Thursday, September 26, 2013


I love Frank Sinatra's music, got tons of his records. But anyone with a career spanning six decades has got to drop a few turds along the way, and The Chairman of The Board is no exception. And that is what we are presenting here today: 15 examples of the worst, from the greatest.

There's the good-bad Frank, which is fun, e.g. finger-snappin' his way thru unlikely/inappropriate songs like Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" (a staple of my Vegas road trips) or his hep-cat spin on Simon and Garfunkel; his groovy mod duets with daughter Nancy (sample lyric: "I'm lookin' out love-colored windows"); or when his take on "Mack The Knife" becomes a self-conscious history lesson on that oft-recorded classic.

And then there's bad-bad Frank. "Mama Will Bark," a duet with the now-forgotten Dagmar, a performer more known for her curvaceous figure than her singing ability, has been called the worst thing Frank recorded, and I would not argue. Literally, a dog of a record. Nothing else here is quite as cringe-worthy, but the unreleased (for good reason) disco version of "All or Nothing At All," or the appalling duet with that ghastly creature Bono come pretty damn close.  Yes, sometimes you can judge a book by it's cover: "Everybody's Twistin'" sounds exactly like you think it would. And has there ever been a good version of "Winchester Cathedral"?

This collection eases you in: at first, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly wrong with this version of "Some Enchanted Evening." The "South Pacific" standard should be a slam-dunk, right?  But it gradually becomes clear that Frank has no feel for the song whatsoever, as he's been hobbled by a terrible arrangement, and it just goes completely off the rails. Surprising that this one got out of the can. (Although I guess you could say that for most of these tracks.)

This collection come to us thru our regular contributor windy via his pal, another mad-dog record collector named MadJon, who conceived, compiled, and created the cover artwork (above) for this festering concoction. Thank (or blame) them! Jon's notes for each song below.

Frank Sinatra - "Come Suck With Me"

01some enchanted evening
02Everybodys' twistin
03 i whistle a happy tune
04mama will bark
05all or nothing at all (disco)
06winchester cathedral
07mrs robinson
08 feelin kinda sunday (w/nancy)
09 life's a trippy thing (w/nancy)
10 you are the sunshine of my life
11bad bad leroy brown
12ive got you under my skin (w/Bono)
13mack the knife (w/Quincy Jones; vibes: Lionel Hampton)
14the 12 days of christmas (w/Nancy, Frank Jr, and the rarely-heard Tina Sinatra)
15 my way

Some Enchanted Evening: The Richard Rodgers estate was very strict about licensing its songs for recording. Altho' Sinatra had recorded this tune in the past, on Columbia in 1949, they gave him a difficult time about it two decades later. Personal? Who knows, but when Sinatra finally got the rights, he made it personal and recorded this ridiculous, horrible version as revenge.
Everybody's Twistin': Sinatra craved hits as much as anyone and would lower his famous standards when required. Here, he takes an old song by Fats Waller called "Everybody's Truckin'." changes the title and imagines he has a twist hit. He didn't. In America it only went to #75.
Mama Will Bark: It's too easy to say that Mitch Miller forced Sinatra to record this. Imagine ANYONE telling Frank what to do! Sinatra puts his all into this record, and seems to be enjoying himself. The flip was the tragically beautiful "I'm A Fool To Want You" which he co-wrote. Both sides did well on the charts. It remains awful only because it's incomprehensible that he would have gone along with it.
All Or Nothing At All: Before the huge success of his Trilogy album, Sinatra was lost in the 70's, with the label he founded only releasing several singles between 1974 and 1980. Clearly desperate, Sinatra re-recorded two old hits of his as disco records in 1977, this and "Night And Day," but "All Or Nothing At All" was so awful it remained unreleased until the Complete Reprise box set in 1995.
Winchester Cathedral: Enjoying a surprise return to the Top 10 charts in the mid-60's, Sinatra decided that every other album would be "for the kids." Like the kids were waiting for this.
Mrs. Robinson: Reportedly, Paul Simon hated what Frank did with his song, as should we all.
Feelin' Kinda Sunday and Life's A Trippy Thing: Juvenile hippy crap. Worst, who could even imagine the word "trippy" appearing in a Sinatra title?
You Are the Sunshine Of My Life and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown: Both from the album Some Nice Things I've Missed (1974), it's another one "for the kids!" The latter song being a #1 hit in 1972, Reprise thought the kids would like Frank's version as a single two years later. It (#83), like the album (#48), did poorly, and so began Frank's lost decade.
I've Got You Under My Skin (duet with Bono): Inexplicably, the public made Sinatra's first Duets album a smash hit, even if it never sounded like Frank was ever in the same studio with his guests, as is most evident here. Frank sounds flat, while Bono's vocal is produced with his trademark ethereal sound. When their vocals are mixed together, their phrasing doesn't match.
Mack the Knife: Sinatra's last album, L.A. Is My Lady, produced by Quincy Jones, is almost entirely awful throughout. Here, Sinatra can't resist changing the lyrics as he salutes the members of the orchestra.
The Twelve Days of Christmas: Featuring his three children (only one of whom ever achieved success on her own) the repetition of the all-too-cute, terribly unfunny jokes quickly becomes horribly obnoxious. It is the one track on this compilation that I cannot bear listening to.
My Way: It would be easier to take if recorded by a better man with a lesser voice, but here Sinatra celebrates a life of bullying abuse which the public is well aware of. Additionally, it is ironic that at his own label, Sinatra cared less about the engineering of his records; on the line "For what is a man?" there is an over-saturation of the vocal on the tape, creating horrible distortion that technology can never fix.
I threw this collection together quickly one day, being too lazy to look for more, but I know more stinkers are out there, and perhaps in the future there will be a Volume Two.

Monday, September 23, 2013

BEAT WRITER'S GOT THE BEAT: William S. Burroughs Sings!

One of the most unlikely stars of the late '70s-to-early '90s punk/college rock days wasn't a musician at all, but a taciturn, elderly writer clad not in flannel shirts and Doc Martens, but a three-piece suit, hat, and cane. How a novelist with no musical background who began his career in the 1940s became so popular an alternative music figure that Kurt Cobaine backed him up on one of Cobain's last recordings is one of the odder, more fascinating footnotes in this otherwise heavily examined musical era.

William S. Burroughs is, of course, one of the most celebrated figures in 20th century literature due to his key participation in the "Beat" movement that essentially dragged American letters into the modern era, rejecting classical European/Shakespearean influences in an attempt to create a literature as unique to the U.S. as jazz is to American music. And, indeed, the cliche of the beatnik reciting stream-of-consciousness poetry over cool jazz is the first thing that pops to mind when considering the confluence of the Beats with music.

But Burroughs was never a beatnik.  He was a junkie and heroin dealer who accidentally shot and killed his wife, traveled thru Latin America and Morocco, helped popularize North African trance ritual music, dismantled literature via his "cut-up" method of chopping up and rearranging pages of writings, was put on trial for obscenity, saw his son go to prison, saw his son die, was gay in the pre-Stonewall days, and co-created a "dream machine" said to create somewhat hallucinatory experiences when activated.

In other words, he'd been thru some shit. By the late '70s, he was back in the States and started giving public readings in his now impossibly craggy, deep, world-weary voice.  This was to be his main source of income for the last years of his life. The downtown New York scene was receptive to both his writings and his voice, filled as it was with not only the weight and wisdom of a life you never led, but with an idiosyncratic rhythmic delivery. He left New York for Kansas in 1981, well on his way to becoming an icon of cool.

After a while, it wasn't enough to just listen to Burroughs read his own works, with increasingly elaborate musical backings, but to hire him to perform on other people's recordings. And that is what we have here: not Burroughs' own releases, but his various miscellaneous appearances on other bands' songs. Having Burroughs perform your music gave you instant hip cred, and gave a Bill a paycheck. As this article puts it, he was a rock star to rock stars. William S. Burroughs died in 1997, at age 83.

William S. Burroughs Sings

UPDATE 10/13: Also now up on ubu.web:

1. Star Me Kitten (with REM, from "Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by 'the X-Files'" - 1996)
2. Is Everybody In? (with The Doors, reciting Jim Morrison poetry, from "Stoned Immaculate: The Music of the Doors")
3. Sharkey's Night (with Laurie Anderson, from "Mister Heartbreak" - 1983)
4. What Keeps Mankind Alive (from Kurt Weill tribute album "September Songs")
5. 'T 'Aint No Sin (1920s jazz song, performed on Tom Waits' "The Black Rider" - 1993)
6. Quick Fix (w/Ministry, "Just One Fix" b-side - 1992)
7. Old Lady Sloan (w/The Eudoras, covering a song by a Lawrence, Kansas punk band from "The Mortal Micronotz Tribute!" - 1995
8. Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis Fub Auf Liebe Eingestellt (Falling In Love Again) - Marlene Deitrich cover, from "Dead City Radio" - 1988

Monday, September 16, 2013


I'm worried about zippyshare. It seemed to be working fine but I just had a request to re-post an album I had just re-upped in April. It had already "expired." Do I need to look for yet another hosting service?

Anyway, here it is again, the jazz-age harmonica novelty stylings of Borrah Minevitch and crew, as well as another request, for the EZ/creepy comp "Strange Interludes":

I heard an old Zappa interview recently (somewhere on youtube, don't remember what it was called). He was in New York for a spell, and he said how he wanted to find the Shaggs, and Borrah Minevitch and his Harmonica Rascals to appear on the bill with him.  Franks' love of the Shaggs is well-known, but I was startled to hear him mention Minevitch. I thought I had discovered him!  I should have known. Too bad that show never happened - how epic would that have been?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

SILLY 78s pt3

At long last! Count Otto Black's continued spelunking into the dark, forgotten caverns of music history has resulted in another overdue (my fault, not his) collection of funny, strange, suggestive, and/or offensive audio oddities from the first half of recorded history. The Count speaketh:

"Firstly, some bizarre examples of political incorrectness from days gone by (these are nowhere near the worst). "We're Gonna Have To Slap The Dirty Little Jap" is symptomatic of a more innocent age, when we apparently thought that wars could be won by giving the enemy a jolly good spanking. There were plenty of post-WWII jingoistic propaganda records, but after Hitler, it was generally agreed that the ideal way to cope with evil dictators involves death rather than spanking.

Moving swiftly on, I give you Helen Kane, a young lady who in 1932 attempted legal action on the grounds that, since for several years prior to the cartoon she'd been singing like Betty Boop, saying "Boop-boop-be-doop!" on a regular basis, and even looked like Betty Boop, obviously she was Betty Boop, so she deserved a slice of the vast profits that mega-successful character was generating. She lost when the prosecution demonstrated that she had herself pinched her entire act from an even earlier very obscure black performer called Baby Esther, and as for alleged resemblance, Betty could equally well be said to look like the much more famous Clara Bow. This didn't stop Helen Kane from spending the rest of her career implying as heavily as she could without using the actual name that she was Betty Boop, and cutting a great many records on that basis. I include one to demonstrate what I mean.

However, she had nothing to do with the cartoon - almost all of the classic 1930s films were voiced by Mae Questal, who lived to be over 90, and was still doing the Betty Boop voice whenever it was needed right up until the end - amazingly, that's her in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. To provide a useful "Battle of the Boops" comparison, I've attached an incredibly strange record by her, which seems to be about a rag-doll who dies of cancer. Who thought this was a good idea? And if it somehow is, why aren't there any Skooby Doo AIDs records?

Continuing the theme of cartoon characters singing about death, there is, however, an Elmer Fudd road safety record! Though once again, the vocalist "Waymond Wadcwiff" is not the real voice from the cartoons (according to Wikipedia, the only famous Raymond Radcliff was a basketball player, but I think this must be a different one), so the name "Elmer Fudd" is not used - it's all rather confusing, really. Presumably that's why "wabbits" are never mentioned, and a goose is run over instead.

You may be familiar with "I've Gone And Lost My Little Yo-Yo", though this is a lesser-known version by Leslie Holmes (50% of the Two Leslies). At one point every version was banned by the BBC for being far too filthy! Then Ruth Wallis came along a few years later and obsessively carried on with the rude yo-yo theme in a way that makes Chuck Berry's notorious "ding-a-ling" sound quite innocent. So here's a trilogy of increasingly filthy yo-yo songs - how specific can a genre get?

Continuing with the mild innuendoes that seemed terribly daring at the time, the Pearl Boys discuss female absentmindedness in large hotels, and the Milt Herth Trio protests about how carelessly policemen handle fruit. But the reflections of the Deep River Boys concerning the culinary shortcomings of underage poultry are by today's standards downright creepy... I think I'd better take the curse off it with another merry and totally innocent Hadacol song completely different from the previous one - clearly the stuff was popular!
Just for jolly, I've added an utterly incomprehensible song about the Stellenbosch Boys, and how they coped with Germany's terrible baboon problem (or something), and of course "Take Out Your False Teeth, Daddy" - surely a neglected classic?

I also include both sides of a record which proves that Gefilte Joe and the Fish, one of the numerous one-note "comedy" acts of very dubious merit promulgated by Rhino Records, did not invent the concept of parodying popular songs in an excessively Jewish manner for comic effect. Mickey Katz & His Kosher-Jammers were doing it decades previously! They weren’t Spike Jones and his City Slickers, though Mickey Katz did play with Spike’s band for a year. He was quite prolific, and cut numerous tracks that were controversial even among other Jews, some of whom felt that in the wake of WWII, this kind of cartoonishly exaggerated Jewishness was doing them no favors. Anyway, I attach what seems to have been his greatest hit, “Yiddish Square Dance”. It’s a very lively number which may well have hilarious lyrics, though if you don’t speak Yiddish it’s hard to tell.

Wendell Hall retains his dignity and wants to know “Who Said I Was a Bum?” Meanwhile the Pearl Five’s “Golfin’ Papa” somehow manages to make golf sound naughty - and now I think about it, “niblick” does sound as though it ought to be smutty. And we can't not have another one from at least half of the Two Leslies (Leslie Holmes is the tall one with the glasses).

Moving swiftly on to Frank Marvin’s “Yodellin’ Rambling Cowboy”. The odd thing about yodeling records is that, although it’s absolutely impossible to sing about anything the slightest bit serious if you’re going to yodel in the middle, some people insisted on trying. This is the surprisingly merry tale of a misogynist psychopath who married a nymphomaniac and ended up committing murder and going to prison for life. Yodel-ay-he-hoo! And now it's time for the scratchy old Count to go back in his box..."

I once again offer my thanks to Count Otto Black (and so should you!)

SILLY 78s pt3

1. Todd Rollins Orchestra & Chick Bullock "The Boogie Man"
2. Nellie Lutcher "Chest X-Ray Song"
3. Denver Darling "The Devil And Mister Hitler"
4. Pearl Five "Golfin' Papa"
5. Bill Nettles "Hadacol Bounce"
6. Mickey Katz & His Kosher-Jammers "Haim Afen Range"
7. Helen Kane "He's So Unusual"
8. Mae Questal "I've Got a Pain In My Sawdust"
9. Leslie Holmes "I've Gone And Lost My Little Yo-Yo"
10. Ruth Wallis "Johnny Had a Yo-Yo"
11. Ruth Wallis "The New Yo-Yo Song"
12. Oscar Quam "Oscar Quam Calling Ducks"
13. Milt Herth Trio "Please No Squeeza Da Banana"
14. Pearl Trio "She Had To Lose It At The Astor"
15. Waymond Wadcwiff "The Silly Goose"
16. Leslie Holmes "The Squire's Wedding Day"
17. Josef Marais "Stellenbosch Boys"
18. Margie Day "Take Out Your False Teeth Daddy"
19. Monroe Silver "That's Yiddisha Love"
20. Deep River Boys "That Chick's Too Young To Fry"
21. Al "Jazzbo" Collins "Three Little Pigs"
22. Carlson Robison "We're Gonna Have To Slap The Dirty Little Jap"
23. Wendall Hall "Who Said I Was a Bum?"
24. Mickey Katz & His Kosher-Jammers "Yiddish Square Dance"
25. Frank Marvin "Yodellin' Rambling Cowboy"

Thursday, September 05, 2013

More Re-Upping: Paul Super Apple & Hardcordian

Got another request for a re-up, and tho I said I wanted to get back to posting new things, this is a classic: outsider legend Paul Super Apple:

Also had a request for the brilliant Ed Cox accordion-goes-techno EP "Hardcordian," but strangely I can't find one song from it, the strangely-named "Dance of the Otter Droppings." Can anyone mail me the mp3? UPDATE 9/6: Got it!  Mucho thanks to Professor Elliot.