You don't have to be a huge fan of Survivor or Van Halen to feel a wave of despair wash over you when you hear that venerable crooner Paul Anka cover Eye of the Tiger and Jump, backed up by the melodious and self-assured strains of big band swing. But Anka shows no shame as he glides through a program of rock and pop covers on his new album Rock Swings, all immaculate tuxedo and brilliantined hair, somehow managing to deprive a song like Eye of the Tiger of whatever artistic merit it might have had. And emasculation is an understatement when referring to his treatment of Nirvana's rock anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit.
But Rock Swings is only the most recent venture in a long career in which Anka has established a massive reputation as both a singer and songwriter, penning such classics as Frank Sinatra's My Way and Tom Jones' She's a Lady. There is no arguing with that kind of record, and Anka continues to enjoy a massive following around the world, not least in Taipei, where he is already filling some of the most expensive concert seats in Taipei for his visit later this month, when Kuang Hong Arts, his local agent, will be charging NT$10,000 for the best seats in the house.
Anka has his roots in the heyday of big band and the infancy of rock and roll. He toured Australia with Buddy Holly, but looking back it is hard to see how songs such as Diana (You and I will be as free/As the birds up in the trees/Oh, please stay by me, Diana) and I'm Just a Lonely Boy could be such hits. But this was back in the late 1950s, tastes were different, and in Anka's long career, he has hardly ever put a foot wrong, shifting the pace away from rock toward the more sedate and well-heeled tastes of the Las Vagas supper clubs, rubbing shoulders with masters of the lounge act Sinatra and Julio Iglesias, and more recently, fellow Canadian Michael Buble.
Whatever we might think of Rock Swings -- and it has certainly received rave reviews from some quarters -- Anka has an indisputable track record of turning out hits, and his stopover in Taipei will be a great event for his fans. He will be playing the National Taiwan University Sports Center on May 23 at 7:30pm. Tickets, priced at NT$2,000 to NT$10,000, are selling fast and are available through ERA ticketing outlets nationwide.