Saturday, December 19, 2015

Phil Ochs performs "Chords of Fame" for John Lennon

Today is the 75th birthday of Phil Ochs, for whom, in a Spoonerized way, this blog was named. The blog began as an attempt to pay tribute and give space to "ill folks," unique singers and songwriters who often are on the other side of fame.

Phil was born December 19, 1940 in Texas. Despite that infamous "Rehearsals for Retirement" tombstone album cover photo claiming he died at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, he killed himself April 9, 1976.

At that time, political singer-songwriters were pretty much obsolete, and replaced by guys like James Taylor and Cat Stevens. Phil's struggles with alcohol and depression make up the sad final chapters in two biographies.

Phil's romantic demise, and the realities and mythology of the late 60's, have led to a variety of websites and Facebook groups using his name. Some do it with sincerity, and some are trying to play his chords of fame to advance their own names. A few blogs and sites seem to want to shove the Ochs family aside and take over as keepers of the flame, and the real deal authority on the man and his work. That they are sensitive enough to choose Phil to ring the bells and wring their hands, outweighs their vainglorious egotism. Usually.

It's optimistic to know that there are any Millennials out there concerned with topical songs or political and social change. That there's anybody here who wants to call attention to a person whose songs are over 40 years old...songs that have been around a longer time than the creator of them. It's pessimistic to also admit that some in the small circle are, to put it bluntly, fucking idiots and paranoid pains in the butt…an irritating assortment of Yippie wannabe's, hipsters faking being hippies, and paranoids who live to babble conspiracy theories.

Both groups have converged on the 75th birthday, and on the chewy topic of: "If he was alive today, what would Phil be singing about THIS and saying about THAT?"

My guess, if you take a look at Phil's surviving contemporaries, is two words: "not much." The surviving folkies and musical satirists from Tom Paxton to Eric Andersen to Loudon Wainwright to Tom Lehrer aren't waving torches and leading the way anywhere. At best, Randy Newman jibed a track he pretty much gave away on YouTube for lack of commercial interest, "In Defense Of Our Country."

There used to be wild, innovative and often topical comedians on the bill at the folk venues. People expected "the word" from iconoclastic comics as well as the new generation of folk singers. In fact, there were topical folk comedians who seemed like they could be the new heroes of the day, from Shel Silverstein to the Smothers Brothers. The brothers are retired. Nobody's wondering "what would they have to say about today's situation." They aren't interested. Mort Sahl is, but he's a twitching, unfunny right-winger who hasn't muttered a quotable joke in 40 years. Anyone care what Jackie Mason, "Dice" Clay or Howard Stern think of anything? Are they quoted much? You think that "they're take on today's problems" would warrant one paragraph much less the cover of Time magazine?

"If he was alive today..." is a kind of sad thing to speculate on, whether it's Phil or Lenny Bruce or any other cult favorite. Better to be a Realist and accept that nobody's doing it the way it was done generations ago. Ramblin' Jack is still rambling somewhere, but nobody fuckin' cares. (If you believe he ignored Sammy Walker at the Phil tribute and made sure Sammy didn't even perform, then you REALLY don't fuckin' care!). As for the icon still with us, Bob Dylan, is anyone breathlessly waiting for his take on today's issues? Not really. Nor are they expecting "the word" on love, hate, getting older, or climate change. Bob dropped out of pure protest songs long ago. You can't blame him for preferring faux-Delta blues, considering the critical disgust he received on tunes about George Jackson and Joey Gallo. There's the distinct possibility that half of his riveting "Hurricane" is untrue and the boxer may well have killed several people. The man is more likely to have his eye on Alicia Keyes than any politician. You can't count him out because he can still glare with blood in his eyes, but nobody's even saying, "I can't wait for Dylan to sing about this…" Or any other songwriter. It's just not what music is about anymore, and both stand-up and music will not likely be used with the same political fire as they were a generation ago.

We are in the musical age of such lame names as Adele, Justin Bieber, One Direction and Taylor Swift. At one time, young men such as Mr. Phil Ochs and Mr. Sammy Walker sang about the problems of the "Flower Lady" and an old woman dying alone on a "Cold Pittsburgh Morning." What's Ed Sheeran singing about? Or Sam Smith? Them selfies? We are in an age without disc jockeys or meaningful rock critics. There's no direction home. When the Grammy show is hosted by Jay-Z and dominated by rappers and teen idiots, don't expect a new Ochs, Zevon or Randy Newman to find any meaningful size of audience.

It's nice that there are "Phil Ochs Nights" in Portlandia, or upstate New York somewhere, and some Millennials are fascinated with 1968 and want to wear hippie beads or leather jackets and strum an acoustic guitar and sing about fracking. But most are Viley Virus types who wear a dildo or twerk and only sing about fucking. We've got Millennials who don't even know John Lennon's music, or whether he's alive or dead. Seriously. Last Friday night, Jimmy Kimmel's put-on street interview bit included a very depressing moment. A woman in her late 20's was told, tongue-in-cheek, about the recent Beatles reunion with John Lennon and George Harrison taking the stage. Instead of snarling, "You're putting me on," the young interviewee allowed that it was nice news for Beatles fans.

I don't expect the average bint to know who Phil Ochs is, or to know his music, but to not know John Lennon was murdered?

Your download is "Chords of Fame," as performed by Phil for John Lennon. Phil, you may recall, was on the bill at Lennon's "John Sinclair Rally," performing "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon." In a hotel room, an eager Mr. Lennon learned about the history of folk protest songs from an awed, and stuttery Phil Ochs.

Phil played the long "Joe Hill" for John. As the tape starts rolling for "Chords of Fame," Ochs explains how he borrowed the "Joe Hill" melody from previous folk ballads, "John Hardy" and "Tom Joad." Part of the true "sharing" of folk music is that you borrow ideas, pay tribute by re-using or adapting melodies, and pay it forward by modernizing old lyrics. Lennon was keenly interested in the traditional process of American folk and topical ballads. Some of that interest you'll find on this blog, with entries on how British ballads were adapted in America and turned into "Farewell to Nova Scotia" and "Lily of the West."

On this strange and mournful day, I don't ask "What would Phil say" or sing. I just feel wistful that he's not around to enjoy his family, and the satisfaction that so many of his songs haven't aged at all. Some are even more powerful now, like his ominous "No More Songs," with a line that seemed to predict the phenomenon of whales beaching themselves and preferring death over polluted seas. But Phil is not with us, actively singing to a small circle as Tom Paxton or Eric Andersen is. He's not in happy retirement or semi-retirement like some of his contemporaries from Oscar Brand to Judy Henske and back. He is gone. And I guess you better cover his songs…and listen to his old stuff…while you're here.

John Lennon listens to Phil Ochs sing Chords of Fame

Patti Page and George Jones Duet - Lookin' Good and Sounding Great

The greatest female vocalist in the history of American pop music was Patti Page (real name Clara Ann Fowler...she inherited "Patti Page" when she replaced a local radio singer by that name.) She could sing jazz, rock, spirituals and country, a much wider range of Americana than Billie Holiday or Patsy Cline. Her beautiful voice was expressive. Unlike Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and quite a few others, you can instantly tell when Patti's singing by her distinctive lilt and light touch of vibrato. If she'd had the right arrangers, and never sang "Doggie in the Window," she'd be higher on the "best female vocalist" list than the more obvious choices such as Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand.

As for George Jones, he was pure country, and that limitation runs him second behind Frank Sinatra, who sang everybody from Cole Porter to Jimmy Webb. If you want to be weird, you might place George third behind the now very dated and almost ridiculous Al Jolson, who was certainly a distinctive stylist at home with folk, swing, pop, ballads, and even traditional Hebrew melodies. Sinatra himself said George was the best…except for himself!

It's a shame that two of the greatest voices in American song didn't work together more often. It may have been because despite "Tennessee Waltz" (which could be countered by "Old Cape Cod" anyway), Oklahoma-born Patti didn't overtly move into the country music field until late in her career. Also, she and George weren't on the same music label very long.

"You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine" is a pretty good song. What makes it great is the ache in Jones' voice and the exquisite angst in Patti's. Despite the C&W cliche of a nauseating steel guitar, the production allows these two voices to brew up a dreamy butter-rum flavor. It's intoxicating because it's a double shot…Page and Jones. Rather than corny pathos, the tone here includes some genial and wistful good humor; it's two old pros together not to recall old times, but to have a good time making a new memory.

Here's the immortal combo of George (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) and Patti (November 8, 1927 – January 1, 2013).

Alias Page and Jones You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine


Spike Jones was too corny for critics to call a genius. In his lifetime, he wasn't even given credit for the brilliance of his arrangements and the expert musicianship of his band. What Spike did in a 40's recording studio in one take would take most any band a month of rehearsals and weeks of Pro Tools overdubs and punch-ins.

Compulsively smoking, intensely scowling, Jones was the perfectionist who made sure every gunshot, every smack of a tin can, every toot of a horn, was perfectly timed and in the right key. He had a keen ear for young talent, and gave breaks to a lot of beloved weirdos like Red Ingle, Doodles Weaver and Paul Frees.

Jones had an uncanny ability to produce comic art, not just parody. While "Weird Al" has done some great things, let's face it, it doesn't take much skill to bawl "Eat It" as a parody of "Beat It," especially when you're not altering the music too much. Compare that with Spike Jones' innovative mash-ups, like turning "Dance of the Hours" into a car race complete with feverishly corny announcer Doodles Weaver. Red Ingle's brawling "Chloe" is so great, it stands on its own as great comedy more than a spoof. When I first listened to it, I had no idea there was actually a serious song about a guy trudging swamps searching for "Chloe," like a cartoonish bag in some Mad Magazine panels hunting for her boy Little Willie Elder. As for "My Old Flame," after pretending to offer a traditional version of it, a Jeckyl band singer gives way for Mr. Hyde, Paul Frees doing his definitive version of Peter Lorre. Lorre himself was impressed by it. A pioneer in sick humor, Spike offered a pretty disturbing comic punchline: immolating the ex-girlfriend and punctuating the match-strike with her sudden scream.

At the time it was released, "Spike Jones in Stereo" (well, it was also released in monaural as "Spike Jones in Hi-Fi") got little respect. Spike's 40's formula of cacaphony and corn was no longer novel, and it seemed that critics and fans didn't appreciate the subtleties that Spike brought to long-play albums. It seemed that a very narrow circle of warped comedy fans and Forry Ackerman-esque pun-appreciative devotees of those famous monsters of filmland made this disc a cult classic.

Aside from demanding the best vocal talent and musicians, Spike Jones and his arranger added a vast repertoire of sonic seasonings to the mix. One of my favorites was the perfect monster mash-up of Poe's "Raven" to Dvorak's "Humoresque." Yes, the poem's cadence and the unlikely music match perfectly.

Another example of freaky finesse, is how the opening melody of "Teenage Brain Surgeon"is body-snatched from "Elegie," written by Jules Massenet in 1872. Most anyone else (except maybe Tom Lehrer) would've just knocked off a frantic rock song, content to match a teenybop dance melody to some sick humor. Here, there's a comic shock between the opening, legitimately chilling creepiness of "Elegie" and it's sudden kick into a teen beat. The original was rendered extra-spooky by gloriously deep-voiced Thurl Ravenscroft, best remembered as the voice of "Tony the Tiger" in vintage Frosted Flakes commercials and the guy who sang "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Since you should get the album, and since this IS the blog of less renown, that version isn't below. Instead, it's "Teenage Brain Surgeon" covered by somebody called Doctor X. It appears on a crazy album called "The Crazy Album," issued in 1978 and long out of print. The double-vinyl indie bootleg compiled novelty originals ("Martian Hop" by The Randells) and covers ("They're Coming to Take Me Away" by The Duke of Waterloo). The bootlegger swiped the original Spike Jones "Der Fuhrer's Face" but didn't also filch Spike's version of "Teenage Brain Surgeon."

Doctor X is no Ravenscroft, and the anonymous musicians don't have the panache and splash of Spike's band, but the essential brilliance of the concept is still there, which is the musical expertise to know what oldie to borrow and how to make it new.

PS, calling attention to "Teenage Brain Surgeon" doesn't mean this blog endorses Ben Carson for President. The blog only endorses obscure cover versions, musical oddities, and offbeat (but on key) neglected works of genius.

Doctor X Teenage Brain Surgeon

RICHARD SHORES "HATE" (lost gem from the "Man from UNCLE" soundtracker)

Henry Mancini captured the Pink Panther's prowl. Lalo Schifrin provided the tense soundtrack for "Mission Impossible." Martin Denny instantly transported us to a "Quiet Village" in the jungle. And Richard Shores?

He created literal mood music, like..."Hate." It's your download below.

You might recognize his two minute instrumental as the soundtrack to violent chases through dark alleys on vintage TV cop shows. It was a generic piece of background music that could be licensed for any cheap movie scene of some psycho killer getting violent. I'm pretty sure it was also used by low-budget local TV stations in the 60's when they ran a weekly low-budge "Saturday Morning Horror Movie" or "The Late Night Thriller" and needed a theme to play behind the cheaply done art work for the show.

If Richard Shores' name seems familiar at all, it's probably because it flickered on your TV screen during the end credits for many TV episodes, including "The Man from UNCLE." Yeah, while Johnny Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini and others wrote TV theme songs, they usually didn't waste their time writing all the background music for every single episode. Those chores were handled by unsung veterans like Shores.

Shores concocted mood music for key scenes of love, hate and violence in episodes of "Richard Diamond" and "Johnny Midnight," vintage late 50's TV shows starring David Janssen and Edmund O'Brien. As a staffer at Universal/Revue, he supplied music for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" "Dick Powell Theater" and "Checkmate" (the jagged theme song on the latter was done by Johnny Williams).

Many masters of schlock and drang issued MOR albums which competed with original TV soundtrack recordings. You could find a lot of exotica from everyone from Les Baxter to Martin Denny. But Richard Shores? Richard did manage to get signed to Mercury for an album. It was titled "Emotions" and also, to get the attention of the prurient, issued as "Music to Read Lady Chatterley's Lover By."

Oddly, I think Mercury figured the words "LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER" were so strong, any kind of illustration would've had record stores hiding the vinyl under the counter.

The album has separate tracks for: Love, Hate, Sorrow, Gay, Blues, Surprise, Frustration, Nostalgia, Fear and Hysteria.

Being a music-seeker ever since I could work a turntable, I haunted record stores and thrift shops for anything within my budget, in most any musical genre. If it was recorded, I figured I might like it or learn from it. I didn't know who Shores was when I came across the vinyl, in just its inner sleeve, for 39 cents. Though I often held out for items in the "three for a dollar" bin, 39 cents was ok.

It was decades later that I learned why that record was dumped in the bargain bin without a jacket. "Emotions" had a lady on the cover who wasn't wearing a jacket! Some pervert had ditched the record but saved the cover! The nudity used to sell obscure artists peddling instrumental music wasn't all that rude back in the day, and is pretty mild by today's standards. But it's the album cover, sought after by nudie-cutie "record cover lovers" that makes this thing still pricey in surviving record stores.

Shores stayed busy in the TV field long after the "mood music" era of the late 50's and early 60's mellowed out. His late 60's soundtrack work included vivid "stings" and romantic ballad moments for many episodes of "The Wild Wild West" and "Hawaii 5-0" among others. Welcome to the formerly distant Shores, and I hope you love "Hate."

HATE Richard Shores

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Just in time for the holidays, here's Adam Sandler in front of a live, ecstatic audience doing his 4th revision of "The Chanukah Song."

Once again Sandler jeers and irritates anti-Semites and gets some cheap laughs from everyone else, including Jews who need a break from feeling alienated, alone and persecuted. Since "Star Wars fever" is being inflicted on us yet again, it's no surprise that Adam notes half-Jew Carrie Fisher and quarter-Jew Harrison Ford. The world may not need to know that the "two guys from Google" are Jewish, but there's also the pride that ice-cream makers Ben & Jerry are. Sandler notes that David Beckham is one-fourth "Chosen" and mentions Joseph Gordon Levitt, in case there was doubt. With typical Jewish self-denigration, his list this time also includes disgraced Subway sandwich pitchman Jared Fogle. Jared's in jail for hooking up with 16 and 17 year-old hookers. Mostly, Adam's intent is to point out positive and un-stereotypical Jewish celebs and tweak the small, sharp noses of those who think the world would be better off without Jews.

Anti-Semitism seems so well indoctrinated from childhood that even now, when Muslims are blowing up buildings and concert halls, Jews are the ethnic group most often targeted with abuse. The big problem today isn't Islam, it's Judaism and Israel. Well, I guess one vents rage on the easiest target. Kick over Jewish tombstones and people shrug. Draw Mohammad and you lose your life.

Chanukah has very few "hit" songs. The greatest Jewish songwriters...wrote Christmas songs. Chanukah might have a nostalgic Jew knocking off a chorus of: "Dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of clay..." That's about it. That's why Sandler's "The Chanukah Song" is now declared by most everyone to be the most popular song for the holiday. There's no competition.

(Let's parenthetically add "Chanukah in Santa Monica," one of the few times Tom Lehrer's came out of retirement to record something new.)

Sandler hit a nerve with "The Chanukah Song." After all, any time some pinhead troll declares all Jews should've been gassed in World War II, the reply is "look at this list of famous Jews who've contributed to the world!" Like Groucho Marx and Bob Dylan and Jonas Salk and Albert Einstein. Name dropping is the way of biting back. Oh, you say Jewish girls are ugly? How about Bacall? How about Gina Gershon? Natalie Portman? Scarlett Johannson? Oh, you skinhead prick, you wish Jews were all exterminated by Hitler? You love The Three Stooges and Rush's Geddy Lee and Van Halen's David Lee Roth. Hey, redneck, who wrote "Boy Named Sue" for Johnny Cash? Shel Silverstein. Etc. etc. etc.

So it is, that Sandler, singing in that retarded voice that alternates between a wheedling whine and class-clown cacaphony, continues his list and his self-parodying schmucky attempts to find rhymes with Chanukah.

The new song is just in time for Chanukah but Sandler might still be tasting the charges of "TURKEY!" heaped at him during the Thanksgiving tradition of naming the year's worst films and worst performers. In the spirit of "no thanks," Sandler got a load of hot critical gravy dumped all over him.

No relation to the "Golden Turkey" awards, this version is the work of NY Post critic Lou Lumenick, who assembled it without the help of Kyle Smith, his colleague and probably the best film critic in town. Lou did get some snark-assistance from Reed Tucker and Sara Stewart. Aside from hating Jews, folks do hate celebrities. How quickly "fans" love to turn on their rich and famous idols, and let 'em know that the CUSTOMER is in control, and that stars should humbly realize they are in "the people pleasing business."

After roasting that turkey called Sandler, the critics kept on stuffing.

Edited down a bit, the list includes:

Hugh Jackman, camping it up way off the charts as villains in the 10-megaton bomb “Pan’’ and the “E.T.’’ clone “Chappie,’’ easily two of the least charming family movies of all time.

The puerile satire “The Interview." The Wachowski siblings’ “Jupiter Ascending,’’ starring Eddie Redmayne as a flamboyant, whiny bad guy who gives Jackman a run for his money in the camp sweepstakes. “Fifty Shades of Grey,’’ a tame S&M movie for masochists only.

George Clooney in the expensive sci-fi megaflop “Tomorrowland.’’ “Fantastic Four’’ (panned even by its own director); “Annie’’ (we can’t unsee Cameron Diaz’s appalling Miss Hannigan); the wearyingly sexist “Entourage”; the execrable “Jem and the Holograms”; the vile, dung-scented “Vacation”; the 30-years-too-late flop “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”; and the deservedly DOA “The Transporter Refueled.’’

“Jurassic World’’ (for Bryce Dallas Howard running in high heels alone); “Avengers: Age of Ultron", “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1’’ (effectively a two-hour trailer); “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation," “Insurgent’’ (yawn); “Ted 2’’ (barf); “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2’’ (why?); “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’’ (ditto); “Hitman: Agent 47’’ (yes, there was an earlier one); and the truly repellent “Hot Tub Time Machine 2."

The lamentable Johnny Depp fiasco “Mortdecai”; Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law in the morbidly unfunny “Spy”; and, yes, Daniel Craig sleepwalking through the deadly “Spectre.’’

Meryl Streep rocking out in an epically bad hairdo in the vapid “Ricki and the Flash." Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore shamelessly collecting paychecks in the ludicrous “Seventh Son.” Sean Penn in the quickly disappearing “The Gunman.” Reese Witherspoon throwing away her “Wild" comeback with the dopey “Hot Pursuit.” And Michael Caine enhancing his 401(k) (but not his reputation) with “The Last Witch Hunter.”

Two reasons Robert Redford isn't going to win an acting Oscar this year: The moronic hiking comedy “A Walk in the Woods" and his spectacularly failed attempt to rehabilitate disgraced TV legend Dan Rather in the ironically fake “Truth."

Bradley Cooper in consecutive flops “Serena,” “Aloha,” and as a nasty chef in the half-baked, much-postponed and twice-retitled “Burnt."

Nicolas Cage for the practically straight-to-VOD stinkers “The Runner" and “Pay the Ghost.” John Travolta, of “The Forger.” And the once-great GĂ©rard Depardieu, letting it all hang out as a thinly disguised Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the unbelievably awful “Welcome to New York." Oh, and repeat offender Robert De Niro, as a geriatric Mr. Fixit in “The Intern."

Why Mia Farrow should just let Woody Allen destroy his own career: “Irrational Man," the Woodman’s worst movie ever, ineptly recycles themes from his own “Match Point" and “Crimes and Misdemeanors" while offering up Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix as his latest and arguably least appealing May-September romance ever.

Peter Bogdanovich’s painfully unfunny “She’s Funny That Way," which even brought back his long-ago muse Cybill Shepherd; and Michael Mann’s deadly and expensive hacking thriller “Blackhat,’’ which somehow managed to flop even when the Sony hack was the top story in the news.

PS, not all those bad movies can be blamed on Jews, since they no longer "run Hollywood" (or the banks). Maybe it's time to go get paranoid about Latinos or Muslims instead? "I keed, I keed," to quote Triumph, the Insult Comedy Dog (who has a Jew up his ass and doing his voice). Go ahead, Adam...

ADAM SANDLER The Chanukah Song Part 4

Thursday, November 19, 2015

THE GALENS' annoying "BABY I DO LOVE YOU" Poing Poing Poing!

The first time I heard "Baby I Do Love You," I couldn't believe how annoying it was. I was not alone. Norman Galen, leader of what he probably thought would be a white version of The Platters, was appalled.

Over the men's soothing lullaby singing, and the icky-melange of his female vocalist's sugary emoting…there was a relentless POING POING POING noise. It wasn't there when he and his group recorded it. Where'd it come from? What was it?

The over-dubbed novelty could've become the soundtrack to an aspirin commercial: "Distracted by a pounding headache? Is your peace of mind being ruined??"

Just what that obnoxious noise was, nobody was quite sure. One of the trade publications of the day figured it was an ocarina. It sounded a bit more like somebody beating a hamster with a coat hanger. But, to quote an infamous David Seville line, radio listeners seemed to think, "That's almost good!"

It isn't, but it's certainly a fascinating and horrible experiment, a culture clash between an All-American whitebread girl, a bunch of creepy German crooners, and some kind of psychotic Ed Gein hillbilly wielding a weapon. (You can download now and try to guess what the hell it is...the answer turns up a few paragraphs down).

As originally envisioned, the basic tune had the three Galen guys cooing a Teutonic lullaby in German called "Du Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen." After a while, the baby doll lead vocalist steps forward to solo on the sweet refrain in English: "Baby I DO, DO LOVE YOUUUUU. Baby I want you so. Baby I need you so. Baby I love you so. I just keep missin' your wonderful kissin'"

It seemed like it could be a middle of the road hit. The familiar German tune had already been turned into "You, You, You are the One," a success for Russ Morgan back in 1949.

Twist of fate: The Galens' indie record label decided they loved it but the kids couldn't dance to it. Where was the beat? Apparently having no faith in the song rising to the charts like "Harbor Lights" or some other sappy platter, they brought in "rock" percussion. Or did they?

They found some guy with a musical saw, and had him relentlessly pound it throughout the song. POING POING POING.

It almost worked. Throughout the history of pop-novelty, listeners have been hypnotized into buying grating tunes: "The Hut Sut Song." "Three Little Fishes." "Purple People Eater." "How Much is That Doggie In the Window." "Dang Me." You name it. Some love it, some hate it, enough buy it so it hits the Top 20.

Like a moth putting a few little holes in a sport jacket, "Baby I Do Love You" with its sputtery high-pitched pounding noise fluttered just inside the Top 100.

This sugar-coated cyanide pill, which stuck in a listener's ear causing a brain melt, had some people wondering who were The Galens? What would they do next?

Technically, the band should've been called The Galen, because only one person in the band had that last name. Norman Galen grew up on exotic Catalina Island in California. He had been briefly paralyzed after a bout of polio, finding solace in playing the piano. The prodigy won the attention of the esteemed and pressed Walter Gieseking, who had recorded some impressive versions of Beethoven sonatas back in the 78rpm era. The Geese couldn't keep The Galen interested in classical music forever; the kid went off to pursue big band music and Vegas pop.

Galen formed a swingin' quartet with drummer George Ross, bassist Bob Hubener, and vocalist Charlene Knight, who sounded like a clone of Priscilla Paris. Galen loved her sound; he had arranged music for The Paris Sisters' Vegas act and was smitten by their sugary vocalizing. There was an entire genre of "sweet bands" in the 1940's and Galen was hoping to make money with his own brand of "easy listening." The Galens were managed by Faye Paris, who also directed the fate of her daughters.

Charlene Knight hadn't recorded much before joining The Galens. Her debut was on the Pamela label, an indie outfit from Monrovia, California. The title of her 1961 debut was "If You Pass Me By." I know, that's a straight line.

"Baby I Do Love You" released in 1963 was the first recording by The Galens. It was for the small but lethal Challenge label, and featured an almost equally appalling flip side. It was the coy "Love Bells," which included ""ting ah ling a ling uh" as a refrain. It was the kind of thing Mitch Miller would've foisted on Patti Page.

The Galens managed to issue a 1964 single their way. They chose the old war horse "Stranger in Paradise," mildly goosed into 60's rock sensibilities by a jittery back beat. The flip side was "Chinese Lanterns," another MOR-onic tune. By then The Platters' style was history and frisky rock was dominating the Top 20. They got one last chance to go back and get the teen audience via the 1965 effort "Young Dreams." It was a smack-worthy bit of cuteness, with "I Love You More Than You Know" on the backside.

No longer trying for the teen market, The Galens stopped making singles and became a successful live act for aging tourists at resort hotels. They were well known in Bermuda and in the Bahamas through the mid 60's, and recorded a short-run souvenir album of well-worn classic pop tunes. It's now a "collectors item" that's pretty hard to find. The group disbanded when Charlene Knight settled down to enjoy motherhood.

Norman Galen stayed in the music biz in a variety of ways, running a music store, teaching students, and sometimes staging concerts for fans of "easy listening." He and his partner Dale retired about ten years ago, and are, I assume, like the other three members of the long lost group, very much alive.

Back in 2008, Christine Knight was on the Net leaving messages about her long lost group. One of 'em was: "Looking for original recordings of The Galens, with Charlene Knight (myself) by Challenge Records in the 60's…How might I obtain copies for personal use?" She was wondering what had become of the masters. It's a familiar and usually unanswered question.

Below, the anvil-subtle Demento-esque percussive saw, punctuating "Baby I Do Love You." It's an early example of over-dubbing for the sake of a teen-rock audience. You might recall a much more successful example: "Sound of Silence," rescued from the poor-selling debut album by Simon and Garfunkel and brought to life with a folk-rock beat.

Also below, a few more examples of Miss Knight and The Galens. Fans of The Paris Sisters, and the solo Priscilla Paris, might recall that they could be pretty good with their musical saccharine ("I Love How You Love Me") and even original ("He Owns the World.") So no collection should be without something galling or Galen or going gentle into that good Knight…

IF YOU PASS ME BY Charlene Knight






The author of "Eve of Destruction" didn't live to see the actual destruction, but he came close, didn't he? Climate change? Isis? Kardashians?

P.F. Sloan (Sept. 18, 1945-November 14, 2015) was just 20 when "Eve of Destruction" hit the charts 50 years ago. He died at 70 (of pancreatic cancer). He lived to reach the 50th anniversary of "Eve of Destruction," joining Barry McGuire on stage in January. No, not on a PBS special or HBO show; just a gig at a somewhat obscure venue.

Roger Waters probably hated the guy, because P.F. Sloan, like so many of the 60's singer/songwriters who began their careers knocking out "Brill Building" pop tunes, was Jewish. Yep, he was born Philip Gary Schlein. The family switched Schlein to Sloan because there were too many people like Roger Waters in their neighborhood. This was still the era of quotas (Jews being denied chances in certain professions, being restricted at health clubs and other places) and if that wasn't bad enough, there was outright violence. Sloan's Dad, a pharmacist, realized a Jewish name was very bad for business.

Like Goffin and King, and Mann and Weill and Leiber and Stoller, all Jews whom Roger Waters would like erased from the music history books (perhaps replaced by Palestinian and Muslim songwriters who've given the world so much joy), the Jewish team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri began by writing for others.

The Jewish duo evolved from pop "I Found a Girl" (Jan and Dean) and "A Must to Avoid" (Hermans Hermits) to folk rock "Let it Be Me" (The Turtles) and "Where Were You When I Needed You (The Grass Roots, which originally included them as members). When 60's spy TV shows became popular, and Patrick McGoohan was imported to America, they gave us "Secret Agent Man," sung by Johnny Rivers.

When protest songs were hot, P.F. Sloan was right there with "Eve of Destruction." Barry McGuire's rendition had some purists shaking their heads. They found the opening tolling of the drums less than subtle, and McGuire's overboard growling wasn't Phil Ochs. Some felt the Dylan-esque harmonica toots here and there were a cliche if not insulting. Then there were some glaringly bad "punk swallows a dictionary" lines like: "my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin' I'm sittin' here just contemplatin'."

But the more you heard it, the more powerful it became, and it was pretty powerful even the first time. You could listen to it often enough to even notice the odd splice on the last "tell me/over and over," where McGuire apparently couldn't quite keep up with the musicians. There was soon an answer song, "Dawn of Correction," replying to what (it was thought) McGuire had written.

The song was almost completely written by P.F. Sloan (Barri usually was the lyricist). No surprise, that P.F. Sloan's next move was to push for his own record deal, and the chance to become a true singer/songwriter.

While some obscure songwriters eventually made a dent singing their own songs (Randy Newman comes to mind) and some became stars (Carole King, aka Carol Klein), others languished. Along with Ellie Greenwich, Barry Mann and others, P.F. Sloan was a decent singer who could've had a hit off one of his solo albums, but it just didn't happen.

Depression plagued Sloan, his use of drugs didn't help, and he retreated back home to live with his parents, convinced his record label had not only failed him, but screwed him on royalties. "I was ill I guess for a good 20, maybe 25 years,” he recalled, although he wasn't able to recall some of those years with any great accuracy.

Summer-burned and winter-blown by the failure of Sloan, Jimmy Webb (who has issued many great albums to a niche audience of devotees) wrote a tribute song. Frankly, it was "P.F. Sloan" by Jimmy Webb that called my attention to what up till then had just been a parenthetical name under my 45 rpm copy of "Eve of Destruction."

Webb's song praised Sloan for continuing as long as he could, but acknowledged that he had dropped out of sight after 1968. (Sales of Sloan's "Measure for Measure" solo album were almost too small to measure.

"“I have been seeking P. F. Sloan/But no one knows where he has gone," sang Jimmy Webb. Rather than explore Sloan's life and work, subsequent stanzas note Roy Rogers' taxidermy-preserved horse, London Bridge becoming an American tourist attraction, and Nixon taking office. The song has one of Webb's most catchy sing-along choruses, which warns "don't sing this song."

Below is a live version of "P.F. Sloan" by Webb, and also a live acoustic version of "Eve of Destruction" by Sloan. He delivers it thoughtfully, without the bombast of McGuire. Sloan's last album was released in 2006. He turned up in clubs now and then. Rumer recorded "P.F. Sloan" and in 2014 he joined her on stage at a gig. It was the same year he published his autobiography.

Sloan's book is "What's Exactly The Matter With Me? Memoirs of a Life in Music." If you didn't even know it existed, well, the book business is as fucked up as the music business, especially now that books can be so easily stolen and even scabbed on eBay by any seller who puts in a laughable caveat: "I own copyright or I am an authorized re-seller or the book is in public domain."

Fans will find much to enjoy, including notes on his various songs, and some passages that druggily slide around the line between fact and creative fiction. At least, unusual reporting. How about Sloan describing George Harrison driving in that famous area for stoners, Haight-Ashbury: ""the zombies started pushing and trying to roll the car over with him in it. They started crawling on the car like hungry lizards. As the car sped off, the zombies looked around for something else to crawl onto..."

Sloan's tome is from Jawbone, a small publishing outfit run by real nice hippie-type music lovers. I think I correctly recall in speaking to the head man one time, that he chose his company's name with a nod to a memorable song by "The Band." In true hippie-dippie fashion, the company allowed Sloan to pretty much write anything he recalled or thought he recalled, leading some fans to sigh about how accurate some anecdotes are. Like, did Sloan really suggest the sitar that was used on "Paint it Black?" And yeah, typos don't help! The book's available in both paperback and Kindle editions. It gives you the complete story. Or to quote Sloan: "Stardom and success lay in front of me now, followed by destruction and ultimately resurrection."


P.F. SLOAN (LIVE) Jimmy Webb

Monday, November 09, 2015

ADELE SINGLE: "'Coz My Hole's So Deep!"

Hooray. There were three things the world wanted before the year was out: to see a new "baby bump" on Kim Kardashian, to watch Justin Bieber luxuriating on a balcony with fake blond hair and his weewee hanging out, and…hearing something new from England's mad cow, ADELE.


While all the world cared about Kardashian and Bieber, it was mostly "The Real Lame Housewives of England" who needed that ADELE fix. These houswives seem to resemble Monty Python members in drag. For nearly three achy-breaky years, they were afraid that their porcine and bellowing role model was done. After all, another fat woman, Sam Smith, got the assignment to sing the new James Bond movie theme song.

The Real Housewrecks initially loved ADELE for the same reason as they did Susan Boyle: here was a dowdy, ordinary, not too bright replica of themselves up there being applauded. Better yet, both demonstrated that with cosmetic skill, the sows could put on silks and be made "glamorous." Adele seems to spend most of her day getting make-up lathered onto her face with a trowel. Then an army of art school fag-Banksy types etch her eyebrows and eyelashes, add blush to thin her fat cheeks, and chisel on her lipstick liner. They also flare her nostrils to be less pig-like, and do up her hair so that she no longer quite resembles a rabid porcupine.

ADELE, you might remember, became a star when she brayed a song about confronting a man smart enough to leave her. Mad cows all over England could moo their admiration for this gutsy 200 pound haggis mooooving on with her life. ADELE showed the world that a broken heart could no longer feel pangs of pain if it was encased in enough layers of fat. And if the bold sentiments of all-conquering ego came out at a high enough decibel to knock every trainspotter off the platform.

And yet, there were "haters." Why would anyone hate ADELE? Could it be her phony tears? Her phony blabs about her sad life and storybook success? Her phony fucking face?

Some people are not haters, they're just jadded. Anyone who already suffered those shitty Amy Winehouse albums resents being coerced into caring about another husky-voiced loony with cartoon make-up on. No! No! No! Jaded music listeners also figure there's still ARETHA around, and she's the original fat homely broad with a voice that can be heard by Ethel Merman in her coffin. So why care about someone with a team of hacks who help create sound-alike mega-hits so commercial they could also be jingles for England's constant TV commercials for online gambling?

And that leads to the "Sky Fall" (or cloud download, as we say on the Internet.)

It's an ADELE single!

Read that line carefully. This isn't saying it's by ADELE. No, it's from a drag queen imitating Adele. The perp popping the porcine pooper is Sherry Vine, probably the best "campy-dirty" female impersonator around. There certainly ain't much competition, since Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, and SNL's Leslie Jones are also aggressive and gruesome but are actual vagina-owners.

Offended? You haven't heard the song yet!

AN ADELE SINGLE 'Cos My Whole's So Deep


I know it's a stretch, but so is the life of a 1st baseman. And so it is, that this music blog pays tribute to the non-musical normal Norm Siebern, a Kansas City (Athletics) Star.

He was a humble, soft-spoken guy. Not that I ever spoke to him. I did write to him, to express some of what you'll find below. He could've personalized the two photos I sent him, but he just autographed them without sentiment ("Thanks for remembering," "Glad you're a fan," etc.) and sent them back. He obviously was very much like I thought he was, a modest fellow not given to a lot of emotion.

Now, you're probably saying WHO in the world is Norm Siebern? Quite rightly so. There were few obits: the New York Times noted the death of the ex-Yankee, the Kansas City Star covered their Athletics' hero and a local paper in Naples, Florida paid tribute to its most famous retired citizen. All the write-ups led headlined what the average baseball fan knows: he was traded for Roger Maris. Which is better than the obits for Tracy Stallard, the pitcher whose only claim to fame was giving up Maris's record-breaking 61st home run. PS, Norm had a far longer and more illustrious career than Stallard, including All-Star game appearances.

The trade was actually a multi-player deal, but Siebern and Maris were the main attractions.

In addition to Maris, the Yankees got obscure infielders Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri, neither of whom remained in baseball past 1961. In addition to Norm, Kansas City got two old ex-stars (Don Larsen and Hank Bauer who Maris was replacing in right field) and the mediocre Marv Throneberry, who would eventually be traded to the New York Mets and become a symbol of their early years of ineptitude. Larsen, who had pitched a perfect game in a World Series several years earlier, was almost literally a one-game wonder. Once in Kansas City, he posted a dismal 2-10 record with a ballooned ERA of 5.20.

In "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders" Rob devotes several lively pages to whether the trade was a mistake for the A's or not. His view? Not really. That's a testament to the greatness of the little-remembered Mr. Siebern.

According to Neyer, the A's actually got the better of the deal, because despite his 61 home-run season, Maris turned in several mediocre years and flamed out. By contrast, Siebern was an All-Star with the A's, and while Maris didn't do much after his freakish 61 homer spree in 1961, Siebern was a league leader in 1962 and for several more years.

How did the promising Norm Siebern go from sure-fire left fielder to expendable in a trade for a right fielder? He had a bad day in the sun during a World Series game. Yeah, he lost two balls, but he sure had a pair anyway. Someone else would've lost confidence and never recovered after screaming headlines like: "Siebern Sunburn Singes Yanks."

Instead of becoming to baseball what heavyweight David Price is to boxing, Norm Siebern left the fabulous famous New York Yankees…to become a Kansas City Star. Yes, he set a lot of records for them, and citizens of that city remember him fondly, and so do true fans of the game and how it should be played.

As the New York Mets proved in the 2015 series, a team can do great things and then commit a lot of errors and mistakes. The 1958 Yankees were like that, in their battle with the Braves.

The great Yogi Berra (who would ironically be sent out to play left field after Norm was traded) let a called third strike get by him, setting up the winning run for the Braves in game #1. In Game #2 Bob Turley was pounded in the first inning, only getting one player out before being lifted. Part of that rally included a mis-play by Elston Howard, who was in left field instead of Siebern, because manager Casey Stengel started right-hand hitting Elston Howard in some games, left-handed Norm in others).

Norm got his chance in game #3. He walked twice, and one of his walks sparked a big inning for New York. He would scoree on a hit by aging Hank Bauer. (irony: Bauer would later become a manager, and trade for Norm.)

With a decent showing in game #3, Norm was back in left for the fatal game #4.

Norm wasn't seeing the ball well in the notorious "sun field" that late afternoon. Ace Braves pitcher Warren Spahn kept the Yankees scoreless, thanks to a break or two (the Yanks failing to bring in a man from third with less than one out). Meanwhile Whitey Ford was pitching just as well for the Yankees. in the sixth, Norm and Mickey Mantle let a ball hit to left-center get between them for a double.

Norm was blamed for it more than superstar Mickey. Tony Kubek's subsequent error led to a run scoring. Braves led 1-0. Norm definitely lost the ball in the sun in the eighth. You could see how bright the sun and lights were reflecting against the left field wall and the spectators. Norm had a bead on it, but at the last moment as the ball dipped, he suddenly cringed helplessly, knowing he might hit him in the face. Instead, the ball bounced near him and landed in the stands for a ground rule double. The Braves scored another run that inning, and Siebern, trying to redeem himself in the bottom of the frame, haplessly struck out.

The Series did end up going the full seven games, but Elston Howard was used in the remaining contests. Siebern was benched.

Charlie Keller, who had played left field during the Joe Dimaggio era, knew that the sun hadn't changed in the Mickey Mantle era, especially in late September. He rather poetically said, "“During the World Series the sun is low behind the stands. There’s a purple haze from the tobacco smoke. You have to play the position by ear because you never see a ball. You try to judge where it will go from the sound of the bat, and then you just pray that you guessed right.”

Keller was referring to the "natural" problems in left during his playing days. During World Series time in the late 50's, game were now on television and being filmed by color 35mm cameras. The already problematic sun glare was abetted by orders to turn on the glaring artificial lights so that the cameras could have better focus.

Norm made no excuses. He told reporters that he missed a few "in the sun and against the lights," Stengel stood by Norm: "I'm not asking waivers on him, and you can print that! He's a nice kid and I know he'll worry over this. He's playing the toughest left field in baseball, don't forget. He hit .300 for me. He's good at getting walks and he's good at going from first to third. I think he did real good in his first full year in the majors. He's not an easy man to get out."

Siebern stayed with the Yankees in 1959 but in a diminished role, thanks to the option of using Yogi Berra or Elston Howard in left instead. On December 11, 1959, the Yankees tossed Norm Siebern, Jerry Lumpe and a few others to the A's, in return for Roger Maris and a few others. Maris was by no means considered a star at the time. It was simply felt that Siebern was done, and Maris had potential (and the Yankees were getting a few other decent players, too). Rob Neyer: "From July 30 through the end of the (1958) season, Maris batted .162. " PS, Mr. Powerhouse only popped two homers through all of August and September. Yet, the .300 hitting Siebern who had a bad day in the sun was sent packing.

Neyer: "Siebern wasn't the player Maris was. But the difference between them certainly wasn't huge, particularly considering that Maris probably enjoyed at least some advantage from batting just ahead of Mickey Mantle…From '60 through '63 the Yankees finished eight, eight, five and ten games ahead of the runners-up. They'd have won those titles with Siebern in right field rather than Maris.

"Did trading Maris hurt the A's? They didn't finish within twenty games of first place in any of those five seasons…" Considering that Maris batted only .235 in 1957 and .240 in 1958, there was nothing to suggest he'd be a huge star, even for one season. Compare what Siebern did in 1958. Just 24, and a promising star, he batted .300 with 19 doubles, five triples, and 14 home runs. He walked 66 times and, irony of ironies, won a Gold Glove for his play in left field. The Yankees had every reason to think they had the best left fielder since Charlie Keller. Considering that the great Yankee outfielders were always in enter (Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle) or right (Babe Ruth), Casey Stengel had welcomed Siebern to New York by boasting that he "finally" had a solution to the team's left field "problem."

When Siebern came to Kansas City, the 6'2" player moved from left field to first base. This helped his confidence. In 1962, while Maris was fading (after earning MVP honors in '60 and '61), Siebern was coming on strong, playing in EVERY one of the season's 162 games, batting .308, smacking 25 doubles and 25 homers, and leading the league in several categories. He was the only member of his team selected to the All Star Game. He even made a run at the MVP, finishing 7th in the voting (Mickey Mantle was the winner that year.)

Norm was traded to the Orioles after four years. The manager was none other than Hank Bauer. In his first game against his old team, Norm came up in the bottom of the 10th and smacked a "walk off" home run.

The number of players who make it to the major leagues is few. The numbers who stay around for more than a year or two is fewer. Norm Siebern was in baseball for a dozen years. He had made it his life, after leaving Southwest Missouri State Teachers College where he was studying for a degree in journalism. In another era, he might've been able to keep studying and play in the minor leagues, but not then. He also had to give up a few years for Army duty. But after that, he progressed quickly to the majors, and was a top player from age 24 to about age 30.

Overcoming a potentially career-ruining day was one reason I admired Siebern. Generally, my favorite baseball player tend to be the ones who had good careers even without the perfect bodies of a Derek Jeter or Reggie Jackson. There was the cranky "fat kid" Thurman Munson, the also improbably built Yogi Berra, little Phil Rizzuto, and iconoclastic Jim Bouton. Add players overcoming mental blocks or physical problems (such as one-handed Jim Abbott). I also liked anyone with an odd name, from John Wockenfuss to Rusty Kuntz. No less a baseball fan than poet Marianne Moore once commented on how much she admired Bill Monbouquette. She noted that the last name translates as "my basket," and Bill had the common baseball player habit of adjusting his "basket" between pitches. But, I digress.

Both Roger Maris and Norm Siebern retired at the age of 35. Norm went on to become successful in the insurance field. He was invited to "Old Timer's Day" events once in a while by the Yankees, and much more often by the doting Kansas City A's (and their replacement team, the Kansas City Royals.) Little known fact: when new owner Charlie O. Finley came up with the idea of gaudy yellow and gold uniforms, it was Norm Siebern who donned the duds and had to pose for reporters. He later said, "I was quite frankly embarrassed, embarrassed to death!"

Still, he recalled his years with the Athletics with fondness. "I had such a great time with Kansas City," Norm said at an Old Timer's Day event there a few years ago. "I was traded from the Yankees and people thought "Well gee whiz, you're going from New York to Kansas City." I told them, "No, listen, I'm a native Missourian, I've been to Kansas City, I love Kansas City. it's a great thing to come back here and play ball with the A's."

Norm will have memorial services both in Florida, and in Missouri. Asked if he had any advice for today's players, the humble All-Star said, "Give it 100% and hope for the best. It's a tough, competitive business, but a lot of times if you give it your best, you'll win out in the end."

Below a song called "Kansas City Star," which was a pun on the town's newspaper. It's also a fitting term for a little-known but great baseball player whom true fans have always admired.

The Cover of the Kansas City Star

Sacrilege Series #10 Buddy "Hiccups" Holly and "The Day the Music Died"

The "Sacrilege" series returns, with a new entry. It features some nose-tweaking satire from the rock group Wilderness Road, who dare to ridicule the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of classic rock, "The Big Bopper," Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly. Or rather, they ridicule the ridiculous rejects who've solemnly made the dead pop stars into religious icons.

Thanks largely to Don McLean, there are young fools and old mopes who will morbidly insist that on February 3, 1959 "the music died." No, not if you consider that the greatest rockers, The Beatles, had yet to hit the airwaves. Not if your tastes in music include anything from the 60's onward, or jazz from the 20's or classical music from the 19th Century.

A snickering disc jockey died. A somewhat greasy and porcine Latino, too. And a hiccuping Texan. While they were all entertaining, and some of their work is star quality, they weren't the only stars on the charts in the late 50's. It was a shocking, tragic incident and there haven't been many air disasters where three well-known people were aboard. But it wasn't the fucking end of music as we know it. Christ, even greasy bop, dance and novelty would continue with plenty of great performers. Just look at the Billboard charts for 1960 and have a reality check. You'll find plenty of catchy and near-genius stuff on the charts after these three died.

And you'll find, in the download link below, a little bad-taste fun with a tune that mockingly mimics just how unimpressive some of that trio's music is to most people.

Had they lived, chances are that "Big Bopper" J. P. Robertson [sic...note comment below] would be dead by now, and largely forgotten. Without the added aura of early death, his cackling, leering and vaguely pedo-esque one-hit-wonder "Chantilly Lace" might only be anthologized as much as "Babalu's Wedding Day" (by the non-eternal The Eternals) or "Baby Don't Forget My Number" by the forgettable Milli Vanilli. Odds are he wouldn't have had another novelty hit, any more than Sheb Wooley ("Purple People Eater") or Larry Verne ("Mister Custer").

As for Ritchie Valens (nee Valenzuela), if he was still around, he'd be like Chubby Checker. He'd be appearing at oldies shows to sing his ONE hit. Chubby had "The Twist" and Valens had "La Bamba," and IF YOU'RE BEING HONEST, that song is as big a piece of drivel as a soggy, dripping burrito. Listening to Valens babbling "La Bamba" is probably no different from what guys with stomach aches yowl in the bathroom of a Taco Bell.

That leaves the hiccuping genius Buddy Holly. Del Shannon and Roy Orbison had vivid hits but then played the 70's and 80's getting sick in too-cold or over-heated little clubs. They sang the same fucking songs to a small circle of aging fans till they were ready to have a heart attack or commit suicide. Do you doubt Buddy Holly would've had a similar fate. He would've sung "Peggy Sue" till he dropped of slightly more natural causes than a plane crash. At best, he'd be like Chuck Berry, who hasn't written a decent song on 40 years and tours places you never heard of.

To all the morons who whined, "the music DIED," here's two words for you: Bob Dylan. He came after "the music DIED." Another two words? "The Beatles." Another two words? "Martin Briley." Oh, pick any two words. Including "the old two word suggestion," as Art Garfunkel once called it.

And now, the "mean" bit of satire called "Bad Hopper, Hiccups and Havana."

It's an outtake from Wilderness Road (another "two words" for you). This brilliant, under-appreciated Chicago group could rival The Band (first album on Columbia) or offer a blend of rock and iconoclastic smugness that might impress a Zappa fan (their second album on Warner Bros.)

As you'll hear, they mercilessly dispatch all three deceased artistes for what they actually were: creepy, hiccupy and greasy. Usually parodists roast their their victims alive (Bob Dylan, Jagger, Baez, Neil Young, Kate Bush, Lennon, Paul Simon are all lampooned on this blog via amusing novelties). Is it cowardly that the band attacks these dead guys? Actually, they are attacking the fans more than the guys. The guys are all ok. Fans who worship them and get all spooky-somber about the crash need to lighten up a bit. I mean, Lennon got killed at that's an equal trauma, but nobody pretentiously calls it "the night the music died."

Needless to say (but it has to be said, because a lot of people are stupid, including browsing bozos who are not regulars to this blog), nobody is laughing or happy that three people (and a pilot) died back in 1959 on a foggy rainy night near Clear Lake, Iowa.

The three singers aboard obviously did have talent that was wasted in that crash. "Donna" by Ritchie Valens was a gentle piece of melancholy, although anybody could've sung it. "Chantilly Lace" IS a unique novelty (which inspired Jayne Mansfield among others to do a variation on it) even if the rest of J.P.'s work (enough to fill an album) isn't too amusing and is pretty repetitive. As for Buddy Holly, he influenced a lot of people. Without the hiccuping, a few of his songs are decent late 50's rock. But how many people skip past the Holly, Berry AND Perkins tracks on those early Beatles albums because they are inferior songs to Lennon-McCartney? Give him credit for "That'll Be the Day" the riffy "Not Fade Away" and "It's So Easy," but Jesus, enough with "Peggy Sue." And understand that Shannon and Orbison wrote just as many classics, if not more, AFTER the music supposedly died.

PS, I rhetorically ask the God-fearing and perpetually sobbing people who feel "the music died" in 1959, why Waylon Jennings was spared. Did God think more highly of Waylon Jennings than the other three. He's a fuckin' country music fan? God knew that if Waylone was spared, music fans would get "I'm A Ramblin' Man," "I've Always Been Crazy" and the theme for the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show???

How would the world have been different if Waylon died in 1959 and "The Big Bopper" lived to 2002 (the year God chose to end Waylon's life)?

This blog asks the tough questions. You sure can't turn to Zinhof for this kind of literate shit and provocative music discussion. All you get is a regurgitation of stolen Neil Young albums over and over, with an annoying "password" you have to type in. Right, steal from somebody who stole the music, and make sure to add your name as the "password" to give yourself credit. Credit for what, exactly? WHAT a player in the music world, what a rock scholar, that guy.

You'll notice a bonus track below.

It's a reliable dead baby joke.

Who likes babies? "They are here to REPLACE YOU," noted Mr. Seinfeld. They are noisy, smelly, stupid, and often come out of a Kardashian kunt. So here's a fake commercial for something better than "bronzed baby shoes."

HUGE HOPPER, HICCUPS and HAVANA Wilderness Road BABY BRONZER (Sick Commercial!) Wilderness Road


"You're a hot country woman…" Well, just the slightest pause between syllables on country, and you've got some amusement. Sing about a woman wearing so little clothes you can see "all that skin wavin' in the breeze," and you have even a more bizarre and vivid picture. Add one of those Lee Hazlewood downward spiraling guitar licks, and you've got a near classic. That's "Don't Go City On Me," your choice to remember Tommy Overstreet by.

Instead of Jeannie C. Riley standing up against slut shaming, or Nancy Sinatra bitching about her boots goin' walkin', Tommy is goin' all Okie from Muskogee on a girl who has the NERVE to look "city" and wear her dang dress too dang high. (Tommy was born in Oklahoma). Lordy. Walter Brennan would've approved. Brennan, by the way, was once signed to Dot, the record label that in the late 60's relied on Nashville exec Overstreet for guidance.

What did he do? Within two years, he had signed HIMSELF, moving from the desk to the recording studio! Yes, if you want to get ahead in show biz, maybe acquire enough power to make sure your records get made and played!

Tommy (September 10, 1937-November 2, 2015), was the manager of the whole shebang at Dot Nashville. Overstreet didn't make a mistake in signing a virtual unknown named Overstreet, nor did he ask the guy to change his name. His first Top 100 hit was "Rocking a Memory (That Won't Go to Sleep)." Tommy also did well with girls names and a parenthesis. He had his biggest hits with "Gwen (Congratulations)" "(Jeannie Marie) You Were a Lady" and "Ann (Don't Go Runnin')."

If I'm Being Honest…Tommy, cousin of crooner Gene Austin, was not a favorite of mine. For me, the approach of Tommy, Vern Gosdin or Conway Twitty doesn't have the pathos of George Jones or the grit of Johnny Cash. Still, I think the track below would be of interest to most any C&W fan, and it's the only single of his that I have.

Well liked and genial, the handsome C&W star turned up on "Hee Haw," and toured enough to wreck his first marriage. As tastes in music changed, he spent the last years of his career in Branson, Missouri, the town that carved itself into an Old Performer's Home, with tourists flocking to hear everyone from Ray Stevens to Andy Williams.

He enjoyed the relaxed pace in Branson in the 80's. He had exhausted himself in the previous decade: "There were 329 one-nighters, then 36 days in Nashville in a year's time," he said. "I also recorded two albums and did a European tour for 18 days. Unfortunately, my ex-wife and I separated and divorced. The music business and what we do in that career is not great for relationships. You're gone too much. I wouldn't encourage anyone to work that hard. I shouldn't have. I should have stopped and smelled the roses and spent more time with my family. But you learn those things in hindsight. Hindsight is 20/20. As you go down this road, you do what you think is the best thing at the time, and I did. Unfortunately, it cost me some heartbreak and disappointments, but that's how life is."


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Marty Ingels Dead : The "I'm Dickens He's Fenster" March

I was saddened that Marty Ingels (Marty Ingerman, March 9, 1936 – October 21, 2015) died of a massive stroke…and that obits pretty much went with "husband of Shirley Jones" as his fame. He was a pretty unique comedian, even if his style, and his demons, got the better of him.

Yes, Marty was a "piece of work," but he did what he could with some serious problems. In the Shirley-Marty autobiography he mentioned some of the mental frustrations he had to deal with; everything from breakdowns that left him lying flat on his back and unable to move, to phobias that made life difficult (such as his fear of flying). He once suffered an anxiety attack while doing a stand-up routine — during an appearance on "The Tonight Show."

I didn't have that much contact with the guy. I was involved in one project with him, and years later, another which included a series of phone calls. On the latter, which involved a third party, the third party called ME begging, "Please talk to Marty and tell him to stop driving me crazy!" Yeah, Marty could be a bit "noodgy," or just "spooky-serious" (which always seems frightening to people who expect a comic to always be cheerful and cracking jokes). The problem was that these traits couldn't be excused with "ah, but he's a genius." He never got much of a chance to show genius in comedy, not even at the level of the notoriously nutty Red Skelton.

Marty was sort of a Jewish Red Skelton. He was tall, childlike and had a crooked grin and an amusingly raspy delivery style. He played good natured fools who meant well but were bumblingly aggressive and lacked some social skills. Playing Arch Fenster, a "man child" opposite the worried Harry Dickens (John Astin) he won some fans when he starred in the intelligent slapstick sitcom called "I'm Dickens He's Fenster." It was recently resurrected on DVD, complete with a booklet describing the show's pedigree (great writing, directing, co-stars) and how it was somehow a failure that maybe could've blossomed into a hit if given another season.

Marty did manage to tour in stage productions of well-known comedies, take some good supporting roles on TV and was in a variety of pretty dated 60's film comedies, and then turn to managing when he became older. He met Shirley Jones at a party in 1974 and they were wed in 1977. Like most comics whose trade is naive bumbling and goofy rudeness, his schtick just didn't work after middle-age. At that point, whether you're a Tommy Smothers or a Bill Cosby, you better find a new way of presenting yourself or you're going to be a nostalgia act at best. And Marty didn't have much for nostalgists beyond his "Arch Fenster" character. So he ended up Mr. Shirley Jones, and also a bizarre guy who was prone to litigation and fighting with his clients.

Probably his most notorious legal case involved his client June Allyson. In a dubious bit of brand-marketing, which made her the butt of many a stand-up comic's jokes, Marty signed June to do ads for Depend, an adult diaper. Later, Marty was pissed; he claimed June owed him money. He allegedly called her all day about it…making 138 calls. Apparently the phone company verified this, and ultimately Marty lost the case. It would not be the last time his rush to legal judgment ended with him paying court costs and suffering defeat.

As Variety's obit gently observed, "In his later years, Ingels was relentless in promoting various TV, film and stage projects he sought to get off the ground as a producer. He was known to make frequent calls to Variety editors and reporters with story pitches. A conversation with Ingels could be time-consuming, but it was never dull."

He never really changed. Even when he became another D-lister on Facebook, he was prone to driving everyone nuts. He'd suddenly go off on some conservative rage about politics and morality, and amid the "good for you, Marty" and "that's how I feel, too," he'd get a lot of shrugs of chagrin. Sometimes he'd apologize for going off, sometimes not. I am not sure if his Facebook account was "deactivated" when he died, or months earlier. He might well have scuttled it in anger and frustration over some real or imagined insult. The NY Times obit wittily remarked, that Marty "was by all accounts highly voluble, genially combustible, energetically litigious and unmistakably larger than life." Indeed.

Yeah, he was one of those guys that you might think twice about dialing up. He could easily find some reason to seize on a particular remark and become offended, or just take it in a wacky direction. But he was, though not given enough chances to show it, a genuine, authentic and charismatic character. Shirley Jones would tell baffled fans and friends and reporters that she too could find Marty a bit difficult and/or embarrassing. His death was announced via a statement from Jones, which ended with: "“He often drove me crazy, but there’s not a day I won’t miss him and love him to my core.”

So we leave it at that. Sometimes, especially with comedians, whom we are used to seeing as zany, smiling, good-natured and goofy, the other side seems a bit appalling and dark. But on a good day, he was very good.

And below? Two versions of the "I'm Dickens He's Fenster" theme song. The show's pedigree included having Irving Szathmary write the theme song. Who better? Irving (brother of Bill Dana, aka Jose Jimenez, and once known as Bill Szathmary) began his career helping to score Raymond Scott's zany instrumentals. He later recorded an eccentric ten-inch album (as Irving Zathmary) called "Moods for Moderns." It was a Leroy Anderson-type deal; he offered cartoonish versions of such dopey classics as "Sailor's Hornpipe," "Irish Washerwoman," and "Pitter Patter Polka." The kiddie classic "Hickory Dickory Doc" was "swung" into the re-titled ""Dick-Dockery." Irving would later achieve immortality writing the theme for "Get Smart." Here, his intent was very much to establish the link between the modern Dickens and Fenster and past masters at slapstick foibles, Laurel and Hardy.

You get two versions of the Dickens and Fenster march…the original TV soundtrack, and Nelson Riddle's expanded version. Here's to Irving Szathmary, whom Jose Jimenez would have noted, was a very talented Jungarian Hew.

Original TV THEME Just as it was heard on the sitcom soundtrack

Dickens and Fenster in STEREO Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra.

"A Satchel and a Seck" - "Guys and Dolls" becomes "Faygeleh and Doll" via Allan Sherman

One of the earliest parodies Allan Sherman wrote was "A Satchel and a Seck," lampooning one of the stupidest hit songs of the day. A song with THIS lyric just BEGS for parody:

"I love you, a bushel and a peck!
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!
A hug around the neck, and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap, and I'm talkin' in my sleep.
About you. About you! About you!
My heart is leapin'!
I'm having trouble sleepin'!
'Cause I love you, a bushel and a peck
You bet your pretty neck I do!
Doodle, oodle, oodle. Doodle, oodle, oodle. Doodle oodle oodle oo.

Back in 1951, Frank Loesser's "A Bushel and a Peck" (from "Guys and Dolls") was a big hit. So was Mickey Katz, a Capitol recording artist who specialized in taking pop songs and "kosherizing" them with idiotic kosher food references sung in a stereotypical, high-pitched nasal whine.

Allan wasn't able to interest a major label in his effort to compete with Katz, but he did manage to at least get his novelty tune released (originally on 78rpm). At this point the most notable thing about it, is the unexpected comic insult from duet partner Sylvia Froos: "You sound like a little faygeleh." Allan apparently doesn't know enough Yiddish to realize this is not a compliment!

Allan went on to stardom. It took a decade. As for Sylvia? She'd already known fame. She was a child star in vaudeville. While Al Jolson made the first feature-length "talkie, "Baby Sylvia" starred in two short sound films released six months earlier.

Sylvia, "The Little Princess of Song," remained popular through the 30's, and turned up in Shirley Temple's "Stand Up and Cheer." She even had her own radio show. Well before "A Satchel and a Seck," Sylvia scored some novelty hits including "Who's Your Little Who-Zis?"

This single (Sylvia was not on the flip side) was simultaneously a farewell to the winsomely lilting vocals of Froos and a hello to a new voice in semitic silliness. Allan died in November of 1973. Sylvia enjoyed a long, happy retirement and died in March of 2004.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Original Petticoat Junction babe Pat Woodell dead at 71 - Curt Massey sings theme

There were 3 "sisters" on the old sitcom "Petticoat Junction." The eye-catching opening for the show had the three of them (Betty Jo, Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo) skinny-dipping in the water tower. The wet silo was above the "Shady Rest" hotel, and giving the show its name, the girls' elaborate petticoats seemed to always be up there hanging out to dry.

It was a naive age, wasn't it? Kids growing up in the 60's were supposed to sigh and think of which one would be their ideal sweetheart. And ooh, petticoats! That was naughty enough back then!

I'll confess, of the originals, I preferred the kinda slutty Jeannine Riley. It seems most thought she was the hottest, which is why Jeannine stayed around only two seasons, replaced by Gunilla Hutton and then Meredith MacRae. Also leaving at the same time was our recently departed Pat Woodell (replaced by Lori Saunders). In Pat's case, the lure was a singing career and a record contract. The one woman who never left the show was Linda Henning...who happened to be the daughter of the show's producer, Paul Henning.

In a strange twist of fate, the late Woodell's replacement Lori Saunders, was scheduled to appear at the infamous "Chiller Theatre" convention in pathetic Parsippany this weekend (23rd-25th). Lori was ready to allow various old hoobastanks to pose with her and get her autograph. Alas, she had to cancel due to health problems. The show does have Henning, and one of Riley's replacements, Gunilla Hutton. But it's eerie that she cancelled and, as it turns out, Woodell had gotten The Big Cancellation a few weeks earlier.

Yes, Pat Woodell actually died a few weeks ago (July 12, 1944 – September 29, 2015) but for some reason, nobody found out till today, October 19th. The news was broken by the L.A. Times and Variety. She had been ill with cancer for many, many years.

Born far from Hooterville, in Winthrop, Massachusetts, Pat got her break at the Warner Bros. lot, appearing in their various TV shows including "Cheyenne," "Hawaiian Eye" and "77 Sunset Strip." Within a year of these guest spots, she was cast for "Petticoat Junction." Probably her favorite memory of the show was when she and the other sisters pretended to be the female Beatles, "The Ladybugs." Aside from doing songs on the show, "The Ladybugs" managed to get a booking on Ed Sullivan's show. It was nowhere near as earthshaking as The Beatles.

Pat had a promising new start as a singer, opening for Jack Benny across the country, and releasing an album. Pop music in the late 60's was switching from wholesome types to rockin' babes. She switched back to acting, and made a few films in the early 70's, but retired after a few discouraging years. Perhaps somebody told her to have her head examined, because she left show biz for the Erhard Seminars Training group ("est") which offered bizarre pop-cult "awareness" techniques.

She made herself available for some "Petticoat Junction" nostalgists (she was on a documentary about the show) and was still married to husband #2 when she suffered the health problems that eventually led to her demise.

Below is the theme song as recorded by Curt Massey, who co-wrote it (with producer Paul Henning).

And what good would it do to offer one of Pat Woodell's solo songs? Well, it would show that she really could sing. So below is "What Good Would It Do." Pat's legacy remains tied to a petticoat on a sitcom some still remember with fondness and a teaspoonful of lust.

CURT MASSEY Petticoat Junction Theme PAT WOODELL What Good Would It Do?

Colin and Rod, "JUST OUT OF REACH" in 2013 and Now, Too

Look, there's a lot of ageism in rock. The New York Post writers ALWAYS refer to Mick Jagger as a "wrinkly rocker." Keith Richards gets it, too. Should those guys Botox themselves and look like zombies instead?

Speaking of The Zombies, some are complaining that they should hang it up, and that sometimes the high notes are "Just Out of Reach." Yeah, they, McCartney, Brooker, Ian Anderson etc. sometimes hit a clinker, but so what. Perhaps some anhedonia-prone fans get to a certain age, don't like to see their idols aging too, and the twinge of mortality makes 'em say "Please, don't remind me. Please retire!"

Looking on the bright side (as grinning old Eric Idle does), the fact that a geezer won't go away and leave the stage to Viley Virus and Justa Beeper is a rockin' sign of rebellion. As George Foreman once said, "Being 50 is not a death sentence." Or 60. Or 70. Or even 80 in somecases.

If you think about it, it's great that Rod Argent still has ANY enthusiasm playing the same old songs over and over. So if he looks like he's waiting for the Viagra to kick in, fuck it.

As for his cute lead singer, well, the guy's older and his face has character!

Yes, Colin Blunstone looks an awful lot like Bill Murray. So what. It's not a bad look, especially compared to the bassist. (Just keeding...whoever you are).

No kidding, here's a 2013 performance of "Just Out of Reach," which was when the photos above were taken. The crowd's loving it. The Zombies play smaller venues but still have enthusiastic people coming to see them. Who knows how long they'll be staggering around with original band members? Thanks to old fans, and perhaps interest in zombies in general (zombies are now much more popular in film than vampires) they are currently touring the world yet again. They will even be joining the Moody Blues on a cruise in the winter of 2016. Book now!

The average "rockin' 5 day cruise" might be described as Ringo Star's All-Stars without Ringo, but with sea-sick bags. Now why these bags just don't stay in Miami I have no idea. Off they go, climbing aboard a ship in order to see rock acts almost as old as they are. The Zombies' cruise will feature, in addition to those guys who are famous for songs about nights or knights in white satin or Satan, supporting geezer groups The Strawbs and Vanilla Fudge.

Just how many 60's and 70's acts SHOULD hang it up, well, you can find a lot of nasty remarks on YouTube comments for various bootleg camcorder recordings. Still, the unsteady camera jerks want to capture their favorites, and their youth…a time when they weren't obese, impotent and irrelevant. Mostly, the 60's and 70's rockers still out there are doing little harm. But really, if you and Micky are singing "Daydream Believer" together, you should pay closer attention to the hospice care brochures that arrive in the mail.

Hopefully the 2016 Cruise will get a better review than the 2013 version.

Meanwhile, most fans of The Zombies insist their gratefully undead faves ARE almost as good as ever, on a good night. See 'em while you can, because immortality is…JUST OUT OF REACH.

THE ZOMBIES Just Out of Reach

I DO (not) LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEASIDE - Bitter End Singers, Lesley Duncan & Suicidal Mark Sheridan

We're approaching Halloween, which means a preoccupation with ghouls, zombies, death and ISIS. Oh, no no, that's TOO grim. Nobody's going to trick-or-treat as Jihadi John. Or suggest that the burqa is a ridiculous costume that shouldn't be worn at all. ("Let's have transparency," declared Julian Assange, looking at a kodachrome slide of Justin Bieber naked).

One of the grim things about this time of year, is that it's COLD out. Christmas greed is just around the corner. And all the seaside resorts from Coney Island to Blackpool are shuttered, or offering shuddery and pathetic off-season attractions at low prices ("Opening Night Offer - Two tickets to see a blobulent geezer who used to be in the rock band SWEET for the price of one. £6 to £8,Concessions £2.00 off!')

Over a hundred years ago, there was a popular song called "I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside."

Mark Sheridan first recorded it in 1909. The tongue-twister was resuscitated by Basil Rathbone when he impersonated a vaudeville singer during a light moment in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." (And yes, you can go to Blackpool's Grand Theatre and see a production of "Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Murders" for a bargain price this time of year.)

The eccentric Mr. Sheridan, in top hat, with wacky bell-bottoms strapped to his knees, twirling an umbrella, toured the U.K. again and again yammering about loving to be beside the sea. But beside that, and secretly, he was depressed. At the age of 50, no doubt afraid of being replaced in the public's affections by Miley Marie Lloyd or somebody else, he began his rehearsals for retirement. He recorded only one single in 1912, nothing in 1913, one side in 1914, and just one more in 1915.

Taking the advice of a middle-aged music fan called Senior Mole (I think), he decided "to tour, and forget about making money from recordings." He drew the line at selling t-shirts. All seriousness aside, Sheridan did continue the uncomfortable and unpleasant life of the touring entertainer. He played a comical Napoleon in a show called "Gay Paree." The morning reviews from the Glasgow papers were negative, and Sheridan was positive there was no hope. You'd think that he would've gone to be beside the seaside, and take a rest. Well, he did take a rest. Permanently. He walked into Kevin Grove Park and shot himself.

It would've been more ironic if he drove to the seaside, walked into the waves to had a watery grave. But when you're suicidal you're usually not all that rational, or care about whether you're death will get good reviews and be considered memorably theatrical.

Reflecting the underlying grimness of Halloween, the still-sprightly "I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside" is contrasted here by downloads for utterly depressing seaside death songs from Lesley Duncan and Bitter End Singers.

Duncan's dry-eyed and morose "Walk in the Sea" (written by Alan Hull) starts with loner complaints and drifts into pessimism: "think I'll go walk in the sea. Nothing much better to do. No, nothing for me. Not even you."

The Bitter End Singers received liner note praise from Tony Bennett: "The Bitter End Singers absolutely gassed me." (Gee, Tony, I didn't even know you're Jewish.)

The group's album, tempting fate, was called "Discover the Bitter End Singers." The song, "A Song By the Seaside," is complex, and you'll need to acclimate. Frankly, it didn't get to me the first time around. Once the tangled, sea-weed murky melody line became familiar and I got used to the group's MOR-Mitch Miller approach, I began to get into the repulsive minor key discord that was intending to evoke turbulent seas, and I caught the dank spray of the lyric lines.

The seasick song is about a wife who misses her husband in the worst way: "One day when she cried all the tears she could cry, she ran from the house where the wild swallows fly. She walked to the ocean, she smiled at the foam. She walked in the ocean. She smiled at the foam..." guessed it.

The late (as of June, 2015) Will Holt wrote it. He's best known for "Lemon Tree," which seems like an old folk song but isn't. He also wrote that 60's variety show perennial called "One Of Those Songs." Will always had a kind of amused chagrin about that one. If someone said, "Oh, you're a songwriter, what did you write?" He'd say "Lemon Tree" and get an approving nod. Then he'd say, "I was the first one to record and adapt "The MTA Song" which became a hit for the Kingston Trio." Another nod. Then he'd say, "I also wrote 'One of Those Songs.'" That would get no reaction at all.

Will would then sing the opening line, ala Durante: "It's just one of those songs that you hear now and then..." Ohhhhhh! THAT song...

The Bitter End Singers were three men and three women) including two guys formerly in The Ivy League Trio, and the always provocative Nancy Priddy (mother to Christina Applegate, and already mentioned on this blog in regard to her solo album).

And now, the music.

Mark Sheridan Beside the Seaside

Bitter End Singers Song by the Seaside

Lesley Duncan Walk in the Sea

Friday, October 09, 2015


Yes, that's the "Greatest Hits" CD collection. Billy autographed the back panel for me, and one thing I have to say about getting autographs of CD panels; they preserve very nicely when put back in the plastic case.

"Down in the Boondocks" was, like "Patches" by Bobby Goldsboro or "Harper Valley PTA" from Jeannie C. Riley, a kind of "country crossover" that everyone could love. I mean, everyone. The song charted higher in Great Britain (#3) than it did in the states (#9). It was written by Joe South, who also gave the world "Games People Play" and "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden."

Yeah, the song was a hit back in 1965 but Billy Joe Royal (April 3, 1942 – October 6, 2015) was still working, almost to the end.

Royal's last concert was at the Gwinnett County Fair in Georgia, back on September 24th. Billy was born in Georgia, spending his early years in Marietta. He died in his sleep a few nights ago, at his home in Morehead City, North Carolina.

A down-home, nice and neighborly guy, Billy had a friendly nature, as you can see from this picture:

Though his national fame peaked 50 years ago, Billy scored a few lesser hits (including "Cherry Hill Park" in 1969) and made several C&W albums over the years. It's been said that his song “Burned Like a Rocket” could've returned him to the Top Ten...except that radio stations began pulling it after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Country fans would tell you they bought Top 100 singles by Billy Joe including “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow,” “Tell It Like It Is,” and “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore.” Thanks to these more recent C&W songs, as well as the old classic about the boy from down in the boondocks, Royal was welcome as part of touring shows featuring other older stars including Ronnie McDowell and B.J. Thomas. Billy's 2007 album "Going By Daydreams" was released on B.J. Thomas's record label. Thanks to the universal appeal of his biggest hit, Billy could also turn up at oldies shows, the kind that would feature Peter Noone and Jackie DeShannon.

He weathered sudden but fleeting pop music fame, crossing back into pure country music, and the worries about which new single, if any, would climb the charts and refresh his fame. “I heard stories about how Clark Gable would finish a movie and say, ‘I’m never gonna work again,’” Royal recalled. “So I guess everybody worries about that kind of stuff. After a while I just stopped worrying about it.”

A modest man, Billy said of his smash hit, "Once in a while I hear it on the radio, and it still stands up. The song meant everything to my career. I was making about $125 a week before that."

In 2009 Billy recorded "His First Gospel Album," but it's turned out to be his last. He's survived by his mother, some ex-wives, and his daughter Savannah. Below? Billy Joe Royal was a very fine singer, and he could tackle even the toughest of songs, including the Roy Orbison (Del Shannon, Don McLean) classic, "CRYING."

Crying Billy Joe Royal


Not many child actors are role models, or handle adulthood very well. Kevin Corcoran, who died the other day, was one of the elite few. For a few years (1957-1964) he was arguably the best kid at playing a kid in movies.

Kevin's nearest competition, at least for being a little kid other little kids could identify with, probably came from television. Despite the regional accent, Ronny Howard's "Opie" on Andy Griffith's show was also a nice looking, average All American Boy. You might add Billy Mumy, although he played average kids in less than average situations, both in "Twilight Zone" episodes and "Lost in Space." You can add Micky Dolenz as "Circus Boy," in a role similar to Corcoran's "Toby Tyler."

If there was a defining thread to Kevin's roles, it was that he tended to play smallish kids trying to be noticed in the adult world, or accepted by their older and bigger peers. One of his first key roles was in "Old Yeller," (1957), which was either about a dog that was colored yellow, or one that barked a lot. It's been a long time since I saw it. Three years later he had a hit with another canine film, "The Shaggy Dog." For some reason, many of the characters he played in his Disney movies were nicknamed "Moochie." That would include "Moochie of the Little League," a 1959 effort about a kid who longs to be the catcher on his team. It co-starred Lee Aaker (a kid actor best known for the "Rin Tin Tin" TV show). Among the goofy adults were Stu Erwin and Alan Hale Jr., and it was directed by the venerable "One Shot" Beaudine. It was a different age...meaning, hardly anybody watches those somewhat maudlin and corny All-American films anymore. They were great at the time. It would be nice if more eight or ten-year-olds would stop fingering their iPads and go play baseball instead, like the mythical Moochie.

Trivia fans probably know that Corcoran came from a big family of kid actors, including his sister Noreen, who was the teen star on John Forsythe's "Bachelor Father" sitcom, another vintage item reflecting a very bygone lifestyle. A smart kid, Kevin gave up acting to attend school. Very few (Ronny Howard comes to mind again, along with Richard Crenna) made any kind of transition from child star to acceptable teen and adult in front of the camera. After graduating college Kevin returned to Disney for behind-the-scenes work as an assistant director. He was soon directing and producing a variety of things, from kiddie fare ("Return from Witch Mountain" and "Herbie Goes Bananas") to adult television ("Quantum Leap" and "Murder she Wrote.")

The long career of Kevin Corcoran (June 10, 1949 – October 6, 2015) ended a bit prematurely, due to colorectal cancer. In many cases, that's a form of cancer that can be rectified (pardon the pun) if caught in time. He's survived by his wife Laura, whom he married in1972.

Kevin Corcoran calls out and Jerome Courtland sings about... OLD YELLER