Archive for September, 2014

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It Should Have Been Better

September 28, 2014

25 summers ago, before the internet even existed, the talk around television land was about the first attempt to turn PICTIONARY into a kid’s game show.  Articles spoke about Brian Robbins from the hit sitcom HEAD OF THE CLASS, and his excitement about hosting, and how great it was going to be, having the contestants draw on a Tele-Strator.  It sounded promising.

Well, as luck had it, I was home from work recovering from a burned hand, and had the chance to check it out.  Let me sum up my reaction this way.  It was a fascinating train wreck of a show.  Let me start with the positives.  Brian Robbins was very good with the kids, and did as well as could be expected, given the final results.  The set design was appropriately made to look hand drawn.  The main game itself was good too.  Round one had the team’s relaying back and forth to draw words in a category in sixty seconds, team with the most words earned points toward the final score.  Round two was like SUPER PASSWORD in that the teams drew clue words that went up on a board for the rest of the team to look at, and guess the solution.  The final round was a speed round, no topics, just random words for the team’s to buzz in and guess.

Not bad overall, right? Well, here comes the train wreck part.  First was the hostess.  She was nothing more than an air-headed piece of eye candy for the adolescent boys watching at home.  Even when I watched an episode on YouTube, I was at a loss to explain her purpose, other than to point at the clue board, and fill the team’s score meter with beads.  That’s right, they kept score with plastic beads filling a tube.  The hostess was only part of the wreck.  There was also a former professional arm wrestler who was acting as the show’s judge.  His only job, from what I could tell was to explain the rules for each round, and keep track of the number of guessed words in rounds one and three.  He did all this while the audience booed him.  Was this supposed to be funny? It was only tiresome after the first two times.  Brian could have just as easily gone over the rules, and have the totals tallied via displays or captioned on screen.  The judge character was unnecessary.

Then there was the bonus game, which just had to copy DOUBLE DARE in some way, of course.  One member of the team held two pieces of hosing together to allow water to travel to the second person, holding a small pitcher over his or her head.  When the pitcher was full the remaining team member poured the water into a prop that was divided and filled with balls.  The team had ninety seconds to reveal the picture the balls were hiding and identify said picture, by getting the balls to float to the top to the point they could be removed.  If this sounds complicated, it was.  If you think this most likely looked stupid, it did.  Not surprisingly, the show was gone by the end of the summer.  Like I said, it was a fascinating train wreck.  Oh yeah, the think music used in rounds one, two and the bonus game was synthesized cheesy corn-ball, which was just plain annoying, and becomes a musical earwig by show’s end.  It could gave been so much better

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The new Musical Voice of the Muppets

September 25, 2014

During my time away, I had the chance to see both new Muppet movies.  I will admit, however, that it was with a degree of worry.  I still had bad memories of MUPPETS FROM SPACE, and its lack of original music.  What’s more, I wasn’t convinced that Brett Mackenzie would show any respect for the musical sound of the Muppets that Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss had already established.

I am happy to say that as soon as I heard the opening LIFE’S A HAPPY SONG in the first movie, my worries were over.  I could hear the banjo, I could hear the woodwind arrangements, and in the encore, there was Rowlf playing a tack piano intro.  Better still, Brett was able to capture Kermit’s regrets in the beautiful PICTURES IN MY HEAD, and scored Oscar gold with MAN OR MUPPET.  Brett’s  stock was on the rise with me.  But, as the song asked, could he do it all again?

The answer was a resounding yes when MUPPETS MOST WANTED came along.  The Raposo/Moss sound was even MORE detectable to my ears when the cast opened with WE’RE DOING A SEQUEL, with even more banjo and brass, and didn’t stop with that song.  That glorious sound showed up not once, but TWICE more with I’M NUMBER ONE and THE INTERROGATION SONG, which floored me.  And once more, we got a great emotional ballad in SOMETHING SO RIGHT.

So, Joe, Jeff and Jim, don’t worry about who’s going to make our beloved Muppets sing the way we know and love.  Brett Mackenzie has easily picked up and is carrying the torch.  If and when another sequel comes our way, I fully expect more great things from Brett.  In my always humble opinion, he can definitely do it all again.

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NOW I can Name That Tune! (formerly Is That What it’s called?)

September 24, 2014

One of the things I’ve done recently is rummage through the Mecca of production music sites as a way to pass downtime at work. I refer to Associated Production Music, and their most excellent s ite, which lets you preview tracks on any album you wish. Naturally, I wanted the comedy tracks to cheer me up, and to see what I would recognize. Lo and behold, the first album I clicked on was simply called CLASSIC COMEDY.  The very first track listed was one I didn’t expect to find and learn so much about.  This track was very prevalent in the 1970’s and 1980’s, especially when Sesame Street was featuring their time-lapse beginning/end series, and was used not only in this series, but also used in Owe Gustaffson’s three dancing penguins cartoon. Ah, now you’re either hearing it in your head, or you’re opening YouTube in a new browser to search for this.  That piece, dear readers is called I SAY, I SAY, I SAY.  The composer is David Lindup.  David was a session musician, arranger, and composer.  His son was the lead singer of Level 42. At last, the mystery was solved for me.  But here’s what I didn’t know about the track.  I mostly only ever heard the thirty second cut.  The full track clocks in at a minute and thirty-eight, with the familiar melody book-ending the track. The thirty second edit is actually the end of the track.  I never knew that there was a xylophone solo, a trombone solo, a trumpet solo, and an electric guitar solo as well.  I also didn’t know the train whistle is only one way to punctuate the end.  There’s also a siren whistle, and my favorites, the Monty Python raspberry and a laughing cornet sound. I must say that I owe props to the rhythm section. They only catch a break when the guitar comes in. Can you imagine what the lead sheet must have looked like? Now I put the question to you. Besides Sesame Street, what are your memories of I SAY, I SAY, I SAY? I’m eager to hear from you. UPDATE 10/7:  Recently, the A.P.M. site updated its preview section. Today I learned the version we know is the thirty second B edit, and that Owe Gustafson used the fifteen second “link” edit, minus the percussive intro. I also did a search on bing for this, and some hits made me chuckle. One site requested someone post lyrics. My question is how on earth do you write lyrics for this???? Then I find out that you can download it from Amazon.com as an mp3. I suppose it’s handy for a project, but for personal use? I don’t think so, unless you WANT a permanent musical ear-wig. Update: 2/16/2015: The coolest thing just happened! I emailed Mike Lindup about this piece. He wrote back saying he didn’t realize this was his dad’s composition, and asked ME to direct him to APM’s site so he could hear it for himself. Stay tuned for further updates!

Update: If you put the track type title into a bing or Google search, a suggestion will appear for I SAY, I SAY, I SAY JOKES. These jokes originated in English music hall and consist of three parts. The first comedian makes a simple statement like, “My brother’s on a singing tour of South Korea.” The second asks a simple short question, which in our example would be “Seoul?”. The first comedian then delivers the punch line answer: “No, R&B”. These jokes are delivered in a rapid fire patter rhythm. For me, this explains why the piece is set up the way it is. The tempo is definitely music hall comedy. The partial main theme evokes the comedians entering the stage and start dancing frantically. The middle sections of instrument solos are the jokes themselves. When the main theme reprises, the comedians exit dancing. Well, that’s my interpretation anyway. I guess this piece was David’s tribute to the early days of British entertainments.

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Where Have I Been??????

September 24, 2014

I feel I owe you all a good explanation as to my sudden disappearance.  To start, I got hit with a terrible case of writer’s block.  I just didn’t have anything new to discuss.  I was also discouraged that I wasn’t getting new replies to my posts like I did when I started.  So, I decided to break from the blog for a while. Shortly after doing so, I met a terrific lady named Susan.  She and I had everything in common.  Who needs a blog when there’s someone there to be with you and love you, right?  We got engaged, and started planning a life together.  Sad to say, these plans would never be fulfilled.  Susan had illnesses that affected her physically and psychologically.  Things came to a tragic head early this year,when my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer.  He died in hospice less than a month later.  This sent my poor Susan into a tailspin she was never able to recover from, and in May, she took her own life.  I do not believe she planned this.  The hospital that was treating her messed with her medicine so badly, that the balance she had was gone.  I couldn’t afford to keep our condo, and there was no way I was going to stay there.  I am currently living in my childhood home, helping Mom clear things out, and rebuilding the bank account to get a new place for myself.

One day at work, I mentioned the blog, and I got to thinking of coming back.  My great coworkers said I should, and here I am.  I hope those of you who read me before will welcome me back, and if you’re a new reader, welcome to my return.  Now that I’ve cleared the air, read on to my next article, in w which a longtime musical mystery was recently solved for me.  PS please bear with any spacing errors you find in my post. I’m currently using the Kindle my dad left for me to type.  It ain’t easy!