Friday, 8 February 2013

Umbrellas at the Ready

In a career which spanned seven decades, Burgess Meredith played many iconic roles: he appeared in a number of seminal Twilight Zone roles, including the bookish bank teller in the brilliant first season episode Time Enough At Last (he ties with another World’s Worst records alumnus – Jack Klugman – for having appeared in more episodes of the original series than any other actor); he was Rocky’s trainer, Mickey Goldmill, in the first three Rocky films (he died in the third but turned up again in the fifth) and, as anyone of my age will attest, he portrayed the screen’s only credible Penguin in the 1960s TV and movie adaptations of Batman.

Married at one stage to Charlie Chaplin’s ex Paulette Goddard, he was also blacklisted by Hollywood during the McCarthy witch hunt. Oh, and he got his kit off in Otto Preminger’s ridiculous Such Good Friends.

Happily for us, he would also drop in to a recording studio at the drop of a purple top hat.

On Meredith’s first release, in 1962, he narrates two stories Ray Bradbury (who also had strong Twilight Zone connections), and throughout his career he would narrate albums of everything from Aesop’s Fables to the downright peculiar Let Freedom Ring: a collection of performances of hand-bell music which Meredith reads The Bill Of Rights over the top of. But at the height of his career he issued another brace of horrors, and it’s these I present for you today.

Released in the UK in 1963, as Colpix PX 690 (through Pye, although Colpix was part of Columbia Pictures in the US and home to future Monkee David Jones), Home in the Meadow and No Goodbye – according to the label of the official release (the copy I have is a demo) – are taken ‘from the film How The West Was Won’. This is not strictly true. Although they are versions of tunes from the soundtrack to the classic movie, these in fact come from Meredith’s own album Burgess Meredith Sings the Songs from How the West was Won – even though there’s little in the way of singing going on here. A Home in the Meadow was originally performed in the movie by Debbie Reynolds. The authorship of the A-side is credited to Kahn and Dolan – a bit of a cheek as the tune is stolen wholesale from the traditional English tune Greensleeves (which was not, no matter what you have hear, written by Henry VIII). And anyway, the lyricist was Sammy Cahn, not Kahn.

Far more fun – and indeed more awful – is his 1966 single The Capture backed with The Escape, just one of the many spin-offs from the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman series (Frank Gorshin, for example, also released a 45 as The Riddler). Pleasingly both songs are almost exactly the same, with Burgess reciting a story about the Penguin’s run in with Batman over a backing which consists of portentous horns and a gaggle of silly girls chirruping ‘he’s the Penguin’ every few seconds.  

It’s campy, nuts and thoroughly wonderful. A bit like Burgess Meredith himself. Enjoy!


  1. 2/8/13 Wrote:
    Funny you should mention Burgess Meredith in the same company as the late Davy Jones.It seems that meredith did a couple of Tv appearances for Colpix's Screen Gems TV division.He guest starred on The Monkees' TV show as a cameo role(dressed up as The Penguin,snickering at The Monkees' appearances on the episode"The Monkees Blow Their Minds"-the same episode where Frank Zappa raps with Mike Nesmith at the prologue!)Meredith may not have much of a voice to sing with, but was he any worse than George Burns, who also made a whole album & two singles for Colpix Records in 1959? Vimcent Edwards & Ann Margaret were two other actors-turned singers who also cut recordings for Colpix (Ann-Margaret's in particular was for a 1963 Columbia Movie titled"Bye Bye Birdie", which also had the warbling style of Paul Lynde.)"The Penguin" sides were a cash-in attempt on the ABC Network's label, ABC-Paramount,later just plain ABC Records.Speaking of "Batman" exploitation recordings, what about Adam West's "Miranda" record on 20th Century Fox Records, and Burt Ward's "Boy Wonder I Love You" single on M-G-M Records(produced & arranged by the aforementioned Frank Zappa!)These Batman cash-in singles were really outrageous.

    1. Thanks - again - Rob for the always welcome comments. I had completely forgotten that Burgess Meredith was in an episode of the Monkees; I have them all on DVD so I'll go watch that particular episode again now!

  2. I LOVE these tunes! Meredith's rendition is perfect, and it has a nice jazzy feel unlike the rip-offs that accompanied the Batman bandwagon.

  3. Thanks for Burgess Meredith's single "The Capture" it's a really fun cool song!


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