Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rock of Pages: Hollywood Hi-Fi

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 9:00 AM

In the world of novelty recordings, none are so interesting as those done by celebrities. While Leighton Meester might be recording with Robin Thicke and Cobra Starship these days, she's merely the latest in a long line of acting professionals who've decided to take a step into the realm of music.

click to enlarge hollywood_hi_fi.jpg

For every success story like Meester or JLo, there's a laundry list of failures. Now, those failures are sometimes far more interesting and timeless than one would think. The success of Rhino's Golden Throats series in the late '80s and early '90s introduced many of these recordings to a wider audience than the fans who might have bought them when they first came out.

Authors George Gimarc and Pat Reeder dove deeply into the field of celebrity recordings in their book Hollywood Hi-Fi. In the book, they go over "over 100 of the most outrageous celebrity recordings ever!" (or so says the cover). Now, while they do the usual suspects -- Shatner and Nimoy (with an entire section on Star Trek, actually), Buddy Ebsen, Jim Nabors -- they also dig through the really out there stuff.

Unless you're an obsessive novelty music collector, you probably aren't aware of the innumerable recordings done in character by actors in the '60s. Joe E. Ross did "Ooh Ooh!" Frank Gorshin did "The Riddler." Hell, even Ted Cassidy did "The Lurch" (which isn't to be confused with the song of the same name that Cassidy performed on The Addams Family).

Hollywood Hi-Fi is the sort of book that will send you scurrying for iTunes or Soulseek. The descriptions of some of these albums and singles are so well-written that you can't help but need to hear these records. A case in point being Robert Mitchum's Calypso...Is Like So, wherein Mitchum is described as "a more authentic calypso singer than Vanilla Ice was a rapper."

There's a companion album, too, although it's out of print and runs a few bucks. A revised edition of the book is due out soon, too. You can sign up at the authors' website for when the new edition is released.

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