The new year is nearly upon us, so it's important to remember that there's more than one way to tip a cup of kindness with "Auld Lang Syne."
For instance, there's the Japanese one-man band way.
Here is another street musician, this one from Texas. "Folkie Kay" doesn't normally dress this way. She was wearing a costume that she says was "made for a production of Shakespeare's play Richard III at the University of Texas in the early 50s." Listen close and you'll hear a kazoo in the background.
Then there's this guy, performing what Dangerous Minds calls a "David Lynchian" version of Auld Lang Syne" on a theremin.
There's the slasher-movie/serial-killer way ...
And finally, here's how you do it if you're a cigarette-smoking cartoon lamb working for an Christian e-card company ...
For more on Auld Lang Syne CLICK HERE Happy New Year!
I believe that Gene Autry was America's greatest singing cowboy.
I realize that Roy Rogers fans would dispute that. But one thing that's not debatable is that Autry was America's greatest singing Christmas cowboy. He could claim that title just for writing the following holiday hit (performed in 1953 in this video.)
But Autry also wrote this song, which he sang in the 1949 movie "The Cowboy and The Indians," in which Autry helps the Navajos, including Jay Silverheels (who also played Tonto in The Lone Ranger) against an an evil trading post operator. The movie poster says, "Autry Blasts Pale Face Renegades."
And while Autry didn't write this next song, he was the first to record it, back in 1950
The idea of Santa Claus in Outer Space has been a twisted sub genre of popular
Christmas music for decades now. It's not known exactly when Santa Claus began
his space traveling. But The Lennon Sisters with Lawrence Welk's Little Band
were singing about it by the late 1950s.
A disco-era Tiny Tim gave us a a Yuletide outer space tune. It rocketed to
This next one is featured on my new
Big Enchilada Christmas Special. It's by Bobby Helm, best known for "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."
(Hat tip to my brother Jack)
Finally, here's the thrilling climax of
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, (I just realized that the title of
that movie is itself a spoiler!) which ends in the classic Christmas song,
"Hooray for Santa Claus."
And for all sorts of wacky Christmas songs, check out my
at The Big Enchilada Podcast.
Merry Christmas, dear friends out there in Podland ! It's time once again to courageously wage the War on Christmas with another Big Enchilada Christmas Special. Once again we'll revel in the magic and madness of the season and jingle your bells with some festive rock 'n' roll and beyond.
A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican December 18, 2015
When I first heard about a tribute album in the works for Ted Hawkins, my reaction was, “About damn time!” And when I heard Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins, my two-word summation was, “Well done.”
Unfortunately, your reaction while reading this might be “Ted who?” So I guess I better give my Ted talk.
Hawkins was a busker — a street musician who did some of his best work singing for tips at Venice Beach. He was born in Mississippi, spent too much time in jail, and had a voice that sounded like a grittier version of Sam Cooke’s. He was discovered and rediscovered a couple of times by show-biz heavies. And he died just months after the release of his first major-label album.
If you believe in signs from the universe, consider this: He died in 1995 on New Year’s Day. Died on New Year’s Day, like Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt.
Cold and Bitter Tears is mostly populated by alt-country singers, many of them from Texas. Like most tribute albums, most of the songs don’t compare — and shouldn’t be compared — with the original versions. But there are some real gems here.
Gruff-voiced Jon Dee Graham captures the spirit of “Strange Conversation,” while Sunny Sweeney, who I’d never heard before, makes you wonder why “Happy Hour” didn’t hit the country charts. And Shinyribs (Kev Russell of The Gourds) turns “Who Got My Natural Comb?” into a crazy soul rave-up.
Mary Gauthier nails “Sorry You’re Sick,” complete with slinky, swampy guitar. The refrain of this tune, “What do you want from the liquor store/Something sour or something sweet?” is jarring. After promising to do whatever it takes to heal a seriously ailing lover, the answer can be found at a liquor store? But as Gauthier recently told the Los Angeles Times, “There is nothing to me as heartbreaking or compelling as one addict’s compassion for another who is dying of addiction.”
The finest track on this tribute is sung by Hawkins himself.
Judging by the tape hiss, “Great New Year” is from some long-lost homemade recording. It starts off as a typical nostalgic holiday tune, with the singer fantasizing about his family gathering around and the children opening presents just like the old days. But reality starts revealing itself with the singer confessing that this family scene probably won’t happen, and probably didn’t happen even in the good old days. Hawkins wonders if his kids even remember him and sings, “I was cruel, mean and selfish/I didn’t show no fatherly love./Now they’re all with their mother/Giving her all the love.”
It stings. Just like Hawkins’ best tunes.
Here's a video of Shnyribs, Sunny Sweeney, Tim Easton and Randy Weeks doing a live version of a Hawkins song.
And here's Ted himself teaching some European buskers how to busk better
On her new album, Leigh has a silent partner, the late William Orville Frizzell, better known as “Lefty.”
She’s hardly the first to pay homage to this country music titan. Merle Haggard did a tribute album, as did Willie Nelson. This might be the first by a woman, however.
And if you’re familiar with her albums with McKay and Dayton, it should be no surprise that she stuck to a good, clean honky-tonk sound, which suits her sweet, sexy voice as much as it suits Frizzell’s songs.
Leigh covers many of the lofty Lefty’s best-known songs — “Saginaw, Michigan,” “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” etc. But my favorites are the lesser-known nuggets from the Lefty catalogue, songs like “Run ’Em Off,” “My Baby Is a Tramp,” and “What You Gonna Do, Leroy?”
Interesting fact: Lefty Frizzell served some time in New Mexico. At the age of nineteen he wrote one of his greatest songs, the first song on the Leigh tribute, “I Love You A Thousand Ways,” in 1947, while locked up in the Roswell jail on a statutory rape charge.
“The song was a plaintive apology to his wife, Alice, for his misdeeds,” musician Deke Dickerson wrote in his liner notes for a Frizzell box set on the Bear Family label
And, according to Dickerson, Lefty landed in the pokey only eight days after the fabled UFO crash near Roswell.
This is a live New Orleans concert by former Dead Kennedys frontman Biafra that reportedly was done on a dare.
Teaming up with a rootsy but raucous band (including a horn section), the West Coast punk lord blasts his way through a bunch of Big Easy R & B classics including “Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo,” “Mother-in-Law” and “Working in a Coal Mine.”
Jello puts his stamp on Rockin’ Sidney’s zydeco anthem, “(Don’t Mess With) My Toot Toot,” does an intense version of “House of the Rising Sun,” and pays tribute to the late Alex Chilton, a New Orleans resident, with “Bangkok.”
My favorites include a properly spooky, near-13-minute version of Dr. John’s hoodoo-soaked masterpiece “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” and a wild romp through “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses),” originally done by John Fred & His Playboy Band.
The whole album is downright insane. And I can’t get enough of it.
When Leon Redbone released his first album On the Track in 1975, it was
as if he walked out of a time warp from some haunted vaudeville theater. With
his natty white suit, Panama hat and ever-present sunglasses, he looked the part
of a traveling songster from some forgotten era.
And his music seemed familiar, yet, with his sometimes mumbled baritone vocals,
somehow other worldly. He played old blues, jazz, a little country (he was
especially fond of Jimmie Rodgers, an ocassional folk song like "Polly Wolly
Doodle," English music hall tunes, 1920s crooner's material.
His arrangements were subtle, never cutesy. Every time I'd hear a Leon song on
the radio, (yes, for awhile there in the mid '70s they'd actually play him on
the rock stations -- probably because Bob Dylan had said nice things about him
in Rolling Stone.
Earlier this year his website announced that Leon was retiring from recording
and performing due to health reasons. So this might be a good time to pay
tribute to him by taking a look and listen to some of the wonderful songs that I
first heard through him.
Let's start with the title cut of one of Leon's early albums,
Champagne Charlie. The song goes back to the mid 1800s, during the
English music hall era. A singer named George Leybourne wrote the words while
one Alfred Lee wrote the melody. But my favorite version was recorded by
bluesman Blind Blake in 1932.
Here is another Redbone signature tune, which Fats Waller made famous in the 1930s:
This is a Leon favorite, "My Walking Stick," written by Irving Berlin
and recorded by Ethel Merman in 1938:
Here's the title song of Leon's Christmas album, This early version is by
The Andrews Sisters with the Guy Lombardo Orchestra.
And while we're at it, merry Christmas from Leon and Dr. John!
Lindley Armstrong Jones was born Dec. 14, 1911 in Long Beach, California. The son of a railroad man, young Lindley was nicknamed "Spike" at an early age. His unusual musical talent began to emerge early on.
According to various newspaper accounts, he got his first instrument at the age of 11 when "a negro cook" at a railroad lunch counter in Calexico, Calif. whittled two sticks from chair rungs and gave young Spike a breadboard to pound on. Reportedly he drummed along as he an the cook sang a duet of "Carolina in the Morning."
Jones started out as a jazz drummer and later got radio gigs with the likes of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. But he and the band that came to be known as The City Slicker had a knack for performing parodies of popular songs, and as Cub Koda wrote in the Allmusic Guide "taking the air out of pompous classical selections ..."
"Not merely content to do cornball renderings of standard material or trite novelty tunes for comedic effect, Jones' musical vision encompassed whistles, bells, gargling, broken glass, and gunshots perfectly timed and wedded to the most musical and unmusical of source points. ... A definite precursor to the video age, Jones didn't merely play the songs funny, he illustrated them as well, a total audio and visual assault for the senses."
I'm reminded of Frank Zappa in Koda's description of Jones' role as bandleader:
"Spike was a strict bandleader and taskmaster, making sure his musicians were precision tight and adept in a variety of musical styles from Dixieland to classical, with a caliber of musicianship several notches higher than most big bands of the day that played so-called `straight' music."
Spike Jones had to be heard to be believed. So in honor of his birthday, coming up on Monday, here are some live television performances from the 1950s.
And here is one of Jones' best known songs from the 1940s.
Hard to believe it's been that long since John Lennon was gunned down in New York City. This grim anniversary always brings back a flood of memories. I might have shared some (all?) of these thoughts before on this blog. But please indulge an old man.
Like most of us who were alive at the time, I found out about the killing on TV. I was in bed with my then wife, who was nearly eight months pregnant with our daughter. I'm not one of those to do much hand-wringing over "how can I bring a child into a world like this?" But that night was one of the few times I ever indulged in such despair.
The next day, I had a gig to sing some songs on KUNM's Home of Happy Feet. while driving down to Albuquerque we were listening to the radio. There was a news report talking about Lennon's autopsy. We switched the channel. On that station they were playing The Beatles' "A Day in the Life." We tuned in right as Lennon was singing, "And though the holes were rather small, they had to count them all ..."
That's a true story.
On Happy Feet, even though it wasn't part of my normal repertoire, I spat out one of the angriest versions of "Working Class Hero" imaginable. Years later my pal Erik Ness gave me a cassette tape of that radio performance. It brought back all that horror.
Thrirty five years ... My ex-wife Pam has passed. Erik has passed. Marilyn from Home of Happy Feet has passed. So these songs below are for them. Let's remember Lennon as the rocker who started his career entertaining drunken sailors in Hamburg, performing with a toilet seat around his neck. Let's remember his rage and humor. Let's remember Lennon!
Only five more shopping days until Sammy Davis, Jr.'s birthday!
Yes Sammy was born December 8, 1925 in Harlem. He would have been 90 had he lived.
You don't know who Sammy was? Sammy did it all, baby. He sang, he danced, he told jokes, he acted in movies, he marched with Martin Luther King, he embraced Richard Nixon, he dabbled in Satanism, he was an OG in the Rat Pack with Frank and Dino.
He was Sammy!
And he started young. At the age of seven, he was cast in the title role in a short called Rufus Jones for President, in which he sang this classic tune:
But of course Sammy only got more amazing as he grew older. Here's a starry-eyed song from 1954.
Some of my favorite Sammy songs were written by Anthony Newley. Dig these
At Sammy's funeral in 1990, his longtime pal Jesse Jackson gave the eulogy and frequently told those who loved the man to "let Bojangles rest."
And while I respect that thought, a talent like Sammy's never truly rests.
And this is how the world showed its gratitude: I give you a sampling of Beatles
covers from all around the globe.
Let's start with a Chinese cover of "And I Love Her" by Techniques
Enjoy a "Yellow Submarine" by Simo Ja Spede from Finland.
Let's "Carry That Weight" with the Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia.
Cambodian superstar Sinn Sisamouth covers "Hey Jude."
Also from southeast Asia, a version of "Day Tripper" by a band called Starlight,
from the glorious Thai Beat a Go-Go compilations.
Charlotte Dada of Ghana sings "Don't Let Me Down."
From Mexico comes Los Apson with their version of "Mr. Moonlight" (which they
call "Triste Luna," or "Sad Moon.")
Here's some reggae Beatles by The Heptones from Jamaica.
And some Bollywood Beatles singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in Hindi.
Finally, here is described by the guy who posted it called "The worst cover of a
Beatles song ever!" I'm not sure who the person who posted called him a "Fat
Russian singer who looks like Newt Gingrich." I'm not sure whether this is the
Russian Navy behind him, but you've been warned.
To divert somewhat from the normal lighthearted tone of this blog, I feel I have to post this interview in Vicewith The Eagles of Death Metal, whose recent Paris concert ended in carnage.
Maniacal religious fanatics from ISIS (ir ISIL? Or Daesh or whatever you want to call these evil creeps) shot and killed dozens of people at the band's Nov. 13 show at the Batclan concert hall. (I've seen the death count at 89 and 90. Not sure which if either are accurate. The toal number of victims of the Paris attacks is about 130 people.)
It's hard to listen to but the video of the interview is below.
The Eagles of Death Metal will donate all publishing royalties of this song to a fund for the Par8is victims and are encouraging other musicians to record it.
A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican November 12, 2015
America: home of the brave, land of the fearful. And crown thy good with paranoid contradictions … Them foreigners, if they aren’t bringing terrorism, they’re bringing Ebola. Their gun-toting mass murderers are coming to take away the jobs of decent American gun-toting mass murderers ...
Recent events in the news — along with some new albums from around the world I’ve been listening to lately — got me thinking about a certain punk-rock band I discovered online earlier this year. It’s called Mazhott, and starting about 2007, the group rocked the casbah from Damascus, Syria. Yes, that Syria.
In a 2009 interview in Taqwacore Journal, the band’s guitarist Rashwan said, “We sing about stuff that matters to young people, in general, and social [issues]. [For example], the high school diploma, here, is unbelievably difficult, so, we wrote about that. We wrote about fathers forcing their young daughters to marry older men, about our generation that is frustrated and lost and don’t know [what] to do with their lives, about less separating of boys and girls, and about how we need more attention and freedom.”
Of course, I couldn’t understand any of the lyrics because they’re in Arabic. But the music rocks, so I bought the digital version of Mazhott’s EP from its Bandcamp page. With my modest payment, I wrote a note wishing the musicians well and hoping they were all safe from the troubles over there.
I got a nice email back from Rashwan, who said, “All of us at Mazhott are safe and sound, but unfortunately each in a different country.” I guess that would make them refugees, but if I’m not reading too much into it, “safe and sound” implies some level of stability.
And I just heard from Rashwan last week for the first time in months. He sent me an MP3 of a new Mazhott song — their first recording in years. I'll play that on Terrell's Sound World, on KSFR-101.1 FM and www.ksfr.org, at 10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29.
Did I say something about some music from around the world?
Damn the fear-mongering! Let these new albums cross your borders and immigrate into your ears!
* Bailazo by Rolando Bruno. Once upon a time, there was a Peruvian garage-punk band called Los Peyotes. (I’ve reviewed their work in this column and played their songs on my radio shows and podcast.)
Guitarist Bruno, who I believe is Argentine, was a member of this hopped-up, snot-rock combo. Now he’s been reborn as a cumbia king. Or as his new record company Voodoo Rhythm describes his new sound, “Full Blast Psychedelic Latino Cumbia Garage with a very Cheesy Touch of a ’70s Supermarket!!!”
His cumbia obsession started out as a side project while Los Peyotes was still happening. He’d upload old cumbia songs onto his computer and mutate them into rocking Latin dance numbers filtered through his own punk-rock perspective. For Bailazo, he composed original songs and hired actual musicians to create this crazy sound.
Bruno brings an international perspective to his already wild musical vision. He throws in Middle-Eastern sounds on “Falafel King.” (Is that an oud, dude?) And there’s also what sounds like a bagpipe. This tune would make the British world music band 3 Mustaphas 3 jealous.
And he’s turning Siamese on “Thai Cumbia,” which could almost be a kung fu movie soundtrack waiting to happen. This track starts off and ends relatively slow. But the sped-up middle section sounds like some frenzied Carlos Santana guitar attack.
Cankisou in action
* Supay by Cankisou. This band from the Czech Republic never ceases to amaze me. It’s a seven-piece group that mixes musical influences from who knows how many cultures into a unique blend of rock ’n’ roll.
You’ll hear strands of Middle-Eastern music; rhythmic Afro-beat sounding sounds; jazz excursions and sonic allusions to Balkan music; and a touch of metal here and there. (And Breaking Bad fans’ ears will perk up at the opening notes of the song “Korobori,” which sounds just like the soundtrack to that late, great show’s opening sequence. “Korobori” turns into what sounds like a salute to the band Morphine — except there’s a brief bluegrass section in there, too.)
I can’t write about Cankisou without quoting from its own origin myth on its website:
“Cankisou music is based on an old legend about one-legged Canki people, and the band also learnt their language, which is understandable all over the world.”
For a one-legged people, these guys sure kick butt. If you like Gogol Bordello or 3 Mustaphas 3 (them again!) or, to get a little more obscure, Polish rocker Kazik Staszewski and his band Kult, do yourself a favor and listen to some Cankisou.
Live at the old Santa Fe Brewing Company a few years ago
* Live in Paris, Oukis N’Asuf by Tinariwen. This live album is the latest by this musical collective made up of nomadic Tuareg tribesmen from northwestern Africa. They have played New Mexico several times in recent years.
Many of the original members of the band were living in Libya when they were forced into military service by the late and not-so-great dictator Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. Some of Tinariwen also fought as Tuareg rebels against the government of Mali.
So truly, this music is what Joe Strummer would have called “rebel rock.” Actually it’s trancy guitar music with powerful Saharan percussion provided by a conga-like instrument called a darbuka. And no, I don’t understand the lyrics, sung in a Berber language, Tamasheq. But I understand the words have gotten the group banned on the radio in Mali and Algeria, so they must be subversive.
Even cooler, Tinariwen leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib has said in interviews that some of his earliest influences were the singing cowboys of American Westerns. I don’t hear any Gene Autry in this album, but I’ll keep listening.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends and loyal readers.
On this holiday -- which somehow always seems to coincide with Throwback Thursday -- I'm just going to give you a few songs of gratitude.
Here's a New Orleans singer named Allen Matthews, also known as "Fat Man Matthews" and listed on this 1953 single as "Fats Matthews." The song is written by none other than Dave Bartholomew, the venerated band leader, songwriter, talent scout and A&R man who is responsible for the rise of another Fats, Antoine Domino.
Here's the Last of the Red Hot Mamas herself, Sophie Tucker who recorded this in 1934. (I'm thankful to B.C. for playing this on his pre-Thanksgiving episode of Blue Monday on KSFR this week.
Finally, I just stumbled across this song, recorded by one Charles Hackett in 1912, while messing around on the 78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings section of Archives.org.
Assuming this is the same guy, Hackett, no relation to Buddy Hackett, was an opera singer from Massachusetts who was born in 1889 and died in 1942. He was best known for his role of Romeo in Roméo et Juliette.
I can't believe I've done an entire year of Wacky Wednesdays and not done a feature on song-poems,
"What is a song-poem?" you may ask. Well, let me quote from myself from a 2001 Terrell's Tune-up where I wrote about a crazy compilation called I'm Just the Other Woman, which I'd just purchased.
You've seen those ads in the back of supermarket tabloids, detective mags, movie rags and girlie books: “Song Poems Wanted. Your poems turned into songs by professional musicians. Send immediately for FREE evaluation ...
Of course, its a scam. It's been going on for years — a century by some reports.
You send in your poem and the company sends you back a glowing evaluation. Your song has true hit potential. Now all you need to do is send in $100 (or whatever the going rate is these days) and your poem will be put to music and recorded in an actual recording studio by some of the nations top session musicians.
They don't mention that these overworked and under-appreciated musicians crank out as many as a dozen songs an hour and sometimes the melody used on your song has been and will be used for others.
Theres always the implication that this recording will be sent around to the top A&R people at major record companies. And of course youll get a few copies of the record to show your friends; in fact some song-poem companies actually have put out compilations.
And wouldn't you know it, this sleazy little corner of the music industry has attracted a subculture of fans who collect and groove on the strangest and most unintentionally funny song-poems they can unearth.
You can learn a lot more about this strange phenomenon at the American Song-Poem Archives, where I first learned about "I'm Just the Other Woman." (Caution though, a lot of those links are dead and it looks like they haven't updated the "news" section in more than 10 years.)
Below is one of my favorite tunes from that movie. It was written by a gent named Caglar Juan Singletary.
Another one from the movie is one of the most infamous song-poems out there: "Blind Man's Penis" by John Trubee. Unlike Singletary and most other song-poem poets, Trubee purposely wrote strange and outrageous lyrics as a weird prank. Sung by Ramsey Kearney, the prank became an oughta-be country classic. (I played it on The Santa Fe Opry last week.)
Here is the title song of that song-poem compilation I reviewed in 2001. This is the original versionsung in falsetto by song-poem superstar Rodd Keith. This version, which has obvious mixing mistakes was rejected by lyrics writer Mary Clignett and was remixed with the backwards track gone.
Gene Marshall, who recorded under the name John Muir, delivered this anti-drug message.
This one's a sad story of a decent American cuckolded by an Argentine cowboy.
(From my 2001 column) E. Grange's “Palace Roses" is downright surreal. The music is raw honky tonk with a sweet, weeping steel guitar. Singer Todd Andrews drawls a verse about dancing roses before the speaking part: "I am the father of the palace roses/I sponsor many ceremony dances at my beautiful pink roses palace/the roses palace is attended by all the roses then there is dining after the dancing/and fun is had by all."
Here's another Rodd Keith classic. The lyrics were by a lady named Mildred Shankland.
On this latest Big Enchilada Podcast episode we're going to make all the android babies boogie. But don't worry, androids of all ages -- and humans too -- are free to boogie as well. After a warm-up set of good old fashioned garage-punk sounds (mostly new material) we're going Around the World in a Daze with crazy sounds from around the globe.And then this show turns Seedy, finishing it off with a set of Seeds/Sky Saxon covers in honor of the bitchen new documentary, The Seeds: Pushin' Too Hard.