Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"BAD RICE" is AMONG US! And "MARIJUANA HELL" - Ron Nagle

Consumer Reports is singing out that rice could be bad for you. Like, it's full of ARSENIC.

This news today had me instantly flash to that peculiarly-titled solo album by Ron Nagle: BAD RICE.


A legendary cult record from the leader of San Francisco's Mystery Trend, the album sported the mysterious cover photo of, well, bad rice.

The back cover had a photo of a creepy guy with a missing tooth...which some thought was Mr. Nagle. Actually it was just a kind of warped mascot (sort of like "Old Velvet Nose" the skull that always adorned Warren Zevon discs).

Who was going to buy this weird "Bad Rice" album by this unknown "Ron Nagle" guy? Years later, Nagle went on to form The Durocs, co-write for The Tubes ("Don't Touch Me There") and Streisand and the movies...while maintaining a day job as a ceramics professor and artist.

But let's not get too far from the story of the day. BAD RICE!

According to Consumer Reports, if everything gives you cancer (uh, Joe Jackson song reference!) then don't be surprised that RICE is high on the list: "white basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan, as well as U.S. sushi rice, has about half the inorganic arsenic amount of many other rice types...(rice with) a label from Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas or just the U.S. had the highest levels of inorganic arsenic."

Think you can get away from this by eating brown rice, which is actually harder to digest and for some, much more of a health hazard? "It has 80% more inorganic arsenic than white rice...Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan...has about a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices."

Jack La Lanne, the original television exercise guru who nearly lived to be 100, gave sage advice: "If man makes it, don't eat it."

Of course even if you have a diet of raw vegetables and fruits, and maybe some cooked fish (or chicken if you can stand killing one) you're still dealing with the huge amount of chemicals and pollution in the air and soil these days.

What problems are associated with bad rice? Bladder, lung and skin cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes."

Consumer Reports is not telling people to avoid rice, but they aren't happy with the stats, or the food industry's lax and apathetic view of this and every other problem with heavily processed foods.

Since there's no actual track called "Bad Rice," your sample for the great Ron Nagle is the rockin' "Marijuana Hell," with Ry Cooder sliding around on guitar. Like Zevon, Randy Newman and a few others, Nagle has the ability to stick his tongue out, or in his cheek. Is he laughing at the anti-marijuana bunch, or does he see the dangers? Or both?

America has lately been wobbling closer toward legalized marijuana in every state. So far, there hasn't been much of a problem with legalized pot in Colorado, for example. But are we setting ourselves up for a marijuana hell where people are willing to rob to pay the high price? Will they get lazy and addicted because there are powerful varieties? Will we see more synthetic versions and wiseguys sticking it in food WITHOUT letting a friend know? Oh, it's hell, folks!

Any good news? Well, yes. Ron Nagle is promising a CD release of his album, with bonus tracks. He's also put out a few new solo albums that have been under the radar (sold only on his own website). Ron's DUROCS Capitol album from 1980 was re-issued with bonus tracks. Good news? Listen to Ron Nagle! Bad news? Don't eat too much rice!

RON NAGLE Marijuana Hell w/ Ry Cooder

ERNEST KINOY DIES - "HONEST MAN" (Herschel Bernardi, BAJOUR)

When "Bajour" was revived for a limited (five performances) engagement in New York, songwriter Walter Marks was there. I asked him if Ernest Kinoy who wrote the book, was going to show up. He said that unfortunately Ernest wasn't well enough to make the long trip from his suburban home. This was back in 2007. I wish I'd written to the guy, because he made The Big Trip Home last week, dead of pneumonia.

You don't know who he is. That's common for most writers. The plus side is that writers don't have the pressure of doing interviews and being under constant scrutiny. The negative is that they (or the wife, or children or friends) have to explain who they are, and when they die, almost nobody even reads the obit, if there even is an obit.

Kinoy probably would list his Broadway work as among his lesser credits. He wrote the script for several musicals, including "Chaplin," and two shows that had scores by Walter Marks: "Golden Rainbow" (hit song: "I've Got To Be Me") and "Bajour" (no hit songs). Naturally, "Bajour" is not only my favorite from Marks, but in the Top 5 of my favorite musicals.

Kinoy contributed a joke-flecked sitcom story, and Walter Marks the songs. Walter's melodies are catchy and his lyrics are very, very clever. Like Cole Porter and later, Tom Lehrer, Marks was a fan of wordplay and inner rhyme. In a story about an anthropologist (Nancy Dussault) fascinated with a bunch of gypsy con-artists in New York, she sings about a "diatribe on why a tribe" is worth writing about. She notes that an anthropologist must discover an ethnic people, the same way "you're not an etymologist until you get the word, you're not an ornithologist until you get the bird."

In the insane Marks world, the villainess (Chita Rivera) brags to her tribeswomen, that she's "a pungent limburg cheese to you insipid camemberts."

It was a musical where a shout of "Virtue" was met with "Gezundheit," love advice was sung by Betty Boop (Mae Questel, who recorded the cartoon voice decades earlier) and two gypsy leaders (Herschel Bernardi and Herb Edelman) engage in insults about their offspring: "I hear you got a daughter so ugly, nobody would look if she was barefoot up to the neck!" "I hear you got a boy so stupid, even if he did look, he wouldn't know the difference!"

Their duet, "Honest Man" is below. The subplot of the show was the combining of the two tribes, thanks to a convenient marriage. Still, the gypsy leaders eye each other warily, and catch-phrases like "that's what you think" and "big deal" and "wise guy" take on both friendly and insulting meanings.

It might be the first time "Up Yours" was heard on Broadway.

Most Broadway shows have one obligatory comic song. This one had several. Maybe that's part of why it didn't last more than one season. The designated love songs and pop singles ("Why Must It Be Love" "Love is a Chance") were pretty good.

What did Ernest Kinoy do before and after his Broadway shows with Walter Marks? Everything. The man was a genius. But first he had to get through World War 2, which wasn't easy. Captured, he was taken to a Stalag (yes, just like Hogan and his heroes) but when the Nazis discovered Kinoy was a Jew, they hauled him to a tough, slave labor camp instead.

After the war, Kinoy wrote for sci-fi radio shows ("Dimension X" and "X Minus One"), Frank Sinatra's short-lived "Rocky Fortune," and then TV ("Studio One," "The Defenders," "Naked City," Dr. Kildare" and others). He won Emmy awards, and moved on to made-for-TV movies and theatrical films. Being a good Jewish liberal writer, he tended to write not about his people, but the other minority group, blacks. He wrote movies for Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte (including "Buck and the Preacher") and "Roots The Next Generations" and "Victory at Entebbe" about Idi Amin.

One of his last major works was "Chernobyl," a 1991 TV movie starring Jon Voight. Ernest's wife Barbara died in 2007. The next of Kin-oy are two children from the marriage. A fine writer, was Ernest Kinoy (April 1, 1925 – November 10, 2014), a versatile man, a heroic man, and an honest man. I wish I could've said or written "thanks, Ernest" to him personally.

Herschel Bernardi and Herb Edelman "Honest Man"

JIMMIE RODGERS - TROUBLED TIMES "Do they Know He has a Christmas Album?"

Yeah, the TV commercials are blasting away and stores are full of seasonal goodies. It's THAT time of year. For the older musicians, it's a time when the year end royalty check either doesn't come, or it's chump change. Joining the rest of their albums on the "music should be free" Internet, are any Christmas they made. What would Jesus do? Set up a Christmas blog and give away every seasonal album from Dean Martin to Bob Dylan? Some people must think so!

Jesus could also turn water into wine while mere mortal singers and songwriters can't magically fill the kitchen with loaves and fish sticks. They need payment.

Millionaire Bob Geldof isn't concerned with pioneering figures of the 50's and 60's who aren't getting decent royalties and can't tour 100 dates a year in their old age. Charity begins at home, Bob. Do you know how most in the music industry spend Christmas? Clue: the problem is people NOT spending money on music.

Jimmie Rodgers has a Christmas album and you can order it at jimmie-rodgers.com. He'll even autograph it. The tracks include: O Holy Night, The First Noel, Silent Night, We Three Kings, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Come All Ye Faithful, White Christmas and more. They're sung in what is actually a pretty unique style. Rodgers, a folksinger originally, with country leanings (we all remember "Honeycomb") did have a gentle Como-type of voice. It was well suited to the gentle protest song "Child of Clay," which was a big hit before he got "the big hit" from an insane cop who pulled him over on the freeway and nearly killed him.

At the time, Rodgers was enjoying a well-deserved "second act" in his career. Signed to the same label as Phil Ochs, he was balancing social conscience songs with the moody pop hits of the day ("Windmills of Your Mind," Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," Joni's "Both Sides Now") as well as genial up-tempo numbers. He had grown up from the simple days of "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," without alienating the old fans. He was finding new ones. But after the attack, the handsome singer lost vital months to rehab, and his momentum was lost. The affects of his near-fatal beating haunted him and hindered him.

"Troubled Times" was the appropriate name of the "lost" A&M album that came out after "Child of Clay." While Collector Choice put his first two A&M albums on a CD, this one, no. Other cuts include "Woman Crying" and "The Good Times Are Gone."

Rodgers' "Troubled Times" album isn't really that gloomy. It reflected a kind, optimistic personality. Now about 80 years old, he still likes to get out there from time to time, and appear at a "celebrity show" if he can. He and his manager run the website and a Facebook page, and he has music and even an autobiography for sale. Geldof was proud to say he raised a million dollars in less than a day with his latest starfest Christmas song, the money disappearing into some black hole (as has happened since George Harrison and "Bangla Desh"). Too bad Geldof and the others aren't concerned with the pioneer singers and songwriters who came before them and built up the pop industry they plunder.

Jimmie Rodgers has a Christmas album for sale (and not on Spotify; something Taylor Swift understands, but Geldof and his pals do not). Blessings to those who know it's out there, and want to buy it.

Jimmie Rodgers "Troubled Times"

Sunday, November 09, 2014

RICHARD TURLEY - The Rockabilly Who Got Blindsighted

Here's Part One (the early years) in my salute to Turley Richards, who has just published his memoir "Blindsighted."

His early singles on the indie Fraternity label, were issued under his real name: Richard Turley. The teenager's very first recording, "Makin' Love with My Baby" fit right in with what Elvis, Jerry Lee and Bill Haley were doing, and remains a rockabilly "Hall of Fame" classic. From the start, Turley was not only a great singer, but he could write a solid song, too. This was already an achievement for a kid who could've been written off when he was just four.

At four, the kid from West Virginia was playing with some friends. The game was for the oldest kid (twelve) to show off with a bow and arrow. The giggling kids would bend over and use a pillow as the "target." Wham! Ha ha!

You guessed it. All went well till it was Richard's turn. He waited. He waited. He turned around to see what was delaying the arrow…and it lanced his eye.

This was the start of a literally scarred childhood. An infection in the damaged eye spread to the other. It was almost a race against time for Richard Turley to become a superstar while he still could see the faces on the pretty girls who flocked around him. He endured bizarre treatments (the doctor would pop his good eye out, clear scar tissue, put it back in). Because he grew to be a 6'4" 200 pounder, had to literally fight off a variety of clowns who wanted to take down a big man, not realizing this was a man blind in one eye. As page after page of his book shows, this guy had to fight almost all of his life.

The most difficult opponent was luck. Every time he seemed to have won, and defeated an obstacle, a new one would appear. He'd sign with a new record label for more money and more prestige, only to lose out because of the whims of radio stations or an error in management or confusion over musical direction (C&W, rockabilly, rock, folk, gospel, R&B…he could do them all).

The colorful stories in his book could make for one hell of a movie. He learned the hard way. How about singing "black" to the point where he got bookings in the South…only to be shot at by racists? How about getting a chance to tour, only to discover how easily club owners could screw an artist? One owner offered no money up front, but a percentage of the door? When Richard and his band received no money, the gang unscrewed the front door from its hinges. The club owner shouted, "What the hell are you doing?" Turley: "You said that we could play for the door. Well, we played, so now I'm taking what we earned!"

People outside the business thinks it's easy to get a demo into the right hands, and anyone who makes a record has gotten a huge advance and is doing well from brilliant management and an agent who arranges well-paying tours. Uh, no. This book will tell you the truth. In fact, the early days almost ended the career of Richard Turley.

After frustration with touring, and a deal with Dot Records that fell through, he sold his guitar in California and came back home. "Everybody says that you're the best singer they've ever heard," his mother told him. "God gave you a gift, and you've got to use it. I taught you to never give up and defeat is no option…You might be totally blind someday, and music is how you're going to earn your living."

And so he continued. Deals came and went. In one bizarre chapter, he talks of becoming a "Midnight Cowboy." In the film, Joe Buck comes to New York with the intent of becoming a rent boy. He failed. Turley succeeded. While he did have to sleep in Central Park before he made it as a stud, eventually two girls sharing an apartment decided to share him, too. He drifted among the rich girls, but kept moving any time things got serious. The guy was always very stubborn and independent…at one point becoming the lead singer for The Kingsmen on tour, only to part ways, figuring he could do better.

The book is loaded with stories about his wild times in the big city, and sharing the stage with up-and-coming talent including Richard Pryor (Turley actually ad-libbed stuff that had Pryor on the floor) and Jimi Hendrix. He got signed to Columbia and a single came roaring up the chart…until someone got the bright idea of putting a photo of him in Billboard. It turned out black radio stations were playing Turley's R&B song, and when they discovered he wasn't really black, they stopped. That's show biz…and rotten. And it got worse. The same thing was going on with his health. His eyesight was improving but the medication was destroying him with side effects. Eventually the meds stopped working and the light failed…just as he was getting his biggest break…a deal with Warners.

Below, the "rockabilly" Richard Turley…before he became the rocking Turley Richards.

Richard Turley Makin' Love With My Baby

Richard Turley "I Wanna Dance"

TURLEY RICHARDS: "Love Minus Zero" Plus Hard Luck

It always seemed Richard Turley would turn his luck around…especially when he literally turned his name around, into Turley Richards. In November 1969, 45 years ago this month…he signed with Warners and covered Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)." It hit the Billboard Top 100. What could go wrong?

Everything.

Turley Richards, with a five octave range and the ability to sing any type of music, was now being sold as a singer/songwriter. Warners in 1969 positioned him as part of their folk-rock stable, which included James Taylor, acid folkies Pearls Before Swine and Greenwich Village legend Hamilton Camp. Warners was happy that Turley's single was charting. But instead of grinning, they should've been manufacturing the album.

"It was virtually unheard of for a record label not to release an album right after the single charted," Richards writes in his new book "Blindsighted." Even so, there was reason for optimism. A track on the album, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus," was a critical sensation. It not only showed off his five octave range, but his ability to do everything from deep, righteously brotherly crooning to anguished, gravel-voiced gospel-shouts. It fulfilled the promise he showed when he turned up on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" with a full-ranged version of "Summertime."

Richard was also touring, winning praise from others on the bill, including Laura Nyro and Miriam Makeba. While "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" was too long for a single (there was a 4 minute promo made), Warners figured another album of light rock tunes would continue the success he had with the rather mild "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)." Unfortunately there was no shortage of "mellow" at the time, especially from James Taylor. Despite a Vanilla Fudge-styled slow-mo version of the soul classic "My World is Empty Without You Babe," the album didn't do too well and the "West Virginia Superstar" had to find a new record label.

What he found was more frustration, whether it was Epic or Atlantic, whether the promises came from Ahmet Ertegun or Mick Fleetwood. He had a manager who turned down an amazing offer from Merv Griffin, who wanted Turley as a regular. Turley invested money in himself to try and push a song called "You Might Need Somebody" (Atlantic) to the top, something that Kapp, Columbia and Epic couldn't do with their chosen singles.

The song zoomed up the Billboard charts, but the rocket disintegrated in mid-flight. The album seemed to disappear off the chart without a trace. "I had paid $15,000 out of my own pocket to an independent radio promotion man…now I called him to ask what the hell just happened. He told me he had never seen anything like it in his entire career of promoting records…I smelled a rat…."

Turley has a good sense of humor (his album "Therfu" borrows from the middle portion of "motherfucker") but after all these years, the ups and downs were no longer funny. Eventually there came the big decision; accept yet another record deal, take another tour on the road…or stay home and work some kind of day job. He chose to stay home. "Not only would I have missed my kids growing up, I would have been shirking my responsibilities as their dad. Today, there is no father out there who knows that his kids love him with the depth that I do. We have a very special bond and I wouldn't trade that for all the record deals in the world." He learned how to get along despite his blindness. He was able to learn how to use a computer, how to get around without a guide dog, and how to set up his chosen business (teaching singing and songwriting).

Over the past 20 years, Turley's performed in local clubs in the Kentucky area, as well as "corporate" gigs. He's tried to sell his music through downloads on his website, and at one point I recall he even tried a "buy it if you like it" deal, offering a new album free, with a link to Paypal. In the book Turley notes that indie labels have "no artist development money. These types of labels rely on the artist playing at least one hundred dates a year." The last time he signed with a label like that, all he got was boxes of CDs taking up space in his garage.

Now he may have a box or two of books in there as well, but hopefully these will start to move as word-of-mouth builds. This is a great memoir. He opted to self-print his book, and while that usually means an amateurish product, that's not the case here. His book is well-edited, thoroughly professional, printed on quality paper, and the bonus is that it comes with a 6 song CD including a remastered "I Heard the Voice of Jesus." Go to his website to order it: www.turleyrichards.com.

I was glad to get this book because I always wanted to know more about this mysterious guy who created one of the most awesome tracks of all time with "I Heard the Voice of Jesus." Not many ever achieve something like this. The most recent person I can think of, is Siobhan Magnus, who stunned "American Idol" with "freakish notes" in her cover of "Think," and then "Paint it Black." But she didn't win the show and hasn't solved the problem if how to make a living touring and selling albums. She, like Turley, couldn't simply do "the gimmick" over and over, and turn every song into a showcase for octave range and varied stylings.

If you don't know Turley's music, I'm sure the downloads on the blog will be an inspiration to collect his albums and singles. I hope it also inspires you to buy the book. It's Turley's tale but it's also the story behind most any unique artist you like; one who made a few albums on different labels and earned your love and respect, even if it didn't translate into fame and fortune.

Love Minus Zero No Limit

"Young as You Are" Sal Mineo and his bums

One of the odd things in music is how often you hear "bums."

While doo-wop produced a lot of nonsense words, and many singers can't resist an orgasmic "ooh," somehow there's been a fetish for "bums." Probably the record for the most "bums" belongs to The Chordettes: "Bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum, Mr. Sandman…"

In the days of madrigal (when you'd go find a gal in Madrid, on summer holiday) the nonsense words were "fa la la." Illiterates got a chance to sing choruses. People got bored with that, and looked to more interesting nonsense words, like "whack fol the daddio." Then pop music came along and things got simpler again. But why, you can almost hear Terry-Thomas sigh, "the preoccupation with BUMS?"

Why is it that singing "bum bum bum" is supposed to remind people of bells or something, when the actual word means hobo or butt?

Here, Sal Mineo's backing vocalists offer a lot of bums.

The BBC never censored a song for having too many bums? Maybe they would not have cared if the chorus was actually butts, butts, butts?? I don't think they even censored The Beatles when those cheeky monkeys chose a deliberate chorus of "tit tit tit tit tit." You remember that song, it was about the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry. Sorry you ever thought of ramma lamming your ding dong in her.

As to the singer, Sal Mineo, what can one say? He was one of the many straight/gay idols of the day who sang well enough to get a record deal. Movie studios liked a star who could self-promote via "The Ed Sullivan Show" and music on the air waves. Anthony Perkins made a lot of records, and not to long after that, Richard Chamberlain.

Sal remains a cult favorite thanks to "Rebel Without a Cause," (and to a lesser extent, his psycho-killer role in "Who Killed Teddy Bear," with comedian Jan Murray as the cop trying to track him down. Gays took him to heart after gossip had him stabbed to death by a jealous lover (no, it was just a burglary gone wrong). Mineo did seem to spiral downward after his "teen idol" years, but he was always more than just a pretty boy. In his prime he showed off a lot of ethnic diversity. He was a Sioux Indian ("Tonka," 1958), a speed-driven drummer ("The Gene Krupa Story" 1959) and a Jew ("Exodus," 1960). Perhaps somewhere, on TV, in a film, or on stage, he may have even played a bum.

Visit Mineola "Young As You Are (bum bum bum)"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When Patti Dahlstrom was nearly killed by Paul Williams

Paul Williams rushed to the bleeding Patti Dahlstrom, crying, "What have I done??"

Patti, dazed and bleeding, remembers now, "His voice became faint..." Slipping in and out of consciousness, she barely heard him say "Patti, an ambulance is on its way..."

You know Paul Williams. His songwriting credits include a lot of MOR ballads. But he didn't write "Killing Me Softly," and he was hoping he hadn't killed Patti Dahlstrom.

Paul did write "kill me now" romance songs that rock critics hated. These include: "Evergreen" as cooed by Stresiand, "We've Only Just Begun" as mewled by The Carpenters, and the silly "An Old Fashioned Love Song" (Three Dog Night).

He wrote "You And Me Against the World" covered by Helen "Hear Me Roar" Reddy. If you're still not repulsed, how about "Rainbow Connection" sung by The Muppets?

Yeah, that Paul Williams...who redeemed himself with a sense of humor in films (he was paired with giant comedian Pat McCormick in "Smokey and the Bandit") and the cult classic "Phantom of the Paradise."

Back when Patti was lying on the ground, her face smashed and bleeding, they were both young songwriters just beginning to get breaks. They often played their newest songs for each other. Patti's style wasn't as kitschy-coo as Paul's. So, did they come to blows over artistic direction? Did they have some kind of lethal argument?

No, Paul was showing off his Cunningham Bugatti, bright red with beige leather interior: "Paul started out and fairly fast, I think, probably 80 miles an hour on that turning twisting road. But it didn't feel that fast because the car was built to race, and holding the ground that well, the curving of the road felt natural and easy..."

Until he lost traction. "I remembered flying out of that car when the rear wheel hit a curb and broke the axle. I dreamed it. But back then all I had was Paul's description, "I looked up and you were over my head about eight feet and being thrown about twenty feet away.” And she heard a voice say "the odds are 50,000 to 1 that the doctors can save the left side of your face..."

The full details of the accident, and the faith that pulled her through it, is in her book "Traveling With Jesus: Learning on the Road of Life." It's not exactly a huge book...at 13,000 words it's more of a very long feature magazine piece. That makes it a quick, good read. Check pattidahlstrombooks.com for the download link.

And for those who don't yet know Patti Dahlstrom...check the CD re-issue of her best songs. She's been recorded by Thelma Houston, Cilla Black, and Shirley Bassey among others. She and Paul both have had a song covered by Helen Reddy. In Patti's case, it's "Emotion," English lyrics comfortably atop the melody from Veronique Sanson. Patti recorded four solo albums...featuring rollicking Southern rock, earthy songs about life and love, and much more. "I Never Did" is one of her classy ballads, and you'll find it below, from the original vinyl.

PATTI I NEVER DID

Grow Old Along With Disease - Glen Campbell and John

One of the most depressing songs John Lennon wrote is one of his last. "Grow Old Along With Me," his re-write of Browning, is literally a sad recording. You'd think John could've afforded a top quality portable tape recorder. The existing vocal, souped up to sound like an ELO outtake, is woeful and thin, with what sounds like a battered school auditorium piano.

It's also sad because not long after he made the demo, he was demolished.

John loved New York City. He wanted to live in America, land of the free. America believes in the freedom to bear arms, sell guns to just about anyone, and New York doesn't have a death penalty no matter what the murderer did.

Is it possible to listen to that song and not feel the deep irony of John, 40 years old, NOT growing old with Yoko? With us? Not being around the way Bob Dylan is, or Leonard Cohen, or Elton John or Paul McCartney?

It's a tribute to John that this is one of the most-covered of his comeback era songs. And who is the most prominent performer with a version of it? Glen Campbell, who sang it after his Alzheimer's diagnosis. It's pretty wrenching to hear a guy singing about growing old...when he knows he's also going to grow addled, and his wife could be living with a guy who has no idea who she is, and vice versa.

Flip Wilson once said that the cost of living is going up, and the chance of living's going down.

"Grow Old Along With Me," if you can avoid a bullet, some other act of violence, AIDS, Ebola, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's....

Here in October, Campbell has just released his final recording and video. It's "I'm Not Gonna Miss you." One critic, Ed Masley, reviewed it with many a reference to John Lennon:

"A gospel-flavored piano intro echoing John Lennon's "Isolation" is met by ethereal, Beatlesque harmonies before the country crooner takes the spotlight, candidly addressing what he's going through with "I'm still here but yet I'm gone / I don't play guitar or sing my songs / It never defined who I am / The man who loved you 'til the end." Now addressing his wife, he sings, "You're the last person I will love / You're the last face I will recall / And best of all / I'm not gonna miss you." Then he hits you with the sort of slide guitar part George Harrison might have added to a Lennon record."

Quite so. But the video directed by James Keach is more like Johnny Cash's "Hurt," with clips of the young man and close-ups of the puffy, battered face of a man grown old.

You can find that one on YouTube via Glen's own channel (a few pennies in royalties do go to him for a certain amount of plays). As for the older "Grow Old Along With Me," that's below.

John Lennon cover version by Glen Campbell

Thursday, October 09, 2014

ELEANOR McEVOY - THE BEST

The other night, I was listening to Eleanor McEvoy's album "Snapshots." It's 15 years old. It's a classic and it's more than that. It has such depth, so much to offer, that hearing this was almost like a new experience. I was struck by the production on "Sophie," a tour-de-force with its counterpoint of Eleanor's aching voice and the brutal reality of power chords on the piano. At times it reverses, with the piano becoming delicate in nuance, as she drives home the stark rhymes about this anorexic, tragic heroine…"dying…" "…can't stop crying…"

I remember being in a record store (remember those?) that had a bunch of sale bins. A girl was looking through the CDs of the unknown artists on sale, hoping to score something interesting for a few dollars. I was with my lady, who, irony enough, had introduced me to McEvoy this very way. She said, "This looks interesting..." and I bought it. As we checked the boxes, I noticed a copy of "Snapshots." Eleanor's albums were often in the sale bin, to my chagrin. Eleanor's not very well known in America and CDs and promo copies were often available for a few dollars. I flashed the album to my lady. The girl next to me said, "She's good?" I said, "She's great." "Oh? What's she like?" Thinking of a reference she might understand, I said, "Imagine a totally depressed Sinead O'Connor."

At the time, 1999, McEvoy was known for heartbreakingly intimate angst, if she was known for anything. "Only A Woman's Heart" was (and remains) her biggest hit. "My heart is low…my heart is so low…" Like Paul Simon, the best songs on the early albums tended to be somber, if not grim: "Go Now." "Please, Heart, You're Killing Me." "Whisper a Prayer to the Moon." Her love songs were in a minor key, including the haunting and humble, "You'll Hear Better Songs Than This." She wrote questioning, ironic pieces on religion ("Ave Maria") and she bettered Paul's "Slip Sliding Away" with the faster-paced "Days Roll By." And yes, she had several songs about people dying.

Fast forward 5 years. With great anticipation, I went to see her perform live. Would she be darkly morbid? Harrowing? Would she be some kind of wreck barely able to get through a set without throwing a bitter tantrum or breaking down in tears? To my surprise, Eleanor presented a very balanced show of the dark tunes and the gradually increasing lighter ones. She had an easy rapport with the audience, and without flashy looks or costume, won over the room with her personality. She could play guitar, piano and violin, too. It was then that I realized Eleanor McEvoy is quite simply, the best. Who else could I see for well-written and performed songs, in no genre more specific than "rock?" Joni Mitchell would be a competing name but even in 2004 Joni was a recluse.

That night, October 9th, she performed a stark number she only sings if she happens to be doing a gig on that date. "Anyone know what day it is?" she asked. She was expecting a cue for the song. But I was the first to speak up, and I said, "Yes…it's John Lennon's birthday." "Oh? Really? I didn't know that." Then she launched into a song that is both rich and spare, beautiful in its simplicity, deep in the chord changes, profoundly simple in sketching in the sparse details of a girl gone missing, with hopeful, hopeless signs placed around the neighborhood by her family. I often play it for people as their introduction to this artist.

More recently, she played a gig within 200 miles of me (it happens so rarely, since she mostly performs in Ireland). I made sure to go. I literally fight a torrential downpour to see her. More than ever, Eleanor McEvoy was the complete, consummate artist, with a wonderfully varied show that she performed for a very diverse audience of young and old, eccentric individuals and complete families, sober and darkly intense loners and some burly guys who'd visited the lobby bar before the show to down a few beers. They all loved her show, and I was in love with her, in an admiring way, as you just had to be in the presence of such a virtuoso. She not only performed on an array of instruments but even sang a number in French. She also offered a few covers…for which she brought enhancement and new insight in her choice of tempo and inflection.

As I did previously, I was so happy to have a few moments with her after the show to chat with her. Some artists hide after a show, exhausted. Some are shy by nature. Some have a genius that can also be difficult. She signed CDs in the lobby, had an easy smile, was gracious, had a charming humility…again…what else can I say…she's the best.

And so, on John Lennon's birthday, here's the October 9th song. The music didn't die when John did. There are some out there who are continuing his legacy of highly personal, extremely artistic songs. I'm glad to say that this still young, but so mature artist has carved her own unique identity while maintaining an enviable touring schedule in both her native Ireland and in England, Australia and throughout Europe, and does it her way…with releases on her own label…produced with all the time and sonic care she knows her music is worth. I'm glad to say that previous posts of "October 9th" on this blog have introduced a lot of people to Eleanor's work, and I've heard from quite a few people who said, "I never heard her before…I listened to the song over and over…she's wonderful…I want to get her albums. I'd love to see her in person."

It's a simple and yet dramatic song. I'm glad to say that she's blossomed into an artist with a full range of material. Like even our own master of gloom, Leonard Cohen does these days, she offers a show that, even with some dark songs, leaves everyone satisfied, gratified, uplifted, and...smiling.

OCTOBER 9th Listen on line, no pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.

TALKIN' BASEBALL - YANKEES EDITION - A Salute to Derek Jeter

Oh, why the fuck NOT.

Everybody's done it. For an entire baseball season, people have not only been saluting "The Captain," Derek Jeter, but giving this multi-millionaire expensive gifts and tons of money. He goes to a town to play a few games, and the opposing team gives him a car, or a big check for his charity organization, or some silly space-wasting trinket like a painting of himself or a trophy.

Isn't it nice that thanks to technology and the Internet, one can give a gift that takes up no space? And costs nothing to the giver? Here ya go, Derek, a download of "Talkin' Baseball," the Yankees edition.

The song, basically just a list of player names, reflects just how deeply sports fans take their favorite game and "heroes." No matter the country, and whether it's football, soccer, tennis, or bouncing 50 feet on a race track wearing metal blades, people admire SPORTS HEROES.

Pardon me while I elaborate on how this goes well beyond a novelty song of player names.

One of the strangest things about baseball is the amount of inane souvenir-collecting and memorabilia connected to it. Go on eBay and you'll see it..."relic" cards with a piece of shirt glued to it, autographed (forged) baseballs (usually backed up by some claim of "forensics!") and sweaty crap and inert wood used in games ("authentic jersey...a bat used in the game...a glove...).

Many baseball fans are transvestites. A transvestite derives pleasure from wearing unlikely garments. Nothing is more unlikely than a fat, out of shape slob going to a baseball game wearing the jersey, or ENTIRE UNIFORM of his favorite player. What the fuck, it's not even Halloween. You're DRESSING UP for the vicarious thrill of PRETENDING TO BE WHAT YOU ARE NOT?????

Many baseball fans are latent homosexuals. Or something. Why, WHY in the world, collect little cards with MEN'S PICTURES ON THEM?? You'd think it would be a phase, and one might outgrow it, but, no, baseball cards are feverishly collected by adults, and huge amounts of money are spent on shameless fake-collectibles like "silver edition" cards, "limited edition" ones, ones with some piece of shiny shit or hologram on it, etc. The bottom line is still...the worship and fascination of collecting cards with MEN on them, often their faces. I must confess that I have some baseball cards, myself, but not the new guys. I mostly collect cards of ugly vintage players (Don Mossi is a favorite) and ones with odd names (John Wockenfuss, for example).

Totally within the bounds of a psychiatrist's couch, talking about odd names...is the warm, fuzzy glow baseball fans have in just SAYING THE NAMES OF THEIR FAVORITE PLAYERS. It's almost pornographic. If a woman set up a "dirty talk" phone line, and merely purred, "Van Lingle Mungo..." she'd make a fortune.

Van Lingle Mungo, a little known player, was made famous via a mournful jazz-pop tune that collected player names. This led to "Talkin' Baseball," an irritatingly catchy Terry Cashman number that bounced along with nothing but the names of players. Few of them were particularly amusing, like Herb Hash. It didn't matter. And it led to the piece below, the YANKEES edition.

All seriousness aside, I was vaguely caught up in the 20th, and last season of Derek Jeter. I made sure to catch his last game at Yankee Stadium. In one of the most famous storybook endings in baseball history, reliable David Robinson managed to blow a save (that's a term, not a person), gave up several homers (none of them Simpson) and set up the "bottom of the ninth" for Derek to win the game. Nevermind that the Yankees, yet again, didn't make the playoffs. It was a triumph for Derek Jeter, who certainly is a classy guy. I mean, he gives autographed baseballs to the chicks who happily do a one-night stand with him.

The good thing is that for 20 years, Jeter never flaunted his enviable sex life, was NEVER thrown out of a game for arguing with an ump, and quietly tallied up remarkable stats that will be in the record books and "Hall of Fame" forever. My favorite thing about him, is that he insisted on playing a tape of Bob Sheppard when he came to bat. Sheppard, "The Voice of God," was the Yankees stadium announcer for probably 80 years. He had a distinctive voice. If not the "Voice of God," it could've been the voice of St. Peter announcing people through the pearly gates. When Bob died, and a new, boring announcer arrived (same situation recently with Don Pardo being replaced on "Saturday Night Live"), Jeter didn't allow it. He went with Yankee tradition. Sheppard's voice, on tape, continued to announce, "Now batting for the New York Yankees, Number Two, Derek Jee-ter."

It's kind of odd how something as unimportant as a "game" can become inspirational, and such a part of life (even in the off-season). It's downright peculiar that singing a bunch of baseball player names can bring a smile, an almost post-coital satisfaction to some people. Including you? Download this and find out...

Talkin' Yankee Baseball Players, including Derek Jeter

Spotify Crooks: "ARE YOU MAKIN' ANY MONEY?" Paul Whiteman Jimmy Buffett

One artist you'd never expect to find on this blog is Jimmy Buffett. Buffy The Music Slayer isn't in need of publicity. He's among the wealthiest celebrities thanks to diverse enterprises and the "parrot heads" who like sappy music and think sipping margaritas on a beach is heaven.

But, no matter how much money you make, you can still feel pissed off when some greedy corporation or incompetent bureaucrats take what belongs to you.

Jimmy's joined the artists angry at SPOTIFY. Aka Spotty Pie, this Internet giant rose from the swamps of "good ideas gone bad" (as Google did, as eBay did) to become a colossal monster. Websites are immune from morality thanks to both weak government laws. The idea is to make it easy to make a killing. Hedge fund weasels search for Dr. Frankenstein-types who can build a monster...investing in a crooked scheme like SPOTIFY can bring in a fortune. SPOTIFY declared itself "the new paradigm" as record stores went under and radio stations wilted. Internet music thieves happily insisted SPOTIFY meant: it was all right to steal all the music. From Totally Fucked Up blogs getting link-ads or Paypal donations, to forums run by Seniormole-types who were never in the music industry but knew everything about it, the word was: "It's ok for us to offer downloads of every Beach Boys album, and all new releases...the artists will make money by touring their asses off, t-shirt sales at gigs, and...SPOTTY PIE!

SPOTIFY, radio without trusted disc jockeys to hip you to artists you might like, pays the shittiest rates around, and blames it on overhead. "Once we get really big," they claim, "we'll pay better." Which is like Google announcing they'll stop spying. Or eBay announcing they'll stop allowing bootlegs and forgeries or letting kids see or buy porn just by typing in "nude" or "boobs." Nope, greed is greed. We see it with all the monster sites, like Amazon, where Bozo Bezos has the nerve to refuse to carry certain books, DVDS or CDs unless the companies accept his low rates and obnoxious terms.

A friend of mine, with five major label albums to his credit, muttered to me recently, "I'd like to pull my stuff off SPOTIFY...I'm not making anything. But their contracts are twisted and their grip is tight." Many artists have pointed to a huge amount of hits and only pennies to show for it. (Not unlike Google's evil YouTube, which is mostly bootleggers hoisting stuff in hopes of getting a fortune in royalties on material they don't own...only to get checks for chump change).

Continue, Buffy:

And so, not wishing to harm Mr. B. any further with even ONE sample song from his vast collection of sound-alike tunes about getting drunk and loafing around on the beach, the download below is the Depression Era classic, "Are You Makin' Any Money?"

The answer, for anyone on SPOTIFY, is a resounding NO.

But anyone who calls themselves Devil Ass, Zinfuck, Christer the Blister, Hans Demented, Mephisto, Seniormole, Ziggy Fart Dust, or other evil or stupid names in forums or torrents, would answer, "Oh, but your music is being heard, and that's the most important thing. Give away your music for FREE and for our entertainment. We, of course, in our jobs, dictate our price and don't do a damn thing unless we get paid for it."

Hey Spotify Are You Makin' Any Money?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Elton John, Joan Rivers & Cher sing: THE BITCH IS BACK

I was thinking, how do I honor my friend Joan Rivers on the blog?

First off, she was not a singer.

Second, she wasn't really my friend. I just felt like she was, which is part of a star's charisma. I met her several times, interviewed her for an hour, photographed her, worked with her for a charity, and even saw her on Broadway in the "Sally Marr" show (in which she played Lenny Bruce's mother).

But as much as Joan made you feel like you were her friend, no. If you mentioned my name, it wouldn't have instantly registered with her. That's because she did so, so very much in her life and her vast and powerful circle of true friends included Barbara Walters, Howard Stern and those types.

So how to at least mention this legendary lady here? Ah...

I remembered one musical moment, and a triumphant one: Joan Rivers singing (?) with Elton John and Cher.

Joan's career had many ups and downs (to put it mildly) but let's get on the roller coaster and set the Wayback Machine for 1986.

Joan had gotten her own talk show on Fox. It had become painfully obvious that Johnny Carson and his producers had absolutely NO intention of giving her "The Tonight Show" when he retired. The two most reliable substitute hosts knew it...David Brenner and Joan Rivers.

David got his own (short-lived) talk show, and Joan followed. The difference? Brenner asked Johnny if it would be all right. Johnny said yes. Joan? She wasn't sure if she had a deal. When she did, she had to sign instantly. When she called Johnny to let him know...he'd already heard about it and hung up on her in a paranoid rage. He was often cynical and suspicious, and had previously disposed of producers, directors and even wives...so instantly adding Joan to his backstabber list was no surprise.

Even so, Joan was heartbroken that she'd offended Johnny. She was preparing for a new TV show, and was under intense pressure, and much of it came from the negative publicity surrounding her "betrayal" of the great Carson. She kept apologizing in the press...hoping to reconcile with Carson...but when it obviously wasn't going to happen, she got pissed off and concentrated on creating the best debut show possible.

The night of the big "confrontation" (Joan Rivers' hour at 11pm vs Johnny's hour starting at 11:30pm) there was a big question: who'd dare take Joan's side in a "talk show war." Who'd risk NEVER being invited to EVER be on "The Tonight Show" again?

The answer, on the premiere show, was Elton John and Cher. The joyous highlight was when Elton belted out the bluntly obvious "Bitch is Back," with Joan sitting nearby. Despite having a less than melodious voice, she couldn't help but join in...and out came Cher, to add her own voice to the mix. It was a great, if short-lived triumph for Joan Rivers.

If you've ever wondered if Joan Rivers could sing…the answer here is an emphatic NO. Her voice in 1986 was already in permanent rasp. It was this rasp that ultimately did her in, when she arrived at the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic a few weeks ago for a vocal cord check-up. She suffered a heart attack that had her on life-support for a week, and the plug was pulled. Joan hadn't thought the procedure would have a freakish ending...her daughter was in California, and a stand-up gig was scheduled for the following night.

Back to 1986. Joan had delivered a message to Johnny: "I can BITCH I can BITCH…BETTER THAN YOU!" And yes, he got that message. Joan, as a guest host, had put up numbers equal to Carson. He had every reason to be concerned that a chatty, bitchy talk-show could be a serious rival.

Having three gay icons (not that there's anything wrong with that…) helped make Joan's debut a solid success in the ratings. Johnny of course masterfully countered, all that first week, with the biggest and most loyal stars he could find. There was even the rather incredible "visual joke" when superstar Michael Landon turned up. Landon said he wanted to show a scene from a new nature movie he was making. The clip rolled: there were scenes of placid forestry, and then someone in a canoe on a rolling stream…with the super-imposed words: "Up Rivers."

Joan's show disappeared after seven months. Ratings weren't bad, but amid the chaos, Fox executives kept dictating frantic orders. They blamed Joan's producer-husband Edgar, and Edgar tried to find a direction amid all the conflicting orders he was getting. They told Joan that he was incompetent and inexperienced and had to go. She said, "If he goes, I go." It was a bluff...but Fox let her go.

Edgar took the blame, sank into a depressed state, and the marriage suffered. He eventually killed himself. Joan managed to find her way back from all of it, including a business manager who ran her into near bankruptcy. She bounced back with renewed stand-up concerts, with books, and with a mail order jewelry line geared to her new audience, which was mostly housewives. Rather than be a cult item like Lenny Bruce or Woody Allen, Joan went for the higher profile...the celeb jokes, the "red carpet" gags, the solid one-liners aimed at catty-chatty housewives and gays. Yet, there was still enough going on that veteran Joan fans who appreciated iconoclastic, truthful comedy could watch and be amused...and that's why she was always welcome on Howard Stern's radio show...and eventually worked her way back to being a guest on Letterman and on Fallon's version of "The Tonight Show."

Groucho used to say, "I tell the truth and people break up." Joan did the same thing, whether it was "Mick Jagger has child-bearing lips!" or "Liz Taylor has more chins than a Chinese phone book." If anything, despite the "Fashion Police" tv show (which she said was more of a loss leader...the real money being in her jewelry business, which needed her star power for sales), Joan remained controversial to the end. In fact in her last year, she was in the tabloids for daring to joke about a wide variety of hot-button topics. When she died, various pro-Palestinians took to the "comments" section of crap newspaper websites to bellow about "karma."

I'll tell you this: "karma" is dying rich and wealthy at 81, after a hugely successful documentary, a brilliantly successful cable stand-up special, and two best-selling books (added to ten previous ones). She was hot as ever, which made her sudden death front page news. She went out without feeling a thing. That's karma? What's the "karma" of some 4 year-old kid in Gaza who got killed because his stupid parents sided with Hamas terrorists and allowed him to be in the same building as the cowardly leaders who thought they'd be safe if they hid among ordinary citizens? Karma? "Oh grow up..." PS, Joan was also attacked by the ADL, the Jewish "Anti-Defamation League," because she did some tasteless Holocaust jokes, too. Joan was "an equal opportunity offender." PS, although she never ever apologized for jokes, or for a failed ad-lib (which was what the Palestinian quote was), she did make sure to let people know that the deaths of innocent people aren't funny...no matter what religion or race they are.

There were other female stand-ups before Joan Rivers. Moms Mabley, Phyllis Diller and Jean Carroll were all talented ladies...but Joan is the real pioneer. From being a female Woody Allen with witty self-deprecation and oddball one-liners, to turning into a female Lenny Bruce/Don Rickles, to ultimately being 100% unique Joan Rivers...she had a passion, drive and dedication to her art that was an inspiration for every female comic who followed, and probably some men, too. Because at the core of what Joan Rivers was about, was the truth. That's what makes the great comics great. They are bold enough to tell truths and get those shock laughs of recognition. Joan was hot-wired to write jokes, buy jokes, memorize jokes, and work harder at 81 than she did at 31...endless interviews, concerts, jewelry promotions, "red carpet" events and those "cameras all over the place" reality shows that documented her unique personality. No, unlike Rickles, Joan was rarely given the benefit of "it's only an act." People believed she meant every insult and was a meanie. But anyone who ever worked with her would tell you, she was a lady. She was polite, concerned, and very easy to work with. Unlike Rickles, Rivers never ended a show with a sappy "just kidding" benediction. "Oh grow up" was more her style. She was a realist! She was a gem. She was one of a kind. I didn't watch her reality shows, frankly, or pay attention to the "who are you wearing" red carpet shit, but I sure watched her whenever she was on a talk show, and enjoyed her books, too. To suddenly realize there would be no more...was a deep, sad shock.

Joan's funeral was on a beautiful day, perfect sky, pleasant temperature. The "karma" clowns had to be disappointed that it wasn't rainy. It was just about the best weather possible to make you feel alive. The event was star-studded and loaded with both laughter and tears. She could've had a few more prime years, but at 81, she even joked on stage that she could keel over at any time. The heart attack may have been inevitable. She died at peace. Let's wish peace for the world...and not toss around stupid shit about "karma," and about differences among idiots who live in a corrupt sandbox in the Middle East with the sun toasting their brains.

At 81, Joan Rivers was as current as any comedian, as funny as any comedian, and more compelling than most talk show hosts and reality show personalities. She was vibrant. Sarah Silverman said her heart was "torn in half," because Joan wasn't done. But what Joan Rivers did for over 50 years...she done good. She was amazing. But even a force of nature must go silent sometime. Not here, though. Here, you can enjoy Elton John singing "The Bitch is Batch," and you surely will recognize when Joan Rivers adds her voice to the mix...and when Cher arrives to make it one weird threesome.

Howard Stern gave the eulogy on Sunday. He did a great job, and opened with one of Joan's favorite "vagina jokes." But today he said something that I felt, too: "I'm really, really, really rocked by her death. It was a very upsetting time when I'd heard that she died."

Elton John, Joan Rivers and Cher The Bitch is Back

WICKED GENE SIMMONS blames Piracy: ROCK IS DEAD

I've always liked Gene Simmons. He's a piece of work. Like Joan Rivers or Howard Stern, in a way, he's made being opinionated amusing. Not funny, but at least amusing. OK, also annoying, but what do you expect, he's a rock star, not a comedian or a talk show host.

While I never paid much attention to his "reality show," or the music of KISS, I did sit down and talk with him for about an hour once, and I still remember it fondly. Much of the time we just talked about our mutual love of old horror movies. I also did see KISS in concert, in their prime (with the original members) and even if I wasn't a big fan of the music, the show was definitely spectacular. Yeah, even the blood spitting. And Gene did the tongue bit wayyyyy before Viley Virus.

SO...

Recently, in Esquire Magazine of all places, Gene proclaimed rock as DEAD. And it is. In a way, it's just as dead as classical music or country music or rap. It's just worn out. It's hard to come up with anything new. It's a genre that has seen its better days. When was the last great innovation in rock? New Wave? That was a long time ago.

One of the main reasons Gene considers rock dead...is that you can't make a living from it. And THAT is something nobody thought back in the New Wave days, or any time before the Internet and Google. And piracy.

I've written about this way too often to even bother now, and it's taken a long time for the average idiot to understand it...but like climate change, no reasonable person can possibly deny the destructive power of piracy. When this blog started, there were plenty of assholes with silly names, most of them referencing demons and death, who didn't think they were demons, or that they were causing the death of rock and roll by throwing every album onto blogs and into forums.

While this blog restricted the "freebies" to out of print stuff that wasn't coming back, or one or two tracks that could help and artist reegain the spotlight, others were convinced...because they were ignorant...that piracy, to the extent of a daily upload of entire discographies or the latest albums, was GOOD. After all, they were getting "nice" comments for it and could now consider themselves "stars" equal to disc jockeys, rock writers, and even the rock stars they were stealing from.

The pirates had no knowledge of the music business...because they never were IN the rock world as a journalist or a performer. All they knew is they were getting attention. So they figured yes, get the music free, and...uh, er, um, you "support" your artist by, er...uh...maybe buying a T-SHIRT! Oooh, that's the new paradigm! "If you like the music, buy it." It's an option. Like, go into the restaurant, order a meal, eat it, and "if you liked it, pay the check. Your option." You could tell the world you were a "seniormole" and you subscribed to "Spotify." So everything is all right! "Isn't it pretty to think so..."

Gene? Oh, GENE...here's a segment from the interview...

Yeah, wicked, wicked Gene Simmons. Like Prince, and Metallica and some others...he's had the NERVE to complain about the Assange Demon Blogfather Douchebag Zinfucks out there. Unfortunately, despite winning a lot of battles, and neutralizing a lot of dickheads, the copyright owners have lost the war. The record stores are gone. The idea of buying music is now absurd. People also have way too many other options, like "fapping" to pix of Viley Virus "twerking." There's Netflix streaming, and video "gaming" and social media. And, frankly, not that much new music of any type that is as compelling as what we already have on our shelves or hard drives.

For new bands and singer/songwriters it's "pay to play" out there. Few are learning how to really perform. Few are even learning how to play or sing, relying on electronic tricks and computer programs. Fewer can write a coherent lyric. There's no guidance from managers or record labels, and just a vast wasteland of eMusic sites and streaming radio sites and YouTube fails...where most artists get lost, and deserve to get lost.

Gene was right about piracy, and partially right about rock. Rock isn't dead, it's just in some zombie state. It's in a nursing home. Sometimes a new performer or group emerges from the narcoleptic haze and for a while, people say "Hey, how about that K.T. Tunstall...how about Keane..." before saying, "that last album...not so good." And none of the albums were bought.

But in the literal sense, rock isn't dead. After all, some version of Kiss is still going out on stage, and once in a while there's a new album, just because create people can't stop themselves even if they're barely breaking even.

Let's just say...Rock is ill, folks!

And below? No piracy of KISS here. Piracy is not purely evil or always wrong. A lot of times piracy is a convenient way to get something out there when it's buried in contract disputes or coated in apathy. Sometimes giving away music CAN and DOES encourage someone to buy an album or go see a newly discovered star. It just doesn't happen very often. Below...the obscure Barry Mann tune "Too Many Mondays" as performed by Gene in his first band, "Wicked Lester."

It would be so easy to say this song is NOT an example of lively, thriving rock...or the sign of a record label or manager putting a lot of thought into a band's direction. So let's just say it's only rock and roll. And you might like it.

Wicked Lester Too Many Mondays

EUNB - LADIES' CODE star EUN-BI GO is GONE

She was known as EunB (sorta the way "Scary Spice" Melanie B is known as MelB). Whether Ladies' Code could be considered yet another K-Pop variation on the Spice Girls I'll leave to musical scholars.

EunB, aka Eun-Bi Go, was killed in a car accident on a slippery road on September 3rd. A few others in the band were also in the vehicle, but have survived. As did the driver who did his best to navigate under poor conditions and a sudden blow-out of a rear tire.

Just 21 years old, and looking more like 18, Eun-Bi Go was darn cute, which is a trait of so many K-pop girls. And here in the Land of the Ill, it's still difficult to forget the passing of another great "Eun." That's the Eun and only actress and singer, Eun-Ju Lee.

The song below is probably their biggest hit, "So Wonderful." Aside from being annoyingly catchy after a minute or two of its repetition, the visuals chosen for it are pretty stunning. On YouTube, the official video has a mild, weird "story line" about a guy taking his lifelike sex doll out of its package and setting it up for romance.

I can almost hear the ghost of Pat Morita protesting, "Sex dolls? That's Japanese. South Koreans don't do that schtick!" But it seems like they do.

Your version is the live one...with some appropriate squeals of joy from both sexes in the audience.

In concert, Ladies' Code minced around the stage, struck Lolita poses, lightly touched their lady areas as they synchronized their strutting, and in general did their best to make their female fans believe in GIRL POWER. The male fans? Oh, these girls could break hearts and arouse groins.

EunB was adorable in the girly-girl outfits she wore, and was quite fetching in a variety of wigs and hair colors. It's always a sobering reality when such a mindless accident happens. She was bubbling with life and energy…and the bubble literally burst. What can one even say about the whim of fate that took her?

Despite this tragedy, the innocent sweetness of Ladies' Code shines through in the existing concert videos, and in the music itself. It will take time, but just as sometimes we can watch The Rolling Stones on the Sullivan show, and not dwell on Brian Jones being dead...we'll be able to watch EunB with her group, and think of her as forever young.

EUN-BI GO and her group.... So Wonderful

Jenny Darren - New York someday...and "California Dreaming"

When someone makes an album as good as "Queen of Fools," you want more...and you keep an ear cocked for any word on the great artist who made it.

In the grit-obscured light of smokey clubs where the bluesy-ladies rasp, sigh and cry, you look for another Elkie Brooks, Genya Ravan or Jenny Darren. You don't usually find one that comes close. What you really want is the original. Unfortunately, though the originals survive, in all three cases, they're doing small or very local gigs, or some charity event nowhere where you are. And given the difficulty of making money off music...they aren't prone to release many albums, even a "download" only.

Darren has spent a lot of her time doing other things, including teaching. I don't know that even when she does a show, she's going to surprise the crowd by belting out the old knockout numbers like "Lay Me Like a Lady" or "Use What You Got" or "Heartbreaker."

Jenny fans are waiting for that album with "Song for New York" on it. It's been promised for quite a while now. Meanwhile...below is "California Dreaming," a live version she did in some small club not long ago. It's that venerable, immortally peculiar call-and-response number made famous by The Mamas and the pervy Papas.

It somehow blends religious confusion ("I pretend to pray") an eerie sense of mortality and season change, and the stupid idea that California is the place to be (no, and it's not Seattle or Portland, either). I have no idea what "Song for New York" sounds like. If Jenny's been in New York over the summer, she's noted that climate change produced a cooler than usual summer, including a premature change of some leaves turning brown. And the sky, gray.

Fall is approaching, and the inevitable discontent of a winter's day. Console yourself that it wouldn't really be better if you were in L.A.

Hopefully "Song for New York" (single or album) will be available one day via Jenny's self-named dot.com. Check there for news on her music and her latest gigs. Jenny Darren California Dreaming

Chi Coltrane's great…Yesterday Today and Forever

Yesterday she was hot, then she cooled down, then she spent about 20 years in a kind of Snow White-sleep, and then she returned to the road to tomorrow. She is forever.

She's Chi Coltrane.

In the 70's there was nothing like the sweet soul shouting of Chi Coltrane when she pounded the keyboard and howled about "Thunder and Lightning." I tell you…it wasn't frightening. Not when she looked so hot. After her Columbia run ended, she was sort of forgotten. Her excellent "Road to Tomorrow" album didn't bring back "Yesterday" or make her one of the today stars, but she made a few more albums. There was some great stuff on "Silk and Steel" and the other Europe-only releases…and then she fell victim to a weird ailment that just sapped her energy. (There's a lot of it about).

"I had a disorder that is quite common among rock stars, because we do so many television interviews and then go right to the concert hall, and we don't get much sleep...it's not good quality sleep...and we have what they used to call "burn out." I know Cher had the same thing, too, and Randy Newman had it. But a lot of women get it, even more than men. Even every-day women get it; it's a lack of a certain hormone. Conventional doctors right away want to put you on thyroid medicine. A went to this doctor and she told me what it was. She said "Take this supplement for a year..." and now I'm fantastic. I don't feel like 20 years went by because I was sleeping most of the time. I feel great." With the right diet and holistics and attitude, she's re-emerged and over the past five years has put out a new album, a DVD concert, and performed some very successful (100,000 viewers) shows in Europe.

Her show isn't just the old stuff. One of the daring newer tracks is "Yesterday Today and Forever," which you'll hear below via a 2009 live TV broadcast overseas. It's just her and her piano in a studio, and that's enough. She ain't afraid of the high notes. In concert she does have a full band. She likes to joke with reporters. Explaining her 20 years out of the spotlight, she says: "I was waiting for my musicians to get out of prison. We needed money for a new album so they robbed a bank."

Chi Coltrane Yesterday…Today…and Forever

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pardo Me...I feel the LOSS of Jeopardy & Saturday Night Live voice DON PARDO

Don Pardo...he was probably THE greatest announcer in TV history.

He made it look easy, but like being a good quiz show host, being a good announcer is not easy. You can't just be a handsome guy to host a show well, or have a nice voice to be an announcer. Personality is needed.

Don Pardo had it. He pioneered it. Just as quiz show hosts gradually evolved to include wiseguys (Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life") and impish troublemakers (Bob Eubanks on "Newleywed Game") Don Pardo used his voice to color the bland world of products and names.

As the announcer on the original "Jeopardy," he gave an almost sardonic edge to the proceedings. His all-knowing, sly and mock-stern vocalizing let you know that Michael C. Fina silverware was crap, that Rice-a-Roni was crap, and that winning a bunch of useless junk was a fool's paradise. And wait, dear contestant, till you get that notice from the I.R.S. about taxes!

Pardo's style and importance led host Art Fleming to specifically mention Don's name. "Thank you, Don Pardo..." became part of the proceedings. How many other announcers were worth that? On "The Tonight Show," you eventually heard a modest, "And me? I'm Ed McMahon." And lately, Letterman's red-headed stooge makes sure to list the guests and then toss in, "I'm Alan Kalter." And why did he get the job? Because his leering style isn't too far from what Don Pardo created on "Jeopardy," which was adopted by earthy smartass Bill Wendell (another NBC staffer...who was Dave's original announcer for 15 years...even when Dave moved to CBS.)

Below...a sample of Don. Listen to the way he tears into a dimwit loser on "Jeopardy," courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic's parody of Greg Kihn's "Our Love's in Jeopardy." It's not far, at all, from how he announced cheesy prizes on that show in those pre-Trebek days.

A venerable staffer at NBC, after Art Fleming's "Jeopardy" left the air, Pardo was handed the assignment of announcing "Saturday Night Live." Naturally, writers were quick to use his almost-mocking vocals on the show, and even toss him some on-camera gags, too. You can find a multi-part interview with Don on YouTube, courtesy of the Archive of American Television, and if you're into voicework, it'll be a lot of fun for you to watch. There are also plenty of obits today where you can learn more about Don and his career.

I'll just add that today's news about his passing, even at the ripe old age of 96, saddens me greatly. At times, the most entertaining part of "Saturday Night Live" was Don's all-knowing, all-mocking reading of some names that were more interesting than the actors or actresses owning them. I ain't namin' names. Except that I think, in the most recent roster...he probably got a big kick out of "BROOKS WHELAN!" HOW many years did Don announce SNL? What now...Darrell Hammond taking over the job...or do they get some preposterous, tin-voiced ninny to do it? Maybe the guy who does Fallon's "Tonight Show" and who is really just imitating Andy Richter?

There was nobody who did it like DON PARDO. I know it may seem like a big fuss to make...but I admired the guy, and got such a kick out of him. Look, I even enjoy listening to Michael Buffer (not his bawling, warthog brother) and I even listen for when he's pitchy or when he eases the microphone away on the last syllable of "RUMBLE." So I beg your Pardo...but when SNL begins next month...he WILL be missed. So long, Pardner.

Here's Thomas Hurley III, Alex Trebek, Don Pardo, and WEIRD AL…all combining for….

I LOST ON JEOPARDY Thomas Hurley III is a LOSER

Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time or "tip jar" for Paypal donations.

105 In the Shade: LICIA ALBANESE is at rest

In a close contest, it was Licia Albanese over Rise Stevens 105-99.

Basketball? Well, no, opera divas. The incredible Licia Albanese died a few days ago at the age of 105. Amazing.

Also amazing, is that she resisted playing the lead in Lucia De Lammermoor. You could imagine, ala "Oprah, Uma" David Letterman inanely standing on stage and shouting, "Licia! Lucia!" Or not.

Frankly, as regulars to the blog know, opera is not often covered here. It's not often covered anywhere, come to think of it, because what was once the peoples' art form…soon changed to operetta and finally Broadway musicals. Some might say that's a sign of the degeneration of culture in the past 100 years, but look, they won't say it for long. In another 100 years there won't be a planet. If it still exists, it'll be a planet of the apes, and musical history, as taught in "skooz," would begin with M.C. Hammer.

In other words, my autographed Licia Albanese record album, if I was alive, wouldn't fetch a buck on eBay, and my autographed photo of Rise Stevens even less.

Victoria de Los Angeles was probably my favorite, but Rise Stevens was up there, and because nobody cared about her, Jean Madeira, and because she went topless, Carol Neblett. Of the vintage performers, there was Licia, whose best work was done way before I was even born. Licia (short form of Felicia, July 22, 1909-August 15, 2014) came to prominence the year the Marx Brothers were "At the Opera," 1935.

She was known for "Madame Butterfly" first and foremost, and specialized, as one might expect, in Italian operas by Verdi and Puccini. Her love of Puccini led to her enduring "Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation," which gives scholarships and encouragement to young, struggling singers who have an unfortunate love for an archaic music form in an era of Viley Virus and Justa Beaver.

After touring her version of Madame Butterfly all over the world, Licia made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1940. She also performed at the San Francisco Opera, and on radio with Toscanini. Ageism being an old and familiar nemesis, Licia had a 26 year run at the famous Met…until the venue's ruler, Sir Rudolf Bing, decided to cut her down to only one role for the entire season. Licia's response to Der Bingle's decision was to gracefully walk away. She continued to play at other opera houses, and when her voice was no longer strong enough for opera, she switched to Broadway show tunes…appearing in various productions of Sondheim's "Follies" in the mid-1980's.

Though she wasn't as well known as the more flamboyant Maria Callas, or the amusingly-named Lily Pons, Licia Albanese was a favorite with the critics, especially in her most familiar roles, in Puccini's "La Boheme," "Madame Butterfly" and "Manon Lescaut." She also joined Rise Stevens for a recording of "Carmen" in 1951. Among the more recent artists who have acknowledged her as an inspiration…Teresa Stratas, who saw the great Albanese in a production of "La Traviata," a role that Stratas would play so well in the 1982 movie version opposite Placido Domingo.

Never forgotten, the legendary Licia received honors for her life's work, including the "National Medal of Honor for the Arts," becoming the first woman that Bill Clinton met and didn't hit on.

In keeping with blog policy on being obscure and contrary, your download isn't an aria by Puccini or Verdi. From the Parnassus vinyl, Licia sings an aria by Francesco Cilea...who is not a household name as a composer but still is beloved by Celiacs everywhere, and no diet of classical should exclude him.

From "ADRIANA LECOUVREUR" "Lo Son L'Umile Ancella"

ARLENE MARTEL - "Theme from Star Trek" T'Pring (& More)

"T'pring…T'pring…"

Sounds like a bad phone app? "T'Pring" was the name of a "Star Trek" alien played by the bizarrely beautiful Arlene Martel. For better or worse, and she would've probably said for better…this was her main claim to fame. Betrothed to Mr. Spock (in one episode), T'Pring instantly became legend…and Martel was certainly one of the best remembered of the female guest stars on the show.

How well? On Farcebook…uh, Facebook…various fanboys rushed to post their pix. "Here's me and Arlene Martel! Classy lady to pose with me! RIP!" Well, yes, and at $20 a pop, or whatever she was charging, she had no reason not to be classy or at least tolerant. But in the world of memorabilia, it isn't that uncommon for some bitter beauties to feel a great deal of contempt for the overweight and/or geeky assholes who hand over a sweaty twenty while stuttering inane and predictable drivel. Having their smelly bodies come close to yours, as their brush with fame...could make you a little less pleased with the fame that brought you to the "collectors show." But Arlene Martel kept showing up, and always had a warm smile for the Trekkies were still boldly going...in search of some kind of a life for themselves.

The bottom line with most performers running a table at a memorabilia show, is "thanks for the extra money, thanks for remembering." There are a lot of 60's era actresses who aren't invited to the events and aren't identified with any show or any character at all. In that respect, the former "Arline Sax" was lucky.

A Jewish girl from the humble Bronx, the re-christened Arlene Martel had an air of confidence and dignity...which she needed to escape the "ghetto" (as she called it). She could play intimidating parts (including a lion-tamer on "Wild Wild West" and a super-sexy and scary "Room for One More, Honey" nurse on "Twilight Zone"). She could also play comedy, earthy women, peasants, just about anything.

Her list of credits…well, let's just say that the Trekkies probably were surprised to look down along her table and see, aside from the T'Pring portraits, pix of her from "Outer Limits," "Wild Wild West," "The Monkees," "Hogan's Heroes," and even a cult biker film she made long ago.

While I didn't know Ms. Martel, I've known several in her position...the kind who were, or are, grateful that they can always walk down the street and be called by name...or the name of their famous character. They get used to it. Most come to appreciate that it's better than nothing. Only a few find the double-edged Sword of Damocles hanging over their head and all the "if only I wasn't typecast" frustration that goes with it. What I'm saying is that as nice as it is for obese and clueless people to say "T'PRING" the past few days, it pisses me off that most of them never cared about anything else Arlene did.

I get it. You want the autographed photo of her as T'Pring, not an autographed photo of how she looks today. Not how she looked in some other TV show that didn't involve THAT uniform or THAT make-up. It's just sad that most of the tributes have been about THAT one show and character she was in...as if nothing else mattered. There was an actual person inside that costume. Nostalgia shouldn't have such blinders on, but it usually does.

Her death a few days ago, at the age of 78, was a tragic loss. She could still have made memorable TV appearances if any casting director had the sense to make a call. She was "giving back" to fans by advising them on healthy foods to eat and reminding them of ecology and the debt owed to THIS planet, not to T'Pring's. She was apparently working on an autobiography that would've answered a lot of questions about her fascinating life (she was quick to mention her first love was the ever-fascinating to some people James Dean) as well as her marriages, healthy lifestyle and interesting views on the inner self. It would've probably also covered the requisite fanboy topics (what was it like to work with Leonard Nimoy, Bob Crane, Rod Serling…)

As to the item below…one has to go with a "Star Trek" theme (over "Twilight Zone," "The Monkees" or "Hogan's Heroes) but which one? Here at the blog of less renown, it would have to be a peculiar version…and Ferrante and Teicher, with their cascading manipulation of elephant tusks, mated to a thumpy disco beat…is insidiously down to Earth.

Ferrante and Teicher STAR TREK THEME

ED NELSON - The THEME from PEYTON PLACE

He was one of those busy actors in the 60's and 70's…who was more a face than a name. Handsome in a flawed way, often playing jealous husbands, arrogant businessmen and corrupt politicians, Ed Nelson (December 21, 1928-August 9, 2014) had come to television by way of cheap horror movies. He was in "Teenage Cave Man" (with Robert Vaughn), "Attack of the Crab Monsters," "Bucket of Blood" and "The Brain Eaters."

The man from Louisiana was an authentic presence in virtually every TV western of the late 50's and early 60's (The Rebel, Paladin, Black Saddle, The Tall Man, Maverick, Wagon Train, Laramie, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman). He also turned up in The Twilight Zone,Outer Limits, Thriller, The Eleventh Hour and Perry Mason. His only major starring role was as Dr. Rossi in the night time soap opera "Peyton Place," which is now mostly known either for its theme song, or its reference in the country hit "Harper Valley P.T.A." At the time, it was a big deal for a "woman's" show about dreary romances and scandals to have such a high profile.

Nelson's profile sank after the show left the air in 1969, and only his more ardent fans recall that he appeared in daytime soap operas, had a local talk show, and toured as President Truman in a one-man show originated by James Whitmore. A bright guy, he didn't have to suffer the indignity of waiting and waiting for a guest spot on a TV show…he became the mayor of San Dimas, California, and at 71 graduated from Tulane University. He spent his retirement years at home in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Peyton Place," which launched the careers of Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal, is now pretty much forgotten. In its day, not only was it a hot show that would spawn a variety of "chick lit" romance series, even the sweetly sappy theme song was popular, with or without the lyrics. You get either or both…the reliable Frank Chacksfield of Project 4 fame or the ubiquitous Vikki Carr.

PEYTON PLACE INSTRUMENTAL BY FRANK CHACKSFIELD

FOR THOSE WHO ARE YOUNG Vikki Car

BOB CRANE swings "F-Troop"

These days, Bob Crane is best remembered for "Hogans Heroes" and for his infamous death, which most agree had something to do with somebody jealous or angry over his conquests as a ladies man. At 49, he was still gettin' it on, even if his sitcom fame was far behind him and his round, still attractive face was seen only rarely in a guest spot on a "Quincy" or "Love Boat." Crane was still a STAR when he turned up in small towns during the summer months. He was on the "straw hat" trail, playing lead in some familiar Broadway comedy people might want to see. He brought along his video equipment to record his romps with starstruck fans…single or married.

Before "Hogan's Heroes," Crane was a hot prospect and something of a hipster. He was a radio personality with a cool sense of humor. In fact one of his very first TV appearances (uncredited) was as a disc jockey on a "Twilight Zone" episode in 1961. He was also a good drummer, and once "Hogan's Heroes" was a hit, he was able to indulge himself with a record deal and a band…and material that referenced both his show and many other hit TV series of the day. He covered "Get Smart" (even piping up with a "Sorry About That…" at the end), and a jazzy take on the western comedy "F-Troop." Yes, Bob was way too cool to just record TV themes and not make 'em swing. Well, he was always a bit too hip for his own good…

BOB CRANE F-TROOP THEME

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE MAN WITH THE CHILD IN HIS EYES - Kate Bushed by YALE A CAPELLA

Yes, the blog once again morbidly plumbs the depths of all-girl a capella. For some peculiar reason, this irritating music form is popular at colleges. I guess there are plenty of students who want to sing, and not many that can play a variety of musical instruments. Not enough for a small orchestra or even a marching band.

"The New Blue" of Yale University released a "30th Anniversary Album" around 1999, and collected nearly two dozen tries at pop hits of the day…almost all of them very trying. Most were recorded with the latest group of co-eds, although some tracks go back to the 80's.

It would be cruel to pull a "so bad it's good" here…because while they're certainly bad…they just aren't entertaining about it. Hearing their unnatural "Natural Woman" or how they kill "Killing Me Softly," will only enrage you. They even managed to botch "Scarborough Fair" via insipid harmonies. (But since you don't believe me, go ahead, listen to their take on the obscure Paul Simon tale of a mean individual who seemingly is going to be the victim of vigilante justice). I had hopes the girls would somehow doo-wop this thing with some menace or soul, but…no. They handle it like the King's Singers, that famous group of odd girly-men.

Somehow, their take on Kate Bush's "The Man With the Child In His Eyes" (not written about Rolf Harris or even Gary Glitter) is well worth a listen. Perhaps the main reason is that Kate's voice on that song was so high-pitched that it was almost painful for some. Even some dogs. The girls here keep it at a human level, and with so many voices wrapping around each line, they make it the warm, fuzzy, almost dreamy romantic tune that Bush intended it to be. Maybe not.

Man with the Child in his Eyes THE NEW BLUE

(Mean Individual) Stranded in a Limousine THE NEW BLUE

JAMES GARNER DIES - MAVERICK & ROCKFORD FILES theme songs

What can you say about James Garner? He learned from Henry Fonda how to be natural as an actor. He played who he was. Garner bummed around at many odd jobs (well, his real last name was Bumgarner) before an agent pal hired him as an extra for a Broadway show starring Fonda. Soon enough, the good looking young performer left the stage (and its frights) for the comforts of Hollywood, working his way up to important roles and…"Maverick."

It was "Maverick" that made Garner a star, and once he was, he got out of his contract so he could try other kinds of roles. Despite moving on to a variety of roles in romantic comedies and action films, he ended up typecast as…James Garner. When he returned to television, he basically played the same glib, pacifist as he did on "Maverick," a guy who didn't like to fight…but was good at it. He also didn't like to hire lawyers, but was good at it. He sued to get 14 million bucks in back royalties on "Rockford Files."

Although he played good ol' boys and Western heroes, Garner was a lifelong Democrat and a big fan of weed…once claiming that he toked up most every day. Yes, there was a lot to like about James Garner…one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. And he even autographed a photo for me years ago.

His two most popular TV shows had very famous theme songs. "Maverick" was a typically catchy Warner Bros. hack job with fairly awful lyrics…though not any worse than the embarrassing ones for other WB shows such as "Sugarfoot" ("once you get his dander up…") or "Lawman," which proclaimed, "The lawman came with the sun. There was a job to be done." The dopey "Maverick" lyrics included the badly rhymed "Riverboat ring your bell, Fare thee well Annabelle." Only New Yorkers could get something out of the line "Living on Jacks and Queens," if they mis-heard it as "Living in Jackson (Heights), Queens."

As for Johnny Gregory (born Gregori, and still with us at 89), he was a versatile orchestra leader who imitated the 101 Strings (for his "Cascading Strings" albums), and sometimes called himself Chaquito (for Latin-tinged lounge music, but also for sassy TV theme cover albums). His version of "Maverick" was on an early (late 50's, obviously) album of Western TV themes.

It's memorable for being fairly idiotic. For some reason, his choir of dopes don't actually sing all the lyrics…but two guys who don't remotely sound like James Garner or Jack Kelly, turn up to intrude with such pearls as "Hello Bart." "Hello Bret."

Later as John Gregory, he was still specializing in TV theme albums when "Rockford Files" came along, and again, he contributes an interestingly mediocre cover of it. What made "Rockford Files" such a memorable theme song? The weird combination of a synthesizer and a harmonica. Apparently with access to neither, Gregory tries to substitute, without success. But that's the fun of "cover versions." Maybe.

Fare thee well, James Garner.

Maverick Johnny Gregory

Rockford Files John Gregory

Saturday, July 19, 2014

MAAZEL? TOUGH...MAESTRO LORIN MAAZEL, DEAD AT 84

OK, who recorded over 300 albums?

Not so fast, Elvis the King. Or Michael King of Pop. Joining them in musical heaven, is one of the Kings of the Classics...Lorin Maazel. As Maestro for many symphony orchestras over his long career, he recorded a truly amazing amount of music.

Below is just a fraction...the very accessible SLAVONIC DANCE #8 which is "Presto" (meaning fast...or good music for a magic trick).

The two-album "Slavonic Dances" set was one of the first classical records I bought. I mention this not out of nostalgia, but to suggest that if a 12 year-old could enjoy it...you might, too. Arista say they love it but the kids can't twerk to it. Back then, I bought a cheap version in mono on Urania, but when I could afford to upgrade, I chose Lorin Maazel's Emi Digital, even if it was with the less than Slavic Berlin Philharmonic. They say, Emma, that for one reason or another, Berlin has become the most dangerous city in Europe. But I digress. As usual.

Maazel was having some health problems in 2013 but figured he might get better. On his website, he mentioned that he was turning down the kind offers from symphonies around the world, and would make his comeback in the summer of 2014 via his own annual Castleton summer festival held near his home in Virginia. Yes, of all the places this man performed in around the world...he chose to call Virginny his home. Unfortunately he died there of pneumonia, his website calendar still showing his return schedule. He died the day he was supposed to make his return:

The details of Maazel's life and times (Mar 06, 1930-Jul 13, 2014) can be easily found elsewhere, so I'll nutshell it by stating his last name is pronounced Mah-Zell (accent on the Zell), that he was Jewish, born in France but raised in America. He helmed the New York Philharmonic (taking over for Kurt Mazur), and was also at various stages of his career, on the podium for the Cleveland Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera among others...and actually wrote an opera, "1984," based on the Orwell nightmare of a life ruled by a Big Brother called Google.

A pretty incredible man, Maazel could speak the languages of most of the great classical masters...Italian, German and French...and had a photographic memory. He could conduct an orchestra without having the score in front of him. This guy knew the score. The New York Times once wrote: "Maazel, when he’s ‘on,’ has led some of the finest, most impassioned, most insightful performances in memory. When he’s good, he’s so good that he simply has to be counted among the great conductors of the day..." The unfortunate thing is that he was a great conductor at a time when it increasingly didn't matter.

Through the 80's and 90's, there was a downturn in sales of classical music, and less support for live concerts. At the turn of the 21st Century, we've seen many symphony orchestras struggle (as well as opera houses and ballet groups) because this type of entertainment is just not popular anymore.

At one time, most any reasonably sophisticated fan of good music (including me) could easily name the great conductors and their orchestras. Even the not-so-great conductors. Name the city and I could tell you who conducted the orchestra. And every city seemed to have a great orchestra. Bernstein, Ormandy, Szell, Steinberg, Leinsdorf, Bohm, Reiner...during the golden era of classical recordings (when RCA had "Living Stereo") all the greats were working and competing with each other. They created definitive recordings that could rarely be matched by the mono work of a Furtwangler or even Toscanini. It's truly astonishing that by the time Maazel was recording, there was any market at all for him and his contemporaries, but people who did come to the concert hall wanted a souvenir of the man they saw on the podium, and perhaps also had the fetish for seeing DDD on a CD and knowing it was a completely digital recording.

I don't pretend that a vast proportion of my music-listening time is devoted to classical over rock, but even people who aren't students of "good music" can find a lot of "easy listening" in that noble genre. After all, there's not that much difference between classical and some of the beloved music heard on film soundtracks. Certainly everyone from Alfred Newman to John Williams was influenced by, and had a solid knowledge of the classics. So from time to time, some real classical music does the soul some good. Maazel's catalogue has a lot of greatness waiting for you. Here's a taste of it, with his version of Dvorak...

Maazel Slavonic Dance #8 PRESTO!