I love discovering forgotten gems from yesteryear, I suppose it harks back to the days when I used to go treasure hunting in the muddy creek below our house. I came across Norma Tanega, when her single ‘You’re Dead’ was used in the credits of Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi’s (Boy, Eagle Vs Shark) fangtastic mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, about Vampire flatmates living in Wellington, NZ.
Norma Tanega was a camp singer in the Catskills, when she signed up to New Voice Records in 1966. She became a ‘one hit wonder’ when her strange, novelty single, ‘Walkin’ my Cat Named Dog‘ reached #22 on the US Billboard Charts.
The hit became popular in England and so Norma was asked to perform it on Top of the Pops, it was here in a rehearsal that she first saw Dusty Springfield. “I’m standing there with my guitar, like a dork, while this woman, I had no idea who she was, stood on some scaffolding and went over and over this song until it was, of course, perfect.” The song was You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Dusty’s #1 hit at the time. The lights went up in the studio and Norma, confused, asked Dusty what was going on and so Dusty explained the English tradition of a union tea break for electricians and cameramen, this sparked up a conversation between the two. Norma was in a relationship with Dusty Springfield during the 60s and as a prolific storyteller, provided lyrics to her songs, ‘No Stranger Am I,’ Earthbound Gypsy, Midnight Sounds.’ Just goes to show that behind every great woman is another great woman.
I am just obsessing over the dusty wryness and husky sincerity of Norma Tanega’s voice. There is a very deadpan delivery to her macabre and hilariously uncanny songs, which flatters the kiwi in me. Here is her song ‘You’re Dead’