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Monday, August 20, 2007

Episode 39 - The Lost Theme Time iPod



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Theme Time Music That Never Was, That Might Have Been, And Could Still Be


[Bed music - Perry Mason Theme - Mundell Lowe]

Here's the story. Sometime in 2005, somewhere in Los Angeles, Bob Dylan is in a studio. He does whatever he came there to do, and then makes like a tree... and leaves.

But he forgets his iPod.

Imagine that for a second. There it is, sitting on a sound board right in front of you. Bob Dylan's iPod. Looking just like every other of the million of iPods out there. But it belongs to...
"...the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen - Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!"
That's his iPod. Wouldn't you be curious about what Bob Dylan listens to? What would you do? Would you turn it on? Would you skim through the playlists? Would you listen?

Maybe you'd copy the iPod's contents, especially since you have all the equipment to do it right there at hand. And later, so you'd have a clean conscience, you'd call Dylan's people to let them know that their Boss had forgotten it.

That's what somebody supposedly did sometime in early 2005 in the City of Los Angeles. Or at least that's how the story goes. Later that year a playlist appeared on the Web, purportedly listing the contents of the copied iPod... and than the story just kind of faded away into the aether, forgotten by most Dylan fans.

It's not that hard to understand. There's no music by Bob Dylan in that playlist. In fact, you've probably never heard of most of the 171 songs unless you're a hardcore fan of rockabilly, jump music, gospel, bebop, and honky tonk.

In fact, you'd probably need to have the tastes of a certain disk jockey who operates out of the Abernathy Building to know all these songs.

It'd be easy to dismiss the story as the work of an obsessive prankster fan who thought it might be entertaining to come up with a forgery of what you might expect Bob Dylan to listen to. But in 2005 - a year before the first episode of Theme Time Radio Hour ever aired - how many people would have expected Bob Dylan to be a fan of (Every Time I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone by Roy Montrell? Or of Buddy and Ella Johnson? Now, Hank Snow, The Staple Singers, even Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, sure. But Charlie Mingus and Eat that Chicken?

Here's what I think. I think the story about the iPod is true. And I think that in early 2005, maybe as early as January 2005, XM Radio and Dylan's organization and Eddie Gorodetsky had agreed in principle - as the politicians like to say - that Dylan would be doing a radio show for XM starting in 2006.

Now they had to figure out what that radio show was going to be, and what Mr. D. was going to play. And I think that from Dylan's direction and from a list of his likes and dislikes someone put together a playlist of eight hours worth of music, ripped that music to an iPod, and sent it on down Dylan's way to churn some thought and to spark ideas for the show.

It's not exactly Theme Time Radio Hour, but you can sure hear the roots of the show, and sometimes you'll find music on the playlist that just seems just perfectly perfect Theme Time material: Kip Anderson's R&B number Knife and Fork for the Food episode for example, or maybe this cut from Dr. Humphrey Bate And His Possum Hunters...

[How Many Biscuits Can You Eat? - Dr. Humphrey Bate And His Possum Hunters]

Dr. Humphrey was really a doctor, as well as a graduate of Nashville's Vanderbilt University. His group was originally known as the Augmented Orchestra, but when the group played on the first ever Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast, promoter and host George Hay saddled them with "the Possum Hunters" moniker, figuring it'd be more of a draw with the listening audience.

There's some very strange references on that iPod playlist, too. There's three Hank Williams cuts, all supposedly from an album titled Codfish Pie. Except, as far as I can tell, there never was a Hank Williams collection with that title. The Davis Sisters Everlovin' is supposedly pulled from something called The Sacred Frowns. Except the only Sacred Frowns I could find a reference to is a group that ex-members of NRBQ formed. Weirdly, NRBQ has covered Everlovin', but why the association in the playlist on Dylan's iPod?

[The Davis Sisters - Everlovin']

Everlovin' was recorded in 19 and 55 by Skeeter Davis and Georgie Davis, who were not sisters. Skeeter was born Mary Frances Penick, and took on the more easily remembered name when she teamed up with the original Davis sister, Betty Jack.

The two would record a #1 hit - later covered by Bob Dylan - I Forgot More Than You'll Even Know in 19 and 53. But Betty Jack would die that year in a car accident that would also badly injure Skeeter. Skeeter would later team with Betty Jack's real sister, Georgie, and the two would release several records still using the The Davis Sisters name until Skeeter went solo in 1956.

Here's another cut from an album that doesn't exist as far as I can tell, Fay Simmons singing that nuclear blast from the past, 19 and 54's You Hit Me Baby Like An Atomic Bomb.

[Fay Simmons - You Hit Me Baby Like An Atomic Bomb]

Like Fay Simmons herself, Atomic Bomb is one Big Unknown. Simmons recorded it on August 23, 1954 in Philadelphia with an unknown band. The composer is unknown, and for reasons unknown the song was never picked up by a label.

Not much more is known about Fay Simmons. She appeared on at least 20 singles in a career that spanned about a decade, but she never grabbed more than East Coast airplay, and never had that breakout song. By 1965 she had disappeared from sight.

A fan of old record labels has the best information about Simmons on the Web at the Color Radio and Doo Wop site which includes two other tracks worth a listen: the closest thing Simmons ever had to a hit: And the Angels Sing, and an up-tempo version of the Doris Day classic, Secret Love.

The iPod's playlist has Atomic Bomb coming from something titled One-Offs, which may have been a private compilation put together by Eddie Gorodetsky. The song doesn't appear to have been commercially released until the `90s from the very obscure Flyright label on a CD called Talk to Me Daddy. You can also find it on that comprehensive collection of Cold War madness, Atomic Platters, which came out in '05. If Theme Time ever does a show on the Bomb, I'll guarantee you that more than one song will come from Atomic Platters.
You're listening to the Dreamtime podcast and Theme Time music that never was, might have been, and could still be.
Like Fay Simmons, The Zion Travelers never got the fame that they deserved, but they were one of the best of the gospel quartets of the `40s and `50s. This cut from the iPod playlist stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it, because it's a near-perfect reworking of The Orioles hit from 19 and 53, Crying in the Chapel, with completely different lyrics.

[A Soldier of the Cross - Zion Travelers]

Was someone on the Theme Time team playing with the idea of at least one show dedicated to wildly different versions of songs? Maybe, because as well as A Soldier of the Cross, the iPod playlist includes the original This May Be the Last Time, recorded by the Staple Singers and later a revised hit for The Rolling Stones, and Loretta Lynn doing two completely different takes on I'm a Honky Tonk Girl.

Speaking of honky-tonkin', my own honky-tonk girl, Jailbait Jones, pointed out that the iPod playlist has over a dozen honky-tonk songs, ranging from Joe Maphis and Rose Lee doing Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) to Kitty Wells 1952 classic, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. Throw in some dee jay chatter, a couple of email readings, and Mr. D. reading the the following poem, and by God you have a a Theme Time episode in the bag...

It's a jazz affair, drum crashes and cornet razzes.

The trombone pony neighs and the tuba jackass snorts.

The banjo tickles and titters too awful.

The chippies talk about the funnies in the papers.

The cartoonists weep in their beer.

Ship riveters talk with their feet

To the feet of floozies under the tables.

A quartet of white hopes mourn with interspersed snickers:

"I got the blues.

I got the blues.

I got the blues."

And . . . as we said earlier:

The cartoonists weep in their beer.

- Carl Sandburg, Windy City poet
We're closing up the honky tonk with a song that would have worked on the Eyes or Drinking episodes, and may still show up on a Theme Time Radio Hour at some point.

A comedian, deejay, singer, club owner, and band leader at various points in career, here's Hank Penny with his hit from 19 and 50, Bloodshot Eyes

[Bloodshot Eyes - Hank Penny]

In the mid-50s, Hank moved his act to Las Vegas where he started a seven-year run at the Golden Nugget casino, fronting a band which at one time included Roy Clark. They'd run into each at least one more time, when Clark beat out Hank for the job hosting Hee Haw.

That's just five of the 171 songs on the iPod's playlist, from Al Urban to the Zion Travelers, from A Cottage for Sale to Your Wild Life's Going to Get You Down. Was it the lost iPod of Theme Time Radio Hour?

We may never know for sure.

***

The playlist has appeared on the Web at various times and places, occasionally with some songs added or missing. This seems to be the zero source from 2005.

I spent some time researching the songs, and found what I think are most - if not all - of the source albums. As I noted above and in the podcast, a few of the albums in the full playlist don't appear to exist - at least as commercial releases. In a few cases, the album was out of print or otherwise unavailable. When possible I substituted another source. Note that I get a small fee from Amazon for every item I sell through these links.

The Lost Theme Time iPod - Vol. 1

The Lost Theme Time iPod - Vol. 2

The Lost Theme Time iPod - Vol. 3

***

You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals and is a Not Associated With production. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at music.podshow.com.

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. You can write us at dreamtimepodcast@gmail.com

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

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1 comment:

almax said...

Tremendously entertaining and highly informative as ever. Thank you