Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Down in Bermuda...

It was about ten years ago when I first heard "Bermuda".

I was taking a long car ride listening to de-stress after the horrible experience of working on Psycho: The American Musical (but that's another story). I remember that Dan and I were riding out to 'where Christ lost his shoes' to some store that specialized in old time radio tapes and records. During the trip, we listened to Chuck Shaden's Old Time Radio show that played for years on WFMT every Saturday afternoon. He was playing The Bing Crosby program from 1952; and during the show he introduced The Bell Sisters with their new hit song 'Bermuda'.

I've a huge knowledge of classic songs, so I was immediately interested because this was brand new to me; And as it played I knew it would be my new favorite: The beat, the harmonies, the insane lyrics. Why had I never heard Bermuda before? Who where the Bell Sisters?

I'd soon sought out a 78 recording of Bermuda and was obsessed with playing it again and again for anyone who would listen. I can still picture Johnny Navin from The Aluminum Group staring blankly at me when I played him the song and told him that his group would have a break-through hit if they would record it. 'blink, blink'.

Click HERE to hear the Bell Sisters sing Bermuda.

I'd pretty much stopped singing at this point so my hopes of actually performing this song myself were pretty slim. Then as fate would have it, I met Mike Armstrong who had the same quirky taste in music I did. I'd sung "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on a rock cruise he'd done on Lake Michigan one summer, and Mike wanted to know if I wanted to do any other songs together. The first thing that popped into my mind was "Bermuda". From this song we formed what was to become the band, "Bric-a-Brac".

The thing I love about Bermuda, besides the sister's harmonies (I love sibling singing), is that Cynthia Strother, the eldest sister of the Bells, wrote this song when she was just 16 year old girl. It's from the mind of a young girl who'd never traveled and only had a vague idea that Bermuda was someplace far away and exotic. As Mike pointed out when I played it to him the first time is that Coral Sea on off the coast of Australia and no where near the British Commonwealth of Bermuda. Also, the song has a middle eastern beat, where the history of the island is more linked to Afro-Cuban roots.

When I was researching music rights when Bric-a-Brac was doing their album; I got in touch with the nephew of the Bell Sisters who was archiving their work. He knew that his aunts had a singing career but it wasn't until he'd heard 'Bermuda' played during the film "Grace of My Heart" did he think of archiving his aunts work. He created a pretty comprehensive website; His story can be found at The Bell Sister's Website. There's a lot more to listen to by the sisters and a full story of their lives.

He told me that his aunt Cynthia wrote the song because she had an unhappy childhood in an oppressive home. Bermuda just seemed a far away escape. But I also love the song just because on top of the 'Exotica' beat, the poetic teenage girl imagery, and soaring violins of Henry Rene, it's really a song about someone drowning. Yet another twist to the song.

Happily, Bric-a-Brac finally did record the song for our album, Sixteen Luxury Units; And we must have performed this song about a hundred times over the last ten years. according to the nephew this was the first time the song was recorded since 1968. Click HERE to hear the Bric-a-Brac version.

Thanks to some youtube subscribers, here are two versions The Bells Sisters singing Bermuda. Try not to drown in their harmonies!!!

1 comment:

Aaron said...

The Bric a Brac version is great!