Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Dr. Walter J. Palmer is now "the most hated man on the Internet." It turns out he not only thrill-killed "Cecil the Lion" for $50,000, but probably lied about not knowing this was a protected animal. This prick lied back in 2008 about not knowing he'd killed a black bear out of legal hunting range. This prick also paid $125,000 for having sexually harassed one of his employees. The maniac boasts of being one of the few "Super Slam" hunters, having killed 29 different big-game animals including everything from a buffalo to a polar bear.

AND...most disgusting of all...he's a DENTIST.

This guy has a huge stand-alone private building for an office, with two female assistants and has made a fortune by gouging insurance companies, over-charging (right?) for cosmetic work, and literally bleeding his patients.

PS, the guy, in some pictures, looks remarkably like waxy, cold-blooded Vlad Putin.

$50,000 for a little vacation to Zimbabwe to bag another lion (he already had one) was chump change to this fucking DENTIST.

A insignificant creepy DENTIST in Minnesota has to be a big shot (literally). If he was a high school baseball coach or something, the outcry may not have been so loud. But a DENTIST? Everybody hates DENTISTS.

And being a rich dentist with a dozen years of law-flaunting, animal killing and even sexual abuse? This guy's sadism knows no limits. Which instantly reminded me of the lines in "DENTIST!" from the "Little Shop of Horrors" musical:

When I was young and just a bad little kid
, my momma noticed funny things I did.

Like shootin' puppies with a B B gun. I'd poison guppies, and when I was done

I'd find a pussy cat and bash in its head
 That's when my momma said:

Be a dentist! 
You have a talent for causing things pain! Son, be a dentist. 
People will pay you to be inhumane

Palmer's shrugging excuse is that he had no idea the lion his guys lured off the preservation estate was protected. He had nothing to say about why his vaunted crossbow skills failed him and he only wounded the lion and left it to suffer for over a day before he was able to track it down and kill it with a rifle. He only underlined that others should be blamed and he shouldn't be extradited to face jail in Zimbabwe. PS, for killing that black bear in 2008 40 miles out of legal range he got a one year probation instead of jail time.

Among Palmer's many kills...THIS leopard. Note again how much this coward resembles Putin, how he desperately needs to be macho, and how his crossbow weapon is not something Native Americans used, but almost as easy to use as a fucking machine gun.

Do you suppose a psychopath like Dr. Walter Palmer just didn't get the stuffed animal Santa promised him? That might account for needing to hug a dead animal so badly.

It might also account for the absolute child-like look of glee on his face when he's KILLED a big animal and he'll be able to STUFF it and have it in his home. Wheee!

Palmer's egregious excess led Jimmy Kimmel to drop the jokes from his late-night monologue and take aim:

"Walt Palmer…stop saying you "took" the animal, you "take" aspirin. You KILLED the lion…the big question is why are you shooting a lion in the first place…how is that fun? Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you have to kill things? Here's some a'hole dentist who wants a lion's head over the fireplace in his man cave so his douchebag buddies can gather around him and tell him how awesome he is, that's just vomitous…"

Indeed, using "can't miss" rifles or outrageously expensive and advanced crossbows is not sporting. Grinning while posing with dead animals is sick. And the bad news is that Dr. Palmer is not the only thrill-killer out there. There are plenty of grubby white scumbags who journey to Africa to slaughter the remaining wildlife and boast about it. The Africans welcome them because the money is so good. As you see, the natives in Namibia have a thriving business in letting white people shoot animals that they can then skin and preserve for them.

Donald Trump's sons have gone on thrill-kills, acting like they took risks in bagging the animals when in truth, it's "like shooting fish in a barrel," and most of the animals herded for easy shooting are old and slow-moving.

There are plenty of articles on the Net now about how "hunters" are destroying what's left of the wildlife, bu this is being spun as a GOOD thing. See, the animals are taking up valuable space to be used by over-populating humans, and the African economy needs the blood money. So good for white Americans and Europeans coming over with their money and their ego and their need to pretend they are risk-taking skillful hunters!

There are "Clubs" for businessman-assholes to arrange their safari trips and brag among themselves and pose with their dead lions. In every case, the lions were put out for an easy shoot and the "hunters" were in absolutely no danger from an attack.

Africans don't really care that much about their "heritage" or their wildlife. They want to have what Americans and Brits have, which is nice looking clothes, jewelry (not beads) and hip hop music on their boom boxes, not crap like "Mbube," the Solomon Linda bit of Zulu babble that was souped up into "Wimoweh" by Pete Seeger and then "Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens.

PS, isn't it rather cute that the lion was named "Cecil?" In America or the U.K. the lion would've been given some "African" name. But in Africa, they thought an English-sounding name was better!

Irony: this Dr. Palmer asshole who is so BRAVE when it comes to killing old animals paraded in front of him, is now in hiding. Somehow, even with his crossbow skills, he doesn't have the guts to walk around in public and return fire should anyone be hunting him.

His website is down, his Facebook page is gone, his YELP page is loaded with insults, and hopefully the public will have a long memory on this, and not lose interest in torturing the bastard and making sure he doesn't have the money to ever go on a "safari" again.

And so this blog offers a little third-finger salute to Dr. Walter Palmer the Bastard of Bloomington, who has a history of lies and sadism. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," but he'll probably get off and in a week, go back to bleeding his patients. He'll laugh off Sharon Osbourne's warning: "Walter Palmer is Satan. I don't know how anyone could go to this man for dental services after this. He is a killer. Beware!"

Below, "DENTIST!" as performed in ICELANDIC. That's because this blog likes to offer its "music hunters" rare items that can't be found elsewhere. And no animal was killed in the creation of the download.


SEEING LESS OF MORAVEC - Ivan Moravec Dead at 84

It will come as a surprise for most of you to read that Ivan Moravec is dead. You didn't know he was alive, did you?

Along with a variety of pianists (oh, Alfred Brendel, Earl Wild, Guiomar Novaes, Ruth Laredo etc.) Moravec (November 9 1930-July 27 2015) was a minor name compared to keyboard superstars Horowitz and Rubinstein. Vinyl fans helped these other pianists find an audience. Some recorded for budget or sonic specialty labels. If you couldn't afford a brilliant Chopin set from Rubinstein, you could find Madame Novaes cheaper on Vox and Moravec's more stereophile pressings on the aptly named Connoisseur Society label. Other pianists specialized in composers that the big guys didn't bother with (Aldo Ciccolini recorded Satie and Ronald Smith recorded Alkan).

Classical fans often discovered that the "minor" performers were often as good or better than the bigger names. Writing for The New York Times, Steve Smith declared that for the Chopin nocturnes, nothing could beat the "astonishing" Moravec for both sound and performance. An irony here is that I prefer Alexander Brailowsky on the nocturnes, but what the fuck do I know? Frankly, I'm not that much of an expert that I was asked to review classical music that often. Early on, I relied on Herbert Russcol's book to shape my tastes (he was the Rolling Stone guide for long-hair music).

Mr. Smith praised Moravec's "extraordinary dynamic shading and gracious shaping of each gemlike work," and despite "a crowded field," voted Moravec's album as "…an essential document" for any Chopin fan.

The obit from the UK Telegraph checked the Czech as "one of the 20th-century’s greatest interpreters of Chopin; his sensitive and poetic pianism created a pure and honest sound that could transport his audience to another world, leaving behind all sense of time and place."

It's of course, a perversity of this blog that your download is a work of Debussy, not Chopin. The main reason is Debussy is on CD and the rest of my Moravec on vinyl, so it was the easiest to digitize for you. Moravec's catalog includes great performances on many masters, including Mozart; his recording of the Piano Concerto in E Flat was considered definitive enough to be on the soundtrack to the movie "Amadeus."

The UK Telegraph must be quoted for an insight into the man and his work: "Balding, stocky and with a large round face, Moravec looked every bit like a pre-war bank manager. Yet his warmth and charm were ever-present, and he was known to join members of the audience for a beer after concerts. Seemingly immune to criticism, fashion or fads, he appeared uninterested in pursuing a high-profile career. Even when the opportunity to live in the West presented itself, Moravec – no supporter of Communism – returned to his home in Prague." Moravec's ordinary temperament of genius included his eccentric need to tinker with whatever piano he was going to play.

The reason the UK Telegraph and other British papers have run large obits on Moravec is that he was often on tour in England. He had a strong relationship with Libor Pesek (another Czech) who ran the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and with Sir Neville Marriner and his prolific Academy of St Martin in the Fields. He also had a happy relationship with Zuzana Moravec, his wife and travel-partner through the years.

Below, part of Debussy's musical interpretations of glistening water images, is "Poissons d'Or" which technically translates as gold fish. No password on the download. If there was, it would've been swordfish.

DEBUSSY Poissons d'Or from IMAGES suite, performed by Moravec

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ray Jessel "Life Sucks and Then You Die"

Well, yes. And Ray Jessel died on July 17th, age 85.

But in some kind of bizarre Benjamin Button way, Ray Jessel managed to find life very rewarding in the years when most of his contemporaries were either retired, obliviously stuck in a nursing home, or dead.

I mean, how many 84 year-olds suddenly get raves from all the judges on "America's Got Talent" AND end up tossed off the show for being politically incorrect?

It happened not long ago, 2014 in fact. Ray, a veteran songwriter who also wrote sketches for The Carol Burnett Show and The Smothers Brothers Show in the 60's and 70's, appeared as a virtual unknown. Which he pretty much was, when it came to performing.

The judges all ADORED the song. But elements of the GAY/LESBIAN/TRANSGENDER crowd detested it. They felt the old guy was making fun of trannies...the now-sacred group that has Caitlyn Jenner for a godmother. In truth, Ray's song was harmless. If anything, it was just a very easy one-joke novelty item, and not nearly the best song in his catalog.

Jokes about "he being a she" go back to silent films. And nobody got in a huff over that famous "Some Like It Hot" moment when Jack Lemmon sourly pulled off his wig. He shouted at smitten Joe E. Brown, "I'm a MAN!" And Brown's classic comeback: "Nobody's perfect!"

Somehow things went from a crying game to a denying game...and poor ol' Ray was denied a chance to move on and get to the next round of "America's Got Talent."

The good news for Ray was that the show gave him the fame that was not his for the past decade. Back around 2005, Ray had scored good reviews for his cabaret show titled "Life Sucks and Then You Die." The show, ironically enough, got raves from gay and lesbian critics and probably had a very varied audience that included old queens as much as old Jewish couples. He also put out a CD (no, an album, not a codeword for a certain type of person). It was after "America's Got Talent" that he began to get significant bookings.

In fact, just last month, Ray was in Australia, appearing at a festival with a bunch of comics and variety acts, and even that old CD herself, Dame Edna/Barry Humphries.

Jessel's odd musical journey began in Wales in 1929. He attended the University of Wales, but started his career in Canada, working for the "Spring Thaw" comedy revue. That led him to New York, where he wrote for Julius Monk's revues, including the 1960 "Dressed to the Nines" show. By 1965 he was on Broadway, via the semi-hit musical "Baker Street," starring Fritz Weaver. A song from the show, "A Married Man," was even recorded by Richard Burton. Comedy sketches and music for TV shows followed, including the epic "LOVE BOAT - THE MUSICAL" starring Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Ann Miller, and Cab Calloway. Jessel was worked on the "Head of the Class" series. Meanwhile, Jessel and his partner Cynthia Thompson began to place songs with the few prosperous cabaret-type acts, including "Whatever Happened To Melody?" recorded by Michael Feinstein and "I'm All Right Now" from John Pizzarelli. In 2002 Ray first tried a one-man show in California, at the Gardenia Room in Hollywood, and then brought it across the country to "Don't Tell Mama," the notorious cabaret club in New York. And...he kept on going.

How many people in their mid-80's are capable of taking to the stage...and are welcomed to do so? I don't know what the circumstances are, regarding his demise, but this guy had a pretty fortunate life, to be able to get laughs and travel literally halfway around the world, at a time when so many his age were just muttering "life sucks."

WHAT SHE'S GOT (The Penis Song) Ray Jessel


Below, two versions of "The Bill Dana Show" theme. The music's a bit more fun than the show, which does not hold up all that well, despite three great stars: grimacing Jonathan Harris as Jose's boss, squinty Don Adams as the hotel detective, and Dana himself as "lovable" bellhop Jose.

For those who don't remember (probably 90% of anyone reading this), at one time Bill Dana's record albums were best-sellers. A comedy writer (born William Szathmary), Dana (his mother's name) was working for Steve Allen when he came up with a mild gag for a quick sketch: a Latino Santa Claus. It was keyed to Santa's "ho ho ho" and the confusing "J as H" of Latino names, such as Jose Jimenez.

Dana ended up playing Jose on Steve's show, and the rest is jistory. Er, history. Dana was amused that a "Jungarian Hew" was now a superstar. If you listen to those classic albums, it was good jokes, not just the funny voice that made them successful. Bill's routine as a hapless astronaut was even released as a single. He got a lot of attention when it was played by astronauts at Cape Canaveral.

Dialect comedy has gone in and out of fashion over the years. A hundred years ago, every ethnic accent was a big laugh in vaudeville and on 78 rpm discs. Dutch, Italian, Jewish, "Negro," rural Southerner, Scotsman…nobody was left out. Moving on to radio, and there was "The Mad Russian" and "Parkyakarkus" and the entire "Allen's Alley" roster of rube Titus Moody, Irishman Ajax Cassidy, Jewish Mrs. Nussbaum and noisy Southerner Senator Claghorn. And yes, Amos and Andy. And lots more.

In the late 50's and early 60's, ethnic comedy was still a howl, and "Amos and Andy" re-runs (with an all black cast) were not yet banned. Desi Arnaz was famous thanks to his comical Cuban accent, Mel Blanc portrayed a Mexican named Cy who said "Si" and, yes, Bill Dana made a living as Jose Jimenez. He kept trying to make that character less and less a part of his act. One of his albums had Jose on one side, Bill on the other.

By the early 70's, Dana officially declared Jose "dead," to the cheers of Chicanos, Latinos and Hispanics. He put out "Hoo Hah," a Jewish-comedy parody of "Hee Haw." Funny, "Hee Haw" was fine with Southerners despite the heavy reliance on stereotypes. Why? Because Southerners were comfortable with it, while Latinos somehow thought "Jose" was an insult. If Dana wasn't a Jew, maybe the character would've been considered ok. What is comedy? Comedy can be recognition laughter (which would be corny Southerners laughing at their own redneck traits on "Hee Haw," and later in Jeff Foxxworthy's "You might be a redneck" routines.) Comedy, more often, is simply not pretty. There's the shock comedy of sadism, rudeness, slapstick and insults. "The little guy" from Chaplin's tramp to Harry Langdon, Lou Costello, George Gobel even to Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean and beyond, is often socially inept, foolish and caught in embarrassing situations. The problem with Little Jose Jimenez was that there weren't many other Latino characters on TV, and at least Desi Arnaz had a hot wife. And was actually Latino.

While Bill Dana explored other ways of making a living (he wrote the famous "All in the Family" episode guest-starring Sammy Davis Jr.) ethnic comedy in the 70's was alternately praised and panned. Think about the confusion when Bill Cosby's non-racial humor was sneered at in favor of Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. Replacing Dana, the Hungarian Jew, was Freddie Prinze, hal Hungarian-Jew and half Puerto Rican. When he played a Chicano on "Chico and the Man," he drew howls of protest because he wasn't Mexican. Why didn't that guy just put a gun to his head?

Today, ethnic humor is only tolerated if the perp is of the same ethnic group and is making so much money nobody dares to say a word (hello, Tyler Perry). However if the ethnic group isn't too loud, then it might be ok (recall "Miss Swann" on "MAD TV," as played by Alex Borstein). But be careful: Sarah Silverman did some Asian jokes and was hounded by publicity seeking Japanese avenger Guy Aoki until she nearly lost her mind. Good thing he wasn't around when Judy Tenuta was doing that Yoko Ono imitation.

Bill Dana, now over 90, is on Facebook but rarely posts anything. Nostalgic fans still find laughs in the well-constructed jokes that made those early Jose Jimenez albums big hits, but "PC" considerations have destroyed his legacy. Ironically, haters of Jose seem to love Guillermo Rodriguez.

Guillermo, the porcine sidekick on Jimmy Kimmel's show, exhibits every Latin stereotype there is: nasal voice, pudgy face, obese body, happy ignorance of anything cultural, and the habit of being drunk. His best known bit is to show up at red carpet events and interview stars with bribes of Tequila shots. Guillermo is not all that far removed from the banned "Frito Bandito" character of TV commercials, but there are now enough Latinos on TV that nobody can say "oh, they're ALL fat, nasal and homely." Not Jennifer Lopez. Not Sofia Vergara.

The PC police do stay vigilant, and sometimes they need to be. Paula Dean, the doyenne of fatty cooking and Southern racism, was way out of line in taking a photo as "Lucy" with her son as "Ricky," when it involved actually using "brownface." Neither Dana, Prinze, or any other Latino comedy character from the past ever did that, and Desi Arnaz's complexion was hardly even tan.

Did Desi care too much if his Ricky Ricardo character sometimes lapsed into excited Spanish? Probably not. It was something Gregory Sierra's character of Chano did on "Barney Miller" a generation later. Desi probably had a good sense of humor about his trademark accent, and such sure-fire gags as arguing with Lucy ("I dun't!" "You DUN'T?" "No, I dun't!") As for Dana, he's a lovely guy. He once mentioned to me how fiercely devoted he was to his alter ego. He turned down a car ad that would've brought him in tons of money, because the ad agency thought it would be funny to have Jose pulled over by a cop. The cop would realize Jose wasn't speeding, it was just a smooth-riding car. Bill: "I wasn't gonna let a cop lay a hand on Jose."

Musically speaking, Dana's theme song was intended to echo the spirit of Don Quixote, the valiant tilter of windmills. It had the stereotypical trumpet which, only a few years later, another fucking Jew (Herb Alpert) would use while fronting his Tijuana Brass. I assume that Latinos who hate Bill Dana and loathed Freddie Prinze will try to ban Herb's music, next. That Jew made money by exploiting Mexicans! As head of A&M records, he surely didn't do enough to promote real Latino Sergio Mendez. And let's not even discuss Julius Wechter and his Baja Marimba Band.

All seriousness aside, enjoy the two versions of the theme song. One is from Carl Brandt, who was a veteran arranger at Warner Bros., and also worked with Spike Jones. The other is by Raymond Antonini, better known as Ray Anthony. The big band trumpet star is 93 now, and you can find out more about him by visiting





Somehow the link for "All the Nuns with Guns" lapsed.

Folks (ill, or not), if you come across some link that ain't working, leave a comment. I'll most likely find it and re-up.

"Nuns" is a G.E. Smith song with Paul Simon on backing vocals. Even most Paul Simon fans don't know about this rarity. In fact, if you listen closely, you can hardly hear him in the mix. But he's there, and that's part of the quirk on this obscure but catchy tune.

Most people don't know about the album, and come to think of it, I wouldn't have, if Jim Delehant (who was an exec at Atantic Records back then) hadn't handed it to me, figuring it would be something I'd enjoy. Which I did.

Some will remember G.E. Smith for being the somewhat crazed-looking guitarist leading the "Saturday Night Live" band (1985-95). He also married Gilda Radner, worked with Dan Hartman and toured with Hall and Oates. Among his compositions; a co-write credit on the "Wayne's World" theme song.

There's a DVD documentary on the guy, and on YouTube some live performances with his band Moonalice (including a twangy version of "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Smith's stinging guitar is very evident on this track, but you also get to hear him sing.


Thursday, July 09, 2015

"IF YOU SEE KAY" A fuckin' tasty treat from SWEETPIE

I don't know how much money he made off me, but in my disc jockey days, I did play SWEETPIE's "If You See Kay" quite a bit.

One of the rules at the radio station was "you can't curse. It's ok if an ARTIST says it on VINYL, but not YOU."

Naturally I took every opportunity to play snippets of Lenny Bruce or George Carlin, and regularly offered Zappa's "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" with the happy shout at the end, "You hot little bitch!" Ah, "Prince of Blends" that I was, I segued that line into "Bitch" by the Rolling Stones.

When I had a spare minute to shake the listeners up, I played an oddity called "If You See Kay." I discovered it surreptitiously tucked into the grooves of a Warner Bros."loss leader" album. No, Sweetpie, who sang the thing, wasn't officially on their label, but they mixed it in just the same. There were some very cool people at Warners in those days, and for a disc jockey wanting to play a wide variety of music, the Warners "loss leader" sampler albums made it seem like I had a much more monumental record collection than I did back then.

Since Warners was not promoting him, I had no idea who Sweetpie was. I figured he was some old black blues man, but it turned out that he was a white hippie weirdo. His 1972 album on The Fugs' ESP label is "Pleasure Pudding LIVE AT FAT CITY." Among the hippie-dippie tracks: "Let's Boogie," "This Bitter Earth" "Too Drunk to Ball," "Vermont - A Lazy Man's Colorado" and "Kay." Through the 70's, Sweetpie shocked and annoyed East Coast audiences (especially in Massachusetts)

Sweetpie (Paul Winer) is still alive and well, and lives in Quartzite, Arizona where he runs a funky-lookin' bookstore and, as always, sports wild hair, a wild beard, and is more prone to wear more on his head than anywhere else. The nudist-pianist certainly has good reason not to wear much in Arizona, so a single whats-it around his genitalia suffices. One tooth in his lower jaw apparently suffices, too, and might warn people against too much sweet pie.

Happily, you can find plenty of Sweetpie on YouTube, thanks to Todd Anderson who got him to both sing and recall his greatest hits. Aside from "If You See Kay," Sweetpie is known for the sing-along "Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take a Joke," which was popularized by Bette Midler. Just what is original, what is legend, what is owed to Memphis Slim, or what was just part of the R.Crumb Boogie subculture of the day…most people are way too baked and/or old to recall with any certainty.

Below, a live rendition of "If You See Kay" from Our Hippie in Arizona. The 1972 album? You can download it at the website (yes, they expect payment). F.U.C.K. to the greedheads, Zinfarts and Hans Diverticulitis slobs who never drop some money in a singer's cup. And if you're in Quartzite, Arizona, and female, go pay homage to Sweetpie's cup. It's all he wears. Everyone else, buy something, there's a lot of odd stuff in the store that might be considered priceless.

SweetPie If You See Kay

"IF YOU SEE KAY" Randy Howard

Another tune with an "IF YOU SEE KAY" pun? Yes. While not as vivid as Sweetpie's jazzy number, it's a good 'un. It comes from the late Randy Howard.

Ol' Randy was a redneck's redneck. The proof is that he got killed in a gunfight. And he wouldn't be a redneck's redneck unless it was an unnecessary gunfight.

Before we examine his colorful last moments, you might NOT be a redneck if…your first thought is "Who the FUCK is Randy Howard?" Since I'm not a redneck, I only vaguely knew about him before his colorful death. While I'm a fan of a wide range of C&W including Homer & Jethro, Juice Newton, Mindy McCready, George Jones and plenty of others, and even owned a Johnny Paycheck "Greatest Hits," I'm not that strong on the overtly redneck world of Merle, Hank III, NASCAR, rebel flags, and the Randy Howard types.

Howard, a "hard-partying, gun-toting country caricature" (quoting the Fox News obit) gained attention in 1983 with his "All-American Redneck" album. The title track did well, but didn't propel Howard to stardom. At best, he was a solid opening act for the usual trouble-makers, and he could fill some venues on his own, too.

It's a testament to his abilities that he was still making some kind of a living from music over the next 20 years, and circa 2006, he gruffly deadpanned his way through "If You See Kay" live, while opening for one of the more popular "outlaw" stars. The sound ain't too bad on this cowboy boot. Nine years later, and Howard was hiding out in a cabin in Lynchburg, pissed off about his mounting legal problems.

Randy's offenses were just the redneck usuals; driving without a valid license, reckless driving under the influence, being reckless with a gun. It's the latter problem that ended his life.

The aging All-American redneck had enough of a price on his head to make him attractive to a local bounty hunter. Howard did not want to go quietly. He allegedly shot first, and the bounty hunter defended himself. What makes this ring true is that the bounty hunter had to be hospitalized. You don't shoot a guy then somehow fire a shot into yourself for a "he shot first" defense. The man was not expecting to shoot at all, since the reward on him and the jail time involved were fairly minor. Howard overreacted, and it was over.

Apparently Randy Howard did not have any last words. Not "Aw, shit." Or a demure, "F-U-C-K." Here's "If You See Kay..."


"Tell Me...How Your Urine Hits The Sink" - Dirk Hamilton

Over at Elektra in 1978, they thought they had the second coming of Van Morrison in Dirk Hamilton. Or another "new Dylan."

The lyrics for title track "Meet Me at the Crux" were scribbled all over the back cover. The idea was that anyone browsing the album would be awed by the song's edgy profundity.

The song opens: "Horace Tidas was murdered by the hatred that he leveled on himself. Guilty weighted, he walked around pretending he was somebody else..."

A while later, Dirk focuses his attention on an exotic dancer in a bar:

"Blame your mama. Egg a duck. I'm watchin' what your doin' and what your doin' sucks. It ain't bad timin' it ain't bad luck. When will you Meet Me at the Crux."

(Yes, ala Dylan, Dirk invented his own punctuation.)

A woman who seemed to know Horace Tidas: "She's blind but she sure can feel. She's crippled and she reverently kneels, in thanks for the new pair of wheels he got thrown in with the deals that he maimed her to seal."

This leads to another Dylanesque put-down of the woman with the sucky occupation:

"I'm watchin' your behind, out on the dance floor shakin' at eye level all the time. Stop and take a breather. Let me freshen up your drink. Explain to me in detail how your urine hits the sink."

If you aren't gettin' it all, Mr. Jones, then listen to the download several times.

Vincent Price, in Tallulah Bankhead's dressing room, watched her pause in the midst of the conversation to hoist herself onto the sink and piss. Since it was Tallulah, Vinnie was hardly shocked or surprised. He didn't go into detail how her urine hit the sink, but he did make note of this unusual event.

Other songs on Dirk's album include "Mouth Full of Suck" and "Billboard on the Moon," and his follow-up disc featured "Moses & Me" and "Colder than Mexican Snow." Challenging stuff, no? Dirk may have left Elektra scratching their heads, but he's kept sharp, with many more albums. The full details are on the bearing his name.

This intro-Dirktion could mark the beginning of a new artist you'll want to start following and collecting. If so, you can leave a thanks in the comment section. You can also use the comment section to explain in detail how your urine hits the sink.

Urine Luck! Dirk's a Click Away

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rape-Kidnap Survivor Sings

Yes, the music world is divided on this week's debut single from Michelle Knight.

Most find it cringeworthy. But...a number of listeners who are now accustomed to vocoders, monotonous repetition, and simple melodies are showing tearful approval, especially since, as the lyric says, she's been through hell and back.

Even without the gruesome backstory, even if she was just a Kendall Jenner or Rowdy Ronda Rowsey, there would be people cheering, "Say, this reality star, this MMA fighter is not a bad singer! Woo hoo!"

Knight was the most troubled of the three girls who became imprisoned by Cleveland animal Ariel Castro. The grimy bus driver simply decided to harvest sex slaves from a group not likely to be missed. One reason that his reign of sexual tyranny continued for so many years is that cops seemed to assume that his victims were runaways who had become addicts or hookers. If they were buried in shallow graves it was their own fault. Few suspected they were being held captive, and none had any idea where to look for them.

When, by a fluke of luck, they were discovered and hustled away to safety, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus talked to reporters and seemed to have the best set of skills for reclaiming their lives and reuniting with friends or family. Knight was the first to be held captive, and spent years alone with her maniac tormentor. In 2002, only 21, she was lured to Castro's home. He told her he had a puppy for her. She didn't escape him until 2013. By then she had been beaten so often she went deaf in one ear and required constructive facial surgery. She also had five of Castro's punch-the-stomach abortions. Freedom was bitter for her; she had such a poor relationship with her own mother that she refused to see the woman. Instead, she was "adopted" by fellow victim De Jesus' family. It took a while before she was able to talk about her ordeal to reporters.

But all of that can be found elsewhere on the Net. As for the cowardly Castro, not long after he was jailed, and facing a lifetime without women to sexually torture, he hanged himself.

No, there's no reason to expect that there will be a singing career for Michelle Knight, but in a world that embraced obese Adele and Susan Boyle, and loves "reality stars," a great body or even talent can be trumped by a good story and fan empathy. The phrase "good for you" comes to mind. For a while, it seemed that Knight was the least likely to survive her traumas with any peace. Changes have come slowly, painfully, but they've come. The video she shot for "Survivor" doesn't have too many smiling images, but the triumph is that it was made at all.

"Good for you," Michelle Knight. And for those who actually like the singing, the melody or the production on this thing, well, good for you, too.

SURVIVOR Michelle Knight

JAMES TAYLOR - A Hypodermic Parody Tune

At 67, James Taylor just scored #1 on the Billboard charts for the first time since 1970. That was when he released his second album, "Sweet Baby James," propelled to the top by his sad, sensitive and heroic stoic ballad "Fire and Rain." That 70's disc even led to a cottage industry of Taylors (Livingston, Kate and Alex, all with new releases) and some powerful near-hits including "Mockingbird" with his then-wife Carly Simon.

All seriousness aside, when you consider that Carly (and Joni and Don McLean and Cat Stevens and just about every singer-songwriter from that era) can't get arrested, Taylor's "Before This World" is a triumph. It's a triumph I haven't heard, and don't care about. So what; Taylor in the 70's primarily appealed to women, and to a few guys who identified with cracking up, doing drugs, and conning women. That would explain peculiar tribute songs at the time such as "Keep Driving James" from Harriet Schock and "Oh James" by Andy Bown. As he aged, Taylor held onto his aging hippie-to-Yuppie fans, who were also glad to have escaped drug addiction for affluence, and to still have enough of their own teeth to have morning granola.

Back in the 70's the cockeyed and brooding singer with the soft voice seemed like he might kill himself. Gradually he emerged with a self-confident Anthony Perkins smirk, and today looks like he could stab somebody in a shower.

Look, no less a critic and artist than George Harrison once admitted, "I never cared for the Sweet Baby." He said it back in the 70's, perhaps still cringing about Taylor having been originally signed to Apple. Or he just found something creepy and formulaic about Taylor's "pity me" numbers, his predictable strumming, his very limited singing ability, and eventually his even more limited subject matter, which ended up including a cover of "Handy Man" and an ode to "branch water and tomato wine, creosote and turpentine, sour mash and new moon shine, Down on Copperline.").

Yes, here in Illvllle, we acknowledge a survivor, and James Taylor is that. He also turned in a beautifully sardonic turn as an egocentric, somewhat evil God in Randy Newman's "Faust." While sweet dreams and flying machines crashed along the way, and Carly was quite exasperated with the guy, he became that rarity, a living legend. His big hit on the new album is "Angels of Fenway," about his beloved Boston Red Sox. He'll be performing it at Fenway Park on August 6th, as part of his "You don't have to just wait around for Paul Simon or Jimmy Buffett to tour Tour."

Brother Alex is long gone. Kate never was much of a factor (although I play her stuff more than any of the other Taylors, and she did a nice job on her cover of "Harriet Tubman" as well as her light versions of Four Tops hits). Livingston? Oh, I did interview that guy and I found him pretty intimidating and intense at first, but we had some laughs.

Speaking of laughs, back when he was super-hot, James was given a different type of "tribute" via the National Lampoon "Lemmings" rock-parody show. The show was helmed by John Belushi, but the prime star was Christopher Guest, who co-wrote and performed skewering takes on both Bob Dylan and Mr. Taylor. Just how skewering did it get? Well, even in Illville, and even after all this time, one has to both laugh and shiver over the great line alluding to Taylor's hypodermic use and another hinting at lobotomy. It goes beyond the jabs at Taylor the sell-out and womanizer. Listen to the self-described "soulful, moody" Taylor bash called "Highway Toes"…

SKEWERING James Taylor

Squire Dies, but no, YES goes on, for All Good People incl. Vassar Devils

Bassist Chris Squire died (March 4, 1948 – June 27, 2015) but Yes will not cease and desist. When he was diagnosed with leukemia back in April, he gave his blessing to a summer tour without him.

"This will be the first time since the band formed in 1968 that Yes will have performed live without me,” he said.  “But the other guys and myself have agreed that Billy Sherwood will do an excellent job of covering my parts and the show as a whole will deliver the same Yes experience that our fans have come to expect over the years.”

That's why a quick check of the Yes itinerary showed a prominent picture of cadaverous Steve Howe, and a list of their tour dates in July with the equally infamous arena-rock group Toto.

A roundabout look at the history of Yes reveals that there have been many changes over the years, with Squire the leader who often decided who got tossed out and stayed tossed. For example, Jon Anderson had to leave the band in 2008, replaced by Benoit David. When Jon was ready to come back, Squire said "Not so fast." When David became ill in 2012, it was Jon Davison who became the new lead guitarist. Other names in and out of the Yes world include Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman.

Cynics would say that all the various changes didn't impact the group much, because fans of this type of progrock are a bunch of drugged out idiots who only want to stagger to their feet and shout "WOOOO."

By way of tribute to this enduring band, here's "All Good People" as covered without guitars, busy bass, or synths by the a cappela Vassar Devils. You have to admire those cunts. (Oh, both the Vassar Devils ladies and Yes, I suppose). The Devils managed to turn in a rendition without the fancy underpinnings Yes always supplied, and Yes managed to make a classic out of a song with lyrics that are pretentious even by progrock standards. This 1971 classic features music by Mr. Squire with the lyrics by Jon Anderson.

"I've seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I'm on my way! I've seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I'm on my way! I've seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I'm on my way!" It just never gets old, does it? Or as Lugosi once said to Karloff in "The Raven," 1935, "You are saying something profound."

"Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life. Make the white queen run so fast she hasn't got time to make you a wife. 'Cause it's time is time in time with your time and its news is captured...for the queen to use...surround yourself with yourself….'Cause it's time is time in time with your time and its news is captured...for the queen to use! Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda…"

Yes, the music by Chris Squire launched millions of smiles and cheers, thousands of tabs of acid, and continues to help a variety of good people get through the day. As Tweeters love to Tweet: "RIP" and "He WILL be missed."

Here's "All Good People," from the appropriately named VASSAR DEVILS.

A Capella ALL GOOD PEOPLE…by those bad, bad VASSAR DEVILS

Friday, June 19, 2015

SIEMBAMBA - the South African Dead Baby Song

Yes, here and there, the blog's old links have withered. Some have been quietly replaced, but others, well, why leave it to chance that you'll ever find them?

Here's a re-up on "Siembamba," and this time, the live-in-concert version from the early 50's. The 50's was when a licensed professional brought recording equipment into a concert hall with permission, and the artists got paid.

"Siembamba" is sort of the South African version of "Rockabye Baby." We don't mind crooning to our kids about a baby hauled into a tree, and then falling to the ground when a limb breaks. Guaranteed, baby breaks a few limbs, too.

And so in South Africa, there was an equally charming old folk song called "Siembamba." The genteel, nearly forgotten husband and wife team of Marais and Miranda recorded it, along with such classics as "The Zulu Warrior" and "Marching to Pretoria." Today, folk singers are offering "Ducking from Pistorius," and "The Zulu Warrior signs with the Cleveland Cavaliers."

Goodwill ambassadors for South Africa during a naive age, fluent in songs involving both the conquering Dutch and the pissed off Africans, Marais and Miranda toured the world. They were sort of a European version of labelmates The Weavers, just two people short (or, two short people, as the album covers seem to suggest.) You can find most of their output fairly cheaply on eBay, or in one of the few record stores that is still in business.

South African Josef Marais (Nov 17 1905 - Apr 27 1978) and Amsterdam native Miranda (Rosa Lily Odette Baruch de la Pardo, Jan 9 1912 - Apr 20 1986) were kindly people. They used to sing a folk song about "Johnny with the Wooden Leg," but after the war, and mindful of injuries suffered by soldiers, they updated the lyric to "Johnny with the bandy leg." They dressed like classical concert artists, and almost never performed anything that could be considered tasteless. Almost never.

For any of you who are Dutch/South African, you'll recognize these lines:

Siembamba - mamma se kindjie. Siembamba - mamma se kindjie. Draai sy nek om gooi hom in die sloot. Trap op sy kop dan is hy dood.

"Die Sloot" doesn't have anything to do with wishing death on Joran Van Der Sloot, a walking promotion for abortion. Meanwhile, the download below includes the translation of the song and, especially for the early 50's, a slightly risque reference to what the politically correct now call "the B word."

With over-population a threat to kill us if global warming doesn't, here's...

The dead baby lullaby SIEMBAMBA.


Was he the Eurotrash version of Lawrence Welk? "Electric Light Orchestra" for guys in polyester underwear with outrageous sideburns, limp flat long hair and Gouda breath? Or "Blood Sweat and Abba" for guys in Gouda underwear, with polyester sideburns and limp dicks?

James Last (born Hans Last) preferred to call his zunshine music "happy party sounds." But the same could be said of belches and farts. But before more snarky comments can be made, "let's say something nice about Hans." OK: Billboard called him "the world's most commercially successful bandleader," for recording an astonishing 200 albums that sold — well, that's the most incredible part. They sold.

Even Billboard had to admit it was music familiar to "anyone who has spent time in a hotel lobby or elevator." Put it this way, he had enough money to NOT live in his native Germany, or in the God-forsaken flat, depressing Ass-country (Netherlands). He died in Florida, U.S.A., as far from the Europeans who adored him as he could possibly get.

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass pioneered a genial, buttery horn sound, and Al Hirt put out albums "Honey in the Horn" and "That Honey Horn Sound." Last's bunch merely turned every possible piece of music into musical mucus, coating the ears and mind with a soothing glaze. It went beyond Bacharach, Hefti, or Buddy Morrow, purveyors and often the composers of legit "pop." Last is to music what lobotomy is to the brain.

To be fair (!) Last was no cynical commercial pap-smearer, but Nurse Ratched medicating the depressed. James led his garish group of Mens Wearhouse dropouts as they dazzled eyes with the glint off their trombones, saxes and trumpets. Thus hypnotized, the pounding percussion and the smell of horn-breath did the rest, putting people at rest, if not completely comatose.

Last's cheesy-listening music remains hugely popular at blogs aimed at flaccid Dutchmen, Swedish meatball-heads and the Zippyshare Uber Alles group of Zinfarts. "More, James Last," comes the cry, "I don't have EVERY album yet on my 2TB drive! But I don't want to buy any of it! Ach, too bad he moved to Florida. To think our grandparents nearly won the war and could've taken over America!"

Ah, Mr. Last. Herb Aspirin and the Sominex Brass. Acker Bilge. Something oozing out of the The Boston Pimple Pops. Last made Percy Faith seem like Percy Sledge. Whatever it was, it was narcotic, and after an evening of stealing music, eating a lot of cheese, posting moronic shit in blog shout boxes, and checking forums for bukkake starring an Adele look-alike, a few hours of James Last's stuff was far less challenging than Tchaikovsky or five minutes jogging on a treadmill.

While Ray Conniff disappeared around the same time people realized "Love Story" was the worst piece of crap ever recorded, James Last continued on with his Eurovision of music that was actually better seen than heard. That's EuroVISION…you can turn the sound off and still get that vibe of happy people dancing even if it looks like their feet are nailed to the floor.

Year after year, Last's record label had to forage for more raw vinyl. They cannibalized naugahyde seat covers and "gummi" underwear from the grandchildren of Nazis, especially those hiding in Holland. Last kept making more albums, and his label sent people out to pry licorice gum off the bottom of bus stop benches and shovel coagulated dog shit found at boot sales. Last still wouldn't stop making new albums, "popping" the classics, softening up rock songs, and running every movie theme through his oiled brassworks. His band gimped disco hits, and even made "happy" music out of marches. Oh, they were the finest musicians ever to play cruise ships and thankful for the steadier, if more sea-sick work with James.

Maybe now it's time to "say something else nice about Hansi." He's not making any more albums. But, all seriousness aside, it isn't being condescending to say that the people who like this guy's music also consider Burger King, KFC and Applebees to be fine dining. Put fat and sugar on anything you cook, and pipe in easy-beat big-band music, and you are not likely to lose money. Who doesn't like a Domino's pizza if one has been starving for several days? And really, Last's version of "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" would give Arthur Fiedler an erection. And he died in 1979, before the great 80's plague of bad music would've put a cancer in his eardrum and blackened his brain.

To yet another nice thing about Hans's music, you could tap your cane to it. It was a good laxative, too. 60's folks moving from middle-age to Alzheimer's liked The Brass Ring. From the 70's on, James Last provided easy listening to tired businessmen unable to cope with anything else, and unsophisticated jellyfish needing something to wobble to. He gave totally uncool dimwits from Holland, beak-faced Swedes, ruddy neo-Nazis, belching Belgies and sticky-bunned Danish people the illusion that they were music lovers.

Lastly, one might point to Hansi's big band versions of rock songs as proof that he could make anything "HAPPY." Below, James and his gang boil up some aural goo on the kettle drum, and use their flatulent brass holes to blow the roof off the dump, dumping sweet treacle on Alice Cooper's venemous "School's Out." Think Alice wasn't happy about this? He cashed a royalty check.

James "Don't Call Me Hans, It's a Stupid Name" Last SCHOOL'S OUT!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

RONNIE GILBERT - The Female Weaver, Therapist and Phil Ochs fan

Ronnie Gilbert (September 7, 1926 – June 6, 2015) completed her autobiography but didn't live to see it in print. She's being remembered for many things…her work as an actress, her touring as "Mother Jones" in a one-woman show, her shows with Holly Near and others, and most certainly as one of The Weavers. As one of the few prominent women in the folk music world of the 50's, she no doubt influenced everyone from Mary Travers to Joan Baez. And for those who might wonder if they were a bit crazy for wanting to follow her into the uncertain world of the musician, well, she was a licensed psychologist!

Yes, the words "don't quit your day job" had a meaning even for someone who you'd think was making very good money off touring, and off royalties. But as Fred Hellerman (the other Jewish member of The Weavers, and now sole survivor) once said, "the airlines made the most money off the Weavers on tour." And hotels, and the managers and the owners of the venues. Hellerman also had outside work, and under various names, wrote songs and adapted old traditional songs into modern folk classics.

The Weavers, their name taken from a play by Gerhart Hauptmann, formed in 1949, in upstate New York. They kickstarted the renewed interest in folk music with several hits at the start of the 1950's, including "Goodnight Irene," and the improbable "Tzena Tzena Tzena," a Hebrew dance tune that not only could Gentiles Pete Seeger and Lee Hays sing correctly, but which had non-Jewish audiences joining in on the chorus. The foursome were hugely popular in concert until The Red Scare led to their blacklist.

They were fortunate to be able to mount a comeback in the late 50's, thanks to their manager Harold Levanthal taking a chance and booking them into Carnegie Hall. New York was a liberal town and the blacklist wasn't going to stop The Weavers there. At least, that's how it turned out. It also helped that the group really wasn't very political. They sang old songs, funny songs and sing-alongs. Ronnie recalled, “We sang songs of hope in that strange time after World War II, when already the world was preparing for Cold War.We still had the feeling that if we could sing loud enough and strong enough and hopefully enough, it would make a difference.”

Folk music shifted from old songs to passionate, topical new ones. The Kingston Trio dabbled in dark songs that mirrored current issues of lynchings and the death penalty ("Tom Dooley"), the Ivy League Trio offered the capital punishment "Ballad of Tim Evans" and Peter Paul & Mary would be the first to popularize Bob Dylan and "Blowin' In the Wind." Mary Travers knew The Weavers well; she'd been in the audience for their 1955 Carnegie Hall show.

Pete Seeger left the group in 1959, and Erik Darling and a few others tried to take his place. The Weavers toured for a while, and made a few more records, but gave up in 1964. Ronnie (born Ruth) had such talent that she could not only take the logical route of going solo, but she expanded into acting as well, having first appeared on Broadway in the 1958 production “The Man in the Glass Booth." After that she earned her M.A. in psychology. Probably her best critical acclaim came with her one-woman show as "Mother Jones," but music fans could sometimes get a surprise via a new album (usually with recording partner Holly Near) or some touring. She did some "HARP" concerts (first name of each singer) with Holly, Arlo Guthro, and Pete Seeger). The Weavers had a brief re-union for a documentary and a few concerts in November of 1980. It was just in time; Lee Hays, who had lost his legs to diabetes, died a year later, in August of 1981.

Ronnie Gilbert raised a few eyebrows when she married a woman in 2004. She had been married during The Weavers era, and had a daughter. Her frequent singing partner, Holly Near, has often been written up as a "Lesbian activist" as well as a performer. Adding to her credits, she transformed her "Mother Jones" show into a book, and here's my signed copy:

My favorite Ronnie Gilbert music is from her early solo days on Mercury. With The Weavers, she didn't solo much. Her voice was strongly identifiable in those harmonies, but the attention was usually on Seeger or Hellerman when they'd get up and do a talking blues or a folk humor piece like "The Frozen Logger." Solo, Ronnie recorded a wide range of songs, including several by Phil Ochs. Below is "The Power and the Glory," which contains that vivid caution: "Here is a land full of power and glory…(but…) she's only as rich as the poorest of the poor…"

Another line declares that America's "power shall rest on the strength of her freedom." It also rests on understanding what that word means. It doesn't mean hacking into someone's computer and posting private e-mails or documents and declaring this to be Assange-style "transparency." It doesn't mean posting some actress's nude photos copped off her cellphone, or copying entire discographies and every TV show ever made and making up lame excuses about "fair use"to toss it onto torrents. And it doesn't mean censoring somebody who said something you didn't like on Facebook, or threatening to expel somebody in a fan forum who politely shares a different point of view. It doesn't mean taping an awards show and clipping out a mild Caitlyn Jenner joke Clint Eastwood made because it "might" be offensive to some hyper-sensitive fruitcake. Or any of that crap. America's great includes a true understanding of what freedom really is.

Power and glory can't stop mortality, so here's a "so long, it's been good to know you" to the lady in the Weavers who helped popularize Woody Guthrie and so many others. Ronnie's work will continue to influence people who want to be enlightened.

"Here is a land full of power and glory…"


"The Patty Duke Show" theme - WITHOUT THE LYRICS

Here's a little tribute to the great Patty Duke, who has given us so much in both drama and comedy, and in her brave and important autobiography. She and her husband are going through one of those tough and anxious times: "Mike has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, surgery June 30. I know he will be ok, but many unknown factors..."

For many kids, Patty's role in "The Miracle Worker" was an inspiration. In telling the story of Helen Keller, there was also a message for all kids who felt alienated, who didn't understand what parents and teachers wanted, and who thought there was no hope that they could communicate or make something of themselves. And a few years later, she explored the schizoid world of teenagers by playing both "Patty" and "Cathy" in her sitcom; the party kid and the serious student. She was such a fine actress; she made "identical cousins" seem like two truly different people, just by her ability to reflect the different personalities of the girls, and shading one of the voices.

I know, that's getting awfully serious and analytical. But it's true. So is the fact that thanks to Patty's sitcom, every time I heard the "Maverick" theme song, I thought the line was "Natchez to New Orleans, livin' in Jackson, Queens." Patty's fictional home was in Brooklyn Heights, which probably wasn't much of a bus ride to Jackson Heights.

Which brings me to HER theme song, which was sung by the peculiar middle-aged Skip-Jacks, the group that contributed their weird sense of swing to Buddy Morrow's RCA album "Poe for Moderns," hepping up a few songs based on Edgar's stories and poems.

It was common, if not mandatory back in the 60's to have an exposition theme song that explained the premise of the show and who the lead characters were. Since we all know about the "crazy pair," and how a hot dog made Patty "lose control" STFU,'s the theme WITHOUT the words!

This un-sung version is the work of the unsung composer-arranger Carl Brandt (August 15, 1914 — April 25, 1991).

Brandt may be best known as an arranger for Spike Jones (working on Spike's Warner Bros album "In Stereo,") and supplying incidental music for all the Dick Tracy cartoons, as well as some of the "Adventures of Mr. Magoo." He supplied the background music for a lot of TV shows from "The Alaskans" in 1959 to "Mod Squad" in 1968, with "I Spy," "The Andy Griffith Show," and "Gomer Pyle" in between.

This track comes from a 1964 compilation album of TV themes he produced for Warners, where he was on the staff, arranging material for a variety of projects and composing incidental music for TV shows. He was pretty flexible in his stylings, and while he started in the Big Band era working with the colorfully named orchestra leader Dick Jurgens, he continued working into the era of rock and funk, composing music for the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film "Cleopatra Jones" in 1973.

So thank you music lovers, Carl Brandt, and a special thank you and get well to Patty and her husband.


Bruce Lundvall & his "Smooth" W.C. Fields "Dear Chester" single

Bruce Lundvall (September 13,1935-May 19, 2015) was saluted in obituaries for his long career in music, which included becoming the head of CBS Records, then Elektra's "Musician" label in 1982, and ultimately Blue Note where he revived the old jazz catalog and signed newcomer Norah Jones.

In Illville? He's "Smooth Lundvall." That was the name he used when he booked himself into a studio and recorded a fake W.C. Fields single.

At the time, he was an exec at Columbia (only a few years away from becoming CBS president). Ah, yes, nepotism. But forgive him. Instead of putting out entire albums simply because he could, he restricted his enthusiasm to "Dear Chester" b/w "Ode to Larson E. Whipsnade." Oh yes, and a cover of "Winchester Cathedral" b/w "I'm Gonna Spoil You Baby").

Adopting a W.C. Fields cadence, but sounding more like Rudy Vallee, Lundvall attempted to be part of the "Fields cash-in" that included new books, pop posters, and the arrival of "Uncle Bill" (imitating the Great Man in both TV commercials and on a novelty album). Aside from the "Smooth Lundvall" single, Bruce did a real service by having Columbia issue four albums of W.C. Fields radio shows, and it was very rare for a major label to bother with that kind of thing.

"Dear Chester" references "Chester Fields," a mythical son W.C. loved to mention on radio just to annoy his sponsor, the rival cigarette company Lucky Strike. Lundvall recites a script that goes from copping familiar Fields jokes into inventing lesser ones. A distracting piano offers some period flavor, and sort of echoes the musical choice Bill Fields (and his recording engineer Les Paul) used for "The Temperance Lecture," which he left a sanitarium in order to make. He died before it was released (along with "The Day I Drank A Glass of Water.")

Lundvall was once chairman of the RIAA, and also held high positions at other alphabet soup groups; Country Music Association (CMA) and National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). He received a presidential award (whatever that is) from NARM (whoever they are...the National Association of Record Merchants, whose job apparently is to wave farewell every time a record store closes.)

In his 70's, Bruce helped Blue Note continue to prosper, especially with Norah Jones' stuff selling millions. Cassandra Wilson, Al Green and Wynton Marsalis all had hits for the label. In a February 2009 article in the NY Times "Smooth" Bruce said "“I don’t want to sit around the house and mow the lawn. I don’t want to be a crossing guard for the Wyckoff, N.J., school system. I want to keep doing this.” Norah Jones declared, "I don't know where I would be in the world of music without Bruce as my friend and champion."

Don Was took over as Blue Note's CEO in 2010, as Lundvall's health took a turn for the nurse. Ahh, worse, unfortunately. Drat. The Fields imitator and music CEO was suffering from Parkinson's. Lundvall didn't completely retire; he ran some music festivals, and did so even at the assisted living home he was in. The festivals raised money for Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's research foundation.

Download "Dear Chester."

DEAR CHESTER No wait time, capcha codes, dopey Zinfart passwords or conjob demands to pay for a "premium account" so a cloud company can make the money the artist, writer and record label deserve.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lights Go Out For…TWINKLE "The End of the World"

The girl with the annoying name Twinkle (July 15, 1948 – May 21, 2015), was actually Lynn Ripley, believe it or not. Back when Eng-a-lind swang, there was a girl named Twiggy, and another named Lulu, so being known by a one-and-only cutie-pie name was real gear.

Speaking of things gear, Twinkle had an instant hit with a song about a boyfriend who couldn't quite shift his gears. "Terry" was the name of the "teen tragedy" song, which fit in nicely with various hits before and after, including "Teen Angel," "Tell Laura I Love Her," and of course "Leader of the Pack."

Looking sweet 16, Twinkle was such a part of the silly pop scene that she dated Peter Noone (the adorable leader of Herman's Hermits) for a while. When she became typed for sad ballads, she was handed "The End of the World," which ironically Mr. Noone also took a swing at.

"The End of the World" via Twinkle is what you'd expect. Coming from the Priscilla Paris school of pouting (from which Claudine Longet would soon graduate), The Twink specialized in baby-like emoting. Her version lacks the full body and woeful angst of the older Skeeter Davis version, and isn't exactly competition to various tearful chicks up to and including Nina Gordon. Still, it effectively captures the pink blues of girls who drew hearts on the covers of their notebooks, and dotted their i's with a little circle. Teens who identified with her were seriously believed the world ended if some guy let some other girl pop his pimples. Their level of maturity didn't improve much with or without virginity, maybe only to the level of "do I switch now from junior to super absorbent?"

After "The End of the World" there wasn't much left. With barely enough collected singles to fill one album, Twinkle was history by the age of 18. It didn't mean she stopped trying. She recorded a single here and there, including "Micky," about her boyfriend Micky "Micky" Hannah. Five years later, Micky died in an airplane crash. No, the disc jockeys in England didn't rush to play "Micky." Besides, our sweet Twinkie was married to someone else (to an actor/model whose biggest deal was having the lead in a British candy commercial).

In 1975, "Bill and Coo" (Twinkle and her father) released a single, "Smoochie," and that kissed her career goodbye. She was still beloved and remembered for her iconic singles, most especially the morbid ones. "Terry" has been anthologized on several "Teen Horror" compilations but here below, as we all get closer to it, is…


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Frank Sinatra was to a song what the Mafia was to a storekeeper. The boss. Take "It Was a Very Good Year." He OWNED it. Unlike the Mafia, he didn't need a constant "enforcer" to remind anyone. Everyone who covered the song only confirmed: "That's Frank's song. Why give tribute to anyone else?" Certainly not Lonnie Donnegan.

Lonnie's version is below, mostly because it has the novelty of being BEFORE Frank's. And because this blog doesn't mess with giving Sinatra away! Donegan was a peculiar Brit who liked to steal American music and call the theft "skiffle." Lonnie heard the original Kingston Trio version and figured maybe it would be better as a solo ballad. Close, Mr. D. But the song only became a classic when, two years later, Sinatra took over.

The song's immortal, but not Stan Cornyn, the Warners exec who wrote the award-winning liner notes for Sinatra's album, or Ervin Drake, who wrote the song. Both died this year.

Cornyn, eventually a Senior Vice President for Warner Bros., wrote the liner notes for "September of my Years" in 1965, and the following "Sinatra at the Sands," which featured some of his best prose:

“Sinatra turns to the audience and tells them he’s going to sing a saloon song. And silently you can almost hear the perfumed ladies think “Yeah” and the close-shaved, shiny-cheeked men think “Yeah” and the waiters stop in doorways and think “Yeah.” And with just piano behind him, Sinatra turns actor. The man whose broad’s left him with some other guy and all of the loot…And there is silence all about, for this audience is watching a man become that last lucked-out guy at the bar, the last one, with nowhere to go but sympathy city.”

Nice, huh? It's the kind of thing to make you wanna grow up and write album notes. Which I did, but this was the CD era, and booklet sizes were shrinking, and I was usually limited to 250 to 500 words. And I wasn't on the staff, making bucks with other types of writing. Back in the day, Stan Cornyn was. A fan of ALL types of music, he even wrote ad copy pushing Randy Newman's first efforts. He wryly wrote: "Once you get used to it, his voice is really something." That was the era when Warner Bros. had "loss leader" albums and was open to all kinds of quirky people, from Van Dyke Parks to Ron Nagle to the team of Judy Henske & Jerry Yester.

Stan was also known to sneak gags into the "Circular," the promo publication sent out to record stores and radio disc jockeys each week. One time he padded the legit commercials for Warners artists with this fake classified ad: “QUALIFIED GIRLS: Major record company now interviewing girls to be used in a series of paternity suits to bring fame to some of our less fortunate artists. Send scatological resume of past experience to Box 5949, Columbus, Ohio.”

Cornyn (July 8, 1933-May 11th 2015) provides an insider look at the music biz via his 2002 book, "Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group."

The croak of Ervin Drake somehow escaped my morbid gaze. While Stan passed on about a week ago, Ervin was erased on January 15th of 2015, at the age of 95. He had bladder cancer, and hopefully was enjoying praise, tributes and decent health till the end came.

Happily, he wrote the Warner Bros. hit that Sinatra liked. The other one was "Strangers in the Night." The author of that tune happened to run into the legendary "affable" Old Blue Eyes, and introduced himself. "I wrote 'Strangers in the Night.'" Frank glowered, turned his back and walked away. It could've been worse.

Back to Ervin Drake, who was born Ervin Maurice Druckman in Manhattan on April 3, 1919. Despite the notion that "Jews run show biz," he knew the truth. A song with "Druckman" on the sheet music would be tossed in the trash. "I Believe" (a huge hit for Frankie Laine) would've been considered some fucking "Old Testament" piece of drivel. Instead, it was praised as All-American drivel: "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows…I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way…"

"Good Morning Heartache" (which Billie Holiday turned into a jazz classic) would've likewise been considered schmaltz to be sung only by Al Jolson or Georgie Jessel. And "It Was a Very Good Year?" If you knew a JEW wrote it, you'd think it was sappy drek, and phony, too. A Jew going on dates with "blue blooded girls of independent means?" NO WAY, oy vey!

PS, you don't give a Jew the assignment of writing English lyrics to Latino numbers such as "Tico Tico" and "Quando Quando Quando." And so it was, that Drake got assignments that might not have come his way if his heritage was known. And that goes for his brother Milton Drake, whose big contribution to popular music was supplying the inane lyrics to "Mairzy Doats," one of the most popular Big Band novelty songs of that awful era.

Cornyn and Drake are dead. Well, 2015 has been a pretty shitty year for plenty of other reasons, too. But, oh nostalgia, there WERE some very good years. If you're old enough to have a very bad memory.


Ode to David Letterman - ADAM SANDLER

And so, ater 33 years of late night shows, David Letterman retires. As with his idol Johnny Carson, Dave leaves behind a legacy. For many, it's the end of a lifestyle. Many people shrugged about growing old with Johnny and that there wasn't a comfortable talk show anymore. They had to find something else to do at 11:30. Now, quite a few are feeling the same way...that the Jimmies (Fallon and Kimmel) are not a good alternative. Times and tastes have changed. Or in a phrase the late Robin Williams popularized, "Reality, what a concept." Rarely do things improve and the old give way to something better. One simply adapts to the loss and moves on.

Letterman's 33 years have included way too many highlights and important achievements to discuss here. Since this is a music blog, I could confine the comments to the singers and musicians who were such a part of the show. Even that would take too much space. All you have to do is go to Dave's website, or YouTube and you'll find many highlights. It should be mentioned, though, that Dave had pretty good taste, and gave valuable exposure to less-than-commmercial artists, ranging from Warren Zevon to Allison Moorer.

Aside from guests (special mention to Darlene Love's annual Christmas song) there was Paul Shafer's ritual impression of Cher singing "O Holy Night," Paul's assortment of "stings" and kooky music introductions, Dave's own occasional weird forays into singing ("Midnight…and the kitties are sleeping…") and that familiar yet un-hummable theme song. How about all the people who never listened to Miles Davis...but DID, because "Milestones" became Biff Henderson's "walk-on theme"?

I had limited interactions with Dave and the show. I did talk to him at a party once, and I was behind the scenes in the green room several times. I chaperoned friends who were actually on the show, and came to the show as a convenient meeting place for performers doing the show. I might do a quick photo shoot before or after they went on Dave's show, or even an interview. When I was with one of the top photo agencies, I was glad to get one of my photos of Dave into a national news weekly. Nice credit, nice paycheck. And I was at a few pretty historic telecasts, both at NBC, CBS and Radio City Music Hall. As the song goes, "they can't take that away from me."

In the last weeks, several stars gave Dave a special musical salute, including Martin Short and Nathan Lane. Both worked so hard over the years on song parodies that would be something special for their friend and host. One of the last, and certainly the most peculiar, came from Adam Sandler. Nervous, and singing low, not quite sure if every line was going to get the much-needed laugh from Dave himself, Sandler gained confidence and finished strong with lines that mixed tribute with tweaks. It was…not too shabby.

Adam Sandler David Letterman

Saturday, May 09, 2015

ILL-USTRATED SONGS #32: Purple People Eater by BARRY CRYER


He could've performed this under a pseudonym. Like Ben Worse.

But it couldn't have Ben Worse.

Below, landing with a thud, the space creature called "The Purple People Eater," as covered by Barry Cryer.

Obviously done very quickly to cash in on American vocalist Sheb Wooley's novelty original, Barry's cover misses a few notes by a Jamie Foxx doing "The National Anthem" last week at the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

There are a few interesting things about this oddity. First, it opens with sci-fi noises copped from the Mercury vault (and used on everything from "Martian Hop" to Boris Karloff's "Tales of the Frightened"). Second, they did take the time to throw in speeded up vocals for the Purple People Eater (some cover versions tried to get away with a kid's voice or just a weird voice). And last, and least, Cryer is clearly aping an American accent. Accent on the ape. Like I said, it could've Ben Worse.

Sheb Wooley (first name was Shelby) actually had another recording identity with a similarly awful pseudonym. Aside from his own novelty hits and C&W numbers, he recorded as Ben Colder. This was a gag name that came about when he recorded "Don't Go Near the Eskimos," a parody of Rex Allen's "Don't Go Near the Indians."

I hate people who grin and tell you to enjoy something because "it's so bad it's good." That's not the case with this thing! Rather, quoting a W.C. Fields line, "I won't say I like it, and I won't say I don't like it. Let me put it this way: I don't mind it." It's certainly an example of what quickie cover version recordings were like way back when...which is still a lot better than the shit that idiots throw on YouTube to try and (fail) to get a few hundred listeners.

BARRY CRYER A version of PURPLE PEOPLE EATER that could make you cry


For the past week, the irritating combo of Kanye and Kim had to step aside while the world gasped at something almost as irrelevant: the new baby for Kate Middleton the Topless and Prince William the Bald. As Groucho used to say, "You seem like a nice couple…" but, you bet your life, who the hell wants to read about them, or give a crap about their diaper-fouling spawn?

Toothless and ignorant Brits actually pranced around with gleeful banners "IT'S A PRINCESS!" referring to a toothless and ignorant baby. Were you idiot commoners expecting a frog? You commoners are stupid enough to think fairy tales come true? Well, yes, they do, but only for The Royals, not for YOU LOT! What's your vicarious delight in how "classier than you by birth" Royals prance and ponce around the world, and periodically procreate?

Poor people buying up souvenirs of ROYAL events? It only encourages the ROYALS to believe that average people are absolute fools, not worthy of any respect.

Cheering Brat #2? This spawn is so far down the line she'll never be Queen. By the time she's fully grown, it might be "off with her head," for not being Muslim, the likely majority.

The way things are going in formerly Great Britain, the Queen in 40 years could be a gay man (son of Elton and David), or more likely, it'll be a Muslim, and in that case, a King. (Arabs don't think women should do much besides stay covered in cloth and pretend to enjoy sex without the clitoris that was circumcised off). In 2055 you might see King Gazzoleen, the former Duke of Oil, on the throne. He'll be shouting to the white peasants, "Let them eat hummus." Looking for Cameron? He will have been smashed to bits and given an anonymous burial under a gas station parking lot. Nick Clegg, doddering only a bit more than he is now, will be one of the midwives helping in the birthing of Muslim babies. That's all members of the "Labour Party" will be allowed to do.

Speaking of labour, after the hoopla over the birth of this useless dollop, sister to useless dollop #1, I wondered how many were secretly singing, "Do It No More." Just switch the song about Prince Albert and Queen Victoria to the new names, Prince William and Kate.

"Do it No More," popular in the 1840's, was a wry, ribald and daring song for the day. It seems that SOME people weren't too thrilled about tax money going to the ever-expanding family of "Royals," and who knows, maybe Queen Victoria's vagina was getting tired of it, too. Hence, a song with the Queen supposedly declaring a cease and desist with the royal dick.

"John Bull," in the song, refers to the press. A reporter has heard Queen Victoria say, or sing: "The state is bewildering about little children, and we are increasing, you know we have four. We kindly do treat them and seldom to beat them, so Albert dear Albert we'll do it no more."

Albert isn't pleased with the idea: "Do not persuade me or try to degrade me all pleasure and pastime to freely give over…" Well, listen for yourself, it won't won't hurt.

It especially won't hurt because the singer is the artist Derek Lamb, who chose to record British Music Hall in an intimate way, without the usual Stanley Holloway-type bombast.

As originally published in song books of the day, "Do It No More" (aka "England Forever/Do It No More") went on longer than a Thomas Hood ballad, but it's considerably truncated in this Lambinated version

DEREK LAMB Do It No More - British Music Hall update version Download or listen on line.

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Barry Cryer: "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" sung to "Girl from Ipanema"

Imagine singing the lyrics of one famous song…to the music of another.

That's one of the familiar stunts on the long running (since 1972) radio series "Sorry, I Haven't a Clue," which bills itself as "the antidote to panel games."

Below, it's Ian Dury's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" mated to Astrud Gilberto's "Girl from Ipanema." And the singer…legendary British comedian Barry Cryer.

Don't worry, it'll all be over in just one minute. This is not a 45 rpm, but a radio moment digitized especially for the blog and your entertainment. Or confusion.

The show's stunts, musical friskiness, wordplay and mockery of popular book and film titles are all scripted in advance, of course, for each six-episode season. The segment where the stars sing lyrics over totally different music has been such a popular category, the studio audience greets the start with a half-hearted cry of "Yaayyyy." That cry is repeated for other gruesome comic tricks. These include accompanying a song with a kazoo and a slide whistle, or the "game" of singing to a track, then lowering the sound and seeing, 20 or 30 seconds later, if the karaoke singer will still be matched to the music when the sound is brought back up. Are we having fun yet? That's why samples of those two bits aren't included here.

Cryer, as you can guess from the photo, is one of the veterans, along with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden. They were involved in the earlier radio series "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again."

For some anti-Nazi fun, the show's theme song is "The Schickel Shamble," which starts with the familiarly ominous "Deutschland Uber Alles" chords before degenerating into a nauseating oom-pah band piece. Requests for it will be ignored. Because I don't have it.

PS, apparently "Deutschland Uber Alles" is nearly-banned in Germany. At least, it would be very unlikely that you'd hear those infamous Nazi-linked opening 8 notes should a German win an Olympic event or enter the ring or a boxing match. The "German National Anthem" these days, so I was told, borrows from the obscure third verse. Which I guess would be like, if Americans had lost the war, "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light" being eliminated. Or something like that. But I digress…


Hit Me To the Tune of Girl from Ipanema Barry Cryer

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TEAKWOOD NOCTURNE - TV's great classical mini-concerto

"Teakwood Nocturne" has probably been used by Universal Studios in dozens of its TV shows and movies. Its name comes from a 1961 episode of Boris Karloff's "Thriller." Called "Terror in Teakwood," it stars the supernaturally beautiful Hazel Court along with bonily handsome Guy Rolfe, who often played bizarre leading men who ended up destroyed by their own insanity. He's a crazed classical pianist in this one, and rather than abusing a funeral sonata from Chopin or Beethoven, or a darker shade of Bach, the producers went with something original.

The piece was composed by Caesar Giovannini, who was born in Chicago in 1925. The classically-trained American was originally hired by NBC to play piano for various projects and shows. In the late 50's and into the 60's he moved on to vinylly challenge Mantovani, Melachrino, Kostelanetz and other easy-listening pianists/orchestra leaders.

He recorded, with or without his "Velvet Orchestra," for small "stereo demonstration" labels along with Bally and Mercury. His reel-to-reel tapes and vinyl albums include "Caesar Plays Concert Stereo," "Brilliant Sounds of Pianos and Percussion," "The World of Strings,""Silk Satin and Strings," "Viola Paris" and "Los Dedos Magicos de Caesar Giovannini." The latter features the typical tunes middle aged people wanted to hear, including "Stairway to the Stars," "Beyond the Sea," "Stranger on the Shore" and "The Sweetest Sounds." But not his nocturne, which did get a cover version from probably the best known pop pianist of the era, Roger Williams. There's some collector value in Caesar's stash due to the good sonic quality of the vintage stereo recordings and/or the cheesy nature of the album covers.

As a behind-the-scenes pianist, Giovannini continued to find a lot of work including playing on the soundtracks for "Soylent Green," "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," "Wait Until Dark," "Pressure Point" and many more.

Although there are votes for "Alla Barocco," Caesar's most enduring original remains "Teakwood Nocturne," which, is below in the version from Stanley Wilson and his Orchestra. A Jewish conductor and arranger who died of a heart attack at 52, Wilson worked on a variety of TV shows during the 60's, including"The Virginian," "87th Precinct," "Johnny Staccato," "Checkmate," "Ripcord," "Broken Arrow," "Tales of Wells Fargo," "The Millionaire" and "Wagon Train."

Wilson, ironically enough, worked on both Karloff's "Thriller," and then "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." He was the one who adapted Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" for use as Alfred's theme music. Let's pretend Stanley or Caesar is playing the piano on this track…using the severed hands of a dead man...echoing the Orlac-plot of that infamous episode of "Thriller."

. Stanley Wilson & Orchestra Teakwood Nocturne

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SID TEPPER - Another of those Jews For Elvis

Who wrote more songs for Elvis Presley than anyone else? No, not Leiber and Stoller of "Hound Dog" fame. It was the team of Tepper and Bennett. They were probably the most obscure of the Jewish songwriting teams that shaped rock and roll in the late 50's and early 60's. That list includes: Mann and Weill. Goffin and King. Bacharach and David. Leiber and Stoller. Pomus and Shuman. Greenwich and Barry.

No, we will not see the likes of Sid Tepper (who died a few days ago, age 96) again. A main reason is that lyrics can be computer generated (and who listens to lyrics anyway). Music can be auto-tuned, pitch-corrected, and programmed. Any bunch of moronic rap assholes can "produce" a new album for Madonna to package. The music industry has, of course, changed to the point where there are almost no professional songwriters who have the skills to make hit songs that people would instantly memorize and sing to on the radio.

Back to Sid. It's ironic, that the kids who flipped their lids for Elvis had no idea so many of his songs were written by Yids. Yes, the same tribe that had the shit beaten out of them in schoolyards for not being cool or rockers, were giving the world most of the hippest songs on the radio…most of 'em sung by Southerners like Elvis, or black groups including The Coasters and The Drifters.

Tepper-Bennett adapted to rock and roll and rock (Elvis songs and the rockin' "Glad All Over") but started working together in 1945. They began at a songwriting mill appropriately named Mills Music. Sid had written specialty material for Special Services while in the Army. Now, with his childhood pal Roy Bennett, they learned how to write fast, often, and commercially. I always checked the songwriting credits on the 45's I bought, but didn't buy Elvis. I first noticed Tepper-Bennett on "Just a Simple Melody" by Patti Page. No doubt I got that one rounding out a "10 for a Dollar" pile from Woolworth's bargain bin. At the time, she and Tony Bennett were on Columbia. He had a pop hit with "I Wanna Be Around," and I think Patti probably hit the Top 40 at least, with this easy-aching double-tracked tune, which included sentimental backing from a tacky-keyed piano.

As you'd expect from guys knocking out songs and hoping for the best, the Tepper-Bennett catalog has some pretty strange novelty titles that didn't quite get a singer bringing 'em to #1: "Bagel and Lox," "Bonnie Lassie," "Best Dressed Cowboy," "Cane and a High Starched Collar," "Cha Cha Charlie," "Chicken Picken Hawk," "Christmas Child Loo Loo Loo," "Counterfeit Kisses," "Dreamy Dolls of Dusseldorf," "Egbert the Easter Egg," "Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce," "Gabby the Gobbler," "Googie Woogie," "Hey Mabel," "I Can't Whistle," "I Danced With My Darling," "I Like Christmas," "I'm Not Ashamed," "I've Got a Crush on New York," "I was a Teenage Monster," "In Italy," "Itty Bitty Polka," "Jenny Kissed Me," "Kewpie Doll," "Law is Comin' Fer Ya Paw," "Love is a Serious Business," "Mama Do the Twist," "Mary Smith," "One Blade of Grass," "Rock Around Mother Goose," "Say Something Sweet," "Son of Robin Hood," "Song of the Shrimp," "Ten Little Bluebirds," "Thanks Mister Florist," "There Are Two I's In Dixie," "Twenty Tiny Fingers," "Water Faucet," "Wheels on My Heels" and "Wish I Wuz a Whisker."

Their first big hit was back in 1948. It was the adorable, sentimental "Red Roses for a Blue Lady." The lyric was actually inspired by Sid giving flowers to his wife after they had a tiff. By way of tribute, this is the song you get below…but in the fractured Homer and Jethro version. Why? Well, this is a perverse blog, but you can get the Elvis stuff anywhere, as well as "The Young Ones" by Cliff Richard. As for "Glad All Over" the Dave Clark hit, we mustn't interfere with that charming man by pirating something he (and nobody else in the band) can make a few extra pennies on. And the straight version of "Red Roses" is easy to find on YouTube.

I hope Sid liked H&J's parody as much as I do. The original is still charming, but Homer & Jethro add wonderfully insulting remarks: "she's like a rose to me. They smell and so does she." It also has a wonderfully stupid punchline. (Speaking of stupid, yes, Tepper-Bennett wrote "I'm Getting Nuttin' For Christmas").

By the late 50's, Tepper-Bennett were more than willing to keep up with changes in the music world. Like Nudie the tailor learning to make flashy gold suits for Elvis, Tepper-Bennett tailored songs for Elvis movies, including "G.I. Blues" and "Viva Las Vegas." They ended up writing about 52 songs for Elvis…and 21 songs were cut by England's Elvis, that fellow named Cliff Richard. BMG even issued a CD package of Elvis singing Tepper-Bennett.

Back in the 60's, songwriting was not just a business, but a very stressful one. The best guys had to work on deadline, and on the whim of the star. Jimmy Van Heusen recalled the times he was expected to instantly come up with something for Sinatra. Sid had the same experience with Presley, or with Presley's film director, suddenly saying, "Hey, we decided to end a scene with Ann-Margret pushing Elvis into the swimming pool. Re-write the song so the last line can lead her to do it!"

Tepper-Bennett songs were covered by Sinatra. Sid recalled, "My favorite singer was Frank Sinatra, but he wasn't nearly as multifaceted as Elvis. We'd send him the demo and he'd listen to it twice and be ready to go like he'd sung it his whole life." Yes, there were great rewards, financial and artistic, in hearing Elvis and others perform his work, but the business was a business, and it eventually got the best of him.

The pressures on the Brooklyn-born lyricist led to a heart attack and eventually retirement in the early 70's. Although songwriters are rarely well known to the general public, Tepper was a big shot in Florida. In his retirement, he was pointed out to most anyone in his small town of Surfside, and when he hit 90, the citizens (as well as his many children) threw a party for him, and even Lisa Marie Presley turned up for "Sid Tepper Day."

Sid had his family and friends, and also fans…people did send him letters to thank him for songs that meant a lot in their lives, were played at weddings, etc., and he liked hearing about how much his songs were loved. “One thing I’ve learned is you can’t leave love in your will," he said, "you have to give it while you’re living."

Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett's RED ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY via Homer and Jethro