One Track Mind: Michael Franks, "Popsicle Toes" (1975)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Most of the times that I choose a song for this here “One Track Mind” series is because the song simply sounds good to me. Then I’ll dive into my spiel as to why it does. Today’s OTM has it’s own intrinsic virtues, too, but it gets the focus this time because of a phone call I got yesterday.

It was from a long, lost friend of mine…actually a 2nd cousin (maybe 3rd, can’t remember which). During my more irresponsible, partying days fresh out of college, we hung out a lot together. Drinking, dining, scuba diving, going out to catch live music together, even playing our own music together.

Well, actually, it was my cousin who played the music; his love for jazz, skills on the piano ivories and lust for life made him an instant hit at every party large and small. His signature tune was that old Michael Franks ditty “Popsicle Toes.” In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s vintage Franks back in his early, classic days. That is to say, a light, bouncy jazz tune full of clever double entendres with saucy couplets like:

You got the nicest North America
This sailor ever saw.
I’d like to feel your warm Brazil
And touch your Panama

But Your Tierra del Fuegos
Are nearly always froze.
We gotta see saw
until we unthaw those
Popsicle toes.

My cousin put so much gusto into the song, I often forget that Franks’ own rendering is rather mellow by comparison. Then again, Franks did have Joe Sample on electric piano and most of other Crusaders providing the instrumentation.

We even went to see Franks himself perform this song live when he rolled into town. It was right before he played the tune when he announced, more than a dozen years after release, that his debut The Art Of Tea album was finally certified gold. This was no doubt helped along by “Popsicle Toes” quietly becoming an underground classic of vocal jazz.

Yeah, “Popsicle Toes” is silly as hell, but man, it was fun to sing along to after a few Cuba Libre’s were thrown back. People will often associate a song with an era of their lives; for me, this one is from a soundtrack from a wilder, more carefree time some twenty years ago. Wow, has it already been that long?

(Don’t ask what’s the deal with the herky-jerky, out of focus video, just sit back, snap your fingers and explore those “Popsicle Toes”…)

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

 

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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