Monday, March 19, 2012
March 11th 1996 will live as a day of medical infamy. Ben Casey died that day of pancreatic cancer.
He was better known as Vince Edwards.
Once upon a time, when the ideal was to marry a doctor, and Ideal was a big toy company, stores were full of merchandise about "Ben Casey" (Vince Edwards) and his cutie-pie rival "Dr. Kildare" (Richard Chamberlain). On the radio, it was hard to avoid hearing Chamberlain's annoying croon of "Three Stars Will Shine Tonight," and hard to avoid the 45 rpm novelty numbers such as "Ben Crazy" aimed at black-haired, black-mood "Ben Casey," who deserved it because he frowned so much and took himself SO seriously.
"Ben Crazy" was what the yocksters called him. I think the parody singles did better than anything Vince put on vinyl, that's for sure. One reason is that Edwards (born Vincent Edward Zoino in 1928) was older than Chamberlain, and more interested in singing standards he remembered from growing up, such as "As Time Goes By" and "Unchained Melody." Especially after he went nowhere with a contemporary single "Why Did You Leave Me?" which survives today because of the wonderfully insane "Squeelin' Parrot Twist" on the B-side. It was released in 1962 before the fever for "Ben Casey" heated up. Once it did, Edwards' new record label instantly pointed him toward serious covers of 40's and 50's romantic songs to loosen the purse strings of older female fans, leaving the 45's to Chamberlain teeny-boppers.
Ironically the weaker-voiced Chamberlain would go on to successes touring in Broadway musicals, and would later get critical praise as a versatile and serious dramatic actor. For Vince Edwards, it was pretty much of a flat-line after "Ben Casey," as he went off the charts in music and had a kind of journeyman's career in guest roles on TV and in films. Anyone remember that he briefly starred in another series in 1970 called "Matt Lincoln," playing a doctor? Another failed series called "Our Family Honor" in 1985? That he tried a made-for-TV "Return of Ben Casey" in 1988? That he was in only ONE episode of that refuge for older former stars, "Murder She Wrote?"
Your doctor's bag contains two samples of Vince vocals. First off, "Squeelin' Parrot (Twist)" on the indie Russ-Fi label, which gets any laughs via the idiot bird joyfully mocking the lead singer.
Next, more typical of Vince, a medley of three middle-of-the-road numbers from his debut album, all nicely sliding off the tonsils: a swingy "As Time Goes By," a croony "And Now," and a very credible take on the tricky big ballad "Unchained Melody."
The parodies: "Ben Crazy" from the break-in master and suicidal novelty genius Dickie Goodman, "Dr. Ben Basey" from Mickey Schorr, one of the many who tried to cash-in on break-in master Dickie Goodman by stealing his break-in formula, and "Callin' Dr. Casey" a rockabilly malted from John D. Loudermilk. The big repeated joke is that when John calls out for the doctor, the doctor gives an indulgently prolonged, "Yeessssss?" in the catch-phrase style of character actor Frank Nelson, who used it playing unctuously helpful store clerks on Jack Benny's show.
Five tracks in all. And can you name the FIVE symbols used when Dr. Zorba (Sam Jaffe) went to the chalkboard for the opening of the "Ben Casey" show each week? The first two were MAN and WOMAN. The last three sum up succinctly what happened to Vince Edwards (you have so far been spared the last two).
4 Novelty Tracks. "Squeelin' Parrot" and BEN CASEY knock-offs and cash-ins
Vince Edwards sings 3 classic songs incl. Unchained Melody. For the whole album, give a break to some poor bugger who owns a record store, thrift shop, or is selling on eBay.
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Easter is April 8th (good Friday, April 6th). Start making your preparations now!
First, all you nice anti-abortion Christians, stock up on eggs to boil.
Next, be a Good Christian and do more kind things to animals, like buying bunnies and chicks from a pet store that deals with puppy mills, psychotic cat breeders and semi-legal parrot and exotic lizard sellers. Not to mention the parakeets and canaries that will spend their lives caged up like Manson just because it's amusing to see them hobble from one end of a perch to the other and do a lot of tweeting (which, come to think of it, is what people on Twitter do).
Most important: FOOD. Stock up especially on egg-shaped tooth-rotting candy. Get the hollow-chocolate replicas of rabbits made with such inferior ingredients that even after Easter, at half price, stores make a huge profit. In a more perfect world, the symbol of Easter would be the platypus, the only mammal that actually lays eggs. Fortunately the near-sighted hear-sayers who wrote the Jesus story generations after it happened, never heard of the platypus so they stuck to the tale of God immaculately fucking a married Jewish woman, and somehow after Christ died, bunny rabbits became part of the myth, too.
Lastly, Easter is not a time to stay indoors and quietly celebrate your inane beliefs (beliefs = unproven fantasy). Go outside in new, fancy clothes. Ladies vanity is always good for big sales and the big ticket item is still: HATS!
Yes among the backward and brainless, the "Easter Bonnet" is still a tradition, in both tourist traps, and all the hideous towns tourists avoid but the locals make up for by standing around a lot and coveting thy neighbor's wife and hat.
Easter is also the time of year when Jews say, "When's Passover?" And when Muslims say "When do our suicide bombers blow up the world so we can really start enjoying life?" Well, there are always killjoys on the other side of the fence, unhappy about eating flat, stale bread or having to have sex with flat, stale women who don't like the scent of camel.
Now, our song. And remember, it's "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," not "What an Imaginary Friend We Have in Jesus," because Mr. Christian has never let you down, has he? Prove that he has. If you asked for something and didn't get it, maybe you didn't deserve it. (Hmmm…if you actually believed THAT, you'd be a Jew!)
Thurl Ravenscroft was the eccentric voice-over star who sang "You're a Mean One Mr. Gingrich," a ton of other basso-voiced novelty tunes, "Teen-age Brain Surgeon" for Spike Jones, and somber religious music as well. He made most of his money as the commercial voice for the Frosted Flakes cereal-killer "Tony the Tiger," that lithe meat-eater of the jungle who somehow wore a red kerchief around his neck (the kind dopey dog owners love to put on German Shepherds) and believed that urban children thrive on a diet that's 90% sugar and 10% heavily processed and nutrition-neutered wheat flour.
And here we have the instantly recognizable "Tony the Tiger" discussing the truly horrible origin for the lyrics to "What A Friend We Have in Jesus." This less-than-uplifting saga (well, Christian martyrdom always trumped even the Jews' sense of suffering being a good thing) leads to the actual song, which is thoroughly rendered with Thurl's assured, sober sense of belief that it might bring peace to almost anyone at Easter time. Except the Easter chick that just keeled over with some disease or other, the bunny that was accidentally stepped on, and anyone wiped out by some Easter act of terror perpetrated by those who have "hijacked a fine religion" (other than Christianity) to make a point about the chances of peace in our time.
Lost in the rain in Juarez this time of year?
What a FRIEND We Have in JESUS and TONY the TIGER Instant download or listen on line. No immoral wait time or ungodly demands that you buy a premium account so that a crooked uploader or slimeball dotcom millionaire file-locker owner can profit from what they stole.
Taking a tour of the Holy Land?
Bring your bullet-proof vest (unless you're a true believer and think God is watching out for you…or that God will make sure you die a martyr despite the bullet-proof vest, and that's even better).
Many years ago, a "tour of Warner Bros. Records" was provided via their "Loss Leaders" albums such as "Record Show," "Big Ball" and "Zapped," promo albums you could buy for a dollar a disc, which included the best tracks from their latest albums and, miracle of miracles, unreleased material, too.
This was "the new paradigm" of the day. Warners was saying, "We'll dig up weirdo acts like Hamilton Camp, Captain Beefheart, Van Dyke Parks, Ron Nagle and Pearls Before Swine…and we'll try and find a place for older stars who still have songs to sing including Theo Bikel and Judy Henske (and we'll have Ella and Fats sing contemporary rock!) and we will even sign a contract with Randy Newman, and all YOU have to do is get our promo records below cost, give a listen, and BUY." Ooops. BUY?
Before his attempted salvation at Warners in the early 70's, Hamilton Camp was a folkie. He'd recorded for Elektra in the early 60's. Though his music career continued to stall at Warners, Camp stayed busy via a varied career acting on stage and screen. He may be best remembered on TV for playing a crazy soldier who out-nutted Cpl. Klinger on an episode of M*A*S*H (pictured here on a star spangled bus out of South Korea). He never retired; he toured in stage productions and never gave up on his singing career. He was well-respected for those folk albums back in the day, and even finished "Sweet Joy," an indie release in 2005. He died three days later. It's a great album which covers Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" and Jimmy Webb's "The Highwayman," and includes originals as well. Camp's website has 30 second samples, as does Amazon.com, so it would be arrogant, presumptuous, and wrong to rationalize giving away complete downloads of any songs from it here.
But…out of print and unavailable elsewhere is "Star Spangled Bus," which Warners left OFF the two albums he made for their label but put ON a "loss leader" album as the best example of his work. It's Camp at his passionate, energetic best, and a more riveting version than the original written by J.D. Souther and performed by Longbranch Pennywhistle, an early group fronted by Souther and Glenn Frey. Somebody hoisted it over to YouTube so you can go listen to it over there. Their shit-kickin' California cowboy jangle take is just Dutchman's gold.
Consider this a companion piece to Bobby Cole's "Bus 22 to Bethlehem," as a symbolic magical mystery tour through that Holyland that all fanatics seem ready to declare their own (against all infidels who believe in a different imaginary friend). The main difference is that in this case, the bus is "star spangled," which might imply that the song has a lot to do with American interest in Israel and our country's grand attempt to somehow preserve the world's most hated minority (Jews) and the world's greatest religion (Christianity) and still enjoy Muslim oil. Camp:
"Ridin' on the Star Spangled Bus, gonna whip on down to Canaan, weepin' watch the beggars drink their fill. And the dirty ones are dyin' to bathe in the River Jordan and Glory Hallelujah yes they will!"
Take the STAR SPANGLED BUS Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or preaching about how you should be buying a premium account to download copyrighted material and make dotcom sleazeballs as fat as Wall Street CEO's and television evangelists.
50 years ago, Ray Ellington cracked the Top 40 in England with "The Madison."
And only 27 years ago, he died. February 27, 1985 to be exact.
Who says this blog isn't current? But that's why you're here, because almost no new releases are coming out anymore, and most of what does manage to come out "isn't worth buying." Or do you really think Adele is something new, the latest Springsteen doesn't use the same boring cliches about darkness and politics and hope as every other one, or that "Civil Wars" doesn't offer anemic songs or harmonies that were better done by musicians writing during the Civil War or by CSN who were born only a few years after Lincoln was assassinated.
Ellington might best be known by fans of "The Goon Show" who discovered him by staying tuned during the break in the comedy action. That's when he sang a song to fill time (a more forgettable music interlude was provided by harmonica player Max Geldray). The music was left off early Goon record albums, but preserved via the CD compilations issued in the past ten years. Many a bewildered younger fan still ain't too sure what to make of Ellington's cameo comedy appearances when the script called for an African chief or played on the studio audience sight gag of Ray pretending to be a white woman and delivering a line in a low throaty voice.
Ray's real name was Henry Brown. His black father Harry was a British Music Hall comic and his mother Eva, a Russian Jew. In a sort of Jolsonesque upbringing, Ellington attending Jewish schools and learned his Orthodox religion, but his heart was in show business and he loved jazz. He joined eccentric Harry Roy's band as a drummer. Roy's notorious today for cutting a track called "My Girl's Pussy." Louis Jordan was also a big influence on Ray, and once successful, the Ray Ellington Quartet covered Jordan's classic "Five Guys Named Moe" and other Jordan gems.
Ellington is available on CD mostly via the 40's big-band material. BBC Records did issue "Goon Show Hits" in 1974, an Ellington compilation of standards such as "The Lady's In Love with You," "Old Man River," "Miss Otis Regrets," etc. But his early 60's singles are pretty much scattered around on obscure compilations with other Brit one-shot wonders of the bygone era. It was a strange time, after all, when guys like Ellington (and Louis Prima) were trying novelty, hep-R&B and anything else to keep bopping their way into a Top Ten increasingly dominated by rock and roll.
A sample of Ellington's swingin' 45's shows his range of cool, boogie, and giddy-up ding-dong. Slippin' you five:
DRACULA'S THREE DAUGHTERS, THE MADISON, IF YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING NICE, LEFT HAND BOOGIE, GIDDY-UP-A-DING-DONG
Five rarities from RAY ELLINGTON Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or whines about paying for a premium account.
The great thing about women who talk French, is that you don't need to understand them. Everything they say can be assumed to be sensual, witty or adorable. Today's best female lyricist writes in French: Mylene Farmer.
This blog's view of French men is a bit different. Most French males actually act like, look like, and talk like French girls until they pass puberty, which doesn't happen for them until they are 30. Then everything they growl, slur and drool is considered amazingly erotic -- by themselves and nobody else. The only way they get laid is by being intellectual, talented or ugly (or all three, in the case of Serge Gainsbourg), mistaken for French when they aren't (Charles Aznavour) or filthy rich (actually, filthy and rich, in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn). And oui (as opposed to ennui) having power is always an aphrodisiac! Ask little Prez Sarkozy how else he got that fine model to hang next to his skinny arm.
Whether it's watching old Brigitte Bardot movies, eating French Fries, or getting loaded on their wine, we all have our ways of paying tribute to France. Some of us have gone so far as to try on a beret, try to sing like Maurice Chevalier, or wear a perfume that smells like elderberries and hamster. All of which would lead a weary Frenchie to say "Tut, tut, tut," rather than "ye ye ye" or "Sapristi!"
Which brings me, at last, to Gillian Hills, the English actress who still has a rabid cult following thanks to the movie "Beat Girl," and to various "ye ye" singles she recorded in French. Around 1965, when Hills sang "Tut Tut Tut Tut," cute wide-eyed French gamins ala France Gall, Sylvie Vartan and Francoise Hardy were the rage. British and American girls were stealing the hairstyles and clothes, studying French in school, and if they were pop singers…trying to turn beans into Francs by recording in French. Petula Clark (most prominently) made sure to sing her hits in French versions to tap the market across the channel. (Trivia: "Tut Tut Tut Tut" was given an English version called "Busy Signal" as recorded by The Lollipops).
"Tut Tut Tut Tut" is indeed the Franco-phonetic way of imitating a busy signal.In the course of this two minute song, Hills huffs 7 TUTs in a row, four different times for a total of 28 TUTS. Then she adds another 15 or 20 during the fade. Who doesn't love her TUTS?
Hedy Lamarr once said that it's easy to be sexy…just look stupid. It's also easy to be sexy just by singing stupid, and saying "tut tut tut tut" is an open-mouthed signal of being awfully easy to please. Gillian's singing career didn't last too long, and neither did her comeback to films. Aside from the early "Beat Girl," cultists can find her, briefly, in both "Blow Up" and "A Clockwork Orange." Gillian left for hills unknown and retired as a sexy entertainer while she was still sexy and entertaining. You wish there was more on her? Tut tut!
TUT TUT! Gillian's Hills! Instant download or listen on line. No wait time or sleazy ads from a crooked "locker" service like Deposit Files, who make their illegal money sending you to childish "play video games" or bogus "dating" websites.
It's hard to walk away from Dick Van Dyke feeling depressed, but it happened to me about six or seven months ago. One of the kindest of men, modest and with great humility and humor, he happened to mention the possibility of an upcoming tour in "The Sunshine Boys" for himself and his brother Jerry Van Dyke. But he added, with an ironic smile, that at his age, he was "circling the drain."
Which is something a man in his late 80's does have to acknowledge if he's any kind of realist. But it was still a sad thought to ponder. Would any backers really put up money for a show starring a guy "circling the drain?" He did a little two-step at one point, by way of showing that he was still in very good shape. His voice was strong. He looked very healthy.
On February 29th, the news was not draining at all. Quite the reverse. Dick was flushed with happiness, eyes watery and glowing…he'd gotten married again! At 86, he married a pleasingly plump cutie of 40. And rather than circling the drain, he told reporters: "We're looking forward to a long and happy marriage!"
So good luck to Dr. Sloan of "Diagnosis Murder," and to the chimney sweep of "Mary Poppins" (he still beats up on himself for his notoriously bad Cockney accent in the film…not to the dialogue coach or director or Julie Andrews who all felt it wasn't too distracting). Most of all, to Rob Petrie of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," tripping over the ottoman or side-stepping it. The theme song for that show was so infectious that Morey Amsterdam decided to put lyrics to it. Morey never recorded it (he did record a comedy album "Funny You Should Ask," with Richard Deacon and Rose-Marie, and featuring a Dick Van Dyke portrait of Morey on the cover) but, as an afterthought nearly 50 years later, Van Dyke's given us a memorable minute of it.
Lucky Dick…he starred in TV shows when there was money to be made and royalties to be paid. It was all filmed in Hollywood using unions…not farmed out to Canada or Romania at cut-rate prices cutting out Americans in need of a job. There was no Internet: you bought a movie ticket or a record (or you didn't), and if you weren't sure, there were newspapers and magazines that informed you (rather than stole for you, as the New Reich of Amazon and Google believe in, as long as they hold the weapons of mass dysfunction.)
Speaking of the once robust world of magazines and newspapers, did you see the article in Business Week today (March 19, 2012)? Headline: "US newspapers lost $10 in print advertising revenue last year for every $1 they gained online, a deeper loss than in 2010." Follow-up: "“They’re continuing to lose ground to tech intermediaries such as Google Inc…The industry, suffering declines in print advertising, hasn’t been able to make up for those losses with digital revenue." But hey, I read it on Business Week's website and don't subscribe to the magazine itself. Heck, I bet that article is already on a thousand blogs owned by Google….
Nevermind. Listen to the lyrics here! Trouble's a bubble!
DICK VAN DYKE SHOW theme lyrics by Morey Amsterdam. Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes or pimp-demands from a crooked file-sharing website to buy a premium account so they can make money from what they've stolen.