Tuesday, May 19, 2015

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR, not, for STAN CORNYN or ERWIN DRAKE

Frank Sinatra was to a song what the Mafia was to a storekeeper. The boss. Take "It Was a Very Good Year." He OWNED it. Unlike the Mafia, he didn't need a constant "enforcer" to remind anyone. Everyone who covered the song only confirmed: "That's Frank's song. Why give tribute to anyone else?" Certainly not Lonnie Donnegan.

Lonnie's version is below, mostly because it has the novelty of being BEFORE Frank's. And because this blog doesn't mess with giving Sinatra away! Donegan was a peculiar Brit who liked to steal American music and call the theft "skiffle." Lonnie heard the original Kingston Trio version and figured maybe it would be better as a solo ballad. Close, Mr. D. But the song only became a classic when, two years later, Sinatra took over.

The song's immortal, but not Stan Cornyn, the Warners exec who wrote the award-winning liner notes for Sinatra's album, or Ervin Drake, who wrote the song. Both died this year.

Cornyn, eventually a Senior Vice President for Warner Bros., wrote the liner notes for "September of my Years" in 1965, and the following "Sinatra at the Sands," which featured some of his best prose:

“Sinatra turns to the audience and tells them he’s going to sing a saloon song. And silently you can almost hear the perfumed ladies think “Yeah” and the close-shaved, shiny-cheeked men think “Yeah” and the waiters stop in doorways and think “Yeah.” And with just piano behind him, Sinatra turns actor. The man whose broad’s left him with some other guy and all of the loot…And there is silence all about, for this audience is watching a man become that last lucked-out guy at the bar, the last one, with nowhere to go but sympathy city.”

Nice, huh? It's the kind of thing to make you wanna grow up and write album notes. Which I did, but this was the CD era, and booklet sizes were shrinking, and I was usually limited to 250 to 500 words. And I wasn't on the staff, making bucks with other types of writing. Back in the day, Stan Cornyn was. A fan of ALL types of music, he even wrote ad copy pushing Randy Newman's first efforts. He wryly wrote: "Once you get used to it, his voice is really something." That was the era when Warner Bros. had "loss leader" albums and was open to all kinds of quirky people, from Van Dyke Parks to Ron Nagle to the team of Judy Henske & Jerry Yester.

Stan was also known to sneak gags into the "Circular," the promo publication sent out to record stores and radio disc jockeys each week. One time he padded the legit commercials for Warners artists with this fake classified ad: “QUALIFIED GIRLS: Major record company now interviewing girls to be used in a series of paternity suits to bring fame to some of our less fortunate artists. Send scatological resume of past experience to Box 5949, Columbus, Ohio.”

Cornyn (July 8, 1933-May 11th 2015) provides an insider look at the music biz via his 2002 book, "Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group."

The croak of Ervin Drake somehow escaped my morbid gaze. While Stan passed on about a week ago, Ervin was erased on January 15th of 2015, at the age of 95. He had bladder cancer, and hopefully was enjoying praise, tributes and decent health till the end came.

Happily, he wrote the Warner Bros. hit that Sinatra liked. The other one was "Strangers in the Night." The author of that tune happened to run into the legendary "affable" Old Blue Eyes, and introduced himself. "I wrote 'Strangers in the Night.'" Frank glowered, turned his back and walked away. It could've been worse.

Back to Ervin Drake, who was born Ervin Maurice Druckman in Manhattan on April 3, 1919. Despite the notion that "Jews run show biz," he knew the truth. A song with "Druckman" on the sheet music would be tossed in the trash. "I Believe" (a huge hit for Frankie Laine) would've been considered some fucking "Old Testament" piece of drivel. Instead, it was praised as All-American drivel: "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows…I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way…"

"Good Morning Heartache" (which Billie Holiday turned into a jazz classic) would've likewise been considered schmaltz to be sung only by Al Jolson or Georgie Jessel. And "It Was a Very Good Year?" If you knew a JEW wrote it, you'd think it was sappy drek, and phony, too. A Jew going on dates with "blue blooded girls of independent means?" NO WAY, oy vey!

PS, you don't give a Jew the assignment of writing English lyrics to Latino numbers such as "Tico Tico" and "Quando Quando Quando." And so it was, that Drake got assignments that might not have come his way if his heritage was known. And that goes for his brother Milton Drake, whose big contribution to popular music was supplying the inane lyrics to "Mairzy Doats," one of the most popular Big Band novelty songs of that awful era.

Cornyn and Drake are dead. Well, 2015 has been a pretty shitty year for plenty of other reasons, too. But, oh nostalgia, there WERE some very good years. If you're old enough to have a very bad memory.

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR Lonnie Donegan

Ode to David Letterman - ADAM SANDLER

And so, ater 33 years of late night shows, David Letterman retires. As with his idol Johnny Carson, Dave leaves behind a legacy. For many, it's the end of a lifestyle. Many people shrugged about growing old with Johnny and that there wasn't a comfortable talk show anymore. They had to find something else to do at 11:30. Now, quite a few are feeling the same way...that the Jimmies (Fallon and Kimmel) are not a good alternative. Times and tastes have changed. Or in a phrase the late Robin Williams popularized, "Reality, what a concept." Rarely do things improve and the old give way to something better. One simply adapts to the loss and moves on.

Letterman's 33 years have included way too many highlights and important achievements to discuss here. Since this is a music blog, I could confine the comments to the singers and musicians who were such a part of the show. Even that would take too much space. All you have to do is go to Dave's website, or YouTube and you'll find many highlights. It should be mentioned, though, that Dave had pretty good taste, and gave valuable exposure to less-than-commmercial artists, ranging from Warren Zevon to Allison Moorer.

Aside from guests (special mention to Darlene Love's annual Christmas song) there was Paul Shafer's ritual impression of Cher singing "O Holy Night," Paul's assortment of "stings" and kooky music introductions, Dave's own occasional weird forays into singing ("Midnight…and the kitties are sleeping…") and that familiar yet un-hummable theme song. How about all the people who never listened to Miles Davis...but DID, because "Milestones" became Biff Henderson's "walk-on theme"?

I had limited interactions with Dave and the show. I did talk to him at a party once, and I was behind the scenes in the green room several times. I chaperoned friends who were actually on the show, and came to the show as a convenient meeting place for performers doing the show. I might do a quick photo shoot before or after they went on Dave's show, or even an interview. When I was with one of the top photo agencies, I was glad to get one of my photos of Dave into a national news weekly. Nice credit, nice paycheck. And I was at a few pretty historic telecasts, both at NBC, CBS and Radio City Music Hall. As the song goes, "they can't take that away from me."

In the last weeks, several stars gave Dave a special musical salute, including Martin Short and Nathan Lane. Both worked so hard over the years on song parodies that would be something special for their friend and host. One of the last, and certainly the most peculiar, came from Adam Sandler. Nervous, and singing low, not quite sure if every line was going to get the much-needed laugh from Dave himself, Sandler gained confidence and finished strong with lines that mixed tribute with tweaks. It was…not too shabby.

Adam Sandler David Letterman

Saturday, May 09, 2015

ILL-USTRATED SONGS #32: Purple People Eater by BARRY CRYER

SAPRISTI!

He could've performed this under a pseudonym. Like Ben Worse.

But it couldn't have Ben Worse.

Below, landing with a thud, the space creature called "The Purple People Eater," as covered by Barry Cryer.

Obviously done very quickly to cash in on American vocalist Sheb Wooley's novelty original, Barry's cover misses a few notes by a mile...like Jamie Foxx doing "The National Anthem" last week at the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

There are a few interesting things about this oddity. First, it opens with sci-fi noises copped from the Mercury vault (and used on everything from "Martian Hop" to Boris Karloff's "Tales of the Frightened"). Second, they did take the time to throw in speeded up vocals for the Purple People Eater (some cover versions tried to get away with a kid's voice or just a weird voice). And last, and least, Cryer is clearly aping an American accent. Accent on the ape. Like I said, it could've Ben Worse.

Sheb Wooley (first name was Shelby) actually had another recording identity with a similarly awful pseudonym. Aside from his own novelty hits and C&W numbers, he recorded as Ben Colder. This was a gag name that came about when he recorded "Don't Go Near the Eskimos," a parody of Rex Allen's "Don't Go Near the Indians."

I hate people who grin and tell you to enjoy something because "it's so bad it's good." That's not the case with this thing! Rather, quoting a W.C. Fields line, "I won't say I like it, and I won't say I don't like it. Let me put it this way: I don't mind it." It's certainly an example of what quickie cover version recordings were like way back when...which is still a lot better than the shit that idiots throw on YouTube to try and (fail) to get a few hundred listeners.

BARRY CRYER A version of PURPLE PEOPLE EATER that could make you cry

KATE AND PRINCE WILLIAM, PLEASE, "DO IT NO MORE"

For the past week, the irritating combo of Kanye and Kim had to step aside while the world gasped at something almost as irrelevant: the new baby for Kate Middleton the Topless and Prince William the Bald. As Groucho used to say, "You seem like a nice couple…" but, you bet your life, who the hell wants to read about them, or give a crap about their diaper-fouling spawn?

Toothless and ignorant Brits actually pranced around with gleeful banners "IT'S A PRINCESS!" referring to a toothless and ignorant baby. Were you idiot commoners expecting a frog? You commoners are stupid enough to think fairy tales come true? Well, yes, they do, but only for The Royals, not for YOU LOT! What's your vicarious delight in how "classier than you by birth" Royals prance and ponce around the world, and periodically procreate?

Poor people buying up souvenirs of ROYAL events? It only encourages the ROYALS to believe that average people are absolute fools, not worthy of any respect.

Cheering Brat #2? This spawn is so far down the line she'll never be Queen. By the time she's fully grown, it might be "off with her head," for not being Muslim, the likely majority.

The way things are going in formerly Great Britain, the Queen in 40 years could be a gay man (son of Elton and David), or more likely, it'll be a Muslim, and in that case, a King. (Arabs don't think women should do much besides stay covered in cloth and pretend to enjoy sex without the clitoris that was circumcised off). In 2055 you might see King Gazzoleen, the former Duke of Oil, on the throne. He'll be shouting to the white peasants, "Let them eat hummus." Looking for Cameron? He will have been smashed to bits and given an anonymous burial under a gas station parking lot. Nick Clegg, doddering only a bit more than he is now, will be one of the midwives helping in the birthing of Muslim babies. That's all members of the "Labour Party" will be allowed to do.

Speaking of labour, after the hoopla over the birth of this useless dollop, sister to useless dollop #1, I wondered how many were secretly singing, "Do It No More." Just switch the song about Prince Albert and Queen Victoria to the new names, Prince William and Kate.

"Do it No More," popular in the 1840's, was a wry, ribald and daring song for the day. It seems that SOME people weren't too thrilled about tax money going to the ever-expanding family of "Royals," and who knows, maybe Queen Victoria's vagina was getting tired of it, too. Hence, a song with the Queen supposedly declaring a cease and desist with the royal dick.

"John Bull," in the song, refers to the press. A reporter has heard Queen Victoria say, or sing: "The state is bewildering about little children, and we are increasing, you know we have four. We kindly do treat them and seldom to beat them, so Albert dear Albert we'll do it no more."

Albert isn't pleased with the idea: "Do not persuade me or try to degrade me all pleasure and pastime to freely give over…" Well, listen for yourself, it won't won't hurt.

It especially won't hurt because the singer is the artist Derek Lamb, who chose to record British Music Hall in an intimate way, without the usual Stanley Holloway-type bombast.

As originally published in song books of the day, "Do It No More" (aka "England Forever/Do It No More") went on longer than a Thomas Hood ballad, but it's considerably truncated in this Lambinated version

DEREK LAMB Do It No More - British Music Hall update version Download or listen on line.

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Barry Cryer: "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" sung to "Girl from Ipanema"

Imagine singing the lyrics of one famous song…to the music of another.

That's one of the familiar stunts on the long running (since 1972) radio series "Sorry, I Haven't a Clue," which bills itself as "the antidote to panel games."

Below, it's Ian Dury's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" mated to Astrud Gilberto's "Girl from Ipanema." And the singer…legendary British comedian Barry Cryer.

Don't worry, it'll all be over in just one minute. This is not a 45 rpm, but a radio moment digitized especially for the blog and your entertainment. Or confusion.

The show's stunts, musical friskiness, wordplay and mockery of popular book and film titles are all scripted in advance, of course, for each six-episode season. The segment where the stars sing lyrics over totally different music has been such a popular category, the studio audience greets the start with a half-hearted cry of "Yaayyyy." That cry is repeated for other gruesome comic tricks. These include accompanying a song with a kazoo and a slide whistle, or the "game" of singing to a track, then lowering the sound and seeing, 20 or 30 seconds later, if the karaoke singer will still be matched to the music when the sound is brought back up. Are we having fun yet? That's why samples of those two bits aren't included here.

Cryer, as you can guess from the photo, is one of the veterans, along with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden. They were involved in the earlier radio series "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again."

For some anti-Nazi fun, the show's theme song is "The Schickel Shamble," which starts with the familiarly ominous "Deutschland Uber Alles" chords before degenerating into a nauseating oom-pah band piece. Requests for it will be ignored. Because I don't have it.

PS, apparently "Deutschland Uber Alles" is nearly-banned in Germany. At least, it would be very unlikely that you'd hear those infamous Nazi-linked opening 8 notes should a German win an Olympic event or enter the ring or a boxing match. The "German National Anthem" these days, so I was told, borrows from the obscure third verse. Which I guess would be like, if Americans had lost the war, "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light" being eliminated. Or something like that. But I digress…

So, HIT ME…

Hit Me To the Tune of Girl from Ipanema Barry Cryer

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TEAKWOOD NOCTURNE - TV's great classical mini-concerto

"Teakwood Nocturne" has probably been used by Universal Studios in dozens of its TV shows and movies. Its name comes from a 1961 episode of Boris Karloff's "Thriller." Called "Terror in Teakwood," it stars the supernaturally beautiful Hazel Court along with bonily handsome Guy Rolfe, who often played bizarre leading men who ended up destroyed by their own insanity. He's a crazed classical pianist in this one, and rather than abusing a funeral sonata from Chopin or Beethoven, or a darker shade of Bach, the producers went with something original.

The piece was composed by Caesar Giovannini, who was born in Chicago in 1925. The classically-trained American was originally hired by NBC to play piano for various projects and shows. In the late 50's and into the 60's he moved on to vinylly challenge Mantovani, Melachrino, Kostelanetz and other easy-listening pianists/orchestra leaders.

He recorded, with or without his "Velvet Orchestra," for small "stereo demonstration" labels along with Bally and Mercury. His reel-to-reel tapes and vinyl albums include "Caesar Plays Concert Stereo," "Brilliant Sounds of Pianos and Percussion," "The World of Strings,""Silk Satin and Strings," "Viola Paris" and "Los Dedos Magicos de Caesar Giovannini." The latter features the typical tunes middle aged people wanted to hear, including "Stairway to the Stars," "Beyond the Sea," "Stranger on the Shore" and "The Sweetest Sounds." But not his nocturne, which did get a cover version from probably the best known pop pianist of the era, Roger Williams. There's some collector value in Caesar's stash due to the good sonic quality of the vintage stereo recordings and/or the cheesy nature of the album covers.

As a behind-the-scenes pianist, Giovannini continued to find a lot of work including playing on the soundtracks for "Soylent Green," "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," "Wait Until Dark," "Pressure Point" and many more.

Although there are votes for "Alla Barocco," Caesar's most enduring original remains "Teakwood Nocturne," which, is below in the version from Stanley Wilson and his Orchestra. A Jewish conductor and arranger who died of a heart attack at 52, Wilson worked on a variety of TV shows during the 60's, including"The Virginian," "87th Precinct," "Johnny Staccato," "Checkmate," "Ripcord," "Broken Arrow," "Tales of Wells Fargo," "The Millionaire" and "Wagon Train."

Wilson, ironically enough, worked on both Karloff's "Thriller," and then "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." He was the one who adapted Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" for use as Alfred's theme music. Let's pretend Stanley or Caesar is playing the piano on this track…using the severed hands of a dead man...echoing the Orlac-plot of that infamous episode of "Thriller."

. Stanley Wilson & Orchestra Teakwood Nocturne

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SID TEPPER - Another of those Jews For Elvis

Who wrote more songs for Elvis Presley than anyone else? No, not Leiber and Stoller of "Hound Dog" fame. It was the team of Tepper and Bennett. They were probably the most obscure of the Jewish songwriting teams that shaped rock and roll in the late 50's and early 60's. That list includes: Mann and Weill. Goffin and King. Bacharach and David. Leiber and Stoller. Pomus and Shuman. Greenwich and Barry.

No, we will not see the likes of Sid Tepper (who died a few days ago, age 96) again. A main reason is that lyrics can be computer generated (and who listens to lyrics anyway). Music can be auto-tuned, pitch-corrected, and programmed. Any bunch of moronic rap assholes can "produce" a new album for Madonna to package. The music industry has, of course, changed to the point where there are almost no professional songwriters who have the skills to make hit songs that people would instantly memorize and sing to on the radio.

Back to Sid. It's ironic, that the kids who flipped their lids for Elvis had no idea so many of his songs were written by Yids. Yes, the same tribe that had the shit beaten out of them in schoolyards for not being cool or rockers, were giving the world most of the hippest songs on the radio…most of 'em sung by Southerners like Elvis, or black groups including The Coasters and The Drifters.

Tepper-Bennett adapted to rock and roll and rock (Elvis songs and the rockin' "Glad All Over") but started working together in 1945. They began at a songwriting mill appropriately named Mills Music. Sid had written specialty material for Special Services while in the Army. Now, with his childhood pal Roy Bennett, they learned how to write fast, often, and commercially. I always checked the songwriting credits on the 45's I bought, but didn't buy Elvis. I first noticed Tepper-Bennett on "Just a Simple Melody" by Patti Page. No doubt I got that one rounding out a "10 for a Dollar" pile from Woolworth's bargain bin. At the time, she and Tony Bennett were on Columbia. He had a pop hit with "I Wanna Be Around," and I think Patti probably hit the Top 40 at least, with this easy-aching double-tracked tune, which included sentimental backing from a tacky-keyed piano.

As you'd expect from guys knocking out songs and hoping for the best, the Tepper-Bennett catalog has some pretty strange novelty titles that didn't quite get a singer bringing 'em to #1: "Bagel and Lox," "Bonnie Lassie," "Best Dressed Cowboy," "Cane and a High Starched Collar," "Cha Cha Charlie," "Chicken Picken Hawk," "Christmas Child Loo Loo Loo," "Counterfeit Kisses," "Dreamy Dolls of Dusseldorf," "Egbert the Easter Egg," "Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce," "Gabby the Gobbler," "Googie Woogie," "Hey Mabel," "I Can't Whistle," "I Danced With My Darling," "I Like Christmas," "I'm Not Ashamed," "I've Got a Crush on New York," "I was a Teenage Monster," "In Italy," "Itty Bitty Polka," "Jenny Kissed Me," "Kewpie Doll," "Law is Comin' Fer Ya Paw," "Love is a Serious Business," "Mama Do the Twist," "Mary Smith," "One Blade of Grass," "Rock Around Mother Goose," "Say Something Sweet," "Son of Robin Hood," "Song of the Shrimp," "Ten Little Bluebirds," "Thanks Mister Florist," "There Are Two I's In Dixie," "Twenty Tiny Fingers," "Water Faucet," "Wheels on My Heels" and "Wish I Wuz a Whisker."

Their first big hit was back in 1948. It was the adorable, sentimental "Red Roses for a Blue Lady." The lyric was actually inspired by Sid giving flowers to his wife after they had a tiff. By way of tribute, this is the song you get below…but in the fractured Homer and Jethro version. Why? Well, this is a perverse blog, but you can get the Elvis stuff anywhere, as well as "The Young Ones" by Cliff Richard. As for "Glad All Over" the Dave Clark hit, we mustn't interfere with that charming man by pirating something he (and nobody else in the band) can make a few extra pennies on. And the straight version of "Red Roses" is easy to find on YouTube.

I hope Sid liked H&J's parody as much as I do. The original is still charming, but Homer & Jethro add wonderfully insulting remarks: "she's like a rose to me. They smell and so does she." It also has a wonderfully stupid punchline. (Speaking of stupid, yes, Tepper-Bennett wrote "I'm Getting Nuttin' For Christmas").

By the late 50's, Tepper-Bennett were more than willing to keep up with changes in the music world. Like Nudie the tailor learning to make flashy gold suits for Elvis, Tepper-Bennett tailored songs for Elvis movies, including "G.I. Blues" and "Viva Las Vegas." They ended up writing about 52 songs for Elvis…and 21 songs were cut by England's Elvis, that fellow named Cliff Richard. BMG even issued a CD package of Elvis singing Tepper-Bennett.

Back in the 60's, songwriting was not just a business, but a very stressful one. The best guys had to work on deadline, and on the whim of the star. Jimmy Van Heusen recalled the times he was expected to instantly come up with something for Sinatra. Sid had the same experience with Presley, or with Presley's film director, suddenly saying, "Hey, we decided to end a scene with Ann-Margret pushing Elvis into the swimming pool. Re-write the song so the last line can lead her to do it!"

Tepper-Bennett songs were covered by Sinatra. Sid recalled, "My favorite singer was Frank Sinatra, but he wasn't nearly as multifaceted as Elvis. We'd send him the demo and he'd listen to it twice and be ready to go like he'd sung it his whole life." Yes, there were great rewards, financial and artistic, in hearing Elvis and others perform his work, but the business was a business, and it eventually got the best of him.

The pressures on the Brooklyn-born lyricist led to a heart attack and eventually retirement in the early 70's. Although songwriters are rarely well known to the general public, Tepper was a big shot in Florida. In his retirement, he was pointed out to most anyone in his small town of Surfside, and when he hit 90, the citizens (as well as his many children) threw a party for him, and even Lisa Marie Presley turned up for "Sid Tepper Day."

Sid had his family and friends, and also fans…people did send him letters to thank him for songs that meant a lot in their lives, were played at weddings, etc., and he liked hearing about how much his songs were loved. “One thing I’ve learned is you can’t leave love in your will," he said, "you have to give it while you’re living."

Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett's RED ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY via Homer and Jethro

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"PETER GUNN" Obscure Lyrics to Famous Instrumentals

"But...I want to sing along..."

If a song has a catchy melody, SOMEBODY is going to insist on putting words to it. The question is how stupid are the lyrics going to be?

A while ago, the Don Ho version of "Hawaii Five-0" was presented here. And now, an even more criminal act: lyrics to Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn."

Henry Mancini seemed to specialize in melodies so artful, most any lyrics would seem clumsy. A few themes managed to escape without rotten words ("Experiment in Terror," "Pink Panther," "Hatari,") but too many were seriously wounded by Johnny Mercer or by the team of Livingston and Evans. "Days of Wine and Roses" was lame. The waltz theme for the thriller "Charade" get awful lyrics of lost love among stage actors. Mercer imagines:

"Fate seemed to pull the strings. I turned and you were gone. While from the darkened wings the music box played on. Sad little serenade, song of my heart's composing: I hear it still, I always will. Best on the bill. Charade!"

Worse, of course, was the huge hit "Moon River." Mercer called a body of water a "huckleberry friend." Anyone care? Of course not. People don't pay too much attention to lyrics, they just want to hear a voice.

Enter classy Sarah Vaughan, a jazz singer capable of doing the best she can with flaming lyrics that light a torch and burn through one of the best instrumentals ever heard on TV. It should forever STAY an instrumental. But out of morbid curiosity...

"Every night your line is busy. All that buzzin' makes me dizzy. Couldn't count on all my fingers all the dates you had with swingers. Bye bye. Bye baby! I'm gonna give you goodbye and go right through that doorway. So long! I'm leaving! This is the last time we'll meet on the street going your way..."

Well, it could've been worse, some stuff about a Peter being a gun...

Sing more of Livingston & Evans' words, Sarah:

"Don't look surprised, you know you've buttered your bread.

So now it's fair, you should stare at the back of my head."

Peter Gunn

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DON'T FUTZ AROUND! (Laugh-In stars Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson)

DON'T FUTZ AROUND!

Are these words to live by?

Not really. What would you be doing right now that beats downloading an obscure, annoying novelty 45? Would you instead, get on a plane and go fight Procol Harum in Nigeria? You could get killed that way.

No, the hapless fact of life is that eventually it ends, and whether you futzed around or devoted yourself to "meaningful" activities, within a generation (if not sooner) your years on the planet will be completely forgotten. A few hundred people are famous a hundred years after they've died, and what good does it do them?

It's sobering to think of how many billions of people on the planet have no idea who Arte Johnson and Ruth Buzzi are. Did they futz around? No, they went into a studio to record "Don't Futz Around!" Not only that, they thought some disk jockeys would play their over-the-top opera-voiced novelty. The flip side was "Very Interesting," keyed to Arte's German soldier catch-phrase. Jackie Kannon also issued a single called "Very Interesting," appropriating Arte's pronunciation and spouting it between instrumental segments. Which is a digression, but could also be considered futzoid.

Ruth Buzzi is 78. Her career credits have shown that she didn't futz around. Or if she did, she was well paid. And almost 40 years after "Laugh-In," she re-united with Arte Johnson for cartoon voices on "Baggy Pants and the Nitwits." Whether you had the time to futz around watching that show or not, is not the question. Neither is whether it's worth watching now.

Not that you can't ask a question in the comments section. But what's the point? Don't futz around!

Arte Johnson is now 86. Actually, he's been 86 since last January. You might think he just futzed around after "Laugh-In," but you'd be forgetting his memorable turn as Renfield in George Hamilton's vampire comedy "Love at First Bite." He managed to out-live his "funny little guy" persona and turn up on daytime soap operas, and seriously record over 80 audio books.

It's somewhat interesting to note (that's what I'm doing at the moment, although it could be futzing around) that nobody in the cast of "Laugh-In" had any great success with 45's. This includes "Sock It To Me Time" from Judy Carne. Lily Tomlin's spoken word comedy albums (using "Laugh-In" characters) did well, but she knew better than to bring musicians into a studio and...futz around.

Is it scholarly to look into the origin of "futz around?" Or is that just futzing around? What's legitimate curiosity and just wasting time? As long as you're still here, let's go with the former. Except, nobody really seems to know the answer. They're just futzing around. Speculation, of course, is that the word is just a German-Jewish variation on "fuck." In act, fuck around with your putz, and you've got "futz."

The other possibility is that "futz" fits as a German-Jewish pronunciation of "farts." Farting around on time-wasting shit is like futzing around.

(Parenthetically, the "Laugh-In" crowd had to be influenced by Steve Allen, who notoriously took "schmuck" and offered a bird-like cry of "smock, smock" getting past the censors. Johnny Carson used to joke about the Fackawi Indians (which was the punchline to the dialect joke, "Where the Fackawi?") The show "F-Troop" resurrected the gag and tamely created the Hekawi Indians). But why go on? It's time to REALLY futz around with your download below. Or not.

DON'T FUTZ AROUND Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Songs Cynthia Lennon Sang

You know Cynthia Lennon, who passed on last week at 75. Her son is famous, and here's a happy marriage photo with her husband.

Well, it didn't end in divorce, now, did it? No, it didn't. It ended the way marriages are supposed to end.

Most Beatle fans at least own a copy of "A Twist of Lennon" (a reference to two of Cyn's other hubbies). Just why the slightly limp-wristed group The Sinceros bothered to name-check it with anemic venom, I have no idea. It wasn't a bad book, or much of a cash-in. It was just her story if you wanted it. A blonde marries, too young, because of child on the way, and it didn't last. So far it might make for the McCartney soundtrack to a mediocre working class movie. Only, Cynthia was in the family way with John Lennon, so his subsequent treks around the world, and his discovery of Yoko Ono after he'd been with dozens of groupies...well, it didn't make "A Twist of Lennon" (or her subsequent tomes) too successful, did they?

Aside from feuding with Yoko a bit and getting married a few more times, she was out of the spotlight.

This included 1995, when she was persuaded to issue a single, which quickly disappeared the way of Fred Lennon's single. And most of Julian's, come to think of it. And all of Sean's.

By all accounts, Cyn was a nice lady, and late in life she even reconciled, at least for a public photograph, with the dreaded Yoko.

Anyone who has some first hand experience with Cynthia is welcome to comment below. What survives, besides the books and photos, is the curiosity of a few songs Cynthia Lennon sang.

The three examples of her recorded work reflect three fairly different directions her musical career could've gone.

"Those Were The Days" is an unfortunate if obvious choice. Recorded in 1995, out of nowhere (somebody apparently asked and she agreed), it doesn't erase the memory of Mary Hopkin's icky schoolgirl version. Cyn doesn't quite give the producer what he probably wanted, which was some kind of pathos-ridden mope about the past. Marianne Faithful she isn't, and the tempo really doesn't let Cynthia do much besides gallop by the mythical tavern (er, "Cavern") and shrug that life goes on.

Not an actress (neither a Marianne nor an Honor Blackman), Cyn ends up with a fairly enigmatic reading of her ex-husband's "In My Life." At times she sounds like she's under contractual obligation, but towards the end, when she actually sings the final chorus or two, she seems to have more than come to terms with her place in rock history, and in John's past. No, she doesn't read it badly, but it's an uncomfortable idea, for a lot of reasons.

Which is why ultimately the best direction Cynthia could've chosen was to leave the more overt, obvious Beatlemania stuff alone, and do something that simply reflected her current artistic mood. "Walking in the Rain" isn't bad at all, a distant cousin to Yoko's "Walking on Thin Ice." Who knows, with more of a poofter butt-thump beat, she could've joined Yoko on the disco charts.

Imagine...Cynthia being another Yoko, and instead of a few singles, literally dozens of expensive albums you need "for the collection." Now you're appreciating Cynthia on a whole different level, aren't you. "Thanks, Cyn, for not being Yoko...Ringo...Sean..." Go ahead, add those Paul albums you never play, and "Wonderwall" and probably John's rock and roll album and the Black Dyke Mills Band and...and...

One thing about the mp3 era is that you don't have to embarrass yourself by having shelves loaded up with Beatles-related music that points out how deeply into Pepperland you still are. A lot of fans aren't sure whether to feel proud or pathetic owning Fred Lennon's single, or all the albums by Beatles cash-in groups (with Liverpool or insect names). How about the stacks of 45's including stuff like "My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut?"

After a while, as Ringo began knocking out all those albums and singles (whoops, there's a new one just come out)...it was really beginning to be a case of "I'm spending a lot of money on stuff that I never listen to...JUST because it's Beatles related."

Now, you can own the stuff, and proudly point to that 2TB drive "FULL of BEATLES AUDIO MEMORABILIA" and it doesn't take up much space. To which, you now have three additions, via married-a-Beatle Cyn.

To quote a more obscure Beatles song, "It's All too Much." Sean stuff. Julian stuff. Even John and Yoko stuff (how ofte have you flashed the nude "Two Virgins" cover out of "pride of ownership" or some more nefarious reason?) "It's All Too Much."

In a way, Cynthia Lennon's left us wanting more. These three will probably have you listening more than a few times, and reflecting on that special era. Imagine there's a heaven...and she's there with the husband of her choice now. Or, imagine there's one hell of a heaven...and she's there with more than just one of 'em.

Cynthia Lennon Walking in the Rain

Cynthia Lennon In My Life

Cynthia Lennon Those Were the Days

Thursday, March 19, 2015

WALDEMAR MATUSAK - Czech versions of Bob Dylan and Marvin Hamlisch

All right, I'll get the stupid puns out of the way as quick as I can. Just call me Praguematic. Slovackian legend Waldemar Matusak spent his last years in America, but certainly had a Czech-ered career. He was a star in his native land through the 60's and 70's. Waldemar (July 2, 1932 - May 30, 2009) was not only a popular singer, but an actor as well, starring in Lemonade Joe (1964), If a Thousand Clarinets (1965), The Phanto of Morrisville (1966), The Pipes (1966), Hotel For Strangers (1967) and All My Good Countrymen (aka "All My Compatriots) in 1968. He added more in the 70's including "A Night in Karlstein" (1974).

As is often the case with European performers, Matusak embraced a variety of styles, having hits with pop, folk and ethnic music. Aside from originals in his own language, he happily covered hits from other countries, including translations of French pop by Hugues Auffray and Gilbert Becaud among others, and American ballads originally done by Frankie Laine and Al Jolson. Like many a burly foreigner ("Ronny" of Germany comes to mind), Waldemar had a love of cowboy music, and scored with his tongue-twisting versions of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "High Noon," the latter re-named "Bud Porad Se Mnou." And I think that rather than high noon, the gunfight itself took place at around 5pm, Prague time.

One way in which Waldemar was similar to the other pop stars of his day, was his early habit of singing through his nose. Dylan did it, and the cover here of "Blowin' in the Wind" seems pretty authentic. The effect isn't quite so romantic on the Marvin Hamlisch ballad "The Way We Were," but fans of the unusual, or even the eerie, will be most amused.

Given the stormy political climate of the Slovakian and Slovinian and just plain Slobby countries, it's no surprise that in the 80's, with Waldemar now living in Florida, the Commies found some reason or other to ban Waldemar's music. All was forgiven thanks to a change of leadership in 1989, and he was welcomed back home as a music legend. He divided his time between international touring, and the good life in the U.S.A. The po' guy died in 2009, but here, Monsieur Waldemar lives!

Waldemar Slýchám harmoniku hrát (The Way We Were)

Waldemar Vitr to Vi (Blowin' in the Wind)

"Detox Mansion" Warren Zevon 2/27/1990 for LIZA MINNELLI

"It's hard to be somebody. It's hard to keep from falling apart."

So sang Warren Zevon on "Detox Mansion."

The song somewhat comically referenced Minnelli (as well as Elizabeth Taylor).

So the other day, it was reported that after a decade of sobriety, Liza's had to check in for some treatment.

I'm no poofter, and I'm not exactly fond of hearing her sing "Life is a cabaret, old chum," but I've always had a soft spot for the lady. This is sad news.

Musically speaking, while she was never all that interested in rock, she sometimes worked outside of her show-tune-bombast comfort zone, covering "For No One," "Everybody's Talkin'," "Look of Love," and other songs that didn't require pipes like her mother or Ethel Merman. And while it's certainly disco-fruity more than cutting edge, the results weren't bad on her Pet Shop Boys collaboration from 1989, "Results," which included strong beats in a pulsating take on the sad Sondheim ballad "Losing My Mind."

That was the CD booklet she autographed for me. A mutual singer friend, older than both of us, was an alkie. He appreciated the Poe line I sometimes quoted to comfort him: "What disease is like alcohol?" To which he'd be prone to snort, "Ain't I a pain in the ass?" And yes, getting a call to come scrape him off a sidewalk after a bar binge did make him a pain in the ass sometimes. I have no idea what caused Liza's relapse, but it was probably one of her various physical ailments that required medication and unfortunately, some added self-medication.

I haven't glimpsed Liza in person in a long time; not since the debacle of her relationship with some waxy guy not worth mentioning by name. The weird thing was I saw those two in a local restaurant. She went out to have a cigarette, and he stayed behind, looking grim. He seemed so bored and miserable I thought maybe he was just a bodyguard, or some escort hired for the evening. They were not a love match. But shouldn't a hired hand have followed the lady outside, in case of photographers or some autograph hound? Later on, when their photos together appeared in the tabloid, I realized this fame queen (him, not her) was unfortunately for real, another bad decision in her life.

Zevon was right: "It's hard to be somebody." Especially if your mother was somebody, too. As for the chords of fame, yes, "It's hard to keep from falling apart." Liza probably wasn't even famous to most of the under-40 viewers of the Academy Awards show when she was STILL subjected to a zinger. She was sitting in the audience when a tranny joke slapped her in the face, courtesy of the normally oh-so-elfin and nice Ellen Degeneres. Charming Ellen singled her out, pointing at "one of the best Liza Minnelli impersonators I've ever seen in my entire life. Good job, sir."

Zevon tended to rock "Detox Mansion" with that arched eyebrow, suggesting that self pity is as dangerous as self-medication. So hopefully L.M. is getting that combo of tenderness and tough love to help her along. And, no, I don't think in Liza's case going into detox is a publicity move. Warren had a feeling some past-the-prime celebs do enjoy that kind of drama: Well, I'm gone to Detox Mansion, way down on Last Breath Farm. I've been rakin' leaves with Liza. Me and Liz clean up the yard..."

Warren Zevon Detox Mansion, Live In Minneapolis, February 27, 1990

Monday, March 09, 2015

Hey Boy George, "YES I WANT TO HURT YOU" - vintage sham pain from Georgie Girl

People who grew up in the 80's, and NEVER grew out of their love for shitty 80's mutant rock, keep saying "Please come back" to people who should get lost.

I understand what nostalgia is, but, right said Fred, "Fuck off!" I don't want to see sea gull hairstyles again. I don't excuse herpes just because "girls just wanna have fun." Synthesizers are almost as annoying as vocoders. Nobody still wants to eat a fucking Vegemite sandwich because some oddball Aussie sang about one. Hey Mickey, Hey Mickey, Hey Mickey…let's NOT dance to David Bowie's sea sick disco music OR the inane "Men Without Brains" camp-upchuck-punk "Safety Dance." And if you tell me "Don't Worry Be Happy" I'll say go eat a cannibal (it's incredible).

As for Boy George and his 1982 simpering and garish "Do You Want To Hurt Me?" WHAM! This is a new age, fellas. Don't keep hunting men's rooms for George Michael, or calling out the always outre and out Boy George. Boys acting like girls is out. Sex change operations are in. Just ask Bruce Jenner.

Why people still want this idiot Boy George to come back and "entertain" is just a sign of how brain-damaged they got from listening to 80's schlock. This was, after all, the VIDEO generation, where Falco, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and all types of idiots used flashy visuals to disguise how rancid the music was. You were supposed to watch it, dance to it, fuck to it...but not actually LISTEN TO IT. The music was so crappy, it had to rely on fashion, and dopey posturing. Hungry like a wolf? Go throw up like a rat, you tasteless bunch of tweens.

Yet, ever since 1982, Boy George's anal followers have looked backwards in lust and desire, squealing "Please sir/madam, can we have some...MORE moronics?"

So the world was treated to a puffy, porcine Boy George or George posturing about in some new twist on androgyny, while singing forgettable junk that couldn't make for a comeback, and couldn't even make his most devoted fans come. Even so, he was never out of the headlines. He sure could give headlines. Even down and out, he made the papers. After an arrest and the punishment of community service: "Here's Boy George sweeping garbage from a Manhattan street" rather than trolling for garbage in a Greenwich Village alley.

So indelible is Boy George and that old wimpy anthem for uh, tolerance of pretentiousness, that there was recently yet another attempt to get him and his band back together. There was even a film crew to document this fetid germ of an idea. The result? Well, considering how snarky the gay community actually is, you wonder how many of his fans have been laughing AT and not WITH the joke he's become. It's possible only a few mewling middle-aged women took it seriously. Most viewers had to be rolling their eyes while watching the BBC4 cockumentary of caca, "Karma to Calamity."

This doesn't include ME, by the way. I've added this entry after having read about the recently aired TV show from a trustworthy blogger today. It had me recalling the "Georgie Girl" parody, so I thought I'd digitize it and add some fuel to the bonfire of The Boy's vanity.

The documentary was hoping to show the latest, and most triumphant comeback attempt of the yogurty Culture Club members and their vain diva leader, Goy Bore. Er, Boy George. Alas, thanks to George being even a worse queen than Ray Davies, the documentary hobbled to an end with NO big concert date, NO new album, and NOBODY being that upset over the squalid spectacle of a rock band and its leader not get along.

This blog returns to the glam 80's ONLY to prove that even back then, this simpering George Jackass was well-loathed. Shot down even worse than George Jackson, the comical assassins at the Rhino novelty label, hired "Georgie Girl" to sing fantasies of destruction. Her answer song, complete with death scenarios: "YES, I REALLY WANT TO HURT YOU." Just what led Rhino to figure a British androgyne could ever date a Jewish American Princess bitch, I have no idea.

Nasty "Georgie Girl" is seething because "that fageleh stuff was not an act!" More shrewish than Jewish, she sounds like Patti Smith after eating past-expiration date herring. Or maybe a more Jewy Lesley Gore after eating past-expiration date cunt. No, no, the problem with "Georgie Girl" is that her boyfriend has turned out to BE a cunt. Chorus:

"Yes I really wanna hurt you, yes I really wanna make you cry. Shove your dreadlocks on the burner, then I'll laugh as I watch you fry!"

An awful flash-in-the-bedpan singer gets what he deserves, an awful parody. At least "Georgie Girl" had the good taste to NEVER record AGAIN. No such promise has come from Oy George.

Georgie Girl Yes I Really Want to Hurt You

INVISIBLE - Martin Briley & Miserable "Invisible" Disabilities

Ripped out of today's headlines: "INVISIBLE DISIBILITIES."

This girl, testifying about just how sick she is (even if you can't see it), instantly had me thinking of that champion of the peculiar, Martin Briley. He could've written her story. Maybe he has, give or take a line.

The article that was on NPR's website today is below. It's all about the "Invisible Disibilities" this lady, and millions of others, have to deal with.

As for Martin Briley, his lyrics have sometimes been "invisible," or at least, misconstrued. Happily, sometimes it's been for profit. The best example is "Me Without You," which became a #1 on the "Christian" charts when it was mistakenly interpreted as a song about Jesus. Another fine example: "Invisible," which turned up on a Barbie movie soundtrack, and covered by a then-unknown Kesha, even though it's actually Briley's take on what one of the Columbine killers may have been thinking. "Like the wind I'll blow you all away" is the key line that gets lost, or diluted, especially when a chick is singing it.

"Invisible" disabilities are all around us:

See that guy on the bus who didn't give up his seat to a lady? Everybody's hating him and glaring at him. Should he tell them that he's a vertigo sufferer, and lucky that his meds even let him stand up long enough to get on a bus and go see his doctor?

Don't see the girl you thought would be at the party? That's because she's suffering a "flare," with an embarrassing ailment she keeps from all but her closest friends. She'd rather appear to be flighty or snooty than...defective.

With most song lyrics, some lines get through, some don't. The execs at Barbie who happened to hear Kesha's demo, heard only the lines about alienation, and feeling "invisible," which were things teenage girls could relate to. They didn't quite pick up on the line "I'll blow you all away," especially with the sweet vocalizing of this lady.

Today, on the blog, "Invisible" is being slanted as an anthem that could be sung by Carly Medosch (photo above). She looks normal on the outside, because her ailment is invisible. She is suffering the shitty world of Crohn's Disease, with its pain, fatigue, and embarrassing problems of digestive misery. There are no doubt, times when she'd like to "blow away" the well-intentioned idiots who say "surely, if you eat the right diet, you won't have a problem" or those who want to deny that the world is unfair, and say instead, "your doctor must be giving you the wrong meds."

There are wayyyyyy too many people in the world who seem to disappoint others by suddenly leaving a party, or backing out of a project, or lapsing e-mails because they are overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, or a physical ailment that just isn't evident. These suffers of "invisible" ailments can't point to a wheelchair, or a scar as the reason they can't do something. worse, there's usually a stigma attached to explaining the problem.

Who wants to admit to being a nervous nelly, or having a phobia, or having to explain that any minute they could shit their pants? Often a problem is denied with a disdainful, doubtful "You don't LOOK sick." People don't like being a nuisance, or seeming different, and it can be worse if a person looks normal and therefore gets no sympathy or even courtesy when there's a problem. Instead it's a surly growl of "You don't LOOK sick." People don't think: "Oh, maybe he didn't hold the door for me because he doesn't have the strength," or "she's walking slow because there's a problem."

You'll find the story on the NPR.org website ("People with Invisible Disabilities").

The highlights are here:

Some writers of lyrics and poems prefer to leave some aspects vague. They like to let the reader color some things in, and "share" the experience and emotions. Sportswriter Bob Costas was delighted to think that Paul Simon's line "the cross is in the ballpark" had to do with the Pope coming to Yankee Stadium. Paul had to gently shake his head "no." And if "Invisible" has you thinking of Claude Rains, or Kesha nude, or a Crohn's girl walking calmly to the ladies room with a change of underwear in her purse...congrats to your imagination. You're entitled to personalize any song you hear. But all praise to the original author, Martin Briley.

Lots of lines in this song are quite universal, and beyond the world of Columbine or Crohn's:

"Maybe I'm just not like everyone. I fade a little more each day...it's hard to feel when all you feel is numb...I could disappear without a trace..." KESHA sings Briley INVISIBLE, listen on line or download. No capcha codes, money requests, password with an ego-driven name like Zinfart, dopey ads or malware sneakiness.

Ron Nagle - FRESH BAD RICE! And listen to the BERBELANG

Yes, after 45 years, "Bad Rice" has been issued on CD. With bonus tracks including the perverse "Berbelang." So far it might be the best thing that's happened in 2015.

Back in 1970 Warren Zevon was nowhere close to writing "Werewolves of London." Randy Newman hadn't gone completely overboard with "Half a Man," about a horrific role reversal that began "This big old queen was standing on the corner of the street. He waved his hanky at me..."

But Ron Nagle was on the edge of weirdness. He wrote and sang about a blue-haired drag queen with an infra-red suntan and whooping cough. Though possessing a razor blade and a mirror for some high grade cocaine, this creature was a self-proclaimed disaster. Chorus: "No one could have worse luck than mine, 'cept someone bitten by the Berbelang."

Did people listening to the radio ask themselves WHAT is a Berbelang? No. Because Warner Bros. didn't release the song. After all, Warners hadn't had success with the songs on the one album they did release. Many were as bizarre as "Berbelang," too.

Many of Nagle's songs are checklists of depravity and dysfunction. The stanzas are more like Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C, with a chorus or two. The "Bad Rice" album included "Marijuana Hell," a set of case histories on pot smokers gone wrong. "Frank's Store" described a pathetic bodega ("warmest beer in cans, day old meat and toys made in Japan") that burns down, taking with it the dreams of a prideful simpleton with nothing else in his life. "Family Style" lists the singer's insidious uncle, the brother who stepped on a parakeet, and mom, "who picked dollars off the table" via her vaginal lips, ala the legendary Billie Holiday when she was working and being cheap. If there's not enough psychotic behavior in a character's life, the main obsession is simply repeated a few times, like homicidal Chuckie (of "61 Clay") kicking his mother's head again and again. Or the serio-comic Dad who just keeps repeating "the stork is coming one more time," as his house fills up with kids, and he obsessively dreams of the inane alternative of samba beats, and the garish joys of "mangos and gin, and pink tapioca."

Despite Ry Cooder guesting on a few cuts, production from legendary Jack Nietzche, and sticking "Family Style" on a "loss leader" sampler album, Warner Bros. was dismayed with the poor sales for the critically acclaimed "Bad Rice." So there would be no follow-up album, or a 45 rpm for "Berbelang." Oh. A berbelang is a mythical vampire legend in Malaysia.

Some of what went wrong, and right for Ron Nagle before and after "Bad Rice" is covered in the copious notes in the CD booklet for this re-issue. There's an extra CD of demo material from the era. Added to the CD with the complete "Bad Rice" are a few alternate takes (you'll hear Ron "cry cry cry" a long, long, long time on the alternate of "Frank's Store").

There's also "Berbelang" and what would've been the B-side, "Francine" (a song about S&M way before Grey). Let me add that these latter two items, though available for quite a while as "KSAN demos" and even available through the archive org site of stuff that is and isn't public domain, are PRISTINE on the CD. On the authorized version, you can really hear what sounds like a teeming bat-load of vampires roaring out of a cave. Or is it the sound of a drag queen's teeth becoming fangs and then crackling to pieces as they gnash together?

Your download below is the KSAN version of "Berbelang." It should be enough to give you some idea of Ron Nagle's brand of rocking raw nerve nutsiness...the kind of thing that perhaps influenced the direction Mr. Zevon would take, and what could be covered by one-time label mate Randy Newman.

Cooders (a variation on kudos) to the tiny company with the huge name (Omnivore) for the re-issue. Years ago, I had recommended a re-issue of "Bad Rice" to some execs at a few of the usual suspects in the re-issue field. The main problem was usually, "We can't deal with Warners. They want too much money." This, despite Nagle winning a Billboard poll that asked who their readers most wanted on CD. Also credit Omnivore with retaining the art work which helped doom the record, specifically the back-cover of gruesome "Chuckie" (complete with missing tooth) that some horrified disc jockeys assumed was Nagle.

At this point, with CDs on their way out, and nobody caring about liner notes, fans of Nagle at least have a lot to listen to. Aside from this 2 CD set, there exists a collection of material from Ron's days with the pioneering San Francisco group "The Mystery Trend," the "Taj Mantis" instrumental album, and a re-issue (with bonus tracks) of The Durocs.Through Ron's own ronnagle.net you can order several solo albums he released independently, and learn more about his career with killer kiln work (he's a well-respected ceramic artist). The website also mentions his dabblings in movie soundtracks, and in mainstream music (songs on a Barbra Streisand album). If you reach the music part of his site and know that the picture of an open door leading to death via river drowning is from a Charlie Chan film, you ARE Ron's kind of fan!

Let's add that Ron Nagle also co-wrote what is probably the best song The Tubes ever recorded, "Don't Touch Me There." And if you'd like something visual, go over to YouTube and punch in "It Hurts To Be In Love" by The Durocs. In a music video that had to have frightened the vee-jays and va-jay-jays at MTV, they give a whole new spin on Gene Pitney's classic. The sleazefest features an oily pedophile, a hideous greasy spoon diner, and a nightmare of geeks and freaks trying to connect or avoid each other. Now on CD, it's not quite so easy to avoid "Bad Rice." If you've got the stomach for the posts here at this blog, buy a copy ASAP (and stay absolutely pathological).

Ron Nagle Berbelang, KSAN demo version. The real deal is on the new CD.

Rod McKuen - OUT THE DOR

Since last month, the grim reaper (as opposed to Kanye, the Grim Rapper) cut down a variety of celebrities. A little over a month ago, one of the victims was the poet, singer-songwriter and weird creator of novelty songs, Rod McKuen.

Obviously, it's his latter, neglected oevre that interests this blog. While a lot has been written about Rod McKuen (April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015), much of it snarky, he was pretty hip in the novelty category for a while. So when Diane Keaton mewls "McKuen!" in Woody Allen's "Sleeper," let's think she meant "The Mummy," and not his greeting card poetry.

"The Mummy" credited to "Bob McFadden and Dor" was such a novelty hit, there was even a quickie copycat cover (by "Bubi & Bob") trying to snag away some sales. Not quite in the same league with "Monster Mash" or even "Purple People Eater," McKuen did create a cute, cartoonish single. McFadden (who supplied narration for a horror theme song album produced by Dick Jacobs, and would later voice Richard Nixon for a novelty album) was the nerdish mummy. Like Casper the Friendly Ghost, this spook didn't mean to frighten people. But did. The punchline comes via his encounter with a beatnik (Rod, alias Dor).

At the time, McKuen was doing hip readings in the same venues as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. As a folk singer (another huge fad at the time) the poet was making tentative steps toward a music career. Weirdly enough, his biggest success at the time was with novelty numbers, including the lesser known "Oliver Twist." "The Mummy" sparked the need and greed for a quickie album, featuring more horror comedy. The liner notes explained who Bob McFadden was, but there was only a nominal mention that Rod McKuen was Dor. After all, who was McKuen? Dor was barely a sidekick or secondary voice on a few tracks.

The McFadden and Dor album did include "Son of the Mummy," and other facile horror-comedy tracks, including "I Dig You Baby," with McFadden doing Karloff as a vampire, narrating a poetry-in-jazz number. The track includes the monster "in a jar" joke, which Spike Jones also used in a Paul Frees Frankenstein narration on his "In Stereo" album.

A more generic item, Rod's "Beverly Hills Phone Directory," gets its yocks by simply naming obscure performers. It might be the origin of the cruel "Sonny TUFTS?" line. In the goofy "Noisy Village" McKuen replicates odd and menacing noises in a sound cartoon mocking Martin Denny's exotica hit, "Quiet Village." "The Beat Generation" explored, and put down the more pretentious qualities of that era's hipsters. You get that one below, in stereo. It's one of the four tracks (including "The Mummy") actually written by McKuen alone.

Happily for Rod, he soon won infamy and fortune for his mainstream poetry books, and by buttering American lyrics onto some Jacques Brel tunes, notably "Seasons in the Sun." Rod's particular brand of bathos even impressed the "Chairman of the Broads," Frank Sinatra, who ended up doing an entire album of McKuen. Koo-koo, baby. Rod was savvy enough to own his own record label, Stanyon. The name was based on a street in Rod's beloved San Francisco.

The oddest thing about Stanyon was that it licensed a Kenneth Williams "Rambling Syd Rumpo" record for American release. Almost nobody in America had any idea who "Rambling Syd Rumpo" was, and barely knew or cared that Williams was the effeminate guy in "Carry On" film comedies. Call it a gay favor, or Rod never losing his oddball novelty interest. It was probably the least successful Stanyon release.

And so we say goodbye to the corporeal Rod McKuen, but, "listen to the warm," and you just might absorb some molecules that could be him, ladies and gays. Among the spiritually gooned, he's immortal for a few novelty 45's and for bringing the Marty Feldman-penned "Rumpo" songs (many originally done by Williams for radio's "Around the Horne" show) for Americans to ignore. Your download is below, and don't let Dor kick you in the ass on your way to it.

Bob McFadden and Dor Beat Generation

Straight Talk: Mumbling was part of Clark Terry's great legacy

Clark Terry died at the age of 94, on February 21st. He was living in Arkansas and had been in poor health for quite a while. One of his last great appearances was at Birdland in 2003, and among the admirers was Soupy Sales. I had to mention to Mr. Terry that, yes, I was "one of your Soupy fans…I first heard your music when Pookie (the puppet) danced around to the soundtrack of "Mumbles" on Soupy's show."

Though Terry was best known as a brilliant session player (trumpet and flugelhorn) and put out his own records and was a regular in clubs, and even spent some time in Carson's "Tonight Show" band, his foray into vocals provided his trademark. It's playing on his website (clarkterry.com) and he recorded many versions of it over the years. Probably the best known is the one he did guesting with the Oscar Peterson Trio.

"Mumbles," aka the "incoherent blues," was a parody of hipster-speak as well as the old blues singers who seemed like they were saying something important even if nobody could tell. You could go from Sammy Davis Jr's cha-ka-sha-bow scatting to Bill Cosby's nonsensically histrionic vocal riffs (especially the theme song for his first sitcom) and it all comes back to Clark Terry.

All the greats knew and loved Clark Terry, from Miles Davis to Quincy Jones, from traditionals such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie to the farther out Thelonious Monk and Charlie Mingus. When Carson's "Tonight Show" moved to California, Terry stayed in New York to be part of the jazz scene there. He tooted and he tutored, and like so many musicians, songwriters and singers, he put the joy of his art above getting a day job. Unfortunately, a lot of dull people who have day jobs, and then get pensions, have no sympathy or appreciation for creative artists. In other words, it's "don't ruin our fun" when it comes to "sharing" (and don't call it "stealing") and don't interrupt our Communist rants of "everything should be FREE."

Now, contrary to what some Seniormole or Chris-Goes-Crumb or Devil Girl of Death or Kim Dotcom or other funny-named denizen of the blog world, forums or torrents might think, musicians can't tour into their 80's and 90's and sell t-shirts to make up for stolen music and lost royalties. They can't, like street panhandlers, deal with the humiliation of Spotify throwing pennies when it doesn't pay the rent. They couldn't work at some dull job all day, and magically tour the country or be up all night playing in those clubs that don't exactly pay that well.

Just how fucked up the situation was for Clark, might be gleaned from a page that was on his website.

Somehow, people who are not in the music business, who never interviewed a celebrity, who have no idea what the workings are in getting deals or maintaining a career in a competitive field, are the ones who are in the position to mind somebody else's business. Thanks to the Internet they can do everything from bully a teenager to death to steal royalties and send someone into poverty and a fatal state of depression. There's always a rationalization for the entitlement. It can be anything from simple surliness and the glee of being evil, to sanctimonious bullshit about "music should be free," or "the record labels and managers screw the artists too," so they can do it, and so can Lord Savior Spotify. Hey, posting a daily give-away of albums on the Net somewhere is "good publicity." You can tell the parasites: they just post music and ask for "nice comments" and if there's any text, it's stolen from Wikipedia or "All Music" and passed of as their own. Yes, it helps non-entities pretend they're in show biz, while kicking real artists OUT of show biz.

Clark Terry's choice was to be a freelance musician, and despite the odds he managed to make it a career. Too bad in an era of inflation and poor social security, and unions that couldn't cover his needs, he suffered at the end. It wasn't helped by piracy, the extinction of record stores, the cheapening of music via mp3s, or Spotify turning out to be no substitute for radio royalties.

Fortunately Clark Terry had friends to build a website for him (even if they couldn't pay for all his needs) and folks who visited and cheered him (even if they couldn't pay for all his needs). And in this world of mumbles (such are promises), where all things lie in jest, and where Clark Terry lies in Woodlawn Cemetery, here's a salute to a guy who put smiles on the faces, and made fingers snap and feet stomp. He even made a rubber puppet named Pookie dance.

Clark Terry Mumbles

Thursday, February 19, 2015

LESLEY GORE NO MORE - "You Don't Own Me" in GERMAN

With the wind chill making it seem like zero (and the night promising an actual record low of just 4 above), friends, relatives and loved ones gathered at a funeral home in Manhattan today. They were saying "Goodbye Lesley." And here, I add: "Goodbye Tony." It's a song you can download or listen to on line, via the link below.

This odd blog doesn't deal with ordinary hits (of which she had many). One of the more obscure items in the Gore collection is "Goodbye Tony." No other words in the song are in English. It's her rather sweetly sung German-language version of one of her most menacing anthems, "You Don't Own Me." Oddly enough while the original was performed with raging power, the German version is much softer and more sorrowful. This is a bit surprising since German is "a rather brutal language" (as Max Prendergast phrased it).

One of the more underrated singers in the rock world, Lesley Gore (Lesley Sue Goldstein, May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015) seemed like just another amateur, ala Little Eva, when she became a sensational star in 1963. She was only 16, hitting the Top 20 with a literal cry-baby novelty called "It's My Party." As unlikely is it might seem, the wizard behind the curtain was Quincy Jones. Somehow he knew just what white America wanted to hear, and with the help of Ellie Greenwich, the veteran songwriter-producer, he made this catchy-naggy pop squeal a hit. The unknown singer had been taking voice lessons and making experimental demos thanks to her affluent father, Leo Gore. Not long after Lesley's birth, Mr. Gore had the family name changed from Goldstein to reflect his Russian heritage. Or at least, the first syllable of it.

In this era of 45 rpm singles, the biggest demographic was now teenagers, and most especially teenage girls. They pushed Fabian into the Top 10, and Rydell, Anka, Avalon, and other pretty boys they wanted to swoon over. They also liked teen girls who could be role models and sob sisters, from Connie Francis to Donna Loren. Perhaps the queen of them, for a few years at least, was Lesley Gore. They related to her and this song about being dumped at her birthday party. They were glad to see, from the fan mag photos, that Lesley was sort of pretty, but not the hated prom queen type. She was believable as a victim.

Also in 1963, Gore followed up with her "answer" song, the triumphant "Judy's Turn to Cry." In 1964 she offered the surprising "You Don't Own Me," as dark and menacing as any Shangri-Las number. It proved she had the pipes for a dramatic vocal. As the years passed, that song became a feminist anthem (just as the Shangri-Las became remembered as "liberated" ladies.)

Teen agony remained Lesley's specialty with 1964's "I Don't Wanna be a Loser" and the better, haunting "Maybe I Know." To get ridiculously analytical about it, the zeitgest heped her existential enigma over a frustrating romantic purgatory, with listeners internalizing her threnody.

The song had simple lyrics: "Maybe I know that he's been a'cheatin', maybe I know that he's been untrue. But what could I do?"

This kind of song had the co-eds nodding and buying, but there was enough vulnerability to make most any boy take notice, too. As in, "Maybe I could get her on the rebound," or "Gee, girls don't have it so easy after all." Her pain was everyone's pleasure.

Lesley continued to vacillate between teen anguish and utterly stupid pop tripe and had another Top 20 with "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" in 1965. That one was penned by the nephew of Quincy Jones' dentist, one precocious kid named Marvin Hamlisch. A number of songs in 1966 "failed to chart," as the pinhead never-was losers like to say. At least she kept trying and didn't just go buy somebody else's music at a boot sale, smugly self-congratulating on being a mediocre nobody.

In 1967, Lesley became "Pussycat," hench-girl to Catwoman on the old "Batman" show. 1967 was also the year of her last Top 20 hit, the Marvin Hamlisch variation on "California Dreaming" called "California Nights." The next year, 1968, she graduated college and wasn't so concerned with show biz. Which is a shame, because after all those years she no longer needed to be double-tracked. She had developed a great stage presence and could drive the crowd wild with an emotional, defiant ballad. Let's say she was so good that nobody ever remarked on her being Jewish.

In the 70's and 80's she put out a few solo albums, but so did Lou Christie and so many others. They, and Lesley, became locked in a time capsule and fans mostly wanted to see them at oldies shows, doing THE HITS.

Circa 2004, she hosted "In the Life," a PBS-TV series about lesbian issues. (OK, hackies, you've been waiting for it: Lesby Gore.) By then, one could quietly ease out of the closet and, if anything, develop new fans. Janis Ian, a two-hit wonder ("Society's Child" and "At Seventeen") found herself in demand at coffee shops and small venues, and Lesley also found the supportive lesbian cult backing her up, as well as some more affluent fans. She performed at upscale niteries such as (Michael) Feinstein's in Manhattan, where the cover charge and price for drinks and food could bankrupt the average person. The crowd would sit politely through the newer songs, many co-written by Lesley, then get juiced on the crowd-pleasing oldies, and absolutely cream over that now lesbian-feminist rallying cry: "You Don't Own Me."

When Lesley died, her last effort, the 2007 release "Ever Since," was on eBay and Amazon for about $4 and no takers. It had a rather haggard looking Ms. Gore on the cover, a fresh version of "You Don't Own Me" to try and get some sales, and was issued by one of the smaller indie companies.

I'm not sure what Lesley's legacy is, and if many people care about her few Top 40 hits (or her hundreds of songs on albums that fans love so much). Maybe you had to be East Coast to identify with her a lot, or you had to grow up with her. She might be, like Petula Clark and "Downtown" or even Nancy Sinatra and "Boots," just a footnote to rock critics who would rather write about Aretha and Janis. But here's something: you can always tell it's Lesley Gore when you hear her. If stardom involves being unique, Leslie was, and remains, a star.

For fans of irony, let's note that she supplied the music for a tune called "IMMORTALITY."

LESLEY GORE YOU DON'T OWN ME - IN GERMAN

Some Ho' Sings the Lyrics to "Hawaii 5-0"

Here's no ordinary Ho. That's Don Ho, who died in 2007. Maybe he didn't live to see his last name used by whites (such as Jay Leno) who adopted the illiterate black slang term for whore. Look anything for a pun, punk.

Ho was the most famous singer from Hawaii, and as such, had the inside track on lousing up one of the best TV theme songs of all time. Why not try and put sappy words to a driving, exciting instrumental? And slow down the tempo? It might get somebody lei'd:

"If you're feeling lonely, you can come with me. Feel my arms around you. Lay beside the sea. We will think of something to do, do it till it's perfect for you and for me, too. You can come with me."

No, this was no Ho-down. A bit better known, and anthologized on those campy "celebrities sing" and "so bad it's good" CD's is Sammy Davis Jr's uptempo take, re-titled "You Can Count On Me." Did he know Ho? He did know ho's, and was prone to putting red polish on ONE nail, as a symbol of devil worship, and indulge in orgies. Go read "Why Me?" His autobiography reveals quite a bit of his traumatic and confused life, though he didn't explicitly detail doing down on Linda Lovelace's manager/Svengali while she coached him.

Davis's autobiography is a lot more lively than "My Music My Life" the Don Ho story. Don did have his triumphs and failures. His biggest triumph was "Tiny Bubbles," which was not about Michael Jackson's sexual attraction to a chimp. His biggest failure was heart failure. Don had a stroke at age 65, developed heart problems, and struggled with a lot of controversial therapies (including stem cell implants).

Don was Ho-spitalized several times, hoping he'd become well enough to perform again. Quoth Don" "Someone told me 'You're 75.' Everyone gets old. Why did I think I was exempt?"

Don had a pacemaker operation in 2006. He died the following year.

DON HO Hawaii Five-O Theme Song

Monday, February 09, 2015

FLABBY PRELUDES FOR A DOG: Satie via CICCOLINI

Prosecutor: Chicolini, isn’t it true you sold Freedonia’s secret war code and plans?
Chicolini: Sure! I sold a code and two pairs o’ plans! Ay, that's-a some joke!

Oh. Wrong guy. We're talking about CICCOLINI.

Though not one of the all-time greats, the late Aldo Ciccolini (August 15, 1925-Februrary 1, 2015) sold a lot of albums for Angel/EMI. Maybe it was because Horowitz and Rubinstein didn't seem to know about composer Erik Satie. Or, care to record him. In the late 60's and early 70's, college grads and classical music enthusiasts suddenly doubled over, discovering the duo of Satie as recorded by Ciccolini.

The impudent avant-garde dadaist and now decomposed Satie had to sustain himself as a cabaret pianist. Likewise, Ciccolini (born in Naples but a Parisian since the 1950's) found himself playing for bar patrons in order to keep baguettes on the table. Yes, "don't quit your day job just yet" was always a good strategy for oddballs trying to defy all odds and bring something new to the world. Even after winning some awards and getting record deals, Aldo didn't quit his day job, which in the 70s involved teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris.

While Ciccolini did earn some good reviews with war-horse pieces (his 1950 United States debut was a Tchaikovsky piano concerto performed with the New York Philharmonic) he found that the best way to get attention in the very competitive world of classical piano, was to specialize in esoterica. This included the twin darlings of keyboard oddness, Alkan and Satie, as well as the even more obscure Déodat de Séverac and Alexis de Castillon. With the success of his Satie recordings, the French-Italian pianist even turned up at New York's Bottom Line in 1979. It was rare for that venue to feature a classical pianist, but Aldo Ciccolini was a name that progressive rock fans knew (along with Tomita, Walter/Wendy Carlos and Virgil Fox. Fox, many recall, played an organ concert at the Fillmore, highlighted by that Phantom of the Opera toccata by Bach, man. Bach, man, he could be booked one night and Turner Overdrive the next! And the same fans might show up! Wowie Zowie)

Mainstream music fans who could tolerate SOME classical music, were delighted with Chico's Satie material, which included gnossiennes (more narcotic than Pachelbel's "Canon") and Zappa-esque titles such as "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." Ciccolini's record label allowed him to branch out for Ravel, and some of the more mainstream composers, while he continued to teach and to perform dates both on hip college campuses and at the standard classical music venues that once hosted the now-deceased Rubinstein and Horowitz.

“Ciccolini avoids standard clichés, and his is one of the finest lyric talents of the piano today,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Joseph McLellan after a 1983 show at the University of Maryland. “He makes it easy to forget that the piano is essentially a mechanical contraption, capable of doing very complex things and splendid in its dynamic range, but limited in expressive possibilities. He makes the piano breathe like a human voice — like a variety of human voices.”

On Dec 9, 1999, Aldo commemorated the 50 years since he first won a major award (the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition). In 2010 he celebrated his 85th birthday with concert appearances in conjunction with EMI putting out a massive (how about 56 CDs) set of his recorded works. By that time, an entire generation had grown up with almost no "star" classical pianist to follow, and only Alfred Brendel being ubiquitous for new releases. Artur who? Vladimir who? Van Cliburn what? And let's not bother with mono from Kempff or Schnabel.

Below? In under 3 minutes, you get Aldo's version of Satie's three short "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." In a different era, these works were as shocking to classical ears as Zappa's weirdly named instrumentals were to rock audiences. So give it a try. It showcases the melodic quirkiness that has continued to make Satie (and Aldo's recordings) such fun listening.

ALDO does Flabby Preludes for a Dog

As always, listen on line OR download...with no capcha codes, Zinfuck password, or promotions to get you buy a premium account for which the artists get nothing.

DONNA DOUGLAS, the SINGER, is STILL ALIVE

Donna Douglas, the beloved sitcom actress from "The Beverly Hillbillies," was the first celebrity to die in 2015 (January 1st). Mournful fans rushing to Google's copyright-stomping YouTube started watching old TV clips and listening to her sing "He's So Near" and...other songs she didn't sing. Those were from a different Donna Douglas, who is very much alive.

YouTube uploaders assumed there was only one Donna Douglas on the planet, and if a record had "Donna Douglas" on it, the TV star was the singer. But as this blog's done with two different performers named Johnny Carson and Jack Larson, it's time to be the prime and official source for another truth. Donna Douglas the actress is not Donna Douglas the singer, who was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland and now proudly lives in Perth, Australia, "still married to the same wonderful man for over 45 years." PS, her real name is Donna Douglas. The American actress was born Doris Smith.

When Doris was starting out in show biz, she was sexy (and usually brunette) in pin-up photos and small roles on TV. By the time she became "Donna Douglas" and got a major TV guest role (in an episode of "Twilight Zone," with no rural accent) the OTHER Donna Douglas already had four singles out in the U.K., and was signed for more.

Donna's singles "did not chart," but record companies saw enough potential in her to keep trying. Initially signed to Fontana, Donna Douglas recorded four singles for them: "The Shepherd" (1958), "Come Back to Loch Lomond" and "Six Boys and Seven Girls" (1959) and "Teddy" (1960).

Piccadilly felt she had the right look and chirpy voice for the times and debuted her with "Tammy, Tell Me True" in 1961. The following year came the big push. "The Message in a Bottle" was nominated for the "Song for Europe" contest (aka Eurovision) but lost to Ronnie Carroll's "Ring-a-Ding Girl" which, obviously, did not bring a winner home to Great Britain.

Donna's next singles were "Matelot" (1962) and "It's a Pity to Say Goodnight" and "He's So Near" (both released in 1963). A final single, "Java Jones" turned up via Pye in 1964.

By that time, the actress Donna Douglas was a superstar thanks to "The Beverly Hillbillies." And thanks to "He's So Near" being issued in America on an obscure indie label, some record collectors assumed that this and any imports had to be early rare recordings from the future Elly Mae Clampett.

Is there any vinyl from actress Donna Douglas? Yes, but mostly it's narrations of kiddie and/or religious material. She does talk-sing on a fairly lame "Beverly Hillbillies" cash-in album from Columbia. Book-ended by "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" and the familiar end theme as picked by Flatt and Scruggs, the filler is 11 weak novelty tunes penned by Zeke Manners. Based on familiar traits of the Clampett family (Jethro being naively stupid, Elly being virginal, Granny being ornery) the tracks offer some dialogue and little bits of singing. A few songs are about the hillbillies and sung by an anonymous chorus, and a few give a chance for ex-vaudevillian Buddy Ebsen to do some easy-listenin' vocals. Irene Ryan would issue some novelty singles but here, she's mostly talking in her "Granny" voice.

Now that you're wanting to compare Donna Douglas the singer and Donna Douglas the actress, you get "He's So Near" and "Birds An' Bees," in which Granny and Jed try to give some gentle advice to the blossoming beauty. Donna manages to be musical on a few line of this novelty, but it's pretty clear that a solo song of most any kind would've been one heck of a chore for her.

Donna Douglas the Singer He's so Near

Donna Douglas the Actress BIRDS 'AN BEES

Legendary LIZABETH SCOTT passes on at the age of 92

She was the Paramount screen star that the studio billed as "“beautiful, blonde, aloof and alluring.” Along with Lauren Bacall and Mary Astor, she was one of the most memorable ladies to appear opposite Humphrey Bogart (in "Dead Reckoning.").

Closer to a Joan Crawford than a Veronica Lake, Lizabeth was often called on to play complex women who could be tough and perhaps even untrustworthy…with a touch of potential evil enough to make even a Burt Lancaster or Dick Powell feel a little unsure. Lancaster's line in "I Walk Alone" was: "What a fall guy I am, thinking just because you're good to look at you'd be good all the way through." If the film was a tough noir, she was the woman to make it tougher. She could hold her ground against anyone, even tough guy Robert Mitchum. In "The Racket" she confronted him with: "Who said I was an honest citizen, and where would it get me if I was?"

Despite the typecasting, Scott (born Emma Matzo, September 29, 1922 in Scranton, PA) turned up in some light fare, from the wacky "Hellzapoppin" (in a touring stage production) to the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis hit "Scared Stiff," to Elvis Presley's "Loving You." Her last film was "Pulp" in 1972, an obscurity that co-starred Mickey Rooney and Michael Caine.

A strong woman who chose her name from two other strong women (Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots), she had the confidence to walk away from show business and devote herself to charity work and ways of improving herself by attending college courses and working out at a health club. She said, "I proceeded to explore all of life’s other facets. None of us is ever too young or too old or too smart to learn or to create.”

I found her to be a strong lady with good values and a resolute personality, and I'll miss her. She had so much talent, too. A lot of beautiful stars were tossed into musicals and had to have somebody else do the singing, and a lot of ladies needed an echo chamber when a studio insisted they cut a single or do an album to help promote a film. Lizabeth had a good, natural singing voice, and there are a lot of solid cuts on her lone album.

A wryly erotic little tease of a number is "A Deep Dark Secret."

This song about her secret doings does not name a particular gender. While she strenuously denied the lesbian claim in a 50's "Confidential" gossip mag, which could've ruined her career, it's safe to say that Lizabeth stirred longings on both sides of the sexual equator, and still does.

Lizabeth Scott, a friend to Ill Folks. Just why is…. A Deep Dark Secret

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"SHADOW" - A Forgotten Pedo-pusher

The only thing people object to on the Internet now is pedophilia. Anything else is easily justified. Lie, cheat, steal, kill even, but…touch not the innocent child. Hear that, Rolf Harris? They tied that singer down, sport. Yet, even with pedophilia, the boundaries have widened.

It's hardly even news when school teachers have sex with their teenage students. Judges dismiss cases of "statutory rape" because, "she didn't look underage," and today's tweens are just emulating pop idols like Miley Cyrus. Folks don't raise an eyebrow about the tween brides being abused by some of the fine, fine religions of the Middle East and Africa...and in parts of the South, a 14 year-old can marry Jerry Lee Lewis.

A song like "Only Sixteen" is almost laughable now. Brooke Shields wasn't even 14 when she starred in "Pretty Baby." Ebay sellers can actually post nude Polaroids and if the seller says "model is 18," then it's ok. They don't even ask that the seller supply proof, something that even Hustler's "Barely Legal" magazines do.

Now, nobody would have a problem with "Shadow," a song that got very little radio play when it came out. This probably surprised Mr. Taylor, who'd had a hit, after all, with "Love Child," covered by The Supremes. But that was only about a bastard birth, so big deal. He may have sent this to The Four Tops, expecting Levi Stubbs to shout:

"Hair dark, black as coal, eyes that look into your soul, touch that makes you lose control...

"Shadow you drag me down, but every day I love you more! Shadow you bring me down, and every day I need you more than the day before! Body of a woman mind of a child. Shadow you sure do drive me wild. You're only 14 years old."

You might recall the name R. Dean Taylor. He wrote one of the classics of rock-crime insanity, the brilliantly schlocky "Indiana Wants Me." It even had sound effects (though the police sirens were edited out of subsequent pressings). He sang it as a love letter to his wife: "I'll never see the morning sun shine on the land. I'll never see your smiling face or touch your hand. If just once more I could see you, our home, and OUR LITTLE BABY."

Why was he on the run? Because, "If a man ever needed dying he did. No one has the right to say what he said about you." We're always told "verbal abuse is legal. Don't take the law into your own hands." But we're also told not to touch jail bait. And in this song, the criminal of "Indiana Wants Me" has a definite misdemeanor on his mind.

Who knows. In another year or two, when we have a pop singer even younger and lewder than Miley Cyrus, or some rapper even cruder than R. Kelly, somebody will dig up this song and take it to the Top Ten.

Actually the most regrettable failure in the R. Dean Taylor catalog is the milder but wilder "There's a Ghost In My House." Considering he was tight with Motown (he recorded on a subsidiary of it), it's a shame The Four Tops didn't grab "Ghost." Maybe they were sick of those "rooms of gloom" songs, and didn't want to deal with an entire house. Or maybe people would think the "ghost" in the house was a white guy.

"Shadow" is probably a black girl. But white or black, tweens knows all about sex now. They can see all the porn they want on the Internet. They laugh at gobs of semen stuck in Cameron Diaz's hair in a harmless film comedy their parents took 'em to see. The "age of innocence" in the 21st century isn't 18. 16. Or even 14. It's probably closer to 8, when a child can say something filthy and get a reply of "where did you learn THAT?" The answer: "I Googled it."

TAYLOR SHADOW