On Reparata & The Delrons’ “I’m Noboby’s Baby Now”: It’s such a terrific, deliberate song. I love the drama, the storyline, the attitude. Drama—melodrama—is at the root of true toughness. If I can’t hear a police siren in my head by the end of a song, it’s not worth a whit. That was the first take on the spoken part—it’s kinda close and personal isn’t it? It didn’t feel strange doing it, but listening back… well, I feel kind of like I’m sitting under a bare bulb.
Someone asked me about reversing the gender to suit the songs. I think I am most comfortable with story lines where I am singing to a girl friend about her issues with a love interest! With the original Elwitt-Linna composition, we have me “talking” to a friend who has been deceived, and the advice is to pull up the bootstraps and get moving. I like being the commentator more than singing to the imaginary perpetrator of my heartache. “He done YOU wrong” is better for me that “You did ME wrong.”
On her favorite song off Nobody’s Baby: At this moment, I feel eternally grateful that Sam specifically suggested “Questioningly,” which surprised me. I felt it was out of the framework, and for some strange reason, it was was WAY too personal when it came time to deliver the vocal goods. The Ramones changed my life and I’m certain I can speak for Sam in saying he feels the same way. Sometimes it seems that they are the ultimate common denominator for a giant cross section of friends. They get called “punk rock” but truly, their music delivers pure heart and soul. Sam’s decision to add strings to it struck me as fantastical—strings and the Ramones—okay, let’s do it. We sent our recording of it to Tommy Ramone as soon as we cut it, and he responded right away, saying he loved it. That meant a lot.
On her new role as a frontwoman: It feels great—and strangely, not that different from being out in the audience. It’s totally a gas. You know, we kind of did all this backwards, didn’t we? I mean, usually, you form a band, you play around, and then you make a record. Here, we went right into recording, with no intention of ever playing live. When the idea came up to play at the record release shindig in June, Sam got a band together for the night that locked into place immediately. Then we got asked to play three dates in Canada with the Ding-Dongs and Daddy Long Legs, and now we are off to the races.
Listening to records, reacting to records, making records, manufacturing records—it’s really a level playing field when you’re talking about stacks of wax!
On the songs that didn’t make the cut: The one song I really wanted to do was “Friday’s Child” by Them, because it’s a favorite, but I kept breaking down. I just couldn’t deliver it at all. I know Sam could have done an incredible backing track. But I just couldn’t get through two lines without waterworks. Some songs just do that, don’t they? A lot of them! Cher’s “Something in the Air,” the Shangri-Las’ “I Can Never Go Home Any More”—each creates the perfect storm combination of heartstring-yanking music and dead-end storytelling—songs that make you totally sad, but, ultimately, defiant. There is nothing more dangerous than a great ballad. The song may destroy you, but by the fade-out, you’re planning a comeback! The other one we never got to was “We Kiss In The Shadows” by the Luvs. It was on the wish list, but I would love to give it, or something equally insanely intense and lush, so dangerously blatant, a run for the money. It’s a total favorite. Like if the Paris Sisters had been reform school girls.
On her favorite vocalists: If you asked me point blank today, I’d say Del Shannon is in my top ten. He was absolutely the greatest live performer I’ve ever seen. The combination of his superb material, his sincerity, and unbelievable charisma—wow! Meanwhile, there’s Jackie LaRue of Jackie and the Starlites. A more tortured, animated voice would be hard to find—so intense! It’s always so incongruous—a fine looking man with a broken heart. How can they be heartbroken? In the shouters and screamers realm, of course it would have to be Jerry Roslie of the Sonics. I love the threat in Stud Cole’s voice. For sheer menace, I can’t live without Cash Holiday. I love the sultry danger of Barbara Pittman, and the honesty of Cher’s style—her sixties records with the great Sonny Bono. And I hope this doesn’t sound strange—I really like guys who are singing what I hear as girl-parts, and I like chick singers who make the guys look wimpy! As long as they’re being honest and not trying to sound like something, or somebody, that they’re not. The keening in Sky Saxon’s snarl, in its own raw way, delivers me to the same wavelength as truly great singers like Del Shannon and Roy Orbison—there’s an atmosphere, sincerity, and personality in all of their voices. Talented professionals are much appreciated, but anyone who opens their heart to sing, willingly and honestly, is asking to be heard. And for every Top Ten record that’s a rave, there are ninety bubbling-unders that may be a bit raw, a bit tilted and maybe not quite perfect—but all with that indescribable something that gets under your skin and into your heart, that something that moves you.
You can purchase Miriam’s Nobody’s Baby on LP or CD directly from Norton Records
Boots and chains (!) photos by Jacob Blickenstaff
Photo of Sam Elwitt & Miriam Linna by Justina Davies
LP photo by Anita Posada and LP design by Pat Broderick
BIG thanks to Miriam Linna for the interview!