What could have been more square in the late 1960s than a family band with MOM in it? The Cowsills became a badge for the co-optation of counterculture when they sang the theme song for Hair, and their rep for milky white safeness was cemented forever when The Partridge Family pilfered their schtick pretty much wholesale. But with a few decades elapsed between then and now, I think it’s no longer a betrayal of The Revolution to be OK with them, because ultimately, they just wanted to sing, and bland content or not, they sang very, very well. And while they do shoulder some blame for David Cassidy’s career, at least the Osmonds aren’t their fault.
WHAT THE—okay, maybe they weren’t entirely safe.
Here’s a seasonally timely clip of the Cowsills on The Johnny Cash Show, guesting with Cash on the gospel number “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Not only do they admirably hold their own backing up Cash’s rich basso voice, pay attention around 2:09, at which ten-year-old Susan Cowsill peers confidently into the camera and nails a solo verse. This, again, is a ten-year-old kid sitting next to Johnny By God CASH and singing with laudable poise. That talented little kid went on to gain a measure of hip cred playing in Dwight Twilley’s band in the ‘80s, and in The Continental Drifters with The dBs’ Peter Holsapple (her husband for a time). She continues to pursue an active solo career.
Before his death of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2007 at the age of 69, Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel apparently endorsed this Legend 2000 model motor scooter (PDF) from Pride Mobility Products Corp.
Obviously there’s something kind of funny about Evel Knievel, of all people, endorsing a vehicle that can’t even jump.
Here’s the famous Wembley jump from 1975 in which he attempted to vault over thirteen London buses. The clip is long, but the buildup is worth it.
At age 72, with a career behind him spanning just a bit over 50 years, Bob Dylan is releasing this November a boxed set spanning his entire oeuvre, titled The Complete Album Collection Volume 1.
At a cost of over $250, the massive set contains 35 studio albums, 6 live albums, and two discs of rarities, some remastered, some appearing on CD for the first time, posh book, blah blah blah, can we circle back to this “Volume 1” thing? It implies a presupposed Volume 2, kinda, a little, doesn’t it? But for such a volume to be comparably exhaustive, it would seem like it would have to wait until the durable (won’t get off the stage) and prolific (enraptured by the sound of his own voice) icon reaches about 120 years of age. Or so.
Come to think of it, it’s not so doubtful that he could pull that off. Though haggard, he’s still decently preserved and he has more money than God. Might a Volume 2 comprise his groundbreaking head-kept-alive-in-a-jar years? Will submersion in formaldehyde affect the tone of his harmonica reeds?
Or, given that he’s hardly released a single note worth listening to since Desire, maybe this set is a bloated, hubristic exercise in wrenching one last big wad of cash out of nostalgia-obsessed baby boomers before they all go on Social Security?
Obviously early Dylan is worth being nostalgic for, and if someone is really itching for a box set, there’s already 2010’s The Original Mono Recordings, comprising his first eight LPs, and though it’s a few albums shy of completely collecting his best work, it doesn’t charge exorbitantly for three and a half decades worth of stuff that nobody wants.
For a taste of Dylan’s mastery at the height of his early, folkie phase, check out this stunning rendition of “North County Blues,” from 1963.
When my dad, a professional musician, was working A Chorus Line on Broadway, he once sent in a sub for a week in order to work with Ray Charles, whom he loved. When he came back, he kept bragging and blabbing about “my buddy Ray” (e.g.: “I was playing with my buddy Ray Charles last night,” etc…).
After a while of this, the drummer got fed up and (noticing my father’s recent haircut) asked, “Hey E! Who cut your hair? Your buddy Ray?” Laughter, of course, abounded, at my pop’s expense.
Periodically over the years, my father would tell me a story he had heard from members of Ray’s band. Here’s the best one:
After Ray Charles had gotten famous and was riding in a chartered private jet, every once in a while, the pilot would call for “a Mr. Ray Charles” over the intercom, and Ray would spring up and enter the cockpit. Apparently, the pilot was a big Ray Charles fan and he’d let Ray fly the plane and even, on occasion, land it! According to the legend, the cats in the band REALLY didn’t like it when Ray flew the plane, though they apparently didn’t know when Ray had landed it too. When Jamie Foxx in Ray came out, I looked to see if they’d validate the “pilot Ray” legend, but unfortunately they didn’t: They showed Ray his crew flying in his private jet, but they didn’t show him actually flying it.
So was it true? Were the legends about Ray Charles’ piloting his private jet true?
Once again this Internet thingee comes in handy: According to Mr. Ray Charles himself the legends were indeed true! Here, in fact, are Ray’s own words on the subject (reported way back in 1997):
Ray Charles doesn’t suggest other blind people try it, but he has driven a car, a motorcycle and, in a jam, could land an airplane.
“I done all kinds of nutty things,” Charles told U.S. News and World Reports in an interview for editions that go on sale Monday. “I don’t recommend it because I don’t want other blind people to say if Ray Charles did it, I can do it, because I don’t want to cause anybody to get themselves killed.“The singer said he also once rode a motorcycle - “I know if I could see, I’d have me a Harley for sure” - on the old Mike Douglas television show in Philadelphia. The show blocked off a street for him.
“I know how to fly an airplane, too. I always had an attitude that anything that can kill me I want to know about,” the 66-year-old Charles said.
Yeah! Alright! Ray Charles indeed not only flew a plane, he could land one too!
“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…” but whatever Broadway great Carol Channing is on in this clip from the 1985 Alice in Wonderland TV movie, I want no part of it. It might take years of therapy to get over this one. The mayhem starts at around the 2:10 mark. That’s my jam!
“Alice” has the right reaction to the frenzied gyrations of the “White Queen” (ahem):
Don’t ever decide to watch this version of Alice when you’re tripping, it could seriously scar you for life.
Steve McQueen was one of several Hollywood celebrities placed on a “Death List” allegedly compiled by Charles Manson. The other names were Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones.
On August 9th, 1969, members of Manson’s “Family” carried out the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and 4 of her friends.
McQueen had briefly dated Tate, and had planned to visit the actress the night of her death.
In December 1969, Manson and the killers had been arrested.
When McQueen heard he might be targeted by Manson’s followers, he started carrying a gun. In October 1970, a still cautious McQueen wrote to his lawyer to find out if any “Family” members were still active, and to have his gun license renewed.
A SOLAR PRODUCTION
October 17, 1970
Mr. Edward Rubin
Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp
6380 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048
As you know, I have been selected by the Manson Group to be marked for death, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones. In some ways I find it humorous, and in other ways frighteningly tragic. It may be nothing, but I must consider it may be true both for the protection of myself and my family.
At the first possible time, if you could pull some strings and find out unofficially from one of the higher-ups in Police whether, again unofficially, all of the Manson Group has been rounded up and/or do they feel that we may be in some danger.
Secondly, if you would call Palm Springs and have my gun permit renewed, it was only for a year, and I should like to have it renewed for longer as it is the only sense of self-protection for my family and myself, and I certainly think I have good reason.
Please don’t let too much water go under the bridge before this is done, and I’m waiting for an immediate reply.
David McCallum has long been a much-loved actor and TV icon. From his early days as the pin-up secret agent, Illya Kuryakin, acting alongside Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., through to the excellent Colditz, the wonderfully, bizarre Sapphire and Steel, The Invisible Man and now “Ducky” Mallard in today’s NCIS.
But what is perhaps less known about this talented actor, is the fact McCallum is a classically trained musician of the highest caliber, and for a long time the blonde-haired Glaswegian seriously considered a making his career in music, as he explained to 16 magazine back in 1966:
The wonder was that David ever became an actor at all—for he was trained to be a musician from the age of four, playing the oboe with classic clarity. An appreciation of music ran deep in the McCallum family. David’s father, a famous violinist and leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was taught classical music at his mother’s knee.
The McCallums came from a little Scottish mining village, Kilsyth in Stirlingshire, where David’s paternal grandfather was the village grocer. It was a deeply religious community, and David’s grandmother hoped her son would learn the harp. But no one there could play the instrument, so young David Fotheringham McCallum was taught violin instead. And his own son, David Keith McCallum—born on September 19, 1933, at 24 Kersland Street, Glasgow—inherited this musical tradition.
When the family moved to Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead, in London, David went to University College School, and musical evenings became a feature of this childhood. He was taught violin and piano, but it was the oboe that he mastered. However, David secretly harbored a longing to become an actor, so when one of his uncles needed an oboe, David offered his—cheap!—and started out on his acting career. Though he laughingly calls the oboe “...an ill wind nobody blows good,” David still admits, “I always knew that I could turn to music if I failed as an actor.”
McCallum was given a recording contract, and between 1966 and 1968, released four albums on Capitol Records: Music…A Part Of Me, Music…A Bit More Of Me, Music…It’s Happening Now!, and McCallum. However, rather than singing his way through these discs McCallum, together with producer David Axelrod, created a blend of oboe, French horn, and strings with guitar and drums, for musical interpretations of hits of the day. These included “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Downtown”, “Louie, Louie”, “I Can’t Control Myself” and his own compositions, “Far Away Blue”, “Isn’t It Wonderful?” and “It Won’t Be Wrong”.
The best known McCallum tracks today are “The Edge,” which was sampled by Dr. Dre as the intro and riff to the track “The Next Episode,” and “House of Mirrors,” sampled by DJ Shadow for “Dark Days”.
“The Edge” - David McCallum
“House of Mirrors” - David McCallum
David McCallum introduces TnT Show with ‘Satisfaction, while Ron and Russell Mael (Sparks) watch from the audience
Bonus clips (with Nancy Sinatra) and tracks, after the jump!...
Happy Birthday Sir Christopher Lee, actor, singer and cinematic icon, who celebrates his 91st birthday today.
I can still recall the fabulous thrill of seeing Lee’s performance as the gruesome “Creature” in The Curse of Frankenstein (1956), where he managed to make the brutally disfigured creation both pitiful and terrifying. He achieved greater success as the Count in Dracula (1958), a performance that established him as an international star. Lee made the role of Dracula his own by bringing a charm, sophistication, intelligence and sexual attraction to the role.
In both films, Lee played against his friend and colleague Peter Cushing (who would have been 100-years-old yesterday) and together they dominated the box-office from the late 1950s-to mid-1970s, with a range of classic Horror movies, including The Gorgon, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Skull, Scream and Scream Again, The House That Dripped Blood, Dracula 1972 A.D., Nothing But The NIght, The Creeping Flesh, and Horror Express.
Of course, there were also his solo turns with The Devil Rides Out, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Wicker Man, The Three Musketeers and The Man With The Golden Gun.
But unlike Cushing, or Vincent Price (whose birthday is also celebrated today), Lee wanted to be more than just a Horror actor, and therefore moved to America in the 1970s, where his starred in a variety of films—some good, some not-so—which ranged from Airport ‘77, 1941 and Gremlins 2.
Most careers would have finished there, but not Lee’s. He return to form and greater success with roles in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) and then the BBC TV-series Gormenghast (2000), all of which led onto Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and episodes 2 and 3 of Star Wars.
At 91, Sir Christopher is making 2-to-3-films-a-year, and has just recorded and released a Heavy Metal album, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death.
Happy Birthday Sir Christopher and thanks for all the thrills!
Behind the scenes with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on ‘Dracula 1972 A.D.’
A preview of Christopher Lee’s heavy Metal album ‘Charlemagne: The Omens of Death’
Sad to hear that Taylor Mead, underground movie star, Lower East Side fixture, bon vivant, Warhol Superstar, poet, feeder of stray cats, teller of funny stories and sweet and charming old guy died yesterday in Colorado at the ripe old age of 88.
A gay icon who was never in the closet, Mead was the subject of a documentary Excavating Taylor Mead, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005. Mead had been in the news recently over his travails with his landlord.
Above, Marcel Duchamp, Ultra Violet and Taylor Mead, 1967
Below, Taylor Mead, Craig Vandenberg and Candy Darling in Anton Perich’s short film Candy and Daddy: