Amoeblog

Alexander "Sandy" Courage 1919 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, May 30, 2008 09:29am | Post a Comment


Alexander "Sandy" Courage, composer of the original 1960’s Star Trek television theme has died in Pacific Palisades. He was 88.

Born Dec. 10, 1919, in Philadelphia, Courage graduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., before enlisting in the Army Air Force in 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, serving as a band leader on California military bases during the Second World War.

His career as a composer started at CBS Radio in the mid 1940’s; eventually Courage moved over to MGM as an orchestrator/arranger in 1948.

Over the next decade or so, he worked as an orchestrator on a string of classic movie musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun, Singing in The Rain, Show Boat, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Kismet, Oklahoma, and Gigi. But by the late 1950s, Courage was scoring soundtracks, including two classic westerns-- The Left Handed Gun and Day of the Outlaw, as well as some early rock and roll exploitation films-- Shake, Rattle and Rock!, Hot Rod Girl and Hot Rod Rumble.

He began composing for television in 1959, writing themes and incidental music for hundreds of television shows including The Untouchables, Laramie, Daniel Boone, M Squad, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, The Waltons, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road.

But his greatest claim to fame came with the theme and eight-note brass fanfare opening to Star Trek, the legendary sci-fi series which ran from 1966 to 1969. Originally using electronic/orchestral sounds for the arrangement, Courage later used a wordless melody line for the second and third seasons, sung by soprano Loulie Jean Norman. The Star Trek theme has since then become one of the most recognizable melodies ever in film and television history. One interesting note -- in those halcyon disco days in the early 1970’s, Nichelle Nichols, who played the role of Uhura in the original series, recorded a dance version -- a must have for record and sci-fi geeks everywhere!

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Frank Sinatra

Posted by Whitmore, May 14, 2008 07:34pm | Post a Comment

The Chairman of the Board, ol’ Blue Eyes, the Voice, King of the Rat Pack, King of the Bobby-Sockers, The Pope, The Leader, The Swooner-- there are a lot of nicknames for Frank Sinatra, perhaps the greatest pop star of the 20th century. And ten years ago today, Frankie went to the Big Casino in the sky.

Sinatra had quite a philosophy about life and a set of intricate rules that may seem a bit brash, but hey -- it's Sinatra baby! And like his style, he believed that a living big is in the details. Here are some of the great man’s creeds:

Top your martini with not one, but two olives, and give one to a friend. Yes, a very special friend-- even if you don’t know his/her name.

For flavors in your drink to blend sufficiently, let the ice sink to the bottom of your glass and never, ever drink a drink immediately after its poured-- relax, take your time, enjoy the moment.

Never yawn in front of a lady.
 
Make sure your trousers break just above your shoes.

Tip big and tip quietly-- fold the bills three times into small squares and pass them in a handshake. Nothing further is needed, no acknowledgment, no glance, no wink-- you’ve already said it all.

Cock your hat -- angles show attitude.

Don't wear a brown suit at night, dark gray is better, and better than gray, black. And if black tie is optional, you wear black tie. The only exception to this rule; never wear a tuxedo on Sunday.

“Have fun with everything” was one of his mottoes. Live every moment as it if were your last, and remember, too much thinking isn't necessarily a good thing. “You only live once,'' he liked to say, “and the way I live, once is enough.”

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TOM LEHRER - HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY

Posted by Whitmore, April 9, 2008 08:42am | Post a Comment


When I was growing up, my grandmother had a pretty good record collection. She owned all the albums you’d expect from a former party girl-Hollywood starlet-blonde bombshell who liked her mixed tropical drinks: Yma Sumac, Chaino, Esquivel, Julie London and of course every Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Les Baxter you could find at the May Company on Wilshire and Fairfax. And when I got little older, I dug a little deeper and conveniently found all her stag party albums on Fax Records featuring cover art of lovely and beautifully naked women, and at age eight discovered the musical charms of Terri “Cupcakes’ O’Mason! … but I digress! The best records she owned, that for me have stood the test of time, were the Tom Lehrer Albums.

Today the great man turns 80. Happy Birthday Tom Lehrer!

Music historian, record geek and novelty song guru, Dr Demento, has called Tom Lehrer “the best musical satirist of the 20th Century”. Even Mr. Lehrer, a Harvard Graduate, who taught mathematics at UC Santa Cruz until retiring in 2001, has been somewhat amused by the longevity and impact of his music career, though he retired from that vocation back in the Sixties. He’ll be the first to point out that his ‘career’ consisted of 109 live shows and the writing of 37 songs in a twenty years span! But these aren’t just any old songs! Songs like “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”,  “I Hold Your Hand in Mine”, “The Masochism Tango” and “The Vatican Rag” are all timelessly classic, (at least in my interpretation of the construct called the space-time continuum, being three-dimensional and timelessness plays the role of the fourth dimension-- actually I should just ask a mathematician about that…)

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Digging Through the Record Stacks

Posted by Whitmore, April 5, 2008 06:55am | Post a Comment

For the second time in about 18 months, I’ve found a copy of the single by Gloria Walker and the Chevelles "Talking About My Baby" on Flaming Arrow Records. Now you might know her from "You Hit the Spot Baby", a classic, much desired funk track collectors crap their knickers for, with its heavy drum and bass groove, scratchy and dirty guitar lead that cuts in under Walker's vocals. Scratchy guitar? I mean nasty! Nasty as the sound of hell on a sinner’s holiday!

Anyway back to where I started, "Talking About My Baby" hung around the R&B Charts for 9 weeks in late 1968 and into ‘69, eventually climbing to #7. Unfortunately, as was often the case with way too many great R&B records, it barely made a dent on the Pop Charts, peaking at #60. Now, this is a truly peculiar slab o’ vinyl.  For example, on the flip side, the instrumental "The Gallop," (and yes it sounds like a lot like Cliff Nobles"The Horse"!), the Chevelles -- who I suspect were the label's house band -- play mostly tight, funky, perhaps a little over the top, but in tune. This is not necessarily true on Gloria Walker’s side!

In “Talking About My Baby,” Miss Walker is lamenting the behavior of her man in a monologue that ends with the lyrics from Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind. At the top there’s an understated soulful bass line, some minimal guitar work with just a touch of vibrato. Mood … cool and laid back. So the saga begins with Gloria, a little sad, talking, reminiscing, about her boyfriend and what she used to think was true about her love. The story slides away for a second, then WHAM! Two second later she’s going off about what you really need to worry about is your close girl friends, because when they tell you about your man’s cheating ways, they’re just “trying to get some for themselves!" Set into motion is a deeply paranoid rant, and Gloria Walker’s monologue ends with her shouting “Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!” to her girl friends, to her ex, and to anyone else within earshot! Simply said, she becomes completely unhinged, (then again I may be over-reading this whole thing and just re-living some of my own personal shit …). The song ends with her super souled-up, desperate vocals digging into the Etta James melody, the Chevelles horns come in underneath, WHAM! In what can only be describe as an absolutely ragged and bloody mess … the band is completely out of whack and totally out of tune. But ultimately does it matter? Not really-- Gloria Walker’s performance is still unbelievable! I guess it’s just the sound you’d expect from a one-take-in-and-out-of-the-studio situation, second tier bands had to put up with because you’ve got your Ike’s or Lee’s or Slim’s waiting (and possibly packin’) in the hallway. I’m not sure what ever happened to Gloria Walker, but she is my kind of woman: an out of her freaking mind crazy, surreal, hot chick that can stop time with a song.

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The Simpleton's Guide to the Los Angeles Dodgers, part one

Posted by Whitmore, April 1, 2008 08:42pm | Post a Comment
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