Zavaroni, Lena

Band members               Related acts

- Lena Zavaroni (RIP 1999) - vocals




- none known





Genre: pop

Rating: * (1 star)

Title:  Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me

Company: Stax

Catalog: STS-5511

Year: 1974

Country/State: Rothesay, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4405

Price: $10.00

Cost: $66.00


I spotted this one at a Salvation Army store and was ready to hurl it into the pile of Barbara Streisand and Kenny Rodgers rejects when I noticed the Stax label.  Needless to say, I was curious to find out why a ten year old Scottish girl ended up with a recording contract with Stax ...


Born in the small Scottish island of Bute, Lena Zavaroni's big break came when she won a series of five appearance on the English television talent show "Opportunity Knocks".  Her five wins turned her into a major English star (you can just hear grandmothers and other little girls digging into their savings), including performing for Queen Elizabeth at the 1974 Royal Variety performance.  A subsequent recording contract turned the ten year old into a major European star and brought US recording companies knocking.  Among them was Stax, which in a bizarre attempt to diversify it's sound ended up outbidding Capital, Columbia and others to acquire US marketing rights.


Released in 1974, Stax had high hopes for "Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me".   Clearly hoping to replicate Zavaroni's European successes, the album featured a mixture of heavily orchestrated classical pop and newer covers.  Having listed to the album a couple of times, I'll admit Zavaroni owned an impressive set of pipes.  Few ten year olds can sing like this, though lots of folks are likely to find her screechy and plain irritating.  Unfortunately, covering tunes such as 'Swinging On a Star', 'Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody' and 'Pennies from Heaven' was simply wrong for the US market. Not that her covers of more up to date material such as John Denver's 'Take Me Home Country Roads' and 'River Deep, Mountain High' were any better.  Also, unless you're a pedophile, hearing Zavaroni sing the suggestive lyrics to 'Help Me Make It Through the Night' was particularly creepy.   Elsewhere, the title track b/w 'Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody' was released as a single (Stax catalog number STA-0206).  In spite of some heavy duty promotion by Stax, including appearances on Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas and the Carrol Burnett Show, the single could do no better than # 91 on the pop charts.  That was still far better than the parent LP.  Stax reportedly pressed over 600,000 copies but ended up selling roughly 100,000.  Guess the rest ended up in landfills since today the record's not that common.      


"Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me

2.) The End of the World

3.) Swinging On a Star

4.) Help Me Make It Through the Night

5.) Cross My Heart

6.) My Mammy


(side 2)

1.) Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody

2.) Take Me Home Country Roads

3.) Pennies from Heaven

4.) Love Can Make the World Go Round

5.) My Happiness

6.) River Deep, Mountain High


While her American career never took off (though she did perform before then President Gerald Ford), she enjoyed considerable success in the UK, including her own television program - “Lena Zavaroni and Music” and a steady stream of live performances.  Unfortunately, the rest of the story is fairly depressing.  By the time she was 13 Zavaroni found herself battling anorexia nervosa.  By the mid-1980s she'd repeatedly hospitalized for the disease and her musical career was effectively over.  She subsequently married long time a long time boyfriend, only to have the marriage collapse after 18 months.  The same year her mother died from a drug overdose and a fire destroyed her home and all of her musical and show business keepsakes.  By the mid-1990s Zavaroni was living in subsidized housing and was accused of shoplifting jelly from a local store.  Living on welfare, in September 1999 she underwent experimental brain surgery to combat the anorexia and long term depression.  Following the operation she developed a chest infection and in October 1999 died from bronchial pneumonia.  She was only 35.




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