Tonight we continue, as promised, with the other half .... you've been warned .....
First, my top five list of most outrageous remakes, which I shall christen:
1) HONEY / The Smothers Brothers
You know the 1968 hit by Dothan, Alabama musical lightweight Bobby Goldsboro. You wish you could forget it. Or you wish you could stick your hands through your monitor and strangle ol' Tal for reminding you this terrible, terrible song existed.
But I have the antidote, although it's nowhere to be found on record. You might remember The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, back in the late '60s on CBS. Tom and Dick pushed the envelope with their brand of subversive comedy -- even getting themselves canceled early in 1969 (and replaced with .... [gulp!] ... Hee Haw).
Pardon my digression; on an episode in September 1968, the brothers air a skit which completely, totally and mercilessly desecrates "Honey." It takes place at this small dwelling that's come to be known as "The Honey House." The house, where "Honey" died, is now open as a tourist trap, and the husband of "Honey" (played by Tom) is now giving guided tours as he sings the ballad.
I wish this episode could be released on a DVD .... 'till then, I'm afraid, this is one of those "traded copies." (If you want a copy, shoot me an e-mail and we'll talk about it......)
2) LOUIE, LOUIE / The Sandpipers
This foursome was among the charter artists on Herb Alpert's A&M Records roster. Their stock-in-trade was Spanish-flavoured middle-of-the-road music, not unlike fellow A&M'ers Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 (later '77, '88, '99, '00, '11, '22, etc., etc.) -- but just lusher. Very, very lusher.
Lusher. Is that even a word?
Well, it is in Rincon, Georgia!
Ahem. Anyhoo, The Sandpipers were best-known for their top ten sleeper single "Guantanamera", a/k/a "One Ton Tomato" or (as Seraphim called it) "One Ton of Maalox." Ah, but there had to be a follow-up single in the chute. So, perhaps inspired by the ingestion of bulk amounts of pharmaceuticals, they set out to remake the party anthem "Louie, Louie."
Did they ever. Turned it into something so lush that back in college I could've played it on KASU's Mantovani showcase program Dinner By Sunset without Mr. Rasberry batting an eye.
Remember the controversy over the unintelligible lyrics on the 1963 original by The Kingsmen? Some began thinking, "Well I cannot understand what they're saying, so it must be obscene!" I think the governor of Indiana actually tried to have the song banned from his state! Some suggested that satan-glorifying lyrics could be heard if one slowed the 45 down to 33-1/3 (this, mind you, years before "Stairway to Heaven" was recorded!).
The Sandpipers' cover is how the original version sounds if slowed down to 16 RPM (remember those OLD record players that had the 16 speed on 'em???)
3) YESTERDAY ONCE MORE / The Shaggs
These two sentences, from their first LP's liner notes, say it all:
"The Shaggs love you, and love to perform for you. You mayIf you're familiar with The Shaggs -- Helen, Betty and Dot Wiggin -- I need say no more. If among the blissfully unaware, I invite you to lose said bliss and check out the trio's website. Dearfolk, this is power pop at its purest!
love their music or you may not, but whatever you feel,
at last you know you can listen to artists who are real."
I was first turned on to the group while in college (if Mom & Dad only knew all the corrupting influences I picked up while in Jonesboro, Ark., they'd be demanding some of their money back!). Back in those glorious mid '80s days, Jone'burr had two record stores in town -- Record Exchange (the used store, run by the uber-illustrious Franklin Chestnut) and Hot Dog (the "regular", i.e. new, store). Kenny, the owner/manager of Hot Dog, would often put The Shaggs on the turntable at about 8:55 p.m., as a way of flushing the customers out of the store so he could close promptly at 9 and get home at a decent hour. The look on the faces of unsuspecting patrons was priceless.
Okay, most of The Shaggs' tunes were their own. But on their CD reissue, there is to be found a real gem in the form of a cover of The Carpenters' 1973 hit song "Yesterday Once More."
Aside from the sheer glee I felt knowing that one of my ex-wife's favorite artistes were tweaked by three girls that made her stomach turn, I felt even greater glee that The Carpenters were delivered something they themselves doled out amply during the '70s: insulting covers! ("Please Mr. Postman", "Ticket To Ride", "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)", "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft", et al).
Say what you will about The Shaggs, just know that they're "better than The Beatles" -- at least according to no less than the late Frank Zappa.
4) TURNING JAPANESE / "Tom Munroe"
Another one a little difficult to track down at your friendly neighborhood used-record store. It's from a "video LP" entitled On a New Wavelength. Tom Munroe is, in actuality, Rick Moranis -- and this was from an old SCTV skit, one of several known as The Gerry Todd Show. Gerry Todd (also played by Moranis) was a "video DJ" at a "video station", where he sat at a console switcher, with a bank of video monitors behind him, doing what amounted to a video radio station, complete with 'video jingles.' A spooky case of life imitating art, as the Gerry Todd concept was first done a couple years before the creation of something called MTV.
This skit featured "Tom Munroe" in a video for this 1980 punk-pop hit by The Vapors. Moranis and SCTV morphed "Turning Japanese" into a truly hilarious piece of lounge'y MOR. Both "Tom" and "Gerry" pronounced the song as "Turning Jap-ah-NEES!!!" (later in that sketch, they also bestowed the same treatment to The Police hit "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.")
5) DOWNTOWN / Mrs. Elva Miller
So. Was this a parody of Petula Clark's #1 hit from 1965? Or was it done straight? Mrs. Elva Miller, for those wondering, was a tone-deaf dimunitive woman who sang "Downtown" in a quasi-operatic, off-key style. Her version squeaked into the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, and I managed to find myself a rare copy of the Capitol 45 in the musty record bin at the Jonesboro Salvation Army.
So was this real, or meant to be a joke? A straight answer has yet to be found. You could say that Mrs. Miller was the Andy Kaufman of her day (hmmm, wonder how a Mrs. Miller treatment of REM's "Man On the Moon" would sound?).
And the song? I think I find the good Missus' version more listenable than Pet's original for some twisted reason.
I think this release coincided a little too closely with the rise of shopping malls.
So there you are. To-wuk amongst yourselves...
And coming up, I shall wrap up this interesting journey into the world of the remake macabre with my list of the five worst covers. Stay tuned.
Ciao for niao!
--Talmadge "GERRRRRYYYY TOOOOODD!!" Gleck