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Monday, April 30, 2007

Episode 34 - He Was a Graveyard Smash



Episode 34 – He Was a Graveyard Smash

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Here's what Bobby Pickett had to say about creating "Monster Mash"…

"Like me, Lenny was a major horror movie fan from childhood… We'd both seen how the audiences had loved it when I was with The Cordials and we'd sing 'Little Darlin' and I did the monologue in the middle of the song in Boris Karloff's voice. We agreed that the Karloff voice was the most obvious one to tell the story. And what was the story?
'Well,' Lenny suggested, 'Maybe the Frankenstein monster should start a dance craze.'

And a hit was born. Bobby "Boris" Pickett passed away last Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at age 69. "Monster Mash" wasn't Pickett's only song to make it to the charts; he had two others, "Monsters Holiday" and "Graduation Day," but it was the graveyard smash that would define his life. Not only did "Monster Mash" make it to the top of the Billboard charts in 19 and 62 , but the song also re-took the charts in August of 19 and 70 and May of 19 and 73, joining "White Christmas" and "The Twist" as one of only three songs to ever reach the charts three separate times.

A Somerville, Massachusetts native, Pickett was a high school basketball star in the ’50s who wanted to become a Hollywood actor.

"His dad worked at a movie theater," said deejay Paula Street, who knew and liked Pickett, "and that’s where he picked up the Boris Karloff impression he does in the song." As a high school basketball player, Pickett would sometimes relieve pre-game pressure by doing impersonations of Karloff for teammates.

After a stint in the army, Pickett moved to Hollywood in the early `60s, never really making it as an actor, but still appearing in several TV shows, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" as well as several Z-grade movies including "Lobster Man From Mars," which also featured Tony Curtis.

Pickett was also part of a transplanted Somerville vocal group called The Cordials, which had followed him to L.A.

"I was doing stand-up comedy as an impressionist, doing characters including Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff," Pickett said in a 1992 interview. "The Cordials would do [the Diamonds' hit] 'Little Darlin', and as a joke, I started doing the recitation in Karloff's voice."

[Little Darlin']

Inspired by the then red-hot "Mashed Potato" dance craze, Pickett and Somerville buddy Leonard Capizzi wrote "Monster Mash" in a half-hour one Saturday afternoon. Pickett was also the one behind the song's sound effects. The creaky door at the beginning was a nail pulled from a piece of wood and the boiling cauldron was Pickett blowing bubbles in a cup of water with a straw.

The recording session was supervised by producer Gary Paxton, who'd already had one novelty hit in 19 and 57, with the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley Oop." Paxton came up with the idea of calling Pickett "Boris" and the backing band, "The Crypt-Kickers." The Crypt-Kickers included members of Ronny and the Daytonas, the Ventures, the Bermudas, and Leon Russell, yes, the Leon Russell, on piano. A top studio session player of the `60s, Russell's piano would also be featured on Herb Alpert's mega-hit album of 19 and 65, "Whipped Cream & Other Delights," as part of the then non-existent except in the studio "Tijuana Brass."

Done in one take, "Monster Mash" was rejected by every major label it was pitched to. But not discouraged, Paxton pressed one thousand copies of the record and drove up and down the coast, hawking the song to every radio station on the way. The strategy paid off, shooting "Monster Mash" to Number #1 on the charts in just eight weeks.

"Monster Mash" has sold over four million copies and has been included on countless compilations, soundtracks and television shows. It's been covered by the Beach Boys, the Bonzo Dog Band, Sha Na Na, and by "Monster Mash" fan Boris Karloff himself on the TV show Shindig! in October of 19 and 65.

"Maybe I haven't made millions but I have been paying the rent for years with this one song," Pickett once said. "When I hear it, I hear a cash register ringing."

Stop by the Dreamtime blog (that's right here!) to watch one of Bobby Pickett's last performances of "Monster Mash," still going strong on October 28, 2006, at the Chiller Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo in New Jersey.

And somewhere in a special spot of heaven reserved for beloved monsters like Frankenstein and the Wolfman, the ghoulies and ghosties are doing the Transylvania Twist.

Sources: The Monster Mash site; "Hub crooner lovingly created a 'Monster.'" - The Boston Herald; 14 Reasons Why Bobby "Boris" Pickett Was Cool; Obituary from The Independent; Monster Mash trivia and information; Wikipedia.

***

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.dot com. Our closing theme is performed by Lounge Affaire, courtesy of Christopher Murphy Studio.

We love your email and 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.

Visit the Dreamtime Store

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Season Two of Bob Dylan's Award-Winning XM Music Show to Debut in September

Good news (in both senses) for me. On the one hand, I get to continue Dreamtime, which I've had more fun writing than anything I've done in say, oh, the past 20 years or so. I was already planning on doing a new - non-Theme Time Radio Hour-based - podcast, probably to have been titled Old Weird America, if Dylan had decided to end TTRH with today's Show 50. But I'm not sure it would have been as much fun without being able to riff off something Dylan has said on air.

On the other hand, I - and my equally obsessive peers at the Expecting Rain forums, the Annotated Theme Time Radio Hour, and elsewhere around the Web, all can use a well-deserved Spring/Summer break to recharge our TTRH batteries, as I assume Our Host will be doing too. I'm only at Show 33 with Dreamtime, and would like to get to 50 before Mr. D. comes back on the air in September.

Here's the Press Release...

via PRNewsWire and Yahoo Finance:

Wednesday April 18, 10:00 am ET

WASHINGTON, April 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Bob Dylan's award-winning XM music show, "Theme Time Radio Hour," will return to XM with all-new episodes in September, it was announced today. The new season will feature the show's signature eclectic mix of songs related to a specific theme, along with entertaining stories about the music and topics of interest. In addition, fans of "Theme Time Radio Hour" can expect to hear contributions from more special guests during the second season, including Ellen Barkin, whose sultry voice has heralded the start of each "Theme Time" episode since its debut last year.

Dylan's critically-acclaimed weekly show wraps-up its first season today with a special two-hour episode. Devoted to the theme "spring cleaning," the season finale features a diverse list of artists that spans from Memphis Minnie to Tom Waits and Roy Orbison to Igor Stravinsky, among many others.

Following the show's first-anniversary on May 3, XM will air a "Theme Time Radio Hour" marathon during Memorial Day weekend, broadcasting every episode from the first season of Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" back-to-back, beginning May 26 at 6 p.m. ET on The Village (XM 15).

In May 2006, Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour," debuted to popular and critical-acclaim exclusively on XM. Rolling Stone calls the show "revelatory ... Dylan's song choices are impressively varied," and the Boston Herald says of Dylan as DJ, "he's informative, funny ... his taste is impeccable." Among the shows myriad accomplishments of the past year, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum added the "baseball" episode of "Theme Time Radio Hour" to its archives in June 2006.

Dylan is one of music's most iconic performers. He has released more than 45 albums containing more than 600 songs that have been covered by more than 2,000 different artists ranging from The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Guns N' Roses to Duke Ellington, Garth Brooks, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine.

His last four albums have been critical and popular successes with 1997's Time Out Of Mind garnering three GRAMMY® Awards, including Album Of The Year. In 2001, he won an Academy Award® and a Golden Globe® for the song "Things Have Changed." In 2004 his best selling memoir, Chronicles Volume 1, spent 19 weeks on The New York Times' Best Sellers List. Last year, Dylan received mass critical praise for his latest studio release "Modern Times," which had its world premiere on XM in August 2006. Certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), "Modern Times" debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and became Dylan's first number one album in 30 years.

"Theme Time Radio Hour" airs Wednesdays at 10 a.m. ET on XM's deep classic rock channel, Deep Tracks (XM 40), with additional encores airing throughout the week on both Deep Tracks and XM's dedicated folk music channel, The Village (XM 15).

Complete show details are available online at http://www.xmradio.com/bobdylan.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Episode 33: Oh Baby, Me Gotta Go

"I've recorded songs in my garage. Am I a 'garage band'?" - Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour Friends & Neighbors

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This month is the 50th anniversary of the first recording of inarguably the greatest garage band song ever written, and what better way to celebrate than with this rare clip of Dylan and Tom Petty doing a sound check at Farm Aid 1985 with a rocking - if very muffled - "Louie Louie." Check out the Dreamtime blog (that's right here) for a better watching experience of the YouTube video.



1985 was the year of the first Farm Aid, a benefit spurred by a comment Dylan made at Live Aid earlier that year,
"I hope that some of the money...maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe...one or two million, maybe...and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks...."
Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young took Dylan's comments to heart, and in September 1985, the first Farm Aid concert was held in Champaign Illinois. The annual benefit continues, with Nelson, Mellencamp, and Young still performing.

With the possible exception of Paul McCartney's "Yesterday," "Louie Louie" has been covered more than any pop song in history - over 1,000 different versions, according to louielouie.net. In fact, a college radio station once played "Louie Louie" non-stop for over 63 hours... without repeating the same version twice. Here's the ultimate mashup of "Louie Louie," 50, yes, count `em 50 artists covering the song, all in two and a half minutes.

[Daily Reckless "Louie Louie" mashup]

Among 45 others, you just heard Iggy Pop, Led Zepplin, Blondie, The Grateful Dead, and Julie London. We'll be hearing more from Julie later in the show.

Originally written by Richard Berry in 19 and 55, and released by Berry two years later, "Louie Louie" was a moderate regional success, but wouldn't become a mega-hit until the early `60s when both Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Kingsmen recorded their different versions. While the PR&tR version of "Louie Louie" was extremely popular on the West Coast from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, it was The Kingsmen who would have the national breakout hit with "Louie Louie."

Almost immediately there were adult complaints about the near-indecipherable lyrics, with concerned parents writing plaintive missives such as this one to then-attorney general Robert F. Kennedy...
"Who do you turn to when your teen age daughter buys and brings home pornographic or obscene materials... My daughter brought home a record of "LOUIE LOUIE" and after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words... The lyrics are so filthy that I can not enclose them in this letter."
Well, yes. Or, maybe no.

Actually there was something of a cottage industry among adolescents who were passing smudged, yellow, lined sheets of paper - the kind with the wood chips in the middle - to each other containing what were claimed to be the "real" lyrics of "Louie Louie." For example, while you might have thought you had heard these lyrics,
Louie, Louie,
me gotta go.
Louie, Louie,
me gotta go.

A fine little girl, she wait for me;
me catch a ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone;
I never think I'll make it home

Three nights and days we sailed the sea;
me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there;
I smell the rose in her hair.

Me see Jamaica moon above;
It won't be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.

Those nasty ol' Kingsmen were really singing - the crib sheets claimed,
Louie, Louie,
grab her way down low.
Louie, Louie,
grab her way down low.

A fine little bitch, she waits for me;
she gets her kicks on top of me.
Each night I take her out all alone;
she ain't the kind I lay at home

Each night at ten, I lay her again;
I fuck my girl all kinds of ways.
And on that chair, I lay her there;
I felt my boner in her hair.

If she's got a rag on, I'll move above;
It won't be long, she'll slip it off.
I'll take her in my arms again;
tell her I'd rather lay her again.

Even the nation's churches got into the act, producing a "clean" version of "Louie Louie," with a musical retelling of the Israelites flight from Egypt:
"Pharaoh, Pharaoh whoa whoa
Let my people go
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Well Pharaoh Pharaoh whoa baby
Let my people go."
"Pharaoh Pharaoh" is still sung at many summer camps to this day.

To add to the fun, the ever-watchful J. Edgar Hoover sicced his minions on this aural evil threatening the morals of the nation's children, and the F.B.I. spent much of 1964 through `65 investigating this dire threat to America. However, even when the Ace Investigators of Our Nation slowed down the 45 single to 33 1/3, "Louie Louie" remained impenetrable. The F.B.I. finally admitted defeat in May of `65, noting in a memo,
"The FBI Laboratory advised that because the lyrics of the recording "Louie Louie" could not be definitely determined in the Laboratory examination, it was not possible to determine whether this recording was obscene."
Justice thwarted and Louie triumphant.

We're closing out today's show with one last "Louie Louie," this one a hot and sultry version from Theme Time favorite, Ms. Julie London. You can find "Louie Louie" on Julie's last album, Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, which yes, does include that piece of bubblegum pop, as well as a cover of Dylan's "Quinn The Eskimo."

Here's Julie London and "Louie Louie."

Above another YouTube video for your education and entertainment, a "follow the bouncin' ball version" of "Louie Louie."

You can make your own decision whether the singer is saying, "We," or the more commonly accepted "Me gotta go."

Episode 33 of the Dreamtime podcast was brought to you with the help of Mr. Glad Head from the Expecting Rain Theme Time forums, and he'd like to give a shoutout to Mr. Buddy Guy,

"Buddy, don't close Legends! Keep the blues flowin' man!"

Agreed, Mr. Glad Head. Agreed.

Sources: All things Louie can can found at the eponymous "louielouie.net." The ever-wonderful "The Smoking Gun" has the documented F.B.I. lost war against "Louie Louie." Snopes.com explores the history of the "dirty" "Louie Louie" lyrics.

***
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.dot com. Our closing theme is performed by Lounge Affaire, courtesy of Christopher Murphy Studio.

We love your email and 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.

Visit the Dreamtime Store

Monday, April 02, 2007

Love is All Around (Theme from Mary Tyler Moore)

Composed and performed by Sonny Curtis, he of the Crickets, as Our Host mentions in the "Fools" episode.