Tag Archives: 1966

The Green Hornet rides again

When I got back into record digging more than a decade ago, this was one of the first records I bought.

I had no idea it existed, but was delighted to find it. I’ve loved “The Green Hornet” since I was in fourth grade, 1966-67, the only season it aired on ABC.

Likewise, I had no idea a YouTube playlist of all 26 episodes of “The Green Hornet” existed. I was delighted to find that, too. So, over the course of a month’s time during the pandemic, I watched all 26 episodes in the order they aired, one each night. (With the exception of two-part cliffhangers watched in a single night.)

Some takeaways from that lone season of “The Green Hornet,” seen by eyes that are more than 50 years older now:

— I didn’t expect it to be relevant from the first episode. One of the bad guys in “The Silent Gun” was …

— Van Williams, as The Green Hornet and Daily Sentinel publisher Britt Reid, gets the job done. The guys like the action. The ladies like the eye candy. How no one ever figured out that Britt Reid was the Green Hornet is beyond me. That mask isn’t much of a disguise.

— Bruce Lee, as Kato, never gets quite enough to do. He gets more lines and screen time as the series goes along, but there’s never enough of what everyone came to see — martial arts fights. The best one: Kato vs. Mako in “The Preying Mantis.” (Keye Luke, who played Kato in “The Green Hornet” movie serials in 1940, also appears in that episode.)

— Wende Wagner, as Lenore Case, Britt Reid’s secretary, never gets to do much more than answer the phone and be eye candy. In real life, Wagner was a tremendous athlete, a surfer and scuba diver. We get to see her run for her life in the season-ending cliffhanger, but that’s about it.

— Lloyd Gough, as Daily Sentinel reporter Mike Axford, who’s convinced that The Green Hornet is a bad guy, shamelessly blusters over the top for much of the series. Not exactly comic relief, but Britt Reid and Miss Case enjoy yanking his chain at the end of many episodes. He’s much more effective in the last handful of episodes, going low-key and playing it straight. (“The Green Hornet” was Gough’s first regular gig after being on the Hollywood blacklist for more than a decade. He has no IMDb listings from 1952 to 1964.)

 Walter Brooke, as District Attorney Frank Scanlon, is the show’s anchor, delivering gravitas every time he speaks. He also gets to ride in that cool lift behind the fake fireplace at Britt Reid’s home. That, of course, was activated by tipping books out of the bookshelves, which every kid did at home, at school and at the library, myself included. (Brooke is best known for tipping Benjamin Braddock to “plastics” in “The Graduate,” which was filmed after “The Green Hornet” had wrapped in 1967.)

— The Black Beauty is the least cool superhero car ever, built by Dean Jeffries from a 1966 Chrysler Imperial. They made two of them, and both showed up in “Corpse of the Year,” a two-part cliffhanger.

— There seemingly wasn’t much of a budget. The same footage of The Green Hornet and Kato flipping Britt’s white convertible for the Black Beauty in the garage, then hopping into the Black Beauty and driving it through dark, rain-soaked streets is used over and over. The same warehouse appears in multiple episodes. One sharp-eyed YouTube commenter saw the same boxes in that warehouse in back-to-back episodes.

— The day-for-night film technique, which created night scenes by underexposing film shot during daylight, is maddening. Per Wikipedia, “it is often employed when it is too difficult or expensive to actually shoot during nighttime.” Much of “The Green Hornet” is way too dark, with many of the fight scenes lost in the shadows. I’d love to see it shot with today’s film techniques.

— Lots of familiar faces show up as the series goes along … John Carradine, “Alias The Scarf,” the killer in a fog-shrouded wax museum? Imagine that. In the same episode, character actor Paul Gleason shows up briefly in only his third TV appearance and there’s Ian Wolfe, dressed much as he would be two years later as Mr. Atoz on “Star Trek.” … Barbara Babcock, later seen on “Hill Street Blues,” shows up twice as Britt Reid’s girlfriend. … Jeffrey Hunter — Capt. Christopher Pike on “Star Trek” — as a corrupt contractor in “Freeway To Death.” … Gary Owens as the Daily Sentinel TV news reader. … A gorgeous 21-year-old Lynda Day (before she was Lynda Day George) as a good girl mixed up with bad guys and James Best — yep, old Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane — as the baddest of the bad guys in “Deadline for Death.” … Michael Strong — “I am Roger Korby!” from “Star Trek” a year earlier — as the bad guy who tries to frame Britt Reid for murder in “Hornet Save Thyself.”

— The most fun episode is “Ace in the Hole,” in which The Green Hornet pits two gangsters against each other. It’s the only episode even close to being played for laughs. The bad guys are the always unflappable Richard Anderson and the always blustery Richard X. Slattery. Character actor Percy Helton shows up as Gus, the guy living across the hall from reporter Mike Axford. The weirdest part of this starts at the 19:43 mark. Billy May drops about 30 seconds of Tijuana Brass-style music into a fight scene involving some of the bad guys as The Green Hornet and Kato stand by and watch. It’s the only time that the series departs from May’s more muscular scores. It’s also one of two episodes in which “Batman” is shown on a TV during a scene.

After watching all the episodes, I can say this:

— I vividly remembered the fights, the gadgets and the costumes. I remembered none of the plots.

— I love that it was set at a newspaper.

— It’s a little sad to think that all five of the show’s stars are no longer with us.

— Let’s cue up that great opening and that great narration by executive producer William Dozier.

— Let’s cue up my record.

“Green Hornet Theme,” Al Hirt, from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966.

Here’s some more themes from that record.

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Filed under July 2020, Sounds

Loitering in the driveway

Yesterday was one of those long days that turned into a long night.

As I pulled into the driveway 14-plus hours after I’d left for work, a cool old song came on the radio. At first I thought it was Wilson Pickett. Then I realized, no, he didn’t cover that Beatles song.

It was Otis Redding doing “Day Tripper,” from 1966. So I sat there under the garage light, tired and wanting to go into the house, but hey, it’s Otis.

Today, we had king cake and paczki at work for Fat Tuesday, so I brought some home for Janet over the noon hour. Another cool old song came on the radio.

So I sat there in the driveway in the middle of the day, listening to Nancy Sinatra doing “Drummer Man” with the great session man Hal Blaine on the drums.

Been looking for that song, but it’s not on the LP shown above, at least not the original 1967 version. They did stick it on a 1996 CD reissue as one of the three extra tracks. Guess I’ll just have to keep digging.

Sometimes, it’s just that simple. You sit in the driveway and listen to one more song.

Today, by the way, is the 13th anniversary of this blog.

I wrote the first post on AM, Then FM on this day in 2007.

More to come, including the rest of a story started here not too long ago and what I hope will be an enjoyable new series of posts.

Thanks as always for reading!

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Filed under February 2020, Sounds

Still with us: Tina Turner

Our premise, revisited: What a year this has been. Since we last gathered here just two weeks ago, we’ve lost even more music greats. Merle Haggard, Leon Haywood and Gato Barbieri — quite a cross-section there — and still another Van Zant, country singer Jimmie, cousin to Ronnie.

Time, then — well past time, really — to wrap up an appreciation of four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with three elders, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. We end with …

The legend: Tina Turner.

Age: 76.

Still performing? Apparently not. It’s been almost seven years since she last performed live. That was on May 5, 2009, at the Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England, the end to a 50th anniversary tour that featured 90 shows.

What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: Ike Turner.

Where I came in: I’m sure I’d seen Ike and Tina on TV before, but I certainly knew of them by the time “Proud Mary” was released in early 1971. That certainly warmed up a Wisconsin winter.

My evening with Tina: I’ve had two, thankfully. We first saw her in 1983, performing on a small side stage at Summerfest in Milwaukee, a night I will never forget. We then saw her at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, a big outdoor venue west of Milwaukee, on Sept. 14, 1987, on our honeymoon, a time I will never forget.

But about that first show. Tina Turner was just 43, but was considered an oldies act. She had split from Ike, had no record contract and was touring with two backup singers. Yet on that night, on that side stage in the middle of the Summerfest grounds, it was wild. To call her show sizzling or scorching or incendiary doesn’t do it justice. It was insane. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing and hearing. It was that good.

Appreciate the greatness: To get some idea of what we saw that night, kick back for an hour and watch this show. It was taped at the Park West in Chicago on Aug. 4, 1983, about a month after we saw her at Summerfest.

The set list: “Cat People,” “Acid Queen,” “River Deep Mountain High,” “Hot Legs,” “Get Back,” “Where the Heart Is,” “Nutbush City Limits,” “Givin’ It Up For Your Love,” “Nightlife,” “Help,” “Proud Mary,” “Music Keeps Me Dancing” and “Hollywood Nights.” (You may need to reset the video to 0:00.)

Then go back. So many great tunes from her time with Ike. These are some of my favorites from just some of my Ike and Tina records.

iketinaturner riverdeepmtnhigh lp

“River Deep, Mountain High,” from “River Deep, Mountain High,” 1966. Also available digitallyIke and Tina and Phil Spector. But I still prefer the Supremes-Four Tops version.

iketinaturnercometogetherlp

“I Want To Take You Higher” with the Ikettes, from “Come Together,” 1970. Available on this double CD with “‘Nuff Said” from 1971. Never anyone more qualified to sing “Boom shaka laka boom shaka laka boom da boom!”

ike tina nuff said 2

“Baby (What You Want Me To Do),” from “‘Nuff Said,” 1971. Available on this double CD with “Come Together” from 1970. Tina finishes strong.

iketinaworkintogetherlp

“Let It Be,” from “Workin’ Together,” 1971. Also available digitally. Tina takes us to church.

 

 

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Filed under April 2016, Sounds

Still with us: Jerry Lee Lewis

Our premise, revisited: Since we last gathered here a month ago, we’ve lost even more music greats. Keith Emerson, Sir George Martin and Gayle McCormick, the lead singer of Smith, even Clare MacIntyre-Ross, the woman who inspired the Harry Chapin’s classic song “Taxi.”

Time, then — well past time, really — to appreciate four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with the eldest, Chuck Berry. We then paid homage to Little Richard. We continue with …

The legend: Jerry Lee Lewis.

Age: 80.

Still performing? Apparently so. There are no dates listed on his website, but his last gig was about six weeks ago in Mississippi. I’ve never seen him play live.

What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: The Killer has gone through a whole lot of unsavory business. A scandalous marriage to a cousin who likely was 13 when they were wed in December 1957. Six other wives. Allegations of domestic abuse. Substance abuse. Arrested outside Graceland in November 1976, drunk and waving a gun. Jeebus.

Where I came in: Hm. Not really sure about this, either. Perhaps when he covered “Chantilly Lace” in 1972, or perhaps when “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” crossed over from country radio in 1973. It wasn’t until 1989 that I bought my first Jerry Lee record, the “Milestones” greatest-hits comp released on Rhino Records to coincide with the release of “Great Balls of Fire,” the film in which Dennis Quaid played Jerry Lee.

Appreciate the greatness: I have always loved piano pounders, and Jerry Lee stands with Little Richard as perhaps the greatest of them all. Jerry Lee’s late ’50s hit singles are among the cornerstones of rock ‘n’ roll. That said, here are some other tunes I dig.

jerryleelewisgreatestliveshowlp

“Live from the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium and the WVOK Shower of Stars, the one, the only, Jerry Lee Lewis!”

They recorded this on July 18, 1964, a Saturday night. (The liner notes incorrectly say July 1.) To hear this astonishing side, Jerry Lee clearly brought the greatest live show on Earth to town that night. In a mere 15 minutes, the Killer rips through covers of tunes by Little Richard, Charlie Rich, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.

“Jenny, Jenny,” “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” “Memphis,” “Hound Dog” and “I Got A Woman,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Greatest Live Show On Earth,” 1964. This is Side 1. It runs 14:58. It’s out of print.

Speaking of live shows …

“Well, I’d like to do one for ya now. Ah, hope you enjoy this one. Um, pretty good tune that, uh, has done quite well for a, a lot of artists. But I’m think I’m gonna give it a little treatment here that, that it deserrrrves. I’m gonna throw the old, real, true, down-to-earth, go-gettin’ rock-and-roll beat into this one now. Boy, if you can’t shake it, you better set down because this is one you can really shake it bahyyyy!”

At which point, Jerry Lee and his Memphis Beats tear into …

jerryleelewisbyrequestlp

“Roll Over Beethoven,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Jerry Lee Lewis: By Request,” 1966. It’s out of print. Recorded live at Panther Hall ballroom in Fort Worth, Texas.

You’ll find both of those live records on “The Greatest Live Shows On Earth,” a 1994 CD.

jerry lee lewis soul my way lp

My friend Larry introduced me to this one over at his mighty Funky 16 Corners blog. It’s probably the best cut on an otherwise ordinary record on which Jerry Lee seems to have lost his way.

“Shotgun Man,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Soul My Way,” 1967. It’s out of print, but is available on this double CD with “The Return of Rock” LP from 1965.

After turning to country music with some success, Jerry Lee returned to rock with mixed success on some interesting records on the Mercury label in the early ’70s. Here are a couple more rip-roaring covers.

jerry lee lewis killer rocks on lp

“Me and Bobby McGee,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Killer Rocks On,” 1972. It’s out of print, but is available on this import CD released in 2004.

jerryleelewissouthernrootslp

“Hold On, I’m Coming,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Southern Roots: Back Home To Memphis,” 1973. It’s out of print, but is available on an expanded Bear Family import released in 2013.

This is Jerry Lee at his lewdest, his most lascivious, produced by the equally notorious Huey Meaux. Just filthy.

 

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Filed under March 2016, Sounds

Those TV themes of intrigue

“Ooh, ooh! Green Hornet marathon on Decades!” my friend Larry in New Jersey announced yesterday. Likewise, my friend Bruce in Philadelphia announced it was “binge time.”

Dang. We don’t get that channel in our corner of Wisconsin.

So I had to make do with the next best thing.

hornandhornetcd.jpg

“The Horn Meets The Hornet,” a 1966 album full of TV theme songs by jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, was one of the first cool records I ever found while digging.

So I mentioned that record, found eight years ago, and Larry noted its cover of “Night Rumble.” Hm. Not familiar with that one. Turns out it was sort of a mod instrumental done in the spring of 1963 by a group called The Mark V and released as a 45 on ABC-Paramount. Here you go, my friend.

“Night Rumble,” Al Hirt, from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966. It’s out of print.

Of course, there also is that great “Green Hornet Theme,” which is Hirt’s take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” as orchestrated by Billy May and conducted by Lionel Newman.

Among what the LP’s back cover bills as “TV Themes of Intrigue” are two other interesting but largely forgotten pieces by composers who wrote other, more familiar TV themes.

Hirt covers the theme from “T.H.E. Cat,” an NBC action drama that starred Robert Loggia. It aired only during the 1966-67 TV season. This muscular bit of mid-’60s jazz noir was written by Lalo Schifrin, who did the still-cool “Mission: Impossible” theme the same year.

He also covers the theme from “Run Buddy Run,” which aired for only the first half of the 1966-67 season. It’s written by Jerry Fielding, who’d done the “Hogan’s Heroes” theme the year before. “Run Buddy Run” was a CBS sitcom about a guy on the run from the mob, and Fielding’s theme plays it straight, reflecting that potential danger rather than going for laughs.

The star of “Run Buddy Run” was jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon, but it doesn’t appear he played trumpet on the show’s theme.

 

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Filed under November 2015, Sounds