Friday, April 29, 2016

LEFTY LEMON (Paul Frees) Sings for FUNNY FACE DRINKS

Most of you know the derogatory phrase, "go ahead, drink the Kool-Aid." It's a reference to Jim Jones, the religious fanatic-messiah who dosed his followers. Kool-Aid, which is still with us, was hugely popular when it turned up in the late 50's. It was one of the ages new magical powders. Loaded with sugar (which nobody thought was harmful at the time), it could turn a pitcher of water into lemonade. Or better...lots of other flavors, too.

Inevitably, other companies tried to compete. That's the American way. Nestle logically thought that an alternative should be something KEEN...powder in a jar. Just spoon out enough for an individual glass of your favorite poison. Somehow, this didn't catch on.

Pillsbury figured that instead of the boring "smiling, wet pitcher" that was on the front of Kool Aid packets, they'd have a different "funny face" for every flavor they sold. As you see from the above, they created quite a lot of funny faces.

Except...if you were a freckle-faced kid, you already knew you had a "funny face" and were teased about it constantly. NOT FUNNY. And what's so FUNNY about having slanty eyes like "Chinese Cherry?" Oh, go ask Jerry Lewis, or the obscure team of Noonan and Marshall (their film "The Rookie") or Buddy Hackett of "Chinese Waiter" fame. Pillsbury saw plenty of funny people getting away with Asian comedy. No surprise they made the mistake they did. As for "Injun Orange," well, when the company began to get complaints, that one was brought up, too. But maybe Pillsbury simply made a mistake on the color. "Injun Red?" There's STILL the Washington Redskins.

Pillsbury pulled their most objectionable "Funny" faces, and offered new ones, like “Choo Choo Cherry” and “Jolly Olly Orange.” There was “Loudmouth Lime,” “Lefty Lemon,” and “Goofy Grape,” among others.

The company heavily promoted their line, refusing to give up. There were even premiums, like plastic cups to be used with your favorite drink...

Pillsbury’s infamous Doughboy was voiced by the genius Paul Frees, so for the commercials, they called on him to supply all the voices for the different flavors. An irony is that when I spoke to Paul, I was just a kid, and I had no idea he was the voice of the Doughboy. I could recognize most of his voices (Boris Badenov, Ludwig Von Drake, etc.) but that one was a shock. A few weeks later, he sent his fan a little gift. No, not him voicing the Doughboy, instead a promotional 7 inch record called "Paul Frees Sings for Funny Face." Yes, his talent agency and Pillsbury were trying their best to promote this stuff, and him.

Below, Paul is "Lefty Lemon," singing about his favorite sport. (You noticed the handle of the cup is a baseball bat? How clever.")

Today “sugary drinks” are on their way out. People aren’t too thrilled realizing that every can of soda has about eight huge spoonfuls of sugar in it, or that “diet” drinks are worse with fake sweeteners that can cause diarrhea. Few are that nostalgic about the “Funny Face” plastic drinking cups and other promotional items either. And I kinda doubt anyone on eBay would get a lotta money for any of the "Funny Face" promo vinyl, either. But here you are, for your information, for nostalgia, and of course, for free.

LEFTY LEMON (Paul Frees) Why I Left Baseball

Fred Steiner Dennis Farnon - THE FRACTURED FLICKERS THEME

"Fractured Flickers" premiered at a time when Mad magazine flourished and novelty books by Shel Silverstein and Gerald Gardner (among many others) offered “zany” captions to movie stills. There were all kinds of fly-by-night publications, notably “Help,” that made fun of old movies. But to do a half-hour TV show mating insane dialogue and sound effects to actual flickering silent films? That was damn ambitious.

Jay Ward, who produced the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, set his creative staff free. It included wild writers (Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, George Atkins, Bill Scott) and genius voiceover stars (Paul Frees, June Foray and Bill Scott again). They created some very memorable bits of insanity. Probably the most famous was a reworking of “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” in which Lon Chaney’s Quasimodo was re-envisioned as “Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader,” (with Bill Scott squealing ‘Yeah, team!”). Lon Chaney Jr. raged about this sacrilege, but it did no good for him, or for the show, which disappeared after one season (26 episodes).

The writers went on to other things. Hayward and Burns are best known for writing “The Munsters,” but worked on a variety of kiddie shows (“Crusader Rabbit”) and sitcoms (“He and She,” “Get Smart” etc.) George Atkins worked on various cartoon shows, and vinyl fans might know his name from the topical album “Washington is for the Birds” which was done for Reprise and parodied Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Bill Scott would be the voice of Bullwinkle for decades.

The series creatively sliced up "flickiz" (as acerbic satiric host Hans Conreid prounced them) for mock commercials and documentaries, as well as fake mini-movies. Conreid opened and closed the show with self-deprecating remarks, and in a brief star interview segment each week, seemed to always have to explain why the star wasn’t being paid, and beg him/her not to walk out. The guests include Allan Sherman, Rod Serling, Diana Dors, Paul Lynde and Ursula Andress, which is another good reason to go buy the re-issue DVD set.

Conreid's hosting held it all together, but so did the wacky glue soundtrack music. Silent films always need effective music and so did the parodies on “Fractured Flickers.” One of the greats who worked on this stuff was Fred Steiner (February 24, 1923 – June 23, 2011). If the name seems familiar, it’s because it was mentioned here a while ago, in connection with the theme song for “Perry Mason.” Originally bearing the slightly salacious title “Park Avenue Beat,” the instrumental was intended to convey the decadent world of sexy nightclubs and cool, confident ladies of the night. Somehow it was acquired as the theme to the lawyer show, and it worked, mostly due to the stabbing violins of the opening chords, which suggested violent crime. The hip-swinging melody that followed somehow became a metaphor for the task of assembling evidence for the defense.

Quite the opposite of Perry Mason's music is Fred’s quirky theme for “Fractured Flickers.” Insanity requires serious dedication and the 60 second tune was methodically stitched up to include a variety of sound effects and squeamy instruments. Dennis Farnon, a composer and arranger worked on “Fractured Flickers,” and his strange sensibilities made every oddball melody in every sequence come alive.

Although fans of demented music revere Steiner for “Fractured Flickers,” most of his credits veer in the “Perry Mason” direction, and his film scores aren't known for being comical or sexual. They include “Man from Del Rio” in the 50’s, “Della,” and “First to Fight” in the 60’s, and “Carters Army” and “Heatwave” in the 70’s. In the 80’s he was nominated for an Oscar for his work on “The Color Purple.” For anyone who is a fan of singer-songwriters, here’s a bit of trivia: Fred’s daughter is Wendy Waldbaum, who has put out many a fine album, and was one fourth of Bryndle, the quartet that included the great Karla Bonoff, the late Kenny Edwards, and Andrew Gold.

Dennis Farnon is still with us at 92. Aside from his memorable work for Jay Ward (which also included the “Hoppity Hooper” series in 1964), Farnon scored the film “Arrivederci, Baby” (1966) which was released in soundtrack form under both that title and “Drop Dead Darling.” He contributed to the BBC’s music library and some of that material has turned up on vinyl via “for the trade” albums like “Sounds Humorous” (oddball music published by Boosey & Hawkes). Farnon and his orchestra backed a peculiar variety of singers, including Gogi Grant and James Jimmy Komack (who sang under that name, but issued a comedy album as James Komack...a sample here on the blog somewhere). Farnon scored a number of Mr. Magoo cartoons (and the “Mr. Magoo in Hi Fi” RCA album). Fans of lounge and space age pop probably have some of his other RCA vinyl treasures, “The Enchanted Woods” and “Caution: Men Swinging!”

And now..."One...two..."

The Original Fractured Flickers Theme

Gina Gershon Gets Caught in the Rinse Cycle "House of Woe"

In case you weren't aware of it, the greatest entertainer in the world died. So, fuck off Madonna, McCartney, Brooose, Viley Virus, KISS and the rest of you pretenders. According to the media, there's no reason to go to concerts anymore. Hardly any reason to live.

What was his name? Rinse?

The media rushed to find anyone and everyone who could say something about the guy. President Obama couldn't even get through a press conference on terrorism and climate change without being asked for a statement on the death of the great Rinse.

One headline was provided by Gina Gershon, who recalled that she was nearly cast in "Purple Rain."

Gina obliged the reporters putting her through the Rinse cycle, and recalled:

"“I had never done a movie before. I was 18 or something . . . I was young. At that time, I wanted to be a quote-unquote serious actress.” Looking back, “I don’t know what I was thinking — I was totally stupid, but that was my thought process. I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want (nudity) to be my first scene.’” Of course Gina waited, and became a sensation in "Bound" (that was when I became entranced) and "Showgirls" (which I still haven't bothered seeing).

Gina was pursued by the intense little freak, who drove her around Minneapolis in a purple limo, dazzled her with his mansion, and tried everything to get her to stay in his lair. When she pointed out she was an NYU student and had to get back to classes, he told her to call up and get an "understudy." As if college was a play.

The magnetic Mr. Purple eventually drove her to the airport and watched her disappear back to New York City. He hired Apollonia to do the nude scene, and we all know that it made Apollonia the huge superstar she is today.

The irony here?

He had an eye for an exotic beauty, and so did I. I was covering a party that featured all kinds of celebs, including Robin Williams. I was taking pictures of everyone I could recognize. But there was a woman hanging around who was smolderingly sexy, with THOSE LIPS. I took pictures of her, and tried to find someone who could tell me who she was. Nobody seemed to know. I thought I overheard someone call her "Tina," so that's what I wrote when I got the chromes back. This was probably four years after she turned down Rinse, and before she began making fetishistic mainstream movies. I was quite amused when, years later, I glanced through the sheets of chromes from the party looking for anything that might have re-sale value, and noticed "Tina" was GINA.

At this point, all I can tell you is that I have Gina's DVD of "Prey for Rock and Roll," an autographed copy of her solso CD, and even bootlegs of her stage performances in revivals of "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Cabaret." I have nothing from Rinse. Not a thing. An irony is that for me, Rinse's best work was sung by others. "Manic Monday" was done by The Bangles. "Nothing Compare 2 U" was sung by Sinead O'Connor. The pop tune and the angst ballad are much more enduring work, I think, than bullshit pop-funk crap like "(party like it's) 1999."

Meanwhile, the ludicrous kneejerk reaction to the guy's death overshadowed the insanity surrounding Bowie's demise. I'm not insensitive (?) and I do understand he was big. But fer Chrissake, who couldn't be a little cynical and disgusted by over-kill headlines of praise like THIS:

FFS People, anyone ever hear of Elvis and his ridiculous suits, or The New York Dolls, or Alice Cooper or Ziggy Stardust or flamboyant Elton or Jagger's make-up days? ALL of it was before RINSE, and NOBODY but THAT guy wore those silly outfits. Want to talk about a "fancy man" who was effeminate but had a moustache? LITTLE RICHARD comes to mind. But this is what happens when Millennials take over the media, along with hype-meisters who don't give a fuck for the truth.

This guy Rinse...somehow, according to media spin, he not only changed the fashion world, invented androgyny, and was a better entertainer and dancer than Michael Jackson, but he was even a better guitarist than Hendrix or Clapton. Clapton called him "a genius," but I wonder if he'd be so generous as to say, "He made me look like a sullen Brooker-faced old white schmuck." Eric declared that he wrote "Holy Mother" because he was inspired by Rinse: "...he was the light in the darkness." No, not that kind of darkness. Fine, Eric. Guess what, I've listened to Gershon's album a lot more than your morose solo stuff.

And...according to various stars trying to compete with Eric and grab some headlines by doing interviews or just TWEETING...he was a pious Jehovah's Witness, the sexiest man ever to fuck Kim Basinger, etc. Dave Chappelle (remember him?) declared that the death of Rinse was "the black 9/11."

Brooose, the guy who likes swapping spit at a microphone shared with a doo-rag clad overweight version of MASH's Max Klinger, offered a cover of "Purple Rain," while Elton John declared he had lost "the Purple warrior." (Or was Elton's "purple warrior" just at half mast after learning David Furnish was unfaithful?). People nobody's heard of for decades (like Billy Gibbons of the "ooh, they got the funny beards" ZZ Top, who called Rinse's playing "otherworldly." President Obama couldn't even get through a press conference on terrorism and climate change without being asked for a statement on the death of the great Rinse.

Professional social media whore and racist pest Al Sharpton raced around assuring everyone that, through HIM, Rinse donated money to the family of Trayvon Martin. The N.Y. Daily News headlined that Rinse was "the greatest rock star Minnesota produced (Sorry Bob Dylan)." When Justin Bieber dared to Tweet that Rinse was "not the last greatest living performer," why, he got the same response as if he'd spat on fans, pissed in a bucket or cursed Bill Clinton.

My memory is pretty good. I remember recording on VHS, an evening when Joan Rivers, hiply guest-hosting for Carson, booked Elvis Costello.

She asked him for his opinions of various rock stars of the day. "Grace Jones?" "She once whacked somebody on the head with a clipper board...so it's a good thing she's not here." "Dolly Parton" "She used to sing some great songs. I haven't heard her for ages." "Tina Turner." "Oh, terrific." "Huey Lewis?" "He's a good bloke, he's an old mate." "Van Halen." "A root beer version of Rod Stewart."

Joan was impressed by Costello's candor: "I'm crazy about you, because you tell the truth!"

Oh yes. She did ask him about one other star of the day.

Wasnt he right? Of course he was. He stole from 'em all. He impersonated 'em all, most especially Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan. He borrowed a lot of Bob's imposing attitude and cool arrogance. The puppy of late night, Jimmy Fallon, recalled how Rinse once told him to come to a designated place in 15 minutes. For what? A game of ping pong. Rinse said "Let's do it," like it was a gunfight. Fallon went along, and through bodyguards and mysterious people staring at him, made his way to a curtained area. Behind it: Rinse and a ping pong table. "Lets do this," said the Purple One, in his best Dylan sneer. Like a parody of Bob, which was in turn a parody of Brando, Rinse made a few desultory cracks as he won the game. Rinse smashed the ball on the last winning shot, and when Fallon went to pick it up...Rinse was gone.

Yep, he simply disappeared without saying goodbye. It makes for good copy. It was Dylanesque. Or James Dean-esque or whatever. It added to his legend. But come on, "bit of an imposter," right?

And aren't we all a bit sick of people who are SO fucking FULL of themselves they figure they only need ONE name? It's usually a name that was worn by somebody else. Mary was a previous Madonna and Jesus was a previous Prince. No? Adele was a cow in a previous life.

One thing about these clowns is that with the exception of Ke$sha, it's usually impossible to pronounce a one-word name more than one way.

When, in any fit of masturbatory homage, you purr Gina Gershon's name, she pronounces it GEE-nah, grrrr-SHON. First name accent on first syllable, second name accent on second syllable. Now listen...

...to Gina's "House of Woe" which could be a certain mansion in Minneapolis. Or any home where people are moping and saying "Now I know why doves cry."

HOUSE OF WOE, and WOE to fans of RINSE. I feel your pain. Not a lot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

FANNY BOY! Smelton John SINGS for DAVID FURBYISH

Above, a photo of that strange little David Furbyish, who used to jerk off to the music of his favorite singer, Smelton John. David even married his idol. Sadly...

....A big scandal today involves poor Smelton John, unable to keep a lid on the shitstorm caused by unfaithful young Furbyish. John's lawyers have toilet-stalled the British tabloids, but the news has leaked out through the World Wide Wet-Net. "Respect my privates," Mr. John declared, but anything famous people do is considered "news" fit to print. His face flushed bright pink, Smelton John begged "Don't Let "THE SUN" Go Down On Me...or the "DAILY MAIL." To no avail. Now we all know his young hubby Furbyish had a three year affair with some other man, and even a three-way (with two other men, of course. The guy wouldn’t do anything perverted!).

Smelton John's mother loathed Furbyish, and others complained that Furbyish was firing people and taking over. Still, some thought the odd little creature was a stabilizing influence on the wild Mr. John, whose life had been going down the tubes. Too bad David needed to take anal vacations from his demanding diva husband. Or bride. Or whatever they call each other.

What an irony. Just a month ago, Smelton was telling Gay Wenner, publisher of the Roiling Scone, “I’ve never been happier. I have an upbeat new album, I adore being a father, or a mother, or whatever the hell I am, and my boy toy is Furbyish! I have homes all over the world, nobody wonders if it's a wig or a weave or a transplant, and as for my meddling stupid old mother, I couldn’t care if I ever see the old hag again.”

More and more tabloids are reporting on Furbyish and his promiscuous game of thrones on the toilet of some pubic hairdresser (who had his hands full thanks to David having pubes all over his body). While some can't believe gay marriage could fail (after all, it doesn't involve TWAT), this union is suffering from, like Springsteen's under lip, a rough patch.

And so, the guy ridiculed early in life for his real name, Wedgie Tight, is now having to endure cracks from the press and some iconoclastic and rude bloggers.

You might well ask, “What is the download below, O Ye of Little Taste?”

It's Smelton’s quickly-done song for his wayward husband, whom he has affectionately called “Fanny Boy.” You'll remember that as soon as Princess Diana and her hummus-faced rich Muzzie crashed, John rubbed out a hit single with revised lyrics to "Candle in the Wind." Once again, he phoned up ex-Grimsby gynecologist-turned-lyricist Bernie Tampon, and said, “Can you re-write the song as “Candle in the Butt?” I want to shine a light on what this asshole did to me."

Tampon replied, “Please, not that bloody song again." A minute later, he faxed over "Fanny Boy" with a note: “This is your song. It’s quite simple. I hope you don’t mind.”

It IS pretty simple. It's about how Furbyish not only cheated, but obviously spent a lot of Smelton’s money in the pursuit of pleasure, even pawning some of Smelton’s treasures when he couldn't get his hands on the joint bank account while seeking to get his hands on some guy's joint. Furbyish supposedly pawned pairs of Smelton's famous glasses and even some gaudy jewel-encrusted knickers. (Those knickers were encrusted with something, we all assume jewels.)

From Bernie’s lyric sheet:

“Oh Fanny Boy, you’ve left me sad and lonely. There is no end to what I’d do for you. You have no friends. I was your one and only. But now you’ve gone. And pawned my wristwatch too. Oh Fanny Boy, I know that you are younger. Just 20 years and I am 40 more. If you but knew about my burning hunger, you would’ve stayed, and not walked out the door. So please come back! And I’ll forget…you took the car and chauffeur.”

“Oh Fanny Boy, you’ve left my board and my lodging. You didn’t realize how good you had it here. My dear young man, police you’ll soon be dodging! You’ll live in style but constant dread and fear. So please come back and all will be forgiven. The stocks and bonds, the crystal chandelier. But bring ye back my mattress and my pillow. I promise I won’t prosecute you, dear….”

Smelton John Fanny Boy

BAD ROMANCE (Shit My Pants) Lord of the Poop Sale

“RAH RAH! CA-CA OOOH LA LA!”

Yes, here's a gooey, crappy parody of one of Lady Gaga’s greatest s(hits).

“I moved too SLOW…I tried to control it, but I couldn’t hold it. I shit my pants! I can’t believe I just shit my pants!”

A drag queen version of Weird Al Yankovic, Sherry Vine has managed to make some money on Google's YouTube thanks to some flashy, campy parodies (and appearances in cabaret nightclubs). ’Tis pity the tunes aren’t available on disc. In the old days, something like “Shit My Pants” would’ve been quite a collectors’ item on brown vinyl.

In fact, the lack of vinyl confused my colleague, the “Lord of the Poop Sale.” Nicknamed for his habit of buying up any shit he can find on 45 rpm, he heard about song and phoned me in a bewildered state of Alzheimer’s. “Ill, it’s Robin here. "Shit My Pants" did not chart? I have no idea how to do research. If I know the label, my dog Turd Muffin could sniff it out. I've trained her to smell the difference in paper between Parlophone, Pye, and every other label! If I know the labels we can go walkies through charity shops and she'll put her nose in every box that has a record with that label! OK, sometimes she tries to stick her nose in some shop owner's twat, too.”

This old guy IS really into shit, and I could tell he desperately wanted this for his collection or piles and piles of music. For him the real fun of is not listening to records but collecting 'em. I told him the best he could do was wait for me to post a download, as we are living in the age of freeeeee.

"Besides," I told him, “Don Henley sang that there are no hearses with luggage racks.” He said, “Who is he? Is he like Matt Monro? I buy up any dodgy vinyl for a few pence if I can brag that nobody else has it. Is his stuff hard to find? Is he the guy who had rare pressings that led to the phrase, “as hard to find as Henley?”

I explained the phrase is “rare as hen’s teeth,” not Henley, but some of these record-buying zombies don't listen. They're on automatic pile-it. They go buy shit and pile it in their homes and that’s how they putter around till their hearts poop out. “Oh well, if it’s not shit on vinyl, I am not interested,” he said. “I am a dung beetle collecting poopular music! It's got to be utterly useless shit!”

He then asked, "Do you have one of those 45 rpm adapters? I’ve got a hole in my head that size, and I like to put an adapter in it. With the smaller hole, the wind whistles from one side of my head to the other, and it sounds very pleasant!” I told him to pick up some of his dog's turds and shove them in his ears. He couldn't hear anything I said after that, and I was glad to wave goodbye to him.

While "Shit My Pants" can't be added to any vinyl addict's pile, it can help clog up anyone's terabyte drive of free crap

Oooh la la. Here's some Ca-Ca!

Sherry Vine Shit My Pants (Bad Romance)

Saturday, April 09, 2016

WINSTON MOSELEY OUT-LIVES PHIL OCHS BY OVER 40 YEARS

It’s still pretty sobering to realize how young Phil Ochs was, when he made that final decision on April 9, 1976, exactly 40 years ago today. He was only 35.

Walter Moseley finally died a few days ago at 81. No, he didn't exactly make good use of being spared the death penalty. In fact, he managed to cause trouble and heartache after his incarceration for the murder of Kitty Genovese.

As for the early demise of Phil Ochs, many fans have wistfully wondered what he would've achieved over the next 40 years. Had he been able to find the right meds and care, some think he might be knocking out potent political protest songs to this day. I doubt it, but I wish he was able to simply enjoy life and family, and if he would sometimes pick up a guitar, great.

Quite a few of his contemporaries (Barry McGuire, Joan Baez, Hamilton Camp, Gordon Lightfoot, Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton) either never had a big hit after the 70's or stopped recording for a major label. It's just a shame Phil didn't have the option of balancing work and semi-retirement. He should've had the chance, ala Mort Sahl or his old friend Jim Glover, of sometimes doing a gig for that small circle of friends.

Phil's song has had a life of its own, as has the very phrase "small circle of friends," usually spoken with a sense of irony.

The incident that sparked it happened on March 13, 1964. A married man with two kids, Winston Moseley’s hobby was committing burglary (30 or 40, without an arrest). An occasional rape and murder added to his fun. He admitted to raping and killing two other women before he snuck out on his wife and hunted for a new victim: Kitty Genovese. He stalked her through the dark and quiet streets of Kew Gardens, where the stores were closed and at 2am, few people were still awake in the small apartments above those stores, or in the modest middle-class homes and apartment buildings.

Phil's version of the event wasn't intended to be song-journalism. It was just the first stanza of a piece covering a wide range of apathy.

The opening lines, to a jaunty almost ragtime melody: “Look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed. They’ve dragged her to the bushes, and now she’s being stabbed. Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain. But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game. And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends…”

There was no "they." It was just one man. But the journalism of the time was not accurate either. The New York Times, the “paper of record,” reported: “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law‐abiding cit­izens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”

The truth, which would come out slowly over the years, was that most citizens didn’t hear anything. At that hour, a few short cries were mistaken for delinquents horsing around. As often happens, the reporter colored his journalism with drama over fact. Someone actually did lean out the window and yell at Moseley to leave the girl alone. When Moseley rushed away, leaving his dazed victim behind, the neighbor closed his window. Moseley, lurking rather than leaving, waited and pounced yet again, completing his need to rape and kill. But a few people did call the cops, and one man, arriving on the scene after Moseley fled, comforted Genovese as she took her last breaths.

Only a few months later, June 15th, Moseley was in front of a judge. The judge declared, “I don't believe in capital punishment, but when I see a monster like this, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the switch myself.” It wasn’t an option. Proving the judge’s point, Moseley escaped prison on March 18, 1968, stole an officer’s gun, and hid out in a nearby home. When the man and woman who owned it arrived, Moseley overpowered the man and raped his wife.

Over the years, parole boards had to listen to Moseley’s ravings. At one point he whined, “For a victim…it's a one-time or one-hour or one-minute affair, but for the person who's caught, it's forever.” More recently, he simply declared, “I think almost 50 years of paying for those crimes is enough.”

No, there seems to be no quote from him on whether he ever heard Phil's song. The song has outlived Phil, Kitty, and now Kitty's murderer. People are still being killed. Marijuana is only legal in four states, and other issues raised in Phil's song are still with us as well.

Oddly enough, as horrific as the Genovese case is, as vividly divisive as the question of the death penalty for monsters like Moseley is, Phil's song retains its dark satire. One listens to it with more of a wink than a clenched fist. So often, despite his brilliance at ballads, and his scathing accuracy in protest songs, Phil was able to retain a unique sense of humor. It was part of why he was so beloved in person and on stage.

The audience recording at The Stables in East Lansing is here for its good sound quality. At Hunter College, Phil saved "Small Circle of Friends" as his encore/finale, and in the audience recording, you hear how it draws enthusiastic clapping from the crowd.

PHIL OCHS Small Circle of Frends in East Lansing

PHIL OCHS Closing the Show with a Small Circle of Friends clapping at Hunter College (now Lehman College)

PHIL OCHS salutes MERLE HAGGARD, OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE

Phil Ochs, radical iconoclast that he was, had an almost perverse fondness for singing “Okie from Muskogee.” To him, it was simply a good topical protest song. So what if the lyrics were somewhat arrogant and intolerant, and the work of a redneck from one of the “red states.” Phil was born in El Paso, after all, and his early influences included country singers, especially Faron Young. And where, outside of a broadcast of a baseball game in China, would you ever hear the phrase "pitching woo?"

I can’t say that Merle Haggard was one of my favorites, or others in the outlaw bunch (including Waylon and Willie) or the California crowd (Buck Owens). Still, he was a prolific songwriter, a vivid presence on stage, and he stubbornly kept going until pneumonia forced him to cancel shows a few months ago. He died on his birthday, April 6th, at the age of 79. With Phil finding such pleasure in him, I also got some kind of a kick from the “Okie” song. Of course I tended to listen to Phil’s version of it, and save my country listening time for Johnny Cash, George Jones, and the West Coast C&W/rocker Gary Alan among others.

Oh yes...Haggard was actually born in Oildale, California. His people did come from Oklahoma, but as many did (go read 'Grapes of Wrath,') they moved West to make a living. Many picked produce for low wages, but Merle picked at the guitar and...well, picked up a three year sentence for robbery. Yep, he was an authentic outlaw. While in San Quentin he saw Johnny Cash perform, and that inspired him to pursue the honky tonk lifestyle, and perfect his talents in local Bakersfield clubs. His first big hit was "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" in 1966. At that time, on the East Coast, Phil was a hot Elektra folk star playing Carnegie Hall with topical material.

On March 27, 1970 Phil returned to Carnegie Hall for two scheduled performances. Now on A&M, and having recorded several critically acclaimed albums that didn't sell too well, he decided to try something radical. This would be the infamous "Gold Suit" show (released in single-disc truncated form by A&M only in Canada as "Gunfight at Carnegie Hall"). Fans were perplexed by Phil wearing some kind of Elvis suit, rambling about how Elvis was the king and could change things if he’d only become political. They detested Phil’s weird cover versions of everything from Buddy Holly to, Elvis, to Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" to, yes, “Okie from Muskogee.” The disaster ended with fans demanding their money back. A frustrated Phil obliged them by smashing his fist against the box office window.

But…he had a second show to do. Pissed off, bleeding, but determined to get his message across, he took to the stage yet again. Looking back on it, “The Night of the Cut Thumb,” was a triumph. Learning from his mistakes, Phil took the time to explain what he was up to. With some wry monologues (“America is a Cunt…”) and coaching the crowd to keep an open mind, the show was a fine mix of nostalgia (Holly and Presley), political humor, beautiful ballads, and stinging proteset songs. And that included that prickly number “Okie from Muskogee,” your download below.

OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE from the second show at Carnegie Hall, not released in any form, “The Night of the Cut Thumb”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MECCA - Arabs Killed Gene Pitney? Covers incl Spanish + Valerie Loeffler

Above, Valerie Loeffler, who may be the only female to attempt to cover "Mecca." And below, well, the highly individual journalism and oh so coherent critical views you've come to expect here.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder if Gene Pitney REALLY died of a heart attack. Could he have been murdered by some crazed hummus-faced armpit-bearded Allah-kazam? They’re a bit touchy and humorless, aren’t they? (They might not even be laughing at this very moment while reading this!)

Who is behind almost every bombing and cowardly attack on unarmed people? It ain’t the Druids. It’s the bunch that believes in circumcising WOMEN, killing cartoonists, and going into a raving fatwa denying “freedom of speech” to anyone that disagrees with them. With most people, “I don’t believe what you believe” isn’t an invitation to a beheading. So…

Is it possible somebody slipped Pitney a heart-stopping drug because he equated “Mecca” with his girlfriend’s house? Sacrilege! Radical Islam, awakened at the turn of the century, had begun flying planes into U.S. buildings and blasting London transit. Some Habib Felafel deciding to be offended over “Mecca” and taking out Pitney isn’t that far-fetched. After all, Gene died in Great Britain, where they can slip polonium-210 in your tea in a restaurant and get away with it faster than you can say Litvenenko.

If I'm being honest, an observant, that teeny-tiny bunch of radicals who have hijacked “a fine religion” have killed people for much less. I mean, these are people who get touchy even if you try and compliment them. Like: “You know, I really like your stinky halal food.” or, “Danny Thomas did a great job playing a Jew in “The Jazz Singer.” Or “You fuckers sure know creative uses for pressure cookers.”

Those who insist we can’t expel every Muslim (true enough) try to allay our fears by muttering that only 10% or 20% of the Muslim population support or approve of terrorists who want to make the world all-Muslim all the time. Okay, that’s several MILLION maniacs (more than Natalie Merchant could imagine). Given that it only takes two or three to blow up a Boston marathon, a Paris theater, a Brussels airport, or a mental health hospital in San Bernardino, who is to say ONE of ‘em didn’t off Pitney?

We’ll never know for sure if some Jihadi Jay anti-American didn’t get to Gene when he turned up in Cardiff. I quote Pitney’s tour manager, James Kelly: "He was found fully clothed, on his back, as if he had gone for a lie down. It looks as if there was no pain whatsoever."

Suspicious, huh? Kelly remembered that the last show Gene performed was happy. And you know how Muslims feel about “happy.” They hate it. James Kelly: “Last night was generally one of the happiest and most exuberant performances we've seen out of him. He was absolutely on top of his game and was really happy with the show." And was his encore…”MECCA?” And was there someone in the audience wearing a frown without pity?

Coincidence: “Mecca” began its climb up the charts in April of 1963…and Gene was found dead in April of 2006. How many years is that? Exactly 43. If you check the Koran, note what page you find after 42.

43 also happens to be the number of days it takes for fig yogurt to reach its expiration, and frankly, what can happen to fig yogurt can happen to Gene Pitney.

Mecca is a holy destination. It's possible a Catholic would be mildly irked if a lyric went: "That brownstone house where my baby live's like the Vatican, THE VATICAN, to ME!" A Jew might raise an eyebrow over: "My baby's birthday is holy like Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur, to ME!" So to have an Arab overreact these days, to the point of jihad, is hardly surprising, is it? If you saw a news item about a Muslim stabbing somebody for joking that visiting Disney World was like Mecca for the wife and kids, would you really be shocked?

When “Mecca” first appeared, Arabs were fairly peaceful, if you weren’t Jewish. There was no Isis and Muslims didn’t attack England, Spain, France or America. Omar Sharif got along with Peter O’Toole. There were no protests about Pitney’s latest hit, because people in general weren't so "PC" or touchy, or just plain dismissive of somebody else's right to live. Gore wasn't routine in movies and mass murder was rare.

"Mecca" was just an odd novelty with a faux-Middle East arrangement and some snake-charmer clarinet playing. No Arab complained that the chick singing background could as easily have been singing about a lion sleeping in Africa. Ok, so it wasn’t authentic. It offended nobody at the time, and neither did "Little Egypt” by The Coasters. People enjoyed harmless ethnic stereotypes, and the charts embraced ethnic music from Nicola Paone's "Blah Blah Blah" and Horst Jankowski's jaunty "Walk in the Black Forest" to the foreign babblings of “Volare” and “Sukiyaki.”

There was nothing nefarious about John Gluck Jr., a co-writer of “Mecca.” He was a professional who worked with anyone who had a tune that needed some lyrics. (I’m assuming he wrote the lyrics. It seems that way.) Born in Ohio (1925-2000) he worked with Richard Maltby on “Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes” (recorded by the Mills Brothers) and “Beloved Be True” (vocal by Russ Emerick).

With Diane Lampert he co-wrote “No One Home” (recorded by Alan Dale), “Little Lovin’” (performed by Mimi Roman), “Pinch Me” (done by Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads), “Can’t Wait for Summer” (sung by Steve Lawrence), “One Teenager to Another” (from Brenda Lee), “Precious Years” (a single by Glenn Reeves), and “Nothin’ Shakin’,” (yes, The Beatles performed it on a BBC broadcast). Not to mention “Wacky Wacky.” Forget I mentioned it.

With Bob Goldstein John co-wrote “The Other Girls,” a flip side for Jay and the Americans, and with Ben Raleigh, he co-wrote the Connie Francis tune “Blue Winter.” John took sole credit on “That’s Me Without You” by The Wilson Sisters, “Up Jumped a Rabbit” by Frankie Lymon, and “The Bridge” by The Harbingers and also The Cowsills.

Now, what about “Mecca?”

It was a co-write done with the exotic-named Neval Nader, who had Middle Eastern music in his blood, and was born Neval Abounader in Utica (1917-2009). This is not a joke: Neval served in World War 2 and then tried for a career in cartoons and art, marketing his novelties under the pseudonym Screwloose LaTrec.

Neval discovered he had a talent for music. When he needed lyrics for an exotic melody, John Gluck provided it. Just another ballad about young lust, the twist was in making the Middle Eastern melody part of the story line. The girl could’ve been given an Egyptian name, but a cleverer idea was turning her home into “Mecca.” Instead of loving a girl from the wrong side of town, our hero (frantic, high-pitched excitable Gene) was hot about the street where she lived. He had an almost religious view of it, which hints that the girl's parents may be Middle Eastern immigrants. Well, he probably considered her TWAT to be “Mecca,” not the house, but this was 1963.

Exotic, driven by the haunting ‘Mecca…MECCA…MECCCCCAAA” chorus, abetted by some screaming cat-goddess in the background, and wailed by the greatest siren-voice in pop history, the tune was the best thing the Nader-Gluck team produced. But it wasn’t the only thing. Though not as prolific as some of Gluck’s other partners, Neval Nader wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He provided the music for The Fleetwoods’ “Lovers By Night, Strangers By Day,” which was the flip side to the Randy Newman-penned “They Tell me It’s Summer.” The team also scored with “Trouble is My Middle Name” recorded by The Four Pennies and “Punish Her,” which Bobby Vee took into the Top 20 in 1962.

John Gluck’s most famous co-write was still to come. With Herbert Wiener and Wally Gold, he concocted the music for “It’s My Party,” the Lesley Gore smash. By this time Gluck had been hired (along with veterans Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs) to work at Aaron Schroeder Music. Any number of people would be called in to help punch up a song. In this case, the name of one guy was left off. Seymour Gottlieb had the idea for the song, if not much of the lyrics. It was based loosely on events at his daughter Judy’s 16th birthday party.

While “It’s My Party” was instantly covered by a number of artists (notably Helen Shapiro), few have dared improve on Pitney’s “Mecca.” The Cheetahs offered a fairly insane and nauseating cover in 1964 for Philips. Playing it for punk laughs, New Zealand’s goofy Otis Mace took a shot at it in 1981. Let’s just say he was several years too late to be Elvis Costello, and that Split Enz were more authentic eccentrics.

Just two years ago, the group Varjokuva recorded it in Finland as “Mekka,” for their album “Tahti.” They finished it off with fresh lyrics in Finnish, as sung by eye-chart favorite Kyösti Mäkimattila. I think it won an award at the annual Lajso Music Festival, held in a graveyard in Croatia. The winner gets to leave the graveyard.

IF you want to say something nice about Arabs, it’s that they usually try and learn the language of the country they’ve invaded. That makes it easier to send threats to the local newspaper, as well as demands to government officials: “Attention infidels, we expect free housing, all our holidays off, and very light inspection of our luggage when we travel. Do not expect us to dress like you do or believe in your decadent ways. Respect our customs or we’ll kill you.”

Compare this to Latinos. At the moment, the United States is almost bilingual. At the risk of seeming to endorse Donald Trump, there’s no question that many Latino immigrants, legal or not, don’t speak English and don't want to or need to. The government prints every booklet in Spanish, and every ATM machine has a Spanish option and call up any major business like the phone company, electric company or a baseball stadium, and you get a recorded message with a prompt to press #1 if you actually want to continue in English; #2 "para Espanol."

Back in the early 60’s, many American pop stars took pity on foreigners. “They’d learn our language if they emigrated here,” they reasoned, “but if they’re staying in Spain, let’s say, or Mexico or South America, why not re-record in phonetic Spanish?” Below, Pitney burns his uvula on a Spanish translation of “Mecca.” Egyptian pop, Spanish lyrics with too many syllables…this IS an earache. Spanish, Mr. Dylan assured us, is a loving tongue, but maybe only when spoken by Ricardo Montalban or sung by Jose Feliciano. Fact: the average lowlife Latino immigrant, like the average asshole from Brooklyn in America or Grimsby in England, speaks his language grotesquely, and usually 20 rpm too fast. It definitely doesn't help any American's ears to not only hear Spanish (or Italian or Korean or whatever) but to hear it in the mongrel version babbled by someone too stupid to learn anything else. Or as Henry Higgins, said, "Why can't people stop sounding so fucked up?"

Below, rounding out the odd covers is a vaginal one.

So far, I’ve found only one female cover version of “Mecca.” It’s from Valerie Loeffler, who recorded it back in 2009 when she was apparently a student at Gateway Regional High School (in New Jersey). She performed it in a local coffee house, pausing from her versions of Natalie Imbruglia and Anna Nalick tunes. She sang “Mecca” in honor of her grandma. Yes, the old, old lady played some old, old Pitney songs for the young girl, and surprise-surprise, one ancient tune was weird enough to find favor.

Valerie takes a sincere stab at “Mecca,” which is more than you can say for most young girlies. Too many of today's shaven babes stick to wispy and baldly off-key Taylor Swift covers, expecting guyyyysss to join their Facebook fan club and iTunes and Spotify to send them huge checks for songs nobody wants to download or hear. Valerie might not completely nail those high pitched blasts of “MECCA,” but who did? Only Gene Pitney, and that’s why the Arabs killed him. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, because this is an irreverent blog that is often full of put-ons.

Poor Gene. Had he not equated “Mecca” with lust and twat, he may be alive today. All seriousness aside, most Islamites are very nice people as long as you leave them alone, convert, tear down your church or synagogue and build a mosque, and put your wife in a fucking bee keeper’s outfit.

Oh yes, you are allowed to chew on dates, but if Papa Omar gets mad, you’ll have a misadventure with his mates.

PS, the second most upsetting possible Arab murder of a beloved creative artist would be Bob Clampett. He worked on Warner Bros. cartoons but later created the “Beany and Cecil” TV series. In one episode of the cartoon show, he had a gag in which Cecil the sea serpent announced he was going over to “Mecca Records” in order to…”mecca record.” This may have been enough to put Bob on the hit list, since the Ayatollah met with several Hamas terrorists and determined Cecil was a cartoon character, and would therefore be hard to murder.

Below, five difference variations on Mecca, including Pitney’s in Spanish. Blue Gene, baby, shall I mourn you with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief? Shall I ask why in the world people are killing each other over a fucking imaginary friend they can’t prove even exists?

Well, Gene, here’s hoping you’re reading this in heaven (the real deal, not the one full of goats, but the one with angels and Mother Mary singing “Let it Be” for everyone and “He’s a Rebel” for her son).

Gene, may you be sitting on a cloud wanting something to eat, and a waitress comes over and shows you where. Or didn’t you know heaven was 24 hours from Tulsa?

GENE PITNEY MECCA (en Espanol)

OTIS MACE MECCA

THE CHEETAHS MECCA

VARJOKUVA MECCA (LIVE)

VALERIE LOEFFLER MECCA (LIVE)

PETER BROWN - The Theme from "LAWMAN"

I don’t think the death of Peter Brown (October 5, 1935 – March 21, 2016) got much coverage. You’d have to have a long memory and a fondness for vintage TV westerns to know that all-American name. The name, by the way, was originally the more exotic Pierre Lind de Lappe, but the Manhattan-born kid preferred to be called Peter. And when his mother re-married a guy named Albert Brown, he went with that new last name.

Brown’s mother was an actress (you may have heard of the “Dragon Lady” in the “Terry and the Pirates” comic strip? She played the role on radio). He wanted to be an actor, and journeyed to California…to end up working in a gas station.

He noticed a customer’s familiar name on a credit card. “Jack Warner? Are you one of the Warner Brothers??” Jack nodded, “I’m the last one left.” Brown declared himself an actor looking for a break, and Warner let him come to the studio for a test.

Back then, Warner’s TV division was loading up on handsome young guys that teen girls could adore and that would be heroic enough for men to admire. Looking good was secondary to acting well. From memory, I recall quite a few late 50’s Warner TV stars who became popular with little previous experience or success: James Garner, Jack Kelly, Will Hutchins, Ed “Kookie” Byrnes, Bob Conrad, Ty Hardin, Clint Walker, Troy Donahue and, very quickly, Peter Brown.

On “Lawman,” Brown played Deputy Johnny McKay opposite thin, wiry, super tough John Russell’s Marshal Dan Troop. There simply wasn’t a more intense figure on TV than Russell, and I’m including Clint Eastwood over on “Rawhide.” Despite his glaring and gruff demeanor, Russell was a sympathetic mentor to Peter Brown over the show’s four-year run. Neither of them showed much emotional range on the show, but that wasn’t needed. They were heroes.

An important feature of Warner westerns was a theme song to instantly tell viewers what the show was about. This song usually had a catchy melody and extremely stupid lyrics. The lighter shows like “Maverick” and “Sugarfoot” had the most ridiculous themes. “Lawman” was merely stolid and wonderfully inane.

It was the work of Jay Livingston and Mack David who had a knack for writing hokey songs folks could sing along to. Remember “Que Sera Sera” and “Buttons and Bows?” How about “Silver Bells” or Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa?” One of their catchiest theme songs was for “Mr. Ed.”

As for “Lawman,” it is pretty repetitive and clumsy, but some stalwart fans out there could sing the melody to this: “The Lawman came with the sun! There was a job to be done! So they sent for the badge and the gun of the Lawman!”

You get both the original TV theme and the instrumental from Al Caiola, which includes some “Rawhide” whip cracks and “Lone Ranger” hoof beats.

It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone, even antisemitic skeleton Roger Waters, to know that Livingston and Evans, authors of great Americana, were Jewish. Jay Livingston was born Jacob Levinson in Pennsylvania to immigrant parents. Ray Evans was born in New York, his father’s last name already changed via Ellis Island

Their first big hit together was “To Each His Own” in 1946. How big? I don’t think Roger Waters, the acromegaly-faced Nazi, ever had FIVE different versions of any of his songs in the Billboard Top 10 at the same time. All crowding the Top 10 together: The Ink Spots, Tony Martin, Freddie Martin, Eddie Howard and The Modernaires singing “To Each His Own.”

Peter Brown’s career would’ve gone nowhere without a Jew. Jack Warner was born Jacob Wonsai. His Polish immigrant parents had to flee Europe due to a little something called “ethnic cleansing,” which today Roger Waters believes only happens to antisemitic Ukrainians or Palesteeeeenians. He thinks Jews are no longer persecuted (even by him) and he also believes that only Israel (not even North Korea or Russia) is an apartheid dictatorship that deserves to be shunned.

But I digress.

After the TV western craze of the late 50’s subsided, each season brought only a few new oaters. Peter Brown luckily latched onto a new one in the mid-60’s. The cult classic “Laredo” borrowed from “The Three Musketeers” and the 1939 movie “Gunga Din,” in offering a look at a trio of heroes who just happened to have a carefree sense of humor and a delight in pranking each other like friendly enemies. Neville Brand was the older one, the butt of most of the practical jokes. William Smith appealed to guys who could be inspired to try body-building and getting a muscular body like “Joe Riley.” Peter Brown was intended to help draw in some female viewership, as stalwart “Chad Cooper.” The exuberant (lyricless) theme song was by Russ Garcia, and the original soundtrack probably sets some kind of record for the most distracting gunshots, which seem to number in the dozens. It’s really hard to listen to without the visuals.

In the 70’s Brown starred in some exploitation films (notably “Foxy Brown”) and spent most of the 70's and 80's moistening vaginas over 40 by starring in various daytime soap operas. Those growing up in the 50’s and 60’s never forgot “Johnny McKay” or “Chad Cooper,” and would eagerly wait for him to turn up at “western star memorabilia rodeo” shows. The somewhat elusive star had other things to do than stand around while paunchy idiot Hoobastanks clutched him around the shoulder, and grinned yellow cheesy smiles, paying $20 for a pose and an autograph. That’s why if you check eBay, a Peter Brown autographed photo is usually in the $50 range, or more. It’s a tribute that if you want a signed Brown, you need a lot of green.

AL CAIOLA LAWMAN

ORIGINAL THEME AS BROADCAST LAWMAN

SUICIDE IS PAINLESS - ROGER WILLIAMS for KEITH EMERSON

At “the blog of less renown,” famous performers rarely get mentioned. They don’t need it. Their work is easy to find. Only vain idiots would bother upping an entire discography as a “tribute,” adding their own stupid Nazi name as a password (for what they merely stole from other blogs). They do it to get a free Freakyshare account or bitcoins. Some are so pathetic they only want a “nice comment” in return, one that will rock their Swedish-meatball middle-aged fat-faced lonely loser world. English being a second language, stealing a write up from "All Music" and pretending they wrote it, and adding "RIP" is their 16rpm speed.

So, no, you get no ELP or Nice albums here. If you really cared you would’ve bought them already. If you really need an introduction to this stuff, you must be very young or very senile, and that’s your problem not mine.

No, the reason Keith Emerson (November 2, 1944-March 10, 2016) is mentioned here is to acknowledge two things about him that are greater than the sum of his 20 minute show-off organ solos or whatever he did that made progfrogs consider him right up there with Rick Wakeman as a genius of “classical” rock.

Looking at the bigger picture, what makes this guy’s death important even to those who hated his rock groups, is how it happened and what led up to it.

Point One: he suffered from intestinal problems. Add the recently deceased Glenn Frey (colitis), as well as Patty Duke today (death due to sepsis from a ruptured intestine) aging rock fans are beginning to see that food over-processed and chemically altered by modern farming techniques is kicking us in the gut. Maybe some of this doesn’t outright kill us, but it fucks our quality of life and often makes us susceptible to something lethal. Let’s add David Bowie’s cancer to this. Our innards are getting corrupted and it seems the odds are much greater now of getting lethal liver, pancreas or intestine rot than a good ol’ quick heart attack.

More and more people are finding, like the late Keith Emerson and Glenn Frey, that immune-deficiency is a hell on earth. Medication taken to stop the body from attacking itself can also stop the body from defending itself.

This situation has been building over several decades. No less an indestructible force than Frank Sinatra suffered from diverticulitis and had to deal with a very shitty situation involving a colostomy bag before he got any kind of cure. And what happened next? He began to wither in confusion and more misery. His son had prostate cancer and not too long after that, a fatal heart attack.

Most of us grew up never knowing about diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, AIDS, SARS, ebola, or some of the other seemingly new or newly festering illnesses out there. These things mutate pretty quickly, and one thing leads to another. Glenn Frey had colitis, then arthritis, and seemingly well enough to appear at reunion Eagles concerts, he ended up in a coma, and dead. And before Keith Emerson shot himself?

Here’s a Facebook post from Keith Emerson, from 2010.

No, that doesn't sound like fun, does it? People kill themselves in the midst of problems like that. Yes, Keith Emerson “got better.” Just as Glenn Frey and Sinatra Jr. “got better.” Emerson found more ailments creeping up on him, and his quality of life diminishing. Did he see any hope in dangerous drugs that can cause cancer or suicidal depression? Now we know what drug Del Shannon should NOT have taken. Do we know what warnings should be ignored on new wonder drugs like Remicade or Humera? You’re putting your life in your hands listening to a doctor, a second opinion, or ignoring either opinion. No winners, it seems.

Patty Duke’s sepsis from a ruptured intestine? I’m not sure if that’s a common problem but I would not be surprised if it’s becoming one because our bodies are so weakened by pollution, stress and lack of proper nourishment. Some of this you can blame on the government allowing the Monsanto bunch to do as they please, but a lot is the fault of ignorant slobs who don’t care what poisons they put in their bodies in the guise of a “happy meal.”

While various fan-assholes grumbled that Keith Emerson was a “coward” for killing himself, and depriving them of another tour, or a new album they can complain “isn’t as good as the old ones, just like we were disappointed by the new Jethro Tull and Vanilla Fudge…”) let’s dismiss them. They are FAN ASSHOLES. They are likely to live a shorter life than Keith Emerson because they are happily gorging on ham from shit-covered pigs loaded with infections, burgers from mad cows, and “wings” from bacteria-infected chickens. All washed down with a soda containing 8 spoonfuls of sugar.

The ones who don’t understand Emerson’s suicide, or shrug that Frey somehow just “died too soon” and that’s fate, are just ignorant fools. They laugh at climate change and smirk as they order that “heart attack on a plate” at the deli. They also don’t realize that for every star’s suicide there are hundreds and thousands of ordinary people going that same route, which means the problem is much more severe than what Todd Rundgren once called the “tortured artist effect.”

And so it was, that Keith Emerson put an end to his misery. “Suicide is Painless,” as the song says.

Your download is the Roger Williams cover version of the M*A*S*H theme, since it’s a lot more obscure than the one on the original soundtrack to the movie. You’d expect the song to get the stereotypical Roger Williams treatment of “falling leaves” piano glissandos but this item is closer to what a Percy Faith would’ve done. It’s got a full orchestra (which Roger did not conduct), and even a chorus just like the film. The TV show never did offer a lyrical version of “Suicide is Painless” in any episode. Maybe Alan Alda and his gang knew something from operating on people who tried to kill themselves and didn’t quite complete the job? Maybe suicide isn’t painless. You can’t ask Keith Emerson.

Roger Williams Suicide is Painless

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Final Score: Frank Sinatra 82 - Frank Sinatra Jr. 72

The ad for the show Frank Sinatra Jr. had to cancel.

Frank Sinatra Jr. (January 10, 1944-March 16, 2016) was a realist about his mediocre career. A few years before his sudden heart attack (while touring in Florida) he reflected: ’I’ve never been a success. I have never had a hit movie, a hit television program, a hit record. It would have been good for my personal integrity, my personal dignity to have had something like that. I have never made a success in terms of my own right. I have been very good at re-creation. But that is something that pleases me because my father's music is so magnificent.”

Junior’s career, especially in the past 25 years, was basically being a tribute act. Aging Baby Booers now mellow enough to appreciate "The American Songbook" might go to his shows, but were more likely to try for a ticket to a Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga show. The crowd for Junior was mostly old farts. They'd come up to him for an autograph, either saying, “You did your Dad proud,” or “You’re pretty good in your own right.” Or some other pathetic “compliment.”

The sad fact is that Frank just never fit into the slots that were occupied by his contemporaries, who were either successful Sinatra imitators (Bobby "Beyond the Sea" Darin) or had the puppy-eyes and soft round faces to be teen idols (Paul Anka comes to mind). If teenagers sighed "Frankie" in 1965 it was over Frankie...Avalon, who looked natural in a swim suit. Frank Sinatra Jr. was a stiff; he sang cold, and he looked too much like his father. No, he didn't even have that ONE hit that goofy Gary (son of Jerry) Lewis managed. That had to burn him up.

Gary Lewis or his manager managed to find a hit song in "This Diamond Ring," and was also able to regurgitate a hit by re-covering "Sealed with a Kiss" in 1968. Gary wasn't a great singer but he was a typical nerdy teenager and Jerry fans identified with him. By contrast, teens didn't like Frank Sinatra and were lukewarm to the guy's stone-faced son. They DID like his sister, though. Nancy Sinatra was a star in the mid and late 60's with a string of hits. Well, Nancy Sinatra Jr. didn't have the shadow of her famous mother in her way. After some experimenting, she ended up a blonde toughie, rocking C&W with her "Boots." Frank Junior was stuck with looking like his father and having the same name and...making poor choices with his singles. And albums.

Frank, Mr. Nepotism, did indeed sign his son to Reprise back in 1965. The debut album seemed to emphasizes this was "Frank JUNIOR," as the boy was dressed in a tux and singing Daddy's rejects, shit like "S' Wonderful" and "I Got the Sun in the Morning." It was with RCA Victor in 1967 that the kid had his best shot at singles success. At the time, there was still a chance for a singer or 30 or 40 or even older to score a hit if the song was something catchy by Mancini or Bacharach or Jimmy Webb. Below, two examples of what Junior chose.

“Building with a Steeple,” which opens in a minor key, as if it might break into a Del Shannon “Stranger in Town” rocker, limps toward Lee Hazlewood. But instead of singing ala sullen and gritty Lee, Junior can’t stop a’swingin’ and his vocal style just doesn’t fit the song.

“Shadows on a Foggy Day,” has backing from “High Hopes” brats. It’s a sappy happy sunshine song that in no way brings fog or shadows to mind. And who gives a crap if a rich man's son is happy? Frank Senior, on drek like "High Hopes" or his duet with daughter Nancy on "Something Stupid," was enough of an actor to fake some charm. Junior just couldn't seem to do it, and his pavement-hard vocals don't levitate what should be a cheery and optimistic fluff song.

Bobby Darin remained the young listener's Sinatra till Bobby died. The field was then dominated by Paul Anka in a tuxedo, and hipper satellites like Tom Jones and Neil Diamond. Junior issued the embarrassingly titled "His Way" in 1972 and spent the next 20 years being a budget version of his father in smaller venues, and then moving on to being the nostalgia link to the past, when the alternatives were non-relatives like Steve Lawrence, Jack Jones and Tony Bennett.

Yeah, pity the guy a bit, since being the son of a famous man can be tough. Frank Sr. wasn’t around much in Junior's early life. He was busy with his career, not the type to play baseball with his son or sit around playing with crayons or watching cartoons and watching the boy laugh. Nope. Frank would’ve preferred to be out drinking, and slamming Ava Gardner. Junior had to grow up fast and deal with a lack of fatherly warmth.

Frank Jr. became famous for being kidnapped. After four frightening days as a captive to a bunch of clueless cretins, he was rescued and they were jailed. Some considered it all a “publicity stunt.” To his credit, the kid bore up well under the ordeal, and also under the camera flashes that greeted him wherever he went. He developed, if not poise, stoicism. A stone face. The result was that over the years people didn't feel that sorry for him. He seemed to be polite and distant to fans and to even friends. When he died, even his own family reacted with little emotion.

If you checked Facebook, you saw very unemotional posts about him. Mia Farrow (who was a year younger than Frank when she married his father) offered the standard "condolences" and "RIP." Farrow used that familiar "Rest in Piece" shorthand? Really? That's how rock forum members used to dismiss some bore who died. They'd hear that some guy who used to upload Ray Price and Ernest Tubb albums died, and all they'd do is maybe add "RIP" to the list of others who couldn't be moved to add anything more. Yeah, RIP, Lazy Rebel. RIP. RIP. Condolences.

As for 75 year-old Nancy, her dry-eyed Facebook post added the line "Keep Warm, Frankie," which sounds like a a sarcastic suggestion as to his final destination. She did get some "nice" comments from, er, the late Ava Gardner, and Joe Piscopo, the SNL comic who used to get some snickers by imagining Frank Sr. singing disco tunes in a burly Joisy accent.

Junior didn't seem to get along with anyone too warmly. He was married only once, and it lasted for two years, just enough to squeeze out a son. The son, Michael Sinatra, offered this quote: “He was a man who was loved so much despite being so flawed - and that was always a great inspiration for me.”

A few months ago I watched the HBO documentary on Frank, and Junior did much of the talking for the family. His tone was clipped, dry, and strangest thing of all, he insisted on calling his father “Sinatra,” and not “Dad,” saying it was “out of respect.” Warmth apparently didn’t come that easily to him, and perhaps the majority of people noted the chill and that was why he didn’t make it too big in show business. He gave off the vibe of a Sinatra impersonator, settling for a career he really didn’t want for himself, but making the best of the cards he’d been dealt.

JUNIOR BUILDING WITH A STEEPLE

JUNIOR SHADOWS ON A FOGGY DAY

Another Dead Jewish Woman: GOGI GRANT (“The Wayward Wind”)

A few months ago, it was Kitty Kallen. Now we say Kaddish for another Jewish woman who had her name changed so she seemed she was born in Tennessee. Philadelphia’s Myrtle Audrew Arinsberg (September 20, 1924 – March 10, 2016) became, thanks to her record label, “GOGI GRANT.” If that first name seems impossibly stupid, well, it was the era of America’s Binnie Barnes and England’s Googie Withers.

Grant’s strong, mystical “The Wayward Wind” blew Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ off the #1 spot exactly 60 years ago. It was an unlikely achievement for a 30-something, who had begun her recording career only a year earlier. On the small Era record label she'd had the modestly charting “Suddenly There’s a Valley.”

Back then, anything could happen…if you had the right name. An Italian became a cowboy song hero as “Frankie Laine.” And so Gogi, and Kitty Kalen (and Dinah Shore) passed as wholesome middle-Americans, not Jews to be jeered or stolen from by every Hans and Christer. I once had a discussion about this phenomenon with Gene Simmons, and how sad it was that he couldn't have been the hip, hot, rocking leader of KISS if he remained Gene Klein. Wouldn't it be nice if stereotypes could be smashed? "Yeah, I know what you're saying," came the reply. But he added he was happy being Gene Simmons. Just as Bob Zimmerman was more comfortable as Bob Dylan.

While racism implies that you’ll be shut out if you don’t assimilate, many nice people simply expect certain stereotypes in their lives. They want their Italian restaurant run by Italians. They want a Jewish accountant. A yoga instructor from India. Speaking of India, we may know that Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, but we appreciate him taking the effort to toss his 'eathen real name AND, allow him to play Gandhi because we know what his real name was.

“The Wayward Wind” was the perfect storm of singer and song. Her follow up, available below, was the predictable “When The Tide is High.” Chart failure didn't bother Gogi much. Her fame was strong enough to take her to a Hollywood studio where she dubbed Ann Blyth for the musical biopic “The Helen Morgan Story.” The soundtrack was a best-seller. The following year, 1958, she starred in “The Big Beat,” one of those jukebox movies full of top singers and musicians of the day.

Gogi issued three RCA albums in 1958-59, “Welcome to My Heart,” “Torch Time,” and “Granted it’s Gogi,” but there was a lot of competition in singing “The American Songbook.” Her versions of songs such as “That’s My Desire” were very competent but not all that exciting. Fans seemed to long for tangy country-lilted things like "The Wayward Wind." Another aspect of stereotype is expecting a star to stay in the style that made 'em famous.

Willing to try roots music again, Gogi recorded a 1960 album for Liberty called “If You Want to Get to Heaven.” It was loaded with Gospel shouters, which seemed to reinforce the idea that she was Christian. Her next and last stop was CRC-Charter in 1964: “City Girl in the Country.”

40 years later, 80 years old, Gogi Grant thrilled nostalgists by singing “The Wayward Wind” on a PBS nostalgia special.

Gogi did herself proud that night. She was one of the highlights. Reports say that she was still turning up for cameo stage appearances into her late 80's. And, no, Gogi did not end up cremated, and tossed into "The Wayward Wind." She can be found at Hillside Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles that is also the final rest for Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Leonard Nimoy, David Janssen, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene, Milton Berle, Al Jolson, Allan Sherman, Dinah Shore and Moe of The Three Stooges.

GOGI GRANT When the Tide is High

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

JIMMIE RODGERS - (When I was) LEADER OF THE BAND

Some years ago, Jimmie Rodgers autographed a CD for me and said, “Say hello to Bobby Cole for me.” While they were not exactly similar in style, they covered some of the same songs, had some of the same highs and lows, and ironically, wrote eerie, beautiful ballads about age and fame.

Bobby’s most legendary number is “Growing Old.” Sometimes, late at night in a club, he'd offer “So Sleeps the Pride,” a bittersweet meditation on his time in the spotlight. He never recorded it, which his fans always lamented. And Jimmie Rodgers, who did record the pensive “Child of Clay” never waxed “Leader of the Band.” It appears below via a live rendition done some 16 years ago.

Sadly (on this day that we remember the passing of George Martin at 90), in the case of both Bobby and Jimmie, there wasn’t a producer (or agent, or manager) able to take a “Growing Old” or “Leader of the Band” to some influential artist who could make it into a hit. Of course in that regard, luck plays a part. The well-connected Randy Newman hoped Frank Sinatra would cover the bitter “Lonely at the Top.” Frank never did.

James Rodgers was born September 18th, 1933 in Camas, Washington. The other Jimmie Rodgers, a legendary C&W star, had died several months earlier. By the time Rodgers began performing, there didn’t seem any reason to worry about any confusion with the long dead competition. Now, of course, any Google of “Jimmie Rodgers" will get a pastiche of both. It doesn’t help modern confusion that Jimmie’s early singles, like the 1957 hit “Honeycomb” sound quaintly country and might be mistaken for much earlier C&W fare. Jimmie also covered a lot of folk songs in those early days.

After his breakout year (aside from "Honeycomb" he also married, and made his “Ed Sullivan Show” debut), Rodgers was welcomed on live show tours around the country. In 1958 and 1959 he was on the same bill with The Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, The Tune Weavers, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly among others. Yes, Jimmie was going to be part of Buddy Holly’s ill-fated winter tour, but had to cancel due to illness. Jimmie continued to have hit records, but not all the money that he deserved. This was because he was on the notorious Roulette Records, which labelmate Tommy James would later expose as Mafia-run.

In 1963, Jimmie moved over to Dot Records, and in 1967 with folk-rock now popular, signed with A&M, the label that also had faith in Phil Ochs. Rodgers’ career, which had flagged a bit, instantly gained a strong new direction via his ballad “Child of Clay.” But 1967 ended up as the worst year of his life.

Rodgers told Rolling Stone (in a 1986 "Where are they Now" piece), “"I got beaten up by an off-duty Los Angeles policeman. I went to a Christmas party in December of 1967. On the way home a car pulled up behind me, blinked its lights. I pulled over and stopped. This guy got out, stood outside the car. I rolled down the window, and he hit me through the open window with a bar or something. I don't know what transpired because I was unconscious. I might have said something to him, 'Who are you?' or whatever, and that's all it took. Whether I cut him off on the road or what, we don't really know."

It’s possible Rodgers was being vague out of worry for the still-powerful president of Roulette, who had made no secret of telling people that if they dared to leave the label they’d get the same treatment as Rodgers. Apparently the mob, following Oscar Wilde's advice ("revenge is a dish best served cold") had waited a few years for the right time to get Jimmie, which coincided with his big comeback and new hit single. Rodgers wasn’t beaten up by just one off-duty cop. There were three on the scene, and all became implicated when Jimmie ultimately sued and settled.

The cop version seemed to change from an excuse that Jimmie was drunk and had needed to be subdued after being pulled over, to the even more ludicrous insistence that Jimmie had merely fallen down and injured himself. Once he had stopped falling down and injuring himself, they’d merely put him in his car and abandoned him so he could sleep it off.

Rodgers went through three brain surgeries. His loyal pal Joey Bishop publicized the problems via his late night talk show. He interviewed Rodgers during his road to recovery, and booked Jimmie in 1969 for a comeback appearance. It was at this point that I really became aware of this singer. Yes, I sort of knew of those early hits, but it was traumatic for a kid to see a guy lying in a hospital bed half-dead, and a comedian (Bishop) somberly interviewing him and wishing him well. (Years later, when I had a chance to communicate with Bishop, I mentioned that my first memory of him was not the sitcoms or stand-up, but his talk show and his concern for Jimmie Rodgers).

Unfortunately, Jimmie’s health situation was still far from perfect: “I started having convulsions,” he recalled. “I couldn’t get back. Nobody wanted me.” The fragile ex-pop star worked for a while painting houses. He eventually found his way back to the less strenuous world of show business, and was well enough to record again…and suffer the usual problems an artist has. He went into the studio in Nashville for a session, and nothing happened. A while later, somebody had seized the masters and marketed a 2 record set on K-Tel; no profit to Jimmie. He eventually managed to buy back the masters, but it didn’t do him much good with a semi-bootleg already out for several years.

Here at the blog where Mr. Ochs is so well remembered, I do have to say that for me, the most important part of Jimmie’s career remains the A&M years, and the folk rock material, not the happy folk stuff, pop material or C&W tracks. His best new song, "Leader of the Band," echoes the mood of the introspective A&M years.

Rodgers continued his sporadic comeback of live shows, records, and original songs. He was among the aging pop stars who managed to find a home in Branson, Missouri, where he had a small theater and played to the nostalgia trade…home folks who mostly wanted to hear “Honeycomb” or ‘Sweeter than Wine” or “that song that they re-wrote for the Oh-Oh Spaghettio’s commercials!”

Rodgers left Branson for semi-retirement some years ago, and his last gig, according to his website, was in Sandusky, Ohio, in August of 2014. I’m sure he gave the crowd a lot of smiles and a helping of “Honeycomb.” I don’t know if he went to open D tuning and sang about those days when he was…”Leader of the Band.”

Jimmie Rodgers Leader of the Band

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD? WHAT WHAT? (Gene Austin)

Funny, that a song written 90 years ago (1926) needs to be explained. Some think that “Bye Bye Blackbird” is some kind of racist tune, and that at best, it’s sung by a black who is happy to get away from a bunch of rednecks.

As the old sheet music above would indicate, the song is actually about bidding a symbolic farewell to the black bird of gloom. This, as opposed to Poe's "Raven," who still is sitting, still is sitting...

It’s easy to spin-doctor this old song, especially when you consider that “Blackbird” by Paul McCartney does indeed have a racial message. Macca insisted that the song was inspired by the plight of blacks in America, and anyone finding a double-meaning in black birds as either birds or oppressed humans was on solid ground.

A few weeks ago, Dave Grohl sang “Blackbird” at the Academy Awards, offering dual meanings. It was sung during the “In Memorium” segment, with visuals of some deceased stars (Lizabeth Scott) but not others (Abe Vigoda). Obviously the message was that those now with sunken eyes would be heaven-bound. The more coded but intentional double meaning was: “Hey, the Oscars failed to nominate Will Smith and other black birds, so they’re racist!"

So, what about “Bye Bye Blackbird?”

The song was written by two white guys, composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon. From the start it was sung by just about everyone from white man Gene Austin to black woman Josephine Baker. Whoever sang it, it was a croon with an uptempo jazz beat; the singer is happy and optimistic about leaving for someplace better:

Blackbird, blackbird singing the blues all day
Right outside of my door.
Blackbird, blackbird why do you sit and say
There's no sunshine in store?
All through the winter you hung around.
Now I begin to feel homeward bound.
Blackbird, blackbird gotta be on my way
Where there's sunshine galore.

The infamous chorus has a bit of sadness to it (“No one here can love or understand me, oh the hard luck stories they all hand me.”) But the good news is that the singer is headed home: “Where somebody waits for me, sugar’s sweet, so is she [or he].” It's probable that the racial tinge to the song came from so many quick versions of the song eliminating all but the sorrowful chorus.

In the second stanza, the bird shifts color, from the black bird of misery to the bluebird of happiness:

Bluebird, bluebird, calling me far away
I've been longing for you.
Bluebird, bluebird, what do I hear you say?
Skies are turning to blue, I'm like a flower that's fading here,
Where ev'ry hour is one long tear.
Bluebird, bluebird this is my lucky day.
Now my dreams will come true.

The era was loaded with songs about change and movement (“Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye”) as well as every cliche about color, including “Blue Skies” as symbolic of carefree tranquility.

Yes, there were also songs that addressed race, and used color symbolism. Fats Waller comes to mind with his song "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue)?" But, “Bye Bye Blackbird” ain’t one of ‘em.

Side note: Puffins are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They join the depleted ranks of European Turtle Doves, Pochards and Slavonian Grebes. Among others. So in addition to a hipster reference to Charlie Parker ("Bird Lives") let's not neglect other species. "BIRD LIVES MATTER." GENE AUSTIN Bye Bye Blackbird

Monday, February 29, 2016

You Cunts! Beatle John diddles them San Francisco Bay Blues

One of the stupidest songs ever recorded is "San Francisco Bay Blues." It's one of those shitty up-tempo pseudo-vaudevillian pieces of crap. It's the kind of "let's wear bell bottoms and hold flowers" things that an Andy Williams might've sung on a 60's variety show, in a duet with Cher and/or Mama Cass (the vaginal Laurel and Hardy).

The irony is that it's an actual blues, written by a black guy named Jesse Fuller back around 1954. Unfortunately, he was a "one man band" who apparently was a novelty act for crowds of affluent white tourists. Based on a YouTube video of him doing this awful song, I can imagine him on the pier, banging his drum, twanging his guitar, and yeah, tooting a fucking harmonica between choruses, smiling as the hat on the ground filled with coins. Who was in San Francisco back then besides vacationers looking for amusement and a fish dinner with Rice-a-Roni?

By the late 60's the hipsters and the Boho homos took over. For the latter, "Ghirardelli Chocolate" was just code for wanting to ass-fuck an Italian. Also by then blues and R&B were eclipsed by several nefarious music forms, all of them somehow warping "San Francisco Bay Blues" like Jimmy Savile alone with a child.

Fuller's corny tune was picked up by the late 50's and early 60's folkies, the "let's all wear the same striped t-shirts" 3-man folk groups. They tricked up this blues piece the same way they trivialized Mexican rhythms ("Tijuana Jail") and hammering a mild joke into an overbearingly rousing gag tune ("The M.T.A. Song.") If you could get the crowd banging spoons on the table at the notion of a man unable to get off a fucking subway train because he didn't have a nickel (and his wife threw him sandwiches each day INSTEAD of a nickel), then the "snappy" ode to S.F. Bay was just your cup of espresso.

I'm not sure if one-man-band Fuller played kazoo or that was an affectation added by Greenwich Village musos, the type who failed to impress some girl who wore all-black clothes and mascara that could've been applied by a State Highway tar crew. The type who ended up coming home alone to moodily smoke an un-filtered Pall Mall, tap the bongos, and listen to Jean Shepherd musing on life's miseries on late night radio.

From the early 60's when Ramblin' Jack and the sprightly Peter Paul & Mary covered it, "San Francisco Bay Blues," like the infamous chicken, laid in the middle of the road. There it was plucked up by most any lame late 60's act. By then there was a new type of MOR music. One writer who got diverticulitis from sucking a lollipop with his ass all day called it "zunshine pop." You know the genre. It included retro-20's schlock and outright crap: "Winchester Cathedral," "Lady Godiva" and "Up Up and Away."

I don't know if this bit of Charleston Chew spewed from the gobs of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Ian Whitcomb, but I wouldn't doubt it. I'm sure it was a fave of all those psyche-dipshit bands that were melding pop and jug band or New Orleans "funk," and naming themselves Fungo Jerry or maybe Bill Wicks and His Dipsticks. Remember them? They were the kind that had at least one member wearing a top hat and a handlebar mustache, another never smiling, another was always grinning like an imbecile, and the lead singer milking crowd reaction with a prop box containing Mickey Mouse gloves, oversized orange granny glasses and a version of the arrow-through-the-head trick.

One thing about "San Francisco Bay Blues" that you have to admit: it's catchy. Downright infectious. It almost invites a Clark Terry parody. Terry you'll recall, performed "Mumbles," his "tribute" to marble-mouthed Ray Charles-styled blues singers. Well, ex-Beatle John, who was a wicked guy, would sometimes play around in the studio parodying rock stars and styles. He probably wore out his copy of Peter Sellers taking the piss out of Lonnie Donnegan. And so, sick and tired of uptight mama's little chauvinists in the recording booth taking too long of a toke break when he wanted to make some recordings, he skiffled over "San Francisco Bay Blues," mocking-up the lyrics, strumming like he had Formby's uke, and ending with an appropriate curse.

Off you go...

John's Minute Doodle of San Francisco Bay Blues

Friday, February 19, 2016

Red Skelton and a Phil Ochs pianist: "SPRING DAY"

What's that photo? It looks like the late Red Skelton, spiritually guiding Lincoln Mayorga through a performance of "Spring Day."

In dreams. It's a Photoshop job; Mayorga on stage was playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as part of "Broadway on Ice." The show was at the Royal Opera House (in Oman, of all places) back in December of 2014. No photo of Gershwin superimposed, much less "one of America's clowns," as Red humbly billed himself.

In just a month, we'll encounter our first "Spring Day." Maybe only one, considering climate change.

Some 50 years ago, Red was interested in emulating other musical comedians, from Chaplin to Jackie Gleason (who was very successful conducting "easy listening" albums). Red would eventually write his own theme song, to be played when he walked on stage for his one-man shows. In the mid 60's, Liberty gave him a two album deal conducting standards and some self-written numbers as well.

Leading off the second album is "Spring Day," a Skelton original. Like every other cut on the album, it was arranged by Lincoln Mayorga. Phil Ochs fans will instantly know that name. Mayorga supplied the fascinating piano work on several of Phil's A&M albums. It might be a bit of a stretch, but Lincoln's piano embroidery for "Spring Day" might recall the burlesque of easy listening that he did on Phil's track "The Party," probably only a year or two later.

In a Spring day in March, Lincoln Mayorga will turn 79. You can find out much more about him at his dotcom.

As we look to Spring, we can hope (against hope) for some good new music in the world. Maybe some of it will come from comedians. I once had a lively talk with Phyllis Diller on the kind of band we could assemble made up of comedians (Phyllis on piano, Jackie Vernon on trumpet, Morey Amsterdam on cello, Henny Youngman and Jack Benny on violins, Woody Allen on clarinet, Pete Barbutti and Judy Tenuta on accordion, etc.)

Steve Allen was a pianist and Johnny Carson a drummer; today's late night stars are also musical and some very ambitious about it, too. Jimmy Kimmel plays clarinet. His CBS rival Stephen Colbert recently tried to replace James Taylor in duetting "Mockingbird" with guest Carly Simon. The most obsessed of the lot is Jimmy Fallon who will strum a guitar and imitate (ad nauseum) Neil Young. He has insisted on doing karaoke regularly. He has done the good (a duet with McCartney imagining what "Yesterday" would've been like if it had remained "Scrambled Eggs") the bad (literally falling all over the piano and the stage while duetting with Billy Joel) and the ugly (too much to chronicle here.)

The late musical comedian Michael Flanders recalled enjoying a Spring day in Great Britain: "I missed it last year. I was in the bath." Just in case the temperatures do indeed shift rapidly from cold and rainy to overbearingly hot and humid, you can perpetually enjoy THIS "Spring Day" below. And if that's not optimism, well, it's not.

RED SKELTON SPRING DAY

BOBBY COLE - "GROWING OLD" (10 Years After)

Ten years ago on this date, THIS BLOG appeared.

One of the first things I posted was "Growing Old," written and recorded by my late friend Bobby Cole.

We didn't talk much about his old songs. He was pretty modest about his sheet music, his many looseleaf binders of music study, and whatever "unreleased" material he was still working on. I remember checking out some of the songs and asking, "Why did you write them down in such complicated keys?" Much of his stuff was in 4 flats, 3 sharps, etc. He said, "Hadn't thought of that."

And then we were off for a walk, or a discussion of beer, women, and anything but song. After all, you don't expect a doctor or a lawyer to "talk shop" after hours? They're trying to get away from it.

There's no getting away from today's anniversary, so I'll acknowledge it. Yep, 10 years of this blog. But I have no profound comment to make about it; no paragraphs of nostalgia about all the changes over the years. As with Bobby and his music, living it was enough. Just enjoy what remains. The blog has some 1,000 or so links. And below is one of them.

Ten years ago I wrote:

"I'm Growing Old" is Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" gone very bad. The singer here isn't looking backward fondly, he's accepting a very unpleasant future. The song puts a final chord on the forewarning of an earlier song (on Bobby's solo album) called "Lover Boy."

In that one, he tells a playboy that Life will eventually provide the truth: "taking in exchange...your youth." Here, the truth is "I'm Growing Old," and it's so painful Bobby told me that grown men in the audience would cry. That might also explain why Lou Rawls emphatically turned this song down when Bobby offered it. PS, Bobby had better luck when Nancy Sinatra covered one of his tunes (Flowers)."

BOBBY COLE I'M GROWING OLD