Friday, May 22, 2015

In the Winners' Circle

The 1896 Olympic marathon.
The 1896 Olympic marathon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Just in case there are any of my blog readers who have not noticed yet, I like Battle of the Bands.   In fact I might even get a bit obsessive about Battle of the Bands.   After all, haven't I just posted four consecutive blog posts starting with one Battle of the Bands post last Friday?   True that my Monday post did incorporate another blog fest, but still that post was strongly related to my Battle of the Bands post that preceded it.   In fact, in the past I have even cross posted Battle of the Bands inspired posts on my Wrote By Rote blog.   I must be obsessed!

         Actually I don't want to consider this a negative thing because music is a topic that inspires me.  I am passionate about music.  I enjoy writing about music almost as must as I enjoy listening to it. A fixated passion doesn't have to be thought of as weird.  I've seen people fixated on sports, politics, food, sex, and so on and a healthy fixation on anything shouldn't be considered a negative thing   You might think of music on this blog as my hobby or part of my niche.  It's what I do here sometimes and hopefully there are enough readers who enjoy it that they will keep returning to read my posts.

        I am happy to have Battle of the Bands as one of the recurring topics on Tossing It Out.   This blog event or shared interactive blogging experience has been a great idea as far as I am concerned.  I want to thank Far Away Eyes at Far Away Series for coming up with the Battle of the Bands as a participatory blog event.  Her simple idea has brought some amount of joy and entertainment to at least a few of us bloggers.  Be sure to visit her blog and thank her for what she inspired and add a word of encouragement to her while you're there visiting.  We all like to have some encouragement now and then.   I know I do.

       An additional word of appreciation is directed to Stephen T. McCarthy at Battle of the Bands which is the official Battle of the Bands blog page where you can find the participant list and other helpful info about the Battle event.  While FAE provided the inspiration, STMcC provided the drive and direction to get BOTB underway and keep it focused.  Don't forget to drop by his blog as well and say "Hello" and "Thank you".

        These bloggers are both winners in my eyes.   They took a good idea and have stayed with it for going on three years now.  Their idea has taken hold with several bloggers besides me and continues to grow.  Hope you think as highly of them as I do.

This Week's Battle of the Bands Winner

        My most recent Battle was between versions of the song "Look for a Star" as interpreted by Garry Mills with a traditional pop vocal rendition and Carlos Campos and His Orchestra with a Latin instrumental version.  As is becoming a common statement among us Battle participants, this one took me by surprise.

        With its catchy pop sound with a pleasing vocal, I figured the Garry Mills version, which came from the 1960 film Circus of Horrors, would run away with a resounding win.   I was reasonably certain that Carlos Campos would get a few votes, but nowhere near what made the race as close as it was .

          If I were to cast my vote for the Campos version--one which I liked very much for reasons explained in the original Battle post--this contest would be a tie.  However, probably coming as no surprise to those who read all of my past three posts, the original Garry Mills version retains my heart and that is where my vote goes.  Without my vote, Mills would still have won, but my vote puts him ahead just a bit more.

Final Tally:

Garry Mills          16 Votes

Carlos Campos    14 Votes

Stay Tuned for another Battle of the Bands!

      Next Battle of the Bands post will be on Monday June 1st.  My upcoming Battle will be making a statement of sorts and will actually begin with a preliminary post on Friday May 31st.  I'll be discussing a topic that I've brought up before, but one that I continue to think about--yes, my obsessive mind at work I guess.  But this Battle will also reflect part of my philosophy about Battle of the Bands as well as everything else I do.  I hope you'll be here for these posts!

          Do you ever feel like I obsess on topics on my blog or do you see me as niche blogging at times?     Did you enjoy my posts related to "Look for a Star" and Circus of Horrors?    Based on the clue provided above, any guess as to what my next song pick will be?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Looking to Be a Starr!

     Some of you might be wondering why the heck I still am sporting these badges on my post today.  Well, anyone who's been around my site long enough knows that I can run something to the limit once I get started on it.  If I like an idea I'll get somewhat obsessed and keep on posting about it.  After all I started that A to Z thing and that can be a bit obsessive too.

      So anyhow if you missed either of the above posts I hope you go visit the Battle of the Bands post and vote on your favorite song version (voting ends tomorrow).  Then check out my entry for the Blood, Boobs, & Carnage Blogfest.   Once you've read these posts you might see some logical progression that leads to my post today.

The Song

      My biggest takeaway from seeing the film Circus of Horrors was the catchy pop tune "Look for a Star".  The only place I ever recall hearing that song was in that movie where it was played so many times and was so memorable that the song stuck in my head for months after I heard it.

       By 1964 I had started acquiring my own record collection.  I started out with the 45's that only had a hit song on one side and a lesser known "B" side.  Soon I discovered that I often liked the "B" sides as much or more than the hits.  At about a dollar a pop, the 45's didn't seem like such a bargain compared to an album with ten or so songs for a couple bucks more.  My interests became more directed toward the long play albums--more songs and you didn't have to change the records so often.

       But in the summer of 1965 when I found 45's at a clearance sale for the amazing price of 20 for one dollar, I couldn't resist.  I was living in Crown Point, Indiana at the time.  A friend and I had taken the bus to a shopping center on the outskirts of the city of Gary and it was at the Sears Department Store where I found the irresistible record sale.

        With only a few bucks in my pocket I was still able to buy sixty 45's.   Most of the songs and artists I had never heard of, but musical adventurist that I was, the obscurity of the music made no difference to me.  I had a musical listening adventure ahead of me.  I also had a copy of the song that been haunting me, "Look for a Star" by Garry Mills.   That find alone was almost worth the three dollars that I had paid for 60 records.

The Inspiration

        For anyone who is not familiar with my history, my family had a juggling act that we performed when my father wasn't working his regular job.  When we lived in San Diego from 1959 to 1963 our bookings were few since there wasn't much show biz activity in that area, but through constant practice we honed our act into a top notch club passing act.  After we moved to the Chicagoland area in late 1963 we signed on with one of the top Chicago agents and soon we were working regularly on weekends.

        During the summer and on a few rare occasions during other times of the year my father would take work vacations so we could work brief stints on the fair and shrine circus circuit.  I grew to love the lifestyle and the thrill of performing.   In my fanciful thinking I wished that we could live on the road working the show business life all the time.  My parents dreamed the same thing, but the practical side of my father told him to keep his good job with a guaranteed income--not as much fun, but it made far more sense.

         Still, a desire for the call of the road and the roar of the crowds was luring me to some future in the world of show business.

The Dream

          While I was still in junior high school I began to dream about the act that I would create for myself.  At first I came up with an idea of a chair that I would balance on the two rear legs and then have a ladder which I would climb up while it was balanced upon the balanced chair.  It would all be a prop with a mechanical gimmick that I had meticulously planned in my mind.  No actual balancing would be involved regarding the chair or the ladder and the greatest danger would be falling off.  Perched atop the ladder I would perform various stunts like handstands, prop balancing, and juggling.

         This all seemed like a pretty good idea, but then I decided to make it all more flashy by using a large five pointed star prop instead of the chair.  I would mount the star and balance it on one point while using the top points for attaching the ladder and other gimmicks.  As I envisioned it, I could decorate the star or even install lighting within it.  There were all sorts of possibilities that began to enter my mind.

          As I considered the tricks that I could perform and the routine that would incorporate those tricks, I also imagined the music I would use in my act.  The song choice was immediately obvious.  I would use the song "Look for a Star"--it would be perfect.    Picturing myself performing atop a ladder balanced on top of a giant balancing star as the song "Look for a Star" played, my stage name jumped out at me.  Ricky Starr!   

          Maybe the name came to me as a mash-up between Ringo Starr and Ricky Nelson, but I thought it rocked and was very appropriate to my dream image of the act that I would one day perform at fairs and circuses across the country and maybe even around the world.

          Ricky Starr.   I liked the sound of it.

The Reality

         That balancing act dream never came to anything other than passing time in my junior high classes looking out the window and fantasizing.  Even occasionally in high school I would sometimes daydream about it.  I drew up the plans for the prop that I would one day have built for me.  But it never happened.

          However it wasn't a totally impossible dream.   I did go into show business and toured for many years as a juggler, performer, and show manager.  The road, the roar of the crowds, and show biz life all became a reality for me. 

          In my dreams I was looking for Ricky Starr, but in the real world I found myself.  

          What dreams about your future did you have when you were young?   How many of your childhood and adolescent dreams have you achieved?    Does any part of travelling with a circus or carnival appeal to you?

For more memoir visit my other blog Wrote By Rote

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest (TIO Edition)

The BB&C Blogfest

On May 18, 2015, post about a movie, television show, book, or all three that falls into the category of Blood, Boobs, and Carnage. (Or just Blood and Carnage or other mixture.) It can be any genre that fits the bill – fantasy, science fiction, action, adventure, western, thriller, etc. Post the badge and visit other participants.  This Blogfest is hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner.   See their sites for the Linky List of other participants.

Circus of Horrors

Circus of Horrors
Circus of Horrors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
       My contribution to the Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest actually is a two parter that begins with my May 15th post for the Battle of the Bands.   I invite you to visit that post and vote on your favorite version of the song "Look for a Star" which was introduced in my Blogfest pick of the film Circus of Horrors.

         Circus of Horrors is a British film that was released in 1960.  The plot involves a rogue plastic surgeon who is presumed to have been killed after a car crash while being pursued by the police.  He manages to escape the burning car, making his way to a nearby house where with the help of a brother and sister team who are his surgical assistants, his face is restored giving him a new appearance. The three escape to France to find a place to go into hiding.

         They find cover in a run down financially troubled circus after restoring the badly disfigured face of the owner's young daughter.  Shortly after the circus owner draws up an agreement that will place the circus in the doctor's name, the owner is killed by a trained dancing bear leaving the young daughter and the circus in the doctor's charge.

       Not long after the doctor has taken ownership of the circus, he develops a devious plan.  He seeks out once beautiful young women whose faces have been scarred and maimed and who have fallen into lifestyles of prostitution, thievery, and criminal activities.   He restores their beauty through his artful skills in plastic surgery and gives them refuge from the law as they become stars in his Circus of Beauty.

        Ten years after acquiring the circus, the doctor has turned it into the most famous circus in Europe with a roster of beauties as his star performers.  After a series of mysterious deaths, the circus has gained a nickname from the media as "The Jinx Circus" or "The Circus of Horrors".   This is where the fun begins with jealousy, intrigue and, of course, blood, boobs, and carnage.  The circus costumes provide ample opportunity to show off beautiful women, however there is no nudity.  The sexuality and the gore are very mild by today's standards.  If the current film rating system were used this would easily get by with a PG-13.

        Circus of Horrors is not too bad of a film.  It has an interesting story line.  The acting is decent for the most part.  The make up effects aren't too cheesy.  The murderous dancing bear and the gorilla are as about as stupid and fake as anything I've seen in a movie, but fortunately their roles are minuscule. And for me the most memorable part of the film is the repeated playing of the hit song "Look for a Star" as sung by Garry Mills.  That song never left my head after I'd seen this movie.  It's a song that I greatly enjoy to this day.

      I now own not only the DVD copy of the film, but also two CD's with different but very similar sounding versions of that great pop tune "Look for a Star".

When I First Saw this Film

      Actually I'm a bit hazy on when I first saw this film.  I'm pretty sure it would have been in 1964, probably in the summer or fall of that year.  My father used to take me on occasional Saturday adventures--kind of like a father and son togetherness thing I guess.  Most of these outings I recall from when we lived in San Diego.  Once it was attending a Chargers game.  Then there was a time when we went to an old bookstore downtown where he bought me a used 1910 copy of Tom Swift and his Airship.  One time we even headed down to Tijuana where he got me a cheap haircut and then we went to eat at a Mexican restaurant, which is something my mother would have never been willing to do--eat in a restaurant in Tijuana that is.

      Our movie theater excursion was after we had moved to Crown Point, Indiana.   Circus of Horrors was apparently being shown for a Saturday matinee as I remember that we went in the daytime.  I'm guessing the theater might have been in Hammond, Indiana or somewhere near there.  It was a big old theater that had probably been there since the 1930's or so.   Being a Saturday matinee there were mostly young people in attendance.  To my recollection the auditorium was about a quarter full.   My father was probably the oldest guy there--he would have been about 40 at the time.  We grabbed seats toward the rear middle of the left side of the auditorium.

        As a rule my father would have never gone to a horror movie.  That was something that my mother might be prone to do, but not my father.  However if anything about the circus was involved he was ready to go see it.   He was always hoping to catch at least a glimpse of a juggler. In this movie he was to be disappointed as there were no jugglers.  The film itself was actually shot on location with a British circus so there was plenty of authentic circus footage.

        Besides the featured song "Look for a Star" the most memorable thing for me about going to see this movie was after one of the "gory" scenes there was a commotion in the front right section of the theater.  It was quite a distance from us so we couldn't see what was happening, but the news quickly passed to those of us toward the back that some girl had thrown up.  The film was momentarily stopped and lights brought up as the ushers attended to the situation.

         Now in retrospect I wonder if that whole commotion scene was more of a stunt to get word of mouth going to get more people to come to the later showings.  I can't say for sure, but back then it was not unusual for something like that to happen at a horror film showing.  On occasion they would even have someone dressed like a doctor or nurse visible in the lobby to attend to anyone who might suffer from attacks of fright.

Here's a clip from the film during the first time "Look for a Star" is played:

        And now if you haven't voted in my Battle of the Bands post please go now to pick your favorite version of the song "Look for a Star".   You can find that post here.

         Have you seen the film Circus of Horrors?    Did you ever go to the special matinee showings of second run films?    If you don't like circuses, why not?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Look for a Star (Battle of the Bands)

       Today I'm being interviewed by Chrys Fey at Write with Fey so be sure to visit her blog after you've voted on the Battle of the Bands. 

Battle of the Bands--May 15th 2015

          It's kind of hard to believe that it's the middle of May and summer's a-comin'.   And once again it's time for another Battle of the Bands.   This event has become a favorite of mine.   We have Far Away Eyes at Far Away Series  to thank for conceiving this musical appreciation thang.  Stephan T McCarthy acts as the list steward and official BotB host--you can find his blog with the list of participants at  StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens twice each month on the 1st and 15th.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action.

A Two Fer U

        I've got a double whammy this time around.  Today it's Battle of the Bands.  Then on Monday May 18th I'll be joining Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner for the Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest.  I'm connecting the two events to make things a bit more interesting.  On Monday I'll be telling you about the movie and you'll have to come back for that.  Today it's the song from the movie.  Some of you might know the movie because you know the song.  Or some of you might get ambitious and look up the song to see what movie it originally came from.  No matter what, I think it's a good pairing here--a song that's been a long time favorite of mine and a movie that I saw when I was a kid and it's a minor classic of sorts.

       But enough of this chatter.   Let's get on with the song choice for this Battle of the Bands installment.

Look for a Star

      "Look for a Star" is a song that is rarely heard these days.  At least I never hear it played anywhere.  The song first made its appearance in 1960 in the film to be featured in my post on Monday.  After being released the song was all over the charts--literally. It's kind of a strange story, but true nevertheless.  Let me explain.

         The songwriting credits go to Mark Anthony who was actually better known by his real name of Tony Hatch.  Hatch not only recorded on his own as a vocalist, pianist, and orchestra leader, but he was also a record producer responsible for many well known hit songs.  Most notable was his association with Petula Clark for whom he wrote many hits such as "Downtown".  But you can find Hatch's name (or those of his alter egos Mark Anthony and Fred Nightingale) on many releases by a slew of well known artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

      The song "Look for a Star" was first recorded by Garry Mills who charted with it at #7 in the U.K., but his success with the song in the U.S. was a bit diluted as three other similar sounding versions were released simultaneously.   The song only charted at #26 in the U.S. with the version  recorded by Garry Mills while a nearly identical version by one Gary Miles peaked at #16.  Miles was actually Buzz Cason who later went on to work with a number of other artists under his real name.  Obviously the pseudonym tactic was devised to create confusion which may have prevented the original by Mills to reach number one.

         To add to the confusion, another nearly identical sounding release by Dean Hawley rose to #29 on the U.S. charts while an instrumental version by Billy Vaughn made it to #19.  Tony Hatch probably came out okay on the deal, but the artists and their recording companies saturated the market with all the simultaneous releases.  After that initial onslaught of recordings, the song became a minor standard recorded by many artists--some of those versions rather strange.

       Taking this song story a bit further I discovered that apparently the song became quite popular in the Latin American countries which saved me from battling similar version against each other.  That gives me two very different versions of "Look for a Star" to put into competition.  I hope you'll enjoy these.

Garry Mills "Look for a Star"  (1960)

       This is the original version used in the film (which as I noted above I will tell you about on Monday).   In this film the vocal version is used about four times if I remember correctly and at least once as an instrumental.  It's featured very prominently in the film which is why it stuck with me so strongly after I saw the film.  Besides, it's a nice melody with positive lyrics.  I'd say just about everybody who left after seeing the film was singing this song afterwards.  I usually don't remember lyrics, but this is one song where the lyrics stayed with me.

        The song has a classic early 60's sound with a teen dream vocal and a popcorn poppy guitar rift throughout.  The shimmering organ runs and the horn break are particularly nice touches as are the do-do-do backing from the female vocalists.  Like a Lay's potato chip you might not be able to just listen to this song one time.   But why don't I just shut up and let you hear it for yourself...

Carlos Campos and his Orchestra  "Mirando una Estrella" (19??)

       There are so many Latin versions of "Look for a Star" that I had a difficult time choosing just one.  Sometimes called "Mirando una Estrella" and at others "Buscando una Estrella", but any way you listen to it the melody is "Look for a Star".  The version that I actually found most interesting was one by Los Tres Reyes, but I decided to avoid it since I thought the Spanish lyrics might be off putting to some.   I also avoided any of the mariachi versions, not that they weren't interesting, but they were mariachi and I wasn't sure how that would go over.  After all I don't want a shut out for this contest.

       The version by Carlos Campos is the one that triggered the most memories for me.  Not that I'd heard this version before, but the style was reminiscent of what I used to hear a lot back in the early 60's.  My mother went through a phase where she would frequently listen to cha-cha and mambo records.  I don't recall any Carlos Campos in her collection, but Perez Prado and the Francis Bay Orchestra are two that I particularly remember her listening to repeatedly.  She'd have those records blaring throughout the day as she did her housework.  It never bothered me because I too loved the music.

        Carlos Campos y su Orquestra fits into the same musical tradition as that music my mother listened to so his version of "Look for a Star" was easy on my ears and I figured at least a few of you voters might like it as well.  Take a listen and you can decide...

Time to Vote!

     Which do you prefer?  ?   It's up to you to determine the winner.   Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the one you chose. Will it be the contender from the U.K. Garry Mills or Carlos Campos from Mexico?  Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around.   And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands



DC Relief Battle of the Bands

Shady Dell Music and Memories   

The Doglady's Den  (a new participant!)

Angel's Bark  (another new participant!)

Cherdo on the Flipside  (And another new one!)

Results on May 22nd

        Get the final vote tally for this Battle on my post of Friday May 22nd.   On Monday I'll be participating in the Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest at which time the movie that featured the above Battle's song will be revealed. You can vote on today's Battle of the Bands post until Thursday May 21st which will be when I make my final vote tally. Please vote!

What movie introduced "Look for a Star"?
Find out in the Blogfest coming on Monday.
     Now head on over to visit Chrys Fey at Write with Fey to read her interview with yours truly, Arlee Bird.

          Without peeking do you know the movie this song came from and have you seen it?    Have you ever heard this song before?    Are you a fan of Latin style music?