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False 'Idol'

The chance to see Lulu, one of the most underappreciated pop singers of the 1960s, lured me to the TV Amidol1lulu Tuesday night to watch American Idol for the first time in three years. Though I enjoyed watching Lulu and Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits coach the contestants on performing British Invasion songs of the 1960s, I quickly remembered why it's been so long since my last visit. Two hours in a room with Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell takes 10 years off my life -- and that's if they're confined to a television screen. I shudder to think of those poor Idol contestants who are locked up with them for weeks at a time.

Abdul's "advice" to contestants is so profoundly stupid that it's frightening to imagine that any of them listen to her. She was in typical form Tuesday, complaining that contestant Stephanie Edwards' version of Dusty Springfield's You Don't Have To Say You Love Me wasn't "fun." Continued the barely coherent Abdul: "I feel like the spirit of you have fun might be drifting a little bit." Yes, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me -- a torch song of desperately unrequited love by a woman begging her boyfriend to stay on any terms he pleases -- always sounds better when sung with a grin and a giggle.

Cowell's arrogance and gleeful insults make a lot of viewers, no much how much they dislike him, to assume he at least knows what he's talking about. He doesn't, as he clearly revealed when offering some faint praise to contestant Chris Richardson before eviscerating him for his performance of Gerry and the Pacemakers' Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying. "You didn't make the song sound old-fashioned, you did your own slant on it," Cowell said, then added: "I don't know the song." If he didn't know the song, how could he possibly say Richardson put his own slant on it? More to the point, how could anybody who claims to know the music business -- especially the British music business -- not know Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying? It was a Top 10 record on both sides of the Atlantic and one of the first British Invasion hits after the Beatles broke down American defenses.

Of course, Cowell isn't the only person around American Idol who doesn't know British Invasion music. Two of the songs performed Tuesday night, Tell Him and I (Who Have Nothing) were originally recorded by Americans (the Exciters and Ben E. King, respectively), A third, As Long As He Needs Me, originated not in the British Invasion of 1963-65 but in the London stage production of Oliver in 1960.

So, to review: Wrong music. Stupid host. Stupid and annoying host. On the other hand, it must be admitted that Paula Abdul didn't have sex with any of the contestants -- on stage, at least. Well, let's make that on stage and on camera.

For all that, the performances were mostly quite impressive. For a complete rundown, check out my  Herald pal Howard Cohen's Idol Watch blog. Though I must say he's a little harsh on Haley Scarnato, Amidol2hadley whose flirty version of Tell Him captured perfectly the spirit of the old girl group sound. But let's give Howard a break -- good lord, he's been listening to that idiot Cowell for weeks. Some of it was bound to rub off.


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And what about "Diamonds are Forever?" The film came out in 1971, a year after the Beatles broke up. Not exactly what I'd call British Invasion either.


Great post -- I agree with Brent, when you think "British Invasion," Diamonds are Forever doesn't come up on any short lists (or long lists, for that matter.)

I guess Cowell never put on Rick Shaw or WAXY in its heydey -- that Don't Let the Sun song is permanently etched in my brain.

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