PERMANENT RECORDS: IF THEY ASKED ME, I COULD WRITE A BOOK
But, alas, no one asks.
Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.
04. HARRY CONNICK, JR. - MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE: WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... (1989)
Personnel: Harry Connick, Jr., piano & vocals; Benjamin Jonah Wolfe, bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts, drums; Marc Shaiman, Big Band orchestration; Frank Wess, tenor saxophone; Jay Berliner, acoustic guitar
Producer: Marc Shaiman & Harry Connick, Jr./Label: CBS
A lot of the albums chosen for this series were gateway records, the discs that connected the dots for me and lead me from one group to another. UTFO opening me up to more hiphop, for instance, or Moby making the way for ambient. They may not always be the coolest choices, they may not even be the best choices, but Permanent Records has not been about either. It's been about records that were important to me. Surely I could come up with a better selection for jazz than the soundtrack to a romantic comedy. You might think me far more sophisticated if I could write 1500 words on Miles Davis or Charlie Parker, but then, that puts the choice of what is cool in your hands and takes it out of mine, doesn't it? Get your own blog if you want to be center of the universe. This is my Confession Booth.
Besides, in 1989, Harry Connick, Jr. was the coolest motherfucker on the planet. Yeah, he may be dopey now, but so is Paul McCartney, and we still listen to the Beatles. (If Lennon were alive today, he'd have TV specials where he'd tell bad jokes--because he always told bad jokes--and sing duets with Ciarra and Chamillionaire, so let's not pretend.) Harry Connick, that cat was smooth at a time when smooth and music were not synonymous. British music was in a woeful fashion doldrum that was called baggy, a case of self-awareness if ever there was one (Happy Mondays even had a song called "Loose Fit," though knowing them it was really a drug or sex reference. My guess: condoms). And we all know what was around the corner for America in the 1990s. And fuck you if you didn't fall into it.
But there was Harry Connick, wearing a tie and an overcoat, his hair slicked back like some classic movie star. He was a good looking cat, with just enough accent to make you think he might be charming and just witty enough to confirm it. Even better, he sang in a soft enough voice that, as an adolescent, I could drop my own ridiculously awful singing voice down to a whisper and just about pull it off. Because I wanted to be able to croon under some girl's window, to declare "It Had To Be You" or that our "Love is Here To Stay."
Which is also why I still love the movie We Are In Love. Woe be to the poor, straight high school boys in 1989 who spent most of their time hanging out with girls instead of boys. I seriously doubt I was the only one who went to see this movie multiple times with my clique. Across the nation, males struggling with sensitivity were agreeing out loud that Billy Crystal was wrong and that women and men could be friends, and secretly thinking, "Can't we just shut up and make out right now? I'm putting in the time. Please finally notice me." I'm sure had I raised my hand in senior English and used the above as an example of irony, I'd have gotten an A in the class.
Even more troublesome, though, was the pact Harry and Sally make, that if they are both alone when they are 40 or whatever, they will be each other's New Year's Date. Invariably, this lead platonic friends to discuss the fail-safe possibility, the extension being "If we are 40 and neither of us are married, we'll get married." If you were just a guy/girl pair, it was likely pretty easy, there was no choice involved. I, on the other hand, hung out with a core group of three, affectionately known by our satellites as the "Three Witches." This was not some half-assed misogyny, like we were really calling them bitches, they were actually in on the nickname, a reference to Macbeth. Anyway, I had these three girls fighting over who would be in a fail-safe scenario with me--and not fighting to see who would get to be with me, but who would be stuck with me. How is that for a rabbit punch to the ego?
For those moments, I can thank Harry Connick for recording more than the upbeat lovesongs. "Where or When" worked for lonely nights when I maintained a bit of hope, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" for when I was feeling left out, and "But Not For Me" was my theme for giving up on the whole thing. To this day, I know most of the lyrics and might find myself humming them from time to time, walking home from a bar all by my lonesome.
I kind of digress, however. The point was, When Harry Met Sally... was a gateway album for me. It's what started me to get into jazz. I'm not the deepest fan, mind you, time and money usually forces us to focus and so most of my resources went, not surprisingly, to Britpop, but because of Harry Connick, Jr., I was able to break down the barrier that said jazz was something only pretentious old people listened to, and he inspired me to follow the thread backwards to Frank Sinatra, which lead me to Duke Ellington and Tony Bennett, and eventually I'd try Billie Holiday. I'd also eventually watch An American in Paris and know most of the Gershwin tunes going in. I may not have been so open to any of it if not for When Harry Met Sally...
A couple of years later, when Harry Connick followed this up with We Are In Love, I got the opportunity to see him on tour. He was still a smooth bastard. He did more than sing and play, he also danced and told funny stories and made the whole evening one intimate party, despite being in a large amphitheatre. He also proved himself a gracious host, devoid of ego, spending a lot of time spotlighting his band through endless introductions and solos. While you were all wearing flannel and combing your hair so it wouldn't look combed, Harry Connick, Jr. was tirelessly working to remind us how a man should really be. It was paying off, too. The dude married a Victoria's Secret model! He wasn't just the rebirth of cool for me, he was the definition of it.
Perhaps that's why I'm so cool myself. Thanks, Harry!
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Current Soundtrack: Gwen Stefani, "Wind It Up;" the Good, the Bad, & the Queen, "Herculean;" DJ Shadow w/ Q-Tip & Lateef, "Enuff;" the Killers, "Bones" (singles 52-55)
Current Mood: blank
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich