2. Shirley Bassey, Every Breath You Take
Naturally I’m a huge Bassey fan and understand that being gloriously dramatic is as vital a quality of the Bassey gestalt as beaded dresses and money notes, but there is fine line between awesome over-the-top Bassey and bad/good over-the-top Bassey. If this seems a bit confusing, try reading Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp (you’ll be back reading Stargayzing before you finish the introduction).
Shirley comes from the great generation of singer/interpreters whose meat and potatoes was singing great songs written by other people (in music publishing parlance, this was known as covering an “outside song”). Every Breath You Take is definitely a great song written by a brilliant songwriter, but betwixt the idea and intended result lies Dame Shirley’s cover of Sting’s epic ballad about obsession and surveillance. Shirley’s version really brings out the true creepiness of Sting’s song.
This is bad/good Bassey to the nth degree and like sonic wolfbane, I used Bassey’s misguided collection of covert tunes to keep the spectre of Grunge music from darkening my door in the suddenly-so-long-ago 1990s. I ask you: could Kurt Cobain’s adenoidal, disaffected wimper really hold up against Shirley’s Welsh windstorm?
You will also enjoy:
A Stargayzing Guide to 13 of the Most Over-the-Top Vocal Performances of the 1960s, Volume 1