The Hollywood Hi-Fi book contains over 120 of our favorite celebrity
records, with full descriptions, histories and photos. They range from the
surprisingly good to the astoundingly, hilariously awful.
We love them all in their own unique ways, just as one can
love a child who is quarterback of the football team while also
being inexplicably fond of one's klutzy, tonedeaf child, who is
nevertheless still good for a few laughs.
Many of the records in the book are obscure surprises
awaiting rediscovery, but there are a handful of celebrity
singers whose recordings live in infamy as veritable
Pearl Harbor Attacks of aural humiliation. Here are
five of the most egregious examples that we place
The Hollywood Hi-Fi
Hall of Fame!
By Pat Reeder & George Gimarc
#5 - "Sebastian Cabot, Actor...
Bob Dylan, Poet"
(MGM LP, 1967)
All of this is intoned over musical backgrounds that remind us alternately of the Hollywood Strings Play
Bob Dylan or the Harmonicats on polka night.
While most of these renderings (and we used that term in every sense of the word) of Bob Dylan tunes
are as dry as day-old scones, Cabot does allow himself to let fly on one track, "Who Killed Davy Moore?"
In telling this story of a prizefigher's death, Cabot takes on all the characters himself, from the sleazy
manager to the crooked promoter, and in classic, bad community theater style, assumes a different hokey
accent for each one, switching nimbly from a Sheldon Leonard "Brooklyn mug" to an Irishman with a
clothespin on his nose. We suspect that Davy Moore listened to this album and died laughing.
Believe it or not, Rev-Ola rereleased this on CD in 2007. Click here to see it or buy a copy! To hear
clips of several songs, check out Rhino's compilations, Golden Throats and Golden Throats 2.
In which the portly butler from TV's drippy sitcom
"Family Affair" tidies up a series of unruly Dylan songs
by reading the lyrics as if he were reading the latest
Miss Manners tome to Buffy and Jody to get them to fall
asleep. A portrait in pomposity, his version of "It Ain't
Me, Babe" will convince you that this man has never,
ever, at any point in his life, used the word "ain't."
#4 - "Ask Me What I Am"
(Mercury LP 1974)
Burt Reynolds usually blames the tsunami of jokes
launched by his nude Cosmo centerfold for derailing his
career as a serious actor. Incredibly, he decided that the
way to set it right was to head to Nashville and cut a
vanity album of nakedly confessional folk-country tunes,
an idea suggested by his friend and the producer of this
LP, Bobby Goldboro. (For further proof that all of Goldsboro’s musical ideas are golden, click here.)
At the time, Burt lightly said of his singing debut, "Sinatra's shaking" (of course, that was just a joke,
although it's possible Sinatra might still be quivering in his grave a bit). But Burt was deadly serious about
his intentions to share the intimate details of his private life and personal philosophies with his fans. He
had been listening to fellow Drano-gargler Kris Kristofferson, "not to hear him sing, but to hear what he
had to say." Possessing one of the largest egos of all time, But thought this made him different from any
other Kristofferson fan, so he decided that he, too, should make an album -- not "to prove I could sing" (he
added, “I always knew I could sing, but nobody else did”), but because "I had some things I wanted to
say." And say them he does! In fact, this LP perfectly illustrates the old cliché, ‘Too Much Information.”
These pretentious tracks are as treacly as honey (or “Honey”), and many are uncomfortably personal,
such as “A Room for a Boy, Never Used,” in which Burt begs God for a son whom he presumably wishes to
use. In light of his later, bitter custody battles with Loni Anderson, listening to it is as cringe-inducing as
eavesdropping on a confession booth. To lighten the mood, check out Burt’s amusing Walter Brennan
impression on “Slow John Fairburn;” or “She’s Taken A Gentle Lover,” a song about a man losing his
girlfriend to another woman. Some think it’s inspired by his breakup with Judy Carne, but the song had
actually been kicking around for a while and nobody would touch it with a ten-foot strap-on pole until Burt
swaggered in. Listen for the subtle double entendres, such as the reference to “Pandora’s box” and the
love triangle with only one straight side. As for the hunky star’s vocal stylings, they alternate between gruff
recitations and stabs at actual singing in a flat, throaty baritone that calls to mind the frog trio from the
classic “Bud…Weis…Errr” commercials. (Trivia note: the "Unidentified Friend" providing harmonies on this
LP is Burt's very indulgent then-squeeze, Dinah Shore.)
This disc, so far released on vinyl only, is hard to come by these days. It's a real shame because if you
think Burt’s nudity in Cosmo was embarrassing, you should see the baby blue, polyester western jumpsuit
with white boots he sports on the sexy cover. But WFMU-FM in New York has performed an incalculable
public service by posting online both a Scram magazine article that describes each cut in detail and,
even better, by posting MP3s of the tracks from a one-sided interview disc that Burt cut for radio DJs.
You’ll not only hear several of the songs (including "Gentle Lover!" Woohoo!), but also hear Burt answer
in his own words the question you are now asking yourself: "What the hell was he thinking?!"
By the way, if this little taste of the
Bandit’s singing abilities makes you
hungry for more, you can also hear
Burt warbling with Dolly Parton in The
Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (a
movie so miscast and mangled that it
resulted in a fistfight between Burt
and author Larry L. King) and in All
Dogs Go To Heaven, where Burt's
impression of a singing dog was for
The truly tragic news for fans of Burt's
Terpsichorean forays is that as of this
writing, there has yet to be a legal
VHS or DVD release of At Long Last
Love (1975) or a CD reissue of the
Director Peter Bogdanavich, the same man responsible for Cybill Shepherd's debut LP, Cybill Does It...To Cole
Porter (and boy, did she!), tried to resurrect the effortless charm and musical brilliance of Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers by substituting their then-current counterparts in star power, Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd.
This was like trying to replace gin and vermouth with alum and earwax. To compound the horror, the auteur
insisted on filming it the old fashioned way: with all singing performed live on set, not lip-synched to artificially
sweetened studio tracks. The stars were so busy staring at their feet as they tried to remember the
choreography they were clomping through like drunken Clydesdales, it's a miracle they were even able to
remember the words of the two dozen or so Cole Porter standards that they were raping.
All material copyright 1995-2007 by Pat Reeder & George Gimarc. All rights reserved.
If you think we're being too harsh, just take a look
at the picture to the right, in which Burt and
Cybill, dressed as Fred and Ginger, look as if
they're jogging frantically up a long flight of stairs
because they're running late to a Halloween
party that's giving a prize for most inappropriate
costume. Now, consider that it's lifted from the
back cover of the two-record (!) soundtrack LP.
That's right: this is the best dance pose the
graphic designers could find.
As Cole Porter might say, "Well, did you evah?!"