December 27, 2009

Ray Stevens: 45 at 39

It was 39 years ago this month that a certain novelty single became a hit for Ray Stevens. It was a novelty single in the truest sense of the word. The utterly bizarre concept and the execution of the music and lyrics was comic genius in my opinion. This single, to the best of my knowledge, wasn't suppose to be a major hit because at the time it was released as a single-only and it didn't appear on any long-playing (LP) album. Add to this the fact that a month earlier in November of 1970 Ray's record label issued the much more serious recording, "Sunset Strip". While "Sunset Strip" became a Top-20 hit with Adult-Contemporary radio listeners, called Easy-Listening at the time, it's performance on the mostly sales-driven Hot 100 wasn't as successful. It peaked in the Top-85 of that chart but as I mentioned it did real well with the adult audiences of the time period. How odd, though, that his record label decided to release a new single barely a month after "Sunset Strip" hit. Ray has often said that in a lot of cases he'd come up with strange or bizarre idea's for comedy songs out of the blue that nobody else would touch and so he'd end up recording the songs himself. I happen to think that this is one of those cases when it comes to "Bridget The Midget", a novelty single that hit in December of 1970.

As I mentioned, the single was only available at the time on a 45 and the fact that it was released a month after "Sunset Strip" indicates to me that there wasn't suppose to be much attention focused on the comedy song. Remember, 1970 was the year of "Everything Is Beautiful" and other more serious recordings from Ray...and it was in late 1969 and throughout the first 11 months of 1970 that music buyers and TV watchers were becoming used to the dead-serious Ray Stevens who had a comical side. Previously, Ray had been known as the comical singer who had a serious side. So, just as the serious Ray had become accepted again out comes "Bridget The Midget" and he's labeled a comedy act once more. The novelty single reached it's peak in early 1971 and in America the song managed to climb into the Top-50 on the pop chart but over in England the single tickled their funny bones, I imagine, because it reached the Top-5 on their pop music chart. The single features the gimmick of sped-up vocals to achieve the singing and talking voice of Bridget, a go-go dancer. The song takes place inside a go-go where Ray plays all the characters. He portrays the singer/narrator, the stagehand, the hippie patron, Bridget and her back-up group.

The single remained on a 45 until some point in the early '70s when it was placed on an album. Since then it's become a fixture on just about all the compilation albums that record labels have issued on Ray through the years. The image below is my Tower of Stevens. Actually it's my cassette tape tower and I snapped a picture of the Ray Stevens section. It's a digital picture that I took this morning and if you click it you'll be able to see a bigger image. I didn't get the 2002 release, "Osama Yo' Mama" into the shot because it's elsewhere in my bedroom because as you can see there would be no room for it...all of the slots are taken up by other cassettes.

The first cassette tape I lucked out and found on-line. I still keep my eyes open for cassette copies of Ray's 1980's out put. So far Shriner's Convention on RCA, from 1980, is the only album from his 1980-1982 RCA tenure that I've been able to find in cassette format. The tape underneath Shriner's Convention is the 1983 Greatest Hits release that RCA issued which features just two RCA recordings...the rest of his RCA singles weren't spotlighted. For a more legitimate look at some of his RCA recordings one should seek out Collector's Series from 1985. In my Tower of Stevens it's the fifth tape shown. The collection only spotlights eight recordings, though. It was a budget-priced series that RCA issued on artists that had recorded for the label both past and current. For anyone who comes across this blog entry or any other one that I've written be aware that I don't offer links to free downloads. I don't offer links to anything free. The way I see it, 99 cents doesn't kill anyone. That's how much songs on-line cost. So, for those who want to hear the songs I write about in my blog entries, search for them at Amazon's MP3 store or at Itunes...or visit Ray's web-site store and purchase CD's or DVD's.

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