It’s hard to hear a song about a banana and not think of you-know-what. But I’m betting to the strange, seemingly non-perverse, ukulele-playing Tiny Tim a banana was a banana just as a sausage was a sausage.
The late Manhattan-born singer’s childlike naivety was manifested through his career-defining ditty, the gleeful remake of “Tiptoe through the Tulips.” So thinking that Tiny -- an often laughed-at novelty act popular in the ’60s who was basically a caricature of himself -- could really write a gutter-minded riff about a long, curved fruit with as much homo subtext as a Mika song is hard to swallow. But the title track of I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana: Rare Moments, Vol. 1, out last week, is exactly what its title overtly suggests. And it’s one peel away from being gayer than anything Mika’s ever done:
"I've never seen a straight banana
I guess I must admit
That I have searched quite a bit
They're even curved when they are served in my banana split"
I’m thinking the banana is less a wee-wee than an extended metaphor for something that doesn’t exist, but the gayness, at least years later when filtered through my filthy mind, is as subtle as Tiny’s snaggletoothed smile. Curved when served in his banana split? Whipped cream, fudge -- oh yeah.
Alas, Tiny was married three times (despite a guy crush in his twenties). But if Brokeback Mountain taught us anything, it’s that a “sacred bond” never stopped a closet case who knew the benefits of a little spit. Making people laugh was Tiny's modus operandi. But he also had a lot of heart. Listen to his more endearing, tender side from this dainty collection, like “Dear Tuesday” and “Baby Shoes,” and try to hate him. Tiny also knew he shared something with a would-be straight banana: He was one of a kind. Now, most just call him weird, and Tiny would probably agree; he opens the disc up with a prelude called “What Strange God Designed Me?”
Apparently it was one who didn’t want him to get his rocks off -- with a straight banana or not. He was mostly asexual, which might confuse the heck out of a lot of folks today when they listen to this rarities collection and hear him plead: “Oh how much I’ve been yearning to see that straight banana.” Whatever he means, and wherever he is -- off tiptoeing through some tulips probably -- I hope he got his wish.
-- CHRIS AZZOPARDI
Previously > First Look: Adam Lambert's Debut Album