Tuesday, May 26, 2015

You Can't Judge a Book by What a Record Sounds Like

When I was a kid, I used to listen to Cat Stevens a lot, because my mom would often play his albums. I especially liked Teaser and the Firecat. But I didn't know what Cat Stevens looked like. So I invented an image of him based on his voice. And to me, he sounded as if he looked like this.

Yes, that's a picture of Peter Frampton. Who sounds nothing like Cat Stevens. But in my mind, someone with Cat Steven's expressive, ethereal voice should have been a blonde dude with soulful eyes.

In the 1970s, Cat Stevens looked like what he actually was: a swarthy Greek dude...with soulful eyes.

So I wasn't completely off.

The point is, I've always done this. I've imagined what singers look like based solely on their voices...and gotten it wrong. When Bestest Friend introduced me to the music of the great Janis Ian, I thought she would look like a sunkissed hippie-waif-chick based on her wispy, slightly husky voice.

In the 1990s, when I got really, really into the band Cake (and OMG, I still love them), I imagined that lead singer John McCrea looked exactly like Brad Roberts, the lead singer of one hit wonder Crash Test Dummies. You know, "Mmm Mmm Mmm"? Birthmarks all over her body? That shit?

Anyway, that's Brad Roberts. He and John McCrea do not resemble each other in the slightest, apart from being frontmen for 90s alternative bands.

I'm just bad at this.

And now I've done it again.

Do you know the song "Budapest" by George Ezra?

My house in Budapest
My ancient treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo
For you
I'd leave it all

If you haven't heard it, check it out. Great tune.

If you watch the official video, pay close attention, because I'm about to give you a belly laugh.

Until yesterday, I had never seen the official video for "Budapest." I had never seen a picture of George Ezra. I knew he was male, British, with a deep, slightly world-weary voice and vaguely exotic phrasing. I knew the name George Ezra seemed a bit old-world and hardscrabble, like someone who came from humble beginnings and grew up steeped in musical tradition. I thought he was maybe in his early 30s and had been troubadoring around Europe for a decade or so, waiting for his big break.

In my mind, George Ezra looked the guy on page 113 of the current IKEA catalog.

Really. Like Richie Havens with maybe a little bit of Lenny Kravitz thrown in.

But here's what George Ezra actually looks like.

He's 21 years old. He's a pale, strawberry blonde white kid from Hertford. You know who else is from Hertford? Rupert "Ron Weasley" Grint, that's who.

So much for hardscrabble.

I would like to announce that George Ezra is officially the most wrong I've ever gotten a singer's face based on his voice.

Still love the song "Budapest." Here's the video, which - from an "I totally nailed what this singer is all about" standpoint - really sucks.

In case you're wondering, I have mental images of all of you based on the comments you leave me. Don't worry, you're all gorgeous.

I can only hope your imagination does the same for me.


  1. I imagined someone more along the lines of a young Cat Stevens, and certainly not a ginger Weasley boy. WTH.

  2. I made the mistake of stopping at "If you watch the official video..." to stop and watch the official video. So the effect wasn't quite right, although he also looked exactly like I pictured. This is in sharp contrast to my experience with Rick Astley. Yes, it was many years ago, but the first time I heard "Never Gonna Give You Up" I pictured Craig Robinson (the actor, but the basketball player sort of works--I just pictured him with hair). I know Craig Robinson wasn't around, but he matches my mental image of Rick Astley.

    Thank you for assuring me I'm not the only one who gets it so wrong.

    And my comments (usually) are accompanied by my picture. I'm sure whatever mental picture you would have had would have been great. Sorry to have spoiled it. I'll just leave with a quote from Homer Simpson: "Remember kids: don't trust anyone over thirty! And now...Peter Frampton!"


You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.