Amoeblog

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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Haunted by the Brutal Splendor of old 45's

Posted by Whitmore, February 22, 2008 08:28am | Post a Comment
Convinced myself, I seek not to convince. But … a lone voice hesitated, yawned and, resonating a bit like Johnny Cash’s sonorous tone, drew closer to my ear. It geared down again to yet a lower, darker pitch, whispering something vague and unclear, a perfect combination of ambiguity and prophecy. The words eased the whiskey, my drunkenness. Entranced, my brain re-gathered just enough focus. Then, like a balmy zephyr blowing from a high desert squall, the voice crawled across my face, into my ear, into my head, breathing heat and sighing, little by little reminding me of the brutal splendor there is in … 7 inch 45’s. “You listen to a record for just a couple of minutes” the voice murmured, “and then you have to get back up, flip the son of a bitch over. Two and a half, three minutes vanish so quickly these days … It’s just wicked and brutal, don’t you think, don’t you know?” And then the voice added, wistfully, one more thing, almost as an afterthought, “Nevermore.”
That’s all. The voice also said something about pandemics, government corruption and fear, but I pretty much ignored the serious stuff. Since it’s been a while, I think it’s time to write about the little record with the big hole! So let’s start with some record company sleeves from around the world.



































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Randy Van Horne 1924 – 2007

Posted by Whitmore, October 13, 2007 12:16pm | Post a Comment

A couple of weeks ago Randy van Horne passed away at the age of 83. You might not recognize his name but you would certainly recognize the sound and work of the Randy Van Horne Singers, one of the most in-demand studio session vocal groups of the 1950s and ‘60s. They can be heard on countless television and radio commercials, jingles and station identification spots many of them written by Van Horne. But they’ll always be remembered for singing the themes to many of Hanna-Barbera’s iconic pop-cultural cartoons like The Jetsons, The Huckleberry Hound Show, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones. Hey, it’s Yabba-dabba-doo time, kids!

The Randy Van Horne Singers also worked with some of the biggest names of the era including Mel Tormé, Dean Martin, Martin Denny, Jimmy Witherspoon and Juan Garcia Esquivel, who twisted jazz and lounge into a quirky genre we now call Space Age Pop. Serious fans of Esquivel will know his trademark "Zu-zu-zus," crooned by the Randy Van Horne Singers.

The group included some of the most famous session singers (yet almost completely unknown to the public!) of all time including Marni Nixon. She was singing voice for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and sang for Deborah Kerr in The King and I. Thurl Ravenscroft - the voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials, and he sang You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch from the classic animated television special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and B.J. Baker who worked with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Sam Cooke, among others. She was also Miss Alabama in 1944.

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