JOTR Mixtape: Frank Conniff

Comedian Frank Conniff known for his role as TV’s Frank on the original Mystery Science Theatre 3000 talks to us about his book Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever and what tracks would make up his Just Off The Radar Mixtape. Hear the full episode…
Favorite Road Trip Song

Frank Conniff: “I have to warn you before I get into the list, it skews very heavily toward Laura Nyro. She’s my favorite musical artist and I am obsessed with her. It was always this kind of myth that she bombed at Monterey Pop. Footage recently came out of her performance there, and she didn’t bomb at all. She helped perpetuate the myth that it was this big disaster. (But) my favorite road song is a song that she wrote called ‘Walk the Dog and Light the Light.’ It was the title of her last studio album before she died. I kind of relate to it because I’m on the road a lot. It’s a song about a musician going on the road and telling a person back at her house to “walk the dog and light the light.” You know, to just take of things when I’m gone. I find it to be a very infectious song, and I kind of relate to it too. Me being someone who goes out on a lot of weekends. I do a live movie riffing show with Trace Beaulieu of Mystery Science Theater called The Mads and we have been doing that a lot lately. So I have been on the road a lot lately, and I kind of relate to that genre.”

Guilty Pleasure Song

Frank Conniff: “Well first of all, I don’t believe in the concept of a guilty pleasure. I just believe in pleasure. I don’t feel guilty about anything that I like. For some reason a song that popped into my head just because it is a song that I don’t think is in anybody’s consciousness. It’s a song I really like a lot. It is the theme from the movie ‘Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows’ which was a sequel to a very big hit in the ‘60s called “The Trouble with Angels” with Hayley Mills and Rosalind Russell. It was a very wholesome kind of movie about girls who were trouble makers at a Catholic boarding school. It was a big hit, and the sequel was “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows.” I love the theme song to that movie which was written and performed by Boyce and Hart who were the songwriting team that wrote a lot of the Monkees hits. They were a really good example of a kind of psychedelic infused pop music of that era, and I just really love that song.”

Broken Heart Song

Frank Conniff: “You were kind of encouraging me to be obscure here, but this is sort of a well-known song, ‘You’ll Never Get to Heaven (if You Break My Heart).’ It was performed by Dionne Warwick, and of course it was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who I just think were supremely brilliant songwriters. It’s not just a great song; the record is as perfect a pop record as you can hear just in terms of the arrangement and the production. It’s just a brilliant song, and it has the words “break” and “heart” in it, so I couldn’t resist it. I wanted to do something more obscure, but I just love that song so much. It just seemed so perfect for this category.”

Signature Track From A Movie Made About You

Frank Conniff: “Well, out of all these questions I think that was a hard one. I did pick a Laura Nyro song called ‘Lucky’ which I first saw on her album “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.” I don’t know. It would be featured for me because it has such a, as do all of her songs of that period, very New York feeling to it. Being born and raised in New York, it kind of just evokes the streets of New York to me. The song is called ‘Lucky’; I don’t necessarily know if it’s about a lucky person, the lyrics are very metaphorical, I think it’s kind of about a battle between the Devil, or good and evil. I just consider myself a very lucky person. That’s what I thought of.”

Rainy Day Song

Frank Conniff: “’New York Tendaberry’ by Laura Nyro. Tendaberry is a word that Laura Nyro made up; she had a tendency to do that. In the song “Stone Soul Picnic” she invented the word “surry” as a verb. It’s a song that really kind of captures a very grey day kind of New York feeling to me. It captures kind of how New York can be very melancholy in a very beautiful way. It’s just something in the lyrics and music that just captures New York in a way I don’t think any other song does. So that’s my pick.”

Favorite Track To Listen To After Watching A Truly Awful Film

Frank Conniff: “Ha ha ha..that’s kind of a tough one. I think kind of for me the epitome of a joyous song would be maybe ‘I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night’ which is an Irving Berlin song from “Annie Get Your Gun.” It may be my all-time favorite show tune. It’s just a really swinging song. It’s a very joyful, very unique kind of swinging kind of tune. I think that might get me out of the bad mood I’m in, but not necessarily.”

Go To Karaoke Song

Frank Conniff: “Well this was a very easy one to answer because in the last two decades I sung karaoke twice and this was the song I sung both times. So this is just a very factual answer, it would be the Frank Sinatra version of ‘Luck Me A Lady.’ Which was on a couple karaoke machines that I happened to have done karaoke on. It’s the really swinging Billy May arrangement. The really famous version that Frank Sinatra does. It kind of takes a great song and kind of kicks it up to a whole ‘nother level of just ferocious swinging. I sung that live, in karaoke, and everyone listening to this should be very grateful that they didn’t hear me do that.”

Favorite Cover

Frank Conniff: “Well this another Laura Nyro thing that comes from what I think is one of the best albums of cover songs, or at least my favorite album of cover songs. Which is an album she made with Patti Labelle called ‘Gonna Take a Miracle’ Which is all of the ‘60s songs, all the girl group kind of songs, like ‘Jimmy Mack’ and ‘Dancing in the Street.’ Those kinds of 1960s songs. when you walk down the streets of New York when I was a kid, you’d hear them coming out of transistor radios everywhere you went. She does a cover of a song that I wasn’t familiar with before I heard it it’s called ‘The Bells.’ I think it was co-written by Marvin Gaye, but I don’t know who did the original version of it. It’s called “The Bells” and it’s one of the most stunning tracks I’ve ever heard. It’s just… amazing. When I saw the category of favorite cover songs, I immediately thought of that.”

Something Recent That Knocked Me Out

Frank Conniff: “I have to say that I’ve jumped on the Kendrick Lamar bandwagon in a big way. His album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is a really brilliant album. I’m not a guy who listens to a lot of hip-hop, but you are kind of understating the case if you call it a hip-hop album because it kind of encompasses everything. It encompasses Jazz, R&B, and everything else in between. He’s just a guy who I kind of became aware of him because two other current artists, that I am big fans of, had interviews with them where they talked about how great he was, so I saw him out. Kimbra is a current musical person that I think is brilliant and St. Vincent is another current musical person who just blows me away. They both expressed their admiration for Kendrick Lamar, so I sought out that album, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly.’ The whole album is brilliant, but the track that really, really blew me away was this song called ‘These Walls.’ It’s just so beautiful; it’s so soulful. You can take that to anyone that says that “Oh, modern music sucks, the only good music we have comes from the past.” You can hold up that track as exhibit A, and say “No, you’re wrong. Stop being a cranky old man like Frank Conniff and listen to more modern music.”