Saturday, July 19, 2008

LES CRANE : Desiderata to Deteriorata

A man of many footnotes, Les Crane's odd credits include promoting if not inventing the "Top 40" (when he was a DJ at KRLA) and giving "The Mamas and the Papas" their name. Opposite Johnny Carson, Les popularized "confrontational TV," where audience members could ask questions and issues were debated. Everyone from Malcolm X to George Wallace did his show, and even Bob Dylan showed up. While most subsequent hosts in the genre were right-wing (from Joe Pyne to Rush Limbaugh) Crane was so emphatically on the left that he got a mention in Phil Ochs' "Love Me I'm a Liberal," thusly:

"The people of old Mississippi should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work. What's the matter don't they watch Les Crane?"

In 1971 he scored a Top Ten Grammy-winning hit with the spoken word "Desiderata," using a familiar style used by another DJ, Wink Martindale, on many an inspirational single a decade earlier (search for Wink on this blog). "Desiderata" was not some uplifting cosmic babble from an old public domain tome, but a bit of drivel from Max Ehrmann, who died in 1945...and his estate was delighted to collect on Crane's recording. Proof of Crane's mastery of psychic calm, was his ability to stay married to Tina Louise for more than a week.

In the 80's Les slipped behind the scenes into the lucrative world of Silicon Valley, becoming a big shot at Software Toolworks, the company behind the 3D "Chessmaster" and the home computer version of "Pong." The company's name was later changed to Mindscape. Of his hit tune, he admitted, "I can't listen to it now without gagging." He was amused by the parody "Deteriorata" performed on the National Lampoon "Radio Dinner" album by veteran announcer Norman Rose and backing vocalist Melissa Manchester.

"Deteriorata" dated references: "your dog is finally getting enough cheese" references a Gaines Burger (with cheese) dog food commercial of the day, and "Remember the Pueblo" was a slogan after the U.S.S. Pueblo was seized by North Korea as a spy ship. For too long, the crew was held hostage. North Korea never did return The Pueblo, remember? Believing that less is more, and acknowledging Les is no more, the illfolks edits "Desiderata" slightly and segues it neatly into "Deteriorata." Les Crane: December 3, 1935 - July 13, 2008.
LES CRANE DESIDERATA into NATIONAL LAMPOON DETERIORATA Instant download. No porn ads or pop ups.

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