Tuesday, December 29, 2009
If you've never had halvah, then get some brown sugar, mix it with hazelnut oil and some beach sand, press it into a congealed rectangle, and knock yourself out.
Not the most popular item even among brats on a perpetual sugar-high, it was rarely seen in America at the time "Halvah" was released as a 45 rpm on the East/West label. Even now, only Joyva (a long time kosher candy company known also for their "jels" and chocolate-covered marshmallows) successfully packages and sells the stuff. Otherwise, in ethnic neighborhoods, it's practically home-made and sold in chunks, like cheese.
While it has ties to the Arab world, and Joyva is a Jewish company, Halvah (literally means "sweetmeat") is actually Turkish, one of the world's oldest confections. It's made out of seseme seeds. Today it's sweetened with sugar, flavored with chocolate or vanilla, but really, could use some kief. It would definitely lend credibility to the song's line "Halvah has me mesmerized."
Ganim's Asia Minors were all Armenian, and led by Charles Ganimian. As Ganimian and his Orientals, they made an album of Middle-Eastern dance music called "Come With Me to the Casbah." Decades later, Ganimian emerged on his own as an oud player (he was, after all, the oud man out) for a solo CD that you can actually find on Amazon and eBay. You can also see him play the oud on YouTube. Now, some Halvah for your ears. It beats Joyva marshmallows "fo yo ass," which is probably big enough as it is.
HALVAH Instant Download or listen on line. No wait time, pop ups or porn ads.
The first news came via Twitter, the day before Christmas. It was Vic's friend Kristin Hersh typing out a quick chill: ""Another suicide attempt, looks bad, coma - if he survives, there may be brain damage. This time, it's real scary: *this* time, he left a note..."
Vic Chesnutt's overdose of medication came after a long year that saw the release of two albums. He'd finished a schedule of (stressful) gigs made more difficult because he was wheelchair-bound. He'd done many wearisome interviews to support the (low paying) indie music and was facing Christmas about $35,000 in debt. ("Sell some t-shirts," bloggers would've told him.)
Chesnutt's career got off to a seemingly auspicious start, with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. producing the first two albums. But Vic wasn't getting rich off them, or subsequenet releases. R.E.M. covered his songs via "Sweet Relief II," a charity production raising awareness and money for musician health care. Even so, and despite having health insurance, Vic's income was not great. He also wasn't exactly famous. He was a cult figure, known for dark songs that sometimes veered into black humor. He was never sure how an audience would take them. "Granny," one of the newer songs, was met with laughter from one audience, and tearful silence from another.
The new era of fairly cheap and easy-access digital recording (Pro Tools, Garage Band, indie recording labels) was a mixed blessing. It allowed Vic to knock out album after album, but there was nobody to separate the good from the bad, and lesser tunes diluted albums that could've been stronger.
Still, his small circle of fans were devoted to his every tune, and they agreed with Patti Smith's appraisal: “He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind. He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself..." Typical of his dual nature is this couplet from "Little," the 1990 debut Stipe produced: " “I’m not a victim/Oh, I am an atheist,” a reference to the drunk-driving accident at age 18 that paralyzed him. And from the "About to Choke" album (his only major label release): "I’m not a realist/I might be a sub-realist.”
Vic admitted that his fans were something else: “They come up to me after the shows, and I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t want to be an asshole or anything, but I think I do my best communicating alone in my room, when I’m writing songs. But I do appreciate them very much. If it wasn’t for them, I would’ve killed myself a long time ago.”
He said that "Flirted With You All My Life," one of his new songs, was indeed about suicide, but from the view of someone resisting it: "During run-through, when I was showing it to everyone, in the first couple of takes, I had tears in my eyes. It was very emotional to me. I’d never sung this song out – it was only on paper. But when I sing it out loud, it was very emotional for me and very personal. I wanted to write a song about a suicidal person. It’s about me – I have suicidal tendencies. So it’s about a suicide who wanted to live.
The lines explicitly talk about failed attempts: “I flirted with you all my life / I even kissed you once or twice...”
He said, "I’ve attempted suicide a couple of times and I think about things such as that...a kind of love/hate relationship with death... “tease me with your sweet relief.” The song is about realizing that I don’t want to die. I want to live."
He changed his mind some time after his last tour dates, four towns in five days: December 1st (Los Angeles), December 2nd (Tucson), December 4th (Denton, Texas) and December 5th (Austin, Texas).
The first time I heard Vic Chesnutt, was when he covered the complex, 7 minute Phil Ochs song "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns," a song that seems to be sung by the ghost of a sailor, or a haunted survivor: "No I'm not screaming. Tell me I'm not screaming."
And: "I'm not dying. Tell me I'm not dying." The version from Vic is a slow, ominous dirge, the musical equivalent of a wounded submarine dropping deeper and deeper through black and liquid purgatory.
Christmas Day, and people were singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." while Vic Chesnutt was in a coma, having decided, as Phil Ochs did, on his own exit strategy. Your two samples: "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns," and "Flirted With You All My Life."
Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. "SCORPION" is back via a better company.
FLIRTED WITH YOU ALL MY LIFE
VIC CHESNUTT sings PHIL OCHS
It was an indifferent world that, in the midst of Christmas shopping and Brittany Murphy's sudden death, ignored an old comic breathing his last in a hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. But in the world of illfolks, Arnold Stang became the holy ghost, following this year's planet-swooping of Soupy Sales and Lou Jacobi.
While I enjoyed hanging out with Soupy, and have some anecdotes about Lou, I only met Arnold Stang once. It was during a rehearsal break for a forgotten show called "Norman's Corner." I spoke to him for a while and took some photos. (And thanks, Mr. Stang, for autographing the vintage photo seen accompanying this entry.)
He was "himself," not "on," just a polite and pleasant working actor who knew his craft and enjoyed what he was doing. As he put it, "I've worked with practically every star in the business, and I've had all the excitement without any of the crushing responsibilities. The applause that comes at the end of his show means only one thing to the star ... that it's time to start worrying about next week's show. But I just take a bow, walk off, wash up, and go home."
Arnold Stang (September 28, 1918 – December 20, 2009) was ancestor to Ratso "I'm Walkin' Here" Rizzo, and a Jewish cousin to Barney Fife. The character he usually played was small, weak but comically pugnacious and streetwise. With his glasses as a symbol of frailty and bookishness, Stang couldn't stray into the Leo Gorcey territory of being small, pugnacious but a potentially good fighter.
His sense of humor saved him from a steady diet of sorrowful support roles, like "Sparrow" in the Frank Sinatra heroin drama "Man with the Golden Arm." He moved from radio child actor ("Let's Pretend) to sidekick for Henry Morgan and Milton Berle on radio to sketch comedy during the golden age of television. His likability won him enduring fame as the spokesman for Chunky, nasally bragging the catch-phrase, "Watta chunk-a chaw-klet!"
Arnold appealed to kids because he wasn't much taller than they were, and he was so much fun to look at and hear. The albums he made were either purely for the kiddie market, or (in the case of "Waggish Tales") leaning in that direction.
That scrappy New Yawk accent coming out of that meek turtle-face, brought Arnold Stang a lot of voice-work, from "Herman the Mouse" in movie cartoons to "Aristotle the Turtle," (a Bil Baird puppet) and "Nurtle the Turtle" (the film "Pinocchio in Outer Space") to the enduring "Top Cat," the alley-cat version of "Sgt. Bilko." With the charming countenance of a cat, and channeling a bit more of Phil Silvers' brash style than usual for him, Arnold's impudent vocalizing became almost heroic.
Arnold appeared often on Broadway, and while he never got the push to film stardom that Don Knotts did, he starred in "Hercules in New York" (1970). The odd-couple pairing was tiny Arnold Stang with giant and muscular Arnold Strong (who would later go back to his real last name...Schwarzenegger.) Comedy film fans would know Stang best from his pairing with Marvin Kaplan (who played a mild-mannered member of the "Top Cat" gang) as gas station attendants in "Mad World," running afoul of a berserk Jonathan Winters.
For a sample of Arnold Stang singing, here's "Schloimy the Subway Train," from that era when affluent Jews and/or New Yorkers were buying enough records to make hits out of "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah"-type novelty tunes, and turn Mickey Katz and Lou Jacobi into best-selling artists.
Back then, acts were named after local New York streets (Dion's "Belmonts" and "The Rivingtons" among others), all the hit songwriters were in the Brill Building, almost all the major labels were in New York, and even such minor and local events as a city subway strike could end up the subject of a novelty album. Saul Steinberg's memorable New Yorker magazine cover seemed like the truth; a map showing New York...and everything else part of a dull horizon. Nobody was worried that "Schloimy" was too Jewish or not enough people would find recognition humor in a tune about the subway.
Since "Shting Shtang" from Nick Lowe wasn't a tribute to Arnold, this'll have to do...
SCHLOIMY THE SUBWAY TRAIN Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.
A Christmas tradition in the U.K. is the annual televised screening of "The Great Escape." Just why this is, nobody quite knows. Scotland's American citizen and late night talk show star Craig Ferguson believes it's nostalgia over World War II, "when Great Britain showed its greatness."
Elmer Bernstein's plucky little theme song for "The Great Escape" turns up again and again in the film, no doubt inspired by the "Colonel Bogey March" in "Bridge Over the River Kwai."
Did you know it had lyrics? Really, really lame ones? John Leyton knows. The Ellen Degeneris look-alike sang 'em on a 45 rpm that has rarely been dug up since it escaped from EMI over 40 years ago.
Rather than portray a war, lyricist Al Stillman's words are about a piece. Mabel is her name. Let your download serve as a terrible surprise as to Johnny's interest in her.
When I first heard the tune, not noticing the credit on the label, I expected to blame some no-name numbskull for the hack job. Instead, I'll just say it was an off-day for the usually reliable Al Stillman. Lyricists on deadline can often fail. Think of Johnny Mercer's rotten lyrics to "Moon River," which calls some reeking fish-loaded stream a "huckleberry friend." Mercer didn't do much better with "Charade," and nobody remembers what came after "The days of wine and roses..." Still, those Henry Mancini tunes could lull most anyone to sleep before anyone had a chance to really listen to those lyrics. Not so here.
Stillman's inspiration may have been the inane lyrics soldiers often used to sing along to a "cadence count," in this case, marching along while thinking of the girl (or girls) left behind. Perhaps it was slightly preferable to the horror that could've been...having the movie's stars, Garner, McQueen, even Leyton himself, whistling while they worked, and singing, "Tunnel, we've built a tunnel! Did it with fork and spoon and funnel..."
Al Silverman (1906 - 1979) was a New York City kid who wanted to change his luck and so he changed his name to the same as a successful family of bankers. As Al Stillman he was soon banking checks for his lyrics, supplying them to Percy Faith, Arthur Schwartz, George Gershwin and Ernesto "The Breeze and I" Lecuona.
His regular writing partner was Robert Allen. You don't know the team of Stillman-Allen, but you've heard the hits: "Chances Are" and "It's Not For Me To Say" for Johnny Mathis, and "(no place like) Home For the Holidays" for Perry Como. Stillman had a regular gig writing special material for Radio City Music Hall shows, including an endless bunch of skating productions such as "It Happens on Ice,""Stars on Ice" and the beloved "Icetime of 1948."
Restless Stillman knocked out lyrics for some 40 years, in some cases being one of many trying to polish a tune into a hit. "I Believe," the classic from Frankie Laine, has four names associated with it, so it's hard to tell if Al wrote the lyric's first draft or came in to fix it up.
Astute collectors of vinyl have squinted at the A. Stillman credit on all kinds of tunes, including: The Alley Cat Song, Andalucia, Anything Can Happen, The Apple of My Eye, The Barking Dog, Battle of the Little Big Horn, Before We Say Goodbye, Big Bad Wolf, Big Broad Smile, Brazilian Nuts, A Breath of a Scandal, Bye Bye Be Seein' You All, Bzzzz, Callaway Went That Away, Can You Find It In Your Yeart, Can You Stop the Rain, Candy Bar Boogie, Cat's Serenade, Christmas Sweet Christmas, Ciribiribin, Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakaka, Coming From You, Cornish Rhapsody, Dance My Trouble Away, Dancing to the Rock Rolla, A Day in My Life, The Devil's Brigade, Don't Burn Your Bridges, Don't Make Me Laugh, Dreams Never Grow Old, Every Time I Dream, Eyes of God, For No Good Reason At All, Forty Eight States, The Girl I Left Behind Me, Goodbye Jonah, Goona Goona, Got any Gum Chum, Habanera, Happiness Comes Happiness Goes, Happy Christmas Tree....
Ho Ho Kus New Jersey, How D'ya Do Do Do, Humming Waters, I Don't Regret a Thing, I Feel Much Better Now, I Love My Argentine, I Must be Going to the Dogs, I Saw Mommy Do the Mambo With You Know Who, I Want a Boy with a Hi Fi System, I'll Never Be Alone, I'm a Rhymer, I'm Up a Tree, If You Should Leave Me, In God We Trust, In Spain They Say Si SI, In the Middle of a Dream, In the Middle of May, Jack the Bellboy, Jelly Fish, Jingle all the Way, Juke Box Saturday Night, The Key to Your Heart, Kiss for Christmas, The Kissing Dance, Let My Conscience Be Your Guide, Let's Rub Noses, Little Jack Frost, Little King of Toyland, Ma I Don't Want a Sweater, The Man With No Name, Marguerita, Marilu, Meet Me in the Moonlight, The Moon Was Dreaming, Moscow Nights, My Bridal Gown, My Heart is Dancing, My Heart's a Violin, Never Tease Tigers, No Words of Mine, Now and Forever, Oh Say You Can Swing, Orchid Moon, Overworked and Underpaid....
The Pirate Parrot, Plenty More Fish in the Sea, Preach Brother Preach, Puschart Pete, Rosie the Redskin, Santa from Santa Fe, Sawing a Woman in Half, Shabby Old Cabby, She Had a Crush on an Usher, Smiley the Lion, Son of a Gondolier, Spic and Spanish, Take Me Dreaming, Thanks for the Kind Words, There Ought to be a Law To Make You Mine, There's Only One Of You, Three D Sweetie, Toward the End of the Day, Turn Off the Moon, Twenty One Guns for Susie, Viva Roosevelt, We're Gonna be Photographed, Weach for the Wafter Santa, What Happened Baby, What's On the Penny, Where is My Wandering Boy, Whistlin' Otto, Worst Darn Winter in Years, You Know What To Do, You Never Know Til Monday, You're the One Who Knows
And that's hardly all. Just thinking up titles like those was quite a feat, huh? Typing them up was, too, but no Paypal donations, please. This blog is for sharing, not profit, and it's the artists who really did all the work. Writing all those song lyrics may not have been a feat equal to tunneling out of a stalag, but think of all the times Al Stillman reached for a rhyme and had to dig himself out of a hole.
GREAT ESCAPE MARCH
'Twas the night before Christmas, and among the creatures not stirring...Tim Hart.
Fortunately friends and family had time to come to terms with this, as the Steeleye Span founder had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer exactly a year ago.
Steeleye was one of the best bands for traditional "Olde England" music with a rock angle, and their albums are prominent on any shelf that would also contain discs from Renaissance, Horslips, Jethro Tull, or Pentangle.
The band's core, Tim and vocalist Maddy Prior, actually began their career as a duo singing "Folk Songs of Olde England" (two volumes).
Following their initial success with Steeleye, Tim and Maddy returned to unfinished business and recorded yet another duo album, "Summer Solstice," which featured them together but also doing solo turns. One of Tim's is in the download below: "Dancing at Whitsun," a charming showcase for his talents. He would officially begin his solo career eight years later in 1979, and continue until health problems forced him off stage and into the more sedate worlds of writing and photography.
"Steeleye Span" continued and the current line-up is Maddy Prior fronting the band with Peter Knight, Rick Kemp Ken Nicol and Liam Genockey on drums. Tim rarely sang in public in the past 15 years, but thrilled fans by appearing with Maddy Prior in 2008 on BBC's "Electric Proms."
TIM HART "Dancing at Whitsun"
Brittany Murphy (November 10, 1977 – December 20, 2009) star of "Clueless" and co-star of "Girl Interrupted" was entertaining plenty of kiddies all through Christmas via DVD re-runs of "Happy Feet."
She played a penguin and her big number was the upbeat gospel pop tune "Somebody to Love."
Apparently, among her many talents, she could really sing. She didn't do much of it, and at the age of 32, she sings no more.
To paraphrase Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's line as he witnessed the passing of Abraham Lincoln, "Now she belongs to the gossip columnists."
As they second-guess her marriage, her mother, and the upcoming autopsy report, you can listen to Murphy singing her most joyous song.
Nobody's nightstand needs to be cluttered with prescription drugs, and certainly not more than one or two of the more dangerous ones, such as: the anti-seizure medication Topamax, anti-anxiety pills Klonopin and Ativan, pain relievers Vicoprofen and hydrocodone, anti-depression helper Fluoxetine and hypertension medication Propranolol, all of them found at Brittany's place.
THE LATE BRITTANY MURPHY SINGS "Somebody to Love"
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I miss Bobby Cole, and this date is the anniversary of his death.
I can also say that I don't miss Bobby in such a painful way, because he is always with me. We were such good friends that I don't have to think "what would Bobby have said..." I know. I can hear his voice.
It must be a lot worse if you're lost without that deceased person, or the amount of time was way too short to fully explore that loved one's gifts and personality. If it works out right, while you wish you had more time...the time you had is enough.
What is still painful, is that Bobby himself is not around to enjoy life. His is over and done. In mourning, we like to say that the deceased "is still alive in our heart," and as long as we remember that person he "will never die." Well that's a crock of shit, because the person actually is dead, and being alive in somebody else's thoughts is not the same.
OK, now to the song in the download. It's not one that Bobby ever recorded. It was not on his lone solo album (or the early Columbia album with his trio) and it's not among the private demos or the tapes of his nightclub performances. I don't quite remember if he said that he wrote it specifically for Nancy or not. He probably wrote it at a time when weighty and dramatic "message" songs were in vogue, everything from Jimmy Webb's "Macarthur Park" to Roy Orbison's "Southbound Jericho Parkway."
"Flowers" is a true cabaret item, opening with moody jazz piano, the strings seeping in, and then the production jumping into movie soundtrack territory. Pretty damn adventurous back then, and even now. "While you've been learnin' to love I've been learnin' to hate. You think your silly little flowers will hide the smell of old hallways? ...you're wrong. Like always."
Bobby, when he and his trio were in Vegas and also the hot act at the "Ali Baba" nightclub in New York, was a close friend of the Chairman of the Board himself, and he told some wild tales of life with Sinatra, Jilly Rizzo and the rest of the gang. Frank was able to get Bobby into the door at Capitol Records, but Bobby being Bobby, refused the label's ideas about grooming him for success and chose his own thorny path. But here, years later, was Frank's daughter Nancy giving Bobby a shot on one of her records. A perfectionist in his own way, he felt that the production could've been better. Perhaps the song would've benefited by a more hysteric performer, a Streisand or Minelli, but the song wouldn't bear repeating too many times that way. It does, with Nancy using her restraint and her hot brand of cool.
FLOWERS FROM NANCY by BOBBY COLE
You know what?
I'd hate to be the man who drove the nails in Jesus' hands.
Sing along to GOV. JIMMIE DAVIS on the chorus.
"Well I'd hate to be the man who drove the nails in Jesus' hands...yet I know I do the same when I take his name in vain..."
Jimmie asks, "if he asked you for water would you give him vinegar? Do you know how he suffers when you sin? When you break his commandment oh don't you understand? You place thorns on my Lord's head again."
Bending a commandment more than breaking it, I shalt add some blogger caveats that a) the song is not believed to be in print or available via iTunes download, and b) the rights still reside with Peer Music, Ltd, and c) be glad I didn't also steal "I'd Hate to be the Shmoe who Put his Toe Up Moses' Nose."
I hope the man who drove the nails in Jesus' hands is not only burning in hell, but doing it with an iPod that can't hold a charge.
This bit of country swing is from Jimmie's 1970 album 'Songs of Consolation,' which magically appeared ten years after he was re-elected governor of Louisiana.
NAILS IN JESUS' HANDS No Wait Time, Captcha Code, Pop Ups or Porn Ads. Not for Jesus, by God.
The debonair Bat Masterson, the dapper playboy Amos Burke, the man who fought "The War of the Worlds" and had a cameo in the re-make...Gene Barry (June 14, 1919 – December 9, 2009) was all this and much more. One of classic television's great leading men, he joined Kirk Douglas and Jeff Chandler among Jewish actors breaking that Woody Allen stereotype look. The former Eugene Klass borrowed his last name in tribute to John Barrymore.
While he was never a Barrymore, the easy-going actor had an impressive career in movies, TV, on Broadway and even in the world of commercial voice-overs. If you remember "Burke's Law," then you know that Mr. Barry was always an irrepressible singer, and a few episodes gave him the chance to carry a tune. He was always musical, studying violin in his early days, and getting a scholarship to the Chatham Square School of Music on the basis of his singing. His first Broadway appearances were in operetta (Rosalinda in 1942, The Merry Widow in 1943) and of course he returned to Broadway 40 years later for La Cage aux Folles. Mr. Barry issued a solo album during the run of "Burke's Law," and you get three samples below:
"It's all Right With Me," "Burke's Law" (not the best lyrics in the world for this wonderful theme song) and "I'll be Seeing You."
Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. "Burke's Law" is back via a better company.
BURKE'S LAW THEME BY GENE BARRY
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Just as a journeyman boxer can score a few upset knockouts, but never make the big bucks, Wha-Koo put out some capable albums with skill, professionalism and hooks...and still ended up in the dollar bin.
Signed to ABC in 1977 as "Big Wha-Koo" they shortened their name for their second album, "Berkshire," and managed a semi-hit called "(You're such a) Fabulous Dancer," which was Top Ten in some international markets, but did little in America.
The band's leader, Danny Douma left for a solo album supported by guest artists including Eric Clapton and Garth Hudson. David Palmer fronted the new Wha-Koo, for their third and last release, 1979's disc on Epic, "Fragile Line," a kind of concept album exploring lines between love and hate, reality and illusion, good girls and whores, etc.
Palmer wrote four of the songs on "Fragile Line" and co-wrote the rest. Taking full responsibility for his band's new direction (which included several new members), Palmer said at the time that when he started writing the new material, "I just sat down at the piano, and said, 'It's that time. You do it now or you don't...I like the music to be melodic. That's where my vocal strength is...The lyrics, which deal with emotion...have my personality, my stamp on them."
Palmer's most notable vocal work up until "Fragile Line" was singing lead on two Steely Dan tracks, "Dirty Work" and "Brooklyn" on "Can't Buy a Thrill." As a writer, he'd worked on Carole King's album "Wrap Around Joy." His early band The Myddle Class had been signed by Goffin-King.
In the picture at the top right, you'll see the goofy bug-eye cover of the "Berkshire" album above the rather stolid group-photo used for the cover of the ill-fated "Fragile Line" release.
There was, and is, a fragile line between what pop critics call "tasty" and what the radio decides to play and what people are moved to buy.
For a journeyman rock group with a fairly generic lead singer, Wha-Koo still deserved a better fate, and "Fragile Line" still holds up after all these years.
Two highlight tracks cover the familiar territory of woman-trouble.
"Old King's Cross," despite some late 70's cliches in the production (and the familiar Billy Joel-style piano work), is a moving, if somewhat overbaked ballad that casts a moody view at whores: "By the light of the Southern Cross, where the ladies fake their pleasure. You find what you thought you lost, and the stars go on forever...you'll never know you've been had till she ads up the cost. Tonight on Old King's Cross."
If a ballad about whorish girlfriends or girlish whore friends doesn't let you know these Wha-Koo guys sometimes chose Wha-king off instead, then move on to "Velvet Screw," which is an up-beat fist-clenched rant at a bitch goddess:
"You're so good with the velvet screw, and no one turns it like you do!"
Momentarily calm, Palmer continues: "There is just one thing I want you to know. I seen them come, and I seen them go." Then he revs up once again: "You're the best I've ever seen at using someone else's dreams...you're so good with the steel caress. When it comes to pain baby, you're the best. I've seen them all AND I'M IMPRESSED!"
You just might be impressed with the very solid work Wha-Koo did 30 years ago.
OLD KING'S CROSS
Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. Since Rapidshare has driven me crazy with their constant policy updates and their skimpy time-frame (which is especially tough on a blog like this, where the idea is not to give away popular stuff you can buy), the re-up is "Camarillo." A song about a famous mental asylum in California.
Liam Clancy (aka William Clancy) died on December 4th, the last member of the group that included his brothers Patrick and Tom, as well as friend Tommy Makem.
It's possible The Clancy Brothers' act could've been even bigger, considering that Liam was the youngest of eleven children!
Back in 1956, the young broth of a boy came to America where brothers Paddy and Tommy were trying to get work in the New York theater. Acting jobs were few, but there was a big market in the coffee houses and pubs for singers. The Clancy Brothers began singing and recording albums, starting fittingly enough with "Irish Songs of Rebellion." They were a hit on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1961, and when the folk-rock scene was in swing, the veteran act was polished and poised to join in, and they did. They were on Vanguard, the same label as Joan Baez. One of the new guys singing songs of rebellion, Joan's boyfriend Bob Dylan, admired the band, and said there wasn't "anybody who's a better ballad singer than Liam."
From Carnegie Hall in New York to Albert Hall in London, and all over the world, The Clancy Brothers played to standing room only. In 1973 Liam left his brothers to work as a solo artist, but returned in 1984. The group was stable for a while, but Liam walked out yet again, this time in a feud with his brother Pat. When Tom died in 1990, The Clancy Brothers seemed doomed, but Liam re-joined Pat and Tommy Makem and there were more concerts and recordings, with Robbie O'Connell adding to the line-up.
At the "Bobfest," that star-studded concert honoring Dylan's 30th Anniversary, they performed "When the Ship Comes In."
The Clancy Brothers act was in retirement by the time Pat Clancy died in 1998. Tommy Makem passed on in 2007. Typical of the rousing enthusiasm and vibrant harmony that the group specialized in, your download is the Irish classic, "Brennan on the Moor," which has nothing to do with Walter or Mary Tyler...
BRENNAN ON THE MOOR
"The Alan Parsons Project," with most songs written by Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons, relied mainly on "guest vocalists," but despite having a bland, if not weak voice, it was Eric himself who ended up with their greatest hit. "Eye in the Sky" seemed like a throw-away track at the time, not something that would entice a top singer.
Parsons recalled, "I hated the song when we first started recording it — I was quite ready to drop it altogether." He was a little more optimistic after "we hit upon the hypnotic guitar chugs."
A rarity (Jewish Scotsman) Woolfson (March 18, 1945 – December 2, 2009) began his career as a songwriter. His early attempt in front of a microhone, a single in 1971 under the name Eric Elder, went nowhere. He expanded to record producing, gifting us with the immortal Carl "Kung Fu Fighting" Douglas.
As the name would suggest, though Eric and Alan co-wrote the songs, "The Alan Parsons Project" focused attention on only one man. Parsons was generally the lone face in 8x10 glossies given out by the record label. Their first effort, a Poe concept album, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination," has a big photo of Parsons in the gatefold. Woolfson gets a much smaller photo.
Parsons, after all, was the engineering wizard behind "Dark Side of the Moon," and Eric was just an unknown songwriter.
Critics were not impressed with the glossy, easy-listening style of The Alan Parsons Project. Checking my files, I find Ed Naha speaking for the majority via an issue of Circus in August of 1976. The no-no from Naha begins:
"If Edgar Allen (sic) Poe were still alive, he would probably seek out Alan Parsons and brick him up behind a rather hefty concrete wall. The Parsons Projejct LP really hits Mr. Poe with a low blow, transforming many of his terrifying poems and stories into aimless tunes that Mike Quatro wouldn't be caught listening to after a Jesus Christ Superstar concert..." After this, the review gets nasty.
Despite critical nausea, The Alan Parsons Project flourished for over ten years, producing a lot of safe, catchy pop tunes in the tradition of E.L.O. if not "Jesus Christ Superstar." Ultimately hoping to compete with Andrew Lloyd-Weber himself, Woolfson found a new partner, Brian Brolly, and began writing musicals for the stage.
Their musical "Freudiana" didn't make it to London's West End, or Broadway, but it was a hit in Germany, where a follow-up musical about Antonio Gaudi was also a big success. Eric even tried to revisit Poe with a new musical, but it failed to get on the boards. An album of songs from the show exists, called "More Tales of Mystery and Imagination," and you can find information on it at www.poe-cd.com/home.html
Eric's last musical was "Dancing Shadows" in 2007. Below, his most famous song, co-written and sung by Eric, and the obvious inspiration for the photo top right. As two eyes in the sky, Eric may be reading along with you on this blog -- heaven must have free wi-fi.
EYE IN THE SKY
Sunday, November 29, 2009
You've heard of Michel Legrand...well, somebody had to tutor him on the finer points of the piano, and that was Genevieve Joy (and also Nadia Boulanger...he studied at the Paris Conservatoire for nine years!)
That's about as close to the world of "popular" music as she got, which is why her death was not well covered. Genevieve (October 4, 1919-November 27, 2009) died in her sleep in a Paris hospital.
In the classical world, she's known for her partnerships with pianist Jacqueline Robin and composer-husband Henri Dutilleux. She was such an influence on Henri, that he composed a piano sonata during the first years of their marriage (1946-1948) and he considered it Opus #1, deciding that anything he wrote earlier was not worthy.
Oddly enough, he didn't exactly follow it up with a lot of other piano pieces for her to perform. This was fine with him: ""She never reproached me for not writing more for the piano, and never tried to influence me on that score."
Others, including Darius Milhaud and Andre Jolivet, composed music for Genevieve Joy and her musical partner Jacqueline Robin. Over many decades, they entertained audiences with dual-piano concerts. Genevieve also recorded solo work for the Erato label, and had her regular teaching work at the Paris Conservatoire. Michel Legrand was by far her most famous student, creating Oscar-winning soundtracks to dozens of films and writing "Windmills of Your Mind" among many other hits.
As you might expect from a 20th Century classical composition, Dutilleux's piano sonata is not purely romantic, even if the inspiration was his wife. The piece explores the delights, both intellectual, physical and spiritual, of the union. In other words, on listening to this you might get the idea that Genevieve was a pretty complicated chick. She recorded the piece, so she must've agreed. Husband Henri, 88, survives her.
Go ahead, download some 20th Century classical piano from Genevieve and Henri. Challenging music didn't begin and end with Zappa.
Here's eleven familiar songs rendered a bit strange by the beguiling Amanda Lear.
One of the most colorful people I've spent an hour with, Amanda Lear was seriously tongue-in-cheek, mock-flirty, and a racy raconteur having wicked fun with the whole game of celebrity.
Like her mentor Salvador Dali, she knew the value of glib ad-libs, outrageous remarks, and controversial opinions. Just as Dali's vivid paintings were commercial but intellectual, Amanda's disco music pandered to the least discriminating taste but often had intelligent lyrics. Her non-dance tracks were influenced by both the decadent Marlene Dietrich and such provocative provocateurs of contemporary perv-pop as Lou Reed, Bryan Ferry and David Bowie. On her very first album, title track "I am a Photograph" poetically referenced her work as a model (notably the album cover for Ferry's Roxy Music album "For Your Pleasure.")
A logical addition to the illfolks blog, Amanda was not appreciated by rock critics when she began recording, while Bowie's disco dance stuff was breathlessly reviewed as well as anything from Ferry or Reed. All three guys could get away with gender games, too. They were still men. Amanda, with transsexual rumors swirling, had renounced manhood completely, which was a little too frightening. We think of rock writers as liberated, edgy and glad to go beyond boundaries, but at the end of the day they went from the office to the bar for a beer like everyone else.
Amanda's voice was really no more peculiar than Neil Young's. Johnny Cash sometimes sounded a bit off key. Tom Waits was the Cookie Monster. But Amanda's vocals still aren't taken seriously. Listen to the cover versions collected, and you'll hear how valid most of them are...either as simple diversions or as intellectual statements.
Before meeting her (pre-Internet era) I'd heard the rumors of Amanda being transsexual, but there wasn't concrete photographic evidence available. Recently, vintage pix have surfaced including the one below, showing the still boyish Amanda gravitating to glamorous French sex-change chanteuse Coccinelle. As Peki D'Oslo, Amanda first began performing gender-bender song and dance in Paris nightclubs where the entertainers were all boys-as-girls.
I wondered how convincingly female or how stark and obviously male she'd be in person. That became as pointless as a critique about whether she is or isn't a good singer. She was a great personality and the hour went by very quickly. I suppose that given yesterday's (November 28th) news about the suicide of Mike Penner (the sports columnist in L.A. who tried to become "Christine Daniels") it's worth mentioning that Amanda has survived and flourished with her aura of mystery and gender "confusion," while others, only confused, have perished.
What was important, and is important, is the art itself, and if the entertainer entertains. Amanda always has (although I avoid all the hardcore disco numbers, which do delight fans of that genre).
Bryan Ferry was quite amusing with his cover versions, whether it was his tremblingly zomboid "Times They are a Changing" or the deliberately effeminate "It's My Party." Amanda gets an easy laugh with "The Love Boat Theme," and gives a predictably punk-disco knee in the groin to "Wild Thing." She's more than campy on "These Boots Are Made for Walking." But she does a credible, if dark take on "The Look of Love," a strangely good "You Were Always On My Mind" (Willie Nelson's hit), and goes "straight" on the Charles Aznavour and Roy Clark (and dozens more) ballad "Yesterday When I was Young," free of the drag queen melodrama one might expect. Draw your own conclusions on "Fever" or the M*A*S*H theme song "Suicide is Painless."
Amanda's been at it 30 years now, and her brand new CD even covers Amy Winehouse. Yes, a line like "kept his dick wet" (from "Back to Black") suits Amanda very, very well. Have "serious" rock critics reviewed it as they would Bowie or Ferry? Of course not. The new one is well produced, with plenty of excellent tracks that don't rely on disco beats. She's survived for so long by doing what Bowie, Reed and Ferry have done...relying on a strong personality and varying the material just enough to avoid committing the worst sin of all...being boring.
11 AMANDA LEAR COVER VERSIONS OF HIT SONGS
As requested, here's a second helping of Soupy...this time, both sides of an obscure single that wasn't on any of his ABC-Paramount or Reprise albums. A bit on the kiddie side, but fun for all ages, below you'll find download links for "Use Your Noggin" and "The Backwards Alphabet."
Soupy's last album, "Still Soupy After All These Years" (1981) is the one that captures his stand-up act. Yes, he tosses in some lines from his old show ("You show me a sculptor who works in the basement and I'll show you a low-down chiseler") but there's some material he certainly couldn't have told the kiddies in the 60's, silly though it might be.
Like the one about the woman who goes to see a druggist. She wants some hair remover to put on some ingrown hairs on her poor doggy:
"The druggest says, "If you're using it under your arms, take my advice, don't use any deodorant for two days. It could irritate your arms." She says, "it's not for my arms." So he says, "if you're gonna use it on your legs, don't wear stockings for three days, it could irritate your legs." And she says, "I want to put it on my Schnauzer." And the druggist says, "in that case, don't ride a bicycle for a week!"
USE YOUR NOGGIN
THE BACKWARDS ALPHABET
Download the above Soupy songs or listen to them on line. No captcha codes, porn ads, pop-ups or wait time.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
There were two big "Teen Tragedy" car wreck songs in 1960. First, "Teen Angel," hitting #1 in January. Second, "Tell Laura I Love Her," which reached #7 in June.
"Teen Angel" sung by Mark Dinning is an ode to his high school sweetie. Their car stalls on a railroad track, he pulls her to safety, but she runs back and gets crushed to angel dust. Turns out she'd gone to retrieve the ring he gave her, which must've been dropped amid the Kleenexes and Trojans in the back seat.
"Tell Laura I Love Her," wailed by Ray Peterson, tells of his pal Tommy, who was too young to enter a stock car race, but did it anyway to earn enough prize money to wed his beloved Laura. Crushed and burned when his car speeds out of control, he painfully screams his last words: "TELL LAURA I LOVE HER...Tell Laura not to cry. My love for her will never die."
Huge hits, both. Melodramatic, sentimental and ridiculous, both. But...
Only one of them has spawned dozens of cover versions.
The likely reason is that "Tell Laura I Love Her" gives a singer a chance to emote; starting out as the observer, ending up voicing the anguish of the main character. "Teen Angel" is just a traditional (written by Dinning's big-band singer sister) love ballad, wimpy and sweet even though the theme is morbid.
Dinning shows little emotion in "Teen Angel," but Peterson is anguished, histrionic and adenoidal. In fact, he was apparently too emotional for England, where the "tasteful" and gentle Ricky Valance version went #1 on September 29th, 1960. Jeff Barry, co-author of the tune, is not so sure that the choice of Valance was anything but record label "politics."
The morbid the merrier: in order to stay within Rapidshare's comfy and speedy 100MB, you get 17 covers (as well as Ray's original). Among them: Dickey Lee, John Leyton, Jody Wayne, Ken Levy, Albert West, J. Frank Wilson, Johnny Tillotson and The Rocking Boys. You get foreign language takes by Rex Gildo, Richard Anthony, Italy's Michele and Chile's Ray Palaviccino. There are even some fairly recent versions such as a campy-gay cover from Nessie And Her Beard and a foreign language parody version from Rhodes Rockers, chosen over the more common Billy Connolly live parody version (which you can see for yourself on You Tube).
Back when singles were so much more popular than albums, and radio play was vital, it was also fairly common for "answer songs" to try and cash in on a hit. Yes, you get the two "answer song" versions: "Tell Tommy I Miss Him" from singer/impressionist Marilyn Michaels and one with lyric variations by country crossover queen Skeeter Davis.
Jeff Barry wrote many great hits with the late Ellie Greenwich. This isn't one of them. Before he married her in 1962, Jeff worked with Ben Raleigh. Together they wrote "Lonely Lips," which 20 year-old Jeff recorded himself on RCA.
It was RCA label-mate Ray Peterson (April 23, 1939 – January 25, 2005) who got to sing "Tell Laura I Love Her." Peterson had one last hit ("Corrina Corrina") in 1960, though he continued to sing and make nightclub appearances for decades. Even at the turn of the century, he was not averse to taking part in an oldies show once in a while and singing his teen hit. He was also a Baptist minister in Tennessee.
The cover versions down below are many, and amusing, but even with all the competition, that song still belongs to Ray Peterson. Doesn't it?
TELL LAURA, TELL TOMMY 20 Tunes in your zip file.
Update- As with many files on this blog, Rapidshare deleted it for not having enough downloads within a specific time limit. OK, this blog doesn't throw around Rihanna and Adele stuff, but jeez! Have some respect for minorities! Old and odd "Tell Laura" versions re-upped via another company:
TELL LAURA I LOVE HER, TELL TOMMY I MISS HIM Once again available for download.
Edward Woodward starred in the TV hits "Callan" and "The Equalizer," and was an Emmy-winner for 1990's "Remembering World War II." Though mostly a television actor, he also was memorable in the films "Breaker Morant" and "The Wicker Man," the latter including a vivid bit of defiant and robust singing.
Woodward actually gained some initial fame as a singer. Among his first important credits were roles in the Broadway musical "Blithe Spirits" and back in the U.K., a musical version of "A Tale of Two Cities." He sang regularly in clubs well before "Callan" gave him TV stardom. With a strong, traditional vocal style, he was no stranger to the recording studio, putting out strangely compelling work. His albums include "Love is the Key" "An Evening with Edward Woodward,""Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "The Jewel That was Ours" "It Had to be You," "Thought of You," "Woodward Again" and "This Man Alone." He didn't avoid contemporary songs, feeling that his unique, older sensibilities could bring out the best in the lyrics.
One obvious choice for this tribute, which comes 3 days after his passing on November 16th, is "Sound of Silence." As an actor concerned with his lines, he decides to change the emphasis in one of the sentences. While Paul Simon was more concerned with the rhythm and rhyme of the song, and sang "and echoes in the wells of silence," Woodward alters the cadence: "And echoed in the wells of silence."
But let's add another song: "The Tide Will Turn for Rebecca," which Woodward chose to record even though its author, Elton John, did not. At the time Woodward immortalized it on vinyl, only a few fans owned a bootleg of Elton's demo version. Both tracks come from "This Man Alone," which also featured his versions of "Eleanor Rigby," "A Taste of Honey" and "Scarborough Fair," as well as the catchy "Today I Killed A Man I Didn't Know."
It might be argued that numbers such as "Sounds of Silence" and "The Tide Will Turn for Rebecca" flourish best when done by an actor who sings, rather than a singer who doesn't act. Both tunes are, in their way, more colorful than the Paul Simon and Elton John versions. It takes an actor to try and make sense of these Taupin lyrics:
"Can you hear the floorboards crying in a room on the second floor, that used to be owned by someone who's no one, but he don't live there anymore
"Only Rebecca clasping her head on her knees, trying to work out what is about
And why someone had to leave.
"But dry up your tears, stop counting the years. Don't worry what's coming. Forget all your fears. And the tide will turn for Rebecca. Her life will change, her hopes rearrange into something that might really matter
"She's all alone in a world of her own with a key that fits her lonely world. You won't need a crowd to shout out aloud what she says deserves to be heard."
Here's to the long career of Edward Woodward (and don't call him "Ed Wood" for short).
EDWARD WOODWARD: SOUND OF SILENCE/TIDE WILL TURN FOR REBECCA
Blonde Irish singer Beverly O'Sullivan was killed in Bharatpur, India on November 2nd, the passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, Steve Reeves.
They were on vacation at the time, the reward for Beverly finishing a film role that included six songs on the soundtrack.
She was beginning a promising solo career, after being a member of "Fifth Avenue," an Irish pop band.
Back in September of 2004, they were hoping to make money off tweens via generic pop music and band members who looked cute. Beverly was the Barbie Doll blonde, there was also a brunette, plus three pretty-boys with varying amounts of short, gel-gopped hair and pubescent stubble.
Their try for a hit single was the ethnic "Spanish Eyes," showing the way too obvious influences of Shakira, Michael Jackson, and sound-alike boy bands. Beverly's solo turn comes about 2 minutes into the tune. You get both the U.K. version and the thumpier dance version. Each had its own music video.
The dance version (www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6FvkLxRmcM) has the band doing basic, club-footed aerobic moves and posturing. Two minutes in, coinciding with her solo turn, Beverly does the orgasmic-moan bit, there's a gratuitous cleavage shot and then a moment for her to press her hand near her crotch, as a sign of lust or cramps. Mostly all five stand around doing the traditional Irish dance known as "dead from the waist up."
Beverly O'Sullivan was capable of more than Riverdance in a Colombian Brothel, or spoiling her smooth vocals with Britney moans, but she spent several years with "Fifth Avenue." She also guested on a piece of generic trance: "Don't Look Back," a noisy number from John O'Callaghan's album "Never Fade." Beverly's vocalise is buried in the mix and disappears quickly in favor of the usual thumps and electronic noises.
It'll be your headache. Beverly's years of pop and trance caused even worse headaches for the lady herself. Aside from being on stage with a loud tween-aimed band, airplane travel aggravated her hearing problems and she suffered an extra 10% loss of hearing while touring with "Fifth Avenue."
"I haven't heard of any other popstars with a hearing aid," O'Sullivan told The Guardian, but the reporter pointed out Pete Townshend, completely deaf in one ear and suffering tinnitus, and Fatboy Slim, Ozzy Osbourne and Phil Collins, all suffering hearing loss. Only Beverly was born with the problem.
Beverly, who routinely took painkillers, and had to be careful while washing her hair to avoid any water getting into her ears, admitted to having a 45% hearing loss in one ear, and 30% in the other. Technically, "unilateral conductive hearing loss" was the problem, which her £2,500, hearing aid somewhat remedied.
At three, she had "glue ear," (wax build-up) and ended up with a perforated eardrum, the hole getting larger over the years. The delicate bones in her middle ear began to give way as well. She recalled, "I had really bad earaches. I was only about three or four and I was screaming my head off...I was always in pain as a child...I can't hear great now either. Things are a bit mumbly."
Able to manage a conversation one-to-one in a quiet room, if her "good ear" was facing the speaker, O'Sullivan joined the band without giving away her secret. It was only after about six months that she had to explain why she needed the monitors to be turned up loud during rehearsals, or why she was sometimes in distress after a long night of music.
O'Sullivan was eager to move on to solo work, singing music more in line with her real interests. With her good looks, she landed a role as a cabaret singer in the film "Happy Ever Afters," singing a half dozen songs on the soundtrack. The film will be released Christmas Day, 2009.
DON'T LOOK BACK trance No pop ups, captchas, pop unders or wait time.
SPANISH EYES, DANCE VERSION
SPANISH EYES, U.K. VERSION
Monday, November 09, 2009
The most successful cover version for a song co-authored by Judy Henske is probably "Yellow Beach Umbrella," from Bette Midler. If not, then "Sauvez-Moi" by the internationally beloved Johnny Hallyday.
Judy's lyrics have been re-written into French. The anthemic music remains the same. The song was originally sung by Henske's group "Rosebud," with Judy sharing the vocals with Jerry Yester and Craig Doerge. Monsieur Johnny does a good job by himself though some might be prone to side with Spike Milligan who said that "French singers are the bane of my existence!" Sapristi! The French, from Piaf to Aznavour and back, do have a habit of tattooing a tune with an indelible style of over-emoting, and Hallyday takes it to a rockin' new level of excitement.
Rather than do the same thing as he ages (and be called an Old Bean) Rowan Atkinson has taken on new challenges, including singing in a big London musical. Critics have been cheering his version of Fagin for, among other things, bringing out the pedophiliac angle of the old man's lack of character, which probably was something the very gay Lionel Bart chuckled about when he first concocted OLIVER.
Critics are also glad that throughout the show Rowan unloads every spare eye-pop and grimace that he might have been saving for a fresh Blackadder special. Considering that the show has the gimmick of a female lead chosen via TV reality show, OLIVER would have failed miserably without Atkinson's star presence.
Perhaps in a year or two, this new production will be made into a cable TV special or even a feature-length movie. It would be a welcome subsitute for the weak movie version that offered the bland duo of Shani Wallis as Nancy and Marc Lester as Oliver, along with the somewhat anti-Semitic job done by Ron Moody as Fagin. In the meantime, if you're curious about Rowan's singing abilities, here's one of the comic highlights from the musical, as nutsy Fagin finds himself "Reviewing the Situation."
ROWAN ATKINSON as FAGIN
A beloved singer who once had a million-selling album ("I Can Never Understand Your Love" in 1993), Chen Lin died after a fall from the ninth floor of an apartment in Beijing. It was the home of a friend. She had a bandage on her neck (caused, friends said, by a recent failed suicide attempt), and the corpse was wearing a mask, which might be ceremonial.
I doubt that Halloween is celebrated in China. Her masked pavement surfing on October 31st probably had nothing to do with pumpkins and black cats, and everything to do with that date being her ex-husband's birthday. He's not likely to celebrate his birthday quite so cheerfully for many years to come, which was no doubt her intent.
He's Zhu Shu Entertainment's powerful CEO Shen Yongge. They were married twelve years and it was for his record label that Chen Lin scored her biggest hits. She was newly married (in July to singer Zhang Chaofeng), but that was also the last time she posted anything on her blog. She put out a new EP in August, but the next few months were apparently full of disappointment and woe.
The death of Chen Lin (January 31, 1970-October 31, 2009) is the third major suicide of an Asian superstar in only a few years. This blog previously reported on the beautiful, irreplaceable actress-singer Eun-ju Lee, and the pop idol U-Nee. Those with long memories can add Jun Zi and Xie Jin, whose names, together when Chen Lin, Eun-ju Lee and U-Nee would form quite a grim eye-chart.
Chen Lin tried to do some good with her fame, as long as it lasted. In 2000, she used her popularity to become the "Green Ambassador" for the China Environmental Protection Foundation. Sadly, her new EP apparently didn't bring her much buzz, and her equally new marriage didn't fulfill her expectations. She wasn't about to cover Graham Parker's tune "Life Gets Better."
Chen Lin, like Jack Benny, will always be 39.
"Yu-Ye" is as timeless as a pop ballad can be, unmarred by the synths or dance beats or other production quirks that tend to render a song out of date. The other sample, another good one for Chen, is "Confiscate Your Love." Instant downloads or listen on line. No creepy captcha codes, no prurient porno ads, no time-waits from download "services" that want you to pay them for music they don't pay the artists to distribute.
YU-YE by CHEN LIN
CONFISCATE YOUR LOVE by CHEN LIN
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Here's your Halloween horror...a talented 19 year-old singer who released her first CD less than six months ago has died after being mauled by two coyotes.
Taylor Mitchell was hiking in Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Highlands National Park when she was set upon by the wild animals. Park rangers rushed to the scene, fired some shots, and wounded one of the coyotes. The animals raced away. So far nobody knows if the coyotes were rabid.
Fatally mauled, Taylor died the following day, October 28, after being airlifted to a hospital in Halifax. In a remarkable statement to reporters, Taylor's mom, Emily Mitchell, voiced concern for the hunt that brought down several coyotes in the area.
"When the decision had been made to kill the pack of coyotes, I clearly heard Taylor's voice say, 'Please don't, this is their space." She wouldn't have wanted their demise, especially as a result of her own." This was reportedly only the second fatal incident involving coyotes and humans. The first was back in 1981 when a 3 year-old girl, Kelly Keen, was killed near her home in Glendale, California.
Emily Mitchell added, "She loved the woods and had a deep affinity for their beauty and serenity. Tragically, it was her time to be taken from us so soon."
Too soon? The timing was rotten. She had just been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award as "Young Performer of the Year," and she won praise at July's Winnipeg Folk Festival for her performance, and her debut CD, "For Your Consideration." Some felt she showed the same promise as another Canadian artist, Joni ("No Regrets Coyote") Mitchell, who was not related to young Taylor.
For your consideration, listen to two of her remarkably mature, and instantly haunting songs, "Clarity" and "Don't Know How I Got Here." You'll find more about Taylor, and the Taylor Mitchell Memorial Fund, at her website: http://www.taylormitchell.ca.
DON'T KNOW HOW I GOT HERE by TAYLOR MITCHELL
CLARITY by TAYLOR MITCHELL
I was glad to see so many write-ups on Soupy Sales...newspapers, blogs, even International coverage. Maybe he's looking down from that big pie in the sky, thinking, "Wow, I really did make a lot of people happy." Because that's all he wanted to do.
Unlike some of the celebs profiled here, Soupy was not underappreciated, though he may have been underused. In his prime, he had a hit single ("The Mouse,") appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles, hosted "Hullabaloo," issued six albums and was such a fad favorite there were Soupy trading cards, flicker rings, Halloween masks and magazines. He was offered the lead for "Gilligan's Island," but turned it down, holding out for (and getting) what he thought was better: a lead in a movie ("Birds Do It") followed by Broadway ("Come Live With Me').
While the fad for his pie-in-the-face hipster/kiddie comedy faded in the late 60's, he really didn't, because he was beloved. He became a panelist on "What's My Line" in 1967 and was a regular on game shows for decades. Fans went to see him in stand-up, they bought his joke book, and they listened to him on local radio stations. Long after the days when he hung around with puppet-hands Pookie, Black Tooth and White Fang, he was recording songs for Motown and a stand-up comedy album for MCA.
He never lost that soft North Carolina accent, with which he drawled a cheery "Hey...how are ya," to fans recognizing him on the street. He and his family had an apartment in the East 30's, in New York City, and he was known around the neighborhood for being friendly and kind-hearted.
Sure, he had a cranky side, but he generally kept it private...he was painfully irked by all the "legendary" anecdotes about him that were not true. NO, he didn't go on camera and tell kiddies a baseball joke about a fan who kissed his girl between the strikes while she kissed him between the balls. So many other dumb jokes attributed to him never happened.
He was also not pleased that he couldn't live down the one gag that was real; the time he jokingly told kids to send him some of their parents' "green pieces of paper." The important word: JOKINGLY. People remember it and tell it as if he really wanted money. The truth: "I never did it to get any money, it was just a joke. The punch line was "If you send me those pieces of paper, you know what I'm gonna send you? A postcard from Puerto Rico!"
And NO, he didn't get fired for having a naked girl jiggle on camera. She was off screen and the existing tape of the practical joke was taken by a camera that wasn't broadcasting. The joke wasn't done by Soupy, it was done TO Soupy. The girl was well out of camera range, standing in the same area usually reserved for Frank Nastase (the guy who wore the White Fang claw and arm, the only part of the monster dog that was ever shown).
NO, he wasn't called "Soupy" because his real name was "Hines" same as a soup company, it was a play on his real last name, Supman. So yes, this type of stuff, plus any demeaning comments about him being just a kiddie host involved in low humor, tended to knit Soupy's brow.
What un-knit that brow was turning up at memorabilia shows and seeing how many thousands of fans remembered him so fondly. He was always busy signing pictures and kidding with the fans, but around 2006, we all became more and more worried about the glassy look in his eye, and the literal jaw-drop, and his wandering attention span. It was sadly just a matter of time before he no longer attended the shows, or turned up at the Friar's Club.
The obits and comments out there are vivid and plentiful because those who bought his records, saw him on TV , heard his radio shows, and met him in person, take this loss personally, because he was everyone's friend. He sure was one of mine.
A little bit of Soupy silliness for you..."Soupy Sez," with the puppets of course, and Neil Hefti's theme song for the TV show. No waiting, no ads for porn or whiter teeth, and no captcha words to type in. Just download or listen on line:
"Don't cross the street in the middle in the middle in the middle in the middle in the middle of the block. Use your eyes to look up! Use your ears to hear! Walk up to the corner when the coast is clear...
...and wait. And wait. Until you see the light turn green!"
Vic's PSA TV commercial to teach kids not to jaywalk was his most familiar melody...until he wrote "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres" themes. He loved that jaywalking song so much he even used it (sans lyrics) as background in various episodes of "The Addams Family."
You were expecting a normal obit? On this blog?
Here's another odd fact about Vic. His first popular songs (not so popular anymore) were co-written by the legendary Irving Taylor, who, late in life, created some oddball musical comedy albums for Warner Bros. Those tunes include "There's a Faraway Look in Your Eye," "Three Little Sisters," (covered by the Andrews Sisters, natch) and "Take It Easy." Vic's best known songs as far as your grandma would be concerned, were "My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time," sung by Doris Day and "The Jones Boy" from The Mills Brothers.
Vic, an N.Y.U. grad from Brooklyn, sauced cauliflower ears via a variety of odd tunes that crackled across the radio airwaves or sputtered on juke boxes, but it wasn't until TV was in full swing that he finally found his calling: theme songs.
"Green Acres" is his best known expositional song...where the lyrics are supposed to tell the audience what the show is about. Below, you'll find three more of 'em, each trying to explain a bad sitcom premise: "The Pruitts of Southampton" (Phyllis Diller singing), "Double Life of Henry Phyfe" ("Who Me" cries the show's star Red Buttons) and "Captain Nice," the super hero spoof that battled "Mr. Terrific" for a year.
Mizzy's first major movie soundtrack was for "The Night Walker," which was, as you'd expect from a William Castle film, half horror and half horror parody. (More on that one below). Vic also scored Castle's "The Busy Body," and a fist full of Don Knotts movies, notably "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." Even in his 80's he was in demand, sought out to supply some music for "Spiderman 2."
Le Miz had a home in high class Bel Air, thanks in part to royalties from his finger-snapping "Addams Family" theme song. Maybe a few dollars came in when They Might Be Giants decided to cover "In the Middle," his jaywalking PSA commercial. He died on October 17th, age 93, leaving behind a daughter, and a website where a self-pressed CD of songs "For the Jogging Crowd" was sold. It's momentarily high-priced on eBay and Amazon, but a cheap download at eMusic.com.
VIC's PHYLLIS DILLER, RED BUTTONS and CAPTAIN NICE themes Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, screen captchas or wait time.
Don't cross the street "IN THE MIDDLE" Instant Download or Listen On Line
This post comes with a warning.
If you listen more than once to the cutie-pie tune "Choo'n Gum," you will loathe it with a passion...and find that you also can't get it out of your head, any more than you can easily get the junk itself off the sole of your shoe.
The only thing surprising about "Choo'n Gum," an impossibly catchy song you love to hate, is that it was not covered by Danny Kaye, Prince of the Irritating Ditty. Danny was the guy who made you wonder if "puckish" should be spelled with an f. Perhaps the only reason he missed "Choo'n Gum" is that he swallowed it while singing "Mommy Gimme A Drinka Water."
Though it wasn't OK for Danny, it was a kayo hit for the terminally perky Teresa Brewer. It was also covered by that satirist of crooning, the lovably insincere Dean Martin.
No doubt when Dino was handed this piece of gooey fazool he thought of it in terms of dollars, rather than sense. He knew if "Doggie in the Window," "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" and the pedophiliac-sick "Come Onna My House (I'm Gonna Give You Candy)" could be hits, why not this piece of... gum? Besides, if he'd let Jerry Lewis sing it, radio tubes may have exploded.
The Vic Mizzy-Manny Curtis bit of novelty-sadism from 1950 goes like so:
"My mom gave me a nickel to buy a pickle. I didn't buy a pickle, I bought some choo'n gum
Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo'n gum. How I love choo'n gum. I'm crazy over choo'n gum, I chew, chew, chew!
My aunt gave me a quarter for soda water. I didn't buy the water. I bought some choo'n gum. (chorus)
I chew the day away, it seems. I'm even blowin' bubbles in my dreams
My pop gave me a dollar to buy a collar. You should have heard him holler when I bought choo'n gum!
Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo'n gum. How I love choo'n gum..."
78 rpm cover versions include The Andrews Sisters, Don and Lou Robertson (on Coral, also in 45 rpm), Ella Fitzgerald, Lynn Howard and Toni Harper (later released on the album "Candy Store Blues"). The Yum Yum Kids with the MGM Marshmallow Orchestra did it in 1966 and in 1998, Maria Muldaur. If you consider one of the lines in the song, it could've been covered by Michael Jackson: "I'm even blowin' Bubbles in my dreams."
Which reminds me...don't remind me about George Rock, and "I'm Forever Blowing Bubble Gum." ICK!
Five versions was pushing the limit: Teresa Brewer with the Dixieland All Stars, Tippy Brown and the Peter Pan Orchestra, Audrey Marsh with the Ray Arthur Quartet, Toby Deane and Dean Martin.
Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original link. I've re-upped it:
Choon Gum Songs
and if you just want the Dean Martin version it's below...
DEAN MARTIN gets GUMMY
One of Vic Mizzy's best movie scores was for "The Night Walker," a nightmare movie directed by William Castle and featuring the last film role for screamin' Barbara Stanwyck. In your download below, you get Vic's theme music in two very different ways.
First, there's the actual soundtrack prologue...Mizzy's classic musical ook (half "Experiment in Terror" half "Addams Family") with Paul Frees offering some scary taunts about dreams and paranoia.
This is Frees in his dramatic "Orson Welles" mode, which he perfected way back when he was the host of radio's "Escape." Paul was a bit irked that Welles got so much attention when they both had almost the same burly vocal skills. When Orson would sometimes invade Paul's territory by doing a voiceover for a coming attraction, Paul would even mock him in the movie theater, asking out loud why the great actor was trying to pick up a few extra bucks doing a commercial.
Frees is known to the Halloween crowd for his "Spike Jones Spooktacular" album (doing Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Alfred Hitchcock among others), his own bizarre "Poster People" disc, and for his "Haunted Mansion" narrations (including the well-loved line "Welcome Foolish Mortals..."). He was Ludwig von Drake (among others) for Disney, and his amazingly versatile voice allowed him to be gruff Boris Badenov on the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" and the smooth, high-pitched Pillsbury Doughboy in dozens of TV commercials.
Mizzy's "Night Walker" theme was, very oddly enough, recorded by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra. It appeared on his very eclectic Decca album "Dancetime," which included "Eight Days a Week," "Red Roses for a Blue Lady" and another un-danceable movie theme, "Goldfinger."
You get both versions below....
SAMMY KAYE instant download or listen on line
NIGHT WALKER PAUL FREES narration
Among Demento-heads, Lou Jacobi was best known as "Al Tijuana," for a late 60's Capitol parody album that kosherized music in Herb Alpert's style.
I'll tell you an anecdote about Lou Jacobi. I was on a crosstown bus, and as I looked out the window, I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie. There in front of me, in cinemascope via the long bus windows, was Lou Jacobi, slowly puffing to catch the bus. I looked up ahead. The last passenger waiting was paying the fare. The bus driver began to pull away just as Lou made it to the bus stop.
I watched him as the bus pulled away, leaving him behind.
He had a smile on his face.
That tells you something about Mr. Jacobi...how genuine his attitude was about the comedy of life. Somebody else would've been cursing, shaking his head, feeling enraged. But in Mr. Jacobi's gentle world, no doubt influenced by Sholom Aleichem and centuries of ironic Jewish humor, he simply smiled. What do you expect? Of course when you run for a bus, it pulls out the minute you get to the door!
Toronto-born Louis Jacobovitch started as a stand-up comedian but found more success as a character actor, first in England (his film debut was in the Diana Dors comedy "Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary") then on Broadway in 1955 for "The Diary of Anne Frank." He appeared in the film version, too, and his movie credits include "My Favorite Year," "Irma La Douce," "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex," and "Avalon." His last film was "I.Q." in 1994.
Mr. Jacobi even had a chance at sitcom stardom, via the obscure and short-lived "Ivan the Terrible" in 1976.
He had hits on vinyl, being the lead in the ensemble cast albums "You Don't Have to be Jewish" and "When You're In Love the Whole World is Jewish." Then he "starred" on his own album, "Al Tijuana and his Jewish Brass," giving introductions to klezmer-spiked versions of hit tunes of the day...an odd attempt to win over some Jewish listeners of Herb Alpert records (Yes, Alpert himself was also Jewish). The key selling point was that warmly familiar and comical Lou Jacobi face and body on the cover.
The album, which WFMU uploaded in nice stereo years ago, isn't exactly a laugh riot, just gently tilted. "Buenos noches, amigos and amigettes," Lou announces on the opening track, "this is Al Tijuana with the sweetest music this side of the Rio Grande." Indeed, opening cut "It's Not Unusual" is played pretty straight...except for a bit of kazoo and overenthusiastic marimba. "That's NOT the sweetest music this side of the Rio Grande?" Lou asks midway through. He answers his own question: "It's the sweetest music on either side of the Rio Grande!"
The disc was aimed at middle-aged Hadassah listeners who might smirk at hearing a Tevye-like "bum bum didel-ee-yum dum" chorus replacing Henry Mancini's prowling bass line on "Peter Gunn," or "Downtown" with a fiddler on the roof interjecting a solo. Lou: "You like it! You keep asking for it. You're getting it!" And yes, at one point you hear, "Ole, ole. Oy vey, oy vey!" Like Lou himself, the album wasn't too pushy. It was more of an easy-listening novelty album than anything to rival Allan Sherman.
The humor was simply in the familiar characterization of a Jewish uncle getting silly (and crooning "Doobie doobie do" ala Sinatra during "Stranger in the Night."). The instrumentals that jonesed the originals weren't Spiked with wild sound effects. There were no punchy gags. Al introduces "Never on Sunday" as actually being "Never on Saturday." One song merely ends: "That's it, amigos and amigettes, from Al Tijuana and his Jewish Brass...until next time, Hasta Luego. Or, how you say...goodbye, Bubbie." Adios, Mr. Jacobi, and thanks for the autographed photo.
Mr. Jacobi's wife Ruth died in 2004 (they were married in 1957) and he passed away on October 23rd.
AL TIJUANA and his JEWISH BRASS
Monday, October 19, 2009
Dylan once sang a wistful tune, "Lay Lady Lay."
He was singing softly to someone demure...he may not have been able to handle a hurricane like Jenny Darren!
A British blues belter who may have been more than even fans of Janis Joplin or Elkie Brooks could handle, Darren made a few albums with some tracks that could shred your ears as they purge your libido.
The evidence still exists on her late 70's vinyl. These days Jenny's grooming some mean singers via her work as a teacher and lecturer. After work at Croydon College in the early 90's, she went on to the Colchester Institute. She returned to the studio in 1997 to record Helen Mirren's singing voice for the soundtrack to the British TV drama "Painted Lady." You can buy that one at JennyDarren.com, but you may need to drop by your local starving record dealer or peruse eBay to find her two early albums on DJM.
Jenny still performs from time to time, and has a home studio and teaches students the finer points of jazz, but no doubt if a ballsy babe wants to learn how to sing like a Sam Brown, Elkie Brooks or Jenny Darren herself...she'd be happy to put a tune like "Lay Me Like a Lady" on the turntable and take it from there.
She's a powerful singer, a great talent, a super teacher...now download a song that can both arouse and frighten you at the same time. It's Jenny Darren wailin' LAY ME LIKE A LADY! To paraphrase Tina Turner's intro to "Proud Mary," Jenny starts out nice, and then she gets hot...and nasty!
JENNY DARREN, LAY ME LIKE A LADY
Well, no, the news of Rusty Wier's death (May 3, 1944 - October 9, 2009) doesn't make you wanna dance, but in any of the obits on him, it was a key line. This was Rusty's most famous song. It had the Raitt stuff...appearing on "Urban Cowboy" in Bonnie's version, which went Double Platinum. Barbara Mandrell covered it, as did Jerry Jeff Walker. One of the more elegant versions, (below) was done by the late Canadian C&W artist Colleen Peterson (who is featured elsewhere on this blog). It was naturally a staple of Rusty's act, and you also get his live 1992 version.
On Rusty's website, the tributes have poured in. Rusty had cancer in his last years, but Joe Ables, of the Saxon Pub (where Rusty played most Thursday nights for 14 years) recalled, "I’ve seen him sicker ’n a dog, but hit the stage, and you’d never know it. A true professional....I use Rusty as an example to these younger acts, who get a little sniffle and then want to cancel."
“Just make ’em smile," Rusty used to say. "It’s what I’m there for. They’re not there to hear all my problems. And I do my best to make ’em laugh.” He began his career as a drummer, but in his native Texas, he switched from rock groups to work as a country singer and songwriter, eventually touring with the Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker bands, The Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Pure Prairie League, The Allman Brothers, Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel, Doug Kershaw, and George Strait.
He released over a dozen albums, and on his website, he ran a RUSTYPOD for some free audio fun. His last CD was "I Stood Up," and in his last years, he co-wrote some songs with his talented sons Bon and Coby. Check out more about Rusty at his dot com.
Don't It Make You Wanna Dance: COLLEEN PETERSON
Don't It Make You Wanna Dance: RUSTY WIER, live recording
An opera singer at Glyndebourne and the Scottish Opera, the late Ian Wallace was best known to British audiences for his amazing 27 year run on radio quiz programme "My Music." He never missed an episode.
For comedy fans, he will remain fondly remembered for his 1956 and 1957 comedy ep's for Parlophone, which popularized the songs of Flanders and Swann (and featured Donald Swann on piano). His 1956 "Wallace's Private Zoo" predates "The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann," and features the Rhinocerous, Warthog, Elephant, and that classic, The Hippopotamus Song (Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud).
The 1956 "Wallace Collection of Human Portraits" included another favorite Flanders and Swann item, "Transport of Delight," (in the download below).
When Flanders and Swann first staged an "after-dinner farrago," Michael Flanders said it was because various artists, such as Ian Wallace, had played their compositions, "but not nearly enough!" With lyricist Flanders not only being an able singer of his own songs, but a delightful monologist and narrator, Flanders and Swann became international stars and appeared on Broadway twice before going their separate ways.
Ian Wallace, though unknown in America and not an international name either, remained a U.K. legend, and as you'd expect, was recognized by his government with an O.B.E. For more on Ian Wallace ((July 10, 1919 – October 12, 2009) you can go to the man himself, and his books: "Promise Me You'll Sing Mud" and "Nothing Quite Like It."
TRANSPORT OF DELIGHT, by Flanders & Swann, sung by Ian Wallace Instant download or listen on line.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Here's "High Water," as recorded live on tour by Bob this summer. Some of the growling lyrics:
"I got a cravin' love for blazing speed
Got a hopped up Mustang Ford
Jump into the wagon, love, throw your panties overboard
I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I'm no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind..."
The always contradictory and fascinating Bob once performed "Love Sick" on a TV commercial to sell Victoria's Secret panties.
In this song, he's saying "throw your panties overboard." Maybe so that she'll have to go to Victoria's Secret the next day to buy more! Who knows what his deal with VS could be.
And why, come to think of it, did he chose "Love Sick" (ie, "I'm sick of love") as the tune to use for a turn-on commercial?
Oh, you can spend endless hours trying to figure out Dylan, if you're willin'.
Like, why boast to a woman that you can write poems that make a strong man lose his mind?
Like, doesn't "overboard" generally involve being on a boat, not a Ford Mustang? Or is he saying the water's so friggin' high, his car has become a boat? If you really are expectin' answers, then you're also expectin' rain.
soundboard 2009 HIGH WATER Bob Dylan
Posted by Ill Folks at 7:49 AM