SotD: Al Stewart, “Red Toupee”

I love it when you discover something new about a favorite musical artist.  It’s doubly good when your new info comes in connection with another artist or song you really like. One example from the 90s for me was learning that Kirsty MacColl sang backup on Tracey Ullman’s “They Don’t Know” and the Smiths’ “Ask” (she also wrote the former).  I had another experience of this type last week.

There’s no secret that I really liked Al Stewart in his commercial heyday of the late 70s. After 24 PCarrots and Indian Summer weren’t as successful in the early 80s, he was dropped by his major label and has since led an itinerant recording life. He put out only two more albums during the rest of the 80s: Russians and Americans in 84, and Last Days of the Century in 88. I picked up each of them soon after their releases. Russians never wound up in regular rotation for me, but Last Days has several tracks I still like rather well. Two stand above the rest. “Josephine Baker,” about the Jazz Age entertainer, is very sweet. Today’s song, light-hearted but super catchy, is the other one.

I hadn’t listened to “Red Toupee” for any number of years when, out of the blue, it came to mind this past Friday evening. Instant gratification was as easy as a YouTube search. I found it posted by someone with, of all names, Will Harris (not me, though!). There weren’t too many comments, but a couple of them mentioned that Tori Amos was singing backup on it.

Someday I’ll put together my big Tori Amos post, but suffice it to say for the moment that Little Earthquakes is likely on my list of Top 10 Favorite Albums. I checked my copy of Last Days, and sure enough, she’s credited. On “Red Toupee,” she’s one of three female backups; I have some trouble picking her voice out. However, she also appears on the title track, and there it’s absolutely clear it’s her.

No doubt this is not news to a number of folks, particularly Tori-philes. I’m often late to the party, but I’m glad to have finally showed up for this one.

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