Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Midnight Eyes' "Sexcalibur" and Pleasure Dome (1982)

The Midnight Eyes

Here's a surprising musical link between the television game show Family Feud and an obscure X-rated film.

Pleasure Dome VHS

Mark Richard Dawson, the son of Family Feud host Richard Dawson and actress Diana Dors, used to have a band called the Midnight Eyes that his father plugged on Family Feud and that also provided the soundtrack for a little-known X-rated film in 1982.

This film, Pleasure Dome (not to be confused with the 2008 Penthouse film of the same name), is about a woman who buys a magical devil mask that makes everyone have sex. It also summons a "demon knight" (according to the VHS packaging, that is—he looks like a regular knight) who appears in the woman's bedroom at the beginning and end of the film. The film's title has nothing to do with the story. 

The devil mask
The movie is nearly wall-to-wall sex but contains a ridiculous flashback scene in which a knight fights a dragon that is never shown. The flashback is supposed to explain the origin of the mask but doesn't make much sense.

Throughout the movie, the rock 'n' roll soundtrack by the Midnight Eyes plays, including a theme song called "Sexcalibur." The soundtrack is so prominent that when the credits roll, who do you think gets the first and most prominent credit? Hint: It's not director Dino D. Cimino or star Maria Tortuga.

The knight fighting the unseen dragon
The Midnight Eyes released only one record that I know of, the 1980 single "At the Roxy" (pictured above) on the Fire label. It contains the songs "At the Roxy," which names a lot of popular clubs around New York and Los Angeles, and "Sweet Susie." This is definitely the same Midnight Eyes that contributed to Pleasure Dome, because their music publishing company, Man-in-the-Moon Music, is listed in both the film and on the single. Also, the copyright information for "Sexcalibur" shows Dawson as co-writer: 

The copyright information for "Sexcalibur"

The lyrics of "Sexcalibur" don't have anything to do with sex apart from the refrain, "You can feel Sexcalibur!" The rest is about dragons and Merlin and knights and stuff like that.

Mark Dawson's Wikipedia page mentions the Midnight Eyes:  
A young Dawson appeared alongside his father on a few early episodes of Family Feud. He worked as an assistant to the producer Mark Goodson and as a showcase and question writer for The Price Is Right, Concentration, The Better Sex, Match Game and Family Feud. He was once introduced by his father on an episode of Family Feud to promote his band, The Midnight Eyes.
And according to this page of Family Feud quotations, Richard Dawson said in the aforementioned episode:
My son has a band called the Midnight Eyes. He has a marvelously pretty song called "Sweet Susie" and we should give it to you. You'd like it. Even if you don't, you should take it. We're stuck with about nineteen copies.
The Midnight Eyes' discography on Mark Dawson's Wikipedia page lists the "At the Roxy" single but not the Pleasure Dome soundtrack. Nowadays, Dawson is CEO of DRZ Entertainment Group, which, among other things, manages the all-female Iron Maiden tribute band the Iron Maidens.

Credit screen from Pleasure Dome

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Music Weird's best albums of 2016

Some people are saying that 2016 was an unusually great year for music. I, on the other hand, felt like I had to work twice as hard to find half as many albums as I liked in 2015. Nevertheless, here are the ones I liked the most. Click on the album titles for more info.

1. Magic Potion – Pink Gum

2. Little Barefoot – Never Always

3. The Hairs – While I Hated Life, Barbarian

4. Tele Novella – House of Souls

5. Doombird – Past Lives

6. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

7. Eerie Wanda – Hum

8. Black Marble – It's Immaterial

9. Kakkmaddafakka – KMF

10. Vague – In the Meantime

11. Red Sleeping Beauty – Kristina

12. Peter Astor – Spilt Milk

13. Keeps – Brief Spirit

14. Day Wave – Headcase/Hard to Read

15. Seth Bogart – Seth Bogart

16. Lost Tapes – Let's Get Lost

17. Balue – Wavy Daze

18. Enemies – Valuables

19. Acid Ghost – WARHOL

20. Liquids – Hot Liqs

Some runner-ups are Goon Sax, Japanese Breakfast, Woods, Yumi Zouma, Work Drugs, Miniature Tigers, Chook Race, The Album Leaf, Motorama, and Worriedaboutsatan and the EPs by Lumnos. The final Allo Darlin' single was good too. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Billy Joe Shaver's "I'm Just an Old [???] of Coal"

I noticed a few erroneous variations in the title of Billy Joe Shaver's song "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)" in some country music books the other day. If this blog had a "mildly interesting" tag, then this post would get it.

Shaver wrote the song for his 1981 album of the same name, and Jon Anderson had a Top 5 country hit with it the same year. 

These variations are just mistakes that were missed in editing—at least two of these books get the title right elsewhere. 

Country Music: The Rough Guide writes it as "lump" of coal on page 374:

Country Music: A Biographical Dictionary writes it as "hunk" of coal on page 8:

"Hunk" also appears on page 9 of The Big Book of Country Music: A Biographical Encyclopedia

I wondered if anyone accidentally wrote it as "piece" of coal and found one record retailer that did in a listing for a single by the Near Beer Band. (The label of the record itself shows the correct title.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Jerry Springer sings: "Save the Terminal" (1973)

In 1973, long before he became a schlocky television talk-show host and shortly before he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, Jerry Springer recorded a charming little protest record called "Save the Terminal." (The title is often mistakenly listed as "Save the Union Terminal.") 

The song was written and recorded as part of an effort to raise money to save the Cincinnati Union Terminal, an Art Deco railroad terminal that opened in 1933 and was the model for the great hall of the Justice League in the animated series Super Friends. (The effort to save the terminal continues to this day.)

Train service at the terminal ended in 1973, and the train concourse was demolished in 1974, but the fundraising efforts enabled most of the artistic mosaic panels from the structure to be moved to various locations around Cincinnati.

This single wasn't the end of Springer's recording career. In 1995 he recorded an album, Dr. Talk, which contains his renditions of country, pop, and folk songs in addition to the title track, a Springer original.

Here's "Save the Terminal" and its flip side, "Faded Photos Just Won't Do":

Friday, September 30, 2016

Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) sings

The actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who is most famous for playing Samantha Stephens on the television series Bewitched, didn't believe that she could sing very well. Nevertheless, she sang occasionally, and even sang on a couple episodes of Bewitched. 

She danced to a vocal version (!) of the theme of Bewitched on the ABC television show The Hollywood Palace (below), and appeared on the cover of the Now Hear This! compilation (above).

Scroll down for more examples of Montgomery singing with Vic Damone and on Bewitched.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

101 Strings CDs on Alshire: variations in early pressings

Same disc, different cover

I previously posted a discography of 101 Strings CDs on Alshire Records, but that discography doesn't tell the whole story. The earliest 101 Strings CDs were pressed and repressed over the years with different covers and other variations. If you collect these CDs, here are some things to look out for:

Made in Japan/Made in USA

Alshire's early 101 Strings CDs were manufactured in Japan. Later, Alshire started manufacturing all of its CDs in the United States, so when these early titles were repressed, the discs said "Made in U.S.A." instead of "Made in Japan." I haven't figured out yet when Alshire stopped manufacturing in Japan. 

Sometimes the discs were identical except for the "Made in Japan" or "Made in U.S.A." statements: 

ALCD 19 with "Made in U.S.A."
ALCD 19 with "Made in Japan"

Other times, although the discs were otherwise identical, the compact disc logo changed with the "Made in Wherever" statement:

ALCD 3 with different compact disc logos

Note: Discrepancies sometimes occurred between the discs and packaging. These discrepancies weren't variations from pressing to pressing—they were mistakes. For example, the ALCD 3 disc, pictured above, gives the title as Best of the '101 Strings', but the covers and tray cards for both pressings say The Best of the Best of 101 Strings. Also, the covers and tray cards for both pressings give the catalog number as ALCD 3, but the discs for both pressings say ALSCD-3. Alshire had trouble maintaining consistency with its catalog numbers. The catalog number that is printed on many of the Alshire discs includes a hyphen, even though the covers and tray cards do not include the hyphen. The Alshire catalog didn't include hyphens in the catalog numbers, so I omitted the hyphens when I wrote the discography.

With barcode/without barcode

Many of the early 101 Strings CDs were issued without barcodes on the tray card. When these titles were repressed, barcodes were added.

Sometimes the tray cards were identical except for the absence or presence of the barcode. In these cases, the front cover remained the same: 

ALCD 23 with and without barcode; both versions had "Made in U.S.A." discs

Other times the design changed when the barcode was added. In these cases, the cover art also changed. 

ALCD 3 with first- and second-edition tray cards
ALCD 10 with first- and second-edition tray cards

Cover changes

Alshire sometimes changed the covers of the 101 Strings CDs. Later pressings might have a completely different cover from the early pressings, even though the disc and tray card remain mostly the same. 
ALCD 3 with first- and second-edition covers

ALCD 10 with first- and second-edition covers

Eventually, I'll update the discography to show the variations that occurred within each catalog number. It's possible that examples exist in which three or more variations occurred for a single catalog number. For example, there could be a version that was made in Japan, an identical version that was made in the US, and then an updated made-in-the-US version that had different cover art, but I haven't found anything like that yet. So far, two variations per title appears to be the maximum.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Scictler's Manikins and the ostrich that laid a snake egg

Vaudeville manikins

Quality entertainment used to mean watching a fake ostrich lay an egg and then a fake snake hatch out of that egg. This would have been in the late 1800s or early 1900s. 

I've been reading Joe Laurie Jr.'s 1953 book Vaudeville: From the Honky-Tonks to the Palace, which is less of a history of vaudeville than a 561-page catalog of vaudeville performers. It's a weird book that has never been reprinted since its original run.

In the chapter "Freaks and Odd Acts," Laurie writes: 
We loved Scictler's Manikins; [Scictler] had a juggler, three hobos, and an ostrich which laid an egg and a snake hatched out of it. One of the manikins made a quick change on the stage from a man into a woman. 
As I read the book, this act seemed particularly interesting and unusual to me. I wasn't the only one who thought so, because later in the book, someone had summarized the act in pencil on a blank page:

Feeling a kinship with this anonymous decades-old defiler of library books, I decided to look for more information about Scictler, for both of our sakes.

Unfortunately, Laurie must have misspelled the name, because "Scictler" isn't a real surname. The actual name of the act must have been something like Sichler or Schicter or Schickler. It's clear that Laurie—who was an old vaudevillian himself—wrote a number of names and titles from memory, sometimes phonetically. I've run across many misspelled names and titles in the book.

Vaudeville's mannequin acts ("manikin" was the preferred spelling in vaudeville) were jointed dolls that were manipulated with wires, kind of like marionettes. The manner of manipulation was a secret, so audiences enjoyed speculating about how the figures were made to move so realistically. 

Because of Laurie's misspelling, I couldn't find any images of, or even references to, Scictler's Manikins, but I've included a couple of photos of competing manikin acts. The photo at the top of this page shows Hunt's Manikins, and the photo below shows Jewell's Manikins. Sadly, neither of these competing manikin acts had an ostrich that laid a snake egg. 

The only new information I have to pass along is that Laurie misspelled Scictler's name. If you've come here because you read Laurie's 60+ year old, out-of-print book and were intrigued by Scictler's act and Googled his/her name, like I did, then this post is for you.