Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Johnny "Robin" Duncan passes away. RIP

Johnny Duncan, a one time member of the East Side Kids, and Dick Grayson/Robin in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin passed away on February 8, 2016 at the age of 92.

Duncan started out as a dancer, then segued into acting. He appeared in several East Side Kids films in the early to mid 1940s, including playing the title character in Million Dollar Kid, and one Bowery Boys movie.  In 1949 he was cast as Dick Grayson, Robin the Boy Wonder.

In a 2005 interview, he explained how he was cast as Robin. "Bob Kane was with Sam Katzman at Columbia Studio there. And they wanted a boy sixteen years old, and Sam knew me and thought of me for the part when Kane first come up...about the project. But Kane wanted a kid sixteen years old, and at that time, I was twenty-six years old. So he said, 'Oh, no, I don't want a guy twenty-six years old, you know, that's as old as Batman.' So anyway, why, they looked at, gosh, kids and kids and kids and kids, and finally they couldn't find anybody—Kane didn't like 'em, so Sam called me and he says, 'Hey, John, you know, wear some jeans or somethin' and a sweater and look as young as you can and, for God sakes, don't comb your hair or nothin', you know. Just come on over.' So I did. And so when I walked in the door, before I was even introduced, Kane says, 'Hey, that's Robin.' So that's how I got the part." 

In recent years, Duncan would attend comic book conventions proudly wearing curved sunglasses like a Robin mask.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Zilch podcast reveals details of Monkees' new album

The "Zilch" podcast has an interview with John Hughes from Rhino to talk about The Monkees' upcoming new album, Good Times! One of the highlights is that he clarifies Mike Nesmith will be a full participant on the album.  Listen to the full podcast at http://zilchmonkeescast.blogspot.com/2016/02/zilch-49-good-times-coming-monkee-news.html

Friday, February 5, 2016

Monkees to release new album

It has been announced The Monkees will release a new album in the Summer of 2016, titled Good Times! Like The Monkees’ first two albums, and their ill-fated 1987 album Pool It, the new album will feature tracks written specifically for the band by some of the music world’s popular songwriters, including Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Andy Partridge (XTC), Noel Gallagher, and Zach Rogue (Rogue Wave). Unfortunately, as of now, nothing new from vintage Monkees song writer Bobby Hart. In addition, some incomplete songs from the 1960s will be augmented and remixed, including "Love to Love" featuring the late Davy Jones' vintage vocal, and the album's title tune "Good Times" from a Harry Nilsson demo. The album cover art and a partial track listing has been unveiled, a release date is set, but amazingly nothing has actually been recorded yet.  Micky Dolenz commented, "[Rhino executives] John Hughes and Mark Pinkus both said they wanted us to make a new album, and they spelled out the exact kind of album that would go down well with the 50th anniversary and with our fans...I realized that the whole indie rock scene is all about recapturing that 1960s jangly guitar sound of the Monkees... One reason we don't have a final track listing yet is because once we put the word out all these people said they wanted to get involved... My job is just to come in and sing lead vocals. It's no different than the old days when we had to get everything done in three-hour sessions... Frankly, we don't even have a recording schedule right now!"
Even more amazing is that the album, despite not being recorded yet, is already racing up Amazon's best seller's chart!

I am having mixed reactions to this news. While I love the idea of a new Monkees album to celebrate the 50th Anniversary, this album sounds like it could easily end up being Pool It II. On the other hand, if more care is taken with the song selection and backing tracks, it might be as great as the 1986 tracks "That Was Then This Is Now" and "Anytime Anyplace Anywhere".  I remember when their 1996 album  Justus was released. I thought it was great, a far superior effort than Pool It.  I was actually shocked when I was lurking Monkees threads on the Hoffman Forums to learn many Monkees fans hated Justus as much or even more than Pool It. For better or worse, Good Times! at this point will not have that pure Monkees-as-a-group vibe that Headquarters and Justus had.  I just hope the songwriters and musicians contributing to this album have a better sense of The Monkees than the crew who worked on Pool It did. One other thing that kind of puzzles me is the inclusion of remixed and augmented tracks from the 1960s. I'm sure "Love to Love" is included because it was written by Neil Diamond, and it is a way to include a vocal from Davy.  Or perhaps they will get Jimmy Fallon to do the vocal.  But that song in question has been released several times since the 1980s, and frankly isn't one of the better Missing Links from the vaults. I would much rather see them finish incomplete tracks like "She's So Far Out She's In", or have definitive Monkees versions of "Different Drum" and "Good Looker".  Or for Davys' vocal, an augmented and remixed "My Share Of The Sidewalk", that maybe mixes the second, breezier backing track from the Instant Replay deluxe box set into it.  And that brings up another concern.  How much involvement will Mike Nesmith have? As of now, he is only slated to contribute one song, a newer composition titled "I Know What I Know".  But in true Nez cryptic style, when this news broke, he posted the video to his song "Rio" on his Facebook page, which has the appropriate lyric, "It's only a whimsical notion to fly down to Rio tonight, and I probably won't fly down to Rio, but then again, I just might."

I remember when The Monkees had their big resurgence in the mid to late 1980s. I truly believed that they should have covered "The Curly Shuffle".  I had a gut feeling, had they done so, it would have been a top 10 hit for them. There has been an unspoken link between the Monkees and the Three Stooges where that both properties were produced by Columbia Pictures and were filmed on many of the same sound stages. There are even several props used in the Three Stooges' two-reelers that were also used on the Monkees' TV series, most notably the bunny pajamas the Stooges and Peter Tork wore. On a more subjective side, The Stooges two-reelers and The Monkees TV series are similar in that I could and do watch them over and over and never get tired of it.  I still believe The Monkees should cover "The Curly Shuffle" on Good Times! albeit not so much as an intended hit single like it could have been in the 1980s, but more along the lines of the album's novelty track, a la "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" and "Your Auntie Griselda".  But what do I know?  I'm just a fan.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE #3

The third issue of this miniseries has some highs and lows. THRUSH continues to use Batman's B and C and a couple D list villains as agents, and the mysterious ringleader is revealed as Corvid.  But who exactly Corvid is has yet to be revealed.  The second half of this issue seems like filler. Via a video conference between the Batcave and UNCLE HQ, a brief history of UNCLE and THRUSH is given, and then a recap of a heist earlier in this very same issue. The heroes and the agents then meet face to face to plan their next move, and Batman unmasks! Writer Jeff Parker slips a little this issue.  Two-thirds of the book are drawn by David Hahn then Pasquale Qualano steps in for the final few pages.  The change in art style isn't quite seamless, but it's not very jarring either. This issue earns a C.