Sunday, October 30, 2022

Shellac City YouTube playlist: Halloween 2022

To get to my Halloween 2022 playlist, just click the link below--it will auto-start the playlist.  There are 26 titles, but you can skip through them at will...

Greenwich Witch--Zez Confrey, piano, 1922 - YouTube

Notice that I allowed myself a science fiction title (Come Take a Trip in My Airship, 1904), and after criticizing TCM's lineup for including regular sci-fi flicks, but, um... this is a 78 list, not a movie list.  So, uh... yeah.


A 2023 horror story: TCM's October schedule (an essay, no music)

So, what good is there to say about TCM's 2022 Halloween lineup?  Well, not a great deal.  And, judging from the comments on this page, I'm not alone in my disappointment.

Instead of writing a long rant (oops--I did, anyway), I'll try to cut to the heart of what's primarily wrong with TCM's Halloween program: The choices are either fine Halloween material whose impact has been blunted because the films are on regular rotation (Baby Jane, Spider Baby, House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting), straight science fiction that doesn't cut it in the horror department (Forbidden Planet, Them!, 2001, Westworld, etc.).  (Out of that list, 2001 is the biggest mystery.)  And... films simply too poor for any outlet, let only TCM, to waste valuable airspace on: (It, The Swarm, The Hypnotic Eye, It Lives Again, Two on a Guillotine, Eye of the Devil).

Oh, and in regard to sci-fi/horror, there is no shortage of fine choices: The First Man Into Space, The Quatermass Xperiment, The Manster (for its camp value), Terror From the Year 2000 (ditto), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the original, please), Fiend Without a Face...

And there are the titles which are perfectly fine choices, but which I don't personally dig (and so it's just my problem): House of Dark Shadows (that pointlessly bloody big screen version of Dark Shadows which vastly altered the soap's Barnabas storyline), Don't Look Now (I prefer not to), Poltergeist (a movie which has barely anything to do with poltergeists), Exorcist II (Really??).

And there are iffy choices, such as Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Classic camp, and it has a tiny bit of Bela Lugosi footage, and it does involve a graveyard, but which really counts as prime sci-fi camp.  Hard to complain about any showing of this Z classic, but given TCM's vast and diverse library of films, it could have done way better in the so-bad-it's-good-or-just-delightfully-terrible department: The Brainiac, Assignment Terror, The Manster, any Al Adamson, Jerry Warren, or Larry Buchanan horror title (TCM must have that stuff on hand), or even Billy the Kid vs. DraculaPlan 9 is kind of a cliched choice in that regard.

And maybe that's the problem--TCM is hewing to cliche.  It's taking the safest path.  TCM has adopted the opposite of a daring strategy.  Result: A big missed opportunity.  I also wonder if the station/channel is trying to play to multiple age groups, which is a classic invitation to disaster.  I may be (and probably am) wrong, but suppose TCM, on one hand, is playing to horror fans of my generation--people who grew up watching Saturday afternoon and evening schlock horror hosts.  If so, then TCM has hardly served up a decent helping up Saturday-horror-host schlock (save for maybe Plan 9 and the Aztec Mummy title), but it has served up the kind of first-rate flicks beloved by that demographic, from the Boris Karloff Frankenstein (not a personal favorite, given how little it relates to the classic novel), The Invisible Man, Curse of the Demon (best horror movie of the 1950s, and for some unknown reason, not shown in TCM's master list!!), some fine Hammer flicks, and (if they didn't show it so often) the marvelous, "cult" Carnival of Souls.  Missing in action, for reasons I can't fathom, is the all-time classic horror anthology, Dead of Night (1945), without which I'm convinced The Twilight Zone would never have been.  As far as I know, Night did not originate the tradition of presenting horror in the context of the everyday (the chief secret of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits), but it's certainly the template for any and every horror gem of its type that followed.  (Remember that The Outer Limtis is classified, for good reason, as "gothic" sci-fi.)  No film has ever done a better job of presenting all-out horror within the confines of real life, and Curse/Night of the Demon wouldn't have happened without it.  By the way, I mentioned Carnival, that zero-budget masterpiece (all the more amazing for having been done on a shoestring), and it was only when I recently rewatched the mind-blowing final moments of Night that I notice how much Carnival's ending borrows from the earlier film.  This takes nothing away from Carnival--I mean, plenty of movies freely swipe from other works (think The Third Man and He Walked by Night, or The Terminator and The Outer Limits ep "Solider," written by Harlan Ellison).  Common practice in the big leagues, so no point in picking on a shot-for-nothing classic.

And... why no Mario Bava?  Seriously.  Not even Black Sabbath?  (Yes, the group copped its name from same.)  The Italian horror maestro Bava is revered by Martin Scorsese, among other famous directors, and his films are the favorites of my generation of spook film fans, so... what gives?

TCM's 2022 October schedule smacks of 1) playing it safe and 2) trying to please several audiences in a single swoop.  Which ultimately reads as indifference.  I mean, many thanks for the Val Lewton classics and some later Chris Lee Dracula flicks I hadn't seen (and which were surprisingly good), but I just have to ask TCM what it was thinking.  If 2022's October schedule was part of a strategy, and not simply lazy or poorly informed programming, I hope that TCM realizes the folly of its scheme and goes back to honoring Halloween come 2023.  Unless TCM simply can't take horror seriously, in which case, just go back to the usual ten Katherine Hepburn movies in a row.

So, that was the rant I promised not to write.  Now, if I can figure out how to make a YouTube playlist, I'll make one for my Halloween YT 78 rpm posts.  However, someone just noted that he'd tried to make a playlist but that YT is no longer allowing them (??).


Monday, October 24, 2022

Music for Monday (or on whichever day you're playing this): The Demensions, Al Cernik, Clyde Stacy and the Nitecaps, Les Brown, more!


The Sheila Southern Burt Bacharach Songbook will be ready to go any time now--It's just that the LP needed a cleaning and some declicking, as it's not in the pristine condition that I falsely remembered.  Memories will do that sometimes (fool us, I mean).  The Southern LP, a UK import that ended up on SPC's Ambassador label over here in the U.S., is outstanding and I know that you Burt fans will love it.  The sound is quite good for SPC, I'm happy to say.

In the meanwhile, fourteen interesting tracks for our Monday (or whichever day you're dropping by), including three Burt tracks while we wait: Eydie Gorme with What Am I Doing Here?. Sue Raney with (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me, and Dusty Springfield with her 1967 rendition of They Long to be Close to You, three years before the Carpenters' monster-hit version.  Dusty's interpretation is interesting, and it's preferable (imo) to Richard Chamberlain's 1963 recording!  

And, four years before Bill Haley covered the song, we have Les Brown (vocal by Jo-Anne Greer) with a surprisingly rock and roll-ish Forty Cups of Coffee, from 1953.  We continue the show with Hoy Hoy--fine 1957 rockabilly by Clyde Stacy and the Nitecaps (50 cents at Half Price Books)--and its rather odd flip side, Too Young.  And the Demensions (sorry, spell-checker) with 1960's Nursery Rhime.  (Dunno what's up with either spelling.)  Smooth, mellow doowop (Dreaming) is next up, courtesy of the Five Stars on the Hunt label.  Then, an item surely high on anybody's want list: a dance instruction version of Get Back on the Statler Records sublabel Avant Records, from... I don't know.  1970?  Thereabouts.  

The outstanding 1957 Chuck Lovett fake-hit rendering of Short Fat Fannie comes from a The Nation's 12 Big Hit Recordings LP (that series which always sported the same two-older-looking-teens-in-front-of-the-45-rpm-phonograph pic), which has much cleaner sound than my 45 rpm EP editions.  Meanwhile, a before-he-was-Guy-Mitchell Al Cernik croons The Love Nest on a 1948 MGM 78 that doesn't show up in the blog history and therefore must be a first appearance.  (That's solid logic for you.)  And even in a playlist as quirky as this one, 1953's World Events must rate as an outlier--basically, it's an easy listening arrangement of the theme music for Movietone News newreels, which were before my time (or my memory, at least), but the side is memorably weird and quite cool, so... here it is, straight from a vinyl 78 on the Oroco Records label.  Discogs reports that Larry Cotton owned that label, in case you were wondering.

How to explain "The Homestead" and its recording of the Star Wars theme?  Well, "The Homestead" was a catch-all group name for the 1977 fake-hits LP, Today's Pop Hits, on Homestead Records.  I recently thrifted one half of this two-record set, and I was expecting a straight imitation of the movie theme, though what we get is a slowed down imitation of the Meco Disco-version atrocity, a huge hit which (back in the day) caused me to like John Williams' theme even less than I already did.  Never a fan of that movie's music--or, for that matter, the movie.  So, don't ask me what I think of Star Wars.  (Oh, wait--I just told you.)

Not your usual playlist, but this is Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else, so all systems normal!

DOWNLOAD: Music for Monday, 10/24/2022

Hoy Hoy--Clyde Stacy and the Nitecaps, 1957

So Young--Same

Forty Cups of Coffee--Les Brown and His Band of Renown, V: Jo-Anne Greer, 1953

Nursery Rhime Rock--The Demensions, 1960

Dreaming--Five Stars, 1958

Get Back--Unknown Artist (Avant Records 2100)

Short Fat Fannie--Chuck Lovett With Herbie Layne's Orch., 1957

Peter Gunn--Ted Nash, Conductor (Crown CLP 5101; 1959)

The Love Nest--Al Cernik (Guy Mitchell) With Buddy Kaye Quintet and the Tune Timers, 1948

World Events--Warren Baker and "The Baker's Dozen," 1953

They Long to Be Close to You--Dusty Springfield, 1967

(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me--Sue Raney, 1966

Star Wars--The Homestead, 1977

What Am I Doing Here? (Bacharach-David)--Eydie Gorme, 1968.


Thursday, October 13, 2022

Hawaiian Favorites--Akoni Lani and His Islanders, Danny K. Stewart and His Aloha Boys (Acorn 672)


I couldn't resist this cover, for some reason.  I wasn't expecting much in the music department, though--but how wrong I was.  These tracks--by Akoni Lani and His Islanders and Danny K. Stewart and His Aloha Boys (we'll accept these as real names)--are outstanding, with excellent, swinging steel guitar work (with Fort St. Rag the standout) and more than adequate group vocals.  Everything bounces along just beautifully in a polite 4/4.  And we get (There's a) Yellow Rose in Hilo, which of course is better known as The Eyes of Texas.  Er, I mean, The Yellow Rose of Texas.  With different words, of course.

Fun trivia: Yellow Rose was originally a 19th century minstrel number about a "yellow girl"--i.e., a light-skinned black woman.  At one time, evidently, light-skinned black women enjoyed greater social status within the community--thus, we have Howlin' Wolf, in his 1951 or 1952 Brown Skin Woman, actually singing "I don't want no black woman, to lay her hands on me."  I was genuinely stumped by those lyrics the first time my ears beheld them.  And there's Leadbelly's Yellow Gal.  But I digress...

The back jacket promises "Stereo Phonic" sound, while the label guarantees "Stereo Fonic" sound; I guess they're the same thing.  "Made from the finest stereo tapes," no less.  Actually, this was issued in some of the worst fake, rechanneled stereo I've ever encountered, but fortune smiled on this post, and I was able to isolate the one good channel and EQ it back to something close to normal.  Save for a couple of distorted spots (during vocal crescendos), the sound is pretty solid.  Okay, save for the occasional tape dropouts.  I guess Acorn didn't use the finest stereo tapes, after all.  Or maybe the tapes were initially fine, prior to a few hundred plays.  We'll never know.

I kept the owner's writing on the back jacket because I wanted to document the year of purchase--1963.  (For 77 cents, no less.)  You see, Acorn was a subsidiary of Eli Oberstein's Rondo label, which was sold to P.R.I. Records in 1961, with some Tops label material showing up on Acorn.  As in this case--this LP is much better known in its Tops version, originally released in 1957 with the same cover photo.  However, I don't know if that's the year the tracks were waxed, and I very much doubt it in the case of the Akoni Lani numbers, which appeared on an earlier ten-inch Tops offering (a Tops Masterpieces offering, to be precise!):

Anyway, great stuff, and if it sounds like western swing, I guess that's because western swing so often sounded like Hawaiian music.  Now that we've solved that mystery...

DOWNLOAD: Hawaiian Favorites--Akoni Lani and His Islanders, Danny K. Stewart and His Aloha Boys

Akoni Lani and His Islanders

Hawaiian War Chant

Song of the Islands

Maka Pueo

Lovely Hula Hands

My Little Grass Shack

Huki Lau

Danny K. Stewart and His Aloha Boys

Silhouette Hula

The Pupuli Hula E

Knock-Kneed Hapua

Fort St. Rag

One More Aloha

(There's A) Yellow Rose in Hilo