As God is my witness, I don't know what I'm supposed to pack my collection of vintage boxes in.
The whole process of moving can be especially complicated for those of us who are avid collectors of music and film and all manner of art-faggory. It becomes a reenactment of that crucial scene from Sophie’s Choice (I won’t include any spoilers here for those of you who’ve never seen the film; suffice it to say that, due to Sophie’s fear of baking soda, her love for the town’s baker suffers some dire tragedies. And her cat turns out to be the murderer.)
I find myself reconsidering whether or not I need a collection of punk 45’s, but before I can decide, I’m distracted by the hilarity and exuberance of the Blatz song then suddenly stuck in my head, and before I know it, everything’s in the box “to be saved” and all that makes it to the thrift store is a redundant garlic press and a cutting board whose origin I cannot recall.
I suppose I could live without my antique sextant. But what if I wanna measure the altitude of a
celestial object above the horizon while onboard a ship without electricity? ...I better keep it.
To be honest, I never really identified with the “collector” mentality. I have this many albums because I love this many (and more) and I have these DVD’s, books and posters for the same reason. I don’t keep hold of anything simply because of its cash value. I never questioned what I could sell my autographed, first pressing of Stories From the Nerve Bible for on Craig’s List – I just wanna read it again and again, ‘s all.
I am a big 1950’s sci-fi film fan and aficionado of the scores of these classic and occasionally not so classic B-movies. The fact is, more often then not, the music will be oddly brilliant. Another inevitable universal truth is the lower the budget, the better the soundtrack. Some of the very best ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ scores were composed by Irving Gertz. He died on November 14th in Los Angeles at the age of 93.
The youngest of eight children, Gertz was born in 1915, in Providence, Rhode Island, where he learned to play the piano, clarinet, upright bass and tuba as a kid. He studied composition at Providence College of Music and privately with composer Walter Piston. In 1938 Gertz was hired by the music department of Columbia Pictures, but left to serve during the Second World War. After his tour of duty, he studied with legendary composers Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Ernst Toch before returning to the industry.
Throughout the 1950’s and until his retirement in 1968, Gertz contributed music to more than 200 films, often without screen credit. One of his most recognized early works is the music for the 1955 western Top Gun, but his most notable musical efforts are in the Sci-fi world. Some of his soundtrack work includes The Alligator People, The Leech Woman, The Curse of The Undead, and The Creature Walks Among Us. Gertz also worked extensively with Jack Arnold, the first certified genius of the low budget 1950’s sci- fi genre, scoring films like It Came from Outer Space, The Monolith Monsters and The Incredible Shrinking Man. Gertz also worked extensively in television, composing for Land of the Giants, The Invaders and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
The feel of rock and roll would have been a hell of a lot different without the input of New Orleans musicians, and at the top of that class was drummer Earl Palmer. He provided the distinctive backbeat for the seminal sound of rock starting with the likes of Fats Domino and Little Richard and Eddie Cochran. Earl Palmer died last Friday in his home in Banning after a long illness. He was 83.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, Palmer played on thousands of rock, jazz and pop music sessions, as well as on countless movie, television and commercial scores. In the late fifties and early sixties he played on such rock classic singles as Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin” and “Walking to New Orleans,” Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally," Ritchie Valens' “Donna” and "La Bamba," Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and "I Hear You Knockin"' by Smiley Lewis. Legendary producer Phil Spector used him to build his Wall of Sound on such songs as “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'” by the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner's “River Deep, Mountain High.” Palmer’s work was rarely off the charts for two decades.
Palmer left New Orleans for Los Angeles in 1957 to work for Aladdin Records. His career as a session drummer included work with a who’s who of 20th century musical icons: Frank Sinatra, Rick Nelson, Ray Charles, Bobby Day, Don and Dewey, Jan and Dean, Larry Williams, Gene McDaniels, Bobby Darin, Dick Dale, Tim Hardin, Tom Waits, Tim Buckley, Roy Brown, Neil Diamond, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Duane Eddy, Sceamin' Jay Hawkins, Barbara Streisand, Taj Mahal, David Axelrod, the Beachboys, Elvis Costello, Everly Brothers, the Mama and the Papas, the Monkees, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young, Johnny Otis, Thurston Harris, The Byrds, Marvin Gaye and Lloyd Price, just to name a very few. Not to mention the fact he recorded with practically every great New Orleans musician who ever tracked a song to vinyl, like Professor Longhair, Huey Piano Smith, Doctor John, James Booker, Dave Batholomew and Lee Allen.
Earlier this week legendary, Emmy Award-winning television composer Earle Hagen died in Rancho Mirage, Calif., of natural causes at the age of 88. A prolific composer, he wrote many of the classic television themes that endlessly stick in our heads. Shows like Make Room for Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C, That Girl, The Mod Squad, and Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, many of which featured his sense of humor and droll musical wit. Hagen also wrote the jazz standard "Harlem Nocturne” when he was only 20 years of age.
Born in Chicago on July 9, 1919, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. After graduating from Hollywood High School, he left home at age 16 to tour with many of the Big Band giants of the day -- Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Ben Pollack and Ray Noble. While on the road with Noble in 1939 he wrote the classic instrumental "Harlem Nocturne." Inspired by the work and sound of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, this sexy/sultry tune has since then been recorded hundreds of times by artists such as Charlie Barnet, Glenn Miller, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Stan Kenton, Earl Bostic (a major hit in 1956), Johnny Otis, The Viscounts (whose version is perhaps the raunchiest!), Edgar Winter, King Curtis and The Lounge Lizards. "Harlem Nocturne" was also used, years later as the theme to the television show Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.
But Hagen’s greatest fame probably stems from The Andy Griffith Show and its whistling happy-go-lucky theme written in 1960. This folksy-down home melody perfectly captures the opening credits, scene and feel of Andy Griffith and a young Ron Howard in character as the Sheriff and son Opie, walking down a country path towards the old fishing hole, poles on shoulder, in what must be the-life-idyllic. The whistling was done by Earle Hagen himself.