Monday, June 19, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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






   
   

Patty Duke sings BLOWIN' IN THE WIND



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

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


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

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


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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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







Friday, June 09, 2017

Linda Lavin does Stephen Sondheim's Gay Astrud Gilberto Parody





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Johnny Cash - BRIAN HYLAND



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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





The Pillsbury Doughboy Cries with C&W Wannabe Teresa Brewer


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’M DROWNING MY SORROWS
Teresa Brewer, lyrics by Paul Frees    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart egocentric passwords. No malware or spyware anywhere.