The Talented Spike Jones Part Three

The Talented Spike Jones Part Three

Later years

The rise of rock and roll and the decline of big bands hurt Spike Jones’ repertoire. The new rock songs were already novelties, and Jones could not satirise them the way he had lampooned “Cocktails for Two” or “Laura.” He played rock music for laughs when he presented “for the first time on television, the bottom half of Elvis Presley!” This was the cue for a pair of pants—inhabited by dwarf actor Billy Barty—to scamper across the stage.
Jones was always prepared to adapt to changing tastes. In 1950, when America was nostalgically looking back at the 1920s, Jones recorded an album of Charleston arrangements. In 1953 he responded to the growing market for children’s records, with tunes aimed directly at kids (like “Socko, the Smallest Snowball”). Jones had become unhappy at RCA Victor and left the label in 1955. His later recordings were issued by Verve, Liberty and Warner Bros. In 1956 Jones supervised an album of Christmas songs, many of which were performed seriously. In 1957, noting the television success of Lawrence Welk and his dance band, he revamped his own act for television. Gone was the old City Slickers mayhem, replaced by a more straightforward big-band sound, with tongue-in-cheek comic moments. The new band was known as Spike Jones and the Band that Plays for Fun.The last City Slickers record was the LP Dinner Music for People Who Aren’t Very Hungry. The whole field of comedy records changed from musical satires to spoken-word comedy (Bob Newhart, Mort Sahl, Stan Freberg). Spike Jones adapted to this, too; most of his later albums are spoken-word comedy, including the horror-genre sendup Spike Jones in Stereo (1959) and the send-up of television programs of the period in Omnibust (1960). Jones remained topical to the last: his final group, Spike Jones’s New Band, recorded four LPs of brassy renditions of pop-folk tunes of the 1960s (including “Washington Square” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”). One of his New Band tracks in 1964 was a cover of “Dominique”, a hit by The Singing Nun, in which he not only plays part of the melody on a banjo but melds the melody successfully with “When the Saints Go Marching In!”
Jones was a lifelong heavy smoker, and he eventually developed emphysema. Never the picture of robust health, his already thin frame deteriorated to the point where he used an oxygen tank offstage and onstage was confined to a seat behind his drum set. In spite of his illness, he continued smoking and died in 1965 at the age of 53, and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.

 

Influence

There is a clear line of influence from the Hoosier Hot Shots, Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritzers and the Marx Brothers to Spike Jones — and to Stan Freberg, Gerard Hoffnung, Peter Schickele’s P.D.Q. Bach, The Goons, Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Billy Barty appeared in Yankovic’s film UHF and a video based on the movie. According to David Wild’s review in Rolling Stone Magazine, Elvis Costello’s 1989 Album “Spike” was named partly in tribute to Jones.
Syndicated radio personality Dr. Demento regularly features Jones’ music on his program of comedy and novelty tracks. Jones is mentioned in The Band’s song, “Up on Cripple Creek”. (The song’s protagonist’s paramour states of Jones: “I can’t take the way he sings, but I love to hear him talk.”) Novelist Thomas Pynchon is an admirer and wrote the liner notes for a 1994 reissue, Spiked! (BMG Catalyst). A scene in the romantic comedy I.Q. shows a man demonstrating the sound of his new stereo to Meg Ryan’s character by playing a record of Jones’ music.
In 1974, Tony Levin (future bass player for King Crimson), recording under the name, The Clams, released a Spike Jones tribute of him giving the songs, “Close To You”, by The Carpenters, and, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, by Roberta Flack, the Jones treatment. http://www.45cat.com/record/thb404f
In 1986, the Belgian synthpop group Telex paid homage to Spike Jones in their album Looney Tunes, with a song named after him. The intro of that song is a part of the intro from Camptown Races.
In 1997, singers Artie Schroeck and Linda November directed a production in Atlantic City entitled “The New City Slickers Present a Tribute to Spike Jones”, with a band that attempted to re-create the style and humor of Jones’ music.
Spike Jonze was named in reference to Jones.

 

Discography

* Spike Jones Plays the Charleston (1950)
* Bottoms Up, Polka (1952)
* Spike Jones Murders Carmen and Kids the Classics (1953)
* Dinner Music For People Who Aren’t Very Hungry (1956)
* Spike Jones Presents a Xmas Spectacular (1956) (reissued as It’s a Spike Jones Christmas and Let’s Sing a Song of Christmas)
* Hi Fi Polka Party (1957)
* Spike Jones in Stereo (1959) (reissued as Spike Jones in Hi Fi)
* Omnibust (1960)
* 60 Years of “Music America Hates Best” (1960)
* Thank You Music Lovers! (1960) (reissued as The Best of Spike Jones)
* Rides, Rapes and Rescues (1960)
* Washington Square (1963)
* Spike Jones New Band (1964)
* My Man (1964)
* The New Band of Spike Jones Plays Hank Williams Hits (1965)
* Spike Jones Is Murdering the Classics (1971)
* The Best of Spike Jones Volume 2 (1977)
* Spike Jones and His Other Orchestra, 1946 (Hindsight Records HUK185 1982)
* Never Trust a city Slicker: Standard Transcription Discs 1942-1944 (Harlequin HQ2042 1986)

Singles

Year
Title
Chart positions
US
1942
“Clink, Clink, Another Drink”
23
“Der Fuehrer’s Face”
3
1944
“Behind Those Swinging Doors”
20
1945
“Cocktails for Two”
4
“Leave the Dishes in the Sink, Ma”
14
“Chloe”
5
“Holiday for Strings”
10
1946
“Hawaiian War Chant (Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wai)”
8
1948
“William Tell Overture”
6
“All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”
1
1949
“Ya Wanna Buy a Bunny?”
24
“Dance of the Hours”
13
“My Two Front Teeth (All I Want for Christmas)”
18
1950
“Chinese Mule Train”
13
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
7
1951
“Tennessee Waltz”
13
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
22
1952
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
4
1953
“I Went to Your Wedding”
20

 

Popular recordings

* “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”
* “Black Bottom”
* “The Blue Danube”
* “Bottom’s Up”
* “By the Beautiful Sea”
* “Chloe”
* “Cocktails for Two”
* “Dance of the Hours” (Ponchielli)
* “Der Fuehrer’s Face”
* “Down In Jungle Town”
* “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Laughing Record)
* “Hawaiian War Chant”
* “Holiday for Strings”
* “Hotcha Cornya (Dark Eyes)”
* “The Hut-Sut Song”
* “I Want Eddie Fisher For Christmas”
* “I Went to Your Wedding”
* “Mairzy Doats”
* “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”
* “Never Hit Your Grandma With A Shovel”
* “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”
* “Omnibust, (LP Album of spoken-word comedy)”
* “Powerhouse” by Raymond Scott (Recognizable as the ‘industrial factory’ music from cartoons.)
* “The Sailor With The Navy Blue Eyes”
* “The Sheik of Araby”
* “The Sound Effects Man”
* “Spike Jones in Stereo (A Spooktacular in Screaming Sound, LP album)”
* “(Mono version: Spike Jones in Hi-Fi – A Spooktacular in Screaming Sound, LP album)”
* “That Old Black Magic”
* “Pal-Yat-Chee”
* “William Tell Overture”
* “Yes, We Have No Bananas”
* “You Always Hurt the One You Love”
* “Lulu had a Baby”

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