STARS WHO WANNABE OTHER STARS (1999): Vanity projects for the self-regarding

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STARS WHO WANNABE OTHER STARS (1999): Vanity projects for the self-regarding

News that broadcaster Paul Holmes is recording an album has been greeted with derision in some quarters, but the collector's group of Vanity Incorporated Products can't wait until this album —- apparently including such classics as Witchita Lineman — hits stores in time for the lucrative Christmas market.

Not because it's especially welcomed for its own sake but some are seeing it as a valuable addition to a somewhat forgotten musical genre: albums by people whose careers might have wisely remained outside the recording industry.

The VIP collectors group intends to file it alongside albums by Mr T, Margaret Thatcher (her Salute to Democracy is highly regarded) and those by the Star Trek helmsmen Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.

Shatner's earnestly pompous, spoken word version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a particular VIP treasure. They file the Pope's album separately under "Religion: Muttered Word."

Internationally it is not uncommon for media figures, film stars and others whose agents should advise them against such things, to branch into the "singing" idiom. Lee Marvin even sprung a hit single, Wandering Star, from the movie soundtrack Paint Your Wagon — although Clint Eastwood, who contributed I Talk to the Trees to the same soundtrack, didn't enjoy similar success.

In this country vanity projects such as the Holmes album ("I don't want to go to my grave without having made a CD") have been infrequent. Singing seems to have been, somewhat wisely critics believe, left to singers.

Roger Gasgoine (remember him?) released an album and urban myth has it that Pete "good evening swingers" Sinclair recorded a single back in the 60s, although he has bought up every copy and destroyed them.

It's certainly as rare today as copies of the 1982 World Cup Soccer Squad's 1982 single Heading for the Top (which was unfortunately headed off from the top by nine other singles in its brief chart appearance).

The "Katene Sisters" from Shortland Street fared somewhat better with their single Keeping Up the Love Thing which made it to No 3 in whatever year those mayflys of pop existed.

Working from the TrueBliss Principle, VIP collectors believe the Holmes album will sell by the truckload. The limited edition first 10,000 copies will have "and I have been Holmes tonight" as a repeated, barely audible backward loop at end. They'll be particularly valued as collectors items.

Holmes aside, there is a short, but not un-illustrious history of local vanity recordings.

Former racing commentator and Big Time Wrestling co-host Glyn Tucker had a nice little side line in lazy crooning when he fronted The Club Show.

In the mid 70s Terence O'Neill-Joyce, these days head of the Recording Industry Association of New Zeland and back then heading his own Ode Records label, released an album of him reading from the Bhagavad Gita, titled The Cosmic Vision, with David Parsons on sitar.

Not a true vanity recording because of the spirit in which it was made, but VIP collectors do file it somewhere near aural errors by Barry Crump and Scotty, Stu Dennison and the Mother's Day single by Leighton Smith and Gray Bartlett.

Most local vanity projects have been confined to singles rather than the whole haul of an album — 60s DJs Des Britten and Neville "Cham the Man" Chamberlain were among the first. So VIP collectors salute Paul Holmes' courage in taking on the long-running CD format.

And congratulate him on not doing it anonymously. VIP members still wonder about Stark Naked and the Car Thieves who had that very popular 80s single, Nice Legs, Shame About the Face.

Maybe it wasn't a VIP, just someone with a great sense of humour.

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