A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper
"Go to sleep. Everything is all right."
Dell Rat Ron Shearer is back to
help me continue my game of
Six Degrees of The Paris Sisters.
Perhaps part 3 should be called
Tales from the Dark Side!
Ron, go ahead
and start off
this terrific, soporific
scene from the movie
"Mr. Blue" - Fleetwoods (December 1959, highest
chart position #1, scene from 1983 movie Vacation)
"Mr Blue" was the perfect song to lull Clark Griswold
(Chevy Chase) to sleep at the wheel.
The soft, intimate vocal style used by Gary Troxel and
The Fleetwoods, Gary's Washington state trio, certainly
was sleep inducing, but it was a popular sound during
the late 50s and early 60s. "Mr. Blue" streaked to #1
on Billboard and had a chart life of 20 weeks, nearly
as long as that of "To Know Him, is to Love Him,"
the hit single by the Teddy Bears that charted one
The Fleetwoods went from sleep to trance induction
in their 1961 top 10 hit, "Tragedy," a sad and somber
recording that had the feel of teenage death rock.
"Tragedy" - Fleetwoods (June 1961, highest chart
AND THE DELONS
The Fleetwoods' version of "Tragedy" was a cover of a hit
record released in 1959 by Mississippi born and Memphis
based singer Thomas Wayne along with the Delons, a trio
of girls recruited from a Memphis high school to sing with
Wayne. In a strange twist of fate, Thomas Wayne's own
life ended in tragedy. He died in a car crash at age 31.
"Tragedy" - Thomas Wayne and the Delons (May 1959,
highest chart position #5)
Ron, please allow me
to jump in and make
a few observations.
Those were gentle ballads,
but they were a far cry from
the rhymey, good timey
moon-spoon-June type of
love songs produced in the 30s and 40s by the Tin Pan Alley establishment. In the late 50s and early 60s some records for teenagers were imbued with a keen sense of despair. Popular recordings of the Great Depression and WWII years urged the listener to brush off the clouds and cheer up and put on a happy face. Songs like "Tragedy" made it okay to cry.
David Lynch movies, but when
I listen to some of the Paris Sisters recordings that we're showcasing and watch their performance clips
I get a chill. I can't help envisioning their sweet songs being used in the soundtrack of a horror movie to heighten the sense of dread and foreboding, much the same as the tender love ballad "Look For a Star" was used in Circus of Horrors, a 1960 suspense thriller that brilliantly juxtaposed beauty and innocence with sadism, cruelty, violence and death.
"Look For a Star" (Theme from 1960 motion picture
Circus of Horrors) - Garry Mills (August 1960, highest
chart position #26)
THE PARIS SISTERS
As a mental exercise, watch this Paris Sisters performance in a scene from the movie It's Trad, Dad! and imagine it in the dark context that I described. Imagine scenes of sheer terror flashing on the screen as these clean, wholesome young women sing their innocent song. Does the clip take on new meaning? Does it become surreal? Do you sense the danger? Do you experience a chill?
"What Am I To Do" - Paris Sisters (uncharted B side of
"Let Me Be the One"/scene from 1962 motion picture
Ring-a-Ding Rhythm! aka It's Trad, Dad!)
Perhaps without even intending, The Paris Sisters were the forerunners of today's dream pop and art rock sub-genres of which modern bands like Warpaint are leading practitioners.
"Baby" - Warpaint (from October 2010 album The Fool)
In dreams I walk with you.
In dreams I talk to you.
In dreams you're mine.
Why are there people like Frank?
Why is there so much trouble in this world?
Dream pop was effectively revived in the mid 80s by director David Lynch who made liberal use of it in his work. In the following scene from Blue Velvet, Lynch's neo-noir cult film, Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sandy (Laura Dern) share a magic moment on the dance floor. Notice their childlike wonder as they discover love and how, in dreamlike fashion, their dialogue is barely audible, overpowered by Julee Cruise singing "Mysteries of Love." These are classic Lynch touches that reveal his genius as a movie maker.
"Mysteries of Love" - Julee Cruise (scene from 1986
motion picture Blue Velvet)
Julee Cruise gained worldwide popularity in 1990 when her ethereal vocals were featured even more prominently in the eerie, cutting edge, cult television miniseries Twin Peaks.
"Falling" (theme from Twin Peaks) - Julee Cruise
(June 1990, highest chart position #11 Modern Rock,
#7 UK, #1 Australia)
Nobody but nobody is able to capture childlike innocence and absolute evil, dreamlike beauty and nightmarish terror as well as David Lynch. He frequently juxtaposes opposites for maximum impact.
"Rockin' Back Inside My Heart" (Twin Peaks soundtrack)
- Julee Cruise (1991, highest chart position #66 UK)
Julee Cruise's songs from Twin Peaks are gentle and angelic but at the same time profoundly disturbing because they are woven through Lynch's surrealistic tale of madness, mayhem and murder.
Whenever I hear them I find myself nervously glancing over my shoulder looking for Bob, the demon who slaughtered Laura Palmer's cousin Maddy in the scene prior to this one.
"The World Spins" (Twin Peaks soundtrack) - Julee Cruise
(June 1990 from album Floating into the Night)
Director David Lynch was heavily influenced by underground experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Anger used the Paris Sisters' recording of the Bobby Darin hit "Dream Lover" as the soundtrack of Kustom Kar Kommandos, a short film inspired by the burgeoning West Coast custom car culture of the early 60s. The project, originally intended to be a full length feature that examined the role of hot rods as fetish objects among American males, was limited to this three minute clip due to lack of funding.
Kustom Kar Kommandos by Kenneth Anger (1965)
Soundtrack: "Dream Lover" - Paris Sisters (June 1964,
highest chart position #94)
Ron, you've got some where are they now
updates for us, correct?
That's right, Shady. After the Paris Sisters disbanded
Albeth, the oldest sister, worked for ABC and went into
independent TV production with her husband. Sherell,
the middle sister, formed her own band in the 70s and
worked in an executive capacity on the TV game show
The Price is Right as Bob Barker's personal assistant
until 2000. Sherell once stepped in as a guest model on
the show, modeling a karaoke machine. Priscilla, the
youngest, moved to Paris and became a motivational
speaker for sales reps in the hotel industry. Shady?
Ron, I can almost hear that song "Tragedy"
playing in the background as I write this
because the story of Priscilla Paris also has
a tragic ending, right there in Paris, France.
The velvet voiced lead singer of the Paris Sisters established a solo career in the mid 60s but it came to an abrupt end in the late 70s when an accident left her with facial paralysis. Then, in 2004, amid plans for a professional reunion of the Paris Sisters, Priscilla died at the age of 59 from injuries suffered in a fall at her home in Paris. And so, one of the most distinctive voices of the 60s was silenced.
"Stone is Very, Very Cold" - Priscilla Paris (from the 1967
album Priscilla Sings Herself)
In some circles The Paris Sisters are called one-hit-wonders, yet today their sound is hotter (or cooler?) than ever. The dreamy, breathy, sensual vocal style popularized by Priscilla Paris and her sisters can be heard in music produced from the 80s to present by girl groups and indie bands foreign and domestic. We already listened to Warpaint. Here's Scottish singer/musician Rose McDowall with American experimental artist Boyd Rice collaborating under the name Spell and performing a cover of Priscilla's original composition.
"Stone is Very, Very Cold" - Spell (from the 1993
album Seasons in the Sun)
Keep up to date on exciting new bands and cutting edge sounds by following the blogs of my dear friends Kelly-marie at A Harem of Peacocks, Amber at Amber Blue Bird and Emma at Ol' Green Eyes.
Thank you, Dell Rat Ron,
for playing Six Degrees
and helping me to tell
the fascinating story of
The Paris Sisters!
Have a Shady day!