Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Angie Bowie Tribute: ZIGGY STARDUST in French by NUIT D'OCTOBRE

From inside a British reality TV madhouse, Angie Bowie cried, "The Stardust is Gone!"

She wasn't referring to the eye shadow on David Gest. She was referring to the death of her ex, David Bowie, aka Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane and The Avant Garde Anthony Newley. The news was so sad she eventually quit the show. Which was too bad, because before that, Gest had also quit, and she probably had a good chance of winning the grand prize. Which I think was a box of Kit-Kats without the wafers.

Longtime readers know that this is the "blog of less renown." (Some might even get the obscure Les Brown band reference). No way a guy as famous as David Bowie needs a tribute here.

But…how about Nuit D'Octobre? The scant album notes on the obscure "Dark Side of David Bowie" album only say of the Swiss band: "Still not well known, they really deserve more attention." So let's take the death of Bowie to give it to them. And let's also take a moment to offer a kind word or two for Angie.

It was 20 years ago today, give or take a day or a year, when a German record label got the idea to do a tribute to Bowie. They cobbled together indie, goth, alternative and heavy metal acts who covered the songs in various sober, artsy and sludgy ways. The band names were certainly a lotta fun: Crimson Joy, Syria, Dreadful Shadows, Gallery of Fear, Burning Gates, Kill the Audience, etc.

It was probably around that time that I met Angie Bowie for the first and only time. I was at a party with my better half (there has to be one!). She (the better half) was getting bored trying to identify the D-list celebrities (I think she was tempted to include me as one). We noticed a very gregarious (ie, over-served) lady who seemed to find everything hilarious, and who seemed to know everyone. We didn't want to know her. Happy people make us irritable.

Happenstance and no other available seating got us next to her, and to our surprise, when she turned her extroverted joy in our direction it changed our mood. She was really good company. It was maybe an hour before we made the connection that the lady who introduced herself simply as "Angie," was in fact, Angie Bowie. We figured it out the more the conversation turned to our mutual tastes in music.

While she is often treated with scorn and derision, for me, the name Angie Bowie conjures a memory of warmth and joy.

As for David Bowie, I'll agree he influenced just about every publicity-seeking artist in the world. After his death, dozens of unlikely rock and pop stars insisted he was a major influence. Madonna conspicuously wanted to make the connection in the days after his death, to the point of hilariously fainting face-first after doing "tribute song" to him.

No question the guy legitimately influenced many struggling bands who began by covering a particular look of his, and ultimately forge a more original identity to create new and worthy songs. I just can't think of any. After all, whatever became of the people on the "Dark Side of David Bowie" album, like NUIT d'OCTOBRE? Oh, "Ziggy Stardust is Gone..." but here, their French language cover version lives on.

ZIGGY STARDUST Nuit d'Octobre

The bittersweet "LOVE THEME FROM SHIP OF FOOLS"

Bob Dylan may have said it best: "Too bad what we have can't last."

But musically, there's still a shimmer to Ernest Gold's poignant "Love Theme" from "Ship of Fools."

As you might guess from the movie's title, "Ship of Fools" was symbolic, pretentious and overly long.

Even so, it had some vivid moments of foolish if not appalling behavior. Most of the latter concerned particular forms of cruelty to animals, immigrants and Jews, among other easy targets.

The film, based on Katherine Anne Porter's novel, also focused on the angst of relationships sinking like the Titanic or going as wrong as most any Carnival Cruise.

For a "love theme," this piece is very sad. This confused me at the time, since I hadn't actually seen the film when I bought the record. Back in the day, when new albums pushed the older ones aside pretty quickly, soundtracks were an endangered species. Once the film was out of the theater, the "souvenir" music album would go to the bargain bin. I figured if the movie had a well-known composer involved, why not give it a try?

I finally saw the film recently, and it turns out the moment that uses this music in the background, is indeed sad. Oskar Werner plays the ship's doctor, who has a heart condition, and Simone Signoret is a washed-up drug addict. Their feelings for each other are tender. Their prospects for a happy future? Well, tough.

In the movie still above, you see Oskar Werner contemplating the problem, and thinking, "Does she remind me more of Broderick Crawford in drag, or Lon Chaney Jr.?"

Among the other stars making the film worthwhile; Lee Marvin as a boorish baseball player, Vivien Leigh in her last role, and a little fellow who once, with a female partner, sang songs in New York City cabarets: Michael Dunn.

SHIP OF FOOLS Love Theme by ERNEST GOLD

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

BLOWFLY IS DEAD...like ROTTEN FISH

The past week has seen the progrock world moaning about The Thin White Duke, Smiley the "Breathlessly Beautiful," and the drummer from "Mott the Hoople." I think you knew better than to anticipate a tribute on this blog to them. They have more than enough fans. So the salute here is to BLOWFLY, and I have more albums by him than the other three put together. Which isn't to say that any of 'em even contain a song at the same level as "Space Oddity" or "Putting Out Fire (the theme for Cat People)". But hey, weren't the BLOWFLY album covers a lot less pretentious than the BOWIE album covers?

In the world of Blowfly, you wouldn't waste your time on Mott the Hoople when there was a chance to Suck the Nipple. You wouldn't be squealing "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" to a suffragette while secretly dreaming of being in bed with Mick Jagger. And your re-write on The Shirelles would go like this:

"Tonight your head is mine completely. As you jerk it in my cunt so freely…but will you still eat me when my period comes on?"

OK, I didn't say the guy's lyrics scanned that well. There was a decent, or rather, indecent shock laugh to some of what was on those old Blowfly records. A main problem with him, over 4 decades and spanning oldies parodies and funk porn, is that he was not on a major label and was elbowed aside by others. Early in his career, the stuff from Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts was much more accessible, and later, his funk was fairly mild and inept compared with the much more offensive and angry rap material out there from Ol' Dirty Bastard, 2 Live Crew or Li'l Kim.

Back in the early 70's, it wasn't easy to find Blowfly albums, which were on the obscure "Weird World" label. Record stores were afraid to put the records on the shelf, since they usually had the skankiest topless women on them, and Blowfly in his ridiculous superhero outfit. Much of what was on the black vinyl was, frankly, aimed at blacks only…and ones with a nasty sense of humor.

Blowfly was Clarence Reid (February 14, 1939-January 17, 2016). and as Clarence, he had some success in the "clean" music world. His legit songs turned up on albums by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Betty Wright, and Sam and Dave. K.C.'s label, TKO, released "Rap Dirty" back in 1980, which Blowfly would later insist made him "the first rapper," and a true pioneer. What he definitely was, in his Blowfly guise, was a crapper. This included his parody, "Shittin' on the Dock of the Bay." Like most parodists, he ran afoul of copyright holders. The courts were on his side, though, since parody was, and is, considered "fair use," as long as the profits are split. After all, if you change the lyrics but keep the music, the original composer should still be paid. Too bad if the lyricist who wrote "What A Difference a Day Makes" doesn't find it funny to hear "What a Difference a Lay Makes."

Reid's rather stupid comedy name was something he received as a child. Foul-mouthed almost from the time he could talk, Clarence liked to jerk around with whatever he heard on the radio. Singing along to Chubby Checker's "Do The Twist," Clarence changed the words to "Suck My Dick!" His grandmother declared, with awe if not enthusiasm, "You is nastier than a blowfly." Well, it could've been chigger, which would've been worse.

With his legit songwriting and his underground fame as Blowfly, Clarence managed to stay in showbiz year after year, and by the 1990's, the world had somewhat caught up with him, and he was getting better gigs and less hassles. Record stores that had been busted just for selling his "Porno Freak" album now stocked all his stuff. He toured with his sex songs and often was welcomed on the bill with other established acts, like Flea and the Fishbone, or colleague in dirty vinyl, Rudy Ray Moore. Jello Biafra was a fan, too.

But...Blowfly wasn't exactly going to sell out big venues, and it's no surprise that as he struggled into his 70's, his bookings were less frequent. That he was seeing little royalties from airplay or record sales in the age of Spotify and piracy, meant that he had to keep pushing to do live shows, even if his health and stamina wasn't what it once was. His website, not updated often, didn't list any dates after the summer of 2014 when he managed to book a few shows.

He probably sold t-shirts at his gigs. He had one as part of his infamous CD box set. The 3-CD set "Blowfly X-Rated" includes a t-shirt AND a membership card. Just who'd be impressed if you flash it, I don't know. I've never flashed it, and I've never taken the t-shirt out of the plastic bag it's in.

Blowfly was popular enough to even grant interviews with such prestigious publications as SCREW. I dug up some Q&A from a slowly tanning few pages from a 1991 issue of SCREW. It's Blowfly talkin' with Al Goldstein:

AL: "You are not on everyone's list because your message and your songs have not reachd the public. How do you view your career? "

BLOWFLY: "Most ofthe other guys just be plain nasty. Anybody can be nasty…it takes blues like "When somebody fucks you, it's no good unless he fucks you all the way…" You can't help but laugh. It's the combination of nasty and funny."

AL: "Is a black woman offended by being told hey, you're my bitch? "

BLOWFLY: "No, because they're used to hearing it. They know the definition of what it means….Bitch is just like calling a man he's a motherfucker. Bad means, like, good." AL: "It used to be when I was in school the black guys would say "My Bitch will suck my dick but I don't eat her pussy…" Has that changed?

BLOWFLY: "Oh, that has changed now. It's like the opposite way. We got it from you Jewish guys."

AL: "Have you had any relationships with Jewish women?"

BLOWFLY: "A couple."

AL: "They like to be in charge. They want you to be submissive. Do you enjoy that?"

BLOWFLY: "Well, his particular chick wanted me to get into a sexual thing with her and she wanted to play the dominating role. The least I can do is obey her, because one favor deserves another."

AL: So you're saying she made you do it…and you put the dildo up your ass for her sake. Is that what you're telling us?"

BLOWFLY: "Shut this guy's mouth!"

And now, Blowfly's mouth is shut. However, like a corpse in a badly constructed casket, the smell lingers on. Below are two examples of the Blowfly's nasty sting.

ROTTEN FISH, a Jamaican novelty, channels Benny Hill, turning an old joke into a rhyme: "…I can always tell when a chick is a nasty whore. When she's dancing and doin' the splits and her ass sticks to the floor."

SHE'S BAD, something Michael Jackson might've done had he been heterosexual, is really no different from a lot of rap and R&B from the late 80's and early 90's. Reid's vocals don't add much to the predictable melody and sass: "The bitch is built to the hilt, she keep her pussy wrapped in silk…she will make you come in yo pants until there's nothin' left. Her pussy's so motherfuckin' good that she wanna fuck herself!"

ROTTEN FISH Blowfly tries some raunchy reggae

SHE'S BAD How bad, Blowfly? Less feminine-looking than Michael Jackson?

GLENN FREY - Mexican parody: (WELCOME TO) SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Regular readers of this, the "blog of less renown," know that Glenn Frey is too famous to be chronicled here. Unlike some stars who I've defended here (such as Patti Page and Frankie Laine), nobody questions that Frey (pronounced Frye) was a cool and talented musician worthy of respect.

So…below is NOT a Glenn Frey song. You probably own as much solo Frey and Eagles stuff as you want already. Your link is to a parody of his best lyric, "Hotel California." It's by the obscure team of Rick D'Elia and Adam Stone. They impersonate two stereotypical Mexicans illegally invading Southern California, where they delight in the smell of a Taco Bell (the restaurant, not a person). In the low budget video for the song, they are seen selling oranges on a highway and acting like a moronic version of Cheech & Cheech.

This is pre-Donald Trump and his idea of building a wall at the border, but it's still easily categorized as "racist," which is applied to any ethnic comedy today. Let's be honest, it's now impossible to make fun of annoying ethnic characteristics and behavior without hearing a whine of "ewww, yew are prejudiced." You know who says that most? Faggots. But I digress (and I assume I needn't add that I was also joking?)

Fact is,there are a LOT of reasons why something isn't funny, besides racism. This thing barely gave me a chuckle or two. But it's here to a) call attention to Frey the lyricist, and b) point out that Mexicans are annoying. (I keed, I keed).

No, point a is quite valid. Is Frey usually on any a list of lyricists? One that would include Taupin, Robert Hunter, or even Sting? Nah. And yet at times this guy was sort of a working man's Keith Reid, honing the lines down to blunt couplets: "It's a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford" ("Take It Easy") and "Wonder why the right words never come. You just get numb" ("Tequila Sunrise"). He also had a co-write, with Don Henley, on "Desperado."

"Hotel California" is somewhat Dylanesque, as in "what the FUCK is going on, is the place haunted? Who is dead? Is it Frey? But he didn't die till the other day, when Don Felder said "TGIFD, Thank God it's Frey Dead (and not ME, and hey everyone, I wrote the music to that song, dammit! And did you miss me being on the reunion tour??")

Speaking of reunion tours, the Eagles did make it out on the road with Frey a year or two ago, which would indicate that his ulcerative colitis was somewhat under control. The problem is that it can flare, it can be so bad an operation is needed, and drugs for it can leave a patient open to more immune-deficiency diseases. Frey had rheumatoid arthritis, which, yes, is another of the awful-awful illnesses that are becoming more and more common in this germ-infested, stress-filled world. Ultimately, with these two illnesses, Frey was in a very weakened condition. It's also hard to imagine how hellish it was, to be suffering stomach agony, inflamed bowels, and also arthritic conditions rendering the body creaky and immobile and in pain.

Ultimately, as Bob Seger mentioned the other day, "...he caught a very virulent set of pneumonia. They were trying like hell to keep him alive. He'd been at Columbia Medical Center since November...." and Glenn was even placed in an induced coma, to try and give his body a chance to heal. It was reported that Frey had undergone intestinal surgery, which would be the most desperate option for acute ulcerative colitis. It would mostly likely involve removing the colon and creating an opening for a colostomy bag. With someone already having a compromised immune system, pneumonia could be a hazard.

Yeah, combine constant pain and having to run to the bathroom with being too arthritic to run to the bathroom, and you have hell on Earth. As for pneumonia, my late father called it "the old peoples' friend." Meaning, when you're so aged that life is nothing but misery, pneumonia comes along and puts you into a lovely coma, sometimes pretty quickly. But Frey was, at 67, not old. Not by today's standards.

And so, the inevitable happened: TWEETING.

Almost as deadly as the above diseases, are tributes from well-meaning but moronic celebrities and D-list idiots. Below, picked at random from the "Tweeting" that serves as an easy way of sending condolences and a fine publicity ploy, we find three examples. There's media whore George Tacky Takei throwing in some kind of "Star Trek" space-type reference. We find Rita Wilson, a singer better known as the wife of Tom Hanks and proof that he isn't gay, offering something even a Muppet would find maudlin. Yeah, that "rainbow above you" line is actually a glaring clinker in "Desperado" but it is much worse pulled from its comfy musical moorings and thrown on a Tweet like a Hallmark card through the letter slot. And last but not least, Steve Martin. Let's believe he knew that Glenn's last name was spelled FREY but typed FRYE so that everyone would pronounce it right.

The song "Hotel California" is often considered, along with "Stairway to Heaven, "Whiter Shade of Pale," and "The Laughing Gnome," to be a masterpiece of progrock. As such, the blog acknowledges its main creator, the unfortunately disease-ridden-to-death Glen Frey. And also as such, the blog offers a tasteless and stupid parody of the great song.

Hotel California Parody Mexican Illegals: Welcome to South California

Saturday, January 09, 2016

KITTY KALLEN - The Jewish Lady who sang Big Band and Buddy Holly

A new year means new deaths. One of the first casualties of 2016: Kitty Kallen (May 25, 1922-January 7, 2016). To the dismay of Roger Waters, thousands of Allah-kazam followers of Islam, and the skinhead Orbison lovers who wear Nazi-esque Iron Cross medallions, the obits have all mentioned that her real name was Katherine Kalinsky. She was Jewish. Yet she could sing like she was born in Tennessee, like Kitty Wells.

Kitty Kallen began her career as a big band singer, and her hits were anything but Jewish. The first, in 1944, was the #1 novelty "Besame Mucho." Which, if you're Jewish, could translate as "Joe Besser is Too Much." But it actually means "Kiss Me A Lot." Fronting the Harry James orchestra, Kitty hit the Top Five with "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "I'll Buy that Dream" and "It's Been a Long, Long Time." And as long as she had a generic name (like another Jewess, Dinah Shore) nobody was insisting she stick to "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" (which was a hit for the goyish Andrews Sisters. Go figure).

Kitty's most memorable #1 was "Little Things Mean A Lot" in 1954. The following year her father died, and coincidentally, she suffered "paralysis of the vocal cords," which kept her silent for several years. She went to several therapists to see if the condition was psychological, as well as checking in with doctors and voice experts. Eventually her voice returned, and with Big Band no longer popular, she turned to country-pop. Her cover of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" arrived in 1961, as did an album track of Buddy Holly's "Raining in My Heart."

Her last Top 20 hit was "My Coloring Book" in 1962. Just where a girl from Philadelphia got the voice of a Tennessee gal like Kitty Wells, I have no idea, but Kitty Kallen had it. Of the crossover artists, Kitty's sound might remind you a bit of Gogi Grant, who sang "The Wayward Wind." Gogi was also born in Philadelphia, her real name Myrtle Audrey Arinsberg.

Not long after "My Coloring Book," yet another health ailment, this time involving her lungs, sent Kitty Kallen into retirement, and the life of a housewife. It also set the stage for Kitty Kallen imitators to try and fool nightclub owners into hiring them. A headline in April of 1978 was: "KITTY KALLEN DEAD? NO, SINGER REPORTS." Kitty was alive and well in Englewood, New Jersey. Her husband had gotten the shocking call asking about his wife's death. Huh? She'd just stepped out to do some shopping! One of her imitators, Genevieve Agostinello had passed on in Los Angeles, and since she was prone to cashing check as "Kitty Kallen" when she worked, she had some ID and papers that fooled the hospital where she died.

The last time most of us heard of Kitty Kallen was in February of 2008, when she joined Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Tony Martin and others in filing against Universal Music Group. It was, of course, a losing battle.

As the New York Times reported: "“The estates of some of American music's biggest names, including Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Sarah Vaughan, have sued Universal Music Group for more than $6 million, claiming the company cheated them out of royalties, The lawsuit, which was also filed on behalf of some living artists, asserts that the company withheld record royalties, engaged in self-serving schemes with record clubs and suppressed payments from Apple’s iTunes and other digital distributors. The court papers accuse Universal of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. The 14 plaintiffs are Patti Page, Tony Martin, Dick Hyman, Richard Hayman, Kitty Kallen and the estates of Basie, Goodman, Vaughan, Woody Herman, Les Brown, the Mills Brothers, Jerry Murad, Frankie Laine and the gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, says Universal has been using questionable accounting practices since at least 1998."

Obviously, the lawsuit didn't help Kallen or her fellow musicians. And by that time, the Internet was doing worse damage. Idiot "Seniormole" types and Mephisto-jerks claimed stealing music was a good idea because big record labels and the RIAA and ASCAP were already cheating the artists out of money. They could point to Kitty's lawsuit for proof.

Just why they figured it helped matters to scream "copyright is copy wrong" and help Kim Dotcom of Megaupload become a billionaire by selling premium accounts and cheating artists, I have no idea. Why they also thought Spotify was the "paradigm for the future" is also bizarre, but it's not uncommon for people NOT in the business to claim they know how to run the business. And not listen to the phrase "mind your own business."

Below, a little tribute to one of the greats of a bygone era. She was a talented lady, and at a time of great unrest due to religious fanaticism, her work reminds us that assimilation is possible and something to be proud of. Kitty Kallen sounds like what she was: an American artist. Imagine no religion? It's easy if you listen….

KITTY KALLEN The Jewish lady goes all country-Buddy Holly. Shel Silverstein was probably impressed. RAINING IN MY HEART

KITTY KALLEN Her best known hit: - LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT

"American Beauty" And Sappy Movie-TV-Commercial Soundtrack Music

Have you noticed how lame movie soundtracks are? TV soundtracks? Music in TV commercials? It's worse than Muzak now; it's New Age shit. It's either loaded up with synthesized strings or a dull wash of anesthetized, meandering chords. The average idiot Jennifer Lawrence movie, the latest dumbass romance film of any kind, even the dopey Daddy-Is-a-Moron film comedy, will have repetitive meditative noodling going on.

It's bland music for bland scenes like "Dad goes for his morning jog" or "it's 9am and the business office is coming to life" or "Yuppie couple realizes they are attracted to each other while they look at naked statues at the museum." Inane moments of screen time are matched to a few idiot notes repeated on a marimba, or a Casio programmed to "fake violins."

This shit's been adopted for TV commercials, which try and hypnotize you by playing two or three notes over and over while you're told what headache reliever to buy.

I believe the father of this horrible Muzak is Thomas Newman, cousin of Randy. Randy's soundtrack music can be pretty sludgy but Tom's is written to a formula of predictability. It goes on and on; people listen to it the way they chew gum that's lost its flavor. It's just a monotonous, somehow-comforting ritual.

For me, music intended to soothe is enraging and distracting. The first Thomas Newman soundtrack that had me growling with disgust was "American Beauty," a sicko film that promised pedo-Lolita lust. Instead it was just metrosexual wimpiness that ended up with some bizarre message that most fag-haters are actually latent homosexuals…and probably most men who crave young girls would be just as happy with young boys.

The music for this drek-flick was a creepy combo of "perky" marimba percolations and oh-so-pretentious portentious smears of aural goo. The "best" of the soundtrack is below, 12 of its 40-odd minutes. If you can stand it, congrats, the Percodans have rendered you permanently mellow.

Thomas Newman's father was the famous Oscar-winning soundtrack composer Alfred Newman, who died way back in 1970. Alfred, along with Max Steiner, Franz Waxman and Erich Korngold and a few others, specialized in grandiose, symphonic sweepings that bore the general term "semi-classical." Folks that couldn't stand to put on a symphony or even Ravel or Debussy because there were quiet or difficult moments, could get "the best" of symphonic music with this lush, easy-listening stuff.

But by the 60's, Alfred Newman was out of style (and almost dead). There was Henry Mancini. There was Dominic Frontiere, John Williams and Bill Conti, who would give you one bombastic and memorable piece of music for a movie's climax. Maybe if you were lucky, a film like "Theater of Blood" would have a haunting semi-classical opening theme (by Michael J Lewis). The average commercial flick might open with a catchy Burt Bacharach or John Barry song. But by the 80's nobody was buying movie soundtracks because the generic music sucked. It was the duty of small labels like Varese Sarabande to bother with most of this boring crap.

Thomas Newman, who got his first Oscar nomination for "The Shawshank Redemption," quickly joined Danny Elfman in self-parody. Newman would go on to join his cousin Randy in being nominated over and over for predictable background music. In Tommy's case it was for "Road to Perdition," "Finding Nemo" and "Lemony Snicket's Unfortunate Events" among others. Give him a cloying topic like "The Help" or "The Iron Lady" and he would dutifully create busywork-music for it, helping a lazy director set the "oh, this is a comedy" mood, or help a wooden actress with a "this is supposed to be serious" scene.

You can do some of this yourself, especially for TV commercials. Take two fingers. Place them on a keyboard in a music shop. Toggle those two notes back and forth. That's the soundtrack to a dozen TV commercials for latte, yogurt, gluten-free cheese, tasseled loafers and pubic hair remover.

While "elevator music" has been part of our lives since the 50's, it used to be scorned. Albums of it by Mantovani and his pals were not taken seriously at the Grammy awards. Companies that intentionally reduced the formula to a science, such as Muzak, didn't even bother marketing that stuff to record stores. Now every movie is pluckin' ridiculous, with dumbed down New Age hokey-yoga baby-on-board lullabies and narcotic repetition, far removed from David Rose's notorious "Holiday for Strings" or Strauss's annoying "Pizzicato Polka."

If you have any taste, you probably won't be able to stand more than 2 minutes of the "best" of "American Beauty" below. It's on the blog only as criminal evidence of the state of soundtrack music today. You'll prefer being waterboarded. The "Medication Valse" from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is less numbing and more satisfying as movie soundtrack music. So is Liberace plinking the keyboard and playing "Humoresque." Movie and TV and TV commercial soundtracks aren't funny.

12 MINUTES of AMERICAN BEAUTY

WOOLY BOULEZ - Pierre Boulez Dies at 90 - "Pavane for a Dead Princess"

What a Jeckyll and Hyde this guy was. Pleasant and radical!

To the average music fan who considers classical music an amusing high-brow dabble, like going to a museum, Pierre Boulez ( March 26, 1925,-January 5, 2016), was just a teddy bear. He won dozens of Grammy awards for his interpretations of the standards as he led the London, Cleveland, New York and Chicago symphony orchestras.

But Pierre was also Wooly Boulez, and he championed Arnold Schoenberg and Frank Zappa ("The Girl in the Magnesium Dress"). He composed difficult weird stuff, like the eerie atonal and dissonant "Hangmen of Solitude" (based on a Rene Char poem). He made his money via standards in staid concert halls, but he often wished he could invade the Fillmore or Palladium with his radical music: "The most expensive solution would be to blow the opera houses up. But don't you think that would also be the most elegant?"

Boulez began his career as an "infant terrible" composer, amusing the avant-garde world and pushing boundaries, tonalities and theories. Back then, audiences were having enough trouble just appreciating Stravinsky. Just as art lovers go to the museum to see Renoir and Matisse and only glance at Rothko or Pollock classical fans want Mozart and Debussy, barely tolerate Stravinsky, and time their bathroom break for when the program includes a "modern" classical piece.

And so it was that Boulez made his living as one of the steady conservative conductors in the post-"Living Stereo" 50's era. Back in the late 50's and early 60's "Living Stereo"-styled records made stars of Reiner, Stokowski, Bernstein, Walter, Von Karajan, Munch, Steinberg and many more maestros. They laid down definitive versions of the classics and stereophiles tossed their Toscanini monos.

All that Boulez, Haitink, Abbado and the others from the 70's onward could do was keep the podium warm, and put out "souvenir" recordings for people who attended the shows, or who thought digital CD sound was better. Boulez suffered comparisons to Leonard Bernstein, whom he replaced as leader of the New York Philharmonic. About the only thing they had in common was that they were gay, but Boulez chose to be secretive about it while Bernstein, especially toward the end, was outrageously flamboyant. I saw Bernstein take the stage once trailing a 20 foot long feather boa, his nose in the air, being as campy as a drag queen.

I never saw Boulez conduct in person (not that he was an exciting guy to watch…he didn't care for the traditional tuxedo, or even a baton) but I did buy some of his records way back when. Below are a few downloads from my vinyl of "Boulez Conducts Ravel." And no, I didn't buy his own wacko compositions. Boulez cautioned, "I don't think music is an entertainment product. It's a product of culture — not for marketing, but to enrich lives…All these years, I've been trying to convince people that music is not there to please them; it's there to disturb them."

Had I the chance, I would've asked French Pete, "Isn't it more difficult to please people than to just disturb them? You can bash around on the piano without even knowing how to play, and you'll happily enrage the crowd. But it takes years of practice to soothe the savage breast by being able to play even a simple Kabalevsky ballad. Yeah?" Meaning, while I appreciate Pollock's paintings, and understand modern classical and modern jazz...I can only stand it in small doses.

Below are two examples of more traditional classical music by Ravel, taken from my own well-used vinyl. The more challenging of the two is the "Danse generale" from Daphnis and Chloe Suite No 2. Don't worry, this excerpt is the length of any rock song: 3:30. It's a pretty fucking remarkable piece of work, with soaring voices adding to the excitement.

The previous post mentioned the garbage-like nature of movie soundtracks. Here's a study in the difference between real classical music and limp fakery. Even the best movie soundtrack guys couldn't come up with something like this.

Since the guy's dead, it was logical to include the contemplative "Pavane for a Dead Princess," sometimes translated as "Pavane for a Dead Infant." French composers seem to enjoy oddball titles for their works. Satie was a master at this, with his "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." Ravel himself cautioned that a pavane is a just a dance. Go ahead, think about a deceased princess or any loved one, and appreciate that you can dance, and be thankful to be alive. It's no different than Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" with new lyrics about Princess Diane. Sad songs say so much…mostly, "she's dead, I'm not, and I'm glad to be able to enjoy this sweet music." Or dance a pavane that is slow enough that you won't get a heart attack.

Living to the ripe age of 90, it's doubtful the average Boulez fan shed a tear over his passing, but if they dusted off the old vinyl as I did, and played "Pavane for a Dead Princess" and a few others, that's tribute enough.

DANSE GENERALE Boulez conducts a little stunner. No, really.

PAVANE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS In other words, be thankful that while the earth has stopped up the ears of the dead, you can enjoy this, and even slow-dance to it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Phil Ochs performs "Chords of Fame" for John Lennon

Today is the 75th birthday of Phil Ochs, for whom, in a Spoonerized way, this blog was named. The blog began as an attempt to pay tribute and give space to "ill folks," unique singers and songwriters who often are on the other side of fame.

Phil was born December 19, 1940 in Texas. Despite that infamous "Rehearsals for Retirement" tombstone album cover photo claiming he died at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, he killed himself April 9, 1976.

At that time, political singer-songwriters were pretty much obsolete, and replaced by guys like James Taylor and Cat Stevens. Phil's struggles with alcohol and depression make up the sad final chapters in two biographies.

Phil's romantic demise, and the realities and mythology of the late 60's, have led to a variety of websites and Facebook groups using his name. Some do it with sincerity, and some are trying to play his chords of fame to advance their own names. A few blogs and sites seem to want to shove the Ochs family aside and take over as keepers of the flame, and the real deal authority on the man and his work. That they are sensitive enough to choose Phil to ring the bells and wring their hands, outweighs their vainglorious egotism. Usually.

It's optimistic to know that there are any Millennials out there concerned with topical songs or political and social change. That there's anybody here who wants to call attention to a person whose songs are over 40 years old...songs that have been around a longer time than the creator of them. It's pessimistic to also admit that some in the small circle are, to put it bluntly, fucking idiots and paranoid pains in the butt…an irritating assortment of Yippie wannabe's, hipsters faking being hippies, and paranoids who live to babble conspiracy theories.

Both groups have converged on the 75th birthday, and on the chewy topic of: "If he was alive today, what would Phil be singing about THIS and saying about THAT?"

My guess, if you take a look at Phil's surviving contemporaries, is two words: "not much." The surviving folkies and musical satirists from Tom Paxton to Eric Andersen to Loudon Wainwright to Tom Lehrer aren't waving torches and leading the way anywhere. At best, Randy Newman jibed a track he pretty much gave away on YouTube for lack of commercial interest, "In Defense Of Our Country."

There used to be wild, innovative and often topical comedians on the bill at the folk venues. People expected "the word" from iconoclastic comics as well as the new generation of folk singers. In fact, there were topical folk comedians who seemed like they could be the new heroes of the day, from Shel Silverstein to the Smothers Brothers. The brothers are retired. Nobody's wondering "what would they have to say about today's situation." They aren't interested. Mort Sahl is, but he's a twitching, unfunny right-winger who hasn't muttered a quotable joke in 40 years. Anyone care what Jackie Mason, "Dice" Clay or Howard Stern think of anything? Are they quoted much? You think that "they're take on today's problems" would warrant one paragraph much less the cover of Time magazine?

"If he was alive today..." is a kind of sad thing to speculate on, whether it's Phil or Lenny Bruce or any other cult favorite. Better to be a Realist and accept that nobody's doing it the way it was done generations ago. Ramblin' Jack is still rambling somewhere, but nobody fuckin' cares. (If you believe he ignored Sammy Walker at the Phil tribute and made sure Sammy didn't even perform, then you REALLY don't fuckin' care!). As for the icon still with us, Bob Dylan, is anyone breathlessly waiting for his take on today's issues? Not really. Nor are they expecting "the word" on love, hate, getting older, or climate change. Bob dropped out of pure protest songs long ago. You can't blame him for preferring faux-Delta blues, considering the critical disgust he received on tunes about George Jackson and Joey Gallo. There's the distinct possibility that half of his riveting "Hurricane" is untrue and the boxer may well have killed several people. The man is more likely to have his eye on Alicia Keyes than any politician. You can't count him out because he can still glare with blood in his eyes, but nobody's even saying, "I can't wait for Dylan to sing about this…" Or any other songwriter. It's just not what music is about anymore, and both stand-up and music will not likely be used with the same political fire as they were a generation ago.

We are in the musical age of such lame names as Adele, Justin Bieber, One Direction and Taylor Swift. At one time, young men such as Mr. Phil Ochs and Mr. Sammy Walker sang about the problems of the "Flower Lady" and an old woman dying alone on a "Cold Pittsburgh Morning." What's Ed Sheeran singing about? Or Sam Smith? Them selfies? We are in an age without disc jockeys or meaningful rock critics. There's no direction home. When the Grammy show is hosted by Jay-Z and dominated by rappers and teen idiots, don't expect a new Ochs, Zevon or Randy Newman to find any meaningful size of audience.

It's nice that there are "Phil Ochs Nights" in Portlandia, or upstate New York somewhere, and some Millennials are fascinated with 1968 and want to wear hippie beads or leather jackets and strum an acoustic guitar and sing about fracking. But most are Viley Virus types who wear a dildo or twerk and only sing about fucking. We've got Millennials who don't even know John Lennon's music, or whether he's alive or dead. Seriously. Last Friday night, Jimmy Kimmel's put-on street interview bit included a very depressing moment. A woman in her late 20's was told, tongue-in-cheek, about the recent Beatles reunion with John Lennon and George Harrison taking the stage. Instead of snarling, "You're putting me on," the young interviewee allowed that it was nice news for Beatles fans.

I don't expect the average bint to know who Phil Ochs is, or to know his music, but to not know John Lennon was murdered?

Your download is "Chords of Fame," as performed by Phil for John Lennon. Phil, you may recall, was on the bill at Lennon's "John Sinclair Rally," performing "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon." In a hotel room, an eager Mr. Lennon learned about the history of folk protest songs from an awed, and stuttery Phil Ochs.

Phil played the long "Joe Hill" for John. As the tape starts rolling for "Chords of Fame," Ochs explains how he borrowed the "Joe Hill" melody from previous folk ballads, "John Hardy" and "Tom Joad." Part of the true "sharing" of folk music is that you borrow ideas, pay tribute by re-using or adapting melodies, and pay it forward by modernizing old lyrics. Lennon was keenly interested in the traditional process of American folk and topical ballads. Some of that interest you'll find on this blog, with entries on how British ballads were adapted in America and turned into "Farewell to Nova Scotia" and "Lily of the West."

On this strange and mournful day, I don't ask "What would Phil say" or sing. I just feel wistful that he's not around to enjoy his family, and the satisfaction that so many of his songs haven't aged at all. Some are even more powerful now, like his ominous "No More Songs," with a line that seemed to predict the phenomenon of whales beaching themselves and preferring death over polluted seas. But Phil is not with us, actively singing to a small circle as Tom Paxton or Eric Andersen is. He's not in happy retirement or semi-retirement like some of his contemporaries from Oscar Brand to Judy Henske and back. He is gone. And I guess you better cover his songs…and listen to his old stuff…while you're here.

John Lennon listens to Phil Ochs sing Chords of Fame

Patti Page and George Jones Duet - Lookin' Good and Sounding Great

The greatest female vocalist in the history of American pop music was Patti Page (real name Clara Ann Fowler...she inherited "Patti Page" when she replaced a local radio singer by that name.) She could sing jazz, rock, spirituals and country, a much wider range of Americana than Billie Holiday or Patsy Cline. Her beautiful voice was expressive. Unlike Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and quite a few others, you can instantly tell when Patti's singing by her distinctive lilt and light touch of vibrato. If she'd had the right arrangers, and never sang "Doggie in the Window," she'd be higher on the "best female vocalist" list than the more obvious choices such as Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand.

As for George Jones, he was pure country, and that limitation runs him second behind Frank Sinatra, who sang everybody from Cole Porter to Jimmy Webb. If you want to be weird, you might place George third behind the now very dated and almost ridiculous Al Jolson, who was certainly a distinctive stylist at home with folk, swing, pop, ballads, and even traditional Hebrew melodies. Sinatra himself said George was the best…except for himself!

It's a shame that two of the greatest voices in American song didn't work together more often. It may have been because despite "Tennessee Waltz" (which could be countered by "Old Cape Cod" anyway), Oklahoma-born Patti didn't overtly move into the country music field until late in her career. Also, she and George weren't on the same music label very long.

"You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine" is a pretty good song. What makes it great is the ache in Jones' voice and the exquisite angst in Patti's. Despite the C&W cliche of a nauseating steel guitar, the production allows these two voices to brew up a dreamy butter-rum flavor. It's intoxicating because it's a double shot…Page and Jones. Rather than corny pathos, the tone here includes some genial and wistful good humor; it's two old pros together not to recall old times, but to have a good time making a new memory.

Here's the immortal combo of George (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) and Patti (November 8, 1927 – January 1, 2013).

Alias Page and Jones You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine

TEENAGE BRAIN SURGEON Spike Jones Cover by DOCTOR X

Spike Jones was too corny for critics to call a genius. In his lifetime, he wasn't even given credit for the brilliance of his arrangements and the expert musicianship of his band. What Spike did in a 40's recording studio in one take would take most any band a month of rehearsals and weeks of Pro Tools overdubs and punch-ins.

Compulsively smoking, intensely scowling, Jones was the perfectionist who made sure every gunshot, every smack of a tin can, every toot of a horn, was perfectly timed and in the right key. He had a keen ear for young talent, and gave breaks to a lot of beloved weirdos like Red Ingle, Doodles Weaver and Paul Frees.

Jones had an uncanny ability to produce comic art, not just parody. While "Weird Al" has done some great things, let's face it, it doesn't take much skill to bawl "Eat It" as a parody of "Beat It," especially when you're not altering the music too much. Compare that with Spike Jones' innovative mash-ups, like turning "Dance of the Hours" into a car race complete with feverishly corny announcer Doodles Weaver. Red Ingle's brawling "Chloe" is so great, it stands on its own as great comedy more than a spoof. When I first listened to it, I had no idea there was actually a serious song about a guy trudging swamps searching for "Chloe," like a cartoonish bag in some Mad Magazine panels hunting for her boy Little Willie Elder. As for "My Old Flame," after pretending to offer a traditional version of it, a Jeckyl band singer gives way for Mr. Hyde, Paul Frees doing his definitive version of Peter Lorre. Lorre himself was impressed by it. A pioneer in sick humor, Spike offered a pretty disturbing comic punchline: immolating the ex-girlfriend and punctuating the match-strike with her sudden scream.

At the time it was released, "Spike Jones in Stereo" (well, it was also released in monaural as "Spike Jones in Hi-Fi") got little respect. Spike's 40's formula of cacaphony and corn was no longer novel, and it seemed that critics and fans didn't appreciate the subtleties that Spike brought to long-play albums. It seemed that a very narrow circle of warped comedy fans and Forry Ackerman-esque pun-appreciative devotees of those famous monsters of filmland made this disc a cult classic.

Aside from demanding the best vocal talent and musicians, Spike Jones and his arranger added a vast repertoire of sonic seasonings to the mix. One of my favorites was the perfect monster mash-up of Poe's "Raven" to Dvorak's "Humoresque." Yes, the poem's cadence and the unlikely music match perfectly.

Another example of freaky finesse, is how the opening melody of "Teenage Brain Surgeon"is body-snatched from "Elegie," written by Jules Massenet in 1872. Most anyone else (except maybe Tom Lehrer) would've just knocked off a frantic rock song, content to match a teenybop dance melody to some sick humor. Here, there's a comic shock between the opening, legitimately chilling creepiness of "Elegie" and it's sudden kick into a teen beat. The original was rendered extra-spooky by gloriously deep-voiced Thurl Ravenscroft, best remembered as the voice of "Tony the Tiger" in vintage Frosted Flakes commercials and the guy who sang "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Since you should get the album, and since this IS the blog of less renown, that version isn't below. Instead, it's "Teenage Brain Surgeon" covered by somebody called Doctor X. It appears on a crazy album called "The Crazy Album," issued in 1978 and long out of print. The double-vinyl indie bootleg compiled novelty originals ("Martian Hop" by The Randells) and covers ("They're Coming to Take Me Away" by The Duke of Waterloo). The bootlegger swiped the original Spike Jones "Der Fuhrer's Face" but didn't also filch Spike's version of "Teenage Brain Surgeon."

Doctor X is no Ravenscroft, and the anonymous musicians don't have the panache and splash of Spike's band, but the essential brilliance of the concept is still there, which is the musical expertise to know what oldie to borrow and how to make it new.

PS, calling attention to "Teenage Brain Surgeon" doesn't mean this blog endorses Ben Carson for President. The blog only endorses obscure cover versions, musical oddities, and offbeat (but on key) neglected works of genius.

Doctor X Teenage Brain Surgeon

RICHARD SHORES "HATE" (lost gem from the "Man from UNCLE" soundtracker)

Henry Mancini captured the Pink Panther's prowl. Lalo Schifrin provided the tense soundtrack for "Mission Impossible." Martin Denny instantly transported us to a "Quiet Village" in the jungle. And Richard Shores?

He created literal mood music, like..."Hate." It's your download below.

You might recognize his two minute instrumental as the soundtrack to violent chases through dark alleys on vintage TV cop shows. It was a generic piece of background music that could be licensed for any cheap movie scene of some psycho killer getting violent. I'm pretty sure it was also used by low-budget local TV stations in the 60's when they ran a weekly low-budge "Saturday Morning Horror Movie" or "The Late Night Thriller" and needed a theme to play behind the cheaply done art work for the show.

If Richard Shores' name seems familiar at all, it's probably because it flickered on your TV screen during the end credits for many TV episodes, including "The Man from UNCLE." Yeah, while Johnny Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini and others wrote TV theme songs, they usually didn't waste their time writing all the background music for every single episode. Those chores were handled by unsung veterans like Shores.

Shores concocted mood music for key scenes of love, hate and violence in episodes of "Richard Diamond" and "Johnny Midnight," vintage late 50's TV shows starring David Janssen and Edmund O'Brien. As a staffer at Universal/Revue, he supplied music for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" "Dick Powell Theater" and "Checkmate" (the jagged theme song on the latter was done by Johnny Williams).

Many masters of schlock and drang issued MOR albums which competed with original TV soundtrack recordings. You could find a lot of exotica from everyone from Les Baxter to Martin Denny. But Richard Shores? Richard did manage to get signed to Mercury for an album. It was titled "Emotions" and also, to get the attention of the prurient, issued as "Music to Read Lady Chatterley's Lover By."

Oddly, I think Mercury figured the words "LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER" were so strong, any kind of illustration would've had record stores hiding the vinyl under the counter.

The album has separate tracks for: Love, Hate, Sorrow, Gay, Blues, Surprise, Frustration, Nostalgia, Fear and Hysteria.

Being a music-seeker ever since I could work a turntable, I haunted record stores and thrift shops for anything within my budget, in most any musical genre. If it was recorded, I figured I might like it or learn from it. I didn't know who Shores was when I came across the vinyl, in just its inner sleeve, for 39 cents. Though I often held out for items in the "three for a dollar" bin, 39 cents was ok.

It was decades later that I learned why that record was dumped in the bargain bin without a jacket. "Emotions" had a lady on the cover who wasn't wearing a jacket! Some pervert had ditched the record but saved the cover! The nudity used to sell obscure artists peddling instrumental music wasn't all that rude back in the day, and is pretty mild by today's standards. But it's the album cover, sought after by nudie-cutie "record cover lovers" that makes this thing still pricey in surviving record stores.

Shores stayed busy in the TV field long after the "mood music" era of the late 50's and early 60's mellowed out. His late 60's soundtrack work included vivid "stings" and romantic ballad moments for many episodes of "The Wild Wild West" and "Hawaii 5-0" among others. Welcome to the formerly distant Shores, and I hope you love "Hate."

HATE Richard Shores

Sunday, November 29, 2015

ADAM SANDLER - THE CHANUKAH SONG part 4

Just in time for the holidays, here's Adam Sandler in front of a live, ecstatic audience doing his 4th revision of "The Chanukah Song."

Once again Sandler jeers and irritates anti-Semites and gets some cheap laughs from everyone else, including Jews who need a break from feeling alienated, alone and persecuted. Since "Star Wars fever" is being inflicted on us yet again, it's no surprise that Adam notes half-Jew Carrie Fisher and quarter-Jew Harrison Ford. The world may not need to know that the "two guys from Google" are Jewish, but there's also the pride that ice-cream makers Ben & Jerry are. Sandler notes that David Beckham is one-fourth "Chosen" and mentions Joseph Gordon Levitt, in case there was doubt. With typical Jewish self-denigration, his list this time also includes disgraced Subway sandwich pitchman Jared Fogle. Jared's in jail for hooking up with 16 and 17 year-old hookers. Mostly, Adam's intent is to point out positive and un-stereotypical Jewish celebs and tweak the small, sharp noses of those who think the world would be better off without Jews.

Anti-Semitism seems so well indoctrinated from childhood that even now, when Muslims are blowing up buildings and concert halls, Jews are the ethnic group most often targeted with abuse. The big problem today isn't Islam, it's Judaism and Israel. Well, I guess one vents rage on the easiest target. Kick over Jewish tombstones and people shrug. Draw Mohammad and you lose your life.

Chanukah has very few "hit" songs. The greatest Jewish songwriters...wrote Christmas songs. Chanukah might have a nostalgic Jew knocking off a chorus of: "Dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of clay..." That's about it. That's why Sandler's "The Chanukah Song" is now declared by most everyone to be the most popular song for the holiday. There's no competition.

(Let's parenthetically add "Chanukah in Santa Monica," one of the few times Tom Lehrer's came out of retirement to record something new.)

Sandler hit a nerve with "The Chanukah Song." After all, any time some pinhead troll declares all Jews should've been gassed in World War II, the reply is "look at this list of famous Jews who've contributed to the world!" Like Groucho Marx and Bob Dylan and Jonas Salk and Albert Einstein. Name dropping is the way of biting back. Oh, you say Jewish girls are ugly? How about Bacall? How about Gina Gershon? Natalie Portman? Scarlett Johannson? Oh, you skinhead prick, you wish Jews were all exterminated by Hitler? You love The Three Stooges and Rush's Geddy Lee and Van Halen's David Lee Roth. Hey, redneck, who wrote "Boy Named Sue" for Johnny Cash? Shel Silverstein. Etc. etc. etc.

So it is, that Sandler, singing in that retarded voice that alternates between a wheedling whine and class-clown cacaphony, continues his list and his self-parodying schmucky attempts to find rhymes with Chanukah.

The new song is just in time for Chanukah but Sandler might still be tasting the charges of "TURKEY!" heaped at him during the Thanksgiving tradition of naming the year's worst films and worst performers. In the spirit of "no thanks," Sandler got a load of hot critical gravy dumped all over him.

No relation to the "Golden Turkey" awards, this version is the work of NY Post critic Lou Lumenick, who assembled it without the help of Kyle Smith, his colleague and probably the best film critic in town. Lou did get some snark-assistance from Reed Tucker and Sara Stewart. Aside from hating Jews, folks do hate celebrities. How quickly "fans" love to turn on their rich and famous idols, and let 'em know that the CUSTOMER is in control, and that stars should humbly realize they are in "the people pleasing business."

After roasting that turkey called Sandler, the critics kept on stuffing.

Edited down a bit, the list includes:

Hugh Jackman, camping it up way off the charts as villains in the 10-megaton bomb “Pan’’ and the “E.T.’’ clone “Chappie,’’ easily two of the least charming family movies of all time.

The puerile satire “The Interview." The Wachowski siblings’ “Jupiter Ascending,’’ starring Eddie Redmayne as a flamboyant, whiny bad guy who gives Jackman a run for his money in the camp sweepstakes. “Fifty Shades of Grey,’’ a tame S&M movie for masochists only.

George Clooney in the expensive sci-fi megaflop “Tomorrowland.’’ “Fantastic Four’’ (panned even by its own director); “Annie’’ (we can’t unsee Cameron Diaz’s appalling Miss Hannigan); the wearyingly sexist “Entourage”; the execrable “Jem and the Holograms”; the vile, dung-scented “Vacation”; the 30-years-too-late flop “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”; and the deservedly DOA “The Transporter Refueled.’’

“Jurassic World’’ (for Bryce Dallas Howard running in high heels alone); “Avengers: Age of Ultron", “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1’’ (effectively a two-hour trailer); “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation," “Insurgent’’ (yawn); “Ted 2’’ (barf); “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2’’ (why?); “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’’ (ditto); “Hitman: Agent 47’’ (yes, there was an earlier one); and the truly repellent “Hot Tub Time Machine 2."

The lamentable Johnny Depp fiasco “Mortdecai”; Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law in the morbidly unfunny “Spy”; and, yes, Daniel Craig sleepwalking through the deadly “Spectre.’’

Meryl Streep rocking out in an epically bad hairdo in the vapid “Ricki and the Flash." Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore shamelessly collecting paychecks in the ludicrous “Seventh Son.” Sean Penn in the quickly disappearing “The Gunman.” Reese Witherspoon throwing away her “Wild" comeback with the dopey “Hot Pursuit.” And Michael Caine enhancing his 401(k) (but not his reputation) with “The Last Witch Hunter.”

Two reasons Robert Redford isn't going to win an acting Oscar this year: The moronic hiking comedy “A Walk in the Woods" and his spectacularly failed attempt to rehabilitate disgraced TV legend Dan Rather in the ironically fake “Truth."

Bradley Cooper in consecutive flops “Serena,” “Aloha,” and as a nasty chef in the half-baked, much-postponed and twice-retitled “Burnt."

Nicolas Cage for the practically straight-to-VOD stinkers “The Runner" and “Pay the Ghost.” John Travolta, of “The Forger.” And the once-great GĂ©rard Depardieu, letting it all hang out as a thinly disguised Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the unbelievably awful “Welcome to New York." Oh, and repeat offender Robert De Niro, as a geriatric Mr. Fixit in “The Intern."

Why Mia Farrow should just let Woody Allen destroy his own career: “Irrational Man," the Woodman’s worst movie ever, ineptly recycles themes from his own “Match Point" and “Crimes and Misdemeanors" while offering up Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix as his latest and arguably least appealing May-September romance ever.

Peter Bogdanovich’s painfully unfunny “She’s Funny That Way," which even brought back his long-ago muse Cybill Shepherd; and Michael Mann’s deadly and expensive hacking thriller “Blackhat,’’ which somehow managed to flop even when the Sony hack was the top story in the news.

PS, not all those bad movies can be blamed on Jews, since they no longer "run Hollywood" (or the banks). Maybe it's time to go get paranoid about Latinos or Muslims instead? "I keed, I keed," to quote Triumph, the Insult Comedy Dog (who has a Jew up his ass and doing his voice). Go ahead, Adam...

ADAM SANDLER The Chanukah Song Part 4

Thursday, November 19, 2015

THE GALENS' annoying "BABY I DO LOVE YOU" Poing Poing Poing!

The first time I heard "Baby I Do Love You," I couldn't believe how annoying it was. I was not alone. Norman Galen, leader of what he probably thought would be a white version of The Platters, was appalled.

Over the men's soothing lullaby singing, and the icky-melange of his female vocalist's sugary emoting…there was a relentless POING POING POING noise. It wasn't there when he and his group recorded it. Where'd it come from? What was it?

The over-dubbed novelty could've become the soundtrack to an aspirin commercial: "Distracted by a pounding headache? Is your peace of mind being ruined??"

Just what that obnoxious noise was, nobody was quite sure. One of the trade publications of the day figured it was an ocarina. It sounded a bit more like somebody beating a hamster with a coat hanger. But, to quote an infamous David Seville line, radio listeners seemed to think, "That's almost good!"

It isn't, but it's certainly a fascinating and horrible experiment, a culture clash between an All-American whitebread girl, a bunch of creepy German crooners, and some kind of psychotic Ed Gein hillbilly wielding a weapon. (You can download now and try to guess what the hell it is...the answer turns up a few paragraphs down).

As originally envisioned, the basic tune had the three Galen guys cooing a Teutonic lullaby in German called "Du Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen." After a while, the baby doll lead vocalist steps forward to solo on the sweet refrain in English: "Baby I DO, DO LOVE YOUUUUU. Baby I want you so. Baby I need you so. Baby I love you so. I just keep missin' your wonderful kissin'"

It seemed like it could be a middle of the road hit. The familiar German tune had already been turned into "You, You, You are the One," a success for Russ Morgan back in 1949.

Twist of fate: The Galens' indie record label decided they loved it but the kids couldn't dance to it. Where was the beat? Apparently having no faith in the song rising to the charts like "Harbor Lights" or some other sappy platter, they brought in "rock" percussion. Or did they?

They found some guy with a musical saw, and had him relentlessly pound it throughout the song. POING POING POING.

It almost worked. Throughout the history of pop-novelty, listeners have been hypnotized into buying grating tunes: "The Hut Sut Song." "Three Little Fishes." "Purple People Eater." "How Much is That Doggie In the Window." "Dang Me." You name it. Some love it, some hate it, enough buy it so it hits the Top 20.

Like a moth putting a few little holes in a sport jacket, "Baby I Do Love You" with its sputtery high-pitched pounding noise fluttered just inside the Top 100.

This sugar-coated cyanide pill, which stuck in a listener's ear causing a brain melt, had some people wondering who were The Galens? What would they do next?

Technically, the band should've been called The Galen, because only one person in the band had that last name. Norman Galen grew up on exotic Catalina Island in California. He had been briefly paralyzed after a bout of polio, finding solace in playing the piano. The prodigy won the attention of the esteemed and pressed Walter Gieseking, who had recorded some impressive versions of Beethoven sonatas back in the 78rpm era. The Geese couldn't keep The Galen interested in classical music forever; the kid went off to pursue big band music and Vegas pop.

Galen formed a swingin' quartet with drummer George Ross, bassist Bob Hubener, and vocalist Charlene Knight, who sounded like a clone of Priscilla Paris. Galen loved her sound; he had arranged music for The Paris Sisters' Vegas act and was smitten by their sugary vocalizing. There was an entire genre of "sweet bands" in the 1940's and Galen was hoping to make money with his own brand of "easy listening." The Galens were managed by Faye Paris, who also directed the fate of her daughters.

Charlene Knight hadn't recorded much before joining The Galens. Her debut was on the Pamela label, an indie outfit from Monrovia, California. The title of her 1961 debut was "If You Pass Me By." I know, that's a straight line.

"Baby I Do Love You" released in 1963 was the first recording by The Galens. It was for the small but lethal Challenge label, and featured an almost equally appalling flip side. It was the coy "Love Bells," which included ""ting ah ling a ling uh" as a refrain. It was the kind of thing Mitch Miller would've foisted on Patti Page.

The Galens managed to issue a 1964 single their way. They chose the old war horse "Stranger in Paradise," mildly goosed into 60's rock sensibilities by a jittery back beat. The flip side was "Chinese Lanterns," another MOR-onic tune. By then The Platters' style was history and frisky rock was dominating the Top 20. They got one last chance to go back and get the teen audience via the 1965 effort "Young Dreams." It was a smack-worthy bit of cuteness, with "I Love You More Than You Know" on the backside.

No longer trying for the teen market, The Galens stopped making singles and became a successful live act for aging tourists at resort hotels. They were well known in Bermuda and in the Bahamas through the mid 60's, and recorded a short-run souvenir album of well-worn classic pop tunes. It's now a "collectors item" that's pretty hard to find. The group disbanded when Charlene Knight settled down to enjoy motherhood.

Norman Galen stayed in the music biz in a variety of ways, running a music store, teaching students, and sometimes staging concerts for fans of "easy listening." He and his partner Dale retired about ten years ago, and are, I assume, like the other three members of the long lost group, very much alive.

Back in 2008, Christine Knight was on the Net leaving messages about her long lost group. One of 'em was: "Looking for original recordings of The Galens, with Charlene Knight (myself) by Challenge Records in the 60's…How might I obtain copies for personal use?" She was wondering what had become of the masters. It's a familiar and usually unanswered question.

Below, the anvil-subtle Demento-esque percussive saw, punctuating "Baby I Do Love You." It's an early example of over-dubbing for the sake of a teen-rock audience. You might recall a much more successful example: "Sound of Silence," rescued from the poor-selling debut album by Simon and Garfunkel and brought to life with a folk-rock beat.

Also below, a few more examples of Miss Knight and The Galens. Fans of The Paris Sisters, and the solo Priscilla Paris, might recall that they could be pretty good with their musical saccharine ("I Love How You Love Me") and even original ("He Owns the World.") So no collection should be without something galling or Galen or going gentle into that good Knight…

IF YOU PASS ME BY Charlene Knight

BABY I DO LOVE YOU THE GALENS

LOVE BELLS THE GALENS

STRANGER IN PARADISE THE GALENS

CHINESE LANTERNS THE GALENS

P.F. SLOAN DIES - Jimmy WEbb SONG, Solo EVE OF DESTRUCTION

The author of "Eve of Destruction" didn't live to see the actual destruction, but he came close, didn't he? Climate change? Isis? Kardashians?

P.F. Sloan (Sept. 18, 1945-November 14, 2015) was just 20 when "Eve of Destruction" hit the charts 50 years ago. He died at 70 (of pancreatic cancer). He lived to reach the 50th anniversary of "Eve of Destruction," joining Barry McGuire on stage in January. No, not on a PBS special or HBO show; just a gig at a somewhat obscure venue.

Roger Waters probably hated the guy, because P.F. Sloan, like so many of the 60's singer/songwriters who began their careers knocking out "Brill Building" pop tunes, was Jewish. Yep, he was born Philip Gary Schlein. The family switched Schlein to Sloan because there were too many people like Roger Waters in their neighborhood. This was still the era of quotas (Jews being denied chances in certain professions, being restricted at health clubs and other places) and if that wasn't bad enough, there was outright violence. Sloan's Dad, a pharmacist, realized a Jewish name was very bad for business.

Like Goffin and King, and Mann and Weill and Leiber and Stoller, all Jews whom Roger Waters would like erased from the music history books (perhaps replaced by Palestinian and Muslim songwriters who've given the world so much joy), the Jewish team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri began by writing for others.

The Jewish duo evolved from pop "I Found a Girl" (Jan and Dean) and "A Must to Avoid" (Hermans Hermits) to folk rock "Let it Be Me" (The Turtles) and "Where Were You When I Needed You (The Grass Roots, which originally included them as members). When 60's spy TV shows became popular, and Patrick McGoohan was imported to America, they gave us "Secret Agent Man," sung by Johnny Rivers.

When protest songs were hot, P.F. Sloan was right there with "Eve of Destruction." Barry McGuire's rendition had some purists shaking their heads. They found the opening tolling of the drums less than subtle, and McGuire's overboard growling wasn't Phil Ochs. Some felt the Dylan-esque harmonica toots here and there were a cliche if not insulting. Then there were some glaringly bad "punk swallows a dictionary" lines like: "my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin' I'm sittin' here just contemplatin'."

But the more you heard it, the more powerful it became, and it was pretty powerful even the first time. You could listen to it often enough to even notice the odd splice on the last "tell me/over and over," where McGuire apparently couldn't quite keep up with the musicians. There was soon an answer song, "Dawn of Correction," replying to what (it was thought) McGuire had written.

The song was almost completely written by P.F. Sloan (Barri usually was the lyricist). No surprise, that P.F. Sloan's next move was to push for his own record deal, and the chance to become a true singer/songwriter.

While some obscure songwriters eventually made a dent singing their own songs (Randy Newman comes to mind) and some became stars (Carole King, aka Carol Klein), others languished. Along with Ellie Greenwich, Barry Mann and others, P.F. Sloan was a decent singer who could've had a hit off one of his solo albums, but it just didn't happen.

Depression plagued Sloan, his use of drugs didn't help, and he retreated back home to live with his parents, convinced his record label had not only failed him, but screwed him on royalties. "I was ill I guess for a good 20, maybe 25 years,” he recalled, although he wasn't able to recall some of those years with any great accuracy.

Summer-burned and winter-blown by the failure of Sloan, Jimmy Webb (who has issued many great albums to a niche audience of devotees) wrote a tribute song. Frankly, it was "P.F. Sloan" by Jimmy Webb that called my attention to what up till then had just been a parenthetical name under my 45 rpm copy of "Eve of Destruction."

Webb's song praised Sloan for continuing as long as he could, but acknowledged that he had dropped out of sight after 1968. (Sales of Sloan's "Measure for Measure" solo album were almost too small to measure.

"“I have been seeking P. F. Sloan/But no one knows where he has gone," sang Jimmy Webb. Rather than explore Sloan's life and work, subsequent stanzas note Roy Rogers' taxidermy-preserved horse, London Bridge becoming an American tourist attraction, and Nixon taking office. The song has one of Webb's most catchy sing-along choruses, which warns "don't sing this song."

Below is a live version of "P.F. Sloan" by Webb, and also a live acoustic version of "Eve of Destruction" by Sloan. He delivers it thoughtfully, without the bombast of McGuire. Sloan's last album was released in 2006. He turned up in clubs now and then. Rumer recorded "P.F. Sloan" and in 2014 he joined her on stage at a gig. It was the same year he published his autobiography.

Sloan's book is "What's Exactly The Matter With Me? Memoirs of a Life in Music." If you didn't even know it existed, well, the book business is as fucked up as the music business, especially now that books can be so easily stolen and even scabbed on eBay by any seller who puts in a laughable caveat: "I own copyright or I am an authorized re-seller or the book is in public domain."

Fans will find much to enjoy, including notes on his various songs, and some passages that druggily slide around the line between fact and creative fiction. At least, unusual reporting. How about Sloan describing George Harrison driving in that famous area for stoners, Haight-Ashbury: ""the zombies started pushing and trying to roll the car over with him in it. They started crawling on the car like hungry lizards. As the car sped off, the zombies looked around for something else to crawl onto..."

Sloan's tome is from Jawbone, a small publishing outfit run by real nice hippie-type music lovers. I think I correctly recall in speaking to the head man one time, that he chose his company's name with a nod to a memorable song by "The Band." In true hippie-dippie fashion, the company allowed Sloan to pretty much write anything he recalled or thought he recalled, leading some fans to sigh about how accurate some anecdotes are. Like, did Sloan really suggest the sitar that was used on "Paint it Black?" And yeah, typos don't help! The book's available in both paperback and Kindle editions. It gives you the complete story. Or to quote Sloan: "Stardom and success lay in front of me now, followed by destruction and ultimately resurrection."

ACOUSTIC EVE OF DESTRUCTION P.F. Sloan

P.F. SLOAN (LIVE) Jimmy Webb

Monday, November 09, 2015

ADELE SINGLE: "'Coz My Hole's So Deep!"

Hooray. There were three things the world wanted before the year was out: to see a new "baby bump" on Kim Kardashian, to watch Justin Bieber luxuriating on a balcony with fake blond hair and his weewee hanging out, and…hearing something new from England's mad cow, ADELE.

MISSIONS ACCOMPLISHED!

While all the world cared about Kardashian and Bieber, it was mostly "The Real Lame Housewives of England" who needed that ADELE fix. These houswives seem to resemble Monty Python members in drag. For nearly three achy-breaky years, they were afraid that their porcine and bellowing role model was done. After all, another fat woman, Sam Smith, got the assignment to sing the new James Bond movie theme song.

The Real Housewrecks initially loved ADELE for the same reason as they did Susan Boyle: here was a dowdy, ordinary, not too bright replica of themselves up there being applauded. Better yet, both demonstrated that with cosmetic skill, the sows could put on silks and be made "glamorous." Adele seems to spend most of her day getting make-up lathered onto her face with a trowel. Then an army of art school fag-Banksy types etch her eyebrows and eyelashes, add blush to thin her fat cheeks, and chisel on her lipstick liner. They also flare her nostrils to be less pig-like, and do up her hair so that she no longer quite resembles a rabid porcupine.

ADELE, you might remember, became a star when she brayed a song about confronting a man smart enough to leave her. Mad cows all over England could moo their admiration for this gutsy 200 pound haggis mooooving on with her life. ADELE showed the world that a broken heart could no longer feel pangs of pain if it was encased in enough layers of fat. And if the bold sentiments of all-conquering ego came out at a high enough decibel to knock every trainspotter off the platform.

And yet, there were "haters." Why would anyone hate ADELE? Could it be her phony tears? Her phony blabs about her sad life and storybook success? Her phony fucking face?

Some people are not haters, they're just jadded. Anyone who already suffered those shitty Amy Winehouse albums resents being coerced into caring about another husky-voiced loony with cartoon make-up on. No! No! No! Jaded music listeners also figure there's still ARETHA around, and she's the original fat homely broad with a voice that can be heard by Ethel Merman in her coffin. So why care about someone with a team of hacks who help create sound-alike mega-hits so commercial they could also be jingles for England's constant TV commercials for online gambling?

And that leads to the "Sky Fall" (or cloud download, as we say on the Internet.)

It's an ADELE single!

Read that line carefully. This isn't saying it's by ADELE. No, it's from a drag queen imitating Adele. The perp popping the porcine pooper is Sherry Vine, probably the best "campy-dirty" female impersonator around. There certainly ain't much competition, since Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, and SNL's Leslie Jones are also aggressive and gruesome but are actual vagina-owners.

Offended? You haven't heard the song yet!

AN ADELE SINGLE 'Cos My Whole's So Deep

"KANSAS CITY STAR" - NORM SIEBERN DIES AT 82

I know it's a stretch, but so is the life of a 1st baseman. And so it is, that this music blog pays tribute to the non-musical normal Norm Siebern, a Kansas City (Athletics) Star.

He was a humble, soft-spoken guy. Not that I ever spoke to him. I did write to him, to express some of what you'll find below. He could've personalized the two photos I sent him, but he just autographed them without sentiment ("Thanks for remembering," "Glad you're a fan," etc.) and sent them back. He obviously was very much like I thought he was, a modest fellow not given to a lot of emotion.

Now, you're probably saying WHO in the world is Norm Siebern? Quite rightly so. There were few obits: the New York Times noted the death of the ex-Yankee, the Kansas City Star covered their Athletics' hero and a local paper in Naples, Florida paid tribute to its most famous retired citizen. All the write-ups led headlined what the average baseball fan knows: he was traded for Roger Maris. Which is better than the obits for Tracy Stallard, the pitcher whose only claim to fame was giving up Maris's record-breaking 61st home run. PS, Norm had a far longer and more illustrious career than Stallard, including All-Star game appearances.

The trade was actually a multi-player deal, but Siebern and Maris were the main attractions.

In addition to Maris, the Yankees got obscure infielders Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri, neither of whom remained in baseball past 1961. In addition to Norm, Kansas City got two old ex-stars (Don Larsen and Hank Bauer who Maris was replacing in right field) and the mediocre Marv Throneberry, who would eventually be traded to the New York Mets and become a symbol of their early years of ineptitude. Larsen, who had pitched a perfect game in a World Series several years earlier, was almost literally a one-game wonder. Once in Kansas City, he posted a dismal 2-10 record with a ballooned ERA of 5.20.

In "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders" Rob devotes several lively pages to whether the trade was a mistake for the A's or not. His view? Not really. That's a testament to the greatness of the little-remembered Mr. Siebern.

According to Neyer, the A's actually got the better of the deal, because despite his 61 home-run season, Maris turned in several mediocre years and flamed out. By contrast, Siebern was an All-Star with the A's, and while Maris didn't do much after his freakish 61 homer spree in 1961, Siebern was a league leader in 1962 and for several more years.

How did the promising Norm Siebern go from sure-fire left fielder to expendable in a trade for a right fielder? He had a bad day in the sun during a World Series game. Yeah, he lost two balls, but he sure had a pair anyway. Someone else would've lost confidence and never recovered after screaming headlines like: "Siebern Sunburn Singes Yanks."

Instead of becoming to baseball what heavyweight David Price is to boxing, Norm Siebern left the fabulous famous New York Yankees…to become a Kansas City Star. Yes, he set a lot of records for them, and citizens of that city remember him fondly, and so do true fans of the game and how it should be played.

As the New York Mets proved in the 2015 series, a team can do great things and then commit a lot of errors and mistakes. The 1958 Yankees were like that, in their battle with the Braves.

The great Yogi Berra (who would ironically be sent out to play left field after Norm was traded) let a called third strike get by him, setting up the winning run for the Braves in game #1. In Game #2 Bob Turley was pounded in the first inning, only getting one player out before being lifted. Part of that rally included a mis-play by Elston Howard, who was in left field instead of Siebern, because manager Casey Stengel started right-hand hitting Elston Howard in some games, left-handed Norm in others).

Norm got his chance in game #3. He walked twice, and one of his walks sparked a big inning for New York. He would scoree on a hit by aging Hank Bauer. (irony: Bauer would later become a manager, and trade for Norm.)

With a decent showing in game #3, Norm was back in left for the fatal game #4.

Norm wasn't seeing the ball well in the notorious "sun field" that late afternoon. Ace Braves pitcher Warren Spahn kept the Yankees scoreless, thanks to a break or two (the Yanks failing to bring in a man from third with less than one out). Meanwhile Whitey Ford was pitching just as well for the Yankees. in the sixth, Norm and Mickey Mantle let a ball hit to left-center get between them for a double.

Norm was blamed for it more than superstar Mickey. Tony Kubek's subsequent error led to a run scoring. Braves led 1-0. Norm definitely lost the ball in the sun in the eighth. You could see how bright the sun and lights were reflecting against the left field wall and the spectators. Norm had a bead on it, but at the last moment as the ball dipped, he suddenly cringed helplessly, knowing he might hit him in the face. Instead, the ball bounced near him and landed in the stands for a ground rule double. The Braves scored another run that inning, and Siebern, trying to redeem himself in the bottom of the frame, haplessly struck out.

The Series did end up going the full seven games, but Elston Howard was used in the remaining contests. Siebern was benched.

Charlie Keller, who had played left field during the Joe Dimaggio era, knew that the sun hadn't changed in the Mickey Mantle era, especially in late September. He rather poetically said, "“During the World Series the sun is low behind the stands. There’s a purple haze from the tobacco smoke. You have to play the position by ear because you never see a ball. You try to judge where it will go from the sound of the bat, and then you just pray that you guessed right.”

Keller was referring to the "natural" problems in left during his playing days. During World Series time in the late 50's, game were now on television and being filmed by color 35mm cameras. The already problematic sun glare was abetted by orders to turn on the glaring artificial lights so that the cameras could have better focus.

Norm made no excuses. He told reporters that he missed a few "in the sun and against the lights," Stengel stood by Norm: "I'm not asking waivers on him, and you can print that! He's a nice kid and I know he'll worry over this. He's playing the toughest left field in baseball, don't forget. He hit .300 for me. He's good at getting walks and he's good at going from first to third. I think he did real good in his first full year in the majors. He's not an easy man to get out."

Siebern stayed with the Yankees in 1959 but in a diminished role, thanks to the option of using Yogi Berra or Elston Howard in left instead. On December 11, 1959, the Yankees tossed Norm Siebern, Jerry Lumpe and a few others to the A's, in return for Roger Maris and a few others. Maris was by no means considered a star at the time. It was simply felt that Siebern was done, and Maris had potential (and the Yankees were getting a few other decent players, too). Rob Neyer: "From July 30 through the end of the (1958) season, Maris batted .162. " PS, Mr. Powerhouse only popped two homers through all of August and September. Yet, the .300 hitting Siebern who had a bad day in the sun was sent packing.

Neyer: "Siebern wasn't the player Maris was. But the difference between them certainly wasn't huge, particularly considering that Maris probably enjoyed at least some advantage from batting just ahead of Mickey Mantle…From '60 through '63 the Yankees finished eight, eight, five and ten games ahead of the runners-up. They'd have won those titles with Siebern in right field rather than Maris.

"Did trading Maris hurt the A's? They didn't finish within twenty games of first place in any of those five seasons…" Considering that Maris batted only .235 in 1957 and .240 in 1958, there was nothing to suggest he'd be a huge star, even for one season. Compare what Siebern did in 1958. Just 24, and a promising star, he batted .300 with 19 doubles, five triples, and 14 home runs. He walked 66 times and, irony of ironies, won a Gold Glove for his play in left field. The Yankees had every reason to think they had the best left fielder since Charlie Keller. Considering that the great Yankee outfielders were always in enter (Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle) or right (Babe Ruth), Casey Stengel had welcomed Siebern to New York by boasting that he "finally" had a solution to the team's left field "problem."

When Siebern came to Kansas City, the 6'2" player moved from left field to first base. This helped his confidence. In 1962, while Maris was fading (after earning MVP honors in '60 and '61), Siebern was coming on strong, playing in EVERY one of the season's 162 games, batting .308, smacking 25 doubles and 25 homers, and leading the league in several categories. He was the only member of his team selected to the All Star Game. He even made a run at the MVP, finishing 7th in the voting (Mickey Mantle was the winner that year.)

Norm was traded to the Orioles after four years. The manager was none other than Hank Bauer. In his first game against his old team, Norm came up in the bottom of the 10th and smacked a "walk off" home run.

The number of players who make it to the major leagues is few. The numbers who stay around for more than a year or two is fewer. Norm Siebern was in baseball for a dozen years. He had made it his life, after leaving Southwest Missouri State Teachers College where he was studying for a degree in journalism. In another era, he might've been able to keep studying and play in the minor leagues, but not then. He also had to give up a few years for Army duty. But after that, he progressed quickly to the majors, and was a top player from age 24 to about age 30.

Overcoming a potentially career-ruining day was one reason I admired Siebern. Generally, my favorite baseball player tend to be the ones who had good careers even without the perfect bodies of a Derek Jeter or Reggie Jackson. There was the cranky "fat kid" Thurman Munson, the also improbably built Yogi Berra, little Phil Rizzuto, and iconoclastic Jim Bouton. Add players overcoming mental blocks or physical problems (such as one-handed Jim Abbott). I also liked anyone with an odd name, from John Wockenfuss to Rusty Kuntz. No less a baseball fan than poet Marianne Moore once commented on how much she admired Bill Monbouquette. She noted that the last name translates as "my basket," and Bill had the common baseball player habit of adjusting his "basket" between pitches. But, I digress.

Both Roger Maris and Norm Siebern retired at the age of 35. Norm went on to become successful in the insurance field. He was invited to "Old Timer's Day" events once in a while by the Yankees, and much more often by the doting Kansas City A's (and their replacement team, the Kansas City Royals.) Little known fact: when new owner Charlie O. Finley came up with the idea of gaudy yellow and gold uniforms, it was Norm Siebern who donned the duds and had to pose for reporters. He later said, "I was quite frankly embarrassed, embarrassed to death!"

Still, he recalled his years with the Athletics with fondness. "I had such a great time with Kansas City," Norm said at an Old Timer's Day event there a few years ago. "I was traded from the Yankees and people thought "Well gee whiz, you're going from New York to Kansas City." I told them, "No, listen, I'm a native Missourian, I've been to Kansas City, I love Kansas City. it's a great thing to come back here and play ball with the A's."

Norm will have memorial services both in Florida, and in Missouri. Asked if he had any advice for today's players, the humble All-Star said, "Give it 100% and hope for the best. It's a tough, competitive business, but a lot of times if you give it your best, you'll win out in the end."

Below a song called "Kansas City Star," which was a pun on the town's newspaper. It's also a fitting term for a little-known but great baseball player whom true fans have always admired.

The Cover of the Kansas City Star

Sacrilege Series #10 Buddy "Hiccups" Holly and "The Day the Music Died"

The "Sacrilege" series returns, with a new entry. It features some nose-tweaking satire from the rock group Wilderness Road, who dare to ridicule the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of classic rock, "The Big Bopper," Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly. Or rather, they ridicule the ridiculous rejects who've solemnly made the dead pop stars into religious icons.

Thanks largely to Don McLean, there are young fools and old mopes who will morbidly insist that on February 3, 1959 "the music died." No, not if you consider that the greatest rockers, The Beatles, had yet to hit the airwaves. Not if your tastes in music include anything from the 60's onward, or jazz from the 20's or classical music from the 19th Century.

A snickering disc jockey died. A somewhat greasy and porcine Latino, too. And a hiccuping Texan. While they were all entertaining, and some of their work is star quality, they weren't the only stars on the charts in the late 50's. It was a shocking, tragic incident and there haven't been many air disasters where three well-known people were aboard. But it wasn't the fucking end of music as we know it. Christ, even greasy bop, dance and novelty would continue with plenty of great performers. Just look at the Billboard charts for 1960 and have a reality check. You'll find plenty of catchy and near-genius stuff on the charts after these three died.

And you'll find, in the download link below, a little bad-taste fun with a tune that mockingly mimics just how unimpressive some of that trio's music is to most people.

Had they lived, chances are that "Big Bopper" J. P. Robertson [sic...note comment below] would be dead by now, and largely forgotten. Without the added aura of early death, his cackling, leering and vaguely pedo-esque one-hit-wonder "Chantilly Lace" might only be anthologized as much as "Babalu's Wedding Day" (by the non-eternal The Eternals) or "Baby Don't Forget My Number" by the forgettable Milli Vanilli. Odds are he wouldn't have had another novelty hit, any more than Sheb Wooley ("Purple People Eater") or Larry Verne ("Mister Custer").

As for Ritchie Valens (nee Valenzuela), if he was still around, he'd be like Chubby Checker. He'd be appearing at oldies shows to sing his ONE hit. Chubby had "The Twist" and Valens had "La Bamba," and IF YOU'RE BEING HONEST, that song is as big a piece of drivel as a soggy, dripping burrito. Listening to Valens babbling "La Bamba" is probably no different from what guys with stomach aches yowl in the bathroom of a Taco Bell.

That leaves the hiccuping genius Buddy Holly. Del Shannon and Roy Orbison had vivid hits but then played the 70's and 80's getting sick in too-cold or over-heated little clubs. They sang the same fucking songs to a small circle of aging fans till they were ready to have a heart attack or commit suicide. Do you doubt Buddy Holly would've had a similar fate. He would've sung "Peggy Sue" till he dropped of slightly more natural causes than a plane crash. At best, he'd be like Chuck Berry, who hasn't written a decent song on 40 years and tours places you never heard of.

To all the morons who whined, "the music DIED," here's two words for you: Bob Dylan. He came after "the music DIED." Another two words? "The Beatles." Another two words? "Martin Briley." Oh, pick any two words. Including "the old two word suggestion," as Art Garfunkel once called it.

And now, the "mean" bit of satire called "Bad Hopper, Hiccups and Havana."

It's an outtake from Wilderness Road (another "two words" for you). This brilliant, under-appreciated Chicago group could rival The Band (first album on Columbia) or offer a blend of rock and iconoclastic smugness that might impress a Zappa fan (their second album on Warner Bros.)

As you'll hear, they mercilessly dispatch all three deceased artistes for what they actually were: creepy, hiccupy and greasy. Usually parodists roast their their victims alive (Bob Dylan, Jagger, Baez, Neil Young, Kate Bush, Lennon, Paul Simon are all lampooned on this blog via amusing novelties). Is it cowardly that the band attacks these dead guys? Actually, they are attacking the fans more than the guys. The guys are all ok. Fans who worship them and get all spooky-somber about the crash need to lighten up a bit. I mean, Lennon got killed at that's an equal trauma, but nobody pretentiously calls it "the night the music died."

Needless to say (but it has to be said, because a lot of people are stupid, including browsing bozos who are not regulars to this blog), nobody is laughing or happy that three people (and a pilot) died back in 1959 on a foggy rainy night near Clear Lake, Iowa.

The three singers aboard obviously did have talent that was wasted in that crash. "Donna" by Ritchie Valens was a gentle piece of melancholy, although anybody could've sung it. "Chantilly Lace" IS a unique novelty (which inspired Jayne Mansfield among others to do a variation on it) even if the rest of J.P.'s work (enough to fill an album) isn't too amusing and is pretty repetitive. As for Buddy Holly, he influenced a lot of people. Without the hiccuping, a few of his songs are decent late 50's rock. But how many people skip past the Holly, Berry AND Perkins tracks on those early Beatles albums because they are inferior songs to Lennon-McCartney? Give him credit for "That'll Be the Day" the riffy "Not Fade Away" and "It's So Easy," but Jesus, enough with "Peggy Sue." And understand that Shannon and Orbison wrote just as many classics, if not more, AFTER the music supposedly died.

PS, I rhetorically ask the God-fearing and perpetually sobbing people who feel "the music died" in 1959, why Waylon Jennings was spared. Did God think more highly of Waylon Jennings than the other three. He's a fuckin' country music fan? God knew that if Waylone was spared, music fans would get "I'm A Ramblin' Man," "I've Always Been Crazy" and the theme for the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show???

How would the world have been different if Waylon died in 1959 and "The Big Bopper" lived to 2002 (the year God chose to end Waylon's life)?

This blog asks the tough questions. You sure can't turn to Zinhof for this kind of literate shit and provocative music discussion. All you get is a regurgitation of stolen Neil Young albums over and over, with an annoying "password" you have to type in. Right, steal from somebody who stole the music, and make sure to add your name as the "password" to give yourself credit. Credit for what, exactly? WHAT a player in the music world, what a rock scholar, that guy.

You'll notice a bonus track below.

It's a reliable dead baby joke.

Who likes babies? "They are here to REPLACE YOU," noted Mr. Seinfeld. They are noisy, smelly, stupid, and often come out of a Kardashian kunt. So here's a fake commercial for something better than "bronzed baby shoes."

HUGE HOPPER, HICCUPS and HAVANA Wilderness Road BABY BRONZER (Sick Commercial!) Wilderness Road