Sandy Salisbury (bottom row, left side) with the Millennium
Listen – Puppet – Best Friend – MP3
I had an interesting weekend. How’s about you?
The short version is, I started to feel sick (like kidney problem sick) on Friday, went to the hospital, had a brief (yet unpleasant) surgical procedure and was sprung by Saturday afternoon. All in all not the worst episode in recent memory, but honestly, who the fuck wants to spend a night in a hospital bed when you could be somewhere (anywhere) else?
Fortunately the ‘out by Saturday afternoon’ aspect of the deal was the crucial part, that and the fact that I’m not feeling too poorly overall, allowing me to return to my appointed rounds in a timely fashion.
The tune I bring you today is the first in a series of Millennium-related tracks that I amassed during the approach to the recent Curt Boettcher project. Though Boettecher is the name most closely associated with that group, the ranks of the Millennium included a surplus of songwriting and performing talent. Starting today, and going forward I’ll be featuring a number of interesting cuts by members of the band.
The inaugural post features a song that I chased for years by virtue of it having occupied a place in my childhood memory.
Back when I was a kid, there was a show called ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ (which itself was a remake of a 1963 Glenn Ford movie). It ran from 1969 to 1972, starred Bill Bixby (known to slightly younger viewers from the ‘Incredible Hulk’) and most importantly featured an incredibly catchy title song performed by none other than Harry Nilsson.
Flash forward 15 years or so to a much older me browsing through the crates at some record show or other and what do I turn up but a Nilsson LP called ‘Aerial Pandemonium Ballet’. An interesting artifact, ‘APB’ was in fact (and I did not know this at the time) something of an ur remix project, in which Nilsson took tracks from his first two LPs, 1967’s ‘Pandemonium Shadow Show’ and 1968’s ‘Aerial Ballet’ and engaged in often subtle bits of reworking/rerecording. He was essentially taking advantage of the fact that most of his 1971 audience – who came to him via his 1969 mega-hit ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ would have been unfamiliar with his largely overlooked early work, and presenting some of that work in a new setting.
Of course I knew none of this at the time, and it would have been aside the point except for the fact that one of the tracks on ‘APB’ sounded eerily familiar. The first time I heard ‘Daddy’s Song’ the archetypal light bulb went on over my head and I thought to myself, ‘This sounds an awful lot like the theme to ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’, which it did. It was only years later that I discovered that the theme song in question ‘Best Friend’ was actually an amalgam of ‘Daddy’s Song’ and an unreleased (originally planned for inclusion on ‘Aerial Ballet’) song called ‘Girlfriend’.
Anyway, to make a long story even longer, I always wondered if there had been a commercial release of Nilsson’s ‘Courtship’ theme song.
There was not (unless you count a one-minute long version of it that surfaced on a ‘TV Theme’s’ comp years later).
However, back in the day, knowing a good song when they heard one, some enterprising souls put together a group – from what I can tell a one-off studio conglomeration – called Puppet, to record and release a (very faithful) cover of ‘Best Friend’. That group just happened to feature the lead vocals of none other than long-time Boettcher accomplice and Millennium member Sandy Salisbury.
Salisbury, who recorded a 45 (and an excellent unreleased LP) for Gary Usher’s Together records had worked with Curt Boettcher on a number of projects through the 60s. He had a wonderful voice and wrote songs like ‘Lonely Girl’ (recorded but originally unreleased for the Sagittarius sessions) and ‘5 A.M.’ from the Millennium’s ‘Begin’. I have no idea how Salisbury got involved in Puppet. The vast majority of his known credits were Boettcher-related, and as far as I can tell (at least by the label) Puppet was not one of those projects. It’s certainly not out of the question – considering his talent – that Salisbury (like Boettcher) did other similarly ‘anonymous’ work to make a buck.
Either way, it’s a groovy record, never straying too far from the original, which I assume was intentional since the assumption here is that Puppet were essentially trying to cash in on the popularity of the TV series. Naturally, as often happens with such projects, Puppet went absolutely nowhere, rendering their one 45 both obscure and rare*. I looked for this one for a long time, eventually stumbling on it in an unexpected place and grabbing it for a pittance.
I hope you dig the song, and I’ll be back later in the week.
*’Best Friend’ was included on the ‘Preparing for the Ballroom’ CD comp