I discovered – via The Criterion Collection website, via filmmaker Juhyun Pak – that a university is offering a degree in David Lynch. Or David Lynch is teaching about his work. Or something. You get an MA in Film, learning from David Lynch. Possibly about his work. I think it’s a fair estimation he will offer extensive examples from his oeuvre.
I’d love to attend.
I’d hand in all my assignments wraaaaaaapped in plaaaaaaastic.
The week began with news that Cilla Black had passed away at 72 years young. She'd had an awesome career, considering she was a singer delivering a series of charting hits throughout the 60s, hosted a chat show in the '70s and fronted a dating game show for almost two decades from the mid-'80s. I wasn't a massive fan, but knew a number of her songs that still stand as classics, as enduring and recognisable as her ranga bob and prominent choppers.
The first time I was aware of Cilla was when she appeared on The Don Lane Show, the long-running Australian tonight show hosted by the 'lanky yank' of the title. During her appearance, she happened to refer back to her previous visit downunder.
"You mean 'puffy'," Don corrected her, in his American accent.
"Yeah, 'poofy'," she repeated. "What's the difference?"
"Oh, believe me," Don explained, "there's a difference."
It was still the '70s, and Australia, so if making fun of people who speak differently or are in same-sex relationships was neither funny nor inoffensive, who could tell? (Or, more to the point, who would tell?)
In time I'd learn more about Cilla Black in passing: contemporary - and friend! - of the Beatles, who helped get her noticed by their manager Brian Epstein; real name Priscilla White, gaining the stage name she kept as a result of a gig booker muddling her name.
Some of her enduring hits include fine Burt Bacharach songs like Alfie and Anyone Who Had A Heart (or, as Peter Sellers delivers it in the sketch A Right Bird, Anyone 'Oo 'Ad An 'Art); Lennon/McCartney songs like Love of the Loved, It's For You, and Step Inside Love (the latter, the theme to her chat show, Cilla), and You're My World.
At its height, her dating show Blind Date rated around 17 million (if you were ever a fan of Ben Elton's stand-up, you'll recall the phrase 'strictly for the birds, Cilla; strictly for the birds…'; I can't remember the context).
And she maintained the respect of the next generation(s) of viewers doing a sterling job of hosting episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks: "Hullo and welcome to the Boozcocks…" (Thanks for the reminder, Cat!)
If I were a cartoonist, my tribute to Cilla would be a single panel with St Peter at the pearly gates, welcoming her with the words "step inside, love". Failing that, I figured I'd photoshop the same with some judiciously pilfered images.
However, in the process of locating suitable imagery, I cam a cross this lovely photo of Cilla hamming on the sofa as a guest of Jonathan Ross:
So I figured there might be a different 'tribute' to Cilla, a different song title:
You'll no doubt recognise the grim reaper from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I think it's fitting, since my first glimpse of Cilla Black's Cilla was as a visual 'quote' in a season 4 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It's an episode of Cilla featuring Ringo Starr as a guest, so fittingly, the graphic brings Cilla, Python and Beatles back together (It's For You being one of the Lennon/McCartney songs she recorded).
However, my search revealed this gem: Cilla, when she was smoking hot!
Finding a suitable St Peter was more difficult than finding a God, and there's an awesome God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail - so again Cilla, Python and the Beatles come together:
Admittedly, the Old Man n the Sky comes across as a Dirty Old Man in the Sky, but… well, can you blame him?!
I apologise for my efforts failing to do justice to Cilla Black. The best tribute to her, of course, is the miniseries Cilla. Made in 2014, it's utterly brilliant, not only for the presence of Sheridan Smith in the title role - she's a knock-out and, apparently, supplied the vocals herself. That's the facsimile - imagine how amazing the real thing must have been in her own time.
Today's record nerdery requires digging into my past.
My first introduction to the Chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore, took place back in about third grade (1980) with the heavily TV advertised album Chipmunk Punk. I probably didn't recognise any of the song snippets at the time - 'My Sharona' and 'Call Me' - because I was a daggy kid; I knew I loved the Beatles, but it'd still be a couple of years before I'd by my first record ('The Beatles Movie Medley' 7-inch single, with 'I'm Happy Just To Dance With You' on the flip side, in a plain sleeve, from a shoebox full of singles at Mall Music, in 1982). So I wasn't going to know the 'punk' (actually 'new wave', if anything) songs like Blondie's 'Call Me' and 'My Sharona' by the Knack. (Okay, maybe Blondie are a punk band; the Knack weren't… much more than one-hit wonders in Australia at least. More on them in another blog, I promise! You can wait, I'm sure.)
What I didn't know about the Chipmunks back then was a lot. At least until some feature-length animations from later in the ’80s made it to television. Maybe there were some other cartoons that made it to Australian television. There was a boss guy called David Seville who yelled at Alvin a lot to keep him in line. In fact, there must have been a Christmas special, because I can remember parody lyrics to 'Deck the Halls' where Alvin sings, "Don't forget your gift to me…" that causes Seville to yell, "Alvin…!" while the Chipmunks are fa-la-la-la-la-ing.
I didn't know that David Seville was the 'real' voice of Ross Bagdasarian, who engineered the high-pitched musical shenanigans way back in 1958 - after he'd already had a hit with a similarly high-pitched novelty song, 'Witch Doctor', also under the name David Seville. (You know the song - with the 'Oo ee oo ah ah walla walla bing bang' chorus.)
Here's David performing it on The Ed Sullivan Show:
Bagdasarian/Seville's next single after 'Witch Doctor' was 'The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)' - where he got to use his novelty gimmick again. He performed that song on Ed Sullivan with hand puppets. It proved popular enough to warrant an album. By the time of Chipmunk Punk, David Seville was being played by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.
As loathsome as The Chipmunks might be, just remember: without David Seville and The Chipmunks - or perhaps, just without 'The Witch Doctor - there'd be no David Bowie's 'Laughing Gnome'. And wouldn't the world be a poorer place then!
Here's another thing I didn't know about the Chipmunks: they originally looked like Chipmunks. Really.
Many years after Chipmunk Punk came out, I was working in a cool record shop called Egg Records, where I stumbled upon a copy of Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks. An original pressing:
I guess that's hardly earth-shattering news, seeing as the Chipmunks' most recent reboot sees them looking like chipmunks again. But after that album, the Chipmunks appeared in a comic book, and then on television in The Alvin Show, their images overhauled for these projects. (David Seville also got somewhat of a re-tweak). They now looked more like the Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera style of animation, popular at the time. The album was reissued, tying it in with The Alvin Show (as Theodore's libretto shows).
But that's not the only overhaul their image had - a few years later, Alvin and the Chipmunks were given Beatles wigs, Theodore lost the Alvin Show libretto (and Alvin and Theodore's right hands were slightly adapted) for an EP of Beatles covers.
I scored this at Revolve Records - an Erskineville emporium of eclectic vinyl, just a short walk away from Egg. Perhaps it was issued when the album and film of A Hard Day's Night were doing good business; everyone else was cashing in on the Beatles-led British Invasion in America, so why not the Chipmunks? No doublt the Beatles' version of 'A Hard Day's Night' had already topped the charts, since the cover of the record suggests this release shares the same title. But the back cover and the record label gives the title as The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits, with 'All My Loving', 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Do You Want To Know A Secret' comprising the rest of the tracklisting.
So how faithful are the arrangements to the originals? Are they rockin' quartet recordings, or orchestral versions with sped-up vocals over the top? Do you want to know a secret? I've no idea. I've not listened to the record. Nor will I. I probably got it for the cover more than anything else. And the fact that it's an Indian pressing makes it a little more interesting. That's right; even though it's on the Liberty label, the fine print tells me it's "Made in India by: The Gramophone Co., Ltd. Calcutta". Technically, EMI - the parent company that owned Parlophone, to whom the Beatles were signed, was also The Gramophone Company, Ltd., (fine print on labels and covers would also have explained that, until EMI was restructured in the 1970s) so it's kind of fitting.
There was a full-length album of Beatles covers recorded. The vinyl proves quite expensive nowadays.
Before I let you get on with your life, I'd just like to point out that Theodore-in-a-Beatles-wig, in either version of the Chipmunks as Beatles, looks quite a lot like northern comic Eric Morecambe in a Beatles wig. (The Beatles appeared on The Morecambe & Wise Show in 1963; music hall comics Morecambe & Wise would go on to be the most successful television comics of their time.)
Regarding Macca's snippet of phone conversation, that 'Hey Jude' was a typo and was meant to be 'Hey Dude', note the press surrounding a promo clip he made with Ringo for a handful of Stop & Smell the Roses tracks ('Private Property', 'Sure to Fall' and 'Attention' - of which, Macca wrote a couple and produced and played on all three). Titled The Cooler, it was a short film that saw Paul in cowboy clobber and fake moustache:
(What's that? Why, yes, they are straight out of one of the several Beatles scrap books I compiled as an adolescent during the '80s... well spotted, you!)
Like all Ringo albums, Stop and Smell the Roses featured an all-star cast including whichever other Beatles were available. Unfortunately, John Lennon had died, so he didn't appear. But because Paul and George did, in some countries, the opportunity was taken to market the album as an ersatz reunion. "Mit Paul McCartney und George Harrison," my German Bellaphon pressing proclaims - not on a removable sticker, but actually printed on the cover in writing not quite as big as the title. (The Threetles appearing as part of the Beatles: Anthology project was still a very long way off.)
To finish this post regarding Paul McCartney's accent, here's a clip of Macca singing 'Accentuate the Positive', from his last album Kisses on the Bottom (filmed as Live Kisses).
It was a collection of old songs (whose copyright, I assume, are all owned by MPL Communications - aka McCartney Productions Limited). His next album, due any minute, is a collection of new songs. Called New. (Which, if I'm to be honest, sounds old; not as old as Kisses on the Bottom, but '60s-feel-good-ballad old.)
Oh, but, look!
While dipping into stuff around the net to illustrate this post, I found... The Cooler! Enjoy. If you can...
Aren't you pleased MasterChef is making a return! And with such a groundbreaking, non-gimmicky new format. We're particularly happy here at Stand & Deliver! because we get to compile another bunch of food-related songs. For now, Volume 4 of this series will be a slow-release degustation menu of food-related songs.
As the story goes, FZ encountered one of his blues heroes while touring with the Mothers of Invention. Rather than living it up as a well-regarded superstar, the old bluesman was scratching out a living painting a music studio. Some kind of despair must have ensued, as Zappa promptly disbanded the Mothers and recorded and released his first 'solo' album – featuring a supporting cast of virtuosi. 'Peaches En Regalia' is the track that kicks it off.
The title makes it sound like a juicy dessert or a delicious cocktail –but we’re talking Zappa here, so assume his intent regards a different variety of peach altogether. Or at the very least, the other variety of tail. Since it’s an instrumental, it doesn’t really matter. However, if you do consider it to be part of the genre, it is one of the more subtle of the euphemistic ‘yummy dessert=delicious woman’ songs. And if you dig that kind of thing, check out the cherry-related songs that appear in Bastard Chef III: Just Desserts.
Since Zappa did reconvene the Mothers - well, not the Mothers, but other line-ups of musicians under that name ('Others'?) - and toured them extensively while releasing albums prolifically, there are a number of live versions available on various collections. The most interesting is 'Peaches III', so-named because it was the third version released up to that time (the second was the live version on Fillmore East - June 1971, credited to 'The Mothers'). Located on the mostly live Tinsel Town Rebellion, 'Peaches III' is delivered with mostly synthetic instrumentation and squared-off rhythms, sounding as though it was inspired by Devo, who were big at the time.
A cynical observer once suggested Paul McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, marked the point where the erstwhile Beatles bassist finally achieved something he’d been attempting as early as Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: he’d finally produced an album upon which only he appeared, performing everything himself. By the time of Sgt Pepper there had been songs that featured one Beatle and session musicians – George Harrison fronting an Indian musical combo, as on ‘Within You Without You’, Paul and the string quartet on ‘Yesterday’. But The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’) frequently featured songs created by the Beatles working in pairs or solo.
Thus, while John Lennon and Ringo Starr were enconced in another studio and George was away on holiday, Macca doodled for the sheer fun of it on this little ditty. The short song, described by McCartney as “an experiment”, sounds like a novelty: silly, over-the-top multi-tracked voices in American accents, spring-like sound effects of bent guitar strings. ‘Wild Honey Pie’ was apparently included on The Beatles because, like the song’s protagonist, Patti Boyd (Mrs George Harrison at the time) happened to like it.
More than a precursor to the similarly doodled-for-the-sheer-fun-of-it McCartney, ‘Wild Honey Pie’ seems in the first place to be yet another cross reference to the Beach Boys: bass players of both bands seemed to inspire each other’s subsequent albums throughout the ’60s, Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper famously upping respective antes until Smile failed to appear, the Beach Boys ending 1967 with the album Wild Honey (the title track was its lead single). It could be a passing reference.
In the second place, it is also a pre-emptive defence of ‘Honey Pie’, a song that came later on ‘The White Album’ – but more of that later.
In honour of MasterChef: The Professionals, and following on from Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too, here’s the latest edition of food music compiled for your listening and dining pleasure – BarstardChef III: Just Desserts. Though not consciously intended, this edition is even more of a novelty than previously, thanks to the heap of instrumentals, silly lyrics and spoken word. Enjoy.
We know how hard it is to pull off a dessert: it has be not just
delicious and indulgent, it has to complement dinner without spoiling
it. It’s a delicate balancing act. As is genuinely engaging instrumental
music. We start Bastard Chef III:Just Desserts with a Miles Davis instrumental entitled 'Chocolate Chip'. Yes, of course, we acknowledge that the chocolate chip is no dessert in and of itself. But how much charm, fun and class does it bring to more staid post-dinner offerings? Add them to everything - from fruit salad and cream, to coffee, to ice cream - to make them a little more exciting. (Although, let's face it, every chocoholic knows a handful from the stash of choc chips in the back of the pantry will tide you over in times without your favourite candy bars!)
This 'Chocolate Chip' certainly brought a little more fun and excitement to the world of jazz, along with the album that contained it: Doo-Bop. It was the last platter Miles Davis embarked upon before he passed away and although it sounds rooted in its early-90s sound now, like so many of the albums Davis released, it was brave and daring in its time.
Again, we acknowledge: despite a long and varied career that involved frequent abrupt turns that led to the development of whole new genres, Miles Davis isn't to
everybody's taste. Or is he? Work your way through his monumental
output, you'll find something that appeals. And like fusion food, that takes something familiar and creates something new by adding something exotic, Doo-Bop was the latest jazz-fusion experiment that Miles Davis cooked up before he died.
As the story goes, Davis was hangin' in his New York apartment in the summer of 1991, listening to the world outside. Inspired, he decided to create an album that captured the sound of his neighbourhood streets. He approached his buddy Russell Simmons (who, with Rick Rubin, founded the hip-hop label Def Jam) for some recommendations: Davis wanted a hip young producer to help him make this foray into jazz/hip hop fusion.
The producer was Osten Harvey, Jr, AKA Easy Mo Bee, who'd cut his teeth producing early work of Wu-Tang Clansmen GZA and RZA.
Davis and Easy Mo Bee worked on a series of sessions before Miles Davis's death in late September 1991. The album was completed by building tracks around some incomplete trumpet performances, resulting in a cohesive work that was released, some nine months later, to mixed reviews. Had Davis lived, the album would probably have been more daring; it may have been disconcerting for polite jazz circles back in 1992 - it was certainly too 'urban' to play in the Classics & Jazz music store I worked in - but it's quite straightforward now. Still, Doo-Bop took out the 1993 Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance - not a bad way to finish an amazing career.
Find it: on the album replete with sampled street sounds, vinyl crackle and spoken rap known as Doo-Bop. Or download it here.
2: Rubber Biscuit - The Chips
Ben Elton once pointed out the division that arose when airlines offered bread and butter pudding as part of the in-flight meal: the first class passengers loved it, since it reminded them of boarding school, where it was a popular dessert. The economy class passengers weren’t impressed at all: they’d paid good money for their flight - why should they put up with the cheap muck they could have at home? Nowadays, in the age of discount airfare, virtually anyone can afford to fly - though few can afford to pay extra for the most meagre and unsatisfactory of meals.
Meanwhile, we live in an age where less food is being produced than being consumed and national economies all over the world are in crisis. Knowing how to cook well at a lower cost is essential. Hence, we suppose, the MasterChef/Coles synergy.
With all of that in mind, the natural progression from the 'Chocolate Chip' is to a biscuit. But not just any biscuit: it's the well-loved nonsensical vocals of ‘Rubber Biscuit’, that encapsulated the current food predicament of today, way back in the mid-’50s.
They consist of scat singing based on co-writer and lead vocalist Charles Johnson’s parody of the marching calls imposed upon him during his earlier internment at the Warwick School For Delinquent Teenagers. Beyond them are the seemingly foolish 'recipes' that break up the verses. They speak of poverty: the 'wish sandwich', where you have two pieces of bread and "wish you had some meat"; the 'ricochet biscuit' that bounces off the wall and into your mouth… unless it fails to bounce back, in which case "you go hungry"; and the "cold water sandwich". The result is beautiful art created from hardship.
The song endures, predominantly, as a ‘novelty’ staple, frequently featuring on children’s compilations. And yet, like the posh folk who loved bread and butter pudding in boarding school, the ‘kids’ who first heard it when it was new carried it through life and still remember it fondly.
While the Blues Brothers covered it successfully on Briefcase Full of Blues, the original features in an excellent scene in Martin Scorsese’s crime flick Mean Streets, in which a party is thrown for a returned Viet Nam vet: it ends with Harvey Keitel’s character passing out. Because the camera is attached to him, as he collapses, his head remains upright while the room spins around him. ‘Rubber Biscuit’ adds to the disorientation.
Frank Zappa had, at one stage, intended to compile an album of his favourite doo-wop and early rock songs, with ‘Rubber Biscuit’ included. Although it never eventuated, another artistic freak who, like Frankie, hailed from Baltimore, Maryland with idiosyncratic facial foliage compiled an excellent album of such songs: that freak was John Waters and the album was the soundtrack to his film Cry-Baby. ‘Rubber Biscuit’ is one of the stand-outs.
Find it: on the soundtrack to John Waters’ film Cry-Baby Download it here.
3. A Taste Of Honey - Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass
If ‘Honey Pie’, a Beatles (well, let's face it, Paul McCartney) song that comes later in this compilation, is too much honey as well as too much pie, perhaps you’ prefer just a taste. ‘A Taste Of Honey’ was written by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow as the recurring instrumental theme in the 1960 Broadway production of a 1958 British play of the same name. Bobby Scott won a Grammy Award for his recording of it. A vocal version followed, though the more popular version of it wasby the Beatles, who recorded it for their debut album Please Please Me. You gotta dig the Beatles’ version: when Macca reiterates its quality, of “tasting much sweeter than wine”, his sibilance renders the word “shweeter”, making him sound like a slurring drunk who knows full well the qualities of wine, as well as the honey.
Alpert is an interesting person in his own right. Apart from leading this instrumental combo, he was the ‘A’ in A&M Records, a label he founded with business partner Jerry Moss. (After selling it to PolyGram [now Universal], he and Moss start AlMo Sounds whose title is also derived from their surnames. Not as spectacular a label. But then, no record nowadays is as spectacular as when records were still the primary delivery vehicle for music.)
In more recent years, Alpert has taken to painting and sculpture. However, his contribution to popular music is massive, both as a label executive and as a musician.
The dessert more chefs appear to make a mess of than get right on MasterChef is ice cream - even though, when they get it wrong they can pretend it’s some other posh desserty substance like parfait. But Tom Waits ain’t talkin’ about no genteel delicacy.
Once, many years ago while visiting a cute girl who really, really tolerated me, I was engaged in an intense conversation with her incredibly sexy flatmate. We were discussing music, and she was of the opinion that “Tom Waits is just ‘sex-on-a-stick’.” Which went some way to explaining the raggedy-assed hobo of a backpacker she was seeing at the time. They more than merely tolerated each other. They’d more than merely tolerate the hell out of each other quite loudly, most of the night, I seem to remember. ‘Ice Cream Man’ is about sex-on-a-stick's sex-on-a-stick, as the lyrics clearly outline, and he’ll “sure taste good to you.”
In 1970 Waits would play every Monday night at the legendary Troubadour in LA, delivering Dylan covers and a handful of original compositions, of which ‘Ice Cream Man’ was one. Hence its inclusion on his 1973 debut Closing Time – its languid opening giving way to an up-tempo jazz rendition replete with hot guitar licks and snazzy snare shots. Personally, I prefer the demo version Waits recorded a couple of years earlier, when he first landed a management deal. It starts slightly faster, but maintains that pace throughout, with the guitar and drums sticking closer to rock than jazz. Furthermore, the initial piano motif better evokes the tinny chime of the ice cream van. The demo surfaced, against Waits’s wishes, on the first of two volumes of demos entitled The Early Years.
“As if you’d buy that – what does it even mean?” The question thrown at me one morning in 1991, in the café on the ground floor of the Manning Building at Sydney University. I’d just purchased ‘Chocolate Cake’ on CD, the lead single off the new Crowded House album Woodface. Given the success and excitement of its predecessors, the self-title Crowded House and its follow-up Temple of Low Men, album number three – with the added treat of Neil Finn’s brother Tim on board – seemed promising. Perhaps even a return to – whisper it – Split Enz.
To answer the annoying question, I assume the song’s about indulgence, consumerism and conspicuous consumption – with a chorus about Tammy Baker, wife of disgraced TV evangelist Jim and Andy Warhol laughing in his grave at ‘cheap Picasso fakes’. The recording certainly offers a rich production with the wild harmonica interlude and almost buried vocoder…
Although, in hindsight, it may well have been inspired by how to slice up the cake of royalties, responsibility and influence now that there was one more band member. It certainly seems that way now, considering the way in which the album came about and Crowded House evolved subsequently.
Turns out the brothers Finn had gotten together to start recording a new album. Before its completion, Neil had another due with Crowded House. Unfortunately, Capitol, their label, rejected it considering some of the tracks to be a little weak. So Neil asked Tim if he could use some of the material they’d written together. Tim was happy for that to happen, on condition that he joined the band. It wasn’t the ideal situation – tensions arose, Tim left before they’d completed touring behind the album. Now he says he was joking at the time. Even if the album proved to be neither flesh nor fish – not quite as good as previous Crowded House albums, not quite as good as the Finn album that followed later that decade – Neil and Tim’s harmonies are always a treat. They really are our Antipodean Everlies. The first fruit of their new collaboration was ‘Chocolate Cake’, whose chorus fittingly opens mid-decadence: “Can I have another piece of chocolate cake…?” Go on. Indulge yourself.
6. Tra La La (Banana Splits Theme) - The Banana Splits
Way back in the earlier part of the 20th Century, Aussie writer Norman Lindsay maintained that kids loved reading about food far more than they did fairies and the like – even though ‘fairy tales’, in the most literal sense, were the popular form of children’s literature. Lindsay proved his point in 1918, with the publication of The Magic Pudding, which remains in print today.
Why is this relevant? Because chocolate cake may be an indulgent pleasure for most (and wild honey pie, for a more discerning group that includes Patti Boyd), but the real treat is the banana in the presence of ice cream: the dessert known as the banana split. Which most people will remember as the name of a show they loved as kids: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.
The show was hosted by another manufactured band aimed at the kids.
The Monkees were manufactured to be like the Beatles, but, proving hard to control, were superseded by the Archies, animated version of the same (and discussed at length in the notes for BastardChef 2). The Archies couldn't rebel like the Monkees…
The Banana Splits couldn't rebel either, but weren't pure animations. They were actors in animal costumes, based on both the Beatles and Monkees. Fleegle the Beagle played guitar, gorilla Bingo took the drum duties, Drooper the lion was on bass and Snorky the elephant played keyboards.
The show was the first produced by Hanna-Barbera to mix live action with cartoons. It employed the services of Sid and Marty Krofft to provide the costumes – serving as a precurs0r to the Krofft-produced HR Pufnstuf. Like HR Pufnstuf, The Banana Splits was a so-called kids' show that appealed to adults - at least the ones who indulged in certain chemical refreshments. Which kind of makes sense, in a drug-addled, conspiracy theorist way:
Among the various varieties of puffin' stuff was the banana skin, or 'banana spliff', that led to the 'Mellow Yellow' high that Donavan sang about. And certain controlled substances, LSD in particular, seem to lead to users reverting to the security of childhood. You see this especially in British psychedelia. When you consider that British kids born just before or during the post-war boom would, when visiting grandma's house, see the remnants of Victoriana - posters of Lord Kitchener, antique spinning tops, photos of tragic Uncle Wilfred in uniform, who was never the same after he came back from the trenches… these were the childhood memories young, hip cool people of the mid- to late-'60s.
The psychedelic sound of the ’60s - phasing, Indian instrumentation, backwards vocals and guitars - isn’t evident in 'The Banana Splits Theme' (though traces of the ‘Strawberry Fields’ mellotron flute are discernible), but it is still childishly simple. The bubblegum sound was provided by an array of fine studio musicians. Coupled with the show’s popularity, it made for durable hits, not least of all the theme song. Sing along: ‘Tra la la, la la la la…’
Not too loudly, though! While loved by many, the few who particularly despise the song sometimes have good reason. Like the neighbours of seemingly indulgent Brighton resident Amanda Millard, for example. They were driven to distraction Amanda’s endless playing of it, along with the Animals’ ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. (The chorus of the latter, some have pointed out, shares similar notes as ‘Tra La La’.) While Amanda’s 250-pound fine means she continues to enjoy banana splits rather than being subjected to the bread and water of a custodial sentence, she has to do so at a more considerate volume.
Let’s just take a moment to catch our breath after all the desserts. We will resume gorging on food songs in a moment. For now, a spoken word piece - to music accompaniment - for everyone who loves their food more than they love their physique, courtesy of portly comedian Allan Sherman.
You may profess not to know him, but you certainly know at least one of Allan’s recorded works.
Sherman’s professional calling was as a comedy writer and producer of television game shows, having devised several successful formats that proved long-lived on the small screen. His sideline was in devising parody lyrics to popular tunes. Initially a party trick, it was a very good one. His next door neighbour Harpo Marx used to invite him over to entertain party guests with his songs. One guest, comedian George Burns, made the call that led to Sherman’s first album, My Son, The Folk Singer, in 1962 – in which old folk tunes were given new lyrics based on Jewish shtick. Like his phone conversation with Sarah Jackman, to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’: “Sarah Jackman, Sarah Jackman, how’s by you? How’s your sister Rita?” “A regular Lolita!”
My Son, The Folk Singer was the fastest selling album for its time, certainly aided by the fact that President Kennedy, for example, was overheard singing ‘Sarah Jackman’ to himself in a hotel foyer.
Other popular parodies include ‘A Waste of Money’, about consumer debt, to the tune of ‘A Taste of Honey’, and ‘Pop Hates The Beatles!’ to the tune of ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’. But the song you’ll know is Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fuddah!’ from his third album, My Son, The Nut. And you know it in its own right, without realising it’s a parody. So much so, you’ll do the aural equivalent of a double take when you finally hear composer Amilcare Ponchielli’s ‘Dance of the Hours’ (featuring, as it does, in the Disney masterpiece Fantasia, for example) and marvel at how much this piece of classical music reminds you of ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fuddah!’
But enough of the musicology lesson.
‘Hail To Thee, Fat Person’ is Sherman’s justification of his girth: the result, he insists, of forever being told to “clean his plate”, as there were “children starving in Europe”. We fat people (Sherman, Preston, me, etc) are merely performing a community service. The social imperatives of being a fatso became a big issue recently when a TV anchor made the news for facing down a camera after receiving some feedback from a viewer, proving the timelessness of this piece of social satire.
Don’t think for an instant that the absence of the seemingly obvious choice – for this volume – of Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ is an oversight. The best thing about that song has always been the image adorning both the single and album cover: pendulously-bosomed, pigeon-toed, redheaded waitress on roller skates (a ‘rollerskaitress’?) who’s accidentally dropped the dessert off her plate. Oh, but look where the slice happens to be situated in the photo, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Pete ’n’ Dud would probably marvel at all the rejected covers, in which the the slice was in the wrong place (it's a classic sketch, should you choose to persevere with the reference…)
But heavy metal riffs and fond memories of having a bit of a think about the cover late at night during an ’80s adolescence notwithstanding, the song kinda sucks. Big time. So apologies if you’re currently shaking your head in disbelief that there’s no, no cherry pie. Instead there's ‘No, No Cherry’, a 1950s doo-wop song originally recorded by The Turbans. It’s based on the same euphemism Warrant called upon for ‘Cherry Pie’. And if you're wondering where this euphemism comes from, research dates it back to at least the 15th Century, where a folk song that tells of “the cherye with-outyn ony stone” is said to be about virginity. Or lack thereof.
You'll agree, it’s fitting then that this happens to be another Frank Zappa song! His version of ‘No, No Cherry’ was performed live as a medley with his own ‘Man From Utopia’, this recording dating from the 1984 tour.
There may be 'No, No Cherry', but there is also ‘Cherry Pie’, and it's another ’50s doo-wop song. It comes replete with the “fairly redundant piano triplets” (to quote Frank Zappa’s notes on his own nostalgic tribute to the genre and period, Cruising with Ruben & The Jets. Which, incidently, has been given the deluxe reissue treatment more recently as Greasy Love Songs).
‘Cherry Pie’ was written by Joe Josea and Marvin Phillips and originally performed by Marvin & Johnny, but the version included here is by Aussie band Daddy Cool, fronted by local legend Ross Wilson.
The thing about Daddy Cool is that their embrace of vintage American rock’n’roll was authentic. Rather than mere nostalgia, even with the arched eyebrow of irony so beloved for Frank Zappa, the most novel aspect of Daddy Cool’s approach was their sincerity. Hence their securing such gigs as opening for the Everly Brothers. They really did do doo-wop (or perhaps they 'did-wop') better than most. It’s all over their debut album, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! which features brilliant original compositions along with a wealth of '50s covers.
Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! was such a fine album that it was the first Aussie long play platter to sell over a 100,000 copies in this country – helped, no doubt, by the inclusion of such strong single cuts as ‘Eagle Rock’ and ‘Come Back Again’. The local success, coupled with their accurate reproduction of an essentially American musical idiom, meant the album got a Stateside release – albeit with a revised tracklisting that did not include ‘Cherry Pie’.
Find it: on the re-mastered, re-issued (with additional tracks!) original debut, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool!. If you’re just dabbling, grab the compilation The Essential Daddy Cool. It’s the most comprehensive ‘dabble’ you could hope for.
10: Honey Pie - The Beatles
Enough with the cherry pies already. Time to move from the cheap innuendo and old-time '50s music to virtually the same innuendo, and slightly more modern-time music of a '60s song. Except that it is itself a pastiche of a much older music hall style. It seemed to be one of Paul McCartney’s passions, from about 1967, to produce at least one sweet ballad mimicking an older musical idiom, per album: 'When I’m 64' on Sgt Pepper, 'Your Mother Should Know' on Magical Mystery Tour and 'Honey Pie'.
Although John Lennon derided Macca, dismissing his ‘granny music’ as uncool, fact is, its underpinning is as authentically 'swingin' '60s' and cool as any acid drenched masterpiece Lennon created at the time. Recall, as discussed above, the tendency for users of LSD to revert to the comfort of childhood. For Paul McCartney, childhood comfort was a time when his mother was still alive and his dad played in a big band, delivering the sort of songs that Paul would become so adept at recreating a generation later. And it's not as though the 'granny music' was without its charm. That second line, for example, with its super-imposed crackle, as if from the shellac of an old 78 (which in fact it was - a fine bit of sampling) and heavy top-end equalising, is a device still popular today in advertising: think of the amount of radio ads that alternate normal tone with distorted tone throughout the narration.
The protagonist of 'Honey Pie' is bemoaning his beloved's departure from his side to the showbiz stage across the water. It's a love letter to an absent – feared wayward – partner, most likely inspired by McCartney’s own relationship with young actress Jane Asher, whose career was leading her further away from Macca. The song doesn't tell more of a story than that because it doesn’t contain much more than a couple of verses and choruses. At the time, there probably wasn't a lot more to tell - seeing as Macca wasn't the kiss-and-tell type (some of his erstwhile conquests were, however; see Francie Schwartz's Body Count, for example).
Although the lyrics and story stop, the music continues. The syncopated Charleston rhythms speak volumes: Macca embracing the old music that takes him back to a happier place. As he maintains in the spoken line over the instrumental break, he likes that kind of music. Take that, Lennon!
Nearly 45 years later, it’s fitting to note the Jane Asher – effectively responsible for ‘Honey Pie’ in the first place, now has another string to her bow that enables her to be responsible for honey pie still. Since 1990, Asher has run a posh cake company which her website boasts as being “Britain’s foremost cake and sugarcraft supplier.” And, let's face it, also nearly 45 years later, it’s fitting to note that Jane Asher is still quite a tasty dish.
Moving on from the cherry and honey pies via Jane Asher’s “foremost supply of cake and sugarcraft” comes this evocative instrumental, ‘Wedding Cake Island’, named not for a massive wedding cake that resembles an island (for no man-and-wife is an island), but for an island allegedly resembling a wedding cake, lying off Sydney’s Coogee Beach. ‘Allegedly resembling a wedding cake’ is correct: there aren’t many accounts of how the island got its name. In fact, there are only two: once claims it looks like a wedding cake, but it clearly does not. The other suggests it’s the thick layer of predominantly white seagull guano, resembling a smooth icing, which leads to the cakular allusion.
If not a wedding cake, what does the instrumental evoke? It’s described as a ‘surf instrumental’, inspired as it is by an ocean formation. And it certainly shares a big, broad twang beloved of surf music. Consider, for example, the Atlantics’ ‘Bombora’. A bombora, or ‘bommie’ is a submerged rock, reef or other formation creating large, crashing waves over a shallower area beyond where the surf normally breaks. The surging surf music perfectly evokes those impressive, surging surf waves.
The calmer ‘Wedding Cake Island’ doesn’t seem to speak of the mighty surf that the island in question often produces, having more in common with the spaced-out sounds of recording pioneer Joe Meek (responsible for the likes of ‘Telstar’ and ‘I Hear A New World’). Bent notes courtesy of the wammy bar may sound ‘Hawaiian’, and therefore irrefutably ‘surfy’, but coupled with the high-pitched vibrato, suggests a very different seascape – almost otherworldly.
If you reckon not many cakes can transport you out of this world in everyday life – well, not legally, anyway – you don’t have a sweet enough tooth.
We started with an instrumental, we're gonna almost end with one. Almost, because it's not quite an instrumental. But it's certainly an excellent closer: phased synths, surging guitars, crashing drums… it’s almost surf music – certainly closer to the blueprint than Midnight Oil’s ‘Wedding Cake Island’. But it’s got nothing to do with the ocean. In fact, it’s almost got nothing to do with anything at all.
The reason it’s here is not for composer Paul McCartney’s grunts, but for the one vocal refrain: “I still have not had any dinner!” As everyone knows – you have to finish your dinner before you get to enjoy your dessert. Or, as that mean old school master put it in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” (“You! Yes you! Stand still, laddie…!”)
George Harrison may have invented the charity rock-on-athon with 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh, and Bob Geldof, taken it to its supreme conclusion with Band Aid in 1985. Paul McCartney’s own version was the Concerts for Kampuchea that involved the likes of The Who, Queen, The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Rockpile and The Pretenders. The finale was an all-star jam with members of the various groups, combined in one supergroup called Rockestra, delivering the classic rocker ‘Lucille’, modern-day rock’n’roll hymn ‘Let It Be’ and their very own ‘Rockestra Theme’.
McCartney had the melody that makes up the theme for years. There’s a rough work tape from about 1974 – bootlegged under the title The Piano Tape – that features Macca at the piano, banging out snatches and fragments of various works–in–progress, many of which would be finished and recorded during the subsequent decade-and-a-half. ‘Rockestra’ appears on that tape. The studio version was recorded at Abbey Road with Paul McCartney fronting not just Wings, but a megaband similar to the one captured live as the final to the Concerts for Kampuchea. It was, indeed, a ‘Rock Orchestra’. Or, if you will, a Rockestra, and it included members of The Who, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
The 'Rockestra Theme' was included on Wings’ final album, 1979’s Back to the Egg. A fitting title, given this 'BastardChef' project. But it's a little ironic that the piece of music became the signature tune for a fundraiser to aid a starving people in war-torn Cambodia, given the vocal refrain about still not having had any dinner. To say the very least, it is of questionable – ahem – taste.
Eric Idle's Rutles sent up this phase of the Beatles' career as their 'Tragical History Tour'. It was considered their first major misstep: after the untimely death of manager Brian Epstein, and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - heralding swingin' London for the mainstream - being put to bed, Paul McCartney wanted to keep the band busy. And so he conceived the idea of taking the band and a collection of randoms on a bus ride.
Macca's vision was probably inspired by Ken Kessey's Merry Pranksters – a bunch of hippies who used to travel the US on a bus, spiking bins full of Kool-Aid with acid for the enjoyment of Grateful Dead fans ('Deadheads'). That particular countercultural phenomenon was documented in the Tom Wolfe book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (and I am forever grateful to lifelong buddy Paul Davies slinging me that tome in high school).
Accompanying the Beatles were the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. If you are unfamiliar with them, rest assured, the Bonzos are the missing link between the Beatles and Monty Python. They were the 'house band' that would feature in every episode of Do Not Adjust Your Set, a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus featuring Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and the animations of Terry Gilliam. Macca would go on to 'produce' (ie, attend sessions produced by Gus Dudgeon, and put his name to the single – though not his name for fear of overshadowing the band, rather the pseudonym 'Apollo C. Vermouth') their single 'I'm The Urban Spaceman'. Bandmember Neil Innes would go on to write the songs for and appear in Idle's The Rutles in the late 70s. Oh, and offer the John Lennon piano ballad pisstake, 'The Idiot Song', for Python live vehices City Centre, Drury Lane and Hollywood Bowl.
Another passenger was the inspired surreal dadaist, poet Ivor Cutler as Mr Bloodvessel. The scene in which John Lennon shovels food onto his table somewhat pressages the Mr Creosote scene in Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life.
Magical Mystery Tour appeared on Boxing Day 1967 as a telemovie, and was, for the most part, condemned as pointless whimsy. Part of the problem was that it was filmed in colour, but seen by most in black and white. Another part of the problem was that the audience wasn't for the most part tripping. Or even mildly stoned. Nor had they the distance of 45 years during which to realise everything Beatles-related was of value.
The music, on the other hand, was mostly brilliant. Detractors (including John Lennon in this case) will dismiss the 'granny music' of the old-time pastiche that is 'Your Mother Should Know'. (But members of the Monkees' camp must have appreciated it – see and hear Davy Jones's effort, 'Daddy's Song', in the Monkees' own Magical Mystery Tour, Head: written by Beatle fan/friend Harry Nilsson, it does the old-time pastiche, and is filmed with similar cabaret overtones.) Others have trouble sitting through George Harrison's droning 'Blue Jay Way'. I must admit, I love both.
The soundtrack was quite a treat in its day. Initially, it existed as a double EP: two 7-inch vinyl discs bearing three songs each, housed in the covers of a deluxe colour book. The track listing consisted of 'Magical Mystery Tour' and 'Your Mother Should Know' on side one, 'I Am The Walrus' on side two, 'The Fool On The Hill' and 'Flying' on side three, and 'Blue Jay Way' on side four.
In the US, an album was created by bunging the the six songs on side one, and a bunch of singles on side two. These were: 'Hello Goodbye', which would be the flipside of the 'I Am The Walrus' single; 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'Penny Lane' which had been a stand-alone single prior to the Sgt Pepper album; and 'Baby You're A Rich Man' and 'All You Need Is Love', a stand-alone single (with 'All You Need Is Love' on the a-side) earlier in 1967. The beauty of the US album was that it included the booklet - but in the larger 12-inch format, rather than 7-inch.
Australia was also serviced with an album, courtesy of the World Record Club. Highly collectible now, it was a bit cheap in its time: rather than having the same cover as the British double EP, or, as in the US, a variation thereof, it used a graphic from the booklet. But it did not contain the booklet.
And when that album was later replaced by the US album in Australia, it still did not come with the booklet.
Why is the booklet important?
It is rich with graphics - including what my buddy Nick O'Sullivan spotted, many years ago, as a little tribute to Mike Nesmith of the Monkees.
It also has a bunch of 'Paul McCartney is Dead' clues: the one animal in black, the one black carnation, the numerous hands above his head blessing him, the blood-stained sandles, the sign on his desk which states 'I Was'. (I'll include the graphics when I come home from work and can pretty up this post some more. Check back in 12 hours.)
For this reissue, there are numberous cool extras including a commentary track from director Paul McCartney, archival interviews and all-new ones with Macca and Ringo, deleted scenes, remastered soundtrack and deluxe editions.
Two issues arise at this point:
Will any re-editing take place to make the film more cohesive? Or present it in a better light? When Apple released The Beatles First US Visit earlier this millennium, it was a re-edited version of the Maisles brothers' documentary What's Happening. One scene cut out involved the young Macca talking about being wary of commercialism. That was in 1964, before the Beatles pretty much re-defined the concept.
And will we finally get a reissued, remastered (and, let's face it, most likely re-edited) Let It Be, as was promised a decade ago, when the album Let It Be… Naked was delivered instead?
Nick O'Sullivan, a buddy I've known for about a million years, is a fine artist who creates awesome caricatures. I'll take every opportunity to bring his work to your attention, and today's the day for Paul McCartney.
But before we get to that, here's a classic clip from early on in the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night (1964):
People who recognise Paul's granddad, Wilfred Bramble - who also played 'Albert Steptoe' in the sitcom Steptoe & Son - will get the references to his 'cleanliness' (he was forever the 'dirty old man!' as far as his 'son' was concerned in Steptoe & Son).
However, the 'who's that little old man?' motif will have developed a new meaning for Paul McCartney fans and avid Grammy Awards watchers. For, as Paul McCartney and a supporting cast of superstars presented the big side-two-of-Abbey-Road finale of the 2012 Grammy Awards, it had an interesting, hitherto unseen effect: it was confusing ignorant Gen Y brats.
Because suddenly, around the world, the blogosphere was filled with people wondering out loud just "who TF" this old dude called Paul McCartney was:
Well, finally, today, on his 70th birthday, we can now answer both questions effectively:
Who the hell is Sir Paul McCartney? He is that little old man. And who is that little old man? He's Paul McCartney.
Happy birthday Sir Macca. Here's Nick O'Sullivan's brilliant caricature.
Beatles Anthologywas a mammoth project begun in 1992 that involved a mutli-part television documentary – later expanded for DVD release – plus three double-CD sets with unreleased songs and alternate versions of Beatles favourites, coming to fruition from 1995. The project actually began in 1970 with a 90-minute documentary entitled The Long And Winding Road. It was constructed by Apple boss (and former Beatles road manager) Neil Aspinall from all the Beatles footage he could get his hands on.
It appeared nothing would come of it until John Lennon referred to it in a court case brought against the producers of a stageshow entitled Beatlemania! in 1980. Lennon claimed that the Beatles were intending to stage a reunion concert that would form the ending of the Long And Winding Road doco. Yoko Ono concurs that it had been Lennon’s intention to return to England after he’d come out of retirement with the album Double Fantasy. His subsequent death put an end to the reunion and The Long And Winding Road.
In 1982, a two-hour documentary entitled Compleat Beatles appeared. It was not just an amazing revelation. At the time – when the remaining Beatles hated being described as ‘former-’ or ‘ex-Beatles’ and were so keen on retelling the story – Compleat Beatles told it through in-depth interviews with the likes of producer George Martin, Liverpudlian contemporaries like Gerry Marsden, Bob Wooler and Bill Harry, snippets of news footage and clips from throughout the ’60s, narrated by Malcolm McDowell. It was brilliant. So much so, it even had a brief cinema release in 1984.
Not that I ever watched it in its entirety. Not in one sitting anyway. Or rather, one standing. Because there was one summer when it was the hot video for Christmas, and was playing on endless loop on the biggest television the David Jones department store at Warringah Mall had at their disposal. It sat at the front of the audiovisual section, near the records (or ‘vinyls’ if must – but I prefer you didn’t) and on my regular pilgrimage – taking place more frequently than weekly, but not quite daily – I’d begin in the David Jones record department and end at the Mall Music Centre (one of the best independent record stores, in its time; my first summer job was at Mall Music, as was my first full time job).
I’d stand there for between 10 minutes and half an hour at a time – always at different stages (though never at the beginning or end, it seems) – utterly transfixed. I remember hearing George Martin divulge the way in which Paul McCartney’s ‘Got up, got outta bed’ interlude was inserted into John’s ‘A Day In The Life’, how the orchestral freak-out part was constructed and recorded to comply with Lennon’s desire that it be “orgasmic”. In a time before the Internet, this information, this footage and this detail was just not available anywhere else.
It was a massively successful video release, is my point, and my family did not have a video cassette recorder and would not, still, for some years. And when it got its limited cinema release, my area (possibly my country) wasn’t so blessed.
But it’s probably why EMI attempted to release The Beatles Sessions – a single album collection of the best completed but unreleased Beatles songs – in 1985.
Eventually, Compleat Beatles (and The Beatles Sessions) were superseded by Anthology. Yet, while Anthology was far more comprehensive, it was the official, sanctioned story, as approved by all the interested parties. Compleat Beatles provided an objective approach and a particular charm.
I know you can still get the Compleat Beatles VHS video from some sources. And I’m sure it’s doing the rounds as a bootleg DVD. But people've ripped their LaserDisc and VHS versions, and uploaded them YouTube, which is much nicer (ie cheaper). Enjoy it in all its un-remastered glory while you can.
Don't know how long it'll stay up, but there's footage of the Applerooftop concert - The Beatles' last ever physical performance together - currently on Youtube. It's lifted from the film Let it Be, so it will cut to passers-by and the like, but it's still worth watching: