a good kiss off goodbye:

Is to all the solid cats and kitties that swing this precious cherryland of America.  May you always put it down solid and in great truth and in great beauty.  And it is the prayer of the hipsters that the hip – the gangs, the Cobras and all the gangs quit squaring up and get hip, which means to be wise.  And make the people that love them proud of them.

783 Down.

PS.  Anyone interested should take off straight for the LBC website, which is a great resource and a damn fine read too.

PPS:  Great clip of Lord Buckley on the Groucho Mark Show, he was light years ahead of it all:

*who apparently said of Buckley, “He’s the only guy who ever made me laugh.”

^the excellent website LBC carries a full transcript and, more importantly a HIPesaurus.

**I’ve deployed some heavy-handed liberal pinko irony there – we learn it in special offshore training camps paid for by book reading enemies of the state.

^*not forgetting Bowie’s reference to ‘The Nazz’ in ‘Ziggy Stardust’, Todd Rundgren’s first band and the post-Spiders name of the Alice Cooper Band; the list goes on.

14 thoughts on “Eddie Allen Poe Was A Swinger

    1. Gosh you Australian chaps talk funny. Thank you very much indeed Bruce – I guessed you’d have been a fan. I’m just a real sucker for anyone as out there and creative as this, jaw-dropping.

      I’d review the Moondog and Wild Man Fischer LPs next, if I had any idea at all what to write about them!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Well, well, well… this looks and sounds like a right treat! I’ll be honest, I know the name (due to the influence on a whole host of folks I like), but I’ve never really searched out anything, which is shocking when you consider how accessible everything is…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Warped by your old man too? glad to hear it wasn’t just me. They don’t make dudes like Lord Buckley, Moondog or Wildman Fischer anymore.

      That’s pretty amazing about Kurt Elling though.

      Like

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