Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
As I mentioned in my follow-up article, both the stage and movie versions of Catch My Soul were populated with regulars from Shindig! Bramlett and his then-wife Bonnie were both members of the series' house band, the Shindogs. The two would later go on to form Delaney, Bonnie & Friends, a rock-soul fusion group with an ever-shifting lineup that enjoyed more popularity among fellow musicians than it did among the general public.
Among others, George Harrison was an admirer of Delaney, signing the two to Apple. Unfortunately, Delaney and Bonnie were already under contract to the Elektra label, and nothing ever came of the Apple deal except bad blood between Delaney and Elektra. However, on the strength of Harrison's recommendation, Eric Clapton booked DB&F as the opening act for his `69 Blind Faith tour. As it turned out, Clapton found that he enjoyed jamming more with Delaney than playing with Blind Faith and ended up as a regular member of DB&F during the following years.
Another Delaney fan, Jerry Wexler, once said that some of the best live music he ever heard was Delaney and Duane Allman jamming on the deck of his home in Long Island. Delaney also co-wrote Superstar with Leon Russell and Let it Rain with Clapton. According to his obituary, he performed, co-wrote, or recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Dave Mason, Billy Preston, the Everly Brothers and Mac Davis at various times during his career.
As I noted in Catch My Soul: The Jerry Lee Lewis and Shakespeare Connection, Delaney and Bonnie also had something of a side career appearing in weird movies of the early `70s, with and without friends. Their filmography included Vanishing Point, which was at one time my favorite movie but has not weathered the years well at all. While somehow missing out on Mad Dogs & Englishmen, they did appear in the truly awful Medicine Ball Caravan (also known as We Have Come For Your Children in the U.K.) and the much better Festival Express (filmed in the `70s, unreleased until 2003). And, of course, both appeared in the movie version of Catch My Soul, later renamed to Santa Fe Satan, which should provide an inkling of the film's quality.
After a six-year hiatus, Delaney released his last album in 2008, A New Kind of Blues. While not as well-known as he should have been, Delaney Bramlett's influence extended far beyond mere fame.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
the Dreamtime team
Sunday, December 21, 2008
One of the bloggers over at WFMU's great Beware of the Blog posted about Catch My Soul, inspired, as we were, by Mr. D's double-billing of Lewis during the Blood and War shows. As well as supplying a link to Dreamtime (thank you), writer Clinton McClung also came across a reference to an academic paper by a Dr. Robert Sawyer on the play. While the article is not on-line, I've emailed the author and asked for a copy. Stay tuned.
Most of the emails we received asked again about the possibility of a complete recording of Catch My Soul. If such a recording exists, it doesn't appear to be in general circulation among collectors. But the two cuts from the Catch My Soul rehearsal sessions at least provide the hope that there's a complete Catch My Soul stored away somewhere that may eventually see the light of day.
According to a Jerry Lee fan forum (registration required), Graham Knight, a friend of Lewis' who was at the L.A. run, has said that the Catch My Soul live show was piped into the performers' dressing rooms so that they could hear their cue to go on stage. Knight also reported that there were TV cameras at the rehearsals, as well as video from a fixed balcony camera fed to a screen in each dressing room, leading to the possibility that there is a full audio recording of Catch My Soul, perhaps even a video.
A member of the same forum also posted a scan of the original Catch My Soul playbill, the interior of which you can see above. Contrary to what I wrote in my original article, the play only ran for a few weeks, from March 5th to April 13th 1968, rather than months.
And yet another late (I'm writing this paragraph on December 23) correction. Rather than Peter Brock, who I listed in the original article, the role of Othello was actually played by William Marshall. While I would like to blame Nick Tosches for the mistake, it's my own, having misread the relevant paragraph from Tosches' book, Hellfire.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I've been reading Derek Barker's massive and fascinating "The Songs He Didn't Write" (thanks to Johanna Moore over at the Expecting Rain TTRH forum for the recommendation!) over the past week, and to my mind it settles any question of how many of the TTRH music selections are coming directly from Dylan.
In two words, "a lot," I think. Below is a partial list of songs that Dylan has covered at various times in his career which have also been played on Theme Time. This doesn't even include the artists - like Eddie Noack - who Dylan has covered at one time or another and whose music - if not the specific song, he's also played on the show.
Some of the selections are easy picks for their respective theme(s), and anybody from Eddie G. to Freddy B. might have made them. But here are also too many not-very-well-known and downright obscure songs which I think were selected by someone who had a personal interest in them, an interest and love strong enough to make him want to try his hand at covering them at one time or another.
While it's only a few days till Christmas, if you're looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for that Dylan-lover in the family, you couldn't do better than "The Songs He Didn't Write."
All I Have to Do is Dream
Be Careful of the Stones that You Throw
Blue Moon of Kentucky
Blue Suede Shoes
Blue Yodel No. 1
Casey Jones (and Kassie Jones)
Dust My Broom
Farewell to the Gold
Folsom Prison Blues
A Fool Such as I
Friend of the Devil
Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl
Stop Kickin' My Dog Around
I Still Miss Someone
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
In the Summertime
Long Black Veil
My Blue-eyed Jane
No Money Down
One Irish Rover
Red Cadillac And a Black Mustache
San Francisco Bay Blues
Searching for a Soldier's Grave
Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair
Sing Me Back Home
Train of Love
Walk a Mile in My Shoes
We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)
You Are My Sunshine
Thursday, December 11, 2008
From the amazing stewART, the artwork for the inside CD tray for the "Street Map" episode.
If you haven't illegally downloaded the show yet, the quote above is Mr. D. ruminating on the possibilities of licensing his voice for GPS use. If the poll I conducted over at Expecting Rain is an indication, there'd be a market for it too.
With Mr. D. playing Martin's My Boy Elvis during the recent "Famous People" show, it seems like the right time to revisit it. Check out the original podcast of And the Angels Sing (link above) to hear Martin performing Drugstore Rock-'n-Roll.
Janis Martin - The Rise & Fall of the Female Elvis
Billed as "the female Elvis," a title that Presley himself reportedly approved, Janis Martin had a short but memorable rockabilly career during the mid-'50s. Born in 1940 in Sutherlin, Virginia, Martin began playing guitar at age four, having to hold it upright like a bass fiddle because it was too large to get her hands around.
By age 11, she was a regular on the Old Dominion Barn Dance radio show, second only to the Grand Ol' Opry in popularity among country music listeners. Still performing on the Barn Dance into her teens, Martin began to tire of country and move towards a r&b sound, sometimes confounding an audience still expecting the old, slow ballads with songs like Ruth Brown's (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.
At the age of 15, Martin cut her first record. Two announcers at WRVA - the Virginia radio station home of the Barn Dance - asked Martin to sing a song they had written, a rockabilly ditty called Will You, Willyum, on the show. The two songwriters taped the performance and sent the demo off to New York, which resulted in a recording gig for Martin with RCA. Will You, Willyum turned into Martin's biggest hit, selling three-quarters of a million copies, and charting into the Top Forty on the 1956 Pop Singles chart.
On the B side of Will You, Willyum was a song that Janis Martin herself had written, Drugstore Rock-n-'Roll.
"I wrote that song in about 10 minutes," Martin later said in an interview. "Everything in that song is actually the scene that was happening for us as teenagers."
With a hit single, appearances on American Bandstand, The Today and Tonight Shows and voted "Most Promising Female Artist of 1956," it looked like the 16-year-old had nowhere to go but up. But Martin had secretly married her boyfriend that same year, and became pregnant at age 17 after visiting her soldier husband during a USO tour. Unable to do live performances in her obvious delicate condition, Janis Martin recorded her last songs for RCA in 1958, in her eighth month of pregnancy, and RCA dropped her like a very pregnant hot potato as soon as the last notes faded away.
The female Elvis' career was over less than two years after it had started. But Martin's story would eventually have a happier ending. In the late `80s, now in her mid-40s, with two failed marriages behind her and on her own, Janis Martin formed a new band and struck out on a European tour, where she was greeted by enthusiastic neo-rockabilly audiences. She became a regular at rockabilly conventions, still belting out the old songs, saw her complete recordings compiled and re-released by the respected Bear Family label, and married for a third time to a man who had first seen her perform as a teen at the old Barn Dance show in Virginia. This time the marriage stuck, and they remained together until her death in 2007.
"She was a cute little old gal in a ponytail just belting out that music that nobody else was doing," her husband told the papers.
Janis Martin: My sources on the "female Elvis" include Janis' page at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; her MySpace page maintained by her granddaughter; and her obituary from The Boston Globe.
Monday, December 08, 2008
It's that time of year again, boys and girls, where the Dreamtime team scour the interwebs for Theme Time Radio Hour and Our Host themed gifts, for you, our discerning audience. A few tongue-in-cheek selections and a few we wouldn't mind seeing under our own Christmas tree - Jailbait and Joyride take notice.
We present herewith our 2nd Annual Theme Time Radio Hour gift list (in no particular order)...
A Night at the Chelsea - Although Bob Dylan's room -
If you go, stay up all night, listen to the New York TTRH episode and re-write Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Rates start at (around) the same figure as Mr. D's Room Number - $219.
A Photograph of the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York City, During the Residency of the Twyla Tharp/Bob Dylan musical, The Times They Are A-Changin’. - Whatever you think of Sean Curnyn's quirky site, there is always something on RightWing Bob that will intrigue - and, quite possibly, infuriate - you. You have to give Curnyn props for going his own way, a 'tude I think Mr. D. would approve of.
Dreamtime supports quirkiness, even though we seldom agree with the opinions expressed in RightWing Bob, and we do like the photograph Sean is offering a lot. Get a piece of history, Bob Dylan's name appearing in lights on the Great White Way, and do some good by tossing a couple of ducats the way of RightWing Bob, too, 'cause the Bob Dylan Web would be a drabber place without it. $25 U.S. $30 International. Signed by the photographer.
XM Radio Stock Certificate - Dreamtime does not give stock advice, and if you could see our portfolio you'd know why, too - and given that SIRIUS XM radio's stock is currently ranging between 10 and fifteen cents a share, you'd probably be better off playin' the ponies than investing in the merged company. On the other hand, you could buy well over 500 shares of SIRIUS XM for what a collectible stock certificate from the original XM Satellite Radio will run you.
The better long-term investment? You decide. XM Radio original stock certificate currently on sale from scirpophily.com for $79.95.
iPod Phone/iPod Touch - A case can be made that satellite radio never has had a chance because of internet radio, which offers as many quirky listening choices as SIRIUS XM and is free to boot. If you can't beat `em, join `em, and joining `em may be the last best hope for SIRIUS XM.
Satellite radio's Obi-Wan Kenobi could be the promised - but still unseen - StarPlayr for iPhone application, which promises WiFi access to SIRIUS XM content available on the internet. What it will cost and exactly how it will work is still left to be seen, but watch this space.
Even if StarPlayr never sees the light of day, internet radio on an iPhone/iTouch will change your music listening life. It did mine. Currently available internet music apps in the iTunes store include Pandora, Last.fm, and AOL Radio... all free. Also worthwhile checking out at the iTunes store is the $5.99 Tuner Internet Radio App from Nullriver Software, providing access to thousands of internet radio stations and podcasts, including yours truly.
And, of course, you could always use your iPhone/iTouch to listen to those "illegal downloads" of Theme Time Radio Hour episodes Our Host mentioned during the Street Map show. Not that we know anything about that.
Apple iPod Touch starting at $219.00 at Amazon.
A little too rich for the blood? You could buy the more economical playbill for the London production of Catch My Soul, regularly available on eBay for prices beginning at $12.99. Jerry Lee Lewis is replaced by Lance LeGault, who would go on to portray Iago in the movie version, but hey, it's still Catch My Soul the musical.
Or, you could consider one of the movie posters for Catch My Soul, which don't have anything in common with the musical except Jack Good and the title. But the posters aren't bad-looking, and definitely would fit into a late-hippie decor, if that's your style. I particularly like the one with the copy... "It's A Total Immersion." Yeah, baby. From $14.99-$44.99.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
IAGO: It is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will.
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Catch My Soul started out as not much more than a gleam in the eye of the aptly-named Jack Good, actor, producer, journalist, manager, and most of all, rock-'n-roll impresario. Good was the man behind Shindig!, one of the first - and one of the best - of the rock-'n-roll variety shows. Although Shindig! didn't last much past a year, ultimately brought down in a ratings war with The Beverly Hillbillies and replaced in the ABC lineup by Batman in 19 and 66, it had an influence far beyond its short life. Among many other artists, Shindig! brought Howlin' Wolf and The Chambers Brothers to television for the first time, and popularized Sonny and Cher in America, who the U.S. audience thought were a cool British duo.
When Sonny and Cher first started out they had trouble getting gigs, club owners thinking they were just too weird. But Jack Good caught their act, loved them, and told Sonny and Cher "you've got to go to England." The two sold everything they owned to finance the trip, which turned out to be the right move, 'cause England swingin' like a pendulum do immediately took to Sonny and Cher, with even the older generation chasing them down for their autographs. By the time the duo got back to the States, they were a huge hit, and everyone thought the Italian-American Sonny and the Iranian-Cherokee Cher were English.
[Shindig! - Sonny & Cher]
Othello: Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul, / But I do love thee! and when I love thee not, / Chaos is come again.
Jack Good had wanted to produce a rock-'n-roll version of Othello since he was an undergrad at Oxford in the Fifties. In 19 and 58, Good spotted Jerry Lee Lewis stalking angrily through a hotel lobby and knew he had found his Iago. But it would take nearly another decade before Catch My Soul would go into production. By 1965 Good was bored with Shindig! and was looking for new worlds to conquer. He recruited Ray Pohlman, Shindig's! musical director, to start writing the score for Catch My Soul. With 19 songs in the can, Good starting casting around for his acting ensemble in late `66, signing Jerry Lee Lewis for the role of Iago in August.
Jerry Lee and Jack already knew each other from Jerry's Shindig! performances, and why Jerry would consider doing a rockin' version of Shakespeare isn't a mystery. In the peaks and valleys that made up his musical career, Jerry Lee Lewis was definitely down in a valley so low during the mid-Sixties, having left the Sun label in 19 and 63, and unable to score a hit since that time with his new label, Mercury. Indeed Mercury had notified Jerry Lee in `68 that his contract wasn't going to be renewed, and The Killer was in trouble.
But Catch My Soul turned out to more than just a paying gig that turned up at the right time. In Shakespeare's Iago Jerry Lee found a kindred spirit, someone with as just as much blood in his eye and hellfire in his soul as Jerry Lee Lewis himself.
[The Thing With Two Heads trailer]
Rehearsals for Catch My Soul finally began on January 22nd 19 and 68, and both the cuts Mr. D. played on Theme Time Radio Hour, Lust of the Blood during the Blood show and Let a Soldier Drink in the War episode, are from those rehearsal sessions.
At the first rehearsal, Jerry Lee surprised the rest of the cast as the only one there who already had all his lines memorized. "This Shakespeare is really somethin'," he'd later tell a reporter, wondering aloud what Willy the Shake might have thought of The Killer's music.
If the critics' response to Lewis' performance was any indication, the Bard of Avalon would probably have righteously dug the Man from Memphis. According to Nick Tosches book Hellfire, Jerry Lee stole the show on opening night and every night thereafter, wowing reviewers ranging from The Christian Science Monitor ("a Lousiana-born genius") to The Toronto Daily Star ("genuinely diabolical as Iago"). After the first show, sixties luminaries including Burt Bacharach, Andy Williams, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Tom Jones all lined up in front of Jerry Lee's dressing room, trying to get inside to congratulate The Killer.
IAGO: Some wine, ho!Catch My Soul the play had a short but successful three-month run, closing on April 13th 19 and 68, and reportedly pulling in more than a half-million dollars. Jerry Lee would head back down to Memphis and record What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me), a single that would singlehandedly revitalize Lewis' career. What Made Milwaukee Famous broke into the Country charts in June and eventually hit the #2 slot, selling more than 170,000 copies by the end of the summer of `68. And the rest, of course, is history.
And let me the canakin clink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink
A soldier's a man;
A life's but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
Some wine, boys!
CASSIO: 'Fore God, an excellent song.
Catch My Soul had less of a successful future, albeit nearly one as strange as Jerry Lee's. The play was eventually adapted to film and directed by Patrick McGoohan, he of Secret Agent Man and The Prisoner fame. As a piece of trivia, this would be McGoohan's second involvement with a musical adaptation of Othello. Back in 1961, McGoohan performed in the film All Night Long, a jazz version of the play that included appearances by Dave Brubeck and Charlie Mingus.
Except for being produced by Jack Good and retaining a bit of Shakespeare's original language, the movie had little resemblance to the play, or even to reality. Influenced heavily by the hit rock operas Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell!, Catch My Soul the movie was set in the American Southwest. Othello became a itinerant evangelist who wandered into Iago's remote commune. Othello falls in love with beautiful Desdemona, infuriating Iago, who also loves her. Iago plots his revenge and murder and tragedy predictably ensue. In between the bouts of murder, madness and blood there are songs, some performed by Richie Havens, some by Tony Joe White, others by Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, two singers who had something of side-career with showing up in weird movies of the `60s and `70s. None of the music from Catch My Soul the play made the transition to the movie, which was described by one reviewer as a "train wreck."
Both cuts are from The Killer's Private Stash, a semi-bootleg out of Holland that also includes Lewis' first known recording and an X-rated version of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On. As far as I can determine, those two songs from the Catch My Soul rehearsal sessions are the only known circulating tracks in existence. But given their quality, maybe somewhere, maybe hidden away in some box or basement shelf, there's more in the Killer's Private Stash, maybe there's a complete recording of Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago in Catch My Soul... and maybe someday we'll get to hear it.
We can only hope.
The primary source for this article was Nick Tosches' Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story. But as is usual with anything Tosches' has written, anything he claims are specific names, dates, or places should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Tosches is a great writer but sloppy researcher. It's Rosey, Nick, not "Rosie."
THE JERRY LEE LEWIS I'VE KNOWN FOR 46 YEARS by Graham Knight also had some useful information.
Most of the background information on Jack Good came from Steve Walker's article.
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.
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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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