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In Memoriam – June 2011

July 4th, 2011 5 comments

One of the true greats passed away this month: Clarence Clemons, a legend to every Springsteen fan. There are many things which made the E Street Band’s sound so unique, but the key ingredients, in my view, were Roy Bittan’s keyboards and Clemons’ sax. It is on Clemons’ shoulder on which Springseen leans on the Born To Run cover, literally and symbolically (and imagine the title track without that orgasmic saxophone build-up). The featured E Street Band song, here in the live version from  the 1975 Hammersmith Odeon concert, tells the story of how the E Street Band came together.

What would rock & roll have been without Elvis’ Hound Dog? This month we lost the trumpeter in the version of the song which Elvis heard in Las Vegas and decided to base his explosive version on (as recounted in The Originals Vol. 15). We also lost Carl Gardner, leader of The Coasters, who often are unjustly remembered as a novelty act because they knew how to be funny. I’d argue that The Coasters helped invent soul music.

Also noteworthy was the death of Andrew Gold, whom we previously encountered as the writer of the theme of The Golden Girls. He was also the son of Marni Nixon, who provided the singing voices on film for Natalie Wood, Deborah Kerr and Audrey Hepburn.

I rarely feature non-musicians in my monthly litany of mortality, but the designer of the iconic Rolling Stone magazine logo merits a mention.

A bizarre death this month was that of Anet Mook, Dutch ex-singer of ’90s grunge band Cay, who was hit by a train in her native Netherlands. I could find no indication of the date of her death, and so list the date of her funeral.

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Ray Bryant, 79, jazz pianist, on June 2
Ray Bryant – It’s Madison Time (1960)

Andrew Gold, 59, singer-songwriter, on June 3
Andrew Gold – Never Let Her Slip Away (1978)
Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978, full version of The Golden Girls theme)

Benny Spellman, 79, R&B singer, on June 3
Benny Spellman – Life Is Too Short (1960)

Martin Rushent, 63, English record producer (Human League, The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, Dr Feelgood), on June 4
The Stranglers – No More Heroes (1977)
Human League – Seconds (1981)

Kevin Kavanaugh, 59, keyboardist for Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, on June 4
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes – Talk To Me (1978)
Frankie Toler, 59, American drummer with latter versions of The Allman Brothers Band and Marshall Tucker Band, on June 4

Leon Botha, 26, South African artist and DJ (appeared with Die Antwoord), progeria sufferer, on June 5
Die Antwoord – Enter The Ninja (2010)

J Harold Lane, 82, gospel songwriter and singer of the Speer Family Quartet, on June 6

Buddy Gask, 64, singer with Showaddywaddy, on June 7
Showaddywaddy – Under The Moon Of Love (1976)

Alan Rubin, 68, trumpeter with The Blues Brothers (Mr Fabulous in the film), on June 8
The Blues Brothers – Sweet Home Chicago (1980)
Darryl Pandy, 48, house music singer, on June 10
Farley’ Jackmaster’ Funk feat. Darryl Pandy – Love Can’t Turn Around (1986)

Gennaro Meoli, 76, trumpeter of Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on June 10
Freddie Bell & the Bellboys – Hound Dog (1956)

Jamie Toulan, 31, guitarist For “90s juvenile punk band Old Skull, on June 10

Seth Putnam, 43, member of charmingly named balladeers Anal Cunt, on June 11

Carl Gardner, 83, founder and lead singer of The Coasters, on June 12
The Coasters – Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart (1958)
The Coasters – Along Came Jones (1959)

Mack Self, 81, rockabilly singer, on June 14
Mack Self – Mad At You (1959)

Bill Johnson, 68, LP cover art director and designer of Rolling Stone magazine’s logo, on June 15
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Cover Of The Rolling Stone (1972)

Anet Mook, Dutch ex-singer of ’90s UK grunge band Cay, funeral on June 15

Wild Man Fischer, 66, eccentric singer-songwriter and pal of Frank Zappa, on June 16
Wild Man Fischer – Merry Go-Round (1969)

Calvin Scott, 73, soul singer, on June 17
Calvin Scott – Can I Get A Witness (1972)
Clarence Clemons, 69, saxophonist of the E Street Band, on June 18
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (live, 1975)
Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne – You’re A Friend Of Mine (1985)

Gustaf Kjellvander, 31, Swedish singer-songwriter (as The Fine Arts Showcase) and brother of Christian Kjellvander, on June 18
The Fine Arts Showcase – Brother In Black (2006)

Mike Waterson, 70, British folk singer, on June 22
The Watersons – The Good Old Way (1975)

Jared Southwick, 34, guitarist of punk band The Dream Is Dead, on June 22

Fred Steiner, 88, film and TV composer (The Color Purple, Perry Mason, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Dynasty)
Theme – Perry Mason (1959)
Theme – Rocky and Bullwinkle (1959)
Gaye Delorme, 64, Canadian musician and Cheech & Chong collaborator, on June 23
Gaye Delorme – Sailor Sailor (2007)

Benton Flippen, 90, old-time fiddler, on June 28

Perry Jordan, 62, guitarist of folk-rock group Heartsfield, on June 29
Heartsfield – Pass Me By (1974)

Jimmy Roselli, 85, crooner from Hoboken, NJ, on June 30
Jimmy Roselli – The Sheik Of Araby (1962)

Ron Foster, 61, drummer and singer of new wave bands The Silencers (US) and Iron City Houserockers, on June 30
The Silencers – Modern Love (1980)

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TV Themes: The Golden Girls

July 8th, 2009 14 comments

You can imagine the initial pitch for The Golden Girls: “It’s like the Brady Bunch only they are 60 years older and without the boys.” It is quite amazing that any network bit. It took a great deal of courage, I think, to commission a show about four widowed or divorced women of a certain age (and then some). Not only that, but they still had S-E-X! As we know, the gamble paid off, and a sometimes very good sitcom was born. Of course, sometimes it was also very bad, especially when romantic liaisons interfered with the lives of our four heroines (hello, Witness Protection Guy). Or when the gay brother storyline impaled itself on the fence upon which it perched so delicately in a bid not to unambiguously condemn homophobia.

GoldenGirls

Still, generally the set-up worked well, through a finely aligned division of idiosyncrasies. Dorothy did the sarcastic, reasonable duty. Her mother Sophia was responsible for mad-cappery (often involving the hilarity of a 119-year-old woman having a libido); Blanche was in charge of general promiscuity (what would Big Daddy — or Beurg Durddy, I could never be sure — have thought of that?), and Rose headed the stupid department. And didn’t Betty White play the latter role well, never showing much frustration at her character exhibiting the erudition and cynicism of Big Bird after a few joints? Of course, she would have had little cause for complaint: she was tagged orginally to play Blanche, and Rue McClanahan (who had appeared with Bea Arthur in the latter’s hit show Maude) was supposed to be Rose. Fortuitously, the actresses swapped roles, to good effect.

So distinct in temperament were these women, they shouldn’t have survived living together in the same house. But they did and every episode ended with a group hug, literal or otherwise — unless a few minor chords in the soundtrack alerted us that the huggery would be deferred for a cliffhanger.

The Golden Girls eventually did split when the marvellous Bea Arthur — whose recent death at 86 set off an epidemic of celebrity croaking — left the show. With Dorothy married, the remaining golden girls vacated Blanche’s splendid house, for reasons I don’t care to remember, and took over a hotel instead. Alas, they forgot to pack the humour and charm of the original series. The Golden Palace starred a yet unknown Don Cheadle, playing the straight man to all manner of superannuated capers; the lack of comedy this afforded him happily directed him towards more dramatic roles, rather than trapping him in a Martin Lawrence career arc. Cheadle is one of the finest actors in Hollywood today. As for the show, it was dismal and got cancelled after only one season.

cheadle

The future Buck Swope gurns his way through The Golden Palace.

Just as The Golden Girls could be at once charming and feckless, so was the show’s theme song. Written and released by Andrew Gold when the Golden Girls were still nubile — well, in 1978, as Gold’s follicular adventures on the Dutch single cover below clearly suggests — it had enjoyed some US chart success, reaching #25, though Gold is better remembered (though not necessarily fondly) for his hit of the same year, Never Let Her Slip Away, and for Lonely Boy, a hit in 1977.

andrew goldGold came from a family of musical pedigree: his father was movie composer Ernest Gold (whose credits include the soundtrack of Exodus); his mother was Marni Nixon. Nixon’s name or face might not be well-known, but her voice certainly is: she dubbed the singing for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, for Deborah Kerr in The King And I, and for Natalie Wood in West Side Story (unlike any of them, Nixon is still alive). And she was the angelic voices in Ingrid Bergman’s Joan Of Arc.

Gold later became one half of the ’80s duo Wax, with Graham Gouldman of 10cc (Bridge To Your Heart, anyone?). But none of this is as impressive as this: Andrew Gold’s is the first human voice to have been heard — in as far as any Martians were listening — on Mars when in 1996 when his rendition of the theme of Mad About You served as wake-up call song for the Pathfinder probe, presumably chosen because of its title: Final Frontier (NASA obviously aren’t great Donald Fagen fans).

Gold’s version of Thank You For Being A Friend is on the first mix of full TV theme songs.

As Golden Girls fans will recall, it wasn’t Gold that sang the theme song: the female singer bragging about bringing the biggest gift with attached card was one Cynthia Fee. See the titles here.

And, finally, a free Golden Girls theme song for the first caller who can identify the Elvis impersonator in white at the back from a Golden Girls episode entitled “Sophia’s Wedding” in 1988:

qtelvis

EDIT: Reader James got the answer. So as not to spoil it, I won’t give it here; see the comments section. And here’s Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley as a girl scout in an episode from 1987 (she also appeared in a 1989 episode of Roseanne)

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