Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Greg Giraldo was a likable motor-mouthed comic who was probably best known for giving and receiving outrageous and raunchy insults on cable TV's Comedy Central roasts. He had his own series on Comedy Central, two specials for the channel, and issued CDs for the Comedy Central label as well.
But behind the scenes, there was always talk of substance abuse. First, it was heavy drinking. But now, the talk is about the prescription medication that took his life. On September 25th, quite ironically, Greg appeared at the 3rd Annual New York Recovery Rally in Randall's Island Park, a celebration for people getting their lives together after addiction. That night he was back in New Jersey where he was appearing at a club inappropriately titled "Stress Factory." Reportedly there was a "wild party" going on in his hotel room at the East Brunswick Hilton. He was taken from there unconscious, and lingered in a local hospital before dying today, September 29th. He was 44.
Born in Queens, his father Colombian and his mother Spanish, Giraldo (December 10, 1965-September 29, 2011) graduated from Harvard Law School but turned to a comedy career, becoming accepted by Colin Quinn, Lewis Black and other edgy wiseguys. He appeared on "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn," "Lewis Black's Root of all Evil," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," and was a judge on last season's "Last Comic Standing."
A few years ago some of his monologue material was mated to crappy music for "Underwear Goes Inside the Pants," credited to "Lazyboy." A variation on the technique pioneered decades ago by Murray Roman, it doesn't exactly work too well...most people would either like to hear the music alone, or Greg alone...but as this is a music blog, it's the choice of a tribute for him.
It's usually said, for lack of anything better, "he will be missed." Greg certainly will. Along with Lisa Lampanelli and Jeff Ross, Greg's appearances on the Comedy Central Roasts were always on target and never disappointing. He was coming into his prime as both a stand-up comic and showed some potential as a comic actor for films or a sitcom. He leaves behind three kids, many friends, and a lot of great comedy we can all still enjoy. Above, the trademark Greg Giraldo "what me worry" expression. Below, your download.
Greg Giraldo, monologue with music: Underwear Goes Inside the Pants.
The new Phil Ochs documentary, Kenneth Bowser's "There But for Fortune," is a brilliant one, which correctly identifies Phil as a major player on both the music and political scene, and strong influence in his time. And his influence has endured. With input from the family (who appear on screen, including Phil's wife, daughter, brother and sister) the humanity of Phil emerges, and without tears, the tragedy of his decline is also examined. Check philochsthemovie.com for the latest info.
The film's title is of course based on one of Phil's songs. As Michael Simmons mentioned in his liner notes for "On My Way," a collection of newly discovered 1963 recordings by Phil, "these topical songs are in the 21st century. Change some names and facts, and one is confronted with the horrifying and tedious reality that we're debating the same simple matters of justice 47 years later." "There But for Fortune" opens with two potent lines that could easily lead you to think of the Middle East and the World Trade Center:
"Show me a country where the bombs had to fall, Show me the ruins of the buildings once so tall…"
Update: the Illfolks salute to Phil Ochs was more than a share, it was also a Cher. But a busy-bot forced its removal here...which hopefully means her version, currently out of print and never on CD, will turn up for you to enjoy. More common cover versions are around from: Chad & Jeremy, Francoise Hardy, Joan Baez, The Living Voices, The New Christy Minstrels, Peter Paul and Mary, the Spokesmen, Tom Paxton and Marianne Faithfull, making it arguably Phil's most popular song. Below, you get a version from Phil himself, NOT something you can buy; a track from a yet-to-be-released concert recorded at The Stables in East Lansing, Michigan in 1973. Which is here to serve as an intro for those who've never heard of Mr. Ochs.
PHIL at EAST LANSING PHIL OCHS: THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE, East Lansing unreleased live version Instant listen or download...no pop-ups, pop-unders, porn-ads, Russian website spyware or wait-time extortion.
In the early folkie days, most any pad with no heat up on Sullivan Street would probably have well-creased copies of "Sing Out!" and "Broadside" lying around. Irwin Silber (October 17, 1925 – September 8, 2010) was the co-founder of "Sing Out!" and helmed it from 1950 to 1967 (it's still around). It was there that "Sixteen Tons," "This Land is Your Land" and many other classics were published.
"Sing Out," was a phrase in "If I Had a Hammer" (aka "The Hammer Song") written by half of The Weavers, Lee Hays and Pete Seeger. Folk singers were supposed to sing out danger, warnings, and love "between my brothers and my sisters." The order was up to them. Like most of those ardent Commie lefty troublemakers producing and promoting folk music, Silber was Jewish…and his main concerns had nothing to do with Jews and most everything to do with blacks, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, coal miners and others he felt were doing a lot worse than himself.
Silber was so much a part of the hardcore folk movement that he was among the critics of Bob Dylan for going electric at Newport. Silber put it down in black and white, in the notorious November 1965 issue of "Sing Out!" In his open letter to Bob, he declared "you…somehow lost contact with people," due to "the paraphernalia of fame." ("Chords of fame" would've been Phil Ochs' line!) Silber added, "Your new songs seem to be all inner-directed now, inner-probing, self-conscious - maybe even a little maudlin or a little cruel on occasion. And it's happening onstage, too. You seem to be relating to a handful of cronies behind the scenes now - rather than to the rest of us out front."
Dylan's knee-jerk reaction was to forbid his song lyrics from appearing in "Sing Out!" About three years later, Silber came around to realizing Dylan's vision as a rock star, and wrote "Dylan is our poet - not our leader." And Dylan, circa 2009, allowed, "I liked Irwin, but I couldn't relate (to the criticism)."
Although Dylan and most of the other young folkies had migrated away from Woody Guthrie and "The Grapes of Wrath," as folk and "folk rock" were replaced by simply "rock," Silber remained "old school," and in 1970 co-founded Paredon Records with his wife Barbara Dane. She produced and he marketed over 50 albums in 15 years, protesting the war in Vietnam, champing independence for Puerto Rico, and being as iconoclastic as possible. Dane contributed her own album, "I Hate the Capitalist System," which arrived in 1973.
Irwin spent the 80's as co-editor of Frontline, and finished up his career (1990-1995) as an associate editor at Crossroads magazine. He was slowed by Alzheimer's, and you can see more about that at the KQED website, where Barbara Dane is interviewed, along with Irwin, about "early stage Alzheimer's." http://www.kqed.org/quest/television/alzheimers-is-the-cure-in-the-genes. Irwin was asked how he felt about the progress of the disease, and if he was concerned about living another five or ten years, and he replied, "I've lived my life…I'm satisfied no matter what. I did something, and I feel good about it." And at the time, he still remembered.
And speaking of brain damage, since you're already familiar with the anthemic versions of "If I Had a Hammer" popularized by Trini Lopez and Peter Paul and Mary, your download is the Leonard Nimoy version.
"If I Had a Hammer" by LEONARD NIMOY Instant listen or download...no pop-ups, pop-unders, porn-ads, Russian website spyware or wait-time extortion.
Obits for Eddie Fisher (August 10, 1928 – September 22, 2010) barely mentioned his fame as a popular singer in the 50's. Who'd care? Eddie's rivals back then included other forgotten names such as Guy Mitchell and Miss Toni Fisher. Had either of them died a few days ago, their obits would've been a paragraph or two at best.
The Washington Post led with the headline: "1950's singing star was brought low by scandalous love life." NBC's website (nbclosangeles.com) headlined: "Princess Leia's Father Died." The Associated Press's obit began: "Long before the era of Brangelina, TMZ and around-the-clock celebrity obsession, Eddie Fisher had a leading role in arguably the most explosive sex scandal of Hollywood's golden age…."
I think Eddie Fisher knew, late in life, his fame was not his forgotten hits. Almost nobody wants to hear "Thinking of You," "Any Time," "Tell Me Why" or "I'm Yours" even though they all were Top Five in their day. He had four #1 hits: Wish You Were Here (1952), I'm Walking Behind You (1952) "Oh My Pa Pa" (1953) and "I Need You Now" (1954). None have stood the test of time. On "Oh My Pa Pa" Fisher sounds like a younger version of the man who discovered him: Eddie Cantor. And everybody hates Eddie Cantor.
And so it is, that the blandly likable Mr. Fisher was best known as the hapless fool of "The Great Scandal," which was a zillion times more potent than the preceding one, a B-list brawl between bony Franchot Tone, hulking Tom Neal and hoyden Barbara Payton. Briefly, Eddie and Debbie Reynolds were a storybook couple who sang sappy songs and even made a rotten film together. When friend Liz Taylor was distraught over the death of husband Mike Todd, Fisher consoled Liz and got in way over his dickhead. Debbie found out, and Fisher boldly demanded a divorce. He married Liz who was soon jumping into bed with Richard Burton. A cuckolded Eddie Fisher was no longer anyone's idea of a sexy, desirable star. He was just a schmuck.
A change in musical styles rendered Fisher several notches below the mediocre level of a Vic Damone, who at least could snap his fingers on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and amuse some middle-aged women. Eddie toiled in nightclubs, re-surfaced as a "whatever became of…" and eventually wrote a raunchy tell-all that was a dirty sheeted laundry list of every likely (Angie Dickinson) and unlikely (Bette Davis) woman he'd encountered. An appalled Carrie Fisher commented: "That's it. I'm having my DNA fumigated."
The saddest thing about Fisher's death is the dumbed-down way it was handled in the press. People over 40 know who he is. Articles need not be slanted so that the stupidest reader gets it. What happens when Paul McCartney leaves us? Should we expect the headline: "Pioneer of "Bieber Hair" Dies"? Will Steve and Eydie get: "They were your Grandma's version of Donny and Marie"? Why do famous people have to be made relevant to teenagers? Articles on politics, war, nutrition or sports aren't slanted so a tween can enjoy them, so "Princess Leia's Father Dies" is just plain wrong. Newspaper and website obits that are supposed to be on the record, and a source authority, shouldn't be slanted as if they were issues of 16 or Tiger Beat.
PS, nobody bothered to question just how Eddie Fisher died from "complications" involving hip surgery. Rather than dredge up a long-dead scandal (Debbie Reynolds and Liz Taylor made up and became very friendly), how about alerting people to the potential dangers of a procedure that seems more and more popular among older people?
Shakespeare said the evil that men do lives after them, and the good is often in turds with their bones. Something like that. And so we forget, for example, that Eddie Fisher was good for the Jews. At a time when the record buying public was grabbing Sinatra, Damone, Como, Frankie Laine, Dino, Julius LaRosa, and the other Italians, Eddie Fisher became the first certifiable Jewish heart-throb in pop music. (Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor were throbs in a different way…pains in the butt). Eddie Fisher was halfway responsible for giving us Carrie Fisher. And in his day, Eddie Fisher was a good entertainer with a lot of Top Ten hits that people back then enjoyed tremendously. So good for him.
The download choice? Well, Eddie scored a Top Ten in 1955 with "Dungaree Doll," which was one of those early attempts (Pat Boone would become adept at this) to gently move from "big band" to the new style of "rock and roll." "Dungaree Doll" is almost a hybrid of MOR and rock, and there was a lot of it about (let's not forget those middle-aged singers who backed up many an Elvis song). The arrangement is stilted and Eddie's delivery is stiff, but give him credit for this commercial (and successful) attempt at singing for the Dobie Gillis crowd…the people slowly coming out of the deep freeze and the Cold War and warming up to the new beat, and the move from hep to hip.
DUNGAREE DOLL by EDDIE FISHER Instant listen on line or download. No pop-ups, porn-ads or "wait time" from weasels who want you to pay them for faster downloads on items they don't own any rights to download.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
We're coming up to a few key dates in the life and death of Ronnie Barker, OBE. There's his birthday (September 25, 1929) and his death day (October 3rd 2005).
Adept at all varieties of verbal comedy (from monologues, limericks and Spoonerisms to such obvious devices as wacky accents and even stuttering), Ronnie Barker was beloved from his supporting bits ("The Frost Report" in 1966) to his solo shows ("Ronnie Barker Playhouse" and "Hark at Barker" in the late 60's) to his near two decades as half of "The Two Ronnies." During the run of "The Two Ronnies" he also starred in two classic sitcoms with a supporting cast, "Porridge" and "Open All Hours." Barker was also not given quite enough credit as a master of visual humor, with a great range of characters to his credit, even if his stocky frame did not lead him to the frantic acrobatics one expects of a "physical" comedian. "Futtocks End" anyone? (A silent comedy he made in 1970!)
As one might expect, Ronnie Barker was more than willing to step behind a microphone in a sound studio and join the illustrious ranks of Spike Milligan, Marty Feldman and Kenneth Williams in singing odd songs. Your download offers two odd numbers on one mp3 file, the eccentric and upbeat "Billy Pratt's Bananas" and the wry and sly "Not Round Here."
Two songs by the one RONNIE BARKER Instant download or listen on line. No pop-unders, porn ads, or premium account sale attempts from pimp-like file hosting "services."
If she was still alive, what horrors she could tell. Or could she? The rapes and cruelty she endured in a "hospital" that was supposed to treat her…would have truly haunted her in the years she had left if she hadn't been strapped down and repeatedly given shock therapy. Then she was allowed to get on with her life. Which was hardly a life at all. But it was no longer rebellious, no longer asking questions and forcing answers, or challenging the status quo. Almost not worth living at all…and she died when she was only 56.
Frances Farmer was born on September 19, 1913.
Her first iconoclastic act was winning $100 from Scholastic Magazine. She entered their writing contest and won for an essay called "God Dies." For once, she was encouraged in her brilliant thinking and her challenging ideas. A few years later, a student at the University of Washington, she won a contest run by The Voice of Action and was rewarded with a trip to Russia. The whispers about Frances grew louder; this beautiful drama student and pianist…was dabbling in Atheism and had enjoyed her visit to a Commie country.
The brilliant girl was signed to a film contract at the age of 22, and instantly found herself winning popular praise co-starring opposite Bing Crosby in "Rhythm on the Range," and critical acclaim for her exciting work in the Edna Ferber drama "Come and Get It." Like Bette Davis, Frances Farmer was not a fan of the "studio system" that owned its actresses and dictated what they did. It was a bit Communistic, wasn't it? The outspoken actress sounded ungrateful and restless in her yearnings to choose her roles and grow as an actress. She took stage roles when she could get away from Paramount, and it included appearing in "Golden Boy" by Clifford Odets. She had an affair with him, expecting marriage, but he walked out on her instead. It seemed that few shared Farmer's ideals, artistry or morality. When she became a big star, he even had the nerve to try and get her to star in his new 1941 play "Clash."
It was on October 19, 1942 that the increasingly alcoholic actress, at the end of a failed marriage, was caught driving with her headlights on in a "blackout" zone. Today, a Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton would parlay that into a contract with a perfume company or a million dollar movie deal. Farmer was jailed overnight for the minor offense, and pursued by the police when she failed to pay all of her fine. After a series of increasingly bitter battles with the law, she was literally hauled away to jail, crying "Have you ever had a broken heart?"
She ended up in a sanitarium, first given insulin shock therapy. Later, in the protective custody of her mother, she was sent to a more radical madhouse where she was given stronger electric shock therapy. Released, she tried to find peace with an ordinary, normal family but was carted back to her mother, who soon committed her to Western State Hospital, where gang-rape, torture and humiliation was practiced by her supposedly sane captors. Finally released, Frances Farmer had been scared and scarred into leading a numb, "normal" life out of show business. She took a dronish job as a bookkeeper and for seven years, lived quietly until she was rediscovered in 1957 by an enterprising writer who parlayed an article about her in "Modern Screen" into an appearance on "This is Your Life," and some minor TV work, including hosting a local show called "Frances Farmer Presents" through 1964. She even attempted a return to the stage in 1965, but the strain was too much for her, and she was arrested for drunken driving twice, losing her drivers license. After that, she returned to obscurity and died of cancer five years later.
In her ghost-written autobiography, there was no mention of a lobotomy performed on her. Her captors at Western State Hospital had records of hundreds of lobotomy patients but Farmer's name was not on the list and her father had refused consent for such a procedure. No nurse or doctor, even ones who could confirm some of the abuses she did suffer, recalled her being lobotomized. In suing Mel Brooks' film company for using incidences from his biography of Frances, author William Arnold declared that the screenwriter had to have read his book "Shadowland" because it was the only work that mentioned she'd had a lobotomy. And he admitted that he had "fictionalized" this, and several other things in the book to make it more dramatic.
Dramatic is the word for Steven Cush's angry, anthemic "Lobotomy Brings 'em Home" which appears on "Silvertown," from his group The Men They Couldn't Hang. The group name is much better than The Men Who Aren't Hung. Like Russell Crowe, who can look and act very American, the guys at first glance might seem like some angry, punkish variation on The Band to any Yank picking up the obscure album in a dollar bin (as this Yank did long ago). Their group name certainly has the connotation of the Old West, if you forget that the hangman was a figure quite popular in England before there was an Old West. Though Steven Cush, influenced by the movie "Frances" wrote about this American star, much of his material and that of his bandmates is very much on British themes, and the band back in the 80's was comprised of "a Welshman, 3 Scots and a Yorkie."
While the lobotomy of Frances Farmer is probably not the truth, there's much truth in this snarling, well-intentioned song, and about the dubious use of therapeutic butchery, which happened to any of any of a hundred of her fellow patients. The song is still a decent homage to Farmer and a vivid warning of what still happens when any powerful system (which is what Hollywood was and is) can dictate lives. And while lobotomy may no longer be popular, many modern drugs for the mentally ill and experiments on them are just as bad.
The movie "Frances" and the life of Frances Farmer influenced another, quite different figure in the music world. Born in Canada, and the foremost superstar in France for well over a decade, the former Mylene Gautier changed her last name to the American "Farmer," as a lasting tribute to this talented, and literally tortured star, born today, September 19th. And a belated happy birthday to Mylene Farmer, born September 12, 1961, whom this blog salutes as the most intelligent, compelling and beautiful woman making music in our generation.
LOBOTOMY BRINGS 'EM HOME
One of the memorable moments on "The Tonight Show" was when Pancho the Parrot came through, and sang a few bars of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Up till then, most talking birds just sat and did nothing. Or barely said "Hello." At best, a mynah bird announced "My name is Howard." (The famous clip was on YouTube, but has been blocked via DMCA from Carson Productions, since they sell it on various "Tonight Show" compilation DVD's and don't appreciate the "if you like it, buy it" mentality.)
So delightful was Pancho on that September 16th, 1981 broadcast, that somebody decided to try and get him to actually record "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Which was hard to do for a bird-brain who could only cover the song's first 15 words. However, Pancho also knew a little bit of "Springtime in the Rockies" and "Bali Hai," and the result? The medley you are about to download, augmented by generic Mitch Miller orchestration and a somewhat fun-dampening bunch of middle-aged choristers.
Pancho is a double yellow-headed Amazon parrot (which means that his entire head is yellow, not just the "forehead"). Back then, the bird's chief rival was Lolita, a mere yellow-naped Amazon parrot (just a spot of yellow on the back of her head). She could sing a bit, and could bark or meow, but her main charm was a girlish laugh she picked up from her original owners who had a kid around the house.
Owners of amusing birds such as Pancho know it's important to treat them well, and that doesn't simply mean adequate food and water. The trade-off for a parrot or even a budgie subjected to captivity, isolation from its own kind, or clipped wings, should be minimum time confined in its cage and a maximum of love and attention. Do you know why a caged bird sings? It could be that it's gone nuts, a winged creature who can fly for miles finding itself confined in a cage where it can only walk sideways for a few inches in either direction. People think this isn't cruel? If they do, they left their hearts in some place other than San Francisco, and their brains as well. Pancho at least still sings his three tunes out in the open at a theme park, and isn't confined the rest of the time in a confining small cage that for us, would be as degrading and claustrophobic as a toilet stall.
PANCHO THE PARROT "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" Instant download or listen on line. No pop-unders, porn ads, or premium account sale attempts from pimp-like file hosting "services."
Thursday, September 09, 2010
You remember those 60's hippie movies? A climactic scene usually had the hero exhorting everyone to get real, lose their hang-ups, and LIVE! Sometimes the hero would simply go raving off into the horizon shouting about starting his search and being gloriously unsure of where he was going, since the scriptwriter was stuck with an ending.
David McCallum didn't quite get his chance to star in one of those "Lord Love a Duck and Morgan and Alice B. Toklas at Zabriskie Point with Heironymous Merkin" movies. He was stuck being the low-key tight-lipped Ilya Kuryakin on "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." In that role, he had to keep his cool, but on this single he got a chance to let loose and go wonderfully bonkers. On "My Carousel," shouting lines in one long crazy monologue, you might think he's become a mad Napoleon, solo.
DAVID McCALLUM - MY CAROUSEL
Thanks to a bouncing bale of hay weighing some 1300 pounds (94 stone or about 600 kilograms), a band member on the first four E.L.O. albums has achieved immortality. Had the general public heard of cellist Mike Edwards before? No, but his death made the news and he's now near the top of anyone's list of strange ways of dying. "Turn to Stone?" Not exactly. More like "Hay...Can't Get it Out Of My Head."
It was bright sunlight, 12:30pm, when Edwards drove in his van towards Kingsbridge, hardly expecting a Monty Python ending. But this was the last straw; due to some farmer's neglect, a bale got loose, rolled down toward the road, took a final bounce off a hedge, went high in the air, and landed on Mike. He was so unknown at the time of his demise, that local authorities weren't sure how to find his nearest of kin, or whether he'd been married. They certainly didn't know he had been in E.L.O., and at the accident scene he probably looked like he was in The Strawbs.
Fans of the band were quick to remember and praise the quirky cellist, who was the clown prince of the Electric Light Orchestra, an eccentric little man who favored odd costumes, and stunts. One of his best remembered bits (which unfortunately doesn't appear to have been filmed) was his "exploding cello" routine, after running a grapefruit over the strings of his cello and doing other eccentric miming. It was a highlight of the band's act when they toured in support of "Eldorado," Mike's final album with the group. After four albums and this tour (which included a splashy appearance at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on November 8th, 1974, and went round the world through the first months of 1975), Edwards changed his name to Deva Pramada, adopted a Buddhist lifestyle, and went on to the obscure life of a cello teacher in rural England…until a meaningless God shouted "Hay" and lofted a practical joke at him leaving the zen practitioner in a deaditative state.
He does leave behind great musical memories, many students who are cello masters thanks to his teachings, work on four E.L.O. albums, and fodder for a lot of bad jokes. The news of his passing raised questions about the meaning of life and why it can end in so many unpredictable, and sometimes both horrifying and hay-larious ways.
Below: Mike's impressive cello solo from the "Eldorado" tour, and a complete set from E.L.O. done at Civic Hall, Guildford.
Edwards' "Cello Solo" from the Providence, Rhode Island ELO show, December 7, 1974. Remember Pearl Harbor Instant download or listen on line.
Mike Edwards and E.L.O. at Civic Hall, Guildford, U.K. May 7th 1972 Rapidly downloadable 50 minute set. Includes: 1. Overture, 2. Queen Of The Hours, 3. From The Sun To The World, 4. First Movement, 5. Dear Elaine, 6. Great Balls Of Fire, 7. In Old England Town
To be fair, the 5th season of "America's Got Talent" offered no hillbillies or drag queens, was mercifully low on gutter dance troupes, and didn't have too many idiot mimes pretending to be robots. There were only a few loathsome kids aping rap or hip hop dancing, an almost tolerable level of talentless cutie-pie 20-somethings with Bieber hair, and just enough nut-cases and "edgy" performance artists to keep the show interesting and the judges fighting with each other.
Among the singers, the standouts turned out to be a freakish little girl who sings opera (a "trick" that became tiresome the more it was repeated), the plucky sisters Christina and Ali with their all-American charm and sad back story of cystic fibrosis with its promise of physical degeneration and early death, and the latest Springsteen wanna-be, Michael Grimm.
One singer who just missed the Top Ten was Debra Romer, an ex-waitress with that Jane Fonda combination of sexy vulnerability and flinty toughness. Not that she looks like Jane Fonda or wants to be. Thanks to the show's effective production values, she emerged, backlit, dyed-hair shining, a visual star. If you didn't see her perform Bob Dylan's song, and just hear the download below, the effect isn't quite so dramatic.
As you'll hear, her voice is both limited and limitless…at times in this performance she seems like an amateur, and at other times, she hits the notes she needs. Like Dylan himself, what she does takes some getting used to, and at times she sounds like she's wandering into the territory of plain-singing Iris DeMent or trying the over-emote route of Sinead O'Connor. Debra's stated influence is gaspy Canadian Sarah McLachlan, she of the romantic yodel and the patina of pity and melancholia. Nice of this Goddess of Gloom to choose Dylan's "Make Me Feel My Love," and try and own it despite female cover versions from Kelly Clarkson, Adele, and Trisha Yearwood.
The great thing about "America's Got Talent" is that it really can boost the career of anyone who makes it past the first few rounds. At least for a few months. By the time Romer was in the semi-finals, the 7 songs on the CD-R she sold at her gigs were available on iTunes. She now has a professional-looking website (debraromer.com) and on it announced that she'd gotten 500 new copies of her CD professionally pressed and ready for purchase. Before she made it to the semi-finals, her CD was $10 and no extra charge if a fan wanted it autographed. Now, the CD is still $10 but an autographed version is $15. Smart cookie. If she ever gets beyond local gigs at which she sells her indie CDs, it will be a bit of a surprise.
I checked out her iTune songs and they're very much in McLachlan mode, only lacking Sarah's truly exceptional voice (as well as production values of course). Put it this way, Debra Romer is to Sarah McLachlan what Kim Basinger is to Brigitte Bardot. Basinger found fame and fortune via her vulnerability and anemic good looks rather than trying to copy the style of a more popular blonde with undeniably sexier lips and a better body. So I hope that Romer will move past being a second-tier McLachlan and fully gain control of the unusual breathy style and phrasing she used on the Bob Dylan cover.
Below, you get a sample from her CD, "Stay With Me" (which she also offers free via a website link, so this is not a well-intentioned theft here) and her version of the Dylan song complete with some of the judges' reactions, with Piers Morgan of course being the most on-target.
DEBRA ROMER BOB DYLAN: MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE
DEBRA ROMER STAY WITH ME
No pop-unders, wait time, or demands to pay $9.99 a month to Oron, Depositfiles, Filesonic, etc.
On September 7th, a bunch of superstitious natives in Belize burned down the animal sanctuary built by two Americans. Why? As CNN's Arthur Brice reported, "the indigenous Maya villagers were acting on the advice of a psychic," who spread the gossip that the Americans "had fed two missing children to the 17 crocodiles at the sanctuary."
"We're in shock. We're totally devastated," said Cherie Rose, 44 years old, a woman with a biology degree and a passionate interest in preserving wildlife. Her husband Vince, 48, said "What we created was absolutely beautiful," and hopes to remain in the country and rebuild the sanctuary. As if the natives who torched it would suddenly get enough education and civility to leave it alone?
Sorry, Vince, but it's not your country. It's theirs…and they'll always find a reason to resent the White Man who comes in to bring them into the 21st Century, and find some reason to view the intrusion as nothing but evil. And they'd rather remain cannibals, Druids, female circumcisionists, rapists, murderers and most certainly ritual animal killers. Sorry Vince, it's perilous bringing civilization, knowledge and sanity to people who'd rather believe in the God of violence and intolerance.
All over the world, the clock is ticking backward as if this isn't the 21st Century. In the Middle East, they still believe in stoning women to death. The Far East is filled with barking mad maniacs who eat the brains out of living animals and don't care if they destroy the last rhino or whale. Africa is well known for regions that are totally lawless, and just to add new atrocities, reports arrived a few months ago of albino Africans being killed or mutilated because of superstitions about their skin color.
Take a look at any major city in the United States, England or France. Vince, it's enough of a battle right now to keep the savages from invading civilization and bringing with them their violence or their insane lifestyles of filth and selfishness. Killing animals? Authorities look the other way and shrug that killing goats (or most any other animal) is just part of some immigrant's religion and nobody can interfere. If you and your wife were home at the time of the fire, you would've been killed with a blow gun, or beaten to death, or simply thrown on top of the pyre that was once your animal sanctuary.
Mr. and Mrs. Rose were trying to maintain wildlife and the broken planet's ecosystem. Had they represented a big corporation willing to buy land to strip-mine it of minerals or chop down trees, and offered ten cents to every native, the natives would've been cheering, and more than willing to grind up a few of their children for hamburger meat and serve it when the contracts were signed.
The natives burned down the animal sanctuary because of superstition. Well, some 38 years ago, Randy Newman wrote a song called "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield," which if you read between the sparse lines, is a meditation on the kind of selfish, stupid "humans" who place their sadistic pleasures above all else. Pyromania is, after all, pretty sexy. Or don't you remember the lyrics:
"Let's burn down the cornfield, let's burn down the cornfield. And we can listen to it burn…oh it's so good, on a cold night, to have a fire burnin' warm and bright…let's burn down the cornfield. Let's burn down the cornfield. And I'll make love to you while it's burning."
You get both a moody and uptempo version.
Alex Taylor, oldest brother of James and Livingston, recorded Newman's song on his prime 1972 album "Dinnertime." Taylor's career stalled shortly after, but he still had a desire to make music. 21 years after his shot at stardom (at a time when every Taylor sibling seemed to be making records) Alex went back into the studio to try again. By then, he was well known to have a drinking problem, and after a bit too much vodka at the recording studio, Alex suffered a heart attack, lingered unconscious for nearly a week, only to die on brother James' 45th birthday, March 12, 1993.
The rockabilly version, betraying the cheerful villainy one associates with Southern empty-skulls, is actually the work of a Belgian group. The Seatsniffers, with Walter Broes on lead vocals and the De Houwer brothers (Dirk and Piet) on bass and drums, arrived on the scene in 1997, making albums and opening for Euro-traveling 50's faves such as Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Buddy Guy. The band's name made them especially popular in Holland, where a lot of guys get off on sneaky ways of self-pleasure. The band did manage to play a "Rockabilly Rave" in England. "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield" was released in 2004 via the Dutch label Sonic Rendez-Vous.
LET'S BURN DOWN THE CORNFIELD - ALEX TAYLOR
LET'S BURN DOWN THE CORNFIELD - THE SEATSNIFFERS