Wednesday, May 5, 2021

"Deep Throat" on 45: 1972-78

 


Practically every pop-culture craze, fad, notable event, and miscellaneous point of interest used to generate a slew of cash-in records, often but not always made by unknown artists who hoped to exploit the moment for some quick fame and fortune but usually failed. Their efforts may have been futile in their day, but they're fun to look back on now as examples of the indomitable human spirit, as we did recently with songs from the Pet Rock craze. Today's Music Weird looks at records that were released in the wake of Deep Throat, the 1972 adult film that was the first hardcore feature to achieve mainstream success.

Directed by Gerard Damiano, Deep Throat was a surprise hit. The first "porno chic" film, it played in mainstream cinemas, was ranked that year as one of the top 10 highest-grossing films by Variety, and was thoroughly absorbed into mainstream pop culture via jokes, television talk shows, music, and even the Watergate scandal, in which "Deep Throat" became the code name of Bob Woodward's secret informant. The movie played in adult cinemas for years and spawned one R-rated sequel, numerous X-rated sequels, and the documentary Inside Deep Throat, a look back at the film's cultural impact. Damiano himself revisited the film in 1984 with the sequel Throat... 12 Years After

The Deep Throat-related records are a little different from some fad records in that a few attempted to look like official soundtrack releases or like recordings that featured star Linda Lovelace, either by including images of Lovelace or using artist names that suggested Lovelace's involvement. Lovelace was not a singer and made no musical recordings, but she became world famous as a result of Deep Throat and was widely interviewed, pictured, and discussed on television and in print, so record labels hoped that her recognizable face would sell.

The theme music from Deep Throat was also popular with easy-listening and middle-of-the-road instrumental artists, who, by recording these tunes, could appear to be a little bit racy and hip while still delivering smooth instrumental music that didn't depart from their typical fare.


Leon Ware & Bob Hilliard  – "Deep Throat (Filmmusik) (Parts I-VI)" (1972)

Released only in Germany, these three singles feature remakes of instrumental music from Deep Throat. The titles don't correspond with the titles that were used on the Deep Throat soundtrack album. The video below contains a remake of the eight-minute-long instrumental "Love Is Strange" (not the Mickey & Sylvia song, although it does contain an interpolation of the "Love Is Strange" guitar riff), but on the single it's generically titled "Deep Throat V." The description on the YouTube video says that this single was sold at adult cinemas.



Linda & the Lollipops – "Theme from Deep Throat" (1973)

This oddball vocal record is notable for its incomprehensible singing and moaning by the female vocalist, who is named Linda in reference to Linda Lovelace but is not Lovelace. The Italian single had a picture sleeve with a topless image of Lovelace, which I censored here so that I don't get a content warning on my blog, but you can see the full monty over at Discogs



Julius Wechter & the Baja Marimba Band – "Theme from 'Deep Throat'" (1973)

One of several MOR covers of the theme, this one was released as a single. 


T.J. Stone – "She's Got to Have It" b/w "Deeper and Deeper (My Love Grows)" (1974)

The success of Deep Throat led to director Joseph W. Sarno directing an R-rated comedy sequel, Deep Throat Part II, that was aimed at the mainstream but flopped, in part because it's a silly mess of a movie. It brought back stars Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems and added a number of other porn veterans in straight acting roles, including Jamie Gillis, Marc Stevens, Tina Russell, Chris Jordan, and Andrea True, the latter of whom would later notch a Top 5 pop hit with "More, More, More." The soundtracks of both Deep Throat and Deep Throat Part II were released on LP in 1974, and although the first soundtrack album didn't identify any artists, Deep Throat Part II did. This track by T.J. Stone was even released as a single. 



Lindy Lovelace – "Be My Baby" (1974)

The name was surely intended to make people believe it might be Linda Lovelace of Deep Throat fame, but it's not. A disco remake of The Ronettes "Be My Baby," this was the artist's only release, at least under this name. Arranged and conducted in the UK by Richard Hewson, the record wasn't a hit, and I've never heard it. I tried to contact Hewson a while back to ask about the story behind this single but didn't get a reply.



Los Indios Tabajaras – "Theme from 'Deep Throat'" (1975)

Los Indios Tabajaras were a prolific Brazilian instrumental guitar duo who specialized in easy-listening music that had a light "world music" touch. The Japanese picture sleeve for their interpretation of "Theme from 'Deep Throat'" included a photo of Linda Lovelace and an illustration of her that appeared on theatrical posters and the Deep Throat soundtrack album. I'm guessing that no one asked for permission.



Dolphin – "Linda Lovelace" (1977)

The UK band Dolphin included the original song "Linda Lovelace" on their debut album, Goodbye. The following year, it was released as the B-side of the single "Carry Me Away."


Some 1970s LPs that include "Theme from 'Deep Throat'" 

  • Rusty Bryant on For the Good Times (1973) (listen here)
  • The Richard Gold Orchestra on New Screen Theme Music (1976)
  • The original soundtracks of both Deep Throat and the R-rated sequel, Deep Throat Part II (1974) (listen here)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Homer Lee Sewell – "Ring Around the Bath Tub" (1965)

 



With its reference to vomiting and depiction of a sentient ring of soap scum, Homer Lee Sewell's "Ring Around the Bath Tub" is one of the weirdest old country songs I've heard in a while. 

It sounds like a song poem but was written and recorded by Sewell himself, a Texas country singer, recording engineer, and recording studio owner who once recorded a single for Pappy Daily's D Records label on which a young Willie Nelson played lead guitar. 

Sewell was born in Wills Point, Texas, in 1920 and died in 2018 at the age of 98 in Haltom City just outside Fort Worth, about an hour and a half from Wills Point. His grave marker describes him as a "Country Poet."

He ran Oakridge Music Recording Service and Demo Studio in Haltom City as well as Oakridge Records, on which he released his own music and music by other country and even rock 'n' roll artists. His entry on Discogs lumps together records by Sewell and Homer Lee, but Homer Lee was a different artist. 

Sewell's recording career appears to have begun in the late '50s. He recorded the previously mentioned D Records single, "She's Mad at Me" b/w "Whisper Your Name," both original songs, in 1959, but that wasn't necessarily his first record. These two songs are more conventional country fare than the bizarre "Ring Around the Bath Tub." 

The book Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski talks about how Nelson came to play guitar on a recording by Sewell, whom Patoski identifies as "another Cowtown Hoedown regular," referring to the Fort Worth country music radio show that aired on KCUL from 1957-61:  

"I found out he [Willie Nelson] was a good lead man," Sewell said, "so I asked him if he wanted to play on my record." Sewell rounded up Willie, Paul East, an upright bass player named Bill Bramlett, and two fiddlers and paid Uncle Hank Craig $200 to get his recording made and released on D Records. An alternate version of "Whisper Your Name," recorded on the stage of the Majestic with Sewell on fiddle and Willie and Paul East on guitar, supported by Jack Zachary, Hank Craig's son Eddie Craig on bass, and Bill Bramlett—members of the Hoedown house band—was used as the B side of the single. "I got more airplay on that than I did with 'She's Mad at Me,'" recalled Sewell. "It had a good beat to it." Lawton Williams played the record on KCUL, and so did the disc jockeys on KTJS in Sewell's hometown, Hobart, Oklahoma. But sales were feeble....

Around that time Sewell also launched his Oakridge label and began releasing singles by himself and others that probably had been recorded at his Oakridge studio. If the catalog numbers can be believed, it appears that his first release was "Open Arms" b/w "Always Broke" (Oakridge OR101). A later single, "Country Boy Shuffle" and "Two Silver Dollars," was numbered OR 104 and was released in 1959, according to 45cat, so "Open Arms" might have preceded the D Records single. 

None of these were hits, but some recordings Sewell released on Oakridge—of himself and others—have been included in modern anthologies of vintage country and rockabilly music.

That brings us to "Ring Around the Bath Tub," which, according to 45cat was released in 1965. It is a surreal account of a man's conflict with an anthropomorphized ring of bathtub soap scum that keeps him awake at night. 

The offbeat story and slurping sound effects at the end might qualify this as a novelty record, but the narrative is played straight and even includes some religious imagery in the chorus. The mention of vomiting is very unusual for a song of this era, and the almost random length of each line in the lyrics keeps the listener guessing about where the melody is going. 

The B-side, "Image of Daddy and Me," is a sad but somewhat confusing recitation that breaks into song on the choruses. It's one of those country weepers in which a child begs its parents to stop fighting, but the story is told by an observer in a courtroom who alternately quotes the child and the mother, the latter of whom says the titular line that the child is the "image of daddy and me." 

Here are the lyrics of "Ring Around the Bath Tub":


Friends, that old ring around the bathtub sure must be lonesome…


The towel is on the towel rack

And soap is in the container

The garbage disposal is all stopped up

And the ring around the bathtub makes me want to throw up


I’m drying myself off with the towel from the rack

And the dripping from faucet is running down my back

The ring around the bathtub has just about wore me out

I’ll try and get some sleep now if that ring around the bathtub don’t interrupt


I dreamed last night I was in Heaven

I was sleeping away in a room on flight eleven

When I awoke I’m-a whirling sound

The ring around the bathtub was up walking around


I got me some scouring pads and I put him back in place

And when I got through, he said, “You’re a human disgrace”

“If you go to sleep,” he said, “I’ll just interrupt again”

“I may be a ring around the bathtub, but brother your troubles have just begin”


I dreamed last night I was in Heaven

Sleeping away in a room on flight eleven

Then I awoke I’m-a whirling sound

The ring around the bathtub was up walking around

That ring around the bathtub was up walking around 


(slurp)



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Songs from the Pet Rock craze (1976)

 


Remember Pet Rocks? Mother Jones called them "one of the great crazes of 1976," and Time Magazine ranked them among the Top 10 toy crazes of all time. Inventor Gary Dahl struck gold, at least for a little while, by selling ordinary rocks in a pet-carrier-like container that held some excelsior as bedding and a pamphlet on how to care for the rock. Like most crazes, the Pet Rock also inspired a handful of novelty records that year. 

Introduced at the end of 1975 and priced at about $4.00, Pet Rocks were an instant success, but by 1977 the fad had run its course, and Dahl donated his remaining inventory of 100,000 Pet Rocks to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. 


Al Bolt "I'm in Love with My Pet Rock" (Cin-Kay CK-201, Feb. 1976)


Country singer Al Bolt wasted no time in rushing a Pet Rock novelty song to market. The title suggests that the song is about romantic love for a Pet Rock, but it's actually about a child who loves the rock that followed him home.


Walter Rockite – "The Pet Rocks Are Coming" (Westbound WT-5022, May 1976)

None of the creators of this break-in comedy record wanted to be identified by their real names, apparently, because the artist is credited as Walter Rockite, the composer as Sandy Granite, and the producer as Sparkle Quartz. Or maybe that was just part of the joke. The record is set up as an interview, like many of Dickie Goodman's break-in hits, with Rockite and others asking questions, to which snippets of hit songs play in reply. The topic, generally speaking, is the Pet Rock craze, but the questions veer into miscellaneous celebrity news, with rock puns and jokes being the only real thread. The B-side, credited to the Walter Rockite Rock Conglomerate, was a song called "Rocky Road."


Chuck McCabe & the K-ROCK News Team – "That Old Pet Rock of Mine" and "Live at the Pet Rock Show" (GRT Records, GRT-044, 1976)


Pet Rock inventor Gary Dahl actually cowrote the A-side of this double-sided Pet Rock single, which GRT Records advertised as "the greatest rock hit of all time." Get it? It wasn't a hit at all, and as far as I can tell didn't get substantial airplay, but the B-side, "Live at the Pet Rock Show," is a fairly amusing break-in comedy record in which all the snippets of popular songs sound like re-recordings, a strategy that would get around the licensing problems that often plagued break-in records. 


Michael Andrews – "Pet Rock" (Theta 2019-A, 1976)

Released in the summer of 1976, "Pet Rock" by Michael Andrews inspired a Los Angeles secretary named Jannene Swift to marry a 50-pound rock. The song got a little airplay but not nearly as much attention as the resulting marriage, which made national news. The wedding ceremony was performed at a park on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A., and the union was described as the first "inter-rock-cial" marriage.




Merlin – "Without My Rock" and "Pet Rock Rock" (Stonehenge 3001, 1976)

This double-sided Pet Rock record was supposed to accompany a book by author Thomas N. Corpening that was going to be titled either Pet Rock Jokes & Songs, as it says on the label of the 45, or The Pet Rock Joke Book, as it says in Corpening's obituary, but I haven't seen any evidence that this book was actually published. The Texas band Merlin set Corpening's lyrics to music for this single.


That was the end of the craze, but it wasn't the end of Pet Rocks. In fact, Pet Rocks are still available today. A record label called Pet Rock was active in the 1990s-2010s. Teenage Fanclub had a song called "Pet Rock" on their 1991 album Bandwagonesque. A band called The Pet Rocks released a couple albums. Some children's books about Pet Rocks have been published. And if you'd like to have an authentic vintage Pet Rock, they sell on eBay for around $40 these days. 



Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Four Coins and Four Coins Drive in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania




Like Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, the vocal quartet The Four Coins came from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where a street is named in their honor: Four Coins Drive. 

It's not the most impressive street—it winds past a cemetery and through a commercial zone—but it's a nice gesture in recognition of the group, which charted 16 hits from 1954-1960 between the Billboard, Cash Box, and Music Vendor charts.

Cousins Jimmy Gregorakis and George Mantalis and brothers George and Michael Mahramas originally formed the group as The Four Keys and recorded a couple records for the independent Corona Records label under that name before changing to The Four Coins when Epic Records signed them. 

“Shangri-La," a million seller, was their biggest hit on the Billboard chart, peaking at #11 in 1957, but if you follow the Music Vendor pop chart, they had one hit that charted even higher: "Memories of You" reached #9 in 1955, giving the group its only Top 10 entry. 

Michael Mahramas left the group in 1959 to pursue an acting career and was replaced by brother Jack Mahramas, and The Four Coins soldiered on, recording two albums of Greek songs in the 1960s and continuing to release singles into the 1970s.

Four Coins Drive was named in their honor in the late 1980s, and the group reunited in the 2000s for a some local performances and the PBS special Magic Moments: The Best of '50s Pop, in which they sang "Shangri-La."



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Mike Thomas – "Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer" (1977)

 


Donald Archibald copyrighted three songs in 1977: "Bubby, Bubbly Root Beer," "Victory Rock, Rock, Rock!" and "The Lullaby of the Clouds." Only the first one, as far as I know, was recorded. 

Archibald sent his lyrics to Tin Pan Alley, a song-poem company that was founded in New York in 1941, according to songpoemmusic.com, and then relocated to Sarastota, Florida. 

The song-poem industry, if you don't know, was a peculiar area of the vanity recording industry in which musical hopefuls would send their lyrics to companies who advertised in the back of magazines. These advertisements gave the impression that the song-poem companies were mainstream music entities looking for up-and-coming lyricists to supply words for future hit records, but in reality, the companies were bottom feeders who flattered applicants and coaxed them into sending money to finance recordings of quickly and cheaply arranged songs in independent studios, resulting in records that were pressed in very limited numbers and had absolutely no chance of achieving the commercial success that the companies suggested was a possibility.

"Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer" was performed by Mike Thomas, a stalwart musician of the Tin Pan Alley label who in this particular performance sounds like an Australian singer to me, but his other performances on other Tin Pan Alley recordings sound completely different.

As an enthusiast of song-poem recordings, I think "Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer" is one of the better efforts in this field. The stanza about moonwalks is questionable, but the rest of the lyrics are pretty solid, and the song itself expresses nostalgia for dad's homemade root beer as well as national brands such as Mason's (a childhood favorite of mine) and Hy's. The minimalist guitar/bass/drums arrangement by Mike Thomas lends the song an appealingly unpretentious garage-rock quality.

I don't know anything about Donald Archibald, but maybe one of his friends or relatives will comment on this post and we'll find out what inspired him to send his hard-earned money and sentimental root beer poem to Tin Pan Alley and commision this song. Whatever his motivation, the combination of his heartfelt lyrics and Thomas's simple vocal/instrumental arrangement resulted in what, as far as I'm concerned, is really a high-water mark in the weird world of song-poem recordings. 


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Wisconsin's short-lived Swastika Records label (1959)

 


One of the most spectacular pivots from a terrible idea to a great one occurred with this short-lived Wisconsin record label that was not only called Swastika Records but also prominently featured a swastika symbol in the logo.

Existing for only two months in 1959, the label was an imprint of Jim Kirchstein of Sauk City, Wisconsin, and became a longstanding source of dismay to Kirchstein, who later believed that the FBI investigated him because of it. Turning lemons into lemonade, Kirschstein quickly abandoned the Swastika label and renamed it Cuca Records, which—as many oldies fans know—became the center of regional independent music making in Wisconsin and achieved national fame with artists such as The Fendermen, whose "Mule Skinner Blues" was a Top 5 pop hit in 1960.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First came Swastika Records, which Kirchstein says he innocently, if naively, named in recognition of the large German-American population in Wisconsin and in reference to the traditional meaning of the swastika as a symbol of good luck. He explained his rationale for the name in Gary E. Myers' book Do You Hear that Beat: Wisconsin Pop/Rock in the 50's & 60's:

'That was a very dumb thing I did,' said Kirchstein. 'This was in the 50's and the horrors of World War II were just 15 years before that. I had the idea of creating a series of German related type music and the swastika was basically a symbol of good luck, a symbol of the sun.' 

Swastika Records endured long enough to release only two singles: one by the Midwest Ranchers (Swastika 1000) and one by Willy Tremain's Thunderbirds (Swastika 1001).

The Midwest Ranchers were a country combo with a trumpeter, and their Swastika single was the only record they released. (Steel guitarist Leroy Gilbertson later released a solo single on Cuca in 1962.) The Midwest Ranchers' single contained remakes of the Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette song "Riding Down the Canyon" and Carl Smith's 1950 country hit "I Overlooked an Orchard." Kirchstein paid RCA's pressing plant in Chicago to manufacture 300 copies.


In this label image from Discogs, someone tried to black out the swastika symbol with a marker!

Swastika's other single, the rock 'n' roll instrumental "Midnight Express" by Willy Tremain's Thunderbirds, was again pressed at the RCA plant in an initial batch of 300. 


The record was a good seller, so Kirchstein went to RCA to press another batch of 300. This time, RCA raised objections to the label's name and logo:

...[A]fter he placed an order for more copies of the release, his RCA contact, Bill Leonards found a problem with the records. The original label name chosen for Kirchstein's releases was Swastika and the records' paper labels included the symbol in their artwork, causing workers and management at the RCA facility to feel uncomfortable with the Nazi association. Kirchstein maintained that he chose the Swastika insignia because the large German population of Sauk City considered it a good luck sign. He had no intention of conjuring up pro-Nazi sentiments through his record business. (In later years, he believed the FBI investigated his activities based solely on this "dumb thing" he did.) Impulsively, Kirchstein decided while on the telephone with Leonards to rename his business Cuca, the nickname of his wife's Mexican-American cousin from Los Cusas, New Mexico.[1]

With the founding of Cuca Records, the Swastika name and logo were abandoned, and Willy Tremain's Thunderbirds became the first artist on Cuca, with the spelling of Tremain's first name changed from Willy to Willie.

In its entry on Tremain, Gary E. Myers' second book on Wisconsin music, On that Wisconsin Beat: More Pop/Rock/Soul/Country, contains a follow-up anecdote about the Swastika label: 

In 1995 [Tremain] obtained several copies of his 36-year old disc. 'We used to hire these kids to sell the records at our dances,' he explains. 'A few years ago my brother ran into one of those guys who still had a box of autographed copies on Swastika.' Jim Kirchstein laughingly said he wanted to get them and burn them - Jerry Osborn's 1999 price guide listed the disc at $200-$300.

According to Myers' book, even though the catalog numbers suggest that the Midwest Ranchers' record preceded the one by Tremain's Thunderbirds, Tremain's record was released in July 1959 and the Midwest Ranchers' record in August 1959. Cuca's debut, the reissue of the Tremain record, was also released in August 1959.

By the way, any music lovers who are interested in Myers' highly informative books on Wisconsin music of the '50s and '60s should visit his website where he's offering both of them at clearance prices. 







Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Music Weird's best of 2020



For years I've done most of my music listening in the car while commuting or traveling, but in 2020 I didn't go anywhere, so I had to carve out time to listen to music in a way that I haven't in the past. It was worth the effort.

In the interest of posting this in a timely manner, I'm not going to write about all these tracks individually, many of which are singles and all of which got lots of spins by me this year, but I will mention my three most-listened-to albums of 2020 in order of release:


Woods – "Strange to Explain" (May 22, 2020)

I'm a longtime fan of Woods, but they hit it out of the park with Strange to Explain, their best album since 2009's Songs of Shame in my opinion (although they released a lot of great music in between). I had this playing on repeat all through the summer.




Waifu Shrine - POP (October 9, 2020)

POP has a ramshackle DIY vibe that takes me back to the days of Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club but has plenty of traditional pop songcraft too. Underneath it all, "Spring Arrived Right in Time" is a future pop standard worthy of Tin Pan Alley, and "Toy Keyboard" has one of the best uses of a chipmunk voice since We're Only in It for the Money or even "Martian Hop."



Beach Vacation – I Fell Apart (November 13, 2020)

Just lovely from start to finish. It's not as much of a loss that Wild Nothing no longer sounds like Gemini when we have bands like Beach Vacation creating similarly gauzy, dreamy music that is simultaneously nostalgic and new. 




Music Weird's Best of 2020 Spotify playlist

Artist/track/album

  1. Beach Vacation – "Break the Ice" – I Fell Apart
  2. Spring Reverb – "Bric-A-Brac" – single
  3. Nessie Next Door – "Love Rind" – Dot the Eye and Cross the Tea
  4. Waifu Shrine – "Toy Keyboard" – POP
  5. Jan flu – "Lacrosse" – single
  6. Corey Flood – "Heaven Or" – Hanging Garden
  7. Love Tan – "What's the Point" – Love Tan
  8. I Saw You Yesterday – "Wander" – single
  9. Breakup Films – "All Kinds of Flowers" – single
  10. Hank Midnight – "New City" – Gardens EP
  11. Black Currants – "Carousel" – single
  12. Secret American – "Heavy Feels" – Heavy Feels
  13. Grazer – "Fever Dream" – single
  14. Choo – "Fool" – single
  15. GRMLN – "Sun" – Goodbye, World
  16. The Francine Odysseys – "Hide Your Eyes" – What If We Were Wrong
  17. Keeps – "Light in a Dream" – Affectianado
  18. Lunchbox – "Dream Parade" – After School Special
  19. Emma Kupa – "Nothing at All" – It Will Come Easier
  20. The Memories – "In My Heart I'm Sailing" – Pickles & Pies
  21. Grrrl Gang – "Love Song" – Here to Stay!
  22. The Very Most – "Her Three-Year Old Laugh or the Time the Microphones Played in My Living Room" – Needs Help
  23. Northern Portrait – "At Attention" – single
  24. Woods – "Where Do You Go When You Dream" – Strange to Explain
  25. Terry vs. Tori – "High Tide" – Leap Day
  26. The Sweet Serenades – "City Lights" – City Lights
  27. Tycho – "Weather" – Simulcast
  28. Echo Delta – "After 15" – Subluminal Projections



Best reissues

Various artists – Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987

Various artists – Iconic Pop Standards in Stereo and Iconic Country Originals in Stereo (full disclosure: I worked on these, but they are pretty amazing)


Finally, a new Cozy Catastrophes track from the last days of the year: