Saturday, February 04, 2012

Suddenly, Tammy! or Beth Sorrentino and the boys!

Everyone has that band that they loved in their youth, you know - the one that no one else has ever heard of, but is so totally awesome, right?   Well I do, and the band is called "Suddenly, Tammy!".

Actually, they disbanded in 1997.   Long story short, they were up and coming in the early 90's, released a couple of EP's, then an independent album which did pretty well and impressed a few suits.  Warner Brothers signed them to a contract and they made another record.

The band was just three people, Beth and her brother Jay and their friend Ken.   They played Piano, drums and bass respectively.  No guitars.   That's right - no guitars.

Pretty amazing sound.   Awe inspiring really.   Check it out.

The video isn't the greatest, kinda 1990's film school, but it's growing on me.  In my professional opinion it is cut very well and there are a few electric moments where you see Beth and the guys play and it works nicely.  And it also fits thematically with the band - a school bus is perfect, as they really are exuberant musicians, giving the impression that they all went to band class together.  My favorite element here is probably that they're all bobbing their heads, tapping their feet and hands, rockin' out the way we all have.

"Suddenly, Tammy!" were definitely the new flavor of the month there for a bit - here's a great snippet from a music program that shows what they were all about.  This clip is actually how I discovered the band.

Yep, these guys and gal are for sure one of my all time favorites.  I find the deceptively plain lyrics and the expert musicianship along with Beth's simple and plaintive (some would say child-like) singing to be a very potent mix.  As I get older I appreciate it all even more, and am able to connect in a very visceral way to ST's very powerful technique.

After the single "Hard Lesson" came out and the album with it, which is divine and available on I-Tunes and Amazon (it's called "We Get There When We Do") the group toured for a bit and then went back in the studio for a follow up in 1996.

After recording and mixing, alas, Warner Brothers had a big purge of many of their artists, and "Suddenly, Tammy!" was among the casualties, released from their contract.

Most awful of all, the record that the band had made - "Comet" was not only not released, it was put on a shelf and made unavailable to anyone, I think maybe even including the band!

The group went their separate ways the following year and life moved on.  Not sure what the boys ended up doing, but according to several websites Beth settled into teaching music full time to kids in Manhattan.

As the years passed in my life, I often felt a twinge of sadness whenever ST would pop up on my i-pod - I still loved the sound, and would occasionally play a whole ST record, but I couldn't help wonder what might have been.

This band has a truly unique sound and it seems like a no brainer that they should have found a lot more commercial success.  If a capable but musically simple and highly derivative piano pounder like Ben Folds could have a monster career with soundtrack deals and sold out hockey arenas, why not Beth and her guys?    To me, when you hold ST up with BFF and others like him, it seems that ST brings so much more to the table musically and emotionally.

But anyway, I digress.  "Comet" wasn't going to see the light of day anytime soon, and the years rolled by.

Then, in 2006, Beth put out an amazing solo album on I-Tunes, which was basically a demo tape - just her and a piano, and almost entirely down tempo songs.  I always prefer the rocking stuff, but  I bought it anyway (after discovering it randomly in 2008) and really enjoyed it.  There are some great stand out tracks.   Again, very powerful and emotional stuff.  EDIT: Not sure why this video got muted - I'll put it up to youtube's software.  Hopefully I can find a replacement vid or track.

There's a comment below this video that really speaks to how Beth's music, or any music I guess, can ingrain itself into a person.

"It is amazing how music and a unique artist's voice can get inside you and become part of who you are."

Yep, that's what Beth and ST have been for me over the last decade and a half.  More than any other group, they have sunk into my soul and tapped into my emotional core.  So I was happy that she was still making music.   Still, "Comet" was always kicking around in the back of my brain.   The "lost" album.

Tantalizingly,  I would occasionally read a post or a blurb from someone on the interwebs that they had heard a bootleg of the record and it was incredible.

Time moved on.

Then, yesterday, I for some unknown reason I searched Beth Sorrentino on Itunes.  I guess I was just wondering if she had put out more stuff in the couple of years since her solo debut.

She did have a new record, just released last year.  Yay.  And also... there it was.  "Comet" was available for download.  It had been released almost 2 years ago!

I haven't even listened to Beth's new record yet,  I'm looking forward to purchasing and enjoying it, but right now I've got "Comet" stuck in my car's cd player and stuck on repeat on my ipod.

It is, of course, a truly great record.   And a great relief, that the world, or at least us few ST-philes, can finally enjoy it.   I can't find a song on YouTube, but if you dig ST's first two records, you'll love this one too.   EDIT: (2016) Found the record on YouTube, listen to this as a sample - and then buy the record!

I'm glad I can share this group with my friends and family here.   I still can't help feel a little bit melancholy that Beth and the boys were unable to turn their passion into a lucrative profession - but in the end, the music stands (including "Comet" thank God!)  and it touches people in a very profound way.

As time continues to pass relentlessly, other, more "successful" musicians will fade away.  "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" probably sold millions and millions of copies, but will someone be driving home late at night, listening to it and be gently weeping for joy?   I don't think so.

Memories, and disposable songs, fade in time.   Art that resonates emotionally, lingers.

"Suddenly, Tammy!" will be in my heart until the end - and for that I am beyond grateful.

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