12 Days of Random Christmas Songs: “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (from DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS)

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was first broadcast on December 18, 1966, and has become a TV staple ever since! Directed by Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones and narrated by the great Boris Karloff, one of the highlights is voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft (the original Tony the Tiger… “They’re grrrrrreat!) singing “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, an ode to the odious Grinch, and here it is! Enjoy, and save me some Roast Beast!:


12 Days of Random Christmas Songs: “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Twisted Sister (Razor & Tie 2006)

Dee Snider and his band released “A Twisted Christmas” in 2006, a heavy metal rendering of Christmas classics. The best of the bunch is “O Come All Ye Faithful”, using riffs from their hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to rock the traditional holiday hymn. There’s even an official video, and here it is! Enjoy “O Come All Ye Faithful”… and rock on, Dee!:

12 Days of Random Christmas Songs: SNOOPY’S CHRISTMAS by The Royal Guardsmen (Laurie Records 1967)

Florida rockers The Royal Guardsmen soared up the charts like a Sopwith Camel with their 1966 hit “Snoopy Vs The Red Baron”. A year later, the band released ‘Snoopy’s Christmas”, a holiday follow-up featuring everyone’s favorite WWI flying ace and his arch enemy The Red Baron calling a yuletide truce on Christmas Eve. The song went to #1 on Billboard’s Christmas specialty charts, and still gets airplay around this time of year! Enjoy “Snoopy’s Christmas”!:

One Hit Wonders #9: “In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans (RCA 1969)

A futuristic ballad about the danger of technological advancement and dehumanization spent 6 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1969. Properly titled “In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)”, this was the first and only hit for folk-rock duo Denny Zager and Rick Evans:

1969 had been a banner year for science fiction themes, with the films PLANET OF THE APES and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY becoming box office hits a year earlier, popular novels from Kurt Vonnegut (SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE), Michael Crichton (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN), and Ursula K. LeGuin (LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS) being published, and a young Brit named David Bowie releasing his LP “Space Oddity”. Of course, that was also the year Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, and the possibilities for space exploration seemed endless. But some doomsayers warned of the impending takeover by machines, where mankind would become a slave to its own inventions.

“In the Year 2525” was actually written in 1964 by Rick Evans. It became a regional hit in the Midwest for Evans and his musical partner Denny Zager, and RCA picked it up and released it nationwide five years later, scoring a huge success. Zager & Evans failed to capitalize on it, and have pretty much faded into obscurity. The song’s bleak outlook for the future of mankind seem somewhat prophetic in this age of people relying on their various devices, the proliferation of more and more technology isolating us all from each other, staring at our collective screens. Yesterday we all gorged on those Thanksgiving feasts, so maybe today would be a good time to step away from the laptops, go outside, stretch our legs, breathe in some fresh air, and talk to some real live humans… before the robots take over completely, and we all turn into nothing more than amorphous blobs of protoplasm!


Thanksgiving Tradition: ALICE’S RESTAURANT (United Artists 1969)

There’s another Thanksgiving tradition besides gorging on turkey’n’trimmings and watching football (which usually ends up with me crashed on the couch!), and that’s listening to Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 story/song “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”. Here in chilly Southern New England, I catch the annual broadcast on 94-HJY (Providence’s Home of Rock’N’Roll) at noontime, just before the yearly chow down. Arlo’s one of our own, though born in Brooklyn a long-time Massachusetts resident, and still frequently plays concerts around the state (catch him if he’s in your neck of the woods, he always puts on a good show).

Director Arthur Penn stretched Arlo’s 18-plus minute autobiographical tune into a 111 minute film back in 1969. ALICE’S RESTAURANT is not a great film, but it is a good one, with Penn and coscenarist Venable Herndon hitting all the touchstones of the counterculture movement: free love (read: sex), drug use, the Vietnam War, long-haired “freaks” vs establishment “straights”. Penn doesn’t gloss over or romanticize things either, instead giving the viewer a look at how these particular hippies live, work, and play without rose-colored glasses.  Despite any current nostalgia for the days of “peace’n’love, man”, we learn they are just as concerned with their place in society as the rest of us, with all of the same hopes and fears as the so-called squares.

The loosely constructed plot follows Arlo on a journey to self-discovery and his own place in the sun. Guthrie plays himself (or the fictionalized version of himself), and his pleasant personality carries him through whatever deficiencies he had as an actor. He’s especially good in the scenes where he visits with his father, folk legend Woody Guthrie, as the elder man lays dying in a hospital bed of the Huntington’s disease that killed him. The scenes are quite poignant, only brightened when another folk legend, Pete Seegar (playing himself), shows up and the two try to cheer Woody up by dueting on Woody’s “Riding in the Car Car”.

Arlo’s two friends, the grandiose man-child Ray Brock (James Broderick) and his wife Alice (Pat Quinn), are the hubs of this hippie universe, and both give good, nuanced performances. Another friend, Shelly, has a heroin addiction, and actor Michael McClanathan delivers a realistic performance as the gentle dope fiend. McClanathan, who only has six screen credits to his name, is alive and well and living in Phoenix as a professional bagpiper ( Visit his website here! ).

ALICE’S RESTAURANT also features the real-life Officer Obie (William Obanheim) and Judge James Hannon of “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” fame playing themselves, complete with the “8X10 color glossy photographs with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one” and a trial ending with “a clear case of blind justice”. The scene with Arlo at the draft board, forced to sit with the “mother rapers, father stabbers, father rapers” and all kinds of mean, nasty things on the Group W bench is revisited too, but this being Thanksgiving Eve, I think I’ll just step back and let Arlo himself tell you the story. Enjoy your bird, everyone!:

An OMG Moment with The Ross Sisters

While laid up at home battling sciatic nerve pain (which is pretty damn painful!), I turned on TCM for relief, and started watching BROADWAY RHYTHM, a 1944 musical starring George Murphy, Gloria DeHaven, and Jimmy Dorsey, among others. The movie itself was no great shakes, but this scene featuring a trio known as the Ross Sisters singing and dancing to “Solid Potato Salad” grabbed my attention:

Holy pretzels, Batman! Who were these scat-singing, torso-bending ladies?? I did a little research and found out, because… well, because that’s what I do! Apparently, they were Betsy, Vicki, and Dixie Ross from West Texas, who performed under the stage names Aggie, Maggie, and Elvira. These show-biz kids were teens at the time, but already gaining steam for their acrobatic contortions and three-part harmonies. The sisters even performed before the King & Queen of England at the London Pallaidium in 1946. Imagine that!

Betsy married comedian Bunnie Hightower (who also appeared in the movie as an impressionist), an alcoholic/schizophrenic who beat her severely… yet they also appeared together on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW! Vicki became a chiropractor, and managed to stump the panel on an episode of WHAT’S MY LINE? Dixie, the youngest Ross Sister, died of a barbiturate overdose at age 33. The girls surely didn’t have it easy in their post-entertainment careers, but their one glorious movie performance has been preserved for posterity to be enjoyed by all.

Halloween Havoc! Extra: Vincent Price Does “The Monster Mash”

In what’s become an annual tradition here at Cracked Rear Viewer, it’s time for Halloween season’s theme song, “The Monster Mash” ! This time around, Vincent Price and his fiends, including fellow horror icon John Carradine , perform the hit from 1981’s cult movie THE MONSTER CLUB, featuring a scary soliloquy by Vincent on the monsters known as “humes”! Without further ado, here’s this year’s “Monster Mash”! And Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls!: