Friday, December 19, 2008

Green Green Grass of Home - over 40 Versions


Yes, if you download both parts, you will get OVER FORTY versions of "Green Green Grass of Home."

Maybe that's almost like getting a death sentence.

But...this song has transcended its sentimentality and lousy ending. It's a true classic. It's the masterpiece of veteran songwriter Curly Putman (who wrote or co-wrote over 400 tunes, and had a co-writing hand in some of the most achy-breaky songs of all time, including "D.I.V.O.R.C.E." and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Wino the Clown").

Cringeworthy? What's more cringeworthy than a burly country star talking about getting off a train "and there to greet me is my mama and my papa." And yet everybody from gritty Merle Haggard to burly Burl Ives to spooky Jack Palance has sung that line.
What's more of a mediocre cliche than having a girlfriend named Mary who's got "hair of gold and lips like cherries?" If she really did, God would she be repulsive. Besides, "Mary" and "Cherries" is a lousy rhyme. (So is "padre" and "daybreak," but at least it's interesting.)
And finally, let's be honest, the worst cop-out in any short story is "it was all a dream."

Yet "Green Green Grass of Home" has served as both a weepy example of C&W drama, and even a protest against capital punishment (the Joan Baez version most notably, here represented by a rare live TV version). The song was a crossover hit for Tom Jones, was overbaked into opera by Katherine Jenkins, has been sung in all kinds of improbable languages, and even parodied by Ben Colder (Sheb Wooley's drunken alter-ego).

Now why, baby, why, would you want to wade through FORTY versions?
In part one, you might want to check on the way Pitney, Laine, Rogers, Twitty, Brown, Jones and other C&W veterans choose to either sing "I was only dreaming" or, for dramatic effect, speak those lines. You might want to note which ones use a backing choir, which ones add squeamy steel guitar, and which ones either string up the tempo or hang it gently. Then there are the ad-libs..."I was only dreaming" or "I must have been dreaming."
There's also a question as to where the prisoner is confined. It's usually "four gray walls" but for Joan Baez, "cold clay walls" and for Johnny Cash, "cold gray walls." It's just plain "gray walls" for Kenny Rogers and "four walls" (no color) for Jack Palance.
Part two concentrates on the more disturbing, offbeat and ill versions of the song. There are lots of women here, from Bonnie Guitar, who shifts the song into the third person, to Margareta Pasiaru, who sings it as "Ce dor imi e sa flu acasa lar." There are Italian cover versions and Spanish cover versions (L' Erba Verde Di Casa Mia and Os Verdes Campos da Minha Terra) as well as Jan Malsjo's "En sång en gång för länge sen."

Are you only dreaming? No, this is truly your chance to download OVER FORTY versions of this classic song, and turn yourself Green, Green, Green, Green, Green, Green....

GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME Predominantly normal versions
GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME Predominantly unusual and foreign versions

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A GARLAND TO BEVERLY - Not of This Earth


Beverly Garland, star of "Not Of This Earth," has swooped the planet. Her passing didn't quite get the attention it deserved.
Some stars had that one defining role that instantly got some attention. The recent death of an obscure actor named Paul Benedict got a lot of coverage because he had played a British twit on "The Jeffersons" for several seasons. So the headline was "Jeffersons Star dies." Veteran Hollywood stars like Yvonne de Carlo and Carolyn Jones were likewise identified as "Lily Munster" and "Morticia Addams," because their dozens and dozens of other film roles just marked them as good professional actresses.
And so it was, that the news of Beverly Garland's death only made it to the back obituary page in most newspapers, if at all. It wasn't headline news, but that doesn't diminish her achievements over fifty years and a great amount of film and TV appearances.
Her TV career took off in 1955 with an Emmy-nominated performance in "Medic," and she followed it with several seasons of "Decoy," the first TV show that starred a woman in an action role (she played an undercover cop).
She also had a continuing role as the perfect sitcom wife opposite Fred MacMurray on "My Three Sons," and later took "mom" roles; Stephanie Zimbalist's mother in "Remington Steele," Kate Jackson's in "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" and Teri Hatcher's in "Lois & Clark."
As for the movies, she's best remembered as a "Scream Queen," but one who more often took up the fight, rather than shrank in fright. She aimed her rifle at the creature terrorizing the planet in "It Conquered the World," and went into the swamp after 'The Alligator People,' and she was sexy as the tough nurse who was feeding blood to the stoic alien who was "Not Of This Earth."
The former Beverly Fessenden married and divorced actor Richard Garland, but found an enduring marriage in 1960 with the unlikely-named Fillmore Crank. Crank was a real estate developer, and the couple built a hotel (named after Beverly) in 1972, and while she continued her acting career, she was secure with her hotel business, her marriage, and her two children. The hotel would often hold memorabilia conventions and for a little fun and profit, she'd join in and set up a table to autograph a Twilight Zone card or an 8x10.
She had a great sense of humor, warm recollections of her co-workers, enjoyed those crazy B-movies she made, and knew the business inside and out...which means, as you can see from her varied roles, that she could be tender or tough...and remain beloved and respected.
A suite from "Not Of This Earth," in full stereo:
Main Title - The Eyes Have It - Rabid Blood - End Title

Ian Dury's obscure 4000 WEEKS HOLIDAY


Most of Ian Dury's albums are pretty easy to find...except "4000 Weeks Holiday." This is very frustrating for the many who have collected everything possible (from bootlegs to Baxter Dury and back) and fondly remember seeing Ian and his Blockheads perform live.
Suffer no more...you can quench your curiosity with the download below. And here, from page 135 of his book on Mr. Dury (half bio, half song lyrics) is author Jim Drury's quick take on this forgotten album:
"4000 Weeks Holiday, a reference to the approximate life span of the average human, was released in November 1983, months behind schedule. The reason for the delay was Ian's initial refusal to remove the song "Fuck Off Noddy," despite the threat of legal action from Enid Blyton's estate...Having removed the offending track, the album reached a paltry number 54 in the charts, leading to a disenchanted Polydor axing Ian from the label."
While the average fan of Ian Dury might not consider "Lord Upminster" (1981) or "Apples" (1989) masterpieces either, this inbetweenie, "4000 Weeks Holiday," has some very worthy tracks, with typical impudent Dury recitations and cheekiness, and the occasional bit of underhanded smut ("Really Glad You Came"). "The Man With No Face" is another bit of coal with a glint of diamond in it. Other cuts include "Take Me to the Cleaners" "Percy the Poet" "Peter the Painter" "Tell Your Daddy" and "Very Personal."
The censored track "Fuck Off Noddy" can be found with amusing visuals, via YouTube.
For various reasons, Ian's hit songwriting partner Chas Jankel couldn't or wouldn't work on the songs and his band The Blockheads either couldn't, or wouldn't participate in the recording. Ian co-wrote most of the tracks with old Kilburn mates Russell Hardy and Rod Melvin, so that scratches the itch for those who fondly remember their Kilburn and the High Roads songs, and always wondered what they could do if given another chance.
As bloggers love to say, if you like it, buy it...but considering your choice is either a scratchy original UK vinyl pressing, or a very expensive Japanese import...you might be forgiven if you feel that this mp3 version suffices.
The enduring Dury's most obscure album via Rapidshare
Durex Dury's 4000 via Box

Run for Cover versions: BOLL WEEVIL x 7


For generations, folkies & CW singers have sung about "The Boll Weevil," and the song can bug you. It can be a lesson in accepting, with humor, life's misfortunes, or it could be a sly grumble about immigration, or...literally a song about an insect. (And yep, if you click the picture, it gets bigger, and you can really see what a boll weevil looks like when it's lookin' for a home.)
In most versions of the folk tune, a farmer finds a talking boll weevil has moved in, and there ain't much he can do about it. He tosses the bug into a cake of ice, and the bug replies, "it's mighty cool and nice." The song ends with the insect chewing up a path of cotton on the man's farm.
That's The Weavers version, though. Listen to how rockabilly Eddie Cochran adapts it using a racist opening line: "The Boll Weevil am a little black bug, came from Mexico they say. Came all the way to Texas just lookin' for a place to stay."
Eddie's anecdotes end with the boll weevil heated up and still taunting the farmer. As for the "red hot sand...it's mighty hot but I'll take it like a man." And that's the end of the song. No way to get rid of the boll weevil.
Tex Ritter's C&W version also mentions "the boll weevil am a little black bug from Mexico..." and (you know how they procreate) the "whole family" is now causing a ruckus. Ritter's bug is tossed in the "red hot fire," but the bug says "Yassah, it'll be my home." Ritter's versions ends with the weevil destroying half the farmer's cotton.
The song originated with the black folk-blues singer Leadbelly, and no, his shout does not mention blacks or Mexico. It simply mentions how the insect and his whole family came "lookin' for a home" and he can adapt to ice and sand.
For those who simply want to hear a funny folk song, The Weavers, with droll Lee Hays muttering the lines, is the choice...the beast is "humanized" by being able to speak and his destructiveways lightly written off as just something that can't be cured and can only be endured. The clever weevil even wants to make a deal with a lightning bug so he can create havoc after nightfall! Brook Benton, a black pop singer popular in the 50's, does a version marred by an irritating clinky-piano, but his lyrics do not mention the color of the boll weevil, and "where they come from, nobody really knows." In Benton's version, the farmer asks "Why'd you pick my farm. The boll weevil just laughed at the farmer and said we ain't gonna do ya much farm...we're just lookin' for a home....gonna take me a home...Farmer I'd like to wish you well. And the farmer said to the boll weevil, yeah, and I wish you was in — lookin' for a home."
There are a few other songs about the boll weevil, but these all have the same melody and pretty much the same lyrics. If someone adapted the song today...who knows what that boll weevil would be getting into...
Eddie, Tex, Brook and four more, singin' about BOLL WEEV-ILLS!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

DRILL YE TARRIERS & PAT WORKS ON THE RAILWAY



"If God had meant us to fly," Michael Flanders once remarked, "he would never have given us the railways."
In America, there was romance and excitement as the nation became linked via thousand of miles of track. It wasn't quite so exciting or romantic for those who were working on the railroad, all the live-long day.
To keep up their spirits, the workers sang, and often about the ironies and miseries of their lives. "For it's work all day for the sugar in your tay," was the Irish chorus on "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill." Another popular tune was "Pat Works on the Railway," which includes a typical Irish nonsense-word chorus, "Fill-a-me ory-ory-ay."
The lyrics are simple, easy to remember rhymes that could go for nine stanzas. "In Eighteen hundred and forty one, I put my cordoroy britches on. Put my cordoroy britches on, to work upon the railway..." Each year is just as bland.
"Drill Ye Tarriers" is more amusing, as the grousing lead singer takes a shot at his boss, the boss's wife, her cooking, and the cheap ways of the railroad. Hear for yourself the vivid picture of a fellow blown skyward, and his punishment.
The Weavers covered both songs, and they are joined by two extra Tarrier versions (Chad Mitchell and Cisco Houston) and two other "Pat Works on the Railway" attempts, one from The Cottars, and an oddity from Mechanicy Shanty, a European group of wild and crazy guys who sing with Russian-Polish accents and have their own nonsense syllables to replace "Fill-a-me ory-ory-ay," which sounds like: "Rilla-he-rollin-rollin-way."
The whole point of nonsense refrains was to create something catchy even illiterates or those who don't know the language can easily remember and sing. These days, it could be the entire song. But we'll save "Who Let the Dogs Out" for another day...

Various Versions of "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill" and "Pat Works On the Railway"

Living Voices: THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION


And now, gentle people, a gently-performed song about the end of civilization....not that it was ever so civilized. Religious people have always devoutly gone out to murder other people, simply for not sharing the same view of an imaginary friend. It's just that these heinous incidents are coming with a lot more frequency.
The two people in the photo were among the over 150 destroyed by religious terrorists two days ago.
It was a familiar message; Muslim maniacs or Islam assholes killing complete strangers, by way of declaring God is Great. All around the world, from London and Spain to India and America...these Middle Eastern monkeys are emigrating just to blow things up and gun people down.
The legendary Brigitte Bardot has actually been fined for speaking her mind on the subject of immigration. Her countrymen don't know the meaning of free speech, nor the threat she exposed five years ago in her book "A Scream in the Silence." Of the “Islamicization of France”, she declared: "Over the last twenty years, we have given in to a subterranean, dangerous, and uncontrolled infiltration, which not only resists adjusting to our laws and customs but which will, as the years pass, attempt to impose its own."
Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, not yet 30, came to Mumbai to be charitable and decent. They presided over Nariman House, a joyous, open, honest place where anyone was welcome to share a meal, pray or rest. They went to a foreign land to be part of a kindly outreach program. They came up against Islam-Muslim fanatics who had an outrage program...the slaughter of defenseless people. The terrorists found it very easy to storm into the rabbi's building...and neighboring hotels that housed unarmed tourists and business people.
In America in the mid-60's, a call for change was made non-violently by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and on the radio, by such men of Jewish heritage as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. They were joined by Christians old (Pete Seeger) and new, including P.F. Sloan, who wrote "Eve of Destruction," a hit for Barry McGuire and covered by Anita Kerr's "Living Voices."
There's something unsettling about a middle-of-the-road choir handling "Eve of Destruction," but in this world gone wrong, their rendition can be interpreted in many ways. Were they harmonizing over a melody and ignoring the words? Or were these lambs all too certain that there was nothing to do but sing...and await the slaughter?
EVE OF DESTRUCTION

MORTON DOWNEY JR: NO SOLUTION TO POLLUTION


From 1987 to 1989, Morton Downey Jr. thrived as the wart-faced descendant of abrasive talk show pioneer Joe Pyne, cigarette smoke his blowhard trademark. He'd paid his dues with local talk shows on radio and TV. When he left KFBK-AM, a fellow named Rush Limbaugh replaced him.
As Downey's fame soared, David Letterman, noting Pyne's brief flash of fame, said "We see this every 10 or 12 years...I don't quite understand why everybody's falling over backwards over the guy." Soon enough, people were bored with the cries of "Zip it" and the artificial confrontations. In these pre-Springer days, there weren't enough morons to keep Mort on the air, and the indie stations running his syndicated show suffered backlash from sponsors.
In 1989, Downey knew he was flaming out, and made a desperate attempt to show he was still relevant. He emerged from a San Francisco International Airport toilet with a swastika strangely marked backwards on his face. He claimed he'd been attacked by Neo-Nazis, but it was obvious that he was lying...and only someone using a mirror could've made a backwards swastika.
Mort's show sank, as did his 1990 "Morton Downey Jr. Sings" album. A somewhat nicer Downey was on the cover, befitting a man who had self-consciously had his warts removed...in an attempt to give his critics a little less of a visual target. Always known as a "loudmouth," Morton's choice of singing style will surprise you. Showing a somewhat weak country tenor, and here, abetted by a band member to form a Dr. Hook-ish duet, Downey offers a down, quietly pessimistic view of the future. The guy was actually a singer before he grabbed fame as a shock-talk host. In the early 80's he was Sean Morton Downey, and his 1981 country single, "Green-Eyed Girl," grazed the outer reaches of the Country Top 100 chart.
Downey bounced around various local TV and radio stations, and had a lung removed during cancer surgery in 1996. He died in 2001.
But back in 1990 he was convinced the planet was dying...
"There ain't no solution to pollution anymore. We won a couple' battles but we're losing the war. We're dumpin' in our oceans, we run sewers in our lakes. We build mountains made of garbage and we bury toxic waste....take a look around you, man is snuffing out his life."
NO SOLUTION TO POLLUTION

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It Kinda Makes Ya Wonder Don't It


Most any song can inspire drivel. Some songs lead a writer to do a "memory piece," describing remembered (but best forgotten) anecdotes from a nostalgic (if boring to everyone else) past. Sometimes pontificating about a lyric or giving a bio of its singer is just showin' off. So why bother? It kinda makes ya wonder, don't it?
Today's entries are all short, 'cause most times, a novelty song squeaks for itself. Now, the existential question posed by Jerry Van Dyke...nah, there could be an analysis here, a memory piece about watching "My Mother the Car" or "Coach" or a bio of his life and times but...nope. Although...it kinda makes ya wonder...

"It Kinda Makes Ya Wonder Don't It"

Ill-Ustrated Songs #17 "DIRTY MAGGIE MAY" Vipers Skiffle Group Pre-Beatles




"Dirty Maggie May...she'll never walk down Lime Street anymore..." What happened to the rest of "Maggie May" on The Beatles' "Let it Be" album? Why didn't they complete it? Maybe Lennon figured everybody knew the song so well he didn't need to go on. John and his friends knew The Vipers Skiffle Group version by heart. Download it and you will, too.

Liverpool's DIRTY MAGGIE MAY

Margie Day - Take Out Your False Teeth, Daddy!


"Take out your false teeth daddy, your mommy wants to scratch your gums! Well you're gonna feel good after I've rubbed them some. You're always complainin' about your gums. Take 'em out baby, let's have some fun!"
Margie Day, 1954.

Take Out Your False Teeth - MARGIE DAY

Sunday, November 09, 2008

RUN FOR COVERS: DELILAH x 7



"She stood there laughing..." Exactly 40 years ago.
Longer, if you consider the movie version, not the Tom Jones song.
That's cold, cruel Hedy Lamarr in both photos. She played Delilah in the movie "Samson and Delilah." It's one of the few things anyone remembers about her. She also was one of the first famous actresses to do a nude scene, and she successfully sued Mel Brooks for corrupting her name into Hedley Lamarr for "Blazing Saddles" (figuring a tribute pun wasn't the same thing as...getting paid.) She also uttered a memorable observation; she said that it was easy for a woman to look sexy: "all you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

But that's not why you're here. You're here for SEVEN versions of DELILAH.
The song's about a cheatin' shady lady whose sillhouette of herself and another man caused Tom Jones to go out of his mind in 1968. "My my my Delilah! Why why why Delilah!"
Tom went all "Son of Sam" on Delilah, defying the odds that a murder ballad, in oom-pa-pa waltz time, could become a worldwide hit.
Hit-man Tom is such a powerful, unique singer, that when he bellows a tune...almost nobody dares to out-shout him.
Some of his songs are so STOOPID, they are his alone...as nobody in his right mind would cover "It's Not Unusual." As for "What's New Pussycat, Whoaaahhhh" nobody touched it except that Welshman filled with too much fermented grape juice.
No MOR-singing MOR-on could equal Tom, but some genre-singers gave "Delilah" a try. And in your download, you get the Italian version, "La Nostra Favola," via the rather light tenor Jimmy Fontana. You get another operatic version as well, plus a country take by the forgotten (well, except to Red Neckerson) Theron Gooslin. Don't you think he's psycho, mama? Just listen.
You'd expect a heavy metal version to be good, especially if it has lesbian overtones (lead singer female), or that maybe a crazy reggae artist would do a killer job but when you listen to those versions, you might not be impressed. Actually the most entertaining version beyond Tom's bathospheric bawl, is probably the live take by that overage delinquent Alex Harvey. The late Scotsman was always good at portraying slightly retarded hoodlums, and is a most believable murderer on one of the most ridiculous pop songs of all time.
With its overdone orchestrations, Tijuana brass-section, shifts from waltz-time to bolero, and fast (literal) cut from corn (didn't we hear about "silhouettes on the shade" just a few years earlier) to operatic violence, "Delilah" is a classic. And yes, there are a few other cover versions out there, but..."forgive me Delilah, I just couldn't take any more."


7 Versions of DELILAH

Amy Camus Didn't Die. Yma Sumac did.


Yma Sumac (September 13, 1922-November 1, 2008) was sort of Charo crossed with Margaret Dumont and Marni Nixon. Like Nixon, she truly did have a remarkable voice, but like Charo and Dumont, at times there was a dash of self-parody or self-delusion in there, but like any pro, you don't argue with what you're being paid to do.
She was born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo, and sang as Imma Sumack (the name loosely translated as "How Beautiful") in her native Peru. She recorded her first tracks in Peru in 1943, and came to America three years later. America was friendly to all sorts of ethnic folk acts, rhumba bands, guys banging a drum and shouting "Babalu" or women wearing fruit on their heads and flirting with Groucho Marx. Our Peruvian princess, with husband and kid, was more than willing to play the game, and changed her name to Yma Sumac. (Which led some wiseguys to reverse it, and claim she was phony Amy Camus from Brooklyn!). She signed with Capitol in 1950 and melded South American folk songs to the soundtrack-music stylings that made up a lot of that era's middle-of-the-road easy listening albums.
She found herself part of a new wave of ethnic-soundtrack stuff, which would include Les Baxter's instrumentals, way too many Hawaiian and Tiki albums, and the hit "Quiet Village" (with jungle sound effects) from Martin Denny. Just as Carmen Miranda knew how to wear bananas, Yma knew how to milk her cash-goat...turning from plain folk singer to a specialist in ultra-strange exotica. She appeared in two films, "Secret of the Incas" (1954) and "Omar Khayyam" (1957) but when jungle novelty wore off, her albums sadly found their way to the cut-out bins along with Baxter and Denny.
Yma would've easily qualified as a forgotten illfolks oddity except the same gays that found Carmen Miranda, found Yma, and they turned her into a gay cult icon. Which was fine with Yma, as long as it meant more money, concerts, and a campy comeback album called "Miracles." Another decade passed, and Sumac was further elevated by vinyl geeks. These were nerds, backpacks strapped to their thrift shop shirts, mistaking bad plaid as retro fashion, and their uncle's forgotten failed hipster albums as the ultimate in cool. As girls rarely go into record stores and don't think backpacks are a fashion accessory, Yma's new-found devotees soothed their lonely, sexless hours by staring at her formidable cover art and convincing themselves that liking her 4 octave range and actually listening to this stuff more than once every Halloween, marked them as...kewl. These guys even had their own terms ("outsider" music or "lounge") so they could grunt to themselves, "I'm not like everybody else," small solace for constant masturbation and record store haunting.
Yma, like Ed Wood Jr., deserves a bit better than to be a cult item for assholes. But by how much? A three-song tribute gives you an idea of whether you want to buy or cadge free downloads and hear more.
These three samples of Yma are from three distinct stages of her career.
MONOS (translation: MONKEYS) is typical of her early Latin novelties.
XTABAY is her famous half-sung half-vocalise exercise in jungle drama. Quite a few numbers like this are as intoxicating as a pina colada...with an extra splash of tequila (and don't forget the worm).
MEDICINE MAN comes from her foolishly titled "Miracles." This album also has her take on "El Condor Pasa" and while it's nice that she ignores Paul Simon's lyrics, her menopausal cooing sounds like a toucan on crack. Not that this is a bad thing. It's well worth hearing, but "Medicine Man" is even more bizarre, with Yma whooping it up over multi-octaves. Yes, it proved she had a wider range than the other gay fave of the day Bette Midler. To which, most any sane person would ask, "So what?"
Yma Sumac was an amusing novelty singer in her day, with some numbers giving off an air of both inspiration and perspiration, but these days her memory is mostly evoked by gays who should simply buy opera records or have the honesty to dress up in drag while listening to Carmen Miranda. Additionally, there's the lounge and exotica crowd who still can't get over the fact that Martin Denny threw some bird noises into a middle-of-the-road bit of soundtrack music...and have made a cult out of anything that came from any place that grows guavas.
At her best, Sumac might be described in the same manner James Russell Lowell wrote of his contemporary, Edgar A. Poe: "Three-fifths...genius and two-fifths sheer fudge."
The percentage may be different with Yma, but it would be a good idea, if you're going to listen, to have a fifth handy, and take a few shots before you start.
MEDICINE MAN Medicine Man
MONKEYS Monkeys
XTABAY XTABAY

W.C. FIELDS MEMORIAL ELECTRIC STRING BAND


In 1966, the Byrds and the Monkees nearly had some competition from a band named for a curmudgeon who died on Christmas Day, twenty years earlier.
But did the group's lead singer sound anything like W.C. Fields?
Well, no. He sounded more like any guy fronting a Strawberry Watch Band Love-In Groove band of the day...
The band released a single "Hippy Elevator Operator" b/w "Don't Lose the Girl" on HBR...which was the music wing of the less-than-hip Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon factory. DJ's may not have taken too seriously anyone associated with Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw, but the group did have rock creds. The main members of the group were George Caldwell and Robert Zinner (who co-wrote "Hippy Elevator Operator"). They had previously been in a Redondo Beach area band called The Bees, a band that showed some Rolling Stones influence and covered Dylan once in a while. They played fairly regularly in Southern California but only recorded a few tracks. Then came a name change. According to Caldwell, "One night I was lying on the couch watching TV and the name just came to me on a piece of flaming lemon meringue pie. I saw the words on the screen being typed on a piece of paper - "W.C. Fields today" - and so I renamed the band the next day."
The band also issued one single for Mercury the same year. They were the first to record "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone," but it was The Monkees who brought it into the Top 10...while the Fields band disappeared into the haze. They are still fondly remembered, and/or flash-backed, by fans of garage-psych, and sometimes a comedy fan will raise an eyebrow and ponder one of their 45's, and wonder if it's worth buying for $10 or $20 because the band members might be somehow doing an imitation of Uncle Bill. No, no matter how much Sheepdip you consume, you won't be able to hear anything to remotely remind you of The Great Man.
But for mid-60's spaced-out grunge, these guys deserve to be more than stepping stones to The Monkees.
4 Sides of THE W.C. FIELDS MEMORIAL ELECTRIC STRING BAND

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ZACHERLEY! Sample THE COOL GHOUL



Now 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, to put a Sardonicus-grin on your otherwise normal face.
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."
Box.net download, my dear. Ha ha...."

Neil Young's AFTER THE GOLD RUSH: A CAPELLA


Some people think Neil Young is a very effective singer. Others don't.
The same is true of The Kings Singers, who have spent decades creating a capella harmonies out of all types of tunes, including rock classics.
They are either an irritating barbershop quartet that went too far (ie, added two extra singers) or the loveliest sextet of tonsils in the United Kingdom.
You could got out and buy a whole bunch of their albums, or you could just go out of your mind.
Here's your introduction to The Kings Singers.

KINGS SINGERS do NEIL YOUNG Listen on line or download. No pop ups no porn ads no Paypal donations accepted.

ANNE PRESSLY (1982-2008)


The statement from Anne's parents on October 25th:
"It was our hope, as was yours, that Anne would overcome the injuries inflicted upon her in the brutal attack at her home. We were with her in her last moments, and although our hearts are broken, we are at the same time comforted by our faith knowing that Anne is now with our heavenly father."
Reported on the website of KATV, Arkansas:
http://www.katv.com/news/stories/1008/564436.html

From a song by Cindy Bullens about her deceased daughter:

"I watched the news on TV. The new breakthroughs in technology.
Can you find your way back? Will you find your way back?
If they find water on the moon, if they discover life on Mars
Does it mean you'll be home soon? Can I hold you in my arms.
I used to believe in miracles.
There was a time when I could be so inspired by life's mystery.
Can I find my way back? Will I find way back?
....Oh I know you're somewhere...somewhere out there.
If I could go, I'd be there. I would be there...
I want to believe in miracles..."

Most anyone dealing with the grief process would benefit from hearing Cindy's album "Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth," a concept album with songs of tears, anger, frustration, confusion, coping and finding a way to remember the past while facing the future.

"Water on the Moon" sung by Cindy Bullens Listen on line or download.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

HEFTI'S BAG: more than Odd Couple & Batman


Along with the late (see the entry further down the page) Nappy Brown, Neil Hefti was another jazz artist who barely missed getting another birthday under his belt. Hefti died on October 11th. He was born October 29th. (That's October 29, 1922 – October 11, 2008 if you're the linear type).

Like his jumpy-cadenced colleague Burt Bacharach, Hefti's most creative era was the 60's, when his unique jazz-pop rhythms enlivened many movie and TV soundtracks. Of course the two numbers that leap to mind would be the silly and cartoonishly discordant "Batman" theme and the dippy and splashy theme for "The Odd Couple."

The Omaha-based trumpet player came East to work with Bob Astor's band, Charlie Spivak, a variety of influential be-bop artists, and then Woody Herman's big band on the West Coast. More than playing music, he enjoyed writing it, and creating charts...and early Hefti tunes "The Good Earth" and "Blowin' Up a Storm" were Woody Herman hits. Hefti arranged songs for Woody's girl singer Frances Wayne...and married her.

One reason Hefti's later work would be so fresh and original was that he was absorbing both the new styles of Dizzy Gillespie and the contemporary classical works of Igor Stravinsky. He won the admiration of Charlie Parker who covered a Hefti chart called "Repetition." Parker's stamp of approval helped Neil Hefti join Count Basie in 1950. Several of the Basie-Hefti albums (including "Atomic Basie") are considered jazz classics. Miles Davis even declared that it was Hefti's composing and arrangements that made the Basie band worth hearing. No doubt the hip swing of Hefti-Basie influenced many jazz and pop artists into choosing a more "jumping" brand of arrangement. Frank Sinatra would soon work with Basie and use Hefti arrangements.

There would be various vinyl tributes ("Steve Allen Plays Hefti," "Basie Plays Hefti," "Harry James Plays Hefti") but ironically, Hefti had few hits in the jazz field. The soundtracks were more lucrative and he won a Grammy for "Batman." He also had Grammy nominations for "Girl Talk," a song on the soundtrack of his score for the Carroll Baker movie "Harlow" and for "The Odd Couple."

Below, a retrospective of Neal's pop pallette. You'll find various tunes that may remind you of his contemporary eccentrics like Burt Bacharach and Vic Mizzy...guys who also tended to tilt around with syncopation, zany melody, and near-parodies of pop.

1. ODD COUPLE (with the lyrics! from The Odd Couple)
2. FRAULEIN D-CUP (from Boeing Boeing)
3. Main Title Theme (from Boeing Boeing)
4. LONELY GIRL (from Harlow)
5. WALTZ FOR JEANNIE (from Harlow)
6. SCRAMBLED EGGS (kicky instrumental from Harlow)
7. CARROLL BAKER A-GO-GO (from Harlow)
8. OH DAD POOR DAD (vocal version, from Oh Dad Poor Dad...)
9. SPOOKY COFFINS (harmless funeral march from Oh Dad Poor Dad...)
10. SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL (Fran Jeffries vocal from the film)
11. HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE (vocal, from the film)
12. BATMAN radio tie-ins (J.C.Penny ad and WPCG disc jockey rip-off)

A Dozen HEFTI Pieces

The Charming Miss Edie Adams


Different erotic strokes for different ill folks...Edie Adams, who died a few days ago at age 81, may not have been a big star, but she made an impression in many different ways.
For some, she was the 50's version of Mae West, the sultry sexpot whose commercials for Muriel cigars included the line, "Why don't ya pick one up...and smoke it sometime..." She would play Mae West in a cameo scene for a 1984 film bio of Ernie Kovacs, "Between the Laughter." A later Muriel commercial was built around a parody of "Sweet Charity" and the line, "Hey big spender...spend a little DIME with me..."
Many recall her as a warm, nice-looking comedienne able to play a sexy housewife (the film "Mad Mad Mad Mad World") or a charming fairy godmother (the original TV production of "Cinderella") or the prototype for bustin' out hillbilly temptresses (the stage production of "Lil Abner")
For some, Edie was simply a living link to the cult idol Ernie Kovacs, and for a rather small group, Edie was known as a capable pop singer...although she didn't exactly get into the studio too often.
Born Elizabeth Edith Enke, April 16, 1927, she was a pretty, and pretty straight when she enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music...and while she had some technique, most of her teachers felt the bland blonde didn't have the skills or vocal personality to really be successful as a soprano or as a pop signer. On looks alone, she auditioned and won the minor job of singing on a local TV show. It was hosted by an obscure Hungarian named Ernie Kovacs...but with Ernie's guidance, Edie loosened up and emerged as a versatile entertainer who could sing, do impressions, and star in skits. She would soon make her Broadway debut in "Wonderful Town," and take nightclub work mixing songs with her comic impressions of Marilyn Monroe, Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. Her next Broadway role was a lead: Daisy Mae in the 1956 production of "Li'l Abner." Her next part, quite different from Daisy Mae, was as the magical, chucklesome fairy godmother in the Julie Andrews TV production "Cinderella." In the late 50's she also issued a few records, notably "The Charming Miss Edie Adams" which included a few songs penned by Ernie Kovacs, including "He Don't Wanna Be Kissed."
Kovacs was killed in a car crash in 1962, and despite doing well as Sid Caesar's wife in "Mad Mad Mad Mad World" a few years later, Edie was not often prominent in films or on TV in the 70's. Her own TV show, "Here's Edie" had a brief run. In 1982, Mia, the daughter of Ernie and Edie, was killed in a car accident, thrown through the sun roof of the vehicle. Her boyfriend survived with minor injuries. Over the years Edie had the usual TV guest credits; Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote and Designing Women among them. She married twice more, to actor Marty Mills (they had a son) and to jazz musician Pete Candoli (they were officially divorced in 1989, but had been separated for a decade).
Edie's "charming" album with various Kovacs tunes was re-issued by Varese Sarabande on CD, and "Cinderella" and "Li'l Abner" (stage, not film version) are also easily available for Edie fans...so let's go back to where it all began and hear an example of Edie's "straight" work and Ernie Kovacs being Ernie, on "Indian Love Call."
INDIAN LOVE CALL by Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

FOUR TOPS DEATH: LEVI STUBBED OUT


"I don't consider myself as being a heckuva singer," Levi Stubbs said, "I'm more of a stylist, if you will."

Think about it. What made the Four Tops lead singer stand out was not smooth warbling, but shouting, bellowing and exasperated talking!

The classic Four Tops tunes were unlike anything else on the radio because the lead singer did not really sing...not in the smooth way of The Supremes, The Temptations, or the anguished white guys out there like Del Shannon and Roy Orbison. Levi Stubbs didn't sing. He agonized.

He also had an "old voice." Everybody else you heard on Top 40 radio stations sounded under 30. They sang about teen problems...puppy love gone wrong. Not Levi Stubbs.

Born Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008) he was about 30 when he was putting together that string of hits. But he sounded 40. Who but an older guy would even have a woman he could call "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch?" That's Kingfish's wife, not a Top 40 teen singer.

And in his best songs, he simply bellowed his aggravation, his rage at living in "Seven Rooms of Gloom," or his grim rap in "Shadows of Love," where his shout out is: "Gave you all the love I had, now didn't I? And when you needed me I was always there, now wasn't I?" How about "Reach Out," where he doesn't sing out but call out, "Come on Girl, Reach out to ME!"

What also augmented the agonized style of Levi Stubbs, was that the charts were written high...and so Stubbs, a natural baritone, had to strain on most of those tunes. It's no surprise that most karaoke fans, who can't handle an Orbison tune, or an Elton John song (he, who referenced "those great old Four Tops songs") can at least stumble around Stubbs and chant "Standing in the Shadows of Love."

Often a Four Tops song was about snarls and spoken passages and yelps. Was he really singing "Can't Help Myself" or just crying it? Was he crooning "Seven Rooms of Gloom" or talking it through? Wasn't it usually his help-mates, the other Tops, who led him into the melodic chorus ("Reach Out, I'll Be There") after he spent most of his time barking out his frustrations? Was he singing "Bernadette" or shouting her name? Classic Four Tops songs portrayed a grown adult male driven to his knees by love or hate, being sung from one place: hell.

As writer David Hinckley said of Stubbs' voice, "It wasn't exactly a gospel voice, it wasn't exactly soul," and it wasn't exactly singing all the time. Hinckley also notes, the prime of The Four Tops "lasted three years, from "Baby I Need Your Loving" in 1964 to "Seven Rooms of Gloom" in 1967." That's 30 years (the original Four Tops began to need replacement in 1997) of playing the oldies circuit and having a minor hit now and then...which qualifies The Four Tops for being on the illfolks blog as an often underappreciated group.

Any of you have much Four Tops or Levi Stubbs music recorded from the 70's, 80's or 90's? Once in a while Stubbs and/or company made their way back into the charts. Stubbs voiced the man-eating plant in the film version of "Little Shop of Horrors" while the Four Tops performed 'Loco In Acapulco' for the soundtrack to 'Buster.' The biggest shot the group had for returning to form was 'Indestructible,' used on a 1988 Olympic Games soundtrack album.

Levi Stubbs had worked the oldies circuit long enough so that most fans knew his weird trademark of jet black hair and a gray-white beard. In 1997 the first of the original Four Tops died, Lawrence Payton, and three years later, Stubbs, already diagnosed with cancer, could no longer perform with the group. Theo Peoples has been the lead singer since 2000, with Ronnie McNeir replacing Payton.

Of course those old Four Tops songs are classic, and you can check out the "Little Shop of Horrors" movie anytime, so the choice for a tribute is the appropriately titled "Indestructible," a pretty good comeback tune with Stubbs and the gang still giving more of a shout-out than a sing-along.
Indestructible! sung by LEVI STUBBS Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Big Dirt Nap: Nappy Brown's 6 Feet Down


"Nappy Brown." Well, maybe that's not the most politically correct name of all time, but that's what Napoleon Brown Culp chose for his singing career, and it was catchy enough to keep him working for about 50 years.
Nappy, who didn't miss his next birthday by much (October 12, 1929-September 20, 2008) had his biggest hit in 1955 when Brown reached #2 (go ahead, search for the feeble joke) with "Don't Be Angry."
The song's notoriety resided in the opening line, where Nappy tossed in a dozen or so stuttery "LILs" before asking his girl (named Lil?) not to be angry. Nappy fit nicely between The Platters, Fats Domino and Louis Jordan...but didn't quite have their level of continuous hits on the straight or R&B charts.
Nappy made the circuit again and again, and lived to see his minor chart tune "Piddly Patter" turn up in the John Waters-Johnny Depp classic, "Cry Baby." In 2007, Brown made a comeback album called "Long Time Coming" and...you guessed it...was asked to re-do his hit "Don't Be Angry."
You get both the old and new versions below.
And something else. While Nappy could certainly chop his way around any earnest R&B ballad or blues number, he had a special affinity for nuttier stuff, and so let's include "Something Gonna Jump Out the Bushes," a rudely fleshed-out tune that merely borrows a line from its ancestor, "Out the Bushes" (a hit by The Treniers, also obscurely covered by Murray the K) before going off into its own lascivious territory.
Nappy was lively and performing as late as May of 2008, before he became the late Nappy Brown. So, "Don't Be Angry." He had a pretty long and strong career, and his rollicking blues and lively R&B tunes will continue to knock 'em dead.
The original DON'T BE ANGRY Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.
2007 Re-make of DON'T BE ANGRY Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.
Something Gonna Jump Out the Bushes (and grab you) Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

Ill-Ustrated Songs #16 "Yiddishe Mama" in SPANISH Neil Sedaka


Posted in time for the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, here's Neil Sedaka singing the tearjerker "My Yiddishe Mama" in Spanish.
There's nothing too surprising about a link between the Jews and Latin countries. The great ventriloquist Senor Wences was Jewish. The Sephardic Eydie Gorme recorded many albums in Spanish. And Neil Sedaka very carefully made sure he was in key (it was the day of attunement) when he recorded his favorite tunes en Espanol.
Even so...this is posted in time for Yom Kippur, because if there's anything that could make the day more gloomy, THIS IS IT.

MY YIDDISHE MAMA in SPANISH Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

Six Days on the Road - Colleen Peterson


Colleen Susan Peterson died on October 9, 1996. She was born November 14, 1950. You do the math, and see she died too young.
Signed to Capitol, she released "Beginning to Feel Like Home" in 1976, and the reason for her classy, lilting style with country-rock was obvious to anyone reading her publicity material: she wasn't from America. She was Canadian. So, like members of The Band, or like Neil Young...she had a fresh sound...call it shit-kicking without the smell.
While cross-over C&W artists like Crystal Gayle add down-home warmth to their mainstream recordings, Peterson added Canadian cool to redneck numbers like "Six Days on the Road."
The Ottawa artist who'd won "Most Promising Female Vocalist" Gold Leaf honors in 1967, and was later part of the group 3's a Crowd, had a decade of mileage by the time she was ready to take on America, and she did reach the Billboard charts with "Souvenirs." But she never did make a major dent in the USA, and after "Colleen" (1977) and 1978's "Taking My Boots Off," she was off Capitol, and less the spotlight attraction than the support. She guested on some Charlie Daniels records, and sang back-up for Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart and others.
Colleen staged a comeback in Canada in 1986. She scored a hit with "I Had it All" and released her first album for the new decade, 1988's "Basic Facts." She had many more hits in Canada, and in 1994 became part of a new group, Quartette, for albums and touring. But just two years later, Colleen was dead of cancer, age 45. A posthumous album, "Postcards from California," was cobbled together from demos Colleen Peterson and writing partner Nancy Simmonds had put together over the previous few years. Some of the profits from the album go to winners of the annual "Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award."
SIX DAYS ON THE ROAD...smoothed out by the late, great Colleen Peterson

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ill-Ustrated Songs #15 Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Al Caiola



Here's the brilliant Al Caiola version of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue."
Lounge. Too often, this term is abused by the un-hip.
If you're in a record store and you see a guy with stooped shoulders hauling a backpack, wearing a sloppy plaid shirt and khaki pants and Hush Puppies, you damn well know what bin he's hunched over: "LOUNGE." He'll squint through his glasses at any name he's been told is cool to like (Esquivel, babe) and maybe even take a fearful glimpse at those Julie London album covers that say, "You couldn't even put me on a spindle properly."
And he'll probably overlook the Al Caiola albums. Good. He's missing tracks like THIS, from Al's "Spies and Private Eyes" disc.
On this arrangement of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" gunshot percussion and a blast of brass let us know that we're in a bad part of town on a dangerous night; West Side Story without chorus boys or Sondheim. Al Caiola hauls out his twanger and seems to count the number of punches being thrown.
We're barely a minute into the tune when the neighborhood really starts to rumble; organ blasts to one side, gasping horns on the other. And then, soaring over it all like a police helicopter, one hell of a trumpet. Blow, Gabriel, because some devils are gonna be swoopin' the planet tonight.
Too often it's easy to overlook how calculated "charts" can be, and how perfectly they can produce some sonic sock. This is a textbook example on how to pull out all stops in tempo, juxtaposition of brass vs percussion, and the texture of hard bongo skin and twangy guitar, to produce an audio picture of mixed-neighborhood mayhem.
The tune cues the warning wail of a trumpet again, a police siren howl. The organ weeps and shudders, but the relentless drums don't stop, and with 40 seconds left, Al Caiola picks up the body count with his guitar pick, till the squealer brass section calls the cops and there's a final stuttering step-away from the crime by the drums.
That was one helluva slaughter. Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

GEORGY GIRL - Sung in German Conny Froboess


Ach du lieber, what can you say about Conny Froboess? Really...if you have anything to say, leave a comment, 'cause this entry is pretty scant.
Frankly, I got an album of hers just because the cover looked nice, it was cheap, and I rightly figured she'd cover some hit tunes in German, which is always fun. I had little idea who she was when I bought this 10 years ago, and I haven't gained much ground since. But...
...she does a sprightly job with "Georgy Girl," which is a teut uncommon.

Born Cornelia Froboess, October 28, 1943 (I've given you time to get her a present), Conny was a precocious child star thanks to a hit tune called "Pack die Badehose ein" (pack your swimsuit). As a precocious teen, she starred in such classics as "Hula Hopp, Conny" (1959) as well as "Mariandl" (1961) and "Mariandl's Heimkehr" (1962). In her 20's, she was recording pop albums. These albums, if you hunt them down, have lilt. After all this time, they may also have lint.
Conny's film career stretched through the 20th century, and if you can find 'em, you'll see her in such varied and tantalizing offerings as "Der Musterknabe" (1963), "Crazy Total Verrukt" (1973), the fabulous Fassbinder's "Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss" (1982) and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (1997).
A kindly German friend told me that indeed, Conny was a very big star, is still very well remembered, and the reason the disc and film credits have gotten less over the years is that Ms Froboess has concentrated more on her stage career, and performing for a live crowd.
der German GEORGY GIRL

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

ILL-USTRATED SONGS #14 VALERIE - Marshall Crenshaw


The Ill Folks blog anthem could well be Marshall Crenshaw's "You're My Favorite Waste of Time," so let's perversely choose "Valerie" instead. One of many "off" artists (a contemporary of Jonathan Richman and Greg Kihn), M.C. never exactly became a chart success with his odd punk and rockabilly mixes.

No doubt the labels who kept pushing oddballs like Loudon Wainwright, Nick Lowe or Randy Newman knew they'd eventually get at least a fluke novelty hit, but Crenshaw? His labels kept trying but none of his quirky numbers ever nicked the Top 20, did they?


Crenshaw's put out many an album, and each has some truly catchy tracks.
OK, maybe he never ran over a skunk, laughed about a dead actress being nibbled by her dog, or cracked a verse about short people...but he did sing this Buddy un-Holy ode to "Valerie," who might be short, might be capable of eating human flesh, and might smell to high heaven, too.
VALERIE by CRENSHAW

Friday, August 29, 2008

BOOBS - The Bob Dildyn Theme Hour


Bouncing back with yet another hour of amusing musing and music, the reclusive Bob Dildyn has a fresh podcast, and it's about BOOBS.
If you've heard the previous volumes, on CUNT and SHIT, then you know what to expect. This show's a bit lighter than the others, with Bob in a more buoyant mood. The topic of tits inspires enthusiasm...especially when the special guest is JOAN BAEZ.
Sort of. The Baez interview, like previous ones with Leonard Cohen, Madonna and Paul Simon seems to involve splicing the celeb's voice to answer unlikely questions. Ms. Baez, you didn't really say such rude things...did you?
It's hard to keep track of the titles...some are full tracks, a few are excerpts, but definitely in the mix are: My Boobs are OK, Itty Bitty Titties, Titties and Beer, Ass and Titties, Bounce Your Boobies, Mama's Got Her Boobs Out, Knockers Up and Boobs.
Plus some guy lecturing about breastfeeding, a Britney Spears parody "Make My Boobies One More Size," a milk commercial from The Cowsills, and the Bob Dildyn original lyric "Double D Cup Hooters" (the melody seems suspiciously similar to one from the original Bob).

And the girl in the photos? Why, Adriana Lima, of course, who starred with Dylan in that infamous Victoria's Secret commercial a few years ago.
PS, look for Bob Dylan "Tell Tale Signs Bootleg 8" in stores and on line next month. If there's any similarity to the hours from Bob Dildyn, it's that the collection is a confusing hodge-podge of released, unreleased and live tracks put together in a way that only makes sense to Bob himself.
BOOBS (PART ONE, Half hour)
BOOBS (PART TWO, Half hour)
Not a Bob Dylan Theme Hour...a big bold podcast from BOB DILDYN.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Babes Sing IN FRENCH!


Here's a lot of French-singing ladies from Canada, France and Europe. It's a pretty smooth and lush collection. No distracting ye-ye girls, no punque babes, not even the gurgling trill of Piaf....it's mostly an assortment of oddities and lovely obscurities. And most all qualify for the illfolks blog because they may be hugely famous in French-speaking nations, but are mostly unknown to English-speakers. All will sound fine, however, played through Japanese speakers, German speakers, or whatever your set-up happens to be...

1. Carole Laure. Nyuk, a Canuck. "Save The Last Dance for Me" in French. This sexy actress began recording in the 70's, so her albums aren't ancient volumes of forgotten Laure.
2. Francine Laine. Not named after Frankie. Have you ever had a French girl talking urgently and emotionally to you? Me neither. This may fulfill your fantasies: "Moi Sensuelle." Your imagination may be better than the real lyrics.
3. Annie Villeneuve. "Tomber a l'eau." I was drawn to any song with "Tomber" in it, till I learned it has nothing to do with tombs. Catchy power pop from a Canadian who'll make you want to go over the border.
4. Julie. Why go by one name? It makes an Internet search impossible. I found this on a compilation lp of French hits. "Maria Magdalene" may be a religious tune but it has a nice bossa nova rhythm to it. It also has a timeless quality. Meaning, I don't know when it was recorded.
5. Marie LaForet. "Marie Douceur (Paint it Black)." In the 60's she was a stunner, the kind you'd buy just for the album cover. And yes, she could sing, too.
6. Nicole Rieu. "Have You Never Been Mellow" in French? "Me Maison Au Bord de L'eau"
7. Dalida sang in many languages, often in French. The selected tune, a polished Abba-esque commercial pop piece, will get you bouncing your baguette. The song is "Mourir su scene." I was surprised at how catchy-happy the song was, since I thought "Mourir" might have to do with mourning, or being morbid in some way. OK, she died too young; that's morbid.
8. Jane Birkin. "Le Sex Shop." She joins Serge Gainsbourg again. You know their more obvious and orgasmic hit single (which is on the blog in the Bardot version, elsewhere). This one ended a film's humorous if slightly melancholy look at a guy's brief entry into the skin trade.
9. Zizi Jeanmaire. A legendary old broad. This is a Serge Gainsbourg song nastily called "Merde a l'amour," and it's sung in a vaudevillian way. You can just imagine the visual, a cakewalk on a street full of dog poop. Or am I romanticizing?
10. Maurane. No, that isn't a weather forecast, that's this Belgium star's name. "Prelude de Bach" takes the familiar tune into lush territory (ie, a saloon where you'll drink and sob imagining your own sad translation).
11. Monique Gaube. "To Sir With Love" in French. You'd take a French lesson from this teacher.
12. Christien Pilzer. "Dracula." This was 40 years ago. Why she was singing about le vampire is probably a buried secret by now.
13. France Gall. "Resiste." Do you have the gall to resist a woman who is such a credit to France?
14. Veronique Sanson. "Longue Distance." Like Carly or Joni was here in the 70's and 80's, Vero was a superstar in France during those decades, and is still a legend. Her great melodies were spiced with Island rhythms at times. In America she's vaguely known as "wasn't she married to Stephen Stills? Mom of Chris?"
15. Sandrine Kiberlain. "Le quotid." This heartbreaker also starred in the cult film "Monsieur Hire" as, what else, a heartbreaker. The film's moody, erotic and depressing. Her songs are mostly erotic.
16. Mylene Farmer. "L'amour n'est rien." She took her last name as an homage to Frances Farmer. She's written a song about Edgar A. Poe. Her videos are strange, erotic, and often gothic. I could write endlessly about her, with a pen dipped in blood. She's sometimes foolishly called "the Madonna of France" for her popularity, outrage, and flirtations with dance music.
17. Francoise Hardy. "Tant de belles choses." The trifecta of French pop superstars
would be Francoise, Veronique and Mylene over the past 40 years. They overlap, and if you're listening or watching them, you'd overlap, too.
18. Julie Zenatti. "Toutes Les Couleurs." We end with some sweet French pastry.

Various ladies could be here, including Lara Fabian, Zazie, Nathalie Cordonne, Alizee, the duo of Lily Margot, Vanessa Paradis, etc. C'est la vie.

That's FRENCH! Via Rapidshare

UPDATE: Sorry, Rapidshare scuttled this because it hadn't been downloaded in 60 days. It was re-upped once, but not a second time. Zut!

Still available: the sprightly Dalida pop tune:
Instant Download or listen on line.

Carry a Torch...with Julie London


Carrying a torch, watching it burn. Having an aching heart. Or just heartburn.
Here's a selection of tortured torch songs and love-sick laments. "Do not fall in love, therefore. It will stick to your face." (A line from "Deteriorata").
We turn to Julie London for songs of ill-met star-crossed love, despair, loneliness, anger, and lovelorn lust. The first ten are from early in her career, when her whispery voice was best augmented by a simple trio. As she got a little bolder and better, she was more than capable of holding her own with a full band, as you'll hear on the back eight. The tracks are from seven different albums.
1. The Thrill is Gone
2. Everything Happens to Me
3. Say It Isn't So
4. Gone With the Wind
5. What'll I Do
6. When Your Lover Has Gone
7. Don't Take Your Love From Me
8. Lonely Girl
9. All Alone
10. Mean to Me
11. Don't Smoke in Bed
12. Baby Won't You Please Come Home
13. There Will Never BE Another You
14. Get Set for the Blues
15. About the Blues
16. The Blues is All I Ever Had
17. The End of the World
18. I Wanna be Around

Listen to the ebb and flow of sighs, insensitivity and sorrows. O. Henry once said "Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating..." And in the next life he became a candy bar. Life is sweet after you're dead.

Who broke your heart?
Keep that Torch Light Burning

12 "HIGHWAYMAN" Robbery Songs


The image of "The Highwayman" is romantic, largely because of the Alfred Noyes poem (most sucessfully mated to music by Phil Ochs). In reality, most highwaymen were just robbing hoods. Anyone riding by was "fair game" to them, and that led to the formation of the Horse Patrol in 1805.
The year before, William Brennan was hanged. The Irish highwayman is still one of the most famous of his profession, a romantic figure before the arrival of his rivals Jesse James in America, or Ned Kelly in Australia.
Brennan may have been one of the few to practice "sharity," since the earliest broadside ballads about him (circa the 1820's) paint him as a hero, a rebel targeting British nobility and the RIAA (Royal Idiots and Aristocrats). "He robbed from the rich, and gave it to the poor," is a line from "Brennan on the Moor."
When the actual Brennan died, it was without much fanfare or notoriety...or a catchy melody. As the song about him grew in popularity over the years, few could actually state where he was born (probably Kilmurry) or why he became an outlaw. Some said that he joined the army where he rebelled against its discipline and deserted. Others said he was already a crook and stole a watch from a foppish officer and had to flee after the crime was discovered.
It's up to the Clancy Brothers to give an authentic, and brief version of "Brennan on the Moor." Other versions go on for stanza after stanza, filled with his exploits.

Also here, in two versions (one male, one female) is "The Newry Highwayman." The other highwaymen are not named, but their personalities, exploits and attitudes are vividly brought to musical life by: Blue Cheer, the Brotherhood of Man and Tinsley Ellis.
The choice here for a musical setting of the Noyes poem is not the least bit noisy; it's Loreena McKennitt. She's not the only blonde on the bill, though. You also get "The Highwayman" as sung and described by Stevie Nicks. And yes, that odd song about reincarnation, whether it's a criminal or a damn builder, is on this download too, "The Highwayman" by Jimmy Webb and performed by The Highwaymen.
One of the most famous phrases in all of crime belongs to the highwayman: "Stand and Deliver!" That bold demand yields two very different songs, one from Wishbone Ash and the other from Adam Ant.
It would've been an unlucky 13 to include "Dennis Moore," the Monty Python song about the man who stole from the rich...but largely confined himself to pilfering lupins. "Lupins??"
Stand & Deliver! 12 Highwayman Songs Folder

Saturday, August 09, 2008

WTF does GUANTANAMERA mean?


You get 9 versions of it.
It's a song you know pretty well.
Even if you don't know what it's about!
Most people figure it's some kind of protest song.
Maybe a cheer about a home town.
Something to do with a type of dance?
Take a few guesses, and read on.
One thing most everyone agrees on, is that if you hear it too often, it's one of the most annoying songs of all times, especially as sung by white idiots who want the vicarious thrill of doing something Latino without getting an infection.
The worst of the 9 versions here is just such an example, as the usually tasteful Pete Seeger (sometimes credited as co-author) offers a most enthusiastically rotten rendition, with ludicrous over-pronunciations which include stereotypical Latino high-pitched ha-ha's and enough gutteral emphasis to hurl loogies out to the back row. It's enough to make you reach for the Alka-Salsa.
Ironically a black version might well be worse than this white one, thanks to the obnoxious rap of Wyclef Jean. Laconic, sullenly cool rhyme-dictionary dribblings about some Hispanic piece of ass bump and grind all over a torpid version of the actual tune. At least the rap part makes it somewhat clear what the song is about.
Yep.
It's about a chick.
The song is actually no more profound than "The Girl from Ipanema."
José Fernández wrote his first set of lyrics about a girl from Guantanamo (a "Guantanamera") back in 1929. It was just your typical, "That girl's hot, she could care less about me" deal, and later, a chorus was added to it, which is where all the idiots in the room shout "Guajira Guantanamera," like they're about to kill somebody. All they're really doing is admiring how the woman moves. "Guajira" is a Cuban rhythm. Herminio Garcia wrote the chorus but never got a co-write credit, having pushed it all the way to the Cuban Supreme Court in 1993. Sometimes the song is co-credited to Pete Seeger, instead. He did popularize and arrange it for American audiences.
And no credit to Jose Marti, whose poem was used for the lyrics. Here's the translation for "Guantanamera," which is basically just as overbaked and pretentious as any similar plaint from Neil Diamond:
"I am a sincere man from where the palm tree grows. And before dying I want
to share the verses of my soul. My verse is light green and it is flaming crimson. My verse is a wounded deer who seeks refuge on the mountain..."
Yeah, get over it, amigo. The chick could care less.
"And for the cruel one who would tear out this heart with which I live. I do not cultivate nettles nor thistles. I cultivate a white rose."
There's something vaguely political and typically Cuban about the last stanza: "With the poor people of the earth I want to share my fate. The brook of the mountains gives me more pleasure than the sea."
Not some kind of political freedom rant, or a call to join and fight the good fight, it's just about a girl from Gitmo who is saying no. Almost as disappointing as when you learned that "La Cucaracha" was about a cockroach, and "La Bamba" was just babble nonsense to dance to.
Your download? There's a live performance from Pete Seeger in front of a mostly Latino audience. To Pete's credit, los hombres seem flattered by Seeger's outrageous accent. Perhaps they were glad he at least tried; the other folkie on the bill, ill folks legend Phil Ochs, demurred from singing in Spanish and offered instead his sincere "Bracero" in English. Plus: Los Lobos, Jose Feliciano, Joan Baez, Celia Cruz, Perez Prado, Nana Mouskouri, an instrumental from the London All Stars Steel Orchestra, and a bizarre Latino-rap thing from Wyclef Jean, who has a chorus singing the real lyrics while he embellishes things with oh-so-cool rap. He remembers a chick: "Yo...I axed her what's her name she said Guantanamera, remind me of a ol' Latin song my uncle used to play on a 45 when he used ta be alive..." Nice. "Mulatto, shook her hips like Delgado...hey yo standin' at da bar wid a Cuban cigar..."


GUANTANEMERA

"Hasta Siempre" CHE GUEVARA


Over the years, while idiot girl scouts, overenthused folkies, and other sweaty detritus were shouting "Guantanemera" at cozy suburban hootenannies, or jumping up and down while Ritchie Valens sang "La Bamba," others were somberly listening to "Hasta Siempre," a song about Che Guevara, who in 1967 was executed in Bolivia. In the past 40 years it's had many cover versions. Cuban songwriter Carlos Puebla's song was always big in Latin countries, but probably the song didn't get much attention in Europe until Nathalie Cardone's 1999 version (complete with rock video). She recently issued a new take on it, which was issued on a CD as a bonus track to her first single in nine years, "Yo Soy Rebelde." A 2003 version by the Buena Vista Social Club removed Fidel Castro from the last line, changing "Y con Fidel" to "Y con Cuba."
While history now presents a view of Che and a view of Fidel that is less than glamorous, among many it's still very hip and cool to think of Guevara as that darkly handsome revolutionary who, if he did anything wrong, did it for the right reasons. The song literally translates as "Until Always," an idiomatic way of saying "now and forever." Basically the lyrics are mundane platitudes of devotion, but the strong minor key melody gives it power:
"We learned to love...Commandante Che Guevara...Your glorious and strong hand fires at history...You come burning the winds with spring suns to plant your flag with the light of your smile. Your revolutionary love leads you to a new undertaking where they are awaiting the firmness of your liberating arm. We will carry on as we did along with you. And with Fidel we say to you: Until Always, Commandante!"
You get five versions of "Hasta Siempre." There's Oscar Chavez, Francesco Guccini & Nomadi, Soledad Bravo, Nathalie Cardone and Victor Jara. The last two names may be familar to you. The song was on Cardone's only album (1999) which was produced by Laurent Boutonnat, best known for his work with Mylene Farmer. And Victor Jara was the famous folk singer and martyr from Chile, a beloved compatriot of Phil Ochs (for whom this blog is obscurely named) who was tortured and killed for performing one protest song too many.
HASTA SIEMPRE

Para Comprender...LA BAMBA


A catchy dance tune, and a racial stereotype for those who think Mexicans are loud and babbling and prone to screaming "arriba" and other strange words, "La Bamba" was a big hit as sung by Ritchie Valens (Valenzuela), who had a shortened name and a shortened life, dying in the infamous February 3, 1959 plane crash that took away Buddy Holly and "Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson.
Ritchie's slurred-up raved-up delivery of the lyrics didn't exactly help the average kid taking Spanish 101 understand what the hell he was singing, but lyrics to a dance tune aren't too important. A loose translation: "If you want to dance La Bamba, you gotta be a little 'crazy.'" Or wild. The rest of the lines are pretty much "get up, get going" and do it "faster." At one point he sings "I'm not a sailor, I'm a captain."
Now that usted comprende las palabras de "La Bamba," it's time to hear Valens and three different cover versions. There's Las Lobos for a fresh stereo take, The Chipmunks to accentuate how incomprehensible the words are, and a live version from Belle Perez, who not only presents the femme side, but is the only one who actually sings the words clearly.
So go ahead, do "La Bamba" (the song, not that guy in Conan O'Brien's band). Come to think of it, this is one of the rare dance tunes that didn't give a clue on how to dance. Some songs were nothing BUT instructions ("Ballin' the Jack") and other songs, if you didn't know how to do the twist, mashed potato, Freddie or swim, the singer would tell you or everyone in the room would be doing the same thing. Just how you properly do "la bamba," is a question maybe only Elaine Benes could answer.
LA BAMBA

HAZARD: Pancreatic Cancer stops Escalator of Life


He was born Robert Rimato, not Robert Hazard, was most famous for a song he didn't sing, and instead of a promising "New Wave" RCA artist he ended up an indie troubador playing C&W in small clubs. A strange, interesting life he had...and there were hints it was going to end too soon.
On Robert's "My Space" page he wrote: "A heartfelt thank you to all my fans and friends who have been so supportive to my music and the direction I have taken over the past few years. I have been truly blessed as a performer and a songwriter to have you with me on this wonderful journey. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control I have been forced to cancel the rest of my summer tour schedule. We will pick up again in the Fall."
He was optimistic about his chances, but he died August 5th after surgery for pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer seems to be one hell of a popular killer these days. It's fast and it's usual lethal.
I met Robert Hazard back in his new wave days, and ironically I didn't think he'd be big because he had a kind of Lyle Lovett appearance, well before Lyle made it popular. Though publicity pix made him seem fairly dangerous, he was tall, rangy, with kind of wild hair and a long nose, more an awkward Lovett than the combo of David Bowie and Joe Jackson that his label hoped he'd be (and which you can hear on his semi-hit "Escalator of Life.") That song was quirky, with its simultaneous embrace of disco, the deliberately strained vocals, and a simultaneous disdain for trendy idiot acolytes (a nice put-down of jeans-legend Gloria Vanderbilt in the midst of the echo chamber yips). But...he followed it with an indifferent album "Wings of Fire" in 1984. He disappeared, while a certain song he penned, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," became Cyndi Lauper's big hit.
“The royalties from ‘Girls’ allowed me to survive. In the ‘90s I had a band called The Hombres, but we never recorded.” Lucky in a way, Hazard had his hit in the pre-download era, so he actually did see decent royalties coming in. Even so, he and his wife had a day job, running an antiques store.
The quiet life changed around the turn of the century, when Hazard started performing as a singer-songwriter. If anything, the rural New York environment, certainly upstate in Woodstock and Saugerties, was friendly to "older" performers, from Levon Helm to Eric Anderson, and Robert found himself recording indie country albums: The Seventh Lake (2003) and Blue Mountain (2004). The latter, typical for a fairly unknown C&W artist, was made on a frugal budget: "“I made that for about $1.98. Everything was one take. The songs were written, I laid ‘em down and it was done.”
You can hear his change from New Wave Bowie to another country-tinged singer-songwriter on the road, via the two downloads, "Escalator of Life" from his first ep, and "Blood on my Hands" from his last album, last year's "Troubador."
Robert was setting up tour-dates for the Fall, anticipating a few months of recuperation, and then a return to those low-paying gigs that really test a musician's stamina and desire.
October 4, 2008 - DELMARVA FOLK FESTIVAL - Clayton, Delaware
October 24, 2008 - BURLAP AND BEAN COFFEE - Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
October 31, 2008 - TIN ANGEL - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 1, 2008 - HURDY GURDY FOLK MUSIC CLUB - Fairlawn, New Jersey
November, 7 2008 - BARNSTORMERS THEATRE- Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
Those dates will never happen. Somebody else will be singing in those venues on those nights. Somebody who most likely will hawk an indie CD after the show, sigh about shitty mp3 sales on eMusic, and pray that one song breaks through on the radio like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," so that making music for a living could be less of a struggle and a little more fun.
ESCALATOR OF LIFE
BLOOD ON MY HANDS

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ill-Ustrated Songs #13 Tiptoe to the Gas Pumps


Once upon a time, there was a gas shortage.
There were long lines, rationing, and nobody to cheer us up except Tiny Tim! He issued a single, even though vinyl is made from fossil fuel, and tried his plucky best to get the creepy sheiks and the manipulative oil companies to give us all a break.
Alas, there is no Tiny Tim to help us today. And gas prices continue to soar. No Tiny Tim and high gas prices. What a world, what a world.
Yes, like most everyone else, I can say that I did meet Tiny Tim, and he was indeed a kindly and pleasant fellow. Sincere but not "on" when he wasn't working, when I told him that I actually bought a copy of "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days," he was flattered but didn't blow kisses. He was, after all, not quite the same guy you saw on "The Tonight Show" in real life.
Today there's plenty of gas...you don't have to tiptoe to the pumps. But you might crawl from the ATM having to withdraw so much to pay for it.

TIP TOE TO THE GAS PUMPS Listen on line or free download. No pop ups, code words or loser ads for dating services or pheromone sprays.

A Dozen ANGELS OF THE MORNING


When premarital sex was still a very troubling "sin," this tune turned up, just a hot skip and a hump away from "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." Progress: THIS girl thinks she can have a devilishly good time all night and still be an "angel of the morning."
Especially since a man wrote this: Chip Taylor, offering an alibi for chippies.
Saintly martyr Merilee's Rush to judge her one-night-stand:
"There's no need to take a stand for it was I who chose to start. I see no reason to take me home. I'm old enough to face the dawn...Just call me angel of the morning...Then slowly turn away from me."
Even Humphrey Bogart couldn't follow that instruction without busting a gut laughing. "You're good, angel, very good. Now I'll slowly turn away, and you can leave...and I'll change the sheets..."
More from this sanctimonious slut:
"If morning's echo says we've sinned. Well, it was what I wanted now. And if we're victims of the night. I won't be blinded by the light. Just call me angel of the morning."
Can I just call you a cab and sleep an extra hour?

"A pretty dirge, is like a melody..." Share a load with:
Chrissie Hynde
Merilee Rush (original and re-make)
Joya Landis
Barbara Jones
Skeeter Davis
P.P. Arnold
Shaggy
Juice Newton, etc. etc.
The song ends with this:
"I wont beg you stay with me. Through the tears! Of the days! Of the years!"
OK, bitch, bye!
Get lucky. Download the ANGELS

Update November 2011: A few songs have been re-upped individually. Percy Faith wasn't in the original download:

NINA SIMONE
PERCY FAITH

25 versions of Windmills of Your Mind

Ever have a tune keep playing over and over in your brain?
That's 'cause...there are WINDMILLS in your mind. Really. And they respond especially well to catchy kitsch.
Seemingly put together as a homework assignment for Similes 101, "Windmills of Your Mind" offered spooky psychedelia via the French version of Mancini, Mr. Michel Legrand, and English words supplied by middle-aged hack lyricists Alan & Marilyn Bergman. They toss snowballs down a mountain and think the world is "like an apple whirling silently in space."


First line sets our theme:
ROUND.
The lyrics get so numbing Jazz singer Carmen Lundy mistakenly sings of a "clock whose hands are SLEEPING" past the minutes of its face.
The song seems to be saying that as endless as the world is, life isn't and love isn't.
Actual lyric variation: you have a choice of "when you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware that the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair," OR, "when you knew that it was over in the autumn of goodbyes, for the moment you could not recall the color of his eyes." The latter is represented here by Ms Lefeber.
Years ago, comedian Frank Fay made a living satirizing the lyrics of pop tunes like "Tea for Two." It's a cruel trick. A cheap trick. So we'll surrender any further impulse to insult a song that keeps saying "like" over and over, and mentioning "things that are round" like a bad game of $25,000 Pyramid.
Fact is, the song's circles and spirals and wheels are kind of mesmerizing, they are "words that jangle in your head" (a nod to Bob's Tambourine Man perhaps). Like some Dylan tunes, notably "Lenny Bruce," there are some good lines jammed against bad ones. In Bob's case, in that song, it was "they stamped him and they labeled him, like they do with pants and shirts" followed by the good "he fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts." Here, a cliche about lovers leaving footprints in the sand is followed by: "Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?" Not too shabby. There are also some effective and eerie images: "Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own..." or "Like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream." Like, you gotta like that.
Like, listen for yourself. Over and over.

You get 25 different versions (five are French, known as Les Moulins de mon Coeur) including Legrand, Frida Boccara, Dorothy Ashby, Mathilde Santing, Paul Muriat, James Galway and of special interest, the top 10:
1. Psychedelic and slow: Vanilla Fudge
2. Eerie border colic: Baja Marimba Band
3. Oliver Twists: Trinity Boys Choir
4. Disco Dizziness: Sally Anne Marsh
5. A gargle of goo: Jim Nabors
6. Swanky swinging: Judith Lefeber
7. Vintage French Fluff: Vicky Leandros
8. Scat with Scuffy Grapelli-style Violin: Carmen Lundy
9. Accapella Angst: The Lettermen
10. How Elton Might've Done It: Jose Feliciano

Go Dutch: Here's the WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND