Monday, May 2, 2016

Bat-Music #18 - The Musical Stylings of Burt Ward

Bat-Music #18 - The Musical Stylings of Burt Ward
In 1966, the popularity of the Batman TV show had turned Robin actor Burt Ward in to the nation's latest teen idol.  Eager to cash in on his stardom, MGM signed Ward to a record deal.  The plan was to released two singles, and then a full length album.  Then in one of the weirdest pairings in musical history, they hired Frank Zappa to spearhead the project.

"Holy Odd Couple, Batman!"  Burt Ward's image as Robin was squeaky-clean, law-abiding, and all-American.  Zappa meanwhile was the king of the long haired freaks, about as far removed from wholesome Robin as you can get.  I believe this was before the release of Zappa's first album, so the people at MGM probably didn't know quite who it was they had signed to help guide their newest star to the top of the pop charts.

The biggest obstacle preventing Ward from becoming a music star wasn't Zappa writing music that was too weird, though.  It was that Burt Ward flat out could not sing.  After a few disastrous recordings with Burt singing, followed by a failed stint with a vocal coach, Zappa just had Ward talk over a musical background, William Shatner style.

One single would eventually be released, the Zappa-penned "Boy Wonder, I Love You," in which "Boy Wonder" reads from a weird letter from a fan (actually based on several pieces of fan mail Ward actually received), and a cover of Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky" (a song that was also performed by Adam West).  One other song, "Teenage Bill of Rights," as well as several instrumental tracks that Ward had yet to record vocals for, were completed before MGM pulled the plug on the sessions.  These other tracks have never officially been released, but they are widely available as bootlegs.

Burt Ward - Boy Wonder, I Love You

Burt Ward - Orange Colored Sky

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