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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"We Sampled His Ass" - No Sleep Till Brooklyn - The Beastie Boys

"When Mike D., MCA, and Ad-Rock produced Cooky Puss*, a song about their favorite Carvel ice cream cake in 19 and 83, everyone thought The Beastie Boys were just a flash in the pan.

["Hello, I'm Cookie Puss..."]

But New Yorkers are much tougher than that, and they made it through all sorts of changes in music. Here's one of their early ones, from 19 and 86 - a shout-out to one of the five boroughs, No Sleep Till Brooklyn, The Beastie Boys." ~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "New York"

From "Boys will be boys: Beastie Boys Talk Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1" interview on Drowned in Sound.

DiS: Nas and Santigold appear on [Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1] but there’s no sign of, as previously claimed, Bob Dylan. Was that, in best Beastie Boys tradition, a cheeky fib?

Ad-Rock: Bob Dylan is guesting on ...Pt 2. He talks about us. More of a spoken word thing...

MCA: We sampled his ass.

Mike D: He has a radio show on satellite and he was speaking about Beastie Boys...

Ad-Rock: He played one of our songs and was talking about us; he’s a big fan.

Mike D: So we collaborated with that.

DiS: Is he one of your big musical heroes?

Mike D: Oh, first off, he’s one of the first b-boys, if not the first. What more to say?

Ad-Rock: Billy Joel is the fifth b-boy. That’s just a side note. Bob Dylan is one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Mike D: When you think ‘songwriter’ you think him, Gordon Lightfoot; there’s not many others.

Ad-Rock: Carl Carlton. Carl Douglas. There’s a lot of Carls.


The guitar riffs and solo of No Sleep Till Brooklyn, which really should be No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, sez the didactic Fred, are played by Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who was brought in by by Rick Rubin, writer and co-producer of the Beasties' 19 and 86 debut album, License to Ill. The song's name is a joking take on on Motörhead's No Sleep 'til Hammersmith..

"We just got signed to Def Jam, and we were in the same studio, and Rick Rubin was working with both of us. And he just came down and said, "Hey, what do you think about doing the lead down the hallway?" That was about all there was to it. It took five minutes. It might have taken two takes, because it wasn't supposed to be anything intricate. They were spoofing metal, so to speak, on "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," so I just went in and did something, out of tune in parts, and [with] feedback - was just one of those totally spur-of-the-moment things, I didn't think about it at all." - Kerry King, excerpted from The Skills to Pay the Bills by Alan Light, 2005
Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1 is slated for a September release. It remains to be seen whether Mr. D.'s sampled ass will actually appear on Pt. 2.

* I wouldn't be a good New Englander without giving a nod to Cookie Puss of Carvel ice cream fame, who Our Host gives a brief mention in his commentary on The Beastie Boys. CP is pictured to your left.

Source: BeastieMania

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Nothing to Me - The "Harry Johnson" Mystery

"I first heard this next record when it was on a compilation called 'God Less America,' and that's about all I know about it. Here's Harry Johnson with a song about a bar fight, 'It's Nothing To Me.'"


["Harry Johnson" - It's Nothing To Me]

Take your drink to the end of the bar, buddy
Let her stay there, now don't be a fool
I'd as soon have a hot seat in Sing-Sing prison
Than to sit down by her on that stool.

What's that you say?
I guess you're right... it's nothing to me.

See that man? She belongs to him, buddy
Better drink up and go while you can
I can tell by the way he looks at you, buddy
That he's sure a quick-tempered, jealous man.

What's that you say?
I guess you're right... it's nothing to me.


There you are stretched out on the floor, buddy
Now you see what you made him do?
Here they come to take him off to jail, buddy
And tomorrow someone will bury you.

Oh well, that's life
Or it was... it's nothing to me.


"That was Harry Johnson, 'Ain't Nothing to Me.' Always enjoy a song with a story attached. It's like getting a two-for-one. And he makes a good point. Mind your own business! You don't have to get involved! You don't know the whole story! Before you go jumping in, take a moment, look at the situation. Ask yourself, 'Will I really be making this better?' I guarantee ya, nine times out of ten, the answer is, 'Nooooooo!'" ~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Nothing"

Although bobbling the title in his outro, perhaps momentarily confusing the song with The Coasters' version, "T'Ain't Nothing To Me" (more on that later), Our Host was right that there's nothing about "Harry Johnson" to be found. And that's because there was no "Harry Johnson," even though that's the name of the artist listed on the "God Less America" compilation.

The Singer

"It's Nothing To Me" is actually being performed by Sanford Clark, a rockabilly guitarist and protégé of Lee Hazlewood probably best known for his 19 and 56 hit "The Fool."

Perhaps Mr. D. was himself fooled by the "Harry Johnson" moniker, but it's more likely not, as he had played "The Fool" by Clark way back in Season 1 during the "Fools" episode, remarking at the time, "I always thought it was one of the best Elvis Presley records that Elvis never made." While Clark was in country mode for "It's Nothing To Me" and doing pure rockabilly for "The Fool," his voice is distinctive enough that it's hard to miss the connection... although to tell you the truth, I did miss it until it was pointed out to me.

Sanford Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 19 and 35 but grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, which he'd claim as his hometown. Guitarist Al Casey, who gigged with Clark at various Phoenix clubs and would later back him on most of his albums, turned then-disc jockey Hazlewood on to Sanford Clark. Lee Hazlewood was looking for someone with a distinctive voice to record a song he had just written, "The Fool," and Clark fit the bill. Casey and Clark went into the studio, recorded the song, and it was originally released in May of 19 and 56 on the tiny local M.C.I. label. "The Fool" was credited to a "Naomi Ford," Lee Hazlewood's wife, probably because radio deejay Hazlewood was worried about someone pointing out that his playing a song that he had also written and produced stunk a bit of payola.

As it turned out that wasn't a concern, as the 500-copy M.C.I. release of "The Fool" sank without a trace, and Sanford Clark started delivering soda pop in the Phoenix area to keep body and soul together. Luckily, a Cleveland disc jockey thought the song deserved a second chance if it could get some decent distribution, and passed it on to Dot Records. Dot called M.C.I. in Phoenix and cut a deal with Hazlewood. Sanford Clark signed with the Dot label, which re-released "The Fool." By August 19 and 56 the song had hit Number 7 on Billboard's pop charts and sold more than 800.000 copies, proving once again that we all deserve a second chance.

Sanford Clark wouldn't release "It's Nothing To Me" until 19 and 67 when he signed with Ramco Records after an uneven career and not much luck in the music business past "The Fool." Clark cut the song as part of a session that produced 12 singles, including a remake of his hit from a decade earlier.

"It's Nothing To Me" was released as the A-side of Ramco-1987, backed with "Calling All Hearts." As with most of the singles Clark produced in his career, "It's Nothing To Me" didn't do much of anything. Although always keeping one foot in the music business, by the 1970s Clark was making his living in construction and as a blackjack gambler. Sanford Clark is now retired and living in Mayer, Arizona.

The Song

"It's Nothing To Me" has more of a Theme Time Radio Hour connection than just Sanford Clark. The song was written by one "Pat Patterson," a pen name of Leon Payne's, author of the very weird "Psycho," which Mr. D. mentioned in an aside during the "Luck" episode of TTRH, "... a song about a serial killer [that] never got a lot of airplay, but has become quite a bit of a cult favorite."

Leon Payne was a blind songwriter and singer based in San Antonio, Texas. Among country music fans, Payne is probably best remembered for the classic, "Lost Highway," recorded by Hank Williams Sr. as well as "I Love You Because," "You've Still Got A Place In My Heart," and "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me."

Payne wrote hundreds of songs during his career, and apparently - like all good country music writers - had something of a soft spot for murderers, at least in song. He probably wrote "It's Nothing To Me" sometime around 19 and 56. A year later it was published by Lee Hazlewood's Gregmark Music and first recorded by yet another member of Hazlewood's Phoenix music mafia, Loy Clingman, on the Liberty Bell/Dot labels in February, 1957.

If an artist recorded "It's Nothing To Me" between the late `50s through the late `60s, you can pretty much bet that artist had some connection to Lee Hazlewood, a music impresario best-known for his work with Duane Eddy during the fifties and Nancy Sinatra in the sixties. After his first hit with Sanford Clark's "The Fool," Hazlewood would go on to produce, write, or co-author "The Theme from Peter Gunn", "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and " "Sugar Town." Hazlewood also wrote "Houston", a near-breakthrough single for Sanford Clark, until his version was overshadowed by Dean Martin's monster hit in 19 and 65.

"It's Nothing To Me" would be covered by Hazlewood acquaintance Buddy Long on the Demon label in 19 and 59, and more successfully by The Coasters in 19 and 64, who would use their comic version of the song, "T'Ain't Nothing To Me," to reclaim a slot on the pop charts after a string of unsuccessful releases.

Recorded live at the Apollo Theater in 1963, and featuring a clowning interchange between two of The Coasters, "T'Ain't Nothing To Me" would be #64 in the Hot Hundred in April `64, and climb to #20 in the R&B charts over a 10-week period. The Coasters were managed at the time by Lester Sills, Lee Hazlewood's partner and co-founder of Gregmark Publishing.

Let's see: Sanford Clark, Nancy Sinatra, The Coasters, Leon Payne... all played or mentioned on Theme Time Radio Hour. All these things tie together, as Mr. D. would say.

As well as Sanford Clark's/Harry Johnson's release in 19 and 67, "It's Nothing To Me" - sometimes under its alternate title of "Ain't Nothing To Me" - has also been covered by Jim Reeves, The Sadies, Harlan Howard, and Johnny Winter among others. It remains a staple of honky-tonks, bar, and saloons.

In an elegiac coda, Lee Hazlewood would record "It's Nothing to Me" for his final album, Cake or Death, released in 2006. Hazlewood would pass away a year later. Here's "It's Nothing to Me" as performed by Lee Hazlewood.

The Mysteries

There is more than one mystery surrounding "It's Nothing To Me." We know nothing about how Leon Payne came to write it, although like most of Payne's story songs, I suspect there's a great story behind it. According to Payne's daughter, Myrtie, he wrote "Lost Highway" when he was desperate to get back to his family after a long road trip. "Psycho" came about from the movie of the same name. Payne and his wife were both big movie fans, although with both being blind, Myrtie had to describe to them what was going on on-screen. According to Myrtie, Payne called Johnny Cash after returning home, described the "Psycho" experience to him, and sat down and wrote the serial killer song minutes after getting off the phone. I wish we had a similar story about "It's Nothing To Me."

And why is "It's Nothing To Me" credited to Harry Johnson on "God Less America" rather than to Sanford Clark? That mystery is probably easy to explain. The L.P./CD, released in the mid-90,s bordered on the semi-bootleg, compiling material both in and out of copyright, but studiously avoiding paying royalties on anything. As well as "Harry Johnson" "God Less America" also tags at least one other artist with a pseudonym to avoid eagle-eyed legal beagles. "Drunken Driver," a lubrigious a tune as the title implies, is credited to a "Grandpa Joe," although it is actually a 19 and 54 Ferlin Husky recording.

Finally we come to the mystery of the gunshots. While those were apparently included in Clark's original 19 and 67 release, I have two separate reports from people who own "Shades," a CD compilation of Clark's work, that the gunshots aren't on the version of "It's Nothing To Me" in that collection.

Maybe the Bear label, which released "Shades," used the master of "It's Nothing To Me," before the gunshots were dubbed in. Maybe there were two different versions of the song.

Maybe we'll never know.

Sources and Additional Reading/Listening: A visitor with the handle of "flotser," made exactly one post to the TTRH forum at ER, noting that "Harry Johnson" was in fact Sanford Clark - referring to him with the British spelling of "Clarke" - and then disappearing back into the aether, never to be heard from again.

"flotser" and regular ER (and sometime Dreamtime) contributor "The Great Wandu" both state that the version of "It's Nothing To Me" on the Sanford Clark compilation put together by the Bear Family label, "Shades" does not include the gunshots that can be heard before the last stanza of the song included on "God Less America."  In fact, "The Great Wandu" goes further, and says that the 1967 Ramco release is also without the gunshot overdub. I'm not sure this last is correct, but having neither heard the 45 or the "Shades" compilation, I'll take the claim at face value until presented with better evidence.  That leaves another mystery, of course, about how and when the gunshots came to be dubbed in, but as I said in the main article... we may never know.

Mystery of the missing gunshots aside, one thing I am certain of is that "Harry Johnson" is Sanford Clark.  While I was unable to find the full track, various places on the Web have an excerpt of Clark's "It's Nothing To Me," including the Amazon page for the "Shades" compilation.  You can follow the link above if you want to satisfy yourself on the subject.

"God Less America," has had an appropriately unusual history, originally released on vinyl either in 1995 or 1997 on Crypt Records by compiler Tim Warren, who a reviewer noted has "...been churning out amazing compilations under a variety of label names to avoid close, copyright-wielding eyes -- 'Sin Alley', 'Down And Out, and 'Loo-key Doo-key.'"

The bootlegger may have been himself bootlegged, as a CD version was released in 2001, but its unclear whether it was officially under the Crypt label, or someone else just using the label name. In any case, used copies of the CD can be found at Amazon, U.S. or Amazon U.K. at somewhat ridiculous prices.  The tracks also sometimes float around the Web either together or separately. The L.P. occasionally appears on eBay, in fact one is being offered for sale right now through the 30th. You should be forewarned that unless you're an aficionado of rare - and weird - country-western music, you may find "God Less America" somewhat disappointing.  Personally, I like it, and have churned out several Dreamtime articles thanks to that compilation. But caveat emptor.

The great honky-tonker Leon Payne doesn't get the attention he deserves, little-remembered today except for "Lost Highway" and the novelty number "Psycho." However, there is one CD compilation available of Payne's Capitol Record singles, put out - naturally - by the Bear Family label under the title, "I Love You Because." Another compilation has a Theme Time connection, "George Jones Sings The Great Songs of Leon Payne."  Both sets are highly recommended, as is anything associated with Leon Payne. For a taste of Payne's music, check out his MySpace page, maintained by his daughter, Myrtie.

Most of the information about Lee Hazlewood and his connection to the various artists and versions of "It's Nothing To Me" was taken from "The Lee Hazlewood Story." I also used Hazlewood's Wikipedia entry for background.

Additional information on Sanford Clark came from a Rockabilly Hall of Fame article and Clark's MySpace page. I've emailed Clark several times to see if I could get more information on his recording of "It's Nothing To Me" - especially about those damn gunshots - but have never received a response.  Unfortunately, Clark is apparently in poor health these days.  We wish him the best.

The Coasters' comic turn on the song, "T'Ain't Nothing To Me" can be found on the CD compilation "Apollo Saturday Night" or as a standalone mp3 at Amazon. The song aside, "Apollo Saturday Night" is recommended for those wanting a feel at what a night at that historic theater in the early `60s was like.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Bits and Pieces: The Hank Snow Transcript & the TTRH Archives

A couple of more random notes, too ephemeral for a full blog post. Lot #234, the "Bobby Zimmerman" transcript of Hank Snow's "Little Buddy" that we blogged about last month goes on the auction block today at Christie's with some other Dylan material, including a 1958 Hibbing High School yearbook with a "Bob Zimmerman" inscription, a couple of Broadsides with Dylan's autograph, and a concert handbill for the Bob Dylan & Joan Baez 1965 US Tour with art by Eric Von Schmidt, which you'll be familiar with if you have a copy of David Hajdu's Positively 4th Street.

That handbill is estimated at only $1,000-1,500, a bargain in my mind, but what do I know? Conversely, I thought the $10-15,000 estimate for the "Little Buddy" manuscript was grossly over-priced even when Christie's was claiming it as a Bob Dylan early original. I'd rather look at a piece of art than words on a page if I were collecting something. But again, what do I know?

It'll be interesting to see what the "Little Buddy" transcript will sell for. It'd be nice if an anonymous buyer from Minnesota, New York City, or Malibu picked it up for the full auction value for the benefit of Herzl Camp in Wisconsin, and then pack it away with whatever other mementos he might have from the early days.

UPDATE:  The "Little Buddy" transcript auctioned off for $12,500, including buyer's premium, a nice contribution to the rehabbing of cabins at Herzl Camp.


Dreamtime internet pal, Patrick Crosley, better-known to the hoi polloi as "Croz" has transmorgified his namesake site once again, taking the primary content offering "Recordings of Indeterminate Origin" off-line except to members-only access, while leaving the main site up, now labeled the Theme Time Radio Hour Archive. And that's what it is, the complete recordings of Seasons 1, 2, and 3 in zip archived mp3 format. If you're interested in finding a particular show or shows - and about a 1/3 of the people who come to Dreamtime through a search engine are looking for TTRH downloads - will probably satisfy your desire.

Regular readers know I'm a little leery, and more than a little inconsistent, about the whole "illegal downloads" thing. If there were an "official" alternative to getting permanent copies of TTRH shows, I'd point you there. But there isn't. I know Croz, as I know many of the people who were involved in distributing TTRH over the internet, and I know he's a generous, good-hearted soul whose dedication to offering access to TTRH to the widest possible audience was often much more trouble for him than it was worth. And he still did it. As I noted in my TTRH FAQ, sites like Croz's may be the only complete record that will ever be easily accessible to researchers, scholars, and fans, especially with TTRH in its re-run twilight.

Do both yourself and Croz a favor, and read his introduction before doing any downloads, okay? I've talked before about the Tragedy of the Commons, and it would be a tragedy if greedy people drove Croz's server hamsters into overload.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remember Me (When the Candlelights Are Gleaming)

"I used to know that song, I don't know... Oh," the young Bob Dylan says before breaking into Scott Wiseman's Remember Me (When the Candlelights Are Gleaming), with what seems a very uncomfortable Joan Baez providing harmony.

Remember Me was written in 19 and 39, and released by Wiseman and his wife/singing partner Myrtle Cooper under their stage names of Lulu Belle and Scotty on the Conqueror label in September 19 and 40. The song was the B-side to a now mostly forgotten Lulu Belle and Scotty tune, Did You Ever Go Sailing?  proving once more Mr. D's contention on Theme Time Radio Hour that we're the poorer in these Modern Times without singles and flip sides which often held more interesting and enduring music than the A-side.

Lulu Belle and Scotty were both from North Carolina, hooking up in 19 and 33, when Scotty was 24 and Myrtle 20 and Scotty joined The National Barn Dance, the nation's most popular country music radio show during the 1930s and 1940s, broadcasting from Chicago on station WLS.  Lulu Belle was already an established star on the Barn Dance, Myrtle Cooper having assumed the persona of a wisecracking, boy-crazy rube and partnered up with Red Foley in an act the audience loved, Lulu Belle and Burrhead.  But Foley had recently married, and his new bride wasn't particularly enthused about his 19-year-old co-star, so Lulu Belle and the then-"Skyland Scotty" tried a few routines together.  They hit it off, both with each other and the Barn Dance listeners, and by 19 and 34 they were married and known as "The Sweethearts of Country Music."  The two were almost married on the air, but Scotty vetoed the idea.  A few jealous girlfriends were still in the wings, and Wiseman was concerned about what would happen if they got to the "any reason why this marriage shouldn't take place" part and one of his ex-'s decided to air their dirty laundry on the air.

Remember Me was written when Lulu Belle and Scotty were starring in their own radio show, Boone Country Jamboree, airing from Cincinnati on station WLW. "In our guest room at home when I was a child there was a fancy old cup and saucer which sat on the dresser," Wiseman later recalled for Dorothy Horstman's book, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy. "The phrase 'Remember Me' was on the cup in fancy gold lettering. We children were not allowed to touch this memento of the sentimental Gay Nineties, somehow connected with the courtship of Mother and Dad. Feeling a bit homesick and sentimental during the bustle of radio shows and road trips, I  made up the song while riding in the car to personal appearance jobs."

Besides composing Remember Me, Wiseman had a hand in the classic (Good Ol') Mountain Dew, rewriting the lyrics to a melody originally composed by Bascom Lunsford. "Lulu Belle and I cut a Vocalion record of it in 1939 in Chicago," Wiseman  wrote. "Roy Acuff and other Nashville singers learned it from our record and started singing it. Station WLS, where we sang for 25 years, would never allow any mention of giggle water or tobacco in those days, so we were never allowed to sing it on the National Barn Dance."

Lunsford traveled to Chicago, heard the reworked version of Mountain Dew, gave it his approval, and said, "I believe I know how to pay my bus fare back to Asheville; I'll just sell Scotty my interest in 'Mountain Dew' for $25." Wiseman would later instruct the publisher to send Lunsford 50 percent of the song;'s royalties.

Lulu Belle and Scotty's best known song is probably Have I Told You Lately I Love You? of 19 and 45, a contender as one of the first country songs to make a successful crossover into pop and covered by everyone from Hank Williams Sr., to Bob Hope, to the Andrews Sisters, to Lulu Belle's one-time partner, Red Foley. Confined to the hospital for several weeks in 19 and 44, Scotty Wiseman composed the song after Lulu Belle whispered the words in his ear. He wrote the song in one night, and sang it to Lulu Belle the next day. Gene Autry made the first recording of the song in late 1945 on Columbia, with Lulu Belle and Scotty releasing their own version on a Vogue Picture Record, patriotically displaying a serviceman embracing his love.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Odds & Ends

A couple of bits and pieces, nothing substantial enough by itself to mandate its own post.

You'll find the "Dreamtime Podcast Episode Guide" and the "Expecting Rain Theme Time Forum" links over in the right-hand column and in the FAQ broken for the moment and possibly for the next several weeks.  The Expecting Rain administrators abruptly shut down all the forums yesterday for "maintenance."

Reading between the lines, it's obvious that some of the ER forums are suffering from that disease that all online forums seem to eventually succumb to.  Human self-interest always seems to triumph, even when you know you're destroying something.

It's unfortunate, we hope the ER admins. can work something out, and we wish Karl Erik the best.  Expecting Rain is probably one of the best examples of why labors of love are so much better than labors for money.  But this incident is also a good reminder about why you shouldn't put your trust in on-line reference sources, which have a tendency to disappear without warning.  Over the past three years, I've lost valuable TTRH facts and trivia that were posted by various people at the "White Man Stew" forums (the first, and for a time, the best, on-line forum about the show) and Expecting Rain.  At times when I'm doing research I think, "I should download and archive this."  And, of course, I never do.


On a happier note, Sirius XM has released its long-promised application for the iPhone/iTouch, and if you're a user of either you can download it now, for free, at the iTunes Store.  If you're an internet subscriber, either standalone or as an add-on to your Sirius XM radio subscription, the app gives you access to what the press release claims are 120 channels on your iPhone.

Ironically, the press release trumpets, "SIRIUS and XM subscribers can also listen to 100% commercial-free music featuring exclusive shows from SIRIUS XM's satellite radio service such as Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" as well as shows including Tom Petty's Buried Treasure, Bruce Springsteen's E Street Radio, The Grateful Dead Channel, Eminem's Shade 45, Jimmy Buffett's Radio Margaritaville, "Little Steven" Van Zandt's Underground Garage and Outlaw Country channels, B.B. King's Bluesville, Willie Nelson's Willie's Place, Elvis Radio, Siriusly Sinatra, and Metropolitan Opera Radio.

I haven't tried the application yet, but comments on its page at the iTunes Store indicates most people are satisfied with it, the major complaint being that the odious Howard Stern, as well as MLB, NFL, and NASCAR programming are all unavailable, probably because of licensing issues.

Ironic, as I said, as the application probably would have opened up a whole new audience for Theme Time Radio Hour, which was, at its peak, the top music show at XM Radio according to my sources.  But I guess the re-runs still will attract new listeners, probably many of whom won't even realize they are listening to repeats.  The shows are in many ways timeless, designed, as one of the people I interviewed for my book said, "to live forever."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Samson's Diner

As I've said before, one of the fun things about working on my book about Theme Time Radio Hour, Night Time in the Big City, is learning about the counterparts of the Abernathy Building, Studio B, Carl's Barber Shop, Elmo's, and more.

Are any of those places real?  Tell me what "real" means, and I might have an answer for you.

I like the pictures in my mind's eye of the Abernathy and Studio B more than the reality, to tell you the truth, although it's still pretty cool to see one of the stages where the Theme Time show was produced. But the real-world doppelgänger of Samson's - pictured to your left - is everything it should be, I think.  Imagination can't improve upon it.

It's rumored that the crew of Theme Time Radio Hour could often be found at the counter after a long shift in Studio B.  Tex Carbone was said to especially favor the burritos.

And no, I'm not going to tell you where it was... yet.  That's called a teaser.

On another note, posting here at Dreamtime is going to get sporadic during the summer, as we finish up the book. I love blogging, but items I'd normally post here are ending up there, as they should.  We're not going totally away, and will continue to post as circumstances and desire allow.  Stick with us.  We'll make the wait worthwhile.

~ Fred, Jailbait, and the Top Cats

Saturday, June 06, 2009

More or Less Hudson's Bay Again: The Masked Marauders

A few email exchanges with my internet pal and colleague Sean over at RightWingBob about the likelihood of Mr. D. collaborating with Paul McCartney, and possibly even Ringo, got me to thinking about that other supergroup session that took place in 19 and 69, when Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Mick Jagger got together as "The Masked Marauders."

You don't know that story?  Well, sit down, boys and girls, and let the ol' geezer at Dreamtime tell ya.

"It was late, I was tired," Greil Marcus later said about the genesis of The Masked Marauders. Marcus was then a Rolling Stone editor and would later go on to fame as critic and author of such works as The Old, Weird America, aka Invisible Republic.

According to Marcus, after a long, hot day at the keyboard, he had been sitting around gassing with friends about the so-called "supergroup" and "supersession" albums that were all the rage in the dog days of the late Summer of rock-n'-roll that was 19 and 69.  The group got to speculating about if there were a real supersession, with John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and whoever else was around to jam with them, what would it be like?   Oldies of course.  Maybe Duke of Earl? Why not? Maybe a few country classics, since Mr. D. was in his Nashville Skyline phase. Maybe a nod to contemporaries?  Hey, about Dylan doing Donovan doing Dylan in an 18-minute jam version of Season of the Witch?

Things got crazy from there. Marcus wrote a fake review of The Masked Marauders double-LP (double in a nod to the Great White Wonder bootleg), creating such overheated bon mots as "Paul showcases his favorite song, 'Mammy,' and while his performance is virtually indistinguishable from Eddie Fisher's version, it is still very powerful, evocative, and indeed, stunning. And they say a white boy can’t sing the blues!" and "Produced by Al Kooper, the album was recorded with impeccable secrecy in a small town near the site of the original Hudson Bay Colony in Canada."  and "...[Jagger's rendition of ] 'I Can't Get No Nookie' is an instant classic!"  He signed it "T.M. Christian" in a nod to the Terry Southern novel, turned the review over to Jann Wenner, who thought it a giggle and Rolling Stone ran it straight-faced in October of 19 and 69.

And things got weirder.  A lot of people thought it was real.  A lot of people wanted it to be real, in-your-face jokes or not. "There's no telling some people anything," as Our Host has said more than once on Theme Time Radio Hour.

Letters and phone calls began pouring into the Rolling Stone offices from both fans and record stores wanting to know when the album would be released. Reportedly even Allen Klein (Beatles and Rolling Stones' manager) and Albert Grossman (Dylan's manager), checked in, plaintively asking Rolling Stone if they could spare them a copy of the LP. While that last part was probably untrue, given the usual state of artist/managerial relations, it was too good a story to let pass.

Knowing a joke with legs when he saw one, Marcus decided to continue with the spoof.  With another Rolling Stone editor, Marcus recruited a band which recorded three of the songs cited in T.M. Christian's review: the Nashville Skyline-inspired instrumental Cow Pie, a pseudo-Jagger doing his instant classic, I Can’t Get No Nookie, and a Bob Dylan imitator gamely voicing Dook-dook- of Earl. Marcus took the tapes to a San Francisco radio station, which aired them as real cuts from The Masked Marauders... and the switchboard lighted up.

A joke is a joke, but money is money. The pranksters began looking for a label to produce a full album. Warner Bros. offered the sham supergroup a $15,000 advance, and released The Masked Marauders as a single LP in November of 19 and 69, just one short month after the Marauders were but a gleam in Greil Marcus' jaded eye. Warner even created a sub-label for The Masked Marauders, Deity, since that was the label name T.M. Christian's review had used.

The Masked Marauders, the album, sold more than 100,000 copies and spent twelve weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at Number 114.

Most people eventually got the joke.  The album's tracks only slightly matched the T.M. Christian review: no Paul McCartney singing Mammy (the mind boggles); the 18-minute Season of the Witch curtailed to 10; the voices barely resembling Jagger's and Dylan's; the last track a rant about the album being "a rip-off." Just to ensure that the purchaser was clued in - albeit after buying the L.P. - Warner even included a reprint of a Ralph Gleason column detailing that it was all just a gag.

Who were The Masked Marauders?  Over the years, the pseudo-supergroup was said to be Christopher Milk, not a person, but an obscure band formed by John Mendelsohn & Surly Raph Oswald, which released one album, Some People Will Drink Anything, before Mendelsohn went on to better-paying gigs as a rock critic.

Also under suspicion was a soul group from British Columbia, Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers, apparently because of the Canadian connection and the fact that Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, had been a one-time member.

However, Marcus finally identified The Masked Marauders as a Grateful Dead associated group, from Berkeley, CA, The Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band, who described themselves as an "'acid'-influenced skiffle band. The Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band would release one album under their own name, 19 and 68's Greatest Hits.

And that, kidlets, is your Saturday story of how Mr. D., Uncle Mac, and Jumpin' Gas Flash all got together in the Fall of 19 and 69 and created the  superest of all supergroups, The Masked Marauders.  If you want a sample of their wares, below is a Youtube video of Dylan doing Donovan doing Dylan, with help from Mick on Season of the Witch. And if that tickles you for more, you can find The Masked Marauders on disc at Amazon or on mp3.

Now take off, kiddies, ol' Gramps Dreamtime needs his nap.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Marilyn Monroe - Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend

"I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful." ~ Marilyn Monroe

I think I'm taking that as the new Dreamtime motto. Of course being obstinate, we'd prefer money too. Marilyn at her best, with "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" from 19 and 53's Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Our Host played T-Bone Burnett's very nice cover of the song on the "Friends and Neighbors" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour, and you can hear Marilyn's original as background during Mr. D.'s commentary.

Marilyn's birthday was this past Monday, June 1st. She would have been 83, which should give us all pause for a moment. She was 27 when she did Gentleman, earning $18,000 for the role, which Fox considered a bargain. Betty Grable, who was originally cast for Gentleman, was commanding $150,000 at the time. Fox decided to bet on a younger (and cheaper) sex bomb... and the rest, as they say, is history.

The studio wanted to dub Monroe's singing voice, thinking it too high-pitched and childish. Sanity eventually prevailed, and only the opening operatic "No, no, no" segment was dubbed with another singer's voice. Rumor has it though that the fabulous M's posterior was replaced by a body double in a least one shot when it was felt that her tail end was wagging too much. Dancing coach Gwen Verdon was brought in to instruct Monroe and co-star Jane Russell in the art of dance and sexy walk and reportedly stood in for both in several scenes when they couldn't get their bottoms to sway to director Howard Hawks' satisfaction.

Verdon would later go on to become the star of Broadway's Can-Can.

And yes, that's a "way homer."

Monday, June 01, 2009

As Close As You're Likely to Get to Studio B in the Abernathy Building

I'm working on - surprise! - a Theme Time Radio Hour book, As with Dreamtime, the focus is the stories behind the stories Our Host told on TTRH. For example, why Elvis wanted to be Dean Martin, How did Phil Silvers end up writing "Nancy with the Laughing Face," who really wrote "Rum and Coca-Cola" and so on.

I'm planning "Night Time in the Big City: Stories From Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" as having three distinct sections... Dreams, Themes, and Schemes. "Dreams" will be the stories; "Themes," facts about the shows themselves, and "Schemes," background on how the show came to be and was put together.

The ongoing research has been fun.  I've talked to a lot of interesting people and found out that as much as I think I know about TTRH, there's always more to learn.

One of the things that's become important to me is to keep the mystique of the Abernathy Building and Studio B intact, not least because the people who created the Big City put so much effort into developing that mystique.  In some ways, it's always night. There's always a woman in red there smoking a cigarette on a balcony with the city spread below her.  Soon she'll walk into the lobby of the Abernathy Buiilding, take the elevator up, go into Studio B.

As I've said before, the real Studio B exists only in the theater of the mind.  You can probably see it as well as I can.  Unchanged since the `50s, mike dangling down from the ceiling, two turntables framing the deejay's chair.  Tex Carbone behind the glass, working at his sound panel.  The lady in red in a separate sound booth, leaning into the microphone, huskily whispering out...

"It's Night in the Big City."  And it begins again.

That's the real Studio B. But above you'll see a photo of its more mundane counterpoint, the other "Studio B" where most of the shows were final-edited and tweaked.

Where is it?  You can do the legwork yourself... or wait for the book.