One Hit Wonders #27: “Wipeout” by The Surfaris (Dot Records 1963)

Kids all across America pounded their school desk tops in the 60’s and 70’s  (and probably still do!) imitating the hard-drivin’ primal drum solo of The Surfari’s “Wipeout”, which shot to #2 in the summer of 1963:

Ron Wilson based his riff on a simple paradiddle, a practice piece most anyone could do. Hell, even I can do a paradiddle, and I have NO musical talent whatsoever (as my good-ole-southern-boy dad used to say, “Son, you couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket!”). Only Wilson sped things up a few notches, aided by the twin guitar attack of Bob Berryhill and Jim Fuller, and Pat Connolly’s bubbling-under bass line holding the whole thing down.

At age 19, Wilson was the old man of The Surfaris – everyone else was sixteen years old when the song was recorded! “Wipeout” was first released locally in sunny Southern California as the ‘B’ side to their Beach Boys/Dick Dale inspired “Surfer Joe”, but then radio listeners started requesting the record’s flip side, and the band had an unintentional hit on their hands. Dot Records picked it up for national distribution, and “Wipeout” became a surprise smash! The song was re-released several times, charting again in 1966 and 1970, and  has been used on countless film soundtracks, including THE HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS, THE SANDLOT, WAYNE’S WORLD 2, TOY STORY 2, and DIRTY DANCING:

Rumors that future shock-talk TV host Morton Downey Jr. had a hand in writing and producing the song are completely untrue – “Wipeout” is a pure product of four Southern California kid’s imagination, and one of the biggest All-American rock’n’roll hits of all time! Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July, everyone – surf’s up!

Cowabunga!!

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Confessions of a TV Addict #15: Rambling On About The Cowsills, LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, HAPPY DAYS, and The Archies!

Last week, I attended one of those 60’s nostalgia concerts, this one called “The Happy Together Tour”. Headlining the bill was The Turtles (well actually A Turtle, but we’ll get to that later), Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett (minus The Union Gap), the founding fathers of The Buckinghams, The Classics IV (well, two of them anyways… The Classics II?), and the surviving members of The Cowsills.

For those of you unaware, The Cowsills were a family band from Newport, RI consisting of brothers Bill, Bob, Barry, John, and Paul; sister Susan, and Mom Barbara, who had a string of bubblegum pop hits in the late 60’s beginning with “The Rain, The Park, & Other Things”:

Bill, Paul, and Susan entertained the crowd with that, plus “We Can Fly”, “Indian Lake”, “Hair”and another number they introduced to the world, “The Theme from LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE”, which brings me to that 1969-74 comedy anthology series. The two-time Emmy-winner featured three-four different segments each week, focusing on some aspect of romance and relationships, with all titles beginning with “Love and…” followed by whatever hot topic: The Pill, The Dating Computer, The Singles Apartment, The Conjugal Visit, The Motel Mix-Up, The Generation Gap… you get the picture!

Guest stars included those on their way up and on their way down. A complete list of them would be as exhausting to write as it would be to read, so I’ll just share a small sample of some of the more interesting Familiar Faces: Joan Bennett, James Brolin, Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca, Yvonne Craig, Broderick Crawford, Richard Dawson, Bob Denver, Davy Jones, Patsy Kelly, Jack Klugman, The Lennon Sisters, Tina Louise, Paul Lynde, Roddy McDowell, Darren McGavin, Burgess Meredith, Mantan Moreland, Ozzie & Harriet Nelson, Julie Newmar, Regis Philbin, Stefanie Powers, Vincent Price (“Love and the Haunted House”), Aldo Ray, Burt Reynolds (“Love and the Banned Book”), Cesar Romero, Kurt Russell, Sonny & Cher, Larry Storch, Tiny Tim (“Love and the Vampire”),  Nancy Walker, Deborah Walley, and Adam West.

One particular 1972 segment titled “Love and the Television Set” featured a hormonal 1950’s teenager named Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard ) and his equally horny pal Potsie (Anson Williams) trying to score with babes after Richie’s family gets the first TV set on the block. This backdoor pilot served as the basis for the hit series HAPPY DAYS, which ran from 1974-84 and introduced the world to Henry Winkler as the ever-cool Fonzie (for better or worse – you make the call!).

As for The Cowsills (Remember The Cowsills? We were just talking about them!), their rock’n’roll family life served as the basis for another hit TV series, THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, which ran from 1970-74, and starred Shirley Jones and her soon-to-be-teen-idol stepson David Cassidy, spawning hit records like “I Think I Love You” and “I Woke Up in Love This Morning”:

Earlier, I said The Turtles were really A Turtle on that “Happy Together Tour” I attended (which got this whole rambling post started!). Mark Volman’s musical partner of over fifty years, Howard Kaylan, has been ill, and in his stead singer Ron Dante has been filling his shoes. You may not know the name Ron Dante, but you certainly know his voice: Dante sang commercial jingles for such products as Coppertone Tanning Lotion, Budweiser Beer, Campbell’s Soup, McDonald’s, and both Coke and Pepsi! In addition to producing Barry Manilow records in the 70’s, Ron sang lead for the Saturday Morning Cartoon rock band The Archies, and fifty years ago had the Number One hit on the planet, “Sugar Sugar”:

And that’s more than enough rambling on from me! Have a good night, and drive safely!

 

Rockin’ in the Film World #20: EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS (Embassy 1983)

You couldn’t go anywhere in 1984 without hearing “On the Dark Side” blaring from a car radio or your neighborhood bar’s jukebox. That’s thanks in large part to audiences rediscovering 1983’s EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS via repeated showings on HBO, turning the film into an instant cult classic and veteran Providence-based rockers John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band into FM-radio favorites. The film hadn’t done well when first released to theaters, but exposure on the fairly-new medium of Cable TV garnered new fans of both it and Cafferty’s soundtrack album.

Investigative reporter Ellen Barkin looks into the mysterious death of Eddie Wilson (played by Michael Pare’), lead singer of The Cruisers, whose death in a car accident is shrouded in secret, as the body was never found. Was it suicide? murder? or is Eddie still alive? She digs deep to uncover the facts about what happened that fateful night at the recording studio, where the band was putting together an LP titled “A Season in Hell”, based on the dark poetry of Arthur Rimbaud.

Her journey of discovery takes her to Eddie’s bandmates: lyricist/keyboard player Tom Berenger, now a high school Literature teacher; former manager Joe Pantoliano, a New Jersey DJ; bitter ex-bass player Matthew Laurence, leader of a Cruisers tribute band; background singer (and Eddie’s steady) Helen Schneider, a choreographer; drummer David Wilson, working in an Atlantic City casino. She also discovers the fate of saxman Michael “Tunes’ Antunes (the sax player for Beaver Brown, who was born RIGHT HERE in New Bedford, MA!), who tragically died of a heroin overdose (the more things change… ).

Director Martin Davidson (who also cowrote the screenplay) made his debut with 1974’s THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH, a 50’s-set drama that was an early hit for Sylvester Stallone and Henry “The Fonz” Winkler. His films are mainly of the low-budget variety, but well worth seeking out: the Gen-X coming of age tale ALMOST SUMMER, the John Ritter superhero comedy HERO AT LARGE, the sorority life drama HEART OF DIXIE (with Ally Sheedy, Phoebe Cates, and Virginia Madsen), and the Sissy Spacek romantic comedy HARD PROMISES (steer clear of the Davidson-penned, Joe Brooks-directed bit of treacle IF EVER I SEE YOU AGAIN though!). Davidson also worked extensively in TV, helming episodes of CALL TO GLORY, PICKET FENCES, CHICAGO HOPE, and JUDGING AMY, and a pair of TV-Movies starring Miss Madsen: the true-crime drama A MURDEROUS AFFAIR: THE CAROLYN WARMUS STORY and the baseball comedy LONG GONE.

Still rockin’ after all these years: John Cafferty, Michael Antunes, and the Beaver Brown Band

John Cafferty and Beaver Brown enjoyed enormous success after EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS found its way to cable TV, not only with “On the Dark Side”, but the FM hits “Tender Years” and “Wild Summer Nights”. Their follow-up album contained more hits (“Tough All Over” and “C-I-T-Y”), and they recorded the theme to the 1986 Stallone action flick COBRA (“Voice of America’s Sons”). The film’s sequel EDDIE & THE CRUISERS II: EDDIE LIVES!, tanked at the box office (and frankly isn’t very good), but that hasn’t stopped Cafferty and his bandmates from rockin’ and rollin’ after 40-plus years on the road. I’ve seen and enjoyed them several times, and they always manage to get the crowd movin’ and groovin’ (and stole the show from headliners Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes last time out!). The Beaver Brown Band are true rock’n’roll road warriors, and EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS is a must-see for die-hard rockers (like yours truly!).

 

One Hit Wonders #26: “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” by Gale Garnett (RCA Victor 1964)

New Zealand born, Canadian bred Gale Garnett sang her way to #4 on the Billboard charts during the summer of 1964 with a song that’s since become a summertime folk-rock classic, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine”:

Gale herself penned the tune and performed it with her band The Gentle Reign. Folk music was still big in those early days of Beatlemania, and Gale’s song, with it’s liltingly lovely harmonica and whistling refrains, had young lovers swooning in the summer breeze. Gale and her group copped a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording, and made the rounds of all the TV shows, but “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” was their one and only hit record.

But that didn’t stop Gale Garnett! She was already a starlet of note, appearing on TV shows like HAWAIIAN EYE, 77 SUNSET STRIP, and BONANZA, and would soon be featured in animated form as the beautiful but deadly Francesca, robot assistant to Baron Frankenstein (voiced by the one-and-only Boris Karloff! ) in the Rankin-Bass cult classic MAD MONSTER PARTY?, a stop-motion tribute to horror films that remains beloved by 60’s Monster Kids of all ages! Gale also gets to sing two of the film’s tunes, “Never Was a Love Like Mine” and “Our Time to Shine”, in which she sings and dances with an animated Count Dracula!:

Gale continued to act in TV (KOJAK, KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES) and in features. She played Joanne Woodward’s best friend in MR & MRS. BRIDGES and had a funny turn as Aunt Lexy in MY BIG, FAT GREEK WEDDING. She’s also written a series of romance novels, making her an artistic triple threat! As of this writing, Gale Garnett is alive and well at age 76, and though she’s done many things in her career, she’ll always be remembered for the haunting summer hit “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine”. Thanks, Gale!

Once I Had A Secret Love: RIP Doris Day

You wouldn’t think from reading most of the content I publish – Western actioners, horror flicks, film noir, exploitation trash – that I’d be a big Doris Day fan. But the first film I can remember seeing on the Big Screen is THAT TOUCH OF MINK, with Doris and Cary Grant, and I’ve been in love ever since. Talent is talent, and the iconic singer/actress, who died earlier today at age 97, had it in bucketloads. Doris’s career spanned nearly 50 years, from the Big Band Era to Cable TV, and was “America’s Sweetheart” for most of her adult life (not to mention “The World’s Oldest Living Virgin” due to her squeaky-clean screen image!).

Cincinnati-born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, born in 1922, wanted to be a professional dancer, but a severe car accident in 1937 curtailed that dream. Instead she turned to singing, and became a local sensation, eventually landing a gig with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Brown’s orchestra, carried by Day’s stylish phrasing, rose to the top of the pop charts in 1945 with a song that resonated deeply with GI’s returning home from World War II and became a jazz standard, “Sentimental Journey”:

After spending two years as the featured singer on Bob Hope’s radio show (where she honed her comedic skills), Doris was signed by Warner Brothers and made her film debut in 1948’s ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS, an amusing bit of musical romantic fluff that starred Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore, and Oscar Levant, in which she introduced the Oscar-nominated song, “It’s Magic”:

Doris was a hit with movie fans, and a series of musicals followed: MY DREAM IS YOURS, TEA FOR TWO, LULLABY OF BROADWAY, ON MOONLIGHT BAY, APRIL IN PARIS, BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON. She began getting some dramatic roles as well, as in  1950’s YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN, which found her as the love interest for alcoholic trumpeter Kirk Douglas. STORM WARNING (1951) found Doris enmeshed in a Southern town dominated by racism and the KKK, along with Ginger Rogers and Ronald Reagan. I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (1951) was a box-office smash, based on the life of famed early 20th Century songwriter Gus Kahn (played by Danny Thomas).

One of my personal favorite Day movies is CALAMITY JANE (1953), a rollicking musical set in the Wild West. Doris is the uncouth, rowdy legend Jane, while Howard Keel plays the object of her affections, Wild Bill Hickok. Doris gets to play broadly, mugging it up and having a grand old time, and introduces another #1 hit, the Oscar-winning “Secret Love”:

Her next two films are classics. LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955) is the musical biography of famed torch singer Ruth Etting, whose involvement with gangster Moe “The Gimp” Snyder (James Cagney) shocked the nation. Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) was a remake of the director’s 1934 film about an American couple abroad (Doris and James Stewart) embroiled in international intrigue and the kidnapping of their child. Both these films were hits, and Doris was now one of America’s top 10 box office draws (an honor she held ten times, including eight consecutive years, from 1959-1966).

Most fans remember her screen teamings with Rock Hudson in a series of ‘sex comedies’,beginning with 1959’s PILLOW TALK. This adult-oriented farce has Doris sharing a telephone party line with swinging playboy Rock, and the battle of the sexes that ensues. Tony Randall added to the fun as Rock’s pal, and the three reunited for 1961’s LOVER COME BACK, with Doris and Rock as rival Madison Ave ad execs. Last (and my favorite of the bunch) was 1964’s SEND ME NO FLOWERS, which has Rock as Doris’s hypochondriac hubby, who thinks he’s dying. The two stars remained lifelong friends, and Doris stood by Rock’s side as he was slowly slipping away due to complications from AIDS.

The times (and tastes) were a-changing during the 1960’s, and Doris moved to television, starring for 5 seasons on THE DORIS DAY SHOW. The sitcom went through numerous cast and setting changes during it’s run, never falling out of the top 40, but by this time Doris Day was symbolic of an earlier, more gentler era. She basically retired from show business, appearing in a few specials and talk show appearances, and hosted her own chat show, DORIS DAY’S BEST FRIENDS, on cable in the mid-80’s. Mostly, she was involved with her Doris Day Animal Foundation, and was an advocate to ‘reduce pain and suffering’ for animals worldwide. Doris Day’s passing today marks the end of an era, as Hollywood’s surviving Golden Age members are shrinking in numbers. It  may not be hip or cool to be a Doris Day fan, but if so, then I guess I’m not so hip and cool after all. God bless you, Miss Day, and thanks for the memories.

Rest in peace, Doris Day

1922-2019

 

 

One Hit Wonders #25: “Vehicle” by The Ides of March (Warner Brothers Records 1970)

The hard-driving jazz-rock hit “Vehicle” cruised to #2 on the Billboard charts back in May of 1970:

Everybody who heard the song thought it was a new Blood, Sweat, & Tears single at first: the signature brassy sound and gruff vocals reminded us of BS&T and lead singer David Clayton-Thomas.  No one had heard of The Ides of March – unless of course you were from the Chicago area, where they’d been having regional success since 1966.

The band formed in Svengoolie’s favorite town – Berwyn, Illinois – in 1964, and originally were called the Shon-Dels, consisting of Jim Peterik (guitar), Larry Millas (guitar), Bob Bergland (bass), and Mike Burch (drums), changing their name to The Ides of March in ’66 to avoid confusion with Tommy James & The Shondells, who were riding to the top of the charts at the time with “Hanky Panky”. Adding trumpeter Steve Daniels a year later, they added two additional horn players to capitalize on the success of jazz-rock bands like BS&T and Chicago. “Vehicle”, written and sung by Peterik, became Warner Brothers’ fastest-selling single up to that time, but despite incessantly touring and recording a follow-up LP, no more hits were forthcoming, and The Ides of March broke up in 1973.

Jim Peterik continued to write and perform, joining the jazz-rock band Chase, who had a hit of their own with 1971’s “Get It On”:

In `1978, Peterik cofounded the band Survivor with Frankie Sullivan. Their work was reminiscent of then-popular pop bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon, and Peterik soon had a #1 hit when he and Sullivan cowrote the song “Eye of the Tiger” for Sylvester Stallone’s ROCKY III:

Peterik continued to write or cowrite several tunes for other artists, including REO, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, Sammy Hagar, The Beach Boys, and .38 Special’s 1981 hit “Hold On Loosely”:

The Ides of March reformed in 1990 with Peterik and the original members, plus new horn players, and continue to tour the nation even today, while “Vehicle” has proved to still have plenty of miles on it. A 2001 General Motors ad campaign featured the song, and it found a new audience when Bo Bice performed it on AMERICAN IDOL in 2005 (Bice is now lead singer for Blood, Sweat, & Tears, bringing things full circle). Artists as diverse as Tom Jones, jazzman Chet Baker, Erykah Badu, and STAR TREK: VOYAGER actor Robert Picardo have recorded cover versions. It’s one of those One Hit Wonders whose hooks get stuck in your head, and will probably be performed and enjoyed long after I’ve played my final chord.

“GRRRReat God in Heaven, you know I loo-ooo-oove yoooou” – dah dah, dah dah dahhhhhhh – DAHHHHH!