Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Groucho Marx's youngest daughter, Melinda, would rather not be known as Groucho's youngest daughter, Melinda.

While his son Arthur wrote several books about his father, and daughter Miriam put together a collection of letters, young Melinda's been...elusive. Which beats being bitter but funny, or alcoholic and Sapphic, as her siblings turned out to be.
You'll recall, if you're a Grouchophile, that cute Melinda turned up on her Daddy's quiz show. Proud poppa insisted that she sing, and back then she did seem like she was auditioning for an "Our Gang" revival that might need a new Darla. However Melinda's enthusiasm waned. So did everyone' the point where you can see just what kind of dysfunctional family they became...

...a chagrined kid, an alky wife and a grouchy old hubby. (The comments section duly noted that this picture shows Eden Marx, Melinda's step-mother. Melinda's mother was Groucho's second wife Kay). Listening to this A-side single, cut post-puberty (about six years after the photo you see on this page), you get the idea with "East Side of Town" that Melinda Marx doesn't want to be the next "Downtown" Petula Clark.

You can almost imagine her telling the sound engineer: "can I get this over in one take?" Turning Fabian's echo chamber into a mausoleum, here's Melinda Marx singing her way out of show business...

The East Side...and Down Side of Being a Celebrity Daughter.... New link, Instant Download or Listen on Line


Jackson Browne's brother was surprisingly goofy. In the early 70's when "Sweet Baby James" was so earnest, and Gilbert O'Sullivan was sullenly suicidal, Severin was singing deliberately dopey tunes like "Cooking School," a loopy love song: "She majored in crepes and in almonds. I studied desserts made with cheese. We fell in love while the class dissected a pea. Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa..."

Browne's two albums were issued on Motown when the label was trying to go in just about the opposite direction from The Four hiring a white goop?

On his second album, the ill folkie offered the repetitve "Do Magnolia Do" and an irritatingly itchy number titled "Tickle My Lips" which gives you some idea of how annoying he could be. But "Cooking School" is intentionally hippie-dippie. Sev spies her at a nude beach. Then "I saw her the next day while streaking a hallway. We went to the same cooking school!" Streaking? Could it get stupider? Yep...

When your parents evidently name you after a bad brand of coffee and spell it wrong (the album jacket on "new and improved" references the idea of a coffee can label) anything's possible.

After "Cooking School" Browne was toast. He sat out the rest of the 70's. Too bad. If "The Pina Colada Song" was a hit for Rupert Holmes, one of Sev's dippy tunes could've been a novelty classic, too. In the past 10 years he's issued two CD's but they aren't humorous or intentionally ill. They sound like what you'd expect of Jackson Browne's brother. "You Can't Fool the Moon" is an example.

Getting even with an ex-lover, Severin ominously sings: "You can't fool the moon. You can't fool the moon! You can't fool the moon. You can't fool the moon! You can't fool the moon. Oh you can't fool the moon. Oh you can't fool the moon. No, you can't fool the moon."

Why? Because you say so eight times in a row?

Jimmy Webb once declared the moon is a harsh mistress, and Severin agrees she's not to be screwed with: "She can see where you live." And? What's she doing to somebody who made the big mistake of not sticking with Severin? Mooning the person?

This pointless lyric reminds me of a line uttered by my late friend Brother Theodore. The noted podiatrist and performance artist once said that "the dog howling at the moon does not bother the moon. It only makes the dog look like a jackass."

Severin circa 1972 was one of those ill folks with a very unique vision. And Lenscrafters can fix that in under an hour.

Your zip file has a song from each of four Severin albums. If you just want to try "Cooking School," it's a quick download or listen on line.

First album: "Darling Christina." Sev proves that like Jackson, James and everybody else, he can write an anthem to some hippie chick he's either fucked or wants to.
Second album: "Love Story." The album was called "New and Improved." But this song is so obvious (a waltzing list of people, each in love with somebody else) it's surprising he had the strength to finish it. Especially when it ends like a cookie commercial: "...he's really in love with Sara Lee, and Sara Lee secretly honestly truly loves me."
Third album: "Edge of the World." Title track. Seriously OK. If he sounds like a more sober Dean Friedman or a speeded up Billy Joel, that's not so bad.
Fourth album: "You Can't Fool The Moon," although you can play golf on it.

Four Samples from the Four Albums

Cooking least it beats Emeril La Gassy Instant download or listen on line. No porn ads or pop ups.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


You didn't know John Lennon's father recorded a single?
I hope so. I wouldn't want to be alone. I only found out through reading Cynthia Lennon's second bio of John. She didn't pull any punches about Alfred "Freddie" Lennon being a disappointment to John. I just wondered how much of a disappointment he was to the music world.
As you'll hear, the bloke wasn't half bad. Or he was only half bad. John inherited some of his famous nasal voice from "Freddie," that's for sure. On the A-side, co-written by Freddie, he offers an autobiographical apology for his love of sailing (which made him an absentee father and husband).
Who'd be buying this? Well, if you check what else was on the charts when The Beatles were first getting was Louis Armstrong doing "Hello Dolly" and Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, Patti Page etc. And only a few years earlier Walter Brennan was offering talk-novelties with middle-aged background singers.
In Great Britain, even the grand Goon Spike Milligan offered up sentimentality on a 45 rpm from time to time. "Freddie" shares Spike's sentimentality and weak romantic tenor (Milligan sang much stronger on the novelty Goon numbers John Lennon loved so much and was so influenced by). No use belaboring this any further. Here, Fred Lennon gets his 3 minutes of fame, and toward the end, actually sings and hits a few notes.
Alfred "Freddie" Lennon, the sailor come home from the sea. To cash in on his son.

That's My Life... FREDDIE LENNON
b-side, The Next Time You Feel Important


Bobby Cole put so much time and energy into creating "Mister Bojangles...." he pretty much forgot about the B-side!
With almost no production values, he simply got a few session players to back him on "Bus 22 to Bethlehem," which might have suited Bobby (ah, BOB) Darin, who was younger than Bobby Cole but going through a similar time...experimenting with folk-rock after having spent most of his time chasing the inspiration of Sinatra.

A difference between Bobby Cole and Bobby Darin is that Bobby knew Sinatra quite well. Cole was a king of the night scene in New York in the early 60's, when everyone from The Chairman of the Board to Art Carney would want to literally sit in with The Bobby Cole Trio. But by the late 60's both Bobby Cole and Bob Darin were sincerely creating good folk rock. Only neither were appreciated for making the attempt. That's called pigeon-holing. If you swing, you can't rock.

As you listen to this lost '68 folk-rock number you might find some Bob Darin here, or a bit of Bob Dylan too...but the lyrics are pure Bobby Cole. He was quite a literate man, and religion was always something important to him...whether the commercialization of it, the doubting of it, or the redemption in it. Over 30 years ago, Bobby was singing: "the Christians, and the Muslims exchanged frozen looks." Times have changed. Now they exchange mortar fire.
NOW BOARDING: Your download for BUS 22 TO BETHLEHEM No code words, pop-ups or porn ads.


The first person to cover Mr. Bojangles was Bobby Cole.

Bobby was in a club, saw a fairly unknown guy named Jerry Jeff Walker strum the song, and was inspired. He probably had the same glow George Martin got on hearing a demo of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." What possibilities! With arrangement and production ideas brimming in his mind, he called in all favors, got recording studio time, and after a brief release on his own Concentric label, finally got Columbia to put out his single via Date Records.

Bobby transformed the simple, unadorned folk ballad by adding the flavor of vaudeville and traveling shows; he used a calliope effect for the introduction, and updating lounge for the psych 60's found a woman who could play a weird brand of electric violin that wistfully tinged the tune into sunset colors. Ultimately, he added his unique vocal. The song sounds like it's from someone as weary and worn as Mr. Bojangles himself.

When Bobby's version hit the airwaves, it was a new song. You can imagine how stunned Top 40 audiences would be hearing this; the strange arrangement, the unusual violin in there, and the wistfully haggard vocal...

The song began to climb the charts. Meanwhile ATCO was rush-releasing Jerry Jeff Walker's version, a simple, honest strum. Where Columbia had influence, Bobby's was a hit. Where Atco had influence, radio stations favored Jerry's version. Both stalled at the edge of the Top 40 in the summer of 1968.

The vision of Bobby's version led everyone from Sammy Davis Jr. to George Burns to offer a pop cover...usually with an earnestly nostalgic tone. Jerry's less emotional take would later inspire the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Bob Dylan to give dry-eyed country pickin' to the tune.

Together, Cole and Walker blazed a trail followed by dozens and dozens of cover versions, either pop or folk. Sadly neither man would have another hit single. At least, Walker fans got a lot more albums and Jerry Jeff is still out there.
Bobby's "Mister Bojangles" (as the Columbia label spells it out...the original Concentric calls it "Mr. Bo Jangles") moved me so much I had to know more about him, find out who this guy was (this was his first single, but from that voice, you knew he'd been around and there was a back story to tell).

Some twenty years later, I met him in a club, not down and out, but playing the standards. I made sure to catch him at other gigs around town. And I'll just say that he turned out to be one of the most unique friends I ever had. I miss him.

"One Hit Wonder" is a cruel term, but here, it applies to a strange little moment in time when lounge and jazz sensibilities (note the backbeat drums and the late arrival of the clarinet toward the end) melded with progressive rock (the influence of "Mr. Kite" seems evident) and as produced, arranged and sung by Bobby Cole, produced a gem.

MISTER COLEJANGLES Update: The original link died, and has been replaced by a zip file of TEN versions of the song, including Bobby's

Thursday, March 09, 2006

RON NAGLE - Bad Rice

With a peculiar front cover...and a gruesome back cover of a creepy guy with a missing tooth...few had reason to pick up BAD RICE. (Unless they heard a track or two on a Warner Bros. "loss leader" compilation album, as I did).

Ron Nagle's disc was ahead of its time for many reasons; the use of Ry Cooder, the kind of strange lyrics that, more than a decade later, kept Warren Zevon from view for a while, and a rocking style that was almost parody. Was "61 Clay" some kind of homage to "Highway 61" or just a raucous goof on every "leaving home" bad boy song? It comes from a guy also singing tunes about arthritis, fantasizing about leaving the wife and kids, a woman able to vaginally pick up spare change, and someone stepping on a parakeet.

Submitted, or rather uploaded, for your approval are the first two tracks from the album (the two featuring Ry Cooder): 61 CLAY, a crunching rocker, and MARIJUANA HELL. The latter begs the question, was Ron's intent joint-in-cheek or did he really think marijuana was the weed of evil? The song can be enjoyed either way.

If you're wondering what happened to Mr. N...he became one of America's premiere ceramic artists. Music's been a sidelight, He's written songs and music for various artists and films, but hasn't issued another solo album. Before the solo album he co-led The Mystery Trend (psych rock available on a compilation CD by that name) and after BAD RICE he turned up as half of the pig-named Durocs (one Capitol vinyl circa 1980). Nagle, evidently heavily drinking during BAD RICE, supplied the album notes for the British vinyl re-issue but didn't have that much to remember about the songs. If you have a choice, don't buy that soggy Brit pressing, try and find the original WB vinyl. It is sharper and was cut LOUDER.

Re-upped after the original links died of old age:

RON NAGLE 61 Clay w/ Ry Cooder
RON NAGLE Marijuana Hell w/ Ry Cooder