Monday, January 29, 2018

"Hope for the best..." Mel Brooks' music man JOHN MORRIS dies at 91

"Hope for the best," the chorus sang in "The 12 Chairs," directed by Mel Brooks, "EXPECT THE WORST." 

Friends, fans and family of John Morris saw him live through his 70's and 80's. And he died last Thursday at 91. (October 18, 1926-January 25, 2018). Despite his great fame as a composer and arranger, he didn't care much for the lifestyle of a California musician; not only was he born in New Jersey, but died in New Jersey.

John Morris is mainly associated with Mel Brooks movies. John was behind "The Producers," "The 12 Chairs," "Young Frankenstein," "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie," "High Anxiety," "History of the World Part 1," "To Be Or Not To Be," "Spaceballs," and "Life Stinks." That's a lot of fun incidental music. He also helped in arranging and producing and sometimes co-writing the songs in those films, including the title track for "Blazing Saddles." Your download below, "Hope for The Best, Expect the Worst," was adapted from a Brahms Hungarian dance. Morris once said that when it came to composing songs, "All I have to do is think Johannes Brahms. And I know what Brahms does. I know how he wrote, and you just do what he does and you’re in business.”

One of John's favorite instrumental tracks is "Transylvanian Lullaby," which has been performed by both Pops and symphony orchestras. John, a Juilliard-trained musician, recalled Mel's instructions: "This is about the monster’s childhood. Write the most beautiful Middle European lullaby.” Morris: “So I wrote this tune, and it was perfect for violin. It’s that kind of melody.”

Aside from Mel Brooks comedies, John scored a lot of other wacko films, many starring Brooks favorites including Gene Wilder, Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman, including "Yellowbeard," "Haunted Honeymoon," "Last Remake of Beau Geste" and "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother." 

The soundtrack bin has John's name on "The Elephant Man" (for which he got an Oscar nomination), "Ironweed" and "Dirty Dancing." John's last work was for made-for-TV films: "Murder in a Small Town" and "The Lady in Question" (1999) and lastly, "The Blackwater Lightship" (2004). John also worked on Broadway shows and composed TV themes, ranging from Julia Child's "The French Chef" to the sitcom "Coach."

John leaves behind a wife and a daughter...his only son passed away three years ago. 

Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst (download or listen on line; no passwords, spyware or USA-hating cloud host hiding behind the Iron Curtain and screwing USA artists)

Friday, January 19, 2018


    Many think of Cher as something of a joke…a harmless half of a silly duo singing "I Got You Babe," who morphed into a disco queen with gays chortling over every new outrageous outfit and plastic surgery. In between the extremes, she had a chance to use her unique voice for some memorable songs, and succeeded.

    At first, Sonny and Cher were in the same bowl as the Lovin’ Spoonful, The Byrds, and The Beatles. The joke was that with their shaggy hairstyles and odd faces, you couldn't always tell which was the girl. Their nasal voices harmonized on what was dismissed as pop fluff that revolved around novelty production values. Like The Beatles, Sonny and Cher moved from pop songs to weightier material, but critics didn't take them seriously. "Laugh At Me," was a grumble song from Sonny. They became almost parodies of themselves with a TV variety show, and there was the eventual split. 

     Cher's solo career included an album loaded with heavy covers, and “I Threw It All Away" was among them. It wasn't a big seller. She went for more commercial material, and it brought her back into the Top 20. A catchy pop song IS an achievement, and “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” produced by the very commercial Snuff Garrett was one of those. 

    And so she went…wending her way through a Carol Burnett-type TV show, and her marriage to Allman, and her re-making of her image and her face and her costuming, and her disco tunes and her discovery of the vocoder. 

    It's a bit sad that few take late 60's and early 70's Cher rock-pop seriously, but ultimately she made the wise moves to extend her career with dance hits and Vegas dates. It's doubtful she looks back at her serious attempts at rivaling Baez or Ronstadt and really thinks..."I threw it all away." She's still out there. 


The "JASON KING" Theme by Laurie Johnson

For many, Peter Wyngarde = Jason King. 

Wyngarde died a few days ago, perhaps at the age of 90. He liked to cloak himself in mystery, and that included his date of birth, his real name, and his sexuality. Up until his spate of arrests ("what's up with British gay celebrities and sex in men's rooms?") he got away with his image of being too dangerous for women. 

His problem with women, he declared back in the day, "is that they fall in love with Jason King and find I am really Dracula...very sadistic. There is a sadistic streak in me, but I think women quite like it. You have got to be tough with them, really tough and then they love you for it. Treat them with any amount of charm, that’s how you start - then you throw off the frock coat and put on the bearskin. I love being the caveman. The reason I think I am sadistic is that men have a side that hates their mothers. Having so many women is a revenge against your mother."

As was typical of Wyngarde, that paragraph held truths and fantasies. The truth was sadistic gay affairs (notoriously one with Alan Bates). The fantasy, picked up by directors and producers, was that his severe knife-sharp nose, curled lip, lizard eyes and woman-hating stance did make for a figure that fascinated female viewers. The stage-trained actor didn't have much to do in "The Innocents," one of his early films, but as Peter Quint, his glare at a spinster (played by Deborah Kerr) was enough to make her wet and to chill her at the same time. 

Wyngarde would later star in "Burn Witch Burn," but seemed to prosper more in theater, and in guest roles on hip shows of the day including "The Prisoner" and "The Avengers." He appeared several times on the latter, either as a prig or a sadist. Many fans of the show will name "A Touch of Brimstone" (about "The Hellfire Club") as their favorite episode; the one in which he sought to dominate a leather-clad Emma Peel. PS, sharp-eyed Pythons might recognize Carol Cleveland, also in that episode!

Then came his starring role in "Department S" as Jason King, and the follow-up officially titled "Jason King." He insisted he was just like the show's flamboyant hero: ‘I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me. I was not going to have a superimposed personality. I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy, used to go to the tailor with my designs. And my hair was long because I had been in this Chekhov play, The Duel, at the Duke of York’s….Jason King had champagne and strawberries for breakfast, just as I did myself. I drank myself to a standstill. When I think about it now, I am amazed I’m still here." 

In a way, it was amazing he made it out of his teens. Born (August 23-1927-January 15, 2018) to a Eurasian woman and a guy named Goldbert, the boy christened Cyril Louis Goldbert ended up living on his own in wartorn Shanghai, having some tense times waiting to get back to England. The teenager of World War 2 became a stage actor in the 50's, and a TV star in the late 60's and early 70's. He moved back to stage work with a successful revival of "The King and I" in 1973, still fascinating the ladies.

In 1975, after a few cautions the previous year by police willing to preserve his reputation, Wyngarde was arrested for "gross indecency" with a man in a Gloucester bus station men's room. The former sex symbol of espionage and decadence on screen was now aging and outed. Even so, he was such a forceful and charismatic presence, he didn't lack for work. Over the next ten years he made many films as well as stage work (notably with Raymond Burr in "Underground" (in Canada) and comedy (in a "Two Ronnies" Christmas show). 

He was semi-retired when the biography of Alan Bates appeared in 2007, exposing his long affair with the actor, and re-affirming that his mens room arrest was not a one-off gay experiment. Wyngarde retained his trademark walrus mustache into old age, and like John Huston in "Chinatown," presented himself as a dangerous-looking geezer. One of his last public appearances, in a wheelchair, was at a 50th Anniversary celebration of "The Prisoner" TV show. He was in good humor, had an evil glint in his eye, and was able to give a short speech to delighted fans. 

Yes, there's some odd spoken-word audio on Wyngarde, but below, the "Jason King" theme song by Mr. Laurie Johnson (who also composed "The Avengers" theme). No reason to be idiotic and write "Dig It" or "Get It" or "Cheers!" or "Enjoy." Downloading a song is not a big deal, is it? To pretend it is, is so uncool.

"JASON KING" theme - listen on line or download. No password crap, wait time or Russian malware



There are few religions that aren't either bloody simple-minded or just plain bloody. The most popular ones...BLOODY. The rituals either involve bloodshed, or ritual substitutes (such as wine) in acts that everyone outside the religion consider peculiar if not dangerous.

A few honest religions pretty much admit that the idea is not to live in peace, but to blow up, behead, and otherwise murder any non-believer (aka INFIDEL). A movie that isn't shown much on TV anymore, "Gunga Din," addressed this by having a fictional guru tell his followers: "Kill for the love of KILLING!" 

Whether it's waving a dead chicken over his head, slaughtering a goat, symbolically drinking the blood of an invisible savior, or overtly running over a bunch of strangers, the self-righteous zealot gives non-religious people, and people of differing religions, cause for alarm. 

There's no talking to religious fanatics. At beset you hope that they can simply find a way to prosper on their own secluded dairy farm or behind their compound, and not bother anyone else.  If they make headlines by spiked Kool-Aid or the mass murder of their own cult, too bad.  

Below, a "Deliverance"-style cheerful romp from the Peach Pickers, who simply want to know if you are Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. If ya don't understand them Christian code words, then ya might find yourself hangin' from a tree. But if you believe in the after life, enjoy your raisins and almonds, or hummus and virgins. 

ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB? The Peach Pickers - listen on line or download. No password crap or wait time or malware.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Ill-Ustrated Songs #40 An Octopus Downtown for Petula

Do you want an octopus hanging around in your garden? Do you want to go DOWNTOWN just to visit an aquarium? Did Petula Clark keep an octopus in a tank in her home, and did she haul it out for inspiration when she attempted to improve on something or other Tony may have Hatched for her? 

None of these questions are answered in the mash-up below. It's just...something ILL for you to enjoy. Most mash-ups are pointless, aren't they? So what, so two songs are in the same key, or have the same tempo. That's not really much of a surprise, is it? But if the mix somehow evokes something a downtown octopus's garden...well, it's worth a listen. At least once. 

Your Pet Octopus is waiting... listen online or download to "get it" and "dig it" - Cheers! Enjoy!

BETTY WILLIS - Homeless & Dead on New Year’s Day

"Oh, did you read that sad story about the woman who Brian Wilson discovered?" 

At four in the morning, New Year's Day, Betty Willis, homeless and sleeping in a California mall, was beaten to death during an attempted rape. That's the sad fact. 

The "fake news" is that she was Rachel of "Rachel and the Revolvers," a girl group invented by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher to fuse the California sound with Motown. No, she wasn't Rachel.

What she was, was a very talented singer who caught the ear of young producer Leon Russell. In 1965, he produced a single for her, including a cover of "Act Naturally." By 1968, with only a few singles and duets gathering dust in the record stores, she recorded her last song, ironically titled, "Ain't Gonna Do You No Good." She was disillusioned with the music business, disturbed by the amount of drinking and drugs that went with the lifestyle, and with a young daughter to raise, chose a more sedate and secure lifestyle working for the U.S. Post Office.

A sad fact about some of the homeless, is that they choose that lifestyle. Betty apparently had a pension from the post office, and most certainly had a daughter and other relatives, and even some concerned fans, but she took her meals at charity places for the indigent and slept in the mall.

California climate makes the homeless lifestyle a little less rugged than in other parts of America, and in San Francisco, there are "camps" where some, including aging hippies, seem to thrive. In quiet Santa Ana, Betty felt secure in her day to day life, and the crime rate not especially high. Rape is a crime of violence, not of sexual need, and there are a lot of angry, crazed bastards around. Like THIS guy

Willis (March 10, 1941-January 1, 2018) was born on a farm in Mississippi, but her family moved west to Santa Ana. Her singing seemed like her ticket to fortune. She started with a 1962 duet with Ray Lockhart for Rendezvous. It was credited to "Betty & Ray" and called "You're Too Much." She followed it with a solo effort, "Take Your Heart." Said Righteous Brother Bill Medley, "She had that quality that Leon Russell and myself were drawn to … that wonderful, black church soulful thing.” Her version of "Act Naturally," produced by Russell and recorded in 1965, was released on Phil Spector's Phi-Dan label.

 Listening to “Act Naturally” now, and you’d think, “Oh, that had to have been a hit. It’s Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound meets Motown.” You might even imagine that Goldie and the Gingerbreads (Genya Ravan) could’ve had a hit with it in England while touring with the Rolling Stones…doing her hysteric, overdramatic soulful raving, taking a simple song and detonating it into a funk bomb. 

But, no, this was recorded back when people barely wanted to hear Ringo Starr’s version. Aside from the few R&B radio stations, and the record stores in the black communities, this type of music was simply too raw for the average "easy listening" fan's ears. It would take years of The Beatles (and Lennon's "Twist and Shout") and Dylan and so much more before most people found pleasure in black music. At least, black music that wasn't sweetened and creamed up the way The Supremes did it, or Smokey Robinson. 

Medley's duet with Betty, 'My Tears Will Go Away,' would've been quiet controversial at a time when there was such segregation in the country. It never did get released, and he became busy with his new partner Bobby Hatfield, and their almost instant success with "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling." 

“She had the talent to make it, and she certainly deserved to make it,” says Bill Medley.  “It just breaks my heart to hear this … Damn… It’s a wonderful world, isn’t it?” 

 ACT NATURALLY, Betty's single produced by Leon Russell 

AIN'T GONNA DO YOU NO GOOD, Betty's last single, released in 1968


   As we get older, we become more aware of the obit page, and it seems our favorites die more frequently. We realize, “This IS serious.” It’s going to be OUR time soon. And…it kinda makes you wonder, don’t it? I mean, about being dead? “To be really dead,” Dracula once mused, “must be glorious.” 

    No, like the dead parrot Mr. Cleese brought back to the store, a corpse has “ceased to be.” And so a once vibrant, funny guy like Jerry Van Dyke (July 27, 1931-January 5, 2018) is now silent. The Big Sleep is Sleep No More. 

    A friend of mine killed himself. He was in his early 20’s. My mother happened to meet his mother, and my mother hadn’t heard the news yet. “How is Keith,” she asked. Keith’s mother replied, “There is no Keith.” That sums it up, doesn’t it?  

    We talk about how the legacy lives on. The work is still there. The memories are around. Thus, the person hasn’t really died. What a lovely rationalization. No, the loved one is an EX-Person. One minute you might be able to call Jerry Van Dyke, and he might go off on some goofy anecdote or other. Now he can’t do that. 

    YOU can download “It Kinda Makes Yuh Wonder Don’t It” and enjoy it. And you can think Jerry Van Dyke was a personable fellow. He knows nothing about it. There is pain in sorrow for those around him, and we offer condolences, but we can’t offer condolences to a corpse. In his autobiography, Dick Cavett wrote about feeling depressed sitting on a park bench and realizing he could never tell W.C. Fields or Laurel & Hardy how much they meant to him. And how sad it also was that these guys couldn't be heartened and cheered by that kind of appreciation. Or that they couldn't just enjoy more years of retirement, being at peace instead of resting in it.

     So we end up mourning OUR loss, a bit more than the fact that someone who we wish was still enjoying life, is not. Which kinda makes you wonder. Don’t it? 

    OK, I’ll stop being existential. If it wasn’t for the title of the song, and the fact that it IS a weird fucking song, I wouldn’t have started this way. Time for an appreciation of the deceased artiste.  

    It’s been said, and was said too much during his lifetime, that Jerry was over-shadowed by his famous brother Dick. Well, so have 90% of the comedians and actors in America. Dick Van Dyke is legend. But Jerry did well for himself. He had his own personality. He played an affable variation of “stupid” in his comedy and his stand-up and his talk-show appearances. His variation was to be slighty dizzy and uninhibited. 

    Here’s a guy who could go into embarrassing detail about how your ass gets flatter as you get older, or how llama shit has no smell ("which is a good thing if you sell it as fertilizer") and the more blankly oblivious he seemed in his ramblings, the funnier he became. His light-hearted, goofy way of walking through life got him a lot of work in sitcoms. In fact he "sleepwalked" through his first TV sitcom role, a nepotistic turn on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as Rob’s confused banjo playing brother. Jerry actually made his TV debut at 19 doing stand-up on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He showed a lot of poise stepping out there and telling self-deprecating jokes at that age.

    Jerry’s childlike "say what you're thinking or not thinking" charm got almost instant attention. He became a regular on “The Judy Garland Show” and was in the running for many sitcom parts (including the lead in "Gilligan's Island.") He chose the infamous “My Mother the Car” figuring that if talking dog and horse sitcoms had done well, this would succeed too. It lasted a year but was picked on by critics as an example of how low and ridiculous TV comedy had stooped. 

    Fortunately for Jerry, he was able to savor fame late in life. He was Emmy-nominated four years in a row (1990 through 1993) as a co-star on “Coach.” He also performed solo shows and played dinner theater.  

      It is more than a shame that his fame on “Coach” was marred by a great personal tragedy. On November 17, 1991 his troubled daughter Kelly hanged herself.  Her strange and rebellious nature led her to porn films as "Nancee Kellie," including “Catfighting Students,” “Rump Roasts,” and “Coach’s Daughter,” marketed to reference her father’s hit series. She was married to sleazy Jack Nance, who eventually died after some thugs beat him up and damaged his already pulpy brain. The sordid story of her porn life was amply covered by “Inside Hollywood”-type documentaries at the time.

    When he got to be visibly OLD, Jerry was perfect for productions of “The Sunshine Boys.” He played Willy Clark, the firmly retired vaudevillian opposite a variety of straight men including his brother Dick, and also Tom Smothers.  

    When Tom and Jerry performed in “The Sunshine Boys” together, Jerry offered reporters a typically goofy joke: “We both have brothers named Dick, but doing this play, we're Dickless!” But really, memorizing and performing that play at their age did take balls. 

    The song below? It still makes ME wonder. It comes from the Broadway show "Kelly," which seemed like such a sure thing (music by Moose Charlap) that people were vying to cover songs from it before it even opened. The Village Stompers recorded it as an instrumental on their "New Beat on Broadway" album. Columbia handed it to Jerry for his debut single, even if the only lyrics he sang were, yeah, "It Kinda Makes Yuh Wonder, Don't It?" And I wonder, what was going on in the Broadway show during this song?

    "Kelly" lasted just ONE performance and there's no review describing the song, which was ultimately spelled with a YOU not a YUH. I'd like to think that in the musical, the rascal Mr. Kelly is either doing magic tricks, or perhaps eyeing a chorus of burlesque strippers doing a bump and grind. Well, you can imagine your own visuals that could make you wonder. You can do it because you're still alive. 

IT KINDA MAKES YUH WONDER, DON'T IT? - listen online or download, no Passwords, time delays or invitations to download malware because your Adobe is out of date so click here... 


    So cute. These days, “barely legal” ye-ye girls would not be allowed to frolic. In a kind of milder, gentler age, we appreciated youthful exuberance without that much leering. In France, they went oui-oui over one of their favorite “Ye Ye” girls, France Gall.

    It was just, well, NICE to see Annette in those “beach party” movies, and we liked the cheerful nature of the flat-chested bikini-wearing “Laugh-In” girls Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne. Chirps who weren’t overtly busty (like Little Eva or Petula Clark) were also welcome.  So were the Asian versions like Rita Chao. I suppose the closest thing to “ye ye” girls today are female gymnasts, who are perky, flexible, leave nothing to the imagination, but aren’t overtly sexual. But…back to France. 

    One of the first music stars to pass on in 2018 is France Gall. Most people think anyone from France has a lot of gall. But no, not the French ladies we love so much.  

    Isabelle Genevieve Gall (October 9, 1947-January 7, 2018) first gained fame at 16 with “Ne Sois Pas Si Bete” (“Dont Be So Stupid”). Somehow she represented Luxembourg in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, and won with a song written by her friend Serge Gainsbourg. She recorded it in both German, Italian and Japanese versions (“Poupee de Cire, Poupee De Son” was the French original) but didn’t try for the UK/USA market. An irony is that she had a hit with “L’ Amerique.” 

       Her biggest hit was probably another Gainsbourg item, the sassy "Laisse tomber les filles.” It wasn’t exactly big because of her singing, but her personality. At the time, she probably was considered similar to Lesley Gore, in that both were given credit more for attitude than ability. Was anyone claiming Gore displayed a lot of range and emotion on “It’s My Party,” or the rather monotonous “California Nights?” No, it was just pop. 

    Walt Disney actually thought the breathy, pretty French pop singer might make a perfect Alice for a new production of “Alice in Wonderland,” but he died and the project died with him.

    Gall’s maturity led her to try for more than kiddie songs pop songs, and “ye ye” rave-ups. Gainsbourg wrote “Teenie Weenie Boppie,” which offered up a strange video of France seemingly passed out on LSD.


     In the video she was carried around a pleasure boat by two black dancers. Inside, someone dressed as Napoleon frugs with various wigged women, while France, wandering around the boat eventually collapses, glassy eyed, and her stiff (apparently dead body) carried off by the sorrowful black dancers and a coterie of white-clad women.

    Gall fans didn’t seem to want anymore of this, and that included “Qui se Souveient de Caryl Chessman,” an anti-capital punishment song that referenced California’s “Red Light Bandit.” Chessman, after many appeals and a book smuggled out detailing his life, was sent to the electric chair by Gov. Pat Brown (yes, father of current California governor Jerry Brown) even though he hadn’t killed anyone. 

    Considered washed up at 21, France turned from her native country to concentrate on recording in German, scoring several Top 10 hits. Below, you’ll hear “Die schönste Musik, die es gibt” which you’ll recognize as “Music to Watch Girls By,” popularized as an instrumental in an American TV commercial but with a life of its own in various idiotic lyrics. How idiotic the German lyrics are, I have no idea. 

    In 1974, she found new inspiration via Michel Berger, who tended to write much more romantic tunes than Gainsbourg. Veronique Sanson once covered Berger via an entire album of his quite beautiful music. You’ll find the 1987 track “Ella Elle L’a” (a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald) to be very typical not only of the mature France Gall, and of the work of Berger, but also similar in lilt to Veronique Sanson and some of the latter songs of Mylene Farmer. It’s rhythm-driven with that unusual flirtation in dancing along the dark keys more than the safer ones that don’t involve flats and sharps.  

    The song is a celebration of the feel-good scat singer, and of “du peuple noir” in general, "the black people" whose music and lifestyle balance and dance between “love and despair.” 

C'est comme une gaité
Comme un sourire
Quelque chose dans la voix
Qui parait nous dire "viens"
Qui nous fait sentir étrangement bien

C'est comme toute l'histoire
Du peuple noir
Qui se balance
Entre l'amour et l'désespoir

Quelque chose qui danse en toi
Si tu l'as, tu l'as
Ella, elle l'a
Ce je-ne-sais-quoi
Que d'autres n'ont pas
Qui nous met dans un drôle d'état

Ella, elle l'a Ella, elle l'a
Cette drôle de voix

    She had a mature beauty, didn't she! 

    Through the 80’s, she and Berger enjoyed a great deal of success, but in 1992, Michel suffered a fatal heart attack. Their child, who had cystic fibrosis, died five years later. She was pretty much retired at that point, but hardly forgotten. A documentary on her, “France Gall par France Gall” was broadcast on French TV in 2001. She remained an icon in her native country, and when cancer took her a few days ago, France’s President Macron praised her “sincerity and generosity,” and her “songs known to all French.” And yes, to many of us around the world.

Ella elle l’a - No Passwords, Spyware, or cries of "Cheers!" "Enjoy!" "Dig it!" "Get it!" or "Give me a Paypal donation"

Die schönste Musik, die es gibt - Music to Watch Girls By in German - No crap-ads or fake notices that your Adobe is out of date and needs a malware download