Friday, February 09, 2018

ILL-USTRATED SONGS #42 - CELERY STALKS AT MIDNIGHT


Are you like me? Have you enjoyed going to record stores and thrift shops and pawed through 45's and 78's just looking for songs with oddball titles? 

Sometimes the result is SO delightful! Sometimes, er, the music doesn't quite live up to the intriguing title of the song. 

Saving you a fiverrrr, or more likely a nickel, your download below offers a very ordinary big band fox trot called "Celery Stalks at Midnight," with a soporific vocal from Doris Day. No, there's no vivid lyrics about being stalked by a celery, or having a bad dream that started out in a barnyard at sundown (and everybody scared me, and you scared me the most).

Will Bradley’s 1940 original, co-written with George Harris, at least had some kind of weird punchline. After the familiar "Jeepers Creepers" melody wore out its welcome, a band member (probably wiseass drummer Ray McKinley) shouts "Celery stalks along the highway!!" Which almost saves the song. Almost.

My semi-educated guess on this novelty-dance item, is that Will was influenced by the spate of comedy-horror movies popular in theaters, as well as "Inner Sanctum," "Murder at Midnight" and "Lights Out" radio stuff. The latter show scared people one night with the story of a chicken heart that began to grow in a lab and take over an entire city. So why couldn't celery start stalking?

With films, radio shows and mystery books about mad criminals stalking women...how about "Celery Stalks at Midnight?" How about if people back then felt like buying a new single, and simply browsed the new releases looking for an interesting title?

 Ah say, Celery! Stalks! Get it? That's a thigh-slapper, son! I keep tossin' em and you just side-step 'em! (Senator Claghorn anyone?) 

Fast forward 27 years, and we had "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," which was just as un-amusing when I found it in some bargain bin or other. There's a sucker born every minute when it comes to glancing at a song title and needing to hear it.

It was only ONE year after the Bradley original that Carl Sigman added some insipid (but how tasty is celery) lyrics so that Doris Day could cover the tune. Then as now, how many people really listened to the words anyway? 

No, Doris was NOT singing hilarious lines about a nightmare she had after eating too much celery, or sitting on a stalk. She does offer a very swingin' Ella-type vocal here, as she glosses over the possibility of some kind of nightmare or witchcraft.

The post is really just an excuse to post a photo and, finally, after all these years, offer a backing track from Les Brown. After all, this is the self-proclaimed "blog of less renown." Here you can hear...Les Brown and The Band of Renown backing Doris...and her celery...

 Celery Celery Celery! Sapristi! Download or listen online. No "your adobe is out of date" conjobs, no spyway, no Zinfart password nonsense

Faron Young - "He Stopped Loving Her Today" Start Tasting C&W


I recall some nice times with the guys from Dr. Hook, and one thing about their hit Columbia albums, was that they mixed rock, blues, novelty, oldies and country. The record label wasn't too happy, because a group was supposed to fit into a neat category to be sold. But, as Dennis said, "Look at your record collection. It has all types of music doesn't it? Why can't we play all types of music?" 


Well, yes, MY record collection has all types of music. I hope yours does, too. If not, do indeed download the greatest country song of all time, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and try and get into some artists who have crossover appeal (the late Glen Campbell, the lively Gary Allan) as well as those who stayed pure (Hank Williams and George Jones come to mind, and I'll toss in Homer and Jethro, just fer fun). 

Funny thing; many of the rockers WE like grew up listening to hardcore C&W or hardcore R&B. It's just that they assimilated it into their rock music. Or, "stole" the black man's music and "stole" the redneck's music, as the hardcore C&W and R&B fans like to gripe. Fact is, the "pure" stuff is sometimes harder to swallow. That goes for classical, too. More often people listen to ersatz classical (movie theme music) than the real thing, or classical melodies softened into pop standards (like "Full Moon and Empty Arms" or "A Lover's Concerto" which you might recall via the opening lines, "How gentle is the rain...")

The Beatles of course loved Carl Perkins and Buck Owens, and Woody Guthrie influenced many rockers, and "rockabilly" from Elvis and Jerry Lee became its own crossover category. Elvis Costello, Keith Richards and others worked with George Jones. Johnny Cash didn't just cover "Hurt," he owned it. 

Phil Ochs, who grew up in Texas, and later was a "boy in Ohio," really was into  the music of Faron Young. A guy I know, who still tours in a well known rock band, was a friend of Phil's: "One time I told Phil that I thought he sounded like Faron Young…his phrasing. And Phil's eyes lit up. He was very happy to hear it." Phil would later perform the C&W protest song "Okie from Muskogee" by Merle Haggard at Carnegie Hall.

Faron had a 1954 #1 hit with "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," a song title that seemed to have been adopted as words to live (and die by) by dozens of rockers.
Willie Nelson penned Faron's most famous #1, the 1961 smash "Hello Walls." After a lot of success at Capitol,  Young switched over to Mercury in 1963 and averaged two albums a year through 1976, when the hits began to evaporate. In 1979 he moved to MCA for a pair of albums "Chapter Two" and "Free and Easy," which the label hoped would appeal to a wider audience than Faron's hardcore rockabillies. There was a new thing called "countrypolitan," and even George Jones' producer Billy Sherrill was into this, trying to reduce the squeamy violins and add more of a beat and a lot of crossover production values.


It was Sherrill who insisted that Braddock and Putman re-work their morbid tune "He Stopped Loving Her Today" into more of a Top 40 ballad, and make the story dramatic but not country-corny. Then he worked on the arrangement and production, which was so different on Epic than what George had done at Musicor and the other earlier labels. George wasn't that fond of spending a lot of time in the studio, was seriously into booze, and the song had to be pieced together over quite a while. The result is a classic. 

Curly Putman remains my favorite country songwriter, and I am very proud to say that my appreciation for his writing was matched by his appreciation for mine. I mentioned to him the time I was in a very hipster-punk record store, and who was blasting from the loudspeakers? George Jones, the guy who covered so many Putman tunes. So tattoo and metal-nose ear-stud boyo walked in and sneered, "WHAT are ya playin'?" And the dude behind the counter just glanced down and said, "Gotta love George."

While George Jones or Johnny Cash are probably the most popular of the 60's and 70's C&W artists, there are quite a few others who have stood the test of time, including Faron Young.

In 1996, grieving over the death of his daughter, and despondent over his failing health, Faron Young killed himself. While Phil had used the hangman's noose back in 1976, rough 'n' ready Faron did himself in with a revolver.

You never stop lovin' great music until you're planted six feet deep, or blowin' in the wind. 


Faron Young - listen on line or download; no moronic passwords, no links to spyware or malware-loaded porn sites

Denise LaSalle Dies, the Advice Stays: LICK IT BEFORE YOU STICK IT



You shouldn't smile when somebody dies. But...

...that hokey hooker-name Denise LaSalle instantly brought back a memory of that odd 70's time when you just might open up a demo package from a record label and find...a bawdy black lady bawlin' inside. 

I don't know quite what prompted the return to rudeness (which of course goes back to those old R&B "copulatin' blues" 78's black women made). But there was Denise (real name Denise Allen (July 16, 1939-January 8, 2018). There was, of course Donna Summer with "Bad Girls" (beep beep!) and my favorite (on the album cover alone) Millie Jackson (still with us at 73. OK, Millie, let's see that album cover: 



Huh, what? Well, politically incorrect or not, the theme seemed to be: you were not likely to get a blowjob from Olivia Newton-John or Marie Osmond, you'd have a long line ahead of you to get to Carly or Joni, but what you REALLY should be doin' is finding a BLACK MAMA who knows ALL the tricks...and is downright NASTY...

...but not so NASTY that you wouldn't want to lick it before you stick it. 

LaSalle's four decade career obviously was more about talent than the occasional risque song. Signed to Chess in the late 60'ss her single "A Love Reputation" hinted that she could build on her charisma and be a star. Her breakthrough was "Trapped By a Thing Called Love" (1971) and it sold a million copies. 

She wrote a lot of her own stuff, and though she still tended to show up on the R&B charts more than the mainstream charts, she was in the Top 10 with "Man Sized Job" and "Love Me Right," and her "Married, But Not To Each Other" was covered by Barbara Mandrell. She was sizzling between Millie Jackson and the future queen Donna Summer when "The Bitch is Bad!" came out in 1977. 

You could grab a handful of Denise in any decade. Her many albums include 70's releases  Trapped By A Thing Called Love, Doin' it Right, On The Loose, Here I Am Again, Second Breath and The Bitch Is Bad!, 80's items My Toot Toot, Rain And Fire, It's Lying Time Again and Hittin´ Where It Hurts. Funny (no, not really) it was long after Donna's "Bad Girls...BEEP BEEP" that the dopey single "My Toot Toot" became La Salle's only Top 10 UK hit.

In the 90's LaSalle released, among others, I'm Here Again ... Plus, Still Bad, and Smokin’ In Bed and more recently, Still The Queen (2002), Wanted (2004), Pay Before You Pump (2007) and 24 Hour Woman (2010). 

"Gee our old LaSalle ran great..." Those were the days. Still can be the days if you feel like it. And..."Lick it before you stick it" is still good advice. 

Lick It (not "dig it" "get it" "cheers!" "enjoy!" or other dopey blogger link words) Download or listen on line

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Hope for the best..." Mel Brooks' music man JOHN MORRIS dies at 91


"Hope for the best," the chorus sang in "The 12 Chairs," directed by Mel Brooks, "EXPECT THE WORST." 

Friends, fans and family of John Morris saw him live through his 70's and 80's. And he died last Thursday at 91. (October 18, 1926-January 25, 2018). Despite his great fame as a composer and arranger, he didn't care much for the lifestyle of a California musician; not only was he born in New Jersey, but died in New Jersey.

John Morris is mainly associated with Mel Brooks movies. John was behind "The Producers," "The 12 Chairs," "Young Frankenstein," "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie," "High Anxiety," "History of the World Part 1," "To Be Or Not To Be," "Spaceballs," and "Life Stinks." That's a lot of fun incidental music. He also helped in arranging and producing and sometimes co-writing the songs in those films, including the title track for "Blazing Saddles." Your download below, "Hope for The Best, Expect the Worst," was adapted from a Brahms Hungarian dance. Morris once said that when it came to composing songs, "All I have to do is think Johannes Brahms. And I know what Brahms does. I know how he wrote, and you just do what he does and you’re in business.”

One of John's favorite instrumental tracks is "Transylvanian Lullaby," which has been performed by both Pops and symphony orchestras. John, a Juilliard-trained musician, recalled Mel's instructions: "This is about the monster’s childhood. Write the most beautiful Middle European lullaby.” Morris: “So I wrote this tune, and it was perfect for violin. It’s that kind of melody.”

Aside from Mel Brooks comedies, John scored a lot of other wacko films, many starring Brooks favorites including Gene Wilder, Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman, including "Yellowbeard," "Haunted Honeymoon," "Last Remake of Beau Geste" and "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother." 

The soundtrack bin has John's name on "The Elephant Man" (for which he got an Oscar nomination), "Ironweed" and "Dirty Dancing." John's last work was for made-for-TV films: "Murder in a Small Town" and "The Lady in Question" (1999) and lastly, "The Blackwater Lightship" (2004). John also worked on Broadway shows and composed TV themes, ranging from Julia Child's "The French Chef" to the sitcom "Coach."

John leaves behind a wife and a daughter...his only son passed away three years ago. 

Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst (download or listen on line; no passwords, spyware or USA-hating cloud host hiding behind the Iron Curtain and screwing USA artists)

Friday, January 19, 2018

DYLAN by CHER - I THREW IT ALL AWAY


    Many think of Cher as something of a joke…a harmless half of a silly duo singing "I Got You Babe," who morphed into a disco queen with gays chortling over every new outrageous outfit and plastic surgery. In between the extremes, she had a chance to use her unique voice for some memorable songs, and succeeded.

    At first, Sonny and Cher were in the same bowl as the Lovin’ Spoonful, The Byrds, and The Beatles. The joke was that with their shaggy hairstyles and odd faces, you couldn't always tell which was the girl. Their nasal voices harmonized on what was dismissed as pop fluff that revolved around novelty production values. Like The Beatles, Sonny and Cher moved from pop songs to weightier material, but critics didn't take them seriously. "Laugh At Me," was a grumble song from Sonny. They became almost parodies of themselves with a TV variety show, and there was the eventual split. 


     Cher's solo career included an album loaded with heavy covers, and “I Threw It All Away" was among them. It wasn't a big seller. She went for more commercial material, and it brought her back into the Top 20. A catchy pop song IS an achievement, and “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” produced by the very commercial Snuff Garrett was one of those. 

    And so she went…wending her way through a Carol Burnett-type TV show, and her marriage to Allman, and her re-making of her image and her face and her costuming, and her disco tunes and her discovery of the vocoder. 


    It's a bit sad that few take late 60's and early 70's Cher rock-pop seriously, but ultimately she made the wise moves to extend her career with dance hits and Vegas dates. It's doubtful she looks back at her serious attempts at rivaling Baez or Ronstadt and really thinks..."I threw it all away." She's still out there. 


I THREW IT ALL AWAY

The "JASON KING" Theme by Laurie Johnson


For many, Peter Wyngarde = Jason King. 

Wyngarde died a few days ago, perhaps at the age of 90. He liked to cloak himself in mystery, and that included his date of birth, his real name, and his sexuality. Up until his spate of arrests ("what's up with British gay celebrities and sex in men's rooms?") he got away with his image of being too dangerous for women. 

His problem with women, he declared back in the day, "is that they fall in love with Jason King and find I am really Dracula...very sadistic. There is a sadistic streak in me, but I think women quite like it. You have got to be tough with them, really tough and then they love you for it. Treat them with any amount of charm, that’s how you start - then you throw off the frock coat and put on the bearskin. I love being the caveman. The reason I think I am sadistic is that men have a side that hates their mothers. Having so many women is a revenge against your mother."

As was typical of Wyngarde, that paragraph held truths and fantasies. The truth was sadistic gay affairs (notoriously one with Alan Bates). The fantasy, picked up by directors and producers, was that his severe knife-sharp nose, curled lip, lizard eyes and woman-hating stance did make for a figure that fascinated female viewers. The stage-trained actor didn't have much to do in "The Innocents," one of his early films, but as Peter Quint, his glare at a spinster (played by Deborah Kerr) was enough to make her wet and to chill her at the same time. 

Wyngarde would later star in "Burn Witch Burn," but seemed to prosper more in theater, and in guest roles on hip shows of the day including "The Prisoner" and "The Avengers." He appeared several times on the latter, either as a prig or a sadist. Many fans of the show will name "A Touch of Brimstone" (about "The Hellfire Club") as their favorite episode; the one in which he sought to dominate a leather-clad Emma Peel. PS, sharp-eyed Pythons might recognize Carol Cleveland, also in that episode!

Then came his starring role in "Department S" as Jason King, and the follow-up officially titled "Jason King." He insisted he was just like the show's flamboyant hero: ‘I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me. I was not going to have a superimposed personality. I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy, used to go to the tailor with my designs. And my hair was long because I had been in this Chekhov play, The Duel, at the Duke of York’s….Jason King had champagne and strawberries for breakfast, just as I did myself. I drank myself to a standstill. When I think about it now, I am amazed I’m still here." 

In a way, it was amazing he made it out of his teens. Born (August 23-1927-January 15, 2018) to a Eurasian woman and a guy named Goldbert, the boy christened Cyril Louis Goldbert ended up living on his own in wartorn Shanghai, having some tense times waiting to get back to England. The teenager of World War 2 became a stage actor in the 50's, and a TV star in the late 60's and early 70's. He moved back to stage work with a successful revival of "The King and I" in 1973, still fascinating the ladies.

In 1975, after a few cautions the previous year by police willing to preserve his reputation, Wyngarde was arrested for "gross indecency" with a man in a Gloucester bus station men's room. The former sex symbol of espionage and decadence on screen was now aging and outed. Even so, he was such a forceful and charismatic presence, he didn't lack for work. Over the next ten years he made many films as well as stage work (notably with Raymond Burr in "Underground" (in Canada) and comedy (in a "Two Ronnies" Christmas show). 

He was semi-retired when the biography of Alan Bates appeared in 2007, exposing his long affair with the actor, and re-affirming that his mens room arrest was not a one-off gay experiment. Wyngarde retained his trademark walrus mustache into old age, and like John Huston in "Chinatown," presented himself as a dangerous-looking geezer. One of his last public appearances, in a wheelchair, was at a 50th Anniversary celebration of "The Prisoner" TV show. He was in good humor, had an evil glint in his eye, and was able to give a short speech to delighted fans. 

Yes, there's some odd spoken-word audio on Wyngarde, but below, the "Jason King" theme song by Mr. Laurie Johnson (who also composed "The Avengers" theme). No reason to be idiotic and write "Dig It" or "Get It" or "Cheers!" or "Enjoy." Downloading a song is not a big deal, is it? To pretend it is, is so uncool.

"JASON KING" theme - listen on line or download. No password crap, wait time or Russian malware

Ill-Ustrated Songs #41 ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB?


Sapristi! 


There are few religions that aren't either bloody simple-minded or just plain bloody. The most popular ones...BLOODY. The rituals either involve bloodshed, or ritual substitutes (such as wine) in acts that everyone outside the religion consider peculiar if not dangerous.

A few honest religions pretty much admit that the idea is not to live in peace, but to blow up, behead, and otherwise murder any non-believer (aka INFIDEL). A movie that isn't shown much on TV anymore, "Gunga Din," addressed this by having a fictional guru tell his followers: "Kill for the love of KILLING!" 

Whether it's waving a dead chicken over his head, slaughtering a goat, symbolically drinking the blood of an invisible savior, or overtly running over a bunch of strangers, the self-righteous zealot gives non-religious people, and people of differing religions, cause for alarm. 

There's no talking to religious fanatics. At beset you hope that they can simply find a way to prosper on their own secluded dairy farm or behind their compound, and not bother anyone else.  If they make headlines by spiked Kool-Aid or the mass murder of their own cult, too bad.  

Below, a "Deliverance"-style cheerful romp from the Peach Pickers, who simply want to know if you are Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. If ya don't understand them Christian code words, then ya might find yourself hangin' from a tree. But if you believe in the after life, enjoy your raisins and almonds, or hummus and virgins. 

ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB? The Peach Pickers - listen on line or download. No password crap or wait time or malware.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Ill-Ustrated Songs #40 An Octopus Downtown for Petula


Do you want an octopus hanging around in your garden? Do you want to go DOWNTOWN just to visit an aquarium? Did Petula Clark keep an octopus in a tank in her home, and did she haul it out for inspiration when she attempted to improve on something or other Tony may have Hatched for her? 

None of these questions are answered in the mash-up below. It's just...something ILL for you to enjoy. Most mash-ups are pointless, aren't they? So what, so two songs are in the same key, or have the same tempo. That's not really much of a surprise, is it? But if the mix somehow evokes something different...like a downtown octopus's garden...well, it's worth a listen. At least once. 

Your Pet Octopus is waiting... listen online or download to "get it" and "dig it" - Cheers! Enjoy!

BETTY WILLIS - Homeless & Dead on New Year’s Day


"Oh, did you read that sad story about the woman who Brian Wilson discovered?" 

At four in the morning, New Year's Day, Betty Willis, homeless and sleeping in a California mall, was beaten to death during an attempted rape. That's the sad fact. 

The "fake news" is that she was Rachel of "Rachel and the Revolvers," a girl group invented by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher to fuse the California sound with Motown. No, she wasn't Rachel.

What she was, was a very talented singer who caught the ear of young producer Leon Russell. In 1965, he produced a single for her, including a cover of "Act Naturally." By 1968, with only a few singles and duets gathering dust in the record stores, she recorded her last song, ironically titled, "Ain't Gonna Do You No Good." She was disillusioned with the music business, disturbed by the amount of drinking and drugs that went with the lifestyle, and with a young daughter to raise, chose a more sedate and secure lifestyle working for the U.S. Post Office.

A sad fact about some of the homeless, is that they choose that lifestyle. Betty apparently had a pension from the post office, and most certainly had a daughter and other relatives, and even some concerned fans, but she took her meals at charity places for the indigent and slept in the mall.

California climate makes the homeless lifestyle a little less rugged than in other parts of America, and in San Francisco, there are "camps" where some, including aging hippies, seem to thrive. In quiet Santa Ana, Betty felt secure in her day to day life, and the crime rate not especially high. Rape is a crime of violence, not of sexual need, and there are a lot of angry, crazed bastards around. Like THIS guy



Willis (March 10, 1941-January 1, 2018) was born on a farm in Mississippi, but her family moved west to Santa Ana. Her singing seemed like her ticket to fortune. She started with a 1962 duet with Ray Lockhart for Rendezvous. It was credited to "Betty & Ray" and called "You're Too Much." She followed it with a solo effort, "Take Your Heart." Said Righteous Brother Bill Medley, "She had that quality that Leon Russell and myself were drawn to … that wonderful, black church soulful thing.” Her version of "Act Naturally," produced by Russell and recorded in 1965, was released on Phil Spector's Phi-Dan label.

 Listening to “Act Naturally” now, and you’d think, “Oh, that had to have been a hit. It’s Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound meets Motown.” You might even imagine that Goldie and the Gingerbreads (Genya Ravan) could’ve had a hit with it in England while touring with the Rolling Stones…doing her hysteric, overdramatic soulful raving, taking a simple song and detonating it into a funk bomb. 

But, no, this was recorded back when people barely wanted to hear Ringo Starr’s version. Aside from the few R&B radio stations, and the record stores in the black communities, this type of music was simply too raw for the average "easy listening" fan's ears. It would take years of The Beatles (and Lennon's "Twist and Shout") and Dylan and so much more before most people found pleasure in black music. At least, black music that wasn't sweetened and creamed up the way The Supremes did it, or Smokey Robinson. 

Medley's duet with Betty, 'My Tears Will Go Away,' would've been quiet controversial at a time when there was such segregation in the country. It never did get released, and he became busy with his new partner Bobby Hatfield, and their almost instant success with "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling." 

“She had the talent to make it, and she certainly deserved to make it,” says Bill Medley.  “It just breaks my heart to hear this … Damn… It’s a wonderful world, isn’t it?” 

 ACT NATURALLY, Betty's single produced by Leon Russell 


AIN'T GONNA DO YOU NO GOOD, Betty's last single, released in 1968


JERRY VAN DYKE dies … IT KINDA MAKES YOU WONDER DON’T IT?



   As we get older, we become more aware of the obit page, and it seems our favorites die more frequently. We realize, “This IS serious.” It’s going to be OUR time soon. And…it kinda makes you wonder, don’t it? I mean, about being dead? “To be really dead,” Dracula once mused, “must be glorious.” 

    No, like the dead parrot Mr. Cleese brought back to the store, a corpse has “ceased to be.” And so a once vibrant, funny guy like Jerry Van Dyke (July 27, 1931-January 5, 2018) is now silent. The Big Sleep is Sleep No More. 


    A friend of mine killed himself. He was in his early 20’s. My mother happened to meet his mother, and my mother hadn’t heard the news yet. “How is Keith,” she asked. Keith’s mother replied, “There is no Keith.” That sums it up, doesn’t it?  


    We talk about how the legacy lives on. The work is still there. The memories are around. Thus, the person hasn’t really died. What a lovely rationalization. No, the loved one is an EX-Person. One minute you might be able to call Jerry Van Dyke, and he might go off on some goofy anecdote or other. Now he can’t do that. 


    YOU can download “It Kinda Makes Yuh Wonder Don’t It” and enjoy it. And you can think Jerry Van Dyke was a personable fellow. He knows nothing about it. There is pain in sorrow for those around him, and we offer condolences, but we can’t offer condolences to a corpse. In his autobiography, Dick Cavett wrote about feeling depressed sitting on a park bench and realizing he could never tell W.C. Fields or Laurel & Hardy how much they meant to him. And how sad it also was that these guys couldn't be heartened and cheered by that kind of appreciation. Or that they couldn't just enjoy more years of retirement, being at peace instead of resting in it.


     So we end up mourning OUR loss, a bit more than the fact that someone who we wish was still enjoying life, is not. Which kinda makes you wonder. Don’t it? 


    OK, I’ll stop being existential. If it wasn’t for the title of the song, and the fact that it IS a weird fucking song, I wouldn’t have started this way. Time for an appreciation of the deceased artiste.  


    It’s been said, and was said too much during his lifetime, that Jerry was over-shadowed by his famous brother Dick. Well, so have 90% of the comedians and actors in America. Dick Van Dyke is legend. But Jerry did well for himself. He had his own personality. He played an affable variation of “stupid” in his comedy and his stand-up and his talk-show appearances. His variation was to be slighty dizzy and uninhibited. 


    Here’s a guy who could go into embarrassing detail about how your ass gets flatter as you get older, or how llama shit has no smell ("which is a good thing if you sell it as fertilizer") and the more blankly oblivious he seemed in his ramblings, the funnier he became. His light-hearted, goofy way of walking through life got him a lot of work in sitcoms. In fact he "sleepwalked" through his first TV sitcom role, a nepotistic turn on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as Rob’s confused banjo playing brother. Jerry actually made his TV debut at 19 doing stand-up on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He showed a lot of poise stepping out there and telling self-deprecating jokes at that age.


    Jerry’s childlike "say what you're thinking or not thinking" charm got almost instant attention. He became a regular on “The Judy Garland Show” and was in the running for many sitcom parts (including the lead in "Gilligan's Island.") He chose the infamous “My Mother the Car” figuring that if talking dog and horse sitcoms had done well, this would succeed too. It lasted a year but was picked on by critics as an example of how low and ridiculous TV comedy had stooped. 


    Fortunately for Jerry, he was able to savor fame late in life. He was Emmy-nominated four years in a row (1990 through 1993) as a co-star on “Coach.” He also performed solo shows and played dinner theater.  


      It is more than a shame that his fame on “Coach” was marred by a great personal tragedy. On November 17, 1991 his troubled daughter Kelly hanged herself.  Her strange and rebellious nature led her to porn films as "Nancee Kellie," including “Catfighting Students,” “Rump Roasts,” and “Coach’s Daughter,” marketed to reference her father’s hit series. She was married to sleazy Jack Nance, who eventually died after some thugs beat him up and damaged his already pulpy brain. The sordid story of her porn life was amply covered by “Inside Hollywood”-type documentaries at the time.

    When he got to be visibly OLD, Jerry was perfect for productions of “The Sunshine Boys.” He played Willy Clark, the firmly retired vaudevillian opposite a variety of straight men including his brother Dick, and also Tom Smothers.  


    When Tom and Jerry performed in “The Sunshine Boys” together, Jerry offered reporters a typically goofy joke: “We both have brothers named Dick, but doing this play, we're Dickless!” But really, memorizing and performing that play at their age did take balls. 


    The song below? It still makes ME wonder. It comes from the Broadway show "Kelly," which seemed like such a sure thing (music by Moose Charlap) that people were vying to cover songs from it before it even opened. The Village Stompers recorded it as an instrumental on their "New Beat on Broadway" album. Columbia handed it to Jerry for his debut single, even if the only lyrics he sang were, yeah, "It Kinda Makes Yuh Wonder, Don't It?" And I wonder, what was going on in the Broadway show during this song?


    "Kelly" lasted just ONE performance and there's no review describing the song, which was ultimately spelled with a YOU not a YUH. I'd like to think that in the musical, the rascal Mr. Kelly is either doing magic tricks, or perhaps eyeing a chorus of burlesque strippers doing a bump and grind. Well, you can imagine your own visuals that could make you wonder. You can do it because you're still alive. 


IT KINDA MAKES YUH WONDER, DON'T IT? - listen online or download, no Passwords, time delays or invitations to download malware because your Adobe is out of date so click here... 

FRANCE MOURNS FRANCE GALL


    So cute. These days, “barely legal” ye-ye girls would not be allowed to frolic. In a kind of milder, gentler age, we appreciated youthful exuberance without that much leering. In France, they went oui-oui over one of their favorite “Ye Ye” girls, France Gall.

    It was just, well, NICE to see Annette in those “beach party” movies, and we liked the cheerful nature of the flat-chested bikini-wearing “Laugh-In” girls Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne. Chirps who weren’t overtly busty (like Little Eva or Petula Clark) were also welcome.  So were the Asian versions like Rita Chao. I suppose the closest thing to “ye ye” girls today are female gymnasts, who are perky, flexible, leave nothing to the imagination, but aren’t overtly sexual. But…back to France. 


    One of the first music stars to pass on in 2018 is France Gall. Most people think anyone from France has a lot of gall. But no, not the French ladies we love so much.  


    Isabelle Genevieve Gall (October 9, 1947-January 7, 2018) first gained fame at 16 with “Ne Sois Pas Si Bete” (“Dont Be So Stupid”). Somehow she represented Luxembourg in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, and won with a song written by her friend Serge Gainsbourg. She recorded it in both German, Italian and Japanese versions (“Poupee de Cire, Poupee De Son” was the French original) but didn’t try for the UK/USA market. An irony is that she had a hit with “L’ Amerique.” 


       Her biggest hit was probably another Gainsbourg item, the sassy "Laisse tomber les filles.” It wasn’t exactly big because of her singing, but her personality. At the time, she probably was considered similar to Lesley Gore, in that both were given credit more for attitude than ability. Was anyone claiming Gore displayed a lot of range and emotion on “It’s My Party,” or the rather monotonous “California Nights?” No, it was just pop. 

    Walt Disney actually thought the breathy, pretty French pop singer might make a perfect Alice for a new production of “Alice in Wonderland,” but he died and the project died with him.


    Gall’s maturity led her to try for more than kiddie songs pop songs, and “ye ye” rave-ups. Gainsbourg wrote “Teenie Weenie Boppie,” which offered up a strange video of France seemingly passed out on LSD.


 


     In the video she was carried around a pleasure boat by two black dancers. Inside, someone dressed as Napoleon frugs with various wigged women, while France, wandering around the boat eventually collapses, glassy eyed, and her stiff (apparently dead body) carried off by the sorrowful black dancers and a coterie of white-clad women.

    Gall fans didn’t seem to want anymore of this, and that included “Qui se Souveient de Caryl Chessman,” an anti-capital punishment song that referenced California’s “Red Light Bandit.” Chessman, after many appeals and a book smuggled out detailing his life, was sent to the electric chair by Gov. Pat Brown (yes, father of current California governor Jerry Brown) even though he hadn’t killed anyone. 


    Considered washed up at 21, France turned from her native country to concentrate on recording in German, scoring several Top 10 hits. Below, you’ll hear “Die schönste Musik, die es gibt” which you’ll recognize as “Music to Watch Girls By,” popularized as an instrumental in an American TV commercial but with a life of its own in various idiotic lyrics. How idiotic the German lyrics are, I have no idea. 


    In 1974, she found new inspiration via Michel Berger, who tended to write much more romantic tunes than Gainsbourg. Veronique Sanson once covered Berger via an entire album of his quite beautiful music. You’ll find the 1987 track “Ella Elle L’a” (a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald) to be very typical not only of the mature France Gall, and of the work of Berger, but also similar in lilt to Veronique Sanson and some of the latter songs of Mylene Farmer. It’s rhythm-driven with that unusual flirtation in dancing along the dark keys more than the safer ones that don’t involve flats and sharps.  


    The song is a celebration of the feel-good scat singer, and of “du peuple noir” in general, "the black people" whose music and lifestyle balance and dance between “love and despair.” 


C'est comme une gaité
Comme un sourire
Quelque chose dans la voix
Qui parait nous dire "viens"
Qui nous fait sentir étrangement bien

C'est comme toute l'histoire
Du peuple noir
Qui se balance
Entre l'amour et l'désespoir

Quelque chose qui danse en toi
Si tu l'as, tu l'as
Ella, elle l'a
Ce je-ne-sais-quoi
Que d'autres n'ont pas
Qui nous met dans un drôle d'état

Ella, elle l'a Ella, elle l'a
Cette drôle de voix



    She had a mature beauty, didn't she! 



    Through the 80’s, she and Berger enjoyed a great deal of success, but in 1992, Michel suffered a fatal heart attack. Their child, who had cystic fibrosis, died five years later. She was pretty much retired at that point, but hardly forgotten. A documentary on her, “France Gall par France Gall” was broadcast on French TV in 2001. She remained an icon in her native country, and when cancer took her a few days ago, France’s President Macron praised her “sincerity and generosity,” and her “songs known to all French.” And yes, to many of us around the world.
    

Ella elle l’a - No Passwords, Spyware, or cries of "Cheers!" "Enjoy!" "Dig it!" "Get it!" or "Give me a Paypal donation"

Die schönste Musik, die es gibt - Music to Watch Girls By in German - No crap-ads or fake notices that your Adobe is out of date and needs a malware download  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

BOBBY COLE - "So Sleeps the Pride" - "Vincent"


    “…after twenty years, he still grieves.” 

    There are grown people who are walking around…voting, marrying, polluting the planet…who weren’t even BORN when my friend Bobby Cole died. Yeah, life goes on. What, half the planet wasn’t around when Bobby and Judy were an item.


    Bobby died on December 19th, 1996. One of the recordings below, "Vincent," dates from maybe 6 weeks earlier. He allowed a cassette recorder to be placed on his piano at Campagnola, which was (and still is) a kind of foreboding Italian restaurant full of wealthy drunks at the bar in the front (opposite the piano). Towards the back of this narrow joint, are tables for diners. No doubt the more dangerous ones eat their pasta at the tables way in the back, insisting on sitting with their backs to the wall, so they can keep an eye on whoever comes in.

    At one time, Bobby played one of the finest "joints" in the city, and Frank Sinatra would show up, and when Bobby took a break, you might see an eager Art Carney live out his fantasy of being a saloon pianist.



    Ali Babi is long gone. Campagnola remains, and props to them for hiring a guy as erratic as Bobby. Nobody could take his place. There's no longer a sign in the window with a photo of the star attraction. If somebody's at the piano now, it's just somebody at the piano now. At the piano, Friday-Sun nights, Bobby was fun-loving, personable, had charisma, and knew just about every song anybody wanted to hear, by heart. He was, to use his phrase, “in the people pleasing business.”

    The recording of “Vincent” will give you an idea of the scene at Campagnola. Although he was the “star” attraction, with his photo in the window, and people DID come to see him, including some famous faces, it was a bar-restaurant and there was always a lot of chatter going on while he played. As you’ll hear at the beginning, some comments were cheerfully aimed at Bobby, maybe with a request for a song. Here, Bobby acknowledges he hadn’t played “Starry Night” in a while, but would take a crack at it. He appreciated the suggestion, and was glad it wasn't "Summer Wind."

    Typical of this very classically trained musician, who was deeply into jazz, and who had a lot of books on theory, he doesn’t do a “straight” version of the Don McLean song. He explores some unusual sharps and flats to accent a line or two. It almost seems like he’s hitting wrong notes, but no, no matter how much he drank, that never happened. And that unique, husky, raw voice also was on key. His cover versions, from Leonard Cohen's "Closing Time" to "The Big Hurt" (he favored Miss Toni, I favored Del Shannon), always became, to use one of his favorite words, unique when he played them.

    I remember one night, late, when the place was pretty empty. I had asked Bobby about original tunes, and if he was working on anything. He admitted he had additions to what was on the “A Point of View” album, but that he didn’t play his own stuff very often. The customers wanted to hear familiar things. But now, just about closing time, he said, “Here’s one of my newer songs.” I couldn’t believe it. My lady and I were going to hear a NEW Bobby Cole song?? He had that wry look on his face. “It’s called 'So Sleeps the Pride,'' he said. With an ironic smile he added some sarcasm: "How’s that for a commercial title?”

     Yes, Bobby could be a little too intellectual for the room. This is a guy who quoted William Henry Davies on the back cover of his solo album, and followed up his Top 40 cover of "Mr. Bojangles" with a bizarre parable called "The Omen" (which you can search for on this blog). Yeah, the average denizen of jazz clubs, several martinis into the night, might just blink over what "So Sleeps the Pride" might mean, and just groove on the melody.

    It opens with a unique set of notes, like leaves falling from an autumn tree. It moves into a confessional that hints at a star's former fame  (in his case playing Vegas, being a pal of Sinatra and having a song covered by Frank's daughter Nancy,  conducting the orchestra for Judy Garland's shows, etc). And yes, at this point, the “pride” he once had, he's sleeping off.

    “So Sleeps the Pride” was one of several demo recordings he'd made. He planned a new album called "The Hole in the Corner Man," the title an allusion to very bad luck. He kept putting off finishing the album. I'd offered him my 4-track to inspire him. He seemed impressed by my interest, but didn't say he had new songs he wanted to record. I said, "the offer is always open," and left it at that. 

        And that was it; just before Christmas in 1996, he died. He'd been away from Campagnola for a few weeks, but that wasn't unusual. He had moved in with a girlfriend he'd known for quite some time. She had to deal with the usual lapses when he would drink too much...but things seemed pretty good.

        On November 19th he went for a walk, and apparently began to feel ill. A stroke or a heart attack...whatever it was, he stopped and steadied himself at a lamppost. This was about a block up from Campagnola, by coincidence. A bartender was looking at the window and noticed something was wrong. When the man at the lamppost slowly sank to the sidewalk, he called 911. An ambulance came, but he was DOA at Roosevelt Hospital.

       What fool made the assumption he slipped and fell on a slippery sidewalk, I have no idea, but it ironically gained traction. If you knew Bobby, you knew that he was a fire plug, and it would be damn hard to knock him off his feet. He was sure-footed even when he was loaded. There was no snow or ice on the ground (there rarely is a "white" Christmas in New York City). He had simply weakened suddenly, and all those years of smoking and boozing had caught up with him.

     Bobby's solo album appeared on CD-R thanks to jazz fan Ron Meyers, who knew Jack Lonshein, the guy who produced it on Concentric all those years ago. The CD-R sold mail order at Ron's “jazzman” website, included bonus tracks; the handful of demos Bobby had made, including "So Sleeps the Pride." The package had a "legitimate" release in Japan, on a real CD. Unfortunately nobody seemed to be around to supervise the booklet. The printed lyrics include some odd mis-heard words, and Ron's liner notes unfortunately repeat the nonsense about Bobby hitting his head on the sidewalk.



      Japanese sellers do their best to explain who Bobby was and why the album is worth buying at import prices:



       When I first heard "Mr. Bojangles," I not only bought a copy, I bought two, to make sure that I'd have a back-up in case I wore out my copy or it got a scratch. I'd never done that before or since. I didn't hear another Bobby Cole song on the radio, and looked for anything by him in record stores. I eventually found the Columbia album by The Bobby Cole Trio, which was nothing like "Mr. Bojangles," with its "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" calliope and world-weary vocals. Then I found the obscure solo album he made, filled with amazing originals. But where was he now?? There was no Internet. There was just scanning the newspapers and hoping that maybe his name would turn up in an ad for a club date. For years, I wondered if I'd ever see this mysterious "Bobby Cole" perform, much less get a chance to talk to him. Finally, there was a listing: The Bobby Cole Trio playing at the Savoy Grill. Lady and I went there, dressed appropriately for a club that harkened back to the suave days of late night sophistication, dinner and dancing.

        Between sets, Bobby went around to the tables, making sure everyone was having a good time. It was part of the job in a place like that. He was playing the kind of standards you'd expect at the Savoy Grill, so I half-jokingly said, "I don't suppose you're going to play "Bus 22 to Bethlehem?" This was the folkie B-side to "Mr. Bojangles," a Cole original loaded with heavy lyrics. In fact the lyrics are even heavier these days ("the Christians and the Muslims exchanged frozen looks.") He gave me a comic frown and said, "You stick around, I wanna talk to you later!"

       Some of us are still talking about you, Bobby. We miss you. We value all the memories, and all the music you left behind.

"Vincent" recorded at Campagnola in November 1996
"So Sleeps the Pride" Demo - Listen on Line or Download - No Passwords, Pop-Ups or Malware
       

Saturday, December 09, 2017

JERUSALEM - SIR HARRY SECOMBE


    Jerusalem is in the news. Obama's replacement, Donald “Orange is the New Black” Trump, moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. A shocking move? Not when you recall a quote from Obama years earlier: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”   


     Technically all Trump did was underline the point by shifting America's embassy. But, in doing so, he upset antisemite Roger Waters and his back up group, The Palestinians. After all, they want Israelis to starve and die. Let's just say that the entire Middle East is literally full of hot heads. The difference is their degree of bloodthirsty fanaticism and how often they blow up innocent people.  

    Israel is the only outpost from which the free world can keep an eye on the increasingly dangerous and psychotic bunch in Iran, Iraq, and all over the region. Israel guards and preserves the historic monuments that mean a lot not just to Jews but to Muslims and Christians. And "Jerusalem"...means a lot to the British. It's one of their favorite songs. 


    Michael Flanders once mused, “England hasn’t got an official national song. What would it be? “Jerusalem!”” 


    Huh? In America, people stand up and sing “The National Anthem” without really knowing what the words are about. Same deal in Great Britain with "Jerusalem." In fact, some argue it shouldn't be sung in church, that it's anti-religion, and that it promotes Judaism. Yes, just as scholars also argue over the history of Israel and whether the Palestinians have any claims to it, interpretations of "Jerusalem" can get pretty heated.

     As briefly as possible, some background on the song:

    Hubert Parry wrote the stirring music in 1916, based on William Blake’s words from 100 years earlier. They appear at the beginning of his epic poem “Prelude to Milton.” John Milton, in Blake’s poem, stares down from heaven (pretty good for a guy who died blind) and finds that most people are leading lives of hellish stupidity and misguided allegiance. Don't people realize that they can do better, and that Jesus once journeyed to set his sacred feet on British soil?? 


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of god
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?
    


     Hold on. "Dark Satanic Mills?" Hayley and John? They weren't born yet, and they were nice people. Is Blake referring to the industrial revolution? Is that when England lost its way? Some interpret this as Blake's message. And some say that it makes the song way too religious to be as patriotic a number as "Rule Brittania" or "God Save the Queen," or "England Swings Like a Pendulum Do." 

     Agnostics, Atheists, and dry-eyed Christians all wonder whether those first lines aren't just rhetorical and ridiculous. Why would Jesus ever want to go walking in Hull or check out the muddy banks of the Humber River? How did he get to Great Britain in the days before BOAC? A slow boat? He walked on the water? Legend has it that The Naz, had a travel companion, Joseph of Arimathea, and the latter brought the “Holy Grail” to Glastonbury, and left it there after the rock concerts. Which involved banging on actual rocks.

    Flash forward to 1916. Blake's poem is put to music. A hundred years later, including the film "Chariots of Fire," the song is a classic. Some say the Internet is worse than the industrial revolution, and we should mind Blake's warnings that the utopia of "Jerusalem" doesn't mean closing the Cadbury factory or buying sweaters made in China. We must preserve ecology and create more places where sheep may safely graze. Some priests take the opposite view and refuse to allow "Jerusalem" to be played at a wedding ceremony, or any religious ritual. Oh, maybe a bris, since that is rarely done in a church. Although accidents do happen. 

     While some get very angry about the whole thing, some find it funny. You might recall the infamous (aren’t they all) “Monty Python” sketch about a weird department store. Neurotic salesman Graham Chapman goes bonkers whenever somebody says “mattress.” He puts a bag over his head and will only return to normal if everyone sings “Jerusalem” to him. Oh, what a useful song it is!

    Below, a version of "Jerusalem" that is both sincere, and slightly comical, since Sir Harry Secombe was both a popular singer and a zany comedian. I mentioned to him how remarkable it was, that the same voice known for comedy, was also appreciated, in all seriousness, for songs of religion and patriotism. Sapristi!   

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: o clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariots of fire!
I will not cease from metal fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.   

 
"JERUSALEM" Sir Harry Secombe - download or listen on line. No passwords, pop-ups or Palestinians.

If killer Thomas Jadlowski had heard the folk song “Molly Bond…” Bob Dylan...



    “Come all you young gallants that delight in a gun. Beware of your shooting at the setting of the sun…”   


    I’m quoting a pretty well known folk song, which has come down to us as “Polly Von,” “Polly Vaughan” and “Molly Bond,” and sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to The Oyster Band. 


    I don’t think killer Thomas Jadlowski ever heard it. If he had, Rosemary Billquist might still be alive.  


    Songs can save lives. Songs can move people. But not if people refuse to listen.  

    Listen to the singer's cautionary tale, ending with: “Mother, tell your children not to do what I have done…” Listen to the protest song, opening “Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam…”  Listen to a love song like “I Threw It All Away,” and maybe you'll remember it when you're about to say something hurtful.  


      All three examples above come from Bob Dylan, who covered "Polly Vaughan." While it would be nice if people always kept in mind "the golden rule," imagine a world where people listened to Dylan lyrics and followed the lessons and advice in them? And that goes for his cover of the old standard "Polly Vaughan." Whatever her name, Vaughan, Bon or Bond, her fate is always the same: killed.  


    A woman in flowing skirts, or a white apron, she is mistaken for a swan by a hunter....just as Rosemary Billquist was mistaken for a deer by THIS asshole: 





    Rosemary Billquist had two dogs, Sugar and Stella, and took them out for a twilight walk the day before Thanksgiving. Thomas Jadlowski was out, too, looking for a kill. It was nearly 5:30 in the afternoon. With “daylight saving time” over, it was dark and visibility was poor. Fun-loving Jadlowski raised his high-powered pistol and fired. He was surprised to hear the deer scream. 

    Rosemary, only 150 yards from her home at the time, died at a hospital in nearby Erie, Pennsylvania. The district attorney for Chautaqua County, Patrick Swanson, issued a statement: “This incident is a tragic reminder of the importance that hunting laws be followed. This incident was completely avoidable.” Ya think? 


    Happily for Thomas Jadlowski, gun laws in America are lax, and punishment is mild. Charged with being a little “reckless,” (he pleaded "not guilty" at all), the maximum he can get when he stands before a judge in January, is 15 years. He might not get jail time at all. If he does get sent away, with good behavior he'll be killing animals again in a year or two. 


        He's 36. He has a future. Rosemary Billquist's husband has a grave site. He can hunt for new wife. 




    “Come all you young gallants that delight in a gun. Beware of your shooting at the setting of the sun…”   


         Those lines, set to the chilling throb of bass guitar, open the riveting version by The Oyster Band, who are now called simply Oysterband. They managed to make something new out of a song that is very, very old. Also below, the "traditional" solo voice version from Peggy Seeger, the smooth harmonies of Peter Paul and Mary, and the bluesy burly take from Dylan. In some versions, it's twilight that confuses the hunter. In others, a misty rain. Sometimes the killer is portrayed as having a bow and arrow, but usually it's a gun. In most versions, an irony is that the girl turns out to be the man's girlfriend or wife. In some, including Dylan's, the dead woman's ghost appears in court to assure the judge that her death was an accident and not murder.
      
Molly Bond - THE OYSTER BAND          

Molly Bond - PEGGY SEEGER 
Polly Von - PETER PAUL AND MARY 
Polly Vaughan - BOB DYLAN

Bonnie Koloc - The 25th of December + 20 worst Xmas tunes


   Many people find the Christmas season stressful and depressing. A big reason is...CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Stores are full of it. And some people are full of it, walking around in Santa hats, turning the home and workplace garish with idiotic cards, stupid Santa figurines and garish green and blue lights. TV commercials go into hype-overdrive. Hypocrite greedheads who are hateful every other day of the year, think they're fooling everyone by how they compete to have the most disgustingly decorated home on the block. Oh yes, and kill trees.
    
    Here's a sweetly sad song from Bonnie Koloc, which reflects on the disappointment of how Christmas spirit doesn't last. You can be opening presents with your loved one on the 25th of December...and the bastard could end up drunkenly fucking a stranger on New Year's Eve. That's just one scenario. There are plenty of other grim ones you can think of, as it's always easier to conjure up misery rather than joy.


   Bonnie’s unique voice was very well known to TV audiences in 1973 but with no connection to her name. Her smooth yet soaring vocals were used on a commercial for United Airlines. The company had done well adapting "This Land Is Your Land" into a plug for travel, and when the Guthrie estate demanded more money for re-licensing, the company went a cheaper route. They hired Jerry Liliedah and Jack Smith to write an original jingle. "Have you seen the other side of where you live?" sang Bonnie, strumming her guitar. Burgess Meredith's voice emerged: "No airline takes you to more of this proud land than United..." 

      The "straight" version of the song, "Mother Country," is on "You're Gonna Love Yourself in the Morning," the same lp that features Bonnie's own "The 25th of December." I bought it without knowing about "Mother Country." I'd heard "The 25th of December" on the radio (FM, of course), and it instantly got my attention. I ended up getting several more of Bonnie's albums and CD's. 

      As for Christmas music in general, no thanks to all those generous bloggers who give away entire discographies and 2 GB downloads of the stuff. I know they strongly believe that Jesus thinks "sharing" is not stealing, but the truth is...unless you're 12 or have the mentality of a 12 year-old, this stuff is a waste of ear drums. And that includes "The Little Drummer Boy." For any Scrooges out there, below is a Top 20 of the WORST of the season. It could easily stretch to 100. 

1. Jingle Bells. STUFF THEM UP YOUR ASS. The most over-used and irritatingly cheerful holiday song of all. Who ever rode in a one-horse open sleigh?
2. All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth. Sing it again, brat, and you'll need dentures. (Runner-up "Nuttin' Fer Christmas")
3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Insincere, obnoxious, condescending, and as icky as figgy pudding.
4. We Wish You A Merry Christmas. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Fuck off and take "Frosty the Snowman" with you.
6. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. It wasn't even funny the first time.
7. Here Comes Santa Claus. The aural equivalent to bukkake.
8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It makes me re-think my opposition to someone owning an AK-47. GET HIM!
9. Sleigh-Ride. Close to "Jingle Bells" as one of the most irritating melodies ever written. It's always sung breathlessly: "it's-lovely-weather-for-a-sleigh-ride-together..." Makes you think "slay." Ring-ting-alingly terrible.
10. White Christmas. One of the most insincere and commercial pieces of treacle, especially as crooned by The Hollow Man (as his son called him) Bing Crosby. Ban everyone who sings this, except a black vocalist, because that makes it funny.
11. Feliz Navidad (lo siento, pero chinga tu madre).
12. 12 Days of Christmas. Just sadistic and monotonous. And to all reporters who think it's clever to write up "how much these gifts would cost," STOP. Nobody's actually going to buy geese a'laying or hire pipers to pipe...so just go on a 12 day drunk and lie in the gutter till Christmas blows over.
13. Deck the Halls. Over-played, so go "Fa-la-la yourself."
14. Let It Snow - redundancy isn't amusing, so let it go, let it go, let it go. The sickest version is from Dean Martin. Come on Dino, you were a boxer once, a tough guy; don't pretend that you find snowy weather "frightful." 

15. The Little Drummer Boy. (Bang, POW, to the MOON, you little shit.)
16. Wonderful Christmas Time. McCartney first memorable hit melody in about 20 years...sucks. Dah dah dah dah wonderful Christmas time. Repeat. 10 miserable notes that you can't get out of your head with a plumber's helper.
17. Happy Xmas (War is Over). Remembering December 8th prevents me from saying anything more than...this song's lyrics are awful and the singing is, too.
18. Holly Jolly Christmas - written by Johnny Marks, author of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He was Jewish; maybe this was some kind of revenge.
19. All I Want for Christmas Is You - they call the windy bitch Mariah. Many sound-alike tunes (sung by Carey's competition from Celine Dion to Kelly Clarkson) are just as derivative and dumb. Dragging out words with extra syll-ah-ah-uh-uh-bles…is about as tasty as last year’s fruitcake.
20. Santa’s Coming For Us - Sia, backed by a hideous Jamaican beat, and plenty of retarded BOP, makes this sounds like a bad Sting song played at the wrong speed. Sia, you don’t have to put out de red nose. Congrats on taking the final spot away from “You Make it Feel Like CHristmas” from hillbilly Blake Shelton and boring Gwen Stefani, and
“Season of Love” by the limp dick boy band 98 Degrees. 


The 25th of December by BONNIE KOLOC - no pop-ups, passwords or other piffle 
 


 

     

GOOD KING WENCESLAS by non-person WALLY STOTT and orchestra


    The few people who've heard of “Wally Stott” probably know the name for one of two reasons. First, because he and his orchestra gave “The Goon Show” added lunacy. He wrote the sometimes eccentric musical stings and flourishes, which I assume includes the musical fanfare always used for the entrance of Major Bloodnok. Stott swung the jazz arrangements behind the show's raspy jazz singer   Ray Ellington, and harmonica tooter Max Geldray.  

    The second reason people may know the name: because Wally Stott vanished in 1972 and re-emerged as “Angela Morley.” This surprised many old friends who had know idea the married and seemingly "normal" man had transsexual issues. Or as Harry Secombe quipped, "
I've heard of leaving your heart in San Francisco, but this is ridiculous!" 
 
    Now there is no “Wally Stott.”  Really. He is a non-person. It’s not like he ever existed. Morley's website makes it seem that if you find recordings of "The Goon Show," you'll hear Arthur Greenslade announce that the music was provided by "Angela Morley and her orchestra." 


    If you go to the Angela Morley website, which is still up and running even though she died in 2009, the bio never mentions the operation or a past male identity. Written in the first FEMALE person, it opens, “ I was born at Leeds, Yorkshire in 1924…” and is slanted to make it seem that all of the achievements, including "The Goon Show," have Morley's name on them. The site's photo pages have no pictures of "Wally."


    Another trans musician, Wendy Carlos, is almost, but not quite, the same way. On her website, she acknowledges that she was once a man, and early albums are credited to "Walter Carlos." She also states that this was long ago, she doesn't need to be a role model for the transgender community, and would rather be in the present and live her life being treated as just another woman. Someone being in the public eye as a celebrity shouldn't always have to give up all privacy or be subjected to constant questions.


             An irony is that sans-penis, Wally, now Angela, became more successful than ever. In 1974 and 1975 Angela received Academy Award nominations for her musical contributions to “The Little Prince” and “The Slipper And the Rose.” She moved to trans-friendly California soon after, and won three Emmy awards (one pictured on her piano in the photo above). All were for"outstanding music direction"on TV special, including "Christmas in Washington" in 1985. She was nominated another eight times, including for work on episodes of "Dynasty" and "Dallas." 


         Wally Stott’s album “Christmas by the Fireside” arrived in 1959. Around that time, he arranged the cover of “Tower of Strength” for Frankie Vaughan, and had worked on orchestrating most of Shirley Bassey’s early hits. A few years earlier he released the lp “Tribute to Jerome Kern.” 
    
        Orchestrating or castrating? No, no, 'tis the season to be gentle. There are actually a few Christmas songs that aren't cloying, silly, childish, pieces of crap, including "The First Noel," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Silent Night" and this one. If you actually bother to listen to the lyrics (and who EVER does that?) you’ll learn what made King Wenceslas so good. In a nutshell, he helped the common folk and even walked ahead of his noble page in heavy snow, so that the page could walk in his footsteps and not get frozen feet. Which probably meant King Wenceslas had very fancy leather boots with fur trim, and the page shopped at the equivalent of Payless. 



GOOD KING WENCESLAS - Download or Listen on Line, no passwords, email-me demands, malware or pop-ups

Thanks for everything, CAROL NEBLETT


Carol Neblett (February 1, 1946 – November 23, 2017) had two big reasons for fame outside the cultish clique of opera: she went topless for a production of “Thais.”  

    This was a very big deal in 1973, when nudity on stage, films and album covers was not very common. Oh, the excitement that same year when Valerie Perrine was briefly glimpsed nude for a TV broadcast of the play “Steambath.” Diana Rigg went naked on stage in 1971. The sight of bush in a movie instantly made it X-rated, which distressed Allen Funt, who got limited distribution for showing candid camera reactions to bare babes in the 1970 film “What Do You Say to a Naked Lady.”  


     The New York Times headlined, “What Do You Say to a Naked Prima Donna,” and asked her about the experience. “Photographers were hanging from everywhere…” she admitted, all trying to catch what the audience didn't see: a full frontal. Carol held to an angle when she doffed her robe in a seduction scene that, obviously, had been performed in lingerie by previous sopranos. Considering the times, her bold move was applauded and she was encouraged to do some risque photo shoots, like sitting nude in a bubble bath while reading opera scripts.

     Her notoriety as a beautiful and bare opera star eventually worked against her. There are few full-length opera box sets on Carol, and she didn't put out solo albums like a Victoria de Los Angeles, Roberta Peters or Beverly Sills. 

    When she did manage to get a good leading role, critics seemed shocked she had real vocal talent. “The surprise of the evening was Carol Neblett,” wrote a NY Times critic of a Met production of “The Flying Dutchman” in 1979. Nearly ten years later, the L.A. Times noted of her title role performance in “Aida,” “Tall, lithe and eminently sympathetic, she must be one of the most  attractive and most formidable Aidas in history.” Gosh, and she can sing, too. 


        Carol, who made her debut at the City Opera in a production of “La Boheme” in 1969. was a favorite in another Puccini classic, “Tosca.” She performed it an impressive, if not astounding 300 times before her retirement. In her latter years, she taught at Chapman University. Fans were delighted when in 2012 she turned up in, what else, the role of aging opera singer in an L.A. production of "Follies." 

        Back in the 70's, her charm and good looks allowed her to be one of the few opera stars to get an invitation to Johnny Carson's “The Tonight Show.” Mostly opera singers would either sing a very famous, weary aria everyone knows, or offer a “light classic” familiar enough so that nobody would turn the channel. Below, Carol impresses Carson and the audience with: “If I Could Tell You.”   


Carol Neblett "IF I COULD TELL YOU" - instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups or passwords


Bea Wain & Della Reese - "I Get Along Without You Very Well"


It is a sad, but comforting fact, that “life goes on.”  

    At this point, the passings of Bea Wain and Della Reese might as well be ancient history. Are you sitting around in the dark, with one candle lit, playing the Della Reese discography you downloaded from some clown's blog of a thousand pop albums? Nah.  


      And how many who got a free download of The Eagles' 40th anniversary edition of "Hotel California" listened to it and even remembered that Glenn Frey died? Anyone shedding even two tears while listening to an “Emerson Lake and Palmer” track? 

 
    Being a Realist, offering ONE song in honor of a fallen star is enough of a tribute. Thus, the choice of song for both Bea Wain and Della Reese, is the ironic “I Get Along Without You Very Well.”  


    Bea’s fame waned before she died at the age of 100. She was one of many Jewish women who became very popular as long as nobody knew she was Jewish. Dinah Shore and Gogi Grant are in that category, among others. Bronx-born Beatrice Wain (April 30, 1917-August 19, 2017) achieved fame singing with Larry Clinton’s big band at the age of 20. Legend has it that Claude Debussy’s estate refused to grant Clinton the right to put music to “Reverie.” They relented because they knew that Clinton’s vocalist had a beautiful voice. Thus, Bea recorded “My Reverie.”  


    The feisty Bea stung Clinton in 1939 for a solo star, and appeared on radio’s “Hit Parade.” Married to Andre Baruch, the couple were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Music,” and had their own radio series, and their own two kids. Domestic life and a radio career beat touring and keeping up a recording career.  


    As for Della Reese (July 6, 1931-November 19, 2017), she spent her early years answering to the name “Delloreese.” That was her unusual first name. Her last: Early. The Detroit singer’s first chart success was “And That Reminds Me” on New York’s Jubilee label in 1957. Her first major hit was “Don’t You Know” in 1959 for RCA. But you knew that.  She followed it with “Not One Minute More,” which was actually about three minutes.  


    Della's singing career cooled, but her acting assignments picked up after she was cast in an episode of “The Mod Squad” in 1968. Later she joined the cast of “Chico and the Man.” Triviasts know that she played Mr. T’s mom on an episode of “The A-Team.” Ultimately, she became a genuine TV star via the long-running series “Touched By an Angel.”  She sang the theme song, “Walk With You,” and in an interesting twist of fate, became an ordained minister. 


    Della Reese the singer is not nearly as well known now as Della Reese the actress. And Bea Wain…is not well known at all. See the header: “I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL.” The song itself has an interesting story. Hoagy Carmichael polished and published it in 1938, but it was based on a poem he'd had lying around for over a dozen years. Titled “Except Sometimes,” it had potential to become a song:  


Except Sometimes
I get along without you very well,
Of course I do.
Except the times a soft rain falls,
And dripping off the trees recalls
How you and I stood deep in mist
One day far in the woods, and kissed.
But now I get along without you — well,
Of course I do.
I really have forgotten you, I boast,
Of course I have.
Except when somone sings a strain
Of song, then you are here again;
Or laughs a way which is the same
As yours; or when I hear your name.
I really have forgotten you — almost.
Of course I have.

    Once Hoagy was inspired to finally re-shape this and add music, he knew he’d better avoid a lawsuit and find the poet who modestly used only “J.B.” as the credit. 


    A lot of poets are shy about their work. Edgar A. Poe’s first book of poems was simply credited to “A Bostonian.”  How many poems were credited to the mysterious J.B., and how could Hoagy find this person?  

    Hoagy contacted top newspaper columnist Walter Winchell (best remembered now as the narrator for the TV show “The Untouchables”). Walter wrote up the problem:


Attention, poets and songwriters!
Hoagy Carmichael, whose songs you love, has a new positive hit — but he cannot have it published. Not until the person who inspired the words communicates with him and agrees to become his collaborator… I hope that person is a listener now.
He lists some of Carmichael’s past hits, quotes part of “Except Sometimes,” and winds up with an exhortation:
If you wrote those lines in a poem, tell your Uncle Walter, who will tell his Uncle Hoagy, and you may become famous.

    
    After a few months, “J.B.” was found: Jane Brown. Now a 71 year-old widow named Mrs. Jane B. Thompson, she signed for a pay-off. Legend has it that once the contract was signed, Hoagy gave the song to Dick Powell to premiere on Powell’s radio show. The date was January 19th. It was a day too late: Jane Thompson had passed away on January 18th, never hearing her poem put to music.   


    A little research, and we find that a 78 rpm version was released on January 20th, 1939 on RCA’s Bluebird label, with Judy Ellington on vocals backed by Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra. Bea Wain’s version on Victor, with Larry Cinton and his Orchestra, was recorded on January 20th, but arrived in stores a few weeks later in February. In both cases Carmichael was credit on the label as sole author.


    Funny, neither woman offers up a poignant version of the song. Della’s is a pretty hard, tough interpretation. She doesn’t pause for the vulnerability of “except…” And Bea Wain, fighting the fox trot beat of her dance band, can't slow down and add poignance to the “except…” In other words, you can get along without both versions, but...both these ladies were respected in their day, and their voices are timeless.  
Bea Wain - download or listen on line, no passwords, no dodgy pop-ups or malware
Della Reese's take on I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL

Sunday, November 19, 2017

TURKEY MAMBO!

Here's "Turkey Mambo." 



Thanksgiving is next week. So get your Tofurkey NOW. If you eat a real turkey, you might feel like the covergirl above, and think you've been cut in half at the stomach.

No way would this blog endorse or celebrate killing animals. There's a reason the President of the United States always pardons a turkey. It's to send a subtle message against cruelty. Although this year, if Trump pardons a turkey, visions of his ugly demented sons murdering elephants and lions will still be hard to erase.

The irony is that most people don't even like turkey (not when dere's frahhhd chickun). Chicken is much easier to cook. Just ask Curly Howard. Roasted turkey requires time, stuffing, basting, and great care to avoid a dry and overcooked disaster. PS, we all know there's a drug in turkey that makes you so sleepy that if you don't pass out on the couch, and instead try to drive home, you just might smack into a lightpole.

(Parenthetically noted, if you wonder why this blog is topical over Thanksgiving, but is not devoting space to the recently deceased Malcolm Young or Mel Tillis, it's because those two artists are very famous. Young's AC/DC sold FIFTY MILLION copies of "Back to Black," which ranks it second ONLY to partially black Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in sales. FIFTY MILLION copies. This blog is for obscurities, like "Turkey Mambo," which maybe sold 5,000 at best.)

Richard Hayman (March 27, 1920 – February 5, 2014) ) was a virtuoso on the harmonica, and a capable music arranger and conductor. After a stint with the Harmonica Rascals, and working for the MGM music department as an arranger, he created charts for Vaughn Monroe's big band. He signed with Mercury for a bunch of easy listening albums. And as any dumbfuck would tell you, listening to music is very difficult. The average jazz or classical piece is WAY too challenging. 

The Haymaker's version of the movie theme for "Ruby Gentry" (simply titled "Ruby") was a big hit in 1953. He worked as an arranger for the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, and later conducted "Pops" concerts himself for many years with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. With "easy listening music" no longer selling (and being given away by emotional Dutch bloggers instead) conducting 4th of July concerts and holiday-fests was a way for Hayman and orchestra musicians to keep doing what they loved. 

Hayman's albums were not just Jackie Gleason or Melachrino-type collections of sound-alike romantic violin music. More similar to MOR albums by Charlie Barnett or the Elgart Brothers, each album side kept listeners alert with actual changes in tempo. They sometimes snuck in a novelty tune. "Turkey Mambo," which turns up on "Let's Get Together," is much more ridiculous than other, more usual tracks, such as "Port of Spain," "Song of April," or "Never Again."

"Turkey Mambo" is a mild big-band version of "Turkey in the Straw," which is stupid enough, but what renders this even more ridiculous, and delightful, is the chorus of middle-aged men who happily call out "TUR-KEY! MAM-BO!"

RICHARD HAYMAN your download of "TURKEY MAMBO"