Jingle singles: Benson & Hedges

February 24th, 2015

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A 1966-67 TV ad campaign for Benson & Hedges 100’s focused on the extra long cigarettes’ disadvantages, making for situational giggles. The commercial was popular enough for the alluring musical backdrop to get some airplay on its own. Written by Mitch Leigh, the same man who scored the Man of La Mancha musical, the genuine as-heard-on-television article made enough noise in Cleveland to chart locally and to get listed in a 2/11/67 issue of Billboard as a potential breakout hit. This record was credited to The Answer on the red Columbia label, and the arrangers are listed as “Music Makers,” aka Leigh’s own production house. (Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles erroneously cites Bill Dean and John Campbell as the songwriters.) Another arrangement of this song, by Phil Bodner’s studio assembly the Brass Ring, entered the charts a week earlier on the Dunhill label with the hyphenated title “The Dis-Advantages of You” (and an arrangement of the “Dating Game” theme on side B). Peaking at #36, it outpaced the original as a full-blown Top 40 hit.

The Answer - “The Disadvantages of You” (1967)
The Brass Ring - “The Dis-Advantages of You” (1967)

Stars and Strikes and nicknames

January 13th, 2015

611fg2agtrl_sy344_bo1204203200_Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76 tells the story of my baseball card collection, most of which I amassed as an 8-year-old in ‘76 and ‘77. In those days I loved the Bird, the Big Red Machine, and Hostess products, which came in boxes with baseball cards you could cut out. Still have my Dave Concepcion, Goose Gossage, Richie Zisk and more from that series along with most of the Topps cards. I had already scarfed down Epstein’s Big Hair and Plastic Grass, so I was especially pleased to see he’d zeroed in on the year of my personal baseball awakening. I hope he has more projects lined up.

For your consideration - a list of selected players and managers whose nicknames are addressed in Epstein’s book, along with links to their corresponding Topps card.

Sparky “Captain Hook” Anderson:  So nicknamed “for his tendency to pull pitchers at the first sign of trouble” (135).

John”The Candy Man” Candelaria: “Looked more like the sort of college kid you’d see smoking a jay upstairs in the cheap seats at Three Rivers Stadium than a top-notch pitcher capable of dominating major league offenses” (241).

Ron “The Penguin” Cey: Nickname “derived from his squat build, stubby limbs, and waddling gait…” (94).

Darrell “Nort” Chaney: Nickname chosen by the Atlanta Braves for the team’s nickname-on-jersey experiment “because of his resemblence to Art Carney’s Ed Norton character on TV’s The Honeymooners” (138).

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych: So nicknamed because of his “resemblance to Big Bird from the PBS children’s show Sesame Street” (128).

Tim “Crazy Horse” Foli: Nicknamed for his “tendency to go off on his own abrasive tangents” (158).

“Disco” Dan Ford: Nicknamed “for his love of the Minneapolis nightlife” (107).

Whitey “The White Rat” Herzog: “A reference to his shock of light blond hair” (258).

Burt “Happy” Hooton: He was “perpetually gloomy looking” (203).

Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky: “Perhaps the most confrontational pitcher in the game” (112).

Ralph “Road Runner” Garr: “Speedy” (15).

Randy “The Junkman” Jones: For his junk ball - a “sinking fastball that topped out on a good day at somewhere around 73 miles per hour” but which batters were “losing their minds trying to hit…out of the infield” (131).

Dave “Kong” Kingman: He preferred to be called “Sky King” (110).

Garry “The Secretary of Defense” Maddox: Because of his “startling speed and sparkling glove work in the outfield” (28).

Mike “Iron Mike” Marshall: For “herculean” performances in 1973 and 1974 that “earned him the first Cy Yound Award ever won by a relief pitcher” (62).

Andy “Bluto” Messersmith: As part of the Braves’ nickname-on-jersey experiment, Messersmith had to use “Channel” because his number was 17 and that was Ted  Turner’s station. He was later permitted to use his college nickname “Bluto” (139).

Phil “Knucksie” Niekro: Knuckleballer (139).

Marty “Taco” Perez: Not a racial slur, but chosen as his Atlanta Braves jersey nickname because he “really, really liked tacos” (139).

George “Boomer” Scott: “The most feared hitter in the Milwaukee lineup” (131).

Earl “Heavy” Williams: Self-chosen for the Atlanta Braves nickname-on-jersey experiment “because the moody catcher and first baseman considered himself to be one bad dude” (138).

Players with Topps cards whose nicknames are mentioned but not addressed:

“Downtown” Ollie Brown
Rick “The Rooster” Burleson
Jim “Catfish” Hunter
Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock
Lynn “Big Mac” McGlothen
John “The Hammer” Milner
John “The Count” Montefusco
Dave “The Cobra” Parker
Biff “Poco” Pocoroba
Rick “The Whale” Reuschel
Fred “Chicken” Stanley
Dick “Dirt” Tidrow
Jim “The Toy Cannon” Wynn

Puma Bananas

November 25th, 2014

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From a 1973 issue of Black Enterprise. Courtesy of Old Sneaker Posters.

Adam Ant and Michael Jackson

November 11th, 2014

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And there’s this from Ron Weisner’s book (pp. 141-142):

“Later that week in London, Michael and I were relaxing in his room, watching The Top of the Pops…Halfway through the show, the host - I think it was Simon Bates - said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Adam Ant!’

“Michael and I knew of Adam, but we had yet to see him perform. He sounded great, but more important for Michael, his look was arresting: He was clad in full military gear. Michael stared at the screen, silently, intensely. I could see the wheels spinning, but I wasn’t sure in which direction.

“…For the rest of his life, Michael was rarely seen in public wearing anything other than a military uniform. And for that, you can thank Adam Ant. (P.S. Michael never credited Adam. Whenever he was asked about his military obsession, he’d say, ‘I was inspired.’ That’s all. Just, ‘I was inspired.’) ”

Tit for tat? I vaguely remember reading an Adam Ant interview in 1980, shortly after I’d first heard Kings of the Wild Frontier, and he said that his favorite album was Off the Wall. I remember being surprised by this.

Ron Weisner on Madonna

November 10th, 2014

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(Warning: smutty subject matter ahead.)

P. 176-77: “The first show [of the 1985 'Virgin Tour'] was at the Paramount Theater in Seattle… An hour before the show, I went outside to get a breath of fresh air. As I stood near the theater’s front entrance, I watched car after car pull up and drop off several young girls, all dressed in their Madonna-like sleeveless tops, studded black gloves, and dangling necklaces. The majority of the other attendees were a mother or a father with their kid in tow. I’d guesstimate that 75 percent of the audience was under the age of fifteen - some accompanied by their parents, some not - and the other 25 percent was gay men.

“When the show started, the kids went nuts, screaming and screeching as kids are prone to do. I don’t know if this was in reaction to the kids’ reaction, but Madonna got raunchier than I’d ever seen her… while saying the filthiest stuff you can imagine. As she extolled the joys of masturbation, I scanned the crowd, taking in the adults’ shocked, appalled expressions…

“After the show, I tracked down Freddy [DeMann, Weisner's business partner] and asked him ‘What’re we doing here? Is this how we want to be represented? Do we want to be associated with some girl who thinks it’s okay to finger herself in front of a roomful of junior high schoolers?

“Freddy scoffed, ‘They loved it! Madonna’s going to be huge!…”

P. 178 [discussing dissolving his partnership with DeMann and splitting up their clientele]:  “We went down the roster, and when we got to Madonna’s name, I said, ‘You can have her. You belong together.’  The second those words left my mouth, I felt like a huge, vulgar, surly, masturbating-on-stage weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”

Jingle Singles: “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”

October 20th, 2014

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Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” - the standard bearer of jingle singles - debuted in 1971, shortly after Budweiser’s “You’ve Said It All.” The commercial had a similar sequence as the Budweiser one, spotlighting a lone female singer who is joined by a growing legion. (The difference: Coca-Cola’s singers are multicultural young adults while Budweiser’s are American middle-aged nine-to-fivers.) The song had a special quality of sounding at once like a commercial, a pop hit, a Christmas song, and a church hymn.

Credited to ad men Bill Backer and Billy Davis along with the the British hit songwriting team of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” hit it big as a 45 released by the Hillside Singers, the same voices used on the original commercial. (Note the early seventies tendency toward child imagery being put to use for their album cover above.) That version hit #13 on Billboard, while a copycat version by Australia’s New Seekers climbed up to #7 in early ‘72.

“Borrowed Tunes” bonus info: The British rock band Oasis, who perhaps deserve a future “borrowed tunes” megapost, were successfully sued for using the opening melody of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for their #11 UK hit “Shakermaker.”

1971 Coca-Cola ad featuring the Hillside Singers

The New Seekers - “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” (1971)

Jingle Singles/Borrowed Tunes: Budweiser edition

September 12th, 2014

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One of the most recognizable American TV commercial tunes is Steve Karmen’s “You’ve Said It All,” written for Budweiser. It debuted on TV in 1970 and featured an ad in which a Dionne Warwick lookalike sings solo and is joined by a growing chorus of cheerfully average people.  The chord change to a flatted seventh in the bridge (:43 in clip #1 below), along with the singers’ emphatic delivery, gives the beer ad an almost poignant, Jesus Christ Superstar aura.

A 45 record of this song credited to the Steve Karmen Orchestra sold well enough in the summer of ‘71 to register in Billboard magazine as a “breakout hit” in Chicago.  Oddly enough, “Budweiser” is mentioned nowhere on the label. Would that have helped or hurt its chances as a stand alone track, I wonder?

In 1972, the Nashville songwriting team of Jerry Foster and Bill Rice served up a song called “When You Say Love” to Sonny and Cher, which appropriated the Budweiser hook outright, giving it new words and a new bridge. I’d always assumed the song, which became Sonny and Cher’s final Top 40 hit (#32), was a knowing spin off of Karmen’s jingle and that all parties had been in on it. No - it was an old-fashioned rip off, credited only to Foster and Rice, prompting the dumbfounded Karmen to (successfully) sue.

As for the adoption of the same Budweiser jingle by the Wisconsin marching band (and the legal aspects), that’s a story you’ll need to get elsewhere.

”When You Say Bud” TV ad (1970)

Steve Karmen Orchestra - “You’ve Said It All (Tuba Version)” (1971)

Sonny and Cher - “When You Say Love” (1972)

Donald Fagen, Eminent Hipsters (2013)

August 8th, 2014

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No insights here about Steely Dan LP/cassette song sequences I’ve puzzled over in these pages. Just disarming short essays about the Boswell Sisters, Henry Mancini, Ike Turner, Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics, Ray Charles, Jean Shepherd, NYC jazz radio in the 50s and 60s, Bard College, and Ennio Morricone. This is all topped off with grouchy journal entries from the “Dukes of September” tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald. This whole thing was so much fun I’ll likely reread it just for kicks, which qualifies it as an instant Personal Cult Book.

JULY 6. I’m finally back in a civilized hotel, the Four Seasons on Elliott Bay in Seattle…They have a serious spa here and there’s just time enough to get a massage…I drew a girl - let’s call her Naomi - who was young and pretty, which is always nice. But she looked a little scrawny for the job.

Working on the backs of my calves with some minty oil, she asked me if I wanted her to go deeper, so I said sure, a little bit. Suddenly Naomi from Seattle turned into Rosa Klebb, the SMERSH interrogator from the James Bond series. I couldn’t believe the force with which she was driving her knobby little knuckles into my petrified muscles and tendons. It was excruciating, but I have this stupid thing - like, no son of Staff Sergeant Joseph Fagen, veteran of the Big One, is going to whine about a little pain in front of some strange girl. Finally, all greased up and smelling like a Twizzler, I limped into the elevator in my bathrobe, crab-walked back to my room and started to pack for the gig. (Page 106)

I’m still laughing about Fagen’s report from San Antonio on pages 121 and 122.

JULY 18… [T]he ambling ghost of Fess Parker intersects our path. In 1955, the elders of San Antonio, Texas, after noticing the influx of tourists following the final episode of the Davy Crockett series…got some Disney architects to look at the river, resulting, many years later, in a sort of San Antonio Land, which is the present-day River Walk. Our hotel is on the River Walk, and that’s why I was awakened earlier than I wanted to be by a loud mariachi band just outside the window.

…I’m back from the show. The house was a legion of TV Babies, maybe tourists from Arizona. I don’t know. Probably right-wingers, too, the victims of an epidemic mental illness that a British study has proven to be the result of having an inordinately large amygdala, a part of the primitive brain that causes them to be fearful way past the point of delusion, which explains why their philosophy, their syntax and their manner of thought don’t seem to be reality based. That’s why, when you hear a Republican speak, it’s like listening to somebody recount a particularly boring dream.

…The crowd sat through our versions of some of the great sixties soul tunes, hating them, waiting only for the amygdala-comforting Doobie Brothers hits that Michael sings, Boz’s dance numbers and the Steely Dan singles that remind them of high school or college parties…Toward the end of the show, during McDonald’s piano introduction to “Takin’ It to the Streets,” I think I really made [backup singers] Carolyn and Catherine uncomfortable by walking back to their riser and telling them, as a way of venting my rage, that I’d been imagining a flash theater fire that would send the entire audience screaming up the aisles, trampling each other to get to the exits, ending up in a horrible scene outside on the sidewalk with people on stretchers, charred and wrinkled. When things aren’t going well, the girls, standing just behind me, have to listen to my insane rants. If they’re singing, I’ll rant to Jim Beard, playing keyboards on the next riser, or, if he’s busy, I’ll walk across the stage and harass the horn players.

Jingle singles: “Old Betsy Goes Boing Boing Boing” (1973)

August 4th, 2014

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A popular 1973 Mazda commercial prompted a 45 release on Capitol Records by the jingle’s writer/producer Dan Dalton (credited to “The Hummers”). Without previous exposure to the TV ad, I doubt listeners would have fully comprehended “Old Betsy Goes Boing Boing Boing,” which featured a confusing narrative scrubbed of any Mazda references. Then again, “Old Betsy” did run on fumes of sexual innuendo, which, during the blue early ’70s, might have been enough to push it somewhere near its Billboard peak position of #104 in late ‘73.

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The Hummers - “Old Betsy Goes Boing Boing Boing” (1973)

(cross posted at Early ’70s Radio)

Tom Doyle, Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s

August 3rd, 2014

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The following account (p. 38) also appears in Howard Sounes’s Fab (2010). Can’t help but be curious about this Mormon girl who got under Beatle Paul’s skin.

As the spring of 1971 turned to summer, the strangeness that came with Paul’s extraordinary fame began to creep back into the McCartneys’ lives…Determined devotees would make the long pilgrimmage to Argyll, since it was no secret now that the McCartneys spent much of their time near Campbeltown….

More worryingly, a young girl, a Mormon from Utah, had taken to camping on the edge of some woods just beyond the boundary of High Park, so that she could get close to Paul without trespassing on his land. The McCartneys often saw her, partially hidden by the trees, watching them through binoculars. One day in the summer of 1971, Paul apparently snapped and, according to the girl, came out of the house, drove toward her in his Land Rover, and angrily emerged, shouting and swearing.

The girl claimed that she couldn’t remember much of what happened next, except that in the aftermath, her nose was bleeding. The implication, obviously, was that McCartney had assaulted her, which Paul denied. “I have been asking her politely - pleading with her - to leave me and my family alone,” he stated. “She refuses to recognize that I am married with a family.”