November 29, 2009

What's A Krumwurstner?

According to this handy German language guide made by Dr. Seuss sometime around 1929, a "krumwurstner" is "one who drinks beer through a straw." This cartoon is one of a series of "Life's Little Educational Charts" cartoons drawn by Seuss long before Horton hatched that egg.

An Hour With Hitch

I just enjoyed a fascinating interview with suspense master Alfred Hitchcock conducted by Fletcher Markle for the CBC series Telescope in 1964. Film score buffs will be interested in the few minutes spent with Bernard Herrmann, who reveals that Hitch originally wanted no music during the murder scenes in Psycho. Watch it on Hulu.

November 28, 2009

November 20, 2009

Lifting Safely

Since I had to miss work tonight due to a back injury, I'd like to take a minute to remind you to always lift boxes safely. As a collector of pop culture stuff and one-time route salesman, I am an old pro at lifting things safely. This time, however, the bottom of the fairly heavy box I was trying to lift collapsed and my knee-jerk reaction was to twist my body in a very uncool way in a vain attempt to keep the contents from said box from spilling all over the bedroom floor. It's not a major injury, and I'll soon recover, but with the holidays approaching I thought I'd shoot a word to the wise. Now if I could only get that creepy "Mr. Bucket" jingle out of my, evil and forgotten 80's toy, I will not "put my balls" in your mouth!

50,000 Hits (And One Big Miss)

I was very pleased to see that Easily Mused passed 50,000 hits this morning. For almost a year now, visitors from literally all over the globe have been stopping by to share in my love for pop culture and it has been a richly satisfying experience. Believe it or not, 30,000 of those hits were related to a single entry, the apparently nerve-hitting exhibit Why Chicks Cry. The comments on this little piece have been almost universally positive, and one person in the publishing industry even suggested that it might have potential as a book, which seems a little surreal to me, but I guess stranger things have happened, so who knows?

It's fair to say that among the blogs I enjoy, Mark Evanier's News From Me
is a perennial favorite. Yesterday, Mark honored my little blog with his presence, to correct the artist credit for the Rocky & Bullwinkle comic book story I had posted. Al Kilgore was definitely not the artist of this piece, and if I knew anyhing of Al Kilgore's work, I would have spotted that immediately, since his style is as unique as it is engaging. Unfortunately, I relied on information obtained from The Grand Comic Book Database. I realize the GCBD is a massive undertaking, and mistakes will crop up from time to time, but I think the rule for posting credits there should be "Never guess at credits ever ever ever." And my new rule is "Never take GCBD as The Last Word ever ever ever."

I feel I have done an injustice to the late Mr. Kilgore, so I am presenting here a few links of interest concerning a very talented man who left us far too soon.

His Wikipedia entry is here and his entry is here.

Kilgore's beautiful giant drawing depicting stars of "Comic Strips & The Cinema" can be viewed here at Mike Lynch Cartoons and the key to all the caricatures in that drawing is here.

In 1966, Al took a turn as an actor in an independently produced serial parody called "Captain Celluloid & The Film Pirates." You can download the torrent file here. I previewed this a short while ago, and it looks like a lot of fun.

Harry McCracken shares an appreciation of Mr. Kilgore and a fine example of his work on the short-lived Rocky & Bullwinkle newspaper comic strip

Al Kilgore assisted in the creation of Sons of the Desert, The International Laurel & Hardy Society and you can visit them and see the lovely escutcheon Al designed for the organization here.

If you have any more links concerning the life and work of Al Kilgore, please post them in the comments section. As soon as I have time, I intend to post an actual Al Kilgore comic, so stay tuned for that.

And thanks again for 50,000 hits!

(Programming note: I will be out of town Sunday through Tuesday.)

And Now A Few Words From Our Sponsors...

November 19, 2009

Happy 50th, Rocky And Bullwinkle!

Has it really been 50 years since ABC broadcast the first earth shattering installment of Rocky and His Friends? This certainly is a cause for great celebration! If it only could be stated that just one of the modern cartoons that children watch today had one-tenth of the spark of imagination that Jay Ward's moose and squirrel show had, America would be a much better place. Much praise to Jay Ward and his friends for tickling our funny bones without insulting our intelligence, for teaching us how to pun, and for schooling us in the ways of unbridled silliness. Silliness, one may remember, is an art form that was popular in the 20th Century, before things got so (ecch) serious. It has largely been replaced in cartoons today by obnoxiousness, which is so non-silly it's ridiculous.

And now, watch me pull a comic out of my hat...

Four Color #1208 (Nov. 1961)
Story/Art: Unknown

November 17, 2009

Sausage Pilot!

"Sausage Pilot!" is a good example of the importance of never writing stories on an empty stomach. Scripter Hank Chapman barely lets a panel go by without having his characters mention the "S" word, and he also throws eggs, hot dogs, and baloney into the mix, not to mention liverwurst, a food I refuse to try because it reminds me of both "liver" and "worst." This appetite-whetting battle tale features Kubert-esque art by Irv Novick and appeared in DC's G.I. Combat #123 (April-May 1967). Come to think of it, since Chapman's last ever comic credit appeared in June 1967, maybe "Sausage Pilot!" was a tongue-in-cheek parting commentary on the low wages comic book writers sometimes receive. Was malnutrition to blame for his exit from the industry?

November 10, 2009

The Beatles And The Beach Boys Present: Sgt. Pepper

Update (May 5, 2015): I discovered to my dismay that the original video that accompanies this blog post no longer worked correctly. It should work now. Enjoy, music lovers! 

On May 16, 1966, The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, their most ambitious work to date and one of the most influential pop albums ever recorded. The album had been inspired in part by The Beatles' album Rubber Soul. Brian later recalled, "I really wasn't quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs ... that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, "That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album."

Over in England, Paul McCartney heard Pet Sounds and it changed the course of Beatles music forever. It is well known that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was primarily influenced by Pet Sounds. The following quote from Sir Paul sums it up:

It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I've just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life ... I figure no one is educated musically 'til they've heard that album ... I love the orchestra, the arrangements ... it may be going overboard to say it's the classic of the century ... but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways ... I've often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John [Lennon] so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence ... it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines ... and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines. "God Only Knows" is a big favourite of mine ... very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one. On "You Still Believe in Me", I love that melody - that kills me ... that's my favourite, I think ... it's so beautiful right at the end ... comes surging back in these multi-coloured harmonies ... sends shivers up my spine.

After Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson, at the height of his musical powers, planned an even more ambitious follow-up, tentatively titled Dumb Angel. The project, termed "a teenage symphony to God" by Brian was to be comprised of musically and thematically linked songs, using unique arrangements. "Good Vibrations" was the first result, and a good example of how amazing and profoundly impactful the final project, which would come to be known as Smile, could have been.

Unfortunately, Smile was not properly released by The Beach Boys in 1967, or any other year, and the legends surrounding it's demise are as harrowing as they are legendary. For years, fans have circulated recordings of these sessions and many feel that Smile is THE "great lost album." After Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, Brian felt that The Beatles had beaten him to the punch conceptually, and it was the last nail in the coffin for Smile. An inferior work, Smiley Smile was released, to little fanfare. From this point on The Beach Boys entered a slow but steady decline. Brian Wilson suffered a breakdown from which he was slow to recover before his triumphant return much later. Meanwhile, Sgt. Pepper became, like Pet Sounds, one of the greatest pop albums ever made.

All of this you may know already. It is well documented fact.

But what if it hadn't happened that way?

Perhaps, in a parallel universe, the course of history ran slightly differently.

The following presentation, while based on real people and events, is a dramatization, totally fictitious. It is also one fan's tribute to two of the greatest groups of musicians that ever were. Thanks for teaching me about love and true happiness.

May 1966 - Paul McCartney, upon hearing Pet Sounds, becomes possessed of a strong desire to meet and possibly collaborate with Brian Wilson.

August 1966 - The Beatles' album Revolver is released.

August 29 1966 - The Beatles play their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. After the show, a party is arranged at which both The Beatles and The Beach Boys are present. The Beatles hear the just completed "Good Vibrations" and are quite captivated. Comparing notes, the bands decide to collaborate on their next project, as yet unnamed. The "Good Vibrations" single is halted from release.

November 1966 - The Beach Boys and Brian's lyricist Van Dyke Parks arrive in England and secretly meet with The Beatles to develop the concept of the new album.
It is decided that the album will be presented as a friendly "battle of the bands", and also as a celebration of life, love, and spirituality.

December 1966 - Recording begins in earnest, "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Penny Lane", and "Heroes And Villains" being the first songs recorded.

June 1, 1967 - The double album is released. The track listing is as follows:

Record 1 Side A

1. Our Prayer
2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band
3. With A Little Help From My Friends ( lead vocal: Bruce Johnston)
4. Good Morning Good Morning/Barnyard
5. Heroes And Villains

Record 1 Side B

1. Penny Lane
2. Wind Chimes
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Good Vibrations
5. It's All Too Much

Record 2 Side C

1. When I'm 64
2. Cabinessence
3. All Together Now
4. The Old Master Painter/ You Are My Sunshine
5. Strawberry Fields Forever

Record 2 Side D

1. Getting Better
2. Surf's Up/Child Is Father Of The Man
3. Within You/ Without You/ Mellotron Music #4
4. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
5. A Day In The Life/Vegetables

And here is a reconstruction of how this album might have sounded, if it had ever existed.