“Tiny Tim is no joke in our house,” Pink Flamingos director John Waters once wrote. And he’s not alone. A huge star in the 60s after appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Tiny Tim – odd-looking, unusual-sounding – had novelty appeal with his falsetto versions of vaudeville tunes like his big hit Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me.
Born Herbert Khaury, the former beatnik and street performer in New York’s East Village also benefitted from long-haired freak appeal, but his greatest asset lay in the sincerity of his performances.
He may have looked like a bizarre Oscar Wilde, uke under his arm, but his work was rooted in a real love for his music, something fellow unusualist John Waters picked up on when he called Tim “eccentric but brilliant”. And, as this extraordinary collection of singles shows, there really is nothing like Tiny Tim anywhere.
A million miles from trad jazz impersonators or novelty bands, Tiny Tim’s music has a certainty and – excuse the word – authenticity that many acoustic guitar-playing modern rock and folk bands would kill for. Here was a man devoted to his art.
It’s true that his cover versions of rock’n’roll songs like Great Balls Of Fire (and, much later, Highway To Hell) are comic in a good way, but when he reverts to his true love, real oldies like Bring Back Those Rock-A-Bye Baby Days, there’s a strange fire to his singing.