original writing May 2009: Whipped Cream and mother delightsMay 10, 2009
Don’t know where I acquired this album. I do know the first thing I did was to throw out the vinyl it contained, which I noted was in very good condition. Sacrilege, I know, but there was no turntable, not even a retro perfect version of the fabric-covered portable record player we relied on in the late 1960s, that could reproduce the way it played in my head then and the moment I saw this cover after so long.
It struck me as a perfect gift, framed, for my mother, who bought the original. I teased her for weeks, hinting that I held the key to unlock some great memories.
“Oh,” she said when presented with the item a few years back, trying, really trying. “Did we have this album?”
It was probably a few years after the album’s release, 1969 maybe, that Whipped Cream and Other Delights came into our house. A bungalow in which everything that wasn’t modest was threadbare. Politics passed over this address, unless they involved the Catholic Church, about which there was no discussion that would not be approved of by the parish priest, whose visits also involved dropping off envelopes or waiting for the offer of a cheque with the appropriate amount. Which he did even during my father’s brief stint of unemployment. The defining sound in our home up until then, outside of the Kate Smith and Nat King Cole albums played at Christmas, were the voices of Foster Hewitt on Hockey Night in Canada and Jim McKay on Wide World of Sports.
And then came Herb Alpert and his food-themed pop selections of Green Peppers, Tangerine and the like on Whipped Cream and Other Delights. There was also Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, new that year of 1969 and delivering the potent single Lay Lady Lay that was read as raw sex by my mother and tittering aunts, smearing their lipstick on gas-station coffee mugs full of pink bubbly wine and smoking cigarettes and laughing louder than the music. But it was mostly Whipped Cream’s Taste of Honey that I remember, walking up the sidewalk, pulling open the collar of the starchy cotton blouse under my itchy wool uniform. I could usually see them in the living room, standing in front of the picture window, cigarettes held aloft in the same hands holding high the mugs, the other hands snapping time as one or the other let loose some dance moves my dad and uncles never saw. Sometimes I’d just watch from outside, rapt by their abandon. Mothers all, claiming their free afternoons now that all the kids were school age, all wearing the same helmet heads of curls, dyed dark, that I assumed was a tip of the hat to Elizabeth Taylor.
I recall one time coming in and not being shushed to my room to do homework, but being whirled into the air heavy with the smell of cigarettes, lipstick, Lady Patricia hairspray and the sour bite of wine on breath.
“Dance!” And I danced as I heard, “I’ll come back for the honey and you… The taste of honey, honey, honey, honey…. Love is much sweeter than wine.”
Maybe I didn’t close my eyes and spin euphorically, feeling my 9-year-old body come of age in the bosom of my mother and aunts. Maybe I just twitched and giggled self-consciously as they laughed. I know I loved it.
I also know it was all wrapped up by the time my dad came home and the ground beef was in the skillet for what have you. The album was never hidden away, though Dad never played it and mum never played it for him. But it was there. On the cover, a beautiful woman naked except for a whipped cream gown that barely covered her breasts.
I won’t say Herb Alpert or even Bob Dylan killed my parents marriage, which ended several years later. Nor event he marriages of my aunts, in years that followed. But they did provide the soundtrack. Never mind that Lay Lady Lay was, I have heard it argued, about Dylan’s dog. And that A Taste of Honey also included the harsh lyrics I don’t recall from my dance among the women:
He ne’er came back to his love so fair
And so she died dreaming of his kiss
His kiss of honey
A taste more bitter than wine.
And never mind that mum didn’t remember the album. Never mind.