Monday, August 31, 2009

Beatles - "Misery" (Remix)


I've never been a big fan of "dance mixes" and to be honest, I'm not really a fan of today's link - but I'll explain as we go along.

A YouTube user named "mistermustardremixes" has posted a series of very interesting Beatles remixes. My favorite is his (or is it her?) remix of "Misery" - one of the Beatles' oldest. It's downright brilliant up until around the 2:10 mark, at which point it becomes un-listenable.

Still, the good parts are worth your time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus


Yes, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is a real movie - released straight-to-video earlier this year, and aired on the SyFy Channel (that's what it's called now) channel last evening.

With an all-star cast featuring Debbie Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas, and a dynamite trailer - I'm sorry I missed it. But not that sorry, you know?

As you can probably tell from the picture above, Mega Shark has a penchant for jumping out of the water and biting things that are made out of steel. For example, just look at what Mega Shark is biting in this scene...

More Captain Scarlet


The other day, we listened to the excellent closing theme from Captain Scarlet - a British show that aired in the U.S. on the weekday "cartoon" circuit during the early '70s.

Despite being performed by "puppets" (actually Gerry Anderson's lifelike marionettes) - the shows were remarkably well done. Take a look at this clip, it's impressive (albeit wobbly) sets, and ability to build tension. (Don't worry about Captain Scarlett - he was indestructible after all.)

And here's another great memory from Captain Scarlet - the creepy opening.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan - 1966


Today's clip of the Beatles' 1966 appearance on Ed Sullivan is fascinating for a number of reasons.

The Beatles weren't there in person, so they sent along "music video" clips for two of their best songs - "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" (the A and B side of an incredibly classic single.) Note that Ringo acts as spokesman for the group during the band's intro.

Photos taken at this performance were used for the back cover of the Revolver album.

If you look very carefully at the beginning of the "Paperback Writer" clip when Paul is looking at a photo - he is looking at the infamous "butcher" photo later used on the Capitol Yesterday and Today album.

Paul has a chipped tooth (from a moped accident in 1965). This is one of the things that would be used as a clue in the "Paul is Dead" nonsense a few years later. (Supposedly, Paul was killed in a car accident - so I guess this was supposed to be "New Paul" in the midst of reconstructive surgeries or something.)

The clips were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg - who later directed the band's full-length feature Let It Be.

Captain Scarlet


When I was a kid, cartoons had great theme music - witness the closing theme from Captain Scarlet.

Scarlet, by the way, was one of those great Gerry Anderson "super-marionation" shows from the '60s (e.g. Thunderbirds) - which featured life-like marionettes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

TV Disaster


Here is a very stupid (public-access, I assume) talk-show host who a) doesn't realize he's being a racist while the microphone is on, b) stupidly misunderstands the concept of "CPR for pets", c) is caught not paying attention to his guest, and d) is at a loss for words during an interview - always a problem when you're hosting a live talk show.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellie Greenwich


Ellie Greenwich - one of the most successful composers of pop music in the '60s - died yesterday. She helped write "Be My Baby", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Chapel of Love", "Then He Kissed Me" and many others - with collaborators like Jeff Barry and Phil Spector.

My favorite song co-written by Greenwich is "River Deep Mountain High" as performed by Ike and Tina Turner (above). You can see it here.

Where There's Smokey


Here's something that's not very good, but you might want to check it out anyway.

It's an unsold pilot from 1959 called "Where There's Smokey" starring Gale Gordon and Soupy Sales. Am told the pilot didn't air until 1966 - long after it bit the dust, and Gale Gordon had moved on to better shows - because Soupy Sales was somewhat popular at the time.

Jack Weston's in it too, if that helps.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Robin Williams as Susan Boyle


Britain's Daily Telegraph (I checked, it wasn't The Onion) is reporting that Robin Williams has been asked to play Susan Boyle in a movie on her life.

While this is probably a load of bollocks (as they say over there) - if made, it would undoubtedly be the greatest biopic in motion picture history.

The Hollywood rumor mill has a way of disappointing us. We were recently teased, and then denied, the possibility of Sean Penn as Larry Fine.

I'm not getting my hopes up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm a Mac


I've always been a fan of Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads, especially the way they tweak Microsoft's OS and products.

I don't always understand what the actors (John Hodgman as a PC, as Justin Long as a Mac) are supposed to represent, however. Take the latest ad, where "PC" disguises himself as "Mac" to convince a potential Mac buyer to buy a PC instead. What is the real-life analogy here? That PCs are pretending to be Macs?

Here's a better one. Patrick Warburton plays a "top of the line" PC - all style, no substance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Site Business: The Death of Labels

I've decided to get rid of "labels" on the site.

They're great when used correctly, but 90% of mine were either "hey look" or "go watch it" - and some people were confused and angry when they clicked "go watch it" and nothing happened.

So, bye bye labels.

(I'll miss "wtf", "not celebrity math" and "golem gives back"... but that's just me.)

Alvin Stardust


Sometimes it's fun to examine international superstars who - for reasons unknown - never made it to the U.S.

Today's subject is Alvin Stardust - a British glam-rocker from the early '70s - who had a string of U.K. hits and at least one public-service commercial.

Stardust (real name Bernard Jewry) remains almost totally unknown in the states. Too bad, I think the "Elvis" pomp would have been a huge smash in early '70s America.

My wife - who spent most of the '80s in Scotland - says Stardust was a bit of a joke. You decide.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Cowboy Story



Here is "A Cowboy Story" illustrated by acclaimed British cartoonist Frank Bellamy, and written by none other than Michael Palin and Terry Jones of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

This appeared in Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls, a 1974 children's book parody by Palin and Jones.

Click the images to get the bigger version.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

30 Rock - XXX


If you've ever watched the TV show 30 Rock and felt it would work better if it contained gratuitous, explicit sexual content... well, today is you're lucky day.

Yes, here we have 30 Rock: a XXX Parody - a forthcoming adult film starring Lisa Ann (above) in the "Liz Lemon" role. (You may remember Lisa Ann's imitation of Sarah Palin from a XXX film and a recent Eminem video).

The whole concept is preposterous, but I must say some of the imitations (especially Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, and Jack McBrayer) are spot-on.

By the way - the above links are safe for work. (Well safe enough for YouTube, anyway).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Woodstock


I'd be remiss if I didn't commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Woodstock festival by linking to an excellent audio clip of it's greatest (and sometimes overlooked) contributor.

Unecessary Remakes Dept.


Guess what classic animated movie is being remade by Disney and Robert Zemeckis?

Colormation


Today's clip comes to us from the early '60s - and it features a cheapo animation technique called "Colormation".

Colormation wasn't really animation at all, it merely mixed live-action against illustrated backgrounds. But here's the catch - the actors were heavily made-up to look like cartoon characters.

This was the brainchild of Leon H. Maurer - who was related to Norman Maurer, the son-in-law of Moe Howard. (Yes, that Moe Howard). The Maurers had also demonstrated a similar technique called Artiscope in that screen classic "The Three Stooges in Orbit".

The screen test in today's clip never amounted to anything. Perhaps it has something to do with the creepy "uncanny valley" feel of the thing, or maybe it was the bizarre decision to portray the hero as a lazy chauvinist.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pete Barbutti


Pete Barbutti is a great old-school comic who performs mostly in Vegas.

Throughout the '70s and '80s - he was a frequent presence on Merv Griffin's daily talk show, and made many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He is a great joke teller, and was not above getting downright silly to get a laugh.

Witness today's clips: Barbutti plays a broom - as a musical instrument - on a 1978 Canadian TV show. Next up, Barbutti performs "bad magician with a good drummer" on one of Johnny's last Tonight shows.

And if you'd like to see more Barbutti - there are a number of great clips on his official web site.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Patricia Heaton


Here's Patricia Heaton - the wife on Everybody Loves Raymond - acting like a dope on last night's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

For some reason, Millionaire brings on celebrities and gives them a chance to answer one fairly easy question to win $50,000 for the charity of their choice.

Heaton - stumped when asked to do a bit of math - resorts to using guilt-tactics to get the money, and when that doesn't work - threatens to pay it out-of-pocket. Watch as host Regis Philbin basically gives away the answer to avoid prolonging the ugly scene.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sammy Petrillo


The above image is from a 1952 film called Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla - and no, that isn't Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis but a very close approximation (in looks if not in talent): Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo.

Petrillo, who looked and acted exactly like Jerry Lewis, died today at age 74.

I've seen Brooklyn Gorilla, and it's about as bad as you might expect. However, Petrillo did such a good Jerry Lewis impression that it's hard not to like. Here's a clip.

As you might have guessed, Mitchell and Petrillo didn't get very far with their act thanks to the constant threat of litigation from Jerry Lewis. However Petrillo did make another major contribution to pop culture - his sitcom treatment "My Daddy was a Monster" was the basis for The Munsters.

Twitter is 40% Pointless Babble


Pear Analytics monitored Twitter for two weeks straight, and has determined that it contains 40% "pointless babble".

This has got to be great news for Twitter, because it infers the other 60% is pointless non-babble.

I would have guessed more like 95% of it was pointless babble (and that's not even taking Katie Couric's tweets into account).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Noisettes


I went for a long drive this morning, and was able to listen to quite a bit of my favorite radio station - Underground Garage on Sirius/XM.

They play a seamless mix of old and new rock and roll. Sometimes you hear something fresh and exciting, and it turns out to be Twiggy from the late '60s. Other times, you may find yourself listening to something that sounds a lot like British Invasion circa 1963 - and discover it's the latest from Kaiser George & the Hi-Risers.

Today, I want you to see and hear the Noisettes - a great trio from the U.K.

Lead singer (and bass player) Shingai Shoniwa (above) will put you in mind of the great girl-group voices of the early '60s, without ever seeming stale or retro. They have a very exciting sound... see if you agree.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The 50 Greatest Trailers of All-Time


The art of making a decent movie trailer seems lost on modern filmmakers. Witness the trailer for BrĂ¼no - wherein every decent joke from the film is tactlessly revealed.

It wasn't always this way. In fact, the trailers of yesteryear were often imaginative and original productions all by themselves. (Witness two classic examples - Citizen Kane and Psycho).

IFC lists their choice for the 50 Greatest Trailers of All-Time. I recommend it mostly because their choice for #1 (Alien, above) just happens to be my choice as well. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Smokey and the Bandit crowd to witness the brilliantly eerie Alien trailer in 1979?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Freeze-In


Freeze-In answers the age-old question "What would Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In have looked like if it was devoid of laughs, and mainly just talked about selling freezers at Sears...?"

In today's clip, we see Laugh-In's Arte Johnson and Judy Carne (above) in a bizarre training film made for Sears-Roebuck Co. in 1969. (Apparently they couldn't afford Gary Owens, judging from the bad imitator who's doing his Laugh-In "announcer" schtick).

The film has absolutely none of Laugh-In's wit or charm - but it does have Judy Carne in a bikini.

Surprisingly, there is a long history of classic TV comedy making an extra buck by turning to the lucrative world of industrial film production. Just check out who's been shilling for Microsoft and Bird's Eye.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul, RIP


If you don't know about Les Paul's contributions to modern music, well - he pioneered the development and design of the solid-body electric guitar, and more-or-less invented overdubbing, tape delay, phasing effects and multi-track recording (or so says Wikipedia).

And the cat could play too! Just take a look at this clip from his 1953 TV series - Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home and see for yourself.

Supposedly, Paul (born Lester William Polsfuss) owned the original tapes of this long-forgotten TV gem, and was in the process of re-mastering them for re-release.

The "Hi Guy!" Right Guard Commercial


Today, I happened upon the original Right Guard deodorant "Hi Guy" commercial - from 1971- on YouTube.

You probably have to be at least forty-something to remember these, but they were quite popular at the time. Hapless everyman (Jim Fiore) opens his medicine cabinet to find loudmouth blowhard (Chuck McCann - in a defining role) sharing it from the other side.

The commercials became famous for McCann's greeting of "Hi Guy!" - although I notice he doesn't quite say it that way in the original.

The "Hi Guy" ads were famous enough to merit the following parody in Mad Magazine (click to make bigger):

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stevie Riks - update


One of my favorite comedians - Stevie Riks - was recently dealt a setback when YouTube deleted both of his accounts. No one is saying why they were deleted, but it might have something to do Riks - who mostly imitates British rock stars from the '60s and '70s - doing near-perfect impressions of his subjects' music catalog without regard for copyright law.

Here's one of his older videos - wherein he imitates George Harrison making a curry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rob MacFarland


Here's the worst comedian I've ever seen - Rob MacFarland - stumbling his way through a monologue from what appears to be a public access (or college) program called The Charly Show.

Watch as Rob badly edits the punchline of one of his early jokes.

Interestingly, he ends on a high note - the American Bandstand joke is actually pretty funny.

Update: He's even worse here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jerry Lewis - Typewriter


Tonight we take another look at Jerry's famous typewriter scene from "Who's Minding the Store?"

Opinion is divided on the merits of this performance. The person who posted this clip on YouTube calls it Jerry's "masterpiece", whereas one of the comments on the same page describes it as "a mentally retarded person typing on an invisible typewriter".

You be the judge.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Beatles Box Sets


The big day for Beatles fans is September 9 - every one of their CDs is being re-mastered, re-packaged, and re-released.

This is big news because the discs currently on the market - released in 1987 - are of relatively inferior audio quality. Anyone who has ever had to crank up the volume when listening to Abbey Road can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Of course, your old CDs aren’t magically going to spring to life - you’ll have to buy the brand new ones - with better sound, modern packaging and sadly... absolutely NO BONUS TRACKS.

Herein lies a problem.

Some will purchase these discs intelligently; upgrade a few classics like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, or perhaps splurge on the double White Album (which appears to be packaged with the poster and individual pictures of the Beatles again).

Then there are people like me - sad completists compelled to buy the entire catalog. Yes, I need to have the whole set - even Beatles For Sale and that version of Yellow Submarine with all the instrumentals on it.

This isn’t necessarily a problem. I’ve enjoyed listening to the Beatles for most of my life. I’ve been waiting for better CDs for years (the Stones and Bob Dylan got their upgrades... why not the Beatles?). I’ll gladly pay for a new set of discs.

My problem isn’t with what’s on the box set (which sells for $199 on Amazon) - it’s with what’s not on it.

Many bands (The Beach Boys and the Monkees come to mind) have taken to including the mono tracks along with the stereo ones for their CD reissues. Even the Beatles did this on their Capitol reissues. It’s a nice extra - especially for older albums that run less than 30 minutes in length.

This time around, the Beatles (or more likely EMI) are selling you the mono tracks separately.

Now let me just say that the mono tracks are not just monaural versions of the stereo tracks. In most cases, they are completely different mixes of the songs - often resulting in a unique listening experience. The White Album mix is often cited as being significantly different in mono - notable on the "Helter Skelter" track, which runs longer on the mono album.

Despite containing three less albums (Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let it Be were never released in mono), the Beatles Mono Box Set is more expensive ($239 on Amazon) - and, in a move straight out of the Walt Disney playbook, limited to just 10,000 copies. So not only do you have to pay considerably extra, but you better hurry ‘cause it’s going fast.

Now where have I heard that line before?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Muffler Men


"Muffler Men" are giant fiberglass statues - humanoid in appearance - that pepper the landscape of America's more obscure roadways.

These advertising relics - mostly from the 1960's - typically look like cowboys, lumberjacks and such. (I vaguely remember one dressed up like an astronaut outside Playtown Park on Baltimore Pike in Springfield, Pa). Sometimes they even look like Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman. And sometimes - they look disturbingly like Jackie Kennedy.

My sister-in-law spotted one at the Cowtown Farmer's Market in Woodstown, NJ earlier today (above, left) - prompting this post. There is a great site devoted to all-things Muffler Men at this link.

John Hughes


I was not a fan of John Hughes and his teen movies (despite the fact that I was a teen when they were released).

I always admired more his contributions to National Lampoon magazine - some of which were adapted into classic films in their own right. Here is the original short story from the magazine that was later adapted into National Lampoon's Vacation with Chevy Chase.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Eugene Levy as Johnny Carson


This just struck me as funny. Even better when viewed out of its original context (a scene from Waiting for Guffman I believe).

Paula Abdul's Replacement on Idol


If anyone from FOX is reading this, I'd like to nominate this individual as a potential replacement for Paula Abdul on American Idol.

They can more than fill Paula's ability to offer positive reinforcement and provide nonsensical, incoherent critique.

Paula Abdul


Perhaps you've heard - Paula Abdul is saying she will not return to American Idol.

Honestly, I think this is the culmination of a master-plan by FOX to eliminate Paula following this debacle - where she accidentally read her critique of a performance that hadn't occurred yet; essentially revealing on live television that the show is (at least partly) fake.

The next season, FOX added a fourth judge (another female)- Kara Dioguardi. In retrospect, Kara was probably added to replace Paula. And whereas Kara gives constructive criticism, Paula's role on the show could easily be filled by a mannequin with a "You were great!" sign tied around it's neck.

Jack Paar


For those who don't know - Jack Paar is the man credited as the second host of NBC's Tonight Show - from 1957 to 1962; after Steve Allen and before Johnny Carson.

Tonight became one of NBC's most important and influential shows under Paar, and has more or less stayed that way ever since.

One of the most famous moments on the show during Paar's run as host is the infamous "Water Closet" joke. Paar told this joke - which can be best described as mildly amusing by today's standards - on a 1960 episode of Tonight. NBC thought it too suggestive, and edited it out of the evening's broadcast.

The video of Paar telling the joke is believed lost - but you can listen to the audio here. (Isn't it interesting to hear a comic set-up a joke by telling the audience how funny it's going to be?)

Anyway, Paar took offense to being edited by the network, and actually walked off the show the following night. Video does exist of this, but I'm linking to an audio clip anyway. It has the entire opening monologue, and buildup to the moment Paar emotionally walks out. You can skip to the 2:25 mark if you want to get to the good part. Listen to the audience's reaction when Paar announces he is leaving!

I've always wanted to use Paar's line "There must be a better way of making a living than this..." when quitting a job, but so far - no luck.

By the way, Paar was back on Tonight in about a month.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Silkie


The Silkie were an obscure British folk band from the '60s consisting of four Hull University students which specialized in covers of other folk acts - particularly Bob Dylan. They weren't very successful, save for one hit record with the help of a very prestigious group of supporting players.

A chance gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool brought them the attention of Brian Epstein. He assumed the role of their manager, and set up a meeting between the Silkie and several members of that other famous band he managed at the time - the Beatles.

Together, they recorded "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" - by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lennon produced the track, McCartney played guitar, and George Harrison played tambourine. It went to #10 on the U.S. pop charts, and #28 in Britain.

Invitations to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand had to be declined due to problems with obtaining visas for the band. Subsequent records failed to chart, and the Silkie broke up soon after.

Here's a rare clip of the Silkie performing the song live. They are not lip-synching to the original record. You can listen to the original record - the one with the Beatles on it - here. I heard it played on the Underground Garage a few years back, and immediately downloaded it from Limewire. I've played it for a few friends who were unimpressed. I like it a lot, so judge for yourself.

Gumby


Some observations regarding Gumby - a beloved cartoon character from my early days:

1) The creepy original theme - complete with Spanish-guitar intro and lethargic children's vocals - still fills with me with dread whenever I hear it. It's like Captain Noah is on, and I have a speech to make in grade school all over again.

2) As someone on YouTube correctly points out, the clip contains a not-so-subtle (and barely subliminal) BUY GM anagram at the 0:07 mark. Maybe they should repeat these on network television?

3) Let's re-examine Gumby's powers. He could walk into any book and interact with its characters. That means - theoretically - he could walk into the first few chapters of Mein Kampf, and kill Hitler. Think about THAT next time.

Dallas McKennon


I have a friend with whom I compete in a friendly game of "Guess who just died?" via e-mail. We try to scoop each other in reporting the deaths of famous celebrities. I usually win, although he beat me by seconds on Karl Malden, and totally scooped me with the Taco Bell chihuahua.

(I've recently taken to announcing deaths before they happen - as I successfully did with Walter Cronkite and Ed McMahon).

This weekend, I received word that Dallas McKennon died. He was, according to my friend, a regular on the Daniel Boone television series.

Now, before you dismiss McKennon as just another "Taco Bell chihuahua" - please note that he also voiced one of the most famous cartoon characters of all-time.