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