Wednesday, December 29, 2010
When the somewhat frail Groucho Marx made his "comeback," sparked by companion Erin Fleming and such devotees as Dick Cavett and Marvin Hamlisch, he briefly toured in a one-man show. Released by A&M cobbled from several tapes (as Groucho wasn't always on target at every performance with every song or anecdote), the program sounded like a triumph. Old Julius was getting stampeding applause just for mentioning the names of old movies. Every anecdote and witticism was treasured (and most deserved to be) and a big revelation was his choice of songs. Naturally he included crowd-pleasers written or co-written by his friend Harry Ruby, but he dipped into nostalgia for some numbers he remembered others singing in vaudeville or on 78rpm.
One of those: "Stay Down Where You Belong," is by the usually optimistic Irving Berlin. It's about The Devil himself, talking to his son about how much nicer it is in Hell than on Earth. A song that would've been a little too grim for Rufus T. Firefly to sing in "Duck Soup," it's an anti-war piece that includes these lines, which Groucho sometimes reprised for his audience in an encore coda: "They're breaking the heart of mothers, making butchers out of brothers. You'll find more hell up there than there is down below."
While the song was also covered by Tiny Tim (it appears on "God Bless," 1968) the original's been an obscurity since 1915, when it was recorded by one of the great stars of the era, Henry Burr (born Harry McClaskey in Canada, January 15, 1882 - April 6, 1941). Burr was one of the busiest performers in the acoustic days of brittle black shellac, making discs faster than clumsy people could break them. Scholars are still unsure how many sides Burr recorded…estimates are 3,000-5,000. Aside from being a soloist, he sang duets with Ada Jones, Albert Campbell, Louise McMahon and many others, and was a key member of the Sterling Trio and the Peerless Quartet. He also used plenty of aliases as he recorded for many rival labels. He was Harry Barr for Harmony, Harry Haley for Apex, Henry Gillette for Aurora, Alfred Knapp for Velvetone, Alfred Alexander for Pathe, Robert Bruce for Emerson, and on and on.
As you'd expect from a guy who was required to sing loud and clear for primitive recordings, and to reach the back row of a concert hall, Henry's style was somewhat melodramatic, which matched the sentiments of so many of the songs he covered, including "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," "I'se Gwine Back to Dixie," "Missouri Waltz" and "Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?" As you can tell by the titles, the best way to reach buyers at the time was to play on their patriotism, ethnicity, or maudlin love of home and family. It was definitely odd for Burr to sing a cynical number such as "Stay Down Where You Belong." The songs that were most popular in the World War One era were positive ones, including the George M. Cohan classic from 1917 that ends: "And we won't come back 'til it's over Over There!" The few anti-war numbers ("I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier" and "Don't Take My Darling Boy Away") were sentimental, with this one, perhaps the only hit that was a downright protest song.
HENRY BURR - STAY DOWN WHERE YOU BELONG
It's December 29th…here's a post on "Camp Runamuck," and you're wondering: "Why would anyone care about a summer camp…in winter?" Well, so were the execs at NBC, who by this time were solemnly checking the ratings for their sitcom about a boy's camp (and the efforts of its counselors to connect with the all-girls "Camp Divine" across the lake). But by winter of 1965, it was obvious that this show about campers was not warming up viewers, who instead were watching "The Flintstones" on ABC or Robert Conrad's spy-Western "Wild Wild West" on CBS.
However, in sympathy with the ill spirit of conjuring up a summer camp in winter, the Illfolks blog presents you with not only the original Frank DeVol instrumental, but the ambitious lyrical version from Homer & Jethro, who musta thunk that the show would be a hit and propel their "Old Crusty Minstrels" album to the top of the charts. They probably would've done better to cover Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah," which was probably the inspiration behind the development of "Camp Runamuck." Sherman's novelty song was a hit in the summer of 1963, won a Grammy in 1964, was exploited via a fresh "1964 version" single the following summer and then its own board game in 1965 along with a children's book.
"Camp Runamuck" was simply not cut out to last more than a season (it's 26th and final episode aired April 15th, 1966). The show had a "zany" cast, but they were all minor sitcom actors who could be very funny in a supporting guest role, but didn't have the major skills to carry a series. Head counsellor Dave Ketchum was much more memorable as hapless Agent 13 on "Get Smart," mildly confused Dave Madden wasn't even much on "Laugh-In," and there was little for other sour or bumptious actors (Leonard Stone as the camp doctor, Hermoine Baddeley as the owner of the girls' camp) to do for big laughs. The lead was Arch Johnson, owner of "Camp Runamuck" but not the most hilarious of "blustery" and exasperated sitcom heavies. Probably the most notable cast member was Nina Wayne (brunette sister to infamous dizzy blonde Carol Wayne).
Some Brits might remember this series. The BBC actually imported "Camp Runamuck" as a Saturday morning kiddie show back in the 70's. One good thing about the piracy that has caused much fewer movie releases, and more mindless TV reality shows, is that budget-conscious cable stations and streaming video sites are starting to pick over the funny-bones still lying in the vaults. When very few new sitcoms last six episodes and are a total loss, a full 26 episodes of an old oddity sounds pretty good!
There were many one-season wonders back then, sitcoms that had a weak premise but professional writing and acting. Consider "It's About Time," about astronauts going back in time to encounter cave dwellers Imogene Coca and Joe E. Ross or "The Smothers Brothers Show" (Tommy, lost at sea, returns as an angel seen only by brother Dick). I don't think the alternatives are Jonathan Ross, Judge Judy or "the Kardashians visit the Jersey Shore." PS, if you were wondering if you'd ever get to see the legendary "worst sitcom of all time," you can. The Jerry Van Dyke-Ann Sothern novelty "My Mother the Car" is now streaming your way via Hulu.com.
CAMP RUNAMUCK - instrumental TV THEME SONG
CAMP RUNAMUCK - sung by Homer and Jethro
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) passed on the other day, and since he was very well known, and well bootlegged, and well downloaded, not much needs to be said about him here. Except that the "awful awful diseases" that Warren Zevon sang about, do strike even the rock titans, and it's sad to realize that a guy who was often struggling for money in pursuit of his unique vision, was in the end struggling against multiple sclerosis. Among those who chose to be weird and challenging, the Captain certainly ended up a lot more famous than, say, Kolonovits…who did create one very provocative album before he moved on to much more lucrative things.
Circa 1977, a strange album called "Life Is Just a Carnival" appeared…an odd audio collage of electronica and dada, inspired by everything from Lennon's "Strawberry Fields" to the symphonic Zappa, and even the sorrowful balladry of Nilsson. That's all the tease you need to download four representative tracks: "Life is Just a Carnival" "Join the Carnival" "Society" and the spoken "TV Love Story," just as they rolled off side one of the album originally released on CBS in Germany…and which some eBay sellers hope will put some dinner on the table.
CBS/Columbia in America wanted no part of 25 year-old Christian Kolonovits, so it took a few years before an indie label pressed a few thousand copies. The album notes declared: "With this album the artist tears off the mask and gives up the role forced upon him. His keyboards fly unfettered. The compositions are rich with the baroque influence of Bach and the purity of Gregorian chant. Kolonovits is a new name in the States. Soon it will be known, admired and sought after by all lovers of outstanding progressive European music." While the album was ignored as an eccentric item from an unknown, "Life is Just a Carnival" was only the beginning, and this musician has had a full career over the last three decades. Though not particularly as a singer/songwriter of his own symphonic rock epics.
Christian was born in Burgenland, the son of a Croatian father and a Hungarian mother…which might mean that he would understand getting bootlegged by some asshole blogger in Croatia, but would still feel gloomy about it. He studied piano, cello and composition at the Vienna Music Academy, and in 1980 after his solo album and a year in France, he came back to Vienna to produce a variety of Austropop artists including Wolfgang Ambros, Reinhard Fendrich and Ludwig Hirsch. He later composed movie and TV scores (including the 2008 movie "North Face"). According to his website his projects have garnered 70 gold and platinum awards. Which isn't to say he's got that many statues on his desk, but produced or engineered or had a writing credit on some very successful discs.
He's worked with Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sarah Brightman, Helmut Lotti, Michael Bolton, Patricia Kaas and the Scorpions. As one might have expected from the eccentric glimpse of orchestral bravado on "Life is Just a Carnival," the guy has spent most of his past decade as a producer, arranger and conductor, working with the Vienna Smphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Budapest Philharmonic, and others. In 2006 he wrote for the British band Tiger Lillies (not to be confused with a British punk band of an almost similar name, which has floundered without its founding lead vocalist.) He wrote tracks for "Sting in the Tail" by the Scorpions and most recently produced the debut album for Alexandra Schertler. And if you go and check, he maintains rather stern poses of himself at kolonovits.com (including the inset B&W on this page). Perhaps he is still asking the musical question: "Life is just a carnival…isn't it a joke??"
LIFE IS JUST A CARNIVAL Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or whines about paying for a premium account.
When premarital sex was still a very troubling "sin," this tune turned up, just a hot skip and a hump away from "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." Progress: THIS girl thinks she can have a devilishly good time all night and still be an "angel of the morning."
Especially since a man wrote this: Chip Taylor, offering an alibi for chippies.
Saintly martyr Merilee's Rush to judge her one-night-stand:
"There's no need to take a stand for it was I who chose to start. I see no reason to take me home. I'm old enough to face the dawn...Just call me angel of the morning...Then slowly turn away from me."
Even Humphrey Bogart couldn't follow that instruction without busting a gut laughing. "You're good, angel, very good. Now I'll slowly turn away, and you can leave...and I'll change the sheets..."
More from this sanctimonious slut:
"If morning's echo says we've sinned. Well, it was what I wanted now. And if we're victims of the night. I won't be blinded by the light. Just call me angel of the morning."
Can I just call you a cab and sleep an extra hour?
"A pretty dirge, is like a melody..." Share a load with:
Merilee Rush (original and re-make)
Juice Newton, etc. etc.
The song ends with this:
"I wont beg you stay with me. Through the tears! Of the days! Of the years!"
OK, bitch, bye!
Get lucky. Download the ANGELS
Update November 2011: Some extra versions upped individually:
Posted by Ill Folks at 7:53 AM
Strange, isn't it…almost all the successful work done by Blake Edwards is linked to music by Henry Mancini. While a few composers are best known for soundtracks done for specific directors (most obviously Bernard Herrmann for Hitchcock and Nino Rota for Fellini), it's very rare to find hit movies from one director mated so often to hit songs by one composer.
Blake Edwards (July 26, 1922-December 15, 2010) found his hit movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) matched by the Top Ten hit "Moon River." A year later, "Days of Wine and Roses" was in movie theaters and the theme song was being sung by bad quartets and mediocre torch singers all over the radio. And when it comes to instrumentals, it's impossible to think of Blake's hit TV series "Peter Gunn" or hit series of "Pink Panther" movies without those theme songs coming to mind.
Edwards was a bit too prolific, and his wide variety of hit-and-miss movies has diminished his legacy as a director and writer. He no doubt has a cult following for at least some of these: Operation Petticoat (1959), The Great Race (1965), What Did You Do In the War Daddy (1966), The Party (1968), Darling Lili (1969), Wild Rovers (1971), The Tamarind Seed (1974), S.O.B. (1981), Victor Victoria (1972), 10 (1979), and many more.
Born William Blake Crump, he entered show business with his middle name ands step-father's last name, assembling a varied list of credits including the role as young and ineffective hero in "Strangler of the Swamp," a 1946 obscurity that boasted some moody low-budget effects (lots of fog) and a confused, Evangelical script that managed to work in God's role in vengeance and redemption in handling a swamp zombie; a twist on Christ's role in repelling vampires. Edwards had more luck as a script writer for radio ("Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar," a witty private eye series starring Edmond O'Brien) and screen ("Operation Mad Ball" with Ernie Kovacs). He became a director of noir TV shows: "Richard Diamond," "Mr. Lucky" and ultimately "Peter Gunn."
Through his many decades making films, Edwards was adept at drama and often had his best successes with comedy. He was one of the few directors in the 60's and 70's to try and bring back the visual gags of the silent era, although in everything from "The Party" to "The Great Race" and the Panther series, there were some painfully obvious and labored moments that were quite leaden. But mixed in, were inexplicably brilliant vignettes ("Birdy Num-Nums" in "The Party") and superbly timed bits that never grow old (Sellers as Clouseau spinning a globe, and inevitably resting his hand on it while it's still in motion, slamming toward the floor). Edwards usually knew exactly the right angle for the maximum effect.
Perhaps his best work is actually in the thriller "Experiment in Terror" (1962), which boasts of some eerie scenes shot in shadow, a brilliant use of voice (Ross Martin made his film debut mostly heard but not seen), and a strong, believable pace in presenting the drama of Lee Remick being caught up in a tense and deadly blackmail scheme.
In creating the musical settings for Blake Edwards' best work, Henry Mancini pioneered the jumpy tempo ("Pink Panther Theme") that Bacharach would eventually trademark, turned out melodies that schlock lyrics couldn't destroy ("Moon River") and produced almost a bombastic parody of boogie-woogie and jazz in "Peter Gunn." But he also was a maestro who could conjure up just the right instrument for just the right effect: the autoharp, for example, striking some somber notes in the theme for "Experiment in Terror." Since there's no shortage of places to cop a copy of "Moon River" or the "Pink Panther Theme," it's the Illfolks choice to salute the memory of Blake Edwards.
Edwards, who had bouts with depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, had a famous love-hate relationship with Peter Sellers, and was certainly a maverick in doing things his way (including the highly criticized topless exposure of wife Julie Andrews for a key scene in "S.O.B.") He acknowledged that he was a complex, difficult man, one in need of psychiatric treatment (he even wrote a few film scripts with his therapist!). He was aware of Hollywood's love-hate reaction to him and to his work:
"I like the old Chinese proverb: If you wait long enough by the river then the bodies of your enemies will float by. That used to console me through the dark patches. And then one day I realized that downstream from me there was this whole gang of people I'd been rude to, all waiting for me to float by."
EXPERIMENT IN TERROR THEME Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or whines about paying for a premium account.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Stan Freberg wrote some nicely cynical songs, including the seasonal classic "Green Christmas." He usually sang his own material, but an exception is "Money," which was recorded by both Paul Frees and Mel Blanc.
My guess is that both versions came out around the same time, but it's hard to say who got there first. Blanc's version is in print via "The Best of Mel Blanc" from Collectors' Choice, but since they don't have a budget for decent album notes, the chintzy fold-out booklet barely has room for a few paragraphs of information. No release dates are included. Mel was issuing novelty singles on Capitol as early as 1949. His album "Party Panic" arrived in 1953. "Money" could've come out the following year. Paul's definitely did.
The Frees version was recorded on the obscure Century Records label in both 78rpm and 45 rpm forms in 1954. He usually released things under his own name, but this one's credited to "Big Jim" Buchanan. The name may have been a loudmouth conman character he created during his stand-up or radio days.
I'll give the nod for best version to Paul Frees (and not just because I cherish speaking to Frees, and never had the chance to encounter Mel Blanc.) The song is simply better suited to Frees, who talk-sings it with a W.C. Fieldsian sense of glorious corruption, and an almost obscene appreciation for filthy lucre. Blanc, who tries a similar tone, probably would've done better going for cartoonish laughs and using his Daffy Duck voice (although toward the end he can't resist a kind of Woody Woodpecker chuckle.)
Younger fans of musical dementia know that "Money" was covered twice by The Muppets…first on an episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" by a failed puppet character called Tommy, and later by the garishly memorable Dr. Teeth on a Jim Nabors-hosted episode of "The Muppet Show." This time of year…is the perfect time to hear this crass rap about the almighty dollar.
MONEY by Paul Frees as BIG JIM BUCHANAN Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait times or money extortion.
I recently spent a few minutes talking with Noel Stookey (now firmly using his real first name), and the conversation turned here and there on both Peter Paul & Mary, his solo work and Christmas songs. I mentioned my favorite solo song of his ("Sebastian") and he smiled and told me that when he started to write it, it was about a guitar, not a boy! The full story is on his site: right here.
The song itself is streaming on his website (streaming, not for free download) and you can hear it here.
I mentioned that my favorite PP&M album was "Movin'" which I first got on vinyl, in mono. Later, hearing it in stereo on CD, I was amazed at the vivid harmonies, especially with headphones on. "We tried to work it so that each voice expressed something different," he told me. This was a far different concept from what the Everly Brothers or Simon & Garfunkel did, and when it works, it's astonishing. On "Movin'" the best example is "Flora" (aka "Lily of the West") which I mentioned to Noel was the first song I'd heard from that album (not "Puff the Magic Dragon") and the reason I bought it. In a song about a woman and her two rivals, PP&M vividly take up those roles.
I wrote about Noel some time ago in a national magazine article about the world of Christian rock and pop music, which benefitted from some respected names (Noel, B.J. Thomas, Barry McGuire, Gary Paxton) and began to develop its own roster of talent (including Annie Herring, who you can hear on this blog). It was my idea to cover that subject, because I felt it was newsworthy and something the average rock journalist was "too hip" or (too narrow-minded?) to explore. Glad it was actually published. As Dylan would later prove via "Gotta Serve Somebody," it's possible to write "Christian" and not be corny. And in fact to still be Jewish.
Which brings me to one final point about PP&M. They were one of the first groups to offer both Jewish and Christian music on a record album. "Movin'" which was released over 40 years ago, has powerful songs for both Chanukah ("Man Come Into Egypt") and Christmas ("A 'Soalin'). This was a profoundly "mixed" group, not ignoring religion, but celebrating the different cultures. Peter and Paul were Jewish and Christian, and could successfully sing songs about their cultures, and make them accessible to all. Compare that to Simon & Garfunkel, who actually sang nothing about Judaism and everything about churches burning and "Silent Night."
As we approach Christmas, here's "A Soalin'." With its borrowing from "God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen," it's a song that very much captures the poignance of this time of year, with its reflected joys and sorrows.
Is it possible to find joy in the simple gift of an apple? A pear? A plum? I think you know the answer. If you don't, you're probably asking "why don't I get a full download of that "Movin'" album instead of one live track that Peter & Noel actually have authorized to give away free?" Here, from a concert performance a few years ago, the great Noel Stookey, and his little friend Mr. Yarrow, perform a seasonal favorite…
A' Soalin' - PETER YARROW, NOEL STOOKEY Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait times or money extortion.
Posted by Ill Folks at 8:52 AM
Masked and anonymous, nobody knows who sang "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" and "Positively 4th Street" imitating Bob on budget 45rpm EP's.
The idea back in the late 50's and up to the mid-60's, was that for the price of ONE hit song by the original artist, you could get SIX hit songs by…nobodies. Labels such as Tops, Promenade, Song Hits, etc. prospered. Sometimes the labels gave a credit to the unknown vocalist, probably on the theory that you didn't even know the name of the one-shot wonder who had suddenly scored a Top Ten hit. In other cases, where the six songs were all by very famous original artists, the label simply didn't list the singer, hoping to trick people into believing they were getting the original artist.
The side of Hit Parader #39's 45 rpm (which opened with "Michelle," then "Tell Me Why" and then "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window") simply credited the song to Bob Dylan. Meaning as author, not as singer. Heh heh.
Song Hits #38 opened one side with "Get Off Of My Cloud" then "Positively 4th Street" and "Run Baby Run." Once again, nothing about who was doing the actual singing.
In all cases, only the song composers were listed. "Positively 4th Street" was a logical choice for cheapie exploitation at the time. The follow-up to Bob's "Like a Rolling Stone," it slipped into the Top 10 according to both Billboard and Cash Box. "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" wasn't nearly as successful, topping out at 58 at both Billboard and Cash Box.
The charts have always been hit and miss with Dylan singles. On Billboard, "I Threw It All Away" languished at 85, "Watching the River Flow" missed the Top 40, "Tangled Up In Blue" missed the Top 30, (as did "Hurricane") and "Gotta Serve Somebody" didn't make the Top 20. However Bob reached #12 for "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and got to #20 for "I Want You," but by then, sophisticated listeners weren't interested in knock-offs and the once-bustling industry for budget labels offering quantity over quality, went bust. However...thanks to "budget" download companies like eMusic, there are now musicians who specialize in knocking off oldies. Kids who have no idea who originally did "Monster Mash" can surf eMusic, listen to 30 seconds of something that sounds like the real thing, and download it over the original. What was that Paul Simon lyric..."The music suffers/The music business thrives."
OBSCURE BOB DYLAN COVER VERSIONS: Positively 4th Street and Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait times or money extortion.
Posted by Ill Folks at 8:38 AM
First time I heard Old 97's "Champaign, Illinois" (via their guest spot on "The Tonight Show,") I instantly heard, note for note, Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row." And I thought, "WTF…how did they get away with that??"
It turns out…they asked.
Rhett Miller of Old 97 was looking for inspiration. Many songwriters including Bob Dylan ("Blowing in the Wind") start off with somebody else's melody, craft new lyrics, then go back and adapt the melody. Lennon and McCartney were always saying "Let's write a Buddy Holly song…let's write something like Chuck Berry." Miller decided to use Dylan's "Desolation Row" for inspiration. Miller talking: "I'll take this tune I knew inside and out and come up with new lyrics." Dylan used the same formula. Dylan talking: "What happens is, I'll take a song I know and simply start playing it in my head…At a certain point, some words will change and I'll start writing a song."
The next step is usually to strip off the old melody and use the lyrics to inspire a new one. Or at least "adapt" the melody so its origin isn't so obvious. If you don't do either, you're in for trouble. Everyone from Johnny Cash to John Lennon to George Harrison to Dylan himself has either paid a settlement for intentional or unintentional mis-use or suffered embarrassing whispers about their creativity and integrity.
Miller liked the melody for "Desolation Row" so much he didn't want to mess around and alter it: "I was really happy with it, and I thought, this is a sweet little song, and it kind of exists on its own. And then I sat on it forever for fear of legal repercussion."
Ultimately, he took a chance and sent the song over to Bob Dylan's office. Maybe Bob had been to Champaign, Illinois and considered it pretty close to Desolation Row. Whatever, Miller was granted permission as long as Bob got a co-write for having written the music. (I know…The Mighty Dylan has, more than once, NOT asked permission to use somebody else's words, etc. etc. etc.) The bottom line? We all have different views of morality, and the line we don't cross can be set close, or way in the distance. As for "sharing," this blog ain't gonna steal "Champaign, Illinois" off the group's actual CD. Instead, you get the version you can't buy…the live one from Leno's show. Which is still theft, but more of a petit larceny. To quote Bob Dylan (or did he borrow it from The Bible), "Ain't no man righteous, not one."
DESOLATION ROW turns into CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait times or money extortion.
Posted by Ill Folks at 8:29 AM
Monday, November 29, 2010
Everyone has a short-list of celebrities they admire, would like to grow up to be like, to become friends with, or simply meet as one might visit a national landmark. For me, Leslie Nielsen was very much on the short-list. I'd written him some letters, and we finally happened to be at the same event. I'm glad to say it wasn't a "great moment," it was better than that; it was a nice moment. He was just a nice, natural, easy-going person and fun to talk to. I could appreciate him like an uncle, a favorite teacher or the family doctor…someone to respect, admire, but who was down to earth and "a regular guy."
Is there anyone who didn't like Leslie Nielsen? Who doesn't remember him with fondness? Depending on your tastes, and when you grew up, he was your hero as Disney's Swamp Fox, or as Commander Adams in "Forbidden Planet," and for girls, the ideal boyfriend via "Tammy and the Bachelor." He was the deadpan doctor of "Airplane!" and the stalwart if inept Frank Drebin of "Police Squad" and the "Naked Gun" movies.
Leslie somehow made a bizarre turn from genial Disney hero, mild leading man and stalwart astronaut to one of the most inexplicably hilarious stars in comedy…doing much more than "playing it straight." He delivered lines in a funny way, and as he aged, his bent good looks helped put that comical spin on them. In "Airplane" (1980) he turned a dumb gag into a memorable one: "Surely you can't be serious." "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley." After many more spoof films, he was comfortable with his new fame as a comic actor, and confidently turned up on talk shows to have a laugh and surprise people with an inappropriate fart noise courtesy of a concealed rubber bladder in his hand.
I have a hand-written letter from Leslie in which he expressed great humility for having fans that appreciated his work, and for those who stuck with him "during the slow times," or the times when the critics were less than kind (as they were for some of the "Airplane" knock-offs he made that spoofed horror films, Mr. Magoo, etc. etc.) He was a solid working actor most of his life. Those in the business knew they could depend on him for all kinds of roles…from a one-handed ex-Civil War general on "Wild Wild West" to a lecherous producer in the Carroll Baker version of "Harlow." He was in "Nuts" with Barbra Stresiand, "Poseidon Adventure," and all kinds of TV roles (from "Murder She Wrote" to "Golden Girls"). He used his fame to mount a one-man stage show as Clarence Darrow. He also narrated documentaries for "National Geographic," and was wonderfully charming in the obscure made-for-TV "Chance of a Lifetime" a romance co-starring Betty White. There must be some people out there who remember his first TV police series, "The New Breed," although only real Leslie fans would've heard of "The Bold Ones."
He was subtle and a bit "offbeat" I suppose. He was not quite as dangerous as a leading man should be, as cartoony as an outright movie clown should be, or as forceful a personality as a "star" should be. What he was, was a great guy. Leslie Nielsen. He was working almost to the end. At age 84, after a few weeks in the hospital with pneumonia, he died peacefully on a Sunday afternoon. Yesterday. He usually signed autographs with a few extra words added: "Luck and laughs."
THE SWAMP FOX THEME SONG
A Jewish version of Lorne Green's classic, "Ringo?"
Technically, there already is one, because Lorne Greene was Jewish (as was "Bonanza" co-star Michael Landon). His "Ringo" is just not as Jewish as...
"Shlomo," by Country Yossi.
Chanukah has come early this year!
Finally, the Illfolks blog gets to introduce you to Yossi Toiv. He's been around for decades, debuting on radio in 1986, and still at it via WSNR and now streaming Internet archives. He's got his own magazine as well and…while the original vinyl is out of print, albums by Country Yossi and the Shteeble-Hoppers are available on CD from his website: countryyossi.com. The download sample, 'Schlomo,' is from the vinyl version on "Country Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers Strike Again." Most of his early albums featured Jewish versions of classic pop (Sedaka, Beach Boys, etc.) and country (Johnny Cash).
Jewish novelty songs fall into two categories…orthodox and reform. Orthodox might include Benny Bell, who often sang in Yiddish, as well as Lee Tully, Eli Basse and Mickey Katz who sang in a high-pitched nasal voice that these days might even seem antisemitic. Reform would be Allan Sherman and Shel Silverstein ("What do You Do if You're Young and White and Jewish?") Not to mention comic singers who didn't make being Jewish a part of their act, such as Tom Lehrer.
Country Yossi's stuff is pretty orthodox…if you just light Chanukah candles and eat bagels and lox, you might not get all the references. If you keep the Sabbath, know the last words that differentiate a prayer for bread and a prayer for wine, and can at least sing "Adon Olum" from memory, you shouldn't have much trouble. Although with Country Yossi some songs are serio-comic at best, pulling that old Jewish trick of injecting pathos into the mix.
Months ago I posted an Italian version of "Ringo" so for your convenience, it's re-posted below, along with the latest doff of the cowboy hat to the late great Lorne Green. Enjoy your Kosher-Italian treats...
RINGO in ITALIAN by Adriano Celantano
Happy birthday to Fran Allison, born November 20th, 1907. And if you think it's a little late, coming nine days after the event, that's ok. Fran's a little late, herself. She died June 13, 1989. However, for many whose sand is predominantly on the bottom of the Grim Reaper's hourglass, she is not forgotten. She was the charming Donna Reed mother-figure or Dinah Shore hostess supervising the antics of her extended puppet family, the most famous being a one-toothed red-headed long-necked "dragon" named Ollie, his balding, fretful clown-friend Kukla, and a befuddled witch named Beulah. Behind the scenes, the puppets were moved and voiced by Burr Tillstrom, whom we also salute as we near the 25th anniversary of his death (December 6th, 1985). He was born Franklin Burr Tillstrom in Chicago, on October 13, 1917.
Kukla Fran & Ollie began their TV career locally in Chicago, but were soon beloved throughout the nation. After their initial fame in the 50's and 60's, a new generation wanted them to return, and so they did in 1975, with new adventures in color, and the release of VHS tapes. In 2009, just when it seemed as if KF&O were a distant and obscure memory, the U.S. Postal Service decided they deserved commemoration on a postage stamp. So now Fran and her friends are helping stubborn, old-school writers to get their letters sent across the street or around the world.
Back in the day, RCA Victor, also home to Howdy Doody, happily issued some 45's on KF&O. Some of these hold up a bit better than the vintage video material does. Your twelve minute download is the double 45 that featured a medley of hits as well as solo songs. It opens with the familiar piano chords and music box theme song. It segues into their cheerful "Here We Are, Back With You Again," and the typical 50's pop of "Mr. K and Mr. O." From there, we get Ollie's ridiculous "Hello Cutie" (he was quite an obvious ancestor to Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent). Next, "Take a Look at Me," a Broadway-type ballad showing that KF&O also knew adults were in the room along with the kids.
Following a tango (with the now inappropriate suggesting from Ollie "Let's make it a threesome") we get to two highlights. On "Am I Getting Through To You," Kukla and Fran show us the lost art of the comic duet, as Kukla insists on telling anecdotes while Fran feigns paying attention. This was the era of "Go to Sleep" by Arthur Godfrey and Mary Martin, duets between Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer, and some other things perhaps best left in the record box. Our journey back in time ends with "Dragon Retreat," another song that seems much too sophisticated for kids…if too ridiculous for adults. Ollie tells us that he likes to go on vacation to "Dragon Retreat," which is located…no, not in a Disney Never-Neverland, but "in Vermont."
(Update: check the comments section. Just a few weeks ago the first collection of VINTAGE KF&O material was released on DVD.)
Those unfamiliar with the characters may not get so much out of the download. You guys won't have the familiarity and nostalgia that makes this kind of thing not only enjoyable but downright lovable. So if you didn't spend some early time with Kukla, Fran and Ollie, their songs probably won't make much of an impression. But for those already smiling just seeing the photos of KF & O, this stuff will definitely be O.K.
KUKLA FRAN & OLLIE
After smoldering around Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazelwood moved on to another sex symbol, Ann-Margret. This version of "The Cowboy and the Lady" yielded an album by that name, but no truly memorable hit…although "Dark End of the Street" is pretty vivid stuff.
The mentally uneven James Carr originally recorded it in 1967, and Elvis Costello breathed new life into it (while saluting king James' version) by covering it on his "Kojak Varieties" CD.
Most versions of this tortured torch ballad have been sung by a guilty man (Joe Tex and Percy Sledge also covered it) or tormented woman (include Aretha Franklin and Linda Ronstadt). But duos? Not too often. In fact there are only two that are well respected.
At this point it's hard to say who got there first…Hazlewood and Ann-Margret, or Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. But the clear favorite lasting the test of time is the former. They're a lot grittier and sexier about it. Besides, how in the world could you sneak Dolly Parton anywhere without people knowing??
Eventually Lee found other singing partners, using Nina Lizell and Suzi Jane Hokom and not Stockholm-born Ann-Margret (Olsson) on his 1970 "Cowboy in Sweden" album. He even worked his way back to Nancy Sinatra (you'll find the sensational "She Won't" elsewhere on this blog). But the combo of Lee and Ann-Margret deserves more acknowledgement, and so here's a sampe of Lee Ann rhymes...
DARK END OF THE STREET
While everybody loves Bing Crosby (even Kate Bush referenced him in her adorable "This Christmas Will Be Magic Again,") the Illfolks blog prefers Bob Crosby. And the blog also prefers nasty put-downs to most any damn Christmas song!
Der Bingle (1903-1977) had three older brothers (all died before Bing did). Bob was his much younger brother (1913-1993). He was a singer in various groups and bands through the 30's, ultimately helming his own Bob Crosby Orchestra, and for smaller gigs, The Bob-Cats. Bob and his Bob-Cats turned up as musical relief in various light movies ("Let's Make Music," "As Thousands Cheer," "Pardon My Rhythm"). CD compilations of vintage Dixieland jazz are bound to have his best known hits, "Big Noise from Winnetka" and "South Rampart Street Parade."
In the 40's Bob starred in his own radio show while scoring some 78 rpm hits (including a few duets with Bing). He had a daytime TV show in the mid 50's in America, and a late night show in Australia in the mid 60's. The much more iconic Bing was still active in the 60's, and even lived long enough to link himself to David Bowie via the infamous recording of "The Little Drummer Boy."
Bob's hits are mostly forgotten, or covered by others now better known than he is. Here we shine a light on his sage and prophetic novelty tune, "You're Bound to Look Like a Monkey." Since this is a music blog, and fairly politically correct, the photo illustrations of famous homo sapiens who look simian are restricted to the obvious. And make up your own joke about Ben Stiller.
YOU'RE BOUND TO LOOK LIKE A MONKEY WHEN YOU GROW OLD
Friday, November 19, 2010
Around the world, say "Grimsby" and hear "huh?" At best, some know that "Grimsby" is a song by Elton John, one with a silly, almost nelly melody and lyrics that seem to be about a boat? A grim bee? A school? Some asshole named Grimsby? Or Grimsby's asshole??
In "Grimsby," Elton's lyricist Bernie Taupin was actually babbling about a port city in England. At the time he wrote it, there were still fish in the nearby waters. Now that most fish is farm-raised, Grimsby's in decline. Despite the poverty and the abandoned buildings that make the song "Grimsby" nostalgia only, the people of the town still have an anthem to sing: "Up the Mariners!" The Mariners is their football (soccer) team, one that has NOT suffered a decline in the past 30 years. No, it's maintained the same level of mediocrity by never winning a championship.
Grimsby seems to be a strangely mis-managed place, one that did not move toward fish-farming (plenty of room for it, and lots of empty areas that could've been filled with tanks). They also failed to maintain tourist interest (actually destroying some beloved landmarks that were in need of minor repair). They also…well, you can read more on the miseries of the town via: craphousegrimsby.blogspot.com.
Over here, you merely get a copy of "Up the Mariners," because it's such a fine example of fan folly and boisterous hooligan-logic. What puts it ahead of various other cheers and anthems for pro or even college or high school teams, is a) they haven't given up singing it despite 30 years of failure, and b) the singers are ignoring a very obvious double meaning. And how could they, when they live in the very country that gave us "Up the Khyber" (a ribald "Carry On" movie) and "Up Je T'aime" (a ribald Frankie Howerd parody of the Gainsbourg-Birkin groan single). Most anyone hearing "Up the Mariners" would get a mental picture that, well, might look like the Photoshop job above (half-hearted apologies to Beckham and Devitt).
Yes, these days the only "mariners" in Grimsby are guys who trip over themselves on a dirt field. But keep on singing, guys, and never give up! Although the group Pisces, who recorded this thing, apparently did. Too bad, 'cause they're not so terrible, and sound a bit like some 3rd rate British invasion band with some guy named Freddie or Gerry or Deezy or Dozy singing lead…although I think these guys shagged more fish than they did birds.
UP THE MARINERS! The (craphouse) Grimsby football anthem! For more on them, and their town, check craphouseGrimsby.blogspot.com Listen on line or download. No wait time, capcha codes, porn ads, or demands to pay a premium to the download service that hasn't licensed the music and laughs all the way to the bank about it.
"Song of the Mole" sounds like it's about some senile music forum member whose age and IQ are both about 60, and who has nothing better to do than drool about getting mp3 downloads of music that was a waste of vinyl when it came out 30 years ago. Watta waste of time, but a mole can't see too clearly, and thinks he's going to reclaim his youth by listening to the oldies over and over again, in some delusional form of deja vu. "Song of the Mole" sample lyric:
"He was so pissed off he was dying, he would only play Hall and Oates.
He said if my days are numbered, I'm going to blast the world with Hall and Oates."
Remind you of anyone? There are actually retired people out there who have declared that while "on the government teat," they will now devote the rest of their lives to…giving away somebody else's property! With cries of "blogging saved my life," and "make good use of the time that's left," many a myopic mole spends his life at a computer upping and re-upping and up-chucking Hall and Oates, or other stuff everyone already knows about, and which is in print, and could still earn royalties for the "beloved" artists. But backward mole-asses stick to their notion that they should take credit, Paypal donations and nice comments in the name of Hall and Oates and the others they rip off. Laughably, they have lots of excuses and rationalizations when the plain truth is that they're old enough to know better. Or are they really so old they've gone senile and no longer know better! The best they can do is mumble vague weasel words like "the music industry needs a new paradigm," or "there must be a way for artists to prosper while fans get all the free music they feel entitled to." They don't actually come up with a solution. They're part of the problem, not the solution.
The solution most artists are comfortable with is giving away a few songs (usually on "My Space" or their website, or via an Amazon.com promotion) or trusting that almost anyone who isn't senile, can deduce if they like a song by hearing 30 seconds of it on iTunes. Which they can hear over and over and over (deja vu again) until they think it's worth buying or not.
If it's "not," because you don't think it's worth the money, then don't blame the artist for not thinking you deserve it free. That's just insulting. If you don't want to buy it, fine, listen to something you did buy. We all have more music than we need anyway. You could spend quite a lot of time re-playing this one Mark Eitzel track, enjoying the music, and finding your own interpretation of the lyrics. In the old days we'd often grow to love an album because we did buy it, didn't like it on first or second listen, but since we didn't have much else and paid for it, gave it a few more chances. And it grew on us. Today, another bad thing about the mass downloading is that it gluts us, we haven't the time to give music a chance to grow on us, and we're too busy with the freebies to buy, support and respect more than a few artists.
I found Eitzel the Internet way. While messing around with 30 second samplings on my monthly subscription to eMusic, I heard his cover of "Rehearsals for Retirement" by Phil Ochs. The 30 seconds were good, so I bought and downloaded the whole song and began checking Marc's other work. Emusic charges less than 50 cents a song, so Eitzel is not as lucky as Ochs. The music biz has changed and the odds of making any kind of a living are worse. In Phil's day, he had the support of Jac Holzman (Elektra) and then Jerry Moss (A&M) who bankrolled him, supported him and promoted him…and he also benefitted from the "evil" organizations that sent him royalty checks that kept him going when he couldn't tour and had lost inspiration.
Just what the future is for guys like Marc Eitzel remains to be seen…but maybe not heard. Music is easy to steal. Governments haven't yet enforced laws on the Internet because of confusion over "free speech" vs "copyright" (capitalist governments, that is, the ones who are seeing more and more people out of work, including members of the entertainment industry).
And so guys like Eitzel have been taken down a notch. The blogger who gives away the music is as much a star as the artist. The artist is forced to take a dull day job like the blogger. And at the gig, the artist has yet another job; selling t-shirts after a gig. Which isn't necessarily a bad idea. If Marc Eitzel turns up at a club near me (which I'd only know about if he or his manager made sure to pay for posters and ads), I might go (if the ticket price is FAIR), and if I'm feeling in a position of power and pity, I'd certainly buy a t-shirt. But only if it had "Song of the Mole" on it, is not too expensive, and is brand new and clean (not Spotified.)
Song of the Mole Instant download or listen on line.
The best definition of "Deja Vu" is: "the unpleasant sensation that something you didn't like is happening to you all over again."
The experience of "Deja Vu" is usually tinged with alarm and apprehension, and as soon as your brain has sensed a repeat of something awful that's already happened, you think to yourself: "Make it STOP."
Psychiatrists theorize "Deja Vu" arises out of boredom. "Deja vu" is what happens when a dull mushroom mind relies on hallucinations to feel alive. It's a pathetic illusion. Deja vu tries to make something supernatural out of the mundane. "Oooh, I've had this feeling before!" Yeah? And wasn't it useless the first time?
Your download is eight examples of "Deja Vu." A few of them are in foreign languages: Aventura and Pitty. A few are fairly well known: CSNY, John Fogerty and Iron Maiden. Then there's Teena Marie, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beyonce teamed with Jay Z. In almost every case, the singer makes the case for Deja Vu being creepy and unpleasant. At best, ("Deja vu all over again") the experience is a bad joke.
Psychiatrists seem to agree that "Deja vu" is some kind of psych disturbance, and while it momentarily has a tinge of seeming groovy or fab, the feeling's so creepy you end up saying "glad it's over, and I'm not eager to make the same mistake."
Posted by Ill Folks at 9:59 AM
Following "Song of the Mole" and a collection of "Deja Vu," nothing could be more appropriate than "FUCK YOU." (You were expecting "NOBU"?)
The original was sung by Cee-Lo, but as he did with some of the numbers on "Has Been," most especially "Common People," William Shatner's made a strong case for ownership.
While we wait to see if he'll actually release this as a single, or put it on "Has Been 2," here's the censored recitation from the talk show hosted by George ("you mean Paul Rodriguez wasn't available?") Lopez. Hold on (it's about 90 seconds) and you'll hear the UN-censored version thanks to a decent audience recording done with Bill's permission.
Wish I could say I've spent an hour or two chatting with Shatner, but I've only spent that much time with one of the original "Star Trek" cast members. One who, come to think of it, loved trashing the guy. (No, not Walter or George…I don't hang with mere ship hands!)
Shatner's a piece of work, love him or not, and if you'd care to be honest, his musical forays have been memorable. He was hip for his time when he went on talk shows narrating Harry Chapin's "Taxi" and Elton's "Rocket Man," although much of it holds up only as well as some equally questionable episodes of "Twilight Zone" or "Star Trek." His album "Has Been" needs no apologists; it's that good.
So "FUCK YOU" or "download FUCK YOU." It's probably either the former or the latter, and you know who you are!
[box net link removed] FUCK YOU censored and uncensored by William Shatner star of "Shat My Dad Says"
UPDATE Dec 19th: Sorry, I got a FUCK YOU on this one. As I mentioned in the first update, the music link was removed on December 10th. Then came a complaint to Blogger itself on the 13th It was probably a "bot" sniffing around for illegal copies of the actual Cee-Lo song. Shit happens. A while back a 30 year-old out-of-print parody of a Rolling Stones song I posted was mistakenly stopped by an IFPI bot that thought it was a real Rolling Stones song. I didn't put it back up as the bot would just make the same mistake. Check YouTube and you'll find somebody with an upload of Shat rappin' on the Lopez show.
Bob Dylan said, "We live in a political world," and Brother Theodore said, "In this best of all possible worlds, everything is in a hell of a mess." And these points of view are combined in the Palins. Sarah. Bristol. Willow. It's a never-ending nightmare. For those who thought political stupidity and messy incompetence ended with Dubya leaving office…the sad fact is that Dubya's 8 years are over, but it looks like the Palins will be around for a lifetime.
It's now reached the point of gunfire. A few days ago, a 66 year-old man in Wisconsin lost his mind while watching Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars." He grabbed a shotgun and blew out his TV set. People magazine's website explained: "Palin has been a polarizing figure on the show, having advanced in the competition despite consistently receiving the lowest scores from the judges…"
Sarah Pain has advanced from a cinder in the public eye to just about blinding it, despite having been a loser in the last election, and showing her contempt for her constituents by walking out on her governorship in order to make more money via lecture tours, books, teasing threats to run for the Presidency, and polarizing quips that call attention to herself while antagonizing millions.
She was never shy about bringing her idiot spawn into it…from having unwed mother Bristol cradle her bastard on national television during the election, to knowingly starting a publicity-grabbing fake feud with David Letterman by being the only person in the world to think that a Dave joke about Bristol's inane sluttiness was aimed at Willow (not of legal age). Well, we now see that Willow is hardly anyone's idea of pure.
Shortly before Bristol reached the "Dancing with the Stars" finals (huge ratings every time the controversy ratcheted up a notch), celebutard Willow made the news by sending out obnoxious twitters about a classmate: "Haha your so gay…what I've seen pictures of, your disgusting…my sister had a kid and is still hot...You such a faggot." Bristol read this piss from little Sis, and joined in: ""You're running your mouth just to talk shit...You'll be as successful as my baby daddy." The latter was a shot at her ex-boyfriend, who was trying to run for mayor of Wassila, and doing the talk show circuit, taking humiliating mocks from Jay Leno and Bill Maher.
And so it goes. To quote Kander, or was it Ebb, "Whatever happened to class?"
"Whatever Happened to Class," the best song in the musical "Chicago," could've been your download, but the painfully over-publicized (to the point of gunfire) Bristol Palin romp to the finals of a moronic show that shouldn't even be on the air, leads to "Bristol Stomp" by Len Barry. Len Barry (nee Leonard Borisoff), was the lead singer for The Dovells, the group that made "Bristol Stomp" a hit. On his own, he scored a blue-eyed soul smash with "1-2-3," but didn't have 4 or 5 more. Two years ago he co-wrote a novel, "Black-Like-Me" from the indie Bank House books company. For more info on it you can check Amazon.com BUT…for Len's imagined soundtrack to a film version of the book, go to http://www.lenbarry.com/ and click the link to the free download/listening page.
Illfolks already posted Jackie Kannon's song "Sarah," which had the nice line, "all day long she sits and shits." I'll skip Groucho Marx's version of "Tit Willow," so here's "Bristol Stomp." In England a "pair of Bristols" is a euphemism that was used in probably every other episode of "The Benny Hill Show," but Bristol is just a place in Philadelphia (as it is in England). And while the moon-faced young Palin continues to annoy, as does her smirky mom, let's say that we don't mean "Bristol Stomp" literally. Although millions are feeling very flattened by the three P's infecting America's pod: Willow Palin, Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin…and there are plenty more where they came from.
BRISTOL STOMP -- Len Barry version Listen on line or download. No wait time, capcha codes, porn ads, or demands to pay a premium to the download service that hasn't licensed the music and laughs all the way to the bank about it.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
This particular post is honoring Pixelmutt, one of our longtime bloggers, who so comically felt his feelings were hurt by my post about Halloween bloggers who stick 10 or 20 stale monster-novelty tunes into a Rapidshare file and figure they've done something brilliant. Of course I wasn't referring to either Pix, or the great Reverend Frost from the South of France, who are always far more esoteric in their assortment packs. Like THIS pack, which features 20 pretty decent tunes that either have strange song titles or band names. Because, cheshire children and mad hatters...
…Once upon a strawberry alarm clock, there was a peanut butter conspiracy started by some electric prunes. The idea was to come up with a trippy-far-out name to get attention for a band. The weirder the name, the more likely to get signed! Except, as you can see from the items below, even when you put an LSD tab on a kandy-kolored tangerine-flake, baby, you might not end up mau-mauing the radical chic flak-catchers who built their bonfire of the vanities at radio stations and rock mags.
The happy ending for the artists below now pushing 60 or 70 or daisies: their tunes are not forgotten! Desperate psych fans who already have all the basic Harper's Chocolate Watch Association & Our Gang stuff, have been sniffing in grammy's closets and grand uncle's attic, and aside from a paisley dirndl, or a furry vest, found…kewl 45's, ones that sound like 3rd degree Byrds or slightly expired Vanilla Fudge.
However (to quote Professor Irwin Corey), if ye seek, ye may actually find something that's (to quote David Seville), "almost good." At least it will pass the time while walking briskly across campus to Timewasting 101, or the tunes may keep an old hippie going until he reaches the senility ward at the free clinic.
With granny glasses held on high (this is somewhat of a Tom Lehrer in-joke), let's salute a bunch of obscure but quite competent musicians and songwriters who at least came up with names so ludicrous, they've been pulled into the semi-light of day on this semi-obscure blog.
It would be a little too easy, and cruel, and snarky, to go through the list and make jokes about each and every entry here. I mean, make your own joke about The Chocolate Tunnel. And keep it to yourself. The point here is to celebrate the creative spirit…and every act below was, somehow, somewhat creative.
The criterion for making the Top Twenty: the band has to be unknown to the average (not you) listener, the name or representative song title has to be amusing or pretentious and the music itself must make you feel groovy, spaced out or alienated. After all, the aim with some of these bands was, "If they can do it, WE can do it," as they either wanted to be another pop-anthem band like Spanky & Our Gang (see: Rumplestilskin Kartoon), Jefferson Airplane in a tailspin (see: The Apple Pie Motherhood Band), more whimsical than Harper's Bizarre (see: Art Nouveaux), or cooler than the Yardbirds and Jimi Hendrix put together (see: Acid Gallery).
The Doors had nothing on Tuneful Trolley. Or vice versa. Surely, anyone hearing Now's "The Hands On My Clock Stand Still" might ask "Did Peter Hammill really do better? Or The Strawbs? And wasn't there a damn good rip of classical in the tune that Procol Harum would've admired?" It's possible, also, that a surviving band member from Herbie's People might point to "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. Jones" and tell his grand-children, "It was as commercial as Bob Dylan combined with Paul Revere and the Raiders! Or if Barry McGuire had been a member of Freddie and the Dreamers! It deserved a better fate…" And at the time, the manager of The Clockwork Orange probably wanted to throw a tangerine at the radio station manager who put down the phone saying, "No, a combination of Dave Clark Five and the Beach Boys is not getting drive-time airplay here..."
JOLLY ROGER AND THE POPPITEERS - Joker in the Fokker
THE DRIVING STUPID - Horror Asparagus Stories
HEIRONYMOUS & THE DHARMA BUMS - 900 Mice
WHATT FOUR - Dandelion Wine
RAINY DAZE - In My Mind Lives a Forest
THE ILFORD SUBWAY - A New Song
KING'S KOUNTY KARNIVAL - Don't Vote for Luke McCabe
ART NOUVEAUX - Extra-Terrestrial Visitations
TUNEFUL TROLLEY - My Apple Pie
NOW - The Hands On My Clock Stand Still
CROCHETED DOUGHNUT RING - Get Out Your Rock and Roll Shoes
THE EMOTIONAL UPSETS - Maintain Your Cool
'TWAS BRILLIG - Dirty Old Man
GEORGIE PORGIE AND THE CRY BABIES - Enter Sunshine Exit Darkness
HERBIE'S PEOPLE - Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. Jones
THE CLOCKWORK ORANGES - Ready Steady
THE POOH - The Suitcase
RUMPELSTILSKIN KARTOON - Come To the Carnival
THE APPLE PIE MOTHERHOOD BAND - Flight Path
20 Hippie Dippie Kool Far-Out Groovy Fab Songs Re-upped after Rapidshare let it lapse. No eye-boggling capcha codes
One of the most engrossing books I've not read, is Craig Ferguson's "American On Purpose." I listened to the audio book, instead. It was fascinating to hear of his 20 year struggle toward fame. There were funny anecdotes, and at times the book was very moving as he discussed his loves and losses. The underlying theme of it could make most any American feel patriotic. Here's a guy who wanted to come to America because…it's AMERICA. Well, read or listen to the book for yourself.
Craig's first attempt at making waves across the pond was an early 80's gig at the "Just for Laughs" festival in Montreal. He was told that if he expected to make it down South (ie, New York) he'd have to tone down his outrageous Scottish accent, and think up a less punky and confrontational name for himself. "Bing Hitler" after all, was guaranteed to outrage Americans. We do not like to see our sacred idols abused; there's only one "Bing." Oh, and the Hitler part of it…some actually still remember his slight abuses of human rights. Although any modern day Hitler will find himself instantly admired if, whatever he says, he includes free music downloads on his website.
Over nearly two decades, Ferguson struggled with sobriety and his accent (might've been a related problem) and had successes and failures in indie movies, some of which he wrote and directed. His big break after a failed sitcom with Marie Osmond was steady work on Drew Carey's show. From there, he was shrewdly, if strangely anointed to replace obnoxious Craig Kilborn on late night television…becoming its quirkiest love-or-hate host since his boss David Letterman.
For a while Craig topped the inept Jimmy Fallon in the ratings via a wild combination of charisma and chutzpah, which has included an unusually conversational monologue style, and deliberately annoying his audience by overdoing things that once worked (pretending to be gay, using puppets, repeating catch-phrases, deliberately cursing so it can be censored, etc.) As he no doubt learned from his relations with women, a combination of arrogant raging ego, unpredictable bad-boy wit, and warm cuddly smiles and unexpected moments of love and candor, can keep people fascinated and tuning in.
Oh yes…the opening theme song on Craig's show is actually sung by Craig. He began his career as a punk drummer before writing songs and singing in the guise of bellowing punk "Bing Hitler." As much of a cult figure as Craig now is (people even sell replicas of his snake-design coffee cup on eBay) his 1986 ("Bing Hitler at the Tron") and 1988 ("Bing Hitler is Dead") albums have not been re-issued. The latter, mostly songs, contains the selected track below, "Scotland Hooch Och Aye." It must be remembered that "Bing Hitler" arrived at a time when he was urgently needed, as Johnny Rotten couldn't tell jokes and Bobcat Goldthwait couldn't carry a tune. "Scotland Hooch Och Aye," sounds a bit like Spike Milligan as the poet McGonagall trying to remember how to sing "Whiskey in the Jar," having consumed most of it.
SCOTLAND HOOCH OCH AYE - Bing Hitler
One of the influences on Phil Ochs was "the Hillbilly Heartthrob" Faron Young. Phil grew up in Texas and Ohio and, like Dylan, listened to and admired some C&W performers. Odd isn't it, that some of our favorite artists admired and sometimes copied artists that most of us can't stand. Be honest. If you're the average Dylan fan, how many times have you played Woody Guthrie or Leadbelly or all those Blind Mississippi Delta guys? If you're the average Beatles fan, how big is your collection of Carl Perkins? Or even Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. So it is, that one generation admires and then adapts another generation's work, which has been going on ever since Mozart was influenced by Haydn or Green was influenced by Sleeves.
Phil Ochs fans? If you bothered to take a poll of all 50 of them, you'd probably find that none of 'em owns an album by Faron Young. The reason all of this comes up is a few weeks ago, I was talking with a guitarist in a famous (still touring) 60's band who hung out with Phil: "One time I told Phil that I thought he sounded like Faron Young…his phrasing. And Phil's eyes lit up. He was very happy to hear it."
If you doubt Faron Young's influence on Phil Ochs, just compare "Country Girl" to "Gas Station Women." The melody is fairly similar and so is the delivery. As for the lyrics, there's a nod to another Phil influence: Johnny Cash. Johnny's "Give My Love to Rose (please, won't you Mister)" becomes "fill her up with love please, won't you Mister."
Faron Young's early fame was at Capitol, where the kid scored a Top Five hit on the country charts with "Goin' Steady" before goin' into the Army. When he came back home, he had a 1954 #1 hit with "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," and how prophetic that title would be. After all, he did die Young. And by his own hand. But let's talk about some of the good times, first.
Willie Nelson penned Faron's most famous #1, the 1961 smash "Hello Walls." Nelson also wrote 'Life Is a Picture," also covered by Mr. Young. "Swinging Doors" was written by Merle Haggard (whose "Okie from Muskogee" was covered by Phil Ochs.) In 1963 Young switched over to Mercury and averaged two albums a year through 1976, when the hits began to evaporate. In 1979 he moved to MCA for a pair of albums "Chapter Two" and "Free and Easy," which the label hoped would appeal to a wider audience than Faron's hardcore rockabillies. Singles from those albums didn't reach the Top 50: "The Great Chicago Fire" (#67) and "If I'd Only Known It Was the Last Time" (#56). That was pretty much the end for Faron, though he released a few more singles, the aptly titled" Until the Bitter End" and in 1988 "Stop and take the Time."
In 1996, grieving over the death of his daughter, and despondent over his failing health, Faron Young killed himself. While Phil had used the hangman's noose back in 1976, rough 'n' ready Faron did himself in with a revolver.
And so, in a salute to an influence on Phil Ochs, Illfolks offers a "greatest hits" compilation of Capitol and Mercury recordings, and another download for the two MCA albums that aren't widely available: "Chapter Two" (actually first one for the label) and "Free and Easy." That's more than fair…and may you stay forever Young.
TWO FARON YOUNG ALBUMS
20 FARON YOUNG FAVORITES
Joseph Stein died on October 24th. He was most famous for writing "Fiddler on the Roof," which of course is best known not for any line of the dialogue, but for the slew of hit tunes composed by the team of Bock & Harnick. Jerry Bock, the musical half of the duo, spoke at Stein's funeral. And a short time later, November 3rd, he died of heart failure. He was twenty days away from his 82nd birthday.
"What does it mean, this fiddler on the roof," Harnick's lyrics asked. And what does it mean that by such coincidence, the 98 year-old Joseph Stein and the 81 year-old Jerry Bock should die at this particular time? To quote Einstein, "How the hell should I know?" Einstein's exasperation came after being asked if there was life after death. At this point, that answer is known to Einstein, Stein and Bock. Or is it?
Bock's award-winning score for "Fiddler on the Roof" was his most famous, but he also won awards for "Fiorello," written five years earlier, and both "The Apple Tree" and "The Rothschilds," written two and six years later. If any of you can name a single song from any of those three shows, I'd be surprised. I've seen revivals of "The Apple Tree" and "Fiorello" and the only tunes I remember are from the latter…the two very similar and minor comic numbers "Politics and Poker" and "Little Tin Box."
My favorite song in "Fiddler on the Roof" was cut from the show. It's the darkly humorous "When Messiah Comes," which Herschel Bernardi recorded after taking over as Tevye from the musical's original star, boisterous Zero Mostel. It's not as bitterly sentimental as "Sunrise Sunset," as wistful as "Anatevka," or as annoying as "Matchmaker, Matchmaker." And it's not "To Life," which I think everyone agrees is "too Jewish." If Mr. Bock isn't happy about this selection, we'll find out…"When Messiah Comes."
When Messiah Comes - Music by Bock, Sung by Bernardi
Friday, October 29, 2010
Halloween is a few days away. 'Tis the season when the average witless blogger takes his finger out of his nose and points it to the sky, crying: "I've got a great idea! How cool would it be to do an entire Multiupload file of Halloween songs? Gosh, I'll bet nobody's thought of THAT before! Hey gang, don't buy "Monster Mash" or any of that stuff, I'll give it to you free! Trick or Treat! Trick for the artists, treat for you! Har har, ahar!"
Over here, Halloween only is a reminder that pumpkin heads (or people who have pumpkins for heads) are temporary and rot, and to paraphrase Dylan (no, the other one) Death does have dominion. And the Grim Reaper took his scythe to Loulie Jean Norman before this blog was even born. But at least she had a long life, and it's time to celebrate this neglected and sexy spook-- and delightful Southern belle.
I was a fan ever since I glommed the back cover of a Spike Jones record (because there was one; it wasn't an mp3 file with no credits or album notes) and wanted to check who was voicing "Vampira" opposite Paul Frees' "Dracula." This was one of many wonderfully creepy supernatural assignments she took. She did the ethereal warbling as "Swamp Girl," the clammy modern-day Chloe who humidly haunted Frankie Laine through muck and mire. A while later, she was back in the jungle, supplying the rather bizarre soprano wailing on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for The Tokens.
Ms Norman voiced ghosts for Walt Disney's "Haunted Mansion," and should've become better known to Trekkies at least, for her vocalise work on the theme song for the original "Star Trek."
Loulie (March 12, 1913-August 2, 2005) left her native Alabama to become the voice of a huge parade of Hollywood stars, dubbing: Juliet Prowse (GI BLUES, 1958), Diahann Carroll (that's Loulie singing the black blues "Summertime" in PORGY AND BESS, 1959) and Stella Stevens (TOO LATE BLUES, 1962) among others. Less important on her resume was her work as a member of the Ray Conniff Singers, and as one of the back-up singers on "Moonlight Swim," which was on the soundtrack for Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii." She was a friend of Gordon Jenkins, which naturally meant that she got the nod for back-up work for Frank Sinatra (notably "Trilogy") and Mel Torme ("California Suite.")
Let's simply consider her achievements with the hits "Swamp Girl," the "Star Trek" theme and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." For this trio, Loulie Jean Norman should have a place in the Book of World Records…for instantly identifiable performances that didn't have her name on them, and for achieving greatness without singing a single written word!
Loulie is "Swamp Girl" Instant download or listen on line. No pop ups, porn ads or wait time.
From the original vinyl, Loulie is "Vampira" going up and down the scale opposite Paul Frees as "Dracula" for "All of a Sudden My Heart Sings." Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads, Paypal donation pleas or wait time.
Even if you never bothered to watch the original show, you know two things about "Hawaii 5-0." One, the great theme song. And two, the phrase "Book 'em, Danno." Danno was "Danny Williams," played by James MacArthur. "Danno" is now down under. Johnny Gregory, the choice for a rendition of the TV theme song, is still with us and celebrated his birthday this month (October 12, 1924).
Johnny Gregory (nee Gregori…his father was dance band leader Frank Gregori) recorded several albums of TV themes and lounge hits under his own name, including esoteric items such as "Melodies of Japan." But he and his orchestra also performed under such aliases as "The Cascading Strings," Nino Ricci and his orchestra, and Chaquito and his orchestra. Just why he'd have one album of hard-hitting TV themes released as Johnny Gregory and another (containing "Hawaii Five-O) as Chaquito, is hard to figure. The album as Chaquito does not have a lot of stereotypical Latino instrumentation, and most of the cuts (such as "Mannix," "Name of the Game," "Ironside") are very faithful to the originals.
People figured MacArthur (December 8, 1937 – October 28, 2010) had acting in his blood, since he was the son of Helen Hayes and her playwright husband (author of "The Front Page"). Actually, he was adopted. He looked nothing like Helen Hayes…which was a good thing for any guy hoping to play a hero on television.
Before he reached that level, he starred in several Disney movies, was on Broadway co-starring with Jane Fonda in "Invitation to a March," and toured in various stage productions around the country, including "John Loves Mary" with his first wife, the bubbly sitcom blonde Joyce Bulifant.
His second wife was "Wrangler Jane" on "F-Troop," the winsome Melody Patterson. That marriage lasted five years. They were married in Hawaii, where James was now starring in his most famous role, a role he played for eleven of the show's twelve seasons. He left before the final aloha, opting to return to the stage and a juicy role in "The Lunch Hour" opposite Cybil Shepherd.
For more, you can go to his official website, jamesmacarthur.com, where you'll find bio material, photos, and under "other goodies," links to Amazon where you can buy DVDs of seasons of "Hawaii Five-O" and some of the films that he was most proud of, including 'Battle of the Bulge," "Storm Chasers," "Spencer's Mountain," "Swiss Family Robinson,""Kidnapped" and many more.
He was gracious in his praise of the new version of his most famous TV show: "Ever since I saw the script for the pilot, I‘ve been very excited about this new Hawaii Five-0. From that first moment, I knew CBS had another winner on its hands. I can remember back to when Lenny Freeman called to invite me to participate in the original version. My first thought was, “Great! If I’m lucky, this is my free ticket to 13 weeks in Hawaii. Count me in!
Little did I know that 40 years later, people would still be calling out to me to “Book ‘em, Danno!” wherever I go, and that Hawaii Five-0 would become a worldwide phenomenon, an indelible part of our modern culture, ready tonight to launch a bold new incarnation…"
He added: "I’m looking forward to making an appearance in the new show when the time is right, and I can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for me."
Hawaii Five-O theme by CHAQUITO, aka Johnny Gregory Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads, Paypal donation pleas or wait time.
While most who heard the news of Solomon Burke's death said, "Who?" a few soul-lovin' bloggers expressed shock and sadness at their hero's passing…almost to the point of doing something beyond posting an album cover and a link. Some actually said "R.I.P." or something like that. Anyone actually familiar with Mr. Burke had a reason to be saddened. But shocked? The man was singing in a wheelchair thanks to obesity. Put it this way, you could fit Oprah and Aretha into each leg of his pants. It was remarkable he managed to make it to 70.
Solomon (March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010) released a new album this year and was celebrated with a nice piece in Rolling Stone (May 27th issue). It opened with a funny line about the shape of the bald man's head, "nicely symmetrical except for a flat spot on the upper left side, as if somebody took a small slice off the fat end of an Easter egg with a razor. 'That's where my mother hit me with a frying pan,' Burke says with a laugh…I had cleaned it with a Brillo pad, and she didn't want no Brillo on her frying pan.'" I need not regurgitate the other highlights. Get a subscription, same as me. It's nice to sit back with an actual magazine in hand, at least once in a while.
At least Burke was not one of those completely forgotten soul guys who end up with a few paragraphs in Rolling Stone after they die. He knew his worth, and so did his fans, who were still anxious to see him perform, even in his wheelchair. In fact he was en route to a performance in Holland when he collapsed and died. Now there's a shock…that he died on his way to entertain the Dutch…and they were actually paying for tickets. Or did he collapse when he was told that everybody in that country expected him to sing for free? PS, it's not that the Dutch have soul; maybe he was booked because they could relate so well to his obesity.
Like his body, Solomon Burke covered a wide range. Naturally enough, the choice here, for what might be your introduction to his masterful singing, is his cover of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm." Not that it was the Big Man's biggie. That would be "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love," which was revived on the soundtrack to "The Blues Brothers," but attributed to Wilson Pickett. Burke's anger was quickly erased when Atlantic sent over $20,000. Earlier, the religious Mr. Burke had forgiven Atlantic execs Jerry Wexler and Bert Burns for somehow sticking their names on the song and getting a share of royalties they didn't really deserve. (Yes, a perfectly good reason to upload and download all of Burke's albums for free…as a protest against the surprising corruption one finds only in the music business, not in, say, banking, stock transactions, or political appointments to civil service jobs.)
Burke was still recording, though mostly on indie labels, including the brilliant 2002 effort 'Don't Give Up On Me." The title track's a true heartbreaker…which ain't gonna help the people who are already a little torn over Solomon's departure. There's also the 2005 "Make Do With What You Got," and the new one that led to the Rolling Stone article, "Nothing's Impossible." His farewell album isn't very commercial, but it'll be undeniably satisfying for hardcore fans of classic soul and R&B. While the title track is actually one of the weaker ones, and a bit too preachy, the other tracks include the powerful "Everything About You," and "Oh What a Feeling," the kind of piece so black it's blue, and something most guys from Joe Cocker to Randy Newman wish they could sing as well. No doubt about it, at 70 the man was still gettin' it done.
Burke left behind 21 children…which might be one reason why he was beloved by the Vatican and was given a chance to meet both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. You just can't have enough children can you? Every sperm is sacred, amen. His official website is thekingsolomonburke.com and the current message there is as follows:
"We graciously thank you for your continued support and love. We find strength in your well wishes, your great stories and your dedications. To continue the legacy, please donate to: The Burke-Maynard Foundation (Solomon Burke Scholarship Award) and/or Solomon’s Temples of the World House of God for All People – a 501 c3 Non- Profit (donations will be for the maintenance of his church and legacy) P.O. Box 2044, Beverly Hills CA. 90213. In Solomon's words, "No donation is too small or too big!" May Solomon's message of love and peace continue to live within us for everlasting eternity. All is Well!"
SOLOMON BURKE on MAGGIES FARM
Time flies. So did Jane Dornacker until the accident that happened 24 years ago this month, when she helicoptered into the Hudson River.
Jane called herself Leila for that all-girl group, and while the remnants of the rock group Fanny put out an album called "Rock and Roll Survivors," Leila's choice of anthem was "Rock and Roll Weirdos." It was released as a single and is a fairly rare collectors item these days.
Also in the golden era of the late 70's, Jane guested with R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders for the lead vocal on "Christopher Columbus." She and Illfolks-fave Ron Nagle wrote one of the best of The Tubes' non-hits, the legendary "Don't Touch Me There." She would memorably tour with The Tubes, and then veer off into improv comedy,and work at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. In an interesting segue, the woman who rarely had a song on AM-radio became the radio traffic reporter for KFRC. She then flew to the East Coast to join WNBC, where Joey Reynolds was the afternoon mouth. Joey's still on the air locally in New York.
Jane (October 1, 1947-October 22 1986) was in the traffic helicopter as usual, and at about a quarter to five, was getting set for that hectic time when people were leaving work and wanting to know the best ways to get the hell out of NYC, and if it would be the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel, or the GWB. Six months earlier, the helicopter malfunctioned, but Jane and her pilot made a safe landing in the water and were even able to swim to safety. This time, her calm report on Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnel traffic suddenly changed: "Hit the water!" she suddenly called out, "Hit the water! Hit the water!"
Then there was silence. Even worse, there was a song by Huey Lewis and the News, as Joey Reynolds vowed to keep the music playing, while calling, "Find out what's going on with the helicopter. Something happened there. It's quarter of five…I hope nothing happened with Jane…say a little prayer, hope nothing's wrong…that's really…that's a hard, hard job…"
A malfunction sent the helicopter on a tilt, nose-diving downward. They were close to the shore line, and Jane was praying that her pilot could make a safe landing in the water. Instead, he hit a fence at the pier. And then the helicopter keeled over into the drink. The injured pilot was taken to a local hospital and survived. It was too late for Jane. The hard-luck punk-rocker and traffic reporter was a recent widow…and now her 16 year-old daughter was an orphan. The girl received a rather small ($325,000) settlement from the helicopter company.
While this is sometimes a tasteless and morbid blog (now is where the "Dead as a Dornacker" phrase sneaks in), it only reflects human nature. Some of you are thinking, "Wouldn't it be wicked cool if there was actually a tape of Jane Dornacker's last broadcast? I'd love to hear it." And for you, just cut and paste this link: http://www.ohms.com/tragedy.wav
As Jane's co-write for The Tubes is easily available, as is R. Crumb's Cheapsuit music, here's "Rock and Roll Weirdos," which should still serve as an inspiration for all…and harken back to a time of light-hearted dark humor, non-pushy rebellion and a celebration of simply being different and a free-thinker in ways that don't harm anyone else.
LEILA AND THE SNAKES: ROCK AND ROLL WEIRDOS Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads, Paypal donation pleas or wait time.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
What turned one of the Little Rascals into a grown up sexy Lounge lizard? It probably had something to do with her marriage. Darla Hood divorced her insurance salesman hubby in 1957, and the ex-child star and most famous female of the "Our Gang" comedies, married record company exec Jose Granson the same year. Which was 1957, the year she recorded her first demi-hit, "I Just Wanna Be Free."
"My Quiet Village" arrived in 1959. Yes, the song was intended to cash in the rage for what we now call "exotica," the music that backpack-wearers now clamber over themselves to acquire, breaking their horn rims and breaking wind, as they hunker over musty cardboard boxes of albums in thrift shops or at nerd-events like the WFMU record fair.
Darla's birthday is coming up soon (November 8, 1931 - June 13, 1979) which is a good reason to post this oddity. Another reason is to get her name onto "Captain Crawl," because as you see, when you type it in at the moment, you're told that you must've typed the wrong name...
"My Quiet Village" was originally released on the indie Ray Note label, and credited to Baxter-Leven (the sheet music gives the full names, Leslie Baxter and Mel Leven). Darla would follow "My Quiet Village" with "Silent Island," for which she supplied the lyrics. Billboard enthused, "ballad, chanted warmly by the chick to a lush backing featuring strings." But we'll leave that for another time, and somebody else's blog.
DARLA HOOD livens up MY QUIET VILLAGE