Riff Raff

Swing Low After years of toil and custom tailoring, the New Morty Show are on the brink of breaking into the big league -- the band's first major-label release, Mortified, is due out on Atlantic in March. (A swingin' version of Billy Idol's "White Wedding" is the first single.) But all is not champagne bubbles and sugary brass horns. Last week the Show's three principals -- Morty Okin, Connie Champagne, and Vise Grip -- announced that Champagne would be leaving the group. The Solo Music Group, which manages the New Morty Show and Vise Grip's other outfit, the Ambassadors of Swing, cites creative differences. Champagne, who has been with the swing outfit since its inception more than four years ago, hints that there's more to the story: "My therapist told me to give up one vice," says Champagne, "and I chose the Morty Show." Ba-da-dum. "I've been attending AA meetings lately and they tell me that I got to kick the 'Champagne' habit," says Grip. Touche! Apparently, great minds think alike, but they can't always work together. The role of female vocalist will be taken over by Kat Starr, who has sung with Beach Blanket Babylon. Starr will tour with the band in support of Mortified, while Champagne will focus her energies on the smoky Connie Champagne & Her Tiny Bubbles. (S.T.)

Selvin Watch: More Casualties on the Trail of Facts We all know what happens when Chronicle pop critic Joel Selvin writes a lot, so the flurry of errors that accompanied the Feb. 9 stories about Beach Boy Carl Wilson and Elton John didn't really surprise us. First, Selvin wrote that the Beach Boys were "jokingly known as Carl and the Passions." The name wasn't a joke at all, just what the band that would become the Beach Boys called themselves in high school. (The joke was the title of a 1972 album by the Beach Boys.) Next, he said that Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (a grieving Selvin left out the exclamation points) was released in 1966. Close -- but all our books say 1965. Then, Selvin wrote that Wilson released a solo album called Heaven in 1981; the date was right, but the title wasn't. (It was just called Carl Wilson; "Heaven" was a song on it.) Selvin also had one other problem with Wilson's solo career: He said that "What You Do to Me" was a modest hit in 1983. Riff Raff doesn't know what "modest" is supposed to mean, but the song never hit the Top 40. Selvin fared better in the Elton John live review -- you know, the one that began, "The bitch is back." (Better, of course, does not mean that the copy made sense.) The weirdest part about the review -- other than it totally lacked a critical point of view or one original thought -- was when Selvin said fans wouldn't know the first song of the concert. "Simple Life" was actually one of John's biggest recent hits. (Seven weeks in the Top 40, No. 1 on the adult charts.) In other Selvin news, we hear that the critic is considering taking another vacation to work on another book. Last time this happened, the Chron let Young James Sullivan drive the bus for a full six weeks and the quality of the paper noticeably improved. (Selvin reportedly spent his last leave working on a volume about Sly Stone for a new series of rock books edited by Dave Marsh. Marsh, of course, is the longtime crit, now based in New York, who is like Joel Selvin in that he's humorless and factually challenged but is unlike him in that he's a tireless worker. Selvin rarely breaks a sweat, at least when he's on the Chron's time clock. Riff Raff wonders if the series will be called "Rock by Dummies.") We're looking forward to the time off. (J.S.)

Pushing All the Wrong Buttons An accordion player is on his way to a gig. He stops at 7-Eleven to grab a Big Gulp. When he comes back to his car he sees his window has been smashed in! With sinking heart he looks into the back seat to see if the rogue stole his instrument. Au contraire. Now there are two accordions. But seriously, dear readers, not everyone hates the accordion. In fact, Drew Carey, the polka-loving host of the 25th annual American Music Awards a couple of weeks ago, is quite a fan -- so much so that he invited the Bay Area's Those Darn Accordions! to perform at the show. The eight-piece band, a full three-quarters of which play the accordion, is known for clever, bouncy songs about bowling, the Loch Ness Monster, and Japanese sci-fi. The members leapt at the invitation, composing an 11-song accordion medley that included hits from "Macho Man" to "Achy Breaky Heart" to "Sweet Child O' Mine" and inviting squeeze-box icon Dick Contino, who made the accordion famous -- and despised -- on The Ed Sullivan Show, as their special guest. (At Carey's urging, "Weird Al" Yankovic was brought in as well.) Carey himself played too, with the help of a cheat sheet that he taped over the buttons. (The only desired accordionist not in attendance was TDA! senior member Clyde Forsman, who had a diabetic reaction, apparently not accordion-related, and had to watch the festivities on television from a hospital bed.) TDA! chose to perform live (as opposed to miming a performance over a tape), an unusual request at a show of this magnitude, but while TDA! Musical Director Paul Rogers says the sound may have suffered for it, he also says that there's nothing quite as thrilling as playing live in front of millions of people. Strangely, the phone hasn't been ringing off the hook since the broadcast, but apparently a slew of computer-using accordionists are irate. "Yeah, having 'Weird Al' up there didn't do much to change the image of the accordion," says Rogers, "but [Those Darn Accordions!] never do parodies. We don't make fun, we have fun with the accordion." (S.T.)

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