Merry Christmas, everybody. I’m in Detroit eating lamb, but I needed to take some time out to commemorate a very important date. Were Cab Calloway still alive, he would be 100 today. So here are some Christmas presents for you all: a series of Cab videos, spanning 1932–1990.
Carl Stalling was a silent-movie organist in Kansas in the 1910s and early 1920s who later went to work for his friend Walt Disney, composing soundtracks for his new cartoons. His involvement in one of the most important cartoons of all time, Skeleton Dance, was crucial; it was entirely set to Stalling’s music.
But he is best known, of course, for his work with Warner Brothers, with whom he started in 1936. Every WB cartoon for the next 22 years featured Stalling’s music, making him one the most-recognized composers in history (though certainly not the best-known). With Warner Brothers, Stalling could pull any composition from their massive music publishing subsidiary, and mash it up for his own needs. His rapidly-changing tempos and instrumentations along with his proto–sound collage would make him an unknowing avant-garde pioneer.
Stalling’s work wasn’t generally appreciated until 1990, when producer Hal Wilner put together the CD The Carl Stalling Project. After searching for a long time through Warner Brothers’ archives, Wilner managed to find the original music tapes of most of the cartoons, without the overdubbed voices. The CD he put together was a fantastic overview of Stalling’s career, with a combination of entire cartoon soundtracks in addition to collected cues from various decades.
The Carl Stalling Project has additional significance for me; it was the first CD I ever bought. I went to my favorite record store in 1990 to pick it up: “What do you mean, it’s only available on CD?”, I still remember asking the clerk. I couldn’t believe they would issue something on CD but not on LP. I bought it anyway, although I wouldn’t have a player for it for another year; any time I went to a friend’s house with a CD player, I would bring it along.
As it happens, it wasn’t only available on CD; it was also sold on cassette. And the cassette had a bonus track, oddly enough: the music from the 1956 cartoon Stupor Duck. Cassettes have a slightly longer running time than CDs but this is still the only time I know of this happening.
While the CD is still available, record companies haven’t sold pre-recorded cassettes in years. So this long out-of-print track is presented below. If you like it, be sure to buy a copy of the CD. And if you already have MP3s of the CD on your hard drive, go ahead and add this; you’ll have to renumber the tracks to make room. This is the new track #11, and it goes between “Medley: Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals” and “Carl Stalling with Milt Franklyn in Session”.
Probably the posting request I’ve gotten the most is for Detroit ska band Gangster Fun’s second release, Time Flies When You’re Gangster Fun (I posted their first album last year). This seems to be the most popular of their albums among their too-small fanbase; I prefer their third album, Pure Sound, Pure Hogwash, Pure Amphetamines, but all their albums were great. Like their first album, this was produced by slightly famous producer Mike E. Clark.
It’s arguable (or at least has been argued by one person, to me) that this is the last true Gangster Fun album, and that the second two were really more solo albums by chief songwriter/guitarist David Minnick (by the way, “Minnimal Stress” below is a pun on Minnick’s name, not a misspelling). I suppose that would make Pure Sound… their Pet Sounds, and this their Sunflower. Well, whatever.
I’m a sucker for ska covers of popular songs, so my favorite tracks on here are “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book and a version of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination”. Of the original compositions, “I’d Buy a Gun” is the best, and quite catchy; I often hear my girlfriend singing “Life would be so groovy/If I owned an Uzi” around the apartment. Not totally sure how to take that.
This is the sixth and final installment of the series 8-Tracks of 69: Porno 8-tracks. The introduction from the first post bears repeating for latecomers:
The phrase just doesn’t make sense to people when I first say it: Porno 8-track tapes. No, not videos — 8-track tapes, like from the 70’s. Audio only. No, not recordings of porno movie soundtracks. It’s like porno for the blind, or X-rated radio theater: improbable scenarios, occasional sound effects, awkward play-by-play of all the action. Arousing? Stilted? Downright hilarious? You decide.
Naturally, I saved one of my faves for last: From the great voices, to the too-busy artwork, “Fornicating Female Freaks” is one of the high cards from these crazy 8’s. Even the sparse, minimalist touches of post-production and mild foley work show that someone, somewhere, had aspirations for this little gem, at least for a few cocaine-fueled mixdown moments. The cover art’s promise to allow you to “Actually listen to desire filled conversations, naked abandoned actions, hear absolutely everything” is not an empty promise; certainly not as empty as the cover baseless proclamation that you will find a “Free Gift Inside! — A Genuine French Tickler Novelty”. There’s a full synopsis printed in teeny-tiny little type on the cover, but it’s more fun to just reprint the red-ink, all-caps, italicized teaser phrases:
With your own ears you hear Rana / built / brick out-house / sex pervert! / Listen to Joanne / nymphomaniac / even / wild / desires. / Freaking off orgy / around the clock sex / fornicating fun and games / balled by a woman. / Fast / Head-Nose-Tongue, / mechanical sex gadgets.
For the truly impatient and A.D.D., I’ve included some choice soundbites. But surely, those soundbites will merely whet your appetite for the full 30 minute meal… and so I say to you, gorge!Stuff your gils with fluff girls and muff thrills! Then relive awkward 8-track porn moments with handy links to all previous posts! Revel in them all… All… of the 8-Tracks of 69!
In the home stretch… just Part 6 left in this series.
And here we take a turn for the dark, with Apartment #69. It’s the saga of two ordinary girls seeking to make a simple modelling living, only to find themselves drugged, then injected “accidentally” with a “superdose” of heroin. But why? Because the mafia needs sex slaves! Duh!
Once the plot kicks in, then the sex sounds ensue — plenty of moaning, groaning, and overly-described titillating actions. The only story in this series that relies on power plays to get you off, Apartment #69 succeeds in its plot extremity at the cost of memorable vocal talent. On the other hand, other porno 8-tracks with more extreme character voices tend to distract the listener from the real job at hand. Perhaps forgettable voices get in the way less.
The character voices in this one, while not as ridiculous as Part 3, are quite the pair: a wholesome, perky woman with an overly stereotyped Irishman keep giving me visions of a wayward Florence Henderson blowing the Blarney Stone on a sex rampage (perhaps after her fling with the clown jewels).
The bad Irish accent comes off sounding drunker than I think he intends, not that anyone’s going for dialectic accuracy here. Combine that with the meager cover art and this is actually one of my least favorite of the porno 8-tracks series. But it still provides some good moments:
“Ah Daisy, I’m in love with you…”
“Aw crap, you’re just in love with my ass.”
“What the hell is the difference between you and your ass anyway!”
“I think your multiplication tables are as screwed up as your fingers are!”
Dudley Moore is known as the piano-playing drunk millionaire Arthur on this side of the Atlantic, but in England he’ll always be known as one half of a comedy duo with Peter Cook, who wrote and co-starred in Bedazzled along with Moore, who wrote the music for it in 1967. (It was remade in 2000 with Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.) They’d come fresh from success after success in the UK for their radio and TV sketch-comedy shows, in which Cook was often the antagonist to Moore. In Bedazzled Cook is the ultimate antagonist — the Devil — come to Swinging London to claim a sad-sack short-order cook’s soul. Cook saw the film as his chance at transatlantic moviestardom; he took sole charge of the screenplay and made sure Satan got all the best lines (“We’ve been hit very badly by this peace scare”). Ironically, his intentionally subdued performance (the better to contrast himself with Moore’s pathetic, desperate, but sympathetic character) did too good of a job: Bedazzled was the beginning of Moore’s brief reign as American box-office king with films like 10 and Arthur, and the beginning of Cook’s slide into undeserved relative obscurity (American audiences know him from his cameo as the speech-impaired bishop in The Princess Bride).
The disparity between their characters’ natures is used to great effect in the film’s pop-star sequence, in which Moore, having requested that the Devil make him an adored figure, is transported to a Ready Steady Go–like studio set. Moore belts out a Tom Jones–esque song pleading for the audience to “Love Me”, and the audience duly screams for him in a perfect parody of Hard Day’s Night. Cook, again turning up to crush Moore’s fantasies, arrives on set after him as “Drimble Wedge and The Vegetations” and delivers “Bedazzled,” a bizarre tune that features Cook intoning “I’m callous / I’m dull / you bore me” in a monotone while undeterred backup singers sing “you drive me wild!” The challenge of “I’m not available” is too much for the studio audience, who forget all about Moore and swarm Cook.
The film’s soundtrack, composed by Moore, has some great pieces on it; besides the two songs above, the film’s main title is memorable. There’s some easy-listening filler, but it’s intended as schmaltz to underscore the vapidity of the characters in certain sequences. There’s some good strip-club music to showcase Raquel Welch (Cook wanted to call the film “Raquel Welch” so the posters could read “Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Raquel Welch”), as the personification of the deadly sin Lust.
When I last wrote about Stoopnagle & Budd, I mentioned that a Fleischer cartoon they appeared in, Stoopnocracy, had disappeared. I’m pleased to report that this is not the case. A kind benefactor (who would like to remain anonymous), after reading the post, sent me a copy of it. Most of it is typical Fleischer of the time (which is to say, brilliant as always), with humor reminiscent of the Talkartoon Crazy Town. Stoopnagle & Budd are towards the end in an inserted live-action scene; I had hoped they’d be rotoscoped like Fleischer’s guest stars usually were, but no dice. The scene is great, though. Stoopnagle shows off various labor-saving inventions and gives Budd a cigar which makes the smoker sing like Bing Crosby. Budd sings the Leo Robin/Ralph Rainger composition “Please”, which was featured in Paramount’s The Big Broadcast the previous year (and had also been used in the Fleischers’ Snow-White). We also get to sing along with “Minnie the Moocher” (which also was in The Big Broadcast, incidentally); funny to see the little bouncing ball on lyrics about cocaine and heroin abuse.
But that’s not all! My correspondent has also provided me with three other Stoopnagle films, which I’m happy to share here. The earliest is a scene from the first installment of Rambling ’Round Radio Row, a series that showed popular radio starts in their native habitat. The team performs what looks to be an actual radio show; if not, it almost certainly is the same material.
Next we have The Inventors, which actually has something of a plot. Stoopnagle & Budd get invited to a girls’ school and give a lecture on the Bulgarian Upquirp, and end up building a Stoopenstein Monster.
Finally there is Cavalcade of Stuff #1, which was Stoopnagle’s first film work after splitting up with Budd. This was supposed to be the first in a series of 12, although I don’t know if the others were ever made (IMDB has nothing about any of them). This might also be parts #1 & #2 combined, judging from this description on the Stoopnagle fan site.
Between this and the International House scene in the last post, we’re pretty close to having all of their film work available. IMDB lists one other film from 1947, Aren’t We All, and the Stoopnagle site has screenshots from a Chrysler training film called Second Guessers Incorporated, which is also not on IMDB. If anyone knows where to track these down, please let us know.
Below are links to the four films, as before in DivX AVI format. Please note that the quality on all of these (except Radio Row) is extremely poor: Stoopnocracy is a 16mm bootleg, Cavalcade is a several-generation down VHS copy, and The Inventors is an amateur kinescope. If anyone finds better copies of these, again, drop me a note or comment here.
Maureen “Moe” Tucker, the Velvet Underground’s drummer, was notable in that even people who don’t pay a lot of attention to drummer styles can immediately pick her out. Her style — mallets, not sticks; no snares on the drums; very few cymbals; all to a Bo Diddley–influenced beat — was even more vital to the VU’s sound than John Cale’s viola, and it’s no coincidence that the only VU album she wasn’t on, 1970’s Loaded, was also by far their worst.
After the Velvets broke up, she moved to Texas and got a job at Wal-Mart, and concentrated on raising her large family. She finally went back to music in 1981, when she recorded her first album, Playin’ Possum. She recorded it in her living room (“between diaper changes”, she says) over a period of six months, overdubbing every instrument, and the result was quite odd; it doesn’t really sound like anything else. It’s one of my favorite albums (although I think her more conventional I Spent a Week There the Other Night is even better).
This is a difficult LP to find, and unlike the rest of her catalog it hasn’t been issued on CD. It was released on “Trash Records”, which I think was just Tucker’s own label. I managed to find a copy at a used-record store back in the late 1980s; I put it in storage with all my other records in a rural farmhouse I won in a bet and left it there for years. I went back a couple years ago and the roof had sprung a leak. Just one. In a giant house. And where else but directly above the one box that had most of my hard-to-find records like this one and a mono copy of the Velvet Underground’s first album with an unpeeled banana and Eric Emerson on the back (basically the equivalent of the Beatles’ “Butcher Cover”). The covers were destroyed by the water and mold was growing in the grooves. Sigh.
I managed to find another copy, finally, and it’s pretty clean, so here it is. Unfortunately, the cover has stickers all over it, so I can’t get a scan of it. I’m using the only image I can find on Google, which is much lower resolution than I would normally use. Sorry about that. I’m pretty happy with how the MP3s came out, though, so I guess that’s the important thing.