Saturday, April 29, 2006


Racially incorrect, obsessively fond of burps, and totally driven by a desire to "depreciate" good music, Spike Jones had some novelty 78rpm hits. For a while. He even had his own radio show and TV series. Briefly. Very briefly. His film career is basically the hard to find "Fireman Save My Child" (1954) an Abbott & Costello movie ultimately made by Hugh O'Brian and Buddy Hackett and re-worked to also star Jones (but not Barbara Walters).
Now regarded as a comic genius, his RCA sides consistently in print for 60 years, Jones got laughs doing everything from setting fire to a woman ("My Old Flame") to blowing raspberries at Hitler ("Der Fuehrer's Face"). His touring show gave audiences a chance to roar over clothing louder than the music and a never-ending parade of goofy sight gags involving pants falling down and midgets running around.
Never quite respected in his lifetime for his ill winds and sickly strings, Spike and his "City Slickers" may have gotten a bit further than more Opry-esque artists like the Hoosier Hot-Shots, but remained a "novelty act," one best known for recordings in the late 40's.
Slogging into the 60's, road-warrior Jones grimly declared that rock music was beyond satire. He had low-selling albums on Verve and Liberty, and the brilliant "Spike Jones in Stereo" concept album didn't impress anyone either. He even tried to "go straight" with "His New Band." As The Beatles burned up the charts Spike smoked himself into an early grave. He was 54. He died on May 1st, 1965.
A new generation might know Spike Jonze better than the original, and have no idea who "Chloe" was (or that this song was even a parody), but many still treasure the breathtaking bravado of "the band that played for fun," led by a square-headed Cagney look-alike who could chew gum and conduct music at the same time, often bouncing his baton off the floor and back into his fist.

Since the RCA stuff is easy to find, here are some "trannies" to give a better idea of Spike's live sound. Transcription discs and radio moments show off Spike's big band as well as his cheerfully grotesque sensibilities, which included ethnic stereotypes during wartime.
By the Beautiful Sea
Horsey Keep Your tail Up
Oh By Jingo
Red Wing
Der Fuehrer's Face
Never Hit Your Grandma with a Shovel
You're a Sap, Mr. Jap
Pack Up Your Troubles
Down in Jungle Town
Come Josephine in my Flying Machine

Spike Jones Trannies HERE

1 comment:

spiderclinic said...

SJ in Stereo is a masterpiece. The New Band LPs sold well. There are some great finds in his late work, "Pimples and Braces" from 60 Years of Music America Hates Best. His unfinished album Persuasive Concussion. His summer shows from 57 and 58 are really pretty good.
Viva Spike and Happy 100th,