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 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 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'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!