Sunday, February 12, 2017

That Time Belinda Became A Mermaid And Sang With The Beach Boys

So you're the Beach Boys, celebrating your 25th anniversary in 1986, even though you haven't been artistically relevant since about 1971, and you're doing a network television concert special on Waikiki Beach. Who do you invite to come out and sing "Wouldn't It Be Nice" with you? Why, Belinda Carlisle, of course!

Further cementing her status as the '80s female heir to the '60s California pop sound, Belinda simultaneously brought contemporary Top 40 cred and genuine Beach Boy respect to the proceedings. What the network executives may not have counted on, however, was that Belinda had become ....

A mermaid.

From the depths of the Pacific, out she rose, the shining emerald incarnation of Neptune's daughter, dripping with the mist of warm, tropical Yuppie hotness. Or maybe just wearing a very tacky dress. Seriously, what kind of a dress is that? Did she get lost on her way to the Enchantment By The Sea ball? I mean, where's Flounder and Sebastian? Whatever. Wish I could be a part of her world, you know what I'm sayin'? Belinda can flap her fins on my beach any day.

As he escorts her out to the stage, Al Jardine asks the immortal question, "Are you ready to become a Beach Girl?" (he almost says "Beach Boy" but corrects himself). Right on cue, Belinda responds with deadpan glee, "Well I've been waiting all my life." I feel like what these two are really thinking here is, "We're not the sweet and wholesome California pop stars everyone at home thinks we are, right? But let's just keep that our little secret." Al Jardine's like, "Man, I've screwed more women and scored more drugs than the entire population of Moloka'i, but the Beach Boys are a family band, all right? Yeah, girl, you know what the deal is here." The amazing part is, Belinda really had been waiting all her life to become a Beach Girl. Her banter is simultaneously canned as hell and endearingly genuine.

While she makes her way to the front, Mike Love, dressed in typically douchey Jimmy Buffett-style white cap and open chested Hawaiian shirt, raises his hands to the air and shouts, "Welcome our own California Girl! Belinda Carlisle!"

But the moment that rippling, baroque Brian Wilson melody flows out of that swaying mermaid body, I'm in California pop heaven. (Note: although he's not too visible in this particular clip, I think they did drag Brian's partially functioning frame out there at some point.) Belinda's wild honey voice, when united with the sound of fragile genius, can't help but put a smiley smile on my face. It's like two lovers after sunset, having only met at sunrise, discovering for the first time how their intertwined bodies are creating such a natural blend of passion and longing. It's a union that was meant to be.

Listen to that smoldering desire on display. This was Belinda's secret childhood fantasy - to be on-stage with the Beach Boys, fronting them, owning them, making every word hers and hers alone! You can tell she not only loves the song, but has lived it, wrestled with it, subsumed it. My point is: this was just some low-budget anniversary special. I don't know who came on before her, or who came on after, but Belinda could have just phoned it in. Instead, she's caressing every fucking note. One might argue that she's coming on a little too strong, at the end, for instance, trying to scream instead of harmonize. She almost thinks she's singing "Blitzkrieg Bop" here. The needle's going into the red a little bit, but that's OK, she's excited.

The funny thing is, if you watch closely, you realize she had plenty of time to rehearse, because this was actually pre-recorded. Notice at about 0:29, where Belinda points her mic in Al's direction, but you can still hear her singing, "You know it's gonna make it that much better." How did she do that? Then she remembers, "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be singing this part!" - and she quickly recovers. But here's a detail I don't understand: she screws up the lyrics. Instead of singing, "And after having spent the day together, hold each other close the whole night through," she sings "night" twice. And yet, if this had been pre-recorded, why wouldn't they have just fixed that? Was there not enough time? Jesus. And so, actually, it was impressive that Belinda remembered to screw up the lyrics on the telecast in the exact same spot she'd screwed up the lyrics on the pre-recording!

Suddenly the timpani pounds, and then Belinda goes into a little spiel: "You guys are great, it's great to be a Beach Girl, and you said 'Together for 25 years' ... and you're really the band of gold." Then she hops down onto her very own special stage, with body language that practically says, "OK, get lost Beach Boys, this is my show now," and launches into a rockin' version of "Band of Gold." Nice, Belinda, very nice - honoring the Beach Boys and promoting your latest record at the same time. Good stuff. The strange part is, although she's obviously singing to the cheesy backing track from her own recording, this time her vocals are live. You can hear her miss a couple of words when she catches her breath. The vocals fade when she pulls the mic away from her mouth. In other words, live. Why would one song be pre-recorded and the other song live? Who was running this show? But here's the shocking truth: her live performance of "Band of Gold" kicks the studio version's buttocks. Seriously. If she'd laid into it in the studio like she lays into it here, the thing might have actually gone somewhere. You can tell she knows she's in the zone by the sultry brush of the hair and the authoritative crowd point at 2:56. The assembled onlookers are either too stunned by Belinda's golden visage and vocal sublimity to move, or they're thinking, "OK, who's on next?" Even the totem pole looks confused.

Favorite YouTube comments:
Belinda must have had the first wardrobe malfunction. The designer of that dress should have had to wear it afterwards.You could tell she was getting very frustrated about it.

This is THE example of 1980s beauty, when self-reflexive young artists like Belinda Carlisle could combine many past styles and influences: vintage glamor, California golden girl, mixed with the current 198Os oversized shoulders and rich, Dyanasty hues. Also, her hair style was perfect mid-1980s, new wave/preppy blond bob - slightly grown out. Her tan, frosted lips, and totally awesome upbeat demeanor bring her to life!

Beautiful Belinda, ugly dress

...that was a LONG way to go, to try to justify a very bad pun.

i thought she was wearing a sleeping bag. still what a dream girl, hummana hummana


Anonymous said...

You got it bad for Belinda ! Would you like for me to arrange an introduction ? Anyway in a related issue - "Heaven on Earth" recently blew up huge (or as the kids at my university would say "legit blew up") because of its inclusion in the "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirrors. Lots of people who never knew the song (or remember it only from childhood) are connecting with it.

Little Earl said...

Would I like to meet Belinda Carlisle? I believe the REAL question is: Would Belinda Carlisle like to meet ME?

In case you're a bit new around these parts, this is just another entry in my long-running series "Adventures with Belinda Carlisle," which began here, and then continued here, and then ... well, you get the idea. At this point it's sort of like my running gag. Don't you fret, I will surely be getting around to "Heaven," "I Get Weak" and other '88 Belinda classics in the not too distant future, although I have never heard of Black Mirror. You are correct, the comments section of the "Heaven" video has now become inundated with a thousand variations of "Black Mirror brought me here!" Without having any context whatsoever, I have to say ... looked like a pretty good ending to me! Here's an idea: someone should possibly create a website a la the "Walk of Life Project" for "Heaven" and see how it works.

Anonymous said...

"Would I like to meet Belinda Carlisle? I believe the REAL question is: Would Belinda Carlisle like to meet ME?"

I bet she would ! I've already got my people talking to her people and I'll get back to you. Relative to the Black Mirror show that used "Heaven" as a thematic cornerstone - that episode enabled people (even dead ones) to live forever in the 80s though the question is.... *could* you live forever in the 80s ? Would you want to ? I don't know if I could hear Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" or "The Safety Dance" or "Shaddup Your Face" all the time.... Anyway before you do another Belinda video what about Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield" ? They shake their boobs at the pimp / thug who has been oppressing them and he backs down. Now THAT'S ART ! But it doesn't quite reach the pinnacle of Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonight".

Little Earl said...

Well, I can answer at least half of your prayers, as I tackled "Love Is A Battlefield" back in 2013 (I had the same exact observation about the boob-shimmying).

Whoa. Guess who just typed "Billy Squier Rock Me Tonight" into YouTube for the first time? I think I need to take a shower. According to most of the comments, it sounds like that video literally ruined his career. The term "bad video" is thrown around rather liberally these days, but honestly, what video could be worse than a video that actually ends someone's career?

Also, for the record, I believe the official title is "Shaddap You Face."

Anonymous said...

Hmm, you are seeing Billy's debacle for the first time ? Yes it did kill his career though it's become something of a recent thing to claim that it did not - though his own audio testimony can be found at the link below. Make up your own mind. Squier was always an average singer which is why his career could not endure the backlash from the hyper-feminine, pastel, silky video shoot. Had he had a stronger identity it might have been a different story. Even after hearing his interview below it's still bizarre that someone with absolutely NO dancing ability whatsoever would allow themselves be filmed in a "Risky Business" meets "American Gigolo" kind of way. Having been around then the "word" was that this was supposed to have made Squier a sex-symbol though he claims that the video was just an aberration of what "guys do" when they are getting ready to go out for a night of partying. - Beware that this is an Eddie Trunk interview who is an obnoxious loud-mouth rock jock type well-known for talking over his guests. Nonetheless Squier manages to get his point across.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add that the epic shirt rip at 1:30 (repeated for dramatic effect) should be extracted into photographic stills and made part of the next time capsule sent to other galaxies as evidence of our advanced evolution.