|David Bowie in his 1978 film called Just A Gigolo|
A little slice of '80s cheese that was popular on MTV introduced me to a great song.
I'm talking about David Lee Roth's "Just a Gigolo / I Ain't Got Nobody" from his first solo record, the EP Crazy From the Heat."
No, I never was a Van Halen fan, and nothing by Roth, beyond this hit, interested me much.
But what a great performance he gave on this video. I love his hilarious scat singing, I loved his send-up of videos by other stars like Boy George, Michael Jackson, Billy Idol and Willie Nelson (!!). I just loved the song.
It ain't so bad ...
You should too. Check it out:
And I quickly learned that, though it never made MTV, the definitive version of this medley had been done almost three decades before by New Orleans bandleader Louis Prima -- along wikth Keely Smith and Sam Butera & The Witnesses. Prima first recorded the song in 1945, but his 1956 version is the best. This video, from 1959 features that basic arrangement.
But "Just a Gigolo" goes back further, to the 1920s. Originally titled "Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo," the song was written in Vienna by composer Leonello Casucci and lyricist Julius Brammer. It dealt with a former military officer who had fallen on hard times after World War I and had to work as a professional escort.
Here's an early recording by Dajos Bela's orchestra featuring vocals by Kurt Mühlhardt.
In 1929 an American songwriter named Irving Caesar (the guy who wrote "Tea for Two"!) adapted the song into English. One of the earliest recordings was by Bing Crosby.
Though the song seems natural for a male singer, some women have recorded it as well. Marlene Dietrich's last movie was Just a Gigolo, starring David Bowie in 1978. She sang the title song.
And somewhere between Louis Prima and David Lee Roth came The Village People.
For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook