January 16, 2012

Variations on a theme

It's surprising what you can run across on YouTube when you're not looking for it.  Take the opening credits and theme song for a series.  Nowadays, due to time constraints (i.e. the need for more commercial time), these are crunched beyond recognition (especially the closing credits, which as an art form have completely disappeared).  So I don't know that we'll be able to have as much fun in the future with items like the following.

Most of you are probably familiar with Alvin and the Chipmunks, and some of you (those my age or so) might even remember the original animated Alvin Show, which bears virtually no resemblance to the current chipmunks. Here's the theme:



Now, recalling our festival of Sammy Davis Jr. cover themes from a while back, here's one I would have had no inkling of - from Nelson Riddle, of all people, better known for his Route 66 theme and his work with Sinatra:



Well, that was different, wasn't it? But it turns out Nelson Riddle had an entire album of TV theme covers. Who knew? Here's his cover of the theme to The Andy Griffith Show:



There are a bunch more you can check out on YouTube if you want. But if you want the one that takes the cake, I think I have it. It's this faux Led Zeppelin version of the theme to the cartoon George of the Jungle. (For contrast, here's the original.)



You almost expect to see Sammy appear at the end, don't you?

January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve, 1965

Those of us of a certain age remember seeing Guy Lombardo ring in the New Year from New York, usually on CBS. If you're a little younger, you probably grew up watching Dick Clark and his New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC. Easy enough, because neither of those networks had regular late-night programming on a consistant basis.

Nowadays, NBC has its own show, with Carson Daly. But for many years the peacock network stuck with its regular programming - that is to say, Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. Johnny didn't do a regular New Year's special per se, but especially during the years when he broadcast from New York, he'd cut away as the clock approached midnight to provide live coverage from Times Square. Here's a rare clip from New Year's Eve 1965, as Johnny goes to (I believe) Ben Grauer to watch the ball drop. (Note how the studio broadcast is in color, but the live remote is still black and white.) Frankly, from the looks of this footage, I think they'd already been celebrating back at the studio.

2011 has not been a great year, and there's a lot of apprehension about 2012 - the economy, the state of the nation at home, tensions overseas, the election. It's somewhat poignant listening to Ben talking about 1965 and all that had happened, particularly the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and his hopes that 1966 will be better. In fact, I thought as I watched this, the worst was yet to come - even more war, even more drugs, even more death, MLK, RFK, riots, and more. John Lindsay, the new mayor of New York, will turn out to be a disaster, and it will take the city until the time of Rudy Giulianni to return to its former glory. Carson himself will leave New York for Hollywood in a few years.

Tonight we hope that 2012 will be a better year. Personally, I think that it will - at least, let's hope that 2012 will be kinder to us than the end of the 1960s was to that crowd in Times Square on New Year's Eve, 1965.