Saturday, March 24, 2012

Re-align your mind: the psychedelic music videos of “Mrs. Muddle”

On the Funhouse TV show, I often refer to the 1960s as “the gift that keeps on giving” (and giving and giving...) The rupture that occurred in the Sixties is still part of the fabric of popular culture, but it’s mostly present as petrified memories on “classic rock” radio and rerun cable networks. The renegade, often completely schizo, spirit of Sixties culture only returns front and center to the public consciousness when it’s time for middle-aged hearttugs in obituaries for Sixties idols like Davy Jones. Some folks, however, still craft their pop culture in a Sixties fashion… and so I come to the enigma that is “Mrs. Muddle.”

The music videos created by the Artist Currently Known as Muddle are mind-warpers that deserve a far bigger audience than they are currently getting on YouTube. In a just universe, the “muddles” (as their creator calls the music-vids) would be playing on some cable network *somewhere* — but, since the days of USA’s wonderfully eclectic Night Flight and MTV “alternative” shows like 120 Minutes are long (long!) behind us, we now must stumble across really great alternative culture on our own in the rabbit-hole that is the Internet, where lotsa trees are falling, but very few hear the sound. (Cable-access is still a great source for alternative weirdness, as I know all too well, but has been mostly forgotten in the rush to reach a higher-level of attention deficit disorder.)

Thus, I want to put the spotlight directly on the creations of this Mrs. Muddle person (my mind flits to W.C. Fields and “Mr. Muckle, honey…”). The vids are made up of a variety of elements: vintage psych and electronic music, new songs from current psych-sounding musical acts, clips from Sixties psychedelic films and sci-fi flicks, as well as “girlie” material (more on that below). Throw in some newsreel and exploitation images (Stecker, H.G. Lewis, the Japanese House), as well as longer clips that keep cinephiles like myself wondering “where the fuck did *that* come from?” and you’ve got this business known as “muddles.”

The videos hew to the original tenets of psychedelia, in that they are either hypnotic or jarring. A mood is adopted, and the visuals meld perfectly with the tune utilized. The copyright holders of the music and visuals have objected on occasion to the muddles and had them removed from YT, but they are short-sighted beyond belief — what is happening here is the music is being *promoted* and the images are being transformed.

In this era where pretty much every young person has an uncanny grasp of the visual language of music videos, thanks to sophisticated editing software that comes with every freaking computer, and celebrities custom-make their music videos to look like webcam karaoke so that their fans can easily recreate them (self-generating memes!), it’s really invigorating to watch someone creating something original using the rules of an era where the “Richard Lester style” was being refined while the undergrounders (like Anger and George Kuchar) were using pop-rock in even more original ways.

I first encountered this intrepid and talented video editor when he (oops, let the cat out of the bag) was doing the wonderful blog “The Lazy World of Arthur Ignatowski.” That blog was awash with eye-catching “girlie” pics from the Sixties, along with these great handcrafted video creations — vintage psych and garage music accompanying stag and “peel” footage.

While the “Lazy World” blog is now gone, Arthur (I’ll stick to that name for a bit) does often dote on the female form in the Muddle vids — however, that is not the sole raison d’etre for ’em anymore (in fact, some of them are — gasp — devoid of cheesecake content entirely). Whether they are “signed” by A. Ignatowski, Butch Tuffington (that was another interim nom du vid), or Mrs. Muddle, the videos are singularly wonderful, leagues beyond the quick-cut crap that gets millions of hits on YT and the other central vid-dump sites.

The music used includes the work of great instrumental composers/performers with a “futuristic” bent — Bruce Haak, Piero Umiliani, William Sheller, Gershon Kinglsey, Raymond Scott, and Mort Garson, Roedelius, Delia Derbyshire — as well as contemporary acts who could easily be labeled “trippy,” drone-y, or just plain strange: Stereolab, Broadcast, Spacemen 3, Spectrum, Boards of Canada, Cate Le Bon, Electrelane, Hope Sandoval and Death in Vegas, Honey Ltd., Girls at our Best!, and two guys name of Bowie and Eno.

At his best, Arthur — actually a Welshman, who was born after the Sixties, but possesses a good eye for, and great taste in, cinema — is a descendant of the holy trinity of Sixties pop-narrative editor-filmmakers (Anger, Lester, and Meyer). A number of the best examples of his recent work are embedded below, but I can’t resist adding in a few others, like:

— a b&w female dance-class scene, clipped to match an instrumental with killer horns
— A study of “health and exercise” from films unknown
— A kaleidoscopic meditation on les femmes
— A horrific freak-out, replete with images from Steckler’s Incredibly Strange Creatures
— A re-dit of Metropolis, set to Link Wray
— Images from a mod Japanese flick seemingly inspired by Seijun Suzuki
— A clip from an unnamed Golden Age musical where some babe recites the lyrics to a tune… and then things get weird…
— Skulls, psych music, trippy patterns, and dancing girls, who needs more?
— A sensory assault edited to a fitting song by the band the United States of America
— From outer space to inner with thermal images, and a great hard-driving instrumental

The alternate-universe Banana Splits — the ones who recorded the Sonics’ garage anthem “Strychnine”:

Bring on the dancing girls! With William Sheller music from the film Erotissimo, which I discussed in my Deceased Artiste trib to Annie Girardot — and had inititally discovered via Arthur I’s “Lazy World” blog.

Image from a 1968 Brazilian sci-fi film Viagem ao Fim do Mundo (1968), with sexy women, Tropicalia, and an overt political message (oh, the Brazilians!)

A key Arthur Ig discovery, the Flemish film Princess that looks as if it might have sprung from the imagination of today’s retro-minded moviemakers (hot babes with machine guns!), but is actually from the sacred annum of 1969:

As with the muddle scored to Delia Derbyshire and the often somewhat upsetting Anthony Newley, here is a psychedelic re-envisionment of AM-radio music, with a cover of “Both Sides Now” by the Collection:

Author Anthony Burgess tells us what’s wrong with today’s youth — but we know what turned him on:

Can a woman really be President? Mrs. Muddle declares an end to the “war on women” with a montage of assertive women — including “Ms. 45” herself, Funhouse interview subject Zoe Tamerlis:

Consider the “end times,” you heathen sinner, with music by Mort Garson:

Psychedelia with ventriloquist dummy and scary insects, as well as an upbeat tune by Snapper:

The muddles are pretty fashionable on the whole, but some are about nothing other than swinging Sixties duds:

A small shard of a muddle, with sound logic and interstellar women:

One of the more hypnotic creations, a vision of “Dead TV,” with a little Mickey Mouse head floating around the cosmos:

There are a number of muddles set to the weird electronic music of the incredibly strange Bruce Haak (the man who made children’s LPs with some of the oddest music *ever* made). Here he brings us to a computerized future (we’re there!), inviting you to “Program Me”:

I don’t think I could ever tire of Ms. Jane Birkin and the nutsy enigma that is Wonderwall. Images from that film crop here, as we reflect on stars onscreen and stars in the skies, as Stereolab informs us about “Celluloid Sunshine”:

A video that is a great example of Arthur’s editing creating a sort of “invisible narrative” involving spiders, Christ, powerful machines, and kids who need to “listen carefully”:

Although he’s done full justice to Bowie’s “Mooonage Daydream,” Arthur has done his trippiest work to tracks by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Here is a vision of “Panic in Babylon” with toys, creepy masks, and marching bands:

Another seminal music act for the muddles is the band Electelane. Arthur has offered us a sexy, quick-cut mindfuck, a survey of dance stylings, and a truly fucking brilliant slice of psych weirdness:

I’ll close out with vision of cinematic heaven: Romy Schneider, seen in extremely trippy sequences shot for Clouzot’s Inferno (1966):

In the week and a half that it’s taken me to put together this blog post, about seven or eight "muddles" have been taken down and another five have gone up (including the Inferno one above).

Thus, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before about rarities and oddities on the Net: if you like ‘em, save them with or, since they could disappear at any point (and you won’t know how to find them again). So the muddle vids (trade ‘em with your friends!), and keep monitoring the work of this talented mindbender.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Departing in droves: Deceased Artistes of early 2012 (part two)

The parade of DAs continues. From a maverick publisher, two character actors, and an exploitation icon in part one to an extremely mainstream composer and a consummately trippy humorist in part two...

Composer-lyricist Robert B. Sherman died last week, thus causing many folks to dote on his best-known score, Mary Poppins, written (as all his works were) with his brother Richard. Poppins certainly got them many accolades, but the two Sherman brothers wrote a number of other unforgettable tunes, since songwriting was definitely in their genes — their dad Al wrote the songs “You Gotta Be a Football Hero” and “No! No! A Thousand Times No!”

It was said in their obits that Walt Disney cried every time he heard their song “Feed the Birds” from Poppins (I'm guessing he never heard “Artificial Flowers”). The brothers were in-house for "Unca Walt" for several years, writing songs for movies from That Darn Cat! and The Gnome-Mobile to The Aristocrats and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.They also wrote songs for Snoopy Come Home (a score that is pretty awful, but cannot be forgotten), the Johnny Whitaker Adventures of Tom Sawyer (which they also scripted), and the cartoon feature Charlotte’s Web.

Some personal faves include this attempt at really catchy-dippy pop sung by the twin Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap. This film, which is wholesome as all get-out, was the subject of many adolescent boy’s fantasies — that’s clearly the subject for someone’s future treatise on the covert sexuality in the Disney live-action pictures (after the tomes on the hidden sex in the cartoons are completed), but I guess this sequence and the catfight scene (in which one “Hayley” tears off part of the other’s skirt) were nowhere as innocent and cute to the young male viewer as they seemed to girls and older audience members:

Boppin’ The Jungle Book, with Louis Prima seen rehearsing (in photos) his big number for the cartoon, and the finished song itself:

Robert Sherman (not to be confused with teen-idol Bobby Sherman!) was a self-professed American Anglophile who lived over in England after the war (during which he won a Purple Heart), and then again in more recent years. Poppins contains a number of songs that depend on Cockney accents (Dick Van Dyke’s oddly spirited but goofy ’alf an accent has been the subject of much ridicule in the UK), but this number from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has Dick participating in a great song-and-dance number with a bouncy melody that is very hard to shake:

Since I must include something from Mary Poppins, I offer up this bizarre find, someone’s upload of the song “Chim-Chim-Cher-ee” in Russian (fuckin’ title makes no sense anyway!). It was noted that the Sherman brothers switched off on the lyrics and melodies, so then Robert did contribute to this Slavic ditty:

To close out, I note that the Sherman brothers wrote the single most memorable, and also most grating, Disney tune, “It’s a Small World (After All)” for the 1964 World’s Fair. One of their much less annoying pop creations was the song “You’re Sixteen” for Johnny Burnette. Here is Ringo Starr’s version, circa a 1978 TV special (the girl he’s romancing is a young Carrie Fisher):


I still hope to pay tribute to another immaculately talented Deceased Artiste, Erland Josephson, in the future, but in the meantime, I’ll note that as I was writing this, I learned that Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theatre died. I have a weird relationship with the work of the Firesign guys, in that I love the “theater of the mind” quality of their comedy, and yet I was never a diehard fan — those I know who love Firesign speak of them as having changed their life and way of thinking. For me, they were brilliant audio satirists who did some miraculously headphone-friendly humor, but were not compulsive listening material.

That said, their best work comprises some brilliant spoofs of TV programming, commercials, and golden-age radio drama. They were indeed a product of radio — after having studied playwriting and teaching economics at Yale, Bergman became host in 1966 of “Radio Free Oz” on the Pacifica station KPFK in L.A.

It was there he started working with Phil Austin, David Ossman, and Philip Proctor, and the Firesign troupe was born — their moniker taken from the old Fireside Theater TV show and the fact that they were all “fire signs” astrologically (this was the Sixties, after all).

Among his many head-trip credits Bergman is credited with coining the term “love-in” for an event he organized that took place in L.A.’s Elysian Park. He was the Firesign member with the most conventional “radio voice,” and it was used to great effect in the Firesign parodies of mass media. At the time of his death he had was doing a daily podcast — he concluded the last episode, which aired a few days before he died, with this extremely hopeful message.

Onto the clips. Here is a very nice video tribute to Bergman:

My personal favorite of all their bits is an item where they would read fake listings from TV Guide (I used to write real listings for the same mag, and the Firesign spoofs are so spot-on they’re often not that funny, just all too deadpan-accurate). The bit was used on their radio show Dear Friends and was included in two incarnations on the 1972 LP of the same name. You can find them here at 19:27 and 43:39 (find out about the children’s show “Minority Street, where ‘Happy Hamburger recites the Book of the Dead’…”):

The Firesign Theatre was such an audio-centric act for me that I can’t imagine them live in concert, but they have indeed toured in different permuations since their debut in the late Sixties. Here’s a sample of the kind of odd anarchy that comprised their stage act in 1972:

Far more potent for me is this deranged VW commercial the group did for a real L.A. dealership in 1969. The full run of Firesign commercials (that auto dealer was one adventurous dude) are available on

Perhaps the group’s supreme achievement in my view is their ongoing series of spoofs of hardboiled detective stories, “The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, America’s Only Detective!” (or alternately, “Nick Danger, Third Eye”). They made one film of Nick Danger, which has its moments. But the single best way to experience the concept, naturally, is in headphones:

Various wacky lines have been posted on the Net based on the very famous (intentionally wordy) Firesign LP titles — "there's one less bozo on the bus," "he can be two places at once because he's not anywhere at all," etc etc. Since that way lies eulogistic madness, I'll just say RIP Peter Bergman.

Departing in droves: Deceased Artistes of early 2012 (part one)

No, this isn’t an obituary blog. But I do like to pay tribute to those whose work I’ve enjoyed who receive a tiny bit of mainstream attention upon their death, and are then shuffled off onto the scrapheap of pop-culture history. Thus, I salute six folks who’ve kicked off in the last few weeks and deserve a final salute.

The first tip of the Funhouse skimmer goes to Barney Rosset, the legendary publisher and man behind Grove Press. A true free-speech hero, Rossset made a habit of introducing controversial authors to these shores. Some were from overseas and some were American originals who couldn’t get their best works into print in their native country.

Rosset’s biggest legal battles were over Tropic of Cancer, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and the amazing Naked Lunch. I know his books were a rite of passage for me as a teen, and NOT just because they had “dirty” content (although that was not unwelcome).

The Barnes and Noble located downtown at 18th Street and Fifth Avenue was like a paradise to me as a kid and teen (books as far as the eye could see!). The store had its used paperbacks divided by publisher, and every time I went there I went straight over to the Grove Press bookshelf (with the City Lights stuff on the bottom). I never quite cottoned to Beckett (seen above, with Rosset) as a teen, but loved Ionesco to death (still do) and was constantly checking out what showed up used on the B&N Grove shelves.

Rosset made it his life’s work to showcase the works of great writers, and one of his foremost creations was Evergreen Review, an incredibly hip and progressive publication that featured during its initial run (1957-73) a literal who’s who of great authors: (from the U.S.) Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginbserg, Mailer, Bukowski, Sontag; (from overseas) Sartre, Nabokov, Duras, Genet, Oe, Borges, Pinter. There’s a paperback collection that I highly recommend called The Evergreen Review Reader.

Rosset made movie history in the U.S. by choosing to distribute I Am Curious (yellow), the controversial film by Swedish filmmaker Viljot Sjöman. The film was an uncommonly intelligent essay about contemporary culture that happened to have a few sex scenes in it. I’ve always felt that the most likely reason for it attracting so much disgust in conservative circles (besides the fact that folks in those circles are idiots who are horrified by the human body) was because the film's star Lena Nyman looked to be a minor (she wasn’t).

But why more than anything should I be eternally grateful to Barney Rosset? Because Evergreen Review gave us the genius-level of derangment that was displayed in the “The Adventuers of Phoebe Zeit-Geist,” the cartoon series drawn by Frank Springer and written by the inimitable Mr. Michael O’Donoghue.

Phoebe was a gorgeous, barely dressed nincompoop who got herself involved in a never-ending series of lethal odysseys. It’s a very special part of Sixties humor, the darker side of American comedy that surfaced right after Terry Southern graduated to Hollywood (Southern was one of O’Donoghue’s heroes, along with Burroughs), and of course saw full fruition with the heyday of The National Lampoon.

The Evergreen Review was revived in 1998 and is still publishing here. As for Barney, we say farewell with the only two salient clips on YT, which both come from the 2007 documentary Obscene directed by Daniel O’Connor and Neil Ortenberg. The first is the trailer:

And the other elaborates on why Rosset took great pains to publish erotic works. The reason? Because he liked ’em!


We move from renegade publishing into mainstream show-biz, with two character actors whose faces were familiar, but whose names were only known to those who collect such important trivia.

I could find no interesting clips spotlighting the first gent, so I’ll just farewell to Leonardo Cimino, who died at 94 last week. He made a specialty of playing creepy villains and characters of all ethnicities. He appeared in NYC-shot TV series, from the sublime Naked City to Kojak to Law and Order, was memorably cast as an alien in the TV series V, and had supporting roles in many, many movies including Cotton Comes to Harlem, the wonderfully awful The Monsignor, and The Freshman. He made his last big-screen appearance in Sidney Lumet’s terrific Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

The second character actor to depart recently was Phillip Bruns (often billed as Phil Bruns), who was best known for his role as George Shumway, the blue-collar dad of Louise Lasser on the wonderfully sharp soap-opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, but he was constantly busy, being seen in small parts on both TV series and in the movies.

Bruns worked in NY productions for a time, and then moved to the West Coast and worked exclusively in L.A. I remember fondly his appearances in A Thousand Clowns (pitching a TV project to Jason Robards) and Midnight Cowboy (as a TV host asking about makeup for dogs as Joe Buck is flipping channels on TV), but he also was in Frank Perry’s The Swimmer, the ultimate NYC-is-hell Neil Simon comedy The Out of Towners, and the PBS Kurt Vonnegut adaptation (starring Bob and Ray and Cousin Brucie!) Between Time and Timbuktu.

As part of the letter-perfect ensemble on Mary Hartman, he was the brusque dad who never understood (or wanted to comprehend) the stuff going on around him. There was only one DVD collection of the series, which, instead of offering the best moments, provided only the first two-dozen episodes.

All of these are currently available on YT for free (THAT’s how much Sony does not want to release the series), and there is no hope of ever getting the later episodes on disc (or the amazing tie-in series Fernwood 2-Night with Martin Mull and Fred Willard). Here is episode one. Bruns shows up at the 8:05 minute mark discussing a coworker who turned out to be a murderer and Mary’s marital troubles with her husband (Greg Mullavey) and his coworker (Graham Jarvis):


I move from two great character actors to a cult exploitation actress. Lina Romay died recently at the premature age of 57 and is much missed by the cult-movie community, including Tim Lucas of the wonderful zine Video Watchdog. His obit for her is here.

Lucas knows a lot more about her than I do, because he really loves the work of Jess Franco — who was Romay’s main director, personal mentor, and real-life husband — and I really don’t. I do find Romay an interesting screen presence in his films, and I can see what Franco saw in her as a lead for his genre pictures and porn — yes, the two made porn to make ends meet for a while; in fact Romay directed some of her own porn features.

What is my problem with Franco’s cinema? Well, just about every cult moviemaker who has a great reputation I feel has gotten that reputation because their films are either quality works of cinema (Corman, Metzger, Meyer, Sarno, Jose Mojica Marins), or because their work is bad but fun to watch (Herschell Gordon Lewis, Doris Wishman, Mike Findlay, and of course Ed Wood).

I have seen a handful of Franco’s films, and while I find that his soundtracks are often terrific, the films themselves are crashing bores — which is about the single worst thing that exploitation can be. To elaborate, I absolutely love women’s prison pictures and have seen most of them over the years. I have found it rather stunning that Franco’s WIP pictures are extremely dull, even compared to some of the cheesiest straight-to-video items that came out in the Nineties.

For example, here is the trailer for Barbed Wire Dolls, his chicks-in-chains outing that starred the very photogenic and sexy Ms. Romay. The trailer is pretty dreary, as is this rather blah scene that a fan uploaded (for what reason I don’t know, but it perfectly illustrates the tedium one can encounter in a Franco flick):

Ms. Romay is unique in movie history, in that she intentionally adopted the pseudonym of an earlier actress-singer who had several U.S. screen credits, the big-band singer Lina Romay, who died in 2010. The Lina Romay under discussion here made over 100 films, with many of the porn flicks done under other pseudonyms. She was together with Franco for 40 years, from the time she was 17; the pair married in 2008. Here they are being interviewed in a documentary:

Thus, we have an actress who was quite fun to watch in softcore and horror movies, working hand-in-glove with a director who is hailed as a major auteur, but I just don’t get it. If anyone wants to suggest the single-best Franco movies that can convert a nonbeliever who’s already seen a half dozen clunkers from different eras — including some supposed “masterworks” — please leave the titles in the Comments field below.

In the meantime, here’s another Franco scene that looks to be “psycho” and edgy, and is instead just goofy (and sadly enough, not very amusingly goofy). What one carries from this fragment is that he was more than willing to adopt kitschy elements (as with the other actress’s makeup), and then not really do anything interesting with them. Thus, I throw you into Lorna, the Exorcist (1974):

I’ll close out with a fan-made music-video tribute to Ms. Romay. Here the oddly chosen moods and tones of Mr. Franco are refreshingly absent:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

“No need to get excited, man. It's because I'm short, I know….”: Deceased Artiste Davy Jones

The outpouring of emotion that accompanies the death of a teen idol is always fascinating to watch, as is the death of any media personality whom a good part of the populace considered a “friend.” In the case of Davy Jones’ death at 66 this week I was as surprised as most folks — because Peter Tork recently overcame the biggest health problems of any of the Monkees, and because watching the group grow old has been a sort of a bizarre spectator sport for those like myself who fucking LOVE their music and the TV show, and of course first encountered it as a child (in my case in the earlier stages of the reruns when they went from primetime to Saturday mornings and into daytime rotation).

Davy’s death has occasioned a few articles that have made the argument for the Monkees’ music. As for the TV show, it is already enshrined as a wonderful piece of pop culture that combined the frantic energy of the “Richard Lester style” — see my discussion of its derivation with Ken Russell — and seriously deranged psychedelia.

The truest argument for the Monkees’ music is always made by just consulting the songwriting credits, as the group was assigned, and later chose from, songs written by the very best of the last generation of “Brill Building” songwriters (Diamond, King, Sedaka and Carol Bayer Sager — pictured), and a bunch of West Coast folk who also wanted to record their own music but had “songs for sale” in the meantime (Boyce and Hart, Paul Williams, Nilsson, even Warren Zevon).

Back to Monkee-music in a second, but first Davy. He was not my favorite in the group — that jockeyed back and forth between Micky and Mike — but he was certainly (along with Micky) the “show-biz pro” since he had worked for a few years before the Monkees as a child and teen actor. He also was a jockey for time; he was 5’3”, making him one of the tiniest “heartthrobs” in pop history.

And, yes, his biggest claim to fame during that period — besides being a regular on the opening years of Coronation Street — was being on the same Ed Sullivan episode that provided Americans with their first look at the Beatles. Davy was on the show as part of the cast of Oliver!, performing as the Artful Dodger, and seeing two years into his own future with all those screaming girls….

Davy got some nicely written obits that cited his status as the hands-down teen-girl-fave in the group. Each of the write-ups recounted the history of the Monkees, with appropriate quotes from the band members or the show's creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider — who died just a few months ago, having been a very important producer in the golden “maverick” era of early Seventies Hollywood.

Of course, the obits reflected that wonderful contemporary tendency of publications not to fact-check (or proofread) their text. The USA Today official write-up of Davy’s death referred to Peter Tosh as being the fourth member of the group (with a hyperlink to stories about the reggae star) and cited Davy as being the singer of the mega-hits “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer.” These seriously dumb-ass errors were corrected in a few hours — no doubt when readers posted corrections and wrote e-mails.

Even though Davy was never my fave on the show or in the group’s recordings, I followed his career throughout the years. I remember seeing the nicely amusing pre-Monkees episode of Ben Casey that featured Davy as the young abusive boyfriend (husband?) of Yvonne Craig (yes, Davy was messing up Batgirl). I might’ve taped it on VHS (someday I’ll sift through the collection); in the meantime the show can be watched (but sadly not heard) in one fan’s recording of it on YT.

As could be expected, there are literally thousands of Monkees and Jones-related vids on YT, but I believe any good short list would include the items embedded below. The most intriguing Monkee interview, which surfaced for the first time on the recent BBS Criterion box, is this chat they did on local TV to promote the movie Head:

Davy appeared solo, singing a jazz-tinged version of "Together," a great Harry Nilsson tune (more on Harry below), on The Music Scene in 1969, hosted by David “Booga Booga” Steinberg (no one calls him that now that he’s a respected TV director):

Like many other stars of the era, Davy appeared on Love American Style, the show that had a theme song that was more memorable and entertaining than any of its comedy. Thankfully this poster included the theme (check out the actress in the roster after Davy):

The vast majority of Davy’s obits mentioned his guest appearance on The Brady Bunch, which probably was his best-remembered TV guest shot. But how many people knew (or, yes, cared) that the song “Girl” actually came from the movie Star Spangled Girl (1971). I saw the pic late one night on TV because it was based on a Neil Simon play (one of the least-remembered of his “golden period” — probably because it’s one of his only attempts to write about the youth culture of the late Sixties, not one of his strong suits). Charles Fox (composer of the Love American Style theme) wrote “Girl” with his partner Norman Gimbel, and the film was directed by Jerry Paris.

I was a massive Monkee fan as a kid and have kept loving the show and their music in the years since, and I thought I was the only fan of a post-Monkee project that involved Davy and Micky, the band “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart” (oh, what Crosby, Stills, and pals wrought in terms of unwieldy band names). It turns out that that short-lived ensemble is well-remembered by Monkees fans on the Web. Interestingly Davy sang almost no lead vocals on the one LP the group produced — the most interesting song showcasing him was this goofy version of the old Coasters’ hit “Along Came Jones.”

Here he is dipping back into the past for the Monkees song “I Wanna Be Free” for an appearance DJBH made on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert:

The Monkees had been the first high-profile act to perform a Harry Nilsson song (see below), and Micky Dolenz became a good friend of Harry’s as the years went on. Here Micky and Davy are seen in 1977 on the British children’s talk/variety show Our Week on London Weekend Television to hype their upcoming appearance in a stage presentation of Nilsson’s The Point. (Davy sings “Me and My Arrow” here):

The Monkees (Dolenz, Jones, and Tork) reunited in 1986, in conjunction with MTV’s rerunning the original series. They continued to reunite and break up over the next 25 years, with a lot of the blame being laid by Dolenz and Tork at the feet of Davy (interestingly, they had little to no animosity against Mike, who ditched them in mid-tour during the one full-quartet reunion). It got to the point recently where Davy was doing solo gigs as the “voice of the Monkees,” which was a pretty ballsy bit of billing, given that Micky sang the lion’s share of the group’s hit songs.

Here is one of the few TV interviews done with the four reunited Monkees on the aborted late Nineties four-guy tour. They’re on Clive James Talks Back (where his next guests are Patsy Kensit and NYC cult access star Margarita Pracatan!):

Davy still did do acting gigs in his later years. Here he is camping it up as an annoying Englishman on the sitcom Boy Meets World, for which Micky directed various episodes:

One of the most-seen latter-day clips of Davy was his cameo on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. One of the major guest star appearances on that cult kid cartoon was a certain David Bowie — who, as is known to most folks who love him and/or the Monkees, was born David Jones, but had to change his name because of Davy’s presence in show-biz at the time he was first making music.

Now, on to a quick survey of the twelve best Davy vocals for the Monkees. I tried in each case to find the original “Monkees run amok” music-vid visuals for these songs as seen on the series. Begging that, I tried to find interesting vocal versions. Here is a catchy tune with a lovely title, “This Just Doesn’t Seem to be My Day” from the first Monkees LP:

Micky and Davy mess around on the one of the few tunes the Monkees did that qualified as a purebred novelty tune, “Gonna Buy Me a Dog”:

One of the strengths of Davy as the “cute Monkee” was that he could sing songs with nasty or sleazy lyrics and make them sound endearing. Thus, we arrive at the first of three of his best Monkee songs, each containing a very sleazy lyric that he delivers with a light touch. "She Hangs Out" is a cheerful note to a friend informing the person that his/her sister is, as they used to put it, "easy." Sleaziness as pop cuteness!

The biggest Monkees hit with a Davy vocal was without a doubt “Daydream Believer.” Here is an extremely rare audio-version (you gotta love old audio tapes!) of the song, performed on The Tonight Show on a night in 1969 when Carson was hosting.

Johnny had a policy against rock bands on the show when he was hosting as a result of a “loud” performance by the Byrds in the mid-Sixties. There were a few exceptions to this policy — I remember seeing Bowie’s appearance in a James Dean red windbreaker performing “Ashes to Ashes” with Johnny as host — but for the most part it was no rock when Johnny was hosting:

The other big Davy hit as a Monkee was “Valleri.” Here is the non-single version, heard only on the show in the Sixties. The fuzzy, “Satisfaction”-sounding guitar was played by Louie Shelton of the band the Candy Store Prophets; they were the creation of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the Monkees’ songwriting pals:

A song that was brought up a lot online when Davy died was the theme to the brilliantly weird movie Head, “The Porpoise Song” by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. It’s a wonderful piece of psychedelia (King/Goffin’s previous piece of Monkee mindfuck music was “Take a Giant Step”) that features Davy plaintively singing “goodbye… goodbye…”:

Back to the trio of songs with sleazy lyrics that Davy’s chipper vocals made into family-friend pop tunes. Even as a kid, I understood that “Star Collector” was an odd ode to groupies with wild lyrics for a bubblegum tune — “She only aims to please the young celebrities…”:

A little-known but very catchy tune from the Monkees’ “Instant Replay” LP, one of the two that had only three Monkees — the band broke up for good after the one LP that featured only Micky and Davy. (Reportedly one person at the record company joked that the next album would be by “the Monkee.”) In any case, “You and I” is a good pop-rock song that has very honest lyrics about the disposable nature of pop stars:

I want to close out with two pairs of tunes that Davy sang that were without question the hookiest of any the Monkees ever recorded. Micky might’ve done the vocals for the super-hit “I’m a Believer,” but Davy sang the other two incredibly catchy Neil Diamond tunes that the group did. The one that was a pretty decent-sized hit was “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” And yes, for those who remember, that is super-wholesome Bobby Sherman being a creepy pop star in this clip:

The other Diamond-penned tune is one of my two personal fave Davy tunes, “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow).” The word catchy barely describes it:

Finally, there are the two Nilsson tunes that Davy sang as a Monkee. He later did items like “Gotta Get Up” by Harry, but the real breakthrough for Nilsson was the Monkees’ cover of “Cuddly Toy.” An incredibly bouncy and upbeat song, it has an insidious vocal that makes it the third and most significantly happy/sleazy Davy tune.

Only Nilsson as transformed by the Monkees could get these lyrics onto TV in 1967 — “You’re not the only cuddly toy that was ever enjoyed by any boy/You’re not the only choo-choo train that was left out in the rain the day after Santa came/You’re not the kind of girl to tell your mother the kind of company you keep/I never told you that I loved no other — you must’ve dreamed it in your sleep…” These are nasty, punky lyrics delivered as pure bubblegum:

And the height of Davy’s talent as a showman, his delightfully upbeat and happy-sounding version of Nilsson’s incredibly sad, semi-autobiographical account of his dad’s leaving him as a kid, “Daddy’s Song,” from the movie Head. Dancing with Davy is choreographer-singer (“Hey Mickey”) Toni Basil, and wigging out on the editing board is director Bob Rafelson.

The comment at the end by Zappa puts the song down, but hey, this is what pop-music “smugglers” (to steal Scorsese’s phrase about filmmakers) did for years — tackling extremely serious subjects in a jaunty, hook-driven way. RIP to the heartthrob Monkee:

Many of the images used in this post came from a fan’s wildly comprehensive Tumblr photo blog.