Mr. Mixtape-ptlk, Track #12: The Vampire, Pt. 1 by T. Valentine (2012)

A good decade and a half ago, my pal Leif presented a gift to me – for either my birthday or Christmas, I can't remember which – which should serve as a lesson for all who find themselves stymied when it comes to figuring out what to get me for a present that will make me giddy with delight. Go weird. Go friggin' weird...

Leif gave me a CD by an act of whom I had never before heard. A fellow named T. Valentine, who appeared on the cover of the CD case with a telephone (old school, with a cord and everything) clenched in his hand while he crouched over the phone on his knees in what appeared to be great anguish. The title of the disc told the story of the photo (as far as I could ascertain at that moment of gift-giving, though I was correct): Hello, Lucille... Are You a Lesbian?

The title song was this T. Valentine person's strangely inspired response to Josie Cotton's 1981 hit Johnny, Are You Queer? It was a mangled mess of words, spoken in an utterly confounding voice (accent doesn't even come into play; Valentine is just... Valentine) supposedly about his ex-wife who left him just a few years before. The song is peppered with ranted lyrics (singing never even enters into it), such as "When I wanna make love, she got female trouble, or that other thing that women have e'ry mont'. She always wear pants, long pants; I never seen her in a dress, a skoit. When we go out, it like two mens out together. She wears her hair cut short, like mahn. She don' have any tits." Because he quite openly rails against lesbians and how much he hates them, the song might truly be considered risible if it weren't so laughable. It is clearly meant as a joke, if not a bad joke, that only comes to the fore because the writer/singer has a basic (and possibly stubbornly ingrained) misunderstanding of human dynamics.

Diving into the liner notes of the Norton Records-released CD finds they were written by noted music critic Nick Tosches, so you know it is meant to be taken equally as seriously as it is to inspire laughter. Such a feeling often comes when listening to what is considered to be "outsider music," where sometimes the individuals seem a tad (or even more so) brain-damaged and so you get a simultaneous feeling of exploration and exploitation, of laughing with the person at the same time you might be laughing at them.

But digging into Valentine's mostly self-released and promoted sides going back to the early '60s, finds a man barely conversant with any sense of music or rhythm, who pretty much shouts most of his lyrics in his odd patois and barely ever tries to sing at all. His earliest B-side, Little Lulu Frog, is absolutely fascinating because of this, built around a recurring belly laugh every couple of lines while strange frog sounds seem to back up the whole affair over a rollicking, danceable blues ramble. (I also really like the simple guitar riff on the song.) And I can't understand a word of it.

At the back end of the CD was a short, 48-second promo called The Vampire Radio Spot. It was exactly as described: a brief bit that aired on radio, probably between 1957 or 1959, promoting a three-part short play called The Vampire that T. Valentine had produced on stage in Chicago featuring himself as the titular vampire along with three female victims, before he had ever recorded Teen-Age Jump or any other singles.



Again, we have T. Valentine in full mush-mouthed mode, though he is a little easier to understand when he slows his voice down. "See the vampire... attack young women... kill them... suck their BLOOOOOOD!" If you have to give anything to Valentine, it is for sheer hustle and chutzpah, getting his own most likely shitty play produced in clubs in the late '50s, almost like a Chicago-side Ed D. Wood, Jr. Besides, the way he says his own lines is pretty much devoid of terror and sounds rather cute and pathetic instead.

Valentine's life is certainly intriguing, worthy of further discussion, and possibly even a feature length film study in the style of Ed Wood might prove to be rather interesting. But T. (the T. stands for Thurmon, but he prefers to be called Val) Valentine, born in Mississippi in 1932, is still with us and still shoutin' along to music. In 2012, he teams up with up and coming blues outfit, Daddy Long Legs, and produced a brand new album called... what else... The Vampire

Despite the self-referential title (and a fantastic cover image of Valentine wearing a Dracula cape), most of the songs are newer and seem to have no thematic connection to Valentine's old play. However, there is a track deep in the album with the same title as the album, and what can be discerned from listening to it is... um... um...

Well, see for yourself...



I thought about attempting to untangle the hedge of words and semi-words and arcane sounds and transcribe it for you, but I just don't have the time today. Or tomorrow. Or all of next year. I already have enough issues of my own. I don't need to make myself any crazier. I don't know if the words are straight from Val's play or not, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it is not that far removed from a normal Valentine performance: rambling, incoherent, and still pretty cool just in itself. As for the horror content, sure I added it to this mix because of its theme and title, but as in his radio spot, the unintentional comedy pretty much squashes anything scary about it, but that doesn't make it unworthy. He could be singing about a bar of soap, and it would still sound the same, but be completely fascinating to hear.

While Val will never become a real singer, Daddy Long Legs does seem to keep him focused and on track throughout the album, though it is still shot through with that certain touch of oddness that can only come from an artist as purely unfettered by actual talent as T. Valentine. The band itself choogles on admirably behind him, doing its job while clearly enjoying the moment for what it is. The song Cell Phone, while yet again having vocals that are nearly indecipherable by normal human ears and minds, almost has the feel of an old John Lee Hooker track when he teamed up with Canned Heat in the '70s. The full album is helped immeasurably by the band's steady presence behind Valentine, who is able to just keep being himself.

And really, that's all we need in this world.

RTJ

A PYLON EXTRA:

And for those still sticking around, for a taste of Daddy Long Legs on their own, here is a live performance on TV where they rather kick some serious ass with Motorcycle Madness...


...and even better, a devastating, soul-shaking performance of their song Blood from a Stone, on the Drive Sessions...



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