Lucia Pamela, Musician and Moon Traveller, R.I.P.

Missed this one in the obituaries a couple weeks back…

Lucia Pamela, a one-of-a-kind entertainer best known for recording a music album in 1969 about her fictional travels to the moon, died on July 25 in a hospital in Los Angeles, where she lived. She was 98.

Until 1992, Ms. Pamela’s only album, “Into Outer Space With Lucia Pamela,” was all but forgotten. Irwin Chusid, a radio disc jockey, helped revive her career and produced a reissue of her album. When a small independent label, Arf Arf, reissued it on CD that year, record collectors around the world took note. Not only were the homemade lyrics and songs unusual and full of infectious childlike optimism and sincerity (she truly believed she had gone to the moon), but her background was equally compelling.

Ms. Pamela’s story is a mixture of fact and self-invention. She claimed, for example, to be the first person ever on television and radio; that Ignace Paderewski told her mother she would be the finest pianist in the world; that she was kicked out of a German music conservatory for being overqualified. Relatives said there were grains of truth in all these stories.

Ms. Pamela was born in St. Louis, and her mother was a concert pianist and composer. In 1926, Ms. Pamela won the title of Miss St. Louis. After performing in St. Louis theaters, she moved to Fresno, Calif., where she managed the Fresno Storyland amusement park (she also played Mother Goose there). She was also the host of two radio shows for young women, “The Encouragement Hour” and “Gal About Town.”

Ms. Pamela formed what some say was the country’s first all-female orchestra, Lucia Pamela and the Musical Pirates, in which she claimed to have played 15 instruments. With her daughter, Georgia, she formed the vocal duo the Pamela Sisters. Nowadays her daughter, Georgia Frontiere, is best known as the owner of the St. Louis Rams.

One of Ms. Pamela’s proudest accomplishments, she liked to say, was building a rocket, touring the Milky Way and stopping on the moon to record her album. With the feel of a warped bebop children’s album, it features Ms. Pamela on all instruments Ö piano, accordion, drums, clarinet, and probably various household appliances Ö accompanying herself as she tells, with gee-whiz glee, tales of amiable lunar roosters, trips to Mars and blue winds. At 65, she sang of a world where anything was possible and everything was shot through with an innocent joy, excitement and imagination.

The album was released in 1969 on a small label, Gulfstream, and signed copies are said to fetch as much as $1,000. She also created a coloring book that tells the story of a moon trip in which she met cows, Indians and anthropomorphic cashews. “Some of the people there spoke Almond,” she wrote.

A tireless entertainer, Ms. Pamela was cited by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” for having memorized some 10,000 songs. The English band Stereolab even wrote a song about her, “International Colouring Contest.” She performed at Las Vegas hotels into her 80’s.

“It was recorded on Moontown,” Ms. Pamela said of her album. “I was the only one from Earth.


My new heroes: Davoli

I’ve become a big fan of the music video show on World Link TV – a satellite network that broadcasts a lot of foreign television, independent news productions, and totally off the wall stuff.

Anyway, the music video show apparently broadcasts anything that remotely falls under the “world music” category… French rappers from Algeria, “super-happy” pre-fab Japanese pop, hip-hop from Ghana, vaguely Bjork-like singers from Sweden, South American jazz, a spastic song about the Basque National Sandwich by a gang of Basque Madness fans, a group of Romanian Hank Williams fans – pretty much anything goes.

Not surprisingly, most of what’s on the show is light years better than any video shown on MTV in the past fifteen years. Apparently music video production in the rest of the world is happily stuck in 1981 with all of its new wave charm and goofiness intact.

Case in point: Davoli. They’re from Croatia. I finally got around to dumping their video off of the TiVo last night…


What goes into marketing a new teen queen/rock star/whatever

Why bother with American Idol, when the real thing is even funnier?

Celebrity journalist Lynn Hirschberg profiles former Backstreet girlfriend and would-be-edgy-rock-star Amanda Latona and portrays the breakthrough artist as a malleable, fame-chasing airhead and her handlers as just as cynical and corrupt as any caricature of record execs ever created. (I’m shocked, shocked to find egocentric morons in the music industry)

And if girl empowerment is what people are buying, Latona will gladly sing the part.

Of course, should her album tank, the music industry would never blame themselves or the focus groups that went into the production and marketing – it’s those damn net pirates.

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