Monday, 18 November 2019

Mad Charles


What can I tell you about Mad Charles, the world’s first karate robot, or the man behind it/him, Eugene G. Viscione?

In 1975 Eugene Viscione, under the name “UGE” (eUGEne, geddit?) released a single dedicated to the amazing Mad Charles. The incredible psychedelic fuzz guitar work can’t hide the fact that Mad Charles is a ridiculously silly record.

Viscione was a barber from New Jersey who began writing songs in 1957. He also fancied himself as an inventor, and Mad Charles was one of his many creations.

Charles himself even appeared on the disc’s label. The record was issued twice, first with Mad Charles Love Theme on the flip, which was later replaced with the oddly-titled Sophie the Polish Chicken Hen, a song Eugene had written back in 1970. Mad Charles Love Theme features the lovelorn Charles singing to his girlfriend, Charlene, and can be seen in Part Two of the video (below).

Viscione was an odd duck. Working since the early 1960s, he had made a series of recordings for the Cleopatra label, including the ridiculously overwrought Parting Kiss, before setting up his own WGW Records (which issued Mad Charles) and, in the 1980s, Viscione Records, releasing a series of singles as Eugene (often with added parentheses for dramatic effect), but also producing and/or providing songs for a roster that included The Werps, D. Spade and Co., and Keep Off the Grass as Geno Viscione. My personal favourite is a single Eugene issued in 1989 called Hubert, the Fat Elf. Eugene shot his own ‘holiday special’ to accompany that particular release, using his kids as actors and including 10 self-composed songs. The show aired on local cable channel C-Tec in 1990.

Eugene Viscione, who at one point had his own recording studio situated in the Rustic Mall in Manville, New Jersey, which shared space with his barber shop, died in September 2009, aged 75 having enjoyed a 56-year long marriage to his devoted wife, Mary. Luckily for us he left behind an amazing body of work, much of which has been collected by the Numero Group, and issued as Fresh Cuts With Eugene Viscione. Sadly, the collection does not include Viscione’s tribute to his favourite president, his 1982 composition The Reagan March.

Sadly, I do not possess a copy of either pressing of the single, although one is winging its way towards me as I type. I shall update the sound files when it arrives, but for now i am now the proud owner of a copy of this wonderful oddity, so here for your delectation are both sides of the first version of the disc, Mad Charles and Mad Charles Love Theme, along with the earlier-mentioned Parting Kiss.

If you want to see Mad Charles - and Eugene - in action, here is the instructional video: Mr Viscione is the man in the colourful shirt and football helmet. Those of a nervous or overly Politically Correct disposition should probably avoid Part Two, which features ad-hoc promotional videos for both sides of the single, but includes some horribly racist and outdated depictions of Asians (and female robots).

Enjoy!

Download Charles HERE




Download Theme HERE

Download Kiss HERE








UPDATE: Following a lead from Bob (see below), I managed to track down the original Mad Charles press release from 1973. Here it is, warts and all:


Mad Charles ™ Helps in the following areas:
  • Self-defense
  • Recreation
  • Karate
  • Training
  • Exercise
  • Boxing

Defense enterprises, incorporated is introducing the most Advanced model of patented automated exercise, recreation and training machine. Each machine is custom built with the users safety and a product with life long durability as foremost concerns, Mad Charles ™ enables anyone from the novice karate student (or person just wanting to learn how to defend themself) up to the black-belt karate expert. Mad Charles can help develop general reaction time by speeding up the attacking limbs. Each limb can operate (chop- vertically or horizontally)  independently of one another for greater reaction development. Mad Charles ™ simulates an attacker, where the student must block the oncoming, moving limb and physically hit one of the built-in targets as hard or soft as you desire.

If you have an established course in self-defense or karate, or are thinking of starting one, Mad Charles ™ is indispensable for student exercise, recreation and training.  Mad Charles is a great addition to you're karate school.

Mad Charles ™ is a Registered Trademark. 1973

5 comments:

  1. There was a http://www.madcharles.com/ (now defunct) operated by (I think) his daughter, Lorraine Zdeb. Too bad, I didn't save the site.

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  2. I've got two copies with "Sophie the Polish Chicken Hen" on the flip, I read on another blog that, that was the 1974 first press...so who knows.

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    Replies
    1. I think that's probably right. I've just noticed that Sophie has the matrix HMR 889-B, and Mad Charles Love Theme is HMR 889-C

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  3. Hi Daryll, I have the master tapes & 2” of Mad Charles. I’m hoping to release some of Geno’s stuff, he produced some really good garage in the 60’s

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    Replies
    1. Hi Keith. That's fascinating. I'm sure that his family, or the Numero Group who put out the album Fresh Cuts would be interested. I'd be fascinated to know what else is out there. Check them out: http://numerogroup.com/products/fresh-cuts-with-eugene-viscione

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