Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gate Wesley & Band - (Zap! Pow!) Do the Batman

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Holy Cash-in Robin!!
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Welcome to the middle of the week (previously known as the middle of nowhere, East Jabib and/or Limbo). Here in NJ the weather has gotten worse. It’s now raining poisonous toads and carpet tacks...well...not really, but the wind is like 50MPH and the rain is going sideways. Before I lash myself to the mast, and pray for mercy, I figured I should get a 45 up here on the ole blog as a kind of offering to whoever it is that makes it so miserable in January. What better antidote to a seasonal malaise than what we record folks like to call a banger. You know, the kind of record that makes your limbs jerk in time, despite your deepest commitment to wallflower-ism. Some bangers achieve said status by sheer virtue of their relentless tempo, attacking (or massaging) the part of your nerve centers that tell you when it’s time to stand up and spin around (look up Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers “I Gotta Go Now (Up On The Floor’). Others generate synaptic fire through gratuitous use of key words coupled with a certain gritty, testicle-rattling joie de vivre that may at first cause you to raise a skeptical eyebrow but that eventually sucks you in like a Hoover. Before you know it you’ve got your lower lip clenched in your teeth, your eyes glued to the nearest juicy booty and you’re prowling the room like a drunken panther, grunting all the while. Gate Wesley & Bands “(Zap! Pow!) Do The Batman” is such a record. I should preface this by saying that I have – despite my lack of interest in comic books – been a lifetime Batman maniac. I don’t have one of the original Batmobiles stored in my vast, luxurious (and highly secure) compound, nor have I stood in line to get Adam West or Burt Ward to autograph my Bat-O-Bilia (god forbid...). I do however believe that the Batman TV show is one of the great examples of Pop Art put into motion, with a combination of solid source material and brilliant execution that has rarely been seen since. Employing a palette of colors that looked like a busload of clowns went over a cliff with Roy Lichtenstein at the wheel, and the willingness of a parade of old-timey Hollywood types to make holy fools of themselves in the pursuit of greatness (it didn’t matter if their hipness was accidental) the show was a big hit, and left a big footprint on the zeitgeist. One of the by-products of that footprint was musical tributes. Forgetting for a minute that everyone of a certain age (and many beyond) can sing the original theme (though no one should be proud of their ability to commit “NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH BATMAN!!!” to memory), there were a number of outstanding cash-in/tributes that made it to vinyl. On the crazy side are cuts like ‘Golly! Zonk! (It’s Scatman)’ by the illustrious Scatman Crothers and the LP ‘Batman & Robin’ by the Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale, a collection of instrumentals that was played by Sun Ra and members of the Arkestra (including the great John Gilmore) and Steve Katz and Al Kooper (leaving only one degree of separation between Batman and Bob Dylan) of the Blues Project . On the great side, were organist LaBert Ellis' amazing 45 version of Neal Hefti’s ‘Batman Theme’ (which will most definitely be featured here in future) and ‘(Zap! Pow!) Do The Batman’. While I’m at a loss to tell you anything about Gate Wesley (I haven’t been able to track down any info), the disc features the vocals of journeyman R&B/soul singer Billy LaMont. LaMont recorded through the 50’s and 60’s for labels like Savoy, Bang and 20th Century. It was on 20th Century that he recorded ‘Sweet Thang’ with a pre-Experience Jimi Hendrix on guitar, a session that was also produced by Johnny Brantley (who also worked the board on ‘(Zap! Pow!) Do The Batman’). Brantley was a NY based producer (with Georgia roots) who also worked with Lonnie Youngblood, Jimmy Castor, Herman Hitson and Lee Moses. There’s a possibility that he is the same Johnny Brantley that recorded with the Ideals on Checker in the late 50’s, but I could not confirm that. ‘(Zap! Pow!) Do The Batman’ opens with a sound effect that’s probably supposed to be the Batmobile revving up, but sounds like somebody kicking a reverb unit. The drummer comes in and followed by LaMont shouting “Batman! Batman Baby!”. The band is playing a slow burning proto-funk with a horn break that sounds like it was lifted from ‘Coming Home Baby’ by Mel Torme. LaMont keeps shouting Bat-related jive through the record, and to be honest it sounds as if he were sitting in front of the TV, bottle in one hand, potato chips in the other riffing off an episode of Batman (I mean, honestly...”Hey baby! Is my cape on right???”). The end result is a greasy good time. It sounds like the whole band was crammed into the bass drum and recorded over the phone, but the feeling is there. PS While I was Google-ing, I found a copy of a WABC-AM radio survey from January of 1966. Check out the Bat-mania on the list of “Hot Prospects”.... Hot Prospects: Long Live Our Love - The Shangri-Las (Red Bird) A Hard Day's Night - The Ramsey Lewis Trio (Cadet) *Working My Way Back to You - The 4 Seasons (Philips) Batman and Robin - The Spotlights (Smash) Batman Theme - The Marketts (Warner Brothers) Batman - Peter de Angelis with the Peter Fielding Orchestra (ABC-Paramount) Batman - Jan & Dean (Liberty) Batman Theme - Al Caiola (United Artists) Batman Theme - Neal Hefti (RCA) Batman - The Riddlers (Warner Brothers) Batman - Billy Lamont (King) Batman - The Robins (Ardent) If anyone can confirm the existence of that Billy LaMont 45 on King (or better yet provide an MP3) it would be greatly appreciated...

8 Comments:

Blogger whiteray said...

And let's not forget Dickie Goodman of spliced samples comedy fame, who scored about the same time with "Batman & His Grandmother"!

1/18/2006 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

Thanks Larry
That piece of grease just made my day!!

1/18/2006 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

meep.

1/18/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Reverend Frost said...

To the batmobile Larry !

1/19/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Lucas said...

I remember seeing this one recently, maybe on eBay. Anyway, I like it a lot. I wonder if the Billy Lamont record on King is the same recording, perhaps one that never made it past the promo stage? Who knows?

I have to agree with you on the La Bert Ellis version of the "Batman Theme". What a terrific record and one that's been on my "to blog" list from the beginning. I've been remiss in passing it over all of this time.

I have a copy of The Spotlights "Batman and Robin". It's a pretty good, teen-oriented, dance tune.

1/20/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Keeping Soul Alive said...

Hi Larry

Loved this - I have been doing some research on Johnny Brantley productions and this is new to me.

Please checkout my research on Johnny which features Billy La Mont on my blog http://indangerousrhythm.blogspot.com/

Cheers Colin

1/23/2006 03:51:00 AM  
Blogger Meester Music said...

Larry!

Just came across your great blog! Very witty indeed!!

Still waiting for the original Batman TV show to make it to DVD. something about Warner Bros and Paramount duking it out over rights to this, rights to that.
ZAP! POW!

Thanks again!

1/27/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil Beckman said...

This was played a lot on WNOX in Knoxville, TN in the winter of 1966. It, and a few other Batman-themed records, were shot down because they did not pay to use the word Batman.
I ordered my copy through a record store and received a promo copy. I have never seen a 'stock' copy of this fonky tune...
Thanks for bringing back some good memories!

2/14/2006 12:17:00 PM  

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