Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Before Christina, There Was Bob

I suspected this day would come. I have had to write some Great Vinyl Meltdown essays with very little data about the artist, but there was always information about some aspect of the featured 45, even if it was just the history of the label. Today I find myself with no artist info, no song info, and no label info. I’m up for the challenge, if you are.

In order to write this post, I went to my box of 45s to get the single in question. I haven’t talked about that box yet. When I was in college, and we’re talking 28 years ago, I had my 45s in my dorm room in order to prevent zealous downsizers at home from pitching the vinyl that had survived the Great Meltdown. I didn’t have them in a very good container, and finally the box fell apart. That was almost as bad a scenario as leaving the 45s at home, though my roommate [not sic], Ray, had his own collection of 45s and could appreciate my dilemma. But what about drunken neighbors? If one of them falls on my 45s, I told myself then, I will never be able to write a music blog once the internet is invented. Being a man of foresight, I knew I had to do something.

Fortunately, we had a hot autumn that year, and I bought a window fan. At some point, my spatial perception kicked in, and I realized the box was just the right size to hold 45s, if I cut it down. So I did, and my important 45s have sat in this box for 28 years. What the heck; I’ll immortalize the box by including a photo of it.

Today, then, I needed the 45 by Bob O’Keefe to write what I could about the record. It should have been sitting between Nilsson and Orleans. (Yes, I know.) But it wasn’t there. I looked for it among other 45s I had set aside for the blog. Nope.

And so, I got that sinking feeling that usually follows the crunch when you have left 45s out where your parents can step on them, or when you have put an album under the footrest of your mom’s recliner, and she drops it to get up. Another one bites the dust. I had lost Bob O’Keefe’s 45.

The chances that I had misfiled it were slim, but I started at the beginning of the box, leafing through the ABBA singles (geez, leave me alone) and past Aerosmith, the Archies, Baccara, the Beatles, Blondie, Boney M and the Carpenters, until I got to K, where I found today’s song, “The Genie in the Bottle” by Bob Keefe (Scope 1964).

Keefe, for crying out loud. The single was in the right place; my head was up where it should not have been. I was thinking of Danny O’Keefe, whose Songbird Foundation I’ll plug again. (Marlin Greene designed the website.)

I looked up Bob Keefe. I looked up the songwriter, Parker Gibbs. I looked up Scope Records, Chicago Illinois. I looked up Studio Music, BMI, the publisher of the tune. Try searching for “Studio Music” sometime. About 385,000 hits later, I gave up. Adding BMI got it down to 1,790 hits.

So, I was cooked. But like a good DJ, I flipped the 45, and there I found a pretty spectacular lead. But it’s about Saturday’s song, so I’m going to [make you] wait. Put me in your Palm Pilot, or set your alarm. Or, just for fun, subscribe to my blog so you never miss another post.

What I do know about Bob Keefe I picked up from this publicity photo of him.

He seems to have worked the Philadelphia comedy circuit, and I’ll tell you now that both sides of this single are novelty tunes. Other than that, everything I know about Bob Keefe I learned in kindergarten. Sorry.

There is another Bob Keefe, who is a jazz musician. He doesn’t look like the guy in the photo.

On to Parker Gibbs. A Parker Gibbs sang on Ted Weems recordings in the 1920s. Could he have written this song thirty years later? Sure. Did he? Not sure. I looked him up on the BMI site as a songwriter, and he was not listed. Nor was the song. As for Studio Music, BMI, BMI no longer has any record of it. So, “The Genie in the Bottle” has disappeared without a trace.

All I can deduce about Scope Records, Chicago, Illinois, is that the company had upscale reproduction equipment. The label is firmly attached, unlike the Mystery 45 label. Unlike any other 45 I’ve noticed, the matrix numbers on the runout area are typed. It must have taken an ingenious secretary to stick a mastered plate in a typewriter. Awesome. And since the 45 is from about 1964 and its catalogue number is 1964, I deduce that Scope Records released one single per year until the label was bought by Procter & Gamble and turned into a mouthwash.

The song itself is a charming novelty piece. Bob’s voice is pleasant, and he has a couple of other vocalists acting out parts of the comedy routine. Speaking seriously, there is a decent chance that the Parker Gibbs of Ted Weems fame did write the song, because there are references to “Mairzy Doats” and “23 skidoo.” “The Genie in the Bottle” prepared me for something that happened the year after its release, 1965: I Dream of Jeannie debuted then, and five-year-old caithiseach knew all about genies, thanks to this song.

Ray Stevens beat Bob Keefe to the Arab-themed novelty music by a couple of years, but it’s appropriate for a theme borrowed from 1001 Nights, so I see Parker Gibbs as having lifted more from Aladdin than from Ahab.

It is inevitable that my younger readers (more quickly than my oh-so-up-to-date “older” readers) will have thought of the 1999 hit by Christina Aguilera, “Genie in a Bottle,” when I divulged today’s title. But note that the Bob Keefe song was released in 35 B.C., so Bob Keefe didn’t swipe anything from Christina from Staten Island.

Seinfeld was the show about nothing. This was the Great Vinyl Meltdown post about nothing. I had fun looking for data, though I found none. It really makes me think I should be researching old vinyl rather than preterite-imperfect pedagogy in Spanish. I’ll have to talk to someone about that.

And now, a song. The odds are about ten million to one against your having heard it, so I think I’ve scored a coup here. Please do give it a listen. It’s a lot of fun. One immortal line:

“A woman can get a divorce, of course, but who would divorce a horse?”

See you Saturday, on the flip side!

Bob Keefe, The Genie in the Bottle

Genie label scan


stackja1945 said...

Reminds me a little of Sheb Wooley.

yah shure said...

For a post that was allegedly "about nothing," I came away a thoroughly satisfied customer. Hey, I'm easy!

Don't ever get defensive about the artists in your 45 collection. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ABBA, Aerosmith, the Archies, Blondie...

Wait a minute. Did you say Boney M? Frank Farian's first "Milli Vanilli" template? No matter; both "Rivers Of Babylon" and "Mary's Boy Child"/"Oh, My Lord" were huge records on WJON. Boney M was like ABBA with a margarita and a warm ocean breeze. We even went so far as to play "Rasputin" and an import copy of "Hooray! Hooray! It's A Holi-Holiday." St. Cloud could not get enough of them.

Wait a minute. Did you say ABBA? (snicker, snicker) Just kidding.