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Fabulous Friday: "Calcutta"

Did you grow up watching The Lawrence Welk Show? I did. I wonder if I watched it with true enjoyment or with irony, an awareness of the kitsch and the camp. It's a putrid slice of Americana, to be sure.

Their commercial record hit "Calcutta" hit number one on the charts in 1960. This made Welk the oldest person ever (at 57) to have a number one single. That record was broken by Louis Armstrong and "Hello Dolly" in 1964 (Armstrong was 63). "Calcutta" sounds to me like a sweet, catchy little tune that Nino Rota would write for a Fellini movie. I've used it on many CD compilations, it serves as a quirky little sorbet in the middle of a playlist.

Here's Welk and the rest of the gang performing it in 1970. There's so much to love in this video - - the pea green color of the orchestra uniforms (talk about putrid), the ruffled lavender dresses for the la la la girls, and it's a special joy to watch the oldsters in the audience (some of them probably only in their 50s) shaking their tail feathers on the dance floor.

The song itself is pretty amazing - - the harpsicord, the bass, the accordion, the la la la las, and especially the hand clapping at 1:53. I LOVE that the dudes in the orchestra stand up for the hand clapping. The back-combed gal playing cello claps her hands, but she does not stand up.

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