Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MINDY McCREADY - "There But for Fortune" Marianne Faithful

She was one of the best singers in the world of country music. She really, really had talent.

If you were looking for "nice comments" about Mindy McCready's suicide, and glanced down at what was posted on the website for any of the tabloid newspapers on February 17th, you got:

"So long Mindy! Don't let the door hit you on your way out! Crackhead!" "Never heard of her. Who cares?" "Roger Clemens is a pig for tapping a 15 year-old!"

Yeah, there were a few "So sorry for her kids!" and "R.I.P." and "She's an angel now…" But there were a lot of variations on this remark:

"Didn't we all see this coming a mile away?"

To be honest, yes, the woman had a serious disease, physical and mental, revolving around substance abuse (mostly prescription drugs). Name somebody you know who broke your heart with an alcohol or drug problem.

Who? Who had you walking away because you couldn't do anything more to help? Who left you shaking you head, still feeling the pain? Who is the one you feel sorry for as much as resent for not being in your life anymore?

Yeah. I thought you could name somebody. That's why you weren't one of the assholes who had to, for whatever reason, snap a comment and kick dirt on the woman's face not 24 hours after she put a bullet in her head.

What separated Mindy from your average alcoholic waitress or pill-happy office good-time girl, or an ignorant meth hillbilly with too many boyfriends is that the woman could sing. "Blessed with a golden voice," Leonard Cohen might say. If only Mindy had refuge in Leonard's "Tower of Song," gated against temptation and with no more harmful danger than a crooked manager taking away some profits (as one of Cohen's did). This is a woman who parlayed a simple karaoke tape into a record deal, and had a #1 on her first album. 1996 was her big year of success and a promising future.

The last year of Mindy's life? Though overweight, not a viable artist to be booked on tour, and several years from a download-only comeback album that few heard of, she had a relationship going with a guy named David Wilson and they had a young son. She even did some press interviews to try and present a new image of health and optimism. Home was now a humble house in Heber, Arkansas. Still, there were rumors…about how long she could go without pills, and what strains a baby in the house and limited career prospects were causing. Some whispered that the couple was fighting.

On January 13th, Wilson died of a gunshot wound. Mindy was the one to call 911, and watched the life ebb out of him on the front porch. The report was suicide, but some had doubts. He'd bought a new truck a few weeks earlier, and was only a few days away from getting a six figure inheritance from his mother's estate. So, surely, depression and anger couldn't triumph over a new car and money, right?

In yet another questionable decision, not long after the shocking death, Mindy allowed "The Today Show" to come calling. She gamely told her earnest interviewer that getting through a terrible trauma can only make you stronger. So can answering tactless questions? The interviewer asked Mindy if David was having an affair.

Mindy said no. She said David was her soul mate. Next: "Did YOU kill him?"

"Oh God no…no…"

The camera got what it wanted…a very shaken, tearful mourner now reduced to raw nerves. Another question: was it suicide or could it have been murder!

"I don't know…" said Mindy, totally decimated. Where could she go from here? A rehab center. But not for long. With no traces of drugs or alcohol in her system she was cleared for release.

Billy McKnight, father of her older son, did a television interview of his own: "Perhaps staying in there and grieving around people that could help her over the death of her fiancĂ© could’ve calmed her down, but the demons that she hasn’t beaten were there, and until she was going to face them, something was going to happen and everyone who knows her personally knew that….as sad as it is, it didn't come as a major shock because she's just been battling demons for so long and, of course, I was around her when she attempted suicide twice and I knew it was in her." He also nearly beat her to death one time.

And so it was, that Mindy McCready, no longer in rehab, and with nobody to call and nothing to say to any friend or relative, sat alone on that same porch where her "soul mate" (her words) died from his gunshot wound. That's where they found her, and for the first time, the general public knew her name.

Well…a few of the tabloids headlined her as the woman who had an affair with Roger Clemens. A few opened with a tease about a #1 Hit Record C&W Star suicide, then revealed the name. The "delicious schadenfreude," as the Kenneth Anger-type gossip writers would call it, of a suicide mirroring one that happened less than a month earlier, also pushed the story as a lead on the TV news. There were sudden tributes from C&W stars who hadn't let Mindy open for them or shunned her (in a "let go, let God" way, which one does with people mired in problems that require professional help). The late Mindy McCready, 37, who hadn't had a hit in 15 years, and not one song that was known beyond the world of country music, was now a superstar. CDs that weren't selling on eBay for 99 cents were being snatched, and eBayers with access to a computer print-out, were cashing in with $10 reprint photos for sale, and some were making R.I.P. souvenirs with tin button-making kits.

The details of Mindy's decline after her 1996-1998 platinum and gold albums was duly noted. So was her last superstar relationship (Dean Cain in 1998), her sparse output of albums (one in 1999 and one in 2002) and the increasingly regular incidents of out-of-control behavior: 2004 prescription drug arrest, 2005 beat-down by McKnight, 2005 drug overdose, 2006 kidnap by Mindy of her son from the protective care of her own mother, 2007 in jail, 2008 suicide attempt, 2009 appearance on "Celebrity Rehab" (her death is the fifth among alumni of that show), and a leaked porn tape that she ended up signing a contract on so it could be officially released. The most cringeworthy part of that video isn't the energetic sex from the buxom blond, but the unhealthy pride she shows in the interview segment that pads it out to an hour on DVD. Fittingly enough, Mindy talks in a noisy diner, alternately amused and disdainful of the eager questions about what her celebrity lovers were like.

Since you probably never heard of McCready before (unless you are a faithful reader of this blog…this is the third time for her), the song you should try first is "The Fine Art of Holding a Woman." At her best, Mindy could not only sing with power and clarity, but with emotion. She could sing heartache with the skills of a traditional artist (Patsy Cline) or a commercial crossover queen (Gogi "Wayward Wind" Grant or Crystal Gayle). In her prime, she also had the look of a star. She sent out the mixed message of come hither and back off…of "I'm easy" and "I'm hard." She was another of the Frances Farmer or Barbara Payton variety…someone wild, rebellious, restless, wanting someone strong but always being stronger, and if you said she was heavenly her reply would probably be "what the hell…"

"I was your sunlight, but now I'm just shade. I was your blue sky, now I'm jut the rain. I was your favorite song, but now I'm overplayed. If tomorrow's gonna be the same, I'll see you yesterday."

Those were the lyrics on the last song Mindy recorded. She was working with David Wilson on it; aside from being the boyfriend and father to her child, he was also her music producer. According to a friend of hers, Danno Hanks, the "perfect storm" that led to Mindy's suicide probably started here. The guy who had produced a comeback song, one she believed in, didn't have the optimism to stay alive. After his death, she fretted about getting the song to radio stations and, in the ultimate humiliation, having it posted free to YouTube. Said Hanks: "This was her suicide video. She wanted it out there because she knew that the video would get more play after she committed her suicide. She wanted the world at the end to know how she had been treated and mistreated and all the stuff that she had gone through."

Wilson's suicide may not have been fatal to McCready except for the chain of events that happened in its wake. She got a report from children's services that Billy McKnight was once again seeking custody of their son, and that at best, the agency was going to take both boys away to Florida to once again be placed in the care of her mother. She was an unfit mother. Then there was the court-ordered drug and alcohol tests. And following "The Today Show" interview, even more intense speculation that she had killed Wilson. The police did nothing to combat the rumor, even though Mindy had been instantly tested for gunpowder residue and cleared of Wilson's death.

"Saturday was a very bad day for her," Hanks told CNN. Her call to him mentioned the situation with her kids being taken away, but he had no idea how close to the edge she actually was. In retrospect, he wondered why the authorities hadn't kept her under observation rather than clear her for release from the drug and alcohol treatment center: "What (were they) doing was sending home someone who is now made even more distraught by having her children taken away and sending her home to a house that just had lots of guns because David was a gun nut...If she had known how many fans that she had out there and how many supporters she truly did have, she might have had the courage to go on. But I think she just felt she was alone, that nobody cared about what was happening to her."

The fine art of holding on. Aside from "The Fine Art of Holding a Woman," also below is a track from her last album, and a musical reminder from the late great Phil Ochs, "There But for Fortune." No, it's not a case of "don't play the chords of fame." It wasn't really fame that doomed Phil or Mindy, which is something you understand, and internet trolls don't. Emotional problems and substance dependency happen with or without fame. The trolls, the obscure and mediocre who rant their venom on anyone famous, even in an obit, somehow survive. If Phil's suicide had come during this age of anonymous Internet freedom the trolls would've happily typed: "Ochs? Never heard of him!" or "Kurt Cobain is somebody you should care about instead!" The cover version of Phil's song is the audio soundtrack from a TV appearance by Marianne Faithful from the 60's. Mr. Troll would probably type: "Marianne WHO? Never heard of her! I'd tap Taylor Swift. That would be sweet! I got pix of her that make me fap."

Let's give the last word to Wynona Judd. Hearing about Mindy McCready, she said: "Addiction is a disease and not a character flaw."

MINDY MCREADY The Fine Art of Holding a Woman

From the last MINDY MCREADY album, 2010: I'm Still Here

MARIANNE FAITHFUL TV soundtrack recording…performing "THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE" by Phil Ochs

MAURICE CHEVALIER - "You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me"

If Zeppo Marx was still alive, he'd be 112.

He was born February 25, 1901.

Zep (mockingly nicknamed "Zippo" after a famous monkey, then re-spelled) didn't get much of a chance to be funny in any of the Marx Brothers movies, but he sang a song now and then.

He was probably the only one of the four who stood any chance of getting off a boat by impersonating Maurice Chevalier.

He needed a good voice and also…a paste board? Washboard? Oh…passport.

Just to lighten up the blog postings (quite a combo, Mindy McCready above and the story of Dick Kallman below) here's the song the Marx boys all tried to sing in "Monkey Business."

Sing along, and work on your karaoke skills. PS, you might also want to study self-defense and how long you can go without eating, if the boat you're on happens to be from Carnival Cruise.

The familiar original version is in the movie, so here's the jocular and sonically more appealing re-make. Chevalier recorded it for MGM in the 50's, long after he stopped fiddling with Jeanette MacDonald. At this point in his life, he was also prone to sing "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore." You really believe he meant it? Chevalier, ehhhhhh?



Dick Kallman?

A few non-senile baby boomers recognize the name and might even have something of his in a shelf or stored in a box in the attic: a few singles (John Barry worked with the budding singer), maybe a souvenir Playbill from a mediocre musical, or perhaps a blurry VHS copy of an episode from his cute one-season sitcom called "Hank." There was even a tie-in album where he sang rock, pop and show tunes.

Coming up on the 33rd anniversary of his death (July 7, 1933 – February 22, 1980), the Illfolks blog finally has finished the research and uploaded some his songs. Here's the story of a guy who realized his limits, retired from show biz after giving it a shot…and got shot anyway. No, his death was not due to a celebrity stalker, but due to his success as a businessman.

A silver-spoon child, Kallman's father owned the St. John Hotel in Havana, Cuba. His mother Zara Whitman had been an actress. When Castro took over, that included the St. John Hotel, so the Kallmans fled back to the states and set up a resort hotel in New Hampshire. Richard came to Manhattan to attend the High School of Performing Arts. A few years later, and he was recording for Decca and Liberty.

The ambitious lad tried for the soft pop stylings of a Pat Boone or Bobby Vinton with "Little Grain of Sand," while "Speak Softly" is sort of a creepy-haunting little middle-of-the-road tune that a better known Jerry Vale or a more energetic Jimmy Roselli might have driven into the Top 40. There was also an Elvis attempt on "I Cry to the Moon." While Dick's singles stalled, his rubbery good looks and modest charm got him into the touring company of "Come Blow Your Horn." His big break was replacing Robert Morse in the Broadway cast of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

From there, he achieved what little fame in show business he had: "Hank."

At the time sitcoms often starred affable fellows bumbling around to a laugh track. What worked in Danny Kaye and Eddie Bracken movies was aped by Jerry Van Dyke ("My Mother the Car") Ronnie Schell ("Good Morning World") and Kallman in "Hank," to name three shows that didn't last too long. There was always the chance an actor playing a hapless dolt or a pleasant-looking lamebrain could lead a show to ratings glory: Dwayne "Dobie Gillis" Hickman or Bob "Gilligan" Denver.

"Hank," broadcast at 8:30 (after "Camp Runamuck") didn't have a chance opposite CBS's "Wild Wild West." It was about a guy who sold refreshments out of a truck on a college campus, and secretly dated the blustery school president's daughter. He couldn't afford to attend school, but as the themes song reminded us, he vowed to "get his degree, his Phi Beta Key, and get them both for free," by sitting on on classes. Funny, back then, people were concerned that "education should be free." Now it's "music should be free."

Kallman, who had the same wan smile and bland "nice guy" features as Steve Martin, wasn't much of a heart-throb for teen girls of the day. Still, the push was on, with Kallman marketed for both the NBC sitcom, and for the unusually optimistic RCA album released for this rather unknown newcomer at the same time. A single (written by David Gates) was released and promoted on NBC's "Hullabaloo," in an episode hosted by Peter "Herman" Noone.

Dick's "Lookin' Around" just wasn't too hip. With its kind of stunted, familiar "On Broadway" rhythm strut, and Dick's Darin-esque swing, it was a little too corny for a 1965 girl to care about. Clean-cut cuties were not too popular in that era of Beatles supremacy. The best that can be said for "Lookin' Around" is that it's not the unintentional parody of rock that "I Cry to the Moon" was, something that was more Conrad Birdie than Elvis Presley.

After "Hank" was canceled, Kallman made a few films, toured the straw hat circuit in "Half a Sixpence, and made a brief appearance in a pair of 1968 "Batman" shows as "Little Louie Groovy," (Eartha Kitt the guest villainess) for which he no doubt is revered among Bat-bilia buffs haunting eBay for an autographed photo to add to "the Bat-collection." Dick made his final TV appearance in an episode of "Medical Center" in 1974. Ultimately he started a company that made dresses. His mother, after all, had left acting behind to be an interior decorator. Kallman was a success with the Burton Constable company (offices in London and New York) and began to collect antiques, which turned from hobby, to a business, to a death sentence.

Selling antiques in Manhattan doesn't mean renting an expensive gallery. Many dealers prefer office space instead of a store, and some, like Kallman risk working out of their home. Kallman had a duplex at 17 East 77th (just off pricey Madison Avenue and its rows of boutiques and galleries) that that was both a private living space and showroom. He often decorated the place with items he was willing to sell at the right price.

Those wanting to visit his "Possessions of Prominence," could do so "by appointment" only. Some 15 years after the "Hank" series and album, the man's show biz career was a mere footnote oddity to his recent triumphs in fashion and art. That's how he was portrayed in New York magazine, in an issue that hit the stands on February 4th, 1980. A few weeks later, a bullet hit him in the head, entering from his right eye.

Thursday night, February 21st, Kallman hosted five men for a dinner party. In the wee hours of Friday morning, with his guests now gone, his killer arrived. The glass in the vestibule door downstairs was shattered, and part of a screen broken. There was no similar damage to Kallman's apartment door. Apparently Kallman opened it figuring it was one of his dinner guests returning to retrieve something. Besides, he wasn't alone. Steven Szladek was there. Steven, 20 years younger than Kallman, was discretely reported to simply be his "assistant." Today he'd be referred to as his "partner."

One newspaper account had Kallman "wearing nothing but a robe," while another quoted police as saying he was naked from the waist down. His assistant was found "lying nude in the fetal position in a pool of blood." What confused detectives was the motive for the double-murder. Obvious treasures, including a 2.3 million dollar Titian painting, remained undisturbed. Was this an intentional killing, with a few items stolen just to make it seem like a robbery? Was it a robbery but the work of a violent, ignorant thief who grabbed what could easily be thrown into a sack and didn't know quality at all? Or was it possible there was a gang at work…a trigger man and a few others to haul away select items that might be hidden in drawers and closets?

Eventually an inventory revealed that items were indeed missing, and the detective work began. There wasn't much pressure from the press to find out who killed Kallman. Despite the gruesome nature of the crime, the story wasn't front page news because the victim Kallman was not a movie star, just an affluent businessman known in the antiques world, and with enough connections to get a puff-piece in New York magazine.

Gossip columnist Earl Wilson was one of the few to remember Kallman, and even so, the result was just a few lines amid the usual goggle about which star was at which premiere. Wilson recalled that the flamboyant actor was a friend of another footnote in the entertainment world, 1940's cabaret singer Dolores Gray. Gray holds the dubious record for winning a Tony despite few people actually seeing her show. "Carnival in Flanders" closed after just six performances, but she won the award anyway. Ten years older than Kallman, the 56 year-old woman enjoyed the company of her antiques-dealing ex-show biz friend. Wilson wrote: "They were seen at parties, and attended the recent opening of "Harold and Maude"wearing His and Hers full-length mink coats."

Ultimately in July of 1981, 27 year-old Charles Lonnie Grosso of Queens, was convicted of second-degree murder. A brief report in the New York Times noted that "paintings, jewelry and antiques stolen from the apartment have not been recovered." The Times did not mention any accomplices. Grosso was sentenced to 25 years to life, and may be reading this via an Internet connection in an upstate New York prison. If so, a word of warning, Mr. Grosso. Downloading copyrighted music IS sometimes prosecuted, so if you grab the four songs from Dick Kalllman below, you just might be asking for trouble.

DICK KALLMAN If you've got a Hankering for FOUR SONGS


Here's the first new addition to the SACRILEGE series in 5 years. Last one, a look at some Dylan parodies, was back in 2008.

Coincidentally, today (February 19th) the long arm of the law bonked a download actually posted in 2008. Only the third time it's happened at Illfolks. Paul Simon's people just objected to the memorial use of "Night Game" in a May, 2008 article about ex-major league baseball pitcher Geremi Gonzalez, struck by lightning. It happened on a rainy pier in Venezuela (the lightning broke the gold chain around his neck) not on a pitcher's mound, but "Night Game" seemed an appropriate and eerie song to use for the story. Five years later, and having gotten less than 20 downloads...YER OUT!

Well, it's Simon's song and over here, one respects what Simon says. Forgive the bot, for it knows not a sincere usage from a craven one.(Oh...and thank you, Paul-bot, for NOT bonking the SACRILEGE post that was a Not Necessarily the News parody of Simon and Garfunkel. A Rolling Stones bot actually bonked a NON-Rolling Stones song here, a parody that didn't even use the original music!)

Now for something completely different. And totally out of print and obscure...

This time, we go back to the heyday of Beatlemania…and a concept album making fun of it all, by Fisher and Marks.

Yes, the Fab Four inspired a ton of cash-in singles, such as Donna Loren's "My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut." And yes, there were a few comical sourballs hurled their way, including "Pop Hates the Beatles" on an Allan Sherman record. But a full length album? You ask, WHY?

And I'll tell you. Because back then, comedy records were big business. "The First Family," Vaughn Meader's novelty-sketch album on John F. Kennedy, became a million-seller for the tiny Cadence label. That, and huge sales for Shelley Berman, Bob Newhart and others, had record labels gambling on every topical news story and trend. When Elizabeth Taylor began fooling around with Richard Burton, there was "All About Cleopatra." When the "Man from UNCLE" was a huge hit, up came "The Man from TANTE." And yes, when Beatlemania hit, another failed album was rushed out: "Coo Coo Beatles World."

Ironically enough it was on Swan, the Philadelphia label that had miraculously acquired the actual Beatles single "She Loves You" for American distribution.

And who were Fisher and Marks? Just a pair of local Philly comics, no threat to Allen & Rossi (who were having hit albums for ABC-Paramount and owned the catch-phrase "Hello Dere") or even Gaylord and Holiday (who were not having hit albums, and owned the catch-phrase 'Hi, Simply Hi.")

Al Fisher was born Albert Fichera and Marks' last name was Franco (which would explain the duo's other album, Italian comedy parodies ala Allan Sherman titled "Rome on the Range). They began working together in 1948, with Al doing stand-up and pudgy little Lou heckling him from the audience and then coming up on stage for schtick a little less frantic than Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The team wowed 'em in Philly, and were regulars at a local club in town called Palumbo's. A decade later, the team even appeared in a few movies, 'Mister Rock and Roll" and "Country Music Holiday," both headed by country singer Ferlin Husky. The team became known around the country, opening for both comics (Joey Bishop) and song and dance acts (Jimmy Durante). While Steve Rossi ran through Marty Allen, Slappy White, Joe E. Ross, Bernie Allen, and then came back to Marty again…the durable Fisher & Marks combo continued in local venues until 1985, when Al suffered his third, and most damaging heart attack. He died a year later, July 16, 1986. Marks teamed with a few other comics after Al's passing, worked as a single, and died September 8, 2007 at the age of 83, no quite making it to his birthdate (September 27th).

Most fans agree that the team was a riot in live performance, and that the movies and record albums do not do them justice. Well, "Coo Coo" doesn't do The Beatles justice, either, and a good parody would have to wait many many years till The Rutles arrived. Much of the album is badly written schtick. Unable to fill it entirely with gags about long hair or Ed Sullivan, they padded things out with a sketch as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and a track called "The Real Fisher and Marks."

Since this is a music blog anyway, you get the few musical numbers, including "We Love Rock and Roll" (lyrics stuck atop "Barcarolle" of all things…and what the point of the bad Cockney-accented riddles are, who knows) and "Paul George John and Ringo : All The Way to the Bank," (public domain music "On Top of Old Smokey"). Ladies and Gentlemen, the comedy stylings of Al Fisher and Lou Marks, back when it was a Coo-Coo Beatles World.


Saturday, February 09, 2013

You say HOLLO. God says GOODBYE. "Lyricist" Anselm Hollo

My favorite living poet is no longer alive.

He was the author of dozens of acclaimed poetry books, and also a professor (you can't make a living off poems). The finish line for Finnish-born "beat poet" Anselm Hollo loomed this past summer when he underwent brain surgery. He died of pneumonia January 29, at 78.

Like Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Rexroth, Hollo's early work was spiked with varied amounts of hip and frank language and a sense of humor. With these American wiseguys leading the charge (inspired by such groundbreaking older crackpots as Vachel Lindsay and e.e. cummings), Hollo, migrating to England, joined a bunch of like-minded Brit "beats" in re-defining poetry. This included readings at the "International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall" in June of 1965 (before Dylan outraged anyone there). I got to know Hollo's work via a college poetry course that required the purchase of the Penguin paperback "Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain."

The book, first published in 1969, was dedicated to Allen Ginsberg, whom Hollo translated into German (Hollo translated a lot of writers into a lot of other languages, with a popular anthology "Red Cats" giving Russian poets some exposure in English). Anselm was greatly admired by his peers, including Ted Berrigan who named his son after him (no, not Hollo Berrigan…). Yes, I am very proud of my autographed copy of "Howl," with its drawing and personalization from Allen, but I equally treasure the autograph Mr. Hollo gave me on "Pomology," a poem I felt should be printed out on high quality paper and framed. Especially with the poet's signature at the bottom.

In the poem, Hollo says you can eat an apple a day, or write a poem a day. And…"Any doctor will tell you it is easier to eat an apple than to make a poem. It is also easier to eat a poem than to make an apple but only just…" You can hunt around on your own to find the beginning and end of that one. The "Albion" book has it, as well as "A warrant is out for the arrest of Henry Miller" which was originally published in 1962 when "smelling of garlic & good fucks" was NOT the kind of line that Poetry Magazine would publish. They eventually did publish some of Hollo's more sedate works. "Any News from Alpha Centauri," published in Poetry in January 1969 had no tired allusions to mythos. A few lines dropped culture references far more modern, including The Mothers (of Invention). Not that it's easy to decipher why:

"in the bar there was a photo of Albert Eintein, a photo of Franz Kafka in the rented room/Louisiana Man by Bobbie Gentry in the bar/Mozart and The Mothers in the rented room/eyes and voices screens of solitude/he remembered the touch of a pair of hands…"

Actually I was always more attracted to Hollo's humble and conversational pieces, curios that didn't require a Rubik's Cube brain to figure out, ones which could hit you more like an Edward Hopper painting and give you an emotion right away. Some of his best poems were about the disconnected individual. Hollo's short "hello" poem for example:

"The phone rings. I lift the receiver. I say Hello to some utter stranger. he says Hello I am I. he told me to phone you whenever I get here. & so I did I did get here I'm phoning you now. this is a phone & I'm talking."

In the poem "& i heard a man, telling the sky," a mild man begins to roil with rage: "I have spoken kindly without causing offense I have spoken kindly, politely to customs officials…to policemen lifting me out of the rain into the shelter of well-built cells to presidents, ministers, headwaiters & whores all wanting to sell me what I never asked for…." The man plots his revenge but in the guise of "a peaceful Chirico puppet receding into the calm perspectives of the city pushing a red wheelbarrow full of plastic explosives crossing borders unnoticed in the guise of a walking egg…" (Pardon for not breaking the lines up the way they originally are on the page).

Hollo eventually came to America, found his refuge in Academia, contributed to poetry magazines and anthologized his works, and along with his second wife lived in a damn nice big home near the University of Colorado at Boulder. He also taught at the colorfully named Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, at Naropa University. Some of his lectures are over at the achive.org site for free download. In 2001 he was "elected" (by the POETICS bunch) as "anti-laureate," in response to the sappy, pretentious and dusty dopes who, thanks to politics and favoritism, would be appointed "Poet Laureate" to deliver some embarrassingly trite "official poem" for an inauguration or Library of Congress fete.

OK. This is a music blog…happily, Anselm Hollo joins it thanks to modern jazz composer Frank Carlberg (born in Finland). For his concept album "The Crazy Woman," Frank turned a set of modern poems into "lyrics," mated to the kind of music that, well, most "music loving" bloggers just can't deal with. "Dark Side of the Moon" or Zappa, yeah, but anything just a little wilder than Hendrix doing the fucking "Star Spangled Banner," uh, no, man. So you haven't found Carlberg's album in some forum, or stolen from a forum and posted to a blog with the password Fukhof. It has not been labeled "not to be missed" by some Swedish meatball stuck in the year 1968 and re-upping the Strawberry Alarm Clock. And it languishes at Amazon where you might get a 30 second sample, and Carlberg might get a nickel for every .99 cent download.

Not TOO far from the world of Zappa, or Yma Sumac, is "modern jazz" or "avant-garde jazz" or "annoying jazz" as most would call it, with vocals by Christine Correa. She has the task of keeping the words relevant under the smatters, smears and stutters of a jazz band clearly bent on doing something, anything, but Gershwin, Waller or even Miles or Brubeck.

The poems on the concept album include, among others, "Life is Sick" and "I Clearly Saw" from Jack Kerouac, "Veins" from Marina Tsvetayeva ("my veins slashed open…my life gushes forth….") "The Snow Man" by Wallace Stevens, "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and "The Crazy Woman" by Anna Akhmatova. Anselm has 3 poems, most of any writer Carlberg chose. The CD opens ("Godlike") and closes ("No Way & Now) with Hollo (you get these below) and there's a third poem in the middle, "Frogman." All the "lyrics" are very short. "Godlike" is only a few lines, so they are repeated three different times: "When you suddenly/feel like talking/about the times/in your life when you were/a total idiot asshole you resist/the impulse/&just sit there/at the head of the table/beaming."

"No way & Now" is even briefer. There's a death rattle in it, especially listening now that Mr. Hollo is gone: "…still cold& worse & gone & colder tonight & no way no…"

Let's end this obit-with-music by quoting the first two lines of a poem by Frances Horovitz, who naturally was chosen to be included in the Michael Horovitz "Albion" anthology where I first encountered Hollo. The poem is called "love poem" and the opening lines are:

your total absence

rehearsal of my death.

Thus does an obit point a bony finger at the reader's own mortality.

Goodbye, Hollo. Your works are still on the page. Where are you?

Christine Correa Two Songs with Poem-Lyrics by Anselm Hollo

GOLLY…gayly…Jim Nabors Gets Married but "You Can't Roller Skate…"

In some of these United States, two homosexuals can now get married. BUT…even if you're gay…remember this: "You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd…"

And so Jim Nabors, gay bachelor no more, a groom (or was he the bride) at age 82, is honored here via some of the goofy songs he sang in his character of Gomer Pyle, USMC. (You were expecting his serious stuff?? Here????) And yes, it includes a Gomer-cover of a Roger Miller novelty.

While few in their right mind, over the age of 12, and living somewhere not teeming with perpetual chiggers, is still watching "Gomer Pyle," it's hard to forget that show, or the one that spawned it. There are still very somber and devoted fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" out there, who find mighty powerful lessons in life from not just Sheriff Taylor and Opie, but even in the day-to-day struggles of dim-witted but kindly Gomer.

Nabors not only became a star during the Great Rural Sitcom Scare of the 60's (which included "Beverly Hillbillies" and its spinoffs "Petticoat Junction" and "Green Acres,") he also won praise as a straight (pardon the expression) singer. Some folks even chose his albums before the latest Sandler & Young or Robert Goulet, and he surpassed the success of Frank Fontaine (who, as "Crazy Guggenheim" with Jackie Gleason a few years earlier, dazzled MOR music lovers by speaking in a cretinous voice for comedy and then singing in a sincerely gooey baritone to show his serious side).

In the late 60's and early 70's, Nabors was still welcome on TV thanks to his humility and down-home way with either a joke or a song. He had his own variety series for a while, and guested on other shows of the day. Then the day passed, and he wisely devoted more time to business pursuits (running a macademia nut farm in Hawaii) than trying to release a new album, or get more than a few months of concerts in places besides Branson, Missouri.

As to why he got married now? Probably business as well as pleasure. You want to make sure that when you're gone, your partner inherits. Jim told a local Hawaiian newspaper reporter, "I'm 82 and he's in his 60s and so we've been together for 38 years and I'm not ashamed of people knowing, it's just…I'm not an activist. I'm not a debater." He was just a guy who found himself attracted to other guys, and happened to have a show biz career. Not everybody is good at giving radical speeches and marching in parades, and really, if you're a militant homosexual wanting everyone out of the closet and protesting, you'd be calling on an Anderson Cooper before shoving the microphone at a shy guy famous for saying "Shazam" over 40 years ago.

Oh yes. The early "marriage" rumor about Nabors and Rock Hudson. After this silly story became too big to be ignored, Hudson spoke out. Rightly convinced that his career (and new series "McMillan and WIFE") could be jeopardized, he used his comic finesse to explain that he hardly knew Nabors, and that the whole thing started as a prank. He blamed a campy pair of "middle-aged homosexuals who live in Huntington Beach, which is just down the coast…every year (they) give a party, 500 people or so…To make it amusing they will say "You're cordially invited…" and come up with some ridiculous shock attraction. And one year it was "the wedding reception of Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors." Hudson suggested any unlikely combination of two males stars could've been chosen at random.

Congrats to Jim Nabors on the real marriage. Below, no, not the "serious" singing, weird as it is (well, maybe not if compared to Bob Dylan somehow emoting "Nashville Skyline" in his own gooey "new" voice). You get four cuts of Jim singing as Gomer Pyle, which probably was not as easy as it sounds. One number is actually a narration (a popular form of C&W sentimentality) titled "Old Blue," and about a beloved dog (a fucking country obsession right up there with alcohol and marrying an underage cousin). Two songs written by Dave Gates to exploit the Gomer character ("Shazam" and "Gomer Says Hey") are here, too. As for the cover of Roger Miller, Jim enunciates it so well, you almost can understand every word. On the original, Roger sounded like he was singing "you can't chase phlegm with a kid on your back." But it's "change film." A reference to a long forgotten TV commercial. Gomer Pyle long forgotten? No, once you've seen or heard Gomer Pyle, it's hard to forget.



When Reg Presley (born June 12, 1941) died on February 4th, three words had to be added: "of The Troggs." If you were telling this sad news to some vaguely curious 20-something or 30-whatever, you probably had to use a lot more words. Like: "Presley was lead singer for The Troggs, who recorded 'Wild Thing.' Not The Kingsmen. Although The Troggs covered 'Louie Louie.' No, they didn't also sing 'Gloria.' That was Them. Them. Lead singer Van Morrison. No, Reg wasn't one of them. That was The Troggs. Oh for fuck's sake….no, no, 'Dirty Water' was The Standells. Which was the first punk song? Nevermind….just go listen to your fucking Maroon5 and Fun illegal downloads..."

Naturally the download below is NOT "Wild Thing" which you can find anywhere, but a lucky seven other cuts that are more typical of The Troggs place in time and more reflecting of their influences, like the mildly Rolling Stone-ish "I Can Only Give You Everything" (as opposed to satisfaction), the Byrd-y jangle "Little Girl" (written by Reg) and the Kink-esque strum-and-halt "Your Love" (which seems to reference "All Day and All of the Night"). For one of the many groups saddled with the "godfathers of punk" tag, The Troggs actually did a lot more than garage rock.

Reg Presley (born Reginald Ball, but given his cheeky new name in the same managerial spirit that would later transform Declan MacManus into Elvis Costello) didn't just write or perform in a rock group in the late 60's…and keep the group around for touring through the years. He had many other interests, and in 2002 wrote "Wild Things They Don't Tell Us," about his interest in crop circles and UFO's and other believe-it-or-not phenomena. He researched such experts as "self-taught Egyptologist John West." Quoting from the obscure tome:

"If we find graffiti on a wall, we would not dream that the person who put it there actually built the wall. Yet when Egyptologists find Egyptian hieroglyphs on the walls of pyramids, they automatically assume the Egyptians built them. The Sphinx, according to Egyptologists, was built around the same time as the pyramids. Yet John West, a self taught Egyptologist, recently discovered that the weathering on the Sphinx is water weathering. The kind of rain needed for evidence is still coming in." So aliens built the pyramids. And here's something even more baffling.

If they did….uh, so? So maybe they'll come back and build affordable housing in Scunthorpe? Maybe the next UFOs to create crop circles will do it in Cleethorpes and boost the tourist industry there? We're supposed to be happy that maybe, someday, more aliens will turn up in England? Hey, they are already doing it and building mosques, or transforming chip shops into curry houses…if that's you're idea of improving civilization in the U.K. Waiting for space aliens to do something besides build triangles, odd heads at Stonehenge, or make crop circles...I don't know, I don't have faith in them. They came to Earth just to be goofy sculptors? Or toss a big lizard into Loch Ness? That's a long trip just to play a game and leave.

Reg Presley was still playin' the game and keeping The Troggs on the road until last year, when he posted to his fan website about his worsening health: ""As you all know I was taken ill whilst doing a gig in Germany in December. During my stay in hospital tests showed that in fact I have lung cancer.I am receiving chemotherapy treatment and at the moment not feeling too bad. However I've had to call time on The Troggs and retire. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the cards and calls and for your love, loyalty and support over the years." And so it spiraled from there, for a regular guy who did have some unusual hobbies.

Crop circles. That's where it began for Reg. "It had been a long hot dry summer," he writes, "I entered the Pewsey Vale from the south-east, and used the road that runs along the southern side of east field where the crop formation was reported to be…I looked across the valley and there, as though a giant pastry cutter had been at work, I saw my first crop formation." OK, all you wild things and cosmic muffins, take it from there. I hope it makes your hearts sing.

Mr. Presley was optimistic in 2002: "After 12 years of intensive research…I have no alternative but to believe that humanity is on the brink of one of the greatest discoveries of all time….world governments have spent millions of pounds on investigations into the UFO phenomenon and have documented evidence of their existence. The lengths to which these governments will go to hide this information never cease to amaze me." Let's all believe in looking toward the heavens for some kind of answer. Maybe Reg Presley is now sitting on a cloud (mmm, one with free mp3 downloads) along with Elvis Presley, trying to find a way to rain down peanut butter banana chip butty sandwiches for us all! With just the right amount of Xanax in them!

Reg Presley on the Ball 7 from The Troggs


The Troggs give a good five minute thrashing to… MONA