Tuesday, 5 June 2012

"We're ALL Shirley Temple, Beatles, and the Wizard Of Oz..."

Before The Wizard Of Oz was filmed, the cast assembled to have been much different than the one that was finalized (this may be old news for some but be patient), W.C. Fields as the title character, Buddy Ebsen the Tin Woodsman, and in a wickedly clever bit of casting as The Witch, Gale (Sondergaard) attacking (Dorothy) Gale, played by the dimpled curly-top herself: 

Shirley Temple. 
In fact, in an interview a year earlier, the little moppet hinted as such when she said with little or no uncertainty, "There's no place like home!" 


But of course that version wasn't made here, at least not in this space/time continuum, though other alternative universes can't be ruled out, at least that's what my theoretician friends inform me.
She stopped performing at age 21, and married John Agar-Agar,star of B-movies as "Tarantula" and "Attack Of The Puppet People", but his boozing and womanizing ended their marriage in an ugly tabloid-press "Hollywood Confidential" style divorce.

"The Brain From Planet Arous" payback for his infidelity.
Later she became a supporter of the Republican Party, even ran for office.
Additionally to that illustrious political and diplomatic career, she was a Beatles fan, had 
 a photograph taken with her daughter, Lori "The Lorax" Black, and the Fabtastic Four.

("Ringo" formerly of Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, turns into a tornado at the crossroads, scene looks...familiar)
The Beatles and their management certainly had a lasting impression of her as later on
she appears on the "Sgt. Pepper'sLP cover, not once, twice, but 3 times
along with "Number 6", W. C. Fields:

 6. W. C. Fields (Curmudgeon)
58. Shirley Temple (Child Actress) 
                         71. Shirley Temple (Child Actress)                                                  73. Cloth Figure of Shirley Temple (Child Actress) 


With all the attention given by 
Beatles aficionados since the June 
1967 release of
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", to all sorts of observations and theories, it surprises me that no one seemed to have found a connection to Oz as Judy Garland'original starring role would nave been Shirley's, and upon closer inspection there seemed to be none, however...



"Magical Mystery Tour", the follow-up to "Sgt. Pepper's" has the legend:
"Away in the sky, beyond the clouds, live four or five magicians..."
and “Beyond the blue horizon, far above the clouds, in a land that no one knows, live four or five magicians who spend their days casting wonderful spells.  Come with me now into that secret place where the eyes of man have never set foot.” 
Somewhere over the rainbow, eh?

For those who just came in, the lettering font of the album's title, as well as the sign on the side of the Beatles ersatz 'merry pranksters' bus is rendered in rainbow colours
(always loved the Brit spelling), and this is even utilized as the animated segues between the apparently disconnected vignettes in the film.


What's another word (or words) synonymous with "magicians"?

"Magician" could be anything from witch to wizard, which the merry old land of Oz certainly had both in abundance, along with a "couple of la-de-dahs".
As the "magicians" the Beatles and Mal Evans wear pointed wizard caps.

Paul, also "the fool on the hill with his head in the clouds", has a nose  exactly like  
the 
Scarecrow of Oz.

He hasn't a brain (?) or is more akin to Stan Laurel, just playing "the Fool",
as in "A Chump At Oxford" (with co-star and sometime Dr. Frankenstein,
Peter Cushing), and as you know he too, along with partner Oliver Hardy, is on
"Sgt. Pepper's", numbers "28" and "30".

There's even a short scene, blink and you'll miss it, of someone observing the Magical Mystery Tour bus, hidden, obscured by trees as the Wicked Witch was in the forest on Oz, as it wends its way through the English countryside on its journey down the road,
just after the
Lennon v.o.: "The magic begins to work."

Later, John Lennon's voice-over narration, "Beyond the blue horizon...", is placed just at the tail-end of their "Flying" sequence, one or the few songs that had authorship attributed to all or the four Beatles, "Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starkey", the lyrics of which being the mantra-like "La-la-la-la-la" not too far removed from the aforementioned "couple of la-de-dahs", and with visuals of the Scottish Hebrides mountains, as strangely colored alien landscape footage, outtakes from the cutting room floor that Stanley Kubrick didn't use in 1968's "2OO1a space odyssey", which they somehow acquired.
(possible hint: Moon-Watcher?)
Funny thing too is Lennon's quoting the Ames Brothers 1950's pop song, "Beyond The Blue Horizon", a song that was a moderate hit for them, and on their sci-fi themed 
"Destination Moon" LP, which was named after the 1950 George Pal-Robert Heinlein-Irving Pichel production, the "2OO1" of it's time.
"...you will be the Ames Brothers, spelled with an 'A'."

Back to the story.

The U.S. LP included a 28 page glossy stock booklet, which tells the story of the as yet unseen in the States BBC-TV special, as well as adding more than a few enigmatic pictures and text of the inexplicable.

The centrefold has the four Beatles playing what looks like the "I Am The Walrus" scene in the film, and frankly they look stoned, but for years much ado was made over the picture showing Paul McCartney not wearing his shoes, and what seems like Heinz 57 ketchup or red blood splattered over them.
McCartney gets shrunk by a Brainiac's shrinking-ray, and the Indian Thugee cult that attempts to sacrifice Ringo splashes red paint all over the place in order to clearly 
mark the intended victim, and some of it gets on Paul's shoe while he's doing the incredible shrinking man bit.

That solves that "P.I.D." urban myth, and should have done so ages ago.

Now Ringo's drum-head however is a different story, as the same or like-minded dunderheads point out that The Beatles for some reason decided to use it for another 
ominous 'clue', the '3' in the lower right hand corner implying that there are only 3 Beatles, or some such nonsense.

There were always 3 Beatles, strictly speaking, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison
the originals, their partnership going back to 1957, Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey being hired in 1962 to replace Pete Best.

The WOR 710 AM radio personality and Playboy contributor Jean Sheppard observed in his February 1965 interview that the 3 original Beatles were together and 'in' on jokes between them, but Ringo seemed to be an outsider.

What is missing in all these speculations of course is that most of today's readers (and writers) are unaware that the pop version of the Harold Arlen & "Yip" Harburg tune "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" was a BIG U.S. national/international hit for The Fifth Estate which reached #11, 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and recorded and released with great success around the world in five different languages (Japanese, Italian, French, German and English), released in the Summer of LOVE, July 11967, 
exactly one month after "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": 

As was the custom in the mid-to-late 60's of combining baroque and classical pieces and/or instrumentation in pop music for that 'happening sound', ala Procol Harum's utilization of J.S. Bach for "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" (at that time Lennon's fave), or any of the other Art-Rock progressive groups of the time as The Moody Blues, The Fifth Estate (and their management) decided to embellish the basic "Oz" tune by bridging an instrumental march with a flute solo based on Dances From Terpsichore - La Bouree by Michael Praetorius (15711621) composed in 1612.
  Since The Beatles (and their management) were acutely aware of pop culture music trends, Brian Epstein, then also The Beatles manager "almost" signed them, it wouldn't be a far stretch to suggest that since their earlier acquaintance with Mrs. Black nee Temple, and now the Oz inspired chart-topper, there would be further L. Frank Baum/Mervyn LeRoy allusions on their albums and movies.

Production of
Magical Mystery Tour TV film began on September 11, 1967, which just about fits the tail-end time-frame of 10 weeks that 
"Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead"
 peaked on the U.S. pop-music chart.

Years before, a version of the tune had utilized for The Goon Show, starring Peter Sellers, the program which heavily influenced the production of The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and Monty Python's Flying Circus.
In The Goon Show it was used as the main closing theme tune, and was played live onstage for almost every episode by the Wally Stott Orchestra.

For over forty years, it has been the highest charting version of all time of any Harold Arlen or Wizard Of Oz song by any artist since the modern chart era began in 1940, and later ex-Beatle George Harrison also curiously enough had a song with title, "Ding Dong, Ding Dong", released December 6, 1974 on Apple Records.

Frank Sinatra, who was "Rosemary's baby", married to Mia Farrow at that time, earlier formed his own record label, Reprise Records, after splitting from Alan Livingston's Capitol Records in 1961
, and the first album released entitled,
Ring-a-Ding-Ding!
 


Hell, even
The Monkees covered The Fifth Estate's version of "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" on episode #58 of their TV shoe in 1968 entitled, "The Frodis Caper".
So it wasn't exactly a throwaway novelty
45 r.p.m. song. 
So then the "3" on the lower right hand corner is not only "3 Beatles" but 3 Shirley Temple(s), the original chosen Dorothy, especially so as the yellow spiral in the "LOVE" on the drum-head appears to be a crude hand-rendered representation of the Yellow Brick Road as seen in the finished 1939 film.  
Certain that the photographer in that Shirley Temple lolly-pop photo shoot below went absolutely NUTS trying to locate a lolly with a perfect spiral, to 'foreshadow' both
 "
Lolly-Pop Guild" song and the following tune "Follow The Yellow Brick Road".
No matter, it never happened.Instead Miss Temple was in "The Blue-Bird"*,
20th Century Fox' attempt at doing an "Oz" of their own, with some of the unused
"
Oz" cast, most notably Wicked Witch ne'er been Gale Sondergaard as The Cat.

The girl I was crazy for in 
1972 was home sick one day so then decided to visit her and watch "The Blue-Bird" on her console color TV, and she was all crying and weepy o'er it, and I felt powerless to react in any way, except to hold her hand however briefly.

That's the first time ever saw or heard of "
The Blue-Bird".

The problem with "
Blue-Bird" is that there are no song-and-dance numbers comparable to any of the ones in "Oz", except for one that Shirley performs, passable, but not up to the standard of the much better M-G-M confection.

Amusing bit of business in the 1968 Beatletoon "Yellow Submarine" near the end when chief blue bunny-eared Meanie mentions "The Blue-Bird Of Happiness"

"I'll have you know that my cousin is 'The Blue-Bird of Happiness!"
(and those are the last words uttered by any character in the Yellow Submarine cartoon, 
its origin and purpose, still a total mystery...) 
as parallels between "Yellow Submarine" and "The Wizard Of Oz" are there,
but none at all with
Shirley Temple'film.
 

Except for that call-out.
 
An Interesting inverse parallel between the 1939 "The Wizard Of Oz" and the 1968 "Yellow Submarine" in that the arrival of a giant pink soap bubble heralds the coming of former mistress to Mark Twain, Billie Burke, as Glinda the Go(o)d Witch who sings, "Come out, come out wherever you are, and meet the young lady who fell from a star..." , while the silencing of Sgt. Pepper's Band happens after they become trapped inside an impenetrable similar sphere, blue amber as it were.

Noted animation and comic-strip historian Brendan Spillane made a viable connection between "Yellow Submarine" and "The Wizard OOz" which is rock solid, unlike my  crazy musings, and you can read his take on The Beatles 'toon and Oz @http://cartoonoveranalyzations.com/2009/08/06/in-the-merry-old-land-of-pepper/ 

The 'stars' of MMT, as listed in the credits, are not The Beatles but Vivian Stanshall
and his Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band who perform the final number "Death Cab For Cutie", with a gyrating, disrobing, dancer on loan from one of the London strip clubs, as Viv does his Elvis send-up.

"Bonzo" was also the simian star of two films with hairless ape straight-men that were supposedly comedy. 

Lest we forget the drug-culture references, 
Margaret Hamilton as the Witch has all the living organic beings DorothyToto, and the Cowardly Lion succumb to her remote control manipulations via crystal ball of "Poppies...poppies will put them to sleep"the non-living and non-organic Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman immune (except for rusting) and all seems lost until Mark Twain's mistress, Billie Burke, as Glinda intervenes with her own homespun remedy of snow.

The usage of these, poppies to impede the heroes' journey off to see the 
Wizard
snow as the antidote, by two powerful opposing forces representing opiates, heroin, and cocaine, are not coincidental, as the very name of the Wizard's land, Oz, and the emerald green color, symbolize marijuana and its usage, clever hidden messages that The Beatles (and their management) definitely appreciated, indeed the LPs from Sgt. Pepper's onward would be loaded with such clever allegory.

What about the girl in that 
Beatles picture, Shirley's daughter Lori "The LoraxBlack
Well after her art-school education she became a kick-ass bass guitarist for several Bay-area bands, relocated from Frisco to Washington (the state), and in and around 1987 joined the sludge metal band Melvins, played on their albums including one entitled..."Ozma".   
I doubt that the choice of that title was 'coincidental'.

Hmmm...come to think of it, had there have been a sequel of "The Wizard Of Oz", fr'instance "Ozma Of Oz" ("OOO"), Judy G. could still have been a slightly older D.Shirley T. definitely a Princess O., in reverse to their ages and hair color.

That didn't happen either.



(Magical Mystery Tour Fancy Dress Ball Card)  
The Magical Mystery Tour film premiered at a special invitation-only costume ball, 
December 211967, all the The Beatles and their wives were in attendance, as well as the truly "in" (and their hangers-on) at the hippest happening, among them diminutive singer Lulu who chided Lennon for the treatment of then wife Cynthia, the head Beatle dancing lasciviously with Patti Harrison, the "To Sir With Love" singer shaking her lollipop in shame at him. 

Lulu was costumed as (rimshot please): "Shirley Temple".

The film was aired on 
Boxing Day in the U.K., almost unanimously reviled by the professional critics and those didn't like The Beatles anyway, and to further add injury to insult the BBC aired the colour film in black & white, as regularly scheduled colour broadcasts were some couple of years yet to be, so the gloating for this "failure" after the unprecedented success of "Sgt. Pepper's" was an occasion for celebration.
If David Sarnoff's NBC were the B B C  then would it have been,
"
Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Colour"
?

It wasn't seen at all here until the 1970's, and then only on either college campuses or 
art-film revival houses, bundled together with midnight show fare, usually shown with other cultish films by John Waters (whose Pink Flamingos had it's very own
"
Mr. Eggman") and future TM proponent (and Beatle colleague) David Lynch's Eraserhead:
(Notice 'Yellow Submarine' replaced by 'The Wizard Of Oz'?)
but I'm getting a little ahead of the story here.

Americans were mostly unaware of Magical Mystery Tour, except for the already mentioned gatefold-sleeve LP of all the song-track used in the film on Side A, and to fill the flip-side singles were hastily and haphazardly arranged without concern for quality as the dreaded "fake stereo" 
duophonic processed versions were utilized by stateside Capitol Records' engineers for some of the songs, most notably "Penny Lane", "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and "All You Need Is Love".

The single, "
Hello Goodbye" which was released both as a 45 r.p.m. and on the MMT album was number one, for 7 weeks beginning late November (27th) to December, including X-Mas 1967, however as it was knocked out of that spot in mid January (20-27) 1968 by a novelty/parody song, John Fred & The Playboys,
"
Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)":

Dig ol' Fred's yellow shirt & LOVE beads!
Hmmm...to which "Judy" is John referring to...and why is she disguised, and as whom,
with glasses
N N?
Naw, it couldn't be...would you believe...Agnes English?The Beatles inspired faux LSD meets "blue-eyed Soul" song was replaced on the pop charts by the equally imitative (in theme if not in execution) one-hit wonder tune
"
Green Tambourine" by the studio band The Lemmon (sic) Pipers, "coincidentally"
also named 
Fred and Johnjust like the father and son, and also the names of the characters in the song by Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde, "Rest In Peace" from their
"
Of Cabbages And Kings" LP, unfairly viewed as a "Sgt. Pepper's" wanna-Beatles album, even though it was begun months before, September 1966 in fact, and probably influenced The Stones LP cover too.
(note Chad & Jeremy's attire, and The Walrus peering out from behind the "C"wizard Jagger's peaked cap 'coincidentally' has both
a Donovan and Warhol
reference"I'm going to make a banana appear this time", "Cookie Jar Toons/The World Of Richard Scarry - Busytown" sync 11:35 am EST, and Hilda Hippo remarks on a yellow crescent moon facing in the same direction 11:55 am EST,
on
NYC's WPIX-11.3July 14, 2012, as I type this revision)

"Of Cabbages And Kings" taken from Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland", which influenced not only Chad & Jeremy in the choice of the album title's name, but also Lennon's later "I Am The Walrus" song (which that aforementioned little girl told me about, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away), Donovan Leitch whose "H. M. S. Donovan" sets the entire poem to song, and way before ALL these in the early 1900's, L. Frank Baum's own phantasmagorical 
"The Wizard Of Oz". 
 "Where trouble melts like lemon dropsHigh above the chimney tops that's where you'll find me..." 
The mind boggles.

"...and you can put that in your smoke and pipe it"
   
as Old Mother Riley once observed in a Bela Lugosi flick.

By the way, what rhymes with
"Green Tambourine"?
  
*P.S. - while updating this piece for today (June 142012) as usual have the TV on in the background, at 10:01 am EST on WCBS-TV (Channel 2 in the NYC/Tri-State area) the game-show "Let's Make A Deal" hosted by Wayne Brady, very first contestant, a young lady wearing blue feathers was picked out from the studio audience by him to participate, and after asking her what she was supposed to have been costumed as she excitedly exclaims: "I'm a bluebird!"She won a 2012 model Kia.
  


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