Sunday, October 29, 2006
Here are 19 songs (it had to be over 18, considering the subject) that describe the world of prostitution, pimps and Johns.
Hookers cover every social strata, so this collection includes honky tonk girls, high class call girls and raunchy street hustlers.
In song most of them are given sympathy and even admiration. For providing a needed service, these women have earned both bucks and some respect. The most ambivalent well-known whore song is "Sweet Painted Lady," here sung by both Elton the Original, AND Bridget St. John, cover-girl. The refrain; "getting paid for being laid, guess that's the name of the game." No kidding, Bernie, and TAB A goes into SLOT B.
The most famous whore song is "Love For Sale," and it's covered here in the classic "De-Lovely" way by some cabaret babe or other, a sexier way (Jane Birkin) and even via male gigolo Elvis Costello. Classic street walker-hustler songs come from Georgia White, Ma Rainey and Chippie Hill. You also get a "Best Little Whorehouse" ho' down, and "Do You Think I'm a Whore" and "Hooker on a Corner." Plus Donna Summer's classic about bad girls and the Academy Award winning "Hard Out Here for a Pimp." Different strokes...
Some might not have listened to the lyrics of Police/Sting operation "Roxanne" closely enough to realize it's a faux-Jamaican lament to a hooker. "You don't have to put out de red light," Sting rasta-rasps. Rather than bother with his version, we have a more luridly sympathetic take from female vocalist Dilana.
Also here, "Barcelona" by the limp-wristed Sinceros, who self-consciously sing of "prostitutes with very large hearts entertaining very small parts," and the prodigy Janis Ian who was not even of legal age when she wrote and sang "Pro Girl." I like her attempt at seeming British by quoting the whore fee in "pounds" not dollars. She works in a play on the John's Bargain Store chain, ("John, bargain well...") which is pointless but it shows how precocious this poetess was at 16. And At Seventeen...she couldn't even give it away.
19 tracks. All that's missing is Hora Staccato. No charge for the download, which, I know, makes me look cheap.
Now nearing 90, and looking the same as he did when he emerged in the late 1950's as cult tv's undead "Cool Ghoul," John Zacherle is a legend. He spliced himself into the old horror movies he was hosting, created a low budget world of support characters (one was pretty much a huge slab of gelatin) and laughed at his own bad horror puns with a cheerful barking yock. He got the cover of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" without making a film (although his records were sold in the back pages), had a novelty hit via "Dinner with Drac" and even covered "Monster Mash." After influencing Vampira, Elvira and dozens of other would-be horror TV hosts he miraculously went from East Coast TV phenom to rock disc jockey on WPLJ in New York. Very cool! That's just the merest thumbnail sketch, because I lost the actual thumb I was typing with! Ha...ha...yock....
Here's a sample of vintage and recent Zach tunes. He may not mean as much if you didn't grow up with him, but let's see if he can put a Sardonicus-grin on the pusses of total strangers. A Halloween re-post from July. Rapidshare killed the link for lack of activity some months later, but you can't kill Zacherle!
The lucky 13 download includes "Coolest Little Monster," "Sure Sign of Spring," "Transylvania PTA," "Graverobbing Tonight," "Formaldehyde" and even a cover of Tom Petty's "Zombie Zoo."
"Foam at the mouth via your RABIDshare download, my dear. Ha ha...."
While flipping through the record racks (remember this near-extinct ritual?) I saw the cover portrait of Lys Gauty on a 2lp set. Did the woman actually look like that?
Turns out, several paintings and posters were done in a similar way, accentuating her huge pale eyes and severe blood-red lips.
Alas, Madame Gauty in real photos, is not quite so vampish or tarsier-like. Her music, likewise, is fine, but not spooky or sexy.
Take "Crepuscule," which, students, translates as "twilight," and the time of day when crepuscular creatures with huge eyes, such as lemurs and tarsiers, become active.
Music and lyrics by Django Reinhardt and Francis Blanche. It was recorded in 1943. It is about shadow and substance, of things and ideas; it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge...a dimension of imagination. Your next stop: The Crepuscule Zone.
Instant Listen or Download: LYS GAUTY
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Imagine combining Peter Lorre and Paul McCartney! Paul Frees (lower right corner photo) did. Paul Frees was a genius, arguably the finest voice-over talent of all time, capable of vibrant Orson Welles-type movie narration as well as silly cartoon and commercial voices (Boris Badenov, Ludwig Von Drake, Captain Peachfuzz, Pillsbury Doughboy...)
He gave me an enduring thrill when, in response to a fan letter, he CALLED ME UP to say hello. That'll make an impression on a kid!
He did his legendary Peter Lorre impression on radio in front of Peter Lorre himself (on the Spike Jones show) and as a "pet project," got a chance to revisit Lorre on "Paul Frees and the Poster People," where he imagined classic movie stars singing contemporary tunes.
My favorite album track, and your sample, is "Peter Lorre" suavely singing and periodically going ballistic on Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude."
No Rapidshare. No gimmicky codes or link-protect porno ads. Instant download.
The last gasp from The Ivy League Trio has turned out to be an enduring death rattle, the lp "Folk Songs from the World of Edgar Allan Poe." The trio landed at the tail end of both the folk craze and the Famous Monsters of Filmland horror-novelty era, and this Reprise gem was neglected. It was the debut for newest trio member Ronn Langford (replacing Bev Galloway) and also the farewell. Ironically he, of all other members, has ended up with a long and prosperous life outside of show biz.
At least one rocker (Greg Kihn) has listed this as a very influential album. The trio flirted with macabre material during their Coral/Decca era, including "Ballad of Springhill," "Ballad of Tim Evans" and "Delia's Gone," but surpassed themselves as they adapted and in many cases re-wrote the original material given them by their new record label. The album ranges from poignant ("Eleanora") to spooky ("House of Usher") to ludicrous ("Tell-Tale Heart" re-written as a Western!) with this sample falling in between. It combines lusty folk balladry with over-the-top guignol as one might expect (and even demand).
"Folk Ballads..." is one of the finest ill folksong albums, and if you like "Pit and the Pendulum" then reward the record dealer who has been waiting for years to unload it on someone, cheap. Why, the moody album cover painting is suitable for framing....
No more Rapidshare. No codes. No downloads detoured for porn ads.
INSTANT Gratification PIT & THE PENDULUM
This is a rare re-post. I don't want you ill folks out there to forget about Martin. Not when he was nice enough to leave a comment the first time!
Responding to my July posting and picture:
"There was I trying to write a beautiful, heart-felt, sincere song about a very considerate woman and you lot with your filthy minds go and turn it into something sordid and disgusting.
Instant Download Instant Download, no code words or porn ads. Listen on line, too!
Monday, October 09, 2006
Finally, some nine months into the blog, here's an actual ill folk! The seed that germinated this blog was to chronicle obscure folk singers, but...things sort of drifted.
Fred issued only two albums (both on Crestview/Elektra). One was ethereally titled "Smoke Dreams of Fred Engelberg" and on the other, his name was spelled wrong on the cover ("The Songs of Fred Engleberg"). Neither release had a single biographical word about him. His self-penned liner notes for "Smoke Dreams" didn't even mention his roles in three films "The Lost Missile" (1958), "The Beat Generation" (1959) and "Dinosaurus" (1960).
Instead, the obscure folkie baffled any would-be buyer by a lengthy rumination on the album title: "smoke dreams...in a manner of speaking...(is) somewhere between talking and singing...somewhere between you...whoever you are...and me...whoever I am." Then a rumination on his influences "...because there was Mark Twain and Jazz and Woody Guthrie...there was Hayakawa and Kabuki and S.J. Perelman...there was Thurber and "doggerel" and Pirandello...there was Bullfinch and the Bible and Joe Gould and the writings on bathroom walls...and there was what they have done to my head..."
The burly, bearded folkie's singing style is similar to bearded Burl Ives...quite understated, especially compared to sweaty stablemates Shel Silverstein and Judy Henske. Fred's quiet singing is mated to some subversive songs. Beyond typical topical folkie protest (a candy machine becomes a symbol of our tin-hearted culture) he wrote grimly ironic murder ballads and a song challenging Christianity.
Circa 1963, folkies were running to the library hunting up murder ballads, but 30 year-old Fred wrote his own, "Hangman," a brilliant piece of quiet pessimism. When folkies were chasing after "Go Down Moses" and other spirituals, Fred offered the dispirited "Everybody's Talkin' about Jesus and Mary, Nobody's Talkin' about Joe."
The genius of a songwriter is often in expressing what nobody else dares to say, and doing it in an artistic way. How many of you, upon hearing the story of Jesus, thought, "Hey, wait a minute...she's married...she's a virgin...WHAT is the deal with Joseph??"
Fred seems to have quit "the business" a short time later for various other pursuits. Supposedly he spent many years running a hotel. A Fred Engleberg died on January 7th, 2003 in Oregon, a few weeks short of his 72nd birthday...apparently not THIS Fred (updating from the comments received). Fred, oh brother, where art thou? Why not say a few syllables in the comments??
I'll slip you five...mostly because my vinyl's in embarrassingly bad condition (I found both albums used, of course) and some other tracks are a little too crackly. Listen...and you will not forget the forgotten Fred Engelberg.
Oct 20: New Rapidshare link for Engelberg not Engleberg
Some say country tunes are morbid. Hey, it's not like these people had easy lives. In some cases, even fame could not prevent a very sorry end. Here's three "old school" singers the average music fan may have vaguely heard of, offering numbers with evocative titles such as: "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," "I see the Want in your Eyes," and "I've Hurt Her More than She Loves Me."
Not to mention numbers that seem a bit grim considering the way these guys ended up: "I Don't Hurt Anymore," "There Goes My Everything," "I Found Heaven," "Lovin' on Borrowed Time" and "Empty Glass." You get a lucky seven from each of these late greats. 21 titles in all.
FARON YOUNG was a honky tonk legend, born in Louisiana and nicknamed "The Hillbilly Heartthrob" when he joined Capitol records at age 20. His biggest hit, written by Willie Nelson, was "Hello, Walls." Young was aging badly and having health issues when he decided to end his life via gunshot, December 10, 1996.
GARY STEWART of Kentucky grew up in Florida where he married his favorite girl Mary Lou (he was 18, you can bet she was younger). He kicked around from 1965 till 1975 when he reached #1 with "She's Actin' Single, I'm Drinkin' Doubles." His pure C&W style went out of favor, leaving him simply a touring musician in the 80's, fighting pills and booze. His son killed himself, but Gary still had his beloved wife to lean on. That was until Thanksgiving, 2003, when Mary Lou succumbed to pneumonia. Stewart cancelled a holiday concert, and about three weeks later, cancelled himself with one gunshot, December 16, 2003.
MEL STREET, born King Malachi Street, was from West Virginia, and in the late 60's and early 70's hosted a local TV show there. "Borrowed Angel" was a local hit that brought him national attention in 1972. He followed it with "Lovin' On the Back Streets," and his career was moving forward. He hit a new high in 1978 when he signed with Mercury records, but later that year, the depressed alcoholic hit a fatal low, killing himself on October 21, his birthday.
The songs Live On via RS
UPDATE: December 2006. The suicide file died of natural causes...a Rapidshare purge of files not downloaded in 30 days. Or was it 15. or was it 5...SECOND UPDATE: Re-Upped for the last time, July 2008. If it dies again, it's terminal.
THIRD UPDATE, May 2009. OK, it died again. R.I.P. guys, you're not getting re-upped.
A sad and simple ballad, "The End of the World" has out-lived Skeeter Davis, the woman who in a never-ever-topped feat, brought the song to the Top 4 of all four major Billboard charts: country, pop, contemporary AND rhythm and blues. The song was played at Skeeter's funeral, which is appropriate for another reason. The song is as much about death as it is the end of a relationship. Skeeter felt that way; when she sang it, she called up the memory of a friend who had recently died in a car accident.
Under her pseudonym Sylvia Dee, lyricist Josephine Moore sketched the words after the death of her father. Gradually it smoothed itself out to a ballad that could be about death or just a break-up: "it ended when I lost your love." The survivor sings, "I wake up in the morning and I wonder...how everything's the same as it was. I can't understand — no I can't understand — how life goes on the way it does."
Life goes on, and many singers have taken their turn with this song that touches on that tragic situation when finality comes a little early, and leaves another behind...grateful to still be alive, but forever dealing with emptiness and heartache.
No other song proved a bigger hit for Skeeter Davis or for Sylvia Dee, who also wrote the lyrics for "Angel Lips, Angel Eyes," "Puschart Serenade," "Moonlight Swim," "Somebody Nobody Wants," and "Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard." Nobody touches Skeeter's version, though the download has many worthy attempts and moving arrangements of this enduring, humble tune.
Skeeter died of cancer, September 19, 2004. "The End of the World" was played at a memorial service for her at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, a service attended by contemporaries including Vince Gill, Bobby Bare, Marty Stuart, Martina McBride, Connie Smith, Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely, Jean Shepherd, Del McCoury, Lorrie Morgan, Sammy Kershaw, Donnie Fritts, Dickey Lee, Jack Greene, Billy Walker, Bill Anderson, Jimmy Dickens, Charlie Louvin and George Hamilton IV. In June of 2005, one thousand fans came to an estate sale at her Kentucky home to buy her clothes, memorabilia, and other items she left behind.
Your download offers a dozen versions, (some ripped from rare vinyl just for your listening misery) including Claudine Longet, Leigh Nash, Sonia, Brenda Lee, Vonda Shepard, Agnetha Faltskog and The Carpenters. While the tune is more in keeping with a woman's emotion of woe, there are two male versions here...the teen angst of Peter Noone (Herman's Hermits) and a take from Jerry Lanning which...well...you hate to hear a grown man sing this song...
Oct 20: New Rapidshare Link END of the WAITING