Sunday, March 22, 2015

R. I. P JACKIE TRENT

Here is her obit from the BBC. She and Tony Hatch sang a sunshine pop masterpiece called "Gotta Get Away" in the pilot to the TV series The Persuaders. Here is the scene it appears in complete with retro cars.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

IS MR. SPOCK THE GREATEST TV CHARACTER EVER?


What was it about Mr. Spock that captured the hearts and imagination of millions around the world? I'm not sure you would call him cool. He wasn't the streetwise kind of cool like the Fonz or Vinnie Barbarino, nor was he that slick, charming kind of cool like Napoleon Solo, but he was cool in a way that was different. He was smart and philosophical than everyone else on the Enterprise, so you might say that made him a nerd or a nerd's ideal. Let's face it, there were a lot of other things that made Mr. Spock popular. Even though he exist in an idealized future, his life, like ours, isn't perfect.

Yes, he was smart, had superhuman strength (which he rarely used), mind reading abilities, a self-defense technique that renders people unconscious, and didn't have emotions to weigh him down, but he wasn't good looking with those bangs, greenish complexion,  the windshield-wiper eyebrows and, of course, the pointed ears. He was the hero for those who weren't good looking. Mr. Spock was the epitome of the person who stood out in a crowd.

You might say, Mr. Spock didn't fit in with his other crew mates. He was in the shadow of the dashing, heroic and good looking Captain Kirk, who you might say was sort of the jock to Mr. Spock's nerd. If Spock was a nerd, you can continue using junior high and middle school archetypes by pointing out that McCoy was the redneck who was always picking on people. He constantly harassed Spock about his green blood.

Add to this another thing about the Mr. Spock character he was multiracial. We found out during the course of the show that Mr. Spock was the child of a Vulcan father and an Earthling mother. Since he wasn't full blooded of either kind, he also didn't fit in with other children on the planet Vulcan, as was shown in the animated series.

This week in 1967, NBC aired one of the first episodes to give us an insight into Mr. Spock, "This Side of Paradise." Granted, they were tidbits thrown out through dialog in a story in which Spock is reunited with a beautiful female colleague named Leila (played by Jill Ireland, who looks like my old flame, Eunice Moneymaker), who had a major crush on him. Spock, of course, paid no attention to her because love is "a human emotion."

The landing party is supposed to evacuate the people on this communal planet, due to a radiation contamination, however, they don't want to go because they are "happy" and "healthy." It turns they are under the influence of strange plants that spray spores causing a euphoria. When Mr. Spock is sprayed with by one of the plants (which looks like a plant called caster beans that my Grandpa Jones planted around his garden to keep moles out), he not only notices how beautiful Leila is, but also notices clouds and rainbows. "Before today, I could tell you how they form in the sky, but until now I never noticed how beautiful they look." He is very close to singing "Both Sides Now."  Mr. Spock also begins defying Captain Kirk's orders and climbing trees.

Besides seeing that Mr. Spock is awkward at love, we find out in this episode about his parents, and he has super strength. Captain Kirk finds that the spores are counteracted by anger. He brings Mr. Spock back to normal by angering him to the point of violence with some rather vicious insults about his looks (Mystery Science Theater 3000 opened one show with a parody of this episode). This and "Amok Time" are the quintessential Spock episodes.

Almost as soon as Star Trek debuted, Mr. Spock became a fascination with people. 93 KHJ Boss radio in Los Angeles ran a Star Trek contest, where the winner got to meet Leonard Nimoy on the set of Star Trek (See the above KHJ Boss 30 Countdown flyer). Cheer Laundry Detergent altered a future man character (played by Robert Rodan, who played Adam on Dark Shadows) to look like Mr. Spock.

 


I noticed on many comments on retro blogs, social and news media websites after the death of Leonard Nimoy that many people said they had a Mr. Spock toy, t-shirt, pajamas, or Halloween costume. Matter of fact, when I was six years old, I was Mr. Spock for Halloween. I made the costume, although none of the stores in Lebanon or Springfield sold the pointed ears, so I had to make due with some "giant" plastic ears. I also had a pair of tube socks with Mr. Spock's picture on them.


I even had this Star Trek coloring book with Mr. Spock wearing a red shirt on the cover. Don't worry, he survived the coloring book.

I think kids gravitated toward Mr. Spock over the other characters because he was the different one. They could be a Captain Kirk or a Dr. McCoy, but Mr. Spock was something they couldn't be...a highly intelligent being from another planet, who was one of the good guys.

Mr. Spock is probably the most complex characters ever created for TV. While he prides himself on being emotionless, he is far from being one-dimensional and boring. Bravo ranked him 21st on their list of 100 Greatest TV characters ever and TV Guide ranked him sixth on their list of 50 greatest TV characters. Personally, Mr. Spock is the greatest TV character ever. Live long and prosper.   


 






Tuesday, February 24, 2015

POOR OLD JOHNNIE RAY



"Poor old Johnny Ray, Sounded sad upon the radio, But he moved a million hearts in mono."

"Come On Eileen" - Dexy's Midnight Runners

A few weeks ago, I asked people if they knew who the guy in these photos were back in the 80s & 90s, when his name seemed to be dropped into several popular songs.


Yes, 80's and 90's kids, this is Johnnie Ray, the singer mentioned in "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners, "Don't Need a Gun" by Billy Idol, "Sometimes When We Cry" by Van Morrison, "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel and "Are you Jimmy Ray?" by Jimmy Ray.

You couldn't say his music is forgotten, but the impact of his performing style is. Johnnie Ray was the one-man transition team between the quiet crooners such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como to wild rock and rollers like Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Ray would start off singing a love song in a soft, high-pitched, almost childlike voice, but by the end of the song, he would be screaming, almost in tears, sweating and twisting his clothes. He would sometimes collapse at the end of a song. Many of his biggest hits were songs that were sad and about crying. His biggest hit was "Cry" followed not long after by "The Little White Cloud the Cried." Comedians, like Stan Freberg and Spike Jones (with help from Billy Barty), love to imitate him and make jokes about his style, while teenage girls loved him. You might say Johnnie Ray was the 50s version of Justin Bieber.

Part of the reason for the lack of familiarity of younger generations with his style is because Ray's peak in popularity came during televisions infancy, when many shows were shown live and not recorded for posterity. Also, very little footage of his concerts exist.

Not to brag, but I knew the name Johnnie Ray back in the 80s. I knew of him from two places: my parents and the TV show Happy Days. My parents had an LP of 50s hits that was on the Columbia label. Both of the songs I mention above were included on this LP. I knew of these songs because of Happy Days. One episode ends with the gang having to leave Arnold's because they have been grounded. The only people left are the two waitresses, Marsha and Wendy, and a nerdy girl and a fat boy eating a large banana split. The juke-box begins playing "The Little White Cloud That Cried" and the boy and girl get up and dance with each other. I should point out that the show ends before the point in the song where Ray has one of his famous "meltdowns."

If you watch the closing credits, you will notice that Johnnie Ray receives a special thanks.  Apparently, Johnnie Ray rerecorded some of his hits for the the producers to used, because his name and Fats Domino are the only two musical artist who were thank for allowing the use of their recording for most of the run of the show. Oddly, enough the show didn't use Ray's songs after the fifth season, although they used Domino's music right up til the end.

I remember my parents watching nostalgia variety shows on PBS and seeing Johnnie Ray, but he never see perform in the frantic style that made him famous in his younger days. However, he still could sing loud enough to wake the dead. Of course, his trademark sound has been attributed to the fact that he was partially deaf.

Beside appearing to cry, Ray also seemed to give the impression that he was in severe pain. When you read his story you'll find out there was quite a bit of suffering in his life and later career. He lost most of his hearing at a young age and an operation, at the height of his career, to restore his hearing caused him to lose the rest. Problems with a bad manager that caused Ray to have problems with the IRS and may have sabotaged his career. Rumors of bisexuality coupled with two arrest for soliciting sex in a men's room, a bought with tuberculosis and alcoholism led to Ray being on a constant roller coaster of near-comebacks and disappointments.

While the American public never gave Johnnie Ray the comeback that he wanted, Britain and the rest of the world continued to love him. One of the reasons he was mentioned in the songs of Dexy's Midnight Runners and Billy Idol was because he was never forgotten in Britain. Ringo Starr once mentioned that the Beatles were influenced by him. Bob Dylan admits that Johnnie Ray was one of his favorite singers. Once you become familiar with Johnnie Ray's singing style you recognize it as the inspiration for Dylan's famous singing style that he adapted when he went "electric" in the mid 60s.

Just four years after appearing in the video of Billy Idol's song, "Don't Need a Gun" as a man driving around in a classic car, Johnnie Ray died on this day in 1990. So next time you hear his name in a hit from the 80s, you will know more about him.

Here is one of the few TV clips I could find from his heyday in the 50s.



     
     

   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A TRIBUTE TO DOS TEXT-ONLY BULLETIN BOARD CABLE CHANNELS


This is one of those times that I might sound like some bad Facebook meme, but more than likely, what I'm going to post about is gone or at least evolved into something more sophisticated. This is a tribute to DOS text-only bulletin board cable TV channels of the 70s and 80s.


You know the ones. They were all in a sort of DOS text produced by a Chyron generator somewhere. Mainly they had the current time and temperature, with weather from National Weather Bureau. It was usually a five day forecast, interspersed with some stats such as the barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed and dew point. These stations also had news headlines from AP or UPI or even Reuters, crawling along the bottom of the screen.  Some of these channels told what big event was coming up on the pay cable channels like HBO. There were also community news items like blood drives from the American Red Cross, church revivals or high school plays.


The audio was always from an easy listening, jazz or classical radio channel. Some even used the Muzak service. I'm going to at the end of this post by giving you an Ipod playlist of the kind of music you would have heard on those cable stations.

The fact is, these are probably gone, not because of some evil government plot as some websites would probably have you believe, but because they're outmoded by our technology. Let's face it, we can get information on our cell phones and the Internet. Turning on a certain cable channel to get the weather, news and other information really isn't necessary.

Also remember that these cable stations predated CNN and The Weather Channel, themselves and they stayed around for a little afterwards. They began dying out in the 90s, but if there is one still around, I'm sure the graphics are better because DOS graphics look pretty cheesy these days (although the screen capture at the top is from 2013 - some broadcasters never update as long as something works).

Another reason they are probably gone is they were kind of boring. Something you parents would watch when you wanted to watch reruns of Lost In Space, Get Smart or Batman.





I was trying to find information on these type TV stations. I was having trouble with what they were called.  Finally, I found out the technical name was "text-only bulletin board stations."  Lo and behold, I also found something I was hoping to find for this post. Not only did I find screen captures but, yes, some demented people taped these channels back in the day with their VCR and they posted some on YouTube. There are several on YouTube from a weather channel from Winnipeg, Canada. I have included a sample above.

Here is you Ipod playlist, so you can recreate the experience at home by typing up the time, temperature, weather forecast, AP headlines, sports scores and an announcement for a church bake sale in DOS, then stare at it for about an hour.

"Music Box Dancer" - Frank Mills
"Those Were The Days" - Mary Hopkins
"Love Is Blue" - Paul Mauriat
"My Coloring Book" - Kitty Kallen
"Theme From a Summer Place" - Percy Faith
"The Girl from Ipanema" - Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto
"Nadia's Theme" - Barry Devorzon & Perry Botkin Jr.
"We've Only Just Begun" - The Carpenters
"It Was a Very Good Year" - Frank Sinatra
"Life of Leisure" - Keith Mansfield
"Evergreen" - Barbara Steisand
"Theme from Summer of 42" - Peter Nero
"Morning After" Maureen McGovern
"Love's Theme" - Love's Unlimited Orchestra
"If I Could Reach You" - 5th Dimension
"Soul Coaxing (Ame Cailne)" - Raymond LaFevre 
"Do You Know The Way To San Jose?" - Dionne Warwick
"Theme from Exodus" - Ferrante & Teicher
"And I Love You So" - Perry Como
"Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet" - Henry Mancini
"You Needed Me" - Anne Murray
"Autumn Leaves" - Roger Williams
"Wichita Lineman" - Glen Campbell
"The End" - Earl Grant
"A Taste of Honey" Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
"You Light Up My Life" - Debby Boone
"Never My Love" - The Association
"Love at First Sight (Je T'amie...Moi Non Plus)" - Sounds Nice 
"We Will Sing In the Sunshine" - Gale Garnett
"A Swinging Safari" - Billy Vaughn
"Midnight Blue" - Louise Tucker
"Scarborough Fair" - Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66
"Take Five" - Dave Brubeck Quartet
"Weekend in New England" - Barry Manilow
"True Love Ways" - Buddy Holly
"Our Winter Love" - Bill Persell
"Who Do You Love" - The Sapphires
"Music To Watch Girls By" - The Bob Crew Generation
"Beyond the Sea' - Bobby Darin
"Some Velvet Morning" - Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra
"Classical Gas" - Mason Williams
"Windmills of Your Mind" - Dusty Springfield
"The Dis-Advantages of You" - The Brass Ring
"Can't Help Falling In Love" - Elvis Presley
"Sacha" - Hank Marvin
"Just The Two of Us" - Grover Washington Jr. & Bill Withers
"If" - Bread
"Everybody Loves Somebody" - Dean Martin
"Calcutta" - Lawrence Welk
"Don't Cry Out Loud" - Melissa Manchester
"Something" - Mystic Moods Orchestra
"Look of Love" - Burt Bacharach
"Song Sung Blue" - Neil Diamond
"Breezin" - George Benson
"After the Lovin" - Engelbert Humperdink
"Theme from Dark Shadows" - Bob Cobert Orchestra
"Paloma Blanca" - George Baker Selection
"Cast You Fate To the Wind" Vince Guaraldi Trio
"Elusive Butterfly" - Bob Lind
"The Knack (and How To Get It)" - John Barry
"Girl in a Sportscar" - Alan Hawkshaw
"What's In a Kiss" - Gilbert O'Sullivan
"Maschio Ruspante" - Ferrio Giovanni
"Tequila" - Wes Montgomery
"Aspetto Ancora un Giorno" - Piccioni Gian Piero
"That's Nice" - Alan Moorehouse 
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