Wednesday, February 19, 2014


How about a song that became a big hit…after a complete lyrical re-write?

In 1953, Georgie Shaw and Tex Ritter both recorded "Let Me Go, Devil," written by country singer and songwriter Jenny Lou Carson. Jenny was the first woman to write a #1 country hit ("You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often"). Her redundant tune about demon rum:


"Let me go, let me go, let me go, devil. Stay away, stay away, stay away from my soul!
I got so low, got so low, yes so low, devil. I let you, evil you, get control!

...I lost my pride, lost my friends, it's the end, Devil. Let me go let me go, let me go!"
I'm gonna fight, gonna fight, with my might, Devil. Gotta win over sin if I can.
I've been a fool, yes a fool, just your tool, Devil. A disgrace to the race of man!

The song did ok with the country market, but that was about it. Music producer Mitch Miller was aware of the song, though, and liked the waltz melody, if not the lyrics. In addition to producing records, he was working on the hour-long TV series "Studio One." For an episode about a disc jockey trying to help catch a killer, he needed an ironic song that could be played over and over. And, no, there was no line of dialogue about "Play "Misty" for me."

New lyrics turned "Let Me Go, Devil" into "Let Me Go, Lover," and that was the title for the show's November 15, 1954 episode starring Joe Maross, Cliff Norton and Connie Sawyer. The number was sung by an unknown but promising 18 year-old New Jersey native named Joan Weber. After the broadcast, people were asking disc jockeys to play the song, and hunting for it at local record stores. They quickly got their wish. The original 78rpm pressing adds: "From the "Studio One" TV Production," and credits it to "Hill- J.L. Carson."

Hill? That was one, if not all of the song writing team of Fred Wise, Kay Twomey and Ben Weisman, who apparently chose Al Hill as a space-saving pseudonym when they doctored songs. Of the three, only Ben Weisman had a strong solo career, having a hand in over 50 songs recorded by Elvis Presley. Did it really take three people to switch around a country ballad about alcoholism into a universal song of love's anguish?

Let me go, let me go, let me go, lover. Let me be, set me free from your spell.
You make me weep, cut me deep, I can't sleep, lover. I was cursed from the first day I fell!
…Please turn me loose, what's the use, let me go, lover. Let me go, let me go, let me go!

Within a month, the Joan Weber Columbia recording was on the Billboard charts, with competition from Teresa Brewer (her Coral single hit #6 and the credit for it read: Jenny Lou Carson- Special Lyrics by Al Hill) and lilting Patti Page (who reached #10 for Mercury). Peggy Lee, on Decca, reached #26). There was also a version from the Doo Wop group The Counts (on Dot), and Columbia even competed with their own budding star with a 78rpm from Ruby Murray. (Within a few years, there would also be covers by Wanda Jackson, Dean Martin, The Valiants and Connie Francis).

Weber's version was the most dramatic, which reflected Mitch Miller's love of stark, lay-it-in-their-laps vocals (Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray were also on Columbia). Over the years, most singers use Patti Page's take as the role model, singing without angst, but as a wistful, mild-mannered sweetheart. Patti used that style on her biggest hits…the one about the rather stoic girl who watches her boyfriend get stolen away ("Tennessee Waltz") or the girl who watches her lover marry somebody else ("I Went To Your Wedding.")

Joan Weber's follow-up was actually a demo that had been sent to Miller, "Marionette." More in keeping with the country flavor of "Let Me Go, Lover," Columbia released her take on the stark C&W tune "Gone," but nothing much happened. Some say the problem was motherhood. Joan was visibly pregnant when she made a few TV appearances promoting "Let Me Go Lover," and after the birth of her daughter, couldn't put her full attention on music. Some say her band-leader husband, out of protection or jealousy or control, took over as her manager (from veteran Eddie Joy). With limited connections, her new manager couldn't get Joan booked at top clubs that only dealt with big-time operators with a vast roster of talent. Others say that Weber was simply too young for stardom and became more mentally fragile as more demands were placed on her. It's not known when she turned up at the Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey, but she died there in 1981, only 45 years old.

Ending this on an insane but humorous note, it was no doubt Hank Snow's cover version of the new lyrics ("Let Me Go, Lover" was sung as "Let Me Go, Woman") that inspired "Let Me Go, Blubber" by the song-butchering "thinking man's hillbillies," Homer and Jethro. The fat lady in question probably was dating both of them at the same time. Hoping to loosen her grip on them, they insist, "You're too fat in the first place, you know it's true. You're too fat in the second place, too!"

Georgie Shaw, Joan Weber, Tex Ritter, Hank Snow, Peggy Lee, Teresa Brewer, Homer & Jethro LET ME GO LOVER, WOMAN, BLUBBER, DEVIL….


The craze for electronic pop was ignited circa 1966 when Gershon Kingsley and Jean-Jacques Perry issued "The In Sound From Way Out." Walter Carlos (later Wendy Carlos) scored a major hit with "Switched on Bach" soon after. Yes, there were experiments with classical electronic music (notably Morton Subotnick's "Silver Apples of the Moon") and an all-electronic soundtrack of blips was prominent in the 1956 Leslie Nielsen-Anne Francis classic "Forbidden Planet" (which MGM didn't think to issue on vinyl at the time). But…it really was the 60's drug culture that led record store owners and record labels to unleash a ton of "incredibly strange" albums of accessible and usually pretty dopey moog albums.

Success came for those who melded electronic burps and zaps with rock and pop music. 1969-1970 were golden years for Moog albums, with "Moog" by Dick Hyman, "Moog Espana" from Sid Bass, "The Moog Strikes Bach" by Hans Wurman, "Well-Tempered Synthesizer"by Walter Carlos, "Moogie Woogie" by the Zeet Band, "Pop Electronique" by Cecil Leuter, and "Electronic Love" from The Electronic Concept Orchestra. Plus….Martin Denny's "Exotic Moog" Mort Garson's "Electronic Hair Pieces" Hugo Montenegro's "Moog Power" Marty Gold's "Moog Plays the Beatles" and Moog Machine's "Switched-on Rock." You can add George Harrison's "Electronic Sound" if you like. In 1971, Emerson, Lake and Palmer began annoying people with their overblown progrock crap (which didn't seem like overblown progrock crap at the time…ooh, what a lucky man owned their albums). And in 1972…the single 'Popcorn" was all over the airwaves, like butter up Maria Schneider's asshole. (Yes, "Last Tango in Paris" came out in 1972)

1972 was the year the most amusing of the electronic Erik Satie albums appeared. Satie was, like electronic music, a discovery of stoners. He was considered a very minor composer until the 70's, when a few classical pianists released albums of his work. That these became best-sellers was probably due to the college crowd adopting Satie as their favorite "serious" composer. The wonderfully eccentric Frenchman rivaled Frank Zappa for strangely named instrumental pieces, like "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." The same Music 101 kids who were calling Procol Harum and Jethro Tull "classic rock" (you'll remember the latter's "Passion Play" with an actual ballerina on the cover) loved having something cooler than Bach's "Air on a G String" or Pachelbel's "Canon." They found it especially in the soothing but strange "Gnossiennes." A gnossienne, if you care to look in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, refers to "a moment of awareness that someone you've known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life…"

Yes, even as my record collection kept growing and growing, I made more room not only for progrock, of course, but for electronic music albums and Mr. Satie. I recall William Masselos getting there first, with a great album on RCA, and Aldo Ciccolini straining my wallet by issuing a series of Satie's works on Angel. And not too long after that, came the inevitable Satie electronic versions.

On Procol Harum's first label, Deram, "The Electronic Spirit of Erik Satie" was a sleek gatefold album credited to The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Orchestra. In the spirit of the idiot times, the album notes tried to be far out, man, even mystical, with a dash of R. Crumb humor: "The arranger felt the actual presence of Satie in the room with him while he was scoring. (Erik's spirit would hover around the room and, at times, reach over his shoulder and guide his pencil along the score page, shouting directions in his ear "B flat not B natural, you dummy!")….All the wave forms, modulation mixes, oscillations and permutations have never been duplicated since, and the Moog player, who was entirely unfamiliar with the instrument at the time, has no recollection of having done the album whatsoever!"

Your sample below offers five short pieces from "Sports and Amusements," a suite of silliness that includes, in order: La Balançoire (The Seesaw) La Chasse (The Hunt) , Comédie Italianne (The Italian Comedy), Le Réveil de la Mariée (The Arrival of the Bride) and Colin Maillard (Blindman's Bluff). The producers thoughtfully included both a French and an English announcer to introduce the title of each piece.

Lastly, the original album cover just had some colorful smears on the cover visualizing what electronic sound might look like…the exotic Erik has been Photoshopped in.

Five un-flabby electronic pieces from: ELECTRONIC SPIRIT OF SATIE


"Gatsby's World: Turned On Joplin" was issued on ABC in 1974, the same year that RCA's Tomita released "Snowflakes are Dancing." Moog fans were still digesting the tireless Walter Carlos' "Switched on Bach 2" from the previous year.

The craze for moog was winding down, and really, it was a little late for the unknown Chris Stone to amuse anyone with yet another "let's moog up music that shouldn't be moog'd" album.

The reason for electronic versions of Scott Joplin rags was to cash in on the surprise success of the soundtrack to Paul Newman and Robert Redford's "The Sting." Hey, if Nonesuch could release a "serious" album of somebody playing ragtime pieces, claiming that Scott's stuff was just as intricate to play as Bach, then what the hell….

Take already corny and silly ragtime music…and add some wacky moog-doodling and gurgling to it…and what can you lose? Ask ABC's accountants. I don't think this thing sold a whole lotta copies (mine was a promo, as you see). Still, in small doses, it's definitely a fun novelty.

Selling to a college audience, the cover (with some guy holding a bottle of hooch and another hanging over a toilet) makes sure to imply that you can get wasted listening to the music. I can't say I played this one through over an entire side very often, but I did sneak the best track, "The Entertainer," onto the radio air waves once in a while. PS, nice of 'em to try and interest the college market by the allusion to "The Great Gatsby." Or were they afraid of a lawsuit if they linked this as some kind of switched-on "Sting" soundtrack??

ENTERTAINER: from Chris Stone

No egocentric passwords using the blogger's last name. No "tip jar" requests for the blogger's "hard work." No idiot capcha codes. No use of a "service" that wants you to pay to be a "premium" member for faster downloads.

Sunday, February 09, 2014


February 9th, 1964…The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

This is big nostalgia...for people 55 to 75. That's kind of a narrow demographic to hype, but the two surviving Beatles fall into that age bracket, and, happily, Beatles music is still so popular that people of all ages can celebrate their achievement. PS, it sure beats the other 50th anniversary...the assassination of JFK. Yes, I remember both...and this 50th certainly brings back more pleasant memories. "Beatlemania," it must be remembered, was ignited in America and may indeed have been sparked by a need to seize on something to get over the young president's death and rejuvinate the nation's optimism and youthful spirit...yeah yeah yeah!

America's feverish enthusiasm for The Beatles reached its peak when the Fab Four hit the Sullivan show on February 9th. Would they live up to the hysteria? Damn right! This triumphant show, with the screaming girls and the ebullient foursome handing in a charismatic set of performances, confirmed a new era of rock…and the rest really is history.

It was pretty much after the Sullivan show that the earlier Beatles hits known only in England, including "She Loves You" and "Please Please Me" turned up in America on obscure labels such as Swan and Tollie. Soon many obscure labels were cashing in on The Beatles.

It seemed every other record was either a Beatles cover or some kind of silly novelty. Capitol itself had Donna Lynn's "My Boyfriend Got a Beatles Haircut." There were plenty of Beatles Backlash tracks, too. It was a toss-up here, between tossing a bunch of the idiot tunes onto the blog, or the green-eyed envy numbers. Since the latter are a bit more obscure, they won. So let's listen to some of the grousers and dreamers who tried to reference The Beatles and get some girls to pay attention. But no, these shits never hit the fans.

The five finalists:

1. I'm Better Than The Beatles. Brad Berwick hoped enough haters would buy his little ditty, but nobody was listening.

2. I Wanna Be a Beatle by Gene Cornish and The Unbeetables (get it?). At least this one is kind of harmless in stealing from "She Loves You" and seeming about to riff into "I Wanna Be Your Man." It's actually kind of complimentary…

3. Beatle Maniacs by Ray Ruff and the Checkmates. Another jealous Buddy Holly-type grumbles, "The Beatles, they're the worst…" and tries to show that insipid rockabilly is much better. Yeah, there's also some line about his girl not caring about him because he doesn't have "shaggy hair."

4. The Beatle Bomb. After stealing a chunk of "She Loves You," the lead singer of The Exterminators, with a pretty horrific British accent, moans "By Jove I'll get them yet," and the band plays a somewhat clever but awful combo of surf music and a classic funeral march. Can this stubborn "bomb" of twangy guitar music defeat the Mersey sound? "Oh no" "Yeah yeah" "Oh no" "Yeah yeah yeah…by Jove I think we've done it!" Yes, if you mean created a cult item a few collectors would pay big bucks for decades later.

5. "It's Comin Thru The Doors" by Bobby and the Blue Jays is a dig at the "clanging banging Limey Liverpool sound." The lyrics somehow reduces the Fab Four to three, as Bobby chronicles the beginning of the band that refused to go to a barber and now have somehow stolen his girl, and worse: "Oooh, they wanna hold my hand." A very confused fellow, this lead singer.

The 50th Anniversary of "Beatlemania" is supposed to make you nostalgic, make you buy Beatles merchandise, and, hopefully, make you feel good that something from your childhood still holds up as relevant. A hotel convention in New York was devoted to dealers trying to sell old memorabilia (like a can of Beatles hair spray for $3,000). Paul, Ringo and the widows of John and George did appear on TV for a "Lifetime Achievement Award," and David Letterman, had a "Beatles week" of shows…but wasn't able to get Paul and Ringo to turn up (Sean Lennon, yes).

And yes, if you go to a taping of Letterman's show, it's impossible not to look around and think, "So...this is where The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast...The Beatles were right on THAT stage..."

Everybody who was alive back then, including me, has had at least a few conversations with others about that extremely unique period in time. Last night I did play a few hours of Beatles addition to checking out some of the cash-ins. I also played tracks from the latest "Beatles at the BBC" album...still wondering why, 50 years later, Capitol and Emi were so sparse about "Beatle Rarities," live tracks and other "bootleg-type" stuff.

Wasn't that a time? Talk to any of us over 50 guys, and you'll hear more or less the same we danced around the room to "I Want to Hold Your Hand," how we were glued to Ed Sullivan and our transistor radios (what an image), and how, with varying degrees of affluence, we bought not only the vinyl, but Beatles collector cards, magazines, toys and games. Yeah (yeah yeah) I combed my hair down, and experimented with a Liverpool accent. One thing I didn't do was show my allegiance by wearing some stupid pin like "I Like Paul." My large pin said "Help Stamp Out Beetles," which I bought as a joke-novelty. So what happened; I got chased down the street by a gang of girls who didn't notice the typo and/or didn't think it was funny. And I was too young to appreciate being chased down the street by a gang of girls.

I'm glad that John, George, Paul and Ringo kept getting better with every album...something no other music act ever did. To be surprised, every year in the 60's, with something not only new but pioneering, was amazing. Unlike the teen idols for most any other generation, my guys turned out to be true artists, still amazing, and still beloved, after 50 years. Then there are the five sour-pusses below...but give 'em a round of applause as they return from obscurity thanks to the Fab Four they couldn't beat...

FIVE "BEATLES BACKLASH" TRACKS...hear Brad Berwick, Ray Ruff, The Exterminators, The Unbeetables and Bobby and the Blue Jays... ...Guys sulking, sneering and dreaming about Beatles fame!


Just last month, I paid tribute to Richard Hayman. When my piece appeared on this blog, he was already in a hospice in New York. And if you know anything about a hospice, or New York, it's where you go when the odds of living are against you.

About the only thing that you can do for a guy who is 93 and dying, is make things as pleasant as possible. The right hospice can do it with attentive nurses and some mild "activities" for the ambulatory or reasonably awake (TV set in the room, a wheelchair ride into a recreation area for bingo games or volunteer entertainers to stage shows). Perhaps somebody put on a Richard Hayman album for everyone, and then pointed to the guy for one last round of applause. Mr. Hayman passed away a few days ago, February 5. Thus ended his marriage of 53 years…and he left behind two daughters and four grandchildren.

Perhaps Hayman's most enduring performance was back in 1978 at Madison Square Garden with the American Symphony Orchestra. William Shatner joined him for "Starship Encounters," an evening of pops music that included Stravinsky's "Firebird" (with laser lights), theme songs from classic movies (including "Star Wars") and Captain Kirk reading from Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End."

Your download is a triple-play of tunes well titled for this sad occasion: "Never Again," "The Perfect Song" and "A Night of Stars." Though we won't see him again, and "The Perfect Song" is hardly even memorable much less perfect, how sentimental it would be to walk out into a "Night of Stars" and imagine Mr. Hayman's spirit spiraling to some distant heaven. What you'll hear is indeed "heavenly" music from another era…a time when life's stresses and pains could quaintly be soothed simply by "beautiful…easy listening" melodies, and…a drink. Let me quote from the liner notes to "Let's Get Together," the album from which these come, and from which last month I lifted the much more precocious and atypical track, "Turkey Mambo."

"Like the selection of drinks on the menu of a swank cocktail lounge, this selection of music for after 5pm relaxation runs the gamut of pleasure….Melody for every taste and temperament designed to wear off the day's tensions, is Hayman's "Mission Accomplished." Richard Hayman's harmonica is interwoven into many of the melodies like the tinkling, cooling ice chips that put that extra sparkle into an evening's drink." Now you know why one of my ambitions was to write album notes! Alas, by the time I got hired to do some, the CD age had forced me down to less than 500 words, and the mp3 age meant…none at all. Am I bitter? How can I be, when I can listen to fucking "easy listening" music from Richard Hayman? "I'd like to order my drink, bartender. And turn down that Jay-Z junk you've been playing…I can hardly hear my iPod and 'The Perfect Song.'"

Richard Hayman Three tracks from "Let's Get Together," featuring "The Perfect Song."

PUTTING ON THE RIZ - One"MORE" Look at Ortolani

If you're the type that actually looks at the songwriter credits on a 45 rpm, or pays attention when movie credits tell you the composer of the soundtrack, then you instantly knew the name Riz Ortalani when you saw it on the obit page: "He's a composer. I've heard that guy's stuff, haven't I?"

Sure you have. Ortolani scored a variety of films in the 60's. These included: 7th Dawn (1964), Yellow Rolls Royce (1964), Old Shatterhand (1964), Castle of Blood (1964), The Glory Guys (1965), The Spy with a Cold Nose (1966), Africa Addio (1966), The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968) and Anzio (1968).

He was active in the 70's and 80's, but mostly with exploitation films and obscure Italian horror movies and westerns…one of his most beloved being the immortal "Cannibal Holocaust." A song from "Madron" (1970) got some attention: "Till Love Touches Your Life," and Placido Domingo performed Riz's music for the 1985 film "Christopher Columbus." While not particularly well known, as a celebrity, in comparison to Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein or even Jerry Goldsmith, the maestro was revered in his native Italy and seen often on TV there, conducting his great music.

Actually, his first film score turned out to be his most famous internationally, and the one yielding a Top Ten single. This was for "Mondo Cane," and the title track was "More." What you'll hear below, is Riziero Ortolani's own preferred version, conducted by him (and that may be Riz on the piano, too). It's the version I remember best, having gotten it on a United Artists movie theme compilation album, one that featured many now-deceased masters of movie music. So, no ridiculous schmaltzy English lyrics for this version. The album cover is to your right...

Probably The Rizman's second best-known song, which turned up in "The Yellow Rolls Royce" is the irritating, almost stereotypically Italian "Let's Forget About Tomorrow (for tomorrow never comes)" which may have been more tolerable in its original form as "Forget Domani."

It's always nice to have a little of Riz Orolani (March 25 1926-January 23, 2014) on the iPod, "More" or less. I know this is a short obit for him, but you didn't want any more "More"-onic puns, did you? And no jokes about Riz winning some awards in the shape of effeminate naked boys.

Put On the Riz: MORE as conducted by the composer himself.

Instant download or listen on line. No "capcha" codes, no obnoxious password using the name of the blogger, no porn ads, no wait while you're urged to buy a premium account from some outfit that thinks they should make money but not the copyright owners. No "tip jar" asking you to reward the blogger for his "hard work."


Would you buy an album of two harpists and a lounge orchestra playing such war-horses as "Me and My Shadow," "I Got Rhythm" and "Lady of Spain?" Of course not. But stick a picture of "little person" Billy Barty struggling with a harp….and call it "HAVE HARP…CAN'T TRAVEL…" and you've got an eye-catching oddity. That's why, at the very least, the album can still sell for $10 or $20 in a record store.

A catchy album cover: that was the game back in the late 50's and early 60's. Record stores were choked-full of middle of the road albums for white-bred people who couldn't take classical or jazz…and wanted "easy listening" instead. The trouble was, it was too easy for outfits like the 101 Strings to churn out hundreds of mood music collections at a buck each. To get people to pay higher, record labels needed an attractive girl on the cover, or a famous name, or...both (in the case of Capitol's Jackie Gleason collection). Offbeat humor to grab the eye? That could work, too! By the time some goofus checked the back to see if Billy Barty was actually playing harp and doing some comedy as he did with Spike Jones, it didn't matter. "Oh what the hell, this does seem kinda interesting…"

The Stanley-Johnson Orchestra (note the hyphen, which is absent on the album cover) was owned and operated by Ray Stanley and Hal Johnson. Their main attraction, at least for this album, was the dual harp combo of Dorothy Remsen and Catherine Johnk. So there's the second flaw of the album cover...the gag makes it seem there's only one harp when there's two. A third flaw is that dopey "Spectra-Sonic Sound" note, with the color trick people into thinking they're getting stereo. A fourth flaw is the idea anyone can find or catch a bus in Los Angeles.

Behind the two harpists the small orchestra consists of Mike Ruben and Clifford Hills on bass, Jeff Lewis and Paul Smith on piano, Haakon Bergh on flute, and a percussion team of Jerry Williams, Gene Estes and Frank Flynn.

This album is posted as a public service. While every lp-cover-lover would buy it for Barty, some might hold off and ask, "But how's the music?" You've got samples below. One sampler has the always sprightly (for some reason they added choo-choo train noises) "Holiday for Strings." It's the only remotely humorous track, if you consider train noises amusing. It was written by David Rose, who played it constantly when he was conducting the band for Red Skelton's TV series. It's followed by "Greensleeves," which gets a fairly anemic reading here.

The other download has another two tracks: "En Kelohenu" and "Beyond the Sea." Typical of lounge albums of the day, the idea was often to appeal to every ethnic group possible…and to try and sell a whole album because of one track. Customer: "Do you have "Beyond the Sea" in a nice, instrumental version, without some horrible French guy singing it, or Bobby Darin whooping it up?" "Why let me check the catalog…hmm…it's on THIS soft music album…you might like some of the other tracks, too…"

"En Kelohenu" is not Hawaiian, it's Hebrew, and an attempt to lure Jewish buyers. The spelling for the song isn't that close to the original Hebrew, but there's a variety of ways to start off, including "Ein" or "Ain" and the last word can be Kelohanu or Keloheinu. The song is mostly restricted (pardon the expression) to Friday night and Saturday morning services in synagogue. Everybody joins in (unlike this rather gentle and elegant music-box version).

Translation: "There is none like our God." Most any kid who ever sat through a service waiting to get his hands on some sponge cake and grape juice, at least knows the next three couplets: "Ein kadoneinu, ein kemalkeinu, ein kemosheinu." It's just more of the same: "None like our Lord. None like our King. None like our Savior." Which is fine as long as the next lines aren't the Muslim-esque, "And OUR king is the best and we'll kill you infidels if you don't agree."