Calendar Girl: Julie London for January

In a career spanning more than forty years, Julie London (September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress. Members of my generation may remember her best as nurse Dixie McCall in the popular 1970s television drama Emergency! London was in her late 40s when she took on the role and, alongside Jenny Agutter’s nurse Alex Price from An American Werewolf in London, is probably most responsible for many Gen Xers suffering from the Florence Nightingale Effect to this day.

Before that though, London had recorded a whopping thirty albums of pop and jazz standards from 1955–1969, and that’s after already being a model and actress. Primarily a sultry torch singer, her sexy contralto voice instantly cranked up the heat on any song she covered. In a 1961 AP story amusingly titled, “The Julie London Dilemma: She Sounds Too Sexy,” an executive at her record label hilariously said, “She is the only singer I know of who can sell albums to men who don’t own record players.”

London’s innate sexiness wasn’t confined to just her voice; she was beautiful, and had done WWII era cheesecake modeling. Her sex appeal was played up in her album covers, which usually featured London in pinup shoots, none more so than her 1956 album Calendar Girl. Even the liner notes had fun with her public image: “No wonder her voice comes out swell. Look where it’s been!”

For Calendar Girl, London breathlessly performed thirteen songs—one about each month of the year and a bonus for the “Thirteenth Month.” For the album cover and interior art, she posed playfully and seductively for month-specific pinup photos, thus reflecting the album’s title, Calendar Girl. Together, London’s heartfelt delivery of songs romantic heartache and the epic album artwork combine to make something special. As the AllMusic review states:

The famous wraparound cover depicts cheesecake shots of London posed for every month of the year, while original issues of the album included a more-than-suggestive insert photo of the singer stretched out in bed. While [jazz critic Will] Friedwald’s correct about London’s physical beauty, he’s wrong in suggesting that the vocalist didn’t have the talent to go along with her looks.

After discovering her musical endeavors in recent years, I’ve become a big fan of London’s voice. It’s alluring for the same reasons she is so startling beautiful: London conveys both sexiness and smarts in equal measure, making her a sort of thinking person’s sex symbol.

So, because I am a staunch retroist at heart, for 2023 I thought it might be fun to feature one track per month from the 67 year old album Calendar Girl, along with the album’s corresponding shot of London for each month. I genuinely dig this record; London’s intimate vocals and low key delivery are the perfect mood music for relaxing with a glass of wine and a book, or for doing some mindless chores around the house. Regarding London’s strengths as a torch singer, a BBC Legends episode once said it best:

“Some singers sing as though they are addressing a crowd; some sing as though they are in a bar with a lot of people—[London] sings as though she’s in one room, with you—and that’s the difference.”

First up, of course, is Calendar Girl’s January offering, “June in January.” Julie’s pinup shot for the month finds her still decked out in her festive (and skimpy) attire for ringing in the new year. A top hat always pairs perfectly with fishnet tights (see: Zatanna), making Julie in January a wonderful way to kick off the new year.

My plan is to embed YouTube clips of the songs each month from Universal Music’s account because my initial idea to use Spotify was nixed when I realized they’ll only allow previews here, and not the full songs.

“June in January”

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