Powered by Max Banner Ads
There was a famous take off on “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley”, by the Kingston Trio back in 1959. There were several top name entertainers that did what they called: ”Did a cover….”. Even Harry Belefonte and lots of others did “covers” of very popular songs. The 50′s a great period for cynicism regarding just about everything. The Eisenhower eight years had created a “Vanilla Fudge Society”. Great television included “The Life of Riley” with William Bendix, Texaco Star Theatre with Uncle Milty – Milton Berle, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope and of course The Jack Benny Show. In those days, the medium for expression was records. Records? Comedy records. Yes, 45 RPM, 33 RPM and of course Radio with their Top 40 Pop Formats. Everyone was taken by the “Button Down Mind” of Bob Newhart, Mort Saul, Jonathan Winters and Shelly Berman were the cerebral comedy stars of the day. ”Songs for the Couch and Consultation” included take offs on mental illness. John D. Loudermilk was one of the greatest social commentary minds of the 1960′s. His album “Elloree” stands todays as the greatest work since Will Rogers and Mark Twain when it comes to sorting out hypocrisy. Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor had to come along to make that giant step into “swear humor” and “Shock humor”. We really can’t forget Don Rickles “Mr. Personality” either.
After Woodstock the messages became a little harder corps. The Fugs did a tune in 1971 called: ”Do you like Boobs alot?”. Rose and the Arrangements did a great version of “The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati” in 1974. These were lovingly known as “Novelty Numbers”. Slowly, the visions of Red Skelton, Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason were replaced by those of Red Foxx, Rodney Dangerfield, Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay, George Carlin and even Gallagher smashing watermelons for a living. Eddie Murphy took comedy to a whole new realm by doing movies with Nick Nolte. Comedy had changed forever. Saturday Night Live came on during the Gerald Ford era…….most likely in response to the “Sock it to me?” days of Richard Nixon and the Smothers Bros. Our society has hardened. It no longer challenged stupid behavior, it simply “reported stupid behavior” and in fact, one might argue – verified stupid behavior to be considered OK….in certain circles. Soon, the Long Rappers that weren’t really that funny become “Thud and Stud Music Stars”. Able to make the messages redundant and vile seemed to get through to a generation stuck on drugs, alcohol and perscription instituted psycho-tropics. ”Kill a cop!”, ”Slam a pussy!”, “Suck my Petunias”…….all vile and disgusting remarks with little or no social redemption.
Sgt. Berry Sadler did a tune in the 60′s – “Green Beret”. ”Silver wings upon my chest, I am one of America’s best!” Of course, we still had “Country Joe and the Fish” – “Give me an F!” and the great Buffalo Springfied: ”For what it’s worth!” to balance out pro vs anti war sentiment. Today, as we watch the various array of music awards it is hard to relate to the American Idol concept of what talent might be. Our idea of what true talent was verged on two ideas: (1) The message had to be either very pleasant or very weird. (2) Those performing the process needed to exhibit some multi-level of talent. It is a hard concept to grasp that in 2014 there is far less talent than in say 1960. Yet, as we constantly look for that next Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby…..we get someone like: Robin Thicke blotting out an actual great performance by Chicago – at the Grammy’s recently. Someone called Daft Punk won something – we just don’t know what. We buys these records and why can’t actual singers and dancers like the great Sammy Davis Junior still be front and center? When Zamphir starts to sound like real music, something terrible has to be wrong. When did Hank Williams Jr. do “A Country Boy can survive!”? That may be one of the last great tunes ever recorded.
OK, our society needs some new celebrity might. Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks on their pounding of the Denver “Peyton Manning” Broncos. Superb job Coach Carroll – we especially enjoyed your reference to your years at USC, developing the winning strategy and treatment of your players. We also want to congratulate the LA Lakers for making the most miserable season in franchise history. So, you have one player that can score; Pau Gasol? Yep, you better trade him right away for someone that can go on injured reserve after two games. Brilliant Jim Buss – you and Mitch Kupchek need an expense paid trip to Sochi…..to kind of “get away from it all” – for awhile.
Enough! We can’t leave you without explaining that Waldo, Dudley and Dora were a group that did a cover record of the mega hit “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio. The record was awful, totally non-singers….but the message was good: ”Don’t screw up and get hung for wrong doing!” Music used to broach all the politically incorrect stuff: Racism, incest, sick minds and doctors, bad politicians and even kids that stole things. Shelly Berman was know for this one: ”A lady came to me and said: My son steals..what should I do? I told her not to worry: He will either get good at it….. or get caught!” We miss that kind of clarity in our society today!