Featured: Top of Home Page

Genevieve Waite, Romance Is on the Rise (1974)

After the Mamas and the Papas, John Phillips found his muse in this South African model-actress and indulged her wish to become a singer. The result? This rarely heard record of campy cabaret.

Genevieve Waite

Romance Is on the Rise

US Release Date: 1974
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

The original liner notes of Romance Is on the Rise proclaim, "As hard to capture as a new thought, the jiving, thriving, Miss Genevieve Waite. LET THE 70s BEGIN..."

Nowadays, most people would reply, "Who?" Released in July 1974, Romance is the sole album by Waite, third wife of the Mamas and the Papas' John Phillips and mother of singer-actress Bijou Phillips. Like so many others who became entertainment-history footnotes, Waite had all the right connections but somehow missed out on fame. Born in South Africa in 1948, Waite relocated to swinging London and in 1968 starred in the film Joanna, directed by Michael Sarne and featuring music by Rod McKuen. Sarne briefly considered Waite for the title role of his next film, the notorious Myra Breckinridge, before giving it to Raquel Welch, but Waite did put in an uncredited appearance. Apart from a small part in Move (1970), however, this was all that came of her film career.

In 1969, Waite met John Phillips, and from 1972 to 1985 she was married to him. Phillips paid tribute to his new love on "Lady Genevieve," from the final Mamas and Papas album, People Like Us, and "Let It Bleed, Genevieve" on his self-titled solo debut -- sometimes called John, Wolf King of L.A., after a poem of Waite's that appears on the back cover. In 1973, the pair moved to New York City, where they convinced a businessman named Dan Broder to finance Waite's LP. According to Phillips, Mo Ostin of Warner Brothers showed interest in distributing Waite's album but balked at Phillips's insistence that it be released on his own label, Paramour Records. Meanwhile, the couple also worked on an ill-fated musical, Man on the Moon; due to her commitment to that show, Waite had to pass on the opportunity to star opposite David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Like the other projects with which Waite's name is associated, Romance got off to an auspicious start, but never fulfilled its promise -- but that's no reflection on the music. Phillips (with Waite's help on four tracks) wrote all but one of the album's songs and provided pitch-perfect production. The details on Romance Is on the Rise are exquisite, from the acoustic guitar intro on the opener, "Love Is Coming Back" (lifted from the Mamas and the Papas' "Dream a Little Dream") to Richard Avedon's cover photo of Waite as a 1940s-style pinup girl. Seasoned studio musicians loaned their talents to the project, and several songs feature horn and string arrangements. This was the last time Phillips's considerable songwriting and arranging talents would be put to good use before he sank into years of drug addiction and debasement, and he rises to the occasion with songs as clever and lovely as anything he wrote for the Mamas and the Papas, but with a new emphasis derived from his love of jazz and show tunes, albeit with a 1970s camp slant.

While Phillips's songwriting and production are integral to Romance Is on the Rise, the real star of the show is Waite. From the moment she begins to coo and rasp the opening lines, "I think that love is coming back / I think romance is on the rise / And all across the world / All the boys and girls are makin' eyes", it's obvious you're going to hear a voice unlike any other. Phillips drew comparisons to Marilyn Monroe's childish, breathy voice, but in reality Waite sounds more like a South African Betty Boop. Her delivery manages to be childish and knowing, camp and reverent, gay and squarely straight, all at the same time.

After the music-hall tone of "Love Is Coming Back", "Transient Friends" and "Times of Love" inject some modernity into the theme of amour. The latter is just a tad kinky: "And grenades and mortars going off in my head / Every time that you take me down to your bed / When we haven't been out for a couple of days / And you've locked all the doors and just had your way". The highlights of the album, though, arrive with "Trashy Rumors" and Irving Berlin's "Slumming on Park Avenue". Witty and sophisticated, both songs are perfectly suited to Waite's wacky yet knowing delivery and provide convincing evidence that she could have had a career in musical theater. Following them is "Biting My Nails", a streetwise druggie joke, and "Danny", a ballad in which Waite lets down a childhood sweetheart ("Danny, it's tearing me apart / But people grow up and fall in love with strangers"). "White Cadillac" is the album's weakest song, a tale of rich-boy-meets-poor-girl, on which Waite's chirpy voice finally becomes grating. She rebounds nicely with "American Man on the Moon" and "Girls", which acknowledges the exasperation the fairer sex elicits from its admirers ("Girls are running round in your head / Till you wish you liked boys instead").

Judging from Romance Is on the Rise, Genevieve Waite could have been a star of at least of the cult variety, but it wasn't to be. Although the album was launched with a good deal of fanfare, including an expensive release party hosted by Waite's Move co-star Elliot Gould, write-ups in several magazines, and a handful of cabaret-style live shows, its poor distribution ensured that it sank quickly. After the disappointing reception for Romance and Man on the Moon, Phillips and Waite sunk into drug addiction for several years, a period documented in detail in Phillips's 1986 autobiography, Papa John. Waite hasn't recorded a note or appeared in a film in over 30 years, but her one gem of an album finally made it to CD in the U.K in 2004 and in the U.S. a year later, so a new generation can discover "the jiving, thriving, Miss Genevieve Waite".

Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone can undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Music

Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.