Cosmic Christmas

Welcome to a pre-holiday edition of Short Attention Span Theater, in which I take several different items and attempt to string them together like popcorn on a Christmas tree.

Yesterday’s mention of fashion in the 1970s begs the additional note that some fashions of the 1960s haven’t endured well, either. Take the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, an elaborate album recorded over a period of several months in 1967 and released in December of that year. It’s usually considered the Stones’ attempt at Sgt. Pepper psychedelia, and an unsuccessful one, in the long view, failing to produce a major hit—“She’s a Rainbow” is probably the best-known song from the album. The Beatles put some oddments on Sgt. Pepper—a tone that only dogs can hear, and a repeating groove of gibberish. The Stones went one better, sort of, placing what might be the first hidden track in rock history at the end of side one, after “Sing We All Together.” And it happens to be a Christmas song, although it’s hard to recognize right off: “Cosmic Christmas” (a discarded title for the Satanic Majesties album) is a minor-key Mellotron-and-tympani version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” that runs about 30 seconds.

Some fashions of the 1960s haven’t become dated or unpopular, they’re just buried by the realities of modern times. In an era when absolutely everything comes out on DVD eventually, it’s mighty odd that the original Batman TV series from the 1960s remains among the missing. Several reasons are cited for the show’s absence from home video: a dispute between Warner Brothers, which owns DC Comics and thus the Batman character, and 20th Century Fox, which owns the series; DC’s preference for its dark, contemporary Batman over the cartoonish 60s version; and, most intriguingly, the difficulty of clearing some of the guest appearances. The show was famous for celebrity cameos when Batman and Robin climbed the side of a building—stars including Dick Clark, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Edward G. Robinson appeared—but these are said to have been done as walk-ons, without contracts, which complicates the legal stuff required for DVD release.

In this clip, from the episode broadcast December 22, 1966, Batman and Robin run into Santa Claus, played by Andy Devine.

One thing that never goes out of style, however, is disc jockeys getting fired. It seems likely that the radio industry is about to see another round of mass executions, as the giant chains that are up to their receding hairlines in debt are required to refinance, and their bankers demand further austerity measures as their price for ponying up. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it happened today or tomorrow—just in time to ruin Christmas for hundreds of families across the country. Last weekend, Ken Levine told the story of “the last time I signed off my show with ‘see you tomorrow’ and was never heard from again.” Of particular interest to me is the comment from a reader quoting a radio friend who said “he was convinced the reason the talent’s chair was on wheels in the control room was that it made it easier to fire them by simply dragging them away from the board and rolling them straight into the elevator after or even during their show.”

That’s why I work my shows standing up. If you want me outta there, you gotta pick me up and carry me.

2 responses

  1. Andy Devine! Too bad we couldn’t see his thong rind.

    “Satanic Majesties” is not a great album; but I can think of at least three or four Stones records I’d get rid of before I got rid of that one.

  2. My favorite Batman cameo is by G. David Schine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpjEe2h_n9o .(Background info: G. David Schine: Assistant to Senator Joseph McCarthy, Executive Producer of The French Connection, Part Owner of the Ambassador Hotel Where RFK Was Shot, Married to Miss Universe 1955, Purveyor of Bubble Gum Music, and Had A Cameo On the Batman TV Show http://www.tommcmahon.net/2008/02/g-david-schine.html ) This Andy Devine clip is now my second.

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