Monday, October 29, 2007
Shock-comedy. It's been a while since a novelty number got anyone upset: Tom Lehrer and "The Vatican Rag." Napoleon XIV and "They're Coming to Take Me Away." Some tunes from Monty Python, who are now old enough to be grandpas.
Here's "Top Blokes After Death," a eulogy to recently deceased (mostly Australian) celebrities. It was broadcast on the TV series "The Chaser's War on Everything." Not on "Saturday Night Live" or Howard Stern's not too Sirius radio show.
From lampooning the way people eulogize a bastard at his funeral, the song takes a giant leap into bad taste, noting all the celebs who became saints because they died:
"Princess DI was just a slut for sex, when they looked in the car wreck, her dress was wet with Arab semen stains..."
Have we forgotten all Diana did for charity? For a laugh, yes.
This blunt tune certainly hits targets that don't deserve it. Croc hunter Steve Irwin may have been a "cartoon" but he wasn't tormenting crocs for fun. He was a conservationist, and eulogies after his sudden and tragic death let people know just how good and caring this guy really was.
Then there's Moms Mabley who said: "You should say something good about the dead. He's dead. GOOD!"
That's the thrust behind most of the celeb names mentioned...Aussies who committed such sins as not scoring an important goal in a key match, or speaking their mind (as much as the singer here does).
Of course a eulogy is usually the first and last time a jerk gets any praise, and we all go back to talking trash before long. As Shakespeare said, "The good is oft interred with their bones," so our goofy-faced rake is really just having a nose-tweak over the fact that, even for a moment, somebody got attention that should've gone to, oh, him instead.
The lines about John Lennon? His assassination was a hurt that will never heal for many of us. He became a saint after death? I don't think so. He honestly debunked his celebrity in his lifetime, and today there's no shortage of bloggers who gripe that "Imagine" isn't a very good song, or that Yoko is keeping them from some imagined vault of Beatles treasures.
But...a quickly written snarky song intended to offend should be taken for what it is.
The author and singer rightly declared (as the controversy began) that they weren't concerned with how the dead celeb's friends and family would react. Comedians can't worry that they won't offend a small percentage of their audience. The singer even acknowledges this problem of self-censorship when, as he's about to include Belinda Emmett (who died of bone cancer at 32), a groan of protest from fellow cast-members arises. The singer reluctantly reigns in his evil fun.
Privately, comics will tell you of Steve Allen's formula: comedy=tragedy + time. When they don't get a laugh with some tasteless joke about Sonny Bono, Steve Irwin or Princess Diana, they mutter "Not enough time..."
Fans are still shaken over Belinda Emmett's tragic last months, so a "curb your enthusiasm" recital of her faults isn't that appropriate. Not for a woman who did seem to be good, courageous and selfless. On her deathbed, Belinda's last words were to her weeping sister: "Are you all right?" And, if you want to bother thinking about it, a "curb your enthusiasm" smack about most anyone's eulogy is misplaced, since after the eulogy people generally go back to remembering the evil the person did.
I have no idea about Peter Brock, Don Bradman, Anna Coren, some guy named Zemanek, etc. One fault of songs like this is not everybody gets the references, but I doubt the author ever thought his tune would gain notoriety around the world (just on the Diana, Irwin and Lennon lines!)
Here's the song written by Chris Taylor. It's performed with vaudevillian Lehrer-type piano work and a slightly Palin or Idle-ized delivery by Andrew Hansen.
Eulogy - Top Blokes After Death Instant download or listen on line. No wait time, porn ads or pop-ups.
Once upon a time, the "art song" attempted to infiltrate the rock world. But despite the critical praise given Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Dory Previn and Phil Ochs in his "Pleasures of the Harbor" phase, artistic lyrics rarely bring in the big bucks. Check out what contestants gleefully remember on "The Singing Bee."
There will always be a stark tune here and there that might actually lead someone to hit replay, and then surf the Net for the lyrics. There will be a few odd crossover performers like Ute Lemper or Diamanda Galas around, and even a glaring spotlight for a guy like Don Henley to offer up "New York Minute" and mean it. Leonard Cohen's still puts out the black light, too.
But rock songs that could be considered art? Not many now. Not all that many successful ones way back when.
A long time ago, Dory Previn was the mad ex-housewife who kept a diary of dangerous lyrics that became songs. On a few, the lyric was so arresting and the symbolism so interesting that after encircling the ears, it could tighten around the brain. Here is one of them.
DOPPELGANGER No waiting time, porn ads or other tricks. Instant download or listen on line.
I knew an elderly actor, best known for grand guignol on film and on stage. He told me that the ooky-spooky Halloween brand of horror didn't amuse or interest him. Fans who might approach him calling themselves i-Gor or Karl Off or Lou Gosi, were just clueless idiots to him, and their stupid dress-up at a memorabilia convention only confirmed their Munster mentality, grown men clinging to a denial of death not child-like as much as childish.
"What the real horror is," he told me, "is not a spook face. It is beyond the face and, instead, is in the mind. I am not concerned with somebody posing in a graveyard and making grimaces with crayon on his face. What concerns me is what really awaits us after death and the terror of what our existence means."
As pessimistic and miserable as he often was, he didn't hasten things with suicide, although the last time I saw him — withering, unable to drink liquids, unable to speak, eyes wide on a sunken face half-obscured behind an oxygen mask, he was the living dead.
And so, as Halloween approaches, this particular blog offers no ooky-spooky novelty tunes that you've heard a million times, and no "bwa-ha-ha" pictures of trick or treat outfits. Instead, a typical Illfolks photo-collage (all pics on the site get larger when selected) and two songs about suicide. No aliens here, just the alienated. The real horror in the world of Poe, is found in a poem he wrote called "Alone."
Included here is a third song; a cheerful novelty. It just happens to come from a man who no longer heard audience laughter, which led to his ultimate despair.
For some, the lure of the waves leads to a watery grave. Walking into the sea is the topic for both Lesley Duncan and the appropriately named Bitter End Singers.
Duncan's dry-eyed and morose "Walk in the Sea" (written by Alan Hull) starts with loner complaints and drifts into pessimism: "think I'll go walk in the sea. Nothing much better to do. No, nothing for me. Not even you."
The Bitter End Singers received liner note praise from Tony Bennett: "The Bitter End Singers absolutely gassed me." And I didn't even know he was Jewish.
The album, tempting fate, was called "Discover the Bitter End Singers." The song, "A Song By the Seaside," is complex, and you'll need to acclimate. Frankly, it didn't get to me the first time around. Once the tangled, sea-weed murky melody line became familiar and I got used to the group's MOR-Mitch Miller approach, I began to get into the repulsive minor key discord that was intending to evoke turbulent seas, and I caught the dank spray of the lyric lines.
The seasick song is about a wife who misses her husband in the worst way: "One day when she cried all the tears she could cry, she ran from the house where the wild swallows fly. She walked to the ocean, she smiled at the foam. She walked in the ocean. She smiled at the foam..." And...you guessed it.
Will Holt wrote it. He's best known for "Lemon Tree," which seems like an old folk song but isn't. He also wrote that 60's variety show perennial called "One Of Those Songs." I remember he always had a kind of delighted quirk about telling people he'd written that song. In listing a few credits (for anyone who asked, "Oh, you write songs, any I would know") most everyone knew "Lemon Tree." When he'd follow it with, "And I also wrote 'One Of Those Songs'" it would naturally draw a blank. Then he'd sing the opening line: "It's just one of those songs that you hear now and then..." Ohhhhhh! THAT song...as images of Jimmy Durante flashed through their heads.
Holt wrote off-Broadway musicals. He was also half of the Holt & Jonah comedy team, and the highlight of their act was a Kurt Weill-inspired 8 minute mini-musical parody of Hollywood called "Movieville." In other words, Holt had some cabaret sensibilities, so instead of a folk song, here's something far more dramatic. It's sort of what you might expect of Sondheim if he was writing folk songs in his precocious early years, instead of episodes of "Topper."
And yes, the "Bitter End" refers to the Greenwich Village club. The group (three men, three women) included two guys who were in The Ivy League Trio, and the always provocative Nancy Priddy (mother to Christina Applegate, and already mentioned on this blog in regard to her solo album).
Now, that odd looking guy on the right...Mark Sheridan.
Here's a bit of irony for you. You might vaguely know of a sprightly British Music Hall song called "I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside." Mark Sheridan recorded it in 1909, one of several hits he had during his most productive period (1909-1911). The tongue-twister was resuscitated by Basil Rathbone when he impersonated a vaudeville singer during a light moment in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes."
The eccentric Mark Sheridan, in top hat, with wacky bell-bottoms strapped to his knees, twirling an umbrella, had years of success. He, his wife and family toured the U.K. again and again. But at the age of 50 he became increasingly depressed and considered retiring from the stage. He recorded one single in 1912, nothing in 1913, one side in 1914, and just one more in 1915. With no more song successes, he counted on stage roles to sustain him.
He played a comical Napoleon in a show called "Gay Paree." The morning reviews from the Glasgow papers were negative, and Sheridan was positive there was no hope. You'd think that he would've gone to be beside the seaside, either to gather up his courage, or walk into the ocean. Instead he took a tram over to Kevin Grove Park and shot himself. Your download is far less lethal, and still quite a lot of fun.
Leaving his Mark: Beside the Seaside
Bitter End Singers: Song by the Seaside
Walk in the Sea: Lesley Duncan
What if they mated? Listen, not everyone's a raving beauty. It didn't stop Ben Stiller from making movies or Sarah Jessica Parker from becoming a sex symbol.
Two of my favorite singers could be considered a bit strange in both looks and vocals. Critics have considered Del Shannon's voice to be a little harsh.His octave range was something else again, since he was capable of a literally haunting falsetto. Physically, a charitable pronouncement would be that he had brooding good looks.
As for Juice Newton, I don't think critics have considered her at all, but she possesses such a beautiful nasality, you'd want to kiss her right on the beak. Unlike Willie Nelson, the girl can also belt, and on her show-stoppers in live performance, she can grab and sustain a note with exquisite pleasure and pain. Physically, some might consider her to have the flinty charm of a pretty, and pretty work-weary waffle house waitress.
Over here at the illfolks blog, we'll just say that Del Shannon, the Poe of Falsetto, is the dark horse Dark Knight of pre-Beatles pop, who was also the first to cover a Beatles tune Stateside, and produced great work in the 70's and 80's, even if this later work was unjustly neglected in his lifetime. And still is. He was also the writer for most of his hits, and also wrote songs that became famous for others, like "I Go to Pieces" for Peter & Gordon.
As for Juice Newton, she's as quirky as a breakfast of orange juice and Fig Newtons, but even sweeter. Known primarily for her cover of "Angel of the Morning," she can rock out with the best. She's also perked the world up with a brand of country-pop so comfortable you might forget it's on, or what it took to craft it.
From a live Juice Newton concert, she covers the Del Shannon-written "Cheap Love" and then sinks her teeth into one of her fruit chews, her niftily crafted minor hit, "Love's Been a Little Bit Hard On Me."
Cheap Love/Love's Been a Little Bit Hard On Me
Friday, October 19, 2007
I'd like to say that Joey Bishop, who died the other day, will be missed. But to be honest, I doubt it. Most barely know him for a) being a member of the "Rat Pack" and b) having the talk show that used Regis Philbin for an announcer.
I think Joey was more than a little bitter about this in his reclusive final decades, but there wasn't much he could about it. His sitcom was released on DVD but what was funny 40 years ago, with fans visiting an old friend out of habit each week, can seem less than amusing out of context, watching characters you need to live with a while in order to like. Well, nobody's watching Danny Thomas today, either.
I suppose the apt phrase for Joey is: "you should've been there." That's the phrase he used in autographing a vintage photo of himself with the Rat Pack. Only in my case, I couldn'ta been there, since they didn't allow toddlers into casinos. I do remember him as a good stand-up comic. He was a pioneer of the Steven Wright school of glum deadpan. One of his gags was about how he was a poor kid. He had to use his brother as a sled. He slid down the hill on his brother so often, his brother became his sister.
Joey not only wrote much of his own material, he was the guy responsible for much of the "ad-libs" Frank, Dean and Sammy used during their stage act, and wrote most of their special material.
Joey's two years competing with Johnny Carson is probably forgotten by most. One thing that got me conversing with Joey, was to thank him for all his support for Jimmie Rodgers, the singer who had hits with "Honeycomb," "Sweeter than Wine," and later "Child of Clay." Rodgers might've had had more hits except for a mysterious highway beating where the hits just kept on coming.
Somebody...mob goon, irate hubby, whatever, followed his car, impersonated an officer, pulled him over, and nearly knocked his brains out. Joey, fairly somber even on a good night, told his viewers about it, and kept up regular reports on the singer's health, something unheard of for a late night talk show. Jimmie recovered, and picked up the fragments of his career as slowly as doctors picked out fragments of his skull. I wanted Joey to know that along with his stand-up and some of his films, his kindness and concern for Jimmie wasn't forgotten.
Joey never issued a stand-up disc, but for some reason, decided to make a country and western singing album. It seemed like a joke, and to many, it's one of those "haw haw, nudge-nudge" bad celebrity vocal albums. I think Joey's love of C&W was sincere. There were a lot of people back then that liked Joey Bishop as a friend, and bought his record for the same reason they'd buy any friend's vanity project: just to hear a non-singer live out his fantasy. I'm sure that his fans listened with a grain of salt, and maybe some cotton in their ears. But it's no worse than anybody quietly singing along to instrumental tracks they like.
Anyone buying it had to expect he wasn't about to rival Jimmie Rodgers, or Frank or Dean or Sammy. (He probably sang better than Peter Lawford).
Joey was 89.
Ripped from the vinyl, here's Joey's soft-serve echo chamber tribute to Hank Williams, a double dip of "Cold Cold Heart" and Cheatin' Heart" and listen for his little lounge-cool put-down to the chick at the end.
COLD CHEATIN' HEART
Gina Gershon's "In Search of Cleo" turns out to be...the original cast album for her "off Broadway" show. Maybe. Sort of. I saw her perform it recently, and I'm still not sure.
As mentioned a few weeks ago on this blog, Gina's album is an odd mix of honky-tonk, ballads, one catchy rock number ("House of Woe") and some designated drivers intended to bring in her campier fans, including the opener, "Lucky Lips." That Gina-appropriate tune is not on her CD, by the way since it's a cover of a Ruth Brown classic. Elizma Theron's version on her CD "Lapaside" is closest to how Gina does it.
"In Search of Cleo" is an 80 minute show...a dramatic (sound effects, off-stage voices) monologue about her search for her lost black cat, a male named Cleo who has an effeminate purr. Her story periodically segues into songs that don't mention the cat, don't push along the plot, and seem to be there because she's not quite a monologist and doesn't have a full concert of original songs.
The great "House of Woe" arrives after a tense four-minute prison phone call as a male con-artist (nicely voiced by Gina) seems to have a clue to where to find the missing feline. Anyone paying attention to the lyrics (I think that might only be me) would see that the song has nothing to do with the story, but the tone of her singing hits and holds a nice note of rueful, cynical depreciation for human nature.
The audience didn't seem to care if the songs matched the spoken passages or vice versa. At times they totally missed a lot of Gina's jokes (like the one about staying up late at night creating an "ambient environment" by taking Ambien). What they did like, was Gina. Did it really matter what else was going on? No, not really. That was Gina Gershon, live, 3D, just a few feet away from us.
Through the 80 minutes, Gina held center stage with a defiant cool, not breaking a sweat, and not taking herself too seriously as she played the ukulele for a few numbers, twanged a jew's harp, and donned electric guitar without pretending it was difficult or erotic to play one. Her back-up band served her well, as did the obligatory racially mixed and muddled backing trio of bosomy babes dancing and sometimes singing along. They were most evident on "Pretty Girls on Prozac," the intended showstopper.
Gina did a good amount of cursing during the show but, despite all the talk about her cat, resisted even a single "pussy" joke. After her encore, as the lights softly came up, the venue did play "Pussy Pussy Pussy," the ribald lost cat 78 rpm novelty by the old C&W swing band the Lightcrust Doughboys. "Here pussy pussy pussy" isn't how Gina tried calling Cleo (how she did it was a vocal surprise all its own...as one might expect from the woman who voiced the cartoon version of Catwoman).
Since you already got "House of Woe" some weeks ago, and posting a second track from her CD would be rude, you get...yes...the ruder "PUSSY PUSSY PUSSY' by the Lightcrust Doughboys. "Is this your cat?" "No, my pussy has no stripes, besides, it ain't never smelled like that!"
PUSSY PUSSY PUSSY
"She stood in my living room holding a gun on me, saying 'How could we let you go free?' Hey Mrs. Peel!"
Is the subject of The Cretones' early 80's tune "Mrs. Peel" really the spy from The Avengers? "We set up a surveillance...supported quite discreetly by the CIA..."
Yes and no. The song might be going for a contrast between TV spy glamour and the real thing, or taking a daydream about Diana Rigg into the day's cold war headlines.
Whatever, the tug-job chorus is clear enough: "Hey Mrs. PEEL! Hey Mrs. PEEL!"
The Cretones, led by Mark Goldenberg, were a perverse band during their short career, capable of turning peculiar thoughts into acceptable new wave pop. More acceptable as sung by someone else. Their version of "Mad Love" didn't make it, but Linda Ronstadt's cover did. Linda also recorded Mark's song "Justine." I have a Japanese CD Mark did a while back, "The Spiders Web," and he's just recorded a new solo effort (details at his dot.com). He's been Jackson Browne's lead guitarist since 1994.
Since the average Rapidshare or Megauload links tend to die after four or six months, especially if folks don't go back into the archives here, I'm adding a few old favorites that had previously been posted: "Could I Leave You," a Sondheim number sung by Diana Rigg, "Kinky Boots" as done by the original Avengers duo of Honor Blackman (Cathy Gale) and Patrick MacNee (John Steed) and "Here I Am," performed by Linda Thorson (Mrs. Peel's replacement, Tara King).
DIANA RIGG SINGS
HERE I AM: LINDA THORSON
For some "wild and crazy" reason, non-sequiter audio clips of "Ol' Turkey Buzzard" began turning up on Late Night with David Letterman. And you thought only illfolks championed obscure tunes.
The song was part of the steady rotation of goofing around, including an inept blindfolded psychic trying to figure out a brand of sandwich, shouted slogans about pants, and a fat guy turning up to give Dave the (blurred) finger while shouting (expletive deleted) "...YOU."
A few nights ago, Feliciano himself guested to sing his non-hit (as pictured above). He's just put out a new album. Too bad Ol' (aka OLD) Turkey Buzzard isn't on it.
Jose flipped his bird during the opening of the fairly tedious movie "MacKenna's Gold," a plotless "let's find the treasure" hunt. Aside from the few scenes involving Hesh-ke the homicidal Indian girl, the film meandered like an old mule lost in the Mojave. As the movie began, an ominous vulture circled around, while Jose's symbolic lyric hinted that death awaits, hovering, ever-present. And sure enough, about two hours were subsequently killed.
And "network time killers" is a Dave fave. Months ago he kept running an audio clip of Renee Zellwegger saying "If you need help, here I am," and before "Ol' Turkey Buzzard" he was playing that dumb horse-ghost tune "Wildfire." He still has a sound effect of a window shattering every time he spins a blue card toward the back wall, but who knows, this may be a secret homage to Nick Lowe and "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass."
Here's your download...not just the original "Ol' Turkey Buzzard" as it appears in the movie, but Feliciano's Spanish language version.
And why the usage on Letterman's show? Just another way of saying life is a joke...one that you often don't get.
OLD TURKEY BUZZARD
Posted by Ill Folks at 6:42 AM
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
In honor of Pixelmutt's return here's "I'm Glad To See Your Back," as performed by Elsa Lanchester, better known as (all together now) The Bride of Frankenstein.
Students, long before Mrs. Laughton was temptingly stitched then attemptedly hitched to Mr. Karloff, she was a nude model, the star of "Peter Pan" on the British stage, the flame-haired darling of bohemians and intellectuals, and well known for singing risque novelty tunes.
26 years after her dual role in "Bride of Frankenstein," Elsa debuted on Broadway in a one-woman show, singing, among others, "I'm Glad to See Your Back." The arched "Back" along with tunes such as "Somebody Broke Lola's Saucepan" and "If You Peek in My Gazebo" had audiences tittering immoderately.
Elsa recorded "Songs for a Shuttered parlor" and "Songs for a Smoke Filled Room" (on the Hi-Fi label) with narration by Charles Laughton. In a decision that probably had him rolling awkwardly in his grave, these two albums were re-issued as "Bawdy Cockney Songs" and "More Bawdy Cockney Songs" (via Tradition) without him. Elsa's other two original albums were on Verve, now a division of the Universal-MCA cartel.
Return to those double-entendre days, as lovely Elsa Lanchester describes being glimpsed in her dressing room by a suitor who likes what he sees:
"Your face may be your fortune, but I like a different view. I'm glad to see your back..."
ELSA LANCHESTER SINGS Instant download or listen on line. No porn ads, pop-ups, waiting or code numbers.
It was the night of October 9th, three years ago. Mid-way into her set, Eleanor McEvoy did what I was hoping she'd do...sing "Last Seen October 9th."
By way of preface, expecting her song title for an answer, she asked the audience, "Anyone know what day this is?"
From my ringside seat, I answered, "Yes...John Lennon's birthday."
"Really. I didn't know that..."
Eleanor then explained that she rarely performed this particular song, but being October 9th, it was a fitting night for it. And while it's about a person gone missing, not someone assassinated, for me and for perhaps others in the crowd, the song evoked John's image, in its quiet lines about life's fragility and the emptiness that goes with loss.
This simple, stark song is about a missing person and one of those sad, "last seen..." signs that families nail to trees and tape to lamp posts...an act of futility dressed as hope.
After the show, I mentioned to Eleanor that home-made "last seen" signs, xeroxed with a snapshot of the missing loved one, were vivid on bus shelters and lamp posts and in store windows after 9/11, and stayed up until the rains and wind mottled and bent them, and the faces and names on them were faded and streaked. One of the nice things about having a CD, is you have the artist's complete vision, including the CD booklet and lyrics. You also have something that can be autographed. It's reproduced here, amended a bit.
"Last Seen October 9th" appears on "Yola," Eleanor's first album after going indie. Her first CD (Geffen) had the hit, later covered by Mary Black, "Only A Woman's Heart"). She then recorded two CDs for Columbia. Her latest album, appropriately titled, is "Out There." She performs mostly in her native Ireland.
Classically trained, McEvoy's music can paint images without words ("The Rain Falls" and "Days Go By" live up to the titles, even before she starts singing). Her lyrics, deceptively simple, etch deep, such as "Sophie" (about an anorexic). Unlike country-woman Sinead O'Connor, Eleanor's palette is somberly hued, but doesn't flare into the histrionic. Perhaps it's that lack of flash that has won her critical acclaim rather than fame. Each McEvoy CD in its jewel box, is like any woman's jewel case...it holds treasures, some obvious, some fragile, some sentimental, some faceted so skillfully they can shine in new ways every time they are given the chance.
Remembering John Lennon, 9/11, and all the lost ones "last seen" on a home-made poster, here is
OCTOBER 9th Listen on line, no pop-ups, "you have won 2 ipods" scams, or porn ads
Who doesn't like the music of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison...
chicks who look like hookers...
outrageous Italian accents.....
In other words, geddya tootsie-frootsie Beatles, here, thanks to Iva Zanichhi's great medley of their hits!
"Yesterday" is way too emotional to be sung in anything but Italian, so after the opening word, Iva does just that. From there, her olive-oiled voice slides into a fervent "Let It Be" sung in English with perhaps some vocal coaching from the ghost of Chico Marx. The violins sag and segue into "Michelle," just to add a little lesbian interest to the mix. If you're thinking "Omigod" by now, then enjoy "My Sweet Lord," which is steel-belted from a lady who can really pour out molten-hot high notes.
Born January 18, 1940, Iva began recording at 25, and won the San Remo song contest in 1969. She averaged an album a year from 1970 to 1988. She's slowed in the past two decades ("Come Mi Vorrei" in 1991 and "Fossi un Tango" in 2003).
Illfolks has lovingly pulled the Beatles medley from the original vinyl (there was also one for Burt Bacharach) and stuck Ringo Starr's head on the body of some colpito al cervello testa dei pesci posing with Iva circa 1965. (Don't bother to look it up; loosely translated, I called him a brain-damaged fish head).
Viva Iva! Beatles Italian style, download or listen right now. No pop-ups, porn or code-words to type.