Saturday, August 29, 2009
Most real fans of classic rock know the name Ellie Greenwich.
In the pre-Mp3 era, when people had an attention span, and would actually hold a 45 rpm and look at it, and read the label, the ubiquitous credit Greenwich-Barry would often appear...
...on "Leader of the Pack", "Be My Baby," and "River Deep, Mountain High" and dozens more.
If the song you loved in the 60's wasn't credited to Greenwich-Barry, it was probably one of the other husband-wife teams: Mann-Weill or Goffin-King, but the ones from Greenwich-Barry tended to have a little more edge and urgency. Even their more light-hearted numbers, like "Da Doo Ron Ron," had a streetwise cool to them.
The half-Jewish Brooklyn girl called herself "Ellie Gaye" when she issued her first single for RCA in 1958, while still a student at Queens College. "Silly Isn't It" wasn't a hit, but she soon had a few with a songwriting partner. And that guy was...Tony Powers.
With Powers, Ellie wrote "He's Got The Power" for The Exciters," "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" for Darlene Love, and "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts?" (Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans). Phil Spector got songwriting co-credits on the last two, while Leiber & Stoller, fans of Ellie, published her early work.
She learned a lot about the mechanics of hit-making, and in 1962 after marrying Jeff Adelberg (aka Jeff Barry) the new songwriting team gave "Hanky Panky" to Tommy James, and "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" to Manfred Mann. Ellie and Jeff divorced in 1966, but not before they had many, many more hits on the charts.
Ellie tried for a solo career in 1968 ("Composes, Produces, Sings" lp) which few people knew about at the time...except in Japan, where "Niki Hoekey" (which she didn't write) was a #1 hit. In 1973 Ellie recorded a new solo album, which included many of her early classics updated for a more contemporary sound, such as "Maybe I Know," originally a Top Ten for Lesley Gore. Ellie would partner with a variety of songwriters, and while the hits were fewer, she still had 'em, including "Sunshine After The Rain" in 1977 for Elkie Brooks and "Keep It Confidential," a 1983 blockbuster for Nona Hendryx.
As for Jeff Barry, he too had writing partners both before and after Ellie Greenwich. With Ben Raleigh, he'd written "Tell Laura I Love Her," and among the post-Ellie hits was "Sugar Sugar" co-written with Andy Kim.
In the early 90's, "Leader of the Pack," a musical based on Ellie's life, made it to Broadway. The Greenwich-Barry team was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1991. Ellie, at 68, was being treated for pneumonia in a New York City hospital when she suffered a fatal heart attack two days ago (August 27th).
Since you're at the Illfolks blog, where you don't expect or want a dumbass download of her hit songs as sung by The Shangri-La's, Dixie Cups, Lesley Gore and other easily available artists, here's 15 tracks...almost all sung by Ellie herself in the 60's and 70's, almost all written or co-written by her as well:
1. Silly Isn't It - as Ellie Gaye (1958)
2. You Don't Know (1965)
3. Nobody Thought (unreleased, Ellie with male back-up vocal)
4. If Ellie Doesn't Change (Unreleased, male group demo)
5. That's What They Said (Unreleased, male lead, demo)
6. Goodnight Goodnight (from her '68 solo album)
7. Niki Hoekey (by Vegas-Ford, a hit in Japan, '68 solo album)
8. Chapel of Love (1973 solo album)
9. A Long Time Comin' ('68 solo album)
10. Sunshine After the Rain ('68 solo album)
11. Maybe I Know (1973 solo album)
12. And Then He Kissed Me (1973 solo album)
13. Be My Baby (1973 solo album)
14. Today I Met The Boy... (1973 solo album)
15. River Deep Mountain High (1973 solo album)
Computer duo EBN (a variation of his last name Liben) and OZN (a chop on his last name Rosen) were briefly popular circa 1983 when they had hits with "AEIOU Sometimes Y," and "Bag Lady (I Wonder)." The rock video for “Bag Lady” featured comic legend Imogene Coca and a more traditional guitar-hero sound from the team. They broke up in 1985, and EBN died of a heart attack in 1998. OZN had some success with his own "One Voice Records" label.
Naturally Illfolks only remembers them from their delightfully dumb disco-electronic cover version of "Rockin' Robin," with the creepy vocoder electro-voice effect only Peter Frampton thinks is still cool (Alvino Rey's talking guitar from the 40's, is still cool.)
"Rockin' Robin" was a tune anybody could enjoy. When it first arrived in 1958 sung by Bobby Day (real last name, Byrd) it was silly enough for toddlers, catchy for teens, and even adults could dance to it (as they once did to equally idiotic Kay Kyser big band hits). There was no sharp divide as there is now, in terms of age or race. Everyone snapped their fingers to "Rockin' Robin," and over the years, anyone with that first name, from manic comic Robin Williams to boxer-contender Robin Blake used it for an entrance song.
The punky Ebn & Ozn team needed to slow down the analog tape recorder for the lead vocals in order to get a funky black-sounding deep voice, which only adds to the oddness of the double-track electronic-tricked chorus. The result? You can kick the bird, overcook the bird and sauce the bird in any kind of strange way...but it's still kinda tasty.
Yes, daughter of Mel Tillis, but on her first album, the gal was trying for punky country-crossover, an album that was a slightly sour version of Rachel Sweet. Punningly titled “Beyond the Doll Of Cutie,” it wasn’t what hayseeds wanted, and the new wavers were way too kewl to pay attention to her either. Too bad. Good album. After it went nowhere, Pam went mainstream country to save her career.
“You Just Wanna Be Weird” is a boppin’ smack in the head to immature geeks who have to call attention to themselves by being “far out.” In the real world, it’s loud clothing and jackass stunts...add booze or drugs and the idiot starts mugging and miming and laughing at his own brilliance, not knowing or caring that the laughs he’s getting are based on “what a jerk” not “what a wild and crazy guy.”
In the cyber world, well, we’ve all been in the forums where overposting schmucks call attention to themselves with bad pun names, inane avatars (that usually involve somebody cross-eyed, retarded or drawn by R. Crumb), a witless motto under every post, and a mountain of twitching animated gifs which they also use on whatever blog they desperately want people to visit. They favor “punk’d” headers that make you look at the post, only to see it’s a lame joke or a Photoshop job that’s been circulating among high schoolers for months. If they reply to anyone else’s post it’s to make a tasteless joke with a self-placed LOL at the end.
Pam Tillis has some pity for the fool she’s putting down. Most anyone else would gladly make him swallow his own fake rubber vomit and rubber dog doo, so that something far more realistic came out of both ends at the same time. In other words, leave comedy to the professionals, and leave “acting out” to the Gay Pride parade.
You Just Wanna Be Weird
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It's not strange that Twiggy once tried for a singing career. What's definitely odd is that the woman who would've looked pregnant if she swallowed a walnut, actually covered the obscure "Cooking School," the amiably hippie-dippy dopey tune authored by Severin Browne (whose brother, for a change, won't be named).
With mandolin in the wind, to help bolster her wispy voice, Twiggy gamely tries a country waltz tempo on this tale of two nude beach idiots who turn up the heat while taking culinary classes:
"I saw him the next day while streaking a hallway. We went to the same cooking school! He majored in crepes and in almonds, I studied desserts made with cheese. We spent some time making love with the wind in the trees. Oh, woah, oh, woah.
Soon we had classes together! Sweet pastries and basic Chinese. We learned to get fat. Well, it comes down to that; it's the art of refined gluttony!"
Unbelievable on every level. Twiggy streaking. Twiggy getting fat. Twiggy naked with Severin Browne??
Alas, the song is nostalgia, not reality: "Now he's cooking in Utah, not far from B.Y.U. He's got his wife, and I got my own life, but I'll never forget cooking school."
So you won't have to go hunting through the sick recesses of the illfolks blog for it, Browne's original version is nestled right under Twiggy's. His version makes a little more sense (it was generally moronic-looking guys who streaked), and ends with the same wistful musing on lost love: "She's got her own life, and she's somebody's wife, but I'll never forget cooking school."
If you like the tunes, some starving record dealer would be only to glad to sell you the whole albums, probably for less than the price of a helping of peas.
TWIGGY: COOKING SCHOOL
SEVERIN: COOKING SCHOOL
Van Dyke Parks used a fragment of "Jack Palance" on one of his eccentric albums, "Discover America," which made it seem that either he, or some insane studio musician, was impersonating a lunatic calypso singer. Actually, he was doing an early form of blogging, offering a tease to intrigue people into searching out an artist and buying his work. (He also, on the same album, threw in a plug for The Mills Brothers.)
The singer Van was trying to move: Trinidad's Mighty Sparrow (aka Slinger Francisco). You can learn all about him at his own mightysparrow dot com, where he has a load of CD's to sell to you, but gosh, no mp3 files to give away, just some "real audio" clips instead.
Since "Jack Palance" doesn't seem to be on any of the CDs, let it be a minor theft and serve as an introduction to the flights of fancy from Mr. Sparrow. The song is a cheerful rant that old whores should get off the street and let hotter sluts prevail. One 60 year-old broad in particular has Mighty shaking his head, 'cause she's SO ugly she looks like...
...But on the positive side, a whore who looks like Jack Palance and can still find someone willing to pay to do one-armed push ups on top of her, must be doing something right. Sparrow says, if the street is narrow, and her ugly old barrow is truly in the way..."move! Step aside and give your daughter a chance!"
MIGHTY SPARROW - JACK PALANCE
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Real fans of the pained and paranoid world of Del Shannon were delighted by Raven's 2 CD set, with annotated booklet, that not only contained the obvious, but unearthed some of the curious.
The most exciting finds were a pair of morbid unissued tracks: "Distant Ghost" and "Deadly Game," which were part of a "trilogy" that also included, "Alive But I'm Dead." Which had us Del-irious folk asking, "So, why was THAT track left off?"
The world of re-issues is a frustrating one. A missing track might have to do with rights issues, some compiler's judgment call, or just the time and money involved not only in licensing, but finding the masters.
Jeff Lynne wrote "Alive But I'm Dead," which Del recorded back in 1973, when nobody seemed to care one way or another.
Del Shannon, in his shortened lifetime, got very little recognition. His rather brooding looks were not like Fabian or Elvis, so even when he did have a hit, the fan mags weren't putting him on their covers. The songs that charted, did so in spite of the high level of hate and hurt on them..."Runaway" with its eerie keyboard solo, the bitter "Hats off to Larry," or the panicky "Stranger in Town." The songs were so good they could briefly push Rydell or Anka off the Top 10, the way a B horror movie could sometimes beat a major Doris Day release for a week or two at the box office.
Shannon also wrote "I Go to Pieces" which became a hit via smoother, friendlier covers than his own strained and stressed version, and soon he was just another guy on the oldies circuit. He sometimes got a second chance (the sadly titled "Drop Down and Get Me" album) but disappointment was inevitable. His third chance was an excellent Jeff Lynne-produced solo disc and a possible shot at joining The Traveling Wilburys. You all know what happened next; on very wrong anti-depressive medication, he took his own life.
Death hasn't given Shannon the spooky aura of Roy Orbison, or even the solemn respect given to Ritchie Valens. He's still obscure, which would not have surprised the cynical Mr. Shannon, who could make the song "Oh How Happy" sound painful.
As he frowned and grimaced and braced himself to sing "Runaway" at some oldies show for the zillionth time, he may have flashed on the line "Alive But I'm Dead," but who knows. He seemed to be a private man who was rarely interviewed and put it all into the music and lyrics. And here's one that almost got away.
ALIVE BUT I'M DEAD Instant download or listen on line, no pop-unders or porn-overs.
update 2011: here's a better, re-mastered version, 192 bit-rate:
ALIVE BUT I'M DEAD Instant download or listen on line, no pop-unders or porn-overs.
Posted by Ill Folks at 7:33 AM
You might remember the "Stiffs Live" tour...the beginnings of so many great acts, many now forgotten, a few still having some cult status, and one or two still big stars. Elvis Costello, even with so much original material, liked to cover other artists, and even Stiffs such as Nick Lowe and Ian Dury.
"The Roadette Song" actually goes back to Ian's early group, Kilburn and the High Roads. Any band fronted by Ian Dury was sure to have some weird groupies, and the High Roads had some Roadettes: "She can roll her shoulder, she can roll her ass. Ain't no doubt about it, she's a gamey lass..."
Apparently back then, Elvis attracted a Roadette or two as well. A live track copped from a vinyl boot.
ELVIS SINGS IAN
What a rarity; a subtle dirty song. That's "Let's Duet," a cute and corny bit of crassness that turned up in the docu-parody film "Walk Hard." This pun-filled toss-off co-written by Judd Apatow had modest success in theaters, and probably the same indifference in the DVD release, but it's worth your time, if you like comedy that doesn't take itself or its target too seriously.
One of the musical highlights in this fractured factual fairy tale of some legend crossed between Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and "The King" his own self, is the moment when Dewey Cox (plenty more dick puns where that came from) joins his lady love for a "let's do it" duet. She sounds a bit more like Nancy Sinatra than June Carter Cash, but that's part of the fun; you can bring your own set of musical references to the film and to the songs. The opening line could, if you feel like it, be considered a nudge-nudge and wink-wink to "Throw mama from the train...a kiss," more than any derivative of Ruth Wallis or Benny Bell.
"In my dreams you're blowing me...some kisses."
"That's one of my favorite things to do."
"You and I could go down...in history."
"That's what I'm prayin' to do with you."
Let's leave it right there, and let you enjoy the rest of the dirt in this ditty. Check out the film, buy the soundtrack, or just go find someone and play this song as inspiration and foreplay.
Download or listen on line. No capcha codes. No porn ads. No percentage going to the blogger for his "hard work." The hard work was done by the artist.
Several months ago, the folk world was alerted to the impending end of Mike Seeger, an ill folkie who moved to a hospice knowing that he'd soon be going to his grave.
Folk fans were told to send cards to Mike through his booking agency, Folklore Productions, who'd forward them to the hospice that was caring for him. Mike was grateful to receive them. He'd fought illness for a long time, first leukemia, and then plasma cell myeloma, a cancer of the blood.
Mike (August 15, 1933 - August 7, 2009) issued many solo albums, but probably had wider success with his group the New Lost City Ramblers, a trio rivaled only by the Kingston bunch back in the late 50's and early 60's. The Ramblers were far more bluegrass than the Kingston Trio, favoring older and more traditional tunes, sung in a less commercial and much more authentic way. When you hear the download, you'll think you're listening to something recorded in the 1930's.
And yes, of course, Mike Seeger's famous siblings are his half-brother Pete, and his sister Peggy, who joined him for the 1967 album "Peggy and Mike Seeger Sing." The timely song for this untimely death, is about The Great Depression of the 30's, which isn't too far in grimness from the "recession" of today.
"No Depression in Heaven"
Instant download, or listen on line. No pop-ups or porn ads.
A day earlier, August 6th, Otha Young died. He was 66. His name is well known to Juice Newton fans. He was a key member of her band from the Silver Spur era on RCA in the 70's, right through her hit-filled time at Capitol and beyond. He also wrote one of her best known songs, "The Sweetest Thing (I've Ever Known)." It was #1 on the country charts and was #7 on the pop charts.
The nice price RCA compilation "Juice Newton and the Silver Spurs: The Early Years"
has eight tracks, six of them from Otha Young: "The Sweetest Thing," "One Step Away," "Just Remember Who Your Friends Are," "Love is a Word," "Roll On Truckers" and "Won't You Stay Just a Little Bit Longer." He also wrote "Close Enough, ""It's Not Impossible" and "What Can I Do with My Heart" among others, all covered by Juice on various albums. Juice has a MySpace page, still puts together tour dates a few times a month, and will always be singing the great songs of Otha Young, who leaves behind a wife and daughter.
When it came to creating a slick, commercial crossover tune with a good hook and some nice guitar licks, Otha was the man. Nothing wrong with giving the public a song that's catchy from the very first listen, and is still fun after dozens of spins. For some songwriters, that skill was not possible. For Otha Young? Well, enjoy "It's Not Impossible," ripped from a vinyl copy of "Well Kept Secrets."
It's Not Impossible. Sung by Juice Newton. Written by Otha Young
William Borsay, who most knew as Mink Deville and then as Willy DeVille, died of pancreatic cancer.
Mink Deville (man and band) first gained notoriety at CBGB's in the late 70's, but it wasn't your ordinary punk outfit. He was older than some of the other punks, having already disbanded two groups and discarded the stage-name Billy DeSade. His music showed the influences of John Lee Hooker and John Hammond, things not evident with The Dead Boys or Richard Hell. Willy grew up listening to the Brill Building sounds on AM-radio, including the old Leiber-Stoller, Mann-Weill and Pomus-Shuman tunes. No surprise that he later wrote songs with Doc Pomus himself.
Pomus enthused, "DeVille knows the truth of a city street and the courage in a ghetto love song. And the harsh reality in his voice and phrasing is yesterday, today, and tomorrow—timeless in the same way that loneliness, no money, and troubles find each other and never quit for a minute." But it was three albums into DeVille's career before Pomus and DeVille worked successfully together on songs for the "Le Chat Bleu" album.
It was producer and Phil Spector-crony Jack Nitzsche who helmed the first Mink DeVille release in 1977, and helped send the single "Spanish Stroll" into the Top 20 in various markets around the world.
Like the Brill Building greats, white composers who created songs for black and Latino acts that seemed very authentic, DeVille explored all kinds of ethnic stylings, moving from doo-wop to punk to Latino to Cajun and R&B. No surprise then, that with nothing for critics and fans to pin down as typical DeVille, he generally existed on the other side of fame. He had a cult following in America, but was actually better appreciated in Europe. In fact, "Le Chat Bleu," rated in the Top 5 of the year by Rolling Stone, was initially released only in Europe, and it took a year before it won a Stateside pressing. No wonder DeVille broke with his label (Capitol) after that and signed with another (Atlantic, not that they could do much for him on his two album-contract). Some said it was DeVille's stylings, some said he just didn't suit MTV...whatever, he kept going.
Mink Devlle issued six albums between 1977-1985, and re-named Willy DeVille in 1987, he issued ten more, his last two being the ethnic "Crow Jane Alley" (reflecting his Native American heritage) and last year's "Pistola."
Willy was still active until fairly recently, when his diagnosed Hepatitis C problem was compounded by the discovery of pancreatic cancer. Hep C was not an unexpected problem for a man addicted to heroin for well over a decade, but the complication of cancer was lethal, and this form, very, very quick and deadly. The news was broken via his website on June 15th: "Keep Willy In Your Thoughts. It is with a broken heart that I have to tell you that while the doctors examined Willy to prepare him for the Hep C treatment, they discovered that he has pancreatic cancer."
Le Chat Bleu, 11 songs with bonus track, an interview with Deville and Pomus
Usually the world of Popular Moronics is not a topic for Illfolks, but let's praise the decision of Paula Abdul, to walk away from a program that has done a lot to bring mediocrity, sameness and dullness to the music world. With lame contestants brought in for a laugh and quickly discarded, "American Idol" rewards unoriginality. Contestants given a serious shot at winning, must be just like past winners, and like any number of sound-alikes in the R&B or C&W genre. There isn't a cliche that the judges don't really love, and they expect perfection in the puppets who are supposed to be the next Britney or Whitney, etc. etc.
The show's a farce. Do we care if Ryan is gay, and aren't we bored with Simon's smirks, Randy's "dawg" and "pitchy" and Paula's warm-hearted dribbling and fumbling? Nobody cares who wins, and few even buy a second album from any contestant. While Cowell couldn't walk away from his $30 million a year, or Seacrest the $10 million, Paula Abdul rejected the $5 million offered her...either because she's greedy, bored, or stupid. Whatever..."Hey Paula," glad you've helped give the show a kick in the ass and some negative publicity. Even the suicide of Paula's stalker, a tooth-challenged lunatic who overdosed near Paula's home, had failed to dissuade people from ignoring the pop-culture poop machine that is "American Idol." Maybe not having addled Abdul for kicks will finally push the show toward the cancellation it deserves.
Since the show is so stupid, so's this "tribute" to Paula Abdul. It's the moronic puppy-love duet "Hey Paula" in French and German cover versions.
Your download is the hideous combination of "Hey Vivi, Hey Gerhard" from Vivi Bach and Gerhard Wendland followed by "Hey Paula" by Donald Lautrec and Ginette Sage. And no, Gerhard doesn't call Vivi a "frickin' cunt," on second listen, it sounds more like "fraggin' kont." Too bad, a curse or two would elevate this song from merely creepy to decadently perverted. The Frenchies are just irritatingly sweet.
HEY PAULA in German and French Instant download or listen on line. No waiting, pop-ups or pop-unders or porn ads.