Thursday, May 19, 2016


Ever hear of Jane Little ? Of course not. Her death did get some minor attention as one of those “funny” news-curio items.

She was one of the "blessed" and “lucky” performers to drop dead on stage. It was during a rousing version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Why it’s as if Irving Berlin was sitting alongside God and said, “Do me a favor…”

“What kind of favor?”

“Jane Little got into the Guinness World Record book for “longest tenure with an orchestra.” Since she’s got cancer anyway, let her go out in style. That’s not much to ask. I’m Irving Berlin, after all.”

“Yes, and your GOD-given talent has made millions of millions happy. You’re the little Jew that wrote 'White Christmas.'" after all.”

“Will you strike down Jane Little while she’s performing my song?”

“I’ve got your back. But that’s nothing, I’ve also got Quasimodo’s too. I’m such a fuckin’ kidder! ZAP!”

Little, who was only five feet tall, played a double bass taller than she was. She joined the “Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra” at age 16. Technically there should be an asterisk (ala Roger Maris) because it later became the “Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.” That means it’s technically two different orchestras that she played for.

She began sawing away on February 4, 1945, and finally crept past Mr. Frances Darger (who played the violin for 70 years with the Utah Symphony) on February 1, 2016. She died on May 15, 2016. Said a fellow musician, “Her bass crashed into my bass, she fell over onto the floor, and as quickly as we could, we dropped our instruments and got her offstage.”

She was taken away in an ambulance, was briefly revived, but she said nothing and a while later was pronounced a door nail.

Another asterisk: she dropped on stage, but didn’t technically drop dead.

What’s it all about, Alfie Wiedersehen? Is it just for the record books we live?

Shouldn’t we celebrate ALL people who care enough to play a large and difficult brown-colored instrument? Where’s BASSISTS LIVES MATTER?

And how about Jane wearing that un-PC Atlanta Braves cap? Native Americans are not happy that the idiotic baseball team plays stereotypical “Indian war” music to rally the players, and fans stand up and do “The Tomahawk Chop.” When will the Braves, Indians and Redskins understand NATIVE AMERICAN DIGNITY MATTERS?

For now, we only celebrate average working musicians if they achieve some feat of longevity (we love “world’s oldest…” news items), or die on stage, which always amuses people.

Dying while at work ONLY is amusing in show business. Nobody's smiling about: "Bus driver dies behind the wheel; dozens injured." Or: “World’s oldest dentist drops dead in the middle of filling a cavity.” Somehow religious fanatic assholes don't say in those cases, “how nice, to go out doing what you love to do most.”

40's actor John Garfield died while fucking. OK, he was probably doing what he loved to do most, but did he finish? And if he did, did she?

As to your download below...

I could’ve very easily found you a rousing “pops” version of that horrible tune and you could listen to it and imagine somewhere in the orchestra, an old bag toppling into a colleague. But I’m much more sadistic.

Let’s go with the creepy version where Mary Pumpkin's kitschy cooing is abetted by that chewy Macca-roon himself, producer Paul McCartney. Paulie had some kind of fetishistic crush on the waifish little blonde from Cardwell. Or Cardiff. Or whatever town had the tree branch she was seen chirping from.

McCartney’s unique idea for “There’s No Business Like Show Business” was to open it as a waltz, and then turn it into a turgid oom-pah march with soggy drums (was he playin’ ‘em again?).

To his credit, Paulie’s style worked on her hit “Those Were The Days.” He managed to take a shitty song that had already been destroyed by many a folk trio in America, and turned it into a nostalgic Music Hall piece. Not bad considering the teen singing it was hardly old enough to be nostalgic over being weaned. Covering “There’s No Business Like Show Business" was also an irony considering the little bitch had only been in show business for a few months.

A one-shot wonder girl who nobody cared about after her first album. An old lady nobody but some pompous Atlanta citizens heard becomes famous for dying. The Lord moves in mysterious ways! You just can’t figure out what the hell the point of it all is. And that goes double for this blog.

MARY NAPKIN There’s No Business Like Show Business


Marilyn Monroe was smart. How smart? She turned down “The Blue Angel,” a remake of the film that starred the legendary Marlene Dietrich. Wave your candle in the wind all you want; she knew she didn’t have the singing chops for the role, or the sense of evil that Dietrich had. It didn’t matter which Dr. Jekyll was going to play opposite her (Spencer Tracy, first choice, Fredric March, second) she hid her creamy white hide.

And so the role went to May (pronounced MY) Britt, the blonde with the cheerfully homicidal look in her eyes. Britt is today best known for her controversial marriage to Black ’n’ Jewish Sammy Davis Jr. Had this film been a hit, she might be a mispronounced legend alongside Anita Eggbert or Ursula Undress. But my oh May, the memory of Dietrich was still strong. The remake was also disappointingly bland; the original had much more of a sado-masochistic overtone to it, and the moody black and white photography suited the agony a lot more than glossy technicolor.

But, as I once mentioned to Ms. Britt, there was NO WAY of overlooking the stills from that film. This was all I saw when I was a mere pubescent twit. (No, that wasn't last week, wiseguy). I didn't know the movie or May existed till I was maybe 14 or so, thumbing through some old magazines. I was pretty damn stunned by her buoyant poses in that black lace whats-it she was wearing. And, looking up, there was the straight blonde hair and the straight-forward confident look in those crescented eyes.

I made a mental note (the thumb tack hurt) that I should try and see this film one day. But that day was several decades off, as the film never seemed to be on TV, VHS or DVD.

I suppose it was wise of the producers not to have May try and cover Marlene's songs. Things were already getting tilted by having a Swede play the role of a decadent German.

What was needed was a HIT song for Lola Lola to sing on stage. It should be as cheerfully raunchy as "Oom Pah Pah" in "Oliver!" or as overtly sexual but cartoonish as "Whatever Lola Wants" in "Damn Yankees."

The chore fell to the team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Yeah, THEM again, the guys who gave the world "Buttons and Bows" and "Que Sera Sera" (to name items that first turned up in movies that needed a tune to help get people into the theaters).

Their attempt at a sexy but sanitary German cabaret tune is pretty silly, and failed to become the film's highlight moment. How misguided IS this bouncy song? When May calls out, “What’s your favorite pastime boys?” A FEMALE chorus squeals “Lola!” Then the gals all sing "Lola Lola lives for love, anywhere she finds it! Any time you want her love, Lola never minds it!"

Oof pah pah!

Even so, you can see (if not hear) that May Britt was the kind of woman who could stun any man, and maybe even an elephant. Oh, the poor professor in the film! He could've explained it this way: "I fell to the floor. I got down on my knees. I looked at her, and she at me...."


My Ms. Britt, here's to you in the month of May...


"I Love You Alice B. Toklas" The Blades of GRASS

We're heading into another "Summer of Bummers." We'll be hearing about record heat and humidity. We're already getting record sludge heaped on us by our do-nothing dumbass political leaders. They ignore climate change as they bicker with each rival in attempts to gain or regain power. What power? The power to rule, and make things worse. And yes, "there will be blood."

The traditional summer diversion is going to a beach full of screaming babies, barking dogs, and jackasses blasting boom boxes. Enjoy the stench of barbecued meat, salt water and pollution. It only takes half the day to get there and back, leaving you exhausted, spent, and burnt.

Plan b is hiding inside a nice cool movie theater full of screaming babies, barking mad idiots texting or talking on cellphones, and jackasses talking back to the screen or using laser pointers on any woman's titties. The stench of stale popcorn and the odds of gooey residue on your shoes or on your seat, will add to the joy of spending way too much time to get there and back. You'll leave wondering why you wasted money on that miserable stupid comic book hero movie where everybody does back-flips when they fight, and there's an explosion every 3 minutes.

Summer SUCKS. It always did, but many have nostalgia for, or wish they were alive during... "The Summer of Love." It was a more peaceful time, give or take a motorcycle gang stabbing, police cracking students in the head, and people overdosing on paisley.

A favorite song of the era was "Whiter Shade of Pale," sung by Boko Haram long before they went rogue and began raping and killing people in Nigeria.

Ah, but that was the time for hippie-dippie chicks who were into drugs and free love and looked and/or dressed like Leigh Taylor-Young. You had to just try and find them. At the beach. At the movies. Where the fuck were they? In a dorm room fucking somebody other than you!

There were some heavy movies back then, some anti-hero films, some radical stuff, some experimental things, and...uncomfortable sitcom movies trying to be funny and cool at the same time. "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" is pretty dated, but it did attempt to take a sympathetic look at nerds (young or old) trying to find meaning in life and trying to bang a hippie chick. Oh yeah, and wondering if drugs would be the Great Answer.

The movie can be summed up by its theme song, which is silly psych, more Captain Crunch than Sgt. Pepper. Auteur Paul Mazursky probably handled the minimal lyrics, while Elmer Bernstein did a Bacharach with the melody. And, nudge nudge wink wink, it was performed by The Blades of Grass.


Monday, May 09, 2016

William Schallert & Patty Duke: Don't Just Stand There --- Say Something Funny

In quite a coincidence, the Grim Reaper swung his scythe back and forth, and knocked off both Patty Duke and her television dad William Schallert.

The hard-luck Patty Duke, who battled a lot of physical and mental problems, was 69 when she died on March 29th, 2016. And now (May 8, 2016) William Schallert has died at the ripe old age of 93.

I was almost going to post on Patty back in March. The excuse would’ve been that as famous as she was (thanks to “The Miracle Worker” as well as her sitcom, her autobiography and her somewhat famous kids) nobody took her singing seriously.

But now that Schallert has passed on, it’s just too hard to resist some kind of homage to both of them. And so I offer the musical advice, titles of two Patty Duke songs, “Don’t Just Stand There…Say Something Funny.”

Patty was pretty funny. She was just a teenager when she took on the very daunting job of playing TWO roles in a demanding sitcom. She played “identical cousins…different as night and say.” The rave-up theme song, which some could probably sing by heart, talked about how cousin Cathy was fairly demure but the other? “Our Patty loves to rock and roll! A hot dog makes her lose control!”

Please, don’t conjure up any smutty images. Thank you.

Yes, for some baby boomers, Patty was the ideal girl you’d want to date. Or be. Depending on who you were. Or what you were. The stand-out in her TV family (which included a tolerable brother and a pleasant enough mother) was her understanding Dad, as played with restraint and wit by William Schallert.

I had a chance to thank the great Mr. Schallert for his many and versatile TV appearances. What a genuinely nice man. One of his first TV sitcom roles was as Mr. Pomfritt, an English teacher trying to deal with Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs: “You ready, my young barbarians?” No, they generally weren’t.

Fan favorite characters Bill played include “Nilz Baris” in the infamous “Trouble with Tribbles” episode of “Star Trek,” “Carson Drew” in the “Nancy Drew Mysteries” starring Pamela Sue Martin, and the hilariously old and frail Admiral Hargrade on several “Get Smart” episodes.

So often the character actor supporting a big star, Schallert did take the lead as “Filbert,” in 1964. Unfortunately the pilot episode didn’t get picked up for a series. In 1979, Bill took on a completely different type of role: he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. The following year, he led a strike, which lasted three months. In a strange twist, he was ousted by Ed Asner, who had complained that Bill wasn’t radical enough. After two terms, Asner stepped aside for somebody new…Patty Duke!

Patty Duke could be the subject of many paragraphs, but lets get back to her brief foray into music. When her sitcom was popular, she was naturally asked to get into the studio and start singing. It was quite a surprise when her first single emerged, the dark “Don’t Just Stand There.” It seemed like something donated by Leslie “You Don’t Own Me” Gore. It wasn’t exactly light-hearted. And neither were most of the other tunes she recorded, even the comically titled “Say Something Funny.”

Let's "Say Something Funny" about these two great entertainers, who worked so well and so often, through TV's golden era and beyond.

Say, many find “The Patty Duke Show” still funny. For many, say "Patty Duke" and there's a smile, with the sitcom being the first memory. As for William Schallert, when he had a good comedy role (he also had a big share of serious ones and even got to be a villain now and then), he made the most of it. He was very, very funny too.



The last gasp from The Ivy League Trio has turned out to be an enduring death rattle, the lp "Folk Songs from the World of Edgar Allan Poe."

The trio had been signed to Decca's Coral label, and given a chance with two albums and a pair of peculiar singles (disappointing material not on their two fine long-players). A few years later, and with Ronn Langford replacing Bev Galloway as the bass voice, they somehow got a deal with Reprise to record an album of songs based on Poe's stories and poems.

The "Famous Monsters of Filmland" horror craze was still going on (the album was even sold via an ad in the back of that magazine) and folk acts were still popular (including Peter Paul and Mary). Somehow this fine album didn't quite get the attention it deserved.

At least one fan (Greg Kihn) has listed this as a very influential album. He recorded a kind of homage to Edgar A. Poe (as he billed himself, never EDGAR ALLAN POE) via an update of the poem "Annabel Lee." In his semi-retirement from rock, Kihn found an interest in writing horror novels.

As for the Trio, two survive: Langford's had a lucrative career in the world of car racing, and Bob Hider became a skilled photographer.

The Ivy League Trio re-wrote and excellently arranged the original material given them by their new record label. The album ranges from poignant ("Eleanora") to spooky ("House of Usher") to ludicrous ("Tell-Tale Heart" re-written as a Western!) to "The Pit and the Pendulum" which falls in between. It combines lusty folk balladry with over-the-top guignol as one might expect (and even demand).

The "Pit and the Pendulum" is actually well-suited to an under 3-minute treatment. The basic horror is a guy strapped down and looking up at a swinging, ever-lowering, sharpened pendulum. How do you stretch out a short story like that into a feature film? Roger Corman tried (so we include Vincent Price in the photo above) but he had to add a lot of filler. Ironically, one of the better if more obscure versions was "Teat and the Pendulum" from the 80's porn mill TAO. Their ten minute 8mm version featured a very busty and jiggly nude!

"Folk Ballads..." is one of the finest ill folk song albums, and if you like "Pit and the Pendulum" then reward the record dealer who has been waiting for years to unload it on someone, cheap.


Carroll O'Connor - REMEMBERING YOU

"It's all over now." I mean, the controversies over "All in the Family," and those charges of promoting bigotry. Today, the show is remembered, if at all, as a "classic." Some episodes are still very funny, even if too many are dated. Even the show's theme was pretty dated. Most listeners had no idea what "Gee our ol' Lasalle ran great" meant, and barely knew the Dodgers once played in New York.

Much of the show's success was due to Carroll O'Connor, but he modestly said his "Archie Bunker" character was merely a cross between Jimmy Cagney and Jackie Gleason.

During the run of "All in the Family," O'Connor was inspired to write lyrics for Roger Kellaway's closing theme song. Kellaway, a jazz pianist more in the Steve Allen mode than Errol Garner, conjured up a pretty nice melody. O'Connor was inspired to add wistful love-lost lyrics. The opening lines: "Gotta feeling it's all over now, all over now, we're through. And tomorrow I'll be lonesome remembering you..."



Lester (“Lee”) Waas (May 18, 1921-April 19, 2016) wrote one of the world’s most annoying jingles. So he's "saluted" here. (You were expecting a sniveling end-of-the-world post on the demise of Prince, the world's greatest entertainer? Or one on David Bowie, whose death had previously been declared the end of the world??)

Routinely called a Pavlovian mind-control stunt, a pernicious earworm, and a pain in the ass, the Mister Softee music (with or without words) is embedded into the brains of many, many people who resent it, and would never EVER buy one of these unhealthy, fatty, sugary desserts even if they were starving.

The TV commercials (featuring happy idiots singing the lyrics) were bad enough, but the jingle itself was absolute torture. It was unavoidable on many a hot summer night as the ice cream truck, parked on the street for an hour, would repeat the music box theme OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER. Easily heard a mile away, the Pied Piper tune instantly had the neighborhood rodents screaming at Mommy for money, and then marching out to ze truck. They lined up, wide-eyed and sweaty, to get their sugar rushes from turd-shaped soft ice cream cones and grotesque plastic platters of banana splits and various blobs of glop.

I vividly remember in the 70’s, living in a cruddy area where there wasn’t a store for several blocks, and none open in the evening. It was just the vulnerable area for a Mister Softee truck. Like a Great White Shark looming out of dark water, the big white truck emerged from the humid, misty darkness, its presence foretold by the LOUD and PERSISTENT melody searing the quiet of the night.

Looming into view very slowwwwly, that jingle was more persistent than a ringing phone, audible over a conversation, music or the TV. From six-story walk-up tenements to dilapidated private houses, ferociously hungry brats, not sated by a fridge full of Breyer's and Sealtest ice cream pints would seethe into the street, chittering and squealing while the tune kept playing AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN.

Even if you LIKED that sickening junk food, unless you were under 14 (along with your IQ) you had to resent the intrusion of Mister Softee and that aggravating audio version of a smiley-face coming into your life and staying for an HOUR or more, several times a day. One could get very phobic about when it would ruin your concentration. It was especially tormenting at night; you’re home from work and want to relax and here’s that naggy naggy naggy tune OVER and OVER, AGAIN and AGAIN.

Like telemarketers calling five times a day, this invasion of privacy was considered just fine: “Wuddya complainin’ fer? Dey do a soivice. Ya got hunreds a guysss who’re makin’ a livin’ fer dere fambalees. Quit kickin’.”

Thanks to new technology, Mister Softee trucks were able to pollute the air by amplifying a simple music box. By the 70’s and 80’s, the music boxes were replaced by taped versions which were WORSE. The machines would overheat in the hot, humid air, and the jingle would repeat with a skip, or the last notes would speed up, or the tune would echo with a hoarse whine. It was worse than Chinese water torture with a drippy drain, since this monotony was now fiendishly altered into a disturbing, unnatural cadence. OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

For years, the only revenge was making jokes about a Mister Softee employee’s erectile dysfunction.

Started in Philadelphia in 1956, the trucks annexed more and more cities and states, conquering towns as far south as redneck-loaded meth-addled Florida. Der Softees franchised over 600 trucks during their prime reign of terror in the 60's and 70's. Maybe they were not as big as Good Humor and their old-fashioned ice cream cones (comedian Jack Carson starred in a movie called “The Good Humor Man” in 1950) but this icy bunch became the most notorious hell on wheels.

(Dis-honorable mention goes to Carvel, a soft ice cream chain of stores that offered the worst non-singing commercials in the world. Senile, raspy-voiced marble-mouthed Tom Carvel nattered about “Fudgie the Whale” with all the charm of a child molester tickling a child under its chin.)

What about rules against noise pollution? Sorry, but in most places there were NO ordinances against this torture. After all, politicians didn’t want to pass a law that would hurt THEMSELVES: around election time, many employed a truck that blared a jingle or had a barker use an amplified loudspeaker to tell the citizens to VOTE VOTE VOTE.

Today, urban sprawl means it’s easier to get ice cream and other fixes of sugar and fat via fast food joints and bodegas open all night. Mister Softee trucks, like Fuller Brush sales people going door to door, are almost obsolete except in rural areas, or lousy neighborhoods where store owners risk their lives staying open. In New York City ten years ago, Mayor Bloomberg ordered the trucks to cease and desist with the “music.” Even so, in poor areas of Brooklyn or Queens, the scofflaw trucks keep right on blasting the tune.

To this day, there are plenty of obese morons who smile the minute they hear the jingle, consider it cute, and have coconut skulls so dense they don’t mind if the truck parks and plays that tune OVER and OVER while others, suffering in the smothering humidity, have to shut the window to keep their sanity.

The man who inflicted all this torture? Lee Waas had been a pilot in the Air Force during World War II. After several odd jobs, he decided he could be an ad man, and set up his own agency. If a client wanted snappy copy, he could provide it. A slogan? Sure. A singing commercial? Well, why not! Waas came up with hundreds of jingles for use on radio and TV that nobody remembers. He was proud that the Mister Softee song became iconic, whether sung in TV commercials or used in music box form. You get samples of both, below.

Waas (who married a woman named Wasserman) tried to parlay his Mister Softee fame and fortune by shoe-horning his way into other areas of pop culture. In the mid 60’s he called attention to himself as the President of “The Procrastinators’ Club of America.” In one hilarious stunt, he and his followers marched through the streets of Philadelphia protesting the war…of 1812. Ha ha, they took so long, the war was already over, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho. Hee hee hee.

MISTER SOFTEE TRUCK JINGLE Try listening to this for a solid fucking hour on a hot humid night

MISTER SOFTEE TV COMMERCIALS What nostalgia. Next, let’s look at movie footage from concentration camps


As sales for sugary soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi actually diminish slightly, and wary consumers choose variations on mineral water, "sparkling" drinks and other items that aren't loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners...we harken back once again to an earlier age.

"Funny Face" drinks (along with Kool-Aid and Keen) made kids HYPER. They (drinks and kids) were loaded with sugar. Add a snack to your "Funny Face" drink (a Little Debbie, a Ring Ding, a Sno-Ball, a Mounds bar) and you could run around and play all afternoon. Then what? Then come home and have a tall glass of Bosco or Cocoa-Marsh or Mountain Dew, and a Swanson TV dinner, and you'd be jumping up and down and cartwheeling like you were doin' the Freddie, begging to stay up for "Man from UNCLE" and even "The Tonight Show."

For most kids, the most popular flavor of the "Funny Face" drinks was GRAPE. Among slightly more "normal" or affluent kids, there was Welch's Grape Juice. Most certainly, any peanut butter and jelly sandwich required Welch's Grape Jelly (which you could empty pretty quickly, saving the container as a wonderful juice glass).

As you see from the above, there were plenty of "send away" premiums available on "Goofy Grape," including a kite and a sweatshirt and even a pillow.

Mr. Grape, and the other flavors, were voiced by that era's genius, Solomon Hersh, better known as Paul Frees. Yes, "Goofy Grape" (and the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ludwig von Drake, Boris Badenov, etc. etc.) was Jewish. Mr. Grape sounds a bit like Paul's "Captain Peachfuzz," who was based on comedian Ed Wynn. Paul was a man of a thousand voices, so he had no trouble making Goofy Grape pretty unique (complete with giggle).

Unlike the other Jewish man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc, Paul Frees could do kid voices and even quasi-female voices. You get a sample of a kid voice via "Freckle Face Strawberry." Somehow the song manages to skirt the issue of how "funny" it is to be a freckle-faced kid by keeping him an actual strawberry, proud of his markings. I don't think there was a female "Funny Face," although "Chinese Cherry" was somewhat of an androgyne.

It's worth mentioning (since it's my blog) that Frees voiced "Daphne" in "Some Like It Hot." It's his most famous female voice. You thought Tony Curtis did a remarkable job changing his voice? Not by half. While Jack Lemmon had no trouble being a zany-voiced woman, Curtis couldn't master a convincing vocal. Paul Frees never revealed the secret that Curtis jealously kept. Finally, when Curtis was in his 80's, and it was common knowledge (thanks to Frees fans and some trivia-minded film buffs) Tony wrote a book on the making of "Some Like It Hot." He dropped a bare one sentence mention that "Daphne" was dubbed by Frees. If you were skimming for more paragraphs on Marilyn Monroe, you might've missed it.

"Here we are, back with you again..." (no, no, that was sung by Kukla Fran and Ollie), here's Goofy Grape, Freckle-Face Strawberry and a chorus...singing about the FUNNY FACE DRINKS.

Goofy Grape (Paul Frees) HOWDEE!

Freckle Face Strawberry (Paul Frees) I GOT 51 FRECKLES

Paul Frees and the Funny Face Choir The Drinking Song

Friday, April 29, 2016


Most of you know the derogatory phrase, "go ahead, drink the Kool-Aid." It's a reference to Jim Jones, the religious fanatic-messiah who dosed his followers. Kool-Aid, which is still with us, was hugely popular when it turned up in the late 50's. It was one of the ages new magical powders. Loaded with sugar (which nobody thought was harmful at the time), it could turn a pitcher of water into lemonade. Or better...lots of other flavors, too.

Inevitably, other companies tried to compete. That's the American way. Nestle logically thought that an alternative should be something KEEN...powder in a jar. Just spoon out enough for an individual glass of your favorite poison. Somehow, this didn't catch on.

Pillsbury figured that instead of the boring "smiling, wet pitcher" that was on the front of Kool Aid packets, they'd have a different "funny face" for every flavor they sold. As you see from the above, they created quite a lot of funny faces.

Except...if you were a freckle-faced kid, you already knew you had a "funny face" and were teased about it constantly. NOT FUNNY. And what's so FUNNY about having slanty eyes like "Chinese Cherry?" Oh, go ask Jerry Lewis, or the obscure team of Noonan and Marshall (their film "The Rookie") or Buddy Hackett of "Chinese Waiter" fame. Pillsbury saw plenty of funny people getting away with Asian comedy. No surprise they made the mistake they did. As for "Injun Orange," well, when the company began to get complaints, that one was brought up, too. But maybe Pillsbury simply made a mistake on the color. "Injun Red?" There's STILL the Washington Redskins.

Pillsbury pulled their most objectionable "Funny" faces, and offered new ones, like “Choo Choo Cherry” and “Jolly Olly Orange.” There was “Loudmouth Lime,” “Lefty Lemon,” and “Goofy Grape,” among others.

The company heavily promoted their line, refusing to give up. There were even premiums, like plastic cups to be used with your favorite drink...

Pillsbury’s infamous Doughboy was voiced by the genius Paul Frees, so for the commercials, they called on him to supply all the voices for the different flavors. An irony is that when I spoke to Paul, I was just a kid, and I had no idea he was the voice of the Doughboy. I could recognize most of his voices (Boris Badenov, Ludwig Von Drake, etc.) but that one was a shock. A few weeks later, he sent his fan a little gift. No, not him voicing the Doughboy, instead a promotional 7 inch record called "Paul Frees Sings for Funny Face." Yes, his talent agency and Pillsbury were trying their best to promote this stuff, and him.

Below, Paul is "Lefty Lemon," singing about his favorite sport. (You noticed the handle of the cup is a baseball bat? How clever.")

Today “sugary drinks” are on their way out. People aren’t too thrilled realizing that every can of soda has about eight huge spoonfuls of sugar in it, or that “diet” drinks are worse with fake sweeteners that can cause diarrhea. Few are that nostalgic about the “Funny Face” plastic drinking cups and other promotional items either. And I kinda doubt anyone on eBay would get a lotta money for any of the "Funny Face" promo vinyl, either. But here you are, for your information, for nostalgia, and of course, for free.

LEFTY LEMON (Paul Frees) Why I Left Baseball


"Fractured Flickers" premiered at a time when Mad magazine flourished and novelty books by Shel Silverstein and Gerald Gardner (among many others) offered “zany” captions to movie stills. There were all kinds of fly-by-night publications, notably “Help,” that made fun of old movies. But to do a half-hour TV show mating insane dialogue and sound effects to actual flickering silent films? That was damn ambitious.

Jay Ward, who produced the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, set his creative staff free. It included wild writers (Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, George Atkins, Bill Scott) and genius voiceover stars (Paul Frees, June Foray and Bill Scott again). They created some very memorable bits of insanity. Probably the most famous was a reworking of “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” in which Lon Chaney’s Quasimodo was re-envisioned as “Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader,” (with Bill Scott squealing ‘Yeah, team!”). Lon Chaney Jr. raged about this sacrilege, but it did no good for him, or for the show, which disappeared after one season (26 episodes).

The writers went on to other things. Hayward and Burns are best known for writing “The Munsters,” but worked on a variety of kiddie shows (“Crusader Rabbit”) and sitcoms (“He and She,” “Get Smart” etc.) George Atkins worked on various cartoon shows, and vinyl fans might know his name from the topical album “Washington is for the Birds” which was done for Reprise and parodied Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Bill Scott would be the voice of Bullwinkle for decades.

The series creatively sliced up "flickiz" (as acerbic satiric host Hans Conreid prounced them) for mock commercials and documentaries, as well as fake mini-movies. Conreid opened and closed the show with self-deprecating remarks, and in a brief star interview segment each week, seemed to always have to explain why the star wasn’t being paid, and beg him/her not to walk out. The guests include Allan Sherman, Rod Serling, Diana Dors, Paul Lynde and Ursula Andress, which is another good reason to go buy the re-issue DVD set.

Conreid's hosting held it all together, but so did the wacky glue soundtrack music. Silent films always need effective music and so did the parodies on “Fractured Flickers.” One of the greats who worked on this stuff was Fred Steiner (February 24, 1923 – June 23, 2011). If the name seems familiar, it’s because it was mentioned here a while ago, in connection with the theme song for “Perry Mason.” Originally bearing the slightly salacious title “Park Avenue Beat,” the instrumental was intended to convey the decadent world of sexy nightclubs and cool, confident ladies of the night. Somehow it was acquired as the theme to the lawyer show, and it worked, mostly due to the stabbing violins of the opening chords, which suggested violent crime. The hip-swinging melody that followed somehow became a metaphor for the task of assembling evidence for the defense.

Quite the opposite of Perry Mason's music is Fred’s quirky theme for “Fractured Flickers.” Insanity requires serious dedication and the 60 second tune was methodically stitched up to include a variety of sound effects and squeamy instruments. Dennis Farnon, a composer and arranger worked on “Fractured Flickers,” and his strange sensibilities made every oddball melody in every sequence come alive.

Although fans of demented music revere Steiner for “Fractured Flickers,” most of his credits veer in the “Perry Mason” direction, and his film scores aren't known for being comical or sexual. They include “Man from Del Rio” in the 50’s, “Della,” and “First to Fight” in the 60’s, and “Carters Army” and “Heatwave” in the 70’s. In the 80’s he was nominated for an Oscar for his work on “The Color Purple.” For anyone who is a fan of singer-songwriters, here’s a bit of trivia: Fred’s daughter is Wendy Waldbaum, who has put out many a fine album, and was one fourth of Bryndle, the quartet that included the great Karla Bonoff, the late Kenny Edwards, and Andrew Gold.

Dennis Farnon is still with us at 92. Aside from his memorable work for Jay Ward (which also included the “Hoppity Hooper” series in 1964), Farnon scored the film “Arrivederci, Baby” (1966) which was released in soundtrack form under both that title and “Drop Dead Darling.” He contributed to the BBC’s music library and some of that material has turned up on vinyl via “for the trade” albums like “Sounds Humorous” (oddball music published by Boosey & Hawkes). Farnon and his orchestra backed a peculiar variety of singers, including Gogi Grant and James Jimmy Komack (who sang under that name, but issued a comedy album as James Komack...a sample here on the blog somewhere). Farnon scored a number of Mr. Magoo cartoons (and the “Mr. Magoo in Hi Fi” RCA album). Fans of lounge and space age pop probably have some of his other RCA vinyl treasures, “The Enchanted Woods” and “Caution: Men Swinging!”

And now..."One...two..."

The Original Fractured Flickers Theme

Gina Gershon Gets Caught in the Rinse Cycle "House of Woe"

In case you weren't aware of it, the greatest entertainer in the world died. So, fuck off Madonna, McCartney, Brooose, Viley Virus, KISS and the rest of you pretenders. According to the media, there's no reason to go to concerts anymore. Hardly any reason to live.

What was his name? Rinse?

The media rushed to find anyone and everyone who could say something about the guy. President Obama couldn't even get through a press conference on terrorism and climate change without being asked for a statement on the death of the great Rinse.

One headline was provided by Gina Gershon, who recalled that she was nearly cast in "Purple Rain."

Gina obliged the reporters putting her through the Rinse cycle, and recalled:

"“I had never done a movie before. I was 18 or something . . . I was young. At that time, I wanted to be a quote-unquote serious actress.” Looking back, “I don’t know what I was thinking — I was totally stupid, but that was my thought process. I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want (nudity) to be my first scene.’” Of course Gina waited, and became a sensation in "Bound" (that was when I became entranced) and "Showgirls" (which I still haven't bothered seeing).

Gina was pursued by the intense little freak, who drove her around Minneapolis in a purple limo, dazzled her with his mansion, and tried everything to get her to stay in his lair. When she pointed out she was an NYU student and had to get back to classes, he told her to call up and get an "understudy." As if college was a play.

The magnetic Mr. Purple eventually drove her to the airport and watched her disappear back to New York City. He hired Apollonia to do the nude scene, and we all know that it made Apollonia the huge superstar she is today.

The irony here?

He had an eye for an exotic beauty, and so did I. I was covering a party that featured all kinds of celebs, including Robin Williams. I was taking pictures of everyone I could recognize. But there was a woman hanging around who was smolderingly sexy, with THOSE LIPS. I took pictures of her, and tried to find someone who could tell me who she was. Nobody seemed to know. I thought I overheard someone call her "Tina," so that's what I wrote when I got the chromes back. This was probably four years after she turned down Rinse, and before she began making fetishistic mainstream movies. I was quite amused when, years later, I glanced through the sheets of chromes from the party looking for anything that might have re-sale value, and noticed "Tina" was GINA.

At this point, all I can tell you is that I have Gina's DVD of "Prey for Rock and Roll," an autographed copy of her solso CD, and even bootlegs of her stage performances in revivals of "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Cabaret." I have nothing from Rinse. Not a thing. An irony is that for me, Rinse's best work was sung by others. "Manic Monday" was done by The Bangles. "Nothing Compare 2 U" was sung by Sinead O'Connor. The pop tune and the angst ballad are much more enduring work, I think, than bullshit pop-funk crap like "(party like it's) 1999."

Meanwhile, the ludicrous kneejerk reaction to the guy's death overshadowed the insanity surrounding Bowie's demise. I'm not insensitive (?) and I do understand he was big. But fer Chrissake, who couldn't be a little cynical and disgusted by over-kill headlines of praise like THIS:

FFS People, anyone ever hear of Elvis and his ridiculous suits, or The New York Dolls, or Alice Cooper or Ziggy Stardust or flamboyant Elton or Jagger's make-up days? ALL of it was before RINSE, and NOBODY but THAT guy wore those silly outfits. Want to talk about a "fancy man" who was effeminate but had a moustache? LITTLE RICHARD comes to mind. But this is what happens when Millennials take over the media, along with hype-meisters who don't give a fuck for the truth.

This guy Rinse...somehow, according to media spin, he not only changed the fashion world, invented androgyny, and was a better entertainer and dancer than Michael Jackson, but he was even a better guitarist than Hendrix or Clapton. Clapton called him "a genius," but I wonder if he'd be so generous as to say, "By comparison, he makes me look like a sullen Brooker-faced old white schmuck." Eric was quick to post a tribute declaring that he wrote "Holy Mother" because he was inspired by Rinse: "...he was the light in the darkness."

Speaking of Darkness, Dave Chappelle (remember him?) declared that the death of Rinse was "the black 9/11."

Brooose, the guy who likes swapping spit at a microphone shared with a doo-rag clad overweight version of MASH's Max Klinger, offered a cover of "Purple Rain." Elton John declared he had lost "the Purple warrior." (Or was Elton's "purple warrior" just at half mast after learning David Furnish was unfaithful?). People nobody's heard of for decades (like Billy Gibbons of the "ooh, they got the funny beards" ZZ Top) Tweeted and Facebooked to get attention. Gibbons called Rinse's playing "otherworldly." President Obama couldn't even get through a press conference on terrorism and climate change without being asked for a statement on the death of the great Rinse.

Professional social media whore and racist pest Al Sharpton raced to the media, declaring that through HIM, Rinse donated money to the family of Trayvon Martin. The N.Y. Daily News headlined that Rinse was "the greatest rock star Minnesota produced (Sorry Bob Dylan)." When Justin Bieber dared to Tweet that Rinse was "not the last greatest living performer," why, he got the same response as if he'd spat on fans, pissed in a bucket or cursed Bill Clinton.

My memory is pretty good. I remember recording on VHS Joan Rivers hiply guest-hosting for Carson. She booked Elvis Costello.

She asked him for his opinions of various rock stars of the day. "Grace Jones?" "She once whacked somebody on the head with a clipper it's a good thing she's not here." "Dolly Parton" "She used to sing some great songs. I haven't heard her for ages." "Tina Turner." "Oh, terrific." "Huey Lewis?" "He's a good bloke, he's an old mate." "Van Halen." "A root beer version of Rod Stewart."

Joan was impressed by Costello's candor: "I'm crazy about you, because you tell the truth!"

Oh yes. She did ask him about one other star of the day.

Wasnt he right? Of course he was. The Purple One stole from 'em all. He impersonated 'em all, most especially Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan. He borrowed a lot of Bob's imposing attitude and cool arrogance. The puppy of late night, Jimmy Fallon, recalled how Rinse once told him to come to a designated place in 15 minutes. For what? A game of ping pong. Rinse said "Let's do it," like it was a gunfight. Fallon went along, and passing through bodyguards and down flights of stairs, made his way to a curtained area. Behind it: Rinse and a ping pong table. "Lets do this," said the Purple One, in his best Dylan sneer. Fallon was "mesmerized" by Rinse's big "doe-like eyes."

Like a parody of Bob, doing a parody of Brando, Rinse made a few desultory cracks as he won the game. Rinse smashed the ball on the last winning shot, and when Fallon went to pick it up...Rinse was gone.

Yep, he simply disappeared without saying goodbye. It makes for good copy. It was Dylanesque. Or James Dean-esque or whatever. It added to his legend. But come on, "bit of an imposter," right?

And aren't we all a bit sick of people who are SO fucking FULL of themselves they figure they only need ONE name? It's usually a name that was worn by somebody else. Mary was a previous Madonna and Jesus was a previous Prince. No? Adele was a cow in a previous life.

One thing about these clowns is that with the exception of Ke$sha, it's usually impossible to pronounce a one-word name more than one way.

When, in any fit of masturbatory homage, you purr Gina Gershon's name, she pronounces it GEE-nah, grrrr-SHON. First name accent on first syllable, second name accent on second syllable. Now listen... Gina's "House of Woe" which could be a certain mansion in Minneapolis. Or any home where people are moping and saying "Now I know why doves cry."

HOUSE OF WOE, and WOE to fans of RINSE. I feel your pain. Not a lot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Above, a photo of that strange little David Furbyish, who used to jerk off to the music of his favorite singer, Smelton John. David even married his idol. Sadly...

....A big scandal today involves poor Smelton John, unable to keep a lid on the shitstorm caused by unfaithful young Furbyish. John's lawyers have toilet-stalled the British tabloids, but the news has leaked out through the World Wide Wet-Net. "Respect my privates," Mr. John declared, but anything famous people do is considered "news" fit to print. His face flushed bright pink, Smelton John begged "Don't Let "THE SUN" Go Down On Me...or the "DAILY MAIL." To no avail. Now we all know his young hubby Furbyish had a three year affair with some other man, and even a three-way (with two other men, of course. The guy wouldn’t do anything perverted!).

Smelton John's mother loathed Furbyish, and others complained that Furbyish was firing people and taking over. Still, some thought the odd little creature was a stabilizing influence on the wild Mr. John, whose life had been going down the tubes. Too bad David needed to take anal vacations from his demanding diva husband. Or bride. Or whatever they call each other.

What an irony. Just a month ago, Smelton was telling Gay Wenner, publisher of the Roiling Scone, “I’ve never been happier. I have an upbeat new album, I adore being a father, or a mother, or whatever the hell I am, and my boy toy is Furbyish! I have homes all over the world, nobody wonders if it's a wig or a weave or a transplant, and as for my meddling stupid old mother, I couldn’t care if I ever see the old hag again.”

More and more tabloids are reporting on Furbyish and his promiscuous game of thrones on the toilet of some pubic hairdresser (who had his hands full thanks to David having pubes all over his body). While some can't believe gay marriage could fail (after all, it doesn't involve TWAT), this union is suffering from, like Springsteen's under lip, a rough patch.

And so, the guy ridiculed early in life for his real name, Wedgie Tight, is now having to endure cracks from the press and some iconoclastic and rude bloggers.

You might well ask, “What is the download below, O Ye of Little Taste?”

It's Smelton’s quickly-done song for his wayward husband, whom he has affectionately called “Fanny Boy.” You'll remember that as soon as Princess Diana and her hummus-faced rich Muzzie crashed, John rubbed out a hit single with revised lyrics to "Candle in the Wind." Once again, he phoned up ex-Grimsby gynecologist-turned-lyricist Bernie Tampon, and said, “Can you re-write the song as “Candle in the Butt?” I want to shine a light on what this asshole did to me."

Tampon replied, “Please, not that bloody song again." A minute later, he faxed over "Fanny Boy" with a note: “This is your song. It’s quite simple. I hope you don’t mind.”

It IS pretty simple. It's about how Furbyish not only cheated, but obviously spent a lot of Smelton’s money in the pursuit of pleasure, even pawning some of Smelton’s treasures when he couldn't get his hands on the joint bank account while seeking to get his hands on some guy's joint. Furbyish supposedly pawned pairs of Smelton's famous glasses and even some gaudy jewel-encrusted knickers. (Those knickers were encrusted with something, we all assume jewels.)

From Bernie’s lyric sheet:

“Oh Fanny Boy, you’ve left me sad and lonely. There is no end to what I’d do for you. You have no friends. I was your one and only. But now you’ve gone. And pawned my wristwatch too. Oh Fanny Boy, I know that you are younger. Just 20 years and I am 40 more. If you but knew about my burning hunger, you would’ve stayed, and not walked out the door. So please come back! And I’ll forget…you took the car and chauffeur.”

“Oh Fanny Boy, you’ve left my board and my lodging. You didn’t realize how good you had it here. My dear young man, police you’ll soon be dodging! You’ll live in style but constant dread and fear. So please come back and all will be forgiven. The stocks and bonds, the crystal chandelier. But bring ye back my mattress and my pillow. I promise I won’t prosecute you, dear….”

Smelton John Fanny Boy

BAD ROMANCE (Shit My Pants) Lord of the Poop Sale


Yes, here's a gooey, crappy parody of one of Lady Gaga’s greatest s(hits).

“I moved too SLOW…I tried to control it, but I couldn’t hold it. I shit my pants! I can’t believe I just shit my pants!”

A drag queen version of Weird Al Yankovic, Sherry Vine has managed to make some money on Google's YouTube thanks to some flashy, campy parodies (and appearances in cabaret nightclubs). ’Tis pity the tunes aren’t available on disc. In the old days, something like “Shit My Pants” would’ve been quite a collectors’ item on brown vinyl.

In fact, the lack of vinyl confused my colleague, the “Lord of the Poop Sale.” Nicknamed for his habit of buying up any shit he can find on 45 rpm, he heard about song and phoned me in a bewildered state of Alzheimer’s. “Ill, it’s Robin here. "Shit My Pants" did not chart? I have no idea how to do research. If I know the label, my dog Turd Muffin could sniff it out. I've trained her to smell the difference in paper between Parlophone, Pye, and every other label! If I know the labels we can go walkies through charity shops and she'll put her nose in every box that has a record with that label! OK, sometimes she tries to stick her nose in some shop owner's twat, too.”

This old guy IS really into shit, and I could tell he desperately wanted this for his collection or piles and piles of music. For him the real fun of is not listening to records but collecting 'em. I told him the best he could do was wait for me to post a download, as we are living in the age of freeeeee.

"Besides," I told him, “Don Henley sang that there are no hearses with luggage racks.” He said, “Who is he? Is he like Matt Monro? I buy up any dodgy vinyl for a few pence if I can brag that nobody else has it. Is his stuff hard to find? Is he the guy who had rare pressings that led to the phrase, “as hard to find as Henley?”

I explained the phrase is “rare as hen’s teeth,” not Henley, but some of these record-buying zombies don't listen. They're on automatic pile-it. They go buy shit and pile it in their homes and that’s how they putter around till their hearts poop out. “Oh well, if it’s not shit on vinyl, I am not interested,” he said. “I am a dung beetle collecting poopular music! It's got to be utterly useless shit!”

He then asked, "Do you have one of those 45 rpm adapters? I’ve got a hole in my head that size, and I like to put an adapter in it. With the smaller hole, the wind whistles from one side of my head to the other, and it sounds very pleasant!” I told him to pick up some of his dog's turds and shove them in his ears. He couldn't hear anything I said after that, and I was glad to wave goodbye to him.

While "Shit My Pants" can't be added to any vinyl addict's pile, it can help clog up anyone's terabyte drive of free crap

Oooh la la. Here's some Ca-Ca!

Sherry Vine Shit My Pants (Bad Romance)

Saturday, April 09, 2016


It’s still pretty sobering to realize how young Phil Ochs was, when he made that final decision on April 9, 1976, exactly 40 years ago today. He was only 35.

Walter Moseley finally died a few days ago at 81. No, he didn't exactly make good use of being spared the death penalty. In fact, he managed to cause trouble and heartache after his incarceration for the murder of Kitty Genovese.

As for the early demise of Phil Ochs, many fans have wistfully wondered what he would've achieved over the next 40 years. Had he been able to find the right meds and care, some think he might be knocking out potent political protest songs to this day. I doubt it, but I wish he was able to simply enjoy life and family, and if he would sometimes pick up a guitar, great.

Quite a few of his contemporaries (Barry McGuire, Joan Baez, Hamilton Camp, Gordon Lightfoot, Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton) either never had a big hit after the 70's or stopped recording for a major label. It's just a shame Phil didn't have the option of balancing work and semi-retirement. He should've had the chance, ala Mort Sahl or his old friend Jim Glover, of sometimes doing a gig for that small circle of friends.

Phil's song has had a life of its own, as has the very phrase "small circle of friends," usually spoken with a sense of irony.

The incident that sparked it happened on March 13, 1964. A married man with two kids, Winston Moseley’s hobby was committing burglary (30 or 40, without an arrest). An occasional rape and murder added to his fun. He admitted to raping and killing two other women before he snuck out on his wife and hunted for a new victim: Kitty Genovese. He stalked her through the dark and quiet streets of Kew Gardens, where the stores were closed and at 2am, few people were still awake in the small apartments above those stores, or in the modest middle-class homes and apartment buildings.

Phil's version of the event wasn't intended to be song-journalism. It was just the first stanza of a piece covering a wide range of apathy.

The opening lines, to a jaunty almost ragtime melody: “Look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed. They’ve dragged her to the bushes, and now she’s being stabbed. Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain. But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game. And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends…”

There was no "they." It was just one man. But the journalism of the time was not accurate either. The New York Times, the “paper of record,” reported: “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law‐abiding cit­izens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”

The truth, which would come out slowly over the years, was that most citizens didn’t hear anything. At that hour, a few short cries were mistaken for delinquents horsing around. As often happens, the reporter colored his journalism with drama over fact. Someone actually did lean out the window and yell at Moseley to leave the girl alone. When Moseley rushed away, leaving his dazed victim behind, the neighbor closed his window. Moseley, lurking rather than leaving, waited and pounced yet again, completing his need to rape and kill. But a few people did call the cops, and one man, arriving on the scene after Moseley fled, comforted Genovese as she took her last breaths.

Only a few months later, June 15th, Moseley was in front of a judge. The judge declared, “I don't believe in capital punishment, but when I see a monster like this, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the switch myself.” It wasn’t an option. Proving the judge’s point, Moseley escaped prison on March 18, 1968, stole an officer’s gun, and hid out in a nearby home. When the man and woman who owned it arrived, Moseley overpowered the man and raped his wife.

Over the years, parole boards had to listen to Moseley’s ravings. At one point he whined, “For a victim…it's a one-time or one-hour or one-minute affair, but for the person who's caught, it's forever.” More recently, he simply declared, “I think almost 50 years of paying for those crimes is enough.”

No, there seems to be no quote from him on whether he ever heard Phil's song. The song has outlived Phil, Kitty, and now Kitty's murderer. People are still being killed. Marijuana is only legal in four states, and other issues raised in Phil's song are still with us as well.

Oddly enough, as horrific as the Genovese case is, as vividly divisive as the question of the death penalty for monsters like Moseley is, Phil's song retains its dark satire. One listens to it with more of a wink than a clenched fist. So often, despite his brilliance at ballads, and his scathing accuracy in protest songs, Phil was able to retain a unique sense of humor. It was part of why he was so beloved in person and on stage.

The audience recording at The Stables in East Lansing is here for its good sound quality. At Hunter College, Phil saved "Small Circle of Friends" as his encore/finale, and in the audience recording, you hear how it draws enthusiastic clapping from the crowd.

PHIL OCHS Small Circle of Frends in East Lansing

PHIL OCHS Closing the Show with a Small Circle of Friends clapping at Hunter College (now Lehman College)


Phil Ochs, radical iconoclast that he was, had an almost perverse fondness for singing “Okie from Muskogee.” To him, it was simply a good topical protest song. So what if the lyrics were somewhat arrogant and intolerant, and the work of a redneck from one of the “red states.” Phil was born in El Paso, after all, and his early influences included country singers, especially Faron Young. And where, outside of a broadcast of a baseball game in China, would you ever hear the phrase "pitching woo?"

I can’t say that Merle Haggard was one of my favorites, or others in the outlaw bunch (including Waylon and Willie) or the California crowd (Buck Owens). Still, he was a prolific songwriter, a vivid presence on stage, and he stubbornly kept going until pneumonia forced him to cancel shows a few months ago. He died on his birthday, April 6th, at the age of 79. With Phil finding such pleasure in him, I also got some kind of a kick from the “Okie” song. Of course I tended to listen to Phil’s version of it, and save my country listening time for Johnny Cash, George Jones, and the West Coast C&W/rocker Gary Alan among others.

Oh yes...Haggard was actually born in Oildale, California. His people did come from Oklahoma, but as many did (go read 'Grapes of Wrath,') they moved West to make a living. Many picked produce for low wages, but Merle picked at the guitar and...well, picked up a three year sentence for robbery. Yep, he was an authentic outlaw. While in San Quentin he saw Johnny Cash perform, and that inspired him to pursue the honky tonk lifestyle, and perfect his talents in local Bakersfield clubs. His first big hit was "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" in 1966. At that time, on the East Coast, Phil was a hot Elektra folk star playing Carnegie Hall with topical material.

On March 27, 1970 Phil returned to Carnegie Hall for two scheduled performances. Now on A&M, and having recorded several critically acclaimed albums that didn't sell too well, he decided to try something radical. This would be the infamous "Gold Suit" show (released in single-disc truncated form by A&M only in Canada as "Gunfight at Carnegie Hall"). Fans were perplexed by Phil wearing some kind of Elvis suit, rambling about how Elvis was the king and could change things if he’d only become political. They detested Phil’s weird cover versions of everything from Buddy Holly to, Elvis, to Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" to, yes, “Okie from Muskogee.” The disaster ended with fans demanding their money back. A frustrated Phil obliged them by smashing his fist against the box office window.

But…he had a second show to do. Pissed off, bleeding, but determined to get his message across, he took to the stage yet again. Looking back on it, “The Night of the Cut Thumb,” was a triumph. Learning from his mistakes, Phil took the time to explain what he was up to. With some wry monologues (“America is a Cunt…”) and coaching the crowd to keep an open mind, the show was a fine mix of nostalgia (Holly and Presley), political humor, beautiful ballads, and stinging proteset songs. And that included that prickly number “Okie from Muskogee,” your download below.

OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE from the second show at Carnegie Hall, not released in any form, “The Night of the Cut Thumb”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MECCA - Arabs Killed Gene Pitney? Covers incl Spanish + Valerie Loeffler

Above, Valerie Loeffler, who may be the only female to attempt to cover "Mecca." And below, well, the highly individual journalism and oh so coherent critical views you've come to expect here.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder if Gene Pitney REALLY died of a heart attack. Could he have been murdered by some crazed hummus-faced armpit-bearded Allah-kazam? They’re a bit touchy and humorless, aren’t they? (They might not even be laughing at this very moment while reading this!)

Who is behind almost every bombing and cowardly attack on unarmed people? It ain’t the Druids. It’s the bunch that believes in circumcising WOMEN, killing cartoonists, and going into a raving fatwa denying “freedom of speech” to anyone that disagrees with them. With most people, “I don’t believe what you believe” isn’t an invitation to a beheading. So…

Is it possible somebody slipped Pitney a heart-stopping drug because he equated “Mecca” with his girlfriend’s house? Sacrilege! Radical Islam, awakened at the turn of the century, had begun flying planes into U.S. buildings and blasting London transit. Some Habib Felafel deciding to be offended over “Mecca” and taking out Pitney isn’t that far-fetched. After all, Gene died in Great Britain, where they can slip polonium-210 in your tea in a restaurant and get away with it faster than you can say Litvenenko.

If I'm being honest, an observant, that teeny-tiny bunch of radicals who have hijacked “a fine religion” have killed people for much less. I mean, these are people who get touchy even if you try and compliment them. Like: “You know, I really like your stinky halal food.” or, “Danny Thomas did a great job playing a Jew in “The Jazz Singer.” Or “You fuckers sure know creative uses for pressure cookers.”

Those who insist we can’t expel every Muslim (true enough) try to allay our fears by muttering that only 10% or 20% of the Muslim population support or approve of terrorists who want to make the world all-Muslim all the time. Okay, that’s several MILLION maniacs (more than Natalie Merchant could imagine). Given that it only takes two or three to blow up a Boston marathon, a Paris theater, a Brussels airport, or a mental health hospital in San Bernardino, who is to say ONE of ‘em didn’t off Pitney?

We’ll never know for sure if some Jihadi Jay anti-American didn’t get to Gene when he turned up in Cardiff. I quote Pitney’s tour manager, James Kelly: "He was found fully clothed, on his back, as if he had gone for a lie down. It looks as if there was no pain whatsoever."

Suspicious, huh? Kelly remembered that the last show Gene performed was happy. And you know how Muslims feel about “happy.” They hate it. James Kelly: “Last night was generally one of the happiest and most exuberant performances we've seen out of him. He was absolutely on top of his game and was really happy with the show." And was his encore…”MECCA?” And was there someone in the audience wearing a frown without pity?

Coincidence: “Mecca” began its climb up the charts in April of 1963…and Gene was found dead in April of 2006. How many years is that? Exactly 43. If you check the Koran, note what page you find after 42.

43 also happens to be the number of days it takes for fig yogurt to reach its expiration, and frankly, what can happen to fig yogurt can happen to Gene Pitney.

Mecca is a holy destination. It's possible a Catholic would be mildly irked if a lyric went: "That brownstone house where my baby live's like the Vatican, THE VATICAN, to ME!" A Jew might raise an eyebrow over: "My baby's birthday is holy like Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur, to ME!" So to have an Arab overreact these days, to the point of jihad, is hardly surprising, is it? If you saw a news item about a Muslim stabbing somebody for joking that visiting Disney World was like Mecca for the wife and kids, would you really be shocked?

When “Mecca” first appeared, Arabs were fairly peaceful, if you weren’t Jewish. There was no Isis and Muslims didn’t attack England, Spain, France or America. Omar Sharif got along with Peter O’Toole. There were no protests about Pitney’s latest hit, because people in general weren't so "PC" or touchy, or just plain dismissive of somebody else's right to live. Gore wasn't routine in movies and mass murder was rare.

"Mecca" was just an odd novelty with a faux-Middle East arrangement and some snake-charmer clarinet playing. No Arab complained that the chick singing background could as easily have been singing about a lion sleeping in Africa. Ok, so it wasn’t authentic. It offended nobody at the time, and neither did "Little Egypt” by The Coasters. People enjoyed harmless ethnic stereotypes, and the charts embraced ethnic music from Nicola Paone's "Blah Blah Blah" and Horst Jankowski's jaunty "Walk in the Black Forest" to the foreign babblings of “Volare” and “Sukiyaki.”

There was nothing nefarious about John Gluck Jr., a co-writer of “Mecca.” He was a professional who worked with anyone who had a tune that needed some lyrics. (I’m assuming he wrote the lyrics. It seems that way.) Born in Ohio (1925-2000) he worked with Richard Maltby on “Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes” (recorded by the Mills Brothers) and “Beloved Be True” (vocal by Russ Emerick).

With Diane Lampert he co-wrote “No One Home” (recorded by Alan Dale), “Little Lovin’” (performed by Mimi Roman), “Pinch Me” (done by Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads), “Can’t Wait for Summer” (sung by Steve Lawrence), “One Teenager to Another” (from Brenda Lee), “Precious Years” (a single by Glenn Reeves), and “Nothin’ Shakin’,” (yes, The Beatles performed it on a BBC broadcast). Not to mention “Wacky Wacky.” Forget I mentioned it.

With Bob Goldstein John co-wrote “The Other Girls,” a flip side for Jay and the Americans, and with Ben Raleigh, he co-wrote the Connie Francis tune “Blue Winter.” John took sole credit on “That’s Me Without You” by The Wilson Sisters, “Up Jumped a Rabbit” by Frankie Lymon, and “The Bridge” by The Harbingers and also The Cowsills.

Now, what about “Mecca?”

It was a co-write done with the exotic-named Neval Nader, who had Middle Eastern music in his blood, and was born Neval Abounader in Utica (1917-2009). This is not a joke: Neval served in World War 2 and then tried for a career in cartoons and art, marketing his novelties under the pseudonym Screwloose LaTrec.

Neval discovered he had a talent for music. When he needed lyrics for an exotic melody, John Gluck provided it. Just another ballad about young lust, the twist was in making the Middle Eastern melody part of the story line. The girl could’ve been given an Egyptian name, but a cleverer idea was turning her home into “Mecca.” Instead of loving a girl from the wrong side of town, our hero (frantic, high-pitched excitable Gene) was hot about the street where she lived. He had an almost religious view of it, which hints that the girl's parents may be Middle Eastern immigrants. Well, he probably considered her TWAT to be “Mecca,” not the house, but this was 1963.

Exotic, driven by the haunting ‘Mecca…MECCA…MECCCCCAAA” chorus, abetted by some screaming cat-goddess in the background, and wailed by the greatest siren-voice in pop history, the tune was the best thing the Nader-Gluck team produced. But it wasn’t the only thing. Though not as prolific as some of Gluck’s other partners, Neval Nader wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He provided the music for The Fleetwoods’ “Lovers By Night, Strangers By Day,” which was the flip side to the Randy Newman-penned “They Tell me It’s Summer.” The team also scored with “Trouble is My Middle Name” recorded by The Four Pennies and “Punish Her,” which Bobby Vee took into the Top 20 in 1962.

John Gluck’s most famous co-write was still to come. With Herbert Wiener and Wally Gold, he concocted the music for “It’s My Party,” the Lesley Gore smash. By this time Gluck had been hired (along with veterans Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs) to work at Aaron Schroeder Music. Any number of people would be called in to help punch up a song. In this case, the name of one guy was left off. Seymour Gottlieb had the idea for the song, if not much of the lyrics. It was based loosely on events at his daughter Judy’s 16th birthday party.

While “It’s My Party” was instantly covered by a number of artists (notably Helen Shapiro), few have dared improve on Pitney’s “Mecca.” The Cheetahs offered a fairly insane and nauseating cover in 1964 for Philips. Playing it for punk laughs, New Zealand’s goofy Otis Mace took a shot at it in 1981. Let’s just say he was several years too late to be Elvis Costello, and that Split Enz were more authentic eccentrics.

Just two years ago, the group Varjokuva recorded it in Finland as “Mekka,” for their album “Tahti.” They finished it off with fresh lyrics in Finnish, as sung by eye-chart favorite Kyösti Mäkimattila. I think it won an award at the annual Lajso Music Festival, held in a graveyard in Croatia. The winner gets to leave the graveyard.

IF you want to say something nice about Arabs, it’s that they usually try and learn the language of the country they’ve invaded. That makes it easier to send threats to the local newspaper, as well as demands to government officials: “Attention infidels, we expect free housing, all our holidays off, and very light inspection of our luggage when we travel. Do not expect us to dress like you do or believe in your decadent ways. Respect our customs or we’ll kill you.”

Compare this to Latinos. At the moment, the United States is almost bilingual. At the risk of seeming to endorse Donald Trump, there’s no question that many Latino immigrants, legal or not, don’t speak English and don't want to or need to. The government prints every booklet in Spanish, and every ATM machine has a Spanish option and call up any major business like the phone company, electric company or a baseball stadium, and you get a recorded message with a prompt to press #1 if you actually want to continue in English; #2 "para Espanol."

Back in the early 60’s, many American pop stars took pity on foreigners. “They’d learn our language if they emigrated here,” they reasoned, “but if they’re staying in Spain, let’s say, or Mexico or South America, why not re-record in phonetic Spanish?” Below, Pitney burns his uvula on a Spanish translation of “Mecca.” Egyptian pop, Spanish lyrics with too many syllables…this IS an earache. Spanish, Mr. Dylan assured us, is a loving tongue, but maybe only when spoken by Ricardo Montalban or sung by Jose Feliciano. Fact: the average lowlife Latino immigrant, like the average asshole from Brooklyn in America or Grimsby in England, speaks his language grotesquely, and usually 20 rpm too fast. It definitely doesn't help any American's ears to not only hear Spanish (or Italian or Korean or whatever) but to hear it in the mongrel version babbled by someone too stupid to learn anything else. Or as Henry Higgins, said, "Why can't people stop sounding so fucked up?"

Below, rounding out the odd covers is a vaginal one.

So far, I’ve found only one female cover version of “Mecca.” It’s from Valerie Loeffler, who recorded it back in 2009 when she was apparently a student at Gateway Regional High School (in New Jersey). She performed it in a local coffee house, pausing from her versions of Natalie Imbruglia and Anna Nalick tunes. She sang “Mecca” in honor of her grandma. Yes, the old, old lady played some old, old Pitney songs for the young girl, and surprise-surprise, one ancient tune was weird enough to find favor.

Valerie takes a sincere stab at “Mecca,” which is more than you can say for most young girlies. Too many of today's shaven babes stick to wispy and baldly off-key Taylor Swift covers, expecting guyyyysss to join their Facebook fan club and iTunes and Spotify to send them huge checks for songs nobody wants to download or hear. Valerie might not completely nail those high pitched blasts of “MECCA,” but who did? Only Gene Pitney, and that’s why the Arabs killed him. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, because this is an irreverent blog that is often full of put-ons.

Poor Gene. Had he not equated “Mecca” with lust and twat, he may be alive today. All seriousness aside, most Islamites are very nice people as long as you leave them alone, convert, tear down your church or synagogue and build a mosque, and put your wife in a fucking bee keeper’s outfit.

Oh yes, you are allowed to chew on dates, but if Papa Omar gets mad, you’ll have a misadventure with his mates.

PS, the second most upsetting possible Arab murder of a beloved creative artist would be Bob Clampett. He worked on Warner Bros. cartoons but later created the “Beany and Cecil” TV series. In one episode of the cartoon show, he had a gag in which Cecil the sea serpent announced he was going over to “Mecca Records” in order to…”mecca record.” This may have been enough to put Bob on the hit list, since the Ayatollah met with several Hamas terrorists and determined Cecil was a cartoon character, and would therefore be hard to murder.

Below, five difference variations on Mecca, including Pitney’s in Spanish. Blue Gene, baby, shall I mourn you with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief? Shall I ask why in the world people are killing each other over a fucking imaginary friend they can’t prove even exists?

Well, Gene, here’s hoping you’re reading this in heaven (the real deal, not the one full of goats, but the one with angels and Mother Mary singing “Let it Be” for everyone and “He’s a Rebel” for her son).

Gene, may you be sitting on a cloud wanting something to eat, and a waitress comes over and shows you where. Or didn’t you know heaven was 24 hours from Tulsa?






PETER BROWN - The Theme from "LAWMAN"

I don’t think the death of Peter Brown (October 5, 1935 – March 21, 2016) got much coverage. You’d have to have a long memory and a fondness for vintage TV westerns to know that all-American name. The name, by the way, was originally the more exotic Pierre Lind de Lappe, but the Manhattan-born kid preferred to be called Peter. And when his mother re-married a guy named Albert Brown, he went with that new last name.

Brown’s mother was an actress (you may have heard of the “Dragon Lady” in the “Terry and the Pirates” comic strip? She played the role on radio). He wanted to be an actor, and journeyed to California…to end up working in a gas station.

He noticed a customer’s familiar name on a credit card. “Jack Warner? Are you one of the Warner Brothers??” Jack nodded, “I’m the last one left.” Brown declared himself an actor looking for a break, and Warner let him come to the studio for a test.

Back then, Warner’s TV division was loading up on handsome young guys that teen girls could adore and that would be heroic enough for men to admire. Looking good was secondary to acting well. From memory, I recall quite a few late 50’s Warner TV stars who became popular with little previous experience or success: James Garner, Jack Kelly, Will Hutchins, Ed “Kookie” Byrnes, Bob Conrad, Ty Hardin, Clint Walker, Troy Donahue and, very quickly, Peter Brown.

On “Lawman,” Brown played Deputy Johnny McKay opposite thin, wiry, super tough John Russell’s Marshal Dan Troop. There simply wasn’t a more intense figure on TV than Russell, and I’m including Clint Eastwood over on “Rawhide.” Despite his glaring and gruff demeanor, Russell was a sympathetic mentor to Peter Brown over the show’s four-year run. Neither of them showed much emotional range on the show, but that wasn’t needed. They were heroes.

An important feature of Warner westerns was a theme song to instantly tell viewers what the show was about. This song usually had a catchy melody and extremely stupid lyrics. The lighter shows like “Maverick” and “Sugarfoot” had the most ridiculous themes. “Lawman” was merely stolid and wonderfully inane.

It was the work of Jay Livingston and Mack David who had a knack for writing hokey songs folks could sing along to. Remember “Que Sera Sera” and “Buttons and Bows?” How about “Silver Bells” or Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa?” One of their catchiest theme songs was for “Mr. Ed.”

As for “Lawman,” it is pretty repetitive and clumsy, but some stalwart fans out there could sing the melody to this: “The Lawman came with the sun! There was a job to be done! So they sent for the badge and the gun of the Lawman!”

You get both the original TV theme and the instrumental from Al Caiola, which includes some “Rawhide” whip cracks and “Lone Ranger” hoof beats.

It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone, even antisemitic skeleton Roger Waters, to know that Livingston and Evans, authors of great Americana, were Jewish. Jay Livingston was born Jacob Levinson in Pennsylvania to immigrant parents. Ray Evans was born in New York, his father’s last name already changed via Ellis Island

Their first big hit together was “To Each His Own” in 1946. How big? I don’t think Roger Waters, the acromegaly-faced Nazi, ever had FIVE different versions of any of his songs in the Billboard Top 10 at the same time. All crowding the Top 10 together: The Ink Spots, Tony Martin, Freddie Martin, Eddie Howard and The Modernaires singing “To Each His Own.”

Peter Brown’s career would’ve gone nowhere without a Jew. Jack Warner was born Jacob Wonsai. His Polish immigrant parents had to flee Europe due to a little something called “ethnic cleansing,” which today Roger Waters believes only happens to antisemitic Ukrainians or Palesteeeeenians. He thinks Jews are no longer persecuted (even by him) and he also believes that only Israel (not even North Korea or Russia) is an apartheid dictatorship that deserves to be shunned.

But I digress.

After the TV western craze of the late 50’s subsided, each season brought only a few new oaters. Peter Brown luckily latched onto a new one in the mid-60’s. The cult classic “Laredo” borrowed from “The Three Musketeers” and the 1939 movie “Gunga Din,” in offering a look at a trio of heroes who just happened to have a carefree sense of humor and a delight in pranking each other like friendly enemies. Neville Brand was the older one, the butt of most of the practical jokes. William Smith appealed to guys who could be inspired to try body-building and getting a muscular body like “Joe Riley.” Peter Brown was intended to help draw in some female viewership, as stalwart “Chad Cooper.” The exuberant (lyricless) theme song was by Russ Garcia, and the original soundtrack probably sets some kind of record for the most distracting gunshots, which seem to number in the dozens. It’s really hard to listen to without the visuals.

In the 70’s Brown starred in some exploitation films (notably “Foxy Brown”) and spent most of the 70's and 80's moistening vaginas over 40 by starring in various daytime soap operas. Those growing up in the 50’s and 60’s never forgot “Johnny McKay” or “Chad Cooper,” and would eagerly wait for him to turn up at “western star memorabilia rodeo” shows. The somewhat elusive star had other things to do than stand around while paunchy idiot Hoobastanks clutched him around the shoulder, and grinned yellow cheesy smiles, paying $20 for a pose and an autograph. That’s why if you check eBay, a Peter Brown autographed photo is usually in the $50 range, or more. It’s a tribute that if you want a signed Brown, you need a lot of green.




At “the blog of less renown,” famous performers rarely get mentioned. They don’t need it. Their work is easy to find. Only vain idiots would bother upping an entire discography as a “tribute,” adding their own stupid Nazi name as a password (for what they merely stole from other blogs). They do it to get a free Freakyshare account or bitcoins. Some are so pathetic they only want a “nice comment” in return, one that will rock their Swedish-meatball middle-aged fat-faced lonely loser world. English being a second language, stealing a write up from "All Music" and pretending they wrote it, and adding "RIP" is their 16rpm speed.

So, no, you get no ELP or Nice albums here. If you really cared you would’ve bought them already. If you really need an introduction to this stuff, you must be very young or very senile, and that’s your problem not mine.

No, the reason Keith Emerson (November 2, 1944-March 10, 2016) is mentioned here is to acknowledge two things about him that are greater than the sum of his 20 minute show-off organ solos or whatever he did that made progfrogs consider him right up there with Rick Wakeman as a genius of “classical” rock.

Looking at the bigger picture, what makes this guy’s death important even to those who hated his rock groups, is how it happened and what led up to it.

Point One: he suffered from intestinal problems. Add the recently deceased Glenn Frey (colitis), as well as Patty Duke today (death due to sepsis from a ruptured intestine) aging rock fans are beginning to see that food over-processed and chemically altered by modern farming techniques is kicking us in the gut. Maybe some of this doesn’t outright kill us, but it fucks our quality of life and often makes us susceptible to something lethal. Let’s add David Bowie’s cancer to this. Our innards are getting corrupted and it seems the odds are much greater now of getting lethal liver, pancreas or intestine rot than a good ol’ quick heart attack.

More and more people are finding, like the late Keith Emerson and Glenn Frey, that immune-deficiency is a hell on earth. Medication taken to stop the body from attacking itself can also stop the body from defending itself.

This situation has been building over several decades. No less an indestructible force than Frank Sinatra suffered from diverticulitis and had to deal with a very shitty situation involving a colostomy bag before he got any kind of cure. And what happened next? He began to wither in confusion and more misery. His son had prostate cancer and not too long after that, a fatal heart attack.

Most of us grew up never knowing about diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, AIDS, SARS, ebola, or some of the other seemingly new or newly festering illnesses out there. These things mutate pretty quickly, and one thing leads to another. Glenn Frey had colitis, then arthritis, and seemingly well enough to appear at reunion Eagles concerts, he ended up in a coma, and dead. And before Keith Emerson shot himself?

Here’s a Facebook post from Keith Emerson, from 2010.

No, that doesn't sound like fun, does it? People kill themselves in the midst of problems like that. Yes, Keith Emerson “got better.” Just as Glenn Frey and Sinatra Jr. “got better.” Emerson found more ailments creeping up on him, and his quality of life diminishing. Did he see any hope in dangerous drugs that can cause cancer or suicidal depression? Now we know what drug Del Shannon should NOT have taken. Do we know what warnings should be ignored on new wonder drugs like Remicade or Humera? You’re putting your life in your hands listening to a doctor, a second opinion, or ignoring either opinion. No winners, it seems.

Patty Duke’s sepsis from a ruptured intestine? I’m not sure if that’s a common problem but I would not be surprised if it’s becoming one because our bodies are so weakened by pollution, stress and lack of proper nourishment. Some of this you can blame on the government allowing the Monsanto bunch to do as they please, but a lot is the fault of ignorant slobs who don’t care what poisons they put in their bodies in the guise of a “happy meal.”

While various fan-assholes grumbled that Keith Emerson was a “coward” for killing himself, and depriving them of another tour, or a new album they can complain “isn’t as good as the old ones, just like we were disappointed by the new Jethro Tull and Vanilla Fudge…”) let’s dismiss them. They are FAN ASSHOLES. They are likely to live a shorter life than Keith Emerson because they are happily gorging on ham from shit-covered pigs loaded with infections, burgers from mad cows, and “wings” from bacteria-infected chickens. All washed down with a soda containing 8 spoonfuls of sugar.

The ones who don’t understand Emerson’s suicide, or shrug that Frey somehow just “died too soon” and that’s fate, are just ignorant fools. They laugh at climate change and smirk as they order that “heart attack on a plate” at the deli. They also don’t realize that for every star’s suicide there are hundreds and thousands of ordinary people going that same route, which means the problem is much more severe than what Todd Rundgren once called the “tortured artist effect.”

And so it was, that Keith Emerson put an end to his misery. “Suicide is Painless,” as the song says.

Your download is the Roger Williams cover version of the M*A*S*H theme, since it’s a lot more obscure than the one on the original soundtrack to the movie. You’d expect the song to get the stereotypical Roger Williams treatment of “falling leaves” piano glissandos but this item is closer to what a Percy Faith would’ve done. It’s got a full orchestra (which Roger did not conduct), and even a chorus just like the film. The TV show never did offer a lyrical version of “Suicide is Painless” in any episode. Maybe Alan Alda and his gang knew something from operating on people who tried to kill themselves and didn’t quite complete the job? Maybe suicide isn’t painless. You can’t ask Keith Emerson.

Roger Williams Suicide is Painless

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Final Score: Frank Sinatra 82 - Frank Sinatra Jr. 72

The ad for the show Frank Sinatra Jr. had to cancel.

Frank Sinatra Jr. (January 10, 1944-March 16, 2016) was a realist about his mediocre career. A few years before his sudden heart attack (while touring in Florida) he reflected: ’I’ve never been a success. I have never had a hit movie, a hit television program, a hit record. It would have been good for my personal integrity, my personal dignity to have had something like that. I have never made a success in terms of my own right. I have been very good at re-creation. But that is something that pleases me because my father's music is so magnificent.”

Junior’s career, especially in the past 25 years, was basically being a tribute act. Aging Baby Booers now mellow enough to appreciate "The American Songbook" might go to his shows, but were more likely to try for a ticket to a Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga show. The crowd for Junior was mostly old farts. They'd come up to him for an autograph, either saying, “You did your Dad proud,” or “You’re pretty good in your own right.” Or some other pathetic “compliment.”

The sad fact is that Frank just never fit into the slots that were occupied by his contemporaries, who were either successful Sinatra imitators (Bobby "Beyond the Sea" Darin) or had the puppy-eyes and soft round faces to be teen idols (Paul Anka comes to mind). If teenagers sighed "Frankie" in 1965 it was over Frankie...Avalon, who looked natural in a swim suit. Frank Sinatra Jr. was a stiff; he sang cold, and he looked too much like his father. No, he didn't even have that ONE hit that goofy Gary (son of Jerry) Lewis managed. That had to burn him up.

Gary Lewis or his manager managed to find a hit song in "This Diamond Ring," and was also able to regurgitate a hit by re-covering "Sealed with a Kiss" in 1968. Gary wasn't a great singer but he was a typical nerdy teenager and Jerry fans identified with him. By contrast, teens didn't like Frank Sinatra and were lukewarm to the guy's stone-faced son. They DID like his sister, though. Nancy Sinatra was a star in the mid and late 60's with a string of hits. Well, Nancy Sinatra Jr. didn't have the shadow of her famous mother in her way. After some experimenting, she ended up a blonde toughie, rocking C&W with her "Boots." Frank Junior was stuck with looking like his father and having the same name and...making poor choices with his singles. And albums.

Frank, Mr. Nepotism, did indeed sign his son to Reprise back in 1965. The debut album seemed to emphasizes this was "Frank JUNIOR," as the boy was dressed in a tux and singing Daddy's rejects, shit like "S' Wonderful" and "I Got the Sun in the Morning." It was with RCA Victor in 1967 that the kid had his best shot at singles success. At the time, there was still a chance for a singer or 30 or 40 or even older to score a hit if the song was something catchy by Mancini or Bacharach or Jimmy Webb. Below, two examples of what Junior chose.

“Building with a Steeple,” which opens in a minor key, as if it might break into a Del Shannon “Stranger in Town” rocker, limps toward Lee Hazlewood. But instead of singing ala sullen and gritty Lee, Junior can’t stop a’swingin’ and his vocal style just doesn’t fit the song.

“Shadows on a Foggy Day,” has backing from “High Hopes” brats. It’s a sappy happy sunshine song that in no way brings fog or shadows to mind. And who gives a crap if a rich man's son is happy? Frank Senior, on drek like "High Hopes" or his duet with daughter Nancy on "Something Stupid," was enough of an actor to fake some charm. Junior just couldn't seem to do it, and his pavement-hard vocals don't levitate what should be a cheery and optimistic fluff song.

Bobby Darin remained the young listener's Sinatra till Bobby died. The field was then dominated by Paul Anka in a tuxedo, and hipper satellites like Tom Jones and Neil Diamond. Junior issued the embarrassingly titled "His Way" in 1972 and spent the next 20 years being a budget version of his father in smaller venues, and then moving on to being the nostalgia link to the past, when the alternatives were non-relatives like Steve Lawrence, Jack Jones and Tony Bennett.

Yeah, pity the guy a bit, since being the son of a famous man can be tough. Frank Sr. wasn’t around much in Junior's early life. He was busy with his career, not the type to play baseball with his son or sit around playing with crayons or watching cartoons and watching the boy laugh. Nope. Frank would’ve preferred to be out drinking, and slamming Ava Gardner. Junior had to grow up fast and deal with a lack of fatherly warmth.

Frank Jr. became famous for being kidnapped. After four frightening days as a captive to a bunch of clueless cretins, he was rescued and they were jailed. Some considered it all a “publicity stunt.” To his credit, the kid bore up well under the ordeal, and also under the camera flashes that greeted him wherever he went. He developed, if not poise, stoicism. A stone face. The result was that over the years people didn't feel that sorry for him. He seemed to be polite and distant to fans and to even friends. When he died, even his own family reacted with little emotion.

If you checked Facebook, you saw very unemotional posts about him. Mia Farrow (who was a year younger than Frank when she married his father) offered the standard "condolences" and "RIP." Farrow used that familiar "Rest in Piece" shorthand? Really? That's how rock forum members used to dismiss some bore who died. They'd hear that some guy who used to upload Ray Price and Ernest Tubb albums died, and all they'd do is maybe add "RIP" to the list of others who couldn't be moved to add anything more. Yeah, RIP, Lazy Rebel. RIP. RIP. Condolences.

As for 75 year-old Nancy, her dry-eyed Facebook post added the line "Keep Warm, Frankie," which sounds like a a sarcastic suggestion as to his final destination. She did get some "nice" comments from, er, the late Ava Gardner, and Joe Piscopo, the SNL comic who used to get some snickers by imagining Frank Sr. singing disco tunes in a burly Joisy accent.

Junior didn't seem to get along with anyone too warmly. He was married only once, and it lasted for two years, just enough to squeeze out a son. The son, Michael Sinatra, offered this quote: “He was a man who was loved so much despite being so flawed - and that was always a great inspiration for me.”

A few months ago I watched the HBO documentary on Frank, and Junior did much of the talking for the family. His tone was clipped, dry, and strangest thing of all, he insisted on calling his father “Sinatra,” and not “Dad,” saying it was “out of respect.” Warmth apparently didn’t come that easily to him, and perhaps the majority of people noted the chill and that was why he didn’t make it too big in show business. He gave off the vibe of a Sinatra impersonator, settling for a career he really didn’t want for himself, but making the best of the cards he’d been dealt.