20 September 2008

Percy Leason in the USA

After I posted one of Percy Leason's Wiregrass cartoons, John Adcock over at the excellent Yesterday's Papers sent me some examples of Leason's illustrations from the time when he'd emigrated to New York.

Leason left Australia in 1937 and his family followed soon after. He stayed in the States until his death in 1959, painting, teaching, railing against modern art, and illustrating for books and magazines. (Garrie Hutchinson, Wiregrass: A Mythical Australian Town, 1986.)

These illustrations are from 1958, for the Golden Stallion series by North Dakotan writer Rutherford G. Montgomery.

Coincidentally, Percy Leason is currently included in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia until 19 October, Misty Moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915 -1950. The theme of the exhibition is the tonalist Australian painter Max Meldrum and his followers. At the ABC Melbourne website you can see a charming Leason portrait of his chidren, from the exhibition.

[Click on an image for larger view.]





08 September 2008

The Vacant Lot

I've just added a publicity photo of Sydney band The Vacant Lot to my page about Don't Let Me Sleep To Long (1966), their version of a song also known as Wake Me, Shake Me.

The song's history is a ripper, and as far as I know my research is original. It takes in Al Kooper and his Blues Project, the Carole King-connected Myddle Class, Lou Reed, The Golden Chords, Ersel Hickey, Rev. Gary Davis, The Coasters and The Staple Singers, not to mention The Original Five Blind Boys Of Alabama and a number of other gospel singers that go back as far as 1927, and that's only on record. (And look for the exclusive and, I guess, controversial quote from Al Kooper in the box about The Blues Project.)

Robert from The Vacant Lot, who sent me the photo, also sent this gig advertisement that I couldn't fit on the site.
[Click image for larger view.]




21 July 2008

Percy Leason: "Back from the education conference..."

This cartoon by Percy Leason (1889-1959), set in his fictional Australian country town of Wiregrass, would have appeared some time in the 1920s or 30s, but it still rings true.

The caption says:
BRAVE NEW WORLD - Back from the education conference with a head full of new ideas and enthusiasm
.

(Click on image for bigger version.)

From Garrie Hutchinson, Wiregrass - A Mythical Australian Town: The Drawings of Percy Leason, 1986.

20 July 2008

Principals wake up in new millennium!

Brisbane's Sunday Mail reports today:
School principals are being taught how to use interactive websites like YouTube in a bid to combat the bullying epidemic.

In response to the phenomenon of recording schoolyard assaults and posting them on internet sites, Education Queensland has shown principals how to access and register as users of the sites so they can have the vision removed.
Access YouTube? You mean, like, actually find a website called YouTube?

That must have been tricky, but tackling the intricacies of a username and password probably needed a two-day conference at the Hyatt Regency, Coolum.

Still, it would have been a good opportunity for a refresher workshop on the Y2K bug.

09 July 2008

Mike Stoller on the SS Andrea Doria

Last week, updating my page on Poison Ivy, I wanted to write the briefest possible summary of The Coasters and their songwriter-producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It ended up being a mere three paragraphs with a bunch of links for further reading, but I ended up reading a whole book about The Coasters along the way.

The Coasters, by British music journalist Bill Millar, was published in 1974 and it's probably still the best starting point. It's much more than a fan's bio of The Coasters: it's a history of a cultural and social revolution, a story that starts with the rise of marginalised, even improvised, R&B record labels in the 1940s and ends up with major labels on the mainstream charts by the end of the 50s. Bill Millar is a fastidious researcher but he's an enthusiast as well: an irresistible combination.













(Back then, Bill liked to chase up groups performing under famous names that didn't live up to their corporate branding. There's a photo in another of his books,
The Drifters (1971), that shows him bailing up some members of a "New Drifters" group: he looks like a chap who's not going to give up till he nails the matter, no matter how discomfited his subjects may be.)

One night last week, when I'd only just started reading The Coasters, I was flipping around the vast wasteland of pay-tv and saw part of a documentary about an ocean collision off Massachusetts in 1956. On a foggy night a Swedish ship, the Stockholm, ran into the Andrea Doria, an Italian passenger liner heading for New York. I flipped away again when they were picking up the survivors (1660 out of about 1700 on board the Andrea Doria survived).

That turned out to be quite a co-incidence. Next day, I read Bill Millar's account of Leiber and Stoller's deal with Atlantic Records in New York, when they wound up their Los Angeles label Spark and started recording for Atlantic.

Here's how Bill Millar tells about the first time Mike Stoller met his new associates in New York:
With the royalties which had accrued from The Cheers' Black Denim Trousers 1, Stoller had taken a vacation in Europe and after a stay of three months, he and one thousand others embarked for the USA on the Andrea Doria. Fifty-four passengers never arrived. On 25 July 1956 the Andrea Doria collided with a Swedish steamer, the Stockholm, near Nantucket island and sank during the early hours of the morning.

Survivors, including Stoller, were picked up by the Cape Ann, a fruit freighter from Bremerhaven, which headed for New York: "Jerry was in New York for a convention and he was waiting on the dock with the whole Atlantic crew. it was the first time I had met Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Herb Abramson because Jerry and Lester [Sills] had fixed the Spark deal while I stayed in LA. Anyhow I was OK because I'd been taken off the Andrea Doria by a lifeboat. So we talked and then we went back to California to record
The Coasters."
(The Coasters, pp. 73-74)
Two members of The Robins, a vocal group who recorded on the Spark label, had decided to stick with Leiber and Stoller in their deal between West Coast and East Coast, and they formed the core of The Coasters (get it?). At this time they were still recording in LA for these early sessions which yielded their first two hits, Searchin' (#3 USA) and Young Blood (#8).

So it is that Mike Stoller, 23 years, appears with his first wife Meryl in many accounts of the Andrea Doria disaster: see, for example, this passenger list at AndreaDoria.0rg.












. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . .
1. Peter Stoller (VP at Leiber/Stoller Productions) points out that the Stollers' European trip was in fact funded by royalties from another Cheers recording, Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin’) (1954). While in Paris, the Stollers heard Édith Piaf perform L'Homme à la Moto, her hit French version of Black Denim Trousers.

References
:

Bill Millar,
The Drifters, London, November Books, 1971 [Amazon]
Bill Millar,
The Coasters, London, W.H. Allen, 1974 [Amazon]

Further reading:
Interview with Mike Stoller by Goldmine's Ken Sharp.
Pages linked from my Poison Ivy page.
AndreaDoria.org

SS Andrea Doria at Wikipedia.

29 June 2008

Only in Oz (11) Bulldog - No

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

11. Bulldog - No
(Billy Hocher - John Turi)
USA 1972
Decca single (USA) #32996
MCA album
Bulldog
MCA single (Australia) #MCA1302
Australian charts: #2 Melbourne #7 Adelaide #13 Brisbane #5 Perth
New Zealand charts: #17 NZ


No, the opening track from Bulldog's self-titled debut album, did chart in parts of the US, but it appears to have been a minor hit on some regional charts, not enough to push it onto a national Top 40. On the radio surveys posted to ARSA (which probably reflect station playlists more than sales) it shows up 27 times: the best is a #3 at WIXY Cleveland. In parts of Australia it was a genuine hit: #2 in Melbourne ain't bad.

No is a muscular but melodic piece of early 70s pop-rock, with that gruff style of white soul singing that was common at the time. It can sound mannered or forced coming from some singers, especially at this distance, but Billy Hocher pulls it off. Hocher wrote the song with Bulldog keyboardist John Turi, who would later be associated with Cyndi Lauper in the band Blue Angel and on sessions for her Night To Remember (1989).

Also in Bulldog were Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish, former members of The Rascals (earlier, The Young Rascals), one of the top American bands of the 60s that had a dozen or so Top 40 hits in the US 1966-1969, including three at #1: Good Lovin' (1966), Groovin' (1967) and People Got To Be Free (1968).

Promising credentials, but there was no follow-up with Decca/MCA after the first Bulldog album. Before breaking up, Bulldog did release a second album in 1974, Smasher, this time on Buddah. This July 2007 post at Robots For Ronnie has some hard-to-find background on this rarity, but sadly the downloadable file has expired.

Bulldog - No.mp3


Red herrings
1. This is not the Australian band Bulldog, from Melbourne, also active in the early 70s.
2. For more than you'll ever need to know about songs called No No No or No No No No or even No No No No No,
see this page at my website
.


Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books and Dean Scapolo's NZ chart data.
Further reading: Joe Viglione's review of the album Bulldog at All Music Guide.

21 April 2008

"Obtain a shot of rhythm & blues," he demanded.

Classrooms used to have posters with lists of "Better Words to Use Instead of GET" and "More Interesting Words to Use Instead of SAID". Scholars were urged to avoid these simple, useful Anglo-Saxon words in favour of such formalities as received or obtained, remarked or observed.

Never mind that get or said were easily found throughout the works of professional, even great, writers. Shakespeare ended Sonnet VII with So thou, thyself out-going in thy noon/Unlook'd on diest, unless thou get a son: would they have preferred acquired a son?

In song, The Beatles might have written Proceed Back instead of Get Back, and Must Manoeuvre You Into My Life instead of Got To Get You Into My Life. Dave Edmunds' album would have been 'Procure It', not 'Get It', and Arthur Alexander would have thrown out the get and sung obtain a shot of rhythm & blues.

As for said:
Beatles: She Remarked.
Wings: Listen To What The Man Stated.
Van Morrison: Jackie Wilson Observed.
Neil Diamond: I Am... I Asserted.
Bernard Cribbins: Right Exclaimed Fred.

I'm being facetious, but in many contexts get and said are perfectly respectable. Substituting longer words can sound self-conscious, over-formal, or lacking in directness. It makes sense if the substitute offers an extra shade of meaning (bought for got), or if the context forces you to keep it formal, but often it adds nothing, especially in fiction: "Oh, look! The mother bird is leaving the nest," observed Mary.

As long ago as 1908, H.G. Fowler was offering this advice in The King's English:

ANY one who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.

This general principle may be translated into practical rules in the domain of vocabulary as follows:—
Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched.
Prefer the concrete word to the abstract.
Prefer the single word to the circumlocution.
Prefer the short word to the long.
Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.

20 April 2008

A dream about the song APunk by Vampire Weekend












The day I first heard Vampire Weekend's song APunk I couldn't get it out of my mind. I even dreamt about it:

We were in a crowded surfside hippy folk club at an old hall. There was a main hall inside but we were out in a smaller room, like an entrance hall.

A couple were singing a great, catchy, up-tempo song that I’d never heard: a girl with bright orange-dyed hair, straight & short, slightly pixie-like features, playing a big acoustic guitar, and on harmonies a woolly headed surfie guy, matted long fair hair, standing on the other side of her.

They finished and left, and I kept thinking, “I should’ve asked them what the song was.” I looked on gig posters on the walls to see if I could get a clue. There was music playing inside by now, and I was afraid the song would go out of my mind.

After a while I went outside and looked across the street to the beachfront: there were cars parked all along the curb, then a park and the beach. The couple were standing at the back of an old car with its boot up. They’d obviously been for a swim, and were towelling themselves dry.

I started to walk across to ask them about the song.

Then I woke up with it still playing in my head.

After I awoke properly, I realised that the song was A-Punk by Vampire Weekend, except that the folkie couple had been singing their own, dreamlike arrangement…

Photo from Vampire Weekend's MySpace where you can listen to APunk. It seems to have been taken in an old hall.

15 April 2008

Trini Lopez - Up to Now: update

The Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel FAQ at alt.music.paul-simon identifies the third writer of Trini Lopez's Up To Now, Terry Sue Pinter, as the wife of co-writer Marty Cooper. In fact, it throws more light on the whole connection between the writers of Up To Now (Bob Susser-Marty Cooper-Terry Sue Pinter) and Paul Simon:
Paul hooked up sporadically with a group called Tico & The Triumphs. Other members were Michael (Mickey) Borack, Howie Beck, Martin Nathaniel (Marty) Cooper, and his wife Terry Sue Pinter. Their manager was Robert Howard (Bob) Susser. "Tico" was Marty Cooper, although many sources incorrectly assert that Paul was. Most of the songs were written by Susser, Cooper and Pinter...

The group's origin can be traced to 1956, when Borack, then 10 years old, formed a group called The Crew Cuts. Later, when living in Queens, he joined with schoolfriends Cooper and Gail Lynn. One night in June 1960, Paul, still calling himself Jerry Landis, played a high school prom at the Forest Hills Jewish Center. Borack and Co. also performed I've Told Every Little Star, sufficiently impressing Paul that he suggested they all meet at summer's end to work together.

In September, the group joined Paul at his home in Flushing to rehearse the song Motorcycle. Paul also produced the single and sang lead. They named themselves after the Tico record label and the popular Triumph sports car of the day.

Their biggest success was with that first song, which reached number 99 on the Billboard charts on January 6, 1962. However, Paul also put out two songs (Lone Teen Ranger/I Wish I Weren't In Love) under his Jerry Landis alias that were actually Triumphs records. The former charted at #97.

There are also several songs credited by BMI to Susser/Pinter/Cooper that weren't released, and may not have been recorded either.
[For more details, see my original post and the FAQ quoted above.]

14 April 2008

Top 3 amusing go-go videos

At its best, go-go dancing - popularised in the discotheques of the 60s - could look spontaneous and attractive, but I suspect that conventional choreographers tended to get hold of it for rehearsed performances on TV and film.

In reverse order of risibility:

#3 From the 1966 film Out of SightFreddie & the Dreamers perform Funny Over You, not a bad song by the standards of its genre, 60s British Hit Machine. (Okay, I just made up that genre.) The go-go routine isn't all bad, but here and there it raises enough of a smile to compete with Freddie, a fairly amusing chap himself. The reaction of the girl tearing the lining out of her hat(?) with her teeth at 0.58 is open to interpretation.

#2 This barely squeezes into the category, because Johnny Farnham's Sadie the Cleaning Lady dancers aren't strictly go-go girls at all. The choreographer has borrowed some moves from go-go but this owes more to classical and jazz ballet. For once, a comment at YouTube is quotable: This video is creepy and disturbing.

#1 Apart from its dated, hyperactive dance moves, this has an endearing antique amateurism about it, and even the great Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs seem to have been captured on an off day. To me, this is high comedy, up there with Ze Frank's How to Dance Properly:

03 April 2008

The Juanita Banana phenomenon
























The Peels - Juanita Banana
(Tash Howard - Murray Kenton)Arranged & conducted by Charlie Fox.
A Howard-Smith Production

USA 1966
Karate single #522
Stateside (UK) single #513
Karate single in Australia (pictured) released through Astor


Juanita Banana is a comic song about a Mexican banana grower's daughter who makes it as a singing star in the big city [lyrics]. When "Juanita Banana" sings the chorus it is an operatic caricature, a worked-over version of Caro Nome, an aria from Giusseppe Verdi's Rigoletto.

The title echoes Chiquita Banana, the 1944 jingle about the cartoon mascot of the United Fruit Company, the international banana trader that evolved into the present-day Chiquita Brands International.

I first heard Juanita Banana when it was excerpted on a novelty record by Dickie Goodman, Batman And His Grandmother (1966). This was a cut-in or break-in record (a distant ancestor of the mashup), where a comedian would do a commentary as, say, a news reporter and snippets of current songs would be inserted to fit in with the story.

Although Juanita Banana has been reissued on the likes of 25 All Time Novelty Hits and Definitive 60s, Vol. 1 it never was a national hit in the USA, UK or Australia. Even on the sprinkling of regional US and Canadian charts posted to ARSA the best it manages is #16 at WIXY in Cleveland, and 30 Years of Canadian Charts has it peaking at #29.

So much for the Anglo world, where it seems to be one of those songs that has stuck in the memory longer than its initial popularity justifies. The extraordinary thing about Juanita Banana is the number of times it has been recorded in non-English-speaking countries. Even the Peels' original version was popular in The Netherlands, where it charted at #13.

When I started writing this post, I was going to compile a definitive list of versions, but I've given up that idea: the more I search, the more I find.  Instead, here's a partial list. Some of the exact years are hard to pinpoint, but I believe these are all from the 60s. [Update 2012: See Phil Milstein's recent post at Probe which includes a downloadable .zip file of 21 Juanita Banana versions and related tracks.]

The Peels (USA, 1966)
Henri Salvador (France)
Billy Mo (Germany)
Luis Aguile (Spain, by Argentinian singer)
Quartetto Cetra (Italy)
Het Cocktail Trio
(Netherlands)
Mal Sondock (Germany, by US singer-deejay, 1966)
Georgie Dann (Spain, by French singer, 1966)
Los Beta (Spain, 1966)
J. R. Corvington (Argentina)
Los Tres Sudamericanos (Paraguayan group; on Spain's Belter label)
Raymond Boisserie (France, 1967)
Marcello Minerbi (Italy, 1966, #9 Austria)
German Moreno (Phillipines, 1968: he also appeared in a 1968 film called Juanita Banana. Details at IMDb are sparse.)
The Monks (single on Vogue. I don't think these are the Yanks in Germany we love so much, but a French band with J. C. Pelletier.)
Jean Bonal Et Son Orchestre (France)
Teddy Martin & His Las Vegas Boys (France?)
The Reels (Spain: not the Aussie band)

A completist would also include Huanita Banana:

7 Mladih (Yugoslavia, 1966)
Radmila Mikic Miki (Yugoslavia, 1967)

That's it for me, but if too much still isn't enough, feel free to browse the 41 000 hits at Google for "juanita banana" (and nearly 1000 for "huanita banana").

How about the small print?

The Mad Music Archive
identifies co-writer Tash Howard as the
producer who put together The Peels, a studio group (not surprising, somehow), and gives some background about the business end of the song's publication.

Tash Howard (c.1941-1977), originally a drummer, had changed his name from Howard Tashman.1 He has 147 compositions listed at BMI, including a follow-up single Juanita Banana Part 2 and (with Charlie Fox) its B-side Rosita Tomato on Karate #533. Between the two Juanitas was Scrooey Mooey on Karate #527, another Tash Howard song (registered title: Screwee Mooey) .

Murray Kenton has eleven songs in his BMI repertoire, the US Copyright Office gives his real name as Morris Temkin and that's about all I know. Howard's co-producer, Smith, is a mystery to me.

Arranger and conductor Charlie Fox is not Charlie Foxx of Mockingbird fame, but he does seem to be the songwriter and film composer Charles Fox, whose repertoire includes Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly, Jim Croce's I Got A Name and the Happy Days theme (all with lyricist Norman Gimbell).

You can read about Charles Fox's distinguished career at the Songwriters' Hall of Fame which - alas! - offers no further insight into his contribution to Juanita Banana.



The Peels - Juanita Banana.mp3

Verdi - Caro None from Rigoletto.mp3
(Maria Callas 1952 - excerpt)

Dickie Goodman - Batman And His Grandmother.mp3
(Juanita first heard at 21 secs.)
Henri Salvador - Juanita Banana.mp3 (French)
Billy Mo - Juanita Banana.mp3 (German)
Luis Aguile - Juanita Banana.mp3 (Spanish)


Update: For more audio, including versions, other Peels songs, and related tracks, all in a downloadable zip file, see Phil Milstein's May 2012 post at Probe.
.....................................................................................................
Footnote: 1. For confirmation that Tash Howard was born Howard Tashman, see the comment below from Holly, who adds some background about the co-writer and producer behind Juanita Banana. (Also mentioned at the Joey Powers page of Harry Young and Larry N. Houlieff.)Not-to-be-confused-with Dept: There is also a London Indie/Pop/Rock singer called Tash Howard (see her MySpace). Tash Howard is also a character played by Barry Van Dyke in an episode of The New Dick Van Dyke Show.... But now I'm getting silly (unless the naming of the character is some kind of in-joke). Oh, and this 21st Century Seattle band called The Peels is not the Juanita Banana group.

The US Copyright Office shows that in 1990 the copyright of Juanita Banana by Tash Howard & Murray Kenton (Morris Temkin) was transferred to Gary Knight aka Harold Temkin who, as Gary Weston, co-wrote
Vacation, the 1962 Connie Francis hit (see BMI repertoires). Further research, anyone?
Thanks to Josef Danksagmüller for Marcello Minerbi version alert.


31 March 2008

Home of Gulch Radio


















Ric at Gulch Radio sent me this 1947 photo of the
same intersection in Jerome that is shown in my last post.

The corner building on the left in the colour photo is also seen here, but from another direction, behind the Liberty Cafe sign. Next to it, in both photos, you can see the taller building with urn-like decorations on its top corners.

1947: The guy with the newspaper could be reading about, say, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier... Or the Soviets blockading Berlin... Babe Ruth's obit... I can just about hear the jukebox next door playing Tex Williams, Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette...

26 March 2008

Gulch Radio (Ghost Town Radio)






The station I listen to most these days is Gulch Radio. It was the name that attracted me, but I quickly became hooked by their playlists, which often wander into the contemporary blues and country-rock neighbourhoods but are in fact truly eclectic: just about anything can turn up, and the mix is artfully put together.

Gulch Radio goes out on 1670AM from a transmitter up on Mingus Mountain, above Jerome, Arizona, an old mining town with a colourful past that had a population of 25 000 in the late 1920s but is now somewhere in the 300s or 400s, hence Gulch Radio's tag, Ghost Town Radio.

(You may hear a song called Ghost Town Radio on The Gulch, by Patrick Thomas: it fits in fine as an unofficial station theme song, but I believe it was just a nice coincidence.)

My radio over here on Australia's Great Dividing Range can't pull in the signal from Mingus Mountain. I listen on the Net through Winamp player where I first found The Gulch on the Shoutcast radio menu.

Gulch Radio seems to be run by two guys called Ric and Chaz. My head spins when I try to figure out the time differences and check the program schedule, but I think I'm often listening to Ric's breakfast slot, or their early early morning show The Night Train, or various mixes put together by Chaz. At other times I hear a couple of excellent syndicated programs: Gregg McVicar's Undercurrents and Tom Fallon's Motown Memories. I've also chanced on Gulch's own oldies show called The Geezer Rock Show.

It all sounds laid-back and friendly, small-town but tuned-in, just what you'd expect from Jerome if its Internet press is accurate: a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community... of artists, craft people, musicians, writers, hermits, bed and breakfast owners, museum caretakers, gift shop proprietors and fallen-down-
building landlords
. (DesertUSA.com); small ghost town/artist colony/hippie hang-out..; a funky tourist destination with unique characters, stories and happenings. (JeromeAZ.com)

Okay, I'm a sucker for that charming picture postcard, but it's the music I come back for. In fact, most of the music I've discovered in recent months I first heard on Gulch Radio. It's at GulchRadio.com.














Photo by Andrew Dunn, 1992.

24 March 2008

Ah, Barbara Lynn..!

The video of Barbara Lynn (below) speaks for itself: I can't say what 'cool' is or was, but there it is, all right, 42 years ago and it hasn't dated a minute. (It's Ray Charles's What'd I Say, by the way.)

See update June 2010.

Barbara Lynn Ozen's records had simply 'Barbara Lynn' on them. I guess her best known song is her hit, You'll Lose A Good Thing (1962, #8 USA), slow and soulful, written when she was 14, so they say. The song of hers I love the most is (Oh Baby) We Got A Good Thing Goin' (1964): I already loved it when The Stones covered it on Out Of Our Heads (1965), but it's one of those cases where I went back later and found the original was the best.

Barbara Lynn is from Texas, born in 1942, and I assume that back in the early 60s she was unusual in being a female singer-songwriter who played guitar on her own records. (She plays left-handed: not sure if that's significant, but it's always mentioned.) Her earliest records, on Jamie and Tribe, are the ones I like the most, but don't let me put you off the records she put out on Atlantic from the late 60s.

She mostly wrote her own material, but when I looked up You'll Lose A Good Thing and (Oh Baby) We Got A Good Thing Goin' at BMI I found them under the name of Huey Meaux, her longtime manager and producer, although the US Copyright Office shows words & music by Barbara Lynn Ozen.

If you want to read more, skip the Wikipedia article this time (take my word!), and read Mick Patrick's story of Barbara Lynn at Cha Cha Charming: you won't find a better account or appreciation of her career. There's also a nice news article from 2000 at the Austin Chronicle's website. There is a Barbara Lynn MySpace page, though it looks a bit inactive, and of course it's hard to say whether she's running it in person. Huey Meaux is a whole other story, but Red Kelly tells it well from that angle over at his blog The B Side, where you can grab a nice song from her Atlantic days, Why Can't You Love Me (1968).

Or you can forgo the research and just play that video again.

09 March 2008

Not even in Oz: Trini Lopez - Up To Now

Trini Lopez - Up To Now
(Bobby Susser - Marty Cooper - Terry Sue Pinter)
1967
Single on Reprise #0574

I could take or leave most of Trini Lopez's hits. They were mainly pepped up versions of familiar songs, often showcased with nightclub audience noise: If I Had A Hammer, America, Lemon Tree, I'm Comin' Home Cindy... Okay, I could take the songs, but I could leave the party-time sound effects.

Then came Up To Now. This was a straight-ahead pop production with no hand clapping shenanigans. Up To Now didn't need any vicarious excitement: it screamed out excitement right from the opening bars, through a rhythmic drum, trumpet and strings arrangement. [Listen]

It's the type of song you can imagine the Northern Soul fans taking up. But (oddly, I've always thought) nobody much took it up at all. It's one of those first-rate songs that, in spite of everything, has ended up as an obscurity.

Up To Now had the same arranger and producer as the hits, Don Costa (1925-1983). Costa started out as a guitarist and continued to record in his own name (Never On Sunday, 1960, #19 USA), but he was renowned mainly as an arranger, producer and conductor, notably for Paul Anka, Sammy Davis Jr, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank Sinatra and, yes, Trini Lopez.

Space Age Pop sums up Costa this way: He liked very dense arrangements - Billy Byers [pianist] called him "the Puccini of pop," saying that his arrangements were "seething with melody." That sounds to me like the Don Costa of Up To Now.

As to the writers, Marty Cooper was Tico of high school vocal group Tico & The Triumphs (see their history at DestinationDoowop.com). They put out some singles 1961-62 that were produced by the yet-to-be-famous Paul Simon with his friend Bobby Susser.

After Paul Simon moved on to other projects, Marty Cooper and Bobby Susser teamed up to write and produce: one of their compositions, Kiss Me Now, was released on Phil Spector's Phi-Dan label by Florence De Vore (1965) and was on Diana Ross's self-titled album in 1976 . In 1972 Bobby Susser and Lou Stallman's group Think had a #23 USA hit with their controversial anti-drug composition, Once You Understand.

This is the same Bobby Susser who is nowadays a successful writer and performer of children's songs: he has a website at BobbySusser.com, but his Wikipedia entry gives more information and a good overview of his varied career.

On Terry Sue Pinter, so far, I've drawn a blank. [Update: She was Marty Cooper's wife. See my follow-up post.]

Trini Lopez - Up To Now.mp3

23 February 2008

Only in Oz (10) Julie London - I'm Coming Back To You

Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.10. Julie London - I'm Coming Back To You
(Arthur Kent - Ed Warren)
USA 1963
Liberty single #
55605
Also on album The Wonderful World of Julie London

Australian charts: #34 Melbourne

Okay, to be accurate this should be "Only in Melbourne, Victoria" and (as a search of ARSA reveals) "also in Bakersfield CA" plus who knows what other US cities, towns and hamlets?

Even then, this hardly tore up the charts. Melbourne chart statisticians Gavin Ryan and Tom Guest agree on this one: Gavin has it at #34, Tom at #36. The KAFY chart posted to ARSA snapshots it at #27 in Bakersfield.

Let me plead sentimental value, then.

Probably because I grew up listening to those very Melbourne radio stations that nudged it into the local Top 40, I'm Coming Back To You has always been the song I associate with Julie London: not her famous hit Cry Me A River (1955, #9 USA, #22 UK, later reworked to good effect by Joe Cocker), and not Desifinado, her single that charted elsewhere in Australia (1962: #38 Sydney, #10 Brisbane).

Julie London's territory was always the adult-oriented album rather than the pop single: Cry Me A River was her only national Top 40 hit in the US, but she was a steady earner for Liberty Records with her LPs. She is also remembered for her acting, notably as Nurse Dixie McCall in Emergency (1972-1976), created by her ex-husband Jack Webb.

The opening "do-doo-doo-doo do-do do-do" from the girls' chorus [Listen] signals that the easy-going I'm Coming Back To You is more in a pop vein than much of Julie London's material, which tended towards sultry nightclub jazz.

The names of the producer and arranger-conductor here, Snuff Garrett and Ernie Freeman, are familiar credits on numerous pop records (including some by Johnny O'Keefe), and it shows. This is 1963, on the cusp of the British Invasion, and this style of nicely crafted pop production would just about sound dated within a year or so. The B-side is When Snowflakes Fall in The Summer,written by Brill Building greats Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Arthur Kent and Ed Warren, the writers of I'm Coming Back To You, also wrote Take Good Care Of Her, the 1961 hit by Adam Wade (#7 USA), also recorded by Elvis Presley and Johnny Mathis, among others.
Arthur Kent wrote at least two well-known songs with Sylvia Dee: The End Of The World, Skeeter Davis's hit (1963, #2 USA), and Bring Me Sunshine, familiar to British comedy fans as the theme song of Eric Morecambe & Ernie Wise, but also recorded by numerous artists from The Mills Brothers to Willie Nelson.

By the way, a search at the US Copyright Office confirms that Arthur Kent's co-writer on I'm Coming Back To You was indeed Ed Warren. Some sources - including All Music Guide - have wrongly assumed that the Warren in the writer credit belongs to the more prolific and famous Diane Warren, born 1956, who would have been about 7 years old at the time of I'm Coming Back To You.

Julie London - I'm Coming Back To You.mp3
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Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books, with a glance at Tom Guest's Thirty Years of Hits 1960-1990: Melbourne Top 40 Research.

Further reading: Biographies of Julie London and Ernie Freeman at All Music Guide. Tom Simon's Snuff Garrett page. Review of The Wonderful World of Julie London by Greg Adams at AMG.


22 February 2008

Only in Oz (9) Roger Roger & his Champs Elysées Orchestra - Dalilia

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

9. Roger Roger & his Champs Elysées Orchestra - Dalilia
(Roger Roger)
France 19??
Festival single (Australia) #FK-296 (1962); re-released on FK-1680 (1967)

Australian charts: #8 Sydney #8 Melbourne #16 Brisbane

This spaced-out electronic instrumental was familiar in Australia during the 60s as radio filler and as background music on radio and TV. [Listen] I mentioned it in an earlier post as a likely Time-out Instrumental.

Roger Roger (1911-1995) was a prolific French composer for radio, TV and film whose music is often filed these days under Space Age and Library.

Dalilia seems to have started out as a "library" track, a ready-made theme or soundtrack piece, one of numerous tracks Roger Roger composed and recorded for the Chappell Music company's Mood Music series from the mid-50s.

At the time such albums would have been sold to radio and TV stations and film producers, but they are now collected by aficionados of Library music and have reappeared on CD: see, for example, the catalogue at MovieGrooves, which includes a Roger Roger collection (Roger Roger is to Library Music what James Bond is to spy movies...).

Some of Roger Roger's music (SpaceAgePop.com tells us) also fits into a further sub-genre, Test Card, since his work was often heard with test patterns on BBC-TV.

I suspect that the release of Dalilia as a single was an Australian initiative (although a US release, Delilah, could be the same track). The B-side was Cha Cha Charlie, an instrumental by Mel Young, another Chappell library artist.

Festival released the single twice, first in December 1962 on #FK-296, when it charted, and again in March 1967 on #FK-1680, again coupled with Mel Young. As I've pointed out previously, one thing Australians loved back then was an instrumental.

The Dalilia tune was used in 1963 for the British TV show The Desperate People, when it was known as The Desperadoes (Theme from Desperate People). Each title is registered to Roger Roger as a separate work at ASCAP, but they do appear to be the same composition. In Australia, The Playboys released a version as Desperado (1965). You can listen for yourself from the Playboys page at the excellent MusicPopHits.com.

I once heard another Australian version with vocals but I've had no success in remembering it or tracking it down this time around.

And the title, Dalilia? The only title resembling Dalilia amongst the hundreds of Roger Roger compositions registered at SACEM (France) is Dalila, the French form of Delilah. There was a Roger Roger single released in the US in 1963 called Delilah (TIME #1063) but, as far I can see, no Dalilia. The title Dalilia is, however, registered to Roger Roger at ASCAP, but so is Delila (another form of Delilah/Dalila). I'm wondering whether Dalilia might be an Anglo misprint for Dalila (Delilah).

Roger Roger & his Champs Elysées Orchestra - Dalilia.mp3
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Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.

References: 1. Roger Roger page at SpaceAgePop.com 2. Roger Roger biography (and photo) at Robert Farnon Society 3. Chappell Mood Music database. 4. Examples of Roger Roger's Chappell Mood Music LPs at Vintage Library Emporium and Sounds of Champaign (Side 2) 5. ASCAP Title Search 6. The Australian Festival Record Company...
1961-1969, label discography by George Crotty 7. Library Music catalogue and Roger Roger blurb at MovieGrooves.com. 8. Composer search at SACEM, the French performing rights organisation.