Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Whole New Reason to Hate Barbra Streisand

I may be, according to some of my lesbian friends, "queer," (personal to straight folks and gossip hounds: it doesn't mean what you think it means) but ambiguous definitions of sexuality notwithstanding, I can't get in touch with my inner gay man in one key respect: I am hating me some Barbra Streisand right now.

It's a slow month, and one of the gigs on the calendar is with a show band at a casino. This means I have to come to grips with something I've managed to dodge 'til now: show tunes.

I like most kinds of music, but show tunes -- or basically anything that reminds me of the post-Vaudeville Dixieland stuff I was forced to watch as a tyke in an endless stream of '70s variety shows that aired in prime viewing time -- leave me as cold as an icicle. Still, a gig's a gig.

But that's not what's irritating me about ol' Babs, nor is it her making liberals look bad or that she beats up on her maid or her duets with Barry Gibb, or whatever her sin du jour is these days. It's the simple fact that her songs are all almost impossible to work out by ear. Nine zillion piece orchestras, key changes, songs that have so many discrete sections you just about use up the alphabet trying to keep track of them, not a single instrument playing the fundamental or even being able to discern what the hell the root is. I don't feel particularly bad about admitting this because even the musicians who played it were reading sheet music. They didn't know it either! I can barely read, but even I would prefer the little back dots on a page to trying to reduce this mass of blowsy counterpoint to something resembling a coherent piano part.

Not that it matters this gig we're playing to tracks, so it's really a cut above lip syncing...but even so, I have to be able to get through the song if the tape takes a crap, and I have to play something that's not going to clash with what's there. So it just means the stakes are lower if I screw up. But it's not any less work.

At least Liza Minelli has the decency to pick songs with a discernible repeating chord pattern. Ah, but Barbra, it all has to be larger than life with you, doesn't it?

It may get me banned from some of my favorite haunts on Santa Monica Blvd., but Babs, I hate you.


  1. Will you play ''If You Go Away''--the Jacques Brel song from her last album?

  2. Ms. Streisand's recordings have never been on my "gotta have it" list, but I do have one in my collection: "Butter Fly", mainly because it has "Love in the Afternoon", co-written by my favorite singer/songwriter/musician. As a "who woulda thought" entry, it also includes "Grandma's Hands".