The Continuing Saga of Early Peter Allen Albums – Taught By Experts (1976)

I have posted about Peter Allen’s early albums (which are surprisingly hard to find) here, here and here.

 

1. Puttin’ Out Roots (Allen)
Alright, Aussies, no sniggering. “Putting Out”. “Roots”. Hee hee hee. The sentiment about getting away from the city to a farm is probably pretty genuine here, although it’s worth noting that Allen’s actual “farm” was a house on the beach in Port Douglas and another in Leucadia, California.

2. She Loves to Hear the Music (Allen/Sager)
Is this the first rapprochement of Allen’s twin performing styles? Namely, the intimate ballad presented as a razzle-dazzle showstopper? It’s heard most often in Quiet Please There’s a Lady On Stage (later on this album): a poignant subject, begun as a tearjerker, then undercut by a funkier chorus, which builds and builds to the finish.

Pros: slightly less schmaltzy
Cons: the subject tends to be forgotten in the flash of the presentation. Which is, really, the essence of camp.

3. Back Doors Crying (Allen/Sager)
An I-write-when-I’m-miserable-but-you’ve-made-me-happy number. “I need sadness to finish my rhymes” – really, what kind of a compliment is this to pay a lover? Thanks for drying up the well? You pulled me out of my adolescent funk, and now I can’t create? Does anyone want to hear this sort of thing?

Incidentally, Dusty Springfield on backing vocals.

4. I Go to Rio (Allen/Anderson)
Spare a thought for Adrienne Anderson. Who? The co-writer of this song. Also, the album’s “key grip”, Gregory Connell, Allen’s long-term (and apparently pretty feisty) partner, is one of the backing vocalists.

I can’t listen to this song without thinking of the video clip. In a period when only the Brits had any idea what to do with a music video, when every American-made clip amounted to “hey, you perform the number onstage and we’ll film it”, Peter Allen knew enough to give a performance worth filming. He’s balding, he’s over thirty-five, but he cheekily unbuttons his shirt and fans himself. Brave, funny, clever.

And I know of no other song that has an inner rhyme of “jungle” with “bungalow”.

5. Planes (Landis/Meltzer)
Thank God the strings on this are real. A lovely, sugary arrangement that would have sounded ghastly on some Prophet or Oberheim. The song, co-written by Allen’s producer Richard Landis, sounds as though it wants to become a standard. It wants it a little too much, and I wonder – did anyone cover it?

6. Quiet Please There’s a Lady On Stage (Allen/Sager)
Is this the best of the Allen/Bayer Sager songs? Yes. The best lines:

Quiet please, there’s a person up there
And she’s been singing of the sins
That none of us could bear to hear for ourself
Give her your respect if nothing else

That’s as good a summary as any of a great cabaret performance.

Side 2

1. This Time Around (Allen)
Again, this one sounds like it wants to be covered. It might have worked well on the soundtrack for The Goodbye Girl, but David Gates got that gig.

2. The More I See You (Gordon/Warren)
One of the effects of Allen’s literate, Bacharach and Broadway-inspired chord progressions is that he could cover a song 30 years old and have it sound like one of his originals, just as some of his originals (Everything Old Is New Again) sound like tunes from the 1940s. This one betrays its 32-bar roots by going on a bit too long, despite the key changes and the Herb Alpert trumpet solo.

3. Harbour (Allen)
Originally appeared on the album Tenterfield Saddler, and in exactly in the same spot. Here, the lyrics have been tweaked (“maybe we’re just growing older”). It’s still a nice, bittersweet break-up ballad, spoiled on this occasion by a showy accordion obliggato (calm down, Frank Marocco).

4. (I’ve Been) Taught By Experts (Allen/Hal Hackaday)
A disciplined lyric, except that it’s not clear what Lesson No.2 is. No.1 is to “make friends with pain” and No.3 is “better you get hurt than me”, but perhaps No.2 is hidden somewhere in the excellent bridge:

I lost my taste for tears
So many shoulders ago
I’m not sure I still know how to cry
But if you really want to learn, I try
to satisfy
Let’s begin with goodbye

5. Six-Thirty Sunday Morning/New York, I Didn’t Know About You (Allen)
Two songs on a Big Apple theme, sandwiched together. Very world-weary and dissipated, this sort of thing is hard to pull off when the singer has woken in a bed while staying near Central Park. Better to wake up in Central Park, face down, wet and shivering. Maybe near the zoo. With monkeys laughing at you. That’s what Tom Waits would have done.

Quiet Please would have made a much better – a killer – finish to the album.

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3 thoughts on “The Continuing Saga of Early Peter Allen Albums – Taught By Experts (1976)

  1. Hands down, my favourite Peter Allen album. The one my Dad played a lot as I was growing up (yes, my Dad has showtune/cabaret/Barbra/Judy taste almost to challenge yours – he’s not so great on anything post The Way We Were except Barbra The Concert).

    I’m surprised Planes hasn’t become a standard with cabaret singers. It’s one of those songs that can mean so many things. As a teenager, it was completely aspirational – “When I grow up, I want my life to be like Planes”. As an adult, it’s so melancholy and completely sums up the loneliness of being on a plane, of being unsettled, of always trying to get somewhere. “I drink too much on planes/and I think too much on planes”. Love it.

    Another thing my Dad always did with these songs was tell me stories behind them – is it true “She Loves to Hear the Music” was inspired by Carole BS?

    I swear Peter J – this blog is more exciting to me than Vanity Fair online! Well done, it’s so great!

    • Really? Vanity Fair? You are too kind, and I’m grateful.

      I don’t know if Carole Bayer Sager was the inspiration for “She Loves to Hear the Music”, but the doormat girl in the song doesn’t seem like the very, very savvy Sager.

      My guess is (and it’s only a guess) that Allen and Sager were making a composite of the bright, pretty, doomed girls they probably met daily.

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