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!