Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good Jeans

You don't see too many commercials for jeans on TV nowadays, and I'm not sure why that is. I thought it might be because there weren't that many brands competing in the denim market in the 70s and 80s, but that was hardly the case. There was Sasson, Sergio Valente, Bonjour, Gloria Vanderbilt, Calvin Klein, Lee, Wrangler, and Zena, just to name a few. I think now with so many clothing chains and designers including denim as part of their collection, it's considered a waste of time to try to stand out.

Unlike today, where you can build your own custom pair of jeans, the ones being constructed back then seem a lot simpler than current styles. I'm pretty sure spandex wasn't being incorporated into jeans until the 90s, so they didn't have a lot of stretch. They also seem high waisted compared to the low cut styles of today. No boot cuts as far as I know - you had your choice or straight leg or skinny. Embellishments were at a minimum - not a lot of rhinestones or acid washing until the 80s. But the jean advertising phenomenon left us with a lot of fun commercials from the period, so I'm just going to randomly post some here, including the controversial Brooke Shields one.

Here's a Jordache ad from 1979. These jeans look tight - it's a wonder she didn't split any seams during the fashion shoot.

How many of us still remember the "Uh oh, Sergio" jingle? I also miss the local rollerskating rink - it was so much fun.

I noticed these Chic jeans were "Made in the USA" towards the end of this 1986 commercial - when's the last time you saw that?

I really like this intense Bonjour one - VERY 80s colors and style even though I don't remember it.

Wrangler was one of the few manufacturers that made and marketed jeans to men. While most of their commercials featured macho cowboys, this one had an Indiana Jones theme:

I never did figure out what Brooke meant by saying nothing coming between her and her Calvins - it can either mean she doesn't let anyone in her pants, or she doesn't wear any underwear. The crotch shot is still unsettling today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Win a Trip Back to the Sixties!

OK, not exactly, but this is as close as most of us will get to reliving the early 60s: Banana Republic is giving you the chance to win a walk-on role in the AMC series "Mad Men." Visit a Banana Republic store for your casting call entry code (available only while supplies last), then submit an online application along with a picture of you dressed in your best Don Draper or Joan Holloway ensemble.

Since Banana Republic has partnered up with AMC to promote the series, they already have some clothing ideas in mind for you. I love BR's fall 2009 line - it's looking very classy and retro indeed (see below.) Looks like the clothing stores are pushing for men's fedoras to make a comeback - we can dream - right, ladies?

Visit this link for all of the details and good luck!

It's a Wrap: Thousands of Retro Movie Props and Furniture Up for Auction

When a movie prop supplier goes out of business, it's bad news for them, but good news for us retrophiles. 20th Century Props, which provided props and furniture for both the big and small screen for several decades, is closing up shop and auctioning off thousands of items from its warehouse. There are the usual freaky monster stuff for eccentric collectors, but most of what I could see on an ABC Evening news report last night showed all sorts of cool vintage items, from dozens of art deco style lamps to 50s style chrome clocks and telephone booths. A wide assortment of 60s and 70s furniture is also available. The items come from just about every TV show or movie you can name off the top of your head, from "The Twilight Zone" to "Austin Powers."

The auction is being run both online and in person. It started yesterday and ends Saturday, Aug. 1. You need to register online to actually bid, but you can view the links of each day's lot without registering. Check them out - lots of cool stuff. I'm guessing many of the items won't go cheaply, but if you've always wanted to own a piece of historical movie memorabilia here's your chance. Then again, why not just peruse eBay...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Ecstasy Factory

When Gilligan over at the excellent blog Retrospace posted about the many supposed drug references in the late 60s/early 70s children's show "H.R. Pufnstuf", it reminded me of the last time I watched my favorite childhood movie, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." I'm talking, of course, about the original 1971 version - don't even get me started on the disastrous Tim Burton remake. One of the best parts about becoming an adult is finally getting things that went over your head as a kid when you watched a movie - such as naughty double entendres, sexual dialogue, and drug references.

The latter is certainly the case with Willy Wonka. I firmly believe (despite what a clueless coworker tried to tell me several years ago) that the film, being a sign of its trippy times, contains several drug references. The whole look of the inside of Wonka's factory screams LSD trip to me, but just in case you need evidence:

Exhibit A: The candy man can..."candy man" is slang for a person who supplies drugs. Chocolate can also refer to marijuana, opium, or an amphetamine.

Exhibit B: When the children and their adult chaperones arrive, they are invited to lick fruit-flavored wallpaper. I'm pretty sure this scene was not in the Roald Dahl book.

Exhibit C: Wonka takes them through a dizzying black and white patterned room that gets larger, then progressively smaller.

Exhibit D: The chocolate room is a psychedelic delight, with brightly colors flowers and giant mushrooms (all edible.)

Exhibit E: When Charlie and his grandfather wander away from the tour to try the pop soda, they get very giddy and begin to float in the air.

Exhibit F: The scene that I believe makes the strongest case for drug references is the infamous scary boat ride sequence. On YouTube it's referred to as the Psychedelic Boat Trip and rightly so - the visitors see more than they bargained for then on the usual sail around the lake, such as creepy crawly things and a chicken getting his head chopped off. Even Violet Beauregarde asks, "Is this a freak out?" And that poem that Willy Wonka recites! Who knew there were so many rhymes for rowing? Boat is also slang for PCP. It's pretty funny to think that a scene like this passed the censors to make it into a children's film. Back then we thought it was cool:

Charlie's grandfather is one of the only passengers who thinks the boat ride is fun. Does this reveal something about old Grandpa Joe that we don't know?

Did I miss any? If so, let me know.

Whatever Happened to Imagination in American Television?

I've gotten hooked on the new summer NBC series "Merlin", about the old story of King Arthur, and I've gotten a friend hooked on it as well. She recently caught up with some previous episodes and mentioned to me that the series probably won't last long, as it's too entertaining for its own good. After doing some digging online, I was only half surprised to discover that the show isn't even the brainchild of a Hollywood mogul: it's a BBC creation that aired in the UK last year and is now airing here in the U.S. That makes it the latest in a long line of British series that have jumped across the pond and are usually remade American style into a paltry version of the original (although, in Merlin's case, the show is the original series.)

So my question is, whatever happened to imagination in American television, that they have to keep borrowing the Brits' ideas? Not that I'm complaining about British series, of course - I've been a long-time fan of "Masterpiece Theater" and several of the comedies on PBS. It's just that during the golden age of television, there was so much VARIETY. We had all of the great comedies such as "I Love Lucy" and the "Mary Tyler Moore" show, and some really wacky ones like "Laugh-In." We had all of the numerous entertainment variety shows, from Ed Sullivan to "Shindig." We had dramas that took place in outer space or the old west. Sure, there were plenty of cop shows, but at least some of them took a different spin on things, such as focusing on two female officers in "Cagney or Lacey" or were set in exotic locations ("Hawaii Five-O.") A talking car? A talking, walking alien puppet? A superhero? A comedy about a bunch of hillbillies? Sure, anything went back then.

Today, I look at the prime time network special, and it reads like this: dumb reality show, CSI, hospital drama, unfunny comedy, CSI NY, detective show, dumb reality show, CSI Miami, another CSI-like show, hospital drama, unfunny comedy about parents, CSI show, dumb reality show. Oh, OK, well we also have "Lost" which - while I couldn't get into it - at least breaks the mold.

My point is, what the hell happened to imagination in American television? Is it because Hollywood really has run out of ideas, or there's not enough viewer interest in quality programming? How long can this go on before we cry "enough"?

Granted, some of the old series were corny by today's comparisons, but they were also entertaining. The fact that I've found a BBC-produced show in the scrap heap of current programming to be the only new show worth watching - and believe me, "Merlin" is far from a perfect series - should say oodles to Hollywood producers. Whether they will listen is another matter altogether.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oh, Bee-Hive!

I've been seeing this product on TV for a while and it looks too good not to mention. It's called a bumpit and it basically gives you an easy retro beehive. Just insert it under your hair, at the top of your head and voila - instant Bridgette Bardot look. Imagine - no more torturing your hair with backcombing and tons of hairspray, or sleeping with your head wrapped in tissue paper, as wearers of the original 60s beehive were often instructed to do. I must admit, being a fine-haired gal myself, this would be fun to try, especially if you're throwing or attending a "Hairspray" inspired party. For $20 you get a couple of large ones and a couple of mini ones. Order online here. This also seems like an appropriate time to pay a little tribute to the beehive...

The Ronettes

Nancy Sinatra

Dusty Springfield

Wilma Fintstone

The beehive, or B-52 as it's also referred to (because it looked like the nose of a B-52 bomber) was invented in the late 50s by a hairstylist named Margaret Vinci Heldt. She was tasked with the challenge of coming up with a new hairstyle for a magazine shoot. Despite the work and maintenance required (not to mention layers of lacquered hairspray) the fad took off in the 60s, and was sported by famous ladies of the time including Audrey Hepburn (in "Breakfast at Tiffany's") Dusty Springfield, the Ronettes, and Nancy Sinatra. And today, the beehive has become the trademark of singer Amy Winehouse.

And here's someone who I think had the most serious beehive of all - Mary Weiss of the Shangri Las, singing (or actually, lip synching) to "Leader of the Pack" on the Steve Allen Show. Robert Goulet steals the spotlight with some comic relief:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad Cover Art of the Day: Europe

Last week I picked on Hall & Oates for their heavily made-up look on a 1975 album. I realize now that their cover looks like a masterpiece compared to some of the gems floating out there.

Case in point: today's example, "The Final Countdown" by the Swedish hair band Europe. "The Final Countdown" is a great song; alas, the cover art sadly is not. I find it interesting that little information about the artist is found online; it's probably just as well to spare the creative genius behind this perplexing montage the humiliation. Or maybe they wish to remain anonymous. Either way, I wanted to cut them some slack because this 1986 album was released in the days before Photoshop, but c'mon! These guys look like they're on baseball cards that are floating up into the atmosphere; what does this have to do with a final countdown? They should've slapped a big rocket on the cover (which would've at least given their fans a phallic image) and called it a day. And apparently, a lot of time and effort went into it since Wikipedia mentions that when Europe started the first leg of their 1986 tour, the album was held up because the cover art was not complete yet.

It's just very unpleasing to the eyes - the colors, the graphics, and the concept. File this one under the final countdown to disaster.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Tale to Tell About a Gold Monkey

I don't have much luck with ABC's shows. Earlier this year, they canned the well-acted and imaginative "Life on Mars" (which took place in the year 1973 and starred a hunky Irish actor - you can understand why I loved it.) Several years ago, they canceled the Vietnam drama "China Beach" just as I was discovering it, and the series "Home Front", which was about American life after World War 2 ended. And just yesterday, I was thinking about the first time ABC pulled the cancellation rug out from under me. This particular show had swashbuckling action, innocent romance, and cheeky humor. I'm talking about "Tales of the Gold Monkey" which ran for only 21 episodes from 1982 to 1983. And if full episodes ever surface on Hulu or RTV, I'll be the first in line to view them.

"Tales of the Gold Monkey" took place in 1938 in the South Pacific, and revolved around the adventures of a handsome, all-American ex-Flying Tigers pilot named Jake Cutter (played by Stephen Collins in his pre-"Seventh Heaven" days), his one-eyed Jack Russell terrier, Jack (who could bark once for "no" and twice for "yes"), his sidekick and mechanic, Corky (Jeff MacKay), and his love interest, lounge singer Sarah Stickney White, played by an actress named Caitlin O'Heaney. Rounding out the cast of characters was the Reverend Willie Tenboom, who was really a Nazi spy (well, you can't have a series like this without a goosestepper) and Roddy McDowell, playing the owner of the Monkey Bar (known for its golden monkey statue) where this motley group congregates. McDowell's character had the best name of all: Bon Chance Louie. Here's a look at the opening credits:

Much of the adventures revolved around outsmarting bad guys (usually by way of Jake's fists), appeasing the natives, and deciphering codes and riddles to find hidden treasure. There was also the romance between Jake and Sarah, even though I remember Sarah didn't always treat Jake kindly (and she had an annoying, shrilly voice at times.) Here's one particular scene that I remember:

I know what you're thinking: this was a way for ABC to capitalize on the success of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Well, yes and no. The show's creator, Donald P. Bellisario, actually based it on a 1939 movie called "Only Angels Have Wings" and actually tried to get the series commissioned in the late 1970s, but ABC's execs weren't buying it. It was only after the huge success of "Raiders" did they change their minds.

Going on YouTube, I was surprised to see so many clips from such a short show published. And I was also surprised to see a few nasty comments about what a bad series it was. OK, it had its corny moments to be certain, but what TV show in the early 80s didn't? "Tales of the Gold Monkey" was a family friendly show, which is more then I can say for most current prime time programming today. My parents and I loved it, and watched it diligently every week. It was thoroughly entertaining.

One interesting character to note is that of the Japanese princess and series villainess, Koji. She was played by an actress named Marta DuBois and wasn't even Japanese, but Panamanian. That kind of racial casting probably wouldn't happen today. She was also portrayed as a dragon lady-type figure with eyes for Jake, who could give Yoko Ono a run for her money.

My favorite character, however, was the dog.

Sadly, ABC used the ol' lame-o "low ratings" excuse when they canceled it after just one season. But you can see more scenes from the show on YouTube. Fingers crossed that it makes its way to DVD someday.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Real Man Who Discovered the Beatles

Last night I watched a pretty interesting retrospective of Walter Cronkite's career and I learned something that even I as a huge Beatles fan did not know.

I actually knew that Ed Sullivan was not the first to introduce America to the Beatles, although he certainly takes a lot of the credit. I always thought viewers' first glimpse of them on American television came via Jack Paar, who played a clip of them performing on his show in January 1964, about five weeks before their infamous Ed Sullivan performance.

Well, turns out we can scratch Paar as the official purveyor, too. It was actually Cronkite who ran a story on the Fab Four on the CBS Morning News show on November 22, 1963 - which happens to be the day President Kennedy was assassinated. You can probably guess what happened next.

The Beatles segment was supposed to be re-aired that night on the CBS Evening News, to expose it to a different audience. But Kennedy's death meant that all programming was off the table the night, and the segment didn't repeat until early December.

Recalling his role in music history, Cronkite had this to say in the book "The Beatles Are Coming" by Bruce Spizer: "We decided to broadcast Kendrick's Beatles piece on our Evening News program. Shortly after we were off the air, I got a call from Ed Sullivan, who was a friend of mine. He was excited about the story we had run on the long-haired British group. He said, 'Tell me more about those, what do they call them? Those bugs or whatever they call themselves.' I didn't remember the group's name and had to look down on my copy sheet for the Evening News broadcast to tell him, 'They are called the Beatles.' Ed wanted to know what I knew about the group, which was next to nothing. I told Ed I would query my guy in London. I sent my query to Alexander Kendrick and requested he contact Ed. I don't know what happened after that, but soon Ed was announcing that he would have the Beatles on his show."

The rest, as the old saying goes, is history. And as Cronkite would say, "That's the way it was."

Cronkite's teenage daughters got to meet the Fab Four. On the special last night, he said (and I'm ad libbing this a bit from memory), "They never paid much attention to their father's job before, but after this event, I was pretty much their hero."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Hippie Music of Bobby Darin

Faster than you can say, “tune in, turn on, drop out” the Mack the Knife crooner did just that.

Bobby, looking just like Kevin Spacey with a mustache

My favorite singer is Bobby Darin. Elvis and Sinatra fans can wax poetic to their hearts’ delight about their idols, but in my opinion they can’t touch my guy for singing chops, musicality, and plain old talent. Darin could sing anything – he released songs in just about every genre including rock, pop, jazz, country, folk, gospel, and even rap (which I’ll get to in a minute.) He wrote a lot of songs, too, and some of his best and most prolific came when he turned into a hippie.

Wait a minute, Bobby Darin – best known for the bathroom aura “Splish Splash,” the swinging Threepenny Opera’s “Mack the Knife”, and the romantic French ballad “Beyond the Sea” – became a hippie? Well, in a matter of speaking, yes. But let’s backtrack just a bit.

Darin loved and embraced the popular musicians of his time, unlike some of his contemporaries (Dean Martin, for example, openly loathed rock and roll music.) He was a huge fan of both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and attended their concerts. On the live album “Bobby Darin Live at the Desert Inn” he refers to the Fab Four as “the four wizards of Liverpool” and tells the audience how sad he was to see them break up (the album’s concert was taped in 1971.) He also covered the Rolling Stones’ “Back Street Girl.” Additionally, he admired Bob Dylan (covering “Blowing in the Wind” and performing “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” in concert in his last years), Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, and just about anyone with obvious songwriting talent.

That certainly isn’t what caused the metamorphosis, but I do believe this appreciation for rock and folk allowed Bobby’s songs to really shine once he underwent what could be called a mid-life crisis, which in Darin’s case was true as he wasn’t expected to live long. A childhood battle with rheumatic fever – which is now easily treated with antibiotics that weren’t available in the 1940s – left him with a badly damaged heart and a death bomb hanging over his head for his entire life. But in 1968 Bobby learned the truth about his family roots that pushed him over the edge.

Darin had been raised by a mother who was older – old enough to be his grandmother. He also had an older sister, Nina. One day Nina pulled aside Bobby, who was thinking seriously about dabbling in politics. She said she had to tell him the truth about his family, before the media could find it out. She told Bobby that she was really his mother, not his sister, and that the woman who raised him really was his grandmother. She had no clue who the dad was, having fooled around with several boyfriends at the time. The family devised the plan to protect Nina, who was unmarried at the time she gave birth.

Coupled with a divorce from his starlet wife Sandra Dee, Darin reacted by giving away most of his possessions (which included a suitcase telephone – the world’s first mobile device), tossing out his toupees, and hightailing it to the Big Sur area of California in an Airstream trailer. In fact, he lived in the trailer for several months, isolated from much of his relatives and friends, and got in touch with nature and himself. When he emerged and returned to the stage, he now donned a mustache and denim. Oh, and he insisted that his name be billed as Bob Darin – an homage to Dylan, the other famous Bob. Bobby Darin – as far as he was concerned – was in the past.

The Vegas crowds hated it. Audiences, expecting the old tuxedo-wearing crooner, jeered at the new look and sound. Darin’s long-time manager, Steve Blauner, thought Bobby’s songs at this time were nothing short of brilliant. So do I. So without blabbering on any longer, here’s a list of Darin’s best songs from this very interesting period in his career.:

Although this song was composed in 1965 – before Darin’s transformation – it does seem eerily predictive of it and reminds us that change is the only constant in life. “Whatever you’ve done is all over. Wherever you’ve been is so strange. Yesterday’s long gone forever. Damned if what you’re feeling isn’t change.”

We Didn’t Ask to Be Brought Here
“We Didn’t Ask to Be Brought Here” was also released before the late 60s – but as an anti-Vietnam song, it shows that Darin was quite conscious of the issues America faced during the decade. Because anti-war songs during the 60s were considered so controversial, their themes had to be disguised. In the case of “We Didn’t Ask to Be Brought Here” it was thinly veiled, at least the way I interpret is, as a couple having a secret romance.

Long Line Rider
“Lone Line Rider” narrates the grim tale of an Arkansas prison that was essentially working some of its inmates to death, and covering up the evidence. It’s apparently based on a true story – perhaps a story in the papers at the time – that inspired Darin, who was very supportive of civil and human rights (he regularly marched with African Americans and supported African American comedians.) The song has a really groovy beat, despite the disturbing subject matter.

Here’s footage of Bobby performing it, ironically, on the Dean Martin Show:

Me & Mr. Hohner
In this catchy song, Bobby Darin raps! Yes, it most certainly is rapping, even if it hadn’t caught on yet commercially in 1968, which illustrates just how ahead of his time Darin was. The song addresses discrimination by law enforcement towards anyone with long hair or a mustache at the time, and the lyrics contain the words “pot” and “hash”, which prevented it from being played on mainstream radio. Darin defended his usage of slang words for marijuana, saying that they were an accepted part of common language. And who is Mr. Hohner? His harmonica, of course. (Hohner is a company that makes musical instruments, specializing in harmonicas.)

Song For A Dollar
In “Song For A Dollar”, Bobby (or Bob) Darin is addressing and criticizing his older self. The lyrics “How many steaks can you chew, boy? And how many rides can you drive?” allude that while the old Bobby Darin was concerned with fortune and fame, the new one is more socially aware of the problems going on in the world.

Simple Song of Freedom
This is a brilliant anti-war anthem that I feel could easily stand up to John Lennon’s “Imagine” or Pete Seeger’s compositions. A singer named Tim Harden had a semi-hit with it (conversely, Bobby had a hit in 1966 with the Harden-composed “If I Were a Carpenter.”) The song starts out gently, slowly, and increasingly gets louder towards its rousing finish. My favorite line in it has to be, “Now some folks enjoy doing battle…like presidents, prime ministers, and kings. So let’s all build them shelves where they can fight it out among themselves. Leave the people be who love to sing.” It became a Darin staple that he performed many times in concert and on television appearances in the early 70s.

Here’s a clip of Darin performing the song:

Eventually, Darin met his audiences in the middle and started wearing the rugs and tuxedos in concert again, but he incorporated some modern songs in his set lists. His musical legacy remains one of the most interesting and versatile of any performer from the 20th century.

You can find most of these songs - and more great ones - on the CD "Songs From Big Sur."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Wunnerful, Wunnerful Lawrence Welk

As someone who was born to middle-aged parents (mom was 42 when she got pregnant with me; a victim of the low-dose birth control pills they were experimenting with in the early 70s) I may just about be one of the few kids who grew up in the 70s watching the very uncool Lawrence Welk Show. Does anyone else remember this musical variety show? Perhaps you did if you had the misfortune of being babysat by your gramdmother on a Saturday night, as much of its viewer demographics were people over the age of 45. I still know most of the lyrics to the closing song: "Good night, sleep tight, and pleasant dreams to you. Here's a wish, and a prayer, that every dream comes true. And now until we meet again....adios, au revoir, auf Wiedersehen....good night!"

To say The Lawrence Welk Show was corny would be a grave understatement. At the opening of each show, bubbles would be seen floating around and the sound of a champagne bottle could be heard being opened. Lawrence Welk, a former big band leader, would then appear in his trademark plaid suit and introduce the theme of the show in his German accent, often mispronouncing the words on the cue cards (according to Wikipedia, his once introduced songs from World War I as "songs from World War Eye.")

Wait. They played songs from World War ONE on this show? See what I mean?

Fake sets were the norm. Along with a group of dancers and singers who came to be known as the Welk Family, the musical guests were as far removed from the popular singers of the time (the show started in the 50s, but had its heyday in the 60s and 70s): The Lennon Sisters, Joe Feeney, Lynn Anderson, and Larry Hooper, to name a few. The more wholesome, the better, because that was one of Welk's strict requirements. In fact, he fired a singer/dancer named Alice Lon for crossing her legs while sitting atop a desk during one musical sequence, telling his audience on the air that he didn't tolerate "cheesecake" on his show. Fans pressured him to rehire Lon, but she wouldn't accept Welk's apology and refused to return. A clarinet player from his band also left the show when Welk refused to let him "jazz up" a rendition of a Christmas carol.

Still, Welk had his moments when he loosened up. He once appeared on stage dressed like a hippie and participated in a parody of the music of the time, as in this clip here:

But my favorite moment is when the cherub faced couple known as Gale and Dale do "one of the newer songs" of the time, "One Toke Over the Line." Welk calls it a "heartened spiritual." The debate is still out on whether Welk knew the real meaning of the song. I say the accordian player introducing the singers is a wee bit nervous, don't you think? It seems appropriate that he's dressed in green.

And here's the famous closing sequence. And ah-one, and ah-two...good night!

By the way, one of my favorite lines from "American Beauty" is when Kevin Spacey tells Annette Benning, on her choice of dinnertime music, "From now on we're going to alternate our dinner music. Because frankly, and I don't think I'm alone here, I'm really tired of this Lawrence Welk shit."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bad Cover Art of the Day: Daryl Hall and John Oates

For a while now I've been wanting to start a new regular feature of this blog, called Bad Cover Art of the Day, because as much as I love retro cover art, there's no shortage of "WTF" examples. Since I've been listening to a lot of Hall and Oates lately, I'm choosing them for my first victims. You're looking at the cover of the 1975 album with the very unoriginal name Daryl Hall and John Oates. And, my, the boys are looking quite pretty, aren't they? Especially Daryl. He's suddenly gone from Daryl Hall to Daryl Hannah!

Easy, breezy, beautiful, cover...boys

How do they explain this? According to a biography about the duo called "Dangerous Dances", Mick Jagger's French makeup designer Pierre LaRoche was responsible for this glamour shot. John Oates explained, "We decided that if we were going to put our faces on an album cover for the first time we wanted to do it in a big way. Pierre said, in that French accent of his, 'I will immortalize you!' And he just did. To this day it's the only album cover that people ask us about."

Or, more likely, it sounded like this: "I veee immortillize vous!"

I must admit, however, and I know I'm bias because I had a crush on the young Daryl, but he's looking pretty hot to me with all of that makeup. I've never seen a prettier man (and no, I'm not a lesbian.) Hall told VH1 years later that he "looked like the girl he always wanted to go out with." He almost could've launched a side album under a glam rocker persona. Oates looks like...well, Oates looks like a guy with a mustache wearing makeup.

I'm guessing this cover didn't help the "we're not gay" argument. Not one of their finer moments, for sure. It did have a hit song, though: "Sara Smile." And I'm sure that's just what she did when she saw this album for the first time!

Huey Lewis Is Still Heart and Soul

If music has the power to bring us back to an earlier and often happy time in our lives, then there's no question as to why I won't change the radio station when Huey Lewis and The News comes on. They were one of my favorite bands of the era, so when I heard from a coworker that they would be playing in my area my friends and I jumped at the chance to go "back in time", so to speak.

The show took place a few weeks ago at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasett, MA, underneath a tent that only seats about 2,250 in a "theater in a round" setting, making for an intimate concert experience. I was actually tempted to wear an orange vintage 80s romper I'd won on eBay to get the full experience, but the Boston weather had other plans, changing a day that started out sunny and warm to rainy and gloomy in a matter of hours. But who cared? Nothing could take away from the excitement of seeing Huey, and he didn't disappoint.

For starters, the man has aged extremely gracefully, with not a trace of chunk on him, considering he's now 58 (please don't remind me that that much has passed). But more importantly, he SOUNDED exactly the same, because as we all know, there's nothing worse than an artist who has lost his or her voice (Bob - cough - Dylan.) Huey casually sauntered down the side aisle to cheers and whoops like a prize fighter entering an old familiar ring. He and the band immediately launched into "Some Kind of Wonderful" and continued with most of their hits, including "The Power of Love", "I Want a New Drug", "Heart and Soul", "If This Is It", "Working For A Living", "Jacob's Ladder", and a slowed down version of my personal favorite, "Do You Believe In Love." Sadly, "Heart of Rock and Roll" was not among the set list. The stately coastal town of Cohasett apparently has a curfew to curb the noise factor for local residents, and the band had to stick to it. Their total stage time including an intermission was only an hour and a half, but it was worth every minute.

Many of the original members of the "News" have left the band. I won't go into detail behind the names (that's what the Internet is for anyway), but I will say the younger fill-ins were more than passable. At one point the guys did a few acappella songs and the harmonization was perfect. They also seemed genuinely humbled by the audience's reaction, and that's probably a major reason for Huey Lewis and the News' popularity after all of this time. No frills, no pyrotechnics, and no ego. Just good music, which is why Huey Lewis can prove that it's still "hip to be square."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If You Believe They Put a Man on the Moon

Woodstock has been in the news a lot lately because of the upcoming 40th anniversary, but another humongous 60s event took place in 1969 as well: the moon landing. Perhaps you remember watching the footage in grainy black and white in your family's living room. But if, like me, you weren't born yet in 1969 here's your chance to relive the event the way others did, with an online twist. A newly launched website - - will reenact the landing online, complete with Twitter feeds and transmissions between the space craft and Mission Control.

Here's more from the Associated Press:

"Internet visitors can see animated recreations of key events from the four-day mission, including when Apollo 11 first orbits the moon and when the lunar module separates from the command module, as well as browse video clips and photos and hear the radio transmission between the astronauts and NASA flight controllers."

The website is the creation of the John F. Kennedy Museum and goes live this Thursday. And if anyone out there has any memories they'd like to share of watching the moon landing on TV and where they were at the time, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Senator Al Franken's Jumping Jack Flash

Now that former SNL alumni Al Franken has officially been declared Senator of Minnesota, I couldn't resist looking up old clips of him from his comedic days and came across this hilarious little gem of Franken and SNL writing partner Tom Davis spoofing Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Surprisingly, Stuart Smalley had a pretty commendable body back then. I believe the Stones song he is mumbling to is "Under My Thumb." Take it away, Marilyn McCoo:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Song Sung Tube - Everybody Knows One

The other day while driving home from work I heard the song "Welcome Back" from "Welcome Back Kotter" and it occurred to me that it's been years, possibly more than a decade, since I've heard a really great theme song to a TV show. Think about it - when's the last time songs were written specifically for a TV show, and were catchy to boot? For most people of my generation, it was probably "I'll Be There For You" from "Friends", and even that is pretty bland compared to some of the great tunes from older sitcoms. In no particular order, I thought it might be fun to list my top ten favorite TV sitcom theme songs - the ones I know pretty much all of the words (or melodies) to, the ones that make me want to sing or get up and dance or do both. Keep in mind I'm focusing on comedy sitcoms, not dramas, otherwise the list would be out of control. Let's roll:

1. "Happy Days" - written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, for "Happy Days"
A rocking show set in 50s Americana needed a rocking 50s theme, and Bill Haley & His Comets provided just that during the first two seasons of the show, with a reworked version of their hit "Rock Around the Clock." The song that would become the theme, however, known for the line, "Sunday, Monday, Happy Days" was originally used as the ending theme for the first two seasons, then became the opener starting in season three. It was released as a single in 1976 and charted in the top five on the music charts. I have no doubt The Fonz himself would approve, by giving his trademark "Heeeeeeey!" and flashing two thumbs up.

2. "Making Our Dreams Come True" - performed by Cyndi Grecco, for "Laverne & Shirley"
You don't have to be fluent in Yiddish to know how to recite the opening line, "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" Most of us who grew up watching Laverne and Shirley's antics know it like the back of our hands. After Cindy Williams (Shirley) left the show, the program would open up on Laverne watching a group of children sing the chant before the theme song began. Alas, this was just not the same as watching the two gal pals hop down their street on their way to work at the Shotz Brewery beer factory.

3. "Those Were The Days" - written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse and performed by Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton for "All in the Family"
We all knew who we were back then - girls were girls and men were men. And mister, we could use some sitcoms like "All in the Family" to make us laugh today. The theme song strikes a chord for those of a certain age caught up in the turbulent changing times of the 60s and 70s. Supposedly Edith's screeching on the line, "And you knew who you WEEERRE then" became louder as the seasons progressed.

4. "Movin' On Up" written by Ja'net Du Bois (from Good Times) and Jeff Barry for "The Jeffersons"
With the backing of a gospel choir, this theme may be one of the most exuberant themes in TV history. And who could blame the Jeffersons for celebrating - they had finally moved on up to the East side, away from their bigoted neighbor Archie Bunker. "Movin' On Up" was referenced in several rap songs and commercials throughout the 90s and 2000s. Will Smith's song "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" referenced George and Louise Jefferson, and they returned the favor somewhat when their characters appeared on the final episode of Smith's series "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to purchase the family's Bel-Air home.

5. "The Fishin' Hole", by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer for "The Andy Griffith Show"
It doesn't matter how well you can claim to whistle - you haven't arrived until you can perform the theme to "The Andy Griffith Show" in perfect pitch. The homey, unmistakable theme opened up every episode as Andy and Opie walked down to Mayberry's fishing spot. Believe it or not, there were lyrics written for the song, even though they were rarely (if never) heard during the show's remarkable 8 year run.

6. "The Streetbeater" written by Quincy Jones for "Sanford & Son"
This whimsical yet groovy theme for Redd Foxx's popular comedy just makes me smile. It brings back memories of watching the show with my father, and laughing when Fred Sanford declared he was having "the big one." Punctuated with harmonicas, I think it may be one of the most perfect compositions ever done for a TV series.

7. "Without Us" - performed by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Richards, for "Family Ties"
What would we do without the Keaton family in the 80s? "Without Us", which was played as a painting of the Keatons was filled in during the first few seasons, sung of a former pair of hippies, together since the days of Woodstock, still holding on strong and in love, raising a family.

8. "My Life"
- written by Billy Joel and performed by Bertie Higgins, for "Bosom Buddies"
It's unclear if "My Life" was written by Joel specifically for the Tom Hanks/Peter Scolari series and later became a hit or vice versa, but either way whenever I hear the song on the radio I always think of Hanks and Scolari in drag. "My Life" became a hit and reached number 3 on the 1978 Billboard charts. A bit of trivia: the "old friend" who "closed the shop, sold the house, and bought a ticket to the West coast" was none other than comedian Richard Lewis. Because of licensing issues, "My Life" cannot be heard on the DVD releases of the series.

9. "Welcome Back", written and performed by John Sebastian, for "Welcome Back Kotter" Well of course, I have to mention this song. "Welcome Back" rose to the top of the music charts in 1976 to become a number one hit. "Welcome Back Kotter" was originally going to be called simply "Kotter", but that was changed because Sebastian, who once fronted the Lovin' Spoonful, failed to find any relevant words that rhymed with Kotter.

10. "Love is All Around" - written and performed by Sonny Curtis, for the "Mary Tyler Moore Show"
Yes, she's got spunk and so does this song. Admit it, whenever you heard it you wanted to toss your hat into the air just like Mary Richards did. The song has been covered by some eclectic musicians including Joan Jett and Sammy Davis Jr., and was part of a Chase bank advertising campaign a few years ago, proving that it's still making it after all.

There are so many more memorable ones, but these are the ones that have stuck with me. What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Nor Mrs. Slocomobe and Karl Malden, Too!

Oh this New England weather...and recent numerous celebrity deaths. I can't take it anymore!

Mollie Sugden, who played the multi-colored wig wearing Mrs. Slocombe on the long-running British comedy Are You Being Served? has died at the age of 86. Mrs. Slocombe was famous for talking about her pussy - as in pussycat, of course! Just last year we lost Mr. Humphries - here's hoping he is "freeee" to greet Mollie at the pearly gates. Here's a compilation of clips featuring Mrs. Slocombe talking about her pussy - the best and longest running line gag in the history of television, I'm sure.

And Karl Malden - I grew up knowing him as the guy with the big nose who promoted American Express in the 70s ("don't leave home without it") but Malden also had a long and illustrious career in films including A Streetcar Named Desire On the Waterfront, and Baby Doll, and then later a five-year run on the TV series The Streets of San Francisco with a young and yummy Mike Douglas. Here's some of those old AE ads with Malden.

Rest in peace.

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