See Geo's mind in action....live!
|Interview with TOM LEHRER|
(as Catch Can)
The Official Crazy College
Big Deal Releases
That You Should Know About
Just Released by Archeophone Records:
Van and Schenck: "Pennant-Winning Battery of Songland"
They were everywhere in the Twenties. Nows here their first recordings in this invaluable new collection, "Pennant-Winning Battery of Songland". Gus Van and Joe Schenck are A perennials on Crazy College( –actually much more often than that!). Here’re 28 selections recorded between 1916 and 1918, plus a 28-page color booklet with biographical notes by vaudevillian and author Trav S.D. You’ll learn how these boyhood friends from Brooklyn became vaudeville superstars. And, of course, the impeccable sound quality that we always get from Archeophone. I can't wait for Volume 2.
You’re Getting Sleepy
When he unsheathes rapier wit, watch out: it cuts deep, more like a scalpel than an antiquated instrument of war. Let’s hope the wounds won’t heal as he slices and dices-up all the wrongs spouted by the far right, the right and the not-so-bright. Give it to the "dittoheads" on your holiday list and watch the blood gush from their ears. It's fun and educational, too!
It was a great time by all accounts! Crazy College favorite Roy Zimmerman of the Foreman made his Delaware premiere at Fellowship Hall at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in
Newark on Friday July 25! Everyone had a great time and everyone became a radical once again. He promisies to return soon..
[ Stop, look and read the
New FIRESIGN THEATER interview with David Ossman et.al! Plus Leslie Iwerks talks about her grandfather and creator on Mickey Mouse Ub Iwerks, Stan Freberg and Brother Theodore interviews. They're here in the Interview section! ]
The First Four by Firesign Theater now on CD
With a mighty cry of "More sugar!" Firesign Theater attacked America where it hurt: right in its consumerism. Formed in 1967 from a radio collective that was dragging Fm radio into its golden era, Firesign found itself the first satirists of the Age of Aquarius. For the next thirty five years the fob four, Peter Bergman, Phil Proctor, Phil Austin and David Ossman, put on vinyls a unique form of theater of the mind "with your mind in mind." Playing on multi-levels of narratives simultaneously, these surrealist works danced and swirled, giddily with ideas — and ideals. It was like having a "headful of bees." Now almost their entire oeuvre is available once again on various labels, and now in the crystal clarity that is CD. No where is that more important than in the Cannon: the first four albums, finally released into the digital age this year by Sony Legacy.
Their first Lp Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him came upon an indifferent world in 1968 like a child taking tentative steps that reveal the dancer to come. The first side of the album [the first three tracks on the Cd] roughly sketched out themes that would be expounded upon in the "bigger deals ahead." But it is the title track that comprised the total of Side Two that set the form they would follow for many years ahead: the Odysseus myth, retooled and repackaged for these modern times. "This is Side Five. Follow in your book and repeat after me as we learn three new words in Turkish" Suddenly you, the listener, who only wanted to polish your language skills, is thrust in a world where reason will only get you so far — and a bribe will get you farther, where any man can grow up to be dictator, or even game show contestant on "Beat The Reaper" ["According to my careful prostheses that this man has the plague"]. Of the four Sony Legacy Cds this is the only one that comes with any bonus material. The Mantra And The Shakras fines a musical group of India performing in front of an uncomprehending crowd. It's amusing enough at less than four minute, but following after the masterful title track a let down, it would have been better situated before the epic began. More damaging is a mastering error that clipped the opening 10 seconds or so of Waiting [where we first begin our lesson]. While this hurts the piece severely — but not fatally — it is not likely to be corrected anytime soon. Indeed we were lucky to get these CDs at all; it was only through the perseverance of one lonely A&R man at Sony that these four were even released, so grab them — with both hands, my friend! — while you can.
A year later the boys returned with two long tales "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger", a loving tribute to the golden days of network radio [unfortunately this golden day happens to be December 6th, 1941] and the title track, How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?" Once again an Everyman finds himself on a journey of discovery through the pages of this great nation's history. When Our Hero finds himself climactically turning into Molly Bloom it is clear that we're not in Kansas anymore.
It was in Year Three of Firesign [1970 A.D.] that all their major themes coalesced and deepened like an fine cognac in Don't Crush That Dwarf, hand Me the Pliers, a tale so epic that it required both sides of a long playing record. Aged actor George Leroy Tirebiter, channel surfing late one night, comes upon two of his film — and a lot of commercials. One movie, called "High School Madness" finds the typical teen arrested for breaking into the auditorium of cross town rivals, Communist Martyrs High, who he suspected had stolen and dismantled his own school. The other movie was a war film where he plays a general unable to give the order to massacre the local women and children. Both films end in the courtroom — and somehow both trials merge. ["This is no movie! This is real!" "Which reel?" "The last reel of this vintage motion picture High School Madness..."].
Nineteen Seventy One offered up I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus, the final chapter in the Gospel of Firesign [bad news for modern man]. Two guys Clem and Barney are exploring their future at The Future Fair ["Live in the Future, just starting now.. The Future is fun. The future is fair. They have already won. They already be there...."] They come face to face with the Face Behind the Power when a holographic simulation of the President breaks down to revel Dr Memory....And with that the crystal ball is clouding and the whispering winds pick up. You find yourself back at the begin, the tales ready to be told again.
The Complete Simon Crum, A.K.A. Ferlin Huskey on Capitol: Country Music Is Here to Stay[Collectors' Choice CCM 295-2]
As a country star, Ferlin Huskey has had more than 29 hits over the years, including such standards as "Since You're Gone"  and "A Dear John Letter" , the latter shortly later lampooned by Stan Freberg. Perhaps it was Stan's success that inspired Ferlin to begin parodying his own works. For whatever reason, Ferlin began featuring as country bumpkin character he baptized Simon Crum; first as part of his stage act, then in 1955, as a recording star. With his silly hat and infectious giggle [which would run through his songs in sharp counterpoint to his nasal singing] no one had a right to expect anything but indifference from the DJs and the public. So it must have been a big surprise when Crum's first single "Cuzz You So Sweet" [sic] became a respectable hit on the country and western charts. His next release found him playing 52 pick-up with a cover of the pretentiously pious "Deck of Cards," only where other singers took religious inspiration, Crum only found remembrances and regrets over a weekend at the Casios in Reno. Over the ten year career that Huskey allowed Simon Crum, few of his country-men were spared their moment of pain especially Elvis who suffered several subtle but silly parodies. And many a hit took a bruising when Crum wrestle it into submission, most notably his reworking of "Poetry in Motion" which here becomes an ode to his over weight wife and re-titled "Enormity in Motion." ["...see her swing and sway. She's bigger than the ocean, so don't get in her way..."] Nineteen Sixty saw Huskey's gift for impersonation giving him some final chart action with his "Country Music's Here To Stay." And three years later Capitol released his only long player "The Unpredictable Simon Crum." By 1964 the writing on the wall must have been obvious enough for even Crum to read; a highlight of his final session was the aptly named "Simon Crum Needs a Hit." When one failed to materialize Capitol and Ferlin realized that the character was played out and Ferlin recorded exclusively under his own name for another twenty years. Fortunately for us Collectors' Choice has amassed all of his alter ego's work for Capitol Records and dumped it onto one 21-cut Cd entitled "The Complete Simon Crum, A.K.A. Ferlin Huskey on Capitol: Country Music Is Here to Stay. Rounding out their anthology is several that never saw release until now. One's a charming ode to his moustache,"It Tickles," and finds him teamed up with Jean Shepard two years after she and Huskey had had their hit "A Dear John Letter."
Not Your Standard Spike Jones Collection
[Collectors' Choice CCM 329-2]
Any collection that runs over three hours and features more than 77 full songs has a right to call itself Not Your Standard Spike Jones Collection. What's exciting about this tuneful tome is not just the breadth and depth of Spike's musical deprecation documented here, but the fact that all the music is fun and funny -- and most of it is making its first appearance on cd! This three cd set was culled from various Standard Transcription discs that the boys started making in 1942 and continued to do until the end of the war. Not to be confused with V-Discs, which were done for the duration at the behest of the Moral Branch of the Armed Services, Standard transcription disc were made as a way around the 1942 recording ban instituted by the American Federation of Musicians. According to Jordan Young in his seminal biography Spike Jones off the RecordAFM president James Petrillo felt that it was the poliferation of records that was causing most of the unemployment for musicians. So beginning in July of 1942 he decreed a cessation of all commercial recording. Not only Spike but every band leader in town rushed to stockpile sides for later release [Spike's trumpeter George Rock told me "we recorded everything we could get our hands on!" which explains some of the weak material that found its way to wax]. The only sure method to keep in front of the mass public during the strike was to knock out these standard transcriptions especially forradio, thus circumventing the ban.While listening to these Cds it soon becomes apparent just how tight an organization Spike's band was; versions of songs found here rarely differ at all from the official commercially released versions. And its these little variations that make up some of the fun of listening to these variants: a nascent Blue Danube; different jokes interpolated into Lieberstraum. But even more enjoyable is the wealth of material that never found commercial release: Horsey, Keep Your Tail Up, Never Hit Your Grandma with a Shovel. And Spike's straight "Other Orchestra" gets a few, but enough, moments in the spotlight with very polished, somewhat staid version of some contemporary tunes [this band is heard to good effect in their instrumental version of Love For Sale.]Amazingly for recordings made as a stop gap measure, the sound is clean and clear, devoid of the pops and clicks inherent in the pressings from the days before tape. Fortunately Collectors' Choice has created a anthology that will appeal to more than just the Spike Jones enthusiast; general listeners who remembers the Slickers as the purveyors of chaos in a time when chaos was confined to the world arena will want this too.
HAVING FUN WITH THE HOOSIER HOTSHOTS
[Collectors' Choice CCM 1034]
With just thirteen songs clocking in at under 40 minutes, this is probably more than enough of the Hoosier Hotshots for most people. And with a list price of under ten dollars it's a fair value too. They inspired Spike Jones, but where Spike guys were City Slickers, clearly this band were happiest in a barn dance. The core of the group coalesced when Ezrra Buzzigton's Rube Band when under in 1929 [now there's a band I'd like to here some records of]. With Otto "Gabe" Ward on Clarinet, Ken "Ruby" Trietsch on guitar and banjo, and his brother Ken a.k.a. "Hezzie" on washboard, slide whistle, bells and bike horns, the Hoosier Hotshots were born. None of them could have imagined that they would still be at it for the next fifty years until the death of Hezzie in the late seventies.
Having Fun is as much a greatest hits as anything, with these versions of such signature tunes as I Like Bananas Because They Have no Bones, Wah-Hoo, and Them Hillbillies Are Mountain Willies Now, sounding just like it does every other time they've recorded them: peppy, bright and fun, guaranteed to raise a smile.
Edd "Kookie" Byrnes
[Collectors' Choice CCM-206-2]
Film actor Ed Burns would have lost his name a few years back if one time Tv detective side
kick Edd "Kookie" Byrnes had anything to say about it. He claimed that he was the only one able
to use that moniker no matter how it was spelled. Perhaps, then perhaps not! Largely forgotten
now, in 1957 Edd turned out to be the Fonzie of his day -- the surprise breakout star of ABC's
surprise hit 77 Sunset Strip, much to the consternation of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr who thought it was
his program. In this by-the-numbers detective series that was clearly produced by rote at Warner
Brothers [and shot in black and white which is why it so rarely has been seen since it went off
the air in 1964], Byrnes played the car hop/hipster Gerald Lloyd Kookson III. To cash in on his
teen popularity a knock off single was recorded, Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb, which
finds Connie Stevens trying to get the grease monkey to stop dressing is wavy locks and he
replying with his patented Tv Beatnicisms. When Comb went to #4, an album soon followed and
it has recently been re-released by Collectors' Choice Music. Rarely do these sorts of things live
up to their promise but this one does thanks to a hot studio band, a crisp stereo sound, and a
dozen clever songs. Take a tour of Kookie's Mad Pad "blue swede drapes, wall to wall
television, plaid light bulbs." Ride in his hot rod, ["have goodies, will travel"]. Learn about his
love-life ["She was standing there looking like an ad for nervous tension"]. And of course do
the newest dance steps the Kookson way by getting down with Kookie's Boogie -- or better yet
for you jet setters: The Kookie Cha Cha Cha ["It feels like there's wheels on your chasse"]. Most
of the song writing chores for this CD were handled by Irving Taylor who was able to parlay his
Comb success into a minor recording career of his own topped in 1965 with his theme song for F
Troop. Sadly, but all too predicably, Collectors' Choice did not feel the need to include any
bonus material to extend this 27 minute CD past Lp length, so lost to most of us is Kookie's
classic bit of seasonal silliness "Yulesville". Byrnes sat out most of 77 Sunset's second season,
dissatisfied by his reimbursement then strayed with the show until its final year when everyone
but Zimbalist was let go by the new producer: Jack "Sargent Friday" Webb. Edd Byrnes was last
seen doing regional theater and as a shill for a comb company while Ed Burns continues a
successful acting career under his own name.
John Zacherly "Spook Along with Zacherly"
[Collectors' Choice Music ]
As the decade of the 50s ended Tv had terra-form our culture in its own image: movies that before would be seen once in a lifetime and the live on only as half remembered dreams now played everyday for a week at dinnertime. When Universal Studios swept up a package of horror movies from their resting place in an old film vault and released it under the rubric "Shock Theater" local stations all across our crazy nation came up with the same late night program: take the weather guy, or some desperate local DJ or maybe the guy in the mail room and put him in a fright wig and give him a cap and a coffin and a Slavic name. His job: stretch the 78 minute movie into a two and a half hour package of shivers and sight gags so the station could run more car dealer ads. What better use for those dead hours after the fifteen minutes of local news on a Saturday night!
Zacherle was one of the first to get this gig, appearing in Philadelphia in cloak and coffin as Roland after a short run as an undertaker on the station's live western Action In the Afternoon. Even though he quickly became a local sensation, management lost him to New York when they refused to up his salary. This time he performed under his real name, after exchanging the final "e" for a "y" and was soon a hit there as the ghoulish host of WABC'simularly named "Shock Theater".
It was while he was in Philadelphia that his recording career began with his gore-feast "Dinner with Drac" in 1958. In 1960 an Lp of his escaped, "Spook Along With Zacherly" and it has just recently been re-released by Collectors' Choice Music. This stereo CD opens with Zac sending his "Coolest Little Monster" some fiendish presents including "a small box of smallpox" [a tragically topical lyric by shear happenstance, I must say]. A party held by The Transylvania PTA according to Zac did not go quit as well as one might have hoped though in the end everyone made up: "survivors shook hands if they still had one." John serenades his scion to sleep with a touching lullaby about giant spiders spinning webs; creeping shadows and a coffin pulled by a hairy man. "If you're good," John comfort, "pretty soon the Creature from the Black Lagoon will guard you while you dream."
Nine shocking songs, a cemetery commercial and Zac's stump speech from his unsuccessful
presidential bid make for an excellent visit with everyone's favorite horror host. NOW FOR
THE BAD NEWS! Collectors Choice while mastering this CD over modulated the audio,
marring most of the tracks with an annoying digital ting on the vocals. It's bad enough that I
sent my copy back, but it was a close call for me. I had to do it just on principal; if one accepts
shoddy workmanship one will get even more shoddy workmanship. Sadly a spokesperson for
Collectors Choice said that they had no plans to re-master Spook Along with Zacherly correctly
so you'll have to decide just how badly you want this minor gem.
NEW STUFF RECEIVED BUT NOT YET REVIEWD: Trout Fishing in America "Infinity"; Friresign Theater "The Bride of Firesign"; Steve Pullara "Spinning Tails" ; Dorothy Shay and the Park Avenue Hillbillies, five "new" releases from Archeophone Records.
"The Photographic Yearbook 1912: Waitin' on the Levee"
Oh, yeah, Mr Hipster, Oh yeah, Johnnie Cool, Johnnie-Girl-Gun-Guts Tough Guy. You've heard
it all. You're "retro," listened to Martin Denny before he was re-released on CD. Bought Les Paul
LPS a garage sales for fifty cents a piece. Maybe you even know that Bing Crosby was a real hep
scat singer in his youth and you like Cab Calloway and play Edith Pief at parties. But just how
far back does your musical taste go? You still got a turn table that REALLY WORKS! And you
own a slew of albums which you keep protected in plastic sleeves. And there's a box of really
cool 45s in the closet. But how many Seventy Eights do you have? And does your turn table even
turn that fast? I thought not.
There was a time --not so long ago, within the lifetime of a dwindling few -- when music was not
ubiquitous. There was no radio to sing to you as you made your breakfast, no record player to
serenade you at your whim. Did one hear music constantly in one's head back then, like I do?
Was one's Life augmented and heightened by an underscoring of popular song? If there was
such a time it was surely ended by Mr Edison's favorite invention soon after it rejected cylinders
for shellac platters. No more family sing-alongs around the old piano, Dad's mail order dentures
randomly clacking out the beat, his breath pungent with cigars, and San San. Now one could be
serenaded alone by the old pyria gramophone. Now one could transported at will [for a mere 75
cents] by the latest Columbia double sided seventy eight ["twice the music for a little over the
Archeophone Records has made it their mission to preserve those forgotten masters of the
phonograph's infancy with their series of Photographic Yearbooks, the Year 1912 being their
most recent release. In 1912 records were still made acoustically -- everyone doing everything
really loud into a really big horn; it would be another dozen years or so before the electronic
microphone allowed for the crooners to come along. In 1912 the Titanic sank; Teddy started a
third party [and nobody came], and escape artist Houdini almost drown twice nightly for the
public's entertainment. It was also the year that "Down By The Old Mill Stream" became a big
hit -- as did "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," "Moonlight Bay" and "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" [the latter
later a big hit for David Seville and the Chipmunks!]. Billy Murray, one of the most prolific
recording artist of all times [at least 10,000 sides!] is represented here at least 4 times: as a
member of the American Quartet ["Everybody Two-Step"], in duet with Ada Jones ["Be My
Little Bumble Bee"] or as a solo act where he would shine with his comic songs ["Sweetheart, If
You Talk In Your Sleep, Don't Mention My Name"]. Al Jolson shows up with one of his earliest
recordings, "Ragging the Baby to Sleep". And the great entertainer Sir Harry Lauder rose to
fame by simplifying the Scottish dialect, so as to make it accessible to the English -- and to us;
it still seems as thick as a bog to me, though I love his comic songs, especially the one collected
here, "Roamin' in the Gloomin'." Archeophone has managed to make these difficult recording
sound amazingly alive without resorting to heavy filtering. There are no pops or clicks; truly
these songs sound better here than they ever did, allowing us to re-assess an industry in its
infancy where casual commerce created Art.
MAMBO SANTA MAMBO"
I predict that this well sequenced CD will be everybody's party favorite; just put it on and forget it: it's Christmas music for the tragically hip this holiday. The title track comes from The Enchanters back in 1957 and after listening you will really believe that a fat man can dance. "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" by some slum rat named Augie Rios [backed by Augie Doggie and Augie Daddy] gets points for being a catchy tune that avoids being cloying dispit the wide eyed vocals. The Flashcats live La Vida Loca come "December Twenty 5." And Billy May and the boys cut the moose lose with their "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo." Highly recommended.
[Rhino Handmade Records]
You are a record collector and you find yourself on a back road in some tiny
berg called Titusville. There behind a roadside stand selling fresh corn and
melons is a barn, emblazoned above the door are magic words that make you take a
dangerous turn, kicking up gravel and dust as you pull onto the shoulder:
"Antiques & Such." You squint through the blanketing gloom created by a
patina of oily grime on the one small window. Suddenly your jaw drops, your eyes
widen in hope and surprise. Behind a tray of stereopticon cards, partially
hidden by a push mower and a lamp sits a box of LPS "$2 each, 3 for $5." Like a
lion attacking fallen prey, you begin to feast.
Chances of finding anything have diminished over the years in direct
proportion to the increasing size of your collection -- and the
increasing size of the prices. Come across a copy of Victor Lunberg's "Letter to
my Teenage Son" and you will also find a price sticker large enough to be your
cable bill. Not only that, the record is gray with ware and there's a deep
scratch over half of the second side. For the serious collector of Musics Outre,
Life has lost some of its sparkle.
Well, take heart, Bunkie! The problem has been rectified somewhat by a
subsidiary label of Rhino Records' called Handmade. Not just anyone is permitted
to purchase Handmade, you know. You have to prove yourself, go on a quest,
search it out. Take a dangerous journey across the information highway, surf the
treacherous currents of the web until you come across Site Rhino. Look around:
hidden in the upper right corner is a small sign pointing you to the promised
treasure trove of odd releases -- things too interesting to ignore but not
popular enough for stores. The handmaidens at Handmade have dedicated themselves
to making available to the cognoscenti these selected rarities at mainstream
prices. They do this by only pressing a handful of copies-- a few thousand at
most. New titles appear by magic semi-monthly and are available only
over the web. Each Cd is individually number, like some white Beatle album or
rare Picasso print. And when that edition is depleted -- that's it, for time
immemorial or there abouts, whichever comes first. Oh, and they also take
suggestions [I've asked for the complete Allan Sherman]. Your best shot is to
ask for stuff that was originally on Reprise or Warners since Rhino is now part
of that spreading polyglot called AOL Time Warner that soon will own each and
every thing ever made by man. The nice thing to me is that now I get these
albums with the pristine sound that only digital can deliver, andwith
liner notes and snappy packaging to boot [and there's always some sort of silly
little joke hidden on the inside spine of the spine, as an unexpected bonus.]
Here's some personal favorites you might want to check out -- if
they're still available.
Soupy Sales "blaa-oh blaa-oh blaa-oh".
I don't know why they decided to call it that but, hey, who cares! It's
everything that Soup Bone did for Reprise Record on one CD, 32 tracks in all!
Seems Old Blue Eyes -- that's Frank Sinatra to you -- liked the Soupy Sales Show
[he even made a guest appearance on the show and took a pie right in the keister
once]. When Frank formed his own label -- the aforementioned Reprise one of the
first things he did was sign Mr Supman to a recording contract. So in 1961 an Lp
version of the Soupy Sales Show appeared, called, with an admirable lack of
embellishment "The Soupy Sales Show." It's like a musical version of the Tv
series only without pictures [perhaps more like radio, then]. You see, Soupy's
been asked to record an album by the mysterious man-behind-the door, so everyone
begins writing tunes. Pookie joins the Soup to sing about his days as a bull
fighter. Black Tooth writes a romantic ballad. There an instructional ditty
featuring the Words of Wisdom ["Don't tell tales out of school. The kids in
school may not have heard them"]. But the best is written by the meanest dog in
the United States, White Fang, who it turns out is one mean guitarist, too!
[after a really wild solo Soupy is forced to admonish him about his playing,
"Don't pick it or it won't heal!"]. Recording fame is fleeting, though: his
producer gets transferred to New Deli. ["India?" "No, New Delicatessen!"]
Soupy's second and last Reprise album follows, "Up In The Air" , and
then there are five sides from 1963, released in various configurations of 45s;
the two best being "Hill Billy Ding Dong Choo Choo" and "Santa Claus is Surfin'
to Town." [Silly inside spine joke: "What's going on here? I show you 'F' you
see 'K'."-- a bit of urban legend smut that Soupy supposedly said once on his
Sargent Friday's love life was not something many of us ever thought about, but for some reason Jack Webb decided to tell us all about it anyhow back in 1958 on an album called "You're My Girl: The Romantic Reflections of Jack Webb." Fortunately the man behind Badge 714 doesn't sing, he recites. Such standards as "Try A Little Tenderness" and "Stranger In Town" take a bullet to the heart that even Billy May's big orchestra can't save. I'm partial to Jack's take on "You'd Never Know The Old Place Now." Distraught over a wayward wife, this forlorn fellow seems almost suicidal, his voice cracking under the torment, pleading for her return [ "Tonight I washed the dishes and I broke your favorite cup""What do you give canaries to eat? They snapped at the cat today"]. Turns out she just went to visit a sister in Duluth for a few days... Handmade has paired this timeless classic with another Webb album released a month later [what a good year for Jack! What a bad year for Music!]. Called "Pete Kelly lets his Hair Down," it was timed to cash in on his feature film Pete Kelly's Blues, and consisted of 13 instrumentals, largely improvised and done in one or two takes, then segregated by tempo to either the "Red" or Blue" side of the Lp. My color blindness must have spread to my ears; to me it's all forgettable. [Inside joke: "Anything you sing, can, and will be used against you in a court