Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spoken Word: Danny’s All-Star Joint

Rickie Lee Jones: Danny‘s All-Star Joint


1979 was a fine year on the charts for what I like to call speak-singing. This is where the vocalist switches freely between speaking and singing in a line of a song, or even within a word of more than one syllable. Done well, it sounds completely natural, and gives a song a sense of realness that it might otherwise lack. It was done well in 1979 by Mark Knopfler in the Dire Straits hit Sultans of Swing. And when it was time for a follow-up single to Rickie Lee Jones’ smash Chuck E.’s in Love, another fine example emerged in Danny’s All-Star Joint. You hear the speak-singing in the verses, especially in the interplay between Cecil, the narrator, and the kid who winds up at the pinball machine. But then there is the bridge, and Rickie Lee Jones takes the speak-singing to another level entirely. There is little more in this section than Jones’ voice and percussion. This makes perfect sense, because this section is based on jump-rope rhymes Jones was hearing at the time on the streets of Los Angeles. On the street, these would have been accompanied only by handclaps.

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