Burt Ward "Boy Wonder I Love You"

(7" single, MGM K 13632, November 14, 1966)

  1. Boy Wonder I Love You (Zappa)
  2. Orange Colored Sky (DeLugg/Stein)

T.T.G. Studios, LA
June 9-10, 1966

Produced by Tom Wilson
Arranged and conducted by FZ

 


Burt Ward Burt Ward


Boy Wonder, I Love You

T.T.G. Studios, LA
June 9, 1966

Burt Ward—vocals
Dennis Budimir—guitar
Elliot Ingber—guitar
Eugene DiNovi—piano
James Zito—French horn, trumpet
George Callender—tuba
Plas Johnson—sax
Justin Gordon—b. clarinet, clarinet
Benjamin Barrett—cello
Roy Estrada—bass
Jimmy Black—drums

Boy Wonder, I love you
Boy Wonder, I love you
Ooh ooh ooh

Hi, kids! It's me, your pal, the Boy Wonder, taking this opportunity to catch up on my fan mail. Even as a Boy Wonder it's really hard to read all the tons of mail I get. Here is a happy letter from someone just about your age:

"Dear you, wonderful, fabulous, magnificent, exquisite Boy Wonder, A cold chill runs up my spine everytime I see you sock a villain, and, oh, how I cry when you're even scratch. Please, don't send me a mimeograph copy of interesting facts about you, I want your handwriting. I have a whole wall on my room dedicated to you.

Oh, Boy Wonder, I'm making a gum wrapper chain to symbolize my love for you. It's going to be as long as I am tall, and I'm 5 foot 10 inches in stocking feet. Please, Boy Wonder, PLEASE, come next Saturday and sleep for a week or two. I will feed you breakfast in bed, I will make your bed for you, and I like you so much that I want you to spend the whole summer with me.

(I hope you know this is a girl writing)"

(swoon, shriek)

Boy Wonder, I love you
Boy Wonder, I love you
Boy Wonder, I love you
Boy Wonder, I love you

Orange Colored Sky

(Milton DeLugg/Willie Stein)

T.T.G. Studios, LA
June 10, 1966

Burt Ward—vocals
Dennis Budimir—guitar
Elliot Ingber—guitar
Lou Morell—guitar
William Pitman—guitar
Eugene DiNovi—piano
Anthony Terran—trumpet
John T. Johnson—tuba
Plas Johnson—sax
Jack Nimitz—b. clarinet, clarinet
Frederick Dutton—contra bassoon, bassoon
Benjamin Barrett—cello
Kenneth Watson—tympani, traps, mallets
John Guerin—drums

Hotcha!

I was walking along, minding my business
When out of an orange-colored sky . . .
FLASH! BAM! ALAKAZAM!
Wonderful you came by

I was humming a tune, drinking in sunshine
When out of that orange-colored view . . .
FLASH! BAM! ALAKAZAM!
I got a look at you

One look and I yelled "Timber!"
Watch out for flying glass,
'Cause the ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out
I went into a spin and I started to shout,
Boy, I was shoutin', oh-wo, I was shoutin' stuff like,
"This is it, I-I've been hit! [...]"
Oh, I didn't know what kind of trick I was on . . .

Hotcha!

I was walking along, minding my business
When out of an orange-colored sky . . .
FLASH! BAM! ALAKAZAM!
Wonderful you came by

I was humming a tune, drinking in sunshine
When out of that orange-colored view . . .
FLASH! BAM! ALAKAZAM!
I got a look at you

 


Notes & Comments

Patrick Neve

Recorded in [1966], this has got to be one of the funniest things Frank has ever produced. Yes, it really is Burt Ward, Batman's Boy Wonder, singing on this single. It was produced by Tom Wilson, written, arranged and conducted by Zappa. From Burt's gushy inflection, there is no question that this tune is fully tongue-in-cheek, although I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few 12-year old girls that may have swooned over it.

Ebay seller "brasscityrecords"

Frank also arranged and conducted the b side "orange colored sky" a semi psychedelic ditty penned by Frank DeLugg (where have I heard that name?).

Biffy the Elephant Shrew

FZ wrote the A-side, and arranged, produced and conducted both sides. The guitar doesn't sound like FZ (and is really buried on the B-side), but I do think that the male voice saying "Boy Wonder! Boy Wonder!" during the screaming fans bit at the end is him.

Boy Wonder Burt Ward


Burt Ward, Boy Wonder, My Life In Tights, Martin Keating Publishing, 1995 (extract)

At the height of the series, my agents brought me a number of lucrative offers for recording contracts. I am not a singer. Wait a minute. Let me be more precise. I am the world's worst singer. There, that's better. As Clint Eastwoood said in his famous characterization of Dirty Harry, "A man has got to know is limitations."

My limitation is that I should never sing, regardless of the opportunity for financial reward.

I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records—I wouldn't have signed it. MGM staffer Tom Scott was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!

Of all the people in the world to team with this wild and crazy bunch, I can't believe I was the one. The image of the Boy Wonder is all American and apple pie, while the image of the Mothers of Invention was so revolutionary that they made the Hell's Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even I had to laugh seeing a photo of myself with those animals.

Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. (The full name of the band was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.) After recording with me, Frank became an internationally recognized cult superstar, which was understandable; after working with me, the only place Frank could go was up.

Although he looked like the others, Frank had an intelligence and education that elevated him beyond brilliance to sheer genius. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with him, and his rough, abrupt exterior concealed an intellectual, creative and sensitive interior.

For my records, the plan was to record four sides and then release two singles prior to producing an album. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked "Orange Colored Sky."

I can't bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped. They insisted on re-recording.

But first, MGM took a radical step as an insurance policy that my next session would sound better. They sent me to an expensive vocal coach—and no doubt hoped for divine intervention. Back in 1966 they were shelling out about $1,000 a week for those lessons. That was a lot of money, more than three times what I was bringing home after working twelve hours per day in my monkey suit for an entire week. With the coach raking in that much, even I am surprised that after two weeks of training, the lady politely asked me not to come back. I'm not sure if she felt that having me as a student was damaging to her career or if listening to me sing was destroying her eardrums, or both.

In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the second two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, "Boy Wonder, I Love You!"

Among the lyrics was an invitation for me to come and visit an adoring pubescent fan and stay with her for the entire summer. She wrote, "I will even fix you breakfast in bed. I love you so much that I want you to stay the whole summer with me!" The lyrics ended with "I hope you know that this is a girl writing."

Every word in this song was actually written to me, and the kids and young teens who had written the letters were totally innocent.

"Boy Wonder, I Love You" was released regionally in the Midwest. It soared to number six on the Chicago charts in less than a week. Excellent. However, before MGM could launch it nationally, the record was pulled off the air by religious pressure groups and radio network censors who complained that it was too sexual because she wanted to fix me breakfast in bed. Can you believe it? To this day I wonder if the bluenoses who were so disjointed about how I fit into my costume were the same holier-than-thou, self-righteous bigots responsible for taking a charming and totally innocuous record off the airwaves.

Making a quantum leap from 1966 to today, look how times have changed. One of the most popular radio shows in America is The Howard Stern Show. I have been on Howard's show twice, once in a telephone call-in from Los Angeles to New York, and once live when Howard was taping at the Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood.

Howard has always been very gracious to me. Much as may amaze you, it is the truth, and the world's best-kept-secret, that Howard Stern is really a very nice man. He is also brilliant, witty and a comic genius. Granted, he can rip apart well-known celebrities and non-celebrities alike, but they usually deserve it. The recipe for his success is exposing hypocrisy through drastically courageous humor. Howard succeeds in doing that, and most people love listening to him.

Singing My Way To Shame

Back to 1966. I really tried to improve my singing in anticipation of the final recording session and eventual release of "Orange Colored Sky". I practiced in my shower at home, even sang in the showers of my hotel rooms while on appearance tours. I rehearsed in showers because I thought it was the only safe place in the world where nobody could hear me. Was I wrong!

Humiliating as this confession is, it's also probably good to rid a haunting nightmare from my subconscious mind. It's like taking a mental enema.

I was on the road and had just finished a grueling six-hour day of signing autographed photos and meeting BatFans. Tired and drained, I returned to the hotel for a quiet dinner alone. Afterwards I went back to my room for peace and solitude. It was late, and I decided to take a hot shower before going to bed. In those relaxing moments, even with the water running, someone overheard me singing "Orange Colored Sky" and reported to the front desk that a cat was howling in my room, apparently trapped in a running shower.

I had forgotten to put the safety latch on my door. Without warning, the night maintenance man came to my room to remove the cat. I saw him and yelled. Through the wavy glass shower door he looked like Mrs. Bates in Psycho.

The man ran out, and I called the front desk to tell them about the intruder and ask them to call the police. The clerk sheepishly explained what had happened and apologized profusely. He even took the room charge off my bill for the night. I was upset and complained that the maintenance guy should have not come into the bathroom after he entered the room and heard me singing. He should have realized that a person was in the shower, not a cat. Again the clerk apologized and said he would talk to the man. Twenty minutes later my phone rang. It was the clerk.

"Mr. Ward, I spoke to our maintenance man and asked him why, when he entered your room and heard you singing, he went into the bathroom."

"Good," I said. "I want the answer!"

"Mr. Ward, I'm sorry to tell you, but even when he was in your room, it sounded to him like a cat was howling in your shower! That's the reason he went in."

I was crushed! HOLY EMBARRASSMENT! That was it. The next morning I checked out and rushed back to L.A.

I re-recorded "Orange Colored Sky". I thought all my practice had made a vast improvement in the final product. It had. It had raised the quality of my voice from the depths of the sewer to the bottom of the toilet bowl. That's what I call progress.

Horrors! "Orange Colored Sky" was released as a single and it got lots of air play. I am told that thirty years later it is still played regularly on Dr. Demento's Sunday show. How appropriate!

(When my daughter Lisa came to visit with me in Malibu, she used to sabotage my business meetings by loudly playing "Orange Colored Sky" while I was trying to talk. I never acknowledged to my business associates who it was that caused them to wince as my off-key voice struck discordant notes in their ears. HOLY TERRORIST ATTACK!)

 


The Burt Ward Recording Sessions

Greg Russo, Cosmik Debris: The Collected History And Improvisations Of Frank Zappa (The Son Of Revised), 2003, p. 275

06/09/66 (2-5PM) T.T.G. Studios, Hollywood, CA—Gotta Fall In Love (shown as "I Love" on tape box); Boy Wonder (Why I Love You) (final title: "Boy Wonder I Love You"); Orange Colored Sky (rehearsal)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader, arranger and copyist), Esther Roth (OM), Jimmy Black (drums), Eugene DiNovi (piano), Roy Estrada (bass), Elliot Ingber (guitar), Dennis Budimir (guitar), Plas Johnson (sax), Justin Gordonn (b. clarinet, clarinet), James Zito (French horn, trumpet), George Callender (tuba), Benjamin Barrett (cello) + unknown backing vocals

06/10/66 (10AM-1PM) T.T.G. Studios, Hollywood, CA—Variant I (shown as "The Comedian" on tape box); Teenage Bill Of Rights; Orange Colored Sky; Tears Come From Loving You
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader and arranger), Billy Hughes (OM), John Guerin (drums), Gene DiNovi (piano), Elliot Ingber (guitar), William Pitman (guitar), Lou Morell (guitar), Dennis Budimir (guitar), Kenneth Watson (tympani, traps, mallets), Plas Johnson (sax), Jack Nimitz (b. clarinet, clarinet), Frederick Dutton (contra bassoon, bassoon), Anthony Terran (trumpet), John T. Johnson (tuba), Benjamin Barrett (cello), Vincent Bartold (copyist), Robert Gibson (copyist), Russell Brown (copyist) + unknown backing vocals and strings

progrockfan, Zappateers, May 2, 2008

The Boy Wonder Session Tapes are not raw studio takes and false starts, as has often been assumed by collectors; rather, they are derived from one or more post-production reels of mono mixes and incomplete mixdown takes.

In 1966 there was no sense that rock 'n' roll outtakes would one day have commercial or historical value. Session tapes were commonly wiped and re-used as a cost-cutting measure. This practice was widespread in television also; perhaps the most important reason that Monty Python's Flying Circus seems to come out of nowhere historically is that the BBC systematically wiped tapes of Python's predecessors. Tom Wilson's spoken references to takes 4B, 4C, 11A, 11B, 18 and 29A show that these tapes document only a fraction of the original sessions—but this fraction is probably all that survives.

The mixes of Boy Wonder, I Love You and Orange Colored Sky found here are probably the end mixes used to master Burt Ward's one and only MGM single. As it was the very first song recorded on 9 June, the FZ-penned Boy Wonder, I Love You was likely selected as the A-side of the single before the sessions began. Orange Colored Sky may have been chosen for the B-side at least in part because it was one of the two remaining tracks for which Burt Ward had completed his lead vocals; additional vocals had been planned for other songs, but were canceled when the session budget ran out.

The Boy Wonder Session Tapes circulate among collectors in many different track sequences. They are presented here in the probable sequence in which they were recorded.

Two tracks are often omitted from circulating versions of these tapes: an incomplete mixdown of Teenage Bill Of Rights, and what purports to be an alternate take or mix of Variant I. Close listening reveals that the Variant I 'alternate' is in fact the same take and mix as the more common version of the track—a fact disguised by the inclusion, at the take's beginning, of a snippet of the end of Gotta Fall In Love. This snippet is easily explained: When the MGM 7" single was mastered, the tape segments containing the end mixes of Boy Wonder, I Love You and Orange Colored Sky were undoubtedly physically sliced out of the master reel—a common practice in those pre-digital days—and the remainder was spliced back together for the T.T.G. archives. This explains why the end of Gotta Fall In Love—the last song from 9 June to be mixed—is found back-to-back with the 'alternate' take of Variant I—the second song to be mixed from 10 June, but the next song in order on the post-production reel after Orange Colored Sky was excised. The so-called 'alternate' version of Variant I is therefore identical to the more common version, and has been omitted from this upload.

Further evidence from the tapes suggests that the recording sequence given in Román Garcia Albertos's wonderful FZ chronology is slightly incorrect [not anymore —Román], as a snippet of Variant I appears at the end of the incomplete mixdown take of Teenage Bill Of Rights—indicating that Teenage Bill Of Rights was probably recorded first, but archived after Variant I on the post-production reel.

Burt Ward claims in Boy Wonder: My Life In Tights that Orange Colored Sky was recorded at his first session with FZ, and that MGM then insisted on vocal lessons prior to his next recording date. Ward goes on to say that MGM's vocal coach dismissed him after two weeks of lessons at $1,000 per week. This is sheer fantasy—Orange Colored Sky was recorded on the second day, not the first, and there certainly was no two-week gap between sessions. Burt Ward's book is hugely entertaining—Spy magazine memorably lampooned it under the title I Couldn't Keep It In My Pants And I Can't Stop Talking About It—but clearly, serious researchers must look elsewhere for their facts.

 

All compositions by Frank Zappa except as noted
Site maintained by Román García Albertos
http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/
Original transcription by Román & Patrick Neve
Further additions and corrections by Ryan Davenport
This page updated: 2014-12-10