Monday, December 04, 2006

Mellow Yellow

Yes, by now you've all heard the sad news that Greg Page, lead singer of The Wiggles, is leaving the band for health reasons. The yellow-turtlenecked one will be replaced by one Sam Moran, his understudy.

Of course, by now you're all wondering why this is getting so much press. Has the Brian Epstein of the band shrewdly seen to make as much of the transition as possible? Are Australian children truly expiring on the pavement, as when Paul married Linda that fateful day in 1969? Or are news agencies so in the pockets of parents with disposable incomes that they're willing to give this news space away?

Several comparisons spring to mind. First: Blue, meet Joe. Joe, meet Blue. (and Steve, we hardly knew ye.) The transition from "Steve" to "Joe" on Blue's Clues was smoother than Elmer's, in large part because the show *didn't make a big fuss over it. And I dunno about you, but we're still watching. Love the squares.

Next, thump-thump/rap-rap-rap-rap. That's blog for Bill Berry's tight drum riff on the "Eponymous" version of REM's "Radio Free Europe." Like Greg, Bill Berry left his band for health reasons, after having suffered a brain aneurysm on tour.

Like the Wiggles, the band made a fairly big stink over it. You could say the band was already verstinken at that point. But a wee listen to REM's recent reissue of "the early stuff" speaks volumes to Berry's importance to the group, his tight traps off-setting Michael Stipe's ethereal mumblings. Hot.

Of course, the odd thing about Berry's retirement was not that a significant member of a major rock group elected to leave voluntarily, but that he left before he died. When I was young, Virginia, rock stars didn't retire. . . they choked on their vomit. . .

. . . and then got replaced by the lead singer of another band. What on earth was Brian May (a lovely bloke, as they say) thinking when Queen went on tour with Bad Company's Paul Rodgers at the mike?? You don't wait until the band itself has no currency to suddenly pluck an idle singer out of your Rolodex! Don't get me wrong: I like Queen, and I like Bad Company. I *even liked the Firm, Paul Rodger's collaboration with post-Zeppelin (i.e., post-Bonham) Jimmy Page. But Rodgers playing the part of Freddie Mercury (the rainbow Wiggle)? Nuh uh. I don't buy it.

No, if there's a model the Wiggles should follow here, it's AC/DC, who did it -- smooth as Elmer's -- after Bon Scott's death, indeed at the peak of their fame. Brian Johnson's spirited delivery (a similar timbre of voice, in fact) and the "dedication album" (Back in Black) made it work. Plus they had that schoolboy thing going with Angus Young.

Now. As for poor Sam Moran. Poor Sam Moran. (It's got a little lilt to it, dunnit? yummy yummy yummy yummy poor Sam Mor-a-a-an!). Let's hope the toddler set can see beyond their devotion to Greg and not throw their juice boxes at poor Sam Moran. Full disclosure here: I have seen the Wiggles in concert. Even more: I was tempted to hurl my own sippy cup on stage when I saw that "Anthony," my (er) personal favorite, was "being played by an understudy." Hey -- sometimes it takes a little imagination to cotton on to this kid stuff (translation: mmmmm, Anthony.) But the kids went with it. Didn't even wanna know about it. Where the hey is Dorothy the Dinosaur? Henry the Octopus? More important, where's Jeff? Relax, everyone. The kids will sort this all out like string cheese.

Feel better, Greg.

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