Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas


Stunned? Shocked? Nauseated? This cover has that effect on people.

Take a moment. Compose yourself, then we'll move on.

I first found a copy of this album (SRS Records - see below) via eBay. Then to my delight (and sheer astonishment), I found the underwear version of Mickey's Christmas album (Timic Records) at Beverly Records in Chicago earlier this year.

The story of these albums and how it fits into the life story of Mickey Rooney is quite compelling.

Quick history lesson: Rooney was born into a family of vaudeville actors and made his stage debut at the tender age of fifteen months!

While on the vaudeville circuit, Mickey's mom answered an ad looking for boy actors in a fledgling operation known as "moving pictures". He won the part and between 1927 and 1936, he was known as "Mickey McGuire".

As Mickey approached adolescence, he moved over to MGM and became Andy Hardy, met Judy Garland, and became, in Mick's own words, "the biggest movie star in the world..."

Between 1940 and 1970, he continued to work with Judy Garland - "Judy and I were of one heartbeat" Mick claims over and over and over - did a stint in WWII, married and divorced both Ava Gardner and Martha Vickers, appeared on television shows, many B-movies and roles (who could forget his Japanese stereotype Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast At Tiffany's"? Me, for starters!), and married and divorced several more times.

By the end of the 1970s, Mickey was washed up - he even turned down the role of Archie Bunker. No jobs were forthcoming and Rooney had had more failed business ventures known to man. One was a restaurant trying to capitalize on his connection with "The Wizard Of Oz" - using the Munchkins as busboys, servers, even cooks. Another venture was an acting school called the Mickey Rooney School of Entertainment - sign me up!

This leads us to 1979. Mickey went into the recording studio to cut a Christmas album featuring several of his own compositions and underwear. According to The Record Robot, this album was home produced, available by mail order only, and even included a letter with each copy on Mickey's own stationery (home address included on the letterhead). Sadly, my album didn't include a letter or autograph.

Rooney's own compositions ("Mr. Wha-Da-Ya-Want", "Mickey's New Year", and "The Gift") lead off side one and are charming in their own weird way. Alternating between singing, screaming, and some deeply creepy weird kiddie like voices, Rooney takes command and sings the only way he knows how - all out and from the heart.

The rest of the covers and originals ("These Things Mean Christmas To Me" is a beautiful song) are listenable and sometimes incredibly short - the average length of a song on this album is around 2:15!

So where does the SRS ornament cover fit in? It's the same album - different packaging (although they kept the back liner notes written by Rooney's great friend Mel Torme). This leads me to ask - did the SRS version come before or after the Timic underwear version? Anyone have a clue?

Let's grab Judy, build a barn, and put on a show:

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas (Timic)

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas (SRS)

After this album was released in 1979, Rooney hooked up with Ann Miller and appeared in the musical "Sugar Babies" across the country, snagged an Emmy and honorary Oscar, appeared in many made-for-TV movies and shows (his failed TV show "One Of The Boys" featured two young co-stars named Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane!).

Rooney has been steadily reminiscing about Judy Garland and occasionally working since - he was last seen in Ben Stiller's "A Night At The Museum" and washing imaginary dishes in a life insurance commercial with his eighth wife Jan.

Happy listening...



RadioJonD said...

Wild find, Captain!

Pop Quiz! - Name a Christmas tune, written by Rooney and the well known artist that recorded it.

Hint - The artist also crooned what is considered a Christmas Classic.

Scott said...

The Mick went through more failed business schemes than Mark Harris. I remember him on The Wally Phillips Show talking about a matchbook acting college for teens. "Mmm Hmm, fer sure, Mickey, sounds like a great way for kids to break into the business." Meinhardt Rabbe was the Dean and Billy Barty the class valedictorian.

My favorite performance of his is in the Playhouse 90 episode "The Comic." He plays a ruthless TV comedian (some say patterned after Berle, others Sid Caesar) who mows down everyone in his path. The scenes where he berates his milquetoast brother played by Mel Torme are delightful. If given the right role, the guy could deliver. Check out Don Siegel's "The Lineup" to see another great Rooney heavy. I'd kill to see Siegel's "Baby Face Nelson." On the down side, there's that terrible service comedy he did with Buddy Hackett (the name escapes me, thank God) and Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

oldsleepyowl said...

I've always been a fan of Mickey Rooney, but have never seen any of his music before, so thanks a bunch for this Christmas music by him. It's great!!


The King of Jingaling said...

Let's not forget Rooney as the voice of Santa Claus in Rankin/Bass' "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "The Year Without A Santa Claus".

Also, didn't the Murk Family use that same album cover?

CaptainOT said...

Radio Jon D - I GIVE! Tell me, tell me, tell me!

Scott - I remember seeing "The Comic" (written by Rod Serling) back on WTTW back in the day... mindblowing to see Andy Hardy slap around the Velvet Fog!

Old Sleepy Owl - Glad to have helped you create a new Christmas memory!

King - Small tidbit: Mickey's real name is Joe Yule, Jr!

I was wondering if someone was going to pickup on the Murk cover / Rooney cover similarities! Why he's the King folks!


Mister said...

I know the answer to this one!

The name of the song is, "Little Christmas Tree". I believe the version you are referring to was recorded by Nat King Cole.

I have a CD named, "Cole, Christmas, Kids", which has this recording.

It's a little strange. Nat is singing a love song of sorts to the tree.

CaptainOT said...

Mister - Ten bonus points for knowing the answer that I didn't!

Gee, gonna have to listen to that one again!