Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Below, some examples of Marian Varga's work, back when he was part of the Czech group Collegium Musucum (note the long hair, on the left, circa 1977) and then when he was a solo artist, guesting with orchestras (at right, circa 2006).

The Internet is supposed to bring us together and expose us to new and interesting cultures. Yet, American and English artists dominate blogs and torrents. Today people are mourning Glen Campbell and Barbara Cook, more than Marian Varga. Not only don't many know who he is, they don't even want to know. English speaking artists are hipper, right? Even, in this case, ones who are pure instrumentalists. Keith Emerson, yes. Marian Varga, who?

An irony is that a lot of torrent owners are in Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, etc., where they make their money giving away American music. Likewise, the bloggers most intent on being "famous" for giving away music are in Sweden, Holland, Germany, Croatia, etc. and wouldn't make money off banner ads if they stuck to their own country's artists. But you'd think that once in a while they'd at least promote a few. After all, these hypocrites CLAIM that they are giving away music for the LOVE of it. They don't LOVE their own country's music?

Anybody really need some cabbage-head giving away every Beach Boys album? You know what they sound like. If you want their stuff, buy it. If it's not worth buying, fuck off. Isn't it a little more valuable to hip people to artists that actually could use some exposure via a free song give-away? 

Sadly, a lot of pinheads only want fame. It's not about "supporting the artist" at all. It's saying, "Hey, I'm cool, I'm giving you every Jethro Tull album," not, "I have pride in my native music" or "Here's something that may stimulate and enrich you, without make me seem like a hipster when I'm some retired turnip living in a converted stable ten miles from a sex partner that doesn't bleat and give milk."

Anyone from the vakias or vinias or atias talking about Marian Varga today?  Nah, they're talking about Glen Campbell and wearing a cowboy hat and posting, "Here is all his music in a RAR file. I am so sad today, RIP to a Great American like ME. I will drink me a beer and say ADIOS, pardner." 

Below, a musical sample of Mr. Varga (January 29, 1947-August 8, 2017). Your chunk of "Racte Vstupit" betrays the influence of the avant garde classical musicians including Stravinsky, as filtered through the sensibilities of a guy who probably also grew up listening to Frank Zappa and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The result is two amusing minutes of keyboard burps and whirps with an added rock beat. 

A rock drummer accompanies Varga to his classical concert where he offered "Hommage a J.S. Bach." As you've come to expect from things like this, the result is the same kind of faux-classical rock that you find here and there on a Curved Air album, a moment from Yes or even Jethro Dull. Classical music goes on too long, and has too many quiet moments and not enough beat? Varga will fix! 

Esoteric vinyl fans may have heard of Prudy,  the band Varga joined after more than enough study of classical music. They put out one well-remembered (in Czechoslovakia, anyway) album. He then formed Collegium Musicum, which may not have been as pretentious a name as Boko Harum, but got enough attention in Czechoslovakia to be widely considered the country's first serious, successful art-rock group.  They put out seven albums in the 70's. He also worked with Pavol Hammel (no relation to Pete Hammel, who spells his last name quite differently, come to think of it) both during the Collegium Musicum years, and in the late 80's and early 90's. His last albums were released in 2003 and 2006.

It's a bit pathetic that foreign music, whether instrumental or with lyrics, gets so little attention. A common excuse is "Why listen to Ultima Spiaggi when you can't understand the words?" Er, for the same reason you listen to Italian opera?? Another is, "But Mylene Farmer sings in French. Who knows what she's saying." This, from people who go to a Bob Dylan concert. PS, you want to explain what "the sun's not yellow, it's chicken" means? Mylene's symbolism doesn't get more obscure than that. 

Hommage a J. S. Bach 
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DAVID RAKSIN plays his theme from "LAURA"

    Let’s call August “DAVID RAKSIN MONTH.”

    He was born August 4, 1912.

    He died August 9, 2004.

    His first brush with movie score fame was helping Charlie Chaplin (who didn’t read music) orchestrate the score for “Modern Times” in 1936. “He did have musical ideas,” Raksin later allowed, but was a bit coy on whether Charlie merely hummed some melodies or actually put together a major amount of the music. 

      Raksin co-wrote music for the Basil Rathbone classic, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in 1939, and began getting assignments in low-budget horror films, including “The Undying Monster” and “Dr. Renault’s Secret,” both in 1942. In 1944, Raksin hit his peak with “Laura.” The music was vitally important to the film, the undercurrent of lust and longing being felt by the seemingly stoic detective assigned to Laura's murder.

      Raksin admitted that the heartache swirling through the melody of that piece came from personal experience. His wife left him shortly before work on the score began. The song became a huge hit; some say only "Stardust" had more radio play or sheet music sales. Johnny Mercer was assigned the task of writing lyrics, and it turned out to be one of his more poetic and least corny efforts. 
    Raksin followed “Laura” with the scores for “Fallen Angel” (another Dana Andrews film), “Forever Amber,” “Force of Evil,” and in 1953, "The Bad and the Beautiful" which featured another favorite, “Love Is For the Very Young.” 

    Among other films Raksin scored through the 50’s and 60’s: “The Magnificent Yankee,” “The Next Voice You Hear,” “Pat and Mike,” “Carrie,” “Suddenly,” “The Big Combo,” “Hilda Crane,” “Hellcats of the Navy,” “20 Million Miles to Earth,” “Man on Fire,” “Separate Tables,” “Al Capone,” “The Patsy,” “Invitation to a Gunfighter,” “Sylvia,” “A Big Hand for the Little Lady,” and “Will Penny.” 

     Through the 60’s he was president of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, and no doubt, if he’d been around for the Internet era, would’ve been disgusted by the bonfire of the vanities: mindless assholes rushing into forums and shout-boxes every day to throw music around for a few “nice” comments. Telling people you love music by making sure nobody has to buy any, is almost too low, childish and destructive to be classified as something a human would do. It’s more in keeping with the personality of a parasite, a maggot, or a fat, engorged tic. Raksin was the type who would have encouraged the RIAA, BPI and BREIN to hunt down and arrest the inane drones and bratty spoilers making spare change by sharing banner ad money with Communists and criminals in foreign countries.

    The pirates, most of them retards and mental defectives living in outhouses far away from Hollywood or Tin Pan Alley, wouldn’t understand Raksin’s pride and artistry in creating film music: “''What you can't do with a camera or dialogue, music has a way of taking care of. It gets at the deeper emotions that aren't always expressible on film. People who are skeptical about the value of film music should be condemned to watch films without it.''

    Raksin's last important scores were “What’s The Matter with Helen” (1971),  “Ghost of Flight 401” (1978) and “The Day After” (1983). You can tell that Raksin enjoyed the process. Below, at home, he demonstrates the “Laura” theme, taking pride in the flourishes and unique chord changes. Twice married and divorced, I’d like to think that he was as romantic in the bedroom as he was at the keyboard, but perhaps music was his true mistress. He created more film scores than many great composers have written symphonies or concertos. Some of his themes continue to be used as the prelude to romance, or the soundtrack for the act of love itself. There aren’t many popular piano pieces that evoke sensuality and lust as well as “Laura” does. “….but she’s only a dream.”

David Raksin plays
LAURA   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

GLEN CAMPBELL "I'm Not Gonna Miss You"

He told you he was sick. He didn't disguise the ravages of aging, and as he made his way through his farewell tour, he wanted people to know that he might lose his way during a song, or be a little more "sloppy" than his critics would want. He didn't want pity over Alzheimers, he wanted acceptance of reality.

Do we need a primer on Glen Campbell? You know he was one of the great All-American country-pop stars of the 60’s and 70’s. His hit songs are a road map of the nation: “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I get to Phoenix” and “Galveston.” His feet were planted in the middle of the road, which meant that most everyone liked “Gentle on My Mind” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” whether they actually bought copies or not. To paraphrase a Dylan line, when you heard Glen, or saw him on TV, the country music was soft, and there was "nothing, really nothing to turn off." In fact, that apple-cheeked smile could put you in a "good time" mood, to borrow the title of his TV series.

What some might not know is that Campbell began his career as a versatile studio musician, part of the “Wrecking Crew,” hired guns ready to work behind anyone in any style needed. He backed Bobby Darin, The Monkees, Dean Martin, Nancy Sinatra, Elvis, Merle Haggard and many others. He was even part of The Beach Boys for some mid-60’s touring.

It was “Gentle on My Mind” in 1967 that made Campbell a superstar. He didn’t have the identifiable voice of a George Jones, or the indelible features of Johnny Cash, or the easy charm of the real “middle of the road” bunch like Andy Williams or Dean Martin, but he was a consistent and welcome presence through the late 60's and early 70's, enjoying hit songs and a hit TV variety show.

The middle of the road got muddy in the late 70’s, when the hits weren’t coming as often. He began 1980 with yet another divorce: “Perhaps I’ve found the secret for an unhappy private life. Every three years I go and marry a girl who doesn’t love me, and then she proceeds to take all my money.”  

 Although there would be further problems with drugs and alcohol, and even a few days in jail, Campbell settled into the familiar patterns of the aging country-pop star, including some time in Branson, Missouri helming his own theater.

  When God gives you talent, you use it, and keep on using it. Campbell made records even when Internet "sharing" took most of the profits. You avoid walking in manure, so Glen was among the many who tried to ignore the crap from a few misguided "fans." He knew nobody who paid money to see him would be the type to go from forum to forum dumping entire discographies. His family will ignore the "tributes" from some torrent "shout box" where R.I.P. is below a complete giveaway of his life's work, all for a "nice" comment to the uploader. No, some fat retired retard isn't as important as Campbell, and his sorrow over Glen's passing, as expressed in "here's my linky-winky to the goodies" is as hollow as a donkey's asshole. 

     Creative people, when they are presented with life-changing illnesses, often produce their best work. The final album from Leonard Cohen, “You Want it Darker,” is an example. While we tend to think of Glen Campbell as just a pleasant country-pop star, he took his craft seriously, and like Johnny Cash another star given only a few more creative years, he was determined to make the time matter. Campbell went into the studio to record a new album, and tracks that could be released when he was no longer even capable of reading the reviews.   

       Some people retire to a useless life of gluttony and complaining. The whine about every little ailment like they're dying, and they're not (unfortunately). If they have a music blog, it's too likely to be a steal-fest where they give away tons of music to get some banner-ad-share money. If there's any text to go along with the link, it's stolen words from somebody else, since these maggots have no minds. If they write anything it's just "I love music, this makes me feel good when I'm not scratching my hemorrhoids, checking my saggy lips for signs of palsy, or rubbing my oh-so-sensitive skin with creme I stole from the drugstore. Pray for me. I've said I'm dying at least once every week, but who knows, next week I may face that final sunset, without a last meal at Applebees."

      A real man like Glen Campbell, faced the end with nobility. A short "farewell" tour went on for nearly a year, despite the strain and the possibility of some on-stage disaster. Instead of sentiment, there was "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," a piece that belongs next to Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" or anything on the last Cohen album. There's even a bit of Lennon to it (a downward chord change similar to "Isolation") that tells you this art based on honesty.

“Ghost on the Canvas” in 2010 was the warning sign that Glen’s health was failing. His “Goodbye Tour” ended before Christmas of 2012. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” reflecting on the nature of Alzheimer’s, was released along with a documentary in the fall of 2014.

Glen’s final recordings were held up for several years, so that his fans would get the surprise of some new material, and a reminder that Campbell was still around. “Adios” was in stores in April. Lennon once sang, "You don't know what you've got till you lose it," but one thing about the passing of an artist, is that the finality does make what remains all the more precious. Campbell was a pop artist, but his death has marked a reappraisal of his work. Most of it still seems pretty lightweight, but that was part of his charm and his legacy. Many of his songs were just for "good times." But quite a few reflected the every day struggles of the working man; the "Wichita Lineman," the man facing truths in "Galveston," the man dealing with another dream gone wrong in "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and the truth behind the glitter on "The Rhinestone Cowboy." 

Glen Campbell 
  I’m Not Gonna Miss You   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

The "BRONCO" TV Theme - TY Hardin (Paul Sammes Singers)

Not too many classic TV Western stars are still around. Headed for the last round-up a few days ago: Ty Hardin. He played the hero Bronco Layne, and was part of the Warner Bros. western family that included the late James "Maverick" Garner and Jack "Maverick" Kelly and Roger "Maverick" Moore, and still with us, Clint "Cheyenne" Walker and Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins.

Born Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr. on New Year’s Day 1930, Ty could trace his family back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was in the Korean War, and then went to Texas A&M University. His good looks got him some acting offers, and as Ty Hungerford, he was signed to Paramount, appearing in Tom Tryon’s immortal “I Married a Monster from Outer Space.” 

    “Discovered” by John Wayne (as James Arness was), Ty had the look of a strong, stoic cowboy. With a nod to the legendary gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, the former Ty Hungerford got a new name and a Warner Bros. contract. He was eased into the world of TV westerns via the "Cheyenne" series, playing “Bronco Layne." He soon had a show of his own. 

    This was a time when American television was under the siege of Western-mania. While radio had done well for "The Lone Ranger" and "Gunsmoke," and the movies had Hopalong Cassidy, pop culture hadn't seen so much beefcake and horse flesh. Every night, you could watch the action in Dodge City, Cimmaron City, Laramie, Tombstone Territory or the Ponderosa. Cowboys rode along the route of Wells Fargo, turned up on a "Wagon Train" through obscure sagebrush, got sun burned on "Death Valley Days," and would go just about anywhere for an adventure: “Have Gun Will Travel.” 

     Many new faces became instant stars, including Steve McQueen on “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Nick Adams on "The Rebel" and Chuck Connors as "The Rifleman." Women tended to do little except work a saloon (Peggie Castle on “Lawman” and Amanda Blake on “Gunsmoke”).  Every gimmick was used to get viewers to tune in The Deputy, The Tall Man, Wyatt Earp, Yancy Derringer, Bat Masterson, Paladin, Tate, Wild Bill Hickok, Kit Carson, The Cisco Kid, The Virginian and Zorro, among others. 

    “Bronco” rotated with the hour-long Sugarfoot for an hour of viewer time. The shows were polar opposites. “Sugarfoot” was about a mild-mannered, blond fellow prone toward solving problems with law books and common sense. “Bronco” was a more traditional muscle man with the angular look of Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood on "Rawhide") or Tom Tryon ("Texas John Slaughter").  

    Most every TV Western had to have a theme song explaining the hero. This could be fairly dopey (“The Lawman came with the sun. There was a job to be done…”) or so ridiculous the lyrics weren’t used (“Bonanza” would be an example). Warner Bros. seemed to corner the market on goofy ones (“Sugarfoot” among the more egregious). There wasn’t much to say about Bronco except to sing his name (“Bronco! Bronco! Bronco Layne!”) The only version I have in my collection has the reliable Johnny Gregory guiding the orchestra, featuring the Michael Sammes Singers.

     Mike Sammes (February 19, 1928-May 19, 2001) ran one of the best known back-up groups in pop music at the time. Not only did they sing TV themes (including “Supercar” and “Stingray” for their native country's popular action shows), they backed all types of vocalists. They sang behind British songbird Helen Shapiro ("Walkin' Back to Happiness"), Welsh superstar Tom Jones ("Green Green Grass of Home" and "Delilah") and Aussie beauty Olivia Newton-John (that's Mike offering the country basso voice on "If you Love Me Let Me Know.) The Sammes bunch even appear on Beatles tracks “I Am the Walrus” and “Good Night.”   

    Mr. Sammes gets special mention here for impersonating “Whispering Carl Schmidt,” and singing what seemed to be an authentic 78 rpm ballad “Mein Liebling Mein Rose” on an episode of “The Avengers,” with guest star Peter Jeffrey as "The Joker" out for revenge against Emma Peel. The fake-vintage tune (music by “The Avengers” theme writer Laurie Johnson) was so catchy, and Sammes' phonetic German vocal so creepy, "Mein Liebling Mein Rose" was actually released as a single. But, I digress. 

    After “Bronco,” Ty Hardin worked in Europe on a variety of film projects, and in 1967 starred in an Australia adventure series “Riptide.” His film career flagged with only two film credits in the 1980’s and one in 1992. Fans never forgot “Bronco,” and he turned up on the memorabilia circuit, especially the rodeos and country fairs that featured vintage cowboy stars. Hardin, married eight times, was a fun, irascible guy with a no-nonsense personality. He self-published his autobiography, which he offered for sale on his website. Ty noted that anyone could get it signed, free. He added two words: “Big Deal.”  

    Ty was aware that he was beginning to have Alzheier’s symptoms. He continued to make the personal appearances as long as he could. He encouraged fans to not simply live in the comfortable past, but be aware of the complex problems in the world around them. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him, written a few years ago, which remains a prophecy and a legacy:

    “The fact that we have turned our backs on our Godly virtues is the prime reason our nation is headed for a train wreck. How did our Jesus deal with the moneychangers? He threw them out of His church. Who let them back into the church? You did. You’re entitled to believe what you like, but Men of God seeking religious freedom established this nation and we own them our allegiance even if we don’t believe in their God of Creation. Our currency carries their trade mark “In God we Trust” Live with it and respect it, for if we don’t, we will reap a whirl wind of disaster like has never been witnessed before in our History. You may not agree with our founding fathers but the sub-humans that now control our monetary system are destroying our nation’s freedoms with financial bondage and their no-win wars. We cannot sit back and watch our nation being reduced into financial slavery while your kids are being stationed all over the world protecting their globalist assets.  Cowboys get off your butts out of their usury debt. Put a stash away of food and ammo. We will be called on to retake our land for God. I’m referring to the Bible’s prediction of the last days. What if God is right?  Call me an alarmist or a Bible thumper, but I am preparing for the worst and praying for a revival. This present collapse of our economy is just a clear picture of the events to come.  Having a black president may be a giant step in your eyes for equal opportunity but it was not as it does make a gigantic statement? When the economy hits a brick wall, the frustrations of despair and hunger goes too the streets, the armed masses will be the most lethal mass of humanity in the entire world. What do you think their Homeland security is all about? They can’t augment their One World Order without disarming or killing Patriots and they well know it. Folks, freedom is walking on thin ice looking for a miracle. What if our  Black President cannot unite our nation, restore the Constitution. All Hell Will Break Loose.”

  Johnny Gregory Orchestra, Sammes Singers   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

Lori Lieberman "Killing Me Softly" with nostalgia

    “It might have been.” 

     There are dozens and dozens of singers who have an odd type of fame: they recorded a sure-fire hit song, only to be ignored. A "cover version" became a smash instead, and worse, be declared "the definitive version." 

    Probably the most famous example is “Killing Me Softly With His Song” which was a worldwide hit for smokey soul singer Roberta Flack. It was originally recorded by AND written for a blue-eyed blond named Lori Lieberman.   

    Too bad nobody knows who Lori Lieberman is. Or Norman Gimbel. Gimbel (still around at 90) wrote the lyrics. A professional who studied his craft with Frank Loesser, developed an unusual nice for adapting foreign melodies for female vocalists. A pretty song required a pretty sensitive guy to find the female point of view to make it a hit for an Astrud Gilberto or Claudine Longet. A Brazilian melody became "How Insensitive" and a French one, "I Will Wait For You." Nana Mouskouri had a hit with "Only Love." Yes, this Jewish guy from Brooklyn scored a lot of International hits.

      Gimbel also worked with composer Charles Fox to craft original tunes for movies, for artists in search of a hit, or for a young performer who showed promise. Lori Lieberman was in the latter category, when she was signed to Capitol, sort of their answer to Judy Collins. A former folkie, she needed melodic, rock-pop ballads to bring her the kind of success Judy was having, as well as guys such as James Taylor and Cat Stevens.

    Norman spent some time with Lori, getting to know her interests and personality, and the kind of things she might want to sing about. She mentioned an emotional experience watching a singer-songwriter at L.A.'s The Troubadour, a club that featured the best of the solo artists, including Phil Ochs and Joni Mitchell. 

      “It was an awful place, a tough club with tough audiences,” Don McLean recalls. He played a song called “Empty Chairs,” which may not have thrilled some of the hipper people in the audience, but it moved Lori Lieberman. There were very ripe lines in it: “I feel a trembling tingle of a sleepless night…Gypsy moths dance around a candle flame...Moonlight used to bathe the contours of your face while chestnut hair fell all around the pillow case. …I never knew how much I needed you. Never thought you’d leave until you went.”    

        Lori explained how emotional she became, listening to McLean. Gimbel: “I had a notion this might make a good song, so...we talked it over several times, just as we did the rest of the numbers we wrote for the album, and we all felt it had possibilities.” It was Norman who came up with a phrase that seemed to poetically capture Lori's emotion: “Killing me softly with his blues.” Lori wasn’t sold on “blues.” After all, McLean wasn't a blues artist, and the type of music most 20-ish girls were listening to, like herself, was folk-rock. "Killing Me Softly With His Song" was the single Capitol chose. 
         It won a “Song of the Year” Grammy in 1973 for Gimbel and Fox, but not for Lieberman. The hit version was on Atlantic, from Roberta Flack. “She was very creative with it,” Lori says now. Back then, the disappointment was too much. It seemed that record execs quickly cooled to her, and when one kept her waiting for hours, she walked out of the building and never returned. 

         Lieberman returned to show business years later as a cabaret act, doing the kind of songs best suited to her, and using her notoriety as the original "Killing Me Softly" singer to open some doors. Enough time had passed, so that some simply remembered the song and not necessarily who it was that made it a hit. In 2011 she recorded an album called “Courage.” A YouTube interview supporting the album was headlined, "Lori Lieberman Comes to Terms with Killing Me Softly." Some 10,000 people have viewed it.   

     There's another video on YouTube that some might be amused to see. It's Don McLean performing "Empty Chairs" with Lori Lieberman in the audience. The camera has a few shots of Lori as she smiles, acknowledging Don's story of how his performance inspired a hit song, first recorded by her. When asked about the song, Don doesn't take sides. He claims to appreciate both the Lori Lieberman and the Roberta Flack versions:  “I’m absolutely amazed…humbled about the whole thing. You can’t help but feel that way about a song written and performed as well as this one is.” 

Lori Lieberman
Killing Me Softly with His Song   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.


There’s something about the death of a singer; for a moment, the song seems gone forever.

Then you remember that you rarely saw them perform in person, but lived with them via records and TV appearances, which endure. While it’s no consolation to them, for those who hear the sad news, it’s, “well…I can still see them and hear them. The way I knew them, they are still around.”

Barbara Cook was mostly known to fans of Broadway. The 89 year-old actress won a Tony Award for “The Music Man,” but didn’t play in the movie version. Vinyl-flippers also have seen her name on the Original Cast albums for “Plain and Fancy,” “Candide” and “She Loves Me.” She also toured in various productions of musical standards such as “The King and I,” “Funny Girl” and “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” 

 Cook was a bit of a hard luck story when it come to movies. It seemed that if she was lucky enough to score a hit that was picked up for a film version, a more traditional star such as Shirley Jones or Debbie Reynolds would get the prize assignment. When her luck ran out in the 70’s, and it seemed she’d never get that chance to be the Cinema Sweetheart in a big budget film, she became lost in alcohol and in weight problems. She managed to emerge from her struggle, and along with a few other veterans (such as Elaine Stritch), she created a new form of entertainment via the solo show. 

In the 80’s and 90's she was known for her cabaret work, and a “one woman show” that was a hit both in America and England. She was one of the veterans who could show a new generation why the “standards” are the gold standard. People who missed the great era of Broadway, got a glimpse of it through Barbara Cook. One of her highlight moments was performing one of the last truly great Broadway ballads, Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind,” which was the hit in "Follies." You don’t have to be a fan (spelled with an “n” at the end, not a “g”) to be touched by this one. Not only is this a beautiful, aching love song, it’s almost a textbook example on writing, from the spare symbolism to the perfectly timed and placed chord changes.

      Cook was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2011, and only retired last year. Most would agree that, like Patti Page, her most endearing quality was also a bit of a liability. She had a true “ringing” soprano, a bell-like tone and vibrato that was almost too pretty to be true. There may be others who give “Losing My Mind” a more tragic edge simply because they don’t have such a perfect voice. Here's an example of the perfect brilliance of Barbara Cook. 

Barbara Cook
  Losing My Mind  (Live Performance)   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

BOBBY TAYLOR (of the Vancouvers and Tommy Chong)

Bobby Taylor?

It's a bit odd, but when Bobby Taylor died, the news was more about his connection to Tommy Chong and to Michael Jackson. 

Before he became half of the famous drug-comedy team, Chong was part of Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, and co-wrote the only song most people even vaguely heard of from the group.

"Does Your Mama Know About Me" (a co-write from Tommy Chong and Tom Baird) grazed the Top 40 with its tantalizing suggestion that the singer was a bad dude, a lousy influence, a stoned hippie, or black or Chinese or of some other forbidden race. The band began as four Blacks and Chong, which led him to suggest that they call themselves "Four Niggers and a Chink." This was the era of Lenny Bruce bluntness, but there doesn't seem to be any documentation of that amusing monicker appearing on any poster for an early club date. They did work as the Calgary Shades, alluding to their Canadian location and the darkness of most band members. The band became more racially mixed as they moved along.

The 1968 single and album was the beginning and end for the group. "Taylor Made Soul" was Bobby's solo album the following year, but over the decades, he made a living from producing music and appearing in various oldies bands. He found a lot of work in the Far East, and died in Hong Kong.

When Bobby died, Jermaine Jackson offered a Tweet about Bobby being the Jackson 5's "mentor." Indeed, Bobby worked on the first two albums before Berry Gordy, the 5's father and others stepped in. Bobby was 78.

Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers
  DOES YOUR MAMA KNOW ABOUT ME?    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords,  malware or spyware anywhere.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

JUNE DIES IN JULY - the Queen of Voices, June Foray

Sometimes, June Foray would autograph this image for fans...a collage featuring SOME of her many voices. She nearly reached her 100th birthday in September, but fell a few months short. 

She could be called on for just ONE word. As "Midnight the Cat," for "Smilin' Ed's Gang" and later the TV version, "Andy's Gang," all she had to say was..."Nice!" Some fans of that show might remember the old "Buster Brown Comic Books" that were hawked on the show and given away by the sponsor with each pair of shoes. The artist for the comic books was Hobart Donovan, who also wrote many of the radio scripts for the adventures on the show. She and June were married. He died in 1976.

Foray's most rigorous assignment was probably on the iconic "Bullwinkle Show," where she would routinely switch between chipper heroic Rocky the Flying Squirrel, and the lower, hoarser voice of villainess Natasha Fatale. 

Little girls who grew up playing with one of the first "talking dolls," the Chatty Cathy, were hearing June's voice. In a sinister twist of fate, a "Twilight Zone" episode about an evil talking doll had...yes...June Foray voicing it. 

By the time people began to realize the genius satire behind "Rocky and Bullwinkle," my hero Paul Frees was long gone. June Foray, and for a long time Bill "Bullwinkle" Scott did the interviews, attended the memorabilia show events and delighted fans with a wave, a smile or an autograph. June was well aware of the adulation, which may have been a bore at times. It led to the somewhat tart title of her autobiography, "“Did You Grow Up With Me, Too?” She also penned a pretty amusing book of satiric poems, that some would say recalls the style of Dorothy Parker.

The book traced her life from her beginnings as June Lucille Forer in Springfield, Mass., to her very busy radio career which included "The Jimmy Durante Show," Steve Allen's early "Smile Time" series, and "The Stan Freberg Show" during the waning days of radio. Yes, June supplied the female voices for Stan's Capitol singles including "St. George and the Dragonet." 

Meanwhile, in films, she worked with Disney (Lucifer the Cat in "Cinderella" among others) and for Looney Tunes ("Witch Hazel" and "Granny"). She had fans for her role as Cindy Lou Who in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Mrs. Caudron" on "The Garfield Show."

She was still active in 2013, voicing "Rocky" for an animated short. "My body is old," she said, "but I think the same as I did when I was 20 years old.”

June's range was just about limitless. She often did a "Marjorie Main" type of coarse harridan, but was more often asked to voice sweet little old ladies or stereotypical witches. No question, the two most unique voices were Rocky and Natasha, and you'll hear them below on "The No-Goodnik Song," which is mostly a duet involving Natasha and Boris Badenov (Frees). She was a legend in her own time.

June Foray
  The No-Goodnik Song with Paul Frees   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Broadway Babe Who Died Young: JUDY TYLER

Judy Tyler is gone, but not forgotten. She has a deep cult following.

Baby Boomers remember the lady born Judith Mae Hess (October 9, 1932) as the Princess on the "Howdy Doody" television show.

Hardly content with Doody, Judy moved on to bigger things, like Broadway.

She was memorable in "Pipe Dreams." While the musical based on Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" didn't last, critics were clamoring to see her again soon. A song from the show, which gives you an idea of how derivative and uninteresting the production was, is below. You can't fault Judy, who sings it well.

Broadway fans hoping Judy would star in another traditional Broadway musical were denied; Judy starred in the peculiar film "Bop Girl Goes Calypso,"  and the same year, 1957, co-starred with Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock."

Things could not have been going better for Judy. When filming wrapped in Hollywood, she and her husband decided to take a scenic drive back home to New York. Their sight-seeing took them into Wyoming. From the tire marks, and the testimony of witnesses, Judy's husband swerved on Route 287 to avoid a car that was towing a big trailer. He crashed into another vehicle, and both he and Judy were killed. Judy was just 24.

Newspapers reported that Elvis was, well, all shook up. To this day, Elvis and Judy fans remain tearful about that sad day, July 3rd, 1957, 60 years ago. An irony was that Judy also guest-starred in an episode of "Perry Mason," which finally aired a few days after Christmas, 1957. Many viewers probably had no idea that the guest star of that episode had died.

Like Luba Lisa (below), fans wishing to pay their respects need to come to New York to do it. But they won't get too close. Judy Tyler's cremated remains are in a private mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery. That's where, until a recent move by her estate, Judy Garland's ashes were resting in peace.

Judy Tyler
  EVERYBODY’S GOT A HOME BUT ME   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart password games

Broadway Babe Who Died Young: LUBA LISA

Most agree that the lone musical highlight in Buddy Hackett's Broadway musical "I Had a Ball" was a vamping number by rising starlet Luba Lisa. In the tradition of Gwen "Whatever Lola Wants" Verdon, Luba wiggled, strutted and sang "Addie's At It Again" with a cheerful brand of heat. She got a Tony award nomination for her role. Seven years later, she was dead, age 31.

Born in Brooklyn (March 10, 1941), Luba Lisa Gootnick's Dad was a mathematician. Her brother became a doctor. Her pert good looks had people figuring she could make it on stage. 20 years later, she was in "Carnival," and followed it with "I Can Get It For You Wholesale." She could take the subway to work, as she was living at 33-44 91st Street, in Jackson Heights, Queens. She appeared in the film "Pepe," dancing with Maurice Chevalier. The movie was supposed to springboard Mexican comedy star Cantinflas to greatness, but it was a box-office bomb. Lisa went back to Broadway. When she played Addie, the "girl of easy virtue," her dynamic personality inspired the producers to craft that special production number which wasn't in the original script.

From there, Luba Lisa had so many opportunities, and so many people thinking of ways her beauty and comedy could be used on stage, screen or TV. What next?

"I'm a fatalist," she told a reporter, "and just wouldn't know what is going to happen. This doesn't mean I think you should just sit back and wait. I have a very important objective, but I can't share what it is with anyone right now. It's not that I'm superstitious, I just won't talk about it."

The secret died with her. It was a cold, snowy night, December 15th, 1972. Just a few weeks before Christmas, she was flying into Vermont via a small plane. There were two other passengers with her, and the pilot. They were all killed. Her body was returned to New York, and buried out at Mount Ararat Jewish Cemetery.

The most easily accessible item on Luba Lisa is the one you'll find below; the tantalizing audio of what had to be a memorably bombastic performance of joyful sexuality. You can play it over a few times, and each time..."Addie's At It Again."

  ADDIE’S AT IT AGAIN   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Larry Vincent - What Rhymes with SHIT? "Sweet Violets"

    A cousin to the famous Benny Bell song “Shaving Cream,” here’s Larry Vincent singing “Sweet Violets.” A gag that never seems to get old, you still smile when, instead of the expected dirty-word get a chiding chorus oh-so-innocently offering a sweet, incongruous refrain.

 Among people who care about novelty songs…almost nobody really gives a pile of SWEET VIOLETS or SHAVING CREAM over whether Larry stole from Benny Bell, or the reverse. Most likely Benny Bell was the original, but the idea of an innocent word substituting for a nasty one goes back a lot earlier. Benny's "Shaving Cream" arrived in 1946, Larry's "Sweet Violets" in 1949.  

Born in San Jose, California (January 13, 1901) Vincent began touring in the 1920's. During a stay in Chicago he recorded his lone early single, “She’s a Great, Great Girl.” Singing straight material, he tried his hand at songwriting, coming up with “If I Had My Life to Live Over,” a co-write with the more established Jewish songwriters Moe Jaffe and Henry Tobias. Larry recorded it himself on the “20th Century Records” label, credit to “Larry Vincent and [the] Feilden Foursome.” The flip, a co-write with Haven Gillespie, is “Stay as Long as You Like.”

 If you don't want to know more about Moe Jaffe and Henry Tobias, skip this paragraph. Tobias, a cousin of Eddie Cantor’s, wrote the melody for “And Away We Go” recorded by Jackie Gleason. Henry wrote a book, “Music In My Heart and Borscht in my Blood.” He worked with several different people, including his brothers. Among his hits were “Miss You,” recorded by Jaye P. Morgan, Bing Crosby and others, “Cooking Breakfast For the One I Love” (Fanny Brice), “Easter Sunday With You’ (Perry Como) and “May I Have the Next Dream with You” (Jerry Vale). Moe Jaffe co-wrote “I Don’t Know from Nuthin’” with Henry Tobias, but worked with many others as well. Moe’s co-writes include “The Gypsy in My Soul” (with Clay Boland) “Oh You Sweet One” (with Paul Kapp), and “Bell Bottom Trousers,” which was a bawdy ballad he cleaned up (sort of the way Cy Coben cleaned up "Sweet Violets") “Collegiate” (a co-write with the oddly-named Nat Bonx) was recorded by quite a few people including Fred Waring, and turns up via Chico Marx in The Marx Brothers’ college comedy “Horse Feathers.” The versatile Moe could even knock off gospel titles, such as “Get Together with the Lord,” a co-write with Bickley Reichner that was recorded by Andy Kirk’s Orchestra.

Larry Vincent kicked around various peculiarly named nightclubs, from Benny the Bum’s in Philadelphia to The Lookout House in Covington, Kentucky, where he stayed for many years. Not quite as obscure as it might seem, Covington wasn’t too far from Cincinnati, Ohio. Go check a map. It was in the unlikely town of Covington that Larry and Moe Jaffe formed the Pearl Records label. Like Benny Bell recording for Bell Records, Vincent hired himself to record everything on his label.  He tried “legit” novelty songs (“I Grow Gooey Over Chop Suey”)  but ended up pandering to the “party song” crowd.

Larry’s popular numbers, including “Sweet Violets,” “Yas Yas Yas,” “The Smell Song (Fish Fish Fish),” “Sarah Sittin’ in a Shoe Shine Shop” and “I Used to Work in Chicago” were usually credited to  “Larry Vincent and the Pearl Boys,” or “The Pearl Boys,” “The Pearl Trio” or “The Pearl Five” etc. etc. With a nod to his hangout at The Lookout House, a number of his 78’s were also credited to “Larry Vincent and his Lookout Boys.” He had a certain wiseguy-charm that made his risque tunes more amusing than annoying, more light-hearted than smarmy. Most of his 78’s were released between 1946 and 1949, the date for "Sweet Violets."

As the long-play era started in the 50's Larry compiled some of his old tunes, including  “She Had to Lose It as the Astor,” “The Kanaka Song,” “Buster Astor,” “Get Off the Table Mabel” and various “butt” pun songs like “I Kissed Her But I Never Will Again” and “She Has Freckles On her But She is Nice,” (aka The Freckle Song). The albums include “Listen and Laugh” and “Laugh Provoking Ditties for the Party.”   

Still hoping for a legit hit, in the mid-50’s Larry recorded “The Whole Town’s Batty About Cincinnati” and lastly, the 1954 single “Let’s Bowl (The Bowling Song”) b/w “I Cried For You.”

Larry's risque rival Benny Bell didn't stay in the risque novelty genre in the late 50's or 60's. By then, silly double entendre stuff was passe, and instead of discs by those guys, or contemporaries Dwight Fiske and Ruth Wallis,  Lenny Bruce records were hot. Benny's "hot" tunes had also turned up the heat on him, as many Jews in his Brooklyn neighborhood frowned on such frivolity. Benny sang many straight novelty numbers in Yiddish and authored "freilachs" (dance instrumentals) that were played at weddings. The Jewish stores that sold this kind of thing (along with menorahs, prayer shawls and Molly Picon 78's) threatened not to carry Benny's material if he didn't clean up his act.

Benny did clean up his act, and when he composed novelty songs, they were aimed (not too successfully) in the direction of past (Mickey Katz) and current (Allan Sherman) Jewish novelty singers. For example, he hoped for a knock-off on Chubby Checker via "The Kosher Twist." Benny was pleasantly surprised when people old enough to be his grandson discovered and delighted in his old risque tunes. ‘Shaving Cream” was re-issued and became a surprise hit, landing in the Billboard Top 40 in 1975. Larry? He passed on, January 5, 1977.

Larry Vincent  
Sweet Violets   Instant download or listen on line. 

SWEET VIOLETS - anticipation comedy from HOMER & JETHRO

    “Anticipation comedy” is a very simple way of getting a laugh. In fact in our 21st Century, it’s considered too simple. But for quite a while, the formula worked. 

    I remember “us kids” singing the “Lulu” song. We thought it was so clever: 

    “Lulu had a steamboat. The steamboat had a bell. Lulu went to heaven, the steamboat went to —
    Hello Operator, give me Mr. Glass. If you can not find him. I’ll paddle your —
    Behind the fridgerator…” 

    And on and on. 

    (Parenthetically, another form of “Anticipation comedy” was perfected by Mantan Moreland, using a variety of vaudeville partners. Instead of relying on actual jokes and complicated mis-hearings, like “Who’s on First,” the routine simply involved cutting off the sentences like a know-it-all. “Mantan, what’s your brother doin’ now?” “He’s working down here for a man. They payin’ him a salary—“ “He can live that cheap??” “You got him wrong. He gonna get married.” “To whom?” “He’s gonna marry the daughter of —“ “She’s a nice girl. Well…” “You got some dirt?” “One time I —“ “That was her sister.”) 

    Along with “Shaving Cream,” the notorious version of “Sweet Violets” got the laughs by NOT rhyming the expected word: SHIT. You anticipated it, and got the laugh-producing surprise of a silly chorus instead.   

    Could the radio play that kind of thing in the 40’s? Definitely not. But “Sweet Violets” DID get played in a different version. 

    And so it was that later, as the dj spun his disc, that his face, it just stayed ghostly, ‘cause the disc was not a risk. Cy Coben (who worked quite a bit with Homer and Jethro) created the acceptable version, partnered with Charles Grean. Homer and Jethro’s version starts out with the familiar, if not downright annoying “Sweet Violets” chorus: 

    “Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses,  Covered all over from head to toe. Covered all over with sweet violets,” a bit of crummy schmaltz that goes back to 1882 and the forotten Joseph Emmet. From there, it’s time for anticipation and denial: 

    “There one was a guy who invited his pals out to a burlesque show to
    LOOK at the scenery for it would be well worth the trip, when a gal came on stage and she started to
    CRY, ‘cause a clown with big putty nose walked out on the stage and said “Peel off your
    GLASSES but…” 

Now, the rude version of “Sweet Violets” was well known, and the Cy Coben version, less so. So you can imagine, in 1951, how surprised disc jockeys were when they received copies of the new Dinah Shore single from RCA, and it was, yep, “Sweet Violets.” 

Her version, which made it to #3 on the charts, is pretty similar to the Homer and Jethro version. But let’s give it to our boys Homer and Jethro, since they are STILL under-appreciated and STILL haven’t gotten that Bear Family boxed set of all their RCA Victor sides, which they deserve.

Homer and Jethro 
Sweet Violets   Instant download or listen on line. 


According to the esteemed and pressed Wikipedia, (yes, I credit the pun to Spike Milligan), if you remember Michele Lee, it’s because of TV. She played “Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie on the 1980s prime-time soap opera “Knots Landing.” That’s their opinion.

Over here, Michele will always be the cutie who pouted about wanting  “L. David Sloane” to leave her alone. Which you’ll find elsewhere on the blog. I thought she should get another entry. What, you were expecting me to post an entire Beach Boys or Jethro Tull discography instead? That’s not a reason for blogging. Really. But I digress.

“You’ll Remember Me” seems like an attempt to go beyond being mildly victimized by a love-hate for Mr. Sloane, to really take the spotlight.

It’s a song that could’ve been handed to Liza, or Eydie. If you listen to it long enough, you can see how it could have been a hit. Except in 1969 the beat was a bit too cha-cha and not Memphis soul, as Dusty Springfield might’ve recorded it? Does the production let Lee down? Or is it that Michele didn’t go overboard in that Shirley Bassey ear-catching kind of way? 

I think one can admit that back then, there was a bit of an enigma with Lee’s persona. You’re supposed to instantly “get it,” but Lee was not the outrageous show gal like Liza or Bassey, nor the total cutie pie like Judy Carne, and didn’t sing songs that were overtly sexual and venomous (Nancy Sinatra and her “Boots”). She was, what, Petula Clark without the adorable British accent?

Fortunately, there IS “Knots Landing,” which got her an Emmy nomination and kept her busy for nearly 15 years and 344 episodes. There’s also her Tony Award nominations for “Seesaw” in 1974 and “The Tale of the Allerlgist’s Wife” in 2001. I did see her in the latter, where she could still play the sophisticated vampy villain (Valerie Harper was the heroine). Speaking of villainy, Michele played trash author Jacqueline Susann in the TV movie “Scandalous Me,” and a few years ago, Madame Morrible on Broadway in “Wicked.”

“You’ll Remember Me.” Yes, you were right. Michele celebrated her 75th birthday last month, June 24.

Michele Lee
You’ll Remember Me   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.


What can I say about Zana Varo. Practically nothing.

While this “blog of less renown” has made a point of shining a light on deserving artists who are unique and under-appreciated in some cases, there’s usually SOMETHING about them SOMEWHERE else. Maybe there’s a YouTube video, or a discography, or at least you can count on seeing something for sale on eBay. 

Zana Varo? Of all the artists covered in all these years, she’s the most elusive. Go ahead and Google her. Check out not only eBay but which is specifically for people within the borders of France. Check everywhere and you’ll find…a mystery. 

Even indie artists have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Usually a website, too. And if somebody who put out an album or two on a professional label is NOT active, there will be a few forlorn people grumbling “where is she” in some music forum or other. (Folk-rock singer Kathy Smith comes to mind). But Zana? Nada. 

I didn’t realize I’d found such a mystery woman when I picked up her album in Paris. 

Visiting Paris with the one you love is indeed romantic. BUT…it should not mean that a few hours can’t be spent in some cruddy flea market or narrow little music store or thrift shop pawing through vinyl and clattering through CD cases! Especially not 10 years ago, when mp3 files and piracy hadn’t decimated the music retail world and shuttered so many shops. 

I had come prepared, folks. I’d brought along a dozen or more CDs to use as trade barter, figuring that my IMPORTS would be SO rare in Paris, the store owners would gladly give me a good trade for their ordinary titles. So it was, that despite my fairly limited French, I was able to negotiate a very good deal with one store owner, swapping a few CDs I didn’t care about for a half-dozen French CDs that HE didn’t care about. Basically I was looking for anything that looked interesting. A sexy French woman on the cover? Oui. A moderately sexy one who might just be eccentric? Also, OUI. 

I figured that if I really liked a particular obscure French singer, I’d be able to find more. Or at least, more about her. 

Not in THIS case. I suppose a sure sign that I was dealing with someone not at the Mylene Farmer level, was that my copy was autographed. It’s usually the indie artists who’ve only pressed a few copies that happily sign to get a sale, or just sign and give away a copy to a friend or relative. 

I can’t say that Zana Varo caught my ear immediately. She didn’t. Sometimes, you need to hear music over a few times before something clicks and you think, “Hey, that’s GOOD.” I’d gotten some stuff that sounded GOOD right away, too. So I kind of filed Zana, and when it came time to cull the collection, well, she always stayed behind. Autographed, after all. And I’d put on the CD and think, well, ok, this isn’t bad. 

Last time I had some time, I looked her up (still nothing) and played the cut that had the most promising title: “Le Reggae du Cirque.” Hmmm. Not Mr. Kite, but yes. If you play it once, you might like it. Play it a few more times, and you might really like it. A Reggae Circus? As for the other title, talk about obscure, even “Google Translate” won’t touch it. I think you can translate "Peluchez Moi" as “My Plush Toy.” Which would make sense, considering the cover photo! Sapristi!

All that I know for sure, is that her material was written for her by the team of Louise and Jean Louis Richerme, who put out a Swiss album of their own synth pop in 1987. This seems to be the only album by Zana. I do know she made an appearance in concert in 1995. “…and that’s all I know.”

Zana Varo
Le Reggae du Cirque    Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Zana Varo
  PELUCHEZ MOI   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart pass words or RAR files.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Chadwick Brats sing OB-LA-DI OB-LA-DA

Not THAT kind of brats.

What you'll find below is one of the nastier tracks on an album of "Beatles Songs for Kids." It's just a reminder that children should be seen and not heard.

The CD is a compilation featuring different little monsters on each track. Most are just boring:  imagine young cast members from any crap production of "Oliver!" singing the worst Beatles songs. Which are mostly from McCartney. Since kiddie books and CDs are the least likely to be bootlegged, and most often to be given as gifts by a kind Auntie, or an uncle dressed as a kind Auntie, the surviving music stores have quite a few shelves of "Kidz Bop" and "Pop 4 Kids" and other miseries.

When you consider what children hear via rap, heavy metal, and just walking around a mall, you'd think that the REAL Beatles songs would be good enough. The conceit is that children would rather hear this music sung by other children. Doubtful. Children aren't buying this crap. Parents are. The kids probably end up using CDs like this for frisbees. Or to decapitate grasshoppers. 

A kid doesn't want to hear another kid sing. He's more entertained hearing a kid cry. As in, "Wahhhhh, you stole my lunch money, give it back!" 

The predictable irritants are here, including "Yellow Submarine" and "When I'm 64." The latter is particularly annoying coming from little ear-aches who aren't even 14. The good news is they aren't likely to live to be 64. Religious fanatics will see to that. So will dwindling immune systems, rising pollution, insane climate change, and the spectacle of Katy Perry trying to gain attention by letting her knockers bounce off her kneecaps. 

"Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" is generally considered one of the worst songs on "The White Album," slightly saved (as far as the Gay Pride people are concerned) by Paulie accidentally singing "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face." Well, if there were more gays in the world, there would be less children. Too late, in the case of  Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell, who happened to breed not ONE but TWO irritating snots.

Drive your neighbors nuts with OBLADI 
OBLADA   Instant download or listen on line. No malware or spyware anywhere.

Monday, June 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patty Duke sings BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 09, 2017

Linda Lavin does Stephen Sondheim's Gay Astrud Gilberto Parody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Johnny Cash - BRIAN HYLAND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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