Thursday, April 27, 2017

0004: Wolvertunes

First of all I think appreciation is due to Monte Wolverton, who has done so much over the last thirty years to curate his father's enormous body of work. If you only know Basil Wolverton from his humor pieces and have a chance to read the oversized "Spacehawk" collection published by Chronicle, jump on it. It shows that, very early in his career, he had the sense of perspective, layout and pacing necessary to be a comics legend. It was only later that his name became synonymous with the sort of anatomically tortured doodles that filled "Mad", "Plop!" and various trading cards. I thought I had a well rounded if incomplete knowledge of his output when I came across this 7" vinyl record in the 90's. I picked it out because of the 3-D art of course, but was curious as to which band had the good (?) taste use Wolverton for the sleeve art. I was also curious as to whether it had been properly licensed. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the recordings were of Wolverton himself. Not only that, but the images were previously unreleased and provided by Wolverton's estate, then processed by 3-D Zone, Ray Zone's company responsible for publishing numerous 3-D comics throughout the 80's and 90's.

Here's a scan of the entire package:

 As you can see from the scans, there are no song titles. In fact, the only way I could distinguish the A-side from the B-side was from markings scratched into the trail-off grooves.

 The tracks on the A-side are:

  1. ) 0:29 (spoken introduction)
  2. ) 1:03 Ja-da
  3. ) 0:50 Has Anybody Seen My Girl?
The song "Ja-Da", written by Bob Carleton at the end of World War I, is here only as the chorus. If this was recorded in the late 1940's, when Wolverton had a radio show, it might have been inspired by a 1947 version by Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee. He also might have been singing it from memory, which would explain the missing verses. "Has Anybody Seen My Girl?" has been reworked many times from its first appearance before the war until the mid-20's. Wolverton's own personal tweek ("But oh, what those five feet could do...") evokes a mental image of a five-legged freak from one of his drawings.
 The tracks on the B-side are:

  1. ) 0:20 (spoken introduction)
  2. ) 3:06 I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
  3. ) 0:06 (quip)

The song "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" also dates back to World War I. The lyrics were written by Joe McCarthy (no, not THAT one) to a tune by Chopin, although it's credited to Harry Carroll who arranged it for vaudeville audiences. There were numerous recorded versions of this song including three different versions that became hits in 1946 alone, which probably prompted this version. Wolverton's radio show was on just a few years later.

The spoken bits are oddball humor. I'm hoping that any surviving recordings are preserved (if they still can be) and transferred to digital storage so that they can be put online. I'm sure that getting clearance for popular tunes, even excerpts or parody versions, must be a nightmare. It may need to be exhibited at a museum of broadcasting history of some sort.


  1. This posting brings up a side of Basil Wolverton unknown to me. Thanks for that.
    "Spacehawk" should be required reading for EVERY comics fan.

    1. Thank you. There's a B&W trade from Dark Horse that served me well for years but it selected the best stories from several Wolverton science fiction features. The oversized color collection (Fantagraphics ISBN# 978-160699550-1, $39.95 list, 2012) is the entirety of the Spacehawk feature.


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