Saturday, February 19, 2011


This is the anniversary of the Illfolks blog.

"And so it was," (to borrow Mr. Brooker's towering voice for a moment) that since 2006, on the 9th, 19th and 29th of every month, unusual and often obscure music began turning up here. Five solid years of music. Some folks even noticed:

"Highly original blog; obscure pop/folk/indie/retro cuts/mixes of all sorts; a real smorgasbord" (Gravybread) and "...Weird and wacky and a lot of underappreciated stuff. Mostly oldies from all kinds of genres…." (Totally Fuzzy) and "So many ill folks, so little time - great neglected artists, celebrity recordings, themed collections, the occasionally weird, & more." (Youdonthavetovisit). Some artists left encouraging remarks, and there's been individual perception from a small circle of music fans and angels of the odd. But, enough looking back on what's happened here since February 19th of 2006.

The choice of celebratory song is "I've Aged Twenty Years in Five," because it's a funny title, not because the blog has driven me to drink. George Jones is offering a drinking song here, and whatever's happened to me in the past five years, good or bad, has not been the result of reckless usage of spirits fermenti, or such vices as smoking, doing illegal drugs, or consuming animals that walk the planet same as I do. George isn't exactly your typical Illfolks "unknown," but he gets sampled here because he's not nearly as respected as he should be. Frank Sinatra thought him the greatest singer in America (except for a guy named Frank Sinatra). George is a too traditional C&W for some tastes (abetted by musical arrangements that often include a squeamy violin) but his phrasing on ballads is hard to beat, and like Jolson he got better as he got older. He also has a good sense of humor. Which means "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Wino the Clown" are balanced by "White Lightning" and "No Show Jones."

George has had some health problems lately, but what can you expect? If he's aged twenty years in five, the guy is actually about 395 years old.



As previously mentioned (see BORDERS' SONG) whether it's global warming, or over-population, or abuses of human rights or even animal rights, nobody's listening.

It would easy to point a finger at the greedy landlords who raise the rent on the poor, Joni Mitchell's army of "short-sighted businessmen" who strip mine the land and pollute the rivers, or the religious fanatics who believe their way is the only way, or the politicians who pander to special interests and maintain the status quease. But we see that the Internet has turned into a nightmare of cyberbullying and selfishness, and several monopolies have risen to break laws and make billionaires out of punks with no morality. The blog and torrent world's gone from an eccentric "sharing" community to a spammy, smarmy, selfish assortment of glory-grabbing Paypal-demanding fools who rationalize the unthinkable and have no empathy for the creative people they rip off. Their power has corrupted, and their notion that everything should be free spits in the face of all the logic that says that an economy thrives on paying for goods and services.

It's reasonable to expect moderation…some form of gun control, some acceptance of birth control, some responsibility about replenishing our natural resources, some realization that piracy is not the answer and that taking what doesn't belong to you is nothing to be proud of. Selfishness rules, not the Golden Rule. The bigger they are, the less they care, and the more unreasonable they become. People are pleading for simple human rights, for copyright protection, for a job and a place to live that is safe from violence. They might as well talk to a wall.

"The Rock" is a little story song about someone who sees a problem and can't convince anyone to do anything about it.

The solution is so simple we ignore it. It's the Golden Rule. It's empathy. It's moderation. It's using self-control or the arm of the law to curb the all-too human instincts of greed and power.

Harry? He's here on the blog of less renown because despite having a hit song or two, he's largely forgotten now, and was often the target of critics who hated his story-songs, his sentimentality, and his passionate views on morality. Face it, even his biggest hit, "Cats in the Cradle," makes people uncomfortable, because…well, the truth tends to make people uncomfortable.

Some of his fellow musicians weren't so wild about Harry either, frowning on the whole concept of the "story song," or complaining about the man's voice, which did become increasingly harsh thanks to his heavily committed touring schedule. I was hanging out with Meatloaf one evening, and he scowled that one of the things he really didn't like, was when people compared his voice to Harry's.

Harry himself knew that he often went way too far with his pathos, and sold "Harry, It Sucks" t-shirts at his gigs. But at his best, he wrote some touching, moving songs. Thankfully, when he was around, he had a record label that stuck with him long after the hits weren't coming. I'd heard of him, but hadn't paid much attention till a woman handed me one of his albums and asked me to listen. She figured if I liked some folkies, like Mr. Ochs, I might find a place in my heart for Harry. She had an ulterior motive. A song on the album was "A Better Place to Be," and she said she identified with the waitress, and what she said to the man at the diner: "I wish that you were mine." And she was looking at me when she said it.

Harry sure had a way of getting to people. I saw Harry in performance, and it was one of the best concerts I ever saw, because the man was an exuberant showman. As good as some existing footage of him might be, it doesn't remotely capture what it was like "being there." In person, he almost sent out microwaves. Some people really come alive on stage, and the energy ignites the audience, and vice versa. Believe me, I walked in expecting Harry to do a competent show as everyone from Ian Dury to Ray Davies can do, and was not expecting to walk out buzzed or blown away. So Harry surprised me.

While you could sit alone and be touched by a song like "Mr. Tanner," or enjoy a story with a wicked punchline such as "The Mayor of Candor Lied" (I'm not ashamed to say I didn't see that one coming), this guy could also work magic of a different kind in live concert. Aside from being a performer, and a very good songwriter, and a fair vocalist, Harry was a humanitarian. On the day he died, the 39 year-old was as always, in the midst of a heavy schedule of activities…phone calls and promotions for his "World Hunger" organization, driving into town for meetings, and mindful of a scheduled free concert in the evening. He saw a lot of problems, small and intimate ones between people, are large ones involving countries and corporations. Depending on the target, he could be tender and patient, or strident and urgent. There are boulders in our paths, cinders in our eyes, and sometimes a teetering rock on a hillside. Who recognizes these, or becomes convinced that action must be taken, or takes that step from being part of the problem to part of the solution?



It's taken a while, but finally, here's a sample of The Hoosier Hot Shots. They're a kind of lost link between Spike Jones and Homer & Jethro. They were not quite as tetched and eccentric as Jones (despite some fierce use of the slide whistle, washboard and car horn). Their tendency to go for hee-haws rather than laughs has also marked them "for corn lovers only," but a lot of their stuff is mighty fine mental moonshine. "I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones" is a classic, but it's not as inspiring for a startling visual image as "From the Indies to the Andies In His Undies." I tried not to be TOO startling. (PS, "Andies" is how they chose to spell "Andes." You can see it for yourself if you buy Columbia's CD collection "Rural Rhythm") )

The song opens, as it so often does, with brother "Rudy" Trietsch giving a shout-out to brother "Hezzie" Trietsch. Are you ready? Can it still get a laugh? You should trietsch some time.

"He carried for a charm a kippered herring.
To protect him when the tropic sun was glaring.
Whoever met him thought he needed airing…"

From the INDIES to the ANDIES in his UNDIES


Sometimes a blog entry really doesn't need a commentary. A photo and a link will do fine.

Laura Lynn's one of the latest schlagers to slog through the Arrivederci to Hans.

Perhaps freckled, sassy Rita Pavone sang the definitive version...

....which (check the comments) had been incorrectly attributed to Caterina Valente.



BORDERS SONG - Sung by Aretha, Writ by Elton

"Holy Moses, I have been removed…"
In filing for bankruptcy, the Borders book chain will be removing 6,000 jobs, and shutting down 200 stores.

"Holy Moses, I have been deceived…" they're the latest bunch deceived into thinking what worked for the past century would still work now.

For over 100 years, creative artists could make a living by selling recordings, having a career on radio, photographing or writing or editing for periodicals, or writing books.

I've been involved in all the above, and I can tell you that it was never easy, and now it's almost impossible.

"Now the wind has changed direction. I think I have to leave…"

Remember when people said music sharing doesn't hurt anyone? Then Tower Records went bankrupt and CD sales plummeted, and sales of legit mp3 music leveled off. Remember when they said torrents pumping out movies and warez wouldn't hurt anybody? Blockbuster video filed for bankruptcy as did Circuit City, and there have been less movies made, less choice in electronics, and fewer TV programs that aren't cheaply produced "reality" fare, quizzes, or dumb talent contests.

While Amazon relentlessly pushed their Kindle, we were told it was "good" for the publishing industry. Instead, newspapers and magazines have gone under and advances for books are a joke. Used book and magazine stores began to disappear as soon as pdf versions became easy to download of forums and Google began digitizing entire libraries. Has Amazon hired all the talented bookstore personnel now out of work? No, they don't need 'em. They already have enough minimum-wage people putting toasters and blenders into boxes...and shipping them via UPS while the U.S. Post Office runs further into debt and post offices around the country are closing.

"He's my brother…let us live in peace."

No, if your brother's a songwriter, a photographer, a magazine editor, a singer, a novelist…then he's the nigger of the world, and he should do his work for free, and if he objects or stands up for his rights, he should be whipped. If he was the honest working man who ran a bookstore or worked in a record store he can go fight with an immigrant for a job washing floors somewhere.

Mp3 files, avi, pdf etc. are easy to duplicate and toss to the great army of "zero should pay." One copy sold, ten copies stole'd. Marie Antoinette said "let them eat cake." Today, it's "let them sell t-shirts." Or "what the (movie, publishing, record) industry needs is a new paradigm." This, coming from people who don't have an idea what that paradigm might be, and aren't in those industries.

Let's also remember people out of work because their jobs were connected to the industries hit hard by piracy. For example, the Sony CD pressing plant in Pitman, New Jersey that was also affected the mom and pop diner that relied on those workers to buy breakfasts and lunches. Also destroyed, the take-out places that brought in coffee and donuts. Cleaning people who served that factory are out, too. As you could read, free, at, the factory closure meant "300 employees out of work….There’s no question that iTunes and piracy have helped to kill off the CD….the piracy culture that started way back during the Napster era has flourished, and now people have an even more difficult time swallowing the price of a CD." Apple doesn't need to hire those 300 people to process mp3 files for download, they have a small staff that handles it easily.

Which brings me to the photo of Elisha Cook Jr, which movie buffs will recognize as a climactic moment from "House on Haunted Hill." His character in the film knows that he is going to be destroyed. His pursuit of happiness is over. He speaks the reality: "They're coming for me now…AND THEY'LL COME FOR YOU."

If you're a retired teacher or union man, you might find your pension shaved down. If you're young and want to go to college, or old and want social security, you'll find a small government check that doesn't pay for tuition or a new comforter for the bed. As the domino effect continues, because "we want free" means less money going into the economy and more people fired, you may lose your job and be treated with the same scorn and indifference as the workers from Tower, Blockbuster or Borders.


The anonymous Internet that we love so much, which gives us the opiate of free downloads of music, movies, warez and books and magazines…is the same faceless, soulless place that will cyberbully you, steal your identity, invade your privacy, and swindle you with impunity. In the past you could talk to a store owner, but you can't talk to someone at eBay or Paypal or Google. The faceless Wikileaks people who so heroically expose secrets…may choose to expose yours. If they don't somebody on Facebook might. These are anonymous people who think nobody has a right to remain anonymous - except themselves.

At one time, progress didn't mean destruction. The factory that made 8-tracks simply made cassettes. The factory that made cassettes simply made CD's. But now an mp3 blip and an avi speck are so innately worthless you can't re-sell 'em on eBay for a penny. There are people who say we should have no laws regulating the Internet, no rules, no moderation. They don't want borders on the Net. And hey, there's 200 less Borders in real life. The chain will probably shutter completely in a year. Maybe the stores will reopen as Starbucks…but not everyone will be able to afford a cup of coffee there. Many can't afford it right now. Holy Moses!

BORDER SONG by ARETHA Listen on line or download…no pop-ups, pop-unders, Paypal donation request or wait time extortion.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


In another time (1964, to be exact), instrumentals were often million-sellers. Al Hirt scored a Top Ten with "Java," and won a Grammy Award. Two years later, he gave the performance of his career with the gut-busting lip-blistering "Flight of the Bumblebee," jazzed up as the theme for the TV series "The Green Hornet."

That show failed, perhaps because "Batman" (also on ABC) was so campy and the Hornet was dull by comparison. Besides, we'd already seen a guy in a mask with an ethnic sidekick: "The Lone Ranger." The Ranger's creators (George Trendle and Fran Striker) simply figured a modern-day urban version could diversify their portfolio. They even made Hornet Britt Reid a distant relative to the old Ranger John Reid, when the show premiered on radio in the 30's.

The theme song outlasted the TV series, and was used on the soundtrack for "Kill Bill." Today, with a new attempt at "The Green Hornet" in theaters, the character as originally played on TV by Van Williams is a hazy memory…but the theme song by Al Hirt still has some sting.

Hirt was a big star throughout the 60's (literally, too) but had a setback in 1970 when some fan, just having fun, used him for target practice during a Mardi Gras parade. Hirt was on a float, playing his trumpet, when he was hit by a flying object that nearly tore his lip off. Fortunately Al was able to recover, but by that time, tastes had changed and instrumentals, as well as "middle of the road" performers, were not part of the Top 20 AM radio scene.

Hirt retained his title of "King," mostly because he was the last of the line, with no other trumpet player about to come along and have hit records. For most any kid learning trumpet, the role model was Al Hirt…as opposed to big band guys such as Harry James or Louis Armstrong. The only other guy out there was Doc Severinsen, who led "The Tonight Show Band" and made comic, near cross-eyed expressions after hitting a high note. As I struggled to hit an E above high C, I did marvel at those notes Doc hit…but more the dexterity of Al Hirt…whom I also couldn't match with my sticky-valved trumpet and underdeveloped embouchure. Finding myself sounding more like bugler Gunga Din just after being shot, I decided to take up instruments that didn't require oral contact. And yes, I can play "Flight of the Bumblebee" damn well on any of 'em. As for the trumpet, I no longer try and will not be Hirt.




On February 6th, the unlikely happened: Zsa Zsa Gabor reached her 94th birthday. If you haven't been following the Paris Hilton of the geriatric set, Hollywood's original celebutard was counted out back in 2002 after a car crash, and in 2005 after suffering a stroke. She had the obit writers ready to roll after more surgery in 2007, and then hip replacement in the summer of 2010 (a procedure that killed Eddie Fisher). Complications from the surgery were so severe Zsa Zsa asked for last rites. She was in and out of danger, but back in the hospital in January of this year, ultimately requiring the amputation of her right leg above the knee.

Now she's home, and before anything else happens, it's time to give a little celebration of her life, rather than a eulogy and the typical Illfolks "obit with music."

For some of us, Zsa Zsa Gabor has always been a benign, sexy joke. Yes, she made a few movies that had or still have some critical or cult appeal. She was a hit in "Moulin Rouge," though her musical voice was dubbed by black opera singer Muriel Smith. Gabor was also in Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," and the campy "Queen of Outer Space" among others. She showed a sense of humor on sitcoms, variety shows, and course as a guest villain on "Batman." Way before "bad girls" became the norm, there was Zsa Zsa, slapping a cop in 1989 during a traffic dispute. But she was best known for chattering on talk shows, mostly about the joys of sex, being rich, and marrying nine times, including George Sanders and Paris's grandfather Conrad Hilton. She's currently wed to some lunatic named Prince Frederic von Anhalt.

Back in her heyday, Gabor managed to get almost as much face-time in fan mags as her much more accomplished contemporaries such as Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. She was name-checked by, among others, Spike Jones (in "Knock Knock," on the "Music America Hates Best" album), Allan Sherman (Joshua and the Battle of Jericho morphed into Zsa Zsa and a bottle of Geritol) and Dion and the Belmonts in "Donna the Prima Donna."

So what do we have now? Nothing much. Lindsay Lohan, the Kardashian idiots, and Paris Hilton are all very cheap and tawdry by comparison. None's come up with a quotable line, or have Gabor's cheerful panache. As slutty as Gabor may have been, you never realized it, because she did it with...class! Vocally, if you're desperate for the Zsa Zsa sound, you'll find it burbling from the gullet of Arriana Huffington. Arriana is not Hungarian, though, she's Greek, and her scandals have merely involved complaints of plagiarism for writing bios that copied material written by others. Though she followed Zsa Zsa's lead in marrying a millionaire mostly for his money (he turned out to be bisexual), Arriana will most likely never come close to Gabor's list of marriages and discards. Gabor was an original, which is why, 20 years after she bitch-slapped a cop and 40 years after she could be called a MILF, people are saddened by her illnesses and her decline gets almost as much news as the latest Lindsay Lohan court appearance.

So while most end up with "the girl next door," here's a salute to the one and only (all right, it's time to sneak in a mention of wonderful sister Eva), ZSA ZSA GABOR….sing it, Dion:

"I remember the nights we dated,always acting sophisticated,
Talking about high society,
Then she tried to make a fool out of me...
She always wears charms, diamonds, pearls galore,
She buys them at the 5 & 10 cents store.
She wants to be just like Zsa Zsa Gabor,
Even though she's the girl next door…"

Dion mispronounced Gabor's name as "Za Za" in the original single, but below you get a 2009 bootleg from a Connecticut concert, in which he corrects it to "Zsa Zsa…"

Hear the 2009 live boot:

DONNA The PRIMA DONNA - who wanted to be just like Zsa Zsa Gabor.


There's a lot of schmutz in the world!

In the years since Tom Lehrer sang "Pollution" on TV's short-lived "That Was The Week That Was," nominal efforts to clean some rivers or recycle some of our garbage have been overwhelmed by short-sighted pigs destroying this overpopulated planet.

No polar bears, tigers or oysters in 50 years? Who's to say the human race will be around in 50 years? Oil spills are as toxic and common as Kardashians. You can spot islands of garbage floating in our oceans as if they're franchises of Taco Bell.

While a city dweller may breathe in the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day in air pollution, his country cousin isn't doing much better thanks to coal mines and factories as well as chicken farms and pig farms. Nobody seemed to care when 20 million gallons of hog shit ended up in a river in North Carolina, but even backward states that used to have plenty of room are no longer havens for simple pursuits such as squirrel shooting, armed robbery and rape. Many rural residents are suffering cancers and finding less fresh air and water because of stupid and/or crooked politicians overlooking obvious menaces. A giant pig farm oozing shit and blood into streams and lakes is a problem even a moronic lazy rebel should find offensive.

Remember the last Olympic games? People were much more concerned over China cheating with underage gymnasts, than they were with China's horrendous pollution putting a literal pall over every stadium and event. Some athletes could barely function in that environment. But that's better left unsaid, and unsung. It's been many, many years since Lehrer sang "Polllution" and Joni Mitchell pointed out the paving of paradise or grumbled "short sighted businessmen…nothing lasts for long." Well, why should we be surprised that obnoxious greed-heads turn their backs on pollution or global warming and say it doesn't exist? We have bloggers with Paypal donations and websites decrying every copyright owner's DMCAs, sneering: "Nobody can prove that "sharing" hurts the economy or the artists."

What can one do, except put on a skull-like grin and wait for the end of the world? Germans, so noted for a dark, gross, (if not Grosz) sense of humor, are enjoying the fiercely acidic and cheerfully pessimistic works of Tom Lehrer thanks to an album of translations by pianist-singer Felix Janosa (he's in the photo above, in a hat I hope he realizes is comical). Let's face it, Tom's works do sound even more menacing in German!

"You're right," Max Prendergast said to Emma Peel, "it is a rather brutal language."

Janosa's German-language versions of Lehrer lieder are often funny even if you don't speak the language. Lehrer isn't given enough credit for catchy tunes that are in fact comic parodies. "Masochism Tango" is tangier than its inspiration, "Kiss of Fire," "Vatican Rag" is more relentlessly cheerful than anything Scott Joplin did, and there's no calypso that flaunts its vulgarity as fiercely as "Pollution," here titled "Verschmutzung." So wipe the schmutz out of your ears and give a listen...


La Puta Christina Aguilera Throttles the National Anthem

Any publicity is good publicity. When was the last time Christina Aguilera mattered? Once you show your cooch, that's it. What else can you do? Rolling Stone (Feb 3, 2010, page 18) said her "Gaga-style makeover didn't work - and neither did her movie (Burlesque) or tour (it was cancelled)." In other words, has-been Aguilera could barely manage a dumb gig like singing the National Anthem. Fortunately, she blew it, and became front page news.

Everyone's been howling over Christina's foul-up. Joyce Chen in the Daily News: "Wardrobe malfunction? More like warble malfunction." As if Chen is perfect? She reported on Christina's final note held "for just over six seconds in her trademark guttaral growl." GUTTARAL? Speaking of typos, a mere hour after Aguilera seared everyone's ears, the USA Today website rushed to report it…and spelled her last name wrong:

Here's the truth: the rage over Christina Aguilera has little to do with her memory lapse. Many didn't even notice that she sang words from another line over again and made up some stuff: ""Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, what so proudly we watched at the twilight's last reaming." So? She forgot "o'er the ramparts we watched?" What's this bitch know about "ramparts?" Except her parents probably ate them along with goat balls.

Most of us would have trouble memorizing that song, and most of us can't sing along to it. The lyrics aren't helped along by the dodgy, octave-lurching stolen tune, the drunken British "Anacreontic Song" (you can hear it below.)

No, the fury is not really about Christina dis-honoring the song by forgetting a line, but by her ethnic over-emoting...that hackneyed Whitney Car-Alarm Houston style of braying. Everyone howled at her because of the lyric lapse because it's just not politically correct to complain that adding ten syllables where there should be one, is tiresome, moronic and in the case of "The Star Spangled Banner," an insult. We wouldn't expect a redneck hillbilly to yodel our anthem, and we'd be allowed to call that person "white trash" if it happened, but critics couldn't say "Christ, Christina and her black-influenced pseudo-soul vibrato and syllable extensions suck." So they could only flog her for messing up a few words...a gleeful excuse for what they really disliked...the unspeakable sin of monkeying around with the melody. Simple words like "night" and "wave" shouldn't be tormented vocally like a child twisting a worm and then pulling it apart. PS, singing a line loud and long (as Streisand and Garland did) is also a very poor substitute for conveying a lyric's emotions.

If you showed up at a Beethoven festival, invited to play the "Moonlight Sonata," and you did it in reggae style, or played it on a bent saw or a collection of half-full bottles, you'd be disrespecting the memory of Beethoven. If you're in concert, and you feel like doing your own interpretation or butchery, fine…you're doing it on your own time in front of your own audience. Otherwise…do it THE RIGHT WAY.

PS, "The Star Spangled Banner" should not be sung at stupid events. Who the fuck said that before two teams of millionaires play a game — a GAME — we need to hear about how our flag managed not to get destroyed by gunfire during one lousy battle in one of our country's many, many wars? How about boxing matches? Some guy from America fights some guy from another country…and the national anthems are sung (badly) just to incite the fans toward racial hatred! This is a sports event between two men, not some symbolic battle over whose country is best.

Lastly, if a patriotic song HAS to be sung, hire an inspiring presence. I think of Ronan Tynan, who stands up…on artificial legs…to sing "God Bless America" at stadium events. I think of the late Robert Merrill and his great version of the "Star Spangled Banner" at baseball games. He brought opera-style singing to people who'd never know it otherwise, and his is probably the best version of the song ever recorded. We don't need our national anthem to be an "American Idol" event where the more inappropriate syllables you add, the more street cred you're supposed to get.

Here now, the "Anacreontic Song" and its sobered-up sister, "The Star Spangled Banner." Why even bother with a download of Christina's performance? Because it justifies the rant above, and it could be useful if you've run out of Haley's M.O. or Syrup of Ipecac. You can follow along on the lines YOU don't know by heart either:

"Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?


John Gower - THE ANACREONTIC SONG, original music later used for Key's poem "The Star Spangled Banner."