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
Thirty people have lost their jobs. They worked for the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, which shut down two days ago, on October 17th.
Would you believe that a museum could survive for so many years, just on people wanting to admire somebody's silly hairstyle, corny music and a life built around over-the-top costumes? But why mention Graceland at all?
The workers at Lee's tributary knew the end was near; it was as obvious and painful as a rhinestone condom. Years ago, Liberace's museum was almost as successful as the Nashville shrine for Elvis, with about a half-million visitors. In recent days, it was almost as vacant as the expression in George Michael's eyes.
Wladziu Liberace (or "Lee" as he was known to his fans) was an influence on a lot of stars who discovered that showmanship and salesmanship had something in common. Another flamboyant figure around the same time was the wrestler "Gorgeous George." One might argue that Elvis would not have dared showing up in flashy costumes if not for Liberace, and that today, Hulk Hogan wouldn't be wearing feathered boas in public. These days, people point to Adam Lambert as a child of Liberace's. Well, yes, but if he really was, he came out through the asshole, didn't he? An adequate pianist, Liberace became a sensation thanks to his costumes, his coif, and his 200 watt toothy smile. He also had a sense of humor (before "camp" was a common word) and winked as he told the world he was crying "all the way to the bank" over what critics were saying. He also banked plenty of money from what scandal writers were implying in Confidential Magazine and The Daily Mirror. He successfully sued them since they had no actual photographic proof or notarized statements of male lovers that he was gay. Lee in fact went to his grave denying that he was homosexual.
On Jack Paar's show Liberace memorably ad-libbed music for some poetry from "Cassius Clay." He appeared in many an amusing TV variety show sketch, and even turned up as the evil pianist Chandell as a guest-villain on "Batman." He made albums featuring musical flourishes that were the audio equivalent of drawing a circle over an i instead of dotting it. These albums of semi-classical favorites and overly familiar pop hits were favorites of grannies everywhere.
The maestro died of AIDS February 4, 1987 at age 67, but loyal fans still remembered him and went to his shrine. Till now. 500,000 visitors one year, now just 50,000, and with building renovations needed and no big royalties coming in on Lee's music, or big contributions, Lee's costumes have been mothballed and his memorabilia stored away. Vegas ain't what it used to be, and each generation chooses who remains a legend and who doesn't. And so Liberace joins the tarnished angels in that wing of heaven where Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker also grimace, mime, and smile for all eternity.
Liberace's piano style could be described in one word; "plinky." His vocals could be characterized as coming out as a slightly more masculine Paul Lynde. And his message might be summed up in a phrase that was a favorite of Michael Flanders: "Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not." Even so, he did it his way, he became rich and famous, he is STILL beloved, and how many performers ever had a museum in their honor? For almost all of us, what Liberace achieved is an "Impossible Dream." (All right, not everyone dreams of anal sex…) And as this entry slowly sinks into smarm, we wave a white flag trimmed in lace, and offer "The Impossible Dream" as plinked AND narrated by the one, the only, the undefeated, undisputed…LIBERACE.
For those who wish to delve further, there's a Rapid download of a dozen of his best loved instrumentals, AND you also get a novelty song from Charlie Adams. The hillbilly offers a very good-natured call-out, "Hey Liberace," at a time when most rednecks would've gladly hung poor Lee by the thumbs off a backyard pepper tree. The museum's gone, but the musical memories linger on.
A DOZEN Liberace Favorites, Rapidly shared. Featuring show-off piano numbers: Begin the Beguine, Stella by Starlight, Nola, Laura, Tico-Tico, Stardust, Kitten on the Keys, Chopsticks, Blue Tango, Old Piano Roll Blues, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and I'll Be Seeing You. '
Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. A few songs have been re-upped individually via a better service:
LIBERACE plays and sings "The Impossible Dream"
Hillbilly Charlie Adams cries out "HEY LIBERACE!"
Can you imagine Kanye West or Eminem rapping a song…and getting a five minute standing ovation? That's what often happened when Dame Joan Sutherland performed an aria. In 1959, at Covent Garden, the crowd went nuts for 19 minutes, following her performance as "Lucia di Lammermoor."
So why would Sutherland end up on the Illfolks blog? Because the average person took her for granted. They preferred the flashier and more controversial Maria Callas, or even the warm and kindly Beverly Sills. To the average opera fan, Bony Joan was not authentic enough for Italian opera (we want Tebaldi!) wasn't ethnic enough for the trendy (Leontyne Price was what they wanted), didn't have a back story of emotional troubles (Teresa Stratas) and wasn't one of those giant Wagnerian windbags (Kirsten Flagstad) or chunky fireplugs (Marilyn Horne). The Aussie singer was, to critics, simply "La Stupenda," and they admired both her opera performances and her recordings of aria, such as the Grammy-winning "Art of the Prima Donna" in 1960.
I'll admit that Joan Sutherland, OM AC DBE (those are honors, not her license plate) is not my "fave." When I first started experimenting with opera, I was craven enough to prefer a beautiful woman on the cover of a boxed set, which meant De Los Angeles, Peters or Neblett. But in the same way "you're beautiful when you're angry," a woman can be very attractive when she goes nuts. And so, I was quite pleased with a VHS tape of Sutherland in "Lucia de Lammermoor," doing her mad scene in a bloody gown. There were plenty of other operas for Joan that involved grand mad scenes or death scenes, which didn't require a great beauty, which is something the lantern-jawed Joanie was not. As she aged, she sort of began resembling a moray eel…all prominent nose and chin, flashing rows of pretty dangerous teeth.
In part thanks to her husband, who urged her to abandon her ambition of singing heavy Wagnerian opera, Sutherland excelled in roles that showed off her flexibility, range, and trademark "trill," which is what being a "coloratura" is all about. Americans saw her regularly on "The Bell Telephone Hour" (a DVD of highlights exists).
While her "Lucia de Lammermoor" remains a highlight, "Esclarmonde" was her own favorite role…one of the most difficult ones for any coloratura. She eased toward retirement in the 1980's, and gave her last operatic performance in her native Australia, in 1990. After tutoring students, taking a few acting roles and judging talent competitions, Sutherland gradually eased away from the music world entirely. Bluntly stated three years ago; "I'm 80 years old and I really don't want to have anything to do with opera anymore." She preferred tending her own garden in Switzerland…where she fell, breaking both her legs.
The 81 year-old diva recovered, and was still in pretty good health up till last year, when she turned up at Buckingham Palace for a luncheon with The Queen. Sutherland was greatly devoted to the monarchy, and to Australia keeping its ties with Great Britain, and this led to the only real controversy in her career.
In 1994 she told Australians, 'I'm a very ardent supporter of the monarchy and I can't imagine not having our wonderful allegiance to our heritage, to our Queen and to our right to have this wonderful, wonderful on-going connection with home. My parents loved the old country and I was brought up believing I was British. I used to have a British passport and it really upsets me that I don't any more. It also upsets me that it is such a damned job to get an Australian passport now - you have to go to be interviewed by a Chinese or an Indian. I'm not particularly racist, but I find it ludicrous.'
Some found her remark racist, and the media gleefully jumped all over Joan Sutherland, who by then was no longer performing and therefore ready for scorn and abuse. Now, as Stanton said at Lincoln's bedside, she "belongs to the ages." She died last fortnight. (November 7 1926 – October 10, 2010). Since most any normal person can only stand opera for a limited amount of time, your download is five fine examples of aria. If you want more, her album of arias is very much in print.
Slippin' you five on Joan: (The Soldier Tir'd - ARNE, Bel Raggio Lusinghier - ROSSINI, Ah! Je Veux Viuvre - GONOUD, Ou Va La Jeune Indoue - DELIBES and Caro Nome - VERDI)
When he was on television regularly, Hugh Downs was genial and a gentleman. I'm sure he still is. He believed that being invited into your home, even via a television set, was no excuse for being loud. It was easy to neglect or underestimate Hugh Downs for that very reason, as he quietly and tastefully built up hour after hour and year after year of being the host of a variety of talk and news shows. From 1958-1969 he hosted the quiz show "Concentration" (David Letterman is still fond of randomly quoting: "Not a match…the board goes back"). He was so erudite on that program that few would've guessed that in his spare time he avidly listened to country artist Red Foley: "I think Red Foley is one of the greatest singers of all time. And I include him with Caruso…I'm serious. His singing represents life and that's what music should do." It might've been his interest in Foley that ultimately led him to meld folk tunes to his mellow, urbane style of vocalizing on his obscure Epic album.
Well known to housewives via his daytime work, Downs became known to night owls as the announcer on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show." He smoothly took over on the infamous night Paar walked off in a snit, and so it wasn't much of a surprise when NBC decided to make him the host of their morning talk show, "The Today Show" (1962-1971). He would later anchor the evening news-magazine show "20/20" starting in 1978 and stayed with the show until he retired in 1999. Not just a "news reader," Downs was deeply involved in breaking stories and getting behind the news. Among his valuable news specials for ABC: "Growing Old in America," a three-hour documentary aired in 1985, "The Poisoning of America," an environmental special in 1988, and "Depression, Beyond the Darkness," in 1990.
A sidelight for Hugh Downs was hosting the classical music series "Live from Lincoln Center" from 1990 to 1996, but let's get back to the musical subject: "An Evening with Hugh Downs." At the time it turned up, Hugh sometimes would sing on "The Tonight Show." With the folk boom in progress, and "ordinary" fellows such as Burl Ives having such success, it wasn't much of a stretch for Epic Records to give the amiable Mr. Downs some studio time to record a pleasant, intimate album of songs, with spoken introductions.
The cover notes tried to liven up his mild image by pointing out his colorful hobbies: "skin diver, astronomer, antique gun and furniture authority, student of American history, delver into philosophy and psychology, ardent volunteer worker in Mental Health Campaigns, studious collector of symphony recordings, composer, pianist, guitarist, artist, amateur physicist, hi-fi set builder, telescope maker, avid reader, husband and father." The notes also mention Mr. Burl Ives, who was impressed by a Hugh Downs appearance on TV. Downs recalls that Burl "told me I deserved to wear a beard. I told him I wouldn't grow one. I had a mustache for five years but I finally did it in. It was sapping my strength."
As you'd expect, there's no "up" to Downs on his album. He maintains a generally calm and conversational tone throughout his set of a dozen songs. Your sample, the last two tracks on side one: "Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes" and "The Ride Back from Boot Hill." Mr. Hugh Downs is a great man, and deserves a lot of respect, but to make sure this post isn't too respectful, the album photo's been altered for a favorite Illfolks Photoshop stunt…turning a chord change into an excuse for giving the finger…which he can give to those who only see him on infomercials and ignorantly wonder what he did to get such an easy gig. The answer is he not only worked hard for 50 years, he did it with warmth, grace and conscience.
Two Folks Songs from HUGH DOWNS Instant download or listen on line. No pop-unders, porn ads, or wait time from pimp-like file hosting "services" selling premium accounts.
ANOTHER FIRST for the ILLFOLKS BLOG. Here's how it looked last week, when you typed in HUGH DOWNS at CAPTAINCRAWL.COM:
Saturday, October 09, 2010
It was the night of October 9th, six years ago. Mid-way into her set, Eleanor McEvoy did what I was hoping she'd do...sing "Last Seen October 9th."
By way of preface, expecting her song title for an answer, she asked the audience, "Anyone know what day this is?"
From my ringside seat, I answered, "Yes...John Lennon's birthday."
"Really. I didn't know that..."
Today, everybody knows it, because today, October 9, 2010, John Lennon would have celebrated his 70th birthday.
On October 9th, years ago, Eleanor explained that she rarely performed the grim "Last Seen October 9th" song on stage, but being October 9th, it was a fitting night for it. And while it's about a person gone missing, not someone assassinated, for me and for perhaps others in the crowd, the song evoked John's image, in its quiet lines about life's fragility and the emptiness that goes with loss.
This simple, stark song is about a girl gone missing, and the sad, "last seen..." signs her family nailed to trees and taped to lamp posts...an act of futility dressed as hope.
After the show, I mentioned to Eleanor that home-made "last seen" signs, xeroxed with a snapshot of the missing loved one, were vivid on bus shelters and lamp posts and in store windows after 9/11, and stayed up until the rains and wind mottled and bent them, and the faces and names on them were faded and streaked.
It was impossible to hear her song without thinking about 9/11, but also, on Lennon's birthday, to not think about John. A missing person and missing a person. It all comes down to the same bittersweet memories. For me, Lennon's death is a trauma still raw even after 30 years, and I'm fortunate that the way I was able to cope with it was getting a call asking me to work on a tribute magazine, some 250,000 copies to go out as fast as I could write and the printer could print. And so those shocking days were spent in work, and in tribute.
And this month, there's a new John Lennon boxed set and new mixes of his albums, and the usual rationalizations for this material being given away by the usual people in the usual places. Hell, John's not alive. Hell, Yoko is nasty. Hell, we already have this stuff so why pay for the time it took to re-master the material. Hell, hell, hell. This, from people who spend more on a night out they won't remember, then on music they will spend a lifetime playing over and over. This, from people who don't seem to get the message of John's songs. It makes me think that if John was around, he'd explain the irony of being doped on religion, sex and free Internet downloads of anything that can be digitized...and thinking you're clever, classless and free, when you're all...
One of the nice things about having a real CD instead of a blip in your iPod, is you have the artist's complete vision, including the booklet and lyrics. You also have something that can be autographed. Eleanor did not sell her latest CD at her gig. I asked her why, and she said it was just too much to carry them around, gig to gig. I think she may have also found it a bit demeaning, after giving a performance, to have to become a merchant. I brought my copy, she autographed it, and it's reproduced here, amended a bit in tribute to John.
"Last Seen October 9th" appears on "Yola," Eleanor's first album after going indie. She's issued several since, and though it was well over $20 as an import, I got her latest, which has arrived the same October month as the Lennon box set. As an indie release, on her own label, Eleanor gets most of the money, and maintains control. Of course thanks to the publicity machines at two major labels, her mammoth and well-covered hit "Only a Woman," and over a decade of building a following, she can actual sell some copies, which is a rare feat for an indie artist. The new one's called "I'd Rather Go Blonde," and is, as the title might suggest, not as dark as her previous albums of original songs. I'd rather have it in CD form than mp3 download, and I'd rather buy it than get it via a "share," because I care about the woman. $20 to have the album is a better deal than spending it on a dinner that'll just be a memory and a shit the following day.
October, 2010. A new album is out from Ireland's Eleanor McEvoy, and the best we could hope for in new releases from New York City's John Lennon...is re-mixes, re-masters, and a stripped down 'Double Fantasy.' The box set also includes a CD of outtakes and demos to give us just a little more from a man we miss so very much.
OCTOBER 9th Listen on line, no pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.
Creepy and spooky, mysterious and retro, here's the nicely ooky "I'm Going to Haunt You," one of the better modern "vamp" songs out there, and a strange cross between Morticia Addams and Nancy Sinatra. The gruesomely winsome song is right there with lethal Illfolks fave Jill Tracy's "Evil Night Together" from the 1999 album "Diabolical Streak."
Unlike Tracy, Sharleen is only slumming in the world of erotic evil. She rarely wears glamour make-up these days, and most of the other tracks on her 2008 album "Melody" veer into other old-becomes-new directions, including "All the Times I Cried," which echoes the big beat days of Dusty Springfield.
Sharleen's newest release is a concept album "The Movie Songbook," which tackles a variety of great and not-so-great songs made popular in films. She sings "The Sound of Silence" from "The Graduate" and "Windmills of Your Mind" from "The Thomas Crown Affair" as well as "Xanadu" from the Olivia Newton-John film of the same name. The Glasgow beauty who fronted the band Texas through three platinum U.K. releases before turning solo, is now serious about her own film career, so watch for her up on a silver screen near you. For more information visit her website: http://www.sharleenspiteri.co.uk/
SHARLEEN SPITERI: I'm Going to Haunt You
You've never heard of Leona Gage. Her one moment of fame was instantly snatched away from her, leaving her disgraced. Her one memorable film role in a cult horror film…simply didn't lead to anything more. Her one hope, to have the strength to forego more suicide attempts and live out her days, even if it meant running tubes up her nose for oxygen and living in near poverty…was granted up till a few days ago, October 5th. She died that day, forgotten by horror movie fans, scandal-lovers, and most of the husbands and children she left or who left her along her difficult path in life.
One of the fortunate things about real newspapers, is that they pay real writers to do real research. As more newspapers fall, replaced by low-attention span websites, fewer writers will be given the time and expense-account dollars to research anything, whether it's vital news about terror cells, a hard-hitting piece that uncovers corruption, or simply a human interest story on someone who has a story that needs to be told, and told well. John Woestendiek, of the Baltimore Sun, took the time to interview Leona Gage, her relatives and friends, in 2005. If you want to read a really in-depth report on the woman, you'll find his story on line. It starts with an incident when she was a child:
"Growing up in the Piney Woods of east Texas, her friends were mostly imaginary or four-legged - fairies, "weed people" and wildlife. She remembers a rabbit, getting closer every day to taking lettuce from her hand. One day, sprawled on the ground, arm extended, she waited as motionlessly as a 3-year-old could as it drew nearer than it ever had. Then a shot rang out. The rabbit collapsed in a headless lump. She screamed for a long time."
Here's your link for the rest:
Briefly stated here, Mary Leona Gage grew up poor, her mother trying to support the family. Her father had been left brain-damaged and paralyzed by an industrial accident. Mary grew up pretty, and in the white trash world, it was inevitable she'd end up pregnant and subsequently married off at 14, have another child, and consigned to a bitter life of drudgery and poverty. What saved her, was her beauty. Ultimately, she entered and won the "Miss USA" crown, assured by her friends and sponsors that being a "Mrs." with two kids was "no problem." Within a day of winning, her past was revealed and she was stripped of the title.
Today, in the mediocre world of Kardashian and Hilton and supermodels from Janice Dickinson to Vanessa Williams and Naomi Campbell, scandal instantly translates to stardom. Back then, not so much. Sympathy for the girl led to a few offers, but hard luck followed her and knocked her down (or knocked her up). In 1962, her approximately 4 minute role as "Morella" opposite Vincent Price in the opening segment of "Tales of Terror" was not considered much of an achievement.
Back then Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and the rest were working low-budget, and the horror films we now call "classics" were considered B-movie double-bill fodder, seldom reviewed or praised. Somehow Roger Corman didn't capitalize on Leona's strangely cruel brand of beauty (similar in a way to Barbara Steele) and she not only didn't get another part in his Poe series, she sank so low so quickly that in 1965 Holloway House came knocking, ready to give her a much-needed $900 in exchange for her ok on a ghost-written and luridly embellished autobiography. The title was "My name is Leona Gage, Will Somebody Please Help Me?" -- taken from her first words coming out of a failed suicide attempt. It was only slightly less embarrassing than the autobiography Holloway published for Barbara Payton, brazenly titled "I Am Not Ashamed."
After that, Gage drifted through marriages and obscurity. And speaking of obscurity, it's time to mention yet again the Ivy League Trio, who, around the same time as Roger Corman's cycle of Poe movies, resurrected themselves (and replaced "Bev" Galloway with Ronn Langford) to get a one-shot deal with Reprise. The concept album: "Folk Tales from the World of Edgar Allan Poe." It's possible that visions of Leona appeared in their minds as they sang their version of "Morella," which is your download below.
Leona Gage's only lines in "Tales of Terror" are these: "All these years, I've waited to return. All these years I've waited to avenge myself!"
MORELLA by The Ivy League Trio
Some British comedy and music travels well. Not all. Norman Wisdom was such a big star in the U.K. he was knighted. In America he's not so well remembered. He had his chance in the mid-60's, when anything British was eagerly brought to Broadway and the Ed Sullivan Show, from Flanders & Swann to Morecambe and Wise. And so it was that Norman Wisdom scored a modest hit with the musical "Walking Happy," and it led to a logical role in the nostalgia-based 'Night They Raided Minsky's" in 1968. But "the little man" had been a U.K. favorite for nearly 20 years before that movie, and he'd be a favorite, and still performing in England, for about 40 years after it.
So ask any Brit about Norman Wisdom, and you'll get many more paragraphs than he gets here…an appreciation of his TV shows and his classic films…including "Just My Luck" (1957), "A Square Peg" (1958) and "A Stitch in Time" (1963) the latter featuring the always reliable British staple, "the bloke in drag." Perhaps another factor in Wisdom's lack of interest in America was that we had our own variations on "the little man," including perky Red Buttons (a big star for a few years on 50's TV). Also, America's post-Chaplin tastes tended to be toward brasher comedy heroes, such as Bob Hope, Danny Kaye and Red Skelton, all movie contemporaries of Norman Wisdom in the 50's. Later, our "everyman" was Jack Lemmon. If we needed an asshole, we had Jerry Lewis.
Wisdom (February 4 1915 – October 4, 2010) was lucky to have such a remarkably long life and career. He announced his retirement at 90, recognizing the fog of old age creeping over him. He did come out of his daze and have enough good days to do interviews and even some cameo roles in films. Having been knighted, he was far from forgotten among fans of British comedy. Sadly, when you live a long enough time in a country that has rampant inflation and high taxes, your nest egg can get fried. And so toward the end the question was whether Norman's bank account would be tapped out before the man himself. Not too funny to think of all the ordinary citizens in their 80's and 90's who are wishing they were blooming well dead.
Your download to remember Sir Norman by? Well, no easy joke about the title of the song, which is "Don't Make Me Laugh," because when he was on, he could make anyone laugh. Don't expect to chuckle…the song is similar to the moment when Danny Kaye would get serious in a musical…and it anticipates the overdone "What Kind of Fool Am I" style of Anthony Newley. Norman himself might prefer a comparison to Charlie Chaplin's self-penned bit of sentiment, "Smile."
The song can be found on the budget 3-CD compilation "The Best of British Comedy," (even if the cut isn't comedy at all). The compilation is a decent initiation for those who are curious about other "U.K. only" names such as Clive Dunn, Al Read, Alfie Bass, Roy Hudd and Dick Emery…as well as the ones most any comedy fan should know, including Benny Hill, Spike Milligan, Bernard Cribbins, Peter Sellers and the aforementioned teams of Morecambe and Wise and Flanders and Swann.
NORMAN WISDOM - Don't Laugh at Me