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.
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Part Two, which features ad-hoc promotional videos for both sides of the single, but includes some horribly racist and outdated depictions of Asians (and female robots).
Download Charles HERE