Monday, September 26, 2005

Frank Gorshin: The Riddler (A&M 804)

In the ever-growing annals of celebrities who've passed away this year, Frank Gorshin holds a special place for anyone who grew up with TV in the 1960s....and countless reruns decades after. He first came to fame as an impressionist, but he will always be remembered for playing one of Batman's most insane enemies, The Riddler. Hence this one-shot 45 and hence this blog entry.

A couple of odd things stick out on first encountering this 45. First, it was produced by David Gates, who later went on to chart-topping success as the leader of the 70s soft rock group Bread. (In fact, the B-side of this record, "Never Let Her Go," was later recorded as a solo record by Gates and became a minor hit in 1977 or so.) Secondly, the song itself was composed by non other than scat-jazz king Mel Torme!

If you ever saw the "Batman" 60s TV show, you'd know The Riddler has a maniacal laugh he uses every time he answers one of his own riddles. So, that trait is all over the place on "The Riddler." Here's just one example:

Riddler: Which, tell me, which, is the easiest to spell - fiddle-ded-dee or fiddle-de-dum?
Girlie Chorus: Gee, we give up, what's the easiest to spell, fiddle-dee-dee or dum?
Riddler: Fiddle-dee-dee, because it's spelled with more EEEEE's, uhhehehehehehehehehehehe!

We also get a musical backdrop complete with a fast beat, fuzz guitar, organ and the abovementioned girlie chorus playing call and response. But it's Gorshin's show all the way and he makes the most of it. His crazed voice and laughs help elevate the song from being merely silly to being delightfully insane. He makes it fun, to put it bluntly.

Someone once wrote that Gorshin infested the Riddler with so much diabolical intensity that you could actually believe he had a chance at doing in the caped do-gooders, while blowing himself away in the process ("Hollywood Hi-Fi" by George Gilmarc and Marc Alan Reader). I can believe that, especially after hearing this thing.

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