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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Flashbacking: January 31, 1997 

Here's part of an email I received on that day, from a listener to my radio show:
I have a small album collection and have been trying to obtain a copy of a song I heard back in the early 1980's. It was the theme to Gilligan's Island done to the tune of Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven". I believe it was done by "Roger and the Goosebumps". I have been told it was only distributed to radio stations as a promo. Ever heard of it? Any ideas on how to obtain a copy?
I heard the song once when it came out on WCMF in Rochester, NY, and then heard nothing for years--not the song itself nor nothing about the band who recorded it. In the '80s, I heard tell that Led Zeppelin's people came down on the song like a ton of bricks, forcing them not only to cease and desist distributing the song but to destroy all copies of it.

As it turned out the hearsay was true: the group (actually "Little Roger and the Goosebumps") "recorded it in March 1978, and released it as a single in May 1978 on their own Splash Records label.[3] Within five weeks, Led Zeppelin's lawyers threatened to sue them and demanded that any remaining copies of the recording be destroyed." (according to Wikipedia; the band's site no longer seems to exist)

Later, I finally got a copy of the song on producer Kenny Laguna's compilation CD Laguna Tunes. Laguna wrote in the liner notes:
[San Francisco Chronicle writer] Joel [Selvin] and Little Roger came up with the concept to record "Stairway to Heaven" and the "Gillian Island" TV theme in a convoluted and comical way.

EARTH QUAKE, who could play every note of the Led Zep classic, did the backing track in THE WHO's London Ramport studio, and Little Roger (Clark) did the lead in San Francisco.

When this record came out it was all over West Coast radio, and was on its way to becoming a huge novelty hit.

PETER GRANT's empire came crashing down on this project like Desert Storm. There were lawyers from LOUIS NIZER, private eyes, and just plain bullies. My chance at a hit dissolved in a whirl of injunctions and professional bring-downers.

Meanwhile, on the same day I got that email, here's something else I did:
A refurbished ''Star Wars'' opens today in about 1,800 theaters. Three weeks from now, ''The Empire Strikes Back'' will strike back, and two weeks after that, ''The Return of the Jedi'' will be the climax, preparing the way for three new ''Star Wars'' epics scheduled to begin arriving at the close of the millennium, recounting the origins of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Flashbacking: Jan 30, 1997 

Recently, I was poking around in the dark recesses of my computer and I found a couple of archived files of old emails. These were from around 1996-1997, when I was more obsessive about backing things up (gulp! I haven't done a full backup in years!).

So I thought it would be interesting to revisit that time with a little compare-and-contrast to today (get your blue essay books ready, please). Some of this material is personal, some professional, and some cultural/societal. All email adress and names will be changed, omitted, or generalized to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the bystanders on the information superhighway.

On January 30, 1997, I received the following forwarded joke:
After a few years of married life, this guy finds that he is unable to perform anymore. He goes to his doctor, and his doctor tries a few things but nothing works.

Finally the doctor says to him "this is all in your mind", and refers him to a psychiatrist. After a few visits to the shrink, the shrink confess, "I am at a loss as to how you could possibly be cured."

Finally the psychiatrist refers him to witch doctor.

The witch doctor tells, "I can cure this", and throws some powder on a flame, and there is a flash with billowing blue smoke........ The witch doctor says "This is powerful healing, but you can only use it once a year! All you have to do is say '123' and it shall rise for as long as you wish!"

The guy then asks the witch doctor "What happens when it's over?"

The witch doctor says "All you have to say is '1234' and it will go down. But be warned it will not work again for a year!"

The guy goes home and that night he is ready to surprise his wife with the good news....... So, he is lying in bed with her and says "123", and suddenly he gets an erection.

His wife turns over and says "What did you say '123' for?"
What's interesting about this joke, from both a comedic and sociological vantage point, is that it pre-dates Viagra, which, although patented in 1996, wouldn't be marketed until 1998. This is key, since the joke's set-up entirely depends on no easy way for the protagonist to get past his bedroom problem. A year later, and the joke would grind to an abrupt halt at the doctor visit.

Of course, the set-up could be re-written (he couldn't afford the high cost of Viagra, say) but it's a good study in how real-world events can kill an otherwise perfectly serviceable joke.

It makes me think somewhat of a bit I had written in the summer of 2001, where I had Osama bin Laden claiming responsibility for the disastrous Bette Midler sitcom Bette. It was funny at the time but I didn't then have a good outlet for humor (since I was no longer doing a radio morning show), and that joke was completely useless after September 11th.



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