31 December 2007

End of Year Mystery Roundup (2) Cold Cases

Having talked up the success rate, here now are some persistent PopArchives mysteries, mentioned in the hope that some emails will come in to clear them up.

If you have an answer, or even a vital clue, please email [link], or leave a comment at the end of this post. The links are to the relevant pages at The Website.

Question:
Just who was William Plunkett, composer of The Megatrons' Velvet Waters? For that matter, who were The Megatrons? And what was the full extent of Haywood Henry's role in all this?
[Link: Tony Worsley - Velvet Waters]

Question:
Did Johnny Curtis, composer of Picking Up Pebbles, record the original version, and who was Johnny Curtis, anyway?
[Link: Matt Flinders - Picking Up Pebbles]

Question:
How did Ray Brown & the Whispers get hold of Go To Him, and while you're there, can you clear up the chronology of this song for once and for all?
[Link: Ray Brown & The Whispers - Go To Him]

Supplementary question:
In which New South Wales town does Leicester-born Bess Coleman, co-writer of Go To Him, now live? (And why hasn't she already stumbled on my site while browsing the Web, and emailed me with deep insights into the story of Go To Him? Has she never tried a vanity search at Google? Come on, Bess, you can do it!)
[Link: Ray Brown & The Whispers - Go To Him]

Question:
How did that disparate group of Keith Reid, Andy Qunta, Maggie Ryder and Chris Thompson get together to write You're The Voice? I mean, were they all sitting together in a conference room somewhere, or did they mail each other (this was 1985), or was it a Round Robin where one started it off and passed it on, or what..?
[Link: John Farnham - You're The Voice]

Question:
Okay, I give up: who did record the original version of Sounds of Goodbye? I've gone for George Morgan, but there's always been a sneaking sense of doubt.
[Link: Kamahl - Sounds Of Goodbye]

Question:
Was Patricia Dahlquist the first to record the obscure Bertie Higgins composition Waiting For The Rain, or is there an earlier version lurking somewhere?
[Link: Emma Hannah - Waiting For The Rain]

Question:
Which came first: Your Love Still Brings Me To My Knees by Saundra Steele or Your Love Still Brings Me To My Knees by Dusty Springfield? I'm going for Saundra Steele, but they both seem to be from January 1980, so...
[Link: Marcia Hines - Your Love Still Brings Me To My Knees]

Question:
Who recorded the acetate of Happy Without You that Ron Tudor played to The Strangers before Peter Robinson rearranged it and they recorded it?
[Link: The Strangers - Happy Without You]

Question:
Who on earth were Our Patch Of Blue, who recorded the original version of Zoom Zoom Zoom? And who were the writers Bernard de Cesare and Pasquale Zompa?
[Link: Cam-Pact - Zoom Zoom Zoom]

Question:
Graham Gouldman didn't really write Just A Poor Boy, did he? It was an Aussie composition, written by members of The Bowery Boys, right?
[Link: Mike Furber & The Bowery Boys - Just A Poor Boy]

Any answers? Email [link], or leave a comment, please!

29 December 2007

End of Year Mystery Roundup (1) Solved

The Blog and The Website have a fair record in clearing up mysteries.

Sometimes it seems I just have to ask a question then sit back and wait for the answer to turn up in my Inbox.

Some examples:

Question: Did Jimmy Page play lead guitar on Security, a UK single by Thane Russal - actually Doug Gibbons - that was a hit in Australia and, as far as I can see, nowhere else?
Answer: No, that wasn't Jimmy Page, it was Bob Johnson (later with Steeleye Span).
The emailer: Mick Brill, who played bass on the record, a longtime associate of Doug Gibbons, now living in Italy.See: The Security page at The Website.

Question: Who was (E. Goldman), as he appears in the small print as the composer of Gene Pitney's lesser known gem Billy You're My Friend (1968)?
Answer: Ed Goldman, who wrote the song when he was still a piano major at the Juilliard School of Music.
The emailer: Ed Goldman. Can you imagine how excited I was to hear from him?
And Ed was delighted to learn that his song had charted in Australia, and to read comments at The Blog by a couple of Australians who had never forgotten Billy You're My Friend.
See: The small print: Ed Goldman, writer of Billy You're My Friend and earlier posts linked from there.

Question: Was Edward R. (Eddie) White the songwriter the same Edward R. White who appeared in some movie bit parts, notably Robert Duvall's Angelo My Love (1983)?
Answer: Yes, he was.
The emailer: John Sprung, who attended the premiere of Angelo My Love with his dad and Eddie White. Mr Sprung Sr and Eddie were old friends from the days when Eddie was in an orphanage where John's dad was a counselor. Following an exchange of emails with John, I ended up buying Eddie White's autobiography Yesterday's Cake, cleverly named from the practice of bakeries donating old cakes to orphanages. (It's a helluva story, something I'll save for a later post.)
See: Yesterday's Cake, Eddie White's autobiography and earlier posts linked from there.

Question: Who was the bearded panel operator for Melbourne deejay Barry Ferber, immortalised in their single The Bearded Beetle (1964)?
Answer: Dave Dexter, who later worked on air in New Zealand on Radio Hauraki.
The emailer: (1) Radio historian Wayne Mac identified Dave Dexter. (2) Dave's son Julian recently posted a comment, confirming our conclusions and providing some more background.
See: More on the Bearded Beetle, which includes Jake Dexter's comments.

Question: Who is Nick Lampe, whose fine single Flower Garden (1969) unaccountably charted in Melbourne, Australia and hardly anywhere else?
Answer: Singer-songwriter Nicholas Lampariello, who turned his back on the music business after one album on Atlantic, now a social worker in New York.
The emailer: Robert Thompson in Melbourne who read my post, persevered with his search for Nick Lampe, and ended up phoning him at his workplace in New York.
See: At last: the Nick Lampe story, probably the only biography of Nick Lampe on the Web, written with Nick as the primary source after Robert put him in touch with me. (Type "Nick Lampe" at Google, hit I'm Feeling Lucky, and you'll end up back here, at this very blog!)

There are others, but that's enough for now.

Next: some PopArchives mysteries that won't go away.

28 December 2007

Ah, that Robinson Crusoe theme!

Some lovely genius has posted to YouTube the opening 20 seconds of Les aventures de Robinson Crusoe (1964), a European series that was shown in Australia on ABC-TV. If you were there, you'll recognise the theme music, a stirring melody that I've never forgotten.

Internet Movie database lists three series composers, Robert Mellin, Gian Piero Reverberi and Georges Van Parys. A reviewer, Rob Neal, writes:
It is also worth noting that the haunting score is also now available in an expanded CD from Silva Screen. The original soundtrack was in mono, but it seems there was such a demand for this piece, that the composers recently recreated a medley with a full orchestra in stereo.
This was another of those series that the ABC used to show in the afternoons during school holidays. Sir Francis Drake was another: I wrote about it (and its equally haunting theme) last year.



[YouTube link]
[Soundtrack and series DVD at Amazon.co.uk]

19 December 2007

Close 'N Play!


After my post about Ol' Fatso by Augie Rios a commenter wrote: Don't know how, but I had the 45 of this in my "Close & Play" when I was a child.

I didn't know how, either, mainly because I'd never heard of a Close & Play, which turns out to be a record player for kids: CLOSE 'N PLAY AUTOMATIC PHONOGRAPH - CLOSE LID... RECORD PLAYS.

That would've been an exceptionally groovy present for a kid in the 60s or 70s.

07 December 2007

You study 'em hard and hopin' to pass...

CNN.com shows how to make James Brown sound tedious:

CNN Special Investigations Unit Classroom Edition: James Brown: Say it Proud ...

Teachers: Please preview this program, as its content may not be appropriate for all students.

Grade Level: 9-12, College

Subject Areas: Fine Arts, Social Studies

Objectives

The CNN Special Investigations Unit Classroom Edition: James Brown: Say it Proud and its corresponding discussion questions and activity challenge students to:

1. Examine the legacy of James Brown;
2. Identify the historical context of key events in Brown's life;
3. Design an exhibit for a memorial to James Brown.

Discussion Questions...

[Link]

05 December 2007

That's our lad!


To remind yourself of the excellence of Brisbane band Transport, watch these high quality live videos recorded in LA earlier this year. They're at Rehearsals.com, performances of The People Have Spoken, Soda Pop and This Infidelity. [Link] There's also a video interview and a text article. Transport haven't gigged lately, but their new album The Inner Chimp is now downloadable.

And to see a completely different side of Transport's singer-guitarist Keir Nuttall (vocals, guitar) and Steve Pope (drums), here they are in Kate Miller-Heidke's band performing Keir Nuttall's composition Space They Cannot Touch. No Parental Advisory necessary for this one:



(Okay, disclosure: I'm Keir's dad, but you probably knew that.)

01 December 2007

Is 128kbps good enough for an mp3?

A handful of years ago when I first started ripping mp3s it was commonly held that 128kpbs was as high as you needed to go, because after that the improvement in sound quality was unnoticeable.

I've stuck to that, and a recent online experiment at Cognitive Daily supports it. Read the full story here, and as usual the comments are worth reading too.


Cognitive Daily home: http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily
Cognitive Daily feed:
http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/index.xml



29 November 2007

Yesterday's Cake, Eddie White's autobiography

As I was saying at the weekend: I have a feeling there is an interesting biography to be told about Eddie White. Maybe someone will email...

Sure enough, John Sprung emailed again to tell me about Yesterday's Cake, Eddie's autobiography that was published by Vantage Press in 1985.

The AbeBooks website lists a number of used copies. One of the booksellers quotes Joseph Heller:
Eddie White's book reads like a Bronx Arabian Nights!

The title refers Eddie's time in an orphanage where the kids were given day-old cakes from the bakeries. A synopsis at AbeBooks says Yesterday's Cake is the story of a boy raised in various orphanages who became a songwriter and met the rich and famous even though his father was a small time hood.

Think I'll have to order a copy. More later...

One more thing: John Sprung, my informant on these matters, is a folk singer and music writer with an interesting resumé himself.

24 November 2007

Eddie White, songwriter and actor

In September I mentioned Edward R. (Eddie) White, the prolific New York songwriter (1919-1996) who collaborated at some stage with each of the three writers of Acker Bilk's The Harem, particularly with Mack Wolfson.

I wondered whether he was the same Eddie White (aka Edward R. or Eddie R. White) whose filmography at Internet Movie Database includes a role in Robert Duvall's Angelo My Love (1983).

These days it seems I just have to ask, and somebody who was there emails with an answer. (Like this: Question. Answer. Neat, huh?)

John Sprung emailed to confirm that the songwriter and bit-part actor were indeed the same Eddie White. In fact, John was at the premiere of Angelo My Love with Eddie, who knew John's father, a counselor at an orphanage where Eddie was a ward.

I have a feeling there is an interesting biography to be told about Eddie White. Maybe someone will email...

[Somebody did email: see my follow-up post.]

21 October 2007

Are you a hippy?

Barry McKay, who compiled the online Go-Set charts (1966-1974), has cleverly adapted this magazine quiz from 1967 so that you can answer it online.

Some of the choices were a bit obscure to me after all this time, but it told me I'm "half way to San Francisco", even if I am running 40 years late.

Come on, answer honestly: would you rather go to
a love-in or a drive-in? A nice bit of retro-fun. [Link]


20 October 2007

The small print: Ed Goldman, writer of Billy You're My Friend

Last month I wondered about the writer of Billy You're My Friend, Gene Pitney's minor hit from 1968. It's one of those unique songs that you never forget, the one-off that comes out of nowhere and leaves you with few clues about its background story.

A couple of days ago Ed Goldman emailed me, after he'd read my post.

Ed tells me he wrote Billy You're My Friend when he was a piano major at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. He’d worked in music publishing as a staff songwriter, usually working with a regular lyricist partner, but when producer Bob Schwartz was looking for a song for Gene Pitney, “a single that would bring him more into what was then the current style”, Ed ended up writing both words and music himself.

This is how it came about, as Ed tells it:
My partner at the time and I had interested a producer at Musicor Records in a kind of poetic, Sergeant Pepper's type tune called Poor Richard, which I demonstrated on the piano, improvising a fugue-like break.

The producer, Bob Schwartz, loved it, but it was already published by another company. He said Gene Pitney was going into the studio in a few days… and he wanted something in the style I had demonstrated on the piano.

The next day I sat down with my lyricist, but we couldn't see eye to eye (or ear to ear) on anything that day. I already had most of the tune and the first verse of the lyric, but he didn't relate to it, and he wasn't coming up with anything either, so I finished it on my own and brought it to Bob the next day.

Bob said, “That's it!” and went on to bring in an arranger... Joe Scott to soup up the break and arrangement into this big orchestral sound. He billed it as 'symphonic rock' and the record was made about a week later.

Although he was quite excited about the finished product, Ed comments on the interpretation and arrangement:
I felt to a degree that the song was made too grandiose for what it was, and who Gene was as a song stylist. My feeling about the song was that it was a kind of chamber piece that first expressed the innocence and trust a young man had for his best friend, then the anger he felt when he discovered that both his friend and girlfriend had betrayed him.
Ed Goldman’s heart was in jazz and the classics, and for many years he played piano around the New York area before returning to Juilliard in the 90s to study composition and orchestration. He has written music for TV soap operas and advertising jingles, but he now concentrates on writing and recording in his home studio, putting down all the parts himself - and he still writes his own lyrics. Ed’s current projects include a Broadway show, a CD of his own songs, and recordings of classical piano pieces including his own compositions.

On the uniqueness of Billy You’re My Friend, Ed comments:
My approach to that song, and most of those I wrote, was to be true to what the song itself seemed to want to say, even if I sometimes had to transcend pop songwriting conventions to do so. This is what I believe gave the song its individualistic flavour.
As a compulsive reader of the small print on record labels, I can't tell you how satisfying it is to have heard from (E. Goldman) and to be able to write about him here.

Wikipedia

This is a good article + discussion at Cognitive Daily that focuses in large part on Wikipedia's strengths and weaknesses: Is there really wisdom in crowds?

It helps explain why some Wikipedia articles are excellent while others are hopeless.

I can hardly bring myself to read many music articles at Wikipedia these days: I grab the trivia and run with it, check it somewhere else, but too many music entries are written by The Fan who has no idea about writing a reference article. The riposte to that is, "Why don't you edit it?" but I don't have the time or energy to be constantly cleaning up this stuff, especially when The Fan is likely to go back and mess it up again anyway.

Some excerpts from Cognitive Daily's discussion:

I think Wikipedia works pretty well when it is only discussing the dry technical details of some theory, such as the lambda calculus, because only those who actually know something about it will tend to contribute. It works less well when the subject is controversial.

The key is this: if only experts are interested in a topic, then they will be the only ones to contribute. But if the topic is of interest to those who know nothing about it, that's a situation ripe for bad Wikipedia articles.

and:
They say that while Wikipedia is fine for basic factual information you might find in a newspaper, when you get to the level of serious academic research, the information quality breaks down. ...

This is very true. It's particularly true in scientific areas where there are large, vocal, pseudoscientific activists. Autism is one area. Vaccination is another. Evolution, too. This results in "edit" wars, with activists trying to push their pseudoscience. In fact, this "selection" in Wikipedia actually can work against accuracy, because the "selective forces" (I.e., editors altering or correcting what they think to be incorrect or poorly stated information) tend to favor the cranks (creationists, quacks, Holocaust deniers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, etc.), who tend to have a lot more time and passion to edit and create Wikipedia articles than those who would remove their dubious information have to correct them. An inherent admission of this problem comes in the form of how many Wikipedia articles tend to have moratoriums on new edits in these topics.

and

The worst part of Wikipedia's physics coverage, in my experience, has been the introductory stuff. The really knowledgeable people aren't interested in writing material at the high-school level, and it's easier to write about some facet of advanced mathematics than it is to organize a useful presentation of a topic like "force" or "energy".

I suspect that this may be contributing to the woes of your "physicist friend" and his misinformed students.

and
I'd be interested to know what kinds of physics errors the students are getting from Wikipedia, and as for the historian, does he know he can correct the errors?

These are busy people, with grants and book contracts. Why would they waste their time correcting something that will likely be "corrected" back by someone with fewer qualifications but more time than them?

That's my point about music articles, though I can't say it's "grants and book contracts" holding me back.

Obscure topics can also be a problem: for some little known musicians the Wikipedia article - and its writer - might be the only source on the planet, which makes peer review almost redundant, but any little clues are valuable when you're researching a difficult topic, and if I find them at Wikipedia I'm grateful, however much I have to proceed with caution.

In spite of misgivings and annoyances, Wikipedia is still often my first stop for basic information, and if I'm lucky I'll find some decent links to use as a springboard.

Reliability

People who rail against the unreliability of Internet sources can make it sound as if before the Net we lived in a golden age when texts had been checked and rechecked before publication, all footnoted and referenced, and could be relied upon for their authority. (Books! With a capital "B"!)

In fact, amongst the millions (billions?) of books and journals and pamphlets printed before and since the Net there are plenty of dodgy sources, and we've always had writers and publishers who are sloppy or ignorant or just barking mad. We've always had to question our sources, whether it's in a Book or at a website. As my History lecturer said in our first tutorial, over thirty years ago (and it wouldn't have been an original thought), "When you pick up a book, the first thing you ask is, 'Who wrote it?' "

One positive thing about the Net is that a glaring mistake at a website won't stay there for long, provided the site is responsive to feedback, is frequently updated and has a reasonable amount of traffic. At my website (which satisfies those criteria), if I make even a small typographical error in someone's name I'll often get an email within days of posting the page and it can be fixed within minutes. (I'll still check that the correction is valid. Even in the case of spelling a name it's not always straightforward.)

By contrast, I have music reference books on my shelves that having glaring mistakes, but they'll stay there until the next edition of the book is published. That's if the book goes to another edition, and if someone has contacted the writer. In the past, that meant writing a letter, with a stamp, to the publisher. At least now you might be able to track down an email address and contact the author quickly, but it's still a more complicated and drawn-out process than clicking the Contact button at a website.

18 October 2007

Only in Oz (8) Susan Christie - I Love Onions


Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.

8. Susan Christie - I Love Onions
(Donald Cochrane - John Hill)
USA 1966
Columbia single (USA)
#43595
CBS single (Australia) #BA-221298
Australian charts: #24 Melbourne


This is one of those songs that is remembered as a hit, and it might have been in some neighbourhoods, but it was never a "hit" in the sense of making the Top 40 in the States, for example. I remember it because I was listening to Top 40 radio from Melbourne, the only major Australian city where it charted. Even then, it looms larger in my memory than #24.

Perhaps its reputation has something to do with its later appearance on collections of novelty songs, and it really is a novelty, with cute, screwy lyrics delivered in a breathy flapper's voice (or do I hear Marilyn Monroe?), backed by kazoo and tent show band. In the States, I Love Onions also became better known through the children's TV show Captain Kangaroo, which apparently gave it a good run.

There was a fair bit of this droll retro stuff around in the 60s. For some reason the jazz era was seen as a source of hilarity by some of the post-war generation, and there was a familiar line of ironic approximations of trad jazz, jugbands, Tin Pan Alley crooners and dancehall spruikers, a line that stretched at least from the Temperance Seven (You're Driving me Crazy, #1 UK 1961) to the New Vaudeville Band (Winchester Cathedral, #4 UK 1966) and beyond. Oh look: there was The Eggplant That Ate Chicago by Dr West's Medicine Show (1966), and Hello Hello by Sopwith Camel (#26 USA 1967).

You know the sort of thing I mean: slightly old fashioned music with its tongue in its cheek, and I usually adored it.

I don't know that there was ever a satisfying name for this tendency, but it was pervasive enough to be found in the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper - visually as much as musically - and in the op shop side of Swinging London fashions. The Beatles had quite a line of their own in retro schtick: the spoken intros to Honey Pie ("Now she's hit the bigtime...") and Magical Mystery Tour ("Roll up, roll up, step right this way.."), and whole songs like Your Mother Should Know and When I'm 64.

The 60s throwbacks were really a selective parody of the past, as if Rudy Vallee with a megaphone were the only singer from the old days. Anyone who actually explored the music of the pre-war years would have found a rich popular culture that easily matched the 60s for its innovation and influence. In the 60s we were entertained by a comic book version of the real 20s and 30s, lots of fun but a bit sloppy with its references.

About Susan Christie not a lot seems to be known. Some sources repeat the theory that she is the sister of Lou Christie, but I'm not convinced that this is true. She released an album in 1970, Paint A Lady, produced by John Hill who back in '66 had produced and co-written I Love Onions. Although Paint A Lady has been reissued by Finders Keepers Records Susan Christie has retained a low profile, as in no profile.

The notes on Paint A Lady at Finders Keepers are pretty much what you'll find around the Net. Bruce Eder at All Music Guide adds that Susan Christie, from Philadelphia, had been in a folk ensemble called The Highlanders and that she attended Boston's Berklee College of Music, but he also concedes that "she has been something of a mystery, as to her fate and career". The lyrics are easily found online.

You can listen to the track at YouTube and someone has posted Yesterday Where's My Mind? a 9-minute track from Paint A Lady. Don't get too excited: the video is mainly a shot of the album cover and some sepia artworks.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.

17 October 2007

Only in Oz (7) Joe & Eddie - There's A Meetin' Here Tonite

7. Joe & Eddie - There's a Meetin' Here Tonite
(Bob Gibson)
USA 1963
GNP Crescendo single (USA)
#195GNP Crescendo album There's A Meetin' Here Tonite: Joe & Eddie In Concert
Vocalion single (EMI Australia) #V-1001
Australian charts: #4 Melbourne #1 Adelaide

I'd have sworn that this foot-stomper, this stirring rally to worship, was a genuine piece of meetinghouse gospel.

Then I followed the songwriter credit to the influential folk popularizer Bob Gibson. His 1958 original version turns out to be more in the hootenanny neighbourhood, a mainstream folk song with banjo accompaniment. Still, all credit to Gibson as writer, and to whoever saw that it could be reworked for Joe & Eddie in this way.

Joe & Eddie were Joe Gilbert and Eddie Brown. They recorded for Capitol and then for GNP Crescendo, where they issued several LPs before Joe's accidental death in 1966. Eddie Brown is still around, as a performer and producer, and he has a website at Joe&Eddie.com.

I'm surprised that There's a Meetin' Here Tonite wasn't a hit in the USA. At least where it did chart in Australia it was quite a hit. It charted in Melbourne (my neck of the woods) in May 1964, at the height of Beatle craziness. I remember the folkies at my school championing its cause over the likes of the Beatles ("This is real music!"), but even to a Brit Invasion fanatic like myself it was a fine record indeed.

A sidelight: In the early 70s, when two ex-Turtles emerged as Flo & Eddie, I assumed the name was a take on Joe & Eddie, something I can't now confirm. Perhaps it was just a nice coincidence: it had initially been The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie.

Someone has posted a nice clear video of There's a Meetin' Here Tonite at YouTube, where these days it seems you can find just about any song you search for.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.

13 October 2007

More lifted tributes

Lachie's Lifted Tribute site, where he spotlights musical soundalikes, has a bunch of updates, including a possible musical echo of The Angels' Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again.

A highlight is his list of silent pieces that came before and after John Cage's 4' 33" (1952). I'd heard about (but didn't entirely believe in) the suit against Mike Batt for copying Cage's silence, and I'd recently seen a silent piece being staged on TV, a tired and unoriginal musical joke that the studio audience nevertheless found hilarious. I didn't realise, though, that it can be traced back to 1884 and Alphonse Allais's Funeral March for an Illustrious Deaf Man, and there was a further pre-Cage example in 1919 by dadaist Erwin Schulhoff.

Lachie's main source is A Better Silence, a great article at Tux Deluxe that goes into the history of the silent work, including details of Mike Batt's (real) trouble with Cage's people.

12 October 2007

Only in Oz* (6) Nick Lampe - Flower Garden

6. Nick Lampe - Flower Garden
(Nick Lampe)
USA 1969
Cotillion single (USA)
#44066
Cotillion album It Happened Long Ago

Atlantic single (Australia) #3740
Australian charts: #16 Melbourne #54 Go-Set Magazine


I've already written about Nick Lampe and Flower Garden in detail so I won't go over old ground. In fact, a Google search for "Nick Lampe" will usually give you this very blog at the top of the results.

Robert Thompson, Australia's no, the world's most dedicated Nick Lampe fan, has alerted me to a rare video of Flower Garden, at YouTube.No longer available 11/08. See here for substitute. Update 06/09: The video of Nick has reappeared here, but the previous "slideshow" version has better quality audio.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books and Barry McKay's Go-Set chart collection.

*Did I say only in Oz? For an example of a regional US entry, see the WLAV Grand Rapids chart at Airheads Radio Survey Archive: #17 on 14 August 1970, Previous Week #9.

21 September 2007

Only in Oz (5) Gene Pitney - Billy You're My Friend

5. Gene Pitney - Billy You're My Friend
(Edward Louis Goldman)
USA 1968
Musicor single #51331.
CBS (Australia) single #BA-152275.

Australian charts: #13 Melbourne, #24 Brisbane,
#13 Adelaide.


Gene Pitney's lesser known song Billy You're My Friend (1968) is like a slice of opera, with mood swings from lightheartedness to anguish, pumped up by ersatz classical orchestration and pointed tempo changes.

I've sneaked it into Only in Oz, my random list of songs that were hits in Australia but not in their home countries. True, it wasn't a national hit in the USA or Britain, but it was hardly a hit down here either: #13 in Melbourne, #24 in Brisbane, #13 in Adelaide, and #32 on Go-Set Magazine's national chart.

In fact, we can see five examples of Billy You're My Friend charting modestly in US cities, on charts posted at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive: Bakersfield CA (#43), Allentown PA (#36), Saint Charles MO (#13), Springfield MA (#51), Wilkes-Barre PA (#39) and New Haven CT (#15).

No doubt there were other cities, not enough to turn it into a national hit but enough to get it to #92 on both Billboard and Cash Box. Not enough, either, to get it onto your average Gene Pitney Best of collection.

The writer is listed at BMI as Edward Louis Goldman, about whom I can find nothing. (Eddy Goldman? Ted Goldman?) His modest repertoire at BMI includes some cues for Another World, which I take to be the TV soap opera. [I've since heard from Ed Goldman: see my update of 20 October about the writing of Billy You're My Friend.]


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Australian chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books and Barry McKay's Go-Set chart collection.
US charts: Charts at Airheads Radio Survey Archive from October-December 1968 for KAFY Bakersfield CA, WAEB Allentown PA, KIRL St Charles Missouri, WHYN Springfield MA, WARM Wilkes-Barre PA, and WAVZ New Haven CT. Billboard chart positions at AMG; Randy Price's Cash Box charts site.

18 September 2007

Only in Oz (3) Cliff Richard - Just Another Guy and (4) Cliff Richard - Angel

Two more songs that charted in Australia but not in their home country. Their origins are more straightforward than examples (1) and (2).

3. Cliff Richard - Just Another Guy

(Neil Diamond)
UK 1965 (recorded in USA 1964)

Columbia single #DB 7496.
Australian charts: #5 Melbourne, #2 Brisbane,
#4 Perth (all with the A-side The Minute You're Gone)


4. Cliff Richard - Angel

(Sid Tepper-Roy Bennett)
UK 1965
(recorded in USA 1964)
Columbia album Cliff Richard, #SX 1709;
Columbia single #DC 762.
Australian charts: #6 Melbourne, #9 Sydney, #4 Brisbane,
#8 Adelaide #3 Perth.



On the British Top 40 charts you won't find either of these among the dozens of Cliff Richard hits.

In March 1965 you'll find the #1 hit The Minute You're Gone, but not its B-side, Just Another Guy. In Australia both sides charted.

In Britain Cliff's next charting single was On My Word in June, but on the Australian charts Angel is squeezed in before On My Word.

The name Neil Diamond might jump out at you here, as the writer of Just Another Guy. Cliff recorded this a couple of years before Neil Diamond charted with his own Cherry Cherry (#6 US) and with his composition I'm A Believer by The Monkees (#1 US), both in 1966.

Angel
was written by Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett, veteran American songwriters who had written earlier hits for Cliff, including the #1s Travellin' Light and Please Don't Tease. They also wrote a lot of songs for Elvis Presley movies, including Angel: Elvis's was the original version, in Follow That Dream (1962).

Cliff recorded both Just Another Guy and Angel in Nashville in 1964, produced by Bob Morgan & Billy Sherrill, with backing by The Jordanaires of Elvis fame. Co-producer Billy Sherrill is a notable Country producer, A&R man and songwriter best known for his career-building work at Epic in Nashville with Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich . His co-writer credits include Wynette's Stand By Your Man (1968) and Rich's The Most Beautiful Girl (1973).

Just Another Guy and Angel are two of my favourite Cliff Richard songs, well-written pop songs with crisp, rhythmic arrangements and high quality production.

This was during a period in the mid-60s when Cliff showed that he was no relic from the pre-Fab era by recording some up-to-date pop records that are among his finest. Also from this period are I Could Easily Fall (written by The Shadows, December 1964, #6 UK), The Time in Between (August 1965, #22 UK) and Blue Turns to Grey, a Mick Jagger-Keith Richards composition (March 1966, #15 UK), all of which move forward from Cliff's sound of the late-50s and early 60s.

An Australian footnote: Western Australian band The Times released a rearranged, guitar-based version of Just Another Guy in November 1965.

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Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.

References: For details of these songs and their sessions, see the excellent Cliff Richard Song Database, which tells us that Angel as a single was intended for foreign distribution. Searching for the song titles at PopMusicInfo.com also throws up some useful release histories and other data.


11 September 2007

Only in Oz (2) P.J. Proby - Mission Bell

Another record that was a hit in Australia but not in its country of origin. More at Only in Oz (1).
2. P.J. Proby - Mission Bell
(William Michael-Jesse Hodges et al)
UK 1965
Liberty album (UK) P.J.Proby, #LBY 1264;

Liberty single (USA, Australia) #55791.
Australian charts: #3 Melbourne, #7 Sydney, #4 Brisbane,
#2 Adelaide #3 Perth.


This rearrangement of a #7 US hit from 1960 is a jawdropper, especially if you're familiar with the pleasant but unremarkable original by Donnie Brooks. This is the quintessential example of a remake transforming the original and overshadowing it.

An expansive, dramatic recording, with soaring strings and brass orchestration, and an urgent, soulful female chorus, Mission Bell was produced in London by Ron Richards during P.J. Proby's mid-60s sojourn in the UK.

Born James Marcus Smith in Houston in 1938, P.J. Proby was more popular in the UK and Australia than he was back home in the US. In the UK he had ten Top 40 hits 1964-68 (including three in the Top 10), but in the USA Niki Hoeky was his only Billboard Top 40 record, at #23 (1967).

Mission Bell was one of Proby's biggest hits in Australia, but it remained an album track in the UK and the single didn't chart nationally in the US.

P.J. Proby's career was plagued by poor judgment and overexcited media attention of the worst kind: in Australia he became a figure of fun, sent up in Oz Magazine ("Probe me, P.J., probe me!").

Nevertheless, he often had the benefit of top notch producers, arrangers and songwriters, and his rich, idiosyncratically delivered baritone could rise to the occasion and produce the odd pop gem.

As well as Mission Bell, Ron Richards produced some of Proby's better-known records:
  • his mannered hit versions of Maria and Somewhere from West Side Story;
  • That Means A Lot, a Song The Beatles Gave Away, arranged & conducted by George Martin;
and such overlooked delights as:
  • Just Like Him, an exquisite Jacki DeShannon song to be discovered on the B-side of Somewhere; and
  • To Make A Big Man Cry, written by Pete Callander and Les Reed and delivered relatively straight by Proby in the style of the big-production ballad of the day (no surprise that it was also recorded by Tom Jones).
An EMI producer and A&R man, Ron Richards is best known for having signed The Hollies and for producing their biggest hits. He was also in on the earliest Beatles sessions at Abbey Road.

The unsung hero of Proby's Mission Bell is the arranger, who is uncredited on the record. Of all the unsung heroes of pop music, arrangers are even more overlooked than producers and songwriters (at least some of them have become famous names) and yet many a great pop record owes its greatness to its arrangement.

[Update: Having read a bit more about the career of producer Ron Richards, I'm guessing he was also the arranger.]

Naming the writers of Mission Bell isn't straightforward. William Michael is often credited alone as the writer (on the original Donnie Brooks label and on the US copyright), but Jesse Hodges also appears in some places (at BMI, for example) and there were contributions by others along the way.

William Michael
had a day job in stockbroking. He submitted his original version of Mission Bell - then called Wishing Well - to Jesse Hodges, whose speciality was to quickly and economically work up and record songs by semi-professional or amateur writers. (In fact, we're just about into song-poem territory with Mission Bell.)

Hodges
was a songwriter, producer, arranger and singer, an associate of Donnie Brooks since their days at the Fable label in the late 50s when Donnie was still known as as Johnny Faire.

Quoting Brooks, Greg Adams writes that Mission Bell was an example of how Hodges "would take songs, horrible songs by these amateur writers and rewrite them into something recordable."1

Gary Myers, who interviewed Donnie Brooks in the late 70s, mentions contributions to the rewrite by Dorsey Burnette (whose Tall Oak Tree is alluded to in the final version), guitarist Scotty Turnbull, and probably the songwriter John Marascalco.2 Howard Thomason, at Rockabilly Hall of Fame, has Donnie Brooks and Herb Newman of Era Records also contributing.

William Michael, the stockbroking songwriter, has 24 compositions listed at BMI. Wishing Well was extensively rewritten on its way to becoming Mission Bell but he was keen to have his name on the song, no matter what rewrites and percentages were involved. Can't blame him, really.

One more thing: there was a connection between P.J. Proby and the original version of Mission Bell. Before he was brought to the UK by pop TV producer Jack Good, Proby had worked around Hollywood for years, acting a little, writing songs, recording demos for Elvis, and making records under other names (Jett Powers, Orville Woods). Spencer Leigh, in The Independent's 2007 obituary of Donnie Brooks, writes:
In 1960, Brooks scored with Mission Bell, which included a jokey reference to Dorsey Burnette's hit Tall Oak Tree.
P.J. Proby had first met Brooks two years earlier, on a radio show in Hollywood. "We hung around with the same gang," Proby recalls, "the Hollywood Brat Pack of its day, which included Ricky Nelson, Johnny Burnette, Eddie Cochran and Sharon Sheeley. I liked Mission Bell very much and, when I did it myself, my version got to No 1 in Australia. Donnie said to me, 'How can you do this to me, Jim?' "
Let's not be picky: maybe it wasn't quite a #1 in all of those collections of radio playlists we like to call the Aussie charts, but for some of us down here it's still #1 in our hearts.

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Recommended reading
:

Nik Cohn devoted a chapter to
P.J. Proby in Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom (1969):
He was intuitive, fast, hysterical, paranoid, generous, very funny, hugely imaginative, original, self-obsessed, self-destructive, often impossible, just about irresistible and much more besides. Truly, he was complicated. (p.196)
Michael Lane Heath has a Proby appreciation and history at Perfect Sound Forever, Get Hip to My Conflagration:
...take the most outrageous, profligate, American loud-hearted-unto-operatic attitude, pour it into the hip-swing shing-a-ling of a Presley-shaped vessel, dress it up in Errol Flynn/Captain Blood pony-tailed pirate drag, multiply it by a thousand... and you still don't approach the maximum velocity of P.J. Proby.
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Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.

1 Liner notes to Hard To Find 45s on CD, Vol. 10 (Eric, 2007), cited by S.J. Dibai, post to Spectropop Group #40745, 12 September 2007.
2 Gary Myers, post to Spectropop Group #40742, 12 September 2007.
See also post #40773, 14 September 2007 Re: quasi-legit song publishers by Phil Milstein, who has also given me further background on Mission Bell.

08 September 2007

Only in Oz (1) Acker Bilk - The Harem

These are records that were hits in Australia but not in Britain or the USA where they originated. They're not Australian records, but they took the fancy of someone at an Australian radio station, got some airplay, and climbed the Aussie charts while remaining obscure in their home countries. More than this, they're records that could have been hits anywhere, they were good enough, but this was not to be.

1. Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band - The Harem
(Dorothy Hodas-Mack Wolfson-Eddie Cooper)
UK 1963 

Columbia single (UK) #DB7129.
Columbia single (Australia)  #DO4447

Australian charts: #2 Melbourne, #4 Sydney, #3 Adelaide.

I wrote about The Harem earlier, in connection with Time-out Instrumentals. Then, I said it was a standout amongst Acker Bilk's recordings, a stirring, whirling, percussive instro that builds to a climax.

This track is a bit of a mystery, not least because it is an outstanding instrumental by a popular artist that unaccountably failed to make the same splash on the British charts as it did in Australia.

Acker Bilk had ten Top 40 hits in the UK between 1960 and 1963, but this wasn't one of them. His Stranger On The Shore was a big hit everywhere (#2 UK, #1 USA) and he was popular in the MOR instrumental market. The odd thing is, Acker Bilk's countless albums and reissues have never been hard to find in the bargain bins, but I've never found The Harem on any of them.

A 1963 single of The Harem by Don Costa and his Orchestra on US Columbia #42705 is the same work, and appears to be the original version.

The authoritative 45cat.com has Don Costa's US release at April 1963, Acker Bilk's UK release at October 1963. It is an American composition, copyrighted in the US in March 1963. [Updated 20 Dec 2016]

We do know something about the writers' other works, thanks in part to ASCAP's database:
Mack Wolfson (aka Maxwell A. Wolfson) built up a fair repertoire in the 50s and 60s. He often wrote with the prolific Tin Pan Alley composer Eddie White (Edward R. White)*, for example on Happiness Street (Corner Sunshine Square), recorded by Georgia Gibbs and Tony Bennett (both versions charted in 1956); C'est La Vie, a much-recorded song that was a #11 hit for Sarah Vaughan in 1955; Crazy Otto Rag by Johnnie 'Crazy Otto' Maddox, a co-write with the famous Hugo & Luigi that was heard in the film Reds; and Smarty Pants, on disco group First Choice's 1973 debut album.

Eddie Cooper, not so prolific, also wrote with Eddie White: of his 13 compositions at ASCAP, 6 were co-writes with White. (There are 4 additional Eddie Cooper songs listed at BMI.)

Dorothy Hodas
(full name Dorothy Gertrude Hodas) has only one other song in her ASCAP repertoire, Love Of My Life, and that was written with Mack Wolfson and, yes, Eddie White.
The Harem could be a faux-Eastern genre piece, but it sounds as if it could be based on a folk tune. I believe I hear something reminiscent of Hava Nagila.

(UPDATE: See the comment below from Anonymous who suggests the Turkish song Usku Dara as a source. Listen to Eartha Kitt's famous version at Youtube.)

ASCAP shows an alternative title, The Harem: Schoene Geschic, which may or may not be a clue. Could Geschic be a database or dialectic truncation of Geschichte? Schoene Geschichte means Beautiful Story.

There are at least two 1960s guitar versions of The Harem, by Rotterdam instrumental group The Explosions (1964), and by New Zealand guitarist Graeme Bartlett, better known as Gray Bartlett (1963 or 64).

Acker Bilk & His Paramount Jazz Band - The Harem.mp3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.
*
Could this be the same Edward R. (Eddie) White (1919-1996), a New Yorker listed at IMDb in some bit parts?

Dutch sleeveshot from plaatzegel.nl.

01 September 2007

Buffalo Tom - Dry Land

Dry Land is on Big Red Letter Day, the 1993 album by Boston band Buffalo Tom. I've listened to it too many times today so I'm gonna quit before I spoil it forever.

Like some other great pop songs, it manages to convey both joy and regret, with lyrics that seem to be about someone's real life without spelling it all out. There are chiming guitars and a full-ahead beat that remind me of a couple of other bands of the day, but I won't say which because I hate doing that to musicians.

Dry Land is the kind of song that makes me want to quit my job, pick up a guitar, and play in a rock'n'roll band.

Okay, I'm listening one more time tonight, and that's it.