Sunday, July 19, 2009

Time out from the muppets: Young Jim Henson's 'Tick-Tock Sick' (1960) and Time Piece (1965)

As a young man, puppeteer
Jim Henson was bursting with creative ideas and wasted no time in making things happen.

In the mid-1950s, he was making puppets for children's television before he was out of high school.

He created his first muppet TV show, Sam and Friends, during his freshman year of college.
The five-minute program aired daily, and ran for six years.

Simultaneously, Henson's muppets were making other TV appearances on variety shows and in assorted commercials.

But it wasn't all about muppets all the time...

When Henson graduated from college in 1960, he was married, had a new-born daughter, and had been working in TV and advertising for several years. He was 23.

That same year, Jim Henson released an odd, jazzy little 45 single.
On the A-side, 'Tick-Tock Sick', he complains of being 'bugged' by the relentless ticking of the clock.

Listen to:
Jim Henson - Tick-Tock Sick
(Signature Records 45, 1960)
(click for audio)

(label image via Muppet Wiki)

On the flipside...

Listen to:
Jim Henson -
The Countryside

(Signature Records 45, 1960)
(click for audio)

Regarding this 45 and a recurring motif of 'racing time' in Henson's work, Karen Falk, historian and head archivist for The Jim Henson Company said:
"Jim Henson accomplished an amazing amount in his life, but given the large number of files on unrealized projects that are in the archives, he clearly didn't have enough time to do all that he wanted to do. And 'Tick-Tock Sick' tells us that he was already feeling the crunch just six years into his career."

As the 1960's progressed, amidst increasing exposure of The Muppets, Henson also began working with experimental film.

'Time Piece' was a short film that Henson wrote, produced, directed and starred in. He began production in 1964 and took about a year to finish, working on it in between TV projects.

It premiered at New York's Museum of Modern Art in May of 1965, traveled the film festival circuit, and was nominated for a Best Live Action Short Subject Oscar in 1966.

Incorporating animation, reverse motion, rapid edits and a rhythmic, percussive soundtrack by
Don Sebesky, 'Time Piece' continues some of the theme explored by 'Tick-Tock Sick' a few years earlier.

Below, ▼ view 'Time Piece'...

- This post is a companion piece to one posted at Video Cabinet in Limbo, also regarding Jim Henson's muppetless productions.
Follow link to: Richard Schaal in Jim Henson's teleplay, 'The Cube' (1969)

See also:
Circa 1965, Henson made two Muppets, Inc. industrial promo films pitching to Wilson's Meats, an advertising account, filmed in a tongue-in-cheek, mock-documentary style.
Follow links to:
- Wilson's Meats #1
- Wilson's Meats #2

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Tina Louise becomes Les Crane's Dream Bride" - 1966 magazine photo spread

(A brief preamble: I was already thinking of our friend Gilligan and his blog, Retrospace, as I started preparations for this post, and that was before Gil was kind enough to bestow a Great Read Award upon ILTS this past Wednesday. The award's emblem of honor is posted towards the bottom of the lovely brown sidebar, big blushing thanks are extended to Mr. G, and this post is dedicated to him.)

This two-page article ran in the July, 1966 issue of TV Radio Mirror.

(Click on images to enlarge in a new window)

- Click here to view a super-sized image of page 1 in a new window.

- Click here to view a super-sized image of page 2 in a new window.

Actress Tina Louise and Radio & TV Talk Show Host Les Crane were married in Beverly Hills on Sunday, April 3rd, 1966.

In the early 1960s, Les Crane had hosted a late-night radio talk show in San Francisco, where he often stirred up controversy with his
left-wing liberal views and confrontational interview style.
In 1963, Crane took his show to New York City and to late-night television.

His big west coast movie career mentioned in the magazine article didn't go much beyond his supporting role in the film adaptation of Norman Mailer's
An American Dream.

By 1966, via her role as 'the movie star' on TV's Gilligan's Island,
Tina Louise had rocketed to a level of fame she'd not reached after fifteen years as a pin-up model, nightclub singer, and film & stage actress, though she was discomforted by the notion of being type-cast by her 'Ginger' portrayal.

When the sitcom was cancelled in 1967, she was quick in her attempts to distance herself from the role.

In the photo below, ▼ the newlyweds pose with Tina's co-star castaways...

...Though significant in his absence from the photo is 'The Professor', Russell Johnson.

What bit of behind-the-scenes intrigue can we infer from his not being present? Does it lend anything to the various sordid debates about the characters and cast of Gilligan's Island?

I prefer to believe that perhaps Russell Johnson was behind the camera, snapping the photograph with a camera he'd built out of a coconut shell and some beach glass.

At the time of the wedding, (Les Crane's third - - or perhaps fourth - - marriage) the tail end of the second season of Gilligan's Island was airing on Thursday nights, and presumably the cast was busy with production for the sitcom's third season episodes.

CBS then moved the show to Monday evenings, and cancelled the the series at the end of the third season.

Tina Louise had several TV and film appearances after 'getting off the island', often seeking out 'grittier' or more serious roles.

Les Crane returned to talk radio in Los Angeles in 1968.

Perhaps Crane's most often-noted achievement was his Grammy award-winning 1971 spoken-word recording of the prose poem (and popular
dorm-room poster) 'Desiderata'.

- Follow the link to
Richie Unterberger's liner notes to a re-release of the Les Crane LP that included his 'one-hit wonder' Top-10 single.

Tina Louise and Les Crane were divorced in 1974, the same year their daughter, Caprice Crane was born.
Not bad for a Hollywood marriage of that era.

Tina Louise never appeared in any of the Gilligan's Island TV movie reunions, though she's taken part in a few 'cast reunion' talk show appearances.

In the 1980's, Les Crane had great success after moving into the software industry, founding a company that made inter-active games and typing tutorials for PCs. He died in 2008, at age 74.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lolitas - 'Fusée d'amour' (1989)

Les Lolitas were a Berlin-based band who sang primarily in French.

Their sound was a combination of influences that included American garage rock, rockabilly and French yé-yé, played with a punk sensibility. They formed in the mid-1980s and split around 1993.

Lead singer Françoise Cactus met Brezel Göring soon after, and they founded the fabulous multi-lingual
French-German electronica pop/rock duo, Stereo Total.

'Fusée d'amour' was the third Lolitas LP, recorded in Memphis, Tennessee in August of 1988 and produced by music biz chameleon
Alex Chilton.
Chilton plays just a bit of piano on the album, as does his friend and fellow Memphis legend Jim Dickinson.

(click on image to enlarge in a new window)

On the album cover, from left to right:
Olga La Basse - bass

Coco Nut - guitar

Françoise Cactus - vocals, drums

Michele Tutti Frutti - guitar, harmonica

- Follow link to view track listing & production credits.

From the Lolitas album
'Fusée d'amour' (New Rose Records, 1989),
Listen to:

La Fille Qui Se Promene Sur Les Rails
Joli Johnny
Les Cactus

(click for audio)

- - OR download the full album (16 tracks) in one 46.5 Mb zipfile.

See also:
- Les Lolitas on MySpace
- StereoBio, A history of Françoise Cactus
- Stereo Total website

- As of this writing, the rest of the Lolitas catalog (and a Coco Nut solo record) are posted at cosmozebra. (This post hopefully improves upon Cosmo's slightly noisy vinyl rip of 'Fusée d'amour' - - unless you're a fan of clicks and pops)

Monday, July 6, 2009

What's a few more old dusty Men's magazines between friends? (flickr link)

(click on images to enlarge in a new window)

I've added just a few more old girlie mag cover scans to a big batch that I posted at Flickr almost a year ago...

- Please follow this link to my flickr set:
A 'Cover Gallery' of 1950s and '60s
Men's Magazines
(50 images)

These late 1950s cover images allow the predominantly late '60s set to skew just a little earlier.

It's fun to see the relatively subtle (and tasteful) designs and color palette in the earlier covers give way to the kooky kraziness of the
High Sixties...


(click on images to enlarge in a new window)


Follow this link to my flickr set:
A 'Cover Gallery' of 1950s and '60s Men's Magazines
(50 images)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Victor Borge mugs in 'Smörgås Borge' (1954 magazine photo-spread)

When this photo feature appeared in the March, 1954 issue of Pageant Magazine, Danish comedian / pianist Victor Borge was a just a few months in to his 2½-year run of 849 performances on Broadway with his one-man show, Comedy In Music.

◀ (click on images to read enlarged text in a new window)

In 'Smörgås Borge', photographer Martin Iger captured Mr. Borge's visual reactions to various queries.

Seems like Mr. Iger may have drawn some influence from Philippe Halsman's 'The Frenchman', a 1949 book using a similar concept for portraits of French film star Fernandel.

(Follow link to the previously posted 'Two Special Faces Photographed: Fernandel reacts for Philippe Halsman, Anna Russell on Positive Stinking')

▲ (click on images to read enlarged text in a new window)

There is a wealth of Borge material available online, including plenty of video clips from various appearances throughout his long career.

- Follow link to a favorite, in which Borge discusses composing.

- Go to the Wikipedia entry for assorted links and tribute sites.

- Be sure to visit The Victor Borge Collection at Internet Archive. They've gathered over two dozen fine audio recordings to enjoy, including excerpts from Comedy In Music, and his famous routines 'Inflationary Language' and 'Phonetic Punctuation'.

- For further related facial studies on this blog, follow links to:
The previously mentioned Fernandel and Anna Russell post, and
'Zero Mostel's Face, Zero Mostel's Life'

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jerry Ross Symposium - 'Hope For The Best (Expect The Worst)' b/w 'First Love' (1971)

In the early 1970s, record producer-promoter-song writer Jerry Ross tried on another hat, releasing a few records of lightly progressive pop and smoothed-out covers of rock hits, all crafted to be palatable for airplay on easy-listening radio stations.

This single release from early 1971 featured the theme from The Twelve Chairs, the second feature-length
Mel Brooks film, released the previous autumn.

In collaboration with his long-time 'house' composer John Morris, Mel's lyrics to the song are as timeless as ever...

Hope for the best, expect the worst
Some drink champagne, some die of thirst
No way of knowing
Which way it’s going
Hope for the best, expect the worst!

Hope for the best, expect the worst
The world’s a stage, we’re unrehearsed
Some reach the top, friends, while others drop, friends
Hope for the best, expect the worst!

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid
Then he died the day he’d planned to go and spend it
Shouting “Live while you’re alive! No one will survive!”
Life is sorrow - - here today and gone tomorrow
Live while you’re alive, no one will survive - - there’s no guarantee

Hope for the best, expect the worst
You could be Tolstoy or Fannie Hurst
You take your chances, there are no answers
Hope for the best expect the worst!

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid
Then he died the day he’d planned to go and spend it
Shouting “Live while you’re alive! No one will survive!”
Life is funny - - Spend your money! Spend your money!
Live while you’re alive, no one will survive - - there’s no guarantee

Hope for the best, expect the worst

The rich are blessed, the poor are cursed

That is a fact, friends, the deck is stacked, friends

Hope for the best, expect the – -
(even with a good beginning, it’s not certain that you’re winning,
even with the best of chances, they can kick you in the pantses)

Look out for the - - watch out for the worst!

(The lyrics above are as heard during the film's opening credits. Not all of them are found on this Jerry Ross Symposium 45.)

(Note the title typo on the label!)

Listen to:
Jerry Ross Symposium -
Hope For The Best (Expect The Worst)

(Colossus Records 45, 1971)
(click for audio)

Jerry Ross (not to be confused with an older showbiz Jerry Ross, the musical theater composer of Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game) had been a DJ and radio & TV announcer in Philadelphia in the late 1950s before becoming a record promoter there.

Branching off into composing and producing records, he also discovered teenage singer Kenneth Gamble.
Ross managed Gamble's career and was instrumental in teaming him with keyboardist Leon Huff.

The three collaborated as songwriters for several years before Gamble and Huff went on to huge fame as a team, writing and producing records, and helping to pioneer the 'Philly Soul' sound .

Ross went to New York in 1965 when he was hired as an A&R man by Mercury Records, where he soon had great success with acts like Jay & The Techniques, Spanky & Our Gang, Dee Dee Warwick, Jerry Butler, Keith, and Bobby Hebb.

Ross had also founded his own small record label, Heritage, in the early 1960s, releasing music by some of his Philadelphia acts.
He revived the label in 1968 after leaving Mercury, and put out records by Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Cherry People and
The Duprees, among others.

When a distribution deal with MGM ended around 1970, Ross went abroad to seek European distribution for the now independent Heritage label. While visiting Amsterdam he was taken with the Dutch music scene, and was able to secure the North American distribution rights for several acts.

Upon returning to the U.S., Ross started his new Colossus label (named after his miniature poodle) and began releasing records by his new 'Dutch Invasion' groups; Shocking Blue, The Tee Set, and The George Baker Selection.

Never one to put eggs in one basket, one function of his
'Jerry Ross Symposium' records was to provide MOR cover versions of hit songs by artists on his labels.

See also:
- Fellow music biz maven Artie Wayne interviews Jerry Ross at Spectropop.

- Jerry Ross at MySpace.

- As of this writing, the second Jerry Ross Symposium LP (with arrangements by Claus Ogerman) can be found at fullundie.

Chuck Sagle was the arranger / conductor on this single. As a bandleader, Sagle released a number of 'space-age pop' records in the '50s and '60s, often under his 'Carl Stevens' alias.

The flip-side of the 45 has sort of a 'Washington Square' / 'Midnight In Moscow' sound, accompanied by a watery shadow chorus.

Listen to:
Jerry Ross Symposium -
First Love

(Colossus Records 45, 1971)
(click for audio)

The Symposium performs the sentimental theme to the 1970 film First Love, written by
Don Black and composer
Mark London, who'd previously collaborated on 'To Sir With Love' in 1967.

Oscar-winner Don Black was the lyricist on many successful movie theme songs - - He worked with composer John Barry on 'Born Free' and several of the James Bond themes, including 'Thunderball' and 'Diamonds Are Forever', and he wrote Michael Jackson's hit, 'Ben' with Walter Scharf in 1972.

- Follow link to the Official Don Black Website.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'Percy' (magazine photo spread, 1971)

Another early 1970s photo-feature (below) from the pages of the Brit movie magazine Film And Filming, this time from the March, 1971 issue.

The film is 'Percy', a racy & ribald comedy fairly typical of the era, starring Hywel Bennett as the recipient of the
first-ever penis transplant.

(click on images to engorge in a new window)

Co-starring Denholm Elliott, Elke Sommer and Britt Ekland, 'Percy' was for many years a notable curiosity, known primarily for its soundtrack by The Kinks, their final album recorded for the Pye record label.

As of this writing, you can hear a few of those Kinks soundtrack selections at YouTube;
-God's Children
-The Way Love Used To Be
-Animals In The Zoo
(You may also be able to find the rest of the album here.)

Both the soundtrack and the film itself were out-of-print rarities for many years, and so became much sought-after, each in their own way - - though in the case of the film itself, the general consensus has been that maybe it's best to remain curious, rather than actually viewing the thing...

- Follow links to read essays about the film at The Auteurs and at Mondo Digital.

- Photos of the film's cast can be seen at The Actors Compendium .

(click on images to enlarge in a new window)

Regardless of any of Percy's shortcomings, it didn't deter the filmmakers from coming back with a sequel, 'Percy's Progress' (a.k.a. 'It's Not the Size That Counts'), in 1974.

Hywel Bennett bowed out the second time around, but Elke Sommer and Denholm Elliott were back to reprise their roles, joined by no less than Vincent Price and Barry 'Dame Edna' Humphries.

Podcast on a Summer's Day...

... or at least a day like today.

Like a lizard atop a wooden stump, there's a new link posted to a new 'I'm Learning To Share' podcast, and it's parked over near the top of the lovely brown sidebar.

(UPDATE: Another one gone. You might try poking around the audio annex...)

Parked, basking in the summer heat, sitting still and quiet until someone like you comes along to nudge it - -
- - Or to hear an interesting batch of music.

Either one...

Freshly-stirred links