The Broken Romances of Pink Martini's 'Eugene' Across musical styles, genres and cultures, Pink Martini's latest CD explores the heartbreak of a lover spurned. The band performs songs from Hey Eugene!, one so fast it threatens to fly off the musical tracks.
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The Broken Romances of Pink Martini's 'Eugene'

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The Broken Romances of Pink Martini's 'Eugene'

The Broken Romances of Pink Martini's 'Eugene'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Somewhere in America there's a guy who met a girl at party. He promised to call her. He never did. And many years passed. If that guy, named Eugene, is close to a radio this morning, he's about to hear that same woman sing to him.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Eugene")

Ms. CHINA FORBES (Lead Singer, Pink Martini): (Singing) Hey Eugene, do you remember me? I'm that chick you danced with two times through the Rufus album, Friday night at that party. On Avenue A, where your skinhead friend passed out for several hours on the bathroom floor, and you told me you weren't that drunk...

INSKEEP: China Forbes is the lead singer of a group called Pink Martini. Keep her true story in mind, the story of a romance that doesn't work out. Keep it in mind and you'll hear the way Pink Martini translates that simple theme into different kinds of music and different languages.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Eugene")

Ms. FORBES: (Singing) I said hello, Eugene. Are you there, Eugene?

INSKEEP: "Hey Eugene" is the name of Pink Martini's new album out today. When they came to our studios, the string and horn players and the rhythm section and China Forbes all surrounded the guy at the grand piano. He's Thomas Lauderdale, the group founder.

Ms. FORBES: How did you find everybody, Thomas? On the street.

Mr. THOMAS LAUDERDALE (Founder, Pink Martini): In the street.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FORBES: In the street.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: In the symphony. In restaurants, bars and brothels.

INSKEEP: Thomas Lauderdale is telling the truth, maybe not about recruiting in brothels, but definitely about recruiting from the symphony. These highly trained musicians play songs inspired by 1950s pop tunes or foreign movie soundtracks. Or consider what influenced the chorus at the end of "Hey Eugene."

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Eugene")

PINK MARTINI (Band): (Singing) I said hello. Eugene. Eugene. Eugene.

Ms. FORBES: It's like all the girls are getting together and wailing about Eugene. But also it really draws from my favorite theme songs from the '70s, from "Good Times," the TV show, and "The Jeffersons."

INSKEEP: (Unintelligible) yeah, okay. Yeah.

Ms. FORBES: Yeah. Yeah. My sister and I used to sing "Good Times" together.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: What are those moments in "Good Times"? Sing it. Sing it.


(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: He saved me from asking that. Thank you very much.

Ms. FORBES: I don't want to sing "Good Times."

Mr. LAUDERDALE: Or "The Jeffersons."

Ms. FORBES: We're moving on up to the top, to a deluxe apartment in the sky. You know it.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: Yeah, but I can't...

Ms. FORBES: I can't sing it. We'll get sued.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: How does it go?

Ms. FORBES: We don't have clearance.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: Oh, really? Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FORBES: Am I allowed?

INSKEEP: It's a news program. It's called fair use.

Ms. FORBES: Is it?

INSKEEP: Yes. Yes. You can sing a minute of anything.

(Soundbite of song, "Moving on Up")

Ms. FORBES: (Singing) Well, we're moving on up, moving on up to the top; to a deluxe apartment in the sky. We're moving on up to the East Side. We finally got a piece of the pie. Beans don't burn...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FORBES: I may never stop. You don't want to get me going.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FORBES: It's really the ending, you know, when they all wail and do their...

Mr. LAUDERDALE: Do that. Do that.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Eugene")

PINK MARTINI: (Singing) Are you there, Eugene?

INSKEEP: So it's a song about a woman spurred, which seems to be in danger of happening in another Pink Martini tune. It's an Egyptian song that China Forbes learned to sing in Arabic.

Well, can I just mention, because the last song that you sang was about a guy who never called back or never called, actually.

Ms. FORBES: Yeah.

INSKEEP: The first line of this song in Arabic is the person who promised to have a date with me will fulfill his promise.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: Very judicious.

Ms. FORBES: It's very bossy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FORBES: He will call.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: So this is "Burka Wba'do," which means tomorrow and the day after.

Ms. FORBES: One, two, three.

(Soundbite of song, "Burka Wba'do")

Ms. FORBES: (Singing in Arabic)

INSKEEP: Is there something political about singing a song in Arabic in 2007?

Mr. LAUDERDALE: I think - absolutely. You know, both of us grew up in these multicultural atmospheres. And I think that when we started doing songs in different languages, there's an opportunity to kind of express and articulate a different kind of America.

INSKEEP: Which is also true of one more Pink Martini song about frustrated love.

(Soundbite of song, "Tempo Perdido")

INSKEEP: This time the lyrics are in Portuguese. The song is called "Tempo Perdido," lost time.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: It's a song about never want - being determined never to love again after having heartbreak.

INSKEEP: And if the foreign language implies a changing America, the song itself had to change.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: It was really, really, really fast on the - when we initially recorded it. And by slowing it down - you know, I mean, it just sounded much better.

Ms. FORBES: It needed to breathe. It was sort of frantic.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: It was frantic.

INSKEEP: They gave us an idea of just how frantic by playing it fast.

(Soundbite of song, "Tempo Perdido")

Ms. FORBES: (Singing in Portuguese)

Ms. FORBES: Thomas could barely play his part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LAUDERDALE: You know, it's just - that was the original tempo.

INSKEEP: In between singing perfect phrases, China Forbes kept looking over at me like, are you going to make them stop this? Are you going to make them stop this?

Ms. FORBES: I - yeah. When you make an album you realize that really fast songs are tedious upon repeated listen. So you know, you don't want - once you get through it, you never want to play it again, and that's just not what we go for with our album.

Mr. LAUDERDALE: That's true.

INSKEEP: Is this a good moment to ask to hear the song as it was recorded?

Ms. FORBES: Ah, thank goodness. Yes.

(Soundbite of song, "Tempo Perdido")

Ms. FORBES: (Singing in Portuguese)

INSKEEP: The song is "Tempo Perdido." It comes from Pink Martini's new album, "Hey Eugene." You can hear their complete performance in our studios at

Yet another song that could've been directed at Eugene, I see.

Ms. FORBES: I know. It's like they're all...

INSKEEP: I cannot forgive you. And as I have suffered all of my time lost, I never want to love again.

Ms. FORBES: Exactly. We're playing these - we're definitely playing the songs in the correct order today to tell the story.

INSKEEP: You think Eugene might call you up? No?

Ms. FORBES: I sure hope not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FORBES: It is way too late.

INSKEEP: He's got to know who he is once this album gets out.

Ms. FORBES: Oh, he'll know. He'll know.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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