Today marks the 71st birthday of a piano-playing singer-songwriter who first created a musical career through his ability to meld acerbic and/or satirical lyrics to the catchiest of tunes, then went on to forge a second career as a composer of songs and scores for films. Of course, no matter how many Toy Story movies he works on, there are still some people who are always going to think of Randy Newman as “the guy that did ‘Short People,’” but he’s probably got enough accolades by now to keep him from dwelling on that.
Born in Los Angeles in 1943, Randall Stuart Newman had a trio of film-score composers on his father’s side of the family – Alfred, Lionel, and Emil Newman – so Randy’s decision to study music at UCLA certainly found him towing the family line. (Mind you, he ultimately dropped out before graduating, but he tried, dammit, and that’s what counts.) Although his initial efforts as a singer failed to earn him any significant commercial success, his songwriting took off in the early ‘60s when The Fleetwoods recorded his song “They Tell Me It’s Summer” and used it as the B-side for “Lovers By Night, Strangers by Day.” Other artists gradually followed suit, providing Newman with considerable success in the UK, where his compositions earned hits for Cilla Black (“I’ve Been Wrong Before”), Gene Pitney (“Nobody Needs Your Love” and “Just One Smile”), and the Alan Price Set (“Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear”).
This week’s installment of the Rhino Comedy Hour shines the spotlight on the big bald head of the man who’s so widely known as an insult comic that his grinning mug is literally the only picture that’s included on the Wikipedia page for “insult comedy.” Talk about defining a genre…
Don Rickles may not owe his entire career to Frank Sinatra, but it’s well documented that the Chairman of the Board went to see Rickles when he was performing at a Miami nightclub and found him so hysterical that he went out of his way to tell as many of his famous friends as possible to go see Rickles’ act. In short order (or certainly shorter than it would’ve been without the Sinatra factor), Rickles was headlining in Las Vegas, but he was also building a side career as an actor, appearing in Run Silent, Run Deep, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, and several of the Beach Party films. Still, it was comedy that was his real bread and butter, and Rickles further built his reputation through numerous TV appearances.
If the third Saturday in April is one of the first days you circle whenever you buy a new calendar, then you already know when Record Store Day is, but you may not be aware that the folks who put together that most vaunted of days for vinyl lovers have also gotten into the habit of making the most of the day after Thanksgiving, too.
Big surprise: we here at Rhino are getting involved in Record Store Day: Black Friday 2014, putting out nine – count ‘em – nine limited-edition releases, including a little colored vinyl, a picture disc, and other cool stuff.
Oh, you want specifics, do you?
Well, since you asked nicely, here’s what you should be keeping your eyes open for when you’re out shopping on Friday:
Some merchants would have you believe that it was acceptable to start playing holiday music ages ago – like, say, when your kids were still trying to shop for their Halloween costumes – but most people are likely to roll their eyes at you if you break out Michael Bublé’s Christmas at any point prior to the last week of November. Actually, they might still roll their eyes at you, what with these kids today, but that’s neither here nor there, especially when we’ve given this piece a subject line that’s currently making you want to scream, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE $1,000 VISA GIFT CARD?!?”
It’s the time of year to remember what you’re thankful for...well, I’m thankful for these tunes dagnabbit! Enjoy!
New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Various Artists, High School High: Original Soundtrack: Back in 1996, when the reputation of genre-parody films hadn’t been almost irredeemably ruined by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer…oh, okay, maybe their films aren’t that bad, but they’re certainly no Airplane! Anyway, what were we talking about? Right: we were getting ready to discuss High School High, the Jon Lovitz vehicle that parodies flicks like Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, The Substitute, and so forth…or, more specifically, its soundtrack. Yes, the unexpurgated version has been available digitally for some time now, but if you’re someone who prefers their hip-hop and R&B a little bit cleaned, then you’re in luck, because the edited version is now available, too. You’re welcome.
Hey, kids, remember a few days back when we told you about how we’d reissued the expanded version of Chris Bell’s I Am the Cosmos? Well, we’ve got more big news for you…or, rather, more Big Star news: we’ve reissued the band’s box set, Keep an Eye on the Sky!
Yep, this is a case where those of you who got in on the goodness when it first came out don’t have anything to do but consider what other great new Rhino release you’re going to spend your money on instead, but if you’ve been toying with the idea of bulking up the Big Star section of your collection, then here’s an easy way to do it with a single purchase.
40 years ago, Jethro Tull thrilled their fans by revealing that they were in the midst of working on a new project entitled WarChild. Less an album than a full-fledged event, Ian Anderson and company had big plans for not only a new studio album but also a feature-length motion picture and a soundtrack album. Unfortunately, due to the band’s inability to find financing for their film, the only thing that ever saw formal release from this grand affair was a 10-song album, but at least it provided them with a bit of solace when it climbed to #2 on the Billboard Top 200 and found its way into the top 15 in the UK.
If you’re a Tull fan who’s often been lost in thought about what you may have missed out on seeing and hearing, you’re in luck: you can now pick up a copy of WarChild: The 40th Anniversary Theater Edition, a two-CD / two-DVD set. The CDs include the original 10-track album, a collection of 11 so-called “Associated Recordings,” three of which are previously unreleased, and 10 orchestral pieces which had been written for the soundtrack, nine of which are previously unreleased. As for the DVDs, those will provide you with the opportunity to see the promo for “The Third Hoorah,” as well as footage from a photo session and press conference in ’74 where the band first announced the WarChild project. Oh, and lest we forget, there’s also an 80-page booklet which takes an in-depth look at what was intended to come to fruition, including a film script synopsis, track-by-track annotations by Anderson, and rare and unseen photographs from the era.