Ken Nordine and Word Jazz: "How are things in your town?"
I interviewed Ken Nordine in the early 1980s in the lounge at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. When he saw my tape recorder, he remarked, "Ah, an antique!" Unfortunately, the tape was lost before I made a transcript.
Equally regrettable, I missed seeing Fred Astaire and Barrie Chase dance to Nordine's "My Baby" on Another Evening with Fred Astaire (telecast November 4, 1959). Decades passed before I was able to see it at last, thanks to YouTube. Here it is, below, at the 2:50 mark.
Barrie Chase is the sister of the actor-writer Frank Chase and the daughter of the Westerns screenwriter Borden Chase, who was Oscar-nominated for Red River. (Frank Fowler devised his Borden Chase pseudonym by combining Borden Milk with the Chase Manhattan Bank.)
Barrie Chase was so fluid and flawless, it's easy to see why Astaire chose her as his dancing partner on his four TV specials (1958-68). She retired in 1970 and moved to Venice, California. For her book The Dancer Within, Rose Eichenbaum interviewed Chase in 2005.
This late 1970's Levi's commercial was a variation on Ken Nordine's "Flibberty Jib" recording on his 1957 album Word Jazz. In 1977, Nordine explained the origin of "Flibberty Jib": "It grew out of the religious revival meetings that my mother used to take me to when I was a child. These fundamentalist preachers would get up in front of a crowd and try to pass off their words as wisdom. It was quite a disillusionment to find out that most of them had clay heads as well as clay feet. Well, you could take it one step further and apply it to politicians, or even rock stars--anyone placed in a position of great popularity who could use that notoriety to influence a lot of people."
Tour of Ken Nordine's studio on the third floor of his house.
In Nordine's 1991 demo of the Video Toaster he uses his signature "talking-to-himself" motif of overlapping tracks. On his Word Jazz radio program, this often was used to create a stream of consciousness effect, giving the impression of thinking rather than speaking. Thus, Nordine took the familiar fictional device of an interior monolog and gave it a heightened techno boost.