Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sewers of the Strand - Spike Milligan


Check today's headlines and the world's a sewer, isn't it?

Sewer enough! It is!

Does this mean we can't be cheerful? Needle noddle nu!

Here's Milligna, the well known typing error, the Godfather of British comedy, singing about the wonderful "Sewers of the Strand."

So, naturally, the sewer in the picture is actually located in Paris. SAPRISTI again!

Both manic and depressive, Spike was one of the most complex and contradictory of comedians. He was the eye of a creative hurricane, capable of surreal jokes, aching poetry, whimsical nonsense and passionate letters-to-the-editor on a variety of issues. He'd be typing furiously about Mr. I. Duncan Smith, Syrian immigrants, ISIS, climate change, overpopulation, and the plague of Viley Virus, Kim Kuntrashian and selfies in general. So, maybe, to paraphrase another grand old British song, he's better off bein' bloody well dead.

John Lennon loved Spike. He sent a copy of "Primal Scream" to him and reviewed "The Goon Show Scripts" in the New York Times. So get Gooned and Spiked with...

An INSTANT listen or download


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Grim Reaper SOCKS IT to JUDY CARNE

The death of Judy Carne (April 27, 1939-September 3, 2015) brought a true pang of sadness for many of us. Part of that involves acknowledging that time has passed. Was it that long ago that "Laugh-In" presented funny hippie protests and a healthy new attitude toward sex? What happened to that joy? And Judy Carne was HOW old?

There were plenty of enticing ladies in that "Age of Aquarius," the late 60s. TV had fantasy figures from Barbara Eden and Barbara Feldon to Diana Rigg and Stephanie Powers. But how many truly reflected the spirit of the SIXTIES, and especially that whole "England Swings" vibe? You might say Jean Shrimpton? Twiggy? Petula Clark? None were on TV in a regular series. I'd say Judy Carne was tops.

After two bland, almost-forgotten sitcoms (she co-starred on "The Baileys of Balboa" and then joined the suicidal Peter Deuel for the mild-mannered "Love on a Rooftop") she and her British accent emerged, with splashy panache and style, on "Laugh-In."

On that pioneering show she was sexy and sassy, impish and fun-loving. That's what the "British Invasion" and the "swinging" 60's was all about. No guns. No overt big-boobed sexuality (not that we didn't appreciate Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore). Judy Carne was cheerful; almost a Julie Andrews type. Julie starred in "The Boyfriend" in 1955, and Judy in the revival in 1980. But unlike Andrews, Carne was, CARNAL, although in a Carnaby way. She boasted about having fucked her way through her late teens, in bed with everyone from Stirling Moss to Anthony Newley. And once in America, she added Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds, who would become her first husband.

"Sock It To Me," as chirped by Judy Carne, sounded frisky, not dirty. Most in the "Laugh-In" audience, especially kids, didn't really think too overtly about the idea of Judy being spread on her back and "socked." But that element was there. And she proved to be a sad, sad reminder of how the "flower power" era ebbed and then crashed, when her "sex and drugs" cheerfulness degenerated into abusive relationships and addiction. In 1977-78 she was arrested three times. In 1978 she literally crashed in a car accident, and for a brief time, she was memorably seen on talk shows wearing a kind of cage over her head, with bolts keeping her broken neck in place.

A few years later, and she was forgotten. In 1983 she turned up on a "Laugh-In" reunion show. Judy's embarrassing autobiography about laughing on the outside and crying on the inside arrived in 1985, and that was it. A few years later and she was just a has-been, taking a one-way ticket back home.

Judy disappeared back to the safety of Pitsford, which was near her original hometown in England. There, she was once again "Joyce," not Judy, and I guess that using her real last name (Botterill) helped keep her privacy. She was one of those rare celebs to evade the fanboys and the collectors who wanted to get an autographed index card by mail. Nobody seemed to know where to reach Judy Carne.

She didn't want to be reached. When she died, few people had anything to say. She didn't seem to have kept in touch with any of her "Laugh-In" co-stars. After all, she walked out on "Laugh-In" before its third year had ended. She was complaining that she was tired of "Sock it to Me" jokes and dancing around in a slim bikini covered in stenciled flowers. Some snickered that it was because she was jealous that Goldie Hawn had eclipsed her as the show's leading lady.

Over thirty years later, and her neighbors all seemed to say the same thing: "Oh, Joyce was a lovely lady. I'd see her walking her dogs." But talk to her? No, not really. Appear at a memorabilia show? NO, not really. What her income might've been, after all her legal problems, I have no idea. But selling photos of herself, or posing with big fat grinning Hoobastanks was not her deal.

Sadly, time has not been kind to "Laugh-In" either. The show seems dated and there aren't many DVDs available o it. Revisionist historians are quick to sneer that the show was "abusive to women," and "politically incorrect." How? Oh, "Laugh-In" promoted the stereotype of the bubble-headed idiot (Goldie Hawn), the loudmouth (Joanne Worley) and the ugly duckling nobody would want to fuck (Ruth Buzzi). And Judy was, of course, the abused sex object victimized by slapstick.

Just how often Judy appeared in public in England is hard to determine. Supposedly she made sporadic appearances in dinner theater productions. "She was a bit of a recluse," one Pitsford fellow admitted, and in her 70's was "frail."

"A Most Peculiar Lady," to paraphrase a certain song, she kept to herself to such a degree that people at first thought her death was a hoax. Who was going to confirm this? She had no agent? No friends? Her death on September 3rd was finallly confirmed on September 8th by a woman named Eva Duffy. Friend? No, a spokeswoman at Northampton General Hospital. Pneumonia was the cause of Judy's death.

"Reality," as the self-destroyed Mr. Williams used to say, "what a concept." So let's leave reality behind and enjoy the brief delusion that Judy is alive and well, and it's the happy late 60's again. Download "Sock it to Me," by Judy Carne.


CANDIDA the song, the disease, the porn star CANDIDA ROYALLE

A few days ago, Candida Royalle (October 15, 1950 – September 7, 2015) passed on. She was a bright, intelligent lady. She was also one of the more attractive pioneers of full-length porn. As 8mm loops became more easy to find in the early 70's, so were hippie chicks willing to do what only fairly homely prostitutes had done: actually fuck on film.

8mm porn was sold by mail at about $20 a ten-minute reel, or watched in "peep show" booths at a quarter per minute. When the swinging 60's had made sure ordinary porn flicks were not likely to cause arrests, companies began to flourish and they hired attractive talent. There was Swedish Erotica, Lasse Braun, The Collection, Diamond Collection, and the appropriately named Prettygirl series, which had a star in men's mag model Linda McDowell (who also worked as Linda Powell). She was followed by the black-haired beauty Tina Russell, and eventually porn left the dirty bookstores and turned up in movie theaters. At first, the "talent" was still fairly homely (Spelvin) or mildly attractive (Lovelace), but soon there was Annette Haven and, yes, an exotic New Yorker named Candice Vadala.

In a remarkable display of sophistication and restraint, Candice didn't call herself "Candy." Yes, 8mm stripper Candy Barr was long gone, and Candy Samples was a big-boobed broad with the face of a diner waitress, but why go for a cliche? She became CANDIDA.

Vadala became ROYALLE, which probably was a relief to her father, Louis Vadala, who was a jazz drummer. Louis played in a variety of house bands, including ones that toiled at the Tavern on the Green restaurant in the middle of Central Park, and at the classy Waldorf Astoria, in the East 50's. I can't find actual credits for him on recordings (mostly because I didn't look), but he may have been in on sessions for Raymond Scott, Lester Lanin and Louie Prima, among others. Band members or session men were seldom given liner notes credits on pop albums of the day.

The musical tribute to her, is therefore, sad to say, not anything by her Dad, but instead, the pretty obvious choice of "CANDIDA." The song was the first hit for Tony Orlando, who had quit his not-too-successul singing career to work in the publishing division of Columbia. When producers couldn't quite find a voice that suited a song knocked out by Irwin Levine and Toni Wine, they persuaded Tony to cut a Latin-tinged demo. The rest, as they say, is misery. MOR star Andy Williams was one of many to also cut "Candida" after it became a sizzling hit, and it's his mild-mannered version you'll find below. It's not better than Tony's, but this blog can NOT get so cheesy as to have Orlando on it. Besides, Williams is dead and it's nice to remind people that he was once alive.

No longer alive is Candida Royalle, who made several dozen porn films. As she aged, she took an interesting direction. She became a porn producer herself, and in 1984 created a line of "Femme Fatale" movies aimed at couples. She figured, rightly, that most porn out was intended solely to arouse men (and slightly masochistic women working out their slut fantasies). Her notion was to ad some romance and subtlety. If she succeeded, I have no idea, since I never saw any of them. Candida also had a line of "contour" sex toys, and was literate enough to be invited to speak on porn and sexuality to audiences at the New School for Social Research, the Conference o the American Psychiatric Association, and even the New York Rotary Club.

In producing porn, Candida hoped to treat her actresses with respect and dignity. She made sure they came to the set healthy, and left in the same condition. In other words, she didn't want them suffering from Candida Albicans, a yeast infection. Candida is in the body naturally, but it can mutate into a fungus. It can cause gas and diarrhea, it can contribute to eczema, and if we want to use the medical term, it can also cause "cunt trouble." Most people seem to think that Candida is strictly a "female" problem but that's only one type of infection.

No, Tony Orlando wasn't singing about a stinking twat back in 1970. And the porn actress wasn't winking about having a royal pain in the cunt, when she began cranking out porn as "Candida" in 1976. After turning up in a variety of cheap flicks under a variety of names (Cyntnia Pleschette, Kathy Silverman, Candice Chambers, Bettina Mia) she became Candida Royal in 1979. The poster above, which was one of the few items from the "old days" on Candida's website, also misspells Susan Nero's name. The first correctly spelled film appearance as Candida Royalle was in "Pro-Ball Cheerleaders," where she was noticeably the slim and seductive brunette opposite the more full-figured redhead Lisa DeLeeuw. Through the late 70's and early 80's, Candida was certainly one of the favorite dark-haired vixens of porn, and then she moved on to her "Femme Fatale" years, her lectures and other enterprises, and she was even working on a "straight" documentary about her life at the time of her fatal illness.

Below, the cover version of "Candida" by Andy Williams. ANDY WILLIAMS CANDIDA

It's STUPID not to love ANNE McCUE

Anne McCue certainly deserves to be mentioned along with Cash, Williams and Harris. More people should know that.

Actually, when it comes to "supporting" the artist, I'm right there whenever McCue (or Cash, come to think of it) tours or has product to buy.

Anne is touring in support of her new one, which is quite a bit more jazzy than past efforts (as you might tell by the affectation o the porkpie hat). My introduction to her was when, with a Byrds-type jangle, she came up with a smart piece of writing called "Stupid."

The more you listen to Anne's song, the more clever it becomes. She can easily reference John Lennon and Bob Dylan, but this comes out of knowledge and respect for their work, not desperate name-dropping. "Lennon said there are no institutions. There's nothing to believe in anymore. The time of the flood is almost here. The end of the world is drawing near..."

But that's no reason to do something stupid. The song is about not giving up on life...which is remarkable coming from a woman who filled up early albums with some pretty grim and dark songs. Yes, singing about drunks ("Jesus' Blood") disaster ("Any Minute Now") and feeling like a "$50 Whore" all suggest that fans of Dylan (or Lucinda Williams, whom critics say she sounds like) might do well to add McCue to their eMusic queue.

"I suffered your shit and shoveled your debris," she sings to the guy who nearly drove her to suicide. But really, why kill yourself over some guy? Or some guy at 11pm giving you bad news? He's not a prophet, and "no man-made God" should lead anyone to a premature and fatal decision. If Anne can manage the trick of being depressing and uplifting at the same time, then there are indeed wonders to ponder every day.

On this track she warns, "I'm gonna write a Bob Dylan song..." Well, why not, she upped the ante on her pal Lucinda already, and some of her stuff is more than good enough to be covered by Dylan on a lonely afternoon.

STUPID Instant download or listen on line.

SWAMP GIRL! (Frankie Laine and Loulie Jean Norman)

Are you like me, do you pick a book off your shelf and just browse now and then?

It's ok to admit it. I didn't ask, "Do you like me," just "ARE you like me."

When it comes to non-fiction and especially biography, I might thumb through to the parts of a person's life that particularly interest me, and leave the rest. It's rare that the whole book is so compelling, and so full of anecdotes, that I read it straight through.

In the case of Frankie Laine's "That Lucky Old Sun," I did both. At first I just thumbed through for references to favorite songs. Then later on I found myself interested in going back to get the full story from beginning to end. And now, now and then, his is one of those books that I'll pick up in order to re-read an amusing story.

A few weeks ago, I re-read his recollection on "Swamp Girl," one of the greatest, and most bizarre songs in his catalog.

Mitch Miller had changed Frankie's career. Laine had been known as a jazz singer, a big-band guy. Some of his songs, like "Shine," even had listeners thinking he might be black. But when the peculiar Mr. Miller began producing Frankie, he had new ideas. He gave Frankie a western song to try. Laine thought the guy was nuts. "Mule Train" became a huge hit. Miller brought in another million-seller when he had Laine record "The Cry of the Wild Goose," with a typically overboard, bombastic arrangement.

Next, "we found another big hit in "Swamp Girl," a very offbeat song by a writer of specialty material named Michael Brown. It was all about a Lorelei of the marshes who lured men there to meet their doom, and it was out of line with anything I'd been doing up to that time. It still sounds avant garde today."

Indeed, of all the Laine songs, "Swamp Girl" might be a first choice to get a person involved in the amazing world of Frankie Laine. It might be a stretch, but it can be argued that Frankie Laine was THE GREATEST AMERICAN MALE VOCALIST OF ALL TIME.

Yes, you read that right. How do I place him above Sinatra?

Easy. Sinatra had two gears: ring-a-ding and morose. Yes, he had great phrasing, and some of his versions are definitive. He also had a tremendously fascinating private life. But if he wasn't doing some stupid fucking finger-snapping "Fly Me to the Moon," then he was moping about "It Was a Very Good Year" or "There Will Never Be Another You."

Laine? Laine could sing jazz damn well, from noir pieces like "Satan Wears a Satin Gown" to standards such as "Sunny Side of the Street." Unlike Sinatra, he could also sing a huge full-throated ballad like "Lord, You Gave me a Mountain." Could Sinatra put over a sappy religious ballad like "I Believe" or an over-baked bit of nutsery like "Annabel Lee" or "Blazing Saddles?" Hell no.

Oh yes...Frankie was a bit chubbier than Frank and had a more worse toupee.

But Francesco LoVecchio should be considered a damn strong contender to Francis Sinatra.

PS, as much as Sinatra needed a good arranger behind him (Gordon Jenkins or Nelson Riddle), Frankie Laine also was helped by strong production. If you listen to some of Laine's best work, you'll note that he had some of the finest producers in the business, and in his book he mentions how often he worked very hard with a full orchestra and take after take to get things right. The legendary "whip crack" noise on "Rawhide" took some ingenuity. And on "Swamp Girl," one of the key factors in making it brilliant is the ethereal vocalise work of Loulie Jean Norman. Loulie would later add strange counterpoint to "Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens, and was the soaring voice behind the original "Star Trek" theme.

"Swamp Girl" straddles the fragrant bog between Laine's romantic and jazz side, and his often blinding flare for the dramatic. He was a great man.


They Can't Take GRETA KELLER Away From Me

A sweet sorrow will comfort you hearing the voice of Greta Keller (1905-1977). Rather than wax melancholic over the wax, discover for yourself the nostalgic niche occupied, perhaps to waning interest, by the interestingly wan Greta Keller. Perhaps it's Keller's lingering German accent that makes her interpretations bittersweet, the tremulous attention she gives toward interpreting the lyrics, or just the aura she presents as a world-weary and aging chanteuse on a dreary tour through smoke-filled nightclubs.

Madame Keller's private life, as her voice suggests, included a variety of traumas. The worst was the murder of her husband David Bacon, apparently while he was patronizing a gay brothel. He was vaguely known at the time for portraying The Masked Marvel in a movie serial. Pregnant at the time of the tragedy, Greta's child arrived stillborn.

In 1940 she opened "Chez Greta" at New York's Algonquin Hotel. Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Tallulah Bankhead, Greta Garbo, Cole Porter and Maurice Chevalier all toasted her as one of the best. In 1947 she opened a new "Chez Greta" in St. Moritz Switzerland and in 1960 returned to New York for two years at the Waldorf Astoria. She continued to tour the world through the 60's and early 70's, evoking nostalgia and stoking libidos. Her rendition of "Married" can be heard in the 1972 film "Cabaret."

Dietrich was more theatrical, Hildegarde evinced more humor, but the tender Greta Keller has a way with a sad song.

Instant access, no Rapidshare, codes, or confusion in getting to a page where the link is hidden amid a dozen garish ads:

They Can't Take That Away From Me (or you)

Not Joan Baez - PULL THE TRIGGERS...Black Lives Smatter








It's really time for a white folkie to take up where Joan Baez left off, and warble an earnest ballad about misunderstood criminals. That would include gangsta wannabe's who goad police into pulling the trigger. At the moment instead of music, we get MEMES. After Doc Palmer killed a lion for no reason except joyful vanity, the "Black Lives Matter" people began firing up MEMES all over Facebook and Instagram. Like:

Nevermind that many victims of police brutality had been tormenting the cops, pretending to have weapons or resisting arrest. Also a bit galling is that a MEME such as the above is blindly insisting that anyone protesting the death of a lion can't possibly find time to protest one of the many incidents where excessive force was NOT needed and the cops were wrong.

One thing is certain; Baez doesn't matter much these days, and the folk-rock movement is deader than Trayvon. Nobody's a singin' protests anymore. And is that a good thing? Whether Bob Dylan was right about Hurricane Carter or not, it sure was a good song. When was the last time you heard a topical hit song that touched your heart? (Do NOT mention the word "BONO" if you leave a comment. It will be removed as SPAM).

Here's Joan protesting in 1965 (James Baldwin with the barefoot Baez) and in 2005 (re. the execution of "reformed" ex-crip Tookie Williams). But in 1972 the National Lampoon protested her, via parody.

Oh, the sacrilege!

How could they fug with such a well-meaning folkie?

First thing they had to do was avoid using the inflammatory title "Pull the Triggers, Niggers." On the National Lampoon album, the song was punningly if not cunningly titled "Pull the Tregroes." But the N-word was sung on that black vinyl of black humor.

Written by Tony "Going too Far" Hendra, and performed by a Baez soundalike named Diana Reed, the song references George Jackson. In 1970 Jackson and two other inmates killed a prison guard. As one of the "Soledad Brothers" he wrote a few books and joined rivals Eldridge Cleaver and Black Panther Huey Newton as a pet of white liberals, the kind who condoned violence as long as it was "just across the bay."

Liberals with the same perceived Baez bias against law enforcement probably admired Jackson's brother, who later in 1970 stormed into a Marin County courtroom and seized Judge Harold Haley as a hostage. Haley's face was blown off during the getaway, and Jackson was killed as well.

In 1971, after receiving a gun smuggled to him by a well-meaning white guy, George Jackson shot prison guard Jere Graham in the head, execution-style, exclaiming, "Let's see if this works." Two more guards as well as two white prisoners bled to death before Jackson was gunned down and the prison riot brought under control.

While it was actually Joan's ex-boyfriend Bob Dylan who came out of protest-song retirement to release a single called "George Jackson," the Lampoon gang mocked Baez instead.

The mock Joan sings: "Just because I can't be there doesn't mean I don't care. So next time, Brother, off a pig for me." The chorus: "Pull the triggers, Niggers, we're with you all the way, just across the bay."

Later in the song Joan is crucified for being sanctimonious ("I'm the world's Madonna...I'm needed from Belfast to Bangladesh"). She confesses to trying to right "grievous wrongs" by writing "tedious songs." All these years later, Joan Baez is still singing her heart out, and sometimes wearing it on her sleeve.

Pull the trigger on this download.

The Free-Wafflin' Bob Dylan - and his pickle grenades

"The waffle farmers got a chance to lob their pickle grenades..."
Gee! How waffle!
How does it feel, to no longer be a complete unknown...and the target of some jerks makin' fun of your hallucinogenic lyrics?
Watch out for the Yogurt People. Ketchup in your hair. Because..."17 Miles from Waukegan My Cantelope Died." That's the title of this very early Dylan parody.

It's on the Harvard Lampoon's "Sheep" album (many years before the National Lampoon and their "Lemmings").

What's it to ya, Moby Dick?

Genya Ravan and all artists..TIED TO THE WHIPPING POST

Artists used to complain, mildly, that there were problems with their record label, producer or agent. Even so, their product was in the stores. Making copies of vinyl, or even CDs was a nuisance, required some skill and equipment, and most people only made one or two copies for friends.

Now? Now artists are TIED TO THE WHIPPING POST, helpless against the massive "sharing" of their work. The rationale behind the Dementeds out there who couldn't keep their Hans off other peoples' copyrighted music, was "oh, it's not available on mp3." Remember that? Then the stuff was available on mp3. The reply was, "It's not cheap enough." So don't ruin the fun and just shut up. Some adorable Mephistophelian know-it-alls declared, "Ach, giving away music makes artists popular. Go sell t-shirts, and Zieg Heil to ME for putting your shit on my blog where I get banner ad money and Paypal tip money!"

It all worked out. NOT.

Aside from Taylor Swift or Sam Smith, most artists are discovering they've been cheated by Spotify to the point where it's embarrassing how many "hits" somehow only equal pennies. Artists have caved in and posted to YouTube to counter all the "fans" who have set up "juke box" accounts to take nickels for themselves. Yep, YouTube is a cheap nickelodeon where the parent company GOOGLE takes most of the money and tosses some chump change to the artists.

Think you can get somebody to untie the ropes to the WHIPPING POST for a tour? Well, how many venues are there? Most people stay home with their Netflix and their downloading. Without record label support and hiring a tour manager, it's difficult to tour. You have to truly be some "road warrior" who travels with just a guitar, and is young enough not to be worn out by the driving, the flying, the crappy hotels and the disorienting world of sound checks, talking to whatever local radio station might still be on the air, and of course shouting at your Twitter and Facebook followers about where you are. So you can hear: "Oh, damn, sorry to be missing it. Hope you come back my way again soon!"

Genya Ravan is among the many older stars who should be seeing royalties coming in. After all, her career stretches from "Goldie and the Gingerbreads" to "Ten Wheel Drive" to impressive solo albums that suffered from poor promotion (her debut on Columbia), bastardly production (like the well-titled "They Love Me, They Love Me Not") or drugged-up non-logic (an album titled "Goldie Zelkowitz" with no reference that this was actually Genya Ravan).

I did see Genya perform some years ago. It wasn't at a big venue. The place probably doesn't even exist anymore. A lot of the favorite places people like her used to perform at, simply got swallowed up by greedy landlords. Her autobiography, "Lollipop Lounge" tells the hard luck stories of her career (which also included being a men's mag model). I once complimented Genya; "you're a survivor," and that pissed her off, because she's been more than that...she's been a mover, a shaker, and she's beaten all the odds from addiction to cancer. She's also released new music on small indie labels. Some of her older material was re-issued on mp3 but that probably hasn't brought in much money. The quality isn't that great, either. This track, ripped from vinyl sounds better than the one I bought at eMusic.

A "little" material "free" isn't necessarily horrible. One or two items on YouTube to give an idea of how excited the audience is to see the artist live. One or two songs on a star's website or on a blog. In that spirit, here's a sample of Genya, for those who may know the name but not much else. "Whipping Post" is pure Ravan. Each stanza of this song brings Genya closer to the raw meat and the bare bones. Or to borrow, out of context, a Phil Ochs line: "The whipping was rotten with ecstasy." Good Lord...Good Lord...Lord...I feel like I'm DYIN'!!!
WHIPPING POST Instant download or listen on line. No code words, porn ads or pop-up ads.