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Perry Mason: Five Songs for a Legal Legend

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Today is the birthday of one Erle Stanley Gardner, with whose name you may or may not be all that familiar. Undoubtedly you know his most famous creation, defense attorney Perry Mason, star of prose, radio, and screen.

Gardner was suspended from law school because he spent all his time boxing, but eventually taught himself enough law to pass the California Bar. He was a good lawyer, but the law bored him; all he lived for was trial drama and trial psychology. This began to manifest itself in contributing stories to pulp magazines, and the birth of Mason in more than 80 short stories and novels. His work made him one of the most widely-read authors of the time.

Mason's dedication to helping clients framed for murder and outing the true culprit has inspired many people, including several musicians who have paid homage to him in their songs. Today's playlist is dedicated to them, and to the author's happy memory of being enthralled at "Case of the Sinister Spirit."

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Buck Owens & Susan Raye, "Then Maybe I Can Get Some Sleep" Buck Owens always knew how to make a good tune. In this one, he's a man obsessed with the idea that his girl is running around on him, and considers hiring Dick Tracy and Mason to investigate.

In the end, he decides to marry the girl just so he can sleep without worrying about it. Such a great country song.

The Pixies, "Space (I Believe In)" Of course I'm going to mention the song from which my writing name comes from at every opportunity, but believe it or not I never realized that Black Francis makes a Perry Mason reference in this song until just recently.

I thought the line was "Now I'm going to sing a paramecium" but instead it's "Now I'm going to sing the Perry Mason theme." That theme from the Raymond Burr-helmed TV show is "Park Avenue Beat" by Fred Steiner. Neither of these makes any freakin' sense, anyway.

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Exodus, "Objection Overruled" I don't know why people didn't like Impact is Imminent. It's a great thrash record with a real modern touch to its production. I'm convinced it was just ahead of its time.

I admit "Objection Overruled" isn't the deepest song, even for Exodus. Mostly it's just some sort of classist railing against The Man in all forms, but it's still an incredible example of Gary Holt's underrated guitar work. I don't know why the band blames Perry Mason for whatever they're so mad about, though.

Blues Brothers, "Perry Mason Theme" The Blues Brothers put their own spin on "Park Avenue Beat." In it Elwood laments the difficulty in finding representation for his brother Jake on the account if them being career criminals. It's mostly an instrumental track, with Bones getting some really good saxophone lines out of Fred Steiner's theme. Not the Blues Brothers' strongest work ever, but a fun little interlude before we finish with...

Ozzy Osbourne, "Perry Mason" Ozzmosis is my favorite Ozzy record, which is usually the last thing I say before another Ozzy fan punches me in the face. Seriously though, it's good work.

Take the opening number here. It's a great, dark murder story that shows off some great vocal talent by Ozzy, as well as fantastic shreds by Zakk Wylde. People hate it because it's got a lot of modern hard-rock production tricks in it, but that's because those tricks remind the listener of lesser music. Ozzy did it the way it should have always been done.

Jef With One F is a recovering rock star taking it one day at a time. You can read about his adventures in The Bible Spelled Backwards or connect with him on Facebook.


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