EthelHappy Gay Pride!

I mean, really. This just may be the gayest post ever on Popdose, and that’s coming from the guy who does a feature called Phagz on 45 each week. You’ve probably heard of this legendarily awful album that combines the gayest of the gay — show tunes, Ethel Merman’s distinctively campy delivery, and, of course, disco. All that was missing was a complimentary bottle of poppers.

So, who was responsible for this mess? We can probably excuse Merman, who was 70 years old at the time of recording and who, rumor has it, recorded her vocals with nothing but a piano accompaniment, the disco-fied backing tracks added later. Can we blame A&M Records, the label that actually unleashed this upon the world, thinking it might move a few copies? Perhaps we should place the blame on producer/arranger Peter Matz, who in the liner notes thanks executive producer Kip Cohen “for having such a good idea.” Aha! Kip! Oh, Kip, so much to answer for.

So, what’s the album like? Um, pretty much Ethel Merman singing her standards with a generic disco beat and strings tacked on. Take a listen to the beginning of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (download) then “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (download) and tell me they don’t start off exactly the same. The entire album sounds like this … at least what I’ve been able to get through before whipping the needle off in an act of self-preservation. This makes Paul Lynde look like John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn.

Just to prove the Merm was still lucid when she recorded this, here she is promoting the album on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Money quote by Johnny: “I hope it’s not too much of a hit for you!” No worries there, Johnny. And hey, check out Albert Brooks next to Ethel on the panel!

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And just to make your gay day complete, here’s Ethel performing later on that same show “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in a much less disco-fied version than on the album. But check out that wah-wah disco guitar!

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On the album’s back cover, Paul Jabara writes, “Hearing this album, I’m convinced that this Disco Diva may be taking a whole new career! Bless you for boogeying, Ethel, you’re as hot as a pistol!” Hearing this album, I’m convinced Paul Jabara fell into a K-hole somewhere along the line. As for me, I’m off to change my own oil and watch some Larry the Cable Guy movies in an effort to butch it up a bit.

Get Ethel Merman music (including the Disco Album, which is now on CD!) at Amazon or on Ethel Merman

About the Author

John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes began his Lost in the ’80s blog in 2005 and is now proud to be a member of the Popdose family, where he’s introduced LIT80s’s companions, the obviously named Lost in the ’70s and Lost in the ’90s, alongside the slightly more originally named Why You Should Like…

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