Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Broadway Babe Who Died Young: JUDY TYLER

Judy Tyler is gone, but not forgotten. She has a deep cult following.

Baby Boomers remember the lady born Judith Mae Hess (October 9, 1932) as the Princess on the "Howdy Doody" television show.

Hardly content with Doody, Judy moved on to bigger things, like Broadway.

She was memorable in "Pipe Dreams." While the musical based on Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" didn't last, critics were clamoring to see her again soon. A song from the show, which gives you an idea of how derivative and uninteresting the production was, is below. You can't fault Judy, who sings it well.

Broadway fans hoping Judy would star in another traditional Broadway musical were denied; Judy starred in the peculiar film "Bop Girl Goes Calypso,"  and the same year, 1957, co-starred with Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock."

Things could not have been going better for Judy. When filming wrapped in Hollywood, she and her husband decided to take a scenic drive back home to New York. Their sight-seeing took them into Wyoming. From the tire marks, and the testimony of witnesses, Judy's husband swerved on Route 287 to avoid a car that was towing a big trailer. He crashed into another vehicle, and both he and Judy were killed. Judy was just 24.

Newspapers reported that Elvis was, well, all shook up. To this day, Elvis and Judy fans remain tearful about that sad day, July 3rd, 1957, 60 years ago. An irony was that Judy also guest-starred in an episode of "Perry Mason," which finally aired a few days after Christmas, 1957. Many viewers probably had no idea that the guest star of that episode had died.

Like Luba Lisa (below), fans wishing to pay their respects need to come to New York to do it. But they won't get too close. Judy Tyler's cremated remains are in a private mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery. That's where, until a recent move by her estate, Judy Garland's ashes were resting in peace.

Judy Tyler
  EVERYBODY’S GOT A HOME BUT ME   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart password games

Broadway Babe Who Died Young: LUBA LISA

Most agree that the lone musical highlight in Buddy Hackett's Broadway musical "I Had a Ball" was a vamping number by rising starlet Luba Lisa. In the tradition of Gwen "Whatever Lola Wants" Verdon, Luba wiggled, strutted and sang "Addie's At It Again" with a cheerful brand of heat. She got a Tony award nomination for her role. Seven years later, she was dead, age 31.

Born in Brooklyn (March 10, 1941), Luba Lisa Gootnick's Dad was a mathematician. Her brother became a doctor. Her pert good looks had people figuring she could make it on stage. 20 years later, she was in "Carnival," and followed it with "I Can Get It For You Wholesale." She could take the subway to work, as she was living at 33-44 91st Street, in Jackson Heights, Queens. She appeared in the film "Pepe," dancing with Maurice Chevalier. The movie was supposed to springboard Mexican comedy star Cantinflas to greatness, but it was a box-office bomb. Lisa went back to Broadway. When she played Addie, the "girl of easy virtue," her dynamic personality inspired the producers to craft that special production number which wasn't in the original script.

From there, Luba Lisa had so many opportunities, and so many people thinking of ways her beauty and comedy could be used on stage, screen or TV. What next?

"I'm a fatalist," she told a reporter, "and just wouldn't know what is going to happen. This doesn't mean I think you should just sit back and wait. I have a very important objective, but I can't share what it is with anyone right now. It's not that I'm superstitious, I just won't talk about it."

The secret died with her. It was a cold, snowy night, December 15th, 1972. Just a few weeks before Christmas, she was flying into Vermont via a small plane. There were two other passengers with her, and the pilot. They were all killed. Her body was returned to New York, and buried out at Mount Ararat Jewish Cemetery.

The most easily accessible item on Luba Lisa is the one you'll find below; the tantalizing audio of what had to be a memorably bombastic performance of joyful sexuality. You can play it over a few times, and each time..."Addie's At It Again."

  ADDIE’S AT IT AGAIN   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Larry Vincent - What Rhymes with SHIT? "Sweet Violets"

    A cousin to the famous Benny Bell song “Shaving Cream,” here’s Larry Vincent singing “Sweet Violets.” A gag that never seems to get old, you still smile when, instead of the expected dirty-word get a chiding chorus oh-so-innocently offering a sweet, incongruous refrain.

 Among people who care about novelty songs…almost nobody really gives a pile of SWEET VIOLETS or SHAVING CREAM over whether Larry stole from Benny Bell, or the reverse. Most likely Benny Bell was the original, but the idea of an innocent word substituting for a nasty one goes back a lot earlier. Benny's "Shaving Cream" arrived in 1946, Larry's "Sweet Violets" in 1949.  

Born in San Jose, California (January 13, 1901) Vincent began touring in the 1920's. During a stay in Chicago he recorded his lone early single, “She’s a Great, Great Girl.” Singing straight material, he tried his hand at songwriting, coming up with “If I Had My Life to Live Over,” a co-write with the more established Jewish songwriters Moe Jaffe and Henry Tobias. Larry recorded it himself on the “20th Century Records” label, credit to “Larry Vincent and [the] Feilden Foursome.” The flip, a co-write with Haven Gillespie, is “Stay as Long as You Like.”

 If you don't want to know more about Moe Jaffe and Henry Tobias, skip this paragraph. Tobias, a cousin of Eddie Cantor’s, wrote the melody for “And Away We Go” recorded by Jackie Gleason. Henry wrote a book, “Music In My Heart and Borscht in my Blood.” He worked with several different people, including his brothers. Among his hits were “Miss You,” recorded by Jaye P. Morgan, Bing Crosby and others, “Cooking Breakfast For the One I Love” (Fanny Brice), “Easter Sunday With You’ (Perry Como) and “May I Have the Next Dream with You” (Jerry Vale). Moe Jaffe co-wrote “I Don’t Know from Nuthin’” with Henry Tobias, but worked with many others as well. Moe’s co-writes include “The Gypsy in My Soul” (with Clay Boland) “Oh You Sweet One” (with Paul Kapp), and “Bell Bottom Trousers,” which was a bawdy ballad he cleaned up (sort of the way Cy Coben cleaned up "Sweet Violets") “Collegiate” (a co-write with the oddly-named Nat Bonx) was recorded by quite a few people including Fred Waring, and turns up via Chico Marx in The Marx Brothers’ college comedy “Horse Feathers.” The versatile Moe could even knock off gospel titles, such as “Get Together with the Lord,” a co-write with Bickley Reichner that was recorded by Andy Kirk’s Orchestra.

Larry Vincent kicked around various peculiarly named nightclubs, from Benny the Bum’s in Philadelphia to The Lookout House in Covington, Kentucky, where he stayed for many years. Not quite as obscure as it might seem, Covington wasn’t too far from Cincinnati, Ohio. Go check a map. It was in the unlikely town of Covington that Larry and Moe Jaffe formed the Pearl Records label. Like Benny Bell recording for Bell Records, Vincent hired himself to record everything on his label.  He tried “legit” novelty songs (“I Grow Gooey Over Chop Suey”)  but ended up pandering to the “party song” crowd.

Larry’s popular numbers, including “Sweet Violets,” “Yas Yas Yas,” “The Smell Song (Fish Fish Fish),” “Sarah Sittin’ in a Shoe Shine Shop” and “I Used to Work in Chicago” were usually credited to  “Larry Vincent and the Pearl Boys,” or “The Pearl Boys,” “The Pearl Trio” or “The Pearl Five” etc. etc. With a nod to his hangout at The Lookout House, a number of his 78’s were also credited to “Larry Vincent and his Lookout Boys.” He had a certain wiseguy-charm that made his risque tunes more amusing than annoying, more light-hearted than smarmy. Most of his 78’s were released between 1946 and 1949, the date for "Sweet Violets."

As the long-play era started in the 50's Larry compiled some of his old tunes, including  “She Had to Lose It as the Astor,” “The Kanaka Song,” “Buster Astor,” “Get Off the Table Mabel” and various “butt” pun songs like “I Kissed Her But I Never Will Again” and “She Has Freckles On her But She is Nice,” (aka The Freckle Song). The albums include “Listen and Laugh” and “Laugh Provoking Ditties for the Party.”   

Still hoping for a legit hit, in the mid-50’s Larry recorded “The Whole Town’s Batty About Cincinnati” and lastly, the 1954 single “Let’s Bowl (The Bowling Song”) b/w “I Cried For You.”

Larry's risque rival Benny Bell didn't stay in the risque novelty genre in the late 50's or 60's. By then, silly double entendre stuff was passe, and instead of discs by those guys, or contemporaries Dwight Fiske and Ruth Wallis,  Lenny Bruce records were hot. Benny's "hot" tunes had also turned up the heat on him, as many Jews in his Brooklyn neighborhood frowned on such frivolity. Benny sang many straight novelty numbers in Yiddish and authored "freilachs" (dance instrumentals) that were played at weddings. The Jewish stores that sold this kind of thing (along with menorahs, prayer shawls and Molly Picon 78's) threatened not to carry Benny's material if he didn't clean up his act.

Benny did clean up his act, and when he composed novelty songs, they were aimed (not too successfully) in the direction of past (Mickey Katz) and current (Allan Sherman) Jewish novelty singers. For example, he hoped for a knock-off on Chubby Checker via "The Kosher Twist." Benny was pleasantly surprised when people old enough to be his grandson discovered and delighted in his old risque tunes. ‘Shaving Cream” was re-issued and became a surprise hit, landing in the Billboard Top 40 in 1975. Larry? He passed on, January 5, 1977.

Larry Vincent  
Sweet Violets   Instant download or listen on line. 

SWEET VIOLETS - anticipation comedy from HOMER & JETHRO

    “Anticipation comedy” is a very simple way of getting a laugh. In fact in our 21st Century, it’s considered too simple. But for quite a while, the formula worked. 

    I remember “us kids” singing the “Lulu” song. We thought it was so clever: 

    “Lulu had a steamboat. The steamboat had a bell. Lulu went to heaven, the steamboat went to —
    Hello Operator, give me Mr. Glass. If you can not find him. I’ll paddle your —
    Behind the fridgerator…” 

    And on and on. 

    (Parenthetically, another form of “Anticipation comedy” was perfected by Mantan Moreland, using a variety of vaudeville partners. Instead of relying on actual jokes and complicated mis-hearings, like “Who’s on First,” the routine simply involved cutting off the sentences like a know-it-all. “Mantan, what’s your brother doin’ now?” “He’s working down here for a man. They payin’ him a salary—“ “He can live that cheap??” “You got him wrong. He gonna get married.” “To whom?” “He’s gonna marry the daughter of —“ “She’s a nice girl. Well…” “You got some dirt?” “One time I —“ “That was her sister.”) 

    Along with “Shaving Cream,” the notorious version of “Sweet Violets” got the laughs by NOT rhyming the expected word: SHIT. You anticipated it, and got the laugh-producing surprise of a silly chorus instead.   

    Could the radio play that kind of thing in the 40’s? Definitely not. But “Sweet Violets” DID get played in a different version. 

    And so it was that later, as the dj spun his disc, that his face, it just stayed ghostly, ‘cause the disc was not a risk. Cy Coben (who worked quite a bit with Homer and Jethro) created the acceptable version, partnered with Charles Grean. Homer and Jethro’s version starts out with the familiar, if not downright annoying “Sweet Violets” chorus: 

    “Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses,  Covered all over from head to toe. Covered all over with sweet violets,” a bit of crummy schmaltz that goes back to 1882 and the forotten Joseph Emmet. From there, it’s time for anticipation and denial: 

    “There one was a guy who invited his pals out to a burlesque show to
    LOOK at the scenery for it would be well worth the trip, when a gal came on stage and she started to
    CRY, ‘cause a clown with big putty nose walked out on the stage and said “Peel off your
    GLASSES but…” 

Now, the rude version of “Sweet Violets” was well known, and the Cy Coben version, less so. So you can imagine, in 1951, how surprised disc jockeys were when they received copies of the new Dinah Shore single from RCA, and it was, yep, “Sweet Violets.” 

Her version, which made it to #3 on the charts, is pretty similar to the Homer and Jethro version. But let’s give it to our boys Homer and Jethro, since they are STILL under-appreciated and STILL haven’t gotten that Bear Family boxed set of all their RCA Victor sides, which they deserve.

Homer and Jethro 
Sweet Violets   Instant download or listen on line. 


According to the esteemed and pressed Wikipedia, (yes, I credit the pun to Spike Milligan), if you remember Michele Lee, it’s because of TV. She played “Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie on the 1980s prime-time soap opera “Knots Landing.” That’s their opinion.

Over here, Michele will always be the cutie who pouted about wanting  “L. David Sloane” to leave her alone. Which you’ll find elsewhere on the blog. I thought she should get another entry. What, you were expecting me to post an entire Beach Boys or Jethro Tull discography instead? That’s not a reason for blogging. Really. But I digress.

“You’ll Remember Me” seems like an attempt to go beyond being mildly victimized by a love-hate for Mr. Sloane, to really take the spotlight.

It’s a song that could’ve been handed to Liza, or Eydie. If you listen to it long enough, you can see how it could have been a hit. Except in 1969 the beat was a bit too cha-cha and not Memphis soul, as Dusty Springfield might’ve recorded it? Does the production let Lee down? Or is it that Michele didn’t go overboard in that Shirley Bassey ear-catching kind of way? 

I think one can admit that back then, there was a bit of an enigma with Lee’s persona. You’re supposed to instantly “get it,” but Lee was not the outrageous show gal like Liza or Bassey, nor the total cutie pie like Judy Carne, and didn’t sing songs that were overtly sexual and venomous (Nancy Sinatra and her “Boots”). She was, what, Petula Clark without the adorable British accent?

Fortunately, there IS “Knots Landing,” which got her an Emmy nomination and kept her busy for nearly 15 years and 344 episodes. There’s also her Tony Award nominations for “Seesaw” in 1974 and “The Tale of the Allerlgist’s Wife” in 2001. I did see her in the latter, where she could still play the sophisticated vampy villain (Valerie Harper was the heroine). Speaking of villainy, Michele played trash author Jacqueline Susann in the TV movie “Scandalous Me,” and a few years ago, Madame Morrible on Broadway in “Wicked.”

“You’ll Remember Me.” Yes, you were right. Michele celebrated her 75th birthday last month, June 24.

Michele Lee
You’ll Remember Me   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.


What can I say about Zana Varo. Practically nothing.

While this “blog of less renown” has made a point of shining a light on deserving artists who are unique and under-appreciated in some cases, there’s usually SOMETHING about them SOMEWHERE else. Maybe there’s a YouTube video, or a discography, or at least you can count on seeing something for sale on eBay. 

Zana Varo? Of all the artists covered in all these years, she’s the most elusive. Go ahead and Google her. Check out not only eBay but which is specifically for people within the borders of France. Check everywhere and you’ll find…a mystery. 

Even indie artists have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Usually a website, too. And if somebody who put out an album or two on a professional label is NOT active, there will be a few forlorn people grumbling “where is she” in some music forum or other. (Folk-rock singer Kathy Smith comes to mind). But Zana? Nada. 

I didn’t realize I’d found such a mystery woman when I picked up her album in Paris. 

Visiting Paris with the one you love is indeed romantic. BUT…it should not mean that a few hours can’t be spent in some cruddy flea market or narrow little music store or thrift shop pawing through vinyl and clattering through CD cases! Especially not 10 years ago, when mp3 files and piracy hadn’t decimated the music retail world and shuttered so many shops. 

I had come prepared, folks. I’d brought along a dozen or more CDs to use as trade barter, figuring that my IMPORTS would be SO rare in Paris, the store owners would gladly give me a good trade for their ordinary titles. So it was, that despite my fairly limited French, I was able to negotiate a very good deal with one store owner, swapping a few CDs I didn’t care about for a half-dozen French CDs that HE didn’t care about. Basically I was looking for anything that looked interesting. A sexy French woman on the cover? Oui. A moderately sexy one who might just be eccentric? Also, OUI. 

I figured that if I really liked a particular obscure French singer, I’d be able to find more. Or at least, more about her. 

Not in THIS case. I suppose a sure sign that I was dealing with someone not at the Mylene Farmer level, was that my copy was autographed. It’s usually the indie artists who’ve only pressed a few copies that happily sign to get a sale, or just sign and give away a copy to a friend or relative. 

I can’t say that Zana Varo caught my ear immediately. She didn’t. Sometimes, you need to hear music over a few times before something clicks and you think, “Hey, that’s GOOD.” I’d gotten some stuff that sounded GOOD right away, too. So I kind of filed Zana, and when it came time to cull the collection, well, she always stayed behind. Autographed, after all. And I’d put on the CD and think, well, ok, this isn’t bad. 

Last time I had some time, I looked her up (still nothing) and played the cut that had the most promising title: “Le Reggae du Cirque.” Hmmm. Not Mr. Kite, but yes. If you play it once, you might like it. Play it a few more times, and you might really like it. A Reggae Circus? As for the other title, talk about obscure, even “Google Translate” won’t touch it. I think you can translate "Peluchez Moi" as “My Plush Toy.” Which would make sense, considering the cover photo! Sapristi!

All that I know for sure, is that her material was written for her by the team of Louise and Jean Louis Richerme, who put out a Swiss album of their own synth pop in 1987. This seems to be the only album by Zana. I do know she made an appearance in concert in 1995. “…and that’s all I know.”

Zana Varo
Le Reggae du Cirque    Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Zana Varo
  PELUCHEZ MOI   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart pass words or RAR files.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Chadwick Brats sing OB-LA-DI OB-LA-DA

Not THAT kind of brats.

What you'll find below is one of the nastier tracks on an album of "Beatles Songs for Kids." It's just a reminder that children should be seen and not heard.

The CD is a compilation featuring different little monsters on each track. Most are just boring:  imagine young cast members from any crap production of "Oliver!" singing the worst Beatles songs. Which are mostly from McCartney. Since kiddie books and CDs are the least likely to be bootlegged, and most often to be given as gifts by a kind Auntie, or an uncle dressed as a kind Auntie, the surviving music stores have quite a few shelves of "Kidz Bop" and "Pop 4 Kids" and other miseries.

When you consider what children hear via rap, heavy metal, and just walking around a mall, you'd think that the REAL Beatles songs would be good enough. The conceit is that children would rather hear this music sung by other children. Doubtful. Children aren't buying this crap. Parents are. The kids probably end up using CDs like this for frisbees. Or to decapitate grasshoppers. 

A kid doesn't want to hear another kid sing. He's more entertained hearing a kid cry. As in, "Wahhhhh, you stole my lunch money, give it back!" 

The predictable irritants are here, including "Yellow Submarine" and "When I'm 64." The latter is particularly annoying coming from little ear-aches who aren't even 14. The good news is they aren't likely to live to be 64. Religious fanatics will see to that. So will dwindling immune systems, rising pollution, insane climate change, and the spectacle of Katy Perry trying to gain attention by letting her knockers bounce off her kneecaps. 

"Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" is generally considered one of the worst songs on "The White Album," slightly saved (as far as the Gay Pride people are concerned) by Paulie accidentally singing "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face." Well, if there were more gays in the world, there would be less children. Too late, in the case of  Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell, who happened to breed not ONE but TWO irritating snots.

Drive your neighbors nuts with OBLADI 
OBLADA   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Laughing Record - IT'S NOT FUNNY, I TELL YOU!!

I invoke the ghost of Spike Milligan to admit that “laughing records” aren’t funny. They are NOT FUNNY! Sapristi! 

Most of the time, the irritating performer is laughing...and the listener is not. Which explains why, thankfully, this genre sputtered into obsolescence. This includes both types of "novelty" tunes involving contagious laughter.

The first type is the singer doing all the laughing. You're supposed to either laugh along with him, or be delighted with how he laughs the melody line. “The Laughing Song,” by George W. Johnson was available on cylinder wayyyy back in 1896. He gets the nod for being the first guy to laugh into a microphone, and was probably also the first black to make hit records. So much for racism. Black entertainers were welcomed, as long as they were entertaining.Why, they could even be a tad uppity, which is a bit of a surprise.

George isn't one of "The Black Crows," doing step and fetch it dialogue. The song begins with him addressing the issue of race: "As I was coming around the corner I heard some people say, here comes the Darkie, here he comes this way…” What's his reaction? "I laugh! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hee hee hee hee hee hee.” Some people think the exotic fellow might be related to some Nubian Prince or Princess? That makes him laugh, too. Ultimately, he sings, "Listen to what I’m going to say. I’ve tried my best to please you…” So laugh along as he, yeah, gives it the old heave-ho ho ho ho ho ha ha ha ha. 

Musical piracy? It's not new. Without copyright laws, the new medium of phonograph records was prey to small record labels doing unlicensed cover versions, or even duplicating the original record. That's why quite often a performer in those days began by announcing who he was, and what label he was recording foil somebody trying to copy the actual recording.  

In the case of George W. Johnson, he was copied by Charlies Penrose, who took the laughing idea and the music, to create "The Laughing Policeman," a huge hit in England. Charles declares the policeman is "...the happiest man in town…a ha ha ha ha ha ha…he never can stop laughing, he says he’s never tried. But once he did arrest a man and laughed until he cried! A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…ooooooooooh ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa…”

"The Laughing Policeman," music swiped from George W. Johnson with no writing credit, was a hit in 1922 for Regal, and re-recorded in 1926 for Columbia. What could be funnier than a policeman laughing as he arrests some poor bloke? Somehow, people thought this hilarious. There were even laughing policeman figures in amusement parks. Put in a coin, and the creatures comes to life, laughing and laughing.

The other type of "laughing record" isn't about a singer laughing out loud, but the audience becoming hysterical. So, why would an audience become hysterical? Over a joke or two? No, over a concert musician screwing up.

In 1922, Cameo released "Laugh and the World Laughs With You." Okeh imported "The Okeh Laughing Record" the same year. It was originally recorded in Germany on the Beka label by Lucie Bernard and Otto Rathke. The recording was also released in England as "The Parlophone Laughing Record." Yes, record labels could simply license or steal the song and put their own name on it.

In 1923, Columbia offered "The Spoiled Cornet." The Melotone “Laughing Record No 2”  didn’t have a bad cornet player failing, but, an opera singer doing “The Toreador Song” off key, leading to snickers and roars from his audience.  

The idea is always the same: a serious musician screws up, desperately tries again, but only gets more and more cruel laughter, which usually includes basso ho-ho's and hyena-like howls. Spike Jones resurrected this novelty of the 20s with "The Jones Laughing Record," as a botched version of "Flight of the Bumble Bee" leads to the most outrageous laughter this side of an insane asylum. 

 Over the years there have been mutant “laughing” records. “The Hyena Stomp” from Jelly Roll Morton offered jazzy roars of laughter, and Louis Armstrong had a variation in “Laughing Louie.” Some "laugh it up" comedians tried to encourage giddiness by laughing at their own jokes. Red Skelton was the most famous example, but there was Benny Rubin who used to mockingly laugh the first seven notes of “Yankee Doodle." 

Even into the hip 50’s and 60’s you might encounter some forced laughter.  Mort Sahl had what critics called a “barking laugh.” He used it to punctuate a punchline and cue people into laughing along. As Enrico Banducci, owner of the “Hungri i” nightclub quipped, “it wasn’t hip not to laugh at Mort Sahl.” Mort laughed at the same jokes night after night, as if he just thought up the gag. Phyllis Diller raised the ante with her goose-like explosions of mirth, as well as her own "Ah haaaa," guffaw.

The 60's even had Yodelin’ Shorty and “The Crazy Laughing Blues,” just another "singer has to laugh, so you should, too" numbers. Folks who heard it and bought it had no idea the idea went back over 60 years. Shorty recorded his single on the small Countryside label. The flip side is “Made to Yodel.” What a guy. Laughing and yodeling. If he put out another single it would’ve been puking and farting. 

Below, an example of each type of laughing record, and that's more than enough because...."It's not funny I tell you, IT'S NOT FUNNY!!" 

THE CRAZY LAUGHING BLUES   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

THE SPOILED CORNET   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.  


Patty Duke sings BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

    Her real first name was Anna. She became famous as the lovable and talented Patty Duke (Dec 14, 1946 · Mar 29, 2016). She was one of the few child/teen stars to excel in both drama and comedy; the stage and film classic “The Miracle Worker,” and then the hit sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show.” 

    You can find out about her via the autobiographies, “Call me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness.” The woman had a pretty bizarre career as a film actress as she moved from child (“Miracle Worker” 1962) to teen (“Billie” 1965) to troubled young adult (“Valley of the Dolls” 1967 and “Me Natalie 1969).  

      There was a lot of competition for her when she reached her 40's and beyond, and there have always been few roles for middle-aged women. Duke worked sporadically in her chosen profession; perhaps a combination of her problems off screen, and the difficulties of being remembered by casting agents who had a fixed image of her as a child star.  She made only two films in the 70’s, three in the 80’s (although you might include the made-for-TV film "Best Kept Secrets") and two in the 90’s. Anyone remember “Bigger Than the Sky” in 2005 or “Four Children of Tander Welch” in 2008?   

    While she was a teen star on tv and in the film "Billie," Patty also mounted a singing career.  Some of the obscure albums she made back in the mid-60's are now back in print. That’s quite an achievement for someone who managed only one Top 10 hit. Her album of folks songs is especially interesting, as Patty sounded just like any “average girl” who might pick up a guitar and sing "the music of the people." Folk music was sing-along music, so did a perfect voice matter? Bob Dylan said no. In bedrooms across the world, Patty-types were strumming guitars and trying to emote the “new music,” which seemed so much more important than love songs. 

    Patty’s first attempt to cross over and add “singer” to her TV star and movie star credits, was “Don’t Just Stand There.” Though a Top 10 in August of 1965, few seem to know it. It's a pretty credible attempt at stepping into Lesley Gore territory. Did it take that much to be a pop star back then? You didn’t need a vocoder, just a good echo chamber. Ask Fabian. It seemed every other month, some actress (like Shelley Fabares) or daughter of a star (Melinda Marx comes to mind) stepped into a booth and managed to stay on key while surrounded by drums and brass while a sly music producer manipulated the strings. Patty just missed the Top 20 with
"Say Something Funny," in the fall of 1965 and had a song outside the Top 50 with "Whenever He Holds You," which was a cover of a Bobby Goldsboro song. Kind of a surprise is that despite failing chart action, Duke was able to put out albums, including the obscure one that collected the era's best folk songs.  

    An interesting thing about Patty Duke the vocalist, is that she sounds exactly like Patty Duke. This isn’t always the case. First off, a lot of times an actress is dubbed in movies. You don’t even know it, because you figure a singing voice is not going to be like a speaking voice. It seems to take a different set of vocal cords to stay on key. The most glaring examples back then were Jim Nabors and Frank Fontaine, or even Bob Dylan when he suddenly exuded a gooey baritone for “Nashville Skyline.” But Patty Duke did sound like herself, for better or worse. Maybe the latter, considering the sales of those last albums she did.  

    But now that she’s gone, and under such odd and tragic circumstances, people want a little bit more of what they once ignored: Patty Duke, the singer.  

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

A salute to Arabs and Gays and...FLORENCE OF ARABIA

Yes, the past few weeks have been very strange in England. The news has been all about Gays and Muslims, two fine, fine groups. Let's underline that, and repeat, these are two fine, fine groups. They just can't seem to keep out of the fucking headlines, unlike, oh, Infantilists and Hindus. S&M freaks and Druids. Laurel and Hardy. Maybe the world would be better if people just sat back and watched some Laurel and Hardy, and had a laugh and didn't take their fucking sex lives and religions so seriously. 

Compared to Climate Change, this shit is pretty petty. Hey, Gays and Muslims, this planet is not likely to survive another 50 years. You don't really have to spend it fussing and fighting. Stop blowing people up, and if you're gay, blow people behind closed doors. Nobody gives a damn anymore. You can even get married and make it legal. 

In the spirit of getting along, and this IS the blog of togetherness, below is FLORENCE OF ARABIA, a song about a Gay Muslim. 

The past few weeks have seen vans smacking into people, and bombs exploding, all because a few Allah-kazams think that their imaginary friend needs some help in getting rid of non-believers. 

And last week, also in Great Britain, was the Blackpool Gay Pride Parade. Instead of radical Muslims skulking about in cloak-sheets and glowering, here were stereotypical gays marching through the streets, crossdressed and grinning. The point? Same as the Muslims, really. It involves, quoting the guru in "Gunga Din," what is called "the sin of false pride." 

Both groups are saying to everyone, "we're not equal, we're better." Our Allah is better than your Jesus or Buddha or Moses. "We're here and we're queer," so put up with our antics in public, while blind people stagger, homeless starve, and wheelchair people stay at home and rot. Let me put it this way, Gays and Muslims, you not only aren't the only people suffering in this world, you have it better than most, especially in England.

So you can tone down the violence and the preening, and join the rest of the human race in trying to keep climate change at bay, keep the economy strong, practice birth control, and protest the corrupt and fuckheaded leaders who could turn the lights out permanently with one push of a button. 

Is it that important to actually reinforce stereotypes, by having Arabs scowling in their winding sheets, or men in dresses and women in Simon Cowell t-shirts literally parading about? Isn't it slightly insulting to dignified men who don't lisp and wear conservative clothes, run ads for a parade with a silly one-percenter on the cover? Isn't it more important to reinforce the point that most gays (like most Arabs) don't look or act that much different from anyone else?

Celebrate what we have in common. It would seem that assimilation and tolerance is what's needed. Equality begins by acting equal; to the point where you don't feel compelled to bring your bedroom attire into shopping malls for all to see, and you don't need to wear funny outfits to let people know what your religion is. Nobody really gives a shit; unless YOU are trying to show how different you are and superior you are. Common sense: is it really against anyone's religion to stop pretending that The Bible and the Koran have fashion drawings in them? The idea that the Creature in the Sky needs to identify you by a silly hat or a ludicrous outfit is...ridiculous. Let's lighten up and admit that religion and sexuality shouldn't be subjects of awe. The whole notion of "sacrilege" is idiotic. Why can't a person make fun of religion? One's faith in a God should be able to withstand a cartoon.
  Gays are doing pretty well. Compare them to others who have made their sexuality the most important factor of their lives. England aired a documentary on “15 Stone Babies” considering them to be oddballs and outcasts. These infantilists sure as hell wouldn't march in their nappies to show their pride in not being able to handle adulthood. S-M is still such a taboo that pudgy idiotic E.L. James made a fortune writing about what nobody would ever march about in a parade: spanking, handcuffs and bondage.

You think that illiterate bitch would’ve made a dime off a book about Mr. Grey fucking Mr. White? No, that’s not a forbidden thrill. S-M still is. Dressing up in diapers instead of being a transvestite is. Wanting to watch two women piss is considered much more peculiar than being gay (which is why Trump denies ever paying to see it). If Trump said he paid to see two lesbians have sex, nobody would laugh or care. So, there are a lot more oppressed sexual minorities than gays.  

As for the Muslims, there's no reason they can't be accepted, and until ISIS arrived, they were. People from India came over and learned the customs. The Asians did, too. So take a tip from the Hindus, the Druids, the Amish and every other religion, and try a little humility. Don't be so concerned about what others believe in. Be grateful others are tolerant enough to allow you to emigrate. Try to assimilate just a bit and stop being so rigid. The Jews broke off into Conservative and Reformed divisions and didn't all stay Orthodox with the silly side-curls. Listen to William Shatner's "I Can't Get Behind That," when he says "What about the men who say 'Do as I do. Believe in what I say, for your own good, or I'll kill you!' I can't get behind that!" 

Mr. Shatner also pointed out a few things more important than a guy fretting if he can't dress in a dress in public, or if a Muslim can't walk around cloaked from head to toe. Quoth Mr. Shatner: "The rising oceans, the warming temperatures!The dying polar bears--no, tigers--in fifty years! Rising poison in the air and water!" 

Try marching about THAT shit. Try thinking about others. Try giving other people some dignity, tolerance and understanding. Why, that's what this blog is all about: GIVING. And that includes "Florence of Arabia," which was on an obscure 60's album called "The Queen is in the Closet." 

That album which offered nudge-nudge wink-wink humor to gays and for gays, although some of the “here and queer” songs are so stereotypical it’s possible straights listened and laughed at the lispers more than with them. Happily, now being a gay singer is accepted, and George Michael and Sir Elton and Sam Smith aren't "under the counter" with their albums, as this album was 50 years ago. Progress indeed. Likewise, Zayn Malik is a big star, and he's of Arabic descent. He assimilated boy band rock, all right, and mastered it. As well as mastering Gigi Hadid, who isn't afraid to be Muslim and doesn't (to put it mildly) feel a need to wear a burqa.

“FLORENCE OF ARABIA" of course references “Lawrence of Arabia” who was gay, and adored being whipped and butt fucked by Arabs. In fact, he was too busy with that stuff to march in a parade. He and his Arab friends blew things, but didn't blow things up. What a wonderful world it was. It could be again. Music and laughter, friends...

OF ARABIA    Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Linda Lavin does Stephen Sondheim's Gay Astrud Gilberto Parody

Yes, that's Linda Lavin, upper left, with MacIntyre Dixon, Paul Sand, Richard Libertini and Jo Anne Worley. Some, obviously, went on to much greater fame on TV or in movies. You might recall the eccentric Libertini (who was teamed with Dixon for several years in stand-up and improv) in full beard as the nutty guru in the Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin classic "All of Me," or as the equally nutty dictator in the Peter Falk and Alan Arkin classic, "The In-Laws." But, already, I have digressed.

While it probably was a lot of effort for Lavin to memorize all those lines as "Alice" on the sitcom of the same name, it had to have been quite a learning experience to deal with Stephen Sondheim's dense satire of "The Girl from Ipanema," which she did for the off-Broadway revue "The Mad Show." No, the show was not "Mad" enough to interest readers of Mad Magazine (who were mostly teenagers). It was aimed more for their parents. The humor was much more, er, sophisticated.

Sondheim was apparently called in when the show came up one song short, or needed one more topical song. Astrud Gilberto, the soft-voiced Brazilian, had scored an unexpected hit with her jazz samba, and now it was ripe for parody. Yes, Homer & Jethro did one ("The Girl from Possum Holler") but the sophisticates preferred Sondheim. Where's that boy from? Not Ipanema, someplace far more obscure. You know how those Latino guys have, like, a first name, a last name, and another nine names inbetween? Maybe that's because they come from towns with almost as many names. Ha! 

An interesting twist is that Sondheim, who would of course come out gay years later, was writing a lyric about a woman who doesn't have good Gaydar, and isn't sure why this sexy Latino boy isn't interested in her...and why his friends call him LILLIAN: 

Tall and slender, like an Apollo, he goes walking by and I have to follow:
Him, the boy from Tacarembo la Tumbe del fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol y Cruz!  

When we meet, I feel I'm on fire. And I'm breathless every time I inquire, 
"How are things in Tacarembo la Tumbe del fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol y Cruz!"

Why, when I speak does he vanish? Why is he acting so clannish? I wish I understood Spanish. 
WHen I tell him I think he's the end, he giggles a lot with his FRIEND.

Tall and slender, moves like a dancer
But I never seem to get any answer 
From the boy from Tacarembo la Tumbe del fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol y Cruz!
I got the blooooz!

Why are his trousers vermilion? His trousers are vermilion. Why does he claim he's Catilian? (He thays that he'th Cathtilian!)

Why do his friends call him LILLIAN? And I hear at the end of the week he's leaving to start a boutique.....

THE BOY FROM (parody of “The Girl from Ipanema”)
Linda Lavin    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Johnny Cash - BRIAN HYLAND

Yes, before Justin Bieber offered such coy poses, BRIAN HYLAND was doing it.

While this entry doesn't exactly PRAISE Mr. Hyland, it's not intended to bury him, either. It simply acknowledges that many artists, by themselves or through their label or management, make odd choices. Like covering deep growly Johnny Cash when your voice is more of a boy soprano. More about that below.

First, in case you don't recall, Hyland was indeed a boy wonder. At 16, the good-looking kid had a label deal, and the label was powerful enough to assign the Brill Building duo (Paul) Vance and (Lee) Pockriss to develop the kid's potential. They wrote "Four Little Heels" for him, and then a real biggie, the novelty "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." This song was so popular, Brian turned up on "To Tell the Truth" as a novelty guest: can you pick out which kid sang the crazy new song that just reached the Top Ten??

No, the panel really couldn't, as they were all double Brian's age (if not triple) and in those pre-Bieber days, pop singers weren't normally on the cover of every magazine or newspaper. 

Hyland really had little to do with the novelty song's success. Anybody could've sung the straight lines. It was the silly chorus (sung by women) and the silly lyrics that mattered most. However (see, this is NOT a snarky entry) Hyland proved his abilities with "Sealed with a Kiss," an earnest, excellent Top Five teen ballad. It was later nasal'd by Jerry's son Gary Lewis. But Hyland's is first and best. 

To his credit, Hyland didn't want to be just another pretty boy. He followed his 1962 "Sealed with a Kiss" album with the ambitious "Country Meets Folk." It offered his cover versions of everything from Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's All Right" to the sullen "Greenback Dollar" to hideous shit such as "Act Naturally," "Jamaica Farewell" and the always annoying "If I Had a Hammer." His new label (ABC replacing Kapp) seemed to skimp a bit. Instead of the 101 Strings, they employed "The 21 Strings." 

However much you might want to change genres and prove yourself, your look might not be suited. Or your voice. Just check out "Folsom Prison" below, which, to put it mildly, doesn't quite sound like it's coming from somebody who shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. 

The plucky Mr. Hyland tried again with the 1965 "Rockin' Folk," and with The Beatles pushing all the slick-haired boys aside (from Bobby Rydell to Del Shannon), Hyland had a tough time interesting anyone in further albums, including "The Joker Went Wild" (1966), "Tragedy" (1967) or "Stay And Love Me All Summer" (1969).  

He got older, and always had an audience for the oldies. What menopausal woman couldn't get slightly wet sitting and seeing Brian emoting a classic like "Sealed with a Kiss?" He still looked good

Hyland may still be out on the oldies circuit, and still capable of being amusing ("Polka Dot Bikini") and romantic ("Sealed with a Kiss"). At least he didn't suffer the pitfalls of a Del Shannon. He also never shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.The again, neither did Johnny Cash. It's just that Johnny sounds a lot more convincing...

Brian Hyland does Johnny Cash    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

The Pillsbury Doughboy Cries with C&W Wannabe Teresa Brewer

It's one thing to have a tear in your voice. 
It's another to have an annoying voice that reduces others to tears. 

This may be why Gogi Grant and Patti Page are much better known than Teresa Brewer.  

If the casual music fan knows the name at all, it's probably because of Brewer's spunky singing of a song that goes, "Put another nickel in! In the NICKELODEON! All I want is having you, and MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC!!!!!!!"

Spunky. Or as Lou Grant said to Mary Richards, "I hate spunk."
And nobody like spunk when it's splattered right in the ear. 

Freakish-looking Gene Rayburn (now remembered as a leering quiz show host, but then a disc jockey) promoted Brewer's song in 1949 and it ended up a #1 hit around the country. In 1976, Brewer re-recorded a disco version on hubby Bob Thiele's record label. And in between, she recorded a whole lot of irritating stuff made worse by her ear-piercing soprano. 

Ballads are supposed to be soft and lilting, especially ones of heartbreak. There's only earache in the ones terribly tonsiled by Teresa. And no, they aren't of the "so bad they're good" variety. Even the happy "here and queer" crowd would have a hard time getting drunk on Brewer. 

Why then, post "I'm Drowning My Sorrows?" 

Because the co-author is Paul Frees. Frees, you probably know from previous blog posts, was a narrator, radio actor and voice-over genius.
His eccentric and comic voices included the befuddled Captain Peachfuzz, the ludicrous Ludwig von Drake, the raspy and evil Boris Badenov, and even the incredibly high pitched Pillsbury Doughboy. 

Come to think of it, Frees may have done better with his song by singing it himself as the Doughboy. Then it would've been completely baked. But the Doughboy's soprano is slightly masculine. So was Paul's "Daphne" voice. Long kept a secret, the female voice Tony Curtis used as Daphne in "Some Like it Hot" was actually dubbed by Paul Frees.   

 Aside from acting, Frees was an excellent painter (his work even turned up on record album covers) and wrote scripts and songs. Among cultists, the lone movie he directed, "The Beatniks" (1960) is well known. There's even a book that posthumously published his war-time love letters to the wife back home.  

Just how Frees chose his fake last-name I have no idea. His real last name was Hirsch. 

It's possible the cliche-filled love song "I'm Drowning My Sorrows" could've been a minor hit if sung by someone who sang with hurt instead of causing it. 

Check out the first alarming 20 seconds, and you'll have to agree. Teresa was no Kate Bush, and her searing high notes are as strange as her doll-like face. 

"Goodby my love, my sweet my own, farewell to all of the dreams we have known...and so my dear our love story ends. We started as lovers and parted as friends."

Well, right there. You STARTED as lovers? You met and began fucking? Maybe if you started as FRIENDS, you would've gotten to know each other well enough to know that the risk of a STD wasn't worth it.

"I'm drowning my sorrows in oceans of tears. Just crying my heart out but nobody hears." 

Really? NOBODY hears? With that cat on a hot tin roof voice?

Fans of Yoko Ono and Yma Sumac may want to add Brewer to their list of incredibly odd vocalists, but the download probably will be more appreciated by Paul Frees collectors. Not because it's good, but because it adds to the collection. And we all know that "collecting" is nine-tenths of what some pop culture fans are all about.

Teresa Brewer, lyrics by Paul Frees    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Friday, May 19, 2017


    There was a weird time in pop music when ROCK collided with POP. Thus, we had Carnaby fashions almost at the same time as we had hippie grunge. You remember The Beatles wearing those adorable Sgt. Pepper costumes and singing “Good Day Sunshine?” Retro was fine, too. The Kinks wore ruffled shirts and extolled Queen Victoria. The odd meld of rock and pop even had “bad boy” Mick Jagger singing a sanitized “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” on Ed Sullivan’s show.

    In 1966, the retro “Winchester Cathedral” was on the charts, and in 1968, Tiny Tim made a hit out of a song popular in 1929: “Tip Toe Through the Tulips.” Mainstream Kate Smith sang Beatles songs, and Andy Williams sang “MacArthur Park.” Even a dominatrix-kiss off like Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” was consider cute. In 1968, cute mainstreamer Michele Lee made the Top 100 by singing “L. David Sloane…leave me alone!” 

     Who this putz L. David Sloane was, we don’t seem to know. It’s a Jewish name, though. The singer is Jewish. She was born Michele Lee Dusick. The song wasn’t a major hit (that’s why it’s here) but anyone who heard it, for better or worse, remembers it. Michele has very much out-lived it. Lee was only 19 when she came to Broadway in “How to Succeed in Business…” and had appeared in “The Comic” with Dick Van Dyke and Disney’s “The Love Bug” with Dean Jones while simultaneously jump-starting her singing career. 

    Her pert praise and put-down of L. David Sloane stalled outside Billboard’s Top 50 (at #52) but it did sell a pretty fair amount of copies. She, Liza, Barbra, Vicki Carr, Peggy Lee and even Patti Page continued to toss pop 45’s into the market even if it was becoming more and more dominated by rock. 

    Over in England there was a rather unlikely interest in strutting around and putting down L. David Sloane. But you know the Brits. Back then, it was their custom to peer across the pond, check the Hot 100, anticipate a potential Top Ten, and have one of their own do a cover version before the original artist could score a U.K. deal. Enter Kay Garner. 

      Kay grew up in Hull, which Craig Ferguson, in his memoir, called the the worst town in England. This may only mean that he didn’t spend any time in Grimsby.

    Kay didn’t seem to want to stay in Hull either, and came to London to work with The Rabin Band, broadcast on a 1962 radio show called ‘Go Man Go,” and end up a regular at “The Monkey Island Hotel,” along with the infamous Frazer Hayes (whose annoying group used to break up the comedy on “Round the Horne”). Kay sang tons of commercial jingles, recorded quite a bit, appeared on a variety of TV shows (with Benny Hill and Dusty Springfield among others) and passed on ten years ago (July 16, 2007).

    Michele Lee is very much with us. In 1974 she was nominated for a Tony, starring in “Seesaw.” She became a star on the TV night time soap opera “Knots Landing” through the 80’s, and received another Tony nomination for “Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” in 2001. More recently, she’s s been in the hit show “Wicked.” Playbill bios on her do not seem to have room to mention “L. David Sloane.” 

    Whimsical, kinda funny, a bit sexy, somewhat feminist, a bit hapless, “L. David Sloane” is still an amusing novelty. And if you’d like to sing along, why, there’s The Electric Junkyard, a group that didn’t quite rival the Chocolate Watchband, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Corcheted Doughnut Ring, Clockwork Oranges, Applie Pie Motherhood Band or eben Heironymous & the Dharma Bums. 

Michele Lee
L. David Sloane   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.
Kay Garner
L. David Sloane   Instant download or listen on line. No ransom demands.
Electric Junkyard
-L. David Sloane  Instant download or listen on line. No Dutch douchery.

Dame Edna: Greta Keller yes, Caitlyn Jenner, ugh, NO!

Shocking, simply shocking, Possums! Dame Edna dispensed with witty sarcasm or pungent satire, and simply called Caitlyn Jenner a "RATBAG."

Jenner, another media whore in the Kardashian-Jenner cartel, was dismissed for exactly what she is: "a publicity-seeking ratbag." Since Edna wasn't saying this from the stage, Edna didn't need to sugar coat it like she lathers her face with make-up, and make it funny.

"I agree with Germaine (Greer)! You're a mutilated man, that's all. Self-mutilation..." Anticipating the whining protests, Edna added, "If you criticise anything you're racist or sexist or homophobic."

If you've been to one of Barry Humphries' "Dame Edna" shows, you'll find more than a few gays in the crowd. Maybe even a drag queen or two. After all, aside from the female impersonation, "Dame Edna" often talks about her obviously gay son Kenny, and drops references that have more than a gay tinge. On Broadway, there were some gags about how good-looking TV weatherman Sam Champion was, and how Kenny loved to watch Sam's weather reports. At the time, Champion was not yet out of the closet. The crowd hooted with delight.

"Dame Edna" is a character. Initially, Humphries was simply parodying a type of Aussie housewife, doing it with the same vulgarity and cartooning found in Monty Python's imitations of British fishwives. Nothing sexual about it. No transvestism (sexual gratification in crossdressing). Over the years, Humphries simply found that "Dame Edna" was a great vehicle for razor-like put-downs. For example, as a man, Humphries couldn't possibly sit on a couch and make Nicole Kidman blush with observations of Nicole's body. "Dame Edna" could, and did.

So it's really not a surprise that Humphries would have limited sympathy for a man who actually has to go to such extremes for his "feminine side," and insist that a scalpel is what defines womanhood. That sympathy would be extremely limited in the case of someone who instantly stars in a reality show about the transformation.

It's an irony that many gays simply enjoy listening to their Judy Garland records without remotely wanting to BE or dress up AS Judy Garland. The best Judy Garland was Jim Bailey, who did not undergo any sex change operation. Neither did any of the top female impersonators, including Craig Russell and Charles Pierce.

Now in this 80's, but still threatening to bring back "Dame Edna" if he feels like it, Humphries has taken to the radio, exploring his fondness for vintage music. He wants to preserve the music he once destroyed. Literally. An early job at EMI involved making sure that records once played on the air never be played again: "“For copyright reasons, the 78s had to be broken, so I was put in a subterranean room with no windows smashing up hundreds of records, every day, with a hammer. I felt terrible, I was traumatised.”

On Barry's "Forgotten Musical Masterpieces" Radio 2 program (or programme), he's explored "“Al Bowlly, George Formby, Greta Keller, and Fred Astaire, whom I regard as one of the great artists of the 20th century. Not only was he a great dancer, he was also a splendid singer and interpreted the songs of George and Ira Gershwin beautifully.”

You know the guys, but probably not Greta Keller, who has been mentioned on this blog. Here she is, doing "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Although, as Caitlyn learned about his cock and balls, they CAN take those away, creating, if not a woman like Greta Keller, at least, a ratbag.

 Greta Keller
They Can’t Take That Away from Me   Instant download or listen on line. No ransomware, malware or spyware anywhere.  


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The album WEBB will NOT Autograph

    I was very glad to buy Jimmy Layne Webb’s memoir (yes, the first name on the birth certificate IS Jimmy). I got it at a book signing, which also allowed me to say a few words to him about my favorite (obscure) songs of his. He was very nice and friendly. While it didn’t benefit him in any way, he even indulged some typically unwashed, stubble-chinned and obese losers who whined that he should autograph EVERY fucking piece of tatty memorabilia they put in front of him. 

      Fortunately, nobody seemed to be on line with copies of “Jim Webb Sings Webb,”  a near bootleg. At 21, he was used to selling his soul to the suits. This included bartering songs for studio time and producing demos that would then be “owned” by the publisher, leaving him hoping to make money off royalties). Once Webb became known for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Up Up and Away,” there was some interest in Jimmy becoming more of a performer than just a songwriter. That was when the owner of a set of demos licensed it all to Epic. 

    Jimmy was upset that his “debut” album was going to be unauthorized demo material, stuff he did years ago. He was surprise that Epic would not listen to reason, and allow him to give them “good” stuff instead. Epic was not known for being so nasty and underhanded as to release material against an artist’s wishes. That’s what Fantasy and Roulette were doing, among others. Perhaps their logic was that they’d already invested money into a project they felt was pretty good. Webb’s demo tunes were certainly up to the level of some other Epic pop artists (like the invented “Third Rail” collection of studio musicians). They’d already gotten producer Hank Levine to beef up the demos by adding his own arrangements and orchestration. Epic ignored Jimmy Webb and even compounded the misery by dubbing him “Jim Webb.”  

    Jimmy mentioned at the signing that he would NOT sign that album, and that fans who are crazy about that record are just plain crazy. 

    Judge for yourself. The first two tracks are below: “I Keep It Hid,” which has been covered by a few artists, and “You’re So Young,” which probably hasn’t. I don’t think that any of the tracks besides “I Keep It Hid” found life in the throats of other artists. That includes: “Our Time is Running Out,” “I’m In Need,” “Life is Hard,” “I’ll Be Back” and “I Can Do It On My Own.” 

    Webb’s memoir, “The Cake and the Rain”  lists the dozens and dozens of artists who sang “MacArthur Park,” and lists page after page of (sometimes obscure) songs he’s written, but there’s no annotation of who covered them. There’s also a list of his Grammy nominations and Top 100 hits. 

    Oddly enough, those pages almost diminish him. When you think of Jimmy Webb, you think of a one-man Bacharach who wrote dozens of hit songs over many decades. If you disregard the County charts (where “The Highwayman” was a #1) you can count his hits on your ten fingers. There are the Campbell classics (“Phoenix” “Galveston” and “Wichita” as well as the lesser known “Honey Come Back.” in 1970). You’ll remember the cringeworthy “Up Up and Away,” “The Worst That Could Happen” from the Brooklyn Bridge, Art Garfunkel’s early 70’s solo hit “All I Know,” and Joe Cocker’s 1975 “It’s a Sin When You Love Somebody.” Add “MacArthur Park” from Richard Harris and the disco remake from Donna Summer in 1978, the last year a Webb song hit the Top 20. Add it all up: ten, with the last Top 20 entry nearly 40 years ago!  

By comparison, Bacharach was at least creating new songs with Elvis Costello not long ago, and Randy Newman has scored hit songs in Pixar movies, and finally got a "Best Song" Oscar. All this, while Webb admittedly has treaded water with duets albums and recycling his greatest hits (including a very nice solo piano CD...something Newman's done a few times as well). 

    “Didn’t We” by Barbra Streisand stalled at #82, Judy Collins’ “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress” apparently missed the Top 100 entirely, and the last time a Webb song even scraped the Top 100 (if you discount the theft of part of a melody by Kanye West for “Famous”) was Linda Ronstadt’s “Easy For You to Say” in 1983. It’s also disturbing to realize Webb never had a hit on his own, despite developing into a very fine interpreter of his own songs including some great ones on his last album “Suspending Disbelief” back in in 1993 a mere 24 years ago. 

    Webb’s reputation resides, for most people, on the three years, between 1967-1969 when the public loved “Up Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” “MacArthur Park,” “Worst That Could Happen,” “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman.”  Fans of “album tracks” and idiosyncratic singer-songwriters, probably new all along that like Randy Newman or Warren Zevon, Webb’s solo albums were not big sellers, even if they had a lot of great songs on them. “And So On” for example, features his sly disc jockey number “All Night Show” and “P.F. Sloan,”  the catchiest sing-along every to bear the warning “don’t sing this song.” When I had my own radio show, I played his stuff quite a bit. I didn’t realize how few were buying it.

       To this day, I think Jimmy Webb is still rather unfairly derided for the few numbers in his catalog that are either dated pop pap (like “Up Up and Away”) or awfully purple and precious, like “Adios,” or the sugary “Marionette.” Balancing that are so many songs that do rock (“Friends to Burn”), that have beguiling and tricky melodies and rhymes (“Elvis and Me”) and have an honest message ( “It Won’t Bring Her Back,” a song that features Jimmy’s trademark twang and his habit of making a quiet “i” a lot more audible. “Maniac” is sung as “mainy-HACK.”

    Webb’s book, by the way, is weirdly constructed. Each short chapter ping-pongs between early years getting beat up as a four-eyed Preacher’s kid to glimpses of star encounters with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the various Beatles. As befits a guy who considers himself part of the sex and drugs and rock and roll world, and not a sappy pop songwriter, he gives us glimpses of his excesses, and his relationships with a variety of hot babes. An irony is that songs of love and loss were generally inspired by him being the one to fuck things up. He’s the one who cheated on his muse Susan, and who ultimately moved on to find someone new. 

    In this free-love era, married women happily jumped into bed with other men, and his most enduring relationships after Susan, were with ladies who didn’t feel like leaving hubby: Evie and Rosemarie. His kiss-off song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” could easily have been sung by Rosemarie, who left Jimmy “so many times” to go back to her husband. A true tease, she kept popping up to romp with Webb. The vixen (perhaps hoyden, perhaps minx) once showed up saying that she would get a divorce and marry Jimmy IF he bought a house by the beach. 

    Webb dutifully shopped around with her, and she picked the most expensive one. He called his manager to arrange for selling his house and getting a loan to pay the difference. The couple celebrated with intimacy at their motel, but the next morning, Rosemarie enigmatically got dressed, kissed him on the cheek and with the sad smile of somebody pitying a fool, and walked out:  “I didn’t hate her…Nobody makes a fool of anybody, country music notwithstanding. Fools are volunteers.” 

    A big selling point for the book is that Jimmy dishes a bit on the “lost weekend” involving himself, Lennon and Harry Nilsson. Lennon turns out to be even more of a prick than McCartney. John’s excuse was being baked by drugs. There was the notorious nightclub incident that had John sporting a Kotex on his head and allegedly shoving or even punching a female photographer. Harry called Jimmy asking for help: please LIE and testify that you were with me and John, and that John is innocent! Webb dutifully testified that he did not see John strike the woman. (Sure, because Jimmy wasn’t even there!) 

       Webb found Lennon to be ungrateful, insufferable and self-privileged, but the ex-Beatle had style. One day, when Harry and John had exhausted themselves, they sent for Jimmy to bring more money and drugs. Webb found Lennon rolling up hundred dollar bills tightly, and placing them in the twat of a spread-eagled Asian woman (no, not May Pang). 

    You won’t need to roll up a $100 bill, with or without cocaine, to land a copy of “Jim Webb sings Jim Webb.” There are some hapless eBay dealers trying to unload it for $5 or $6, and there’s some kind of CD version of it out of Japan for $20. But no amount will get Jimmy to autograph it for you.

  I KEEP IT HID - YOU’RE TOO YOUNG    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.

THE CONTESSAS - A world-wide WEBB Discovery

    If you check pages 140-142 of Jimmy Webb’s memoir, “The Cake and the Rain,” you’ll learn that back in 1965, the ambitious wunderkid from Oklahoma “was damned proud” of producing his white version of The Supremes. “I hoped Motown might want to sign them,” he writes. Fronted by curvy Suzanne Weir, the group included Webb’s own muse Susan Horton, as well as Alyce Wheaton and Sharon Johnston.
      Webb was a struggling songwriter at the time, and didn’t have the money to launch his group He managed to get a friend of his to fork over $3,500 to start “E Records.” The name was a tribute to “E” Street in San Bernardino. Webb hired the best studio musicians possible, wrote charts, and then bravely assembled everyone so he could produce/direct the session, beginning with a less-than-confident mutter of “What do I do?” Fortunately, the musicians were impressed by his charts, and didn’t think The Contessas were amateurs.
    Legendary drummer Hal Blaine said after the session “You need to stick with this.” It was a much-needed vote of confidence.
       Supporting their indie-label debut, The Contessas  dutifully flirted with local radio disc jockeys, made public appearances, and amazingly, managed to get on Shivaree, a distant cousin (in ratings) to Shindig and Hullabaloo. Still, sales weren’t that brisk for “This Time Last Summer” b/w “Keep On Keeping’ On.”
    Webb was “keepin’ on” despite several setbacks. His mother had suddenly died from a brain tumor, and his preacher father left California to go back to finding a parish in the Mid-West. Webb made a gutsy decision to stay behind, and his father took out a battered wallet, handed his kid a few twenty dollar bills, and apologized that it was all he could spare. Webb made the most of it, finally moving from shaky relationship with Jobete, the division of Motown that had hired him as a staff songwriter, to his big break when producer Johnny Rivers (yes, of “Secret Agent Man” fame) chose  “Up Up and Away” as a single for The Fifth Dimension. 
    Do you suppose The Contessas single would’ve taken off if they were called The Cuntessas? The song could’ve been re-written as “This Is Where You Came In.” With a lovely picture disc showing where.
    I digress. Very much an item of its time, you’ll find these girls to be pleasant xerox copies of Jackie DeShannon or Dusty Springfield.  “Keep On Keeping On,” a phrase that is now associated with Bob Dylan, even has the typical “hey hey hey” that Dusty used with white soul effectiveness.  
    The Contessas broke up fairly quickly, but Webb continued to find a muse in Susan Horton, and says he wrote many of his hits with her on his mind. He did get to fulfill his dream of producing a white version of The Supremes by producing a pale version of The Supremes. By the time he got the assignment to produce and arrange a new album for the group, Diana Ross had departed. Just how good or bad the album is, I have no idea. Look, I can’t get around to listening to every damn album out there. Sometimes it’s hard enough finding time for an obscure single. If you have the time, take a listen to….


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    “Muck-Arty Park” is a very atypical song from Soupy Sales. He released it, very atypically, on Motown. Huh? Wha? The album was called “A Bag of Soup.” His bag was to present himself as something more than a kiddie show icon, or the singer of a semi-hit novelty dance tune called “The Mouse.”

       Written by Ronald Miller and Tom Baird, the chosen single from the album takes aim more at Richard Harris than at Jimmy Webb. Unfortunately, the swipes at Harris and at hippies were not likely to appeal to many peope, and Soupy’s impersonation of Richard Harris sounds like any generic Englishman. His voice pitched low, unless you were told, you wouldn’t even know it was Soupy Sales. Not if you remember his comical straining to reach the high notes on his lone hit: “Heyyyyyy….do the MOUSE….”

    While this artless (Mucky-Arty??) ditty does tweak at the original’s time changes (here a a ragtime bit of “Hold That Tiger” collides with grandiose chords) it’s really a mess: “San Francico’s gone to pot. The kids forgot their Camelot. The flower children traded in their beads and poppy seeds for English tweeds. (Oh no!) Oh yes. (Oh well). Muck-Arty Park will never be the same, all the sweet young hippies blew their thing. Someone through the cook out in the rain. it was just eleven-thirty when they learned his pot was dirty, and he’ll never have that recipe again. (Oh no) Oh yes. Oh shucks!” Oh, fuck and off.  
    So why is it even here on the blog? Oh, just as part of the celebration of Webb’s memoir, and maybe a defense of this much-despised song. It’s almost self-parody and certainly didn’t need Soupy’s version. All anyone has to do for a rueful laugh is play the original, with Richard Harris singing in a fey, almost faggy way, and requiring endless studio splices and tricks to stay on key and hit the high notes. He basically was doing karaoke to a track already produced, and still needed hours and hours of re-takes.
    “MacArthur Park,” on length alone, broke barriers. AM radio, which broke almost every song, favored two or three minute ditties. While “extended play” 45’s were somewhat known, they were mostly used as hybrids: four songs from an artist that couldn’t produce a whole album, or six cover versions from a budget label trying to give poor kids a break. Nobody thought of putting ONE song on an extended-play 45 rpm. And how many radio stations, knowing the attention span of teens, would dare play such a long song??

    After this blockbuster, there was “Hey Jude.” In his book, Webb insists that McCartney deliberately extended the fade to reach the magic seven minute mark. Macca was competing with “Mac Park” (a Jimmy calls it) the same way he competed with Simon & Garfunkel, writing “Let it Be” as a spiritual answer song to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” PS, in his book Webb indicates that Paul was a bit of a prick. After Webb took too much time to reply to a request to write something for Mary Hopkin’s debut album, Paul refused to recognize Jimmy by name. He’d pointedly call him by some other name, even after repeated “I’m JIMMY” reminders from Webb.

    Have I digressed enough yet?

    Let’s add that arguably, “MacArthur Park,” from a trained classical pianist, helped spawn the “classical rock” genre, which would include Boko Haram’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” and Mason Williams’ smash “Classical Gas.” Even Roy Orbison gave grandiose rock a shot when he recorded, “Southbound Jericho Parkway” which clocked in at 6:59. That’s quite a jump from “Claudette” which was exactly two minutes.

    Some people absolutely HATE long rock songs, and back in the day Chapin’s “Taxi” and certainly “American Pie” took a lot of abuse. What set people off about Webb’s song was more the singing and the lyric than the music itself. For better or worse, Richard Harris made for a compelling hero, and the uneven-voiced “Camelot” star made the most of his over-baked rendition, which included a lot of quivering, quavering, and of course the almost effeminate high-pitched “Oh noooooooooo.” Only Harris could get away with Webb’s attempts at connecting to medieval balladry, with such awkward phrases as “stripe-ed pair of pants.”

    While falsetto goes back to Lou Christie and Frankie Valli, and somehow people gave a pass to guys getting emotional in a high-pitched voice, and even operatic (Mr. Orbison again), it was a bit uncomfortable, if not ridiculous, to hear a grown man getting hysterical over a cake recipe. It’s possible Webb could’ve re-written his lines to make it seem like his doomed lover had baked the fucking thing: “Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don’t think that I can take it, ‘cause SHE took so long to bake it. And SHE’ll never have that recipe again….”

    Oh well. Last point on the lyrics, is that, like Boko Haram’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” there really isn’t much cause for concern. This is just abstract words, like an abstract painting. Do we get bent because Seurat used little dabs of paint for his pointeliist effect? Are we upset because Picasso stuck two eyes on one side of a model’s head? We get it. Boko’s song about a girl having an overdose at a party, was rendered with spacey symbolism. So here, (and confirmed in Webb’s book), the sad drama of a break-up during the psychedelic 60’s is rendered with LSD smears. The park’s lawn becomes “sweet green icing.” There’s symbolism of a rainy day in a park. There are the glimpses of park scenes, including old men playing checkers. It’s not THAT obscure.

    “MacArthur Park is melting in the dark” isn’t that far removed from the era’s “Raindrops keep falling on my head.” For Webb, the main irritation was that Richard Harris kept singing MacArthur’s Park.” There wasn’t a way of slicing off the “s” every time the amiably drunk and/or histrionic actor repeated that line.

    Webb has a good sense of humor and a self-deprecating way about him. A few weeks ago he did a podcast with little Gilbert Gottfried, and was a good sport in playing keyboard while Gilbert rasped and strained over the famous high notes and “Oh no’s.”  Webb, Gilbert and the crew were breaking up with laughter, which is more than you’ll do listening to this historic but hardly hysteric curiosity by the former Milton Supman.


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The WEBB of Infidelity: "EVIE"

Reading Jimmy Webb’s new memoir, “The Cake and the Rain,” I learned that his rather obscure song “Evie” nearly won an International song competition in Brazil. It’s about a real person. Evie is the fun-loving wife of Leslie Bricusse (both still alive) and in her early days as an actress, appeared in a few Hammer horror movies. In the days when England swang like a pendulum do, she was frisky enough to openly cheat on him with Webb. He wanted to marry her. She wasn’t sure. Bricusse got more prickly about this as the situation became more and more serious. This led to a very engrossing confrontation that saw Webb-fan David Hemmings get between Evie’s two rivals before any punches could be thrown. 

Evie had called Webb from her home, desperate for a rescue. In fact, she chose to escape with Webb, leaving her husband with Hemmings. But…a few days later she returned to him. Oh, Jimmy eventually realized, maybe it’s for the best.  

As most every sensitive singer-songwriter would admit, what’s the point of a life experience if it can’t be fodder for a song? “Evie” is one of those rather self-indulgent ballads in which the hero gets to show there are no hard feelings, just maybe a lingering hardon now and then. I’d put it in the category of an “I’m gonna stand tall” number from Gene Pitney, but somewhere in the book Webb wryly quotes Pitney as saying, “I never got Jimmy Webb.”  

Webb figured that Bill Medley, the lanky, dark-haired half of the Righteous Brothers, was the perfect choice to put “Evie” into the Top 10. Medley was willing to go down to Brazil and sing it as America’s representative in the song contest. As it turned out, the song never made the Top 100 and the entourage (Medley, Webb and a variety of musicians and users) figured the contest was more an excuse for partying than anything else. How could the song win in a corrupt country that was going to rig the judging for its own entry? 

As Jimmy relates in the book, the main thing was to try not to get killed down there. Angry Latinos were shouting the Spanish word for “fag” at him (for having long hair) and the Fascist police seemed to be losing patience with the gringos and their attempts to smuggle marijuana. 

Poor Bill Medley, saddled with a second-rate “Didn’t We,” gets kudos for being determined and gutsy, singing this rather awkward slow ballad to a restless and downright dangerous crowd. The audience was only calmed when another singing contestant came out to try and shield him, and make sure nobody threw anything dangerous at his head. It’s just one of many vivid anecdotes in this engrossing memoir. 

Despite some hype here and there from his publisher, the book is NOT “the story behind the songs” in most cases. “Evie” is an exception. There’s nothing about one of my favorite rock songs of his, “Laspitch,” which is a Harry Chapin-esque O.Henry story-song about a preacher’s infidelity, and how the Man of God’s wife reacts. Webb doesn’t even bother to cite the song as a very unusual example of a number where the closing instrumental is actually longer than the song itself. 

The dramatic music, perhaps intended to accentuate and continue to shake up the listener after the punchline, continues for another three minutes. The song ends up almost as long as “MacArthur Park.” As Webb progressed from songwriter to singer-songwriter, his work became much less commercial. He was pretty much “hired” to write the awful and overripe “Up Up and Away” for a proposed teen movie about ballooning, and it became one of his major hits. Less known would be “If You See Me Getting Smaller I’m Leaving” describing his decision to have a “borderline career” touring small clubs and be taken seriously. 

In discussing Webb’s work, detractors often get stuck on Jimmy’s work for traditionals like Sinatra and Streisand, and how the MOR-world embraced him for his work with The Fifth Dimension, or how even Andy Williams took on “MacArthur Park.” But his work has encompassed every form of music, from soul and R&B (take Pocketful of Keys” from Thelma Houston), disco (Donna Summer), doo wop (Johnny Maestro and “The Worst That Could Happen), and tough C&W (“The Highwayman” as sung by The Highwaymen). (C)rapper Kanye West even stole a melody off Webb for “Famous.” In addition, Webb worked his way up from a rather nasal and annoying variation on Neil Young into a class act playing the same venues as Randy Newman, and attracting almost the same kind of intelligent, informed crowd. 

Have I digressed? Say hello to EVIE, the frolicsome 60's babe and ex-scream queen (who performed as Yvonne Romain.

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