Saturday, December 09, 2017

JERUSALEM - SIR HARRY SECOMBE


    Jerusalem is in the news. Obama's replacement, Donald “Orange is the New Black” Trump, moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. A shocking move? Not when you recall a quote from Obama years earlier: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”   


     Technically all Trump did was underline the point by shifting America's embassy. But, in doing so, he upset antisemite Roger Waters and his back up group, The Palestinians. After all, they want Israelis to starve and die. Let's just say that the entire Middle East is literally full of hot heads. The difference is their degree of bloodthirsty fanaticism and how often they blow up innocent people.  

    Israel is the only outpost from which the free world can keep an eye on the increasingly dangerous and psychotic bunch in Iran, Iraq, and all over the region. Israel guards and preserves the historic monuments that mean a lot not just to Jews but to Muslims and Christians. And "Jerusalem"...means a lot to the British. It's one of their favorite songs. 


    Michael Flanders once mused, “England hasn’t got an official national song. What would it be? “Jerusalem!”” 


    Huh? In America, people stand up and sing “The National Anthem” without really knowing what the words are about. Same deal in Great Britain with "Jerusalem." In fact, some argue it shouldn't be sung in church, that it's anti-religion, and that it promotes Judaism. Yes, just as scholars also argue over the history of Israel and whether the Palestinians have any claims to it, interpretations of "Jerusalem" can get pretty heated.

     As briefly as possible, some background on the song:

    Hubert Parry wrote the stirring music in 1916, based on William Blake’s words from 100 years earlier. They appear at the beginning of his epic poem “Prelude to Milton.” John Milton, in Blake’s poem, stares down from heaven (pretty good for a guy who died blind) and finds that most people are leading lives of hellish stupidity and misguided allegiance. Don't people realize that they can do better, and that Jesus once journeyed to set his sacred feet on British soil?? 


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of god
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?
    


     Hold on. "Dark Satanic Mills?" Hayley and John? They weren't born yet, and they were nice people. Is Blake referring to the industrial revolution? Is that when England lost its way? Some interpret this as Blake's message. And some say that it makes the song way too religious to be as patriotic a number as "Rule Brittania" or "God Save the Queen," or "England Swings Like a Pendulum Do." 

     Agnostics, Atheists, and dry-eyed Christians all wonder whether those first lines aren't just rhetorical and ridiculous. Why would Jesus ever want to go walking in Hull or check out the muddy banks of the Humber River? How did he get to Great Britain in the days before BOAC? A slow boat? He walked on the water? Legend has it that The Naz, had a travel companion, Joseph of Arimathea, and the latter brought the “Holy Grail” to Glastonbury, and left it there after the rock concerts. Which involved banging on actual rocks.

    Flash forward to 1916. Blake's poem is put to music. A hundred years later, including the film "Chariots of Fire," the song is a classic. Some say the Internet is worse than the industrial revolution, and we should mind Blake's warnings that the utopia of "Jerusalem" doesn't mean closing the Cadbury factory or buying sweaters made in China. We must preserve ecology and create more places where sheep may safely graze. Some priests take the opposite view and refuse to allow "Jerusalem" to be played at a wedding ceremony, or any religious ritual. Oh, maybe a bris, since that is rarely done in a church. Although accidents do happen. 

     While some get very angry about the whole thing, some find it funny. You might recall the infamous (aren’t they all) “Monty Python” sketch about a weird department store. Neurotic salesman Graham Chapman goes bonkers whenever somebody says “mattress.” He puts a bag over his head and will only return to normal if everyone sings “Jerusalem” to him. Oh, what a useful song it is!

    Below, a version of "Jerusalem" that is both sincere, and slightly comical, since Sir Harry Secombe was both a popular singer and a zany comedian. I mentioned to him how remarkable it was, that the same voice known for comedy, was also appreciated, in all seriousness, for songs of religion and patriotism. Sapristi!   

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: o clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariots of fire!
I will not cease from metal fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.   

 
"JERUSALEM" Sir Harry Secombe - download or listen on line. No passwords, pop-ups or Palestinians.

If killer Thomas Jadlowski had heard the folk song “Molly Bond…” Bob Dylan...



    “Come all you young gallants that delight in a gun. Beware of your shooting at the setting of the sun…”   


    I’m quoting a pretty well known folk song, which has come down to us as “Polly Von,” “Polly Vaughan” and “Molly Bond,” and sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to The Oyster Band. 


    I don’t think killer Thomas Jadlowski ever heard it. If he had, Rosemary Billquist might still be alive.  


    Songs can save lives. Songs can move people. But not if people refuse to listen.  

    Listen to the singer's cautionary tale, ending with: “Mother, tell your children not to do what I have done…” Listen to the protest song, opening “Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam…”  Listen to a love song like “I Threw It All Away,” and maybe you'll remember it when you're about to say something hurtful.  


      All three examples above come from Bob Dylan, who covered "Polly Vaughan." While it would be nice if people always kept in mind "the golden rule," imagine a world where people listened to Dylan lyrics and followed the lessons and advice in them? And that goes for his cover of the old standard "Polly Vaughan." Whatever her name, Vaughan, Bon or Bond, her fate is always the same: killed.  


    A woman in flowing skirts, or a white apron, she is mistaken for a swan by a hunter....just as Rosemary Billquist was mistaken for a deer by THIS asshole: 





    Rosemary Billquist had two dogs, Sugar and Stella, and took them out for a twilight walk the day before Thanksgiving. Thomas Jadlowski was out, too, looking for a kill. It was nearly 5:30 in the afternoon. With “daylight saving time” over, it was dark and visibility was poor. Fun-loving Jadlowski raised his high-powered pistol and fired. He was surprised to hear the deer scream. 

    Rosemary, only 150 yards from her home at the time, died at a hospital in nearby Erie, Pennsylvania. The district attorney for Chautaqua County, Patrick Swanson, issued a statement: “This incident is a tragic reminder of the importance that hunting laws be followed. This incident was completely avoidable.” Ya think? 


    Happily for Thomas Jadlowski, gun laws in America are lax, and punishment is mild. Charged with being a little “reckless,” (he pleaded "not guilty" at all), the maximum he can get when he stands before a judge in January, is 15 years. He might not get jail time at all. If he does get sent away, with good behavior he'll be killing animals again in a year or two. 


        He's 36. He has a future. Rosemary Billquist's husband has a grave site. He can hunt for new wife. 




    “Come all you young gallants that delight in a gun. Beware of your shooting at the setting of the sun…”   


         Those lines, set to the chilling throb of bass guitar, open the riveting version by The Oyster Band, who are now called simply Oysterband. They managed to make something new out of a song that is very, very old. Also below, the "traditional" solo voice version from Peggy Seeger, the smooth harmonies of Peter Paul and Mary, and the bluesy burly take from Dylan. In some versions, it's twilight that confuses the hunter. In others, a misty rain. Sometimes the killer is portrayed as having a bow and arrow, but usually it's a gun. In most versions, an irony is that the girl turns out to be the man's girlfriend or wife. In some, including Dylan's, the dead woman's ghost appears in court to assure the judge that her death was an accident and not murder.
      
Molly Bond - THE OYSTER BAND          

Molly Bond - PEGGY SEEGER 
Polly Von - PETER PAUL AND MARY 
Polly Vaughan - BOB DYLAN

Bonnie Koloc - The 25th of December + 20 worst Xmas tunes


   Many people find the Christmas season stressful and depressing. A big reason is...CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Stores are full of it. And some people are full of it, walking around in Santa hats, turning the home and workplace garish with idiotic cards, stupid Santa figurines and garish green and blue lights. TV commercials go into hype-overdrive. Hypocrite greedheads who are hateful every other day of the year, think they're fooling everyone by how they compete to have the most disgustingly decorated home on the block. Oh yes, and kill trees.
    
    Here's a sweetly sad song from Bonnie Koloc, which reflects on the disappointment of how Christmas spirit doesn't last. You can be opening presents with your loved one on the 25th of December...and the bastard could end up drunkenly fucking a stranger on New Year's Eve. That's just one scenario. There are plenty of other grim ones you can think of, as it's always easier to conjure up misery rather than joy.


   Bonnie’s unique voice was very well known to TV audiences in 1973 but with no connection to her name. Her smooth yet soaring vocals were used on a commercial for United Airlines. The company had done well adapting "This Land Is Your Land" into a plug for travel, and when the Guthrie estate demanded more money for re-licensing, the company went a cheaper route. They hired Jerry Liliedah and Jack Smith to write an original jingle. "Have you seen the other side of where you live?" sang Bonnie, strumming her guitar. Burgess Meredith's voice emerged: "No airline takes you to more of this proud land than United..." 

      The "straight" version of the song, "Mother Country," is on "You're Gonna Love Yourself in the Morning," the same lp that features Bonnie's own "The 25th of December." I bought it without knowing about "Mother Country." I'd heard "The 25th of December" on the radio (FM, of course), and it instantly got my attention. I ended up getting several more of Bonnie's albums and CD's. 

      As for Christmas music in general, no thanks to all those generous bloggers who give away entire discographies and 2 GB downloads of the stuff. I know they strongly believe that Jesus thinks "sharing" is not stealing, but the truth is...unless you're 12 or have the mentality of a 12 year-old, this stuff is a waste of ear drums. And that includes "The Little Drummer Boy." For any Scrooges out there, below is a Top 20 of the WORST of the season. It could easily stretch to 100. 

1. Jingle Bells. STUFF THEM UP YOUR ASS. The most over-used and irritatingly cheerful holiday song of all. Who ever rode in a one-horse open sleigh?
2. All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth. Sing it again, brat, and you'll need dentures. (Runner-up "Nuttin' Fer Christmas")
3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Insincere, obnoxious, condescending, and as icky as figgy pudding.
4. We Wish You A Merry Christmas. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Fuck off and take "Frosty the Snowman" with you.
6. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. It wasn't even funny the first time.
7. Here Comes Santa Claus. The aural equivalent to bukkake.
8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It makes me re-think my opposition to someone owning an AK-47. GET HIM!
9. Sleigh-Ride. Close to "Jingle Bells" as one of the most irritating melodies ever written. It's always sung breathlessly: "it's-lovely-weather-for-a-sleigh-ride-together..." Makes you think "slay." Ring-ting-alingly terrible.
10. White Christmas. One of the most insincere and commercial pieces of treacle, especially as crooned by The Hollow Man (as his son called him) Bing Crosby. Ban everyone who sings this, except a black vocalist, because that makes it funny.
11. Feliz Navidad (lo siento, pero chinga tu madre).
12. 12 Days of Christmas. Just sadistic and monotonous. And to all reporters who think it's clever to write up "how much these gifts would cost," STOP. Nobody's actually going to buy geese a'laying or hire pipers to pipe...so just go on a 12 day drunk and lie in the gutter till Christmas blows over.
13. Deck the Halls. Over-played, so go "Fa-la-la yourself."
14. Let It Snow - redundancy isn't amusing, so let it go, let it go, let it go. The sickest version is from Dean Martin. Come on Dino, you were a boxer once, a tough guy; don't pretend that you find snowy weather "frightful." 

15. The Little Drummer Boy. (Bang, POW, to the MOON, you little shit.)
16. Wonderful Christmas Time. McCartney first memorable hit melody in about 20 years...sucks. Dah dah dah dah wonderful Christmas time. Repeat. 10 miserable notes that you can't get out of your head with a plumber's helper.
17. Happy Xmas (War is Over). Remembering December 8th prevents me from saying anything more than...this song's lyrics are awful and the singing is, too.
18. Holly Jolly Christmas - written by Johnny Marks, author of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He was Jewish; maybe this was some kind of revenge.
19. All I Want for Christmas Is You - they call the windy bitch Mariah. Many sound-alike tunes (sung by Carey's competition from Celine Dion to Kelly Clarkson) are just as derivative and dumb. Dragging out words with extra syll-ah-ah-uh-uh-bles…is about as tasty as last year’s fruitcake.
20. Santa’s Coming For Us - Sia, backed by a hideous Jamaican beat, and plenty of retarded BOP, makes this sounds like a bad Sting song played at the wrong speed. Sia, you don’t have to put out de red nose. Congrats on taking the final spot away from “You Make it Feel Like CHristmas” from hillbilly Blake Shelton and boring Gwen Stefani, and
“Season of Love” by the limp dick boy band 98 Degrees. 


The 25th of December by BONNIE KOLOC - no pop-ups, passwords or other piffle 
 


 

     

GOOD KING WENCESLAS by non-person WALLY STOTT and orchestra


    The few people who've heard of “Wally Stott” probably know the name for one of two reasons. First, because he and his orchestra gave “The Goon Show” added lunacy. He wrote the sometimes eccentric musical stings and flourishes, which I assume includes the musical fanfare always used for the entrance of Major Bloodnok. Stott swung the jazz arrangements behind the show's raspy jazz singer   Ray Ellington, and harmonica tooter Max Geldray.  

    The second reason people may know the name: because Wally Stott vanished in 1972 and re-emerged as “Angela Morley.” This surprised many old friends who had know idea the married and seemingly "normal" man had transsexual issues. Or as Harry Secombe quipped, "
I've heard of leaving your heart in San Francisco, but this is ridiculous!" 
 
    Now there is no “Wally Stott.”  Really. He is a non-person. It’s not like he ever existed. Morley's website makes it seem that if you find recordings of "The Goon Show," you'll hear Arthur Greenslade announce that the music was provided by "Angela Morley and her orchestra." 


    If you go to the Angela Morley website, which is still up and running even though she died in 2009, the bio never mentions the operation or a past male identity. Written in the first FEMALE person, it opens, “ I was born at Leeds, Yorkshire in 1924…” and is slanted to make it seem that all of the achievements, including "The Goon Show," have Morley's name on them. The site's photo pages have no pictures of "Wally."


    Another trans musician, Wendy Carlos, is almost, but not quite, the same way. On her website, she acknowledges that she was once a man, and early albums are credited to "Walter Carlos." She also states that this was long ago, she doesn't need to be a role model for the transgender community, and would rather be in the present and live her life being treated as just another woman. Someone being in the public eye as a celebrity shouldn't always have to give up all privacy or be subjected to constant questions.


             An irony is that sans-penis, Wally, now Angela, became more successful than ever. In 1974 and 1975 Angela received Academy Award nominations for her musical contributions to “The Little Prince” and “The Slipper And the Rose.” She moved to trans-friendly California soon after, and won three Emmy awards (one pictured on her piano in the photo above). All were for"outstanding music direction"on TV special, including "Christmas in Washington" in 1985. She was nominated another eight times, including for work on episodes of "Dynasty" and "Dallas." 


         Wally Stott’s album “Christmas by the Fireside” arrived in 1959. Around that time, he arranged the cover of “Tower of Strength” for Frankie Vaughan, and had worked on orchestrating most of Shirley Bassey’s early hits. A few years earlier he released the lp “Tribute to Jerome Kern.” 
    
        Orchestrating or castrating? No, no, 'tis the season to be gentle. There are actually a few Christmas songs that aren't cloying, silly, childish, pieces of crap, including "The First Noel," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Silent Night" and this one. If you actually bother to listen to the lyrics (and who EVER does that?) you’ll learn what made King Wenceslas so good. In a nutshell, he helped the common folk and even walked ahead of his noble page in heavy snow, so that the page could walk in his footsteps and not get frozen feet. Which probably meant King Wenceslas had very fancy leather boots with fur trim, and the page shopped at the equivalent of Payless. 



GOOD KING WENCESLAS - Download or Listen on Line, no passwords, email-me demands, malware or pop-ups

Thanks for everything, CAROL NEBLETT


Carol Neblett (February 1, 1946 – November 23, 2017) had two big reasons for fame outside the cultish clique of opera: she went topless for a production of “Thais.”  

    This was a very big deal in 1973, when nudity on stage, films and album covers was not very common. Oh, the excitement that same year when Valerie Perrine was briefly glimpsed nude for a TV broadcast of the play “Steambath.” Diana Rigg went naked on stage in 1971. The sight of bush in a movie instantly made it X-rated, which distressed Allen Funt, who got limited distribution for showing candid camera reactions to bare babes in the 1970 film “What Do You Say to a Naked Lady.”  


     The New York Times headlined, “What Do You Say to a Naked Prima Donna,” and asked her about the experience. “Photographers were hanging from everywhere…” she admitted, all trying to catch what the audience didn't see: a full frontal. Carol held to an angle when she doffed her robe in a seduction scene that, obviously, had been performed in lingerie by previous sopranos. Considering the times, her bold move was applauded and she was encouraged to do some risque photo shoots, like sitting nude in a bubble bath while reading opera scripts.

     Her notoriety as a beautiful and bare opera star eventually worked against her. There are few full-length opera box sets on Carol, and she didn't put out solo albums like a Victoria de Los Angeles, Roberta Peters or Beverly Sills. 

    When she did manage to get a good leading role, critics seemed shocked she had real vocal talent. “The surprise of the evening was Carol Neblett,” wrote a NY Times critic of a Met production of “The Flying Dutchman” in 1979. Nearly ten years later, the L.A. Times noted of her title role performance in “Aida,” “Tall, lithe and eminently sympathetic, she must be one of the most  attractive and most formidable Aidas in history.” Gosh, and she can sing, too. 


        Carol, who made her debut at the City Opera in a production of “La Boheme” in 1969. was a favorite in another Puccini classic, “Tosca.” She performed it an impressive, if not astounding 300 times before her retirement. In her latter years, she taught at Chapman University. Fans were delighted when in 2012 she turned up in, what else, the role of aging opera singer in an L.A. production of "Follies." 

        Back in the 70's, her charm and good looks allowed her to be one of the few opera stars to get an invitation to Johnny Carson's “The Tonight Show.” Mostly opera singers would either sing a very famous, weary aria everyone knows, or offer a “light classic” familiar enough so that nobody would turn the channel. Below, Carol impresses Carson and the audience with: “If I Could Tell You.”   


Carol Neblett "IF I COULD TELL YOU" - instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups or passwords


Bea Wain & Della Reese - "I Get Along Without You Very Well"


It is a sad, but comforting fact, that “life goes on.”  

    At this point, the passings of Bea Wain and Della Reese might as well be ancient history. Are you sitting around in the dark, with one candle lit, playing the Della Reese discography you downloaded from some clown's blog of a thousand pop albums? Nah.  


      And how many who got a free download of The Eagles' 40th anniversary edition of "Hotel California" listened to it and even remembered that Glenn Frey died? Anyone shedding even two tears while listening to an “Emerson Lake and Palmer” track? 

 
    Being a Realist, offering ONE song in honor of a fallen star is enough of a tribute. Thus, the choice of song for both Bea Wain and Della Reese, is the ironic “I Get Along Without You Very Well.”  


    Bea’s fame waned before she died at the age of 100. She was one of many Jewish women who became very popular as long as nobody knew she was Jewish. Dinah Shore and Gogi Grant are in that category, among others. Bronx-born Beatrice Wain (April 30, 1917-August 19, 2017) achieved fame singing with Larry Clinton’s big band at the age of 20. Legend has it that Claude Debussy’s estate refused to grant Clinton the right to put music to “Reverie.” They relented because they knew that Clinton’s vocalist had a beautiful voice. Thus, Bea recorded “My Reverie.”  


    The feisty Bea stung Clinton in 1939 for a solo star, and appeared on radio’s “Hit Parade.” Married to Andre Baruch, the couple were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Music,” and had their own radio series, and their own two kids. Domestic life and a radio career beat touring and keeping up a recording career.  


    As for Della Reese (July 6, 1931-November 19, 2017), she spent her early years answering to the name “Delloreese.” That was her unusual first name. Her last: Early. The Detroit singer’s first chart success was “And That Reminds Me” on New York’s Jubilee label in 1957. Her first major hit was “Don’t You Know” in 1959 for RCA. But you knew that.  She followed it with “Not One Minute More,” which was actually about three minutes.  


    Della's singing career cooled, but her acting assignments picked up after she was cast in an episode of “The Mod Squad” in 1968. Later she joined the cast of “Chico and the Man.” Triviasts know that she played Mr. T’s mom on an episode of “The A-Team.” Ultimately, she became a genuine TV star via the long-running series “Touched By an Angel.”  She sang the theme song, “Walk With You,” and in an interesting twist of fate, became an ordained minister. 


    Della Reese the singer is not nearly as well known now as Della Reese the actress. And Bea Wain…is not well known at all. See the header: “I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL.” The song itself has an interesting story. Hoagy Carmichael polished and published it in 1938, but it was based on a poem he'd had lying around for over a dozen years. Titled “Except Sometimes,” it had potential to become a song:  


Except Sometimes
I get along without you very well,
Of course I do.
Except the times a soft rain falls,
And dripping off the trees recalls
How you and I stood deep in mist
One day far in the woods, and kissed.
But now I get along without you — well,
Of course I do.
I really have forgotten you, I boast,
Of course I have.
Except when somone sings a strain
Of song, then you are here again;
Or laughs a way which is the same
As yours; or when I hear your name.
I really have forgotten you — almost.
Of course I have.

    Once Hoagy was inspired to finally re-shape this and add music, he knew he’d better avoid a lawsuit and find the poet who modestly used only “J.B.” as the credit. 


    A lot of poets are shy about their work. Edgar A. Poe’s first book of poems was simply credited to “A Bostonian.”  How many poems were credited to the mysterious J.B., and how could Hoagy find this person?  

    Hoagy contacted top newspaper columnist Walter Winchell (best remembered now as the narrator for the TV show “The Untouchables”). Walter wrote up the problem:


Attention, poets and songwriters!
Hoagy Carmichael, whose songs you love, has a new positive hit — but he cannot have it published. Not until the person who inspired the words communicates with him and agrees to become his collaborator… I hope that person is a listener now.
He lists some of Carmichael’s past hits, quotes part of “Except Sometimes,” and winds up with an exhortation:
If you wrote those lines in a poem, tell your Uncle Walter, who will tell his Uncle Hoagy, and you may become famous.

    
    After a few months, “J.B.” was found: Jane Brown. Now a 71 year-old widow named Mrs. Jane B. Thompson, she signed for a pay-off. Legend has it that once the contract was signed, Hoagy gave the song to Dick Powell to premiere on Powell’s radio show. The date was January 19th. It was a day too late: Jane Thompson had passed away on January 18th, never hearing her poem put to music.   


    A little research, and we find that a 78 rpm version was released on January 20th, 1939 on RCA’s Bluebird label, with Judy Ellington on vocals backed by Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra. Bea Wain’s version on Victor, with Larry Cinton and his Orchestra, was recorded on January 20th, but arrived in stores a few weeks later in February. In both cases Carmichael was credit on the label as sole author.


    Funny, neither woman offers up a poignant version of the song. Della’s is a pretty hard, tough interpretation. She doesn’t pause for the vulnerability of “except…” And Bea Wain, fighting the fox trot beat of her dance band, can't slow down and add poignance to the “except…” In other words, you can get along without both versions, but...both these ladies were respected in their day, and their voices are timeless.  
Bea Wain - download or listen on line, no passwords, no dodgy pop-ups or malware
Della Reese's take on I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL

Sunday, November 19, 2017

TURKEY MAMBO!

Here's "Turkey Mambo." 



Thanksgiving is next week. So get your Tofurkey NOW. If you eat a real turkey, you might feel like the covergirl above, and think you've been cut in half at the stomach.

No way would this blog endorse or celebrate killing animals. There's a reason the President of the United States always pardons a turkey. It's to send a subtle message against cruelty. Although this year, if Trump pardons a turkey, visions of his ugly demented sons murdering elephants and lions will still be hard to erase.

The irony is that most people don't even like turkey (not when dere's frahhhd chickun). Chicken is much easier to cook. Just ask Curly Howard. Roasted turkey requires time, stuffing, basting, and great care to avoid a dry and overcooked disaster. PS, we all know there's a drug in turkey that makes you so sleepy that if you don't pass out on the couch, and instead try to drive home, you just might smack into a lightpole.

(Parenthetically noted, if you wonder why this blog is topical over Thanksgiving, but is not devoting space to the recently deceased Malcolm Young or Mel Tillis, it's because those two artists are very famous. Young's AC/DC sold FIFTY MILLION copies of "Back to Black," which ranks it second ONLY to partially black Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in sales. FIFTY MILLION copies. This blog is for obscurities, like "Turkey Mambo," which maybe sold 5,000 at best.)

Richard Hayman (March 27, 1920 – February 5, 2014) ) was a virtuoso on the harmonica, and a capable music arranger and conductor. After a stint with the Harmonica Rascals, and working for the MGM music department as an arranger, he created charts for Vaughn Monroe's big band. He signed with Mercury for a bunch of easy listening albums. And as any dumbfuck would tell you, listening to music is very difficult. The average jazz or classical piece is WAY too challenging. 

The Haymaker's version of the movie theme for "Ruby Gentry" (simply titled "Ruby") was a big hit in 1953. He worked as an arranger for the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, and later conducted "Pops" concerts himself for many years with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. With "easy listening music" no longer selling (and being given away by emotional Dutch bloggers instead) conducting 4th of July concerts and holiday-fests was a way for Hayman and orchestra musicians to keep doing what they loved. 

Hayman's albums were not just Jackie Gleason or Melachrino-type collections of sound-alike romantic violin music. More similar to MOR albums by Charlie Barnett or the Elgart Brothers, each album side kept listeners alert with actual changes in tempo. They sometimes snuck in a novelty tune. "Turkey Mambo," which turns up on "Let's Get Together," is much more ridiculous than other, more usual tracks, such as "Port of Spain," "Song of April," or "Never Again."

"Turkey Mambo" is a mild big-band version of "Turkey in the Straw," which is stupid enough, but what renders this even more ridiculous, and delightful, is the chorus of middle-aged men who happily call out "TUR-KEY! MAM-BO!"

RICHARD HAYMAN your download of "TURKEY MAMBO"

"La Hora Del Crepusculo" - THE PLATTERS SING IN SPANISH!


Hola, amigos! 

What...you DON'T speak SPANISH? Lo siento! You can't be AMERICANS, then. In America, the official language is SPANISH. Si? No? Entonces...no hay nada oficial. As Senator Hayakawa found out years ago, there is no official law saying English is the official language of Los Estados Unidos! 

In most big cities you can't pick up the phone and dial a train station, dental office or a department store without getting a recorded message asking if you want to continue in English or Spanish. You can't watch a sports event without being alerted that a Spanish translation is available on the SAP channel, you sap. You can't get voting or tax information without ending up juggling an unwieldy pamphlet with 40 pages in English and the next 40 en ESPANOL. 

Happily for the dead Platters, and the dead Gene Pitney, and the dead Lesley Gore among others, record labels began to get the idea on Latino procreation and immigration early on. They also knew a big market...that was NOT about to learn English. And so they sent their artists back into the studio to sing along to the original backing tracks and offer phonetic translations of hit songs or...entire albums. It meant a few extra pesos back then, but a lot more NOW. Same with the Spanish language version of "Dracula" (1931) included on most DVD sets to get Latino buyers, or even the Spanish language version of Laurel & Hardy shorts, with the boys reading their lines phonetically. Moe, Larry and Curly, "Los Tres Chiflados"are selling well, dubbed in Spanish. 

Surely, "The Platters Sing Latino" will have a whole new life as the 30% Latin population continues to rise...and refuse to speak English. When I was a wee muchacho, I was glad to take Spanish in school. Like George Carlin, who lived in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, I thought Spanish was a beautiful language. At least, it sounded beautiful when Zorro spoke it. It also sounded nice when Abbe Lane (Jewish, actually) sang it. My enthusiasm waned when I noticed that Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Cubans were making no effort to honor their new country and learn the lingo. People in the country for years, of not decades, still weren't speaking English. They claimed learning Ingles was mas dificil? Come on, even Polish people learned English! 

Too late now. And really, listening to The Platters, no es malo. "La Hora Del Crepuscolo" ("Twilight Time" to you...) sounds very pretty en Espanol. Learning a foreign language is broadening. If you know Spanish and "La Hora del Crepuscolo," then you'll know what Richard Attenborough means when he tells you a vampire bat is "crepuscular." It means it comes out in twilight. Es verdad!

So, escuche, Majareta. Mentecato. Zoquete. Cochino bandito. Pazguato cateto. Fea bruja. Ronoso depravado. Soon you will be inspired to learn Spanish, and utter phrases that will help you get along with your neighbors: "Portate como un ser  humano" (act like a human being) and "Apartese gordinflon" (Move, fatso) or "Digales a esos mocosos que pisen sus pies, no los mios" ("Tell your horrible brats to piss on your feet not mine) or  "Cuando te dejaron salir de la jaula?" (when did they let you out of your cage?). Ahhh..."Vamos a robar discos" (let's steal records!") 

TWILIGHT TIME sung in SPANISH - listen or download, no stupid password forcing you to type in some egocentric asshole's name

BE MISERABLE: “Sick Comic" Singer and Environmental Activist Katie Lee Dead at 98.


       In Illville, Katie Lee was first known for her "sick comedy" albums. Come to think of it, outside of Arizona, and some folkie circles, she's STILL best known for them. Her only major label releases, via RCA and Reprise were these "neurotic" songs. Reprise, already owning the catalog of "sick-o" Tom Lehrer,  re-issued "Songs of Couch of Consultation." It's on the right, with a much more front-and-center cover photo than the original on the left. 

       Katie Lee (October 23, 1919 – November 1, 2017) was a nice lady with a pleasant voice. It may have been for "redeeming social value" that record labels chose someone whose voice and demeanor wasn't too bluesy or raunchy. After all, other favorites of the day included the lilting risque song lady Ruth Wallis, and young Joan Barton, who was Warner Bros. choice for comedy sex songs. 

       Today, we don’t think twice about people seeing a therapist or being prescribed opioids. It had to start somewhere, and it was in the late 50's. Dubbed "The Age of Anxiety," people were worried about the bomb, scared by the pace of modern "improvements," worried about pollution and overpopulation, and most especially troubled by "deep, disturbing doubt about religion," thanks to astronauts confirming that there were no angels in clouds. 

     Suddenly, the books by some geezer named Freud were popular, and harried businessmen were taking something called Miltown. It was mother's little helper for the businessman's better half, home taking care of the kids. In 1955, when sales of tranquilizers and sleeping pills began to rise, Katie Lee began to travel. She'd started her career in Hollywood, getting some bit parts in films, and acting and singing on radio ("The Great Gildersleeve" and Gordon MacRae's "Railroad Hour"). 



          Now she was hoping for a career as a solo artist: “In the beginning, I was working in coffee houses. I was traveling by myself all over the United States in my T-Bird. Just me and my guitar." It was musician Bud Freeman who figured she'd be perfect for his proposed album of "sick comedy," “Songs of Couch and Consultation” (1957). She added “Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses” (1960 for RCA). 

     You won’t find edgy Lehrer-type comedy in the two mild samples below. “Stay As Sick as You Are,” lyrics by Bud Freeman and music by Leon Pober, is a cheery look at living with a lunatic:  “I love your streak of cruelty, your psychopathic lies. Your homicidal tendencies shining in your eyes.” The second album, “Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses” has the cheerful “Be Miserable” (Ebb-Klein): “When black clouds pursue ya, and you feel depressed, why shout hallelujah? Wring your hands, bite your nails, beat your breast!” 

 
       By 1964, Katie was back to traditional music, issuing “Folk Songs of the Colorado River.” See the post below for 'Song of the Boatman.' It’s quite likely that this is the one Linda Ronstadt had in mind when she told Katie, “"I listened to your records since I was a kid." A decade later, Lee issued "Love's Little Sisters: A Tender Documentary of the Early American Whore." This one, almost always between $30 and $50 in record stores, was produced and engineered by the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart. Yes, "House of the Rising Sun" is on it, along with "Cut Down In her Prime," "Charlot's Epitaph," "Casey's Last Ride," "Piece on the Prairie," "Lavinia's Parlor" and "The Hooker." Also prized from that era, is "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle," featuring guest Travis Edmonson, once half of the popular Liberty Records duo Bud and Travis. 

     Lee wrote many books including: “Sandstone Seduction,”  “All My Rivers are Gone” and in 2014, “Ghosts of Dandy Crossing.” She wrote a play called “Maude, Billy and Mr. B,” and when it was performed in a local high school last year, she came on stage to take a bow. Yes, she was still spry and active in her late 90's, when she was featured on several DVD nature documentaries, including “Wrenched” (about activists inspired by Edward Abbey’s work) and “DamNation.” She hated dams. Her vanity license plate was "Dam Dams," and her hatred never diminished for the Glen Canyon Dam, which despite protests, was built in 1963: "I’d like to blow it up. I don’t know how. Rivers are not supposed to be dammed up.”

    Born in Tucson, a graduate of the University of Arizona, she lived in the small town of Jerome since 1971, and loved taking trips on the Colorado River and through the beautiful canyons. Like venerable East Coast folk singer Pete Seeger, Katie Lee was a marvel of endurance, and was still singing at age 98, at her birthday celebration. For her, the novelty stuff ended up being a mere footnote in a very long and successful career. But for those curious about those odd albums in the racks, and now re-issued on CD, here are a few of those notes:  



STAY AS SICK AS YOU ARE - listen or download, no passwords, no demands you "ENJOY!" and no, you won't be sent to some Russian site with pop-ups telling you "your Adobe Flash is out of date, download some malware."

BE MISERABLE - listen or download, no dopey Password to humiliate yourself by typing in - no Russian website trying to trick you into infecting yourself with spyware

Katie Lee melds "Song of the Boatman" and "Cry of the Wild Goose"

Katie Lee loved the natural beauty of the Arizona canyons. She was a natural beauty, herself. 



Full frontals were not quite considered "natural" back then. At least, not for publication. Description was for publication: “It was hot as hell, and I was nude as marble.” 

With her "sick" and "novelty" days behind her, Katie was singing for Folkways, and the track below, from 1964, is...well, come to think of it, not completely "innocent." It's called "The Song of the Boatman," and Katie recalled:

"“You’re supposed to fall in love with your boatman, and I did. And sometimes the boatman falls in love with you, and he did. So I wrote this song of the boatman to the tune of “The Cry of the Wild Goose” by Frankie Laine.” 

She meant SUNG by Frankie Laine. The eccentric "Goose" was hatched by Terry Gilkyson in 1950. Terry would strike gold with his group The Easy Riders in 1956, via "Marianne." 

Years later (actually, she was 95 at the time of the interview) uninhibited Katie told an interviewer, “The first thing I say when I get up in the morning is my favorite word: FUCK! It feels good. It’s a great word. I am probably best known for my bad mouth and my activism. I wish I were recognized more for my writing, because I don’t think my writing is bad at all.” As mentioned above, she wrote many books,  mostly about the rivers and canyons of Arizona, and the preservation of them.

She was a nature girl: “I was outdoors all the time. My dad, when I was 12 years old, bought me a Remington shotgun, and taught me how to use it, how NOT to use it and how never to use it…” If she shot animals, this Annie Oakley sharpshooter did it for food: “I used to shoot the heads off quails.” No suffering with Katie behind the rifle.


The "folk tradition" as Bob Dylan, The Weavers, the Kingston Trio and others would happily insist, meant that nobody owned "traditional" songs. They could be freely adapted. This was fine back when there was no such thing as radio, and there were no unions and rights organizations tallying up the sales of sheet music. This was also acceptable when immigrants from Scotland, Ireland and England came to America and Canada, and adapted their melodies to circumstances of their new land. Hence: "Farewell to Nova Scotia," "Sweet Betsy from Pike" or "Flora, The Lily of the West." 

Chances are, had "The Song of the Boatman" actually been a hit, Mr. Gilkyson would've come calling, with a lawyer, requesting a share of the profits. And rightly so. But, like daughter like father. Terry's daughter Eliza wrote a song called "Paradise Hotel," and during an instrumental break added (oh, Matthew...) the infamous organ part that begins "Whiter Shade of Pale." 

Song of the Boatman, melody based on Cry of the Wild Goose - listen online, download, no passwords, no spyware crap, no bastardly Russian companies involved

KATIE LEE sings about a BUNCH OF WILLIES


Katie Lee's first album, 1957, was given the provocative title "Spicy Songs for Cool Knights." It was very likely inspired by the success of folk singers Oscar Brand (his "Bawdy Ballads" series) and especially Ed MCurdy's "Dalliance" series: 



There was also a popular skin mag (aka "stroke book") called Sir Knight. At the time, a good way to sell risque records OVER the counter, was to rely on the "redeeming social value" excuse. This worked pretty well when one could also point out, "This stuff was written hundreds of years ago! Chaucer, and those guys! 

It was a pretty good idea to hire a FEMALE folk singer for such an album. But somehow, it seemed like the owner of Katie's label decided a sexy cover and title was enough. Let's not get TOO raunchy. In fact, why not just opt for some "sick joke" comedy here and there, and some standards? And let's not tell the prospective buyer TOO much! 

The mild songs on the album include "The Frozen Logger," "Blow the Candles Out," "Poor Miss Bailey, ""My Mother Chose My Husband,"  and, yes, "The House of the Rising Sun," described here as: "A famous New Orleans blues about a famous New Orleans house." What, the House of Pancakes? 

A big fad at the time, along with the burgeoning, and ever more rude "risque song" craze, was sick jokes. "Sick comedians" were on the way too, with Lenny Bruce and Shelley Berman soon to be making records for major labels. "Best of Sick Jokes" by Max Rezwin, one of my favorites, was actually published in paperback by mainstream Pocket Books in 1958. It was a lot more fun than "knock-knock" jokes, or the fad that followed, books of elephant jokes. 

Your Katie Lee sample below? It's the "Willie" sick jokes set to music. One of the favorite gambits of the day was to take old old limericks and put them to familiar songs that fit, like the Mexican Hat Dance. Here, some strumming is added to various sick jokes that were probably considered wheezes at the time. This one, to a Banana Boat melody (Katie actually worked with Harry Belafonte for a while): 

Willie put the kitten in the wet cement. And when they asked our Willie what he meant,
Very solemnly, the lad intoned: "I like to see a cat who's really stoned."


OK, there's a reason this thing's not been re-issued on CD.

Little Willie songs - Listen on line or download, no stupid Passwords, no "update your Adobe Flash" malware shit or zinfarts

Thursday, November 09, 2017

THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE — AND THE MEDIA, AND ASSHOLES, AND GOSSIPS, goes JOAN BAEZ


Say what? 

What's black and white, but not necessarily the over-all truth? It's what you read in print. The sad fact is that even before there was movable type, people were writing shit down and expecting it to be believed. You know. The Bible. The Koran. And now, the London Daily Fail, the National Enquirer, etc. 

People love to spread gossip, too. As in, "I met a man whose brother said he knew a man who knew the Oxford Girl..." Something like that. Or as Brother Theodore used to say, "Half the lies they print about me are untrue." Having seen the publishing world CLOSE UP, believe me, there are publishers and editors who get perverse pleasure (as well as payment) out of spreading lies or tricking the gullible. 

Rarely does the injured party win a libel case because it involves proving damages AND dealing with tricky weasel-words. You've seen it thousands of times. Like, the article on your favorite star and her marital woes. The line in the paper: "She is broken-hearted and ready to divorce him," said a close friend. 

Go to court? The writer isn't saying he got this information from a "close friend" of the star. "A close friend of MINE said that," the writer chuckles. Case dismissed. Besides, can you prove "damages?" Hurt feelings aren't "damages." You have to prove that the article defamed you in such a way you lost income; then you get money. Maybe. 

In the meantime, and for such a long time, gossip columnists have routinely and knowingly made shit up. Reporters routinely and knowingly stretch and "interpret" what they've seen, in order to get more readers and make a story juicier. Paul Simon sang it decades ago: "I don't believe what I read in the papers. They're just out to capture my dime."

Or as Bob Dylan sang it, more recently: "all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie." 

In the article above, the weasel word is "alleges." Somebody or other "alleges" that Dr. King had a "love child" by somebody or other, and that he participated in orgies, and that one of his conquests was Joan Baez. 

This is merely gossip that found its way into a file, but since it was a "secret file" kept locked up along with thousands of other documents, it's gotta be true. Where there's smoke there's desire. And lookie, there's a photo of Joanie and Marty together, so it must be so!



Need I go on? People believe what they want to believe and disregard the rest. Lie la lie, lie la lie. 

The media websites rushed to print the lurid headlines, and put "allegations" in very small print. It's all hype and hypocrisy. That this comes from an FBI file and not some third rate "investigative reporter" and his publicist is a bonus. 

The London Daily Fail always runs a huge insane story about Princess Di or Jackie Kennedy or whoever, and almost never is literally called on it for a retraction. There are pricks in the world like Darwin Porter; he makes up crap, self-publishes it, and know the Daily Fail will pay to serialize that garbage. PS, if a person is dead, the person can't sue, and neither can living relatives. That's why Porter's specialized in obnoxious shit-flings like "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: A Life Beyond her Wildest Dreams," "J. Edgar Hoover...Sexual Secrets," and "James Dean: Tomorrow Never Comes." He stole (that's legal) the phrase "Hollywood Babylon" off gossip writer Kenneth Anger (who wasn't above telling lies as long as he admitted it was GOSSIP). Porter came up with "Hollywood Babylon Strikes Again!" (Kenneth, you should've trademarked "Hollywood Babylon" to prevent its misuse).


People want to believe conspiracy theories. In this Baez lie, people want to believe that just because some FBI files were unlocked, there's truth in them and not ALLEGATIONS. When it's convenient, people embrace "fake news." When they can make a profit, they circulate it. The Internet is loaded with cynical pricks who are making a living by making up crap and, sometimes, in very small print, putting on the bottom of the website a caveat saying "this is a parody website." Oh. That's what it is. I thought it was a pun. Or a palindrome. It's parody. Ha ha.

As we've all experienced since school days, people make up lies, and don't care who they hurt. Including you. And so, "THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE" goes you and your reputation. And honoring Joan, who is taking a victory lap with a final tour in 2018 and one last album, here's her live version of that famous Phil Ochs song. 

THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE (Live) - No egotistic moronic PASSWORD



Esther Galil - Morocco-born Jewish Singer of “Conquistador” in FRENCH


You silly English Kaaaaaa-nigggits! THIS is how "Conquistador" should be sung! By a Jewish woman in French! Brooker, your mother was a hamster! 

    Sapristi! You’ve heard of the Sea of Galilee, but not heard a high C from Esther Galil? Down below you get the note, and a whole lot more.

    Circa 1972,  Boko Harum or whatever they were called, had a surprise hit with a movie-soundtrack version of a sparse 1967 track called “Conquistador.” It was on their "Live with an Orchestra You Never heard Of" album, the only one to feature the late great Dave Ball on lead guitar. Thanks to "awesome" minor-league arrangement (ooh, how clever, a trumpet that can mimic a battle cry, and a bunch of thrumming violins) the band would have its second...and last...hit. Since the lead singer once fucked up an Italian version of a single ("Shine on Brightly") he was not asked to sing an Italian version. The French language version was given to a hot new singer with a tough, soulful voice: Esther Galil. Sort of the Israeli Elkie Brooks.

    Galil (May 28, 1945) was born in Morocco, where her ancestors migrated when the Jews were kicked out of Spain during the Inquisition.  (Nobody expects...) The Galil family (eleven children) heard about the Jews finally getting their own country. And so they journeyed to the land of Milk and Honey, and settled in what is now still known, despite antisemite Roger Waters and his melon-headed shower buddy Peter Gabriel, as ISRAEL. 


       Like so many hard-working Jews trying to make their dream nation come alive, Esther worked on a kibbutz where she picked fruits and vegetables. Her singing lightened the load for her co-workers, and she began performing Israeli folk tunes. She found success in France, and had a hit with "The Day Rises." She discovered her voice was suited to R&B and rock. With Janis Joplin and other white women on the charts, labels wanted a tougher, grittier sound. Esther recorded “Delta Queen.” The flip side: the French language “Conquistador” you find below. I'm not sure of the French translation. I think it has something to do with a French knight who died in battle when he forgot his sword and began fighting with a baguette instead. Whatever, Galil now had several hit singles and was a star. She opened for Michel Sardou at the famous Olympia, shared the bill with Johnny Hallyday, and toured with Gilbert Montagne.

    Over the years, her songs were hits in Europe and in areas of the Middle East and Africa including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Iran. Various songs written by Galil have been hits for other artists including Giovanna (“Shalom Shula Shalom”). Her songs have been covered by French singers such as Julie Pietri and Patricia Kass. She is the only Israeli artist to appear in the Divas Billboard Top 50 of “greatest female artists.” 


    As one might expect, Galil’s output lessened as she entered middle age, but part of that was because she found other things to challenge her, including art. Moving to Los Angeles about 20 years ago, she began to exhibit her paintings in local galleries. 



    Still keeping up with music, in 2003 she returned to France for a show at the Olymbia with Gilles Dreu, Jacqueline Dulac, and Nicole Croisille. If you’d like better known names, Esther participated in many international antiwar concerts, films and protests, alongside Bruce Springsteen, Pink, System of a Down and Neil Young. Locally, she’s appeared at the Los Angeles Mint and Harvelle’s Theater in Santa Monica. In 2013 she turned up for an audition at the second season of The Voice, performing her classic, “The Day Rises.” Said one of the judges: “It’s an honor to have you here.”

    In May 19, 2017, Esther joined an all-star (as far as European fans are concerned) concert at Chalon sur Saone, which also featured Didier Barbelivien, Jean-Luc Lahaye and  Linda De Suza. And so below, “Conquistador,” for a woman who has conquered a variety of media, and for the moment, still has conquered Father Time.

Esther Galil - CONQUISTADOR - Listen online or download. NEVER A DOPEY PASSWORD!

HARD MEAT - SMILE AS YOU GO UNDER


    Funny, despite its suggestive name, Hard Meat didn't get much attention in the early 70's, and the situation hasn't improved much since. The two brothers who were the nucleus of the Birmingham-based  British rock trio are both dead. They were Steve Dolan, who died back in May 22, 2000 and Mike Dolan who was 67 when he passed on, August 2, 2014. He died of cancer at his summer home in Hisaronu, Turkey, and was buried there.

    Hard Meat could've at least been a "one hit wonder" with “Smile as You Go Under,” which I played on radio shows all the time, thanks to its promotion on one of those Warner Bros. "loss leader" samplers. Back in this stone/stoned age, one way new bands got popular was to AIRPLAY from trusted disc jockeys, especially the intimate type that were on during the midnight hours, when people were actually listening, with nothing else to do. Unless they had hard meat. 



   
    As I recall it (dimly), I liked to do a segue for this song, and play it right after the last notes of "Casey Jones" by the Grateful Dead. Which was, incidentally, the only Dead song I ever played. No. Not "Truckin'." Be a DJ. Play "Casey Jones" and segue it into your download of "Smile As You Go Under."

    One of the big helps for adventurous disc jockeys, especially on low budget stations, was the pioneering “Loss Leader” album compilations from Warners. They weren't about to mail every whole album to every small town or college station. For a buck or two, if you really cared about using your "power" to expose people to new talent, they’d mail you a single or double album set featuring the best cuts from their newest artists. That's how I discovered Fanny, Curved Air, Ron Nagle and these guys. 


        Hard Meat's first album was notable for their competent, bar band version of Bob Dylan's 'Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine." The second album was more adventurous and diverse, including flute, keyboard, and now-dated hippie-dippie indulgences such as "Ballad of Marmalade Emma and Teddy Grimes.” That one sounded like an outtake off one of Rod Stewart’s early Mercury solo albums (that dopey “Mandolin Wind” period). Its opposite was the surly, glum and sarcastic "(If you can't stop) Smile as You Go Under." 

         Warners did what they could, choosing a good cut to promose, and showcasing them on a tour of America. This earned them an unlikely long live show review in Billboard, literally on the same page as better known and middle-of-the-road acts including Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme’s debuting at the Copa, and Shirley Bassey blasting away at the Waldorf-Astoria.  

     Mike stayed in the music business via Bell Sound Hire, a company that supplied mobile sound systems for touring bands, including U2 and Show of Hands. He also worked as a sound engineer on a variety of projects involving Mike D’Abo and Ashley Hutchings, and sometimes got a call to take up his guitar for a session. He played bass on Mick Jagger’s "Goddess in the Doorway” solo album. Into his 60’s Mike could still be seen and heard at local gigs. How often he was introduced as the vocalist and leader of Hard Meat, I have no idea. Probably as often as he was introduced as one of the guys fronting earlier groups with his brother, The Ebony Combo or the The Five Dimensions (backing up R&B singer Jimmy Powell). 

    An obit in a local Birmingham paper didn’t even MENTION that he was in Hard Meat. The paper mentioned he was in the Cock-a-Hoops, and that he toured on the same bill “with the likes of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Procol Harem [sic] John Mayall, Wilson Pickett and Chuck Berry.”

    Just why this entry turned up now...no reason at all. "Smile As You Go Under" is actually still on my iPod, along with some other odd “Loss Leader” stuff previously posted on this blog of less renown (including Hamilton Camp's "Star Spangled Bus.") I happened to hear it the other day and realize, "it's STILL a good one, with a message and a hook."  So, congrats, brothers, for making it to an obscure blog after you went under. Hope you're smiling.

SMILE AS YOU GO UNDER - Download or Listen online - NO PASSWORDS EVER

BEETHOVEN - “FUNERAL “MARCH” performed by Sviatoslav Richter

We go Waist Deep in the Big Luddy. More like knee deep, actually, as this blog doesn’t cover classical music much. The item has to be rare or unusual, and most classical music that fits those categories is also irritating. Another way to make it here is to be offbeat or weird, so a “Funeral March” qualifies. And another sure way to arrive here is to be an “obscure” artist, which is a relative term, cousin. Alas, Mr. Richter is obscure to the average music fan who has a ‘Beethoven’s Greatest Hits” on a shelf somewhere. He’s not really well known outside of the avid collectors of piano music. He performed at a time when his competition included Horowitz and Rubinstein, who were not only brilliant, but in America where they had access to radio, TV, and of course, major record label promotion and concert halls. 

     Below is the third movement from Beethoven’s 12th Sonata. He hadn't had a "hit" yet (the “Moonlight” sonata is #14) but he startled some critics by offering a funeral march, which was something new. Meaning, Luddy got there first. Beethoven’s Sonata #12 arrived circa 1801. Chopin’s infamous Sonata #2 was completed in 1839. There’s no question (put your hands down, students) that Chopin’s is much more famous. Almost to the point of comic cliche, a funeral procession on film or TV will have the stately and somber Chopin piece on the soundtrack. The only other grim march that anyone can hum, is probably Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette,” better known as the TV theme for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

    I’m very particular about my Beethoven #12, and the third movement, “Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe” must be taken at a slow tempo, not a brisk walk. But some pianists speed this up, as well as the infamous first movement of the “Moonlight” sonata, for fear of seeming too romantic. While the "clipped salon style" might actually be closer to how Beethoven performed his works (check out Wilhelm Kempff's 12th and 14th), some piano music benefits from a stately pace. Richter tops Glenn Gould (whose mumbling you can always hear being picked up by the microphone) in my opinion. This live recording is from May 12, 1959 in Prague. A deficit which you’ll encounter about 39 seconds into this short (under 3 minutes) movement, is somebody's loud cough. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, "The cure for a sore throat is to cut it." 

    I was at a piano concert recently by the acclaimed young artist Vassily Primakov (well represented on YouTube these days). The mc of the evening offered the usual preamble about turning off cellphones and behaving properly, and then demonstrated that “the best way to muffle a couch is like THIS” (face buried into the meaty crook of the inner elbow) “and not like THIS” (thin hand lazily up to the mouth). As you'll presumably be alone or among friends when you listen to this, do as you damn well please as loudly as you want. That includes you, Taco Bell fans.


Richter - FUNERAL MARCH from Beethoven's Sonata #12

   

Sunday, October 29, 2017

HALLOWEEN MARY - P.F. Sloan - a Holiday Put-Down


About the only good thing you can say about how "adults" have taken over Halloween, is that it's good for the economy. Landlords can do a quick one-month rental on empty storefronts, with costume companies quickly setting up shop with masks, make-up, and every type of "fantasy" outfit imaginable. (P.F. Sloan masks aren't too popular, I must admit. But bootleggers on eBay actually sell paper masks of most every celebrity they can get away with.)

Some people, accustomed to Internet piracy, hate the idea of buying anything. One guy in Croatia asked, "What's the cheapest costume I can find?" The answer: "Dress up as a Dutchman." So the guy cut off one of his ears. Which did nothing for his tinnitis, and only got him derision. "Van Gogh was NOT cheap." "Oh no? He could've gotten that prostitute something expensive, but instead she only got an ear." And the ear was second-hand.

All seriousness aside, the reason for this post is that I noticed a newspaper article with the catchy title, "Millennials Have Ruined Halloween." Since you can't run out and buy it (newspapers, if you remember, only sell for one day), I'll quote a few key lines from the author, Kyle Smith:
"This year, 48 percent of American adults plan to wear a Halloween costume...Sixteen percent — that’s 50 million people — plan to put a costume on their pet. In other words, we’re just a year or two away from a majority of our nation’s adults playing kiddie dress-up. Halloween is blowing up because childhood is leaking further and further into adult life, and millennials in particular aren’t fully sold on the idea that they’re grown-ups."
Smith quotes author Kurt Andersen, who has a new book called "Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire." Andersen notes that once upon a time, “American adults never dressed up in costumes, certainly not as an annual ritual." Indeed, Halloween was for kids, and a reluctant sign of growing up was turning 12 or 13, and staying home. Andersen traces the adult dress-up phenomenon to the 80's and "...the Halloween parades invented by freshly out gay people in San Francisco and New York. Dressing up on Halloween became a thing straight adults did in every corner of the country.”
Halloween, with its parties, cards, candy, costumes and all, will generate NINE BILLION dollars in spending. This is a boon to retailers, who look to a new source of compulsive buying besides Christmas. Perhaps some singers, songwriters, authors and others now unable to make a living due to piracy, are bagging candy corn and a "I'm dressing as a woman for a PARTY," outfit for some guy at the cash register at a Halloween store. And getting minimum wage.

But Halloween is just part of the Peter Pan syndrome that not only affects America, but has spread all over the world. Kyle Smth concludes: "Video games — sales of which hit an all-time high of $30.6 billion last year — as well as the increasing popularity of cosplay (dressing up in costumes the other 364 days of the year), comic-book conventions, superhero movies and fantasy sports are all symptoms of what Andersen dubs “Kids ‘R’ Us Syndrome”: We’re losing our collective sense of when it’s time to put away childish things."
Ah, yes, childish things. In the Blogworld, this includes the line "don't ruin our FUN," when some adult who owns copyright or trademark actually hires a company to help out. "My link got taken down," huffs the childish blogger, "I'll put it back up! I'm an EQUAL to every star, and they should email me personally, ask politely, and convince me that it's really them, and THEN I might take the link down. But not if some hired company does it. Besides, lookie lookie,
 I'm SHARING. Isn't that NICE of me?"
Yeah. Some Peter Pan who never grew up, has no talent, and decides to be a star by giving shit away, is ready to "share." He's using a word his Mommy said was a sign of being a grown-up, but which he never did for real friends in the real world. His toys were HIS. But now, for total strangers, he'll copy off somebody else's property and declare proudly that he's SHARING. It's always entire albums and discographies in FLAC and using a dozen storage sites to keep those links alive. Pretty bratty for an ADULT. But not for a dolt. 
Too bad fans of Halloween actually have to BUY the candy, costumes and cards, and can't just download them like they do movies, music, porn, books, photos and apps from lovable Kim Dotcom's MEGA or Zippy the Pinhead's Zippyshare or Putin's yadda-yadda Yadi Yandex. One person's dream is another person's nightmare, but you have to be an ADULT to understand it and ACT RESPONSIBLY. And what fun is that? 
And here's P.F. Sloan doing his snarling Dylan bit, putting down HALLOWEEN MARY. Funny, the guy put out some albums, but is best remembered via a cover version of his "Eve of Destruction." This song comes from his early ABC Dunhill era, but he did try for a comeback now and then, and was sometimes coaxed into playing a set in front of a small circle of friends. Why, the last time I saw P.F. Sloan, he was summer burned. He was winter blown. And that's not really the best way to be blown. (I can say that...we're all ADULTS here, aren't we?)

Weak and Meek: TELSTAR with LYRICS - Bobby Rydell


Back in July of 1962, the lonely metal ball called TELSTAR hurtled into space, promising a new era of communication. 

Surely, with a satellite bouncing TELevision and TELephone and TELegraph signals all over the world, TELSTAR would help bring more understanding and brotherhood to the world. In August of 1962, The Tornados offered a musical salute to the new technology via Joe Meek's moody yet futuristic and optimistic instrumental, "TELSTAR."

In October of 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly brought us World War 3. 

Maybe the problem was that "TELSTAR"  had no lyrics? All you need is love, folks. Add some love lyrics to "TELSTAR" and maybe the Capitalists and Communists would get along. So, what were the lyrics added a few months later to TELSTAR?

"Magic star above, send a message to my love! Tell her that I'll wait patiently. Sad and so lonely, dreaming of her only. Swift as graceful as a dove up above, Magic Star up high, dancing through the sky, tell her that my heart cries for joy! Please say that one day I'll hear her voice say I'm her one and only boy!" 

What did Joe Meek say when he heard this? "It doesn't scan!" may have come to mind, but not before "What the fuck?" 

Meek, fascinated as he was with pure sound, could not or would not put words to "TELSTAR," his ode to a communications satellite. He also could or nor would not put into words the reason why he later chose to blast his landlady to heaven, and then turn the gun on himself. 

Rydell is still with us. He had a scare at age 70, needing transplant surgery in 2012, but it proved successful. 



TELSTAR may have been eclipsed by other forms of technology, but hasn't been forgotten. First off, there's the catchy Joe Meek song. People who have no idea TELSTAR exists, have heard and loved the song. It's even inspired a few more. In 1991, Susanna Hoffs recorded "Wishing on Telstar," by Robin Lane and Jimmy Cipolla. It has slightly, only slightly better lyrics: 

"I had a lover, but haven't we all
. He had to leave so sometimes I'd call…
Satellites are blinking all through the night
. Wishes like this don't seem right...


Higher and higher, burns the fire. 
Love's lost on the telephone wire. 
Too high to reach, too hot to hold
. Wishing on Telstar, should've been told..."


Did you know the there was not only TELSTAR, but TELSTAR 2? The original was launched on July 10, 1962, and a second one on May 7, 1963. 1963 was the year Kennedy was killed. Few things around in 1963 are still around and functioning as good as they once did. The TELSTAR satellites no longer work.

Both satellites are still circling the Earth. They are mutely looking down on a planet that is circling the drain.

 TELSTAR WITH LYRICS - BOBBY RYDELL (Download or listen online)




MIGHTY GEORGE YOUNG - The Easybeats & the Offbeat FLASH & THE PAN

  


  
Sad to say, the death of George Young was not exactly big news. There wasn't much "awww," or awe except on websites ending with AU…Australia. Even then, as you see from NEWS.COM.AU above, George’s legacy is considered The Easybeats. Second, the trivia of George being a brother to that troll-git Angus who spent most of his life dressing up in a schoolboy outfit to play headbanger shit. A distant third in most obits was George's songwriting (with Harry Vanda) and production for a variety of acts this blog will never cover, including AC/DC, Stevie Wright, John Paul Young.

    Here at the blog of less renown, the headline involves his 80's group that made a lot of obscure albums including one called "Headlines." It's FLASH AND THE PAN. Your download sample below, from that album, is "Where Were You." I think this song neatly captures all aspects of the band's (strangely limited) appeal. Foremost, there's the distorted Dylanesque talk-singing and often acidic wordplay. A close second, and a legacy from all those years of easy beats, is the melodic chorus with its sing-along hook. Straddling the worlds of new wave and synth, there's also the added whistle (Ian Dury was fond of that game) and an uneasy beat that might suggest (as some of Ian's songs did) that it could be danced to. 

    I was in my first tenure as a mere rock mag staff writer when a peculiar album arrived, simply titled FLASH AND THE PAN. I always gravitated toward odd new releases, while everyone else in the office fought each other for anything by a star. Most wanted the ego boost of writing about a star's new album. I was more interested in giving whatever paragraph space I could, to new artists that could use the break of a quotable review.


    The odd cover art on the first album was not that different from the odd cover art on dozens of other progrock albums of the time. An irony was that if anyone knew one of their songs, it was via a cover version: "Walking in the Rain" from Grace Jones. Intended as a one-off, the album got enough attention ("Hey St. Peter," and the peculiarly un-PC "African Shuffle") to warrant several more. Some seemed to only get an Oz release and were hard to find. An irony is that I completed my collection by finding "Nights in France" in a Paris record shop.

    FLASH did make some bizarre rock videos which didn't seem to get that much play on MTV, and with few interviews and limited touring, stayed a mystery and enigma. They did, ironically enough, put out more albums than The Easybeats did, and lasted maybe a little bit longer. The Easybeats, a mix of guys born in the UK, Australia and Holland, formed in 1964.  Their big hit, "Friday On My Mind," was #1 in Australia, but only made the Top 10 in England and Top 20 in America, and without a follow-up hit, in the UK or USA, the band split in 1969.

    Starting the 70's George Young and Harry Vanda struggled along with offbeat projects like Grapefruit, Haffy’s Whisky Sour and Marcus Hook Roll Band, the latter, released circa 1973, included Angus and Malcolm Young. As producers/songwriters they did better behind the scenes, giving hit songs to Stevie Wright, Rose Tattoo, and others (there's a 2 CD set of their popular songs that made the Aussie charts from a variety of singers). They began the 80's with the experimental FLASH AND THE PAN, which I suppose remains more of a "critics choice" than a rival to AC/DC. The article above declares Young “...stands peerless in his contributions to this country’s most essential era of songwriting and production, and leaves an untouchable legacy behind in the form of AD/DC, The Easybeats, and the countless Australian classics he ushered to the top of the charts.” 

    Very well, let FLASH AND THE PAN remain an obscure pleasure for a small circle of friends. You're invited to join the circle. Unlike Dylan, there doesn't seem to be a FLASH cult that dissects every lyric, in-joke or reference ("Norwegian Wood" turns up in "Where Were You") but maybe that's just as well. Fan groups tend to degenerate quickly into one-upmanship and bickering, and besides, even George Young had better things to do. As the above article mentions, George in his last two decades turned down most interviews, “preferring travel to music.” Hopefully his enjoyment of travel, to quote two more FLASH songs, didn't involve "Waiting for a Train" or "Psychos On the Street."


 FLASH AND THE PAN - WHERE WERE YOU (Download or listen online)