Louis Prima: The Wildest!
Number 998, of 1001 albums you must hear before you die.
At first I was all like “Who the hell is that schmuck cackling on the cover of this record? I’m going to hate this!” But one bar into the opening track and I realised I’ve heard Louis Prima soundtracking tonnes of movie scenes, TV shows and probably even commercials.
The Wildest! kicks off with Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t got Nobody, which has to be among the catchiest pieces of pop music ever recorded. Go on, YouTube it. You’ve heard it a million times before, right? And bopped along to it every time. “IIIIIIIIII ain’t got no booooooooooddddy”
This record is infectious from beginning to end. It’s bright and sunny, so theoretically I shouldn’t like it at all being the existential nerd that I am. But it’s also loopy enough to melt away any cheese. With his gravelly voice Prima sounds slightly unhinged, pretty much as he looks on the cover. It’s the sound of a drunken, possibly jacked-up party teetering on the edge of collapse. The fun before the storm.
The out of control party vibe makes sense given that Prima was a regular on the Vegas circuit at the time of recording The Wildest!. He’d been playing music across the US for 25 years, largely as a trumpeter, before he achieved mainstream success on the back of his Vegas shows and subsequently this record.
The sound is Swing and Big Band in the vein of Sinatra, but this is way more crazed and rambunctious with a liberal dose of rock n’ roll grit. And a fair sprinkling of humour too. Prima does a lot of off-the-cuff ranting and raving which makes you wanna throw your hands in the air like you don’t fucking care. Especially when his band start whooping, hollering and generally losing their minds in the background.
The madness is balanced out by the intermittent appearance of Prima’s wife Keely Smith who adds a sensual all-knowing croon to the show. She keeps the party from going right over the edge, but even so it’s impossible not to get swept up in the overall sense of abandon. The Wildest! is bucket loads of fun, and clearly a predecessor to the future of rock n’ roll where ‘stars’ don’t just perform, they lose their shit in the music.