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Friday, October 30, 2015

Wheelee Board

The Wheelee Board (1977) unquestionably was the oddest skateboard. Ever.

With six wheels and a plastic board with the rear wheels set at an angle, it was designed for tricks. I haven't had much personal experience with skateboards of any kind, but I imagine one would have to be particularly deft in their skills to ride these things. Or suicidally insane.

Not much else is known about the Wheelee Board, except that it's apparently a joke in the skateboarder community.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bottoms Up

One of the many politically incorrect drinking board games of the 1960s and '70s, Bottoms Up was a game produced by Colt 45 malt liquor.

The object was to accumulate 30 credits, thereby completing one year of college. All while drinking Colt 45 "bottoms up" wherever you land on a space or take a card requiring you to. (I would be shocked if anyone actually finished a game.)

Some of the action cards that you were required to do:

Smoke two cigarettes simultaneously
Obey any wish or request of the player on your right
Put an article of your clothes on backwards
Do a Jack Benny imitation for 30 seconds
Explain to other players why you think that sex before marriage is a necessity.

Obviously, this game was from a very different time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Children's Disco Musical Stories (Venus, 1988)

It's not every day you run into disco versions of children's stories, especially South Asian ones. And one made eight years after disco fizzled out in America. But this cassette really exists. 

Listen Here

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rodney Allen Rippy

In 1973, Jack In The Box ran a TV commercial for it's Jumbo Jack burger featuring a cute little kid named Rodney Allen Rippy, who held the Jumbo Jack in his hands and said "It's too big to eat!". But being a little kid, it came out as "It's too big-a eat!". It became a national catch-phrase in 1973-1974.

This led to a 45 RPM single with Bell Records called "Take Life A Little Easier". At age five, he also became the youngest person ever to have a Billboard charting pop hit. A record that to this very day, remains unbroken.

So whatever happened to Rodney Allen Rippy?

Well according to his website, after his Jack In The Box commercial run, he starred in other commercials, including Nehi soda, Chevrolet and others. He graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1995.  He's taken on a few TV acting roles since his childhood stardom back in the early 1990s and appeared in the 2003 David Spade comedy Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. He also hosted a Los Angeles radio talk show.

Contrary to many internet hoaxes and urban legends, Rodney Allen Rippy is still very much alive and well. He was badly injured in a bike crash in 2010, but he's fully recovered.

He's still active in the entertainment industry.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The JFK Memorial Album‎s

In the sudden aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. a flurry of tribute albums to JFK were released.

Several labels participated, but it was mostly the budget labels, such as Synthetic Plastics Company (which distributed two albums on the Diplomat and Premier labels), Pickwick had a version as well as Crown Records and a few majors such as Columbia, RCA Red Seal and Decca.

They were mostly recordings of Kennedy's greatest speeches. Most sold for 99¢ and proceeds from these records went to benefit The John F. Kennedy Council on Mental Retardation.

Many people have asked me if these albums were valuable monetarily and to be honest, they're not. All of these recordings are now public domain and widely available through several download sites (including US government archive sites) or on YouTube. Sealed mint copies go for as low as $15 and copies in any condition could be easily found in most thrift stores, as millions were sold in the months following the Kennedy assassination.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Holy Toledo!

Photo: Katie Rausch/The Toledo Blade
Meet Opal Covey.

She's running for mayor of Toledo, OH.

Well, actually it's kind of a long story. You see, according to Opal Covey, she is supposed to be mayor of Toledo. Right now. But for the past few elections, they have all been "rigged" against her, in spite of Covey never receiving more than 400 votes in the last mayoral elections she's run in.

Covey's platform is an interesting one to say the least. It consists of building an amusement park on three acres of land in downtown Toledo (surrounded by a parking garage which sits on far more space than this entire proposed amusement park.) And others on similarly sized lots of vacant property in downtown Toledo, claiming it would somehow make Toledo a hot tourist destination.

I can't even fit my attitude on three acres.

Yet she insists there's enough room for several full size carnival rides, arenas, ticket booths, concessions, game booths and porta-potties on these three acres. As well as the thousands of visitors she's expecting to flock to this particular amusement park (did I mention all this is supposed to be on three acres?)

O...K then. But folks, you ain't seen nothing yet.

A few weeks ago on Fred LeFebvre's morning show on Toledo news/talk station WSPD, Opal Covey was invited to discuss her plan on his show. And when Fred asked her to be specific about the physics and means of this particular amusement park in comparison to outlying amusement parks in the Toledo area, she...

Well, never mind. Just....just play it.

Video courtesy of 1370/92.1 WSPD Toledo/iHeartMedia

This wasn't the end of it. As LeFebvre was escorting Opal Covey out of the station building after the interview. Well, this happened. Perhaps the damnedest thing you'll see all year.

Adjectives will utterly fail you.

Video courtesy of 1370/92.1 WSPD Toledo/iHeartMedia

Wow. Just....Wow.

But just for the sake of sheer fun, let's pretend she was actually elected mayor of Toledo. What could we expect from an Opal Covey administration?

- Well, needless to say, Toledo's Public Access TV channel will get a HUGE ratings boost. Why watch any of these crappy new sitcoms on the broadcast/cable TV networks or Netflix when the funniest damn comedy in America is the city council meetings on Toledo Public Access TV?

- The natural laws of geometry, physics, dimension and space (and possibly gravity) are about to be overturned by the Covey administration to accommodate Mayor Covey's three acre amusement park plan. Suck it Nye and deGrasse-Tyson.

- Wiping the dust off your feet will become the latest dance craze.

- Local signs in the Toledo area will be in English and Tongues.

I think this very well may be Opal Covey's year. With all the media attention she's been getting recently, she may very well crack that 400 vote ceiling.

I'm not a fan of Republican politicians (they're all bull moose nuts as far as I'm concerned.) But if I lived in Toledo, she'd definitely have my vote. If only for the amusement value in Opal Covey alone, regardless of her amusement park plans.

We'll all just have to wait until next Tuesday to find out how she fared. I'll keep you updated on the Facebook page. Be sure to Like. There's links to current news stories in the world of pop culture and oddities as well as vintage photos and other memorabilia.

And good luck to Opal Covey....

Outsider Music

Ahhh....Another peaceful Sunday morning. Time to put on some nice, relaxing easy going music. Right?

Well I'm having none of it. It's time to crank it up full blast and wake up the neighbours with some truly awesome music. The stuff you just won't hear on the radio. Anywhere

Outsider musicians are those folks who simply make music the only way they know how. With very little to no musical training whatsoever. The conventional requisites of stardom are simply unheard of among outsider musicians.

This is not American Idol. There is no competition. Or critiquing. Or even practicing and rehearsals. What you hear is what you get.

They simply don't care about commercial success. Or any musical conventionality even amateur musicians adhere strictly to. They make their music on their own whims and for the sheer sake of their own personal enjoyment. Even if the only one enjoying it is themselves, they wouldn't care.

It also differs from vanity acts. Vanity acts actively look for a commercial breakthrough and exposure to the masses. Most outsider acts would never be heard at all were it not for certain friends and associates encouraging them to take a leap of faith and record their material.

Sometimes a major label finds them, but that's usually a by-product of local press buzz or through chance contacts. The labels never seek outsider musicians and outsider musicians never seek the labels. If planets align, they align. But that's very rare if they do. The major labels want something that delivers a massive return on whatever investment they make. And that's something no outsider act has ever really done. 

Outsider music isn't even a conscientious rebellion against mainstream rock and pop's status quo, which usually drives most hardcore independent lo-fi punk bands. They truly believe in what they are doing in spite of what anyone thinks. They simply let their dim lights shine.

But what may sound like tone-deaf psychiatric patients (some, but not all outsider musicians suffer from some sort of severe mental illness) to the rest of us is technically a sub-sub genre of Alternative rock. It's not even a "new" thing ("Wild Man" Fischer, whom Frank Zappa discovered in the late 1960s, is a pioneer. So is David Peel, whom John Lennon discovered and released a few albums of his on the Beatles' Apple label in the early '70s, The Shaggs and to some extent, even Charles Manson.)

Today, we're going head first into the most obscure of obscure music genres. But like most of my posts here, I don't disclose everything. I like to leave some of it out for you, the reader, to explore on your own. I just merely set up the launch pad for your own journey (it might be one-way.) So this is not a complete list. Not by far. But it's enough to give a basic insight into this strange genre. Google "Outsider music", if you're really curious.

Bingo Gazingo

Sweet dreams, ladies.....
Bingo Gazingo (Murray Wachs, 1924-2010) was an elderly New York City outsider musician and poet with perhaps more punk rock authenticity than any band that ever played at CBGB's. And I mean all of them. He was, perhaps literally, the grandfather of punk.

With song titles like "Oh Madonna, You Stole My Pants", "Up Your Jurassic Park" and "I Love You So Fucking Much, I Can't Shit", you pretty much get the idea this was no ordinary retired postal worker from Queens.

He released an album through WFMU Radio in 1996 and this song, "You're Out of The Computer" was a collaboration with techno artist My Robot Friend (Howard Rigberg) from My Robot Friend's 2004 CD Hot Action! It also appears on the Songs in The Key of Z compilation of outsider music.

Tragically, Bingo Gazingo was struck down by a cab on his way to a performance at the Bowery Poetry Club where he appeared weekly every Monday night in November of 2009. He died of his injuries on New Year's Day, 2010. He was 85.

Wesley Willis

Wesley Willis (1963-2003) could be the most famous of outsider musicians, even garnering some airplay on mainstream alternative rock radio in the 1990s.

His story began as one of ten children born in a dysfunctional family (having so many siblings can throw even the most stable family off - think the Duggars) in the housing projects of Chicago. He spent most of his life going from foster home to foster home with two older brothers as their parents had a violent relationship and split up when Wesley was a child.

In spite of this horrific background, Wesley seemed to be a bright and fairly normal young man. However on October 21, 1989 (there are people who remember this specific date), he began to hear voices in his head, which he called "demons" and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

About this time, he also began making music. Mostly as an outlet to escape the turmoil inside his head. He also made artwork and was discovered by members of Chicago's alternative rock scene, who encouraged his musical pursuits. This led to a collaboration called The Wesley Willis Fiasco and he actually became a sensation in the Chicago alternative underground, gaining attention from major label American Recordings, which was distributed by Warner Bros.

His favourite greeting wasn't a handshake or a hug. It was a headbutt to the forehead. I am not making that up. This left a permanent bruise on his forehead. 

His music was crude, rambling and often profane. One unique characteristic of Wesley Willis is no matter what song he's performing, they all sound identical to each other. They mostly are songs about things that he had personally identified with in his life. Such as his local McDonald's, bands and stars such as Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters, Kurt Cobain and whatever else figured.

Here's a sample of what that sounded like

He eventually recorded 50 albums from 1994 until his untimely death in 2003 from leukemia. He was 40.

Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston, like Wesley Willis, also suffers from schizophrenia and like Willis, also uses music as a way to cope with it. Johnston is also a visual artist as well. However Johnston is different in the sense that his music is more introspective and melodic than either Wesley Willis or Bingo Gazingo. He's been called a "fractured genius" and "the indie Brian Wilson". He quite possibly could have achieved mainstream stardom and in fact, he came quite close to it.

Daniel Johnston began recording music as a teenager on a boombox at home in the late '70s. By the early '80s, he was self releasing his own material. He moved to Austin and appeared on MTV in 1985, which gained him further exposure. He went on to make more recordings, including collaborations with Sonic Youth, Half Japanese and other indie acts, who became fans of his.

But his schizophrenia was also worsening. In 1990, on the way to West Virginia on a small, private two-seater plane piloted by his father Bill, Johnston had a manic psychotic episode believing he was Casper the Friendly Ghost and removed the key from the plane's ignition and threw it out of the plane. His father, a former Air Force pilot, managed to successfully crash-land the plane, even though "there was nothing down there but trees". Although the plane was destroyed, Johnston and his father emerged with only minor injuries. As a result of this episode, Johnston was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

In the early '90s, Kurt Cobain was often seen wearing a t-shirt with the cover image of Johnston's 1983 album Hi, How Are You? on it.

Which lead to even more interest in Daniel Johnston. Even while involuntarily committed at the mental hospital, Warner Music label Elektra Records was interested in signing him, but he refused the deal as Elektra then was also the label home of Metallica, whom Johnston thought worshipped Satan.

Eventually he signed with Warner co-owned Atlantic Records, which released his only major label LP Fun in 1995. The album flopped commercially and Atlantic ended his contract in 1996. 

In 2005, a full length documentary DVD on Daniel Johnston's life The Devil and Daniel Johnston was released.

Johnston is still active in music.


To say Jandek is merely an outsider musician just doesn't quite cut it. In fact, he's been described as "The Rock N' Roll J.D. Salinger". Because he's perhaps the most reclusive of all the outsider musicians.

Yet he has released over 70 albums on the mail order Corwood Industries label. A label that while Jandek maintains a certain distance from professionally, has only issued Jandek material. And he has a surprisingly loyal and solid worldwide fan base. With almost no radio airplay or any promotion of any kind.

Most Jandek albums feature a young man on the covers in random photo shots and when you lay them out, you realize they are the same person - Jandek himself? Possibly.

But nothing has been directly confirmed by Jandek - he's only done a few interviews. But in rare recent pictures of Jandek, you do see a very strong, even uncanny resemblance.

Jandek's actual name has never been confirmed directly either, but he's believed to be Sterling Smith and he was born in 1945. Other than that, very little else is known about him. And that's how he likes it.

His music is a sort of psychedelic country-blues. But even that description isn't quite accurate. Jandek is a genre all to himself.

Jandek is an enigma even by outsider music standards. And that's saying something. In 2003, he released Jandek on Corwood, a documentary DVD that doesn't answer even the most basic questions of his life his fans always wanted to know. But then again, that mystique is still a part of his attraction.

He's still active, releasing an album or two a year and occasionally touring.


Curly Toes

Wing Over America

Florence Foster Jenkins

"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" Tiny Tim (1982)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"When I Looked At Your Face" Jodie Foster (1977)

1977 French Single Sleeve
1977 German Single Sleeve
1978 German Reissue Sleeve

This single was only released in Europe, where she was living at the time and she starred in the French movie Moi, fleure bleue, (that's Me, Blue Flower (???). The official English title is Stop Calling Me Baby!) She sings on the film's soundtrack, where this song comes from.

She also recorded a French version of this song with a different arrangement.

And finally, the B-side....

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Ethel Merman Disco Album (A&M, 1979)

There are some records you just can't make up even if you tried.

Whoever thought combining an aging Broadway singer like a then 71 year old Ethel Merman, who's star had largely faded by this time and disco music would be a smashing crossover success probably has been court-ordered to stay away from recording studios for life.

Her last big hit up until then was 20 years earlier and she was mostly doing variety and talk show TV appearances by the late '70s.

12" inch Ethel Merman single from the album.
The vocals are definitely vintage Ethel Merman. But the disco arrangements and instrumentation are by-numbers and nowhere do Merman's vocals and the disco interpretation of the music gel in any way. At all. Donna Summer's crown as Queen of Disco was secure.

But not for long, as the disco backlash was well underway at the time of this album's release. And to the cut-out budget bins this record went.

Ethel Merman died on February 15, 1984.

Plastic Man

From reader/contributor Amber Walsh of Everett, WA

"Seen this at Grocery Outlet today... It's called Plastic Man and looks like Michael Jackson... I laughed so hard I almost fell over...."

Photo courtesy of Amber Walsh

Monday, October 12, 2015

Attention Kmart Shoppers

"OK, I have to admit this is a strange collection. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection.

Until around 1992, the cassettes were rotated monthly. Then, they were replaced weekly. Finally sometime around 1993, satellite programming was introduced which eliminated the need for these tapes altogether. 

The older tapes contain canned elevator music with instrumental renditions of songs. Then, the songs became completely mainstream around 1991. All of them have advertisements every few songs. 

The monthly tapes are very, very, worn and rippled. That's because they ran for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week on auto-reverse. If you do the math assuming that each tape is 30 minutes per side, that's over 800 passes over a tape head each month. 

Finally, one tape in the collection was from the Kmart 30th anniversary celebration on 3/1/92. This was a special day at the store where employees spent all night setting up for special promotions and extra excitement. It was a real fun day, the store was packed wall to wall, and I recall that the stores were asked to play the music at a much higher volume. The tape contains oldies and all sorts of fun facts from 1962. This may have been one of the last days where Kmart was in their heyday - really! 

One last thing for you techies, the stores built in the early 1970's (such as Naperville, IL Ogden Mall Kmart #3066, Harwood Heights, IL #3503 and Bridgeview, IL #4381) orignally had Altec-Lansing amplifiers with high quality speakers throughout the store. When you applied a higher quality sounding source, the audio was extremely good. Later stores had cheaper speakers and eventually the amps were switched out with different ones usually lacking bass and treble controls." - Mark Davis

Listen Here

Also see S.S. Kresge for information and links to recordings of background music from Kmart predecessor, Kresge. And The Seeburg 1000, an earlier store background music system. More on Kmart: Vintage Kmart Memories and Kmart Brand Products