Shreds of News and Afterthoughts

Odds and ends, seeds and stems, this is the best I can do today:

Bobbing for Apples: EMI is out with a vast reissue of music originally released on the Beatles’ Apple label. In addition to a one-disc best of featuring familiar hits like Badfinger’s “Day After Day,” “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, and “Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkin, a slew of full-length albums are also newly out, most with bonus tracks included. As Allmusic.com observes, Apple was the Fab Four’s playground—if an artist captured their interest or an idea crossed their mind, Apple gave them a place to put it. And so Paul McCartney indulged his dance-hall tendencies with Hopkin and Harrison worked closely with rocker Jackie Lomax. But Apple also released albums by Billy Preston, R&B singer Doris Troy, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, along with classical music and Indian music and scattered singles that defy easy classification. The attraction of much of it is the Beatle connection—their contributions as sidemen or songwriters—but some of it stands on its own pretty well. There’s an exhaustive description of what’s included in the reissue at Apple’s website.

Halloween Everywhere: Up until two decades ago, network TV schedules were not clogged with Halloween-themed episodes of regular series—we got It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and maybe Dracula or Frankenstein on the late movie, but not much beyond that. Some of the top-rated shows in television, including M*A*S*H in 1982 and The Cosby Show in 1985, did do Halloween-themed episodes, but without starting a trend. Then came 1989, when Roseanne, then the most-watched show on TV, did its first Halloween episode. After that, other sitcoms were quick to adopt the Halloween theme, including The Simpsons, which broadcast the first of its annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes in 1990. Home Improvement got on the Halloween bandwagon in 1992 and continued with annual Halloween episodes to the end of its run. Today, it’s a mighty poor sitcom that isn’t tempted to observe Halloween at least once, if not yearly. Correlation isn’t causation, but it sure looks like the general boom in popularity of Halloween in recent years occurred alongside the explosion of Halloween observance on top TV shows.

Trick and Treat: Over the weekend, 30 Days Out featured a great compilation of scary and/or Halloweenish music and TV themes, and briefly praised Twilight Zone, which has always been a favorite show of mine. I’ve been watching the fifth season on DVD this week, which features one of the strangest commentary tracks I’ve ever heard. In 1963, Mickey Rooney starred in a one-man episode, “Last Night of a Jockey.” His commentary track consists largely of him cantankerously disclaiming all memory of making the episode or meeting Rod Serling, and openly, angrily dismissing the very idea that anyone could be interested in anything he has to say about it. It has the grim fascination of a traffic accident, which is probably why the producers chose to include it. The commentary on a succeeding episode, “Living Doll,” more than compensates, however. It features the legendary June Foray, voice artist extraordinaire, who provided the voice of Talky Tina in the episode. (“My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.”) Over her long career, Foray also provided the voices for Rocky Squirrel and Natasha, Cindy Lou Who, Witch Hazel, and dozens of other cartoon characters you know—many of which she manages to work into her commentary.

If this post seems a little schizophrenic to you, remember . . . it’s almost Halloween, and it’s crazy out there.

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