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Jayne Mansfield reads the poetry of Shakespeare, Shelley, Browning and others


 
Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky & Me, Jayne Mansfield’s delicious album from 1963 or 1964 (depending on where you look), has never seen a CD release and it’s not available on the music streaming services I consulted. That scarcity has driven up the price: right now you can get a copy from Amazon.com for $60 and up.

Assessing Mansfield’s intelligence is something of a mid-20th-century parlor game. Quoting Wikipedia: “Frequent references have been made to Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she claimed was 163. She spoke five languages, including English. ... Reputed to be Hollywood’s ‘smartest dumb blonde’, she later complained that the public did not care about her brains: ‘They’re more interested in 40–21–35,’ she said.” Wasn’t there some meme about Jayne Mansfield enjoying the works of Immanuel Kant? Where did I get that from, some James Ellroy novel?

So how are her recitations of some of the greatest erotic poetry in the English language? Welllll, just fine, I think. I wouldn’t say she exactly reads them well—she reads them about the way you’d expect a big movie star to read them, crisply and evenly, perhaps a little too briskly. She brings a purr to the material that you wouldn’t probably get from current U.S. poet laureate Charles Wright, let’s say.

Here’s a track listing, followed by a clip of about six minutes from the album:
 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How Do I Love Thee”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Indian Serenade”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Good-Night”
Robert Herrick, “You Say I Love Not”
Henry Constable, “If This Be Love”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Lady’s ‘Yes’” -
Lord Byron, “She Walks In Beauty”
William Shakespeare, “Cleopatra”
Christopher Marlowe, “Was This The Face”
Joseph Beaumont, “Whiteness, Or Chastity”
Anonymous, “Madrigal”
Leigh Hunt, “Jenny Kiss’d Me”
Anonymous, “Verses Copied From The Window Of An Obscure Lodging House”
Thomas Otway, “The Enchantment”
Christopher Marlowe, “The Passionate Sheperd To His Love”
Robert Herrick, “Upon The Nipples Of Julia’s Breast”
Ben Jonson, “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes”
Lord Byron, “The Lovers”
Robert Herrick, “To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Inclusions”
William Butler Yeats, “When You Are Old”
William Wordsworth, “Daffodils”
William Shakespeare, “Take, O, Take Those Lips Away”
Thomas Carew, “Mark How The Bashful Morn”
Anonymous, “Oh! Dear, What Can The Matter Be?”
Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Miller’s Daughter”
Charles Sackville, “The Fire Of Love”
Sir John Suckling, “The Constant Lover”
John Dryden, “Why Should A Foolish Marriage Vow”
Thomas Moore, “Believe Me, If All Those Enduring Young Charms”
Anonymous, “Love Me Little, Love Me Long”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Roll over, Shakespeare!’ The Beatles take on the Bard, 1964
09.16.2013
11:04 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
The Beatles
William Shakespeare

The Beatles do Shakespeare
 
In 1964 Great Britain celebrated the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare. In 1964 one subject on everybody’s mind was The Beatles, who had become a nationwide sensation the previous year. It was obvious: Why not combine the two?

That’s exactly what happened on a show called Around The Beatles, which seems to have been a variety show with many musical segments. For the Shakespeare bit, the concept was to peform the rude mechanicals’ performance of the “play within a play” about Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Paul plays Bottom/Pyramus, John plays Flute/Thisbe, George plays Starveling/Moonshine, and Ringo plays Snug/the Lion. The show was taped and aired the same week as Shakespeare’s birthday—and, as it happens, his death day (they’re the same: April 23).
 
Mad Magazine makes fun of the Beatles
Mad Magazine uses Shakespeare to twit the Beatles, 1965

The following comes from Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1957-1965, by John C. Winn:

April 28, 1964

Following days of rehearsal, Around the Beatles (at least, the portions requiring the Beatles’ presence) was apparently filmed in just over an hour this evening.

-snip-

[Then comes] the Beatles’ Shakespearean debut, performing the “play within a play” from act V, scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Paul and John take the roles of doomed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, hamming up their parts enjoyably. Ringo plays the fierce lion, while George is Moonshine, complete with “lanthorn,” thorn-bush, and dog.

They stick to the general outline of the Bard’s text, altering the dialogue when necessary. ‘Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am/A lion-fell, nor else no lion’s dam; For, if I should as lion come in strife/Into this place, ‘twere pity on my life” becomes “Then know that I, one Ringo the drummer, am; For, if I was really a lion, I wouldn’t be making all the money I am today, would I?” Members of [the backing band] Sounds Incorporated fill in for Theseus, Demetrius, and Hipployta, interrupting the “play” with heckling comments, such as “Roll over, Shakespeare!” and “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Eventually, their constant interruptions ad the scereams of the audience become distracting, but seeing a golden-wigged and deep-voiced John tell Paul “My love thou art, I think” makes it all worhwhile. The “lovers” conclude with “Thus Thisbe ends: Adieu, adieu, adieu,” segueing into “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside.”

 
Paul does a very serviceable job as Pyramus; the same is true of George as “the Moon”—and the atmosphere in the room could hardly be better, with tons of playful, even collegiate call and response between the performers and the audience, who seem to be in a very intimate space. John, as Thisbe, wore a ridiculous blond wig and had blackened out one of his front teeth. Ringo as the lion is simply hilarious.

According to Barry Miles’ The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years, Paul later named his cat Thisbe. The Around The Beatles TV special also marked the first UK television appearance of P.J. Proby.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Was Shakespeare a stoner?


 
To toke or not to toke, or rather did he toke, that is the question. That’s right, you heard me, did the Bard smoke weed?

Not to get all “Lord Buckley” on you finger-poppin’ daddys, but is it possible that Willie the Shake was a “viper”? That’s what a controversial paleontologist wants to find out.

After some two dozen pipes were found buried in Shakespeare’s garden, many containing residues of smoked cannabis, a South Africa scientist named Francis Thackeray, with help from Professor Nikolaas van der Merwe of Harvard University, obtained fragments of these pipes via the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. They handed them over to South African Police forensic scientists for lab analysis. Low levels of marijuana residue was found in the pipes.

Cannabis was known to have been cultivated at the time in England and so it is certainly plausible that Shakespeare partook of the herb superb, but it would take looking at bone samples to say for sure. (Two of the pipes also tested positive for traces of cocaine, but this is a more difficult to swallow than the idea of the Bard smoking the “noted weed,” as cocaine first gets synthesized around the time of the Civil War).

Thackery says that his team could get into Shakespeare’s final resting place—he was buried under a church in Stratford-upon-Avon—unobtrusively, because a full exhumation of the body is not required and the remains would not have to be disturbed at all. Good thing, too, because Shakespeare was notoriously wary of anyone screwing around with his skeleton. A curse is engraved on his tomb that reads:

“Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare/ To digg the dust encloased heare/ Bleste be the man that spares thes stones/ And curst be he that moves my bones.”

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment