Jul 182009

“I wouldn’t join any website that would have me as a member…”

When I was a kid, the first show I can remember watching with regularity was M.A.S.H. M.A.S.H was huge in the ’70s and the show’s biggest star was Alan Alda, as Hawkeye Pierce, a womanizing anti-establishment wiseacre who lived to deliver a stinging one liner.

In 1977 I didn’t know what a genius was. But if I did I would have been certain that Alan Alda qualified. A few years on I didn’t think Alan Alda was a genius any more, in fact I had my suspicions that Alda was even a good actor. The reason? Groucho Marx. I had caught a Marx Brothers movie late a night and….Holy Shit…Hawkeye Pierce…stole his whole act from Groucho Marx…Alan Alda isn’t a genius, he’s a fraud! Well a few more years went by and I realize this is kinda the way the world works sometimes.I have since made my peace with Alan Alda. He’s all right in my books. You know what they say about tragedy plus time, right?

Anyway, this got me thinking, have you ever been sold on a rock and roll Alan Alda, until you found the rock and roll Groucho Marx? Did you make peace with your rockin’ Alda or do you still hold it against him?


  19 Responses to “Rock Aldas and Grouchos”

  1. saturnismine

    hearing steve marriott sing “you need lovin'” made me think page/plant was a two-headed alda.

    but we’ve been down that road before.

  2. I guess the Alda thing probably happens with a cover most often, huh? I remember being disappointed in that guy Paul Young after I learned he didn’t write “Oh Girl”..

  3. I used to idolise Groucho till I read S.J.Perelman.
    When rock n roll was born, the parents were jass-house pianists and cotton-field slaves.
    There is a world famous singer/novelist I knew when he was a garage band aping Bowie; I played him RnB and he said it was crap. Now I open my Vanity Fair to see him hanging with people I worshipped since 1964; plus
    I only became aware of them when The Beatles named them as influences and i went searching … so how far back do we go ?

  4. I loved Alda BECAUSE he did Groucho on M*A*S*H. No one else was doing Groucho.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Welcome aboard, f.g.marshall-stacks and punworg!

    I would figure that the whole blues-to-rock transition, going in reverse, will account for some of these examples. I started out by seeing whether my tracing back influences on The Beatles, The Stones, etc would have had this effect on me, but in many if not all instances, I continued to prefer the more contemporary (to my life) artist who sent me looking back. I continue to feel confident in the ’60s music that first made up the soundtrack of my life. In almost all cases, it seems to me to be the Groucho itself. Maybe its predecessors was whatever vaudeville act influenced Groucho.

    I’ll keep thinking about whether there’s an Alda I got into later in life and whether I later discovered that Alda’s Groucho. This is a cool topic to consider.

  6. jeangray

    I’m a-really searching the ol’ memory banks on this one. The only artist that’s coming to mind so far is Tom Petty.

    I was really into him in my teen years, and then I discovered Dylan & the Byrds, and was like WTF??? I felt so ripped off. His whole play-book was essentially lifted from these two artists. That realization added with seeing him do a pitiful Vegas-esque live show, pretty much did it for me.

    Tha’ was a loooong time ago, and I still haven’t forgiven him.

  7. Great one jeangrey

  8. jeangrey’s made me think of what may be a classic example here. A friend of mine was pissed at George Thorogood after hearing Bo Diddley for the first time….one bourbon, one scotch and one ALDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. saturnismine

    jeangray, this petty / byrds discussion is one of the time-honored chestnuts of rth. but you’ve added a new wrinkle: what is “vegas-esque” about petty’s show? what era are we talkin’ about? i want the details!

  10. Tom Waits stopped seeming so damned original once I heard some Beefheart albums other than Trout Mask Replica.
    Beefheart will probably suffer the same fate once I discover some OLD SCHOOL JUKE JOINT BLACK DUDES.
    I was horrified when I finally realized how much Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds borrowed from Leonard Cohen.
    Jacob Dylan sounds like fake Tom Petty.
    How terrible is that?!?

  11. mockcarr

    Little Richard sings his stuff better than Macca ever could. If the other guy is no longer doing the act and you update the material, is it stealing? You still have to write decent songs, don’t you?

  12. diskojoe

    I like this topic. I also remembered thinking that Alan Alda acted like Groucho. Also, when I saw The Aviator, I noticed that he played a Senator from Maine, which was Hawkeye’s home state. He could have voted for himself!

    I received a P.F. Sloan comp of his ’65-67 songs that just came out in the UK for my birthday & to me he sounds like the Folk-Rock Alda to Groucho Bob.

    I also agree w/marshall stacks about S.J. Perelman, whom I recommend reading, especially of you’re a Marx Bros. fan.

    Finally, does anybody remember a movie called Braindonors that came out in the late ’80s, which was a virtual rip-off of the Marx Bros? Bob Nelson played the Harpo character, while John Tuturo played the Groucho character.

  13. mockcarr

    Yep, against all odds, I enjoyed that rehash of A Night At The Opera. The Chico character got short-shrift, but it was better than listening to that hack sweathog from Welcome Back Kotter in the late 70s. I’ve come close to buying Brain Donors off ebay a couple of times.

    It’s not really fair to say Groucho stole his “act” from Perelman, as he got him the Monkey Business job. Easier to say he stole part of the persona from George S. Kaufman, and then trashed his plays by saying whatever he felt like at the time on stage.

    Woody Allen stole most of the manerisms and patter for his neurotic 70s character from Bob Hope.

  14. mockcarr

    Plus, isn’t it better to watch Alda rip off Groucho than try to act like George Plimpton or something? I mean, he might actually BE more like George Plimpton, but whatever.

  15. Mr. Moderator

    Speaking of Woody Allen, my wife and I, desparate to see a movie in the theaters during what is by far the worst year for movies that I can remember and with a couple of hours to ourselves, took a gamble on seeing his new movie, Whatever Works. I swore off all Woody Allen movies the last time I gave him a chance, on Deconstructing Harry, or whatever that hateful, small-hearted piece of shit was called. My wife took a chance on Match Point (?) and hated that too. Anyhow, this new movie may be the worst movie of all time, even worse than the follow up to Saturday Night Fever. Once more, Allen can contain his pedophilia, his self-hatred, and a hatred for humanity that rivals that of Hitler’s. After an hour and a half of lousy storytelling, cinematography, acting, fake Southern accents (I thought of E. Pluribus), and all-around misanthropy, Allen wraps it up with his stock 3-minute, faux cosmic realization that love happens in the most unexpected ways. UGH! Years ago, in movies like Hannah and Her Sisters, this was a sweet device that resonated through the main characters’ anxieties. Now, coming from a 70-year-old perv who’s married to his own stepdaughter, it’s cynical beyond belief.

    I thought of three things that should result from this latest lousy film (excluding the given that I will NEVER take a chance on seeing another Woody Allen movie):

    1. Some Southerner should walk up to him and punch him in the face.

    2. He should give up mainstream directing and turn his talents to directing child porn.

    3. Rather than waste anyone’s time with another 12-rate take on his great run of movies, he should produce a 1-frame comic, like Family Circus, that shows some variation on the cosmic holiday party finale that he continues to roll out in an effort to make anyone believe his sole motivation these days is not goal #2.

  16. mockcarr

    Woody should stop directing and act again. He could be pretty funny as someone’s father-in-law on a tv sitcom.

  17. mockcarr

    I think the last good Woody Allen movie was the ripoff he did of Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., Purple Rose Of Cairo.

    I liked Hannah and Her Sisters when I saw it, but probably because of how hot Barbara Hershey used to be more than anything else. Everyone is lousy in that and every line sounds unnaturally spoken. Especially Michael Caine.

  18. I was sure that The Stray Cats invented Rockabilly…when I was 11

    Same with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Texas Blues / Hendrix.

    Thorogood is a good example. He is John Lee Hooker + Bo Didley + Chuck Berry + Johnny Winter +Jackie Gleason (he even says ” and away we go” before some songs) live

  19. We’ve talked about this before, but Alda/Groucho is a perfect way to frame the phenomenon.

    I thought Billy Squier’s first record was the shit until I heard Led Zeppelin. (No, I really hadn’t yet.)

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