Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SID TEPPER - Another of those Jews For Elvis

Who wrote more songs for Elvis Presley than anyone else? No, not Leiber and Stoller of "Hound Dog" fame. It was the team of Tepper and Bennett. They were probably the most obscure of the Jewish songwriting teams that shaped rock and roll in the late 50's and early 60's. That list includes: Mann and Weill. Goffin and King. Bacharach and David. Leiber and Stoller. Pomus and Shuman. Greenwich and Barry.

No, we will not see the likes of Sid Tepper (who died a few days ago, age 96) again. A main reason is that lyrics can be computer generated (and who listens to lyrics anyway). Music can be auto-tuned, pitch-corrected, and programmed. Any bunch of moronic rap assholes can "produce" a new album for Madonna to package. The music industry has, of course, changed to the point where there are almost no professional songwriters who have the skills to make hit songs that people would instantly memorize and sing to on the radio.

Back to Sid. It's ironic, that the kids who flipped their lids for Elvis had no idea so many of his songs were written by Yids. Yes, the same tribe that had the shit beaten out of them in schoolyards for not being cool or rockers, were giving the world most of the hippest songs on the radio…most of 'em sung by Southerners like Elvis, or black groups including The Coasters and The Drifters.

Tepper-Bennett adapted to rock and roll and rock (Elvis songs and Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over") but started working together in 1945. They began at a songwriting mill appropriately named Mills Music. Sid had written specialty material for Special Services while in the Army. Now, with his childhood pal Roy Bennett, they learned how to write fast, often, and commercially. I always checked the songwriting credits on the 45's I bought, but didn't buy Elvis. I first noticed Tepper-Bennett on "Just a Simple Melody" by Patti Page. No doubt I got that one rounding out a "10 for a Dollar" pile from Woolworth's bargain bin. At the time, she and Tony Bennett were on Columbia. He had a pop hit with "I Wanna Be Around," and I think Patti probably hit the Top 40 at least, with this easy-aching double-tracked tune, which included sentimental backing from a tacky-keyed piano.

As you'd expect from guys knocking out songs and hoping for the best, the Tepper-Bennett catalog has some pretty strange novelty titles that didn't quite get a singer bringing 'em to #1: "Bagel and Lox," "Bonnie Lassie," "Best Dressed Cowboy," "Cane and a High Starched Collar," "Cha Cha Charlie," "Chicken Picken Hawk," "Christmas Child Loo Loo Loo," "Counterfeit Kisses," "Dreamy Dolls of Dusseldorf," "Egbert the Easter Egg," "Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce," "Gabby the Gobbler," "Googie Woogie," "Hey Mabel," "I Can't Whistle," "I Danced With My Darling," "I Like Christmas," "I'm Not Ashamed," "I've Got a Crush on New York," "I was a Teenage Monster," "In Italy," "Itty Bitty Polka," "Jenny Kissed Me," "Kewpie Doll," "Law is Comin' Fer Ya Paw," "Love is a Serious Business," "Mama Do the Twist," "Mary Smith," "One Blade of Grass," "Rock Around Mother Goose," "Say Something Sweet," "Son of Robin Hood," "Song of the Shrimp," "Ten Little Bluebirds," "Thanks Mister Florist," "There Are Two I's In Dixie," "Twenty Tiny Fingers," "Water Faucet," "Wheels on My Heels" and "Wish I Wuz a Whisker."

Their first big hit was back in 1948. It was the adorable, sentimental "Red Roses for a Blue Lady." The lyric was actually inspired by Sid giving flowers to his wife after they had a tiff. By way of tribute, this is the song you get below…but in the fractured Homer and Jethro version. Why? Well, this is a perverse blog, but you can get the Elvis stuff anywhere, as well as "The Young Ones" by Cliff Richard. As for the Dave Clark hit, we mustn't interfere with that charming man by pirating something he can make a few extra pennies on. And the straight version of "Red Roses" is easy to find on YouTube.

I hope Sid liked H&J's parody as much as I do. The original is still charming, but Homer & Jethro add wonderfully insulting remarks: "she's like a rose to me. They smell and so does she." It also has a wonderfully stupid punchline. (Speaking of stupid, yes, Tepper-Bennett wrote "I'm Getting Nuttin' For Christmas").

By the late 50's, Tepper-Bennett were more than willing to keep up with changes in the music world. Like Nudie the tailor learning to make flashy gold suits for Elvis, Tepper-Bennett tailored songs for Elvis movies, including "G.I. Blues" and "Viva Las Vegas." They ended up writing about 52 songs for Elvis…and 21 songs were cut by England's Elvis, that fellow named Cliff Richard. BMG even issued a CD package of Elvis singing Tepper-Bennett.

Back in the 60's, songwriting was not just a business, but a very stressful one. The best guys had to work on deadline, and on the whim of the star. Jimmy Van Heusen recalled the times he was expected to instantly come up with something for Sinatra. Sid had the same experience with Presley, or with Presley's film director, suddenly saying, "Hey, we decided to end a scene with Ann-Margret pushing Elvis into the swimming pool. Re-write the song so the last line can lead her to do it!"

Tepper-Bennett songs were covered by Sinatra. Sid recalled, "My favorite singer was Frank Sinatra, but he wasn't nearly as multifaceted as Elvis. We'd send him the demo and he'd listen to it twice and be ready to go like he'd sung it his whole life." Yes, there were great rewards, financial and artistic, in hearing Elvis and others perform his work, but the business was a business, and it eventually got the best of him.

The pressures on the Brooklyn-born lyricist led to a heart attack and eventually retirement in the early 70's. Although songwriters are rarely well known to the general public, Tepper was a big shot in Florida. In his retirement, he was pointed out to most anyone in his small town of Surfside, and when he hit 90, the citizens (as well as his many children) threw a party for him, and even Lisa Marie Presley turned up for "Sid Tepper Day."

Sid had his family and friends, and also fans…people did send him letters to thank him for songs that meant a lot in their lives, were played at weddings, etc., and he liked hearing about how much his songs were loved. “One thing I’ve learned is you can’t leave love in your will," he said, "you have to give it while you’re living."

Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett's RED ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY via Homer and Jethro

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"PETER GUNN" Obscure Lyrics to Famous Instrumentals

"But...I want to sing along..."

If a song has a catchy melody, SOMEBODY is going to insist on putting words to it. The question is how stupid are the lyrics going to be?

A while ago, the Don Ho version of "Hawaii Five-0" was presented here. And now, an even more criminal act: lyrics to Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn."

Henry Mancini seemed to specialize in melodies so artful, most any lyrics would seem clumsy. A few themes managed to escape without rotten words ("Experiment in Terror," "Pink Panther," "Hatari,") but too many were seriously wounded by Johnny Mercer or by the team of Livingston and Evans. "Days of Wine and Roses" was lame. The waltz theme for the thriller "Charade" had a weak story of lost love among stage actors. Mercer imagines:

"Fate seemed to pull the strings. I turned and you were gone. While from the darkened wings the music box played on. Sad little serenade, song of my heart's composing: I hear it still, I always will. Best on the bill. Charade!"

Worse, of course, was the huge hit "Moon River." Mercer called a body of water a "huckleberry friend." Anyone care? Of course not. People don't pay too much attention to lyrics, they just want to hear a voice.

Enter classy Sarah Vaughan, a jazz singer capable of doing the best she can with flaming lyrics that set light a torch and burn through one of the best instrumentals ever heard on TV. It should forever STAY an instrumental. But out of morbid curiosity...

"Every night your line is busy. All that buzzin' makes me dizzy. Couldn't count on all my fingers all the dates you had with swingers. Bye bye. Bye baby! I'm gonna give you goodbye and go right through that doorway. So long! I'm leaving! This is the last time we'll meet on the street going your way..."

Well, it could've been worse, some stuff about a Peter being a gun...

Sing more of Livingston & Evans' words, Sarah:

"Don't look surprised, you know you've buttered your bread.

So now it's fair, you should stare at the back of my head."

Peter Gunn

Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, conjobs about buying a premium account, or having to type in am egomaniac jerk-blogger's last name as a Password.

DON'T FUTZ AROUND! (Laugh-In stars Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson)


Are these words to live by?

Not really. What would you be doing right now that beats downloading an obscure, annoying novelty 45? Would you instead, get on a plane and go fight Procol Harum in Nigeria? You could get killed that way.

No, the hapless fact of life is that eventually it ends, and whether you futzed around or devoted yourself to "meaningful" activities, within a generation (if not sooner) your years on the planet will be completely forgotten. A few hundred people are famous a hundred years after they've died, and what good does it do them?

It's sobering to think of how many billions of people on the planet have no idea who Arte Johnson and Ruth Buzzi are. Did they futz around? No, they went into a studio to record "Don't Futz Around!" Not only that, they thought some disk jockeys would play their over-the-top opera-voiced novelty. The flip side was "Very Interesting," keyed to Arte's German soldier catch-phrase. Jackie Kannon also issued a single called "Very Interesting," appropriating Arte's pronunciation and spouting it between instrumental segments. Which is a digression, but could also be considered futzoid.

Ruth Buzzi is 78. Her career credits have shown that she didn't futz around. Or if she did, she was well paid. And almost 40 years after "Laugh-In," she re-united with Arte Johnson for cartoon voices on "Baggy Pants and the Nitwits." Whether you had the time to futz around watching that show or not, is not the question. Neither is whether it's worth watching now.

Not that you can't ask a question in the comments section. But what's the point? Don't futz around!

Arte Johnson is now 86. Actually, he's been 86 since last January. You might think he just futzed around after "Laugh-In," but you'd be forgetting his memorable turn as Renfield in George Hamilton's vampire comedy "Love at First Bite." He managed to out-live his "funny little guy" persona and turn up on daytime soap operas, and seriously record over 80 audio books.

It's somewhat interesting to note (that's what I'm doing at the moment, although it could be futzing around) that nobody in the cast of "Laugh-In" had any great success with 45's. This includes "Sock It To Me Time" from Judy Carne. Lily Tomlin's spoken word comedy albums (using "Laugh-In" characters) did well, but she knew better than to bring musicians into a studio and...futz around.

Is it scholarly to look into the origin of "futz around?" Or is that just futzing around? What's legitimate curiosity and just wasting time? As long as you're still here, let's go with the former. Except, nobody really seems to know the answer. They're just futzing around. Speculation, of course, is that the word is just a German-Jewish variation on "fuck." In act, fuck around with your putz, and you've got "futz."

The other possibility is that "futz" fits as a German-Jewish pronunciation of "farts." Farting around on time-wasting shit is like futzing around.

(Parenthetically, the "Laugh-In" crowd had to be influenced by Steve Allen, who notoriously took "schmuck" and offered a bird-like cry of "smock, smock" getting past the censors. Johnny Carson used to joke about the Fackawi Indians (which was the punchline to the dialect joke, "Where the Fackawi?") The show "F-Troop" resurrected the gag and tamely created the Hekawi Indians). But why go on? It's time to REALLY futz around with your download below. Or not.

DON'T FUTZ AROUND Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Songs Cynthia Lennon Sang

You know Cynthia Lennon, who passed on last week at 75. Her son is famous, and here's a happy marriage photo with her husband.

Well, it didn't end in divorce, now, did it? No, it didn't. It ended the way marriages are supposed to end.

Most Beatle fans at least own a copy of "A Twist of Lennon" (a reference to two of Cyn's other hubbies). Just why the slightly limp-wristed group The Sinceros bothered to name-check it with anemic venom, I have no idea. It wasn't a bad book, or much of a cash-in. It was just her story if you wanted it. A blonde marries, too young, because of child on the way, and it didn't last. So far it might make for the McCartney soundtrack to a mediocre working class movie. Only, Cynthia was in the family way with John Lennon, so his subsequent treks around the world, and his discovery of Yoko Ono after he'd been with dozens of groupies...well, it didn't make "A Twist of Lennon" (or her subsequent tomes) too successful, did they?

Aside from feuding with Yoko a bit and getting married a few more times, she was out of the spotlight.

This included 1995, when she was persuaded to issue a single, which quickly disappeared the way of Fred Lennon's single. And most of Julian's, come to think of it. And all of Sean's.

By all accounts, Cyn was a nice lady, and late in life she even reconciled, at least for a public photograph, with the dreaded Yoko.

Anyone who has some first hand experience with Cynthia is welcome to comment below. What survives, besides the books and photos, is the curiosity of a few songs Cynthia Lennon sang.

The three examples of her recorded work reflect three fairly different directions her musical career could've gone.

"Those Were The Days" is an unfortunate if obvious choice. Recorded in 1995, out of nowhere (somebody apparently asked and she agreed), it doesn't erase the memory of Mary Hopkin's icky schoolgirl version. Cyn doesn't quite give the producer what he probably wanted, which was some kind of pathos-ridden mope about the past. Marianne Faithful she isn't, and the tempo really doesn't let Cynthia do much besides gallop by the mythical tavern (er, "Cavern") and shrug that life goes on.

Not an actress (neither a Marianne nor an Honor Blackman), Cyn ends up with a fairly enigmatic reading of her ex-husband's "In My Life." At times she sounds like she's under contractual obligation, but towards the end, when she actually sings the final chorus or two, she seems to have more than come to terms with her place in rock history, and in John's past. No, she doesn't read it badly, but it's an uncomfortable idea, for a lot of reasons.

Which is why ultimately the best direction Cynthia could've chosen was to leave the more overt, obvious Beatlemania stuff alone, and do something that simply reflected her current artistic mood. "Walking in the Rain" isn't bad at all, a distant cousin to Yoko's "Walking on Thin Ice." Who knows, with more of a poofter butt-thump beat, she could've joined Yoko on the disco charts.

Imagine...Cynthia being another Yoko, and instead of a few singles, literally dozens of expensive albums you need "for the collection." Now you're appreciating Cynthia on a whole different level, aren't you. "Thanks, Cyn, for not being Yoko...Ringo...Sean..." Go ahead, add those Paul albums you never play, and "Wonderwall" and probably John's rock and roll album and the Black Dyke Mills Band and...and...

One thing about the mp3 era is that you don't have to embarrass yourself by having shelves loaded up with Beatles-related music that points out how deeply into Pepperland you still are. A lot of fans aren't sure whether to feel proud or pathetic owning Fred Lennon's single, or all the albums by Beatles cash-in groups (with Liverpool or insect names). How about the stacks of 45's including stuff like "My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut?"

After a while, as Ringo began knocking out all those albums and singles (whoops, there's a new one just come out) was really beginning to be a case of "I'm spending a lot of money on stuff that I never listen to...JUST because it's Beatles related."

Now, you can own the stuff, and proudly point to that 2TB drive "FULL of BEATLES AUDIO MEMORABILIA" and it doesn't take up much space. To which, you now have three additions, via married-a-Beatle Cyn.

To quote a more obscure Beatles song, "It's All too Much." Sean stuff. Julian stuff. Even John and Yoko stuff (how ofte have you flashed the nude "Two Virgins" cover out of "pride of ownership" or some more nefarious reason?) "It's All Too Much."

In a way, Cynthia Lennon's left us wanting more. These three will probably have you listening more than a few times, and reflecting on that special era. Imagine there's a heaven...and she's there with the husband of her choice now. Or, imagine there's one hell of a heaven...and she's there with more than just one of 'em.

Cynthia Lennon Walking in the Rain

Cynthia Lennon In My Life

Cynthia Lennon Those Were the Days

Thursday, March 19, 2015

WALDEMAR MATUSAK - Czech versions of Bob Dylan and Marvin Hamlisch

All right, I'll get the stupid puns out of the way as quick as I can. Just call me Praguematic. Slovackian legend Waldemar Matusak spent his last years in America, but certainly had a Czech-ered career. He was a star in his native land through the 60's and 70's. Waldemar (July 2, 1932 - May 30, 2009) was not only a popular singer, but an actor as well, starring in Lemonade Joe (1964), If a Thousand Clarinets (1965), The Phanto of Morrisville (1966), The Pipes (1966), Hotel For Strangers (1967) and All My Good Countrymen (aka "All My Compatriots) in 1968. He added more in the 70's including "A Night in Karlstein" (1974).

As is often the case with European performers, Matusak embraced a variety of styles, having hits with pop, folk and ethnic music. Aside from originals in his own language, he happily covered hits from other countries, including translations of French pop by Hugues Auffray and Gilbert Becaud among others, and American ballads originally done by Frankie Laine and Al Jolson. Like many a burly foreigner ("Ronny" of Germany comes to mind), Waldemar had a love of cowboy music, and scored with his tongue-twisting versions of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "High Noon," the latter re-named "Bud Porad Se Mnou." And I think that rather than high noon, the gunfight itself took place at around 5pm, Prague time.

One way in which Waldemar was similar to the other pop stars of his day, was his early habit of singing through his nose. Dylan did it, and the cover here of "Blowin' in the Wind" seems pretty authentic. The effect isn't quite so romantic on the Marvin Hamlisch ballad "The Way We Were," but fans of the unusual, or even the eerie, will be most amused.

Given the stormy political climate of the Slovakian and Slovinian and just plain Slobby countries, it's no surprise that in the 80's, with Waldemar now living in Florida, the Commies found some reason or other to ban Waldemar's music. All was forgiven thanks to a change of leadership in 1989, and he was welcomed back home as a music legend. He divided his time between international touring, and the good life in the U.S.A. The po' guy died in 2009, but here, Monsieur Waldemar lives!

Waldemar Slýchám harmoniku hrát (The Way We Were)

Waldemar Vitr to Vi (Blowin' in the Wind)

"Detox Mansion" Warren Zevon 2/27/1990 for LIZA MINNELLI

"It's hard to be somebody. It's hard to keep from falling apart."

So sang Warren Zevon on "Detox Mansion."

The song somewhat comically referenced Minnelli (as well as Elizabeth Taylor).

So the other day, it was reported that after a decade of sobriety, Liza's had to check in for some treatment.

I'm no poofter, and I'm not exactly fond of hearing her sing "Life is a cabaret, old chum," but I've always had a soft spot for the lady. This is sad news.

Musically speaking, while she was never all that interested in rock, she sometimes worked outside of her show-tune-bombast comfort zone, covering "For No One," "Everybody's Talkin'," "Look of Love," and other songs that didn't require pipes like her mother or Ethel Merman. And while it's certainly disco-fruity more than cutting edge, the results weren't bad on her Pet Shop Boys collaboration from 1989, "Results," which included strong beats in a pulsating take on the sad Sondheim ballad "Losing My Mind."

That was the CD booklet she autographed for me. A mutual singer friend, older than both of us, was an alkie. He appreciated the Poe line I sometimes quoted to comfort him: "What disease is like alcohol?" To which he'd be prone to snort, "Ain't I a pain in the ass?" And yes, getting a call to come scrape him off a sidewalk after a bar binge did make him a pain in the ass sometimes. I have no idea what caused Liza's relapse, but it was probably one of her various physical ailments that required medication and unfortunately, some added self-medication.

I haven't glimpsed Liza in person in a long time; not since the debacle of her relationship with some waxy guy not worth mentioning by name. The weird thing was I saw those two in a local restaurant. She went out to have a cigarette, and he stayed behind, looking grim. He seemed so bored and miserable I thought maybe he was just a bodyguard, or some escort hired for the evening. They were not a love match. But shouldn't a hired hand have followed the lady outside, in case of photographers or some autograph hound? Later on, when their photos together appeared in the tabloid, I realized this fame queen (him, not her) was unfortunately for real, another bad decision in her life.

Zevon was right: "It's hard to be somebody." Especially if your mother was somebody, too. As for the chords of fame, yes, "It's hard to keep from falling apart." Liza probably wasn't even famous to most of the under-40 viewers of the Academy Awards show when she was STILL subjected to a zinger. She was sitting in the audience when a tranny joke slapped her in the face, courtesy of the normally oh-so-elfin and nice Ellen Degeneres. Charming Ellen singled her out, pointing at "one of the best Liza Minnelli impersonators I've ever seen in my entire life. Good job, sir."

Zevon tended to rock "Detox Mansion" with that arched eyebrow, suggesting that self pity is as dangerous as self-medication. So hopefully L.M. is getting that combo of tenderness and tough love to help her along. And, no, I don't think in Liza's case going into detox is a publicity move. Warren had a feeling some past-the-prime celebs do enjoy that kind of drama: Well, I'm gone to Detox Mansion, way down on Last Breath Farm. I've been rakin' leaves with Liza. Me and Liz clean up the yard..."

Warren Zevon Detox Mansion, Live In Minneapolis, February 27, 1990

Monday, March 09, 2015

Hey Boy George, "YES I WANT TO HURT YOU" - vintage sham pain from Georgie Girl

People who grew up in the 80's, and NEVER grew out of their love for shitty 80's mutant rock, keep saying "Please come back" to people who should get lost.

I understand what nostalgia is, but, right said Fred, "Fuck off!" I don't want to see sea gull hairstyles again. I don't excuse herpes just because "girls just wanna have fun." Synthesizers are almost as annoying as vocoders. Nobody still wants to eat a fucking Vegemite sandwich because some oddball Aussie sang about one. Hey Mickey, Hey Mickey, Hey Mickey…let's NOT dance to David Bowie's sea sick disco music OR the inane "Men Without Brains" camp-upchuck-punk "Safety Dance." And if you tell me "Don't Worry Be Happy" I'll say go eat a cannibal (it's incredible).

As for Boy George and his 1982 simpering and garish "Do You Want To Hurt Me?" WHAM! This is a new age, fellas. Don't keep hunting men's rooms for George Michael, or calling out the always outre and out Boy George. Boys acting like girls is out. Sex change operations are in. Just ask Bruce Jenner.

Why people still want this idiot Boy George to come back and "entertain" is just a sign of how brain-damaged they got from listening to 80's schlock. This was, after all, the VIDEO generation, where Falco, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and all types of idiots used flashy visuals to disguise how rancid the music was. You were supposed to watch it, dance to it, fuck to it...but not actually LISTEN TO IT. The music was so crappy, it had to rely on fashion, and dopey posturing. Hungry like a wolf? Go throw up like a rat, you tasteless bunch of tweens.

Yet, ever since 1982, Boy George's anal followers have looked backwards in lust and desire, squealing "Please sir/madam, can we have some...MORE moronics?"

So the world was treated to a puffy, porcine Boy George or George posturing about in some new twist on androgyny, while singing forgettable junk that couldn't make for a comeback, and couldn't even make his most devoted fans come. Even so, he was never out of the headlines. He sure could give headlines. Even down and out, he made the papers. After an arrest and the punishment of community service: "Here's Boy George sweeping garbage from a Manhattan street" rather than trolling for garbage in a Greenwich Village alley.

So indelible is Boy George and that old wimpy anthem for uh, tolerance of pretentiousness, that there was recently yet another attempt to get him and his band back together. There was even a film crew to document this fetid germ of an idea. The result? Well, considering how snarky the gay community actually is, you wonder how many of his fans have been laughing AT and not WITH the joke he's become. It's possible only a few mewling middle-aged women took it seriously. Most viewers had to be rolling their eyes while watching the BBC4 cockumentary of caca, "Karma to Calamity."

This doesn't include ME, by the way. I've added this entry after having read about the recently aired TV show from a trustworthy blogger today. It had me recalling the "Georgie Girl" parody, so I thought I'd digitize it and add some fuel to the bonfire of The Boy's vanity.

The documentary was hoping to show the latest, and most triumphant comeback attempt of the yogurty Culture Club members and their vain diva leader, Goy Bore. Er, Boy George. Alas, thanks to George being even a worse queen than Ray Davies, the documentary hobbled to an end with NO big concert date, NO new album, and NOBODY being that upset over the squalid spectacle of a rock band and its leader not get along.

This blog returns to the glam 80's ONLY to prove that even back then, this simpering George Jackass was well-loathed. Shot down even worse than George Jackson, the comical assassins at the Rhino novelty label, hired "Georgie Girl" to sing fantasies of destruction. Her answer song, complete with death scenarios: "YES, I REALLY WANT TO HURT YOU." Just what led Rhino to figure a British androgyne could ever date a Jewish American Princess bitch, I have no idea.

Nasty "Georgie Girl" is seething because "that fageleh stuff was not an act!" More shrewish than Jewish, she sounds like Patti Smith after eating past-expiration date herring. Or maybe a more Jewy Lesley Gore after eating past-expiration date cunt. No, no, the problem with "Georgie Girl" is that her boyfriend has turned out to BE a cunt. Chorus:

"Yes I really wanna hurt you, yes I really wanna make you cry. Shove your dreadlocks on the burner, then I'll laugh as I watch you fry!"

An awful flash-in-the-bedpan singer gets what he deserves, an awful parody. At least "Georgie Girl" had the good taste to NEVER record AGAIN. No such promise has come from Oy George.

Georgie Girl Yes I Really Want to Hurt You

INVISIBLE - Martin Briley & Miserable "Invisible" Disabilities

Ripped out of today's headlines: "INVISIBLE DISIBILITIES."

This girl, testifying about just how sick she is (even if you can't see it), instantly had me thinking of that champion of the peculiar, Martin Briley. He could've written her story. Maybe he has, give or take a line.

The article that was on NPR's website today is below. It's all about the "Invisible Disibilities" this lady, and millions of others, have to deal with.

As for Martin Briley, his lyrics have sometimes been "invisible," or at least, misconstrued. Happily, sometimes it's been for profit. The best example is "Me Without You," which became a #1 on the "Christian" charts when it was mistakenly interpreted as a song about Jesus. Another fine example: "Invisible," which turned up on a Barbie movie soundtrack, and covered by a then-unknown Kesha, even though it's actually Briley's take on what one of the Columbine killers may have been thinking. "Like the wind I'll blow you all away" is the key line that gets lost, or diluted, especially when a chick is singing it.

"Invisible" disabilities are all around us:

See that guy on the bus who didn't give up his seat to a lady? Everybody's hating him and glaring at him. Should he tell them that he's a vertigo sufferer, and lucky that his meds even let him stand up long enough to get on a bus and go see his doctor?

Don't see the girl you thought would be at the party? That's because she's suffering a "flare," with an embarrassing ailment she keeps from all but her closest friends. She'd rather appear to be flighty or snooty than...defective.

With most song lyrics, some lines get through, some don't. The execs at Barbie who happened to hear Kesha's demo, heard only the lines about alienation, and feeling "invisible," which were things teenage girls could relate to. They didn't quite pick up on the line "I'll blow you all away," especially with the sweet vocalizing of this lady.

Today, on the blog, "Invisible" is being slanted as an anthem that could be sung by Carly Medosch (photo above). She looks normal on the outside, because her ailment is invisible. She is suffering the shitty world of Crohn's Disease, with its pain, fatigue, and embarrassing problems of digestive misery. There are no doubt, times when she'd like to "blow away" the well-intentioned idiots who say "surely, if you eat the right diet, you won't have a problem" or those who want to deny that the world is unfair, and say instead, "your doctor must be giving you the wrong meds."

There are wayyyyyy too many people in the world who seem to disappoint others by suddenly leaving a party, or backing out of a project, or lapsing e-mails because they are overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, or a physical ailment that just isn't evident. These suffers of "invisible" ailments can't point to a wheelchair, or a scar as the reason they can't do something. worse, there's usually a stigma attached to explaining the problem.

Who wants to admit to being a nervous nelly, or having a phobia, or having to explain that any minute they could shit their pants? Often a problem is denied with a disdainful, doubtful "You don't LOOK sick." People don't like being a nuisance, or seeming different, and it can be worse if a person looks normal and therefore gets no sympathy or even courtesy when there's a problem. Instead it's a surly growl of "You don't LOOK sick." People don't think: "Oh, maybe he didn't hold the door for me because he doesn't have the strength," or "she's walking slow because there's a problem."

You'll find the story on the website ("People with Invisible Disabilities").

The highlights are here:

Some writers of lyrics and poems prefer to leave some aspects vague. They like to let the reader color some things in, and "share" the experience and emotions. Sportswriter Bob Costas was delighted to think that Paul Simon's line "the cross is in the ballpark" had to do with the Pope coming to Yankee Stadium. Paul had to gently shake his head "no." And if "Invisible" has you thinking of Claude Rains, or Kesha nude, or a Crohn's girl walking calmly to the ladies room with a change of underwear in her purse...congrats to your imagination. You're entitled to personalize any song you hear. But all praise to the original author, Martin Briley.

Lots of lines in this song are quite universal, and beyond the world of Columbine or Crohn's:

"Maybe I'm just not like everyone. I fade a little more each's hard to feel when all you feel is numb...I could disappear without a trace..." KESHA sings Briley INVISIBLE, listen on line or download. No capcha codes, money requests, password with an ego-driven name like Zinfart, dopey ads or malware sneakiness.

Ron Nagle - FRESH BAD RICE! And listen to the BERBELANG

Yes, after 45 years, "Bad Rice" has been issued on CD. With bonus tracks including the perverse "Berbelang." So far it might be the best thing that's happened in 2015.

Back in 1970 Warren Zevon was nowhere close to writing "Werewolves of London." Randy Newman hadn't gone completely overboard with "Half a Man," about a horrific role reversal that began "This big old queen was standing on the corner of the street. He waved his hanky at me..."

But Ron Nagle was on the edge of weirdness. He wrote and sang about a blue-haired drag queen with an infra-red suntan and whooping cough. Though possessing a razor blade and a mirror for some high grade cocaine, this creature was a self-proclaimed disaster. Chorus: "No one could have worse luck than mine, 'cept someone bitten by the Berbelang."

Did people listening to the radio ask themselves WHAT is a Berbelang? No. Because Warner Bros. didn't release the song. After all, Warners hadn't had success with the songs on the one album they did release. Many were as bizarre as "Berbelang," too.

Many of Nagle's songs are checklists of depravity and dysfunction. The stanzas are more like Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C, with a chorus or two. The "Bad Rice" album included "Marijuana Hell," a set of case histories on pot smokers gone wrong. "Frank's Store" described a pathetic bodega ("warmest beer in cans, day old meat and toys made in Japan") that burns down, taking with it the dreams of a prideful simpleton with nothing else in his life. "Family Style" lists the singer's insidious uncle, the brother who stepped on a parakeet, and mom, "who picked dollars off the table" via her vaginal lips, ala the legendary Billie Holiday when she was working and being cheap. If there's not enough psychotic behavior in a character's life, the main obsession is simply repeated a few times, like homicidal Chuckie (of "61 Clay") kicking his mother's head again and again. Or the serio-comic Dad who just keeps repeating "the stork is coming one more time," as his house fills up with kids, and he obsessively dreams of the inane alternative of samba beats, and the garish joys of "mangos and gin, and pink tapioca."

Despite Ry Cooder guesting on a few cuts, production from legendary Jack Nietzche, and sticking "Family Style" on a "loss leader" sampler album, Warner Bros. was dismayed with the poor sales for the critically acclaimed "Bad Rice." So there would be no follow-up album, or a 45 rpm for "Berbelang." Oh. A berbelang is a mythical vampire legend in Malaysia.

Some of what went wrong, and right for Ron Nagle before and after "Bad Rice" is covered in the copious notes in the CD booklet for this re-issue. There's an extra CD of demo material from the era. Added to the CD with the complete "Bad Rice" are a few alternate takes (you'll hear Ron "cry cry cry" a long, long, long time on the alternate of "Frank's Store").

There's also "Berbelang" and what would've been the B-side, "Francine" (a song about S&M way before Grey). Let me add that these latter two items, though available for quite a while as "KSAN demos" and even available through the archive org site of stuff that is and isn't public domain, are PRISTINE on the CD. On the authorized version, you can really hear what sounds like a teeming bat-load of vampires roaring out of a cave. Or is it the sound of a drag queen's teeth becoming fangs and then crackling to pieces as they gnash together?

Your download below is the KSAN version of "Berbelang." It should be enough to give you some idea of Ron Nagle's brand of rocking raw nerve nutsiness...the kind of thing that perhaps influenced the direction Mr. Zevon would take, and what could be covered by one-time label mate Randy Newman.

Cooders (a variation on kudos) to the tiny company with the huge name (Omnivore) for the re-issue. Years ago, I had recommended a re-issue of "Bad Rice" to some execs at a few of the usual suspects in the re-issue field. The main problem was usually, "We can't deal with Warners. They want too much money." This, despite Nagle winning a Billboard poll that asked who their readers most wanted on CD. Also credit Omnivore with retaining the art work which helped doom the record, specifically the back-cover of gruesome "Chuckie" (complete with missing tooth) that some horrified disc jockeys assumed was Nagle.

At this point, with CDs on their way out, and nobody caring about liner notes, fans of Nagle at least have a lot to listen to. Aside from this 2 CD set, there exists a collection of material from Ron's days with the pioneering San Francisco group "The Mystery Trend," the "Taj Mantis" instrumental album, and a re-issue (with bonus tracks) of The Durocs.Through Ron's own you can order several solo albums he released independently, and learn more about his career with killer kiln work (he's a well-respected ceramic artist). The website also mentions his dabblings in movie soundtracks, and in mainstream music (songs on a Barbra Streisand album). If you reach the music part of his site and know that the picture of an open door leading to death via river drowning is from a Charlie Chan film, you ARE Ron's kind of fan!

Let's add that Ron Nagle also co-wrote what is probably the best song The Tubes ever recorded, "Don't Touch Me There." And if you'd like something visual, go over to YouTube and punch in "It Hurts To Be In Love" by The Durocs. In a music video that had to have frightened the vee-jays and va-jay-jays at MTV, they give a whole new spin on Gene Pitney's classic. The sleazefest features an oily pedophile, a hideous greasy spoon diner, and a nightmare of geeks and freaks trying to connect or avoid each other. Now on CD, it's not quite so easy to avoid "Bad Rice." If you've got the stomach for the posts here at this blog, buy a copy ASAP (and stay absolutely pathological).

Ron Nagle Berbelang, KSAN demo version. The real deal is on the new CD.

Rod McKuen - OUT THE DOR

Since last month, the grim reaper (as opposed to Kanye, the Grim Rapper) cut down a variety of celebrities. A little over a month ago, one of the victims was the poet, singer-songwriter and weird creator of novelty songs, Rod McKuen.

Obviously, it's his latter, neglected oevre that interests this blog. While a lot has been written about Rod McKuen (April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015), much of it snarky, he was pretty hip in the novelty category for a while. So when Diane Keaton mewls "McKuen!" in Woody Allen's "Sleeper," let's think she meant "The Mummy," and not his greeting card poetry.

"The Mummy" credited to "Bob McFadden and Dor" was such a novelty hit, there was even a quickie copycat cover (by "Bubi & Bob") trying to snag away some sales. Not quite in the same league with "Monster Mash" or even "Purple People Eater," McKuen did create a cute, cartoonish single. McFadden (who supplied narration for a horror theme song album produced by Dick Jacobs, and would later voice Richard Nixon for a novelty album) was the nerdish mummy. Like Casper the Friendly Ghost, this spook didn't mean to frighten people. But did. The punchline comes via his encounter with a beatnik (Rod, alias Dor).

At the time, McKuen was doing hip readings in the same venues as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. As a folk singer (another huge fad at the time) the poet was making tentative steps toward a music career. Weirdly enough, his biggest success at the time was with novelty numbers, including the lesser known "Oliver Twist." "The Mummy" sparked the need and greed for a quickie album, featuring more horror comedy. The liner notes explained who Bob McFadden was, but there was only a nominal mention that Rod McKuen was Dor. After all, who was McKuen? Dor was barely a sidekick or secondary voice on a few tracks.

The McFadden and Dor album did include "Son of the Mummy," and other facile horror-comedy tracks, including "I Dig You Baby," with McFadden doing Karloff as a vampire, narrating a poetry-in-jazz number. The track includes the monster "in a jar" joke, which Spike Jones also used in a Paul Frees Frankenstein narration on his "In Stereo" album.

A more generic item, Rod's "Beverly Hills Phone Directory," gets its yocks by simply naming obscure performers. It might be the origin of the cruel "Sonny TUFTS?" line. In the goofy "Noisy Village" McKuen replicates odd and menacing noises in a sound cartoon mocking Martin Denny's exotica hit, "Quiet Village." "The Beat Generation" explored, and put down the more pretentious qualities of that era's hipsters. You get that one below, in stereo. It's one of the four tracks (including "The Mummy") actually written by McKuen alone.

Happily for Rod, he soon won infamy and fortune for his mainstream poetry books, and by buttering American lyrics onto some Jacques Brel tunes, notably "Seasons in the Sun." Rod's particular brand of bathos even impressed the "Chairman of the Broads," Frank Sinatra, who ended up doing an entire album of McKuen. Koo-koo, baby. Rod was savvy enough to own his own record label, Stanyon. The name was based on a street in Rod's beloved San Francisco.

The oddest thing about Stanyon was that it licensed a Kenneth Williams "Rambling Syd Rumpo" record for American release. Almost nobody in America had any idea who "Rambling Syd Rumpo" was, and barely knew or cared that Williams was the effeminate guy in "Carry On" film comedies. Call it a gay favor, or Rod never losing his oddball novelty interest. It was probably the least successful Stanyon release.

And so we say goodbye to the corporeal Rod McKuen, but, "listen to the warm," and you just might absorb some molecules that could be him, ladies and gays. Among the spiritually gooned, he's immortal for a few novelty 45's and for bringing the Marty Feldman-penned "Rumpo" songs (many originally done by Williams for radio's "Around the Horne" show) for Americans to ignore. Your download is below, and don't let Dor kick you in the ass on your way to it.

Bob McFadden and Dor Beat Generation

Straight Talk: Mumbling was part of Clark Terry's great legacy

Clark Terry died at the age of 94, on February 21st. He was living in Arkansas and had been in poor health for quite a while. One of his last great appearances was at Birdland in 2003, and among the admirers was Soupy Sales. I had to mention to Mr. Terry that, yes, I was "one of your Soupy fans…I first heard your music when Pookie (the puppet) danced around to the soundtrack of "Mumbles" on Soupy's show."

Though Terry was best known as a brilliant session player (trumpet and flugelhorn) and put out his own records and was a regular in clubs, and even spent some time in Carson's "Tonight Show" band, his foray into vocals provided his trademark. It's playing on his website ( and he recorded many versions of it over the years. Probably the best known is the one he did guesting with the Oscar Peterson Trio.

"Mumbles," aka the "incoherent blues," was a parody of hipster-speak as well as the old blues singers who seemed like they were saying something important even if nobody could tell. You could go from Sammy Davis Jr's cha-ka-sha-bow scatting to Bill Cosby's nonsensically histrionic vocal riffs (especially the theme song for his first sitcom) and it all comes back to Clark Terry.

All the greats knew and loved Clark Terry, from Miles Davis to Quincy Jones, from traditionals such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie to the farther out Thelonious Monk and Charlie Mingus. When Carson's "Tonight Show" moved to California, Terry stayed in New York to be part of the jazz scene there. He tooted and he tutored, and like so many musicians, songwriters and singers, he put the joy of his art above getting a day job. Unfortunately, a lot of dull people who have day jobs, and then get pensions, have no sympathy or appreciation for creative artists. In other words, it's "don't ruin our fun" when it comes to "sharing" (and don't call it "stealing") and don't interrupt our Communist rants of "everything should be FREE."

Now, contrary to what some Seniormole or Chris-Goes-Crumb or Devil Girl of Death or Kim Dotcom or other funny-named denizen of the blog world, forums or torrents might think, musicians can't tour into their 80's and 90's and sell t-shirts to make up for stolen music and lost royalties. They can't, like street panhandlers, deal with the humiliation of Spotify throwing pennies when it doesn't pay the rent. They couldn't work at some dull job all day, and magically tour the country or be up all night playing in those clubs that don't exactly pay that well.

Just how fucked up the situation was for Clark, might be gleaned from a page that was on his website.

Somehow, people who are not in the music business, who never interviewed a celebrity, who have no idea what the workings are in getting deals or maintaining a career in a competitive field, are the ones who are in the position to mind somebody else's business. Thanks to the Internet they can do everything from bully a teenager to death to steal royalties and send someone into poverty and a fatal state of depression. There's always a rationalization for the entitlement. It can be anything from simple surliness and the glee of being evil, to sanctimonious bullshit about "music should be free," or "the record labels and managers screw the artists too," so they can do it, and so can Lord Savior Spotify. Hey, posting a daily give-away of albums on the Net somewhere is "good publicity." You can tell the parasites: they just post music and ask for "nice comments" and if there's any text, it's stolen from Wikipedia or "All Music" and passed of as their own. Yes, it helps non-entities pretend they're in show biz, while kicking real artists OUT of show biz.

Clark Terry's choice was to be a freelance musician, and despite the odds he managed to make it a career. Too bad in an era of inflation and poor social security, and unions that couldn't cover his needs, he suffered at the end. It wasn't helped by piracy, the extinction of record stores, the cheapening of music via mp3s, or Spotify turning out to be no substitute for radio royalties.

Fortunately Clark Terry had friends to build a website for him (even if they couldn't pay for all his needs) and folks who visited and cheered him (even if they couldn't pay for all his needs). And in this world of mumbles (such are promises), where all things lie in jest, and where Clark Terry lies in Woodlawn Cemetery, here's a salute to a guy who put smiles on the faces, and made fingers snap and feet stomp. He even made a rubber puppet named Pookie dance.

Clark Terry Mumbles

Thursday, February 19, 2015


With the wind chill making it seem like zero (and the night promising an actual record low of just 4 above), friends, relatives and loved ones gathered at a funeral home in Manhattan today. They were saying "Goodbye Lesley." And here, I add: "Goodbye Tony." It's a song you can download or listen to on line, via the link below.

This odd blog doesn't deal with ordinary hits (of which she had many). One of the more obscure items in the Gore collection is "Goodbye Tony." No other words in the song are in English. It's her rather sweetly sung German-language version of one of her most menacing anthems, "You Don't Own Me." Oddly enough while the original was performed with raging power, the German version is much softer and more sorrowful. This is a bit surprising since German is "a rather brutal language" (as Max Prendergast phrased it).

One of the more underrated singers in the rock world, Lesley Gore (Lesley Sue Goldstein, May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015) seemed like just another amateur, ala Little Eva, when she became a sensational star in 1963. She was only 16, hitting the Top 20 with a literal cry-baby novelty called "It's My Party." As unlikely is it might seem, the wizard behind the curtain was Quincy Jones. Somehow he knew just what white America wanted to hear, and with the help of Ellie Greenwich, the veteran songwriter-producer, he made this catchy-naggy pop squeal a hit. The unknown singer had been taking voice lessons and making experimental demos thanks to her affluent father, Leo Gore. Not long after Lesley's birth, Mr. Gore had the family name changed from Goldstein to reflect his Russian heritage. Or at least, the first syllable of it.

In this era of 45 rpm singles, the biggest demographic was now teenagers, and most especially teenage girls. They pushed Fabian into the Top 10, and Rydell, Anka, Avalon, and other pretty boys they wanted to swoon over. They also liked teen girls who could be role models and sob sisters, from Connie Francis to Donna Loren. Perhaps the queen of them, for a few years at least, was Lesley Gore. They related to her and this song about being dumped at her birthday party. They were glad to see, from the fan mag photos, that Lesley was sort of pretty, but not the hated prom queen type. She was believable as a victim.

Also in 1963, Gore followed up with her "answer" song, the triumphant "Judy's Turn to Cry." In 1964 she offered the surprising "You Don't Own Me," as dark and menacing as any Shangri-Las number. It proved she had the pipes for a dramatic vocal. As the years passed, that song became a feminist anthem (just as the Shangri-Las became remembered as "liberated" ladies.)

Teen agony remained Lesley's specialty with 1964's "I Don't Wanna be a Loser" and the better, haunting "Maybe I Know." To get ridiculously analytical about it, the zeitgest heped her existential enigma over a frustrating romantic purgatory, with listeners internalizing her threnody.

The song had simple lyrics: "Maybe I know that he's been a'cheatin', maybe I know that he's been untrue. But what could I do?"

This kind of song had the co-eds nodding and buying, but there was enough vulnerability to make most any boy take notice, too. As in, "Maybe I could get her on the rebound," or "Gee, girls don't have it so easy after all." Her pain was everyone's pleasure.

Lesley continued to vacillate between teen anguish and utterly stupid pop tripe and had another Top 20 with "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" in 1965. That one was penned by the nephew of Quincy Jones' dentist, one precocious kid named Marvin Hamlisch. A number of songs in 1966 "failed to chart," as the pinhead never-was losers like to say. At least she kept trying and didn't just go buy somebody else's music at a boot sale, smugly self-congratulating on being a mediocre nobody.

In 1967, Lesley became "Pussycat," hench-girl to Catwoman on the old "Batman" show. 1967 was also the year of her last Top 20 hit, the Marvin Hamlisch variation on "California Dreaming" called "California Nights." The next year, 1968, she graduated college and wasn't so concerned with show biz. Which is a shame, because after all those years she no longer needed to be double-tracked. She had developed a great stage presence and could drive the crowd wild with an emotional, defiant ballad. Let's say she was so good that nobody ever remarked on her being Jewish.

In the 70's and 80's she put out a few solo albums, but so did Lou Christie and so many others. They, and Lesley, became locked in a time capsule and fans mostly wanted to see them at oldies shows, doing THE HITS.

Circa 2004, she hosted "In the Life," a PBS-TV series about lesbian issues. (OK, hackies, you've been waiting for it: Lesby Gore.) By then, one could quietly ease out of the closet and, if anything, develop new fans. Janis Ian, a two-hit wonder ("Society's Child" and "At Seventeen") found herself in demand at coffee shops and small venues, and Lesley also found the supportive lesbian cult backing her up, as well as some more affluent fans. She performed at upscale niteries such as (Michael) Feinstein's in Manhattan, where the cover charge and price for drinks and food could bankrupt the average person. The crowd would sit politely through the newer songs, many co-written by Lesley, then get juiced on the crowd-pleasing oldies, and absolutely cream over that now lesbian-feminist rallying cry: "You Don't Own Me."

When Lesley died, her last effort, the 2007 release "Ever Since," was on eBay and Amazon for about $4 and no takers. It had a rather haggard looking Ms. Gore on the cover, a fresh version of "You Don't Own Me" to try and get some sales, and was issued by one of the smaller indie companies.

I'm not sure what Lesley's legacy is, and if many people care about her few Top 40 hits (or her hundreds of songs on albums that fans love so much). Maybe you had to be East Coast to identify with her a lot, or you had to grow up with her. She might be, like Petula Clark and "Downtown" or even Nancy Sinatra and "Boots," just a footnote to rock critics who would rather write about Aretha and Janis. But here's something: you can always tell it's Lesley Gore when you hear her. If stardom involves being unique, Leslie was, and remains, a star.

For fans of irony, let's note that she supplied the music for a tune called "IMMORTALITY."


Some Ho' Sings the Lyrics to "Hawaii 5-0"

Here's no ordinary Ho. That's Don Ho, who died in 2007. Maybe he didn't live to see his last name used by whites (such as Jay Leno) who adopted the illiterate black slang term for whore. Look anything for a pun, punk.

Ho was the most famous singer from Hawaii, and as such, had the inside track on lousing up one of the best TV theme songs of all time. Why not try and put sappy words to a driving, exciting instrumental? And slow down the tempo? It might get somebody lei'd:

"If you're feeling lonely, you can come with me. Feel my arms around you. Lay beside the sea. We will think of something to do, do it till it's perfect for you and for me, too. You can come with me."

No, this was no Ho-down. A bit better known, and anthologized on those campy "celebrities sing" and "so bad it's good" CD's is Sammy Davis Jr's uptempo take, re-titled "You Can Count On Me." Did he know Ho? He did know ho's, and was prone to putting red polish on ONE nail, as a symbol of devil worship, and indulge in orgies. Go read "Why Me?" His autobiography reveals quite a bit of his traumatic and confused life, though he didn't explicitly detail doing down on Linda Lovelace's manager/Svengali while she coached him.

Davis's autobiography is a lot more lively than "My Music My Life" the Don Ho story. Don did have his triumphs and failures. His biggest triumph was "Tiny Bubbles," which was not about Michael Jackson's sexual attraction to a chimp. His biggest failure was heart failure. Don had a stroke at age 65, developed heart problems, and struggled with a lot of controversial therapies (including stem cell implants).

Don was Ho-spitalized several times, hoping he'd become well enough to perform again. Quoth Don" "Someone told me 'You're 75.' Everyone gets old. Why did I think I was exempt?"

Don had a pacemaker operation in 2006. He died the following year.

DON HO Hawaii Five-O Theme Song

Monday, February 09, 2015


Prosecutor: Chicolini, isn’t it true you sold Freedonia’s secret war code and plans?
Chicolini: Sure! I sold a code and two pairs o’ plans! Ay, that's-a some joke!

Oh. Wrong guy. We're talking about CICCOLINI.

Though not one of the all-time greats, the late Aldo Ciccolini (August 15, 1925-Februrary 1, 2015) sold a lot of albums for Angel/EMI. Maybe it was because Horowitz and Rubinstein didn't seem to know about composer Erik Satie. Or, care to record him. In the late 60's and early 70's, college grads and classical music enthusiasts suddenly doubled over, discovering the duo of Satie as recorded by Ciccolini.

The impudent avant-garde dadaist and now decomposed Satie had to sustain himself as a cabaret pianist. Likewise, Ciccolini (born in Naples but a Parisian since the 1950's) found himself playing for bar patrons in order to keep baguettes on the table. Yes, "don't quit your day job just yet" was always a good strategy for oddballs trying to defy all odds and bring something new to the world. Even after winning some awards and getting record deals, Aldo didn't quit his day job, which in the 70s involved teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris.

While Ciccolini did earn some good reviews with war-horse pieces (his 1950 United States debut was a Tchaikovsky piano concerto performed with the New York Philharmonic) he found that the best way to get attention in the very competitive world of classical piano, was to specialize in esoterica. This included the twin darlings of keyboard oddness, Alkan and Satie, as well as the even more obscure Déodat de Séverac and Alexis de Castillon. With the success of his Satie recordings, the French-Italian pianist even turned up at New York's Bottom Line in 1979. It was rare for that venue to feature a classical pianist, but Aldo Ciccolini was a name that progressive rock fans knew (along with Tomita, Walter/Wendy Carlos and Virgil Fox. Fox, many recall, played an organ concert at the Fillmore, highlighted by that Phantom of the Opera toccata by Bach, man. Bach, man, he could be booked one night and Turner Overdrive the next! And the same fans might show up! Wowie Zowie)

Mainstream music fans who could tolerate SOME classical music, were delighted with Chico's Satie material, which included gnossiennes (more narcotic than Pachelbel's "Canon") and Zappa-esque titles such as "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." Ciccolini's record label allowed him to branch out for Ravel, and some of the more mainstream composers, while he continued to teach and to perform dates both on hip college campuses and at the standard classical music venues that once hosted the now-deceased Rubinstein and Horowitz.

“Ciccolini avoids standard clichés, and his is one of the finest lyric talents of the piano today,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Joseph McLellan after a 1983 show at the University of Maryland. “He makes it easy to forget that the piano is essentially a mechanical contraption, capable of doing very complex things and splendid in its dynamic range, but limited in expressive possibilities. He makes the piano breathe like a human voice — like a variety of human voices.”

On Dec 9, 1999, Aldo commemorated the 50 years since he first won a major award (the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition). In 2010 he celebrated his 85th birthday with concert appearances in conjunction with EMI putting out a massive (how about 56 CDs) set of his recorded works. By that time, an entire generation had grown up with almost no "star" classical pianist to follow, and only Alfred Brendel being ubiquitous for new releases. Artur who? Vladimir who? Van Cliburn what? And let's not bother with mono from Kempff or Schnabel.

Below? In under 3 minutes, you get Aldo's version of Satie's three short "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." In a different era, these works were as shocking to classical ears as Zappa's weirdly named instrumentals were to rock audiences. So give it a try. It showcases the melodic quirkiness that has continued to make Satie (and Aldo's recordings) such fun listening.

ALDO does Flabby Preludes for a Dog

As always, listen on line OR download...with no capcha codes, Zinfuck password, or promotions to get you buy a premium account for which the artists get nothing.


Donna Douglas, the beloved sitcom actress from "The Beverly Hillbillies," was the first celebrity to die in 2015 (January 1st). Mournful fans rushing to Google's copyright-stomping YouTube started watching old TV clips and listening to her sing "He's So Near" and...other songs she didn't sing. Those were from a different Donna Douglas, who is very much alive.

YouTube uploaders assumed there was only one Donna Douglas on the planet, and if a record had "Donna Douglas" on it, the TV star was the singer. But as this blog's done with two different performers named Johnny Carson and Jack Larson, it's time to be the prime and official source for another truth. Donna Douglas the actress is not Donna Douglas the singer, who was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland and now proudly lives in Perth, Australia, "still married to the same wonderful man for over 45 years." PS, her real name is Donna Douglas. The American actress was born Doris Smith.

When Doris was starting out in show biz, she was sexy (and usually brunette) in pin-up photos and small roles on TV. By the time she became "Donna Douglas" and got a major TV guest role (in an episode of "Twilight Zone," with no rural accent) the OTHER Donna Douglas already had four singles out in the U.K., and was signed for more.

Donna's singles "did not chart," but record companies saw enough potential in her to keep trying. Initially signed to Fontana, Donna Douglas recorded four singles for them: "The Shepherd" (1958), "Come Back to Loch Lomond" and "Six Boys and Seven Girls" (1959) and "Teddy" (1960).

Piccadilly felt she had the right look and chirpy voice for the times and debuted her with "Tammy, Tell Me True" in 1961. The following year came the big push. "The Message in a Bottle" was nominated for the "Song for Europe" contest (aka Eurovision) but lost to Ronnie Carroll's "Ring-a-Ding Girl" which, obviously, did not bring a winner home to Great Britain.

Donna's next singles were "Matelot" (1962) and "It's a Pity to Say Goodnight" and "He's So Near" (both released in 1963). A final single, "Java Jones" turned up via Pye in 1964.

By that time, the actress Donna Douglas was a superstar thanks to "The Beverly Hillbillies." And thanks to "He's So Near" being issued in America on an obscure indie label, some record collectors assumed that this and any imports had to be early rare recordings from the future Elly Mae Clampett.

Is there any vinyl from actress Donna Douglas? Yes, but mostly it's narrations of kiddie and/or religious material. She does talk-sing on a fairly lame "Beverly Hillbillies" cash-in album from Columbia. Book-ended by "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" and the familiar end theme as picked by Flatt and Scruggs, the filler is 11 weak novelty tunes penned by Zeke Manners. Based on familiar traits of the Clampett family (Jethro being naively stupid, Elly being virginal, Granny being ornery) the tracks offer some dialogue and little bits of singing. A few songs are about the hillbillies and sung by an anonymous chorus, and a few give a chance for ex-vaudevillian Buddy Ebsen to do some easy-listenin' vocals. Irene Ryan would issue some novelty singles but here, she's mostly talking in her "Granny" voice.

Now that you're wanting to compare Donna Douglas the singer and Donna Douglas the actress, you get "He's So Near" and "Birds An' Bees," in which Granny and Jed try to give some gentle advice to the blossoming beauty. Donna manages to be musical on a few line of this novelty, but it's pretty clear that a solo song of most any kind would've been one heck of a chore for her.

Donna Douglas the Singer He's so Near

Donna Douglas the Actress BIRDS 'AN BEES

Legendary LIZABETH SCOTT passes on at the age of 92

She was the Paramount screen star that the studio billed as "“beautiful, blonde, aloof and alluring.” Along with Lauren Bacall and Mary Astor, she was one of the most memorable ladies to appear opposite Humphrey Bogart (in "Dead Reckoning.").

Closer to a Joan Crawford than a Veronica Lake, Lizabeth was often called on to play complex women who could be tough and perhaps even untrustworthy…with a touch of potential evil enough to make even a Burt Lancaster or Dick Powell feel a little unsure. Lancaster's line in "I Walk Alone" was: "What a fall guy I am, thinking just because you're good to look at you'd be good all the way through." If the film was a tough noir, she was the woman to make it tougher. She could hold her ground against anyone, even tough guy Robert Mitchum. In "The Racket" she confronted him with: "Who said I was an honest citizen, and where would it get me if I was?"

Despite the typecasting, Scott (born Emma Matzo, September 29, 1922 in Scranton, PA) turned up in some light fare, from the wacky "Hellzapoppin" (in a touring stage production) to the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis hit "Scared Stiff," to Elvis Presley's "Loving You." Her last film was "Pulp" in 1972, an obscurity that co-starred Mickey Rooney and Michael Caine.

A strong woman who chose her name from two other strong women (Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots), she had the confidence to walk away from show business and devote herself to charity work and ways of improving herself by attending college courses and working out at a health club. She said, "I proceeded to explore all of life’s other facets. None of us is ever too young or too old or too smart to learn or to create.”

I found her to be a strong lady with good values and a resolute personality, and I'll miss her. She had so much talent, too. A lot of beautiful stars were tossed into musicals and had to have somebody else do the singing, and a lot of ladies needed an echo chamber when a studio insisted they cut a single or do an album to help promote a film. Lizabeth had a good, natural singing voice, and there are a lot of solid cuts on her lone album.

A wryly erotic little tease of a number is "A Deep Dark Secret."

This song about her secret doings does not name a particular gender. While she strenuously denied the lesbian claim in a 50's "Confidential" gossip mag, which could've ruined her career, it's safe to say that Lizabeth stirred longings on both sides of the sexual equator, and still does.

Lizabeth Scott, a friend to Ill Folks. Just why is…. A Deep Dark Secret

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"SHADOW" - A Forgotten Pedo-pusher

The only thing people object to on the Internet now is pedophilia. Anything else is easily justified. Lie, cheat, steal, kill even, but…touch not the innocent child. Hear that, Rolf Harris? They tied that singer down, sport. Yet, even with pedophilia, the boundaries have widened.

It's hardly even news when school teachers have sex with their teenage students. Judges dismiss cases of "statutory rape" because, "she didn't look underage," and today's tweens are just emulating pop idols like Miley Cyrus. Folks don't raise an eyebrow about the tween brides being abused by some of the fine, fine religions of the Middle East and Africa...and in parts of the South, a 14 year-old can marry Jerry Lee Lewis.

A song like "Only Sixteen" is almost laughable now. Brooke Shields wasn't even 14 when she starred in "Pretty Baby." Ebay sellers can actually post nude Polaroids and if the seller says "model is 18," then it's ok. They don't even ask that the seller supply proof, something that even Hustler's "Barely Legal" magazines do.

Now, nobody would have a problem with "Shadow," a song that got very little radio play when it came out. This probably surprised Mr. Taylor, who'd had a hit, after all, with "Love Child," covered by The Supremes. But that was only about a bastard birth, so big deal. He may have sent this to The Four Tops, expecting Levi Stubbs to shout:

"Hair dark, black as coal, eyes that look into your soul, touch that makes you lose control...

"Shadow you drag me down, but every day I love you more! Shadow you bring me down, and every day I need you more than the day before! Body of a woman mind of a child. Shadow you sure do drive me wild. You're only 14 years old."

You might recall the name R. Dean Taylor. He wrote one of the classics of rock-crime insanity, the brilliantly schlocky "Indiana Wants Me." It even had sound effects (though the police sirens were edited out of subsequent pressings). He sang it as a love letter to his wife: "I'll never see the morning sun shine on the land. I'll never see your smiling face or touch your hand. If just once more I could see you, our home, and OUR LITTLE BABY."

Why was he on the run? Because, "If a man ever needed dying he did. No one has the right to say what he said about you." We're always told "verbal abuse is legal. Don't take the law into your own hands." But we're also told not to touch jail bait. And in this song, the criminal of "Indiana Wants Me" has a definite misdemeanor on his mind.

Who knows. In another year or two, when we have a pop singer even younger and lewder than Miley Cyrus, or some rapper even cruder than R. Kelly, somebody will dig up this song and take it to the Top Ten.

Actually the most regrettable failure in the R. Dean Taylor catalog is the milder but wilder "There's a Ghost In My House." Considering he was tight with Motown (he recorded on a subsidiary of it), it's a shame The Four Tops didn't grab "Ghost." Maybe they were sick of those "rooms of gloom" songs, and didn't want to deal with an entire house. Or maybe people would think the "ghost" in the house was a white guy.

"Shadow" is probably a black girl. But white or black, tweens knows all about sex now. They can see all the porn they want on the Internet. They laugh at gobs of semen stuck in Cameron Diaz's hair in a harmless film comedy their parents took 'em to see. The "age of innocence" in the 21st century isn't 18. 16. Or even 14. It's probably closer to 8, when a child can say something filthy and get a reply of "where did you learn THAT?" The answer: "I Googled it."


STATE OF SHOCK: The Moirs: Margot is No Moir

Before lesbians were out and romping on the tennis court (Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, etc.) or openly dishing as hosts of their own talk shows (Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O'Donnell, etc.) the weird Moirs sisters were singing a song of Sappho: "Who Needs a Man?" Not that anyone was paying attention. The death of Margot Moir hasn't gotten a lot of attention either

On January 27, Margot Moir died. While I wasn't in a "state of shock" (the title of their second and last album), I was surprised. Was it THAT long ago that I got a promo copy of the album? How…old…was she?

Only 55.

Next question, what do I say about The Moirs (last name pronounced the same as American TV personality Bill Moyers)? It's a bit of a left-handed compliment to say that I kept the album all these years just because it was so visually and musically weird. But it's true.

Back in the day, I was a young rock writer specializing in all the weird and edgy stuff that the rock editors didn't keep for themselves. They tossed me a dozen demo albums with a warning: "Pick one…ONE of these obscure debut albums to review for the next issue." I interviewed people nobody else on the staff cared about or wanted to talk to. So it was, that I scored a copy of "State of Shock," with a three page bio on light blue paper from Rocket Records' publicity department. Whatever drone was working for that label didn't know anything about writing an eye-grabbing opening line:

"Fifteen years ago the entire Moir family emigrated to Australia from their native forfar, in Scotland. On returning for a two-year sojourn some years later, a neighbor gave one of the girls a guitar, which helped to ease the tedium of their return to Australia. It began with Jean, but Margot soon joined with early dabblings in music and vocal techniques."

Zzz. I did know what a sojourn was, but not a "forfar." It turned out to be a typo and should've been the town of Forfar. So far, so uninteresting. But happily for the girls, they did have a top ten Aussie hit in 1974 with "Good Morning (How Are You?)" and the following year recorded the album "Lost Somewhere Beyond Harmony."

Three years later, Rocket Records thought America might want a spooky, pedo-goth trio of Kate Bushes. Or maybe a girl-group variation on The Chipmunks. So "State of Shock" became the first album by The Moirs to be released in America. How sad that when I wangled an invite to a Rocket Records party for new artists, I got to talk to President Elton John his own self, and Colin Blunstone, and Lorna Wright, but...nope. The Moirs weren't there. I never did get to see the three sirens in the flesh, assuming they had any. But I kept the 1978 record, which turned out to be their last. 18 years later, Margot issued a solo album that included a new version of "Who Needs a Man." What she did for the next 18 years, I have no idea. She's survived by her two sisters, the younger Jean (born in 1957) and older Lesley (born in 1962).

Who needs a download of "Who Needs a Man?" Why not you? The music's a cheesy brand of vaudeville rock, somewhere between "Winchester Cathedral" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." There's a doodle-ee-doo type bit of scatting as well, which might be a nod to the aggravating ""A Doodlin' Song" from the 50's, or just a variation on vodo-ee-odo. I guess "nyaa nyaah" was already done by McCartney and wife. The precocious number is the only one on the album with music by Margot. The lyrics are by Jean (who wrote the music for all the other songs). The sisters chide a girl for not hooking up with a willing lesbian:

"Met up with a girl who had a surprise. WOOO! You thought she was strange because she wanted to hold your hand. She said "Listen sugar, are you disappointed 'cause I ain't a man? Who needs a man?"

"Well your parents just wouldn't understand how a daughter could not love a man (too bad). Loving like this can bring a lot of pain. Some people don't think that you are the same. Who needs a man?"

Man, if you need something weird, here it is:


Friday, January 09, 2015


He stepped out of obscurity and...into "The Twilight Zone."

Meet one "Battista Locatelli," a cheerful, hardworking man from Italy. He toils at many jobs with little success. He dreams of a career in opera, and hopes to get a scholarship to study fine music. In a world where people are more concerned with stuffing their mouths rather than hearing him sing, he finds work as a waiter. His disposition: cheerful. His chance of an opera career: nil.

Witness the arrival of a brooding, chain-smoking writer. This is Rod Serling, a man hot-wired into observing every nuance and irony among what are called "human beings." As Battista Locatelli serves the food, singing gently to himself, Serling takes note. More than that, he takes it into his mind that he can magically change this waiter's life.

He sees Battista Locatelli in another dimension, and with Locatelli's sound in his mind, Serling does the most logical thing he can do. No, it isn't to star him in some episode of "The Twilight Zone," but rather, to bring him along for a guest spot on Groucho Marx's new TV series, "Tell It To Groucho." And so it is, that he tells Groucho about his discovery.

With many a wisecrack, Groucho listens to Battista's story. Groucho almost mocks the young vocalist by showing off his own vocal skills (Groucho did, after all, star in a TV production of "The Mikado). But finally, Groucho allows the young man to perform. Without a chance to rehearse (he's a contestant on a quiz show, after all), and with time at a premium, Battista is only allowed to sing a fragment from "Pagliacci." Following this, he and Serling team up to win $1500 in the quiz portion of the show.

Yes, Battista Locatelli found himself in "The Twilight Zone," and had a chance to sing for the great Groucho Marx. And the not history. Not what Serling or Locatelli expected. Despite the Marx show, and another similar variety appearance courtesy of Serling's influence, Battista Locatelli does not become an opera star.

In a plot twist that might've made for a middling episode of Serling's show, Battista Locatelli DOES release one record album. It's for a hole in the wall called..."Battista's Hole in the Wall." Mr. Locatelli, at least defying the odds that most waiters have, emerges to own his own restaurant in Las Vegas. He sings there, although an accordion player remains the main attraction. His lone album is a souvenir that patrons can buy.

For some thirty years, Battista enjoys his success in the restaurant business, and has a song in his heart. Unfortunately for him, he has something else in his heart. It's a problem that requires quadruple bypass surgery in 2002.

Did I say "unfortunately?" In another twist of fate, this near brush with death only makes Locatelli determined to live life to the fullest, and change the lifestyle that led to his condition. This is a stark contrast to the fate of Rod Serling, who died during heart surgery at the age of 51. Battista becomes an advocate of the Pritikin diet system. He starts a habit of walking six miles a day. At 71, he comes to New York for the November marathon race, and finishes in just five hours, less than a fourth of the time of the annual "Twilight Zone Marathon" that runs on TV stations over the Thanksgiving holiday. He also takes up mountain climbing.

The world of show biz has many hills and valleys, and most know when to live the dream and when to face reality. Battista Locatelli: a lucky man who rose from unemployed waiter to owner of a restaurant that still, though he retired from it in 2005, remains a tourist mecca. Perhaps he didn't become the opera star he thought he'd be, but his music has pleased thousands and thousands via his restaurant singing and souvenir. Into his 70's he changed his lifestyle so he could enjoy his 80's. The signpost up ahead: your download of Locatelli's moment of song on Groucho's show, preserved here, in the Ill Folks Zone.

Battista Locatelli Aria from PAGLIACCI


The blog's first obits of 2015 hark back to December 28th, 2014. On that date, two rather obscure singers died. One of them was Merrill Womach and the other, Frankie Randall.

For Randall fans, the question always was, "How come he never made it BIG?" I mean, BIG big. He did have a long career in live performances, a kind of junior Tony Bennett for fans of "good music," but somehow the handsome fellow didn't emerge as some kind of "Sinatra for the Kids" like Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka or Bobby Darin.

"If I'm being honest," as Piers Morgan loves to say, I only vaguely heard of Frankie Randall and oddly enough, don't even recall flipping through the bargain bin albums and seeing his stuff. Maybe it was prized by his adoring female fans, and they vowed to keep these treasures even as they parted with Richard Chamberlain singing, or the Sergie Franchi and Jerry Vale albums grandma gave them at Christmas.

The Frankie Who Would Be Frank died at the age of 76. Born Frankie Lisbona (January 11, 1938 – December 28, 2014) in Passaic, New Jersey, he wasn't a Jersey Boy original like Frankie Valli. Rather than a bizarre falsetto, Frankie sang smoothly, and if one of his songs was on the radio people might've asked, "Who is that? Jimmie Rodgers? Pat Boone? Steve Lawrence?" He was good, he was solid, but he wasn't quite the distinctive stylist with a signature voice. Maybe that's why the handsome fellow sort of got lost on the record shelves. He did have his shot, though. At the time Frankie Avalon was making beach pictures with Annette Funicello, Frankie Randall turned up in "Wild on the Beach" (1964) with Sonny and Cher. RCA Victor, already owning Eddie Fisher and Neil Sedaka, released "Frankie Randall Sings and Swings" (1965, note the reference to old-school music arranger Billy May) and "Going the Frankie Randall Way" (1966). The notorious "Mods and the Pops" (1968) included Frankie's pop version of "I Can See For Miles." He was star enough, or that cut campy enough, for it to be included on a "Golden Throats" CD nearly two decades later.

Randall aged into a reliable singer for a certain aging demographic, and did receive his star…it just wasn't on Hollywood Boulevard, it was via the "Palm Springs Walk of Stars." Always tan and good looking, Frankie was a favorite in those retirement areas loaded with tan and not-so-good looking men and women. They envied Frankie his looks and his voice, and certainly with good reason. He was a charmer, and never less than professional. He always gave a great show.

While this is an acerbic blog at times, there's no reason to disrespect a professional, and above all else, Mr. Randall was that. He was very good at what he did. And really, even if "I Can See For Miles" gets sniggers from some, it was kind of a pioneering effort back then. Thirty years later, survivors Paul Anka and Pat Boone offered "swinging the rock songs" albums, believing (as some fans do) that big band arrangements are not just a novelty, but can even bring out some nuances of lyric and melody. So give Frankie some cred for trying to bridge the generation gap way back when. Sure, he may have fallen off that bridge, but you can't say he didn't have a good smooth voice, or land with a splash.

Frankie Randall I Can See for Miles Listen on line, or download. No egocentric passwords, no capcha codes, no "buy a premium account" games.

MERRILL WOMACH, the Toast of the Christian Music World, 87

Among the tragically hip, Merrill Womach (February 7, 1927 – December 28, 2014) has a cult following for his "incredibly strange" belief in God and over a dozen albums that feature his burn-scarred face. "Ha ha, ho ho, hee hee," chortle the hipster/"lounge" music fans, here's a guy who THANKS GOD for disfiguring and nearly killing him on Thanksgiving Day, 1961.

Back in 1961, Womach was a handsome fellow with a wife and three kids. What Muzak was to elevators, his "National Music Service" was to funeral homes. He offered instrumentals, and his own vocals on hymns that could be heard on tape during wakes and services. His voice was heavenly, and as you'll hear on "Ten Thousand Angels," he was capable of registering sincere emotion, not just an impressively strong operatic tenor. With a hectic schedule of concerts, and a new business that he needed to promote by visiting funeral homes all over the Wes Coast, Womach flew his own small plane.

The man who brought comforting music to death scenes, was nearly burned alive in Beaver Marsh, Oregon. Cold weather caused engine trouble, and the plane conked out as he tried to find a safe place to land. He clipped a bunch of trees, and when he landed a gas explosion seared his face. He staggered from the wreckage with a head that, by his own admission, looked more like a giant toasted marshmallow. Most people in such condition die of shock, but to keep himself from sinking into a coma or possible death, Womach began to sing. What else did he know besides his hymns? It's no surprise that among the cynical, the thought of a crisply burnt man wheeled into surgery bellowing songs about God seems like very black humor.

Only a few weeks later, he faced his congregation at church, wearing a grafted mask of skin. He was lucky to be alive, and like so many in a situation like this, he chose to thank God rather than curse God. He somehow believed that the years of pain and reconstructive surgery were setting him up for greater things. His music would not only comfort those grieving; he felt his concerts now would show anyone in pain, that the pain and suffering could be overcome.

This isn't to say that being burnt up didn't mean hell for him, and even a loss of faith. To be literally grounded just when his concerts and his business were taking off, drove him to despair. The long recuperation, the constant skin grafts, and the pain both physical and emotional were a trial for him and his wife and family. "Scriptures," he admitted, "that before that time had buoyed our spirit and made us feel better, made me feel worse."

In 1964, Womach's business finally was making enough of a profit for him to incorporate. A dozen years later, and he was voted "Spokane's Outstanding Citizen of the Year." From a struggling singer who performed at local funerals of all denominations, he was now average over 100 concerts a year.

Among the "So bad it's good crowd," the main thing was that Womach was still an appalling sight. They sought out, and enjoyed an ironic laugh at albums titled "Happy Again" (1974) and "Feelin' Good" (1983).

Womach's albums became snickering collector items to hundreds of people beyond the Christian music market. The high prices reflected that these small label items weren't easy to find. It's doubtful even a Christian record store would put one in the window. Womach wasn't easy to find, either, since his scarred face didn't make him welcome on "The Lawrence Welk Show." I don't think he guested with Pat Robertson or on other evangelist TV talk shows. Not everyone was prepared to use Merrill Womach as an example of how the Lord works in wondrous ways. Still, he made many local concert dates despite (or because of) his unique appearance and story. During his prime recording years (post-accident, 1973 through 1983) he issued thirteen albums. One of them, "In Quartet," featured Womach over-dubbing his voice three extra times, and, yes, featuring FOUR shots of the burn victim on the cover.

"He Restoreth My Soul" a documentary about his ordeal (based on his paperback "Trial By Fire") was not competition for "A Charlie Brown Christmas," nor featured on the counter at Blockbuster video rental stores. At one time it was highly prized by geeks and nerds who bought bootlegs at record memorabilia conventions. Now it's free for all, courtesy of YouTube. It has interview footage with his wife (they would divorce in 1980) as well as graphic images of how he looked right after he withstood the force of the fuel explosion. Some secular viewers are more horrified by the scene where Womach comes to "cheer up" patients in a hospital. There's no question that a happy burn victim can inspire...a wide range of conflicting emotions in people.

In 1989 Merrill was leasing his funeral music to over 6,000 funeral homes around the country, and he was adding video, as well. Customers who provided photos, VHS or 8mm of the deceased, could have it custom-made in a short movie that could be shown during the services, complete, of course, with musical soundtrack. New ideas, hundreds of concerts, and new recordings  — Womach seemed to be busier than ever, losing himself in his work. "I'd rather burn out than rust out," he said, perhaps with a straight face. It was also in 1989 that a fire destroyed his home. "I'm alive," he said, "My possessions? So what, they can be replaced. Bodies cannot be and no one was hurt.”

In 1997 the New York Times interviewed Womach about the "funeral video" phenomenon, and he confirmed that his company was making about 50,000 tribute funeral videos a year for clients all over the country. The shuffle of photos and home movies seemed to include very predictable music. The Top Ten songs to be played with these video slide shows? They are:

1. Amazing Grace. 2. My Way. 3. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother 4. Anniversary Waltz. 5. How Great Thou Art. 6. In the Garden. 7. The Old Rugged Cross. 8. And I Love You So. 9. Hands of Time (Brian's Song). 10. I Believe.

Womach's "National Music Service" company is now run by one of his daughters, and called "Global Distribution Network." For the digital age, the firm offers downloads of the inspirational music as well as CDs.

Merrill Womach died in his sleep "surrounded by family and friends." Somehow the story didn't make it to the national news outlets. They were instead giving viewers a look at Justin Bieber showing off by skateboarding down four steps and falling, or Miley Cyrus's latest bare nipple pose. Only the local TV station KREM gave their beloved singer some air time or tribute. The January 10th memorial service for Womach at Fourth Memorial Church at Baldwin Avenue and Stanard Street in Spokane will be open to the public. The service begins at 2:00 p.m. Open casket, I assume.