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Comedienne Tracey Ullman has been making us laugh for many years, but she also has a long history in music. We discover her love for 70’s soul, rebellious punk and comedian Peter Cook. The now-U.S. citizen also chooses a tribute to her adopted country. America is the focus of her newest sketch comedy creation -- Tracey Ullman's State of the Union – on Showtime.
For More: http://www.sho.com/site/tracey/home.do
1.) Earth Wind and Fire - That's the Way of the World
2.) Kirsty MacColl - A New England
3.) Sid Vicious - My Way
4.) Peter Cook & Dudley Moore - One Leg Too Few
5.) Ray Charles - America the Beautiful
CD: Hi, I'm Chris Douridas and I'm talking to Tracey Ullman for KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Tracey is currently starring in her latest sketch comedy creation, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union for Showtime, but she's had a long history in music, and we're here to talk about the songs that have inspired her over the years. Tracey, thanks for coming down, it’s great to see you.
TU: Great to see you Chris. Well, I was like a pop star for a bit there, I mean I had a hit with "They Don't Know About Us" written by Kirsty MacColl.
CD: I know we're going to hear some Kirsty MacColl later on. First off, this Earth Wind & Fire you have to share with us. Tell us about this.
TU: There are songs that just get you going, and take you back to a period of your life and Earth Wind & Fire's "That’s the Way of the World" just does. I was twelve years old when I was given a scholarship in England to go to a performing arts school where we learned how to sing, dance, act, tap dance. You know, generally be a pain in the ass. We had a wonderful teacher called Vanda who took the jazz dance class and she would put this on -- ‘a five, six, seven eight!’ -- and we would all begin to stretch and do all the jazz warm up. Whenever I play this, it just makes me start dancing and moving and stretching and it totally wakes me up.
Song: Earth Wind & Fire’s "That's the Way of the World"
TU: I still don't understand the lyrics, I'll be really honest. But I sing along, and I do harmonies (sings) ‘Yeah oh, yeah oh, yow.’ It also was an introduction to American soul, and the ‘70s, and its just a great song.
CD: It's Earth Wind & Fire, "That's the Way of the World," its part of Tracey Ullman's Guest DJ set here on KCRW.com. I'm Chris Douridas, Tracey Ullman is with us.
TU: Chris and I are here in our leotards, and our knitted leg warmers. We've just stretched thoroughly, you lifted me up, we did a bit of a pas de deux -- don't you feel better now?
CD: Yeah, my shoulder's a little sore. You mentioned Kirsty MacColl, she had a big impact on you, and provided a big hit song for you.
TU: Big hit song for me in the 80's in England. I was with Stiff Records which is the coolest label and we had the best logo - If it ain't stiff, it ain't worth a [bleep]. I still wear that t-shirt around Ralphs if I'm feeling rebellious. And Kirsty was at the label. At the time, Kirsty had a hit with "New England," one of Billy Bragg's songs, and the lyrics and the way she sang it -- she had a fantastic voice, we lost her suddenly, and too early, but Kirsty MacColl - genius.
Song: Kirsty MacColl’s "New England"
TU: She wrote just the greatest songs for girls and I recorded "They Don't Know." It was a big hit for me, and it was lovely. It was my proudest moment for me, vocally in my life. I lip synched my way around Europe. I did all those crazy kinds of shows like ‘Hello, Hello, this is Banana's Top Pop Show in Germany and we have Tracey Ullman!’ and they do weird things like put a rat on your shoulder, ‘just to see how you react on television! Ha, ha, ha!’ It was like oh, my - that's when I realized that I'd had enough. It was a great laugh and I took my friends, and we were never required to sing live. Then I came to America,and my first live singing gig was The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and…
CD: First time you ever sang live?
TU: Even my husband who's completely tone deaf said I sounded like a wounded horse. And I sat next to Johnny Carson, who I remember just looking at as sort of this American icon with these very blue eyes and caked in brown makeup, and I thought, "This is America."
CD: That is "New England," it's Billy Bragg's song sung by Kirsty MacColl, part of Tracey Ullman's Guest DJ set here on KCRW.com, I'm Chris Douridas. There's a great take of the Frank Sinatra classic, that’s on your list here.
TU: I think this is the rebel in me again, the English rebel. I was a bit young actually for this, the Sex Pistols, but I remember coming home from school and seeing them on television, swearing, and messing things up generally, and I just thought it was hilarious. I just love the anarchy of this. It is so ridiculous, to change the lyrics in this way -- ‘I've had my fill, blech!’ -- just stupid, pretending to be sick. It just reminds me of silly London boys, who make me laugh.
Song: Sid Vicious singing "My Way"
CD: Sid Vicious doing "My Way," its part of Tracey Ullman's Guest DJ set here on KCRW.com, I'm Chris Douridas, Tracey Ullman is with us. Comedy, and a love of British comedy, that's all in your DNA. In what part of England did you grow up?
TU: I'm one of those wishy-washy suburbs girls, I was born in Buckinghamshire, beautiful place actually, woods and ponies and Volvos. I impersonated everyone in my village, everyone in my school, everyone in my family. And I loved regional accents, I was fascinated by the regional accents in England. When I listen to these, ‘choose 5 of your favorite songs,’ I just thought it'd be a bit different to hear a comedy skit. This is before my time. This is the radio show that Peter Cook and Dudley Moore did, “Beyond the Fringe.” Just in the very beginning of this skit, the way Peter Cook says, ‘Ah, Stella, my love.’ It just kills me, he's got a secretary called Stella! Peter Cook was just funny.
Skit plays: 7:05 - 7:20
TU: It's about a one-legged Tarzan coming in to audition and it was on the radio, so you hear him hopping.
Skit: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore’s One Leg Too Few
TU: I love Peter Cook -- its classic British sardonic, sarcastic, wit. He was such an eloquent man and such a brilliant writer and, of course, Dudley Moore came here and became incredibly famous, but Peter stayed back in England and he was just under appreciated, I think. Peter Cook, he's really the comedian's comedian.
CD: Peter Cook, and Dudley Moore from the BBC radio show version of “Beyond the Fringe.” "One Leg Too Few" is a piece that’s part of Tracey Ullman's Guest DJ Set. It's KCRW.com, I'm Chris Douridas, and with us is Tracey Ullman. You subsequently moved to America, when was that?
TU: I came here as an MTV Guest DJ in 1984 and I became an American in 2007. I went downtown to one of those huge convention centers with thousands of other people and they played a film when you're sworn in, and it was to the tune of (sings) "I'm proud to be an American, cause at least I know I'm free!" -- that classic song -- and it was like a film with like, waving wheat fields, and the moon landing, and monster trucks, then a big picture of George Bush came up. And I thought, "I wonder what my America would look like?" It made my writing and my take on America better because I really am a part of it now. So, my last choice of a song here is Ray Charles' version of "America" because now its like, you want to sing it again and you believe in it and it just sounds incredible.
Song” Ray Charles’ "America"
TU: This man is intrinsically American. I've gone from Peter Cook and Sid Vicious to Ray Charles, so this is my favorite American piece.
CD: Thanks so much for joining us.
TU: Oh, I've had a lovely time. This was lovely to talk to you.
CD: Always good to see you. Tracey Ullman, on KCRW's Guest DJ set, this is Ray Charles' "America," I'm Chris Douridas, thanks for listening.