Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February 24

I thought I was going to offer up a video of "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" in observance of Rupert Holmes birthday, but I just can't. Not because of the song; it's such a great, witty-yet-schmaltzy song that I just can't leave it off my playlist. It's a karaoke must. I assumed that "Escape" was all there was to Rupert's story. Boy, was I wrong.
That's because he's not a mere musician in a cardigan; he's a writer. He wrote songs for all kinds of musical acts in the 70's and 80's (remember that song "You Got It All" by the Jets? Britney Spears?) He won an armful of Tony awards for his first musical, based on the final and unfinished novel of Charles Dickens, which started his playwright career that's still in high gear 25 years later. He's also an Edgar-award winning mystery novelist, and the movie based on his first novel("Where the Truth Lies") won the Canadian Oscar. He even created an Emmy-award winning series, "Remember WENN".
Meanwhile, he's got a love-hate relationship with the song that consumed his recording career. (He doesn't even like pina coladas; says they taste like Kaopectate.) After "Escape" became the only song to go to #1 in the 70's and the 80's, people stopped paying attention to his Randy Newman-esque lyrics, and kept waiting for another round of songs about mixed drinks or something. This frustrated Rupert to the point that he quit making records to concentrate on theater and everything else.
No, the song that best encapsulates Rupert Holmes' career is "Timothy," a one-hit wonder recorded by the Buoys in 1971, and a Stephen King fave. The Buoys were an up-and-coming band who managed to sign a record contract - for one single, with no budget for publicity. Holmes figured a song so controversial that radio stations would start banning it would be great publicity, and he wrote the song "Timothy" for just that purpose.
The song was a slow starter. Then, like clockwork, people started figuring out the song's subject matter, and clamored for it; radio stations started banning it; competing radio stations would play it; the song made its way to #17 on the charts; the label signed the band to a full-album contract.

The Buoys never recovered from the success of "Timothy"; besides a song that got big in Europe, they never hit the charts again until their breakup in 1985. "Timothy", meanwhile, was the lightning bolt that began Rupert Holmes' recording career, until it was eclipsed by "Escape."
A final thought: does Tarantino know about this song?

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