Darrell Vickers: A Tux on Both Their Houses

darrell-vickersDanny Kaye once musically opined (in the movie White Christmas), “The theater.  The Theater.  What’s happened to the Theater?”  Now, he was expressing disappointment in his beloved Broadway’s movement towards artsy-fartsy choreography and away from “Chaps who did taps.”  But, if he were around today and got a glimpse of what the current Great White Way had to offer, he’d be on 24-hour-a-day suicide watch.

How I Know This:

Being an exemplary father and husband, I sat down with my family of women recently and caught a more than generous helping of the Tony a baboon's posteriorawards.  What met my eyes and ears was sorely vexing.  It was like watching a room full of crazed crack addicts jumping around and dancing to celebrate the birthday of a baby that they didn’t realize was long dead.  And oh, the glitz and the glamour and the spectacle that this moribund morass of bright teeth and shapely legs was able to bring forth.  But isn’t all this fanciful folderol the equivalent of gluing fistfuls of shiny-colored sequins onto a baboon’s impressively bulbous patootie?  No matter how “Fabulous” everyone is and how caffeinated their performance, you can’t get away from the fact that these uber-enthusiastic jongleurs and hoofers par excellence are polishing up a staggeringly spongy turd.

billy mumy looking madTuneless song after tuneless song is trotted out and whipped into a chaotic frenzy before a crowd that cheers every dubious note as if failing to do so would provoke Billy Mumy to send them to the corn field.  No one seems to have the courage to stand up and yell at the stage, “The Emperor has no Closer.”


ethel merman singingIn the late fifties, Broadway was hit with a double whammy.  The top songwriters of the day stopped writing for the Ethel Mermans and John Raitts of this world and started writing for themselves.  Plus, the theater was no place for this new form of lowbrow noise that was exploding from radios.  Rock ‘n’ roll was the giant meteorite that fell from the sky and crashed into 42nd meteorite hitting earthStreet as the dinosaurs scoffed at the cacophonous catalyst of their demise and continued to merrily munch upon palm fronds.  Over the coming decades the mega-talent of old was culled by the reaper’s scythe until nothing remained but third-rate songwriters and lithe young men who could high-kick a trilby off Shaquille O’Neal’s head.

Back to Our Previously Scheduled Programming:

dance number at TonysThe Tonys are essentially an expensive and self-congratulatory advertisement for big budget Broadway shows.  Fair enough.  You have to sell those breathtakingly priced tickets somehow.  But this points to an even more worrisome dilemma.  When you advertise something, you quite rightly make it seem like that product has been sent down here by God himself to save all mankind.  cast of A Christmas StoryDenny’s burgers, Hyundais and reverse mortgages even look good in commercials, for Christsakes!  If what I witnessed of “Matilda:  The Musical,” “Bring It On:  The Musical” and “A Christmas Story:  The Musical” is the glistening, succulent and savory Denny’s Burger of Broadway, then we may need to break out the shovels and bury poor Danny a whole lot deeper.

And since we’re on the topic of award shows…

Grammy_AwardIt seems like the venerable Grammies have the opposite problem to the Tonys.  There are hundreds, possibly thousands of great songs written and performed every year by their talented members, but every single one of them is completely ignored unless that tune or CD outsold The Bible.  Perhaps I missed the announcement when the Oxford English Dictionary changed the meaning of “Best” to “Best Selling”.   Of course this makes the judging the Grammies so much simpler for these stalwart sentinels of their craft.  Members don’t even need to listen to the song to know how good it is.  All they need to do is check the PCABillboard charts and Cashbox and “bingo!” we have a winner!  I mean, Jesus fucking Christ!  Isn’t selling 17 billion copies of a song reward enough for these kudo-gluttons?  That’s what the People’s Choice Awards are for.  They give actors and singers big shiny pieces of mantle-debris for simply being popular.  There’s no pretense that the show is anything other than a big, ass-licking orgy.  But surely there must be an upper limit to this kind of incestuous, self-congratulatory, glitz-humping twaddle.

One has to believe that one day these mass-adulation vacuums will decide that their gold-plated posteriors have more than a sufficient amount of fan-saliva on them.   That a time will rise, Phoenix-like out of the ashes of that festering midden of modern-day commercialism and a piece of music’s actual merit will garner at least a molecule of consideration.

Jackson McCauleyTry and imagine, if you will, this brave new type of Grammy voter.  A proud and principled academy member is sitting comfortably at home and saying to him or her or hard-to-tell-self, “No, I’m not going to cast my ballot for the latest Beyoncé song just because people like to hear her sing a bunch of words really fast, I prefer this sparkly little tune by a band touring around in a rusty old station wagon, trying to survive on blowjobs and buckets of fried chicken.  It might happen.  And Michael Jackson might come back from the grave for one last snuggle with Macaulay Culkin.”

goyte videoDon’t get me wrong, “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotya is an okay song.  But would that have even mattered if the video had received 6,000 views instead of 409 million?  “We are Never Ever Getting Back Taylor swift with_Grammy_AwardsTogether” is just Taylor Swift singing a Blink 182 tune… ain’t it?  Sure the guy playing the weird guitar in a bear suit is cute but there are a million songs out there like this.

The Solution:

Here’s a revolutionary idea!  Why doesn’t Broadway hire all those brilliant songwriters that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences doesn’t give a shit about?   That way, people paying $17,000 for a second-balcony seat at the Pantages will have something decent to listen to and the machinate mavens of the music business can continue to joyously jam those golden gramophone-thingies up their own spit-soaked asses.

Broadway Addendum:

My daughter sent me this fascinating article on how a surprisingly small amount of money will give you a pretty good shot at winning a Tony Award.


Now to Something I Do Like:

One of the most exciting things about the internet (besides the availability of pterodactyl porn) is that it has allowed radio to become television.  There Adele-NPR-Tiny-Desk-Concert-Video-540x301are any number of excellent radio concert series that are available via YouTube or the radio station’s website.  My exceedingly tolerant wife has become a huge fan of the Tiny Desk Series on NPR.  The concept is very simple.  You cram a musical group, no matter how large, into a tiny space meant for other purposes and have them perform a sprinkling of their canon.

Imagine, giving deserving but relatively unknown artists a forum where people can be exposed to their work.  Just don’t tell the Academy of Recording Artists about it.

black prairieThere are dozens of these mini-concerts available on the NPR website.  Below are just a few samples.

Black Prairie – This band has three Decemberists among their number.  A very nice folkie ensemble.


luciusLucius –  My wife is a big fan of these guys.  Lucius has a goofy charm that is aided by being able to see the performance.   The third song is the highlight.

Abigail Washburn – Truly charming.  An absolute treasure to see in person – and she speaks Chinese!

Milk Carton Kids – A modern day Peter and Gordon?  “Very tasty” stuff, especially the guitar playing.

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Gorgeous.

Avett Brothers – These guys are great.

Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile and Stuart Duncan – I’ve heard these guys can play….

Josh Ritter – I’ve seen him several times.  A true delight in concert and one of the truly great lyricists of our time.


Darrell Vickers appears here every 4th Monday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.co

DBAWIS ButtonDarrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com .

2 Responses to “Darrell Vickers: A Tux on Both Their Houses”

  1. tony burleton Says:

    Nice selection of pictures. Tony (cuzz)

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