Saturday, 15 August 2009

Unless You Dare

Beauty is exuberance. - William Blake

I see that Terry Black, "teen sensation of the sixties," died recently. His obits are mostly marked by the same hype that lifted this pleasant and good-looking but basically talentless individual from obscurity in the first place. Red Robinson tries for a little perspective when he remarks that "Terry was a most sincere, humble guy who had the pipes to sing but not the management to make it happen." But to paraphrase Churchill, Red, the guy had a lot to be humble about.
Although he won the Maple Music Best Male Vocalist for 1965, he did so by remaining virtually unheard of, or more exactly, unheard, where I lived, in his own North Vancouver. True, the Vancouver media were all over the guy, big time. He was the product of that DeeJay culture that at one time seemed to count for so much among the so dumb. It is the culture of spin: spinning discs and spinning heads. The Buddy Clydes, the Red Robinsons and Fred Latremouilles were spinning him as the new Elvis just about the time the Beatles and Stones had effectively buried the old Elvis under an avalanche of fresh sounding and interesting music. I remember seeing Black for the first and only time on a local TV venue, the same Dance Party where he was "discovered." Let's see: a singer gets discovered on a TV dance show while dancing to records. Right! So Fabian was famously "discovered" lounging about on his front porch one Saturday afternoon. But let's give Fabian his due, he really could lounge.
Black, on the other hand, didn't really dance all that well, was a so-so singer and was a total bomb when it came to lounging. In that day, it was a law that pop idols had to be "good looking." But Black's handlers thought this meant that this was all you had to be. From today's perspective he looks and sounds rather pathetic, a nice youngster who liked to dance, pushed into the limelight by calculating adults trying for a quick buck off a static construct. Although he tried for a movie part playing Presley's kid brother, his only perceivable kinship to Elvis outside of his looks was the naive trust which he reposed in his managers, who vied with the notorious "Colonel" in professional obtusity by feeding him safe, i.e., dull, material and over-managing his fragile image. His one "international hit," "Unless You Care," is about as mediocre a pop song as you'll ever hear. The words are sappy, the (studio) band humdrum (Glen Campbell on guitar notwithstanding), and the delivery indifferent. It sounds in fact like Black doesn't care, as if he was afraid to hit a head note lest its unwonted intensity should shake free one of his impeccably managed hairs. (Ironically enough, it turns out that tidy Terry eventually landed a part in a Canadian production of Hair. Now that must have been humbling!)
Black's carrer, such as it was, and ending as it did in the year of Susan Boyle, was a testament to the limits of spin. I mention Boyle because in a way she represents the opposite of Black: no looks, zero spin, all talent and drive and dedication. I wonder what the aging and disillusioned former teen sensation, by then resigned to making his way by doing beer ads, thought when he saw her performance, that extraordinary act that turned the judges on their heads and won the audience and the world by the sheer power of voice and emotion. Beautiful! If he cried with rest of us, I hope he saved a tear or two for himself and what might have been if only...
Terry Black now sings with the angels where that sincere and sinless face of his always said he belonged. RIP. The deejays have spun out, the judges have been judged, and all we can really ask of our young and talented is to stand up and go for it. Aphorism of the day: the ones who break the mirrors are often the same ones who break the molds. Contrary to Red Robinson, talent conquers all, kids. Dare to be hot!

Unless You Care Dare

For Terry Black

Don't ever let them say you've got talent and flair,

Cause failure's too much to bear,

It's all just air, uh huh uh,

Unless you dare.

Don't dream of stars in heaven

If you don't belong up there,

It's all just air,

Unless you dare.

Terry, if you only knew

How safe and dull you sound!

You got the breaks,

If you'd got what it takes,

You'd have been world-renowned.

So don't dream of bright lights and fame

If singing jingles is no shame,

It's all just air

Unless you dare!

(See original here)

No comments: