4/28/17

the batman files - disc 1 (Leaping Fox)

Not long after this blog began, I made a compilation of Batman material that has since been removed, "out of print," if you will.  It was more of a sampler, a little bit of everything that was out there (novelty songs, audio, theme songs, video game themes, spoken word, etc.), and the historian in me always wanted to replace it with a more comprehensive version.

NINE YEARS later, which is hard to believe, the result is completed at last. This project is a three-disc set, and is intended to be more of a complete look, a dossier or archive of what exists, music-wise.  

Before we get started, let's discuss what this project is NOT.  Incredibly, there is more audio material to collect featuring Batman than any other super hero, and one of the main reasons for this is the year 1966, when a worldwide phenomenon took place.  When I began to gather all of the sources, and was trying to figure out how to best present them, I realized there are really five categories of material

1)  Theme songs to the many Batman shows and films over the years (as usual, we are going to ignore the more modern, lesser endeavors).  This is called "bat-history."

2) General songs and instrumentals about Batman.  "bat-songs," naturally.

3) "Bat-Mania" records, which were issued during the worldwide excitement for the 1966 launch of the ABC-TV show.  These include cash-in attempts by no-names, cash-in attempts by big names, and even singles issued by the show's stars themselves.  Everyone was jumping on the band, uh, bat-wagon. As the largest section, there are 40 tracks in all, under the title "bat-mania 1966."

4) Included in the above topic is a sub-category, covers of the theme song to the 1966 show.  Luckily, we have recently addressed this section, or else this project would be five discs instead.

5) Lastly, "spoken word" audio.  Book-and-record adventures, the various and wonderful Power Records releases, and OTR (Old Time Radio)-type stuff were excluded.  Which brings up the following point:


One last note:  Also during the bat-splosion of 1966, several complete, Batman-themed LP's were issued.  Since these albums are 100% Batman material, it made no sense to cherry-pick tracks from them, and instead focus this collection on singles and freestanding tracks.  A complete list of these albums is in the liner notes to discs 2 & 3.


Now that that is all out of the way.........please enjoy.

4/26/17

Spark-E-Godzilla (Imperial Toys, 1985)

Imperial produced a smattering of Godzilla items, both during the time of GODZILLA 1985, as well as through the 1990's.  The "Spark-E-Godzilla" was a toy that did just what it said:  you revved it up, like a toy car with a "friction motor," and sparks shot out of his mouth.  Sparking toys were not uncommon in the mid-1980's and the prior decades--I recall having a toy gun from the circus that was in the shape of a cannon.  When you revved it up, copious amounts of long sparks shot forth from the opening.  Even as a child, I wondered why this was okay.

At some point, parents and watchdog groups became nervous about children's toys that could potentially destroy any home with a gas leak, and items like this slowly disappeared, at least from toy aisles that were geared toward small children.  (A quick search of Amazon yields only two sparking toys; one is a party favor, and the other, a sparking "Futurama" gun.  A similar search at ToysRUs yielded nothing, but their site was acting wonky.)
I always wondered if Imperial somehow licensed the sparking Godzilla toy that Takara has made for years (along with sparking Gigan, Ghidorah, and other Godzilla foes, which are often bootlegged), because they look so much alike.  There's no clue on the package concerning this, but my eyes tell me differently:

4/20/17

Glenn Turner - Reaching For The Stars (Koscot, circa 1969)

From what I've read, this is a pretty rare record, as in "hard to find" rare, not exactly "super-valuable" rare...I thought the name of this album was MR. ENTHUSIASM, because that's where the attention is directed on the cover, beneath the (crayon?) starburst thing.  Nope, it's "Reaching For the Stars," because that's what he's doing, on the cover, there, reaching.  For a star.
One thing I can say about it:  absolutely NO expense was spent on its recording.  Somebody set up a reel-to-reel in the back of an auditorium or community center, and just let it go.  They got what they got.  And what they got is pretty amazingly, ear-bleedingly bad, in terms of sound quality.  I equalized and did everything I could to improve it, and didn't help it much.
Koscot (like Epcot) was an "Interplanetary" company, sort of like L. Ron Hubbard's endeavors.  No, that was a joke.  I assume the "Interplanetary" here was inserted from a 1960's, forward-thinking, space-race type of mindset.  Today, earth, tomorrow the stars.  Hey! We can reach for them! I'm starting to put it all together now.

The problem was, and I'm only reporting here on my gut instincts: it sounded like another pyramid scheme.  I'm only passing along the facts, but when Koscot ran its course, Turner began other similar companies, and eventually served jail time.  There are two ways you could tell this story.  You could say he was a man who overcame disability (a speech impediment) to raise himself up into a successful entrepreneur, or you could say he ran pyramid schemes, as well as running afoul of the feds, who eventually jailed him.  You are encouraged to do your own research (and have a 3-page, double-spaced report on my desk Monday morning).

Another thing about Koscot.  What was the product? Oh, it was mink oil.  (Have you ever tried to oil a mink? I apologize.) Take a look at this charming photo from the back cover:
Nevermind that everything is orange.  There is a dead weasel wrapped around some products, and I'm supposed to want to sell them.  If that photo doesn't make you think about skin care, then...just wow.  

No high-pressure sales pitches are included on the album; instead it's mostly an upbeat pep talk.  And don't we all need that from time to time?

LINK:  Reaching For The Stars

4/7/17

Gil Trythall - Switched On Nashville - Country Moog (1972)

Here's another Moog delicacy, out of print, otherwise I'll remove it...
I preferred our last Moog entry, but I have to say, this is another cool album cover.  All the sources I can find list 1972, which seems a tad late to me, but whatever.
There are bits of cheating, too, as one track features an early "talk box" that Frampton and Joe Walsh would later make famous.  We are apparently supposed to think that is Moog magic? "Rest assured no words were spoken," say the liner notes.  Hmmmph.
You have probably heard the "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" that begins this album; it's been on some compilations. This is a limited-time upload, so enjoy!

LINK:  SWITCHED ON NASHVILLE

3/30/17

Everything You Always Wanted To Hear On The Moog (Columbia, 1967)


Everything?
Mmm, well now, I don't know about everything, but here are some things you may have, at one time,  in fact, wanted to hear on the Moog.
Or not.  This album does have some great cover art!


There was quite an upswelling of Moog LP's, once upon a time, as a trend, just like right before that, it had been sitars, everywhere sitars.  This is definitely one of them.
One thing to keep in mind about these types of albums, is that, by this time, even though the Moog had "a piano-like keyboard," as the liner notes tell us, it only had a two-note polyphony...therefore, it took a very, very long time to record this album (I believe it said 2 years in the liner notes).


It's an interesting album.  I bought a similar one on the same day, that was made up of entirely instrumental Moog versions of "Nashville country" songs, and I came away much preferring this one (although I will admit, I have never been a fan of "Bolero," and that endless song takes up the entire second side).

LINK:  Everything...............................................................................Moog (1967)

3/24/17

The House At Pooh Corner - Now We Are Six (Wonderland Records, 1974)

Here is an interesting rarity, especially in the D*sney-glutted world that we now find ourselves living in.  (I swear, if they ever buy Lego, I'm leaving the planet.)

The good news is, here are some Pooh stories--side one contains the famous Blustery Day, as well as the equally famous arrival of Tigger; side two contains poems and songs from NOW WE ARE SIX--that are completely devoid of any D*sney-fication.  In other words, probably closer to what was originally intended (which I have always pictured as a sort of Wind In the Willows-type of calm elegance).
The further good news is, somebody (probably not Wonderland, if history teaches us anything) spent some money on it, between a cast and an orchestra.
The bad news is, I didn't like it much.  Personally, I found most of the voices either grating, or just very wrong.  There was a moment in the first side, even,  that I suspected it was all the same person, who wasn't doing a very good job trying to come up with more voices (especially Piglet).  By the time I got to side two,where an attempt has been made to put most of the contents to music, everything became a cloying, sing-songy mess.
Now, your mileage may vary, and I certainly hope it does.  You may have grown up with this record, and I'm sure I would like it much better if I had done the same.  In the end, to me, it's really more of an oddity for my growing record collection.  (Oh, by the way, eagle-eyed viewers will notice the VHS sticker at the corner of the front cover! I can assure you there is no video component to our presentation.)
LINK:  House At Pooh Corner - Now We Are Six (Wonderland, 1974)

3/16/17

Return of the Jedi Lobby Card (20th-Century-Fox, 1983)

My immediate goal was to have one lobby card from each of the three original films, so I picked my favorite of the bunch from the ROTJ ones.  This is #8, the Max Rebo Band.

3/10/17

Batman Theme Collection: disc two (Leaping Fox)

Continuing from where we left off, here is the second disc of covers and versions of the Batman Theme.  While this disc gives you 26 more, let's talk for a moment about what's missing:

Listed in the artwork above are nine more versions that exist.  As I mentioned last time, a few years ago, there were a couple of (unofficial) compilations put out, in vinyl and in very low numbers, under the title Batman Theme and Batman Theme Returns.  Those albums focused on 1966-67 releases, and apparently, they did a really thorough job.  The problem is, they just aren't out there, from what I've seen.  If anyone has access to them, drop me a line!

That said, there are probably more released versions in existence, especially in the later years.  I do think these discs look rather smart together, with clear jewel cases...although I probably should have designed artwork for a double jewel case.

Inlay (for clear jewel case)

Stay tuned for some further projects: once I started re-gathering and compiling superhero songs, I found I couldn't stop, and more is imminent. 

LINK:  batman theme collection (disc two)

3/7/17

Batman Theme Collection: disc one (Leaping Fox)

Here's a project I have been wanting to undertake for several years now.  This set collects fifty-one (51) versions of the 1966 Batman Theme.  

You may wonder: "Woah, there...why listen to the same song over and over?"  But the truth is, it's hardly the same song, because there are many styles and interpretations, including surf rock, big-band jazz, ska/reggae, soul, and many more, all the way to acid house, from all over the world.

I tried to stick to the rule of mostly "real, actual releases."  I'm sure that there are endless homemade varieties on the Internets, but I steered clear of children twanging rulers in tune (there is ACTUALLY a video on YouTube of a pug "singing" along with the song).  Sources are listed for each track.

Inlay (for clear jewel boxes)

And, there are still some missing, even, and we will discuss that in the post for disc two. To get you started, here is the first half, with the second disc following shortly.

LINK:  batman theme collection (disc one)

3/1/17

Happy Melodies From Tupperware's 1975 Happyland Jubilee

Yes, that title is a mouthful, and it's nearly longer than this entire record.
What do we have here? Well, from the best that I can tell, this is an album from Tupperware.  If you don't know what that word means, here is the short answer, courtesy of Wikipedia:  

"Tupperware is the name of a home products line that includes preparation, storage, containment, and serving products for the kitchen and home. It also includes plastic containers used to store goods and/or food."

It's generally sold through "Tupperware Parties," social events where people get together, look at the newest products, sometimes demonstrate them, and place orders.  I remember it being a big deal when I was a kid, and apparently it continues to this good day.  Into the billions of dollars, so I wish I'd invented it.
So, back to our record...I wish I could show you the cover, but this album was inside of another Tupperware sleeve (a 1976--you guessed it--Bicentennial-Themed album), and all my searching has yielded no photos.  Discogs yields nothing...in fact, the listing in their database is my own doing.

Anyway, apparently, there were themes chosen for each year of Tupperware sales (we saw this in the Tupperware Flexi-Disc I posted recently).  I am guessing that each local agent (the person who would host their local party) was sent an album each year. What I am not sure of is how it was used.  Either it was meant to be played at a Tupperware party, or it was meant to be enjoyed privately at the home of the host, to "educate" them about the theme of the year.  

Either way, the results couldn't have been good. 
I really am at a loss to describe what you are (with fear and trembling) about to hear.  No amount of words, either kind or accurate, can really do it justice.  And, I say all that, and this record is less than fourteen minutes.  Shorter than one side of an average record.  You will come to think of this as a positive thing.

The greatest lyric in the whole thing is from "Lois Lane Lament":

Superman is super, super, super, yes indeed 

LINK:  Happyland (at your own risk)

2/28/17

Godzilla vs. Gigan ("Mission Apocalypse") Poster (Belgium, 1972)

I am not really a collector of foreign Godzilla movie posters (I think I have one other, and a few lobby cards), but I have been obsessed with this particular poster for quite some time.  This is a 22" x 15" poster from Belgium, from 1972, where GODZILLA VS. GIGAN was shown, under the much-more-dramatic title of "Objective Terror: Mission Apocalypse".  The dullness of the colors, the composition, and just overall style really speak to me.   

However, it's actually an artistic "paste-up;" a collage of sorts, where the artist borrowed (read here as stole, in the sense of "Immature poets borrow; mature poets steal" --T.S. Eliot) from several existing sources, resulting in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts...or something like that, because all of the originals are wonderful as well. A quick look at these ingredients:

First, Godzilla came from the American poster for GODZILLA VS. THE THING, by Reynold Brown.  This picture is the original painting, with no text, which was printed once in a magazine.

Next, Gigan and Angilas (as well as inspiration for the flames and the road) came from this publicity photo, which was here used on a Japanese lobby card for GODZILLA VS. GIGAN.  

Lastly, King Ghidorah came from the international artwork for INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER, which is here shown in the half-sheet poster variety.  

Good stuff.  Now I just have to frame it...and find wall-space somewhere.  

2/23/17

Man's Incredible Venture To The Moon (Metromedia Records, 1970)

At a certain time in history, LP's and singles about the moon landing were pretty common.  Some were simply cash-grabs, and some were aimed at children.  Most of them came out during the 1969-1970 year, and that would be a good guess for this completely undated record.  Undated, but great.
This album is one of those rare cases where everything gels perfectly.  From the sleek, all-black packaging with the photographed screen of Neil Armstrong made up of stark scan lines, to the minimalist back cover, to the documentary-like, you-are-there (because our narrator was there; he personally reported on the mission) production.  It doesn't waste time, or get cheesy, as other albums of this type might.  Some of the other records just use NASA audio like clip-art, and lack the touch of presence that is given to this production.  You come away educated, and it wouldn't surprise me that this record was used in classrooms around the country.
I enjoyed the play-by-play, chronological order to the LP, and learned some tidbits that I had never before heard.
Incidentally, you'll see on the cover that the whole thing is sponsored by "P.R. Mallory & Company," and there is both an introduction, as well as an outro, by its president.  At the time, the company owned Duracell, whose battery products were, we learn, used during the moon mission!  Some brief research yielded the fact that Duracell has had two other owners since then, first Procter & Gamble, and, now, Berkshire Hathaway, who owns a myriad of other billion-dollar companies.
Enjoy!

LINK:  Man's Incredible Venture To The Moon

2/21/17

King Kong vs Godzilla Ad Mat / Mold (National Screen Service, 1963)

Front of Ad Mat
Quick technology history lesson:  there was a time when movie studios or distribution companies offered "Ad Mats" (also called "Ad Molds"), which were shallow trays made of compressed wood fibers.  Inside of these mats were detailed, reversed images of advertisements of various sizes.  Molten lead was poured inside of these trays (by the user), which, when cooled, would result in a block that could be mounted in the setup of a printing press, allowing the user to print advertisements for that film!

Now, as mind-blowing as all of that is, I will say that the above explanation was collected from various websites that I read on the subject, and that brief synopsis is pretty much all of the information I could find.  I'd be open to any further details that anyone would share, especially if you ever worked with these in your job! I read that they often didn't survive, especially if they were used, which makes sense.

Back of Ad Mat

This particular item is just a little bigger than a magazine-sized backing board, and it's a light pinkish color (the color often varied, from what I have seen).  There are two square spaces on the right side that appear to be empty, or simply flat, but when you turn them in the light, you can see that they hold some finely-detailed images, which were promotional photos.  You can see this in the first photo above, but here are two close-ups.  You can pretty much discern the complete images:



Eventually, of course, this technology was replaced, so what was the last Godzilla movie to offer ad mats?  Available pressbooks mention "ad mats" all the way through GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER!  In fact, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON is the first pressbook to exclude mention of ad mats, so they disappeared sometime between 1972 and 1976, as best I can tell!

2/16/17

Player's Strategy Guide to NES Games: Godzilla (1990 article)

This bi-monthly magazine (whose full title is GAME PLAYER'S STRATEGY GUIDE TO NINTENDO GAMES) was a competitor to NINTENDO POWER, and also offered reviews, strategy, maps, and game-playing tips.  In early 1990, they devoted a cover story to Toho's GODZILLA, MONSTER OF MONSTERS!
The thick, square-bound publication was hard to scan, and it took a couple of tries to keep parts of the page from being blurry, but here is the article in all its glory.  You will probably learn something, as I did...plus, I learned recently that this game is still really hard! Enjoy!
Like a lot of American Godzilla fans, this game was my introduction to Gezora.
Fun Factoid:  unused sprites were discovered in the code of this game for Baragon.  In a way, I'm glad he didn't make an appearance, because he would have been another boss, and I'm not sure I can take the stress of seeing he and Godzilla fight!