Monday, January 26, 2009

A Star Is Born!

Sorry, Bobby Square Sponge, there's a hot, new cartoon character in town!

(Shamelessly copied from my cartooning blog. My apologies.)

Check out the FACEBOOK page...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's VOX! It's What's Happening!

A friend of mine has been buying and restoring electric guitars and amps for a few years, now. He recently sent me a picture of a VOX Super Lynx Deluxe he just picked up:

As you can see, it is pretty trashed. Now, my first "real" guitar as a teenager was a VOX Super Lynx Deluxe. (It replaced a CONRAD solid body that had replaced the SEARS SILVERTONE guitar that got incinerated in a day-after-Christmas house fire. But I digress...)

I have a picture of me playing the VOX box around here somewhere, I just can't find it right now.

What I did find, however, was a 35 year old picture I took for my 11th grade photography class. It is basically bunch of junk that crystallized my High-School obsessions:

Can you spot the Beatles LPs and songbooks? How about the open reel tapes and headphones? Harder to spot is the HARMONY H-440 amp head and 8mm movie projector. Right there in the middle, though, is my VOX Super Lynx Deluxe!

I scanned some higher-quality details for my pal. Here you can see the pickguard and the bridge that are missing from his corpse.

And here is the headstock, showing the tuners with their weird plastic tuning pegs. These might be kind of hard to get exact replacements for. (Oh, yeah, there's my Popeye Spinach Can toy.)

This guitar is long-gone, so I can't wait to see how my friend's restoration job turns out.

(Here's a mint version in the original case)

HERE IS AN UPDATE FROM MY FRIEND: "Hi Craig, Here is a shot of the Vox so far. The body is back together and all the hardware is cleaned up and working. Except for some replaced screws everything is original. The fretboard needed to be planed down and the fret slots ended up a bit too shallow to hold the new frets. I whipped up a Jackass jig to press them in place till the glue set. It seems to be working although it will take more tinkering to make the finished job look good. Normaly I would just cut new slots but that would go through the neck binding and that would drive me nuts. Today I will shape and polish the frets then install the new grover repro tunners. If the bridge ever arrives the guitar should be back together and hopefully playing by next week."

Lookin' good, Bill!


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back To The Buget Bin!

There was a record collectors' show in Raleigh this past weekend and yours truly went. I've sat out the past few years' worth of shows owing to issues concerning family and finances. The planets were in perfect alignment for this one, so I hit the ol' vinyl trail.

Naturally, I set my sights on cheap-jack artifacts from the 'sixties and I wasn't disappointed. Here are some high-lights from my outing.

Given my irrational fascination with Beatle cash-in records, I'd have to say the major "find" of this particular outing was the "Sing A Song With The Beatles" LP on the Tower record label.

It's one of those audacious rip-off where an inattentive consumer hight've been lulled into thinking this was a legit album by the four lads from Liverpool. After all, there are their full-color pictures right on the front cover! And look "THE BEATLES" is displayed in large print right there at the top!

Now, if you knew what you were getting, this was a pretty cool record. There are instrumental "backing tracks" from eleven then-current Beatles songs on the record. The gate-fold sleeve includes all the lyrics and guitar chords so that one could sing and play along.

I'd been stalking this one for years, but the typical $100 price tag put it out of my range. This copy had a $4 sticker on it, so I pounced. It's in nice shape, too, barring a split at the top of the jacket. Sweet!

Here's a similar LP that I saw at another dealer's table. I didn't even know it existed! "Sing And Play Along Beatles Kit" is on the London label. I love the graphic equation on the front cover:

4 kids + wigs + guitar + harmonica + bass + LP = BEATLES!

Yep, it had on of those $100 price tags, so back in the bin it went.

But a new search has started. Maybe I'll find an affordable copy by the time I'm sixty?

Oh, joy! I also found a couple surf / drag/ California-Sound cash-ins.

Dragsville, by The Woofers, is a pretty good album. In addition to not-too-bad versions of "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Drag City" we're treated to eight other decent exploitation-themed originals. Not up there with The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean, but a solid third-tier offering, I'd say.

"Some Of The Best Hits From California" on the "WW" label was an unexpected find! It is a collection of cover tunes by studio musicians much in the mold of my beloved "Hit Records" series. I had never come across the "WW" imprint before. Apparently this series was put out by something called "World Wide Productions," hence the double W.

The first side is the surf/folk-rock side with covers of Surf City, Fun, Fun, Fun, It Ain't Me, Babe and Eve of Destruction. The second side kicks off with "Everybody Loves Somebody!"

The covers are ably performed, but the energy level seems a little low over-all. Still, I'm happy to have this one in my pantheon of bogus LPs collection.

(Oh, yeah. I did manage to score a nice copy of "Current Hits Vol. No. 7" on the Hit Records label, as well. Life is good!)

Back in the mid-sixties a Canadian rock and roll combo changed its name from Chad Allen and the Expressions to The Guess Who and started having hits. Their early stuff is really great and I managed to find two(!) budget line reissues of these songs for less than $4, total. The amazing thing is, except for their first big hit. "Shakin' All Over" there is very little overlap on the two LPs, even though they mine the same time period. One I transfer these to CD-R I'll have a pretty solid collection of jamz. Word up, home slice!

Hey! Wait a minute! Who are these guys and what are they doing here?

Well, I found a couple interesting-looking big band compilations put out by Circle Records in 1983 and though I'd take a flyer. I like big bands and at a buck-apiece, how could I lose?

The picture, above, is from the "Tiny" Hill (far left) and his Orchestra (1943-1944) LP.

I also got Ray Herbeck and his Modern Music with Romance (1942). Wow, what an unwieldy moniker, eh?

Oh, boy! Look what I found in the fifty cent bin! Man, a cool Mexican 45 with a really boss-looking picture sleeve. Los Pekenikes? Never heard of them! But the photo shows a quintet of angst-laden teens with electric guitars, so it has to be good, right?


Lady Pepa and Arena Caliente are two slices of prime musack from south of the border. This was really unexpected. Ah, well. It still is a pretty cool picture sleeve and I did manage to escape into the world of record collector geekdom for an afternoon.

Well, gang. That's my report. Now, the next big challenge will be to find time to listen to this stuff.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Craig's Cartoon Corner

On the day after Christmas what to my wondering did appear, but 3 brand new cartoon DVDs from my friend, Steve Stanchfield over at Thunderbean Animation!

The first of the group was a pre-release copy of "UNCENSORED ANIMATION FROM THE VAN BEUREN STUDIO." This collection compiles a bunch of "pre-code" cartoons from one of the most minor of the major animation studios of the 'twenties and 'thirties.

Here are some comments on my favorites from the bunch.

Laundry Blues (1930) One of the hallmarks of this set of cartoons is their liberal use of cartoon stereotypes; here this concept is pushed beyond the breaking point. Sure, we're treated to scores of "chinamen" animals singing and working in a Chinese laundry. When an English butler shows up to serve tea even he has a shaved head, long braided pony tail and slanty eyes. Then things get really skewed when a Jewish Chinaman shows up to get his beard laundered. Of course the cartoon concludes with a Chinatown tong war. Just for laughs, you understand.

The Office Boy (1930) Walt Disney admitted that he was trying to copy the Aesop Fables cartoons when he was coming up in the nineteen-twenties. Here, Van Beuren returns the favor by plagiarizing Mickey Mouse. (Disney eventually sued Van Beuren for their troubles. Ah, mentors!) Ersatz Mickey is the titular office boy, whose main jobs are playing the harmonica, flirting with the secretary and keeping people away from his boss's office. See, Mr. Dunkwasser likes to screw off even more than his office boy, what with the toy trains, and the putting practice. He puts the moves on Ersatz Minnie, though, so Ersatz Mickey allows Mrs. Dunkwasser to catch him in the act.

Red Riding Hood (1931) Another Minnie Mouse wannabe plays R. R. Hood who is on her way to Grandma’s house. Granny, it appears, is on death’s doorstep until she ODs on “Jazz Tonic” medicine, which transforms her into a hot, cigarette-smoking hootchie mama. The big bad wolf makes the scene and exclaims, “Some Grandma!” Wolfie and Grandma decide to elope, but their plans are ruined when Red alerts Mrs. Big Bad about her husband’s bigamist ways. This is one of my favorites in the set.

Panicky Pup (1933) What starts out as a "fun on the farm" cartoon turns very dark when a dog throws a cat down the well. (He keeps a check-list of all the different way he has murdered cats. Aw, cute!) He freaks out, Fleischer-style (e.g. "Swing You Sinners") but all ends reasonably well when the cat is pulled from his watery grave.

Doughnuts (1933) Yay! It’s a new-to-me Tom and Jerry cartoon. They are pretty much in the background as they try to sell doughnuts at a prohibition-era bakers' convention. Hey, gang, look! The stereotypes are back. A pair of bearded, derby-wearing, hooked-nose Jews tries to sell matzos at "fire sale" prices. A pair of gay guys is pushing cream puffs. The big attraction is the pretzel tent where 3.2 beer is being served. Tom and Jerry eventually win the day when a drunken sailor inadvertently spikes their doughnuts with a gallon of rot-gut.

Rough On Rats (1933) A trio of cute li'l kittens cavort in an old full-service mom-and-pop grocery store. Things go horribly wrong when they cross paths with a big ol' rat that lives in the crawl space. Ratty grabs one of the kittens and ties him to a spinning deli-slicer! (All the better to cut your head off with, my dear.) The other kittens affect a rescue and then beat the rat to death.

The Rasslin' Match (1933) and The Lion Tamer (1934) are a couple of curios. These are two cartoons that Van Beuren produced featuring the adventures of the wildly popular radio characters Amos and Andy. On the commentary track animation historian Jerry Beck puts forth that RKO had Gosden and Correll under contract and that making these two cartoons might have been a way to use it up. Chuck Jones made a famous statement that TV cartoons were nothing more than illustrated radio. Well, the roots of that idea were sewn 35 or forty years earlier with these two cartoons!

As usual, Steve & company have put a lot of care into stitching together the best possible versions of these cartoons. There are a couple of guest commentary tracks and an essay on the Van Beuren studio. As this is a “pre-release” copy it is possible there might be more bonus features on the finalized version.

All in all, this is a fun collection of rarely-seen cartoons from a mostly-forgotten animation studio. Thanks, again, Thunderbean!