(Above: A dangerous mind, indeed.)
At some point today you saw the news that television producer and reluctant game show host Chuck Barris passed away at the age of 87. Most of the accolades and memories center around one of Barris’ most famous creations: either “The Gong Show,” which I loved, or “The Dating Game,” which I was too young to be interested in, or “The Newlywed Game,” which, save the rumored line about places you’ve had whoopee, didn’t hold my interest either. Much has already been written about those, and given that this is a music blog, I will instead focus on Chuck’s musical contributions.
Chuck Barris wrote the songs for the game shows he created. That theme to “The Dating Game” that you remembered, and then heard again on every local morning zoo radio program? That’s his. The show, of course, had some help from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, whose “Spanish Flea” and “Whipped Cream” punctuated key moments in the show as cues.
The opening to “The Newlywed Game?” His too. Originally released by Eddie Rambeau as “Summertime Guy,” which stiffed, it was repurposed for the theme to this show (after the addition of a few bars of the Wedding March, of course).
But the record that did the best in terms of the charts would be “Palisades Park.” One of many hits released by Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, this is one that wasn’t supposed to be. Barris had worked with arranger Frank Slay on a few non-starters, and his tribute to a New Jersey amusement park, complete with roller coaster sound effects, was the B-side of “June, July, and August,” a tribute to summer vacation. As happens often (see Stewart, Rod, “Maggie May”) a disk jockey decided instead to play the “other” side of the record on his show, and the rest is history. The record got up to #3 on the charts and netted Barris a pretty royalty check each year as it was a staple of Oldies programming for years. Chuck talked about the song originally being called “Amusement Park” in an interview you can see here.
To hear Freddy Cannon sing Chuck Barris, click here.