Sunday, April 30, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
I realize I have poked fun of some of the nonsense on the Internet where people talk about fears of clowns, department store Santa Clauses and department store Easter Bunnies. Now, I am going to confess to having been frightened by something that is frequently referred to a "beloved children's favorite." It is the children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and first published in 1922.
I never read the book or had it read to me, but I saw an animated TV version. I tried to look for the one I watched on YouTube and couldn't find it. I had a hard time looking up information on this story or looking for the video because I get shaky and nauseated just think about the story (Go ahead, you jerks, and call me "snowflake").
So what scared me about this story that it STILL bothers me in my 40s? Near the end of story, the little boy contracts a serious illness and a doctor tells the parents that they have to burn his toys because they are contaminated.
This probably wouldn't frighten any other kid, but since I was two years old, I have had multiple illnesses. I nearly spent several months of my early childhood in a oxygen tent at the hospital in Lebanon, Missouri, because of severe asthma. I was never able to really play outside like other kids, because what triggered my asthma was pollen and other allergens, which include trees and grass. I was confined to the indoors, so toys, books and records were my only source of fun. Imagine the terror if that was taken away and burned.
Maybe this didn't frighten other kids, because they didn't have illness in there lives or they had different circumstances in their lives. As for me, it created an anxiety that still won't go away.
At least I didn't say I'm afraid of clowns.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
I had been wanting to find this and, of course, Youtube came through. This is from the TV version of the popular radio anthology, Family Theater. The radio series adapted several classic children's books, while the TV series focused on mainly stories from the Bible (It was produced by a Catholic group - the radio show usually began with prayer).
I learned about this in an extra on the DVD of Rebel Without Cause. James Dean's first appearance on film was playing John the Apostle in a 1951 episode of Family Theater. The episode is called "Hill Number One." It features a wrap around story of a platoon of men fighting in Korea. A chaplain brings the men coffee on Easter Sunday and begins telling them the story of the Resurrection.
Like the radio series, the TV show attracted some major actors. In this episode alone, you will see such well-known actors as Roddy McDowell (Planet of the Apes), William Schallert (Patty Duke Show), Leif Erickson (High Chaparral), Frank Wilcox (The Untouchables & Beverly Hillbillies), and Michael Anasara (Broken Arrow, Law of the Plainsman, Star Trek & I Dream of Jeanie).
When this first aired, James Dean wasn't THE JAMES DEAN. This was just the beginning of his legend.
Feel free to post this on Facebook with a overbearing, guilt trip statement like "I bet you won't share this." Maybe I'll get more hits that way.
Friday, April 7, 2017
Saturday, April 1, 2017
This is the 60th anniversary of the greatest April Fool's Day joke ever by, of all people, the BBC News division. We studied this incident in my media and journalism courses at Missouri State University, back when it was Southwest Missouri State University. None of our professors had a copy of it. They assumed it was lost (kind of like early Doctor Who episodes). We can see it, thanks to YouTube.
On April 1st, 1957, the BBC news program, Panorama, ran a 3 minute story about the abundant harvest this spring on spaghetti trees in Switzerland. It was narrated by the shows, usually serious host Richard Dimbleby. At the time, spaghetti and pasta were not foods that the British ate. The only way to get spaghetti, in the 1950s, in Great Britain was pre-cooked in a can with tomato sauce. People began calling the BBC to find out if they could grow it in their back yard.
Here is the full report. The only thing missing from this is Richard Dimbleby's tag at the end, saying into the camera, "And that is our program for today, April 1st, 1957."
Runners up on great April Fool's Day jokes would be when a reporter for an NBC affiliate in Missouri (John Pertzborn, I think), in the early 90s, profiled a couple that was receiving "left over" TV transmissions from the 1950s. I became suspect when it seemed everything they were watching was off at Goodtimes or Video Steve compilation tape. Another April Fool's joke in the Missouri media world was in the late 80s, when the then top rated Top 40 radio station in Springfield, Missouri, KWTO-FM Rock 99, announced it was going country and the DJs quit on-air. Also a few years ago, Northern Bath Tissue announced their "Rustic Weave Artisan Toilet Paper" in an online commercial (I love the look on that woman's face when she sits down). Also, comic fans used to laugh about the time Comic Shop News announced that D.C Comics had bought out Marvel Comics. This was before Warner Brothers bought out D.C and Marvel was bought out by Disney.
Happy April Fool's Day!
Sunday, March 19, 2017
A few years ago, I was writing a novel about a boy, named George Marter, growing up in Missouri in the 50s. At one point, a teacher tells him that he needs to know about David Rice Atchison, because he was the 'greatest man to ever come from Missouri.' George Marter replies to the teacher, "As far as I'm concerned the greatest man to come from Missouri is Chuck Berry."
Needless to say, I haven't finished it and may never (I may go into the details on why in another post). During the writing of that novel, I listened to the music of the era and some of the best music of that era came from CHUCK BERRY.
I had been a fan of his music since I heard it as a child during the 50s nostalgia craze of the 70s. It also was a staple on those quickly disappearing things known as Oldies radio stations. Listening to his music again, via two greatest hits CDs, and mixed with some of the other stuff from that era (see my previous post on annoying music) you realize why Chuck Berry was important to the development of rock and roll. He took the blues, played it fast and wrote it for a younger teenage audience. His songs were about school, racing cars, dating and being a rock and roll fan. He also invented the guitar riff and the guitar solo.
Here are a list of my favorite Chuck Berry songs:
1. "Johnny B. Goode"
2. "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
3. "Roll Over Beethoven"
4. "Sweet Little Sixteen"
7. "Thirty Days"
8. "Come On"
9. "You Never Can Tell"
10. "School Days"
11. "Rock & Roll Music"
12. "Run Run Rudolph"
13. "No Particular Place To Go"
14. "Back In the U.S.A"
15. "Promise Land"
Hail Hail Rock & Roll!
Thursday, March 16, 2017
This post started off as a comparison of two sub genres of rock music. The problem was, as I tried to do some research on the subject, I found very little information or music on-line about it. So I just decided to mix it into a post about several other genres.
If you are on social media, you would assume, from reading all those stupid memes that your un-hip friends post, that Millennials listen to the worst music ever made. In doing some research for this, I found that the hipsters and Millennials are actually into some very interesting and technical, experimental music.
Also, I've noticed these memes usually come from one of three places 1) a country radio station or redneck humor Facebook site, 2) a classic rock - AOR radio station Facebook site or a 3) right-wing political - talk radio Facebook website. All three have an agenda.
Let's look back at the history of rock and roll and see if we can find any trends, that those who criticize the current music scene, bought into that could be scene as vomit inducing.
10. Rural Norwegian/Scandinavian accent novelty songs (70s - 80s): The Wurzels, Da Yoopers and the Bananas at Large. It started in the 50s with a comedian named Harry Stewart, who recorded under the name Yogi Yorgenson. His stuff was kind of fun. Then, in the 60s, came Stan Boreson and Doug Stetterberg doing parodies of popular songs with some rural Norwegian/Scandinavian humor, still okay. That was all. Then, the rural Norwegian/Scandinavian, sort of was revived by a group from England called the Wurzels, who did recorded a parody of "Brand New Key" as "Combine Harvester." Technically, their music was a British rural variation, but the elements were there such as beer and farm implements. In the 80s, some groups out of Minnesota and Wisconsin, began recording original songs, most of these were about two subjects: deer hunting and farting. The redneck crowd like these songs and, if you are in country radio you get request these songs. Ugh.
9. Acapella - Doo Wop Revival (80s - 90s): The Nylons, Take 6, 4 P.M, All-4-One, Boyz 2 Men, New Edition. It started with the Nylons and their covers of Steam's "Kiss Him Goodbye (Na Na Na Hey Hey)" and The Turtles' "Happy Together." It didn't immediately take off, but then New Edition gave us a cover of "Earth Angel," to coincide with its use in Back To the Future. From then on, all boy band (really they are vocal groups not bands, but that is what people call them) had to do some acapella variation of a doo wop, oldies hit or country hit. Even when they covered a song, with musical backing, there would be at least a few bars of acapella. I think Boyz 2 Men had a whole acapella CD. The last hurrah (and best song of this trend) was The Straight No Chaser version of the "Twelve Days of Christmas."
8. American Ska - Punk (90s): Save Ferris, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Real Big Fish. In the early 80s, the Ska - Punk movement came out of England with bands like The Specials, The Untouchables, English Beat and Madness had some great songs. In the 90s, some American bands tried to revive the sound. The problem with these bands were their songs were usually too fast or just bad. Save Ferris (great name for a band) committed the ultimate sin by doing a cover of a song from the 80s that I HATE, "Come On Eileen." I also thought Reel Big Fish's "Sell Out" was one of the worst songs ever.
7. Big Band - Timeless Standards Revival (90s - Present): Squirrel Nut Zippers, Cherry Poppin Daddies, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Michael Bubble, Puppini Sisters. This can be blamed on the short lived popularity of swing-dance. There has always seemed to be a push to bring back the Big Band era and the music of the pre-rock and roll era ever few years, but in the late 90s and early 2000's it almost succeeded. The groups doing original songs were on Alternative radio, where they sounded out of place. The more Timeless stuff helped kill off light AC and, when given its own radio format, it was the same songs over and over. Worse was how major stars (Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton, Bobby Caldwell, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon) recorded CDs of the "Timeless songs" and became un-cool.
6. American Blues Revival (Late 80s - early 90s): Omar & the Howlers, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jeff Healy Band. This is the subject that has caused me not to post in a while. I was going to compare the music of the late 60s British blues revival with the American blues revival of the late 80s. When I was in college, the local AOR station seemed to play a huge glut of these American blues revival bands. Out of all of the stuff being played, I only liked about three songs, "Bad To the Bone" & "Who Do You Love" by George Thorogood and "Smoking Gun" by The Robert Cray Band. There was also a tone of local blues bands around. I always preferred the late 60s British blues of Led Zepellin, Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Ten Years After. There was something made their interpretations of the blues different. Maybe it was help from acid, pot, Alistair Crowley and that person Robert Johnson met at the crossroads, but their blues was like atomic thunder from outer space. A new generation discovers it every year. The American blues revival of the 80s has largely become the in-house music of chain barbecue restaurants like Rib Crib and Famous Dave's. Here is the thing that caused my lengthy lack of post. Doing research on those bands was impossible, because I could find very little information about them on the Internet. I could track down very little of the music. I looked in an old Gold Disc AOR catalog from the 90s at work and only found a few names I remembered. Most of the groups had names like Jimmy Fudbucker and the Skillet Lickers. The only thing I found was a comment on the message board that summed up why these groups didn't have the impact of the British groups of the 60s. This person said "It lacked the feeling and soul that the blues is supposed to have. They made the blues bland and boring."
5. Mummers String Bands (50s): Ferko String Band, Nu-Tornados, Quaker City Boys. If you wondered what in the world that photo at the top of this post represented, here it is. Sadly, I have to blame this one on one of my broadcasting media heroes: Dick Clark. The Mummers Parade has been a New Years Day tradition for over a century in Philadelphia. In the 50s, it was aired live on TV. This was also when American Bandstand was broadcast from Philadelphia. The oddly dressed marchers and bands in the parade can only use string and percussion instruments. Some how they wound up catching the nations attention. Ferko String Band performed mainly instrumentals on records, but they had a hit. A vocal group, with a Mummers sanctioned banjo and glockenspiel, called The Quaker City Boys gave us "Teasin."
The Nu-Tornados, on the other hand, gave us the dorkiest hit of the early days of rock & roll. A song called "Philadelphia U.S.A."It makes "Pink Shoe Laces" look like "Blowin In the Wind." The trend lasted roughly a year and thankful stayed in Philly after that.
4. Nostalgia - Camp (60s): New Vaudeville Band, Ian Whitcomb, Rainy Daze, Purple Gang, Bonzo Dog Band. The Pop Art movement of the 60s lead to nostalgia for the pop culture of the past. In some circles, it was known as camp. Starting in about 1965, British Invasion artist Ian Whitcomb, known for his breathless hit "You Turn Me On," started reviving old ragtime songs like "Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night?" The next year, British composer Geoff Stephens, wrote a song called "Winchester Cathedral." He had it recorded by a studio group with a vocal by John Carter, the former lead singer of the Ivy League, singing through a megaphone, like singers of the 1920s. Using the name The New Vaudeville Band, the song became an unexpected hit and spawned some other records with that sound. Several older artist (Rudy Vallee, Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, George Burns and Tony Randall) and easy listening acts recorded cover versions, as well as bringing back more old songs from the 20s. It also spawn two bad copies that were blatant drug references. A band out of Denver used the nostalgia sound for their sledgehammer subtle minor hit "Accapolco Gold" and a British group called the Purple Gang recorded "Granny Takes a Trip." One group who started out doing the nostalgia sound revival act but left it behind was The Bonzo Dog Band. Here is one of those nostalgia tunes they recorded.
3. Death Songs (50s - 60s): "Teen Angel," "The Leader of the Pack," "Tell Laura I Love Her," "Last Kiss." This is one of those trends that have for years caused people to ask "WHY?". What caused the teenagers of the late 50s until the British Invasion to love such morbid songs. Many trace the beginning of this to be early 1959 and the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valence and Big Bopper. First came Mark Dining's "Teen Angel" and soon the Top 40 was filled with car wrecks (Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her" J. Frank Wilson "Last Kiss"), drownings (Jody Reynolds "Endless Sleep"), suicides (Pat Boone "Moody River", ghost girls ("Laurie"), a football team in a bus crash ("The Hero"), a girl eaten by a shark ("The Water Was Red") and a biker who may have hit a truck ("The Leader of the Pack"). This phase started to fade with the death of President Kennedy. Teens turned to the happy music of the British Invasion and Motown acts. The nail in the coffin (pardon the pun) may have been "I Want My Baby Back" by Jimmy Cross. It was a parody that took things a little too far. Jimmy misses his dead girlfriend so much that he digs up he coffin and crawls inside with her. Of all of these songs, my favorite is "Johnny Remember Me" by Johnny Leyton. He never says what happened to the girl or really if she is dead or not, but, thanks to production from Joe Meek, she is a spooky as a Roger Corman Poe movie.
2. Spoken Word Recitations: (60s): "A Open Letter To My Teenage Son,""I.O.U," "Grover Henson Feels Forgotten," "History Repeats Itself," "The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion)," "Gallant Men." This may get me into trouble. Before there was talk radio and memes on Facebook, there were the spoken word recitations. Don't get me wrong, not all were preachy tirades. Some spoken word recitations were stories with a musical background, such as "Old Rivers" by Walter Brennan, "Ringo" by Lorne Greene, "Phantom 309" by Red Sovine, and "The Shifting Whispering Sands" by Billy Vaughan with Ken Nordine. The others give us lectures against burning our draft card and respecting our elders, the similarities between President Lincoln and President Kennedy, how Europeans and "smug self-righteous Canadians" need to respect Americans, the true meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, how kids need positive role models and how much your mother has done for you. 75 percent of these records used an instrumental version of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" for a background. After the 60s, these type of recordings fell out of fashion because they don't gel well with the rest of the programing on music stations. Imagine if you were listening to the radio today and between the latest hit by Beyonce and the latest hit by Katy Perry, the radio station played a cranky, old, white griping about how today's teenagers are stupid, people on welfare or illegal aliens . You understand. I will admit I do have two favorites that actually came along after the boom of these records in the mid to late 60s. One is 1999's "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)", which was credited to producer Baz Luhrmann, but the reading is by actor Lee Perry. The other is 1971's "Desiderata (Child of the Universe)" by talk show host Les Crane. What I like about these are the upbeat music and positive, affirmative tone.
1. Answer Songs (50s - 60s): "He'll Have To Stay," "I'm the Girl From Wolverton Mountain," "I'll Save The Last Dance For You," "Tell Tommy I Miss Him," "I'm the Duchess of Earl," "Oh Neil," "Yes, I'm Lonesome Tonight," "Gary, Don't Sell My Diamond Ring," and "I'm Glad They Took You Away Ha-Ha!" The most ridiculous of all of these trends I mentioned has to be the answer song trend of the 60s. It's roots were planted in the early 50s on the rhythm and blues side when Hank Ballard & the Midnighters released "Work With Me, Annie" and on the country side with Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life." Etta James fired back at Ballard with "Roll With Me, Henry" and Kitty Wells snapped back at Thompson with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." For some reason the peak began in 1960 and lasted until the British Invasion hit (Let's face it, the British Invasion groups can be thanked for getting rid of awful stuff). Every time a male artist or group had a hit, another record company would release a bad re-write of the song with a female singer or group and visa versa. You can tell from the above titles that much of this was pure dreck (although "Oh Neil" was by Carole King, who Neil Sedaka wrote "Oh, Carol" about, so there was a point to that one). The only ones that worked are Jan Bradley's "Mama Didn't Lie," an answer to The Shirelles hit "Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This," Katy Perry's "California Gurls," which was an answer to Jay-Z "Empire State of Mind" and, the grand daddy of all answer songs, "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynard Skynard, which was an answer to Neil Young's "Southern Man" and "Alabama." The reason these work is they are original songs that sound different than the songs they are an answer to not a carbon copy with the gender of the singer changed.
Some will, of course, holler "What about disco? What about rap? What about hair bands? What about psychedelic music? What about punk?" Those genres and styles had staying power, whether you like them or not. These are brief flash in the pans. Lucky for us they were brief.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
One of my earliest memories of watching TV as a child was the show Mannix. The jazzy opening theme song, with the blue, red and yellow tiles (based on the Armenian flag and a tribute to Conners' Armenian heritage) and multiple tiny screens of Joe Mannix in action, including one of him dancing with a blonde girl, who spins around giving us TV's first upskirt shot. Also, Joe had his faithful African-American secretary Peggy Fair.
Mannix was a cool show, but as with many shows that stay around awhile, people picked up on things that could be parodied. Bob & Ray created a parody they called Blimmix. MST3K frequently made jokes about Joe Mannix's habit of jumping off of something on top of a crook, as well as, using Mannix jokes during any Roger Corman film from the 50s staring "Touch" Conners. When TV Land ran reruns of the show, a promo pointed out that with all the gunfire on the show, nobody was ever hit.
I've mentioned before that one of my favorite books as a child was The World Encyclopedia of Comics by Maurice Horn. In that book was a listing for a German comic strip called Mike Macke. The character was based on Mike Conners and a parody of Joe Mannix. All I could find on the Internet about the character was a scan of the same page from that book.
Here is those great opening credits. Watch for that girl.