Friday, April 29, 2016


Most of you know the derogatory phrase, "go ahead, drink the Kool-Aid." It's a reference to Jim Jones, the religious fanatic-messiah who dosed his followers. Kool-Aid, which is still with us, was hugely popular when it turned up in the late 50's. It was one of the ages new magical powders. Loaded with sugar (which nobody thought was harmful at the time), it could turn a pitcher of water into lemonade. Or better...lots of other flavors, too.

Inevitably, other companies tried to compete. That's the American way. Nestle logically thought that an alternative should be something KEEN...powder in a jar. Just spoon out enough for an individual glass of your favorite poison. Somehow, this didn't catch on.

Pillsbury figured that instead of the boring "smiling, wet pitcher" that was on the front of Kool Aid packets, they'd have a different "funny face" for every flavor they sold. As you see from the above, they created quite a lot of funny faces.

Except...if you were a freckle-faced kid, you already knew you had a "funny face" and were teased about it constantly. NOT FUNNY. And what's so FUNNY about having slanty eyes like "Chinese Cherry?" Oh, go ask Jerry Lewis, or the obscure team of Noonan and Marshall (their film "The Rookie") or Buddy Hackett of "Chinese Waiter" fame. Pillsbury saw plenty of funny people getting away with Asian comedy. No surprise they made the mistake they did. As for "Injun Orange," well, when the company began to get complaints, that one was brought up, too. But maybe Pillsbury simply made a mistake on the color. "Injun Red?" There's STILL the Washington Redskins.

Pillsbury pulled their most objectionable "Funny" faces, and offered new ones, like “Choo Choo Cherry” and “Jolly Olly Orange.” There was “Loudmouth Lime,” “Lefty Lemon,” and “Goofy Grape,” among others.

The company heavily promoted their line, refusing to give up. There were even premiums, like plastic cups to be used with your favorite drink...

Pillsbury’s infamous Doughboy was voiced by the genius Paul Frees, so for the commercials, they called on him to supply all the voices for the different flavors. An irony is that when I spoke to Paul, I was just a kid, and I had no idea he was the voice of the Doughboy. I could recognize most of his voices (Boris Badenov, Ludwig Von Drake, etc.) but that one was a shock. A few weeks later, he sent his fan a little gift. No, not him voicing the Doughboy, instead a promotional 7 inch record called "Paul Frees Sings for Funny Face." Yes, his talent agency and Pillsbury were trying their best to promote this stuff, and him.

Below, Paul is "Lefty Lemon," singing about his favorite sport. (You noticed the handle of the cup is a baseball bat? How clever.")

Today “sugary drinks” are on their way out. People aren’t too thrilled realizing that every can of soda has about eight huge spoonfuls of sugar in it, or that “diet” drinks are worse with fake sweeteners that can cause diarrhea. Few are that nostalgic about the “Funny Face” plastic drinking cups and other promotional items either. And I kinda doubt anyone on eBay would get a lotta money for any of the "Funny Face" promo vinyl, either. But here you are, for your information, for nostalgia, and of course, for free.

LEFTY LEMON (Paul Frees) Why I Left Baseball


"Fractured Flickers" premiered at a time when Mad magazine flourished and novelty books by Shel Silverstein and Gerald Gardner (among many others) offered “zany” captions to movie stills. There were all kinds of fly-by-night publications, notably “Help,” that made fun of old movies. But to do a half-hour TV show mating insane dialogue and sound effects to actual flickering silent films? That was damn ambitious.

Jay Ward, who produced the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, set his creative staff free. It included wild writers (Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, George Atkins, Bill Scott) and genius voiceover stars (Paul Frees, June Foray and Bill Scott again). They created some very memorable bits of insanity. Probably the most famous was a reworking of “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” in which Lon Chaney’s Quasimodo was re-envisioned as “Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader,” (with Bill Scott squealing ‘Yeah, team!”). Lon Chaney Jr. raged about this sacrilege, but it did no good for him, or for the show, which disappeared after one season (26 episodes).

The writers went on to other things. Hayward and Burns are best known for writing “The Munsters,” but worked on a variety of kiddie shows (“Crusader Rabbit”) and sitcoms (“He and She,” “Get Smart” etc.) George Atkins worked on various cartoon shows, and vinyl fans might know his name from the topical album “Washington is for the Birds” which was done for Reprise and parodied Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Bill Scott would be the voice of Bullwinkle for decades.

The series creatively sliced up "flickiz" (as acerbic satiric host Hans Conreid prounced them) for mock commercials and documentaries, as well as fake mini-movies. Conreid opened and closed the show with self-deprecating remarks, and in a brief star interview segment each week, seemed to always have to explain why the star wasn’t being paid, and beg him/her not to walk out. The guests include Allan Sherman, Rod Serling, Diana Dors, Paul Lynde and Ursula Andress, which is another good reason to go buy the re-issue DVD set.

Conreid's hosting held it all together, but so did the wacky glue soundtrack music. Silent films always need effective music and so did the parodies on “Fractured Flickers.” One of the greats who worked on this stuff was Fred Steiner (February 24, 1923 – June 23, 2011). If the name seems familiar, it’s because it was mentioned here a while ago, in connection with the theme song for “Perry Mason.” Originally bearing the slightly salacious title “Park Avenue Beat,” the instrumental was intended to convey the decadent world of sexy nightclubs and cool, confident ladies of the night. Somehow it was acquired as the theme to the lawyer show, and it worked, mostly due to the stabbing violins of the opening chords, which suggested violent crime. The hip-swinging melody that followed somehow became a metaphor for the task of assembling evidence for the defense.

Quite the opposite of Perry Mason's music is Fred’s quirky theme for “Fractured Flickers.” Insanity requires serious dedication and the 60 second tune was methodically stitched up to include a variety of sound effects and squeamy instruments. Dennis Farnon, a composer and arranger worked on “Fractured Flickers,” and his strange sensibilities made every oddball melody in every sequence come alive.

Although fans of demented music revere Steiner for “Fractured Flickers,” most of his credits veer in the “Perry Mason” direction, and his film scores aren't known for being comical or sexual. They include “Man from Del Rio” in the 50’s, “Della,” and “First to Fight” in the 60’s, and “Carters Army” and “Heatwave” in the 70’s. In the 80’s he was nominated for an Oscar for his work on “The Color Purple.” For anyone who is a fan of singer-songwriters, here’s a bit of trivia: Fred’s daughter is Wendy Waldbaum, who has put out many a fine album, and was one fourth of Bryndle, the quartet that included the great Karla Bonoff, the late Kenny Edwards, and Andrew Gold.

Dennis Farnon is still with us at 92. Aside from his memorable work for Jay Ward (which also included the “Hoppity Hooper” series in 1964), Farnon scored the film “Arrivederci, Baby” (1966) which was released in soundtrack form under both that title and “Drop Dead Darling.” He contributed to the BBC’s music library and some of that material has turned up on vinyl via “for the trade” albums like “Sounds Humorous” (oddball music published by Boosey & Hawkes). Farnon and his orchestra backed a peculiar variety of singers, including Gogi Grant and James Jimmy Komack (who sang under that name, but issued a comedy album as James Komack...a sample here on the blog somewhere). Farnon scored a number of Mr. Magoo cartoons (and the “Mr. Magoo in Hi Fi” RCA album). Fans of lounge and space age pop probably have some of his other RCA vinyl treasures, “The Enchanted Woods” and “Caution: Men Swinging!”

And now..."One...two..."

The Original Fractured Flickers Theme

Gina Gershon Gets Caught in the Rinse Cycle "House of Woe"

In case you weren't aware of it, the greatest entertainer in the world died. So, fuck off Madonna, McCartney, Brooose, Viley Virus, KISS and the rest of you pretenders. According to the media, there's no reason to go to concerts anymore. Hardly any reason to live.

What was his name? Rinse?

The media rushed to find anyone and everyone who could say something about the guy. President Obama couldn't even get through a press conference on terrorism and climate change without being asked for a statement on the death of the great Rinse.

One headline was provided by Gina Gershon, who recalled that she was nearly cast in "Purple Rain."

Gina obliged the reporters putting her through the Rinse cycle, and recalled:

"“I had never done a movie before. I was 18 or something . . . I was young. At that time, I wanted to be a quote-unquote serious actress.” Looking back, “I don’t know what I was thinking — I was totally stupid, but that was my thought process. I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want (nudity) to be my first scene.’” Of course Gina waited, and became a sensation in "Bound" (that was when I became entranced) and "Showgirls" (which I still haven't bothered seeing).

Gina was pursued by the intense little freak, who drove her around Minneapolis in a purple limo, dazzled her with his mansion, and tried everything to get her to stay in his lair. When she pointed out she was an NYU student and had to get back to classes, he told her to call up and get an "understudy." As if college was a play.

The magnetic Mr. Purple eventually drove her to the airport and watched her disappear back to New York City. He hired Apollonia to do the nude scene, and we all know that it made Apollonia the huge superstar she is today.

The irony here?

He had an eye for an exotic beauty, and so did I. I was covering a party that featured all kinds of celebs, including Robin Williams. I was taking pictures of everyone I could recognize. But there was a woman hanging around who was smolderingly sexy, with THOSE LIPS. I took pictures of her, and tried to find someone who could tell me who she was. Nobody seemed to know. I thought I overheard someone call her "Tina," so that's what I wrote when I got the chromes back. This was probably four years after she turned down Rinse, and before she began making fetishistic mainstream movies. I was quite amused when, years later, I glanced through the sheets of chromes from the party looking for anything that might have re-sale value, and noticed "Tina" was GINA.

At this point, all I can tell you is that I have Gina's DVD of "Prey for Rock and Roll," an autographed copy of her solso CD, and even bootlegs of her stage performances in revivals of "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Cabaret." I have nothing from Rinse. Not a thing. An irony is that for me, Rinse's best work was sung by others. "Manic Monday" was done by The Bangles. "Nothing Compare 2 U" was sung by Sinead O'Connor. The pop tune and the angst ballad are much more enduring work, I think, than bullshit pop-funk crap like "(party like it's) 1999."

Meanwhile, the ludicrous kneejerk reaction to the guy's death overshadowed the insanity surrounding Bowie's demise. I'm not insensitive (?) and I do understand he was big. But fer Chrissake, who couldn't be a little cynical and disgusted by over-kill headlines of praise like THIS:

FFS People, anyone ever hear of Elvis and his ridiculous suits, or The New York Dolls, or Alice Cooper or Ziggy Stardust or flamboyant Elton or Jagger's make-up days? ALL of it was before RINSE, and NOBODY but THAT guy wore those silly outfits. Want to talk about a "fancy man" who was effeminate but had a moustache? LITTLE RICHARD comes to mind. But this is what happens when Millennials take over the media, along with hype-meisters who don't give a fuck for the truth.

This guy Rinse...somehow, according to media spin, he not only changed the fashion world, invented androgyny, and was a better entertainer and dancer than Michael Jackson, but he was even a better guitarist than Hendrix or Clapton. Clapton called him "a genius," but I wonder if he'd be so generous as to say, "By comparison, he makes me look like a sullen Brooker-faced old white schmuck." Eric was quick to post a tribute declaring that he wrote "Holy Mother" because he was inspired by Rinse: "...he was the light in the darkness."

Speaking of Darkness, Dave Chappelle (remember him?) declared that the death of Rinse was "the black 9/11."

Brooose, the guy who likes swapping spit at a microphone shared with a doo-rag clad overweight version of MASH's Max Klinger, offered a cover of "Purple Rain." Elton John declared he had lost "the Purple warrior." (Or was Elton's "purple warrior" just at half mast after learning David Furnish was unfaithful?). People nobody's heard of for decades (like Billy Gibbons of the "ooh, they got the funny beards" ZZ Top) Tweeted and Facebooked to get attention. Gibbons called Rinse's playing "otherworldly." President Obama couldn't even get through a press conference on terrorism and climate change without being asked for a statement on the death of the great Rinse.

Professional social media whore and racist pest Al Sharpton raced to the media, declaring that through HIM, Rinse donated money to the family of Trayvon Martin. The N.Y. Daily News headlined that Rinse was "the greatest rock star Minnesota produced (Sorry Bob Dylan)." When Justin Bieber dared to Tweet that Rinse was "not the last greatest living performer," why, he got the same response as if he'd spat on fans, pissed in a bucket or cursed Bill Clinton.

My memory is pretty good. I remember recording on VHS Joan Rivers hiply guest-hosting for Carson. She booked Elvis Costello.

She asked him for his opinions of various rock stars of the day. "Grace Jones?" "She once whacked somebody on the head with a clipper it's a good thing she's not here." "Dolly Parton" "She used to sing some great songs. I haven't heard her for ages." "Tina Turner." "Oh, terrific." "Huey Lewis?" "He's a good bloke, he's an old mate." "Van Halen." "A root beer version of Rod Stewart."

Joan was impressed by Costello's candor: "I'm crazy about you, because you tell the truth!"

Oh yes. She did ask him about one other star of the day.

Wasnt he right? Of course he was. The Purple One stole from 'em all. He impersonated 'em all, most especially Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan. He borrowed a lot of Bob's imposing attitude and cool arrogance. The puppy of late night, Jimmy Fallon, recalled how Rinse once told him to come to a designated place in 15 minutes. For what? A game of ping pong. Rinse said "Let's do it," like it was a gunfight. Fallon went along, and passing through bodyguards and down flights of stairs, made his way to a curtained area. Behind it: Rinse and a ping pong table. "Lets do this," said the Purple One, in his best Dylan sneer. Fallon was "mesmerized" by Rinse's big "doe-like eyes."

Like a parody of Bob, doing a parody of Brando, Rinse made a few desultory cracks as he won the game. Rinse smashed the ball on the last winning shot, and when Fallon went to pick it up...Rinse was gone.

Yep, he simply disappeared without saying goodbye. It makes for good copy. It was Dylanesque. Or James Dean-esque or whatever. It added to his legend. But come on, "bit of an imposter," right?

And aren't we all a bit sick of people who are SO fucking FULL of themselves they figure they only need ONE name? It's usually a name that was worn by somebody else. Mary was a previous Madonna and Jesus was a previous Prince. No? Adele was a cow in a previous life.

One thing about these clowns is that with the exception of Ke$sha, it's usually impossible to pronounce a one-word name more than one way.

When, in any fit of masturbatory homage, you purr Gina Gershon's name, she pronounces it GEE-nah, grrrr-SHON. First name accent on first syllable, second name accent on second syllable. Now listen... Gina's "House of Woe" which could be a certain mansion in Minneapolis. Or any home where people are moping and saying "Now I know why doves cry."

HOUSE OF WOE, and WOE to fans of RINSE. I feel your pain. Not a lot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Above, a photo of that strange little David Furbyish, who used to jerk off to the music of his favorite singer, Smelton John. David even married his idol. Sadly...

....A big scandal today involves poor Smelton John, unable to keep a lid on the shitstorm caused by unfaithful young Furbyish. John's lawyers have toilet-stalled the British tabloids, but the news has leaked out through the World Wide Wet-Net. "Respect my privates," Mr. John declared, but anything famous people do is considered "news" fit to print. His face flushed bright pink, Smelton John begged "Don't Let "THE SUN" Go Down On Me...or the "DAILY MAIL." To no avail. Now we all know his young hubby Furbyish had a three year affair with some other man, and even a three-way (with two other men, of course. The guy wouldn’t do anything perverted!).

Smelton John's mother loathed Furbyish, and others complained that Furbyish was firing people and taking over. Still, some thought the odd little creature was a stabilizing influence on the wild Mr. John, whose life had been going down the tubes. Too bad David needed to take anal vacations from his demanding diva husband. Or bride. Or whatever they call each other.

What an irony. Just a month ago, Smelton was telling Gay Wenner, publisher of the Roiling Scone, “I’ve never been happier. I have an upbeat new album, I adore being a father, or a mother, or whatever the hell I am, and my boy toy is Furbyish! I have homes all over the world, nobody wonders if it's a wig or a weave or a transplant, and as for my meddling stupid old mother, I couldn’t care if I ever see the old hag again.”

More and more tabloids are reporting on Furbyish and his promiscuous game of thrones on the toilet of some pubic hairdresser (who had his hands full thanks to David having pubes all over his body). While some can't believe gay marriage could fail (after all, it doesn't involve TWAT), this union is suffering from, like Springsteen's under lip, a rough patch.

And so, the guy ridiculed early in life for his real name, Wedgie Tight, is now having to endure cracks from the press and some iconoclastic and rude bloggers.

You might well ask, “What is the download below, O Ye of Little Taste?”

It's Smelton’s quickly-done song for his wayward husband, whom he has affectionately called “Fanny Boy.” You'll remember that as soon as Princess Diana and her hummus-faced rich Muzzie crashed, John rubbed out a hit single with revised lyrics to "Candle in the Wind." Once again, he phoned up ex-Grimsby gynecologist-turned-lyricist Bernie Tampon, and said, “Can you re-write the song as “Candle in the Butt?” I want to shine a light on what this asshole did to me."

Tampon replied, “Please, not that bloody song again." A minute later, he faxed over "Fanny Boy" with a note: “This is your song. It’s quite simple. I hope you don’t mind.”

It IS pretty simple. It's about how Furbyish not only cheated, but obviously spent a lot of Smelton’s money in the pursuit of pleasure, even pawning some of Smelton’s treasures when he couldn't get his hands on the joint bank account while seeking to get his hands on some guy's joint. Furbyish supposedly pawned pairs of Smelton's famous glasses and even some gaudy jewel-encrusted knickers. (Those knickers were encrusted with something, we all assume jewels.)

From Bernie’s lyric sheet:

“Oh Fanny Boy, you’ve left me sad and lonely. There is no end to what I’d do for you. You have no friends. I was your one and only. But now you’ve gone. And pawned my wristwatch too. Oh Fanny Boy, I know that you are younger. Just 20 years and I am 40 more. If you but knew about my burning hunger, you would’ve stayed, and not walked out the door. So please come back! And I’ll forget…you took the car and chauffeur.”

“Oh Fanny Boy, you’ve left my board and my lodging. You didn’t realize how good you had it here. My dear young man, police you’ll soon be dodging! You’ll live in style but constant dread and fear. So please come back and all will be forgiven. The stocks and bonds, the crystal chandelier. But bring ye back my mattress and my pillow. I promise I won’t prosecute you, dear….”

Smelton John Fanny Boy

BAD ROMANCE (Shit My Pants) Lord of the Poop Sale


Yes, here's a gooey, crappy parody of one of Lady Gaga’s greatest s(hits).

“I moved too SLOW…I tried to control it, but I couldn’t hold it. I shit my pants! I can’t believe I just shit my pants!”

A drag queen version of Weird Al Yankovic, Sherry Vine has managed to make some money on Google's YouTube thanks to some flashy, campy parodies (and appearances in cabaret nightclubs). ’Tis pity the tunes aren’t available on disc. In the old days, something like “Shit My Pants” would’ve been quite a collectors’ item on brown vinyl.

In fact, the lack of vinyl confused my colleague, the “Lord of the Poop Sale.” Nicknamed for his habit of buying up any shit he can find on 45 rpm, he heard about song and phoned me in a bewildered state of Alzheimer’s. “Ill, it’s Robin here. "Shit My Pants" did not chart? I have no idea how to do research. If I know the label, my dog Turd Muffin could sniff it out. I've trained her to smell the difference in paper between Parlophone, Pye, and every other label! If I know the labels we can go walkies through charity shops and she'll put her nose in every box that has a record with that label! OK, sometimes she tries to stick her nose in some shop owner's twat, too.”

This old guy IS really into shit, and I could tell he desperately wanted this for his collection or piles and piles of music. For him the real fun of is not listening to records but collecting 'em. I told him the best he could do was wait for me to post a download, as we are living in the age of freeeeee.

"Besides," I told him, “Don Henley sang that there are no hearses with luggage racks.” He said, “Who is he? Is he like Matt Monro? I buy up any dodgy vinyl for a few pence if I can brag that nobody else has it. Is his stuff hard to find? Is he the guy who had rare pressings that led to the phrase, “as hard to find as Henley?”

I explained the phrase is “rare as hen’s teeth,” not Henley, but some of these record-buying zombies don't listen. They're on automatic pile-it. They go buy shit and pile it in their homes and that’s how they putter around till their hearts poop out. “Oh well, if it’s not shit on vinyl, I am not interested,” he said. “I am a dung beetle collecting poopular music! It's got to be utterly useless shit!”

He then asked, "Do you have one of those 45 rpm adapters? I’ve got a hole in my head that size, and I like to put an adapter in it. With the smaller hole, the wind whistles from one side of my head to the other, and it sounds very pleasant!” I told him to pick up some of his dog's turds and shove them in his ears. He couldn't hear anything I said after that, and I was glad to wave goodbye to him.

While "Shit My Pants" can't be added to any vinyl addict's pile, it can help clog up anyone's terabyte drive of free crap

Oooh la la. Here's some Ca-Ca!

Sherry Vine Shit My Pants (Bad Romance)

Saturday, April 09, 2016


It’s still pretty sobering to realize how young Phil Ochs was, when he made that final decision on April 9, 1976, exactly 40 years ago today. He was only 35.

Walter Moseley finally died a few days ago at 81. No, he didn't exactly make good use of being spared the death penalty. In fact, he managed to cause trouble and heartache after his incarceration for the murder of Kitty Genovese.

As for the early demise of Phil Ochs, many fans have wistfully wondered what he would've achieved over the next 40 years. Had he been able to find the right meds and care, some think he might be knocking out potent political protest songs to this day. I doubt it, but I wish he was able to simply enjoy life and family, and if he would sometimes pick up a guitar, great.

Quite a few of his contemporaries (Barry McGuire, Joan Baez, Hamilton Camp, Gordon Lightfoot, Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton) either never had a big hit after the 70's or stopped recording for a major label. It's just a shame Phil didn't have the option of balancing work and semi-retirement. He should've had the chance, ala Mort Sahl or his old friend Jim Glover, of sometimes doing a gig for that small circle of friends.

Phil's song has had a life of its own, as has the very phrase "small circle of friends," usually spoken with a sense of irony.

The incident that sparked it happened on March 13, 1964. A married man with two kids, Winston Moseley’s hobby was committing burglary (30 or 40, without an arrest). An occasional rape and murder added to his fun. He admitted to raping and killing two other women before he snuck out on his wife and hunted for a new victim: Kitty Genovese. He stalked her through the dark and quiet streets of Kew Gardens, where the stores were closed and at 2am, few people were still awake in the small apartments above those stores, or in the modest middle-class homes and apartment buildings.

Phil's version of the event wasn't intended to be song-journalism. It was just the first stanza of a piece covering a wide range of apathy.

The opening lines, to a jaunty almost ragtime melody: “Look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed. They’ve dragged her to the bushes, and now she’s being stabbed. Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain. But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game. And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends…”

There was no "they." It was just one man. But the journalism of the time was not accurate either. The New York Times, the “paper of record,” reported: “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law‐abiding cit­izens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”

The truth, which would come out slowly over the years, was that most citizens didn’t hear anything. At that hour, a few short cries were mistaken for delinquents horsing around. As often happens, the reporter colored his journalism with drama over fact. Someone actually did lean out the window and yell at Moseley to leave the girl alone. When Moseley rushed away, leaving his dazed victim behind, the neighbor closed his window. Moseley, lurking rather than leaving, waited and pounced yet again, completing his need to rape and kill. But a few people did call the cops, and one man, arriving on the scene after Moseley fled, comforted Genovese as she took her last breaths.

Only a few months later, June 15th, Moseley was in front of a judge. The judge declared, “I don't believe in capital punishment, but when I see a monster like this, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the switch myself.” It wasn’t an option. Proving the judge’s point, Moseley escaped prison on March 18, 1968, stole an officer’s gun, and hid out in a nearby home. When the man and woman who owned it arrived, Moseley overpowered the man and raped his wife.

Over the years, parole boards had to listen to Moseley’s ravings. At one point he whined, “For a victim…it's a one-time or one-hour or one-minute affair, but for the person who's caught, it's forever.” More recently, he simply declared, “I think almost 50 years of paying for those crimes is enough.”

No, there seems to be no quote from him on whether he ever heard Phil's song. The song has outlived Phil, Kitty, and now Kitty's murderer. People are still being killed. Marijuana is only legal in four states, and other issues raised in Phil's song are still with us as well.

Oddly enough, as horrific as the Genovese case is, as vividly divisive as the question of the death penalty for monsters like Moseley is, Phil's song retains its dark satire. One listens to it with more of a wink than a clenched fist. So often, despite his brilliance at ballads, and his scathing accuracy in protest songs, Phil was able to retain a unique sense of humor. It was part of why he was so beloved in person and on stage.

The audience recording at The Stables in East Lansing is here for its good sound quality. At Hunter College, Phil saved "Small Circle of Friends" as his encore/finale, and in the audience recording, you hear how it draws enthusiastic clapping from the crowd.

PHIL OCHS Small Circle of Frends in East Lansing

PHIL OCHS Closing the Show with a Small Circle of Friends clapping at Hunter College (now Lehman College)


Phil Ochs, radical iconoclast that he was, had an almost perverse fondness for singing “Okie from Muskogee.” To him, it was simply a good topical protest song. So what if the lyrics were somewhat arrogant and intolerant, and the work of a redneck from one of the “red states.” Phil was born in El Paso, after all, and his early influences included country singers, especially Faron Young. And where, outside of a broadcast of a baseball game in China, would you ever hear the phrase "pitching woo?"

I can’t say that Merle Haggard was one of my favorites, or others in the outlaw bunch (including Waylon and Willie) or the California crowd (Buck Owens). Still, he was a prolific songwriter, a vivid presence on stage, and he stubbornly kept going until pneumonia forced him to cancel shows a few months ago. He died on his birthday, April 6th, at the age of 79. With Phil finding such pleasure in him, I also got some kind of a kick from the “Okie” song. Of course I tended to listen to Phil’s version of it, and save my country listening time for Johnny Cash, George Jones, and the West Coast C&W/rocker Gary Alan among others.

Oh yes...Haggard was actually born in Oildale, California. His people did come from Oklahoma, but as many did (go read 'Grapes of Wrath,') they moved West to make a living. Many picked produce for low wages, but Merle picked at the guitar and...well, picked up a three year sentence for robbery. Yep, he was an authentic outlaw. While in San Quentin he saw Johnny Cash perform, and that inspired him to pursue the honky tonk lifestyle, and perfect his talents in local Bakersfield clubs. His first big hit was "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" in 1966. At that time, on the East Coast, Phil was a hot Elektra folk star playing Carnegie Hall with topical material.

On March 27, 1970 Phil returned to Carnegie Hall for two scheduled performances. Now on A&M, and having recorded several critically acclaimed albums that didn't sell too well, he decided to try something radical. This would be the infamous "Gold Suit" show (released in single-disc truncated form by A&M only in Canada as "Gunfight at Carnegie Hall"). Fans were perplexed by Phil wearing some kind of Elvis suit, rambling about how Elvis was the king and could change things if he’d only become political. They detested Phil’s weird cover versions of everything from Buddy Holly to, Elvis, to Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" to, yes, “Okie from Muskogee.” The disaster ended with fans demanding their money back. A frustrated Phil obliged them by smashing his fist against the box office window.

But…he had a second show to do. Pissed off, bleeding, but determined to get his message across, he took to the stage yet again. Looking back on it, “The Night of the Cut Thumb,” was a triumph. Learning from his mistakes, Phil took the time to explain what he was up to. With some wry monologues (“America is a Cunt…”) and coaching the crowd to keep an open mind, the show was a fine mix of nostalgia (Holly and Presley), political humor, beautiful ballads, and stinging proteset songs. And that included that prickly number “Okie from Muskogee,” your download below.

OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE from the second show at Carnegie Hall, not released in any form, “The Night of the Cut Thumb”