Musical Depreciation

One of my best Christmas presents last year was a Sony Walkman digital media player.  I’ve finally put all of my CDs and the videos I’ve made onto it.  I thought for a few minutes about buying a case for it, then remembered a magical card case I made a couple of years ago from some silk fabric I printed one of my Southbank graffiti photos onto.  It’s a pretty perfect fit.  I put my earphones in a aluminum soap box from Lush to complete the urban vibe.

When I want to change my music, I just pull the strings and up it pops.

The back looks good too.

I just finished transferring Musical Depreciation: Original Recordings by Spike Jones and His City Slickers onto my mp3 player.  I first heard Spike Jones on the Dr. Demento Show in the 1970’s and got my first Jones LP ‘Thank You Music Lovers’ when I was ten.  Incidentally, this album cover was illustrated by Jack Davis, one of MAD Magazines very talented cartoonists.

Lindley Armstrong “Spike” Jones (December 14, 1911 – May 1, 1965) was a popular musician and bandleader specializing in performing satirical arrangements of popular songs. Ballads and classical works receiving the Jones treatment would be punctuated with gunshots, whistles, cowbells and ridiculous vocals. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, the band recorded under the title Spike Jones and his City Slickers and toured the USA and Canada under the title The Musical Depreciation Revue. My parents went to hear them play at the opening of a bowling alley some time in the 50’s.

Spike Jones & His City Slickers

Here’s the City Slicker’s take on “Laura” a popular song composed by David Raksin in 1945, with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer.

Spike & Doodles

Winstead Sheffield “Doodles” Weaver signed on in 1946 as a member of Spike Jones’ City Slickers band and toured the country with the Spike Jones Music Depreciation Revue until 1951.  Weaver specialized in horse and auto racing routines, delivering rapid-fire spoonerisms that galvanized such fan-favorite routines as “The Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “The William Tell Overture,” and “Dance of the Hours.” Weaver also co-starred from 1947 to 1949 on The Spike Jones Radio Show, there honing his popular horse character Feetlebaum. However, his relentlessly cornball material was best enjoyed in small doses, and Jones used him sparingly. Moreover, Weaver suffered from alcoholism, and after he took a live television routine too far, Jones let him go in 1951, although he returned to the fold often in the years leading up to the bandleader’s 1965 death.

Another MAD connection, Weaver was a contributor to the early magazine, e.g.  Doodles Weaver’s strict copyediting of the Gettysburg Address, advising Lincoln to change “fourscore and seven” to eighty-seven (“Be specific”), noting that there are six “dedicates” (“Study your Roget”), wondering if “proposition” isn’t misspelled and, finally exasperated, urging the writer to omit “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as “superfluous.”

Here’s Doodles spooonerizing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”.

Finally, Spike Jones & his City Slickers star in the short film Cocktails for Two (1945) a year after recording their comedy version. The romantic ballad, originally written to evoke an intimate romantic rendezvous, was re-recorded by Spike Jones in 1944 as a raucous, horn-honking, voice-gurgling, hiccuping hymn to the cocktail hour.  The Jones version was a huge hit, much to the resentment of composer Sam Coslow.


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