Friday, February 19, 2021

HOPE FOR THE BEST…EXPECT THE WORST

Perhaps the best advice Mel Brooks has passed along is in the lyric from one of his earliest films, “The 12 Chairs.” Set to what was originally a folk song or dance from Hungary, Mel wrote: “Hope for the best. Expect the worst.” The Boy Scouts may have shortened it to “Be Prepared,” but that doesn’t quite capture the truth about life, does it?

Below, you’ll find four versions of the melody.

While blacks and Latinos glumly insist the white man stole their music, the “adapting” or “borrowing” of folk melodies is as old as the Jew's harp and the nose flute. Brahms, Liszt, Dvorak and others were seizing on new etnic sounds long before The Weavers turning a crappy bit of monotony into “Wimoweh.” They did it long before Paul Simon mated some of his best lyrics to what he called an “American Tune,” but was actually an old German melody based on Hans Hassler’s “"Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret,” which was borrowed by Bach.

My own favorites in this genre are the "Slavonic Dances" from Dvorak and the "Hungarian Dances" from Brahms. The masters did go out and visit obscure small villages to find exhilerating new rhythms and styles. Mostly, in this era of no-copyright, the masters were free to do as they pleased, especially as they usually improved upon the folk melodies. The only major grunt came from Bela Keler, who was irked to discover his “Bártfai emlék" (Memories of Bártfa) now sportig the title Brahms' Hungarian Dance #5. Brahms, ala Pete Seeger, who didn't know the droningly boring tune he turned into "Wimoweh" was written by Solomon Linda, Brahms simply responded that he had no idea it was an original piece and not a folk song. His bad.

By the 20th Century, turn-around was fair play, and plenty of Tin Pan Alley hacks were foraging through public domain classical music, looking for melodies to inspire new lyrics. The Russian romantics were especially prey to the hack henchmen, with “Tonight We Love” and “Moon Love" swiped from Tchaikovsy and “Full Moon and Empty Arms” ripped from Rachmaninoff. Among others.

Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance #4” became “As Years Go By,” and was a hit for the irritating operetta hero Nelson Eddy. A few other guys put out over versions, as did a popular female of the day, Evelyn Knight. A far more compelling and ambitious version would later be recorded by the great Mezzo-Soprano Rise Stevens on her ten-inch album “Symphonic Songs.” For non-opera fans, a Mezzo is MUCH easier on the ears than an outright Soprano. Rise, who just missed making it to 100, was my favorite Mezzo, and I was glad to get an autographed photo from her. My sentimental favorite soprano, if anyone cares, was Victoria de los Angeles, but there was certainly a lot of competition. Gee, wish I'd seen Carol Neblett do her topless version of "Thais." But I digress. As you’ll hear, following about 20 seconds of romantic (or spooky) gypsy violin, her magnificent voice joins in a vocalise before she tackles the actual lyrics from Pete De Rose and Charles Tobias:

As years go by this love we know, as years go by, will live and grow. It will remain our love refrain, like songs of long ago. When autumn calls and leaves that fall are soon forgotten a brook runs dry and birds may fly away. As years go by and youth has fled, when silvery hair has crowned your head, you’ll still have me, I’ll still have you to love as years go by…

It's a bit of an irony that many of the Hungarian and Slavonic "dances" adapted by Dvorak and Brahms were not exactly suitable for dancing, as they were given the classical composers' full range of arrangement, including pensive slow moments that would leave dancers utterly confused as to what to do next.

I’m not sure if Mel Brooks was inspired by the original Brahms classical piece, or by “As Years Go By.” Either way, his lyrics suit the music for a film that is, in essence, an old folk tale from Czarist Russia. The screenplay was based on a novel by Ilya Ilf & Evgeny Petrov, first published in 1928. Mel’s movie came out in 1970. An irony is “12 + 1” aka “The Thirteen Chairs” was in production around the same time. It limped into theaters where critics found it a hodge-podge mess with an international all-star cast tryng to outshine each other. Orson Welles, Terry-Thomas, Vittorio Gassman, and in her last screen appearance, Sharon Tate, all had their moments as they fulfilled Mel's warning, "Hope for the best...expect the worst."

AS YEARS GO BY, RISE STEVENS

AS YEARS GO BY, EVELYN KNIGHT (caution, scratchy sound from this 78rpm oldie)

HOPE FOR THE BEST, EXPECT THE WORST - from "THE TWELVE CHAIRS"

BRAHMS HUNGARIAN DANCE #4 by YEHUDI MENUHIN

BOBBY COLE - Atlantic City - “THE END OF A LOVE AFFAIR”

Back on February 19, 2006, this blog came to life. One of the first posts on that date was for Bobby Cole. The point of the blog was to call attention to deserving, unique and neglected artists…not to make the lives of creative people more difficult by stealing entire discographies. Unfortunately too many bloggers, usually mediocre-minded selfish vainglorious assholes in useless countries like Holland, Croatia and Brazil, discovered they could get “nice comments” and be considered “hip” if they gave a daily load of freebies to cheapskates and greedheads.

Blogging turned pretty ugly, with various blogger-idiots feuding with each other, deleting posts, and getting indignant if somebody re-upped “their” files without “credit.” Need I go on? While egocentric short-sighted small-minded bloggers kept behaving like insane red ants and mindless dung beetles, letting people “discover” the complete Beatles discography or every Talking Heads bootleg ad nauseum (and usually with threats to delete if not enough praise was heaped), this blog continued on with its mission. For a long, long time, the mission was to reward creative artists, and let them know that their work is not forgotten. The reward here, was getting comments like “I never heard of this artists before” and getting praise from many of the artists themselves, who were happy that ONE track off an album and a good write-up showed that their work was still appreciated and valid.

Many of the artists you find on this blog had a hit at one time, maybe several years’ worth of rave clippings from critics, or just enough praise and work to continue pursuing the dream via gigs and maybe another one-shot record deal for a single or an album. Bobby remained a “saloon singer,” as difficult as that career was, and always was rewarded with warm praise from the journalists who covered the nightclub scene. Here’s two reviews from a 1975 visit to one of his favorite towns, Pittsburgh. Back in New York City, his name and photo appeared along with the better known jazz pianists of the day such as Andre Previn and George Shearing. You can imagine the slight pang he felt when he got publicity for a gig, but the newspaper somehow called him “Buddy” Cole. Well, that’s show biz…something the idiot bloggers, offering daily download links like a farmer slopping the hogs, wouldn’t understand. They think they’re in show biz, as they spend their last days collecting social security and pretending they live somewhere that matters. Sad. Very, very sad. And destructive. Fewer record stores, fewer old artists bothering to make new music when they can't profit by it, etc. etc. etc.

Here’s “The End of a Love Affair,” from a Bobby Cole show in Atlantic City. While some in his circle were never too sure about Bobby’s friendship with a shifty-eyed snaggletooth named Dimitri, the guy was a loyal supporter, go-fer, or whatever, and I think he may have set up the tape recorder and microphones for this show. With the microphone close to Bobby, and the crowd apparently seated a decent distance from the stage, there’s very little “noise” on the tracks. It’s just Bobby in a familiar mode, jangling the piano keys in a variation on Erroll Garner, one of his favorite performers. At the time Bobby was also experimenting with adding vibrato at the end of some of the lyric lines. This experiment didn’t last too long.

So I walk a little too fast
And I drive a little too fast
And I'm reckless it's true
But what else can you do
At the end of a love affair
So I talk a little too much
And I laugh a little too much
And my voice is too loud
When I'm out in a crowd
So that people are apt to stare
Do they know, do they care
That it's only
That I'm lonely
And low as can be
And the smile on my face
Isn't really a smile at all…..
END OF A LOVE AFFAIR -- live in ATLANTIC CITY

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Maybe a few out there remember TIMMIE ROGERS? "OH YEAHHHH!"

Celebrating “Black History Month,” here’s a download from Timmie Rogers.

“OH YEAH!!!”

It’s doubtful too many on the planet know who Timmie Rogers is, or that “Oh YEAH” was his cool catch-phrase. He did make it to the Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason-type variety shows in the 60’s, but was eclipsed by Flip Wilson, Cosby, Pryor and others. During the comedy record boom, he put out one stand-up album. Godfrey Cambridge put out four. Oh well. Not everybody has all the luck.

Detroit-born Timothy Ancrum (July 4, 1915) had a rough and tumble childhood, which included dancing in the street for spare change. Eventually, he was dancing on stage, one half of Timmie & Freddie. They toured for a dozen years before Timmie decided to go solo.

He made some decent money as a songwriter (nothing too well known, although some might remember Nat King Cole’s’ "If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes.”) He didn’t make too much as a singer, whether it was straight tunes or novelty numbers. But in stand-up, he did pretty well. He wasn’t forgotten by some of his colleagues; he turned up on an episode of “Sanford and Son,” the same show where Redd Foxx gave breaks to a lot of old-timers, and turned LaWanda Page, a former fire-eater and exotic dancer, into the unforgettable “Aunt Esther.”

But…Timmie didn’t quite become a regular on “Sanford and Son,” and has yet to be rediscovered for his pioneering work (which included coming out onstage sans any Pigmeat Markham extra black on his face, and with no Mantan stereotypical faces and preferring a "normal" suit and tie to some Mabley type of shabby and brightly colored outfit).

Below, oh, just one of his novelty numbers, no doubt influenced by Chuck Berry, written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe. Will you be amused? “OH YEAHHHHHH….”

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER! (TIMMIE ROGERS)

Chinese Lives are Funny - Cab Calloway and “Chop Chop Charlie Chan from China”

With all the looting, rioting and moping, you’d get the idea that all over the world Blacks are persecuted, and not given a break because, er, uh, why exactly? The color of their skin? As if red skin or yellow skin or brown skin is so fabulous? Or because blacks have flatter noses? As opposed to, what, Asians who have those weird eyes? And why doesn’t anyone care that Jews have been persecuted all over the world for 2000 years, not just in the Southern-Idiot part of the South where an entire Civil War was fought on behalf of black freedom?

The truth, of course, is that we’re all HUMAN, and most minorities are going to be disliked unless they make themselves useful. Like the Jews being comedians, lawyers and accountants (or all three at the same time). Like Asians doing the laundry and giving great take-out food. Like the Pakistani or Indian driving the cab. Find a way to ingratiate yourself with the majority, and you’re fine. Be lazy and obnoxious, and expect everything on a platter even when you’re offered an education and all kinds of breaks…and no, you’ll have to go further. You might create ISIS and demand that everybody believe in what you believe or they DIE. You get a machine gun and destroy a magazine office, or a disco. You might be one of the Arabs who thinks they get goats to fuck in heaven if they destroy a famous building in New York City. Maybe you put on idiot face-paint or carry an idiot-sign, and then go to the Capital and beat up police and pose with souvenirs like Nancy Pelosi’s property, all because an asshole President told you to, and an elected jerk named Hawley provoked you by strutting into the building waving his fist in the air. Maybe your for or anti-“FA” (I think that’s a brand of soap) and go nuts in hippie-dippie Oregon.

In today’s “cancel culture,” people get banned for saying something or doing something, but it’s quite selective. Another FUN thing, is to thumb through the history book, and get bonkers over what some person did 100 or 200 years ago, back when people still thought angels sat in the clouds and you’d go blind from masturbation. One of the ridiculous things about the various movements and slogans, is that they imply that the minority NEVER did anything bad, was ALWAYS the victim, and if in power, would NEVER abuse it.

Jesus Christ. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Do the “Black Lives Matter” folks ever point in the direction of Nigeria, where Boko Harum, or Procol Haram or whoever they are, rape and kidnap teenagers? Same color, folks. Anyone who sulks about the Civil War want to point out how often one African nation fought their neighbor and spilled blood for land and bullshit? Was Genghis Khan white? Sikhs? Didn’t anyone study history and realize that greed, war, bloodshed and power are obsessions of all races? No, today we hire “professors” who spread ethnic lies and retain their tenure. No “cancel culture” for THEM.

At one time, there were a lot of 78 rpm records that had some laughs over accents. Italian accents. Jewish accents. Dutch and German accents. Black dialect. Most of it was not hateful, just a comical tweak at odd new immigrants. The immigrants may have been a little pissed off at some of it, but they learned...to assimilate. They took the best of their culture, and added it to the melting pot. They kept their ethnic foods. Some kept their ethnic clothing. But they learned to speak in a non-stereotypical way, and were accepted. So was Chico Marx's idiotic Italian accent a bad thing? Or Fred Allen's alley, where you;d hear Southern, Jewish, New England and Irish dialect comedians get laughs?

Well, down below, just for the FUN of it, is a black guy laughing at the Chinese. Call it what it is. A novelty song. A bit of human nature. Cab didn’t mean much by it, he was just singing a song.

But...check out his mock-Chinese nonsense babbling at 2:23. Uh-oh. Will some radical Asian do-gooder declare him A RACIST?? Today, for antics like that, Cab's legacy of ALL his music could be banned from Spotify, and oh, my, that would mean his record label would have to do without his royalty check of $21.94. Oh, it’s all pretty complex and complicated. Some felt that Cab was “too ethnic” with his brand of hide-the-ho (or whatever that catch-phrase was). One generation spurns Fats Waller, and the next puts him on Broadway in “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Moms Mabley and Mantan Moreland were cheered in the 60’s and scorned in the 70’s. Too often, the real problems in life as ignored because people go on about petty bullshit and scream about somebody who should not be on American currency, like Abraham Lincoln (?). Revisionist history, “fake news,” slanted reporting…”and so it goes.” PS, we’re NOT supposed to like Charlie Chan movies? They’re quite entertaining, and this thing from Cab ain’t so bad either.

Cab Calloway chuckles over CHOP CHOP CHARLIE CHAN FROM CHINA

And now a COKE commercial message...from MARY WILSON and the SUPREMES

OK, it wasn't Mary Wilson and the Supremes. After a few sound-alike hits, it became Diana Ross and the Supremes. And then Diana Ross went solo.

While The Supremes are way too famous for THIS blog, a mention should be made of Mary Wilson, who along with Flo Ballard, created a pleasing and strengthening background for Diana, much the same way three anonymous guys backed Levi Stubbs who sang lead for The Four Tops.

The Supremes, their follies and fortunes, are the stuff of legend, quite a few books, and even a fictionalized Broadway musical, Dreamgirls. How they bickered or harmonized is important to some people, but for others, a copy of "The Supremes Greatest Hits" is an essential part of their collection, and might even include several more albums, including that one where they take on Liverpool hits.

On Twitter, Diana Ross offered a brief, rather cool statement:

"I am reminded that each day is a gift. I have so many wonderful memories of our time together. 'The Supremes' will live on in our hearts."

It's possible, back in the day, that the girls and their manager made more money shilling for Coke in a radio ad than they did off one of their lesser Top 20 singles.

Just a reminder -- Coke (the drug) is not good for you, and Coke (the drink) isn't much better, with its incredibly high sugar ratio. Any attempt to substitute a chemical for sugar, to create a "diet" version, just might land you six feet under a lot sooner than it did Mary Wilson.

Sing it, girls...

THE SUPREMES sing for COCA-COLA

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Jimmie Rodgers - Dead at age 87 - "When I was Leader of the Band"

Some years ago, Jimmie Rodgers autographed a CD for me and said, “Say hello to Bobby Cole for me.” While they were not exactly similar in style, they covered some of the same songs, had some of the same highs and lows, and ironically, wrote eerie, beautiful ballads about age and fame.

Bobby’s most legendary number is “Growing Old.” Sometimes, late at night in a club, he'd offer “So Sleeps the Pride,” a bittersweet meditation on his time in the spotlight. He never recorded it, which his fans always lamented. Jimmie Rodgers, who did record the pensive “Child of Clay” never waxed “Leader of the Band.” It appears below via a live rendition done some 16 years ago.

Jimmie died yesterday, January 18. After his breakout year (aside from "Honeycomb" he also married, and made his “Ed Sullivan Show” debut), Rodgers was welcomed on live show tours around the country. In 1958 and 1959 he was on the same bill with The Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, The Tune Weavers, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly among others. Yes, Jimmie was going to be part of Buddy Holly’s ill-fated winter tour, but had to cancel due to illness. Jimmie continued to have hit records, but not all the money that he deserved. This was because he was on the notorious Roulette Records, which labelmate Tommy James would later expose as Mafia-run.

In 1963, Jimmie moved over to Dot Records, and in 1967 with folk-rock now popular, signed with A&M, the label that also had faith in Phil Ochs. Rodgers’ career, which had flagged a bit, instantly gained a strong new direction via his ballad “Child of Clay.” But 1967 ended up as the worst year of his life. One source claims Jimmie's misery was due to Roulette's crooked owner Morris Levy raging over Jimmie's defection to A&M. Jimmie never confirmed this.

Rodgers told Rolling Stone (in a 1986 "Where are they Now" piece), “"I got beaten up by an off-duty Los Angeles policeman. I went to a Christmas party in December of 1967. On the way home a car pulled up behind me, blinked its lights. I pulled over and stopped. This guy got out, stood outside the car. I rolled down the window, and he hit me through the open window with a bar or something. I don't know what transpired because I was unconscious. I might have said something to him, 'Who are you?' or whatever, and that's all it took. Whether I cut him off on the road or what, we don't really know."

It’s possible Rodgers was being vague out of worry for the still-powerful president of Roulette, who had made no secret of telling people that if they dared to leave the label they’d get the same treatment as Rodgers. Apparently the mob, following Oscar Wilde's advice ("revenge is a dish best served cold") had waited a few years for the right time to get Jimmie, which coincided with his big comeback and new hit single. Rodgers wasn’t beaten up by just one off-duty cop. There were three on the scene, and all became implicated when Jimmie ultimately sued and settled.

The cop version seemed to change from an excuse that Jimmie was drunk and had needed to be subdued after being pulled over, to the even more ludicrous insistence that Jimmie had merely fallen down and injured himself. Once he had stopped falling down and injuring himself, they’d merely put him in his car and abandoned him so he could sleep it off.

To this day, the story remains hazy. Why would Roulette's nasty, Mafia-connected boss Morris Levy choose to "get" Jimmie by involving THREE POLICE OFFICERS? That's pretty bold. A real "hit" would involve thugs, and they would've simply waylaid Rodgers by luring him somewhere or staking out a secluded area. Here, Rodgers was coming home from a party, slightly buzzed perhaps, and driving down a highway when he was pulled over. At first, it was one cop. Then two others joined in. Was this just exasperated brutes laying a few shots on a driver who was out of it? It's doubtful all the damage could've been caused by a simple stumble and fall...as the cops insisted. Was anyone concerned that the beating could've been fatal?

There's nothing to suggest Morris Levy gave the cops bribes and asked them to stake out a party and wait for Rodgers to drive home alone. Nothing suggests that Levy may have had blackmail info that these cops were on the take, or did something they didn't want anyone to know about. Only one of them seems to have had an odious reputation, and that was after the beating. In 1993, Officer Raymond Whisman, tried to kill his wife. After hitting her, he held her at gunpoint, while several deputies tried to reason with him. The deputies eventually gained access and found the cop had an arsenal that included 17 weapons -- a ton of rifles and shotguns and two handguns. The Morris Levy angle comes from an autobiography by Tommy James. Is it possible that Levy simply took te Rodgers story and inserted himself to scare Tommy James into staying with Roulette? (All I know about Roulette, from two performers who were on a division of that label, is that he used their recordings from TV shows without authorization, and they chose not to do anything about these bootlegs.)

Meanwhile, after three brain surgeries, Jimmie Rodgers made a slow recovery. His loyal pal Joey Bishop publicized the problems via his late night talk show. He interviewed Rodgers during his road to recovery, and booked Jimmie in 1969 for a comeback appearance. It was at this point that I really became aware of this singer. Yes, I sort of knew of those early hits, but it was traumatic for a kid to see a guy lying in a hospital bed half-dead, and a comedian (Bishop) somberly interviewing him and wishing him well. (Years later, when I had a chance to communicate with Bishop, I mentioned that my first memory of him was not the sitcoms or stand-up, but his talk show and his concern for Jimmie Rodgers).

Unfortunately, Jimmie’s health situation was still far from perfect: “I started having convulsions,” he recalled. “I couldn’t get back. Nobody wanted me.” The fragile ex-pop star worked for a while painting houses. He eventually found his way back to the less strenuous world of show business, and was well enough to record again…and suffer the usual problems an artist has. He went into the studio in Nashville for a session, and nothing happened. A while later, somebody had seized the masters and marketed a 2 record set on K-Tel; no profit to Jimmie. He eventually managed to buy back the masters, but it didn’t do him much good with a semi-bootleg already out for several years.

Here at the blog where Mr. Ochs is so well remembered, I do have to say that for me, the most important part of Jimmie’s career remains the A&M years, and the folk rock material, not the happy folk stuff, pop material or C&W tracks. His best new song, "Leader of the Band," echoes the mood of the introspective A&M years.

Rodgers continued his sporadic comeback of live shows, records, and original songs. He was among the aging pop stars who managed to find a home in Branson, Missouri, where he had a small theater and played to the nostalgia trade…home folks who mostly wanted to hear “Honeycomb” or ‘Sweeter than Wine” or “that song that they re-wrote for the Oh-Oh Spaghettio’s commercials!”

Rodgers left Branson for semi-retirement some years ago, and his last gig, according to his website, was in Sandusky, Ohio, in August of 2014. I’m sure he gave the crowd a lot of smiles and a helping of “Honeycomb.” I don’t know if he went to open D tuning and sang about those days when he was…”Leader of the Band.”

Jimmie Rodgers Leader of the Band

BOBBY COLE - Reconstructing and Deconstructing "FLOWERS" (covered by Nancy Sinatra, never "perfected" for his own album)

The tapes I have of Bobby Cole go back, of course, more than 20 years. Some, given to me by his friends who were around well before I came onto the scene, to back 30 or more. As Mr. Ochs sang it, “I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody, outside of a small circle…” but why not at least have a 2021 entry on the blog, signifying not only many years of bringing obscurities to light, but getting through 2020? So...a few more items on a blog that has already served its purpose for so long, and is experiencing irritating technical difficulties both with the blogspot template and download companies that aren't all that reliable.

Some tapes that won’t appear here, are the quasi-interviews I did when Bobby was in a gregarious mood…phone tapes in which he touched more on aspects of nostalgia than anything lurid. No “dish” on Judy Garland or true confessions on some of the traumatic aspects of his family life. As I probably mentioned, I had never encountered a true alcoholic before, so sometimes, both at Campagnola late at night when it was near closing time, and on the phone, I was slow to pick up on how functionally drunk he could be. I do remember him taking a long time to autograph a copy of the Concentric album for me, but I was fairly clueless at first. Or I figured he was just “a little high,” and ignored his vague slide into gripes or insults directed at me. I mean, a lot of it was ludicrous. He’s sitting at our table at Campagnola and says, “I’m flirtin’ with your woman!” Like he expected me to ask him to step outside and fight. But he hadn’t been flirting, and I could tell it was the beer talking.

It was the beer talking. Sometimes, on his “break” between sets, he’d walk to the bodega that was down the block, and get himself a Heineken or two. He would NEVER summon the bartender or the waiter at Campagnola and drink during a set, or ask for a bottle of beer and take it outside. He tried to be as cool as possible, and no, in this case it didn’t affect his work, it just helped him get through the next 45 minutes.

I rarely had more than one beer, even in college. I was only truly drunk once — on my 18th birthday celebrating with a bottle of Yago Sangria and Bali Hai (thank you, stupid TV commercials for enticing me to get that awful awful stuff!). I can recall less than five times I was in a real BAR, and four of those times, I ordered Perrier or maybe nothing at all. The fifth time was the first time — high school English class! Jeez, i had a real bohemian teacher. Looked straight as an arrow, though, and was about 50, I guess. Only five of us showed up that afternoon for class, so the guy (rumor had it he was a heroin addict) decided to take us down to the hotel bar next door and have the class there, sitting at a round table. I ordered a whiskey sour, since it was the only thing I could think of. But no, fortunately for me, liquor, in any quantity, made me feel sluggish and uncomfortable. As for drugs, I could see the foolishness and danger without trying pills, etc. etc. A guy like McCartney, smoking dope for decade after decade, was the exception to the rule, but don’t get me started on the quality of his songwriting since the 80’s! How terrible that there are so many who kind the kiss of a high become the curse of wretched excess, and their personality, metabolism, whatever, leads them to being shunned by friends, and ultimately destroyed by addiction. Bobby would often vow, “I will NOT die DRUNK!” And he was true to his word. Some could seemingly smoke and drink and live to a good old age (Sinatra comes to mind) while others left earlier (Sammy Davis Jr.) Most agree that it was a heart attack or massive stroke that literally stopped Bobby in his tracks, as he was walking along 1st Avenue only a block from Campagnola on a bright winter’s day.

There was a time, A.C. (after Cole) when I was writing pulp horror and sci-fi stories, averaging one a month on deadine for at least five years. The pay was good and I liked the challenge and the result. But toward the end of the run (mags going out of business) I’d think up some idea, get a beginning, middle and end, and down ONE shot of whiskey to get started on the task. Remembering an interview with Tennessee Williams, I prided myself on “holding out” for a long time, AND for restricting myself to one mildly relaxing shot.

Oh…one more time at a bar. This involves Bobby. My lady and I went over to a really bad nightclub/restaurant called Judy’s (yes, named after HER) to catch Bobby at the piano. He was making his debut that night. No trio, just him. He had sent me a postcard about the new gig (which was shortly after the stint at Savoy Grill when I first met him). We walked in, showed the card (which said “no cover, no minimum”) and asked what the deal was (do they serve snacks, dinner, whatever.) The owner had a murderous expression on his face, and grunted something about the restaurant area being closed at that hour. He pointed us toward the bar area on the right, a pretty empty room with maybe one or two bar flies off at one end. We heard the familiar voice of Bobby Cole playing piano near the joint’s window.

We sat at the bar, she ordered a beer, I didn’t, and we listened to maybe one song. That’s when the hyper-wired owner of the place came over and said, “All right, get out…” pushing her half-filled glass back to the bartender. I hadn’t paid for the drink, the bartender didn’t say “Order a Coke or an over-priced Pelligrino water or something,” which I would’ve done. The owner told us to leave, saying in a low growl, “I have to pay for Bobby.” Fine, so alienate the only couple who came in, and who might be ordering quite a few drinks once the set was underway. And really, I would’ve ordered something if asked, but since I wasn’t, I was just standing there, not yet working up a thirst for an over-priced soft drink or two. I’m not sure how long Bobby lasted there, but I don’t think he played that joint too often before or since our one night of bewildering booting. We would’ve been regulars there, but not after such an obnoxious experience, which I never mentioned to Bobby. Soon he was at Campagnola as a regular. Do I need to add that Judy’s shuttered? Yep, like a hillbilly’s outhouse, nailed shut once the ten-foot hole was finally full to the brim with rotting shit and a swarm of flies.

So Bobby’s alcoholism took a while to understand and, sadly, very difficult to do much about (as he admitted, having been in rehab so many times, and at this point, having a craving that could be dangerous to stop cold turkey). One time when he was over, he managed to find…and guzzle down…the cooking sherry. Another time he demanded some whiskey, grumbled “you call THAT a drink?” and wanted me to fill the glass at least two or three shots’ worth. He was soon sitting on the floor in a stupor. Another time, at his place, he announced he was going downstairs to check on his laundry. Instead, he had hurried down the block and across the street to the corner bar. About ten minutes later, I went out looking for him, and he was sitting up against a fire hydrant. Somehow the cops had been called. I explained he lived just up the block. They put him in the back, and drove him to the apartment. I walked along, met them in the lobby. They got him inside. They asked him if he wanted to go to a hospital, and he said no. They shrugged and left him to me. Like Poe, it didn’t take much before he was incapacitated. The only thing I knew about such matters, was that Edgar A. Poe suffered in the same way. Sometimes a glass of wine was all it took. Sometimes, he was fine the next day, other times, he went on a binge. I quoted a Poe line to Bobby: “for what disease, is like alcohol.” Bobby: “Poe wrote that?” Yeah, Edgar knew.

The line is in “The Black Cat.” By a horrible coincidence, for a while Bobby’s bizarre roomie, Karen aka Inga, had a cat with one eye that needed a daily eye drop. It was not a pleasant sight, and the cat did not have a pleasant name: Shnoogie. The funny thing was to hear Bobby call out, in that familiar gruff rasp, a melodic, “Snoooo-geeeeee,” trying to find it for the dose. The woman was off in California trying to jump start her almost non-existent acting career, so there were many days when Bobby either couldn’t find the cat, didn’t get the drop in correctly, or was spending a few days with a girlfriend and mutually sharing just enough booze to get through the day without totally destroying the day — and night. And next day.

Lord knows, when he was on his own, what happened to produce an out-and-out blackout. I had no idea about such things, or that it was possible to be “functional” in any way, while being totally out of it. I suppose it sort of jogged my memory of what some of the dorm druggies were like when I was in college. They were the Walking Doped, maybe even able to hold a cafeteria try, or sit upright in class, but if you talked to them, they might be answering strangely.

There were times when he called up in a total blackout, speaking like something out of a Poe horror story, telling me about some horrible accident or bad news involving somebody friend or relative or whatever. The first time it happened, I was shocked and in disbelief. He was in a panic, fraught with terror…”She’s dead…I think she’s dead…” Who? What? What? I quickly turned on the tape recorder, which was always right there for when I did celebrity phone interviews or was on somebody’s radio show promoting a book. I wanted to get the facts on tape, and then call the police if necessary. I was getting more and more alarmed and confused. How did he know she was dead? When did he see her? He could not have seen her. She wasn’t even living in New York! Did somebody call him? No, he sounded like he witnessed it. WHAT WAS GOING ON? I asked questions, asked for details, but he was too worked up in his agony to respond. Fortunately, his panic ran its course, and he just sort of calmed down and said he could handle it, and hung up. My first experience with what a "blackout" can be like. I haven’t played that tape since, and I doubt any in his “small circle” would want to hear it because it is just too tragic.

Sometimes, it seems that not only could he very well tolerate playing in front of tipsy audiences, but he sometimes actually was visited by “the muse,” during a “lighter” moment of drinking. There’s a tape where he plays some of his more obscure songs for a female admirer, and when he gets to a song called “Alfred the Great,” he mentions that he wrote it while in one of those moments. No question, many creative people either jump-start with a drink, or work well with a buzz on, as it loosens up the subconscious. In comes the muse, who is somehow helping along what Norman Mailer called “the spooky art,” which is creating something almost on automatic pilot.

I suspect in Mailer’s case that early on, he was so wired, so full of ideas and rage, that he may have used alcohol (or whatever) to slow down the writing process, and focus and concentrate on the chapter in front of him, and not get lost in a ton of ideas, riffs and improvisations. I only met him a few times and didn’t talk shop with him. Tennessee Williams had a warning — “hold out as long as you can,” before resorting to booze to get your courage up or to summon the ghostly muse of the spooky art. I met him only as a photographer, so I never got a chance to talk to him at all. Meanwhile, here’s Bobby talking about one of his songs, which is something rare indeed.

Below is what I call a “deconstruction and reconstruction” of “Flowers,” which happened to be, to my knowledge, the only song written by Bobby Cole that was covered by another singer during his lifetime. It was done by Nancy Sinatra. Bobby mentioned that he wished he’d produced the track, since it would’ve been a whole lot better. At the time, many artists and songwriters were dabbling in a kind of “art song” that involved stretching past the 3 minute “hit song” limit, drifting into grand orchestration or taking dramatic turns involving spoken word. Even Roy Orbison got the bug — listen to his seven minute “Southbound Jericho Parkway,” from 1969. It’s a grim portrait of a working man who has been divorced, and spurned by his hipster children.

But first, here’s more than seven minutes of Bobby going over the song for what was probably one of his music students, rather than a girlfriend or some platonic fan. He goes through the song, which has some impressive key changes, and some very sharp lyrics: “While you were learning to love, I was learning to hate.” He offers the aside, “I like that line,” but later admits, “I want to communicate,” so a song must hit the listener very directly; unlike a poem where lines can be digested at a slower pace, or re-read, the lyric in a song has to grab instantly. “How I write a song…I have a scenario…” And then he proceeds to re-construct that very line, wondering if there are ways of making it better.

Here’s a rare opportunity to hear Bobby discussing one of his songs, offering a few insights into the creative process, and yes, he does mention Nancy Sinatra towards the end of what turns out to be about 10 minutes of revisiting and discussing the nuances of the song.

BOBBY COLE - FLOWERS - ten minutes - Reconstructing and Deconstructing

BOBBY COLE — Well, when do we get that full-blown ORGY???

OK, “full blown” and orgy” go together, or should, but not here.

From the same session as “Flowers,” here’s Bobby about to give his female acolyte a chance to hear the unrecorded “The Orgy,” but we don’t get too much of it. It was apparently a work in progress. I doubt that Bobby was going to get too graphic anyway. Symbolic perhaps, in poetic terms, but I have no idea, since I don’t have a xerox copy of this one. Maybe it was never completed and sent to ASCAP. I don’t know much about ASCAP procedure, as my stuff is with BMI. Ahem ahem, I like to think that my songs, like Bobby’s are so “unique” (his favorite word) that nobody but the original author could do ‘em justice…hence the glaring lack of cover version competition. That they're on Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, iTunes and the usual suspects, where people can discover them, is fine with me. Memorizing that stuff and trying to find venues, and travel...hey, I didn't want to do that even before Covid-19. But I digress…

After sketching through a bit of “The Orgy,” Bobby realizes that some of the lyrics and phrasing could be considered Dylanesque. Not quite like John Lennon or Phil Ochs in those unearthed home recordings and bootlegs where they dabble in Dylan parody, Bobby always respected and admired Bob. Here, he may have been a little surprised in noticing the connection for possibly the first time. Oh, if only “The Orgy” had been covered by Bob Dylan back in the day. At the moment, "The Orgy" in sheet music form could be lost, or could require a "serious" inquiry (and money) to view it at ASCAP, or could be on a tape somewhere.

THE ORGY...with a bit of a Bob Dylan impression towards the end

Saturday, December 19, 2020

BOBBY COLE - BUS 22 TO BETHLEHEM

Below, “Bus 22 to Bethlehem,” for several reasons. First off, it’s seasonal. Second, it’s more accurate now than ever (“…the Christians and the Muslims exchanged frozen looks.”) OK, sometimes the exchange is gunfire, and usually one-sided by terrorists at unarmed people. I know a Coptic Christian who fled the Middle East to come to America and safety. If you check Wikipedia to find out more about Coptic Christians, you’ll find this line: “ The abduction and disappearance of Coptic Christian women and girls also remains a serious ongoing problem…” But I don't want to digress...

The THIRD reason for choosing this song is that it jump-started my long friendship with Bobby Cole. I may have mentioned this before. I’m not an “old fan,” who used to get loaded at Ali Baba and listen to the original trio. I didn't rush out and get "NEW NEW NEW" when it appeared on Columbia around 1960 or whenever it was. It was an era when the "American Songbook" was given a little extra "swing" by hip new musicians, but to modern ears, that stuff doesn't sound all that new. Having a member of the trio join Bobby in singing from time to time is quite a distraction. As for Bobby's solo on "Ebb Tide," which I thought was a highlight of the album, I got a typical Bobby Cole growling response: "I sound like I've got a sock in my mouth!"

You wanna see a publicity shot promoting the original trio, one you might not have seen before...ok....

I didn’t become enthralled seeing him on “The Judy Garland Show," either. I was a kid who was buying Beatles singles. My intro was the revelation of hearing “Mr. Bojangles” on the radio. Who had a voice like that? What was going on with that wistful electric violin? How did the calliope from “Mr. Kite” break down and end up in the shabby world of a “down and out” entertainer in jail? Who’s this BOBBY COLE guy? Where do I see him perform?? Jeez, how the hell do I get a copy of the record? As it turned out, some record stores only had the Jerry Jeff Walker ATCO version, which came out at the same time. I had to get Bobby’s via mail order!

That’s when I discovered the B-side, “Bus 22 to Bethlehem,” which Bobby told me was quickly done in a folk arrangement, maybe only a few takes, just a quick B-side thing for the rush-release of a song he had discovered by hearing Jerry sing it in a small club...before Jerry got a contract to record it. Cole had devoted all his energies to producing his vision of Jerry’s simplistic country strum. It was just an irony that Walker's buzz extended to ATCO and the ATCO version arrived almost simultaneously as Bobby's version on Columbia's DATE RECORDS division.

Many years later, I finally saw the ad I was searching for: Bobby Cole…The Bobby Cole Trio…playing at the Savoy Grill. Time to put on a suit, act cosmopolitan, and saunter in, dealing with the affected world of a maitre’ d and all the rest of the high class pretense. Lady and I entered this world mainly because of two songs that Bobby wasn’t even going to perform that night. His sets were loaded with the “American Songbook” material that were crowd favorites...music they knew from his jazz days at Ali Baba or Jilly's and other joints where Bobby's friend Frank Sinatra might be in the crowd. And yes, he played those vintage songs and sang them wonderfully with his ace new trio members, and was, to use one of his favorite words, “unique.”

As was expected of him, during a break in the sets, Bobby “worked” the crowd, going from table to table with a smile, and some “are you having a good time” quick comments, and getting nods and smiles and little compliments back. He got to our table, and we offered our compliments to him, and then I said, “Are you going to play BUS 22 TO BETHLEHEM?” Bobby gave a quick little comical mock-frown (ala Robert DeNiro) as if I was being a wiseguy, and said, “You hang around…I wanna talk to you later!”

After the next set, we talked for a little while, and I mentioned how much that single knocked me out, and he gave me his card. Yes, if he had a mailing list, put me on it. Let me know where and when he’d be playing, and I’d be there. It grew into a very close friendship…there was a period there when I was the “go to” friend when he was alone or in trouble. Part of it, I admit, is that I wasn’t miles away as some others over the years ended up, and I was new to his alcohol problems while others had, under the sound advice of AA, chosen to “let go and let God.” Anyway…

December of 1996. It had been an upbeat time for Bobby. For many months now, his lifestyle had changed. He had moved out of the apartment next door to the Dakota that he had shared platonically with a very strange actress-widow-religious nut. He and a cute blonde (he nick-named her “Little Mouse” affectionately, perhaps not to her face) and she had found a love nest where they could live together.

She was smart, enthusiastic, and…unfortunately heading into the last week or two of December, having some problems with Bobby’s inevitable little falterings. Going out to get two bottles of Heineken from a bodega, was sometimes not quite enough, and he sometimes missed a night or two at Campagnola, which was his steady booking for many years (and a a time when bar-restaurant piano players were more and more of a rarity).

The Wikipedia entry, re-written several times with the help of friends, relatives or both, has finally gotten December 19th right…adding what was written here many years ago. Bobby didn’t “slip on the ice and hit his head on the sidewalk,” a weird supposition that Ron Meyers placed on his defunct website where he sold CD-Rs of Bobby’s demos and outtakes. Bobby may have been under a bit of a strain, having to find other places to stay for a little while when “The Mouse” told him he couldn’t keep drinking while in the love nest. But he was still smoking, still weighing several pounds over fighting weight, and in his 60's. He had lived a rugged life and it caught up to him in just a few moments. He simply slowed down as he walked, a block uptown from Campagnola, seized by an apparent heart attack.

Back to the incidents of December 19th. Within a day or two of Bobby’s passing, “The Mouse” wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery of what happened and where he was found. She talked to Salvatore at Campagnola, and then traced Bobby’s movements that day, coming to the scene where the ambulance picked up Bobby and took him to the hospital. She spoke to the store owners on the block, to see if they came out to find out what was going on. As irony would have it, the incident happened in front of a bar. The bartender hadn’t yet opened the joint for the evening, and happened to look out the window and notice a white-haired gentleman in distress. He was leaning against a lamppost for support, and then slowly, slipped downward. The ambulance came quickly, but he was probably DOA by the time he got to Roosevelt Hospital (yes, same one that received John Lennon).

Patrons at Campagnola eventually got the bad news. There would be a replacement for Bobby...the somewhat grim looking guy who so often was called in when Bobby was having a wayward weekend...but The Man was not coming back. A little update on the joint for you:

Campagnola no longer has a pianist. Some entries on social media about the place mention how much “fun” the current pianist was, and how he would encourage everyone for sing-alongs. I'm not sure if this was the same guy who was Bobby's sub and steady replacement, or yet another replacement. The "jolly piano-man schtick" was, of course, the exact opposite of Bobby’s approach to entertainment. I suppose the sing-alongs may have delighted the peculiar crowd that would stand around at the bar in the middle of the night. I assume the songfests didn't start earlier, causing indigestion for the dour and affluent (and sometimes dangerous-looking) patrons who were paying high prices for their pasta, fish or steak. Oh yes, and the expensive Italian desserts. And drinks. And they knew to order the ITALIAN brand of bottled water, Pellegrino, NOT PERRIER!! (Mention Perrier and it was like you gave the wrong password from Gotti).

I walked by Campagnola one night a few weeks ago, and it was freezing cold and the place of course had NO indoor service because of the pandemic. They did erect an outdoor shack, which was long enough to seat about four tables. How any food could stay warm for more than five minutes I have no idea, but there was an elderly affluent couple in winter clothing, chowing down on some pasta. There were several uniformed waiters standing at attention waiting for the affluent diners to issue a command, or ready to “seat” new customers. You do NOT just go sit down, even under such ridiculous and shabby conditions…you signal for the waiter or the maitre’ d! I looked in the window…no piano. There was a framed photo of Bobby’s replacement on a little table that included some bottles and a vase of flowers…a table probably ready to be removed once indoor dining resumed.

Yes, there was a little memorial to Bobby, thanks to “The Church of the Healing Christ.” Bobby and I sometimes talked about religion, or poetry, or his favorite films (“I call him AWESOME Welles!” he declared). Bobby was not only extremely well schooled in classical music and theory and technique, he was well read, as you might tell from some of his lyric references, and the quote of a fairly obscure poet on the back of his Concentric solo album.

While the woman he’d lived with for so many years was most definitely a bit off the deep-end when it came to religion (she had a veiled bust of Christ in her bedroom), Bobby did accompany her to Sunday services quite a bit, and not just out of obligation. Though he was typically gruff about the name of the place (“The Healing Christ!”) he was a sincere seeker of meaning and of trying to piece together some of the deep, deep issues in his life, from deaths in his family to estrangements from ones he still loved, to his battle with the bottle.

I didn’t want to intrude on Bobby at the church, but I was certainly curious about the place, and I did attend a service there, knowing that for one reason or other, he wasn’t going to be there that Sunday morning. I also attended the service that included a memorial tribute to him in the program. I didn’t see any familiar faces at all from the world of Bobby Cole. I do remember speaking to a couple who apparently recognized me from Campagnola, and mentioned that they saw him there many times. And I did talk briefly to the Reverend Nielsen, the very unusual woman who was the heart and soul of “The Healing Christ.”

Here's a scan of the Playbill-sized modest booklet for the service held on January 12, 1997.

Long time ago. 1997... well before the days when I owned any “sneaky” little camera or device that could record video or take pictures surreptitiously. I wish I could show you a picture of Anna May Nielsen in all her splended glory! She presided over the services in a flowing gown, more ornate than what you might see being worn by a woman singing in a choir. The robe-gown seemed like some heavenly creation that Kitty Carlisle might have worn in a light opera. She looked very much like Kitty Carlisle, too, an older woman with flowing dark hair to her shoulders, her voice and manner confident, loving, and reassuring.

“The Church of the Healing Christ” was founded in 1906, and had only a few leaders over the past decades. I think the fortunes of the church took a hit over the years. I'm assuming that in the 30's and 40's and 50's (when leadership changed only once) they held services in an actual church. By the time Bobby Cole was attending, services were being held in a very large auditorium that was used primarily by a music school, as I recall. There were folding metal chairs that could seat maybe 50 people or less, and there was the bare stage, where Reverend Nielsen stood in front of a podium.

There were modest refreshments on a long table in the back, along with a donation box. She was an eloquent speaker, and as quaint as the surroundings were, she did have a presence that quickly made you feel like you were truly in a church, and in front of someone who was blessed with some kind of divine spirit, and might pass some knowledge, righteousness or comfort along to you.

Bobby died on December 19, 1996 and Rev. Anna May Nielsen died at the Specialty Care Granite Ridge facility in Canada on December 22, 2007. Her husband had died before her, and her relatives were mostly neices and nephews and two step-children. She attended the University of Manitoba graduating in 1939, and her “regular job” was with the United Nations, first at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and later at the editorial department of the United Nations Industrial Development department (whatever that is) for a total of 33 years. The remarkable woman could speak French, Spanish, Danish and Dutch.

She attended the Unity School of Christianity, became a licensed and ordained minister, and on Sundays presided over her devoted following, which included an avid student that those in attendance knew as Robert Cole.

BUS 22 TO BETHLEHEM

THE WRITINGS OF PHIL OCHS (and a December 25th song from Bonnie Koloc)

This has been a tough December (following many and many a tough month in this most immemorial year. Heading into the supposedly “cheerful” holiday season, which many find depressing even in the best of times, we had the 40th anniversary of an assassination.

...distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor….”

For me, and so many others, it still is a bitter hurt.

Of course, the pandemic came back with a vengeance. The KILL rate may be somewhat low (in America, 3,000 die each day but the country has about 300 million, so what are the odds, the “so what” people snicker). Meanwhile, those sickened by Covid are clogging up the hospitals to full capacity, and anti-vax anti-mask assholes will prolong the suffering well past another few months, for sure.

TODAY? DECEMBER 19th?

It’s the anniversary of a death not particularly well remembered at this point (see: COLE, Bobby) and a birthday that unfortunately lets us know that Phil Ochs is not among the small circle of friends celebrating his 80th. He died at 35 by his own hand, at the end of his rope.

His friendly rival Bob Dylan has apparently retired, by the way. The “never ending tour” was no rehearsal for retirement, but perhaps he was feeling the strains, and the pandemic shut down was the final push. Rumor has it he instantly took his band off the payroll, and of course, soon after, sold the rights to all his songs. That does seem like he may simply spend time painting, sculpting, writing memoirs, and perhaps calling in some people for a new studio album if he feels like it.

A bright spot for me was, after being postponed by the pandemic because nobody was able to work at the publishing house or the printer etc. etc., “The Writings of Phil Ochs” scheduled for May, FINALLY made its appearance here in December. For those “50 fans” who can’t be wrong, and hopefully another 500 or 1000 at least, this is a handsomely done volume that saves us a grip to fucking Oklahoma to try and make an appointment to peruse the actual documents for a few hours at the “Woody Guthrie Museum” where they lay. (It’s nice, and often the only thing to do, when material is donated to a college library or a museum, but so many of these places are proprietary. They won’t stream online or allow scholars to get copies for a legit research project. They deny rights to documentary film makers. So big thanks THIS book appeared at all!)

The mild caveat here is that the book IS dated. Only Phil fans would be interested in his Free Press interview with failed mayoral candidate and current L.A. police chief Tom Reddin…and then, only because the interview exposes Phil’s honesty and vulnerability. He admits to having panic attacks while talking to the guy, and Reddin comes off as mature and sympathetic, telling Phil to take it easy, have a glass of water…rather than snicker at the hippie who has crumbled in confronting “The Man.” Phil’s interview questions, by the way, are much more journalist than Abbie Hoffman wiseass, another thing to his credit if you bother to read the piece.

As for “Will Elliot Richardson Be Our Next President?” that’s one of the bon bons I’ll save for last, or not at all, like the nougat piece in the Whitman sampler box. Likewise, “Brezhnev on TV’s Let’s Make a Deal” probably wasn’t all that hilarious to readers even at the time it was published. The provocatively titled “James Dean Lives in Indiana” is actually just a screed against Hubert Humphrey. Anyone remember “The Happy Warrior?”

For happiness…for a shot of Phil the wicked wiseguy, I’m glad to say that the book fearlessly (who knows who owns copyright, if anyone, for 60’s magazines and newspapers) reprints an article from Cavalier. Cavalier was a B-level men’s magazine competing with Playboy. It just happened to be a very worthy adversary, with a lot of the more radical writers and comedians contributing pieces, and the girls showing a little more, and a little more often than what you got in Hef’s mag. Along with Rogue (where Lenny Bruce had a column) and Swank (with Bruce Jay Friedman editing), Cavalier back issues are certainly worth reading.

Phil’s put-on contemplates a bunch of new releases with exciting photos on the cover. It was first published in DECEMBER of 1965, and includes these:

COVER: A color close-up of a large female breast.

TITLE: More of Judy Henske

COVER: A dungareed half-smling long-haired boy walking down a snow-covered street wth Susie Rotolo.

TITLE: The Free-Stealing Phli Ochs

COVER: A dungareed half-smiling long-haired boy leaning over the body of a dead Negro woman with a cane.

TITLE: Still Another Side of Bob Dylan.

There’s more to this still-amusing article. MUCH more interesting and often valuable writings in here, including a few diary entries from Phil’s trips overseas. If it’s any consolation, though Phil died at 35, he traveled the world more times than some seasoned 80 year-old, and left behind a prolific amount of songs and writings, too, AND his political activity from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles would have exhausted most anyone else. As Paul Simon sang it, “some folks’ lives roll easy…” and some people just meander through it, and Phil…for much of it, it was an amazing rollercoaster of a ride with a great amount of highs.

A discovered gem from Phil’s very early days (yes, they’ve got his writings from college newspapers and even earlier) is “The Fight,” a short short story he wrote while attending the Staunton Miltary Academy in 1958.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this book, and it’s always interesting to see who Phil was championing (Buffy Saint-Marie, Gordon Lightfoot) and true fans will even wonder, marvel, and be confused by the assortment of never-before-seen poems he wrote. If you were mildly baffled by some of Phil’s liner note-poems, here’s more of the same.

There are also never-before-seen photos, which show the artist at his best; revolutionary and challenging, cheeky and satiric, or just staring right through you with poetic poignance, seeming to know you and holding secrets he will reveal in song.

David Cohen’s previous tome was a valuable bio-bibliography published long before the Internet, which remarkably gave Phil fans a huge amount of stuff to try and find, from writings (now collected here) to bootleg concert recordings.

There will be celebrations for Phil’s birthday if you can find them, including “Phil Ochs Night” things, and I suppose some “helpful” people giving away Phil’s Elektra and A&M records along with the more forgivable passing around of the thirsty boots.

BIG thanks here to David Cohen for ALL his research work and editing, and to the “Phil Ochs Estate” (listed as copyright owners for this book ie, brother Michael Ochs and daughter Meegan Ochs).

This December, we can still give thanks for staying alive, and for most, being able to say the same for friends, relatives and those we admire. And, cliche though it is, the “archive’s alive” on Phil’s recordings, and now, at least, submitted for your approval…here is “THE WRITINGS OF PHIL OCHS.”

Your download?

Well, there are even more obscure folkies out there. And I’ve always liked Bonnie Koloc’s melancholy “25th of December.”

“My baby left me a little too soon….and it’s so hard to find just a little piece of mind when everything you’ve got’s been taken away…”

BONNIE KOLOC- THE 25th of DECEMBER

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

For Chanukah: "WHEN MESSIAH COMES" - Herschel Bernardi and Sheldon Harnick versions

Chanukah starts at sundown tomorrow. Or does it? Doesn't it? The Jewish people are indeed very smart, to keep track of their major holiday! The Christians know "December 25th" and shoot for it every time, but the Jews? Like the people themselves over 2,000 years, their major holiday keeps moving. "What date is it this time?" and "Who hit you in the head because you're Jewish, and won't be arrested for committing a hate crime? This neighborhood...maybe we need to move again..."

Fact is, more slavery and hate crimes have befallen the Jews than any other race, but since they don't blow up theaters or riot and break windows and steal sporting goods, nobody much gives a damn. That's a fact. But let's leaven the grimness with some typical humorous Jewish irony: the song "When Messiah Comes."

The song was cut from "Fiddler on the Roof." It seemed like the reason was that the song was just a tad too dark in acknowledging that the Messiah hasn't come despite all the misery (Jesus hasn't shown either). In Brooklyn, part of New York City, which has the largest Jewish population aside from Israel, many Orthodox Jews were convinced that Rabbi Schneerson was the Messiah, and after his death, he would somehow come back to life and prove it, and all would be well. No, it hasn't happened yet and he's been gone many years now.

So what happened to "When Messiah Comes?" In the show, the bedraggled, bewildered townspeople of Anatevka must flee for their lives due to a pogrom. Tevye acknowledges this misery, but muses that "When Messiah Comes..." things will finally improve. Only the song is loaded with bitterly humorous truths. Yes, "we're still here," but the Messiah's reason for the long delay? "How terrible I felt you'll never know!" Oy.

Audiences were not laughing. The song is, admittedly, not going to put a smile on the average religious person's face, but it came at a dramatic and sad moment in the show...the uprooted Jews having to trudge to hoped for safety in a foreign country, preferably America. Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the lyrics, is no stranger to irony. Some might remember the Kingston Trio's "Merry Minuet." In that one, Harnick wrote about the bloodthirsty world of countries warring with each other, but done with the joy of a grinning skull. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Harnick, and I brought along the printed out "When Messiah Comes" for him to sign. I did admit I almost chose "Merry Minuet." Anyway....

"When Messiah Comes" is of course not on the original soundtrack (Zero Mostel) and not in the movie version (Topol), but when Herschel Bernardi took over for Mostel on Broadway, he was such a hit, Columbia put out a solo album in which he sang all the hit songs from the show AND added the missing song.

Here's a bit of levity to go with the unleavened bread that some might figure should be eaten around Chanukah time as well as Passover.

Sheldon Harnick is still with us, though he de-activated his Facebook page. Herschel Bernardi (October 30-1923-May 9, 1986) could still be alive and with us, except it either wasn't God's plan, or there is no God. Or God is selective about who gets to be 100 and how miserable it is to actually be that age. Is the pandemic just another test before the Earth is saved and pollution and over-population and war cease? Will people stop getting awful diseases or shoot each other, and live hundreds of years instead of popping off routinely at 70 or 80 or even at birth? We may not know for sure until Messiah comes.

HERSCHEL BERNARDI VERSION

SHELDON HARNICK VERSION

For Christmas: TURLEY RICHARDS - I HEARD THE VOICE OF JESUS

 

 

The fictional LOU GRANT once declared, to MARY RICHARDS, "You have spunk....I HATE SPUNK." 

One of the many things I hate...HYPE. There's no shortage of dopes who will tell you, perhaps with a finger jabbing your chest, "THIS is the BEST rock and roll record ever made..." (You also have to suffer people who will tell you about THE BEST in just about any category. Like, they insist you go to their favorite pizza joint because "THEY HAVE THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD.")

So I hesitate in saying that Turley Richards has given the BEST performance ever on a single 45 rpm (which truncated the song from over 6 minutes on the album to about 4 minutes).  But using the Prof. Irwin Corey "HOWEVER," it would be difficult to find a more impressively versatile performance. From Elvis to Orbison to McCartney to Aretha and back, most great performances are touching, exciting, or memorable but remain in one genre. THIS song, if you stay with it, manages (Edwin Hawkins did the arrangement) make great use of Turley's multi-octave range AND his ability to sing folk, blues, soul, gospel and falsetto. (Stay with it...the song starts a bit slow, and gains amazing momentum).

That, along with the subject matter, is what makes it so impressive, if not a "BEST." Quite an achievement for a recording now 50 years old.

 

For the "holiday season," sober and muted as it is for most people, and when certain obnoxious stores INSIST on playing atrocities like "Feliz Navidad," "Frosty the Snowman," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Wonderful Christmas Time" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," here's a song with a lot more meaning. 

Turley Richards, who was on many major labels without major success, makes a living teaching people to sing, and helping people record themselves. You can check other entries on the blog to read his remarkable story (two blog entries are devoted to his book Blindsighted). The good news, in these troubled times where it would be difficult for him to teach except via phone or Zoom, is that Turley's just released a new 2 CD compilation of his best work. It's called "The Man in Me," and you can get it on his TurleyRichards dot com:

In the words of the great Eta James, “at last!” This has been a monster project to create-sifting through all of my unreleased recordings to choose what I wanted to present to you, would be a tough task for someone sighted. It’s made even more difficult for me as my “filing system” is to listen and listen and listen again. And then I started writing again a few months ago and decided to record three new songs to include. I think it will be worth the wait!

Some of these recordings were master demos and some were live performances. All have been re-mastered by Chris Greenwell at Louisville’s own Downtown Recording Studio to give you the best quality listening experience.

These songs cover 50 years of my career from 1970 to 2020

THE PLAGUE - Here Today Gone Tomorrow especially if you listen to Clapton or Van

 


One thing we've definitely learned from the pandemic: a lot of people are assholes. Some are ignorant assholes. Others are arrogant assholes. Still more are just plain stupid assholes. The ignorant ones don't understand the importance of masks, distancing or vaccines. The arrogant ones figure they're somehow immune, or it's a sign of weakness to be cautious. Then there are the stupid ones who think it's all a government conspiracy or some kind of attempt to "infringe" on "freedom." 

Of course its possible to be both ignorant, arrogant AND stupid. (Nobody like that reads THIS blog). Perhaps fitting into all three characters is a certain idiot savant "guitar hero" named Clapper, or something like that. He was influenced in his efforts to prove that drugs can continue to affect a person, by a guy who has developed the body of a suckling pig while singing like a rabid goose. Moving Van or something like that. That's what he fucking looks like. A moving van in a pork pie hat. 

Keeee-rist: 

What you see from the pictures, by the way, is that Clapper hasn't opened his eyes in 40 years. (Let's face it, "Layla" was a long time ago, and his mute, moody slow version of the song was pretty lame, as has been most of his later albums). Van? Blind completely to sanity. Now, this asshole also hasn't done anything too great in 40 years, and he sounded retarded when he was mildly worth listening to. "Moondance," yeah, some kind of jazz-rock fusion that wasn't bad. I'm not sure why he was babbling so much about a "Brown Eyed Girl." They are VERY common aren't they? How about wanting a girl with one brown eye and one green one? THAT would celebrate a much more unique female. (One blue eye and one brown one, or one blue eye and one green one, or a cyclops...all would've have made that garble-voiced song a lot more interesting).

Van Morrison somehow thinks that the government is being “FASCIST” by protecting assholes from themselves. What else, Van, no speed limits on the highways? Legalizing heroin? Allowing everyone in England to own an assault rifle?  

Wearing a mask is not wearing a muzzle because of government sadism. It’s to protect people for their down good. IT IS THAT SIMPLE. Making sure people stay the fuck away from each other via distancing is SIMPLE, too. Fact is, if this wasn't a rule in stores, arrogant assholes would get in your face all the time, instead of being shown the door.
 

Funny, Van Morrison doesn’t believe in “Freedom” when it comes to protecting his music. He is one of the most virulent anti-blog anti-piracy guys around. Try to put up Van Morrison’s shit and WHAM, it’s taken down. Is he being a FASCIST? He actually thinks some government laws are good?

 What Eric and Van are mostly grumbling about (and really, nobody under 60 gives a fuck about them) seems to be the government NOT doing ENOUGH for musicians. 

 There's been a bit of elitist shit from musicians and the Broadway crowd: "We need the arts! It's an outrage the venues have closed! Give money to all the simpering actors and the glowering musicians who are not being allowed to prance around on a stage! We NEED entertainment! Don't shut these venues down just because of the worst plague in 100 fucking years!"

To this I reply: VAN, ERIC, take a look down any fucking street in a city or town. How many theaters and rock venues do you see...compared to restaurants? Bars? Schools? ALL have suffered. So have business from barber shops to bowling alleys to gyms to recording studios. It's pretty arrogant to be spouting off about rock shows, when schools are closed and museums and libraries too. PRIORITIES. It's unfortunate that famous has-been rock stars can get publicity and attention for what THEY think is a priority, and the media wouldn't pay the same attention to a spokesman for teachers, the curator of a museum, or even the owner of a chain of failing restaurants...all of whom deserve the publicity too, if not moreso.

Here's Van whining "save live music," as if that's the priority, above saving lives, putting kids in school, having restaurants open, helping Mom and Pop stores stay around, keeping nursing homes safe, and taking care of so many people who have essential jobs that have been fucked over for the past six months!< P>

Who is speaking out for "save the restaurant owner and his staff, who don't have "take out food" and rely on people to come in for steaks or spaghetti or whatever, and have been starving for the past six months?

Shouldn't the government's priority be the average person who can't work? In the USA, the government sent out ONE "stimulus" check. That was it. Sadly, a lot of businesses have failed over these agonizing months. Many restaurants have gone out of business. It's not just ROCK venues that are suffering. If Eric and Van want to raise money, via a bad record anybody can bootleg on the Internet free, fine. But have some common fucking sense about it. It's not "FASCIST" to protect people from their own stupidity. Unfortunately, it isn't just STUPID people who die of Covid because they all crowded around on the beach or defiantly in a bar, they spread it to normal people.

Van supposedly will send his royalty checks to needy musicians who have lost work due to Covid. I do hope that includes guys like Turley Richards, or ladies like Sonja Christina of Curved Air, or Eleanor McEvoy, and others who play the smaller venues and rely on touring for several months because they don’t play the arenas like Van and Eric. I doubt anyone will see much money...let's remember the farces like the "Concert for Bangla Desh" where the profits got mis-managed. Rockers are notoriously stupid when it comes to trusting managers and accountants with funds!  

To quote an R.E.M. line, “Everybody hurts…”

Perhaps none hurt more than the front-line nurses and doctors, who are overwhelmed in some towns and cities by cases of Covid. Some have fallen victim, either physically or psychologically. That's a lot worse than somebody with a day job having to sit out "open mic" night in Bristol.

 Phil Ochs used to say that the liberal was “ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.” And Van Morrison, because it affects his flatulent, inflated ego so much, has gone 70 degrees to the right, to the point of being a Trumper; a totally ignorant loudmouthed fool.  
    
 Governments have been trying, ever since this shit began, to get people back to work …. that way they can collect taxes and have a strong economy. Fer Chrissake, the last thing any country wants is tons of people sick and/or out of work. Get real, my drugged up rock "idols."

Hey Van, whatever became of "The Plague?" Just one of many rock groups who didn't quite have the luck in getting a song played by a disc jockey, and instead having to give up on being creative and getting paid for it. We're all "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" or at some other unspecified date in the future. Let's not making it "Here Today Gone Today" because somebody breathed Covid on us! 

Listen or download: THE PLAGUE -

Monday, November 09, 2020

TOM KENNEDY dies -- Joe Biden will not be hosting "NAME THAT TUNE"

He was affable. Damn affable. A nice guy. 


 

Being a quiz show host looks easy but it's not. The best of them have a tricky, quirky attitude...a simultaneous amusement and disgust at their greedy but fallible and silly contestants. Bob Barker had that, as did Monty Hall. Taking it up or down a notch, Bob Eubanks leered and provoked idiot newleyweds while Richard Dawson was the kissin' curmudgeon. 

Ron Ely, who has had a tragic last few years, was a handsome (best remembered as TV's "Tarzan") guy who moved to the daytime quiz "Face The Music" in 1980, after his acting career began to slow. He is noted for having invented the "double finger point," using the index fingers on BOTH hands to urge viewers to come back and enjoy more sadism. 

Better known is "Name that Tune," which probably had its biggest audience when it was hosted by Tom Kennedy (in the 70's). Tom's previous biggie was "You Don't Say" in the 60's, and he took over for Allen Ludden on "Password Plus" in 1980.  

We will not see the likes of Tom Kennedy again...nor "Name that Tune" or "Face the Music." At one time, music was our great joy. It brought families together, whether to awfully "Sing Along with Mitch" on anything from folk songs to pop hits, or to watch "The Ed Sullivan Show" and not turn away from the opera singer or country singer, teen rock star or beltin' Broadway crone. Now? Music does not bring us together. 

Joe Biden, with the help of a reported vaccine for Covid-19, might bring us together for a little while, but this is a changed world, and you can hardly count on your fingers the hit songs from 2019, 2018 or 2017 that you can sing the lyrics to. You can hardly name a single you BOUGHT. The Grammy awards is a travesty that now ignores classical and jazz and highlights C&W, crossover wimps like Sam Smith or Adele, and anyone of color who raps. None of these categories appeal to the young and old of all races. 

Maybe, like clean air, we ran out of MELODIES. How "catchy" has McCartney been in the past 20 years, or Elton? What greatness has come out of Broadway in 20 years? 

Another problem with MUSIC quiz shows is the lazy rights owner fat-cats from RIAA and the other organizations, who sit back and charge huge fees for the use of music that the composers barely make a penny on. 

It is much less expensive to do "Wheel of Fortune" or "Family Feud" than pay for every fresh 10 seconds of music on a half hour show....only to find that Gramps does not know who Jay-Z is, Mom never heard of K-Pop, and Mr. Cool Kid grins and says "Before my time, Dude" when he listens to 10 seconds of "Michelle" or "Yesterday." 

At one time, music did bring us together. Even songs sung in Italian or Japanese made the charts, and artists such as Connie Francis and Neil Sedaka put out albums of ethnic hits so the point where you didn't know what their race or religion might be. Now, you're lucky if a few people can sing along to some dopey Disney thing like "You've got a Friend In Me," because most people don't want or care about friends OR music outside their own race and religion now.  

You can find a few examples of Tom Kennedy's "Name that Tune" on GooTube, which I don't feel like linking to, since it slows down the page. Today the guy could never get work. A white guy. Nobody wants that anymore. Gotta be a professional actor if you're a white guy (Alec Baldwin badly hosting "Match Game") or an affable Steve Harvey pro comedian squeezing laughs on every "booty" reference. 

Kennedy was actually born James Narz, by the way. His older brother was already a successful quiz host (Jim Narz) so he called himself Tom Kennedy (February 26, 1927-October 7, 2020).

Sean Connery; The Man Who Would be ACTOR, First, and Comic-Con Nerd Fave last "IN MY LIFE" John Lennon

 

Sean Connery? Way too famous for THIS blog, but it's a MUSIC BLOG, and in reviving the old "he's the best James Bond" stuff,  how he started as a model, etc., news of his passing probably did NOT include a mention of his singing:

The odd timing here...the deaths of Sean Connery and Diana Rigg...probably didn't lead many to dwell on who they were. ACTORS. Just what they left behind for the obsessives: "Avengers" episodes (and whatever the fuck Diana did on "Game of Thrones") and the sad plaint that "they refused to stay spy characters forever.) 

All together now: SIGHHHHH...what of Diana married Sean in "Spy Who Loved Me" instead of having Lazenby.... 

Diana and Sean were wiser, and had long careers because they knew when to move on to other challenges. Neither were interested in making extra cash off stand next to gurning assholes at a ComicCon, or signing dumb memorabilia in a store loaded with way too much shit on "Star Trek" and "Star Wars."

As for Connery's Bond, yes, his was the best. Ian Fleming loved him in the role, and it's a travesty that today's PC thinking is to turn James Bond into a black tranny or whatever the fuck is the opposite of Connery and even his closest real rival, the well-respected lumpy-faced blond bad boy, Daniel Craig. 

Christ, is there a Bond film that couldn't be better CUT to 90 minutes? Aren't almost all of them incomprehensible and tedious? 

In his latter years, Connery looked great, even as the Daily Fail and others searched for unflattering images to prove otherwise. There was the odd "Sean as Lecherous Asshole for Old Ladies" impression Hammond did on "Saturday Night Live" and, toward the very end, pix where a clearly aging Connery had somebody helping him navigate NYC streets (and his "old guy" pants with the belt flopping loose). Oh, and I think the worst is over now -- those jokes about what happened when Sean Connery ordered his dog to "Sit!"

 

Monday, October 19, 2020

DIANA RIGG - "COULD I LEAVE YOU"


DIANA RIGG


It seems that so many of the greatest and most memorable plays could not be confined to two acts. They require three, and just when it seems that things can't get any more sublime, the "third act" arrives and then everyone leaves. excited, wanting more. But there's a limit. 

Diana Rigg, was long acknowledged one of the greats. She had an extended third act, an unusual "hat trick," in coming up with yet another "cult" character to bring her not just critical acclaim, but the amusing bustle and excitement of fan frenzy. 

Yes, she was Mrs. Peel on "The Avengers." And then became, wowie zowie, the only woman to marry James Bond, and ultimately, defying or embracing old age (your choice) she became a heroine to a new generation of ga-ga's thanks to "Game of Thrones." 

As far as Diana's fans were concerned, the real ones, Rigg had already stamped out an uncompromising career with a resume that included Shakespeare, experimental productions (for which she might get a surprisingly unkind review or two), those so-called "Masterpiece Theatre" TV shows involving cozy mysteries, and the occasional return to pop culture via "Theatre of Blood," for example. 

There didn't seem to be anything Diana Rigg couldn't do, and yes, that includes singing, "Could I Leave You" is from Sondheim's London production of "Follies," 1987, and is typical of Stephen's work; it seems like it was written for anyone to sing in a true and natural voice, something that mostly relies on drama more than pipes, but ultimately, a piece that does require a lot of talent. 

I've had the good fortune to have had brief but memorable moments with Sondheim and with Diana Rigg, though not revolving around "Follies" 1987. I think I met Diana around that time, though. We talked about her upcoming Broadway work, not, of course, THE TV SHOW. I don't think I even dared bring up "Theatre of Blood," even though it featured Vinnie Price, a man we both admired so much. 

For me, meeting Diana was a satisfying moment that seemed to answer the "what is she really like" question. What you saw is what you probably got, if you were polite and well-mannered. I think she'd have given a sigh and put up with a few moments of "Lucy" behavior from a fan who saw her by surprise and couldn't stop gasping and stuttering. I had a few little questions regarding a piece I was doing that she was in, and she had a few minutes to spare, so all went well.

I have a feeling she was generally that way -- certainly a commanding presence, a class act, and a person whose time wasn't to be wasted, but someone polite and often surprisingly reasonable. I friend went to see her at BOTH the matinee and evening performances of a show, and left a card at the box office for her, inquiring if it was possible to meet and get a copy of "No Turn Unstoned" autographed.  Surprise surprise, Diana's manager actually called up, and said it would be ok at such-and-such time (an hour or so before curtain on the second show). Diana was pleasant, offered up a bit of small talk, and it was a wonderful little five minutes.

Sondheim autographed by CD of "Sweeney Todd" a few years later. I mentioned that I had been a "follower" of Sweeney's dark humor ever since I heard Derek Lamb perform a Music Hall version of the demon barber's exploits on a Folkways album.

"Could I Leave You?" Yes. Forget you? Not. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The COMBAT TV (with the JEWISH STARS Rick Jason and Vic Morrow) THEME SONG by Leonard Rosenman

 

"Hey, they don't LOOK Jewish!" 

"Neither did Nimoy and Shatner." 

Anyway...it's September, and there's some Jewish holiday or other, so consider this a celebration of it, whatever it is. Unless it's Yom Kippur, in which case, feel sad about something. Like the fact that no minority's lives matter anymore except ONE. 

Gritty war shows aren’t too popular anymore, but back in the 60’s, “Combat!” had a pretty long run: 1962-1967.  It would be the most memorable role for the two ill-fated stars, Rick Jason and Vic Morrow. Both had plenty of work before and after, but fans would remember them best in uniform, and they know the famous “Combat!” theme you hear below. 

The TV show starred two Jewish guys as war heroes. Is that a surprise? Lots of Jews were war heroes and there was certainly plenty of opportunity in WW2. Even if they didn't get a medal, at least some were definitely over there, face to face with the enemy in France (Mel Brooks!) or in the Marines (Don Adams!) or in the Navy (Don Rickles!) But let's not digress. We'll stick to JASON and MORROW.

Born Richard Jacobson (May 21, 1923-October 16, 2000) Rick Jason could play suave charmers (he got his mitts on classy blonde Joan Marshall in an episode of “The Millionaire.”) He got his first movie break replacing Fernando Lamas in “Sombrero,” a forgotten 1953 movie. He would play a Mexican bandit in the TV show “Stories of the Century” (1954) before moving on to more varied roles. ZIV (the company that produced Joan Marshall’s “Bold Venture” series) hired him for the 1960 “The Case of the Dangerous Robin” TV show, which lasted a year in 1960-61. He played insurance investigator Robin Scott. The following year, he as Gil Hanley, alternated with Vic Morrow as the stars of various episodes of “Combat!” Jason had been in the U.S. Army Air Corps, so he knew all about the life of a soldier. 

Vic Morrow (Victor Morozoff, February 14, 1929 – July 23, 1982) was born in the Bronx, a borough noted for tough guys. He dropped out of high school to join the Navy, and with his rugged looks, he played one of the more dangerous punks in “Blackboard Jungle” menacing Glenn Ford (1955). He landed the lead (Brando) role of Stanley Kowalski in a road company version of “Streetcar Named Desire,” and appeared in such gritty films as “Men In war( 9157) and Hell’s Five Hours (1958). In 1961 he had the lead in  “Portrait of a Mobster,” playing the famous Jewish gangster “Dutch” Schultz (whose real name was Arthur Flegenheimer — a German who got his nickname “Dutch” as a Bronx-y corruption of the word “Deutsch.” 

From there, it was “Combat!” and his role as Chip Saunders.  There was a fine balance on that show, in terms of who got more exposure each week, or the best scripts, so Morrow and Rick Jason got along just fine. As Rick recalled, a big difference was that Vic was quite a pacifist in real life, and was not a gun owner. He enjoyed taking some shots at Vic now and then:  I said to him, "I've got a couple of shotguns in the back of my station wagon. You want to shoot some skeet?" Without so much as a pause he responded, "No, thanks. I can't stand to kill clay." He knew he could always break me up and during our five years together he did it quite a bit. His sense of humor happened to tickle my funny bone.” The blonde Morrow and dark-haired Jason had a bit of the same vibe as another Jewish combo, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy…two guys with a different look and appeal, each staked to his own territory (and female followers). 

Both Rick and Vic, who appeared in all 152 episodes of the show, found steady work after “Combat!” with chances in movies, and guest starring roles on TV shows. Morrow, who had directed seven episodes of the show, also worked as a director on other projects, too. Still, most fans knew the two actors as the soldiers of “Combat!” and were delighted when there was a chance to see them in person. In October of 2000, there was a reunion of “Combat!” stars in Las Vegas. Usually this type of thing makes a star feel good, knowing that so many remember and appreciate past work. Rick, 77 years old, may have been depressed to realize his best success was so far in the past, and that new assignments and the ability to put in long hours memorizing lines and performing them, were not likely. He was a suicide, just a week after attending that show. 

As for Morrow, everyone knows what happened to him: he was filming “Twilight Zone: The Movie” with John Landis directing. A sequence called for him to rescue two Vietnamese children as a helicopter followed them with bad intent. A malfunction caused the chopper to crash, with the pilot surviving but Morrow and one of the children sliced away by the rotor blades. The other child was crushed to death. He was only 53.  

The “Combat!” theme was the work of another Jewish talent, Leonard Rosenman.  Born in Brooklyn (September 7, 1924-March 4, 2008) he had a very long career writing theme songs and incidental music for TV shows and movies. His first major credits were composing music for two James Dean films, “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause.” (1955, 1956). There's Lenny and Jimmy: 


Lenny’s TV work stretched from “Combat” (1962) to “Garrison’s Gorillas” (1967)  “The Virginian” (1967) and “Marcus Welby” (1969) working of course on multiple episodes of those shows over the years. He created incidental music for a variety of episodes of other shows. 

Rosenman worked primarily in films in the 70’s through the 90’s, winning Oscars for “Barry Lyndon” (1976) and “Bound for Glory” (1977) and including “Cross Creek” (1984), Star Trek IV” (1986) and “Levitation” (1997). He’s probably one of the most prolific movie music writers to be unknown to the general public…unlike Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams.  

Admittedly, the “Combat” theme is pretty derivative. It borrows a little from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which was used a bit too much in “Stalag 17.” It also borrows some style from “The Great Escape” and the ridiculous Colonel Bogey March (from “Bridge Over the River Kwai”) where war is somehow as much fun as summer camp, and people either whistle a lot, or they march around like they have paper hats and cardboard swords, with Mitch Miller-type oom-pah marching bands around. The theme is almost at the same light-hearted level as “Hogan’s Heroes.” Still, it’s catchy, and it never goes out of style. Neither does war. 

THE COMBAT! THEME - no passwords, no creepy malware or spyware, listen or download