Monday, June 19, 2017

The Laughing Record - IT'S NOT FUNNY, I TELL YOU!!


I invoke the ghost of Spike Milligan to admit that “laughing records” aren’t funny. They are NOT FUNNY! Sapristi! 

Most of the time, the irritating performer is laughing...and the listener is not. Which explains why, thankfully, this genre sputtered into obsolescence. This includes both types of "novelty" tunes involving contagious laughter.

The first type is the singer doing all the laughing. You're supposed to either laugh along with him, or be delighted with how he laughs the melody line. “The Laughing Song,” by George W. Johnson was available on cylinder wayyyy back in 1896. He gets the nod for being the first guy to laugh into a microphone, and was probably also the first black to make hit records. So much for racism. Black entertainers were welcomed, as long as they were entertaining.Why, they could even be a tad uppity, which is a bit of a surprise.

George isn't one of "The Black Crows," doing step and fetch it dialogue. The song begins with him addressing the issue of race: "As I was coming around the corner I heard some people say, here comes the Darkie, here he comes this way…” What's his reaction? "I laugh! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hee hee hee hee hee hee.” Some people think the exotic fellow might be related to some Nubian Prince or Princess? That makes him laugh, too. Ultimately, he sings, "Listen to what I’m going to say. I’ve tried my best to please you…” So laugh along as he, yeah, gives it the old heave-ho ho ho ho ho ha ha ha ha. 

Musical piracy? It's not new. Without copyright laws, the new medium of phonograph records was prey to small record labels doing unlicensed cover versions, or even duplicating the original record. That's why quite often a performer in those days began by announcing who he was, and what label he was recording for...to foil somebody trying to copy the actual recording.  

In the case of George W. Johnson, he was copied by Charlies Penrose, who took the laughing idea and the music, to create "The Laughing Policeman," a huge hit in England. Charles declares the policeman is "...the happiest man in town…a ha ha ha ha ha ha…he never can stop laughing, he says he’s never tried. But once he did arrest a man and laughed until he cried! A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…ooooooooooh ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa…”

"The Laughing Policeman," music swiped from George W. Johnson with no writing credit, was a hit in 1922 for Regal, and re-recorded in 1926 for Columbia. What could be funnier than a policeman laughing as he arrests some poor bloke? Somehow, people thought this hilarious. There were even laughing policeman figures in amusement parks. Put in a coin, and the creatures comes to life, laughing and laughing.

The other type of "laughing record" isn't about a singer laughing out loud, but the audience becoming hysterical. So, why would an audience become hysterical? Over a joke or two? No, over a concert musician screwing up.

In 1922, Cameo released "Laugh and the World Laughs With You." Okeh imported "The Okeh Laughing Record" the same year. It was originally recorded in Germany on the Beka label by Lucie Bernard and Otto Rathke. The recording was also released in England as "The Parlophone Laughing Record." Yes, record labels could simply license or steal the song and put their own name on it.

In 1923, Columbia offered "The Spoiled Cornet." The Melotone “Laughing Record No 2”  didn’t have a bad cornet player failing, but, an opera singer doing “The Toreador Song” off key, leading to snickers and roars from his audience.  

The idea is always the same: a serious musician screws up, desperately tries again, but only gets more and more cruel laughter, which usually includes basso ho-ho's and hyena-like howls. Spike Jones resurrected this novelty of the 20s with "The Jones Laughing Record," as a botched version of "Flight of the Bumble Bee" leads to the most outrageous laughter this side of an insane asylum. 

 Over the years there have been mutant “laughing” records. “The Hyena Stomp” from Jelly Roll Morton offered jazzy roars of laughter, and Louis Armstrong had a variation in “Laughing Louie.” Some "laugh it up" comedians tried to encourage giddiness by laughing at their own jokes. Red Skelton was the most famous example, but there was Benny Rubin who used to mockingly laugh the first seven notes of “Yankee Doodle." 


Even into the hip 50’s and 60’s you might encounter some forced laughter.  Mort Sahl had what critics called a “barking laugh.” He used it to punctuate a punchline and cue people into laughing along. As Enrico Banducci, owner of the “Hungri i” nightclub quipped, “it wasn’t hip not to laugh at Mort Sahl.” Mort laughed at the same jokes night after night, as if he just thought up the gag. Phyllis Diller raised the ante with her goose-like explosions of mirth, as well as her own "Ah haaaa," guffaw.

The 60's even had Yodelin’ Shorty and “The Crazy Laughing Blues,” just another "singer has to laugh, so you should, too" numbers. Folks who heard it and bought it had no idea the idea went back over 60 years. Shorty recorded his single on the small Countryside label. The flip side is “Made to Yodel.” What a guy. Laughing and yodeling. If he put out another single it would’ve been puking and farting. 


Below, an example of each type of laughing record, and that's more than enough because...."It's not funny I tell you, IT'S NOT FUNNY!!" 

YODELIN’ SHORTY
THE CRAZY LAUGHING BLUES   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.


LAUGHING SONG
THE SPOILED CORNET   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.  






   
   

Patty Duke sings BLOWIN' IN THE WIND



    Her real first name was Anna. She became famous as the lovable and talented Patty Duke (Dec 14, 1946 · Mar 29, 2016). She was one of the few child/teen stars to excel in both drama and comedy; the stage and film classic “The Miracle Worker,” and then the hit sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show.” 

    You can find out about her via the autobiographies, “Call me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness.” The woman had a pretty bizarre career as a film actress as she moved from child (“Miracle Worker” 1962) to teen (“Billie” 1965) to troubled young adult (“Valley of the Dolls” 1967 and “Me Natalie 1969).  


      There was a lot of competition for her when she reached her 40's and beyond, and there have always been few roles for middle-aged women. Duke worked sporadically in her chosen profession; perhaps a combination of her problems off screen, and the difficulties of being remembered by casting agents who had a fixed image of her as a child star.  She made only two films in the 70’s, three in the 80’s (although you might include the made-for-TV film "Best Kept Secrets") and two in the 90’s. Anyone remember “Bigger Than the Sky” in 2005 or “Four Children of Tander Welch” in 2008?   

    While she was a teen star on tv and in the film "Billie," Patty also mounted a singing career.  Some of the obscure albums she made back in the mid-60's are now back in print. That’s quite an achievement for someone who managed only one Top 10 hit. Her album of folks songs is especially interesting, as Patty sounded just like any “average girl” who might pick up a guitar and sing "the music of the people." Folk music was sing-along music, so did a perfect voice matter? Bob Dylan said no. In bedrooms across the world, Patty-types were strumming guitars and trying to emote the “new music,” which seemed so much more important than love songs. 


    Patty’s first attempt to cross over and add “singer” to her TV star and movie star credits, was “Don’t Just Stand There.” Though a Top 10 in August of 1965, few seem to know it. It's a pretty credible attempt at stepping into Lesley Gore territory. Did it take that much to be a pop star back then? You didn’t need a vocoder, just a good echo chamber. Ask Fabian. It seemed every other month, some actress (like Shelley Fabares) or daughter of a star (Melinda Marx comes to mind) stepped into a booth and managed to stay on key while surrounded by drums and brass while a sly music producer manipulated the strings. Patty just missed the Top 20 with
"Say Something Funny," in the fall of 1965 and had a song outside the Top 50 with "Whenever He Holds You," which was a cover of a Bobby Goldsboro song. Kind of a surprise is that despite failing chart action, Duke was able to put out albums, including the obscure one that collected the era's best folk songs.  

    An interesting thing about Patty Duke the vocalist, is that she sounds exactly like Patty Duke. This isn’t always the case. First off, a lot of times an actress is dubbed in movies. You don’t even know it, because you figure a singing voice is not going to be like a speaking voice. It seems to take a different set of vocal cords to stay on key. The most glaring examples back then were Jim Nabors and Frank Fontaine, or even Bob Dylan when he suddenly exuded a gooey baritone for “Nashville Skyline.” But Patty Duke did sound like herself, for better or worse. Maybe the latter, considering the sales of those last albums she did.  


    But now that she’s gone, and under such odd and tragic circumstances, people want a little bit more of what they once ignored: Patty Duke, the singer.  



PATTY DUKE
BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

A salute to Arabs and Gays and...FLORENCE OF ARABIA

Yes, the past few weeks have been very strange in England. The news has been all about Gays and Muslims, two fine, fine groups. Let's underline that, and repeat, these are two fine, fine groups. They just can't seem to keep out of the fucking headlines, unlike, oh, Infantilists and Hindus. S&M freaks and Druids. Laurel and Hardy. Maybe the world would be better if people just sat back and watched some Laurel and Hardy, and had a laugh and didn't take their fucking sex lives and religions so seriously. 

Compared to Climate Change, this shit is pretty petty. Hey, Gays and Muslims, this planet is not likely to survive another 50 years. You don't really have to spend it fussing and fighting. Stop blowing people up, and if you're gay, blow people behind closed doors. Nobody gives a damn anymore. You can even get married and make it legal. 

In the spirit of getting along, and this IS the blog of togetherness, below is FLORENCE OF ARABIA, a song about a Gay Muslim. 




The past few weeks have seen vans smacking into people, and bombs exploding, all because a few Allah-kazams think that their imaginary friend needs some help in getting rid of non-believers. 

And last week, also in Great Britain, was the Blackpool Gay Pride Parade. Instead of radical Muslims skulking about in cloak-sheets and glowering, here were stereotypical gays marching through the streets, crossdressed and grinning. The point? Same as the Muslims, really. It involves, quoting the guru in "Gunga Din," what is called "the sin of false pride." 

Both groups are saying to everyone, "we're not equal, we're better." Our Allah is better than your Jesus or Buddha or Moses. "We're here and we're queer," so put up with our antics in public, while blind people stagger, homeless starve, and wheelchair people stay at home and rot. Let me put it this way, Gays and Muslims, you not only aren't the only people suffering in this world, you have it better than most, especially in England.

So you can tone down the violence and the preening, and join the rest of the human race in trying to keep climate change at bay, keep the economy strong, practice birth control, and protest the corrupt and fuckheaded leaders who could turn the lights out permanently with one push of a button. 

Is it that important to actually reinforce stereotypes, by having Arabs scowling in their winding sheets, or men in dresses and women in Simon Cowell t-shirts literally parading about? Isn't it slightly insulting to dignified men who don't lisp and wear conservative clothes, run ads for a parade with a silly one-percenter on the cover? Isn't it more important to reinforce the point that most gays (like most Arabs) don't look or act that much different from anyone else?


Celebrate what we have in common. It would seem that assimilation and tolerance is what's needed. Equality begins by acting equal; to the point where you don't feel compelled to bring your bedroom attire into shopping malls for all to see, and you don't need to wear funny outfits to let people know what your religion is. Nobody really gives a shit; unless YOU are trying to show how different you are and superior you are. Common sense: is it really against anyone's religion to stop pretending that The Bible and the Koran have fashion drawings in them? The idea that the Creature in the Sky needs to identify you by a silly hat or a ludicrous outfit is...ridiculous. Let's lighten up and admit that religion and sexuality shouldn't be subjects of awe. The whole notion of "sacrilege" is idiotic. Why can't a person make fun of religion? One's faith in a God should be able to withstand a cartoon.
  Gays are doing pretty well. Compare them to others who have made their sexuality the most important factor of their lives. England aired a documentary on “15 Stone Babies” considering them to be oddballs and outcasts. These infantilists sure as hell wouldn't march in their nappies to show their pride in not being able to handle adulthood. S-M is still such a taboo that pudgy idiotic E.L. James made a fortune writing about what nobody would ever march about in a parade: spanking, handcuffs and bondage.

You think that illiterate bitch would’ve made a dime off a book about Mr. Grey fucking Mr. White? No, that’s not a forbidden thrill. S-M still is. Dressing up in diapers instead of being a transvestite is. Wanting to watch two women piss is considered much more peculiar than being gay (which is why Trump denies ever paying to see it). If Trump said he paid to see two lesbians have sex, nobody would laugh or care. So, there are a lot more oppressed sexual minorities than gays.  

As for the Muslims, there's no reason they can't be accepted, and until ISIS arrived, they were. People from India came over and learned the customs. The Asians did, too. So take a tip from the Hindus, the Druids, the Amish and every other religion, and try a little humility. Don't be so concerned about what others believe in. Be grateful others are tolerant enough to allow you to emigrate. Try to assimilate just a bit and stop being so rigid. The Jews broke off into Conservative and Reformed divisions and didn't all stay Orthodox with the silly side-curls. Listen to William Shatner's "I Can't Get Behind That," when he says "What about the men who say 'Do as I do. Believe in what I say, for your own good, or I'll kill you!' I can't get behind that!" 


Mr. Shatner also pointed out a few things more important than a guy fretting if he can't dress in a dress in public, or if a Muslim can't walk around cloaked from head to toe. Quoth Mr. Shatner: "The rising oceans, the warming temperatures!The dying polar bears--no, tigers--in fifty years! Rising poison in the air and water!" 

Try marching about THAT shit. Try thinking about others. Try giving other people some dignity, tolerance and understanding. Why, that's what this blog is all about: GIVING. And that includes "Florence of Arabia," which was on an obscure 60's album called "The Queen is in the Closet." 

That album which offered nudge-nudge wink-wink humor to gays and for gays, although some of the “here and queer” songs are so stereotypical it’s possible straights listened and laughed at the lispers more than with them. Happily, now being a gay singer is accepted, and George Michael and Sir Elton and Sam Smith aren't "under the counter" with their albums, as this album was 50 years ago. Progress indeed. Likewise, Zayn Malik is a big star, and he's of Arabic descent. He assimilated boy band rock, all right, and mastered it. As well as mastering Gigi Hadid, who isn't afraid to be Muslim and doesn't (to put it mildly) feel a need to wear a burqa.

“FLORENCE OF ARABIA" of course references “Lawrence of Arabia” who was gay, and adored being whipped and butt fucked by Arabs. In fact, he was too busy with that stuff to march in a parade. He and his Arab friends blew things, but didn't blow things up. What a wonderful world it was. It could be again. Music and laughter, friends...

FLORENCE
OF ARABIA    Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.
 







Friday, June 09, 2017

Linda Lavin does Stephen Sondheim's Gay Astrud Gilberto Parody





Yes, that's Linda Lavin, upper left, with MacIntyre Dixon, Paul Sand, Richard Libertini and Jo Anne Worley. Some, obviously, went on to much greater fame on TV or in movies. You might recall the eccentric Libertini (who was teamed with Dixon for several years in stand-up and improv) in full beard as the nutty guru in the Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin classic "All of Me," or as the equally nutty dictator in the Peter Falk and Alan Arkin classic, "The In-Laws." But, already, I have digressed.

While it probably was a lot of effort for Lavin to memorize all those lines as "Alice" on the sitcom of the same name, it had to have been quite a learning experience to deal with Stephen Sondheim's dense satire of "The Girl from Ipanema," which she did for the off-Broadway revue "The Mad Show." No, the show was not "Mad" enough to interest readers of Mad Magazine (who were mostly teenagers). It was aimed more for their parents. The humor was much more, er, sophisticated.

Sondheim was apparently called in when the show came up one song short, or needed one more topical song. Astrud Gilberto, the soft-voiced Brazilian, had scored an unexpected hit with her jazz samba, and now it was ripe for parody. Yes, Homer & Jethro did one ("The Girl from Possum Holler") but the sophisticates preferred Sondheim. Where's that boy from? Not Ipanema, someplace far more obscure. You know how those Latino guys have, like, a first name, a last name, and another nine names inbetween? Maybe that's because they come from towns with almost as many names. Ha! 

An interesting twist is that Sondheim, who would of course come out gay years later, was writing a lyric about a woman who doesn't have good Gaydar, and isn't sure why this sexy Latino boy isn't interested in her...and why his friends call him LILLIAN: 

Tall and slender, like an Apollo, he goes walking by and I have to follow:
Him, the boy from Tacarembo la Tumbe del fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol y Cruz!  

When we meet, I feel I'm on fire. And I'm breathless every time I inquire, 
"How are things in Tacarembo la Tumbe del fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol y Cruz!"

Why, when I speak does he vanish? Why is he acting so clannish? I wish I understood Spanish. 
WHen I tell him I think he's the end, he giggles a lot with his FRIEND.

Tall and slender, moves like a dancer
But I never seem to get any answer 
From the boy from Tacarembo la Tumbe del fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol y Cruz!
I got the blooooz!

Why are his trousers vermilion? His trousers are vermilion. Why does he claim he's Catilian? (He thays that he'th Cathtilian!)

Why do his friends call him LILLIAN? And I hear at the end of the week he's leaving to start a boutique.....

THE BOY FROM (parody of “The Girl from Ipanema”)
Linda Lavin    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.





An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Johnny Cash - BRIAN HYLAND



Yes, before Justin Bieber offered such coy poses, BRIAN HYLAND was doing it.

While this entry doesn't exactly PRAISE Mr. Hyland, it's not intended to bury him, either. It simply acknowledges that many artists, by themselves or through their label or management, make odd choices. Like covering deep growly Johnny Cash when your voice is more of a boy soprano. More about that below.

First, in case you don't recall, Hyland was indeed a boy wonder. At 16, the good-looking kid had a label deal, and the label was powerful enough to assign the Brill Building duo (Paul) Vance and (Lee) Pockriss to develop the kid's potential. They wrote "Four Little Heels" for him, and then a real biggie, the novelty "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." This song was so popular, Brian turned up on "To Tell the Truth" as a novelty guest: can you pick out which kid sang the crazy new song that just reached the Top Ten??

No, the panel really couldn't, as they were all double Brian's age (if not triple) and in those pre-Bieber days, pop singers weren't normally on the cover of every magazine or newspaper. 

Hyland really had little to do with the novelty song's success. Anybody could've sung the straight lines. It was the silly chorus (sung by women) and the silly lyrics that mattered most. However (see, this is NOT a snarky entry) Hyland proved his abilities with "Sealed with a Kiss," an earnest, excellent Top Five teen ballad. It was later nasal'd by Jerry's son Gary Lewis. But Hyland's is first and best. 

To his credit, Hyland didn't want to be just another pretty boy. He followed his 1962 "Sealed with a Kiss" album with the ambitious "Country Meets Folk." It offered his cover versions of everything from Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's All Right" to the sullen "Greenback Dollar" to hideous shit such as "Act Naturally," "Jamaica Farewell" and the always annoying "If I Had a Hammer." His new label (ABC replacing Kapp) seemed to skimp a bit. Instead of the 101 Strings, they employed "The 21 Strings." 

However much you might want to change genres and prove yourself, your look might not be suited. Or your voice. Just check out "Folsom Prison" below, which, to put it mildly, doesn't quite sound like it's coming from somebody who shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. 

The plucky Mr. Hyland tried again with the 1965 "Rockin' Folk," and with The Beatles pushing all the slick-haired boys aside (from Bobby Rydell to Del Shannon), Hyland had a tough time interesting anyone in further albums, including "The Joker Went Wild" (1966), "Tragedy" (1967) or "Stay And Love Me All Summer" (1969).  

He got older, and always had an audience for the oldies. What menopausal woman couldn't get slightly wet sitting and seeing Brian emoting a classic like "Sealed with a Kiss?" He still looked good




Hyland may still be out on the oldies circuit, and still capable of being amusing ("Polka Dot Bikini") and romantic ("Sealed with a Kiss"). At least he didn't suffer the pitfalls of a Del Shannon. He also never shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.The again, neither did Johnny Cash. It's just that Johnny sounds a lot more convincing...

FOLSOM PRISON BLUES
Brian Hyland does Johnny Cash    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.





The Pillsbury Doughboy Cries with C&W Wannabe Teresa Brewer


It's one thing to have a tear in your voice. 
It's another to have an annoying voice that reduces others to tears. 

This may be why Gogi Grant and Patti Page are much better known than Teresa Brewer.  

If the casual music fan knows the name at all, it's probably because of Brewer's spunky singing of a song that goes, "Put another nickel in! In the NICKELODEON! All I want is having you, and MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC!!!!!!!"

Spunky. Or as Lou Grant said to Mary Richards, "I hate spunk."
And nobody like spunk when it's splattered right in the ear. 

Freakish-looking Gene Rayburn (now remembered as a leering quiz show host, but then a disc jockey) promoted Brewer's song in 1949 and it ended up a #1 hit around the country. In 1976, Brewer re-recorded a disco version on hubby Bob Thiele's record label. And in between, she recorded a whole lot of irritating stuff made worse by her ear-piercing soprano. 

Ballads are supposed to be soft and lilting, especially ones of heartbreak. There's only earache in the ones terribly tonsiled by Teresa. And no, they aren't of the "so bad they're good" variety. Even the happy "here and queer" crowd would have a hard time getting drunk on Brewer. 

Why then, post "I'm Drowning My Sorrows?" 

Because the co-author is Paul Frees. Frees, you probably know from previous blog posts, was a narrator, radio actor and voice-over genius.
His eccentric and comic voices included the befuddled Captain Peachfuzz, the ludicrous Ludwig von Drake, the raspy and evil Boris Badenov, and even the incredibly high pitched Pillsbury Doughboy. 

Come to think of it, Frees may have done better with his song by singing it himself as the Doughboy. Then it would've been completely baked. But the Doughboy's soprano is slightly masculine. So was Paul's "Daphne" voice. Long kept a secret, the female voice Tony Curtis used as Daphne in "Some Like it Hot" was actually dubbed by Paul Frees.   

 Aside from acting, Frees was an excellent painter (his work even turned up on record album covers) and wrote scripts and songs. Among cultists, the lone movie he directed, "The Beatniks" (1960) is well known. There's even a book that posthumously published his war-time love letters to the wife back home.  

Just how Frees chose his fake last-name I have no idea. His real last name was Hirsch. 

It's possible the cliche-filled love song "I'm Drowning My Sorrows" could've been a minor hit if sung by someone who sang with hurt instead of causing it. 

Check out the first alarming 20 seconds, and you'll have to agree. Teresa was no Kate Bush, and her searing high notes are as strange as her doll-like face. 

"Goodby my love, my sweet my own, farewell to all of the dreams we have known...and so my dear our love story ends. We started as lovers and parted as friends."

Well, right there. You STARTED as lovers? You met and began fucking? Maybe if you started as FRIENDS, you would've gotten to know each other well enough to know that the risk of a STD wasn't worth it.

"I'm drowning my sorrows in oceans of tears. Just crying my heart out but nobody hears." 

Really? NOBODY hears? With that cat on a hot tin roof voice?

Fans of Yoko Ono and Yma Sumac may want to add Brewer to their list of incredibly odd vocalists, but the download probably will be more appreciated by Paul Frees collectors. Not because it's good, but because it adds to the collection. And we all know that "collecting" is nine-tenths of what some pop culture fans are all about.

I’M DROWNING MY SORROWS
Teresa Brewer, lyrics by Paul Frees    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.








Friday, May 19, 2017

MICHELE LEE AND KAY GARNER vs L. DAVID SLOANE


    There was a weird time in pop music when ROCK collided with POP. Thus, we had Carnaby fashions almost at the same time as we had hippie grunge. You remember The Beatles wearing those adorable Sgt. Pepper costumes and singing “Good Day Sunshine?” Retro was fine, too. The Kinks wore ruffled shirts and extolled Queen Victoria. The odd meld of rock and pop even had “bad boy” Mick Jagger singing a sanitized “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” on Ed Sullivan’s show.

    In 1966, the retro “Winchester Cathedral” was on the charts, and in 1968, Tiny Tim made a hit out of a song popular in 1929: “Tip Toe Through the Tulips.” Mainstream Kate Smith sang Beatles songs, and Andy Williams sang “MacArthur Park.” Even a dominatrix-kiss off like Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” was consider cute. In 1968, cute mainstreamer Michele Lee made the Top 100 by singing “L. David Sloane…leave me alone!” 

     Who this putz L. David Sloane was, we don’t seem to know. It’s a Jewish name, though. The singer is Jewish. She was born Michele Lee Dusick. The song wasn’t a major hit (that’s why it’s here) but anyone who heard it, for better or worse, remembers it. Michele has very much out-lived it. Lee was only 19 when she came to Broadway in “How to Succeed in Business…” and had appeared in “The Comic” with Dick Van Dyke and Disney’s “The Love Bug” with Dean Jones while simultaneously jump-starting her singing career. 

    Her pert praise and put-down of L. David Sloane stalled outside Billboard’s Top 50 (at #52) but it did sell a pretty fair amount of copies. She, Liza, Barbra, Vicki Carr, Peggy Lee and even Patti Page continued to toss pop 45’s into the market even if it was becoming more and more dominated by rock. 

    Over in England there was a rather unlikely interest in strutting around and putting down L. David Sloane. But you know the Brits. Back then, it was their custom to peer across the pond, check the Hot 100, anticipate a potential Top Ten, and have one of their own do a cover version before the original artist could score a U.K. deal. Enter Kay Garner. 

      Kay grew up in Hull, which Craig Ferguson, in his memoir, called the the worst town in England. This may only mean that he didn’t spend any time in Grimsby.

    Kay didn’t seem to want to stay in Hull either, and came to London to work with The Rabin Band, broadcast on a 1962 radio show called ‘Go Man Go,” and end up a regular at “The Monkey Island Hotel,” along with the infamous Frazer Hayes (whose annoying group used to break up the comedy on “Round the Horne”). Kay sang tons of commercial jingles, recorded quite a bit, appeared on a variety of TV shows (with Benny Hill and Dusty Springfield among others) and passed on ten years ago (July 16, 2007).

    Michele Lee is very much with us. In 1974 she was nominated for a Tony, starring in “Seesaw.” She became a star on the TV night time soap opera “Knots Landing” through the 80’s, and received another Tony nomination for “Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” in 2001. More recently, she’s s been in the hit show “Wicked.” Playbill bios on her do not seem to have room to mention “L. David Sloane.” 

    Whimsical, kinda funny, a bit sexy, somewhat feminist, a bit hapless, “L. David Sloane” is still an amusing novelty. And if you’d like to sing along, why, there’s The Electric Junkyard, a group that didn’t quite rival the Chocolate Watchband, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Corcheted Doughnut Ring, Clockwork Oranges, Applie Pie Motherhood Band or eben Heironymous & the Dharma Bums. 


Michele Lee
L. David Sloane   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.
Kay Garner
L. David Sloane   Instant download or listen on line. No ransom demands.
Electric Junkyard
-L. David Sloane  Instant download or listen on line. No Dutch douchery.

Dame Edna: Greta Keller yes, Caitlyn Jenner, ugh, NO!


Shocking, simply shocking, Possums! Dame Edna dispensed with witty sarcasm or pungent satire, and simply called Caitlyn Jenner a "RATBAG."

Jenner, another media whore in the Kardashian-Jenner cartel, was dismissed for exactly what she is: "a publicity-seeking ratbag." Since Edna wasn't saying this from the stage, Edna didn't need to sugar coat it like she lathers her face with make-up, and make it funny.

"I agree with Germaine (Greer)! You're a mutilated man, that's all. Self-mutilation..." Anticipating the whining protests, Edna added, "If you criticise anything you're racist or sexist or homophobic."

If you've been to one of Barry Humphries' "Dame Edna" shows, you'll find more than a few gays in the crowd. Maybe even a drag queen or two. After all, aside from the female impersonation, "Dame Edna" often talks about her obviously gay son Kenny, and drops references that have more than a gay tinge. On Broadway, there were some gags about how good-looking TV weatherman Sam Champion was, and how Kenny loved to watch Sam's weather reports. At the time, Champion was not yet out of the closet. The crowd hooted with delight.

"Dame Edna" is a character. Initially, Humphries was simply parodying a type of Aussie housewife, doing it with the same vulgarity and cartooning found in Monty Python's imitations of British fishwives. Nothing sexual about it. No transvestism (sexual gratification in crossdressing). Over the years, Humphries simply found that "Dame Edna" was a great vehicle for razor-like put-downs. For example, as a man, Humphries couldn't possibly sit on a couch and make Nicole Kidman blush with observations of Nicole's body. "Dame Edna" could, and did.

So it's really not a surprise that Humphries would have limited sympathy for a man who actually has to go to such extremes for his "feminine side," and insist that a scalpel is what defines womanhood. That sympathy would be extremely limited in the case of someone who instantly stars in a reality show about the transformation.

It's an irony that many gays simply enjoy listening to their Judy Garland records without remotely wanting to BE or dress up AS Judy Garland. The best Judy Garland was Jim Bailey, who did not undergo any sex change operation. Neither did any of the top female impersonators, including Craig Russell and Charles Pierce.

Now in this 80's, but still threatening to bring back "Dame Edna" if he feels like it, Humphries has taken to the radio, exploring his fondness for vintage music. He wants to preserve the music he once destroyed. Literally. An early job at EMI involved making sure that records once played on the air never be played again: "“For copyright reasons, the 78s had to be broken, so I was put in a subterranean room with no windows smashing up hundreds of records, every day, with a hammer. I felt terrible, I was traumatised.”

On Barry's "Forgotten Musical Masterpieces" Radio 2 program (or programme), he's explored "“Al Bowlly, George Formby, Greta Keller, and Fred Astaire, whom I regard as one of the great artists of the 20th century. Not only was he a great dancer, he was also a splendid singer and interpreted the songs of George and Ira Gershwin beautifully.”

You know the guys, but probably not Greta Keller, who has been mentioned on this blog. Here she is, doing "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Although, as Caitlyn learned about his cock and balls, they CAN take those away, creating, if not a woman like Greta Keller, at least, a ratbag.

 Greta Keller
They Can’t Take That Away from Me   Instant download or listen on line. No ransomware, malware or spyware anywhere.  





  

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The album WEBB will NOT Autograph


    I was very glad to buy Jimmy Layne Webb’s memoir (yes, the first name on the birth certificate IS Jimmy). I got it at a book signing, which also allowed me to say a few words to him about my favorite (obscure) songs of his. He was very nice and friendly. While it didn’t benefit him in any way, he even indulged some typically unwashed, stubble-chinned and obese losers who whined that he should autograph EVERY fucking piece of tatty memorabilia they put in front of him. 

      Fortunately, nobody seemed to be on line with copies of “Jim Webb Sings Webb,”  a near bootleg. At 21, he was used to selling his soul to the suits. This included bartering songs for studio time and producing demos that would then be “owned” by the publisher, leaving him hoping to make money off royalties). Once Webb became known for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Up Up and Away,” there was some interest in Jimmy becoming more of a performer than just a songwriter. That was when the owner of a set of demos licensed it all to Epic. 


    Jimmy was upset that his “debut” album was going to be unauthorized demo material, stuff he did years ago. He was surprise that Epic would not listen to reason, and allow him to give them “good” stuff instead. Epic was not known for being so nasty and underhanded as to release material against an artist’s wishes. That’s what Fantasy and Roulette were doing, among others. Perhaps their logic was that they’d already invested money into a project they felt was pretty good. Webb’s demo tunes were certainly up to the level of some other Epic pop artists (like the invented “Third Rail” collection of studio musicians). They’d already gotten producer Hank Levine to beef up the demos by adding his own arrangements and orchestration. Epic ignored Jimmy Webb and even compounded the misery by dubbing him “Jim Webb.”  


    Jimmy mentioned at the signing that he would NOT sign that album, and that fans who are crazy about that record are just plain crazy. 


    Judge for yourself. The first two tracks are below: “I Keep It Hid,” which has been covered by a few artists, and “You’re So Young,” which probably hasn’t. I don’t think that any of the tracks besides “I Keep It Hid” found life in the throats of other artists. That includes: “Our Time is Running Out,” “I’m In Need,” “Life is Hard,” “I’ll Be Back” and “I Can Do It On My Own.” 


    Webb’s memoir, “The Cake and the Rain”  lists the dozens and dozens of artists who sang “MacArthur Park,” and lists page after page of (sometimes obscure) songs he’s written, but there’s no annotation of who covered them. There’s also a list of his Grammy nominations and Top 100 hits. 


    Oddly enough, those pages almost diminish him. When you think of Jimmy Webb, you think of a one-man Bacharach who wrote dozens of hit songs over many decades. If you disregard the County charts (where “The Highwayman” was a #1) you can count his hits on your ten fingers. There are the Campbell classics (“Phoenix” “Galveston” and “Wichita” as well as the lesser known “Honey Come Back.” in 1970). You’ll remember the cringeworthy “Up Up and Away,” “The Worst That Could Happen” from the Brooklyn Bridge, Art Garfunkel’s early 70’s solo hit “All I Know,” and Joe Cocker’s 1975 “It’s a Sin When You Love Somebody.” Add “MacArthur Park” from Richard Harris and the disco remake from Donna Summer in 1978, the last year a Webb song hit the Top 20. Add it all up: ten, with the last Top 20 entry nearly 40 years ago!  


By comparison, Bacharach was at least creating new songs with Elvis Costello not long ago, and Randy Newman has scored hit songs in Pixar movies, and finally got a "Best Song" Oscar. All this, while Webb admittedly has treaded water with duets albums and recycling his greatest hits (including a very nice solo piano CD...something Newman's done a few times as well). 

    “Didn’t We” by Barbra Streisand stalled at #82, Judy Collins’ “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress” apparently missed the Top 100 entirely, and the last time a Webb song even scraped the Top 100 (if you discount the theft of part of a melody by Kanye West for “Famous”) was Linda Ronstadt’s “Easy For You to Say” in 1983. It’s also disturbing to realize Webb never had a hit on his own, despite developing into a very fine interpreter of his own songs including some great ones on his last album “Suspending Disbelief” back in in 1993 a mere 24 years ago. 


    Webb’s reputation resides, for most people, on the three years, between 1967-1969 when the public loved “Up Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” “MacArthur Park,” “Worst That Could Happen,” “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman.”  Fans of “album tracks” and idiosyncratic singer-songwriters, probably new all along that like Randy Newman or Warren Zevon, Webb’s solo albums were not big sellers, even if they had a lot of great songs on them. “And So On” for example, features his sly disc jockey number “All Night Show” and “P.F. Sloan,”  the catchiest sing-along every to bear the warning “don’t sing this song.” When I had my own radio show, I played his stuff quite a bit. I didn’t realize how few were buying it.


       To this day, I think Jimmy Webb is still rather unfairly derided for the few numbers in his catalog that are either dated pop pap (like “Up Up and Away”) or awfully purple and precious, like “Adios,” or the sugary “Marionette.” Balancing that are so many songs that do rock (“Friends to Burn”), that have beguiling and tricky melodies and rhymes (“Elvis and Me”) and have an honest message ( “It Won’t Bring Her Back,” a song that features Jimmy’s trademark twang and his habit of making a quiet “i” a lot more audible. “Maniac” is sung as “mainy-HACK.”


    Webb’s book, by the way, is weirdly constructed. Each short chapter ping-pongs between early years getting beat up as a four-eyed Preacher’s kid to glimpses of star encounters with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the various Beatles. As befits a guy who considers himself part of the sex and drugs and rock and roll world, and not a sappy pop songwriter, he gives us glimpses of his excesses, and his relationships with a variety of hot babes. An irony is that songs of love and loss were generally inspired by him being the one to fuck things up. He’s the one who cheated on his muse Susan, and who ultimately moved on to find someone new. 


    In this free-love era, married women happily jumped into bed with other men, and his most enduring relationships after Susan, were with ladies who didn’t feel like leaving hubby: Evie and Rosemarie. His kiss-off song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” could easily have been sung by Rosemarie, who left Jimmy “so many times” to go back to her husband. A true tease, she kept popping up to romp with Webb. The vixen (perhaps hoyden, perhaps minx) once showed up saying that she would get a divorce and marry Jimmy IF he bought a house by the beach. 


    Webb dutifully shopped around with her, and she picked the most expensive one. He called his manager to arrange for selling his house and getting a loan to pay the difference. The couple celebrated with intimacy at their motel, but the next morning, Rosemarie enigmatically got dressed, kissed him on the cheek and with the sad smile of somebody pitying a fool, and walked out:  “I didn’t hate her…Nobody makes a fool of anybody, country music notwithstanding. Fools are volunteers.” 


    A big selling point for the book is that Jimmy dishes a bit on the “lost weekend” involving himself, Lennon and Harry Nilsson. Lennon turns out to be even more of a prick than McCartney. John’s excuse was being baked by drugs. There was the notorious nightclub incident that had John sporting a Kotex on his head and allegedly shoving or even punching a female photographer. Harry called Jimmy asking for help: please LIE and testify that you were with me and John, and that John is innocent! Webb dutifully testified that he did not see John strike the woman. (Sure, because Jimmy wasn’t even there!) 


       Webb found Lennon to be ungrateful, insufferable and self-privileged, but the ex-Beatle had style. One day, when Harry and John had exhausted themselves, they sent for Jimmy to bring more money and drugs. Webb found Lennon rolling up hundred dollar bills tightly, and placing them in the twat of a spread-eagled Asian woman (no, not May Pang). 


    You won’t need to roll up a $100 bill, with or without cocaine, to land a copy of “Jim Webb sings Jim Webb.” There are some hapless eBay dealers trying to unload it for $5 or $6, and there’s some kind of CD version of it out of Japan for $20. But no amount will get Jimmy to autograph it for you.
 



WEBB DEMOS
  I KEEP IT HID - YOU’RE TOO YOUNG    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

THE CONTESSAS - A world-wide WEBB Discovery



    If you check pages 140-142 of Jimmy Webb’s memoir, “The Cake and the Rain,” you’ll learn that back in 1965, the ambitious wunderkid from Oklahoma “was damned proud” of producing his white version of The Supremes. “I hoped Motown might want to sign them,” he writes. Fronted by curvy Suzanne Weir, the group included Webb’s own muse Susan Horton, as well as Alyce Wheaton and Sharon Johnston.
      Webb was a struggling songwriter at the time, and didn’t have the money to launch his group He managed to get a friend of his to fork over $3,500 to start “E Records.” The name was a tribute to “E” Street in San Bernardino. Webb hired the best studio musicians possible, wrote charts, and then bravely assembled everyone so he could produce/direct the session, beginning with a less-than-confident mutter of “What do I do?” Fortunately, the musicians were impressed by his charts, and didn’t think The Contessas were amateurs.
    Legendary drummer Hal Blaine said after the session “You need to stick with this.” It was a much-needed vote of confidence.
       Supporting their indie-label debut, The Contessas  dutifully flirted with local radio disc jockeys, made public appearances, and amazingly, managed to get on Shivaree, a distant cousin (in ratings) to Shindig and Hullabaloo. Still, sales weren’t that brisk for “This Time Last Summer” b/w “Keep On Keeping’ On.”
    Webb was “keepin’ on” despite several setbacks. His mother had suddenly died from a brain tumor, and his preacher father left California to go back to finding a parish in the Mid-West. Webb made a gutsy decision to stay behind, and his father took out a battered wallet, handed his kid a few twenty dollar bills, and apologized that it was all he could spare. Webb made the most of it, finally moving from shaky relationship with Jobete, the division of Motown that had hired him as a staff songwriter, to his big break when producer Johnny Rivers (yes, of “Secret Agent Man” fame) chose  “Up Up and Away” as a single for The Fifth Dimension. 
    Do you suppose The Contessas single would’ve taken off if they were called The Cuntessas? The song could’ve been re-written as “This Is Where You Came In.” With a lovely picture disc showing where.
    I digress. Very much an item of its time, you’ll find these girls to be pleasant xerox copies of Jackie DeShannon or Dusty Springfield.  “Keep On Keeping On,” a phrase that is now associated with Bob Dylan, even has the typical “hey hey hey” that Dusty used with white soul effectiveness.  
    The Contessas broke up fairly quickly, but Webb continued to find a muse in Susan Horton, and says he wrote many of his hits with her on his mind. He did get to fulfill his dream of producing a white version of The Supremes by producing a pale version of The Supremes. By the time he got the assignment to produce and arrange a new album for the group, Diana Ross had departed. Just how good or bad the album is, I have no idea. Look, I can’t get around to listening to every damn album out there. Sometimes it’s hard enough finding time for an obscure single. If you have the time, take a listen to….

   

THE CONTESSAS
THIS IS THERE I CAME IN    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

 THE CONTESSAS
KEEP ON KEEPING ON    Instant download or listen on line.  

SOUPY SALES MUCK-ARTY PARK an un-arty WEBB Parody

    “Muck-Arty Park” is a very atypical song from Soupy Sales. He released it, very atypically, on Motown. Huh? Wha? The album was called “A Bag of Soup.” His bag was to present himself as something more than a kiddie show icon, or the singer of a semi-hit novelty dance tune called “The Mouse.”

       Written by Ronald Miller and Tom Baird, the chosen single from the album takes aim more at Richard Harris than at Jimmy Webb. Unfortunately, the swipes at Harris and at hippies were not likely to appeal to many peope, and Soupy’s impersonation of Richard Harris sounds like any generic Englishman. His voice pitched low, unless you were told, you wouldn’t even know it was Soupy Sales. Not if you remember his comical straining to reach the high notes on his lone hit: “Heyyyyyy….do the MOUSE….”

    While this artless (Mucky-Arty??) ditty does tweak at the original’s time changes (here a a ragtime bit of “Hold That Tiger” collides with grandiose chords) it’s really a mess: “San Francico’s gone to pot. The kids forgot their Camelot. The flower children traded in their beads and poppy seeds for English tweeds. (Oh no!) Oh yes. (Oh well). Muck-Arty Park will never be the same, all the sweet young hippies blew their thing. Someone through the cook out in the rain. it was just eleven-thirty when they learned his pot was dirty, and he’ll never have that recipe again. (Oh no) Oh yes. Oh shucks!” Oh, fuck and off.  
    
    So why is it even here on the blog? Oh, just as part of the celebration of Webb’s memoir, and maybe a defense of this much-despised song. It’s almost self-parody and certainly didn’t need Soupy’s version. All anyone has to do for a rueful laugh is play the original, with Richard Harris singing in a fey, almost faggy way, and requiring endless studio splices and tricks to stay on key and hit the high notes. He basically was doing karaoke to a track already produced, and still needed hours and hours of re-takes.
   
    “MacArthur Park,” on length alone, broke barriers. AM radio, which broke almost every song, favored two or three minute ditties. While “extended play” 45’s were somewhat known, they were mostly used as hybrids: four songs from an artist that couldn’t produce a whole album, or six cover versions from a budget label trying to give poor kids a break. Nobody thought of putting ONE song on an extended-play 45 rpm. And how many radio stations, knowing the attention span of teens, would dare play such a long song??

    After this blockbuster, there was “Hey Jude.” In his book, Webb insists that McCartney deliberately extended the fade to reach the magic seven minute mark. Macca was competing with “Mac Park” (a Jimmy calls it) the same way he competed with Simon & Garfunkel, writing “Let it Be” as a spiritual answer song to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” PS, in his book Webb indicates that Paul was a bit of a prick. After Webb took too much time to reply to a request to write something for Mary Hopkin’s debut album, Paul refused to recognize Jimmy by name. He’d pointedly call him by some other name, even after repeated “I’m JIMMY” reminders from Webb.

    Have I digressed enough yet?

    Let’s add that arguably, “MacArthur Park,” from a trained classical pianist, helped spawn the “classical rock” genre, which would include Boko Haram’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” and Mason Williams’ smash “Classical Gas.” Even Roy Orbison gave grandiose rock a shot when he recorded, “Southbound Jericho Parkway” which clocked in at 6:59. That’s quite a jump from “Claudette” which was exactly two minutes.

    Some people absolutely HATE long rock songs, and back in the day Chapin’s “Taxi” and certainly “American Pie” took a lot of abuse. What set people off about Webb’s song was more the singing and the lyric than the music itself. For better or worse, Richard Harris made for a compelling hero, and the uneven-voiced “Camelot” star made the most of his over-baked rendition, which included a lot of quivering, quavering, and of course the almost effeminate high-pitched “Oh noooooooooo.” Only Harris could get away with Webb’s attempts at connecting to medieval balladry, with such awkward phrases as “stripe-ed pair of pants.”

    While falsetto goes back to Lou Christie and Frankie Valli, and somehow people gave a pass to guys getting emotional in a high-pitched voice, and even operatic (Mr. Orbison again), it was a bit uncomfortable, if not ridiculous, to hear a grown man getting hysterical over a cake recipe. It’s possible Webb could’ve re-written his lines to make it seem like his doomed lover had baked the fucking thing: “Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don’t think that I can take it, ‘cause SHE took so long to bake it. And SHE’ll never have that recipe again….”

    Oh well. Last point on the lyrics, is that, like Boko Haram’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” there really isn’t much cause for concern. This is just abstract words, like an abstract painting. Do we get bent because Seurat used little dabs of paint for his pointeliist effect? Are we upset because Picasso stuck two eyes on one side of a model’s head? We get it. Boko’s song about a girl having an overdose at a party, was rendered with spacey symbolism. So here, (and confirmed in Webb’s book), the sad drama of a break-up during the psychedelic 60’s is rendered with LSD smears. The park’s lawn becomes “sweet green icing.” There’s symbolism of a rainy day in a park. There are the glimpses of park scenes, including old men playing checkers. It’s not THAT obscure.

    “MacArthur Park is melting in the dark” isn’t that far removed from the era’s “Raindrops keep falling on my head.” For Webb, the main irritation was that Richard Harris kept singing MacArthur’s Park.” There wasn’t a way of slicing off the “s” every time the amiably drunk and/or histrionic actor repeated that line.

    Webb has a good sense of humor and a self-deprecating way about him. A few weeks ago he did a podcast with little Gilbert Gottfried, and was a good sport in playing keyboard while Gilbert rasped and strained over the famous high notes and “Oh no’s.”  Webb, Gilbert and the crew were breaking up with laughter, which is more than you’ll do listening to this historic but hardly hysteric curiosity by the former Milton Supman.

   

SOUPY SALES
sings MUCKY-ARTY PARK    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

The WEBB of Infidelity: "EVIE"


Reading Jimmy Webb’s new memoir, “The Cake and the Rain,” I learned that his rather obscure song “Evie” nearly won an International song competition in Brazil. It’s about a real person. Evie is the fun-loving wife of Leslie Bricusse (both still alive) and in her early days as an actress, appeared in a few Hammer horror movies. In the days when England swang like a pendulum do, she was frisky enough to openly cheat on him with Webb. He wanted to marry her. She wasn’t sure. Bricusse got more prickly about this as the situation became more and more serious. This led to a very engrossing confrontation that saw Webb-fan David Hemmings get between Evie’s two rivals before any punches could be thrown. 

Evie had called Webb from her home, desperate for a rescue. In fact, she chose to escape with Webb, leaving her husband with Hemmings. But…a few days later she returned to him. Oh, Jimmy eventually realized, maybe it’s for the best.  

As most every sensitive singer-songwriter would admit, what’s the point of a life experience if it can’t be fodder for a song? “Evie” is one of those rather self-indulgent ballads in which the hero gets to show there are no hard feelings, just maybe a lingering hardon now and then. I’d put it in the category of an “I’m gonna stand tall” number from Gene Pitney, but somewhere in the book Webb wryly quotes Pitney as saying, “I never got Jimmy Webb.”  

Webb figured that Bill Medley, the lanky, dark-haired half of the Righteous Brothers, was the perfect choice to put “Evie” into the Top 10. Medley was willing to go down to Brazil and sing it as America’s representative in the song contest. As it turned out, the song never made the Top 100 and the entourage (Medley, Webb and a variety of musicians and users) figured the contest was more an excuse for partying than anything else. How could the song win in a corrupt country that was going to rig the judging for its own entry? 

As Jimmy relates in the book, the main thing was to try not to get killed down there. Angry Latinos were shouting the Spanish word for “fag” at him (for having long hair) and the Fascist police seemed to be losing patience with the gringos and their attempts to smuggle marijuana. 

Poor Bill Medley, saddled with a second-rate “Didn’t We,” gets kudos for being determined and gutsy, singing this rather awkward slow ballad to a restless and downright dangerous crowd. The audience was only calmed when another singing contestant came out to try and shield him, and make sure nobody threw anything dangerous at his head. It’s just one of many vivid anecdotes in this engrossing memoir. 

Despite some hype here and there from his publisher, the book is NOT “the story behind the songs” in most cases. “Evie” is an exception. There’s nothing about one of my favorite rock songs of his, “Laspitch,” which is a Harry Chapin-esque O.Henry story-song about a preacher’s infidelity, and how the Man of God’s wife reacts. Webb doesn’t even bother to cite the song as a very unusual example of a number where the closing instrumental is actually longer than the song itself. 

The dramatic music, perhaps intended to accentuate and continue to shake up the listener after the punchline, continues for another three minutes. The song ends up almost as long as “MacArthur Park.” As Webb progressed from songwriter to singer-songwriter, his work became much less commercial. He was pretty much “hired” to write the awful and overripe “Up Up and Away” for a proposed teen movie about ballooning, and it became one of his major hits. Less known would be “If You See Me Getting Smaller I’m Leaving” describing his decision to have a “borderline career” touring small clubs and be taken seriously. 

In discussing Webb’s work, detractors often get stuck on Jimmy’s work for traditionals like Sinatra and Streisand, and how the MOR-world embraced him for his work with The Fifth Dimension, or how even Andy Williams took on “MacArthur Park.” But his work has encompassed every form of music, from soul and R&B (take Pocketful of Keys” from Thelma Houston), disco (Donna Summer), doo wop (Johnny Maestro and “The Worst That Could Happen), and tough C&W (“The Highwayman” as sung by The Highwaymen). (C)rapper Kanye West even stole a melody off Webb for “Famous.” In addition, Webb worked his way up from a rather nasal and annoying variation on Neil Young into a class act playing the same venues as Randy Newman, and attracting almost the same kind of intelligent, informed crowd. 

Have I digressed? Say hello to EVIE, the frolicsome 60's babe and ex-scream queen (who performed as Yvonne Romain.

EVIE BILL MEDLEY sings WEBB Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.






Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ill-Ustrated Songs #38 - KAY MARTIN, "SWAMP GIRL"

Michael Brown's offbeat classic "Swamp Girl" was a surprise hit in 1950.

You'll find the Frankie Laine version elsewhere on the blog. He owned the song, but let's take a listen to the cover version by Kay Martin, singing AS the Swamp Girl.

Above, early Kay in brunette mode. Later she was a brassy blonde.

She and her ridiculous "body guards" twist the song into a groovy jazz riff (think about dated hipsters like The Hi-Lo's, or the Kirby Stone Four). Kay, who had a minor reputation for singing risque novelty songs on adults only indie labels, actually had a semi-major label release with this. Her album of standards was published by the notorious Roulette Records, run by the nefarious Morris Levy. Other tracks, such as "Sentimental Journey" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" don't gain anything with Kay's indifferent voice or the cliche background singing. But "Swamp Girl?"

Instead of fearful, lustful Frankie Laine singing about her, here's the girl herself boasting of her prowess, with her admiring male duo trailing behind:

Kay: "Where the crane flies through the marshes and the turtles sun their shells.
Where the water rat goes swimmin'..." Body Guards: "That's where my swamp girl dwells!"

Kay: "Tonight my hair will float in the water, And the gold will no longer shine
It will spread like a fan in the water While I make a mysterious sign."
Body Guards: "We have seen that sign before!!!"

Cool, man. Finger' snappin' wild, Daddy.

The arrangement here includes several cliches of the day, from the sizzling break for cymbals to be constantly tipped like a hissing snake, to the sudden harmonizing on a minor note: "Come to the deep where your sleep is without a...DREAM!"

Yes, THIS version of "Swamp Girl" is the ginchiest. Crazy.

SWAMP GIRL (written by Michael Brown, not The Turtles, Charles Manson, Frankie Laine or whoever the pirate lyric sites are crediting. Most don't credit anyone, but it didn't write itself.) KAY MARTIN, Instant download or listen on line No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Tad Cummins' Wife: "Jesus Loves You...I DON'T!"

One of America’s creepiest stories of the past five weeks, was the disappearance of a 15 year-old student with her fat 50 year-old teacher. As the search for the missing couple became a national obsession, sightings were few.

The duo had been seen kissing at school before the disappearance, and the porky hillbilly with the unfortunate last name of Cummins, was spotted a few times on surveillance cameras in stores with his sullen companion. He stocked up on prescription boner pills and lube. His Internet searches in the days before his disappearance included finding tips on eluding police surveillance. The couple stayed at inconspicuous cheap motels as they slowly made their way from the toothless crowd in Tennessee to "clothing optional" communes in California. Apparently low on cash, they ended up at a campground bungalow that had no running water or electricity, but at least some edible wildflowers in the bushes.

After five weeks of being headline news, the duo was recognized, and the police waited until Tad Cummins wandered alone outside of his cabin. It’s a good thing they did, because he was armed. He might have tried to shoot it out, or pull a murder-suicide. The girl, perhaps a willing runaway at first, was reunited with her family. Jill Cummins, the chunky cheater's wife, was the one to ultimately affirm the worst about this sicko escapade. Tad made a jailhouse confession to her and whined about wanting forgiveness.

"I asked, 'Did you sleep with her?' And he said 'Yes, I did,' and so I did not want the details. I knew the truth, I just wanted to hear it from him. He kept saying 'I love you,' but I said 'I'm sorry, but I am not going to say that back.'" Cue the ultimate country kiss-off, "I DON'T," by beautiful Danielle Peck. Hum along, if you're a Humbert Humbert. It might prevent you from doin' something stupid. Cummins' wife (who filed for divorce even before talking to him) can't really take him back home anyway: he's going to get a minimum of ten years for his reckless obsession.

JESUS LOVES YOU I DON'T (Listen here, or download)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Original "SECRET AGENT" theme by EDWIN ASTLEY

Edwin Astley (1922–1998) first gained some fame as “Ted Astley,” touring England with his own orchestra. He had some songs covered by well-known British performers (including Anne Shelton and Vera Lynn) before making his name in TV theme and incidental music, first for Boris Karloff’s “Colonel March,” and then between 1955 and 1958, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Sir Lancelot” and “Ivanhoe.”

Astley’s high point was probably the album that featured one side of “Secret Agent” music, and the other side, music from “The Saint.” No, he did NOT write the famous theme for “Secret Agent” that appeared on American television, sung by Johnny Rivers. He wrote the themes when the show was called “Danger Man.” The best known bit of music from the show is “High Wire,” which sort of sounds like “Music to Whisk Eggs By,” and seemed like it was played almost constantly in every episode. The odd choice of instrument for the lead may have been inspired by the zither used for "The Third Man" mystery film. There can be something quite unsettling about a cheerful instrument used over grim noir footage, or mated to jazz drums as it is here.

Astley also wrote music for late 60’s TV shows “The Baron,” “Department S,” and “Randall and Hopkins, Deceased.” He also had many movie credits, including quite a few grim films such as “Dublin Nightmare” 1958) “Naked Fury” (1959) and “The Giant Behemoth” (1959). On the lighter side, there was “The Mouse that Roared” in 1959. He composed the orchestral music for the Herbert Lom version of ‘Phantom of the Opera” in 1962.

Fun trivia: Edwin’s daughter Karen married Pete Townshend. Karen and Pete’s son Jon Astley was in charge of many of The Who’s re-mastered CD releases. Sadly, there’s no CD featuring the best of Edwin Astley’s film scores. It’s not everyone who can make a harpsichord sound hip.

EDWIN ASTLEY -HIGH WIRE (SECRET AGENT THEME) Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Ill-Ustrated Songs #37 - Pearl Bailey - TOWER OF STRENGTH

Was Pearl Bailey a "Tower of Strength?"

She was, as they say, a force to be reckoned with, "tall, buxom, exuberant and handsome." That's the New York Times description. Plus this: "Her voice had a distinctively warm timbre and her natural vocal inflection was filled with fascinating colors and highlights."

Of black and Creek Indian ancestry, we belatedly honor her birthday, March 29, 1918. She was married to white jazz drummer Louis Bellson (aka Luigi Balassoni) for 38 years. He fan base included jazz buffs, sophisticates, Broadway gays (she was in the pioneering all-Black production of "Hello Dolly") and Presidents, including Nixon and Johnson. In the 50's, she was known for her risque humor in nightclubs; her song introductions were sometimes bawdy, and "Pearlie Mae" was also known to song a provocative tune, too. "I call myself a humorist. I tell stories to music and, thank God, in tune. I laugh at people who call me an actress."

"Tower of Strength" is usually sung by male singers, with abject humiliation or angst-ridden despair. The original by Gene McDaniels had a trombone mocking his grief and pain. Paul Raven offered one of the more effeminate cover versions. At least, he sang it with full knowledge that he was a wimp who couldn't leave the bitch that was in control of his life. The song doesn't quite work so well as a female vocal, because Bacharach's melody is so upbeat and loaded with syncopated bumps. It's not one of those "I'm a Fool to Want You" jazz ballads. So Pearl just plays with the jazz aspect and doesn't really emote the lyrics. She cools things down.

And if you'd like to hear other versions...go right ahead down the line of downloads.

Pearl Bailey Tower of Strength Instant download or listen on line.

TOWER OF STRENGTH Gerd Bottcher- CAROLIN CAROLIN

TOWER OF STRENGTH Frankie Vaughan

TOWER OF STRENGTH - GENE MCDANIEL

TOWER OF STRENGTH - PAUL RAVEN

TOWER OF STRENGTH - PAUL RICH

TOWER OF STRENGTH - Sue Richards

TOWER OF STRENGTH cute recent Asian version by Yeongene

YOU DON"T HAVE TO BE A TOWER OF STRENGTH - GLORIA LYNNE

TOUTE MA VIE (Tower of Strength) Audrey Arno

TOWER OF STRENGTH -Lew Davis

TOWER OF STRENGTH - DO IT YOURSELF via KARAOKE VERSION!

Download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads or use of sleazy companies that pay a percentage to bloggers for their "hard work." The hard work was done not by upping files, but by the original writers and performers.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

DAVID PEEL - THE DAY THE CLOWN DIED

David Peel? He was a clown.

A lot of hippie-clowns lightened up the mood of revolutionary America in the late 60’s and early 70’s including Abbie Hoffman, The Fugs and the team of Cheech and Chong.

David Peel (David Rosario, August 1, 1943-April 6, 2017) was a Puerto Rican who hung around in the East Village bellowing idiotic songs. You could actually be discovered that way. Further uptown, eccentric street performer Moondog became a "legend" and got a record deal.In 1968, Peel was signed to Elektra for a sort of novelty album “Have a Marijuana,” which probably sold about as well as one of the ESP indie Fugs discs. He had a two-lp deal with Elektra so they put out a second album, which lacked a marijuana album cover picture and sold less than the first.

John Lennon, fascinated by the variety of freaks in his adopted New York City, pronounced David Peel “real” for singing “the Pope smokes dope every day.” Thanks to John, who gave a muttery introduction to the title track, and produced the record, "The Pope Smokes Dope" arrived in stores. And yes, since I was buying everything John was on, or endorsed, I bought Peel's album, too.

It was a dumb piece of shit then, and it took Peel's death to make me listen to it again. Peel’s braying New Yawk retard-voice doesn’t help put over the witless refrain: “The Pope smokes dope! GOD GAVE HIM THE GRASS!”

Peel could've joked that the President (or POTUS, as Millennial twits call him) was a secret head, but I guess pissing on the head of the Catholics was a lot more, what, Lenny Brucey of him? Mixing up a protest involving religion does generally get people even more enraged. But who could get that upset about a skanky idiot from the Lower East Side spouting stuff Andrew "Dice" Clay would find childish? Part of the song's lyric:

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jill forgot to take a pill and now she has a daughter! Taking pills is not a joke for a groovy Pope. Birth control can be a toke of marijuana smoke!”

Put it this way, it's sad that Peel had a massive heart attack a few days ago, and did not recover, but I still remember being out $2.99 for buying this stupid album.

To be charitable, let's say that David could have influenced The Ramones, the aforementioned "Dice" Clay, and even Howard Stern. Being a moron in public would turn Stern into a millionaire. While Howard didn't sing, he had people getting up at the crack of dawn to hear him talk to retards and have arguments with nitwits like Baba Booey and Jackie the Joke Man. "Dice" Clay would fill Madison Square Garden with goofs wanting to hear him re-cycle old Pearl Williams and Belle Barth gags including the spider saying to Little Miss Muffett, "What's in the bowl, bitch?"

Somehow, college twits of the day loved to replay Cheech and Chong doing “Dave’s not here” for five minutes, and elbowed each other over The Fugs being allowed to sing "River of Shit," but copies of David Peel albums slipped into the bargain bin, under-appreciated. Now, only truly dumb fuckheads consider them, and his subsequent stuff "collectors items" for their basements. (As you can see from the photo, Lennon seemed to have gotten a bit tired of David's schtick, too). Maybe Peel's record label should've added a giant piece of rolling paper? Or paper panties? Then a Peel disc might be worth the same bucks as a certain Cheech and Chong effort, or Alice Cooper's "School's Out."

Check eBay's list of what was sold in the past month (before David's death) and "The Pope Smokes Dope" went for $11.77 on January 15th, another copy $9.91 on February 19th, and another for $15.49 on March 5th. Currently, some kneejerk idiot is paying $49.95 for a listed copy, but another one, just posted for $9.95 will not likely get much more than that.

Like Tiny Tim, Dean Friedman, Kinky Friedman and herpes, David Peel did not disappear with the 70's. His discography allegedly includes "John Lennon Forever" (1987), "Anarchy in New York City" (1993), "Legalize Marijuana" (2002), "Up Against the Wall Street" (2013), and "Give Hemp a Chance" (2015). I don't have any of those. I still remember dropping $2.99 on "The Pope Smokes Dope," and I'm sure all that stuff will turn up on YouTube or Spotify or Zinfart or some other place that is making sure that we'll not see an indie artist like David Peel be able to survive and make any kind of a living doing what he enjoys.

It's nice that Peel, who leaves no family behind, did live long enough to see medical marijuana legalized in his home state of New York. And it's nice that Peel didn't sing "Mohammad Smokes Dope," because if he did, he would not have died of natural causes. Which is a way of saying that the era of comical David Peel-type protest songs is in as rough shape as David is now, and those 43 Coptic Christians who went to "Palm Sunday" services today in Egypt and didn't realize some Muslims don't believe anyone should be alive who isn't Muslim.

The Pope Smokes Dope DAVID PEEL Instant download or listen on line.

LOLA ALBRIGHT goes into DREAMSVILLE at 92

Albrighty, then!

I guess it’s only a few hardcore lounge music spuds and “Peter Gunn” goons who remember Lola Albright. For a few years she was a mature, classy, exotic flame on TV and in movies. Lola Jean Albright (July 20, 1924 – March 23, 2017) got her first big break in the Kirk Douglas boxing movie "The Champion" (1949) and then turned up in "The Good Humor Man," opposite bulky comedian Jack Carson, whom she married a few years later (and divorced in 1958). It was in 1958 that she dazzled TV audiences as the nightclub singer who was involved with stoic private eye "Peter Gunn."

She sang during the show's three seasons, but there was plenty of competition for her record stores, including plenty of gorgeous Julie London discs with sexy photos on the cover. That may be why “Dreamsville” was about it. Though Lola was an authentic MILF type (in 1961 she starred in "A Cold Wind in August" about a 30-something stripper getting hot for a 17 year-old), Julie London, was the queen of that genre, a sophisticate who seemed to know every nuance of romance. Another fun role for Lola was as "Paula Marshall," a confident mature vamp intimidating stammery Rob Petrie on an episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Eventually Angie Dickinson became the go-to mature sex goddess on TV, and Lola slipped into retirement.She made her last film in 1968. She divorced her third husband in 1975, and didn't seem inclined to do memorabilia shows and sit around letting grinning, sweaty Huelbigs paw her for a $25 photo op.

Despite Henry Mancini behind the baton (he also co-wrote most of the tracks), "Dreamsville" is more of a daydream. It's pretty mild stuff, and Lola doesn't demonstrate much individual style. Still, she was a pretty woman, and she had a pretty nice 'n' easy voice. Believe it, or download "They Didn't Believe Me."

LOLA ALBRIGHT THEY DIDN’T BELIEVE ME Instant download or listen on line. No obnoxious pop-up ads to idiot porn or gaming sites.

OLD FOLKIE PEGGY SEEGER - FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE

There's been some hub and bub regarding old folkies lately who are doing slightly odd things.

The always unpredictable Bob Dylan continued his fetish for tormenting the standards by releasing three more CDs of songs Sinatra and others have done better. That Willie Nelson did a lame album of "Stardust" and other worn out tunes over 30 years ago hasn't mattered. Most critics have indulgently bought the line that Dylan is a valid interpreter of everything from "As Time Goes By" to, yeah, "Stardust." And he isn't. He's put out 5 novelty albums. Some tracks are downright embarrassing. Play this stuff to anyone who isn't a starry-eyed and indulgent rock critic, and they'd say "what fucking amateur retirement home idiot is hacking away at this shit?"

Bob's former girlfriend Joan Baez hasn't been doing the standards. She's gone back to singing topical folk songs (she has a new one yodeling about Trump). She's now considered a rock star, for having made it into the rather pointless and obscure “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” It’s located in Cleveland. That’s how unimportant it is.

Joan humbly acknowledged that she is not now and never was a rocker. She's a folkie who's had crossover appeal by covering a rock song (“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”) or singing about Bob Dylan (“Diamonds and Rust.”) She toured in Bob's "Rolling Thunder" shows, sometimes dressed in Bob drag, but others did the rocking. So Joan made sure to let everyone know that she was entering rock's "Hall of Fame" with a slightly apology and a lot of gratitude. Funny, there was nobody apologizing for Tupac Shakur also getting into the Hall on the same ballot. What the FUCK does that dead thug have to do with rock?

Joan Baez is 76. Bob Dylan is 75.

Also touring, at 81, is Peggy Seeger.

While Joan enjoys her unexpected shot-in-the-arm, which has led to renewed interest in her catalog and sold-out performances with the God-awful Indigo Girls, and while Bob continues to amaze (people who said his voice was shot have to admit, he can be smooth and actually hit high notes on the "standards") Peggy Seeger continues along.

The most hardcore folkie of them all, Seeger isn’t begging for Kickstarter money or haunting YouTube or Facebook asking to be LIKED. She remains somewhat obscure and uncompromising, playing for that small circle who admire traditional music sung and played with total integrity.

In other words, her stuff is far more difficult to take than Dylan's standards or his Christmas album. Her flinty voice is not going to win over people who find Baez's warble seriously annoying after ten minutes. She could care less. And she tours and makes CDs when she feels like it.

Seeger wrote one of the greatest modern folk songs, “The Ballad of Spring Hill,” (aka Spring Hill Mining Disaster, and Ballad of Springhill) which has been adapted and covered by everyone from classic balladeers such as Martin Carthy, to the dreaded U2 and the unheralded Ivy League Trio. She and husband Ewan MacColl covered it, too, with Ewan adding a few authentic touches to the lyrics, related to mining technique.

MacColl, who was born James Henry Miller (January 25, 1915 – October 22, 1989) is the father of Kirsty MacColl via his second marriage, to Jean Newlove. Ewan was still married to Jean when he fell for Peggy, 20 years younger. The circumstances, Peggy is quick to say, “are none of your business.” Meaning, don’t ask her if she felt uncomfortable about taking a man away from his wife. Legend has it that Ewan wrote “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” as a love song to Peggy, and she first heard it via a tape sent by mail.

MacColl’s other famous songs include “Dirty Old Town” and another great modern folk song, “The Ballad of Tim Evans” (aka ‘Go Down Ye Murderer”), which was covered by Judy Collins and the Ivy League Trio among others.

Severely traditional folk singers are an acquired taste, especially in the decades that have seen the rise of folk-pop (The Weavers and Peter Paul and Mary) and folk-rock. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” after all, only became a hit when it was softened up and sung by Roberta Flack in 1972. Below, you get the oddity of a woman singing a tribute song to herself. Oh, I’m sure Peggy was imagining the countenance of the controversial Commie Ewan MacColl while she was singing it, and not singing it to a mirror. But Peggy was the inspiration.

Peggy Seeger First Time Ever I Saw Your Face Instant download or listen on line. No egotistical Zinfart password to type in.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Christine Kaufmann Dies at 72 - the "Town without Pity" girl

Christine Kaufmann (January 11, 1945-March 28, 2017) was a ballerina with the Munich Opera company, and gradually began to develop a film career. She gained international attention (and a Golden Globe award) for starring in the gang rape-shocker "Town Without Pity" in 1961. A bunch of soldiers (including Frank Sutton before he became Sgt. Carter on "Gomer Pyle") attacked her in the woods, after she went swimming.

Critics at the time found the film lurid and distasteful.

The New York Times especially loathed the theme song, sung by Gene Pitney, and whenever the film was on TV, the capsule review commented on how awful that noisy music was.

Today, the theme song lives on, and the film is mostly forgotten. And so, it seems, is Christine Kaufmann. At least, as a film star.

Kaufmann made "Escape from East Berlin" the following year, and married Tony Curtis. This storybook romance (he, the Jew born Bernard Schwartz, she the daughter of a Luftwaffe officer) lasted several years, and produced two childen. She appeared in "Taras Bulba" in 1962, "Wild and Wonderful" in 1964, "Murders in the Rue Morgue" in 1972, and her last big year of film making was 1981 ("Day of the Idiots,""Lili Marleen" and "Lola").

She married a few more times and became known as a health and fitness buff. She had success in Germany with her own line of cosmetics.

Since you all know Pitney's version of "Town without Pity," and maybe even the German language version of it called "Bleibe Bei Mir" ("Stay with Me") the salute to Kaufmann offers the oddity of a female version of the song.

Mathilde Santing is a Dutch singer known internationally (maybe), for her cover versions of Randy Newman, Paul Simon and others. Her unique voice sometimes lacks emotion (ala Judy Collins) but she often enhances her haunting style with weird changes in tempo. She slowed down Paul Simon's "Hazy Shade of Winter" into an icy dirge, and here, a gypsy rhythm infuses her warbling, which may remind you of a menopausal Kate Bush.

The song "Town Without Pity" doesn't address the theme of the movie, which involves the "she asked for it, the slut" stigma involving rape. Instead, Ned Washington's lyrics for the unusually swinging Dimitri "Guns of Navarone" Tiomkin music focus on the raging hormones of misunderstood teenagers. Ten years earlier, Washington and Tiomkin won an Academy Award for the "High Noon" tune "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling," sung by Tex Ritter.

They were nominated for "Town Without Pity" but lost to "Moon River" from "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Yeah, they gave it to a song that calls a river a "huckleberry friend." You can bet "Town Without Pity" lost because of the grown-up voters sneering at Gene Pitney's chipmunk wailing! Below, elegant Netherlands gypsy Mathilde gets verklempt.

Mathilde Santing Town Without Pity Instant download or listen on line. No royalties paid BUT, the blog is not getting paid either for any “hard work” in uploading the track.