Tuesday, February 19, 2019

AFTER YOU’VE GONE - BOBBY COLE at CAMPAGNOLA


Here's a look at Campagnola, the last place Bobby Cole played. You can see the piano in front of the big glass window that looked onto 1st Avenue. People sat at the bar to drink, and when he was around, swivel around to watch him play and sing. Some took their drinks and stood around the piano. Some snagged those tables close to him. Most of the dining area was in the back; more and more tables. 

If you're wondering about the name, "Campagnola" basically means "country-style." A "campagnola" is a farm girl, an earthy woman perhaps, who has old-world values. The place was not owned by an Italian, but by a guy named Murray Wilson, who managed some boxers, had an interest in restaurants, and in 1982, opened a place that eventually served authentic enough cuisine to make it an uptown favorite. I never met the guy. The staff were mostly Italian, and the guy who managed the joint and that Bobby answered to was named Salvatore.

Other than the bartender, it seemed Wilson was dedicated to hiring authentic Italians for his "Campagnola." Whether some of Wilson's financing came from authentic if not dangerous people in Little Italy, let's not speculate. Don't speculate, and don't leave a speck on your plate...



Oh look. What's on the plate? Antipasto? Appetizer? To be Sinatra...er, to be Frank, when lady and I would be there, we'd sometimes order anything that seemed like a snack.

We'd arrive well after the dinner hour, usually closer to 11,  and the excuse for not going bankrupt in the place was that we'd already eaten a big meal. PS, a "snack" at this place was like the price of a meal elsewhere. Another alternative was dessert and some wine or sparkling water. But if you had the habit of referring to sparkling water by the best known brand name, you were asking for trouble. "No wine, just a Perrier." A stern, if not murderous look accompanied the grim reply: "No Perrier. PELLEGRINO!"Ay, THAT's ITALIAN!



Getting back to the name of the place, despite being on the tony Upper East Side, Campagnola was, and is, a very ordinary-looking place from the outside. If not a "country" inn, it does look homey, doesn't it? 



The place really came alive on the weekends, when Bobby showed up. Well, usually. If he missed a night or two, he was forgiven. 

You don’t know what you got until you lose it. In a way, that applied to Bobby, who certainly tried the patience of some people while he was still around. It’s an irony that one of his favorite songs was “After You’ve Gone.” 

It was even money that “After You’ve Gone” would be on the set list when you saw Bobby. When he was about to take a break during a set, Bobby tended to lapse into another favorite, a few minutes of “Take the A Train” done as an Errol Garner-styled instrumental. Maybe he was wishing that a few of the noisier and rowdier denizens of Campagnola would indeed, take the A-train so he could come back to the piano and be surrounded by people seriously listening to him. (Of course the A-train was on the west side of town, and any affluent customer seeking to get to one of Harlem’s swankier jazz clubs and eateries catering to rich tourists, would take a cab.) 

Campagnola had its regulars, and often celebrities. Sometimes a famous lady was there to, uh, rendezvous with Bobby Cole. (I ain't namin' names). Hoi polloi just "smellin' where they're dwellin'" were in for a shock if they walked in expecting Olive Garden prices. Those types needed to walk in and ask for an estimate on dinner! Stake yourself to a steak, and you'd be paying $40 or $50. Salmon or sole, $25 to $35. Maybe you'd find a pasta dish for $22. An appetizer could even be $20. Get yourself a couple of drinks and you'd be more wobbly from the lightness of your wallet. Meanwhile if you were ordering in Italian, you might stare down and not be sure what the hell the waiter had put in front of you.



But Bobby Cole was at the piano, and you'd hear "The Big Hurt" and "Say It Isn't So" and "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "After You've Gone," and then you'd go back out into the night, full of food, booze and good music. You could look back from across the street, and be thankful for a good time.




(PS, the corner deli where Bobby disappeared on breaks to get a bottle of beer is still there but Tasti D Lite has GONE...) The original owner of the place, Murray Wilson, died in 2010. The restaurant is now under new ownership. 

It was after seeing Bobby so many times at venues where chestnuts like "After You've Gone" was likely to be played and maybe a Beatles tune or an Elton John item was thrown in, I ventured this question: “Why don’t you play your original songs?” The wry reply would’ve been because he was, in his word, “I’m in the people pleasing business.” People wanted to hear familiar favorites. Probably closer to the truth was that he didn’t want to see or hear people ignoring his own most intimate and creative creations.

I think when “A Point of View” first came out, he promoted it by singing some of his originals. He recalled a time in Pittsburgh when he sang “Growing Old,” and saw a man with tears glistening down his face. He told me that generally it would have to be a very special and intimate venue, late at night, when he’d perform some of the tunes he’d finished working on. 

One night when Campagnola was empty, and he was about to leave, he paused, and for me and my lady, he returned to the piano. “This is an original song that’s not on that album,” he said (referring to the beloved “A Point of View”).  He said, “It might be on the new one, ‘The Hole in the Corner Man.’” He gave a Brando-like curled smile. “How’s THAT for a title,” he mused. He added with a touch of self-deprecating irony “And the title of this song is ‘So Sleeps the Pride.’ What a title, huh…” And then came those hypnotic opening notes, and a song that laid bare the soul of the performer…this performer…any performer.

Some performers are appreciated in their lifetime, and even more so after they’ve gone. Here’s one of the live tracks from Campagnola, caught via portable cassette recorder, circa 1996. 

There'll come a time, now don't forget it
There'll come a time, when you'll regret it
Some day when you'll grow lonely
Your heart will break like mine and you'll want me only
After you've gone, after you've gone away

AFTER YOU'VE GONE....

STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS — BOBBY COLE and BLOGGERS


"Sharing" entire albums and discographies? Copying? Bobby Cole didn’t even xerox sheet music to avoid buying it. If anything, he worked out the arrangement himself, suiting his key and his voice. Here, for example, is his working version of “Still Crazy After All These Years,” a favorite new song he added to the "Great American Songbook" stuff that his saloon audiences would come to hear. 

Back then, he might play a Leonard Cohen song, or Elton John or Procol Harum, and if a ringsider liked it...they'd ask Bobby the name of the song, and then go out and buy it. That's what it was about. You hear it on the radio or in a nightclub, you read a review of it in Creem, Circus, Downbeat, Rolling Stone etc., and you bought it. Kinda CRAZY what the situation is now: gimme it free, and I don't care who gets hurt. Artists should have a full time job or something. Itunes is rich. Recording music is cheap with Pro Tools. So fuck you and let me enjoy my FREE MUSIC.

February 19th, over a decade ago this, "the blog of less renown" premiered with a post of a BOBBY COLE song. 

He was already dead — and the music business was on the critical list. It’s pretty dead now, isn’t it? Ironically, a big reason is: BLOGS. Early bloggers posted a rare song to call attention to the artist. Soon blogging became a contest, dominated by the size queens posting discographies every day. These queens got so many “nice comments” they began to think of themselves as royalty, and stars. The Queen of Holland fought the Queen of Sweden for MOST comments and most discographies posted in a day. Forget about what the musicians wanted, or how it was hurting the music business. Some bloggers with their R. Crumb photos and Guy Fawkes masks fancied themselves real hipsters and revolutionaries. No, they weren't and aren't. Just jerks with nothing better to do. How easy, to pretend to be in show biz, or to be another asshole Assange, and up and re-up the music all day. 

Blogging was once an extension of music reviewing, with serious writing and a sample track, but it's turned into a literal free-for-all. Rationalizations were rampant:  record stores aren’t going out of business. Artists are rich. Music should be free and artists should tour and sell t-shirts. Like climate change, the deniers kept denying, even when record stores began going under, record labels could no longer afford to invest in new artists, and older artists were dropped by their labels, and dropping dead while on exhausting tours of small venues.   

Anyone telling a Blogfather or Queen of Sharing to have some sense and dial it back, got excuses: “I’m using mp3, it’s not like CD.” Then the items were offered in 320 bit-rate and FLAC. Another excuse: “The album is not yet on CD or mp3.” When it was: “The price is too high!” When the price came down: “We like FREE!” Some happily called themselves pirates, ahar, and were proud of it. Others insisted their piracy was “Freedom of Speech!” The chant: “Copyright is Copy WRONG.” And “This is SHARING." Yeah. Mommy always told me to SHARE, and now, look at me, I’m SHARING!  

When artists such as Gene Simmons and Prince complained, the response was: “You’re rich. Fuck you. We’ll hack your website. We’ll re-up. Google gives us free blogs and if one goes down five will go up. You can’t stop us, you bastards. We love your music, and we give you publicity! Don’t you get it? Why do you want payment?” Add hippie philosophy: “We’re stickin’ it to the music labels, man. To the RIAA. Go think up a new paradigm.” Huh? Like what, Spotify, which pays far less than radio stations did per play? 

It was crazy what most "colleagues" in the blog world were doing, and how they craved fame for themselves. Worse, today many crave royalties, and use Rapidgator and elaborate link-hiding to get money for themselves. This craziness means less good new music. It means less music from our favorite older acts because they don't want to just break-even with self-publishing and they resent the embarrassment of Kickstarter or being on a teeny tiny indie label and begging on social media to "please buy. Blessings."

Who is making money now? Not worthy musicians. Mostly a new wave of pop tarts and rappers and boy bands. They make it off mammoth stadium tours and accept that piracy means a "gold record" is earned by counting YouTube or Spotify plays and not SALES.

Quoting another Paul Simon song, "the music suffers, baby. The music business thrives." The business is no longer run by a Clive Davis or John Hammond guiding artists, or disc jockeys pushing artists by constant play, or by music critics. It's up to mass morons with no taste making Spotify playlists full of crap.

Instead of Tower Records, who published an in-house magazine called PULSE for people to enjoy, music is distributed by comrades at Yadi and in other Iron Country sites. It's distributed via shady "services" that want everyone to buy a premium account so that for $10 a month THEY can distribute hundreds of dollars of FREE downloads to greedy fools. The cry today is “Thank god for blogs in Iron Curtain countries, and the torrents and download services beyond the reach of Capitalist takedown attempts!" Forget that Putin put Pussy Riot in jail. 

Good news here? Well, anyone who wants to buy vinyl or CD music can find it cheap at thrift shops. On eBay, people who used to own record stores are now trying to move 20 or 30 albums for a few dollars and shipping. But they get no offers (not even a come-on from the whores on 7th Avenue...THEY want to be paid, after all, and ex-record store guys have no money!) Oh, too bad, some music lover opened a record store, spent 20 years talking music to customers, and now has inventory nobody wants and a future of unemployment or working at a Burger King. He sells off his stuff on eBay but nobody wants to pay:





Chances are if Bobby Cole was around today, he would be out of a job. Already disappearing in Bobby’s time were the number of hotels and restaurants able to afford a pianist/singer. Soon favorite pure music venues like The Palladium on 14th Street and The Bottom Line a short walk from there, were GONE. With people staying home with their external drives loaded with music and movies for free, “going out” and spending money is not a priority. Campagnola, Bobby’s last stop, no longer has a sign advertising a “name” musician. Most nights it doesn’t even have some anonymous player sitting at the piano for a few hours. 

Everyone has a huge library of music they never listen to, but their hobby is to muse “what do I want,” and then go online to find a blog, forum or shoutbox and get it or ask “anyone got…” followed by “best regards” or “thanks in advance, pals.”  At one time, Etta Jones was paid to entertain in a nightclub, and paid to make albums, and her biggest hit was something called, “Don’t Go To Strangers.” But that’s where people go for their free music. An irony is how anti-social most of social media actually is. Still crazy is the cry of, "We're SHARING!"

Funny thing, the people who SHARE music don’t SHARE their power tools, their "secret" recipe for a dessert, or let somebody drive their car. The blogger who SHARES music like it's a solemn duty doesn’t SHARE his wife. Why not? Sex is more important isn't it? Ian Dury placed it FIRST, with drugs and rock finishing second and third! How about if wifey confesses: 

“I’ve brought guys into our bedroom to bang me. What’s it to you? I’m SHARING. I like sex. Upload and download while you’re not looking. When you're around you get some, too, so SHARING is a GOOD thing. You're upset? Listen, you can't stop me. I'll have a zippyfuck in an alley. I'll take a mega load in a hotel room.” 

The guy says: “You took a marriage vow.” The wife replies “So? Marriage vows are like copyright forms. Just paper.” After a shower or a douche, you wouldn’t even know if I didn’t tell you. And I’m telling you because I believe in Freedom of Speech!” The Queen who keeps bragging about her gang bangs adds: "SHARING saved my life! At the orgy last night, several people...I don't know their real names...said "thanks, I needed that." I felt such love and friendship!"

“CRAZY” is what people were called when they sounded warning signs of disaster. “Still Crazy” is people still ignoring the hazards, and finding excuses to shrug off dangerous and anti-social behavior.  People yawn when they read about another lone gunman killing a bunch of people. It’s no longer a surprise to hear about a blistering heat wave. People don’t even think Internet downloading is questionable and they don't council their kids to be responsible online. 

Google, making billions off the piracy they allow on Blogspot and YouTube, has long abandoned their slogan "don't be evil." 

The bottom line with blogs is simple. Are you doing evil? By evil, I mean, would you tell the artist what you’re doing if you met him? “Hey Neil Young, I’ve given all your music away, in FLAC, on my BLOG. I'm a famous BLOGGER! Every time you paid Web Sheriff to remove my links I re-upped. My BIG BLOG gets hundreds of visitors every day. They love ME, and how I SHARE your music and everyone else's. Isn't that nice of me?”

GONE are most of the original bloggers who led by example, with the idea of keeping the spotlight on the artist. The noble idea of a music blog was to share insights, be generous with rarities you have, and do no evil, with your actions causing massive damage and hurting someone else's business. Too bad it became quantity not quality, and stealing quotes from All Music rather than saying anything original about the discographies upchucked onto the Net to be sucked down by "music lovers."Any respect is "thanks to the uploader." Hey, go ahead and offer the Aretha Franklin tune, in FLAC, and don't have the brains or morals to see the irony in it.

 Bobby Cole lived music and he was always coming up with ideas. Even doing sets at a bar, he improvised new arrangements and sought ways to freshen up the standards. He experimented with music for dance, and he thought up possibilities that might someday become reality. Rather than watch TV, he might grab a piece of paper and lose himself in the music of his mind, translated into...



During the tenure of this blog, a lot of artists have left appreciative comments on the posts. They knew and appreciated that the point of any SHARING here has been to call attention to the artist, not the blogger. The idea wasn't "here's every Dale Watson album" with a brag that "if you leave nice comments about me, I'll give you even more goodies." It was to be humble and respectful of the artist, and instead of swiping an All Music bio and throwing it down along with links, to write, from the heart and mind, something about the artist.

At this point, the word “blogger” has become synonymous with bandit. Thief. User. Egomaniac. Fool. A “blog” is now just free bandwidth for a conspiracy to get product without paying for it.  It’s guilt by association now, so why be part of it? The irony is Dylan sang “to live outside the law you must be honest,” and The Beatles sang “Love, love, LOVE,” and Billy Joel sang “Honesty” and The Rolling Stones declared “You can’t always get what you want…you get what you need.” And no music lovers/SHARERS listen to the lyrics. They just say, “Gimme gimme…in FLAC…I want this…help. Best regards.” Then comes the pious look to the heavens: "God bless us all for SHARING music! AMEN." 

Many artists have ceased to create because it’s not worth it. Others can't live without creating, so they do it and accept that they won’t break even on the cost of even a download album on CD Baby. They're helpless against the new morality which denies damage to the music world, to the climate, to the decreasing number of fish in the ocean, and to the increase in selfishness and fanaticism in people.

As Paul Simon sang it, “it’s all gonna fade.”
     

Really. No blog lasts forever, no person lasts forever, and no planet lasts forever. 

From a gig in Atlantic City, which at one time was a lucrative place for Bobby Cole to perform, here's 

STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

OBLA-DI OBLA-DA IT GOES BACH, BRA! PETER NERO


Can anything be done to prevent a sane person from turning off “Obla-di Obla-da?” 

Not really, but Peter Nero gave it a try.  For that, and for turning 85 in May, here’s a salute to the maestro. He was one of the most popular pianists in the 60’s (beginning with a “Best New Artist” Grammy in 1961) and recorded over 60 albums. Most were in the easy listening vein that had previously been mined by Roger Williams. If you weren’t quite highbrow enough for Horowitz and Rubinstein, but not low enough for Liberace, you could enjoy Nero’s classy blends of jazz, pop, "Great American Songbook" and movie themes. He went on to create and lead the “Pops” orchestra in Philadelphia (1979-2013) utilizing a style not too dissimilar from the inventor of the genre in Boston, Arthur Fiedler. 

The photo up top? Back in 1957, the Brooklyn born Bernard Nierow put out his first album. He shortened his name to “Bernie Nerow" and added two guys to the act. Four years later, the solo pianist was winning fame as Peter Nero, with people logically figuring him for Italian. 

Perhaps a few out there think “Obla-di Obla-da” is some kind of Italian phrase, like "Que Sera." Actually, it's kinda rasta in origin, but really, getting scholarly about "Obla-di Obla-da" is too ridiculous even for this, the trivia-prone "blog of less renown." 

The only good thing one can say about the “PC” world we live in, is that MAYBE it will eventually ban Sir Paul from EVER singing “blackface,” by putting on an accent on the chorus of this intensely annoying tune. Paulie can take Sting (“Roxanne”) and Peter Gabriel (“Biko”) with him. What’s with white guys putting on ethnic accents used by “people of color” (once known as “colored people”)? Isn't it...offensive? How about some BDS sanctions on skinhead Pete for singing "da mon is ded" in a dialect he does NOT speak in? How about a spank to Sting for intimating that brown-skin women are all whores who "put out de redd lite." Oh, obla-di obla-da. Life goes on, bro. Some time, you hear some ting ya wish ya dint, know wuttum sayin?

Baroque-Bach Classical version of OBLA-DI OBLA-DA (the link takes you to listen or download, not to a porn site or Russian malware site)

HOMER & JETHRO - PUSAN U and GO TO HAL


Yeah, Homer & Jethro's "song butcher" version of "Shifting Whimpering Sands" might make a nice compliment to Ken Nordine's original (below), but...sex sells better, don't it? So in one last salute to this neglected duo (them Bear Family German cowboys have done box sets on just about every over RCA C&W act), here's two rude-y toots.

One reason that you don’t find Homer & Jethro on too many blogs, is that most of them are run by people for whom English is a second language. They know how to mewl in Portuguese about their love for “smooth jazz.” They can post in French or Italian their devotion to Claudine Longet or their need to wax everyone's ears with the easy listening of Melachrino and Mantovani. In broken Swedglish and Dutch Pig Latin, they'll offer a daily flood of guitar hero discographies or sappy sunshine pop. But they won't download PUSAN U or GO TO HAL, and really, the latter is good advice to them. 

"If I'm being honest," as Piers Morgan often says (but rarely means), people in America don’t really get the humor of Homer & Jethro either. The boys admitted, “we’re too corny for sophisticated people, and too sophisticated for corny people.” They didn’t go the “Hee Haw” route and take the stage in bib overalls, or wear straw hats. No outlandish costumes at all for these two. They dressed like proper businessmen. Their business was fracturing popular songs, everything from Broadway (“Hernando’s Hideway”) to The Beatles (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”) to “sacred” songs by such icons as Marty Robbins and Hank Williams. They had enough success to turn up on Jimmy Dean's variety show and some other TV programs. RCA was sufficiently reimbursed to let 'em do 2 or even 3 albums a year (mostly during the days when "Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction" and "Green Acres" were popular). Still, the average music fan wasn't likely to have more than a 45 rpm single ("Battle of Kookamonga," a parody of the hit "Battle of New Orleans") in the collection.

During their heyday (1963-1967) when they churned out so many albums for "poor ol' Victor,)  they had to vary their attack to remain interesting. They didn't just sing hee-haw lyrics with goofy imagery ("my poor heart is as heavy as a bucket of liver.")  They sang about The Great Society, income tax, politics, and even were called on for potential TV theme song success (“Second Hundred Years” and “Camp Runamuck,” — two shows that didn’t last more than a season). They parodied The Beatles several times and always balanced the humor with excellent musicianship, from their harmonies to Jethro Burns' tone-deft mandolin playing.

And, yes, once in a while they stooped to being dusty, if not dirty. But not often. Among their widely varied albums (“There’s Nothing Like an Old Hippie,” “Old Crusty Minstrels,” “Barefoot Ballads,” “Wanted for Murder”) is “Nashville Cats,” which atypically contains TWO pretty obvious, kind of strange but hardly offensive double entendre tunes. 

“Go To Hal,” a distant cousin to such novelty inanities as “Go Take a Ship For Yourself” and “She Has Freckles On Her But She is Nice,” is one joke that almost makes it through its 2:30. As Carson used to say, “You buy the premise, you buy the bit.” The set up is that Hal has what you need. So, go to Hal. The other one, "Pusan U," doesn't need to be explained, does it? Just listen, and to borrow a quote from comedian and sometime singer George Gobel, "it just might keep you from gettin’ sullen.” 

These days, when vinyl is almost completely devalued, record sellers can actually turn to Homer and Jethro and smile, because few of their RCA albums have made it to CD. Many of these have "out of print Jack Davis lithograph" covers. So instead of a buck, MAYBE they get a fiver or even a tenner. Especially if the record is also in Living Stereo! Yee ha!

GO TO HAL (no Rapidgator slow download, no heil to Imagenetz, no money to Iron Curtain bastards)

PUSAN U. (listen online or download - no ego Passwords, no dodgy link-hiding)

KEN NORDINE and the SHIFTING WHISPERING SANDS


Ask grandma. She might remember the glowing lights warming up the big radio and the mesmerizing voice of Ken Nordine telling the story of the “Shifting Whispering Sands.” It was back in October of 1955. 

With the pokey arrangement of Billy Vaughn’s orchestra and a creepy middle-aged chorus a contrast to Ken’s lone voice, he spoke of “the days of long ago, when the settlers and the miners fought the crafty Navajo. How the cattle roamed the valley! Happy people worked the land. And now, everything is covered by the shifting, whispering sands.”  (That includes a miner who may have died by his own hand. Or by a tomahawk chop from a crafty Navajo.) But let’s not give the tall tale away, as you might have missed it as shellac turned to vinyl, and vinyl turned to CD plastic, and CD plastic turned to an invisible blip of an mp3 file. Instead, some words on Ken…

Ken Nordine, of Swedish heritage, was born in Cherokee, Iowa but the family moved up to Chicago and that’s where he attended high school. He began working local radio stations, narrating short stories in a compelling baritone voice. Perhaps the very reason “Shifting Whispering Sands” became a crossover hit was because Dot records chose a guy who didn’t drawl the words. Rusty Draper also recorded the song in 1955, and actually half-sang it, but didn’t make it a hit. Jim Reeves, a classy C&W artist who didn’t speak with a twang, also covered it, as did the Jewish Canadian who worked the Ponderosa, Lorne Greene. 

 The song still belonged to Ken Nordine, who to his credit, didn’t choose to stay with country cornball poetry or narration. He left it to others, including Dot’s Wink Martindale who re-issued the old cowboy card trick “Deck of Cards,” and Dot’s Walter Brennan who scored hit singles including “Dutchman’s Gold.” 

City-boy Ken managed to persuade Dot to let him move in a hipper direction. Just two years after his country-tinged cowboy hit, record stores received "Word Jazz," a pioneering effort much in keeping with a cult-trend for "beat poet" narration records, which sometimes included recitations over jazz. Ginsberg, Rexroth, Ferlinghetti and others were playing with words. Kerouac was making albums. Jean Shepherd mixed with Mingus. Dion McGregor recorded his dreams (or, rather, somebody recorded them while he slept) and Mel Henke among others put out stuff that could've been dumped in the spoken word bin or the comedy bin (where swingin' Lord Buckley's stuff was turning up).

More word jazz albums followed, along with thinking man’s vinyl with titles such as “Colors,” “Twink,” “Stare with Your Ears” and "Triple Talk.” He was, along with Herschel Bernardi and Paul Frees, always welcomed by sponsors who needed a compelling voiceover artist to shill their products. That he maintained that second career as a sincere recording artist points to Ken’s restless energy and enthusiasm. A cool legend, he worked with the Grateful Dead (“Devout Catalyst” in 1991) and his "Word Jazz" items were re-issued on CD, mostly because English-as-a-Second-Language bloggers were too busy giving away the Louvin Brothers, Everly Brothers, The Lennon Sisters and Big Brother and the Holding Company and other kin to bother with Ken. 

No word on whether Nordine was cremated and spread over shifting whispering sands. He died a few days ago at the age of 98 (April 13, 1920 – February 16, 2019). Death is something to take seriously. The grim and mystic “Shifting Whispering Sands?” Not so much. 



Ken Nordine at the Sands - no idiotic password, no slow download to force you to buy a premium account, no dodgy server telling you your flash is out of date

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

PLEASE BE MY GIRLFRIEND, YOU BULGARIAN CAM-GIRL WHORE - Doo Wop


With some exceptions, STUPID categorizes much of "DOO WOP." 

With even fewer exceptions, STUPID categorizes the residents of "FLORIDA." 

The difference is that STUPID "Doo Wop" never killed anyone. Below, a cheerfully dumb example of doo wop called 'Be My Girlfriend" (aka "Please Be My Girlfriend") which was a hit for The Cadillacs, and also covered by The Spotlighters, and of course, endless assholes on urban street corners. Ah, but those were the good old days when delinquents (or chavs as they are known in England) simply "hung out." They were mostly harmless. There was no INTERNET back then. 

The jerk in the photo above? He's a 29 year-old loser named Grant Amato. Like so many Internet losers, he considered somebody halfway around the world to be his friend. In fact, his GIRLFRIEND. So he killed his REAL FAMILY because they thought he was nuts. He proved it, didn't he? 

Cue the ironic, cheerful Zappa-de-doo-dah doo-wop of "Please Be My Girlfriend," as done by the delightful "Voices Of Doo-Wop." Who are they?

They are, or were, surviving members of original Doo Wop groups (the doo-no-harm doo wop groups): Dean Barlow, Arthur Crier,Waldo Champen, Sammy Fain, Eugene Tompkins, Bobby Mansfield and Lillian Leach. Some were in The Mellows, or the Wrens, etc. etc. Some could've been in the Penguins, The Moonglows, The Five Satins or any of the other groups that Rene and Georgette Magritte and their dog listened to after the war. "Voices of Doo-Wop" recorded circa 1999. The photo below is from that year. The leader, Bobby Mansfield, died in 2013. 




My personal favorite Doo-Wop category group, as longtime strollers through Illville know, remains The Marcels. But, I digress. Let's get back to the murder, and to ponder Internet stupidity. 

Grant Amato somehow wasn't content with downloading 2GB of shit a day from some blog in Sweden or Croatia." He wasn't going to a shoutbox and asking "any wun have all fifty volumes of the Time Lilfe sunshine nuggets for my ass?" No, Grant wasn't content with music sharing strangers he could call FRIENDS. He wasn't content jerking off to Claudine Longet records. He went further than THAT brand of idiocy. He surfed into BULGARIA where he decided that some slut sitting in front of her camera, showing her cunt to the world, was...his...GIRLFRIEND. 

Unlike the Blog Queens who only want a Paypal donation or say "Sign up  to Rapidgator from one of my links so I can have a free account," the Internet whores want REAL MONEY.  If you  want a special pose, or to actually get some one-to-one attention, LOTS OF MONEY.

Grant Amato's monthly bill for an internet connection and clean underwear may have been $20 a month. But when his family finally paid attention to how he was wasting his life, they discovered that over several months he'd spent $200,000! Of THEIR MONEY.

Considering the average income of a family in Florida, this is an ASTONISHING amount. Just how much METH do you have to sell to raise that kind of money? How many tourists do you have to rob?

Once Mum and Dad found out, they slapped his wrist. No more stealing from us, Sonny Boy. They checked him into a "sex addiction program" which also kept him off the Internet. Temporarily. In rehab on December 22nd, he was CHECKED OUT on January 4th, and back onto th Internet with his GIRLFRIEND, the Cam Girl from BULGARIA. His parents tried tough love on their whore-crazed son. On January 24th they told him to get out and go spend his OWN money in an Internet cafe somewhere. Go find a cheaper slut at the Zinho' Shoutbox or at Twatzone/Ride Your Pussy.

What did Sonny Boy Amato do instead?  He killed his family. Mom, Pop and older Bro. On this happy note, let's conclude this lesson in how socially awkward and mentally deranged people waste their time with Internet strangers. While the Cam Girl is still laughing all the way to the bank, here's a chance to do some carpool karaoke to Grant Amato's favorite song (isn't it") called "PLEASE BE MY GIRLFRIEND," which he sings over an dover, harmonizing with the voices in his head.
 

Michel Legrand - The Windmills Won't Stop



Michel Legrand died a few days ago (February 24, 1932 – January 26, 2019). Thus ends the musical question, "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" But his other very famous song? "Windmills of Your Mind" keeps on going. 

He was active a rather long time, having worked on a new stage musical (an adaption of a Dumas novel) in 2008. It was called Marguerit. The average fan of musicals probably knows Legrand for "Yentl," which won him a bunch of awards in 1983. His prime years were the 60's through the 80's. 

Although his 3 Oscars and 5 Grammy awards were for soundtracks and songs, Legrand was well schooled in classical music at the Conservatoire de Paris, and an early love was jazz. In the photo above, well, if you don't know who is with Michel, that's your problem, and a big one. Legrand was a fine jazz pianist and worked with many of the greats of the early 60's (which was when the Grammy Award broadcasts STILL would have room for allowing jazz performers to do their stuff).

Legrand's film soundtracks did have some fine music, and this was recognized via nominations and/or awards for "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968), Wuthering Heights (1970), Le Mans (1971) and "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972) among others. One of his better but more neglected scores was for "Ice Station Zebra" (1968). Still, his name remains mostly associated with fluff: his scores for "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1965), The Young Girls of Rochefort (1968, which featured Gene Kelly and the sisters Catherine Deneueve and her ill-fated sibling Francoise Dorleac), and "Summer of '42" (1971). 

No doubt, his three most famous songs are "I Will Wait For You," and the notorious "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" and "Windmills of your Mind," both featuring the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The latter first became a hit via Noel Harrison, who got into a prickly squabble over the rhyme of "tunnel of its own" with "sun has never shone." Being a proud Brit, he refused to sing the American pronunciation. In fact, he shunned it.
  
When it came time for the Oscar telecast (the song was the winner), Noel was shunned. Well, actually, Jose Feliciano was substituted because Harrison was making a movie and the producer refused to release him for the few days necessary to fly in, rehearse and perform. Harrison admitted that this was largely because the producer hated him. The producer apparently wasn't the only one, but Noel would have a long way to go to be disliked as much as his notoriously misanthropic and egocentric father, Rex. 

Noel's "Windmills" was the big international hit, but soon Dusty Springfield's cover made the Top 40 in many markets. Jose Feliciano, with his Oscar triumph, actually got his single into the Top 20 in the actual land of the windmills, Holland. 

Ever have a tune keep playing over and over in your brain? 

That's 'cause...there are WINDMILLS in your mind. Really. And they respond especially well to catchy kitsch. 


Seemingly put together as a homework assignment for Similes 101, "Windmills of Your Mind" offered spooky psychedelia via the music of Michel Legrand, and the alcoholic mist created by middle-aged hacks Alan and Marilyn Bergman. They toss snowballs down a mountain and think the world is "like an apple whirling silently in space."


First line sets our theme:
"ROUND." Yep, things are round (like an apple) and just as ripe.


The lyrics get so numbing Jazz singer Carmen Lundy mistakenly sings of a "clock whose hands are SLEEPING" past the minutes of its face. But you get plenty of other versions where the singers do get the lyrics (and variatios thereof) right. And most rhyme
"own" and "SHOWN." But what's it all mean?


The song seems to be saying that as endless as the world is, life isn't and love isn't.




Did you know there's a lyric variation to the song? Do you care?


 Singers had a choice of "when you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware that the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair," OR, "when you knew that it was over in the autumn of goodbyes, for the moment you could not recall the color of his eyes." The latter is represented here by Ms Judith Lefeber.
 

Years ago, comedian Frank Fay made a living satirizing the lyrics of pop tunes like "Tea for Two." It's a cruel trick. A cheap trick. So we'll surrender any further impulse to insult a song that keeps saying "like" over and over, and mentioning "things that are round" like a bad game of $25,000 Pyramid.

Fact is, the song's circles and spirals and wheels are kind of mesmerizing. The Bergmans come up with "words that jangle in your head" (a nod to Bob's Tambourine Man perhaps). Like some Dylan tunes, notably "Lenny Bruce," there are some good lines jammed against bad ones. In Bob's case, in that song, it was "they stamped him and they labeled him, like they do with pants and shirts" followed by the good "he fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts." Here, a cliche about lovers leaving footprints in the sand is followed by: "Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?" Not too shabby. 


There are also some effective and eerie images: "Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own..." or "Like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream." Like, you gotta like that. 

Like, listen for yourself. Over and over. Legrand's grandfather clock heart has stopped, but his songs live on. And "Windmills of Your Mind" lives on and on and on. 


The song has been covered by literally a hundred well known performers, ranging from Dinah Shore, Sandler and Young and The Sandpipers to Sharleen Spiteri, Barbra Streisand, Sting and Swing out Sister. From Mel Torme and Leslie Uggams to Edward Woodward, Johnny Mathis, Nana Mouskouri, Alison Moyet and Billy Paul. From Pepe & Paradise to the Parenthetical Girls. From Ray Coniff, Anne Clark and Petula Clark to John Davidson, John Gary, Jack Jones and Skeeter Davis. 
 
You get 25 different versions (some use the French title Les Moulins de mon Coeur) including Legrand, Frida Boccara, Dorothy Ashby, Mathilde Santing, Paul Muriat, and James Galway. Of special interest, the top 10:

1. Psychedelic and slow: Vanilla Fudge
2. Eerie border colic: Baja Marimba Band
3. Oliver Twists: Trinity Boys Choir
4. Disco Dizziness: Sally Anne Marsh
5. A gargle of goo: Jim Nabors
6. Swanky swinging: Judith Lefeber
7. Vintage French Fluff: Vicky Leandros
8. Scat with Scuffy Grapelli-style Violin: Carmen Lundy
9. Accapella Angst: The Lettermen
10. How Elton Might've Done It: Jose Feliciano

Go Dutch: Here's the WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND - a ZIP FILE to download (can't listen on line) No dopey PASSWORD, no creepy Russian server loaded with malware, and no waiting around on a PAY site that takes the royalties for themselves

Saturday, January 19, 2019

DONALD SWANN sings SYDNEY CARTER: “The Devil Wore a Crucifix”


“Songs of Faith and Doubt” is an odd,  daring title for an album. Religious songwriters are supposed to affirm, with grand conviction, their trust in The Lord. Whether Jesus or Moses or Mohamed, the message is supposed to be clear: How Great Thou Art. Everybody, follow! What's to doubt? Oh ye of faith AND a dash of the realist, who knows this planet is much more than a few thousand years old, and that everything from tiny mites to huge dinosaurs were here before anybody claimed to be God's earthly representative.

Sydney Carter is best known for his songs of faith, not the ones of doubt. His most famous is “Lord of the Dance.” Here in Illville, he’s better known  dark, challenging and satirical songs, which sometimes dare to reflect even an ardent believer's moments of insecurity bordering on atheism. 

In his autobiography, Donald Swann declared he was a conscientious objector during World War 2 because he felt Christ would not possibly condone or participate in war. (Then who started it and why didn't he come down to Earth and stop it?) Carter was also a pacifist, and spent his war years in the Friends’ Ambulance Service, rather than on a battle field. It's possible the two met while on duty in Greece. The 1940 picture below shows, on the right, Carter among his Quaker friends, holding a skull…hopefully not of a soldier who didn’t get treatment in time. 



In the mid 50's, the team of Carter and Swann produced a failed musical called “Lucy and the Hunter.” In his book Swann lamented, “I am sure I have never written anything so tuneful or melodic…”

After teaming with Michael Flanders, and between Broadway dates for “At the Drop of Hat” and “Another Hat,” Swann recorded a 1964 E.P. of Sydney Carter's originals. Carter was far from anonymous at the time. His dark lullabye, “The Crow on the Cradle” appeared on a 1962 Judy Collins album. "Crow" offers not just the creepy symbolism of an ominous black bird observing an innocent child, but a talking bird who, unlike Poe’s raven, is pretty damn specific. If the child is a boy, the crow croaks, “he’ll carry a gun.” If it’s a girl, there will be “a bomber above her wherever she goes.” The crow knows the ending: “give you a coffin and dig you a grave. Hushabye little one…” 

In 1962 Sydney Carter teamed with Sheila Hancock for an album called “Putting Out the Dustbin.” They had a mild hit with the novelty tune “Last Cigarette.” 

Those expecting comedy from Swann, whose Stan Laurel-esque laugh greeted many a Flanders ad-lib, had to be surprised by the E.P. It explored musical territory quite alien to him. As he acknowledged in his liner notes, folk songs are better suited to guitar not piano. His voice is hardly Dylan or Van Ronk, and also not exactly suited to protest or irony. He does attack the songs with more heart and style than Carter himself, whose voice was more hearty than heartfelt or haunting. 

The Devil wore a Crucifix 
"The Christians they are right" 
The Devil said "so let us burn 
A heretic tonight". 

A lily or a swastika,
A shamrock or a star
The devil he can wear them all,
No matter what they are.

In red or blue or khaki 
In green or black and tan 
The Devil is a patriot 
A proper party man.

Whenever there's a lynching 
The Devil will be there.
A witch or an apostle, 
The Devil doesn't care. 

He'll beat a drum in China
He'll beat it in the west 
He'll beat a drum for anyone 
"Holy war is best". 

The Devil isn't down in hell 
Or riding in the sky 
“The Devil's dead” I’ve heard it said 
They're telling you a lie! 


Circa 1965, Carter was briefly signed to Elektra, and recorded his aleady-popular “Lord of the Dance” with backing from Martin Carthy and the Mike Sammes Singers. He would remain best known for this song (adapted from the American Shaker classic   “Tis The Gift To Be Simple” (aka Simple Gifts”) written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.) 

Carter was amused and surprised that it became such a hit: “"I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord. Anyway it's the sort of Christianity I believe in."

People like comfy tunes of faith more than protest songs or Realist ballads, so "Lord of the Dance" has been covered by everyone from God-awful YouTube singers to ebullient church choirs.  One of Carter’s sporadic appearances on vinyl in the 70’s came via an album with “And Now It Is So Early,” in which he performed with the folk duo Bob and Carole Pegg. Phil Ochs fans might know their name, as they were one of the few to cover “The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns.”

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Reflection sings Sydney Carter: “Standing By The Window”


Thank God, or somebody, or nobody at all, Christmas, though less than a month in the past, is now pretty much forgotten. 

One can still get a shiver thinking about all the rotten novelty songs blasted at us, including the irritating solo works by Lennon and McCartney (“Happy Xmas War Is Over” and “Wonderful Christmastime”). There were tedious novelties (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer") and billiously cheerful pesterings like “Sleigh Ride” and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." It was overkill on "Holly Jolly" Burl Ives, the idiotic "Feliz Navidad," and new pains in the ear like self-parodist William Shatner reciting "Winder Wonderland."

Nasty alternative songs have been few.  Stan Freberg, anyone? No. Not at all. You'll hear The Pogues once too often (and twice is too often). Somehow gutter trash from Ireland quarreling in a drunk tank in New York City amuses people. This isn't even an anti-Christmas song, since people LOVE it so much. It's more like Brecht & Weill reeking of corned beef and potatoes.

It would be nice if some alternative radio station or some Spotify playlist slipped in “Standing By The Window,” recorded by Reflection back in 1968. The album is named after the cunning and punning Carter poem, “The Present Tense,” which reflected on our age of anxiety. Spoken with eerie sound effects, it opens the album, which segues into "Standing By the Window."
The male and female leads of Reflection (the name of the group and also their record label!) do a fine folk-rock job mixing desultory verse and haunting chorus. It goes exactly like this, and you can strum along to a simple A minor and G, with a dash of D minor and E: 

No use knocking at the window, there is nothing here for you, sir,
All the rooms are let already, there is nothing left for you, sir. 


Chorus:
Standing in the rain, knocking on the window, knocking on the window on a Christmas day
There he goes again, knocking on the window, knocking on the window in the same old way

No use knocking at the window,  some are lucky, some are not, sir,
We are Christian men and women,  and we're keeping what we've got, sir.
No, we haven't got a cradle,  no, we haven't got a stable,
We are Christian men and women,   always willing, never able.
Christ, the Lord, has gone to heaven,  one day he'll be coming back, sir,
In our house he will be welcome,  but we hope he won't be black, sir.
Wishing you a merry Christmas, we will all go back to bed, sir,
Till you woke us with your knocking, we were sleeping like the dead, sir. 



 Reflection was Sue McHaffie, Mo Brown, Richard Spence, Jonathan Jones, Michael Campbell and Stuart Yeates on vocals. The backing musicians included James Etheridge, Michael Campbell, Colin Wright, Nik Knight and Lionel Browne. The eclectic group also tossed in some oboe (Lesley Bateson), flute (Marion Banks), Cello (Stuart Yeates), and even a celeste (from lead vocalist Sue McHaffie). Despite the somewhat bitter lyrics here, Reflection was a religious record label, and Sue McHaffie appears on two other Reflection releases, “A Folk Passion” (which includes the songs “Come to the Cross” and “Jesus the King”) and “Nativity” which includes “Sing High with the Holy” and “To Jesus On his Birthday.” These were issued in 1971 and 1972.  

The group’s 1968 album of Carter songs did include “Lord of the Dance,” and in the album notes, a shrug that “classification of Sydney Cater’s songs is self-defeating.” Yes, quite true of an album that includes both “Every Star Shall Sing a Carol” and “The Vicar is a Beatnik.” And the stinging track below. Again quoting from the liner notes, “It is the genius of Sydney Carter that his songs have this ability to make us face and question our innermost thoughts and conflicts.”  

While some find comfort in singing “Rock of Ages,” Carter joked about carrying around his “rock of doubt,” (the title of his book). His songs about the hypocrisy of religion made those who loved his lyrics to “Lord of the Dance” feel uneasy. One of the crowns in his thorny canon is “Friday Morning.” The poem first published in 1960 instantly outraged the conservative U.K. politician and one-time Minister of Health Enoch Powell. The Daily Mirror joined in, demanding the poem be banned because of lines such as: “‘It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you or me,’” I said to the carpenter a’ hanging on the tree.” 

The less inflammatory songs of Carter would turn up on “Lovely in the Dances,” a 1981 all-star collection of covers led by the lovely Maddy Prior.  Carter also got some royalties from the comic sewer song “Down Below,” which was recorded by both Ian Wallace (who also had hits with Flanders & Swann novelties) and by Rolf Harris. 

Over these past 50 years, since Reflection recorded their album of covers, it’s mostly been the general satires (“The Rat Race” for example) and the more genial and Christmas-type numbers that have kept Carter’s name alive. His name is alive but he isn't -- born in 1915, he died in 2004 at the age of 88. 

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Bobby Cole - LIFE ROLLS ON


   According to Library of Congress records (yes, this blog does actual research), in 1967 Jack Lonshein’s Concentric Records registered several tunes written by Bobby Cole. These include “The Debutant,” (that's the masculine spelling, the female is debutante) “Never Ask the Hour,” “When She was In Love With Me,” “Get Off Looking Good,” “At the Darkest Hour,” “I Never Saw the Shadows” and “Checkerboard Life.” Among others.

    An acetate demo was made for one side of what I assume was going to be the follow-up to Bobby’s “A Point of View” album. The tracks, in order, are: “Get Off Looking Good,” “Drink this Cup,” “Life Rolls On,” “The Midnight Flower,” “How the Lonely Spend Their Time” and “When She Was In Love With Me.”


    The upbeat “Life Rolls On” could have been a single, b/w “I Never Saw the Shadows.” Those two tracks, and most of what Concentric copyrighted eventually surfaced via a CD-R on Jack Lonshein’s invented “A Different Journey” label.  

     
    Technically, Concentric registered the copyright so Jack had some authority to authorize...an unauthorized bootleg. Maybe? The songs are copyrighted to "Robert Cole," though. Jack apparently didn’t toss any royalties to the Cole estate, but who knows how many copies were sold and if he even knew an address for any of Bobby's estranged family, and if they or perhaps Karen (the woman he was living with) was in charge of the estate. The CD-R, in these early days of the Net, was not sold through eBay or promoted via YouTube, but was pretty much only discovered by someone doing a Google search and finding the now defunct JazzmanRecords (Ron Meyers) website. The photo above was probably taken by Ron Meyers, hence the sort of oddball credit line. 

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I NEVER SAW THE SHADOWS - listen online, download, etc.

BOBBY COLE - A DAY IN THE LIFE


    “Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December…”

    On December 8th many remember John Lennon, 1980. And on December 19th, a few remember Bobby Cole, 1996. Yes, Bobby covered a Beatles song now and then. I assume Bobby saw John once in a while; Bobby’s apartment was next door to The Dakota. He told me that he sometimes shared a park bench with another resident of The Dakota, Lauren Bacall.

    To this day, tourists turn up at The Dakota, sidle close to the spot where John Lennon was shot down, and smile for the camera. They don’t get to go any further. The first time I was actually inside The Dakota was when I was with Bobby. Bobby knew Andrea Akers, a very attractive actress. She appeared in several 1970’s TV shows, though not always in a lot of scenes. Still, she was in “Baretta,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Police Woman,” “Taxi,” “Dallas,” “Hart to Hart,” and “Dukes of Hazzard.” Her last credits were in a 1986 episode of “Moonlighting” and as the “Blonde Saleswoman” in the 1986 film “Nothing in Common.”  (She died at the age of 58 in 2002).  




    I wasn’t exactly taking notes at the time, but I do remember The Dakota as being pretty gloomy. The interior was spacious, darkly lit, and very quiet. It had the vibe of an empty museum. I could see why it might be suitable for some urban horror movie like “Rosemary’s Baby.” Andra’s apartment had pleasant sunlight coming in, ceilings higher than your average NYC apartment, and once inside, the thick walls kept things very quiet, and there wasn't even the sound of outside traffic. 

    The talk did get around to acting, and Bobby mentioned his favorite director of all time. “I call him AWESOME Welles,” he said. He dropped the names of some pretty obscure Welles movies (“Black Magic” from 1949 was one). As usual, and just in casual conversation, Bobby revealed himself once again to be far more than a “saloon singer.” He had very esoteric tastes in movies, poetry, and even philosophy. How many half-drunk denizens enjoying him play on a Saturday night, would’ve guessed that on Sunday morning while they were sleeping it off, he’d be at the Church of the Healing Christ, paying close attention to the sermon? 

    And so it is once again, that December brings thoughts of John Lennon and Bobby Cole. And below? An item from March 1986. There are a few tapes (transferred to digital) of stuff like this. These are random evenings at various nightclubs, caught via a portable cassette recorder slapped down at a table nearby. Bobby may not even have been aware of it. It’s pretty frustrating that these tapes are marred by the mindless chatter of the bar's fun-seekers for whom the music was secondary. 
 
    “A Day in the Life” doesn’t exactly lend itself to a jazz treatment, but Bobby gets off on the quiet and mournful opening.  He and his trio take a cool detour on the instrumental passage, which sounds very much more booze-fueled than the hallucinatory Pepper version.  And then it’s back to “I heard the news today…” And some days, the news is rather sad, isn’t it? But today, the news for a select few is that there’s another item posted on the blog, remembering Bobby.

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Sunday, December 09, 2018

OBSCURE CHIPMUNK SONG COVER - Christmas Don’t Be Late - PAUL SHERMAN


      Back in the 50's and early 60's, a mild form of piracy was the "cover song." Somebody has a hit, and some weasel, usually on an indie label, tries a sound-alike version to divert sales. "The Chipmunk Song" was such a smash hit, Paul Sherman covered it, even though it had to take time to mess around with the speeded-up vocals of his faux-chipmunks.

      "The Chipmunk Song" was a masterpiece in a way; a novelty that captured the greed of snot-gargling high-pitched incomprehensible brats...but made it lovable and funny by turning them into cartoony chipmunks. The brats sing about how they can't wait to get their toys ("Me, I want a hooooola-hoooop") and one of them is too obnoxious to care if he's on key ("Alvin!") 

       In the original, the parental voice of "David Seville" was supplied by the song's actual creator, Ross Bagdasarian (Sherman's version doesn't quite spell his name correctly). Ross's previous novelty hits included the noxious "Come Onna My House" (creepily sung by Rosemary Clooney in dialect) and, just a half a year earlier, "Witch Doctor," where speeded-up vocals included an infectious nonsense-word chorus most people knew by heart "Ooo eeeh, oooh ah ah...ting tang walla walla bing bang..." 

      Paul Sherman? A fan of novelty songs, Paul was dubbed "The Clown Prince of Rock and Roll" when he DJ'd at WINS, along Murray The K and Stan Z. Burns. He joined the station in 1943, well before it became the hot spot on the dial for teen music fans. Born July 10, 1916 in Brooklyn, Paul, like most of the WINS crew, grew up a fan of Big Band music and hipster jazz. Murray the K called his show a "swingin' soiree," which was hardly a hip term his teen audience could relate to. When he was hanging with The Beatles, he was twice their age and wearing a pretty silly-looking hipster hat. When he first tried novelty singles, he chose to cover The  Treniers' "Out the Bushes," with dated slang terms like "fan it" mixed in. 

       40-something Sherman, a graduate of Queens College, worked with Dickie Goodman on the 1958 novelty "Santa and the Satellite," released on the Luniverse label. It was clumsily credited as "A Buchanan and Goodman prod. with Paul Sherman." The same year, he went over to Baton, a small label run by Sol Rabinowitz, and created his "Chipmunk Song" cover. Baton was best known for R&B singles, having had a hit with its very first release, "A Thousand Stars" by The Rivileers. Rabinowitz had walked the song into the local black music station, WWRL, and managed to get DJ Tommy "Dr. Jive" Smalls to play it. 

       No such luck happened with Paul Sherman's single, which wasn't fast enough to exploit The Chipmunks' success. "The Chipmunk Song"  arrived in November of 1958 and climbed to the top of the charts by Christmas. The album “Let’s All Sing with the Chipmunks” was quickly recorded in December of 1958 and included  “Alvin’s Harmonica” which was released in February of 1959, as the follow-up single. It nearly reached #1 as well, landing at #3. Paul's single, "The Chipmunk Song" b/w "Alvin's Harmonica," probably came...and went...around February or March. 

        Paul didn't become a WINS dj with clout until around 1962, when he replaced Bob Lewis as a weekend music spinner. It doesn't seem that he tried to push another novelty song even when he had more power. Murray the K, by comparison, dubbed himself "The Lone Twister" and played his own record (also called "The Lone Twister" and released by Atlantic) without telling listeners it was him. 

       In 1965, WINS was sold to Westinghouse Broadcasting, and one day the music died. The beloved rock and roll station ceded to Cousin Brucie's WABC, and to the WMCA "Good Guys," and became "all news." Some fans couldn't believe it. WHO would keep the dial on a news channel all day? People did. People also turned it on periodically for the weather, sports or traffic info. The need for such a station was almost immediately justified by the notorious New York City blackout in November. Transistor radios were all tuned to all-news WINS. Paul Sherman had been retained by the station, and easily transitioned into his new job. In fact, Paul became part of the news in 1974 when Joey Gallo (yes, immortalized via a Bob Dylan song) was shot. The killer wanted to surrender, and avoid being "accidentally" gunned down by police. His lawyer called on...Paul Sherman at WINS for help. 

       Sherman retired after 38 years at WINS, and like a good New Yorker, moved to Florida. He died two years later, at the age of 66. 

       Today, few kids "want a plane that loops the loop" or a hula hoop. They'd rather have a drone and some drugs. Still, around this time of year, "The Chipmunk Song" returns as a nostalgia item. The speeded-up vocals still mimic the high-pitched, snot-nosed whining of actual children. Yes, kids STILL are incomprehensible at that age. Some things never change. 

PAUL SHERMAN'S VERSION of THE CHIPMUNK SONG - instant download, listen on line. No hidden links to creepy re-direct websites. No Paypal donation requests. No egocentric passwords.

"THIS CHRISTMAS" with THE REFUGEES


    “This Christmas” is a gift from The Refugees, and like so many Christmas presents, it's being re-gifted. In this case, to YOU. It’s being sent with this dick of a caveat: “If you like Darlene Love’s “Christmas: Baby Please Come Home” or “Jingle Bell Rock,” you might find their harmonizing intensely cheerful!


    If you can't take more than 15 seconds of this thing, that's ok, as long as you get the idea that this trio is talented and that their try at commercial Christmas immortality is no worse than John or Paul's solo offerings. You wouldn't listen to "Wonderful Christmastime" and think the guy incapable of writing "Yesterday." Here, The Refugees are creating an original that harks back to pop Christmas tunes they loved growing up. In reality, their CDs mostly offer rock that fits on the shelf with any good country-tinged group. If you have The Eagles or other Californians of that type, you might try The Refugees. I bought an autographed CD from their website, as I did with Bryndle, a similar bunch of solo singer/songwriters who came together to form a kind of modest super-group. 


   Bryndle's male vocalists are no longer with us; Kenny Edwards and Andrew Gold. The female vocalists were Karla Bonoff (still on the road solo) and Wendy Waldman, who joined The Refugees. Wendy recorded many a solo album, and her music's been covered by artists from Vanessa Williams (“Save the Best for Last”) to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (“Fishin’ in the Dark”).  Fun trivia: her father, Fred Steiner, wrote the “Perry Mason” TV theme.  

     Deborah Holland was the lead singer for Animal Logic, which included Stanley Clarke and Stewart Copeland. She issued four solo albums, but found steady work as a Professor of Music at Cal State. Apparently shrewd enough to not quit her day job, she enjoys the on-again off-again touring and recording that being in The Refugees provides. 

      As mentioned on another blog entry years ago, many of the best known Christmas songs were written by Jews. It's a sick irony that some asshole firing bullets in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and screaming that all Jews must die, probably spent every December sobbing over "White Christmas" and giggling over "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and other songs written by those awful-awful Jews. Two of the Refugees singing "This Christmas" are Jewish. 

    The third member is the former Cindy Bullens, who was always a rougher rocker than the other two. She adds some edge to the sweet tendences of Wendy and Deborah. Bullens has been mentioned several times on this blog. Quite simply, “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth” (1999) is the greatest concept album by a solo artist since ‘Blood on the Tracks.’ I have an autographed pressing on her Blue Lobster label, but happily Artemis (Zevon's label) picked up and re-released it. Now known as Cydney Bullens, next year should feature his first solo album under his new name. 


    And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Avoided the awful songs piped into stores…including the ones from John and Paul? And you're thankful most of John and Paul's stuff has nothing to do with Christmas? Thanks Refugees, for creating a typical upbeat radio-friendly tune...and for offering a lot more variety on the CDs. Their gift of “This Christmas" is indeed a gift, as it's downloadable from therefugees' website). While there, check out their store, and the brand new CD with all those NON-Christmas songs.


THIS CHRISTMAS - The Refugees - listen online or download. No ego passwords, Paypal demands or creepy sites re-directing you to Spywareland 

CHANUKAH, POPCORN, WEIRD SOUNDS: Gershon Kingsley



    Yes, it’s the dreaded holiday season. As the sage says, “It's the most wonderful time of the year…if you’re twelve.” If you’re OVER twelve, it’s probably just a lot of stress. 

    There aren’t too many shopping days till Christmas. Chanukah? It’s going on right now. Your Chanukah present isn’t a somber cover of “Kol Nidre,” and most certainly not one of the terrible “Chanukah Oh Chanukah” songs that tried and failed to nudge “Frosty the Snowman” off the charts. Nor is it something self-deprecatingly bit of novelty from Adam Sandler or Tom “Chanukah in Santa Monica”  Lehrer. It’s “Three Hebrew Prayers,” which is more reformed than orthodox. It shows the artist's influences, which seem to include Afro-Cuban jazz, experimental classical, semi-traditional choral (of the “Carmina Burana” Carl Orff variety perhaps) as well as Semitic melody. 


    It’s the work of the former Goetz Gustav Ksinski, who was born in Germany, October 28, 1922. When the Nazis came to power, Goetz went to the only secure homeland for Jews: Palestine. The 16 year-old farmer (he worked on a kibbutz) taught himself piano, and was soon getting gigs with jazz bands in Jerusalem. (Yes, jazz bands in Jerusalem!) 


    Like the fictional “Hey Now” announcer on “The Larry Sanders Show,” Ksinski adopted a more American last name: KINGSLEY. He played organ in various California synagogues, and graduated from the LA Conservatory of Music. He appeared as an accordionist in the 1953 film “The Juggler.” The major concert halls were on the East Coast, and remarkably, within a few years, Kingsley was the musical director for Laurence Olivier’s hit “The Entertainer,” and for Josephine Baker's solo shows. He provided the music on productions of “Porgy & Bess” and others, winning Tony and Obie nominations. For TV, he worked with Lotte Lenya for a special, “The World of Kurt Weill.” 


    In his spare time, he wrote a lot of religious music, some of it, as John Rutter was doing in the church, was pretty hip. However, for those who aren't too keen on odd choral work and experiments melding jazz and opera and the kitchen sink, you'll find Kingsley's better known ELECTRONIC POP stuff here:  


 https://soundcloud.com/gershon-kingsley

    Mr. Kingsley is generously streaming a wide variety of his experimental and quirky electronic work. He’s one of the rare musicians who uses Bandcamp without a pitch for money, and with no interest in a record deal. He’s put out plenty of records, starting in 1966.

    That was the year Vanguard released (now it's called "dropped") “The In Sound from Way Out,” an upbeat moog exercise that featured Jacques Perrey. “Kaleidoscopic Vibrations” and “Music to Moog By” followed, and in 1970 Kingsley created the “First Moog Quartet.” They made history by performing synthesized music live at Carnegie Hall. The reaction was…not great. Experimental electronic classical music also baffled most critics (Morton Subotnik's "Silver Apples of the Moon" was released by Nonesuch circa 1967). Moog music would succeed more as a novelty, with Walter Carlos "switching on" Bach, and in 1972, Kingsley skipping up the charts with “Popcorn.” 


    Kingsley's "The In Sound" album amused me but my appreciation for him deepened when his "First Moog Quartet" appeared on a WGBH-produced public television broadcast. It was hosted by Arthur Fiedler, of all people. The Boston Pops conductor's series was pretty mainstream in its musical guests, but the maestro knew something was happening, and commissioned a work for his full orchestra. I remember it well: “Concerto Moogo.” For some reason, it’s not been recorded on vinyl or CD. The soundtrack from the TV show lays in a vault at WBGH in Boston.


    Kingsley created a musical logo for WGBH which they still use, and did well when various TV commercials needed snazzy zappy electronic plops and fizzes to call attention to their products. He wrote TV themes in England and Germany, and in the 80’s when synth rock was something new, The Master recorded on the Relativity Theory record label. Into the 90’s the eccentric and eclectic composer offered “Cristobol,” a musical based on the 500th anniversary of Columbus allegedly discovering America, and then “Tierra,” an opera performed in Germany. “Voices from the Shadow,” with lyrics on the Holocaust, was first performed at Lincoln Center in 1998. Ten years later, and another opera appeared, “Raoul,” about the Schindler-esque Raoul Wallenberg. 


    Today, many of Kingsley’s blips and bops have been stolen…er…sampled…by hip hop acts. His own “Popcorn” was been covered and re-covered and was re-done via Grand Royal, the label run by the Beastie Boys. As late as 2015, Kingsley was adding tracks to his Bandcamp page. Here's wishing a happy Chanukah to Gershon Kingsley, who has created a vast array of sumptuous music...and who has to know that a lot of Christmas trees are being decorated to the sound of "Popcorn." 


Three Hebrew Prayers - download or listen online. No ego passwords, no creepy Russian cloud server, no re-directs 

Russian Bandstand - Spencer & Spencer and Yadi Yada


Funny thing, if some novelty songwriter, or their estate, objects to having an entire album tossed around the Internet...the reaction is serious. As in: "Why don't they like SHARING? Why ruin our FUN in enjoying their comic music free? Capitalism is fucked up and copyright is copywrong. Comrade. Good thing they can't touch us if we use Russian websites and servers! Har har! Can you stop us? NYET!" 

As we see from the headlines, nothing stops Russia and its pals...North Korea, China, Syria, or Russia's hemorrhoid, Croatia. At best, play nice, give aid, keep trading with them (but let's BDS Israel, says Peter Gabriel). ALEXANDER LITVINENKO? Who? The list of famous and ordinary people who have been killed not only in Putin-controlled countries, but in “free” countries, is a long, long list. So would be a list of jailings, pogroms and beatings meted out to a variety of creative people. PUSSY RIOT, anyone? The days of the Gulag are far from over. Ukraine, home to many powerful boxers and MMA fighters, trembles as Putin sniffs hungrily at its borders. 

Back in 1959 Spencer & Spencer gave radio listeners an idea of what would happen if music was controlled the Russian way. Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" was turned into "Russian Bandstand," and yes, Comrade, a song could be a bullet up the charts, or an artist could get a bullet in the head. 

The humor was a bit dark, but many comedians were having problems finding something nice to say about the guy running Russia, Nikita the K. He was the guy who pulled off his shoe and banged it on a table at the U.N., and frankly warned, "We'll Bury You." Over at the Hungri i, when Nikita the K had announced he would come to the USA and wanted to tour Disneyland, Mort Sahl simply said, “I don’t think that Red killer should be here.” He was surprised to be in the minority on this point. 

Now, nearly 60 years later, and we simply accept the atrocities of Putin and his pals Kim and Assad and the others. Like hapless artists who have their fans re-upping files or using Russian servers, people in the free world shrug and say, "Nothing we can do. We can yelp a protest and look weak, or ignore this shit and try to make the best of it." Instead of saying NO to the Putin mentality, the rest of the world elects people just like him. So the guy in America and the guy in Saudi Arabia ignore protests over a slain journalist. 

As those who've downloaded the entire Paul Simon discography might note, one track shrugs off depression with the message "Have a good time." Living well is the best revenge, especially if the money you save on music can go toward buying drugs or booze. In fact, a good time can be a preoccupation with downloading just for the sake of downloading, and if the Russians toss some spyware or malware in the download or it comes through via an ad on a dodgy website, at least you're not gonna die from it, like ALEXANDER LITVINENKO. 

Spencer and Spencer was the name used by Mickey Schorr and Dickie Goodman for a few novelty tracks in 1959. Previously, Dickie Goodman’s singles were credited to Buchanan and Goodman and his partner was Bill Buchanan. It’s possible Dickie didn’t want it to seem like he had a permanent new partner, but it’s also possible that since the new combo traded more in gags and less in “break-ins,” it would raised DJ expectations and disappointed everyone to put the needle on the groove and NOT hear questions answered with cut up versions of pop tunes. After the Schorr teaming, Dickie went solo for decades of "break-in" singles, some becoming hits. They've all been gathered on compilation CDs sold (but, strangely, not tossed onto Russian servers for everyone's enjoyment) by his son Jon. 

There's probably a Russian server hosting somebody who is giving away the entire Goodman discography, and some fans squealing in shoutboxes, "Thank God for Russia!"

RUSSIAN BANDSTAND - listen on line or download, no spyware, porn ads or egocentric passwords