Friday, May 29, 2015

Lights Go Out For…TWINKLE "The End of the World"

The girl with the annoying name Twinkle (July 15, 1948 – May 21, 2015), was actually Lynn Ripley, believe it or not. Back when Eng-a-lind swang, there was a girl named Twiggy, and another named Lulu, so being known by a one-and-only cutie-pie name was real gear.

Speaking of things gear, Twinkle had an instant hit with a song about a boyfriend who couldn't quite shift his gears. "Terry" was the name of the "teen tragedy" song, which fit in nicely with various hits before and after, including "Teen Angel," "Tell Laura I Love Her," and of course "Leader of the Pack."

Looking sweet 16, Twinkle was such a part of the silly pop scene that she dated Peter Noone (the adorable leader of Herman's Hermits) for a while. When she became typed for sad ballads, she was handed "The End of the World," which ironically Mr. Noone also took a swing at.

"The End of the World" via Twinkle is what you'd expect. Coming from the Priscilla Paris school of pouting (from which Claudine Longet would soon graduate), The Twink specialized in baby-like emoting. Her version lacks the full body and woeful angst of the older Skeeter Davis version, and isn't exactly competition to various tearful chicks up to and including Nina Gordon. Still, it effectively captures the pink blues of girls who drew hearts on the covers of their notebooks, and dotted their i's with a little circle. Teens who identified with her were seriously believed the world ended if some guy let some other girl pop his pimples. Their level of maturity didn't improve much with or without virginity, maybe only to the level of "do I switch now from junior to super absorbent?"

After "The End of the World" there wasn't much left. With barely enough collected singles to fill one album, Twinkle was history by the age of 18. It didn't mean she stopped trying. She recorded a single here and there, including "Micky," about her boyfriend Micky "Micky" Hannah. Five years later, Micky died in an airplane crash. No, the disc jockeys in England didn't rush to play "Micky." Besides, our sweet Twinkie was married to someone else (to an actor/model whose biggest deal was having the lead in a British candy commercial).

In 1975, "Bill and Coo" (Twinkle and her father) released a single, "Smoochie," and that kissed her career goodbye. She was still beloved and remembered for her iconic singles, most especially the morbid ones. "Terry" has been anthologized on several "Teen Horror" compilations but here below, as we all get closer to it, is…


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Frank Sinatra was to a song what the Mafia was to a storekeeper. The boss. Take "It Was a Very Good Year." He OWNED it. Unlike the Mafia, he didn't need a constant "enforcer" to remind anyone. Everyone who covered the song only confirmed: "That's Frank's song. Why give tribute to anyone else?" Certainly not Lonnie Donnegan.

Lonnie's version is below, mostly because it has the novelty of being BEFORE Frank's. And because this blog doesn't mess with giving Sinatra away! Donegan was a peculiar Brit who liked to steal American music and call the theft "skiffle." Lonnie heard the original Kingston Trio version and figured maybe it would be better as a solo ballad. Close, Mr. D. But the song only became a classic when, two years later, Sinatra took over.

The song's immortal, but not Stan Cornyn, the Warners exec who wrote the award-winning liner notes for Sinatra's album, or Ervin Drake, who wrote the song. Both died this year.

Cornyn, eventually a Senior Vice President for Warner Bros., wrote the liner notes for "September of my Years" in 1965, and the following "Sinatra at the Sands," which featured some of his best prose:

“Sinatra turns to the audience and tells them he’s going to sing a saloon song. And silently you can almost hear the perfumed ladies think “Yeah” and the close-shaved, shiny-cheeked men think “Yeah” and the waiters stop in doorways and think “Yeah.” And with just piano behind him, Sinatra turns actor. The man whose broad’s left him with some other guy and all of the loot…And there is silence all about, for this audience is watching a man become that last lucked-out guy at the bar, the last one, with nowhere to go but sympathy city.”

Nice, huh? It's the kind of thing to make you wanna grow up and write album notes. Which I did, but this was the CD era, and booklet sizes were shrinking, and I was usually limited to 250 to 500 words. And I wasn't on the staff, making bucks with other types of writing. Back in the day, Stan Cornyn was. A fan of ALL types of music, he even wrote ad copy pushing Randy Newman's first efforts. He wryly wrote: "Once you get used to it, his voice is really something." That was the era when Warner Bros. had "loss leader" albums and was open to all kinds of quirky people, from Van Dyke Parks to Ron Nagle to the team of Judy Henske & Jerry Yester.

Stan was also known to sneak gags into the "Circular," the promo publication sent out to record stores and radio disc jockeys each week. One time he padded the legit commercials for Warners artists with this fake classified ad: “QUALIFIED GIRLS: Major record company now interviewing girls to be used in a series of paternity suits to bring fame to some of our less fortunate artists. Send scatological resume of past experience to Box 5949, Columbus, Ohio.”

Cornyn (July 8, 1933-May 11th 2015) provides an insider look at the music biz via his 2002 book, "Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group."

The croak of Ervin Drake somehow escaped my morbid gaze. While Stan passed on about a week ago, Ervin was erased on January 15th of 2015, at the age of 95. He had bladder cancer, and hopefully was enjoying praise, tributes and decent health till the end came.

Happily, he wrote the Warner Bros. hit that Sinatra liked. The other one was "Strangers in the Night." The author of that tune happened to run into the legendary "affable" Old Blue Eyes, and introduced himself. "I wrote 'Strangers in the Night.'" Frank glowered, turned his back and walked away. It could've been worse.

Back to Ervin Drake, who was born Ervin Maurice Druckman in Manhattan on April 3, 1919. Despite the notion that "Jews run show biz," he knew the truth. A song with "Druckman" on the sheet music would be tossed in the trash. "I Believe" (a huge hit for Frankie Laine) would've been considered some fucking "Old Testament" piece of drivel. Instead, it was praised as All-American drivel: "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows…I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way…"

"Good Morning Heartache" (which Billie Holiday turned into a jazz classic) would've likewise been considered schmaltz to be sung only by Al Jolson or Georgie Jessel. And "It Was a Very Good Year?" If you knew a JEW wrote it, you'd think it was sappy drek, and phony, too. A Jew going on dates with "blue blooded girls of independent means?" NO WAY, oy vey!

PS, you don't give a Jew the assignment of writing English lyrics to Latino numbers such as "Tico Tico" and "Quando Quando Quando." And so it was, that Drake got assignments that might not have come his way if his heritage was known. And that goes for his brother Milton Drake, whose big contribution to popular music was supplying the inane lyrics to "Mairzy Doats," one of the most popular Big Band novelty songs of that awful era.

Cornyn and Drake are dead. Well, 2015 has been a pretty shitty year for plenty of other reasons, too. But, oh nostalgia, there WERE some very good years. If you're old enough to have a very bad memory.


Ode to David Letterman - ADAM SANDLER

And so, ater 33 years of late night shows, David Letterman retires. As with his idol Johnny Carson, Dave leaves behind a legacy. For many, it's the end of a lifestyle. Many people shrugged about growing old with Johnny and that there wasn't a comfortable talk show anymore. They had to find something else to do at 11:30. Now, quite a few are feeling the same way...that the Jimmies (Fallon and Kimmel) are not a good alternative. Times and tastes have changed. Or in a phrase the late Robin Williams popularized, "Reality, what a concept." Rarely do things improve and the old give way to something better. One simply adapts to the loss and moves on.

Letterman's 33 years have included way too many highlights and important achievements to discuss here. Since this is a music blog, I could confine the comments to the singers and musicians who were such a part of the show. Even that would take too much space. All you have to do is go to Dave's website, or YouTube and you'll find many highlights. It should be mentioned, though, that Dave had pretty good taste, and gave valuable exposure to less-than-commmercial artists, ranging from Warren Zevon to Allison Moorer.

Aside from guests (special mention to Darlene Love's annual Christmas song) there was Paul Shafer's ritual impression of Cher singing "O Holy Night," Paul's assortment of "stings" and kooky music introductions, Dave's own occasional weird forays into singing ("Midnight…and the kitties are sleeping…") and that familiar yet un-hummable theme song. How about all the people who never listened to Miles Davis...but DID, because "Milestones" became Biff Henderson's "walk-on theme"?

I had limited interactions with Dave and the show. I did talk to him at a party once, and I was behind the scenes in the green room several times. I chaperoned friends who were actually on the show, and came to the show as a convenient meeting place for performers doing the show. I might do a quick photo shoot before or after they went on Dave's show, or even an interview. When I was with one of the top photo agencies, I was glad to get one of my photos of Dave into a national news weekly. Nice credit, nice paycheck. And I was at a few pretty historic telecasts, both at NBC, CBS and Radio City Music Hall. As the song goes, "they can't take that away from me."

In the last weeks, several stars gave Dave a special musical salute, including Martin Short and Nathan Lane. Both worked so hard over the years on song parodies that would be something special for their friend and host. One of the last, and certainly the most peculiar, came from Adam Sandler. Nervous, and singing low, not quite sure if every line was going to get the much-needed laugh from Dave himself, Sandler gained confidence and finished strong with lines that mixed tribute with tweaks. It was…not too shabby.

Adam Sandler David Letterman

Saturday, May 09, 2015

ILL-USTRATED SONGS #32: Purple People Eater by BARRY CRYER


He could've performed this under a pseudonym. Like Ben Worse.

But it couldn't have Ben Worse.

Below, landing with a thud, the space creature called "The Purple People Eater," as covered by Barry Cryer.

Obviously done very quickly to cash in on American vocalist Sheb Wooley's novelty original, Barry's cover misses a few notes by a Jamie Foxx doing "The National Anthem" last week at the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

There are a few interesting things about this oddity. First, it opens with sci-fi noises copped from the Mercury vault (and used on everything from "Martian Hop" to Boris Karloff's "Tales of the Frightened"). Second, they did take the time to throw in speeded up vocals for the Purple People Eater (some cover versions tried to get away with a kid's voice or just a weird voice). And last, and least, Cryer is clearly aping an American accent. Accent on the ape. Like I said, it could've Ben Worse.

Sheb Wooley (first name was Shelby) actually had another recording identity with a similarly awful pseudonym. Aside from his own novelty hits and C&W numbers, he recorded as Ben Colder. This was a gag name that came about when he recorded "Don't Go Near the Eskimos," a parody of Rex Allen's "Don't Go Near the Indians."

I hate people who grin and tell you to enjoy something because "it's so bad it's good." That's not the case with this thing! Rather, quoting a W.C. Fields line, "I won't say I like it, and I won't say I don't like it. Let me put it this way: I don't mind it." It's certainly an example of what quickie cover version recordings were like way back when...which is still a lot better than the shit that idiots throw on YouTube to try and (fail) to get a few hundred listeners.

BARRY CRYER A version of PURPLE PEOPLE EATER that could make you cry


For the past week, the irritating combo of Kanye and Kim had to step aside while the world gasped at something almost as irrelevant: the new baby for Kate Middleton the Topless and Prince William the Bald. As Groucho used to say, "You seem like a nice couple…" but, you bet your life, who the hell wants to read about them, or give a crap about their diaper-fouling spawn?

Toothless and ignorant Brits actually pranced around with gleeful banners "IT'S A PRINCESS!" referring to a toothless and ignorant baby. Were you idiot commoners expecting a frog? You commoners are stupid enough to think fairy tales come true? Well, yes, they do, but only for The Royals, not for YOU LOT! What's your vicarious delight in how "classier than you by birth" Royals prance and ponce around the world, and periodically procreate?

Poor people buying up souvenirs of ROYAL events? It only encourages the ROYALS to believe that average people are absolute fools, not worthy of any respect.

Cheering Brat #2? This spawn is so far down the line she'll never be Queen. By the time she's fully grown, it might be "off with her head," for not being Muslim, the likely majority.

The way things are going in formerly Great Britain, the Queen in 40 years could be a gay man (son of Elton and David), or more likely, it'll be a Muslim, and in that case, a King. (Arabs don't think women should do much besides stay covered in cloth and pretend to enjoy sex without the clitoris that was circumcised off). In 2055 you might see King Gazzoleen, the former Duke of Oil, on the throne. He'll be shouting to the white peasants, "Let them eat hummus." Looking for Cameron? He will have been smashed to bits and given an anonymous burial under a gas station parking lot. Nick Clegg, doddering only a bit more than he is now, will be one of the midwives helping in the birthing of Muslim babies. That's all members of the "Labour Party" will be allowed to do.

Speaking of labour, after the hoopla over the birth of this useless dollop, sister to useless dollop #1, I wondered how many were secretly singing, "Do It No More." Just switch the song about Prince Albert and Queen Victoria to the new names, Prince William and Kate.

"Do it No More," popular in the 1840's, was a wry, ribald and daring song for the day. It seems that SOME people weren't too thrilled about tax money going to the ever-expanding family of "Royals," and who knows, maybe Queen Victoria's vagina was getting tired of it, too. Hence, a song with the Queen supposedly declaring a cease and desist with the royal dick.

"John Bull," in the song, refers to the press. A reporter has heard Queen Victoria say, or sing: "The state is bewildering about little children, and we are increasing, you know we have four. We kindly do treat them and seldom to beat them, so Albert dear Albert we'll do it no more."

Albert isn't pleased with the idea: "Do not persuade me or try to degrade me all pleasure and pastime to freely give over…" Well, listen for yourself, it won't won't hurt.

It especially won't hurt because the singer is the artist Derek Lamb, who chose to record British Music Hall in an intimate way, without the usual Stanley Holloway-type bombast.

As originally published in song books of the day, "Do It No More" (aka "England Forever/Do It No More") went on longer than a Thomas Hood ballad, but it's considerably truncated in this Lambinated version

DEREK LAMB Do It No More - British Music Hall update version Download or listen on line.

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Barry Cryer: "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" sung to "Girl from Ipanema"

Imagine singing the lyrics of one famous song…to the music of another.

That's one of the familiar stunts on the long running (since 1972) radio series "Sorry, I Haven't a Clue," which bills itself as "the antidote to panel games."

Below, it's Ian Dury's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" mated to Astrud Gilberto's "Girl from Ipanema." And the singer…legendary British comedian Barry Cryer.

Don't worry, it'll all be over in just one minute. This is not a 45 rpm, but a radio moment digitized especially for the blog and your entertainment. Or confusion.

The show's stunts, musical friskiness, wordplay and mockery of popular book and film titles are all scripted in advance, of course, for each six-episode season. The segment where the stars sing lyrics over totally different music has been such a popular category, the studio audience greets the start with a half-hearted cry of "Yaayyyy." That cry is repeated for other gruesome comic tricks. These include accompanying a song with a kazoo and a slide whistle, or the "game" of singing to a track, then lowering the sound and seeing, 20 or 30 seconds later, if the karaoke singer will still be matched to the music when the sound is brought back up. Are we having fun yet? That's why samples of those two bits aren't included here.

Cryer, as you can guess from the photo, is one of the veterans, along with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden. They were involved in the earlier radio series "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again."

For some anti-Nazi fun, the show's theme song is "The Schickel Shamble," which starts with the familiarly ominous "Deutschland Uber Alles" chords before degenerating into a nauseating oom-pah band piece. Requests for it will be ignored. Because I don't have it.

PS, apparently "Deutschland Uber Alles" is nearly-banned in Germany. At least, it would be very unlikely that you'd hear those infamous Nazi-linked opening 8 notes should a German win an Olympic event or enter the ring or a boxing match. The "German National Anthem" these days, so I was told, borrows from the obscure third verse. Which I guess would be like, if Americans had lost the war, "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light" being eliminated. Or something like that. But I digress…


Hit Me To the Tune of Girl from Ipanema Barry Cryer

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TEAKWOOD NOCTURNE - TV's great classical mini-concerto

"Teakwood Nocturne" has probably been used by Universal Studios in dozens of its TV shows and movies. Its name comes from a 1961 episode of Boris Karloff's "Thriller." Called "Terror in Teakwood," it stars the supernaturally beautiful Hazel Court along with bonily handsome Guy Rolfe, who often played bizarre leading men who ended up destroyed by their own insanity. He's a crazed classical pianist in this one, and rather than abusing a funeral sonata from Chopin or Beethoven, or a darker shade of Bach, the producers went with something original.

The piece was composed by Caesar Giovannini, who was born in Chicago in 1925. The classically-trained American was originally hired by NBC to play piano for various projects and shows. In the late 50's and into the 60's he moved on to vinylly challenge Mantovani, Melachrino, Kostelanetz and other easy-listening pianists/orchestra leaders.

He recorded, with or without his "Velvet Orchestra," for small "stereo demonstration" labels along with Bally and Mercury. His reel-to-reel tapes and vinyl albums include "Caesar Plays Concert Stereo," "Brilliant Sounds of Pianos and Percussion," "The World of Strings,""Silk Satin and Strings," "Viola Paris" and "Los Dedos Magicos de Caesar Giovannini." The latter features the typical tunes middle aged people wanted to hear, including "Stairway to the Stars," "Beyond the Sea," "Stranger on the Shore" and "The Sweetest Sounds." But not his nocturne, which did get a cover version from probably the best known pop pianist of the era, Roger Williams. There's some collector value in Caesar's stash due to the good sonic quality of the vintage stereo recordings and/or the cheesy nature of the album covers.

As a behind-the-scenes pianist, Giovannini continued to find a lot of work including playing on the soundtracks for "Soylent Green," "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," "Wait Until Dark," "Pressure Point" and many more.

Although there are votes for "Alla Barocco," Caesar's most enduring original remains "Teakwood Nocturne," which, is below in the version from Stanley Wilson and his Orchestra. A Jewish conductor and arranger who died of a heart attack at 52, Wilson worked on a variety of TV shows during the 60's, including"The Virginian," "87th Precinct," "Johnny Staccato," "Checkmate," "Ripcord," "Broken Arrow," "Tales of Wells Fargo," "The Millionaire" and "Wagon Train."

Wilson, ironically enough, worked on both Karloff's "Thriller," and then "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." He was the one who adapted Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" for use as Alfred's theme music. Let's pretend Stanley or Caesar is playing the piano on this track…using the severed hands of a dead man...echoing the Orlac-plot of that infamous episode of "Thriller."

. Stanley Wilson & Orchestra Teakwood Nocturne