23 June 2005

Aussie aircheck sites

As far as I can see we don’t have an Australian equivalent of Reel Top 40 Radio Repository, the site where you can listen to some 1500 audio clips of US deejay shows from the golden era of Top 40 radio. The British Pirate Radio Hall of Fame also has clips, from the stations that were Top 40 radio in the UK for a while in the 60s (and a surprising number of the disc jockeys were Aussies).

[Update: The Radio Antenna blog has a growing collection of Australian airchecks from several decades, See also their Facebook page.]

These clips are known as airchecks, meaning a recording of a live radio program. I first saw the word on CDs of big bands from the 40s, indicating that a track is from a broadcast rather than a studio session.

The Adelaide station 5KA had a site with a fine collection of airchecks, including many from the 60s and 70s, but it is no longer online. The good news is that the whole 5KA site, including the audio files, is archived at the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Archive. The files are in mp3 format. My favourites are the 1968 clips, which evoke the atmosphere of just about any commercial radio station of the era.

Also at Pandora is the archived Jingles Shrine website, where you can still hear old station jingles from all over Australia (RealAudio format UPDATE 2012: not all audio files work).

I recently mentioned Tony Sanderson’s pages of Australian and British audio files (mp3 and RealAudio) at Bluehaze Media. The real gems here are two complete programs, a 30-minute weekly Top 10 countdown from June 1962 by Ernie Sigley, and a 60-minute Top 20 of 1962 with Barry Ferber from January 1963. Both were broadcast on Melbourne station 3DB and its relay station in the Wimmera, 3LK.

(If those callsigns sound unfamiliar, 3DB became 3TT, then TT-FM, now known as Mix 101.1. 3LK was replaced by still-operating Horsham station 3WM).

The Top 10 is, as you would expect, a nice snapshot of what we were listening to in Vic at that time. At #1 is Toni Fisher’s West of the Wall, one of those Oz-only chart-toppers that Glenn A. Baker put on one of his Hard to Get Hits collections. After my recent post on the topic, I was delighted to find two Bizarro Shadows World Down Under tracks: The Joy Boys’ Southern ‘Rora and Rob E.G.’s 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Zero.

And, I could hardly believe it, for the second time yesterday I found myself listening to I’ve Been Everywhere, a song that seems to be haunting me at the moment.

21 June 2005

Popular at PopArchives

I don't have any traffic counters at the site, but early in April I started putting in links to HMV Australia if they stocked a listed song on CD. I can get traffic reports from HMV daily or over a longer period, so although it doesn't measure actual visits to my pages, it might be an indicator. Looking at the statistics so far, half a dozen songs have attracted the most on-clicks. The first two are way ahead of the others (about double the clicks for #3). 1. I've Been Everywhere What can I say? People still love this song, and it's also well-known through versions by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash. (See below: 'Obscurities? Forget 'em! We want 'I've Been Everywhere') We even heard it on one of our local radio stations this very morning. 2. The Lion Sleeps Tonight This might have something to do with the PopArchives page being linked from a PBS page about the history of the song. 3. Everlasting Love This makes sense: a hugely popular song world-wide, much recorded, and at least eight versions have charted around Australia. It even turned up on the soundtrack to the Bridget Jones sequel. 4. Je T'Aime (I Love You) This is Abigail's version of the Serge Gainsbourg song, Je t'aime moi non plus, which he recorded with Jane Birkin. Perhaps Jane Birkin's appearances in Australia have increased interest in it. 5. She Wears My Ring Another much-recorded song, including a version by Elvis. 6. Day By Day From the musical Godspell. I can't see any big, current production of this. Probably just another enduring favourite.

Barry Ferber and The Bearded Beetle.

The Bearded Beetle, a record by The Beetle Bashers (they spelt it beetle), came out on Melbourne's W&G label in 1964, one of numerous Beatles tribute and novelty records that surfaced world-wide in the wake of Beatlemania. Most sank without trace, but two versions of We Love You Beatles charted in Melbourne, and for some reason ex-Cricket Sonny Curtis’s A Beatle I Want To Be sticks in my memory.

The Bearded Beetle was written and sung by Melbourne disc jockey Barry Ferber. The title came from the nickname he gave to his bearded panel operator.

At a time when 3UZ was the dominant Top 40 radio station in Melbourne, Barry Ferber ran a record show over at the more traditional 3DB. He called himself the Mellow Fellow: the hip American deejay talk sometimes heard on 3UZ was not his style at all.

Ferber was a witty bloke who had a way of sending things up, a bit in the tradition of Graham Kennedy, so it wasn’t surprising when he put out a record that took the mickey out of the current teenage craze. These days, his name is still associated with the Beatles through George Harrison, whose 1964 message to him is anthologised on CD.

The Bearded Beatle and its flipside, The Beetle Bashers Beat, were both written by Barry Ferber, and W&G even issued a further Beetle Bashers single in 1965, co-written by Ferber, Don’t Make Love In The Cornfields. Neither was a hit, but I don’t imagine rival stations would’ve given them much airplay. (Both records are catalogued at Screensound Australia's Second Wave discography.)

Along with Don Lunn at 3UZ, whose American-influenced patter offered a complete contrast, Ferber was my favourite local deejay. So I was overjoyed to find a complete 60 minute Barry Ferber program archived at Bluehaze Solutions' Multimedia Vault.

This is good value: an unedited January 1963 countdown of 1962’s Top 20, sponsored by Love’s department store. It’s great to hear Ferber again, but he’s playing it straight here, plugging the sponsor, reading the commentary, keeping it tight, no send-ups. (It may even be a pre-recorded show.)

Barry Ferber went on to management, first at 4GG at the Gold Coast in Queensland when it first went on air, and later at Radio Fiji. More recently, he's filed columns from Las Vegas for the Gold Coast Bulletin (see above).

But who was that bearded panel operator? [For the answer see the follow-up post More on the Bearded Beetle. The comments are full of further information, too.]

Picture: Barry Ferber, columnist (story in the Melbourne Observer, 20 October 2004).

18 June 2005

Bizarro Shadows World Down Under

Standing in the shadow of The Shadows:
Melbourne band The Phantoms, from Canetoad's W&G Instrumental Story.

How many Australian and New Zealand bands of the 60s started out playing instrumentals in the style of the Shadows but transformed themselves in the wake of Beatlemania? See, for a start, The Strangers, The Questions, The Cherokees and The La De Das.

When a bunch of teenagers formed a band in the early 60s their main passion was often to emulate The Shadows or The Ventures (not only in Australia: see my post ¡Viva Los Shads!). Apache and Walk, Don’t Run were standards of the repertoire.

In Australia, this amounted to something like a movement, a phenomenon I like to call Bizarro Shadows World Down Under.

Aussies were always fond of a guitar-based instrumental. The Shadows were as big here as they were in the UK, and they were still charting alongside the Beatles into the mid-60s: their last hit in Oz was Bombay Duck in 1967 (#3 Adelaide, #10 Brisbane). The Americans preferred The Ventures, but we liked them as well: best of both worlds, down here. When surf music came along we took to it in a big way, and it melded in nicely with the guitar instrumental genre.

We also had our local heroes. Sydney steel guitarist Rob E. G. was often on the radio and the charts in the early 60s, often (but not always) with his own compositions: Railroadin', Si Senor (I Theenk?) and 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Zero. In 1963 Sydney band The Atlantics produced Bombora and The Crusher, two stunning examples of the surf instrumental that give Pipeline and Wipeout a run for their money. The Joy Boys - without Col Joye - had a national Top 5 hit in 1962 with Southern ‘Rora, inspired by, of all things, a new Melbourne-Sydney train service.

Melbourne band The Strangers first charted in their home town with a guitar version of Frankie Laine’s hit Cry of the Wild Goose (1963), a far cry from the soul-tinged vocal pop of 1968’s Happy Without You. Progressive New Zealand band the La De Das were, in their embryonic form, a high school band called The Mergers who played Shadows-styled instrumentals. At the website of guitarist Rod Stone, later with The Playboys and The Groove, you can hear a snatch of his 1962 version of Skye Boat Song, recorded in New Zealand as a 17-year-old in immaculate Shadows style.

It’s not that the instrumental bands didn’t sing at all, but looking back it’s hard to avoid the idea that it was cooler, even more manly, to pick out those precise guitar instrumentals than to sing soppy love songs.

There are a number of Bizarro Shadows World Down Under tracks on W&G Instrumental Story, released by the Australian reissue label Canetoad. W&G was a Melbourne record label.

Some of these tracks sound a bit cheesy, even clunky, at this distance, but that’s a feature of instro-guitar in general. Even so, there’s a good mix of remakes and originals that often stand up well beside their British and American models.

About half the tracks are by Melbourne showband The Thunderbirds, who were really too big, too brassy and too versatile to be put strictly in the mould of the Shads. Their version of The Rebels' Wild Weekend is an Aussie instrumental classic.

Otherwise, tracks by The Cherokees (Thundercloud), The Chessmen (The Rebel [Johnny Yuma]), The Breakaways (The Wheel), The Strangers (Undertow) and The Phantoms (Stampede) wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Shadows or Ventures album.

When Beatlemania hit, many Aussie instrumental bands did just what the boys in my Australian town did: they shampooed their hair, brushed it down over their foreheads, and never again darkened the doors of traditional barbers’ shops.

Pictures of the Beatles before Ringo illustrate the contrast. Pete Best looked fine and he still had a loyal following. He had that detached, moody, brushed-back look that went back to James Dean and the late-50s teen idols, but (unless my perception is skewed by hindsight) he already looked oddly out of place.

More than just changing the idea of what looked cool, Merseybeat made singing an imperative. The Strangers developed a hip pop sensibility that gave them vocal hits in the late 60s with Melanie Makes Me Smile, Western Union and Happy Without You. The Cherokees dabbled in a number of styles, but they had their greatest success with the comic revivals Oh, Monah and Minnie The Moocher that for some reason never seemed out of place on the charts of the late 60s.

The Atlantics ventured into Brit Invasion recycled R&B with the likes of I Put A Spell On You, featuring Johnny Rebb, an experienced rock’n’roller who had joined the band, and Rob E.G. re-emerged as Robie Porter, this time singing on his records (When You’re Not Near). Sydney band, The Questions also hired a vocalist, and his name was Doug Parkinson.

You thought I was going to say, "And the rest is history...", didn't you?
See also:
Cicadas and Flies: Bizarro Merseybeat World Down Under

14 June 2005

See you 'round, like a record (2)

I asked Phil Chapman, one of the record's producers, about Little Nell's See You Round Like A Record. He confirms that co-producer Brian Thomson, a notable Australian stage designer, came up with the title and it was indeed based on the catchphrase of an Australian disc jockey.

The three producers met while working on The Rocky Horror Show in London: as I noted below, Little Nell was a cast member. The team cut a series of singles with Nell in the second half of the 70s.

Little Nell's round record

13 June 2005

See you 'round, like a record

This breezy farewell always sounded to me like something an American disc jockey would use as a program closer. 

 I was half right. It was used by a disc jockey, but all the references I've found to it on the Net have an Australian connection: 

 1. The disc jockey would be Tony Withers, who was well-known on 2SM in Sydney for about ten years from 1953. He was even given a co-writer credit on Johnny O'Keefe's Wild One when it first came out, though his name was usually dropped from later versions. Tony Withers moved to Britain and worked on offshore pirate stations from 1964, firstly with Radio Atlanta. At Hans Knot's radio site Alan Hamblin recalls that he ended each show saying, "This is Tony Withers, Your Man With the Music, saying 'See you around, like a record' ." Later, with Radio London, he was known as Tony Windsor, and the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame has a Spotlight on Tony Windsor page, with photos and audio clips of his broadcasts [Edit: now archived]. 

2. There's also a record called See You Round Like A Record, by Little Nell, a 1976 single on A&M. Little Nell is Nell Campbell, an Australian from Sydney, best known for appearing on stage in The Rocky Horror Show and then in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). She wrote See You Round Like A Record with Richard Hartley and Brian Thomson, who produced the track with Phil Chapman. 

 3. Apart from Rocky Horror sites, a Google search for 'see you round like a record' will tend to throw up links to tabs and lyrics for the Australian song I Was Only Nineteen by Redgum, posted by Armour Byte the Asciizer, whose work is signed Like hip jive dude... and see you round like a record, don't go square like the cover... I kinda like the bit about the record cover: I wonder if that's also from Tony Withers, or did Mr Byte came up with it himself? 

 4. The discography page of Bob Howe, Australian country music artist and producer, is headed See you 'round, like a record. [Edit: It was in 2005; no longer.]

There is a similar saying, See you 'round, like a rissole. My attention was drawn to this by Air & Angels, an Australian 'bloglet' by La Déesse where a connection is made between the two sayings [Edit: now archived]. Its usage on the Net seems to be largely from Australian sources.  Now I'm wondering whether See you 'round like a rissole is a traditional saying. Which came first: the rissole or the record?

¡Viva los Shads!

Elvis Schmelvis, Beatles Schmeatles. Viva los Shads!
- Nik Cohn on British instrumental band the Shadows, in his 1969 book Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom.

Thirty-five years or so later, it seems kind of early to have been publishing a history of pop in 1969, but Nik Cohn's little book remains one of the most exhilarating accounts by an enthusiast that you'll ever read. Otherwise, his main claim to fame may be for writing Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night, the New York magazine article that became the basis for Saturday Night Fever (1977).

This is how he nicely sums up the popularity of the Shadows outside Britain:

Even now, if you're traipsing around the backwaters of Morocco and you stumble across a local group, they'll sound exactly like the Shadows, flat guitars and jigalong melodies and little leg kicks and all. In Spain or Italy or Yugoslavia, they're regarded as the pop giants of all time. Elvis Schmelvis. Beatles Schmeatles. Viva los Shads!

12 June 2005

I'm sure this is filthy, just wait while I figure out what he's saying

For me, Gary Larsen's Far Side cartoon, in which one elephant is teaching another how to play Louie Louie by pounding on the keys, just about sums up the song.

Louie Louie was originally released in 1956 by its composer Richard Berry. He based it on the opening to a Latino dance number called El Loco Cha Cha. The Louie Louie history at The Originals website discusses the influences and lists other versions.

It is, unaccountably, one of the most recorded songs ever. As Arnold Rypens puts it, covering this rock 'n roll classic became a sport. The list is endless and exotic.

You can buy whole albums made up of nothing but versions of Louie Louie, and Dave Marsh has written a book about it, Louie Louie : The History and Mythology of the World's Most Famous Rock 'n' Roll Song. There is at least one Louie Louie website dedicated to telling us more than we'll ever need to know about it.

It was the 1963 hit version by The Kingsmen that inspired complaints about the obscenity of its largely incomprehensible lyrics.

At The Smoking Gun you can read some of the documents from the FBI's investigation into whether anyone could be prosecuted for obscenity. The FBI had complaints from parents and the Governor of Indiana, and they had transcripts of rude lyrics. In fact, they had differing rude versions, none of which matched the genuine lyrics.

In the end the FBI sensibly decided that they could hardly lay charges over lyrics that nobody, not even the experts in their own Laboratory, could make out.

As to the offensive lyrics that were submitted to the FBI, they were apparently a product of the moral campaigners' own imaginations. They'd managed to offend themselves.

Heh, heh...

"Howlin' Wolf made Muddy Waters sound like David Niven"
Greil Marcus.

Quoted by Neil Kellas in his liner notes to Blues Roots of Rock 'n' Roll (Performance, 2004). I can't find the original source.

Sir! Sir! He's copying!

When it comes to attribution I like to avoid such ugly terms as plagiarism, stealing, and blatant rip-off. Instead, I say that a song reminds me of another, or that a writer may have been influenced by somebody else's work. Perhaps they subconsciously borrowed, or they believed that an old melody was in the public domain anyway. I mean, who needs email from angry songwriters?

Will Shade, over at the music webzine Perfect Sound Forever, has no such qualms. He comes down hard on Jimmy Page for his role in the uncredited recycling of material, first by the later-period Yardbirds and then by Led Zeppelin. The article's title is unambiguous: The Thieving Magpie: Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy. In one or two cases, the claims have been pursued successfully in the courts, notably by Willie Dixon, who wrote the Muddy Waters song You Need Love (1962), the ultimate source of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love (1969), via the Small Faces' You Need Loving (1966).

Will Shade discusses a long list of Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin songs and their uncredited sources, mainly from blues artists. I hate to disillusion you completely, but not even Stairway To Heaven comes out of it unscathed.

To restore your faith in humanity, have a look at the Songs page at Snopes.com, the urban legends website. There you will find links to a number of pages that discuss song origins and related topics. It may raise your spirits to learn that Bob Dylan didn't steal Blowin' In The Wind from a high school student.

Before the age of mass communication and copyright law, none of this was much of an issue. Folk songs were by definition fair game, and blues artists routinely recycled traditional and contemporary material: that was part of their art.

The likes of Bach, Vivaldi and Handel happily nicked bits and pieces from each other, probably seeing it as a dip of the ol' lid to a fellow composer. (To get an idea of the extent of this in classical music, see the long annotated bibliography of Musical Borrowing at the University of Indiana.)

A songwriter's defence could be that there must be a finite number of possible tunes, so it would be surprising if there were no overlap among the millions of songs that have been written. On the other hand, one brave soul at Everything2.com has attempted to calculate that number, and it turns out to be a very big number indeed.

Still, when you consider all the songs and jingles and soundtracks and people whistling a tune in the street that a songwriter hears in a lifetime, it must be maddeningly easy to recycle a snatch of melody without realising it. Then someone hears your latest punk anthem and says, "Hang on, isn't that Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies?"

It can happen to anyone: browse the Google search results for plagiarism + "George Harrison". You can also read about the cases of Jerome Kern, Britney Spears, Michael Bolton and others listed at the Columbia Law School's Music Plagiarism Project . In the Tin Pan Alley era, songwriter Ira Arnstein became a serial filer of plagiarism suits against his contemporaries, no doubt aided by the fact that it if you set your mind to it, you can find similarities between songs.

09 June 2005

No, no , no , no, no: betcha didn't know this:

You know Trevor Peacock, don't you, the actor who played Jim Trott on The Vicar of Dibley? Jim was one of the rustic members of Rev. Geraldine Granger's Parish Council , the one whose catchphrase goes "No, no, no, no, no... yes!"

Well, Trevor Peacock wrote not only the Herman's Hermits hit Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, but also one of the finest songs of pre-Beatlemania BritPop, That's What Love Will Do, a #3 UK hit in 1963 for Joe Brown and the Bruvvers.

His filmography at the Internet Movie Database covers a lot of bases, but in the pop context he was also the writer for Jack Good's late-50s British TV pop series Oh Boy! and he compered another pop series of the time, Drumbeat. He and John Barry wrote the music for the 1960 teen delinquency movie Beat Girl.

Strange but true...

07 June 2005

I've Been Everywhere: Australian lyrics

These are the lyrics as reprinted in The All-time Favourite Australian Song Book (Angus & Robertson, 1986 edition), which I've amended slightly after listening to Lucky Starr's record.

There's more about the song and some of its versions at my website. The Wikipedia article on the song is thorough and probably mentions more versions than any other site.

- - -

I've Been Everywhere by Geoff Mack©, as sung by Lucky Starr (1962)

I've been everywhere...

Well, I was humpin' my bluey on the dusty Oodnadatta road,
When along came a semi with a high and canvas-covered load.
(Spoken) "If you're goin' to Oodnadatta, mate, um, with me you can ride."
So I climbed in the cabin and I settled down inside.
He asked me if I'd seen a road with so much dust and sand, I said
"Listen, mate, I've travelled ev'ry road in this here land."

Cos "I've been everywhere, man,
I've been everywhere, man.
'Cross the deserts bare, man;
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been ev'rywhere.

Been to:
Tullamore, Seymour, Lismore, Mooloolaba,
Nambour, Maroochydore, Kilmore, Murwillumbah,
Birdsville, Emmaville, Wallaville, Cunnamulla,
Condamine, Strathpine, Proserpine, Ulladulla,
Darwin, Gin Gin, Deniliquin, Muckadilla,
Wallumbilla, Boggabilla, Kumbarilla,
I'm a killer.

(Spoken) "Yeah but listen here, mate, have you been to..."

I've been to Moree, Taree, Jerilderie, Bambaroo,
Toowoomba, Gunnedah, Caringbah, Woolloomooloo,
Dalveen, Tamborine, Engadine, Jindabyne,
Lithgow, Casino, Brigalow and Narromine,
Megalong, Wyong, Tuggerawong, Wanganella,
Morella, Augathella, Brindabella, I'm the feller.

(Spoken) "Yeah, I know that, but have you been to..."

I've been to Wollongong, Geelong, Kurrajong, Mullumbimby,
Mittagong, Molong, Grong Grong, Goondiwindi,
Yarra Yarra, Boroondara,
Wallangarra, Turramurra,
Boggabri, Gundagai, Narrabri, Tibooburra,
Gulgong, Adelong, Billabong, Cabramatta,
Parramatta, Wangaratta*, Coolangatta, what's it matter?

(Spoken) "Yeah, look that's fine, but how about..."

I've been to Ettalong, Dandenong, Woodenbong, Ballarat,
Canberra, Milperra, Unanderra, Captain's Flat,
Cloncurry, River Murray, Kurri Kurri, Girraween,
Terrigal, Fingal, Stockinbingal, Collaroy and Narrabeen,
Bendigo, Dorrigo, Bangalow, Indooroopilly,
Kirribilli, Yeerongpilly, Wollondilly, don't be silly.
ChorusI've been here, there, ev'rywhere, I've been ev'rywhere.

(Spoken) "Okay, mate, you've been ev'ry place except one, and ya don't need my help t'get there."
(Sound of door slamming and truck driving off.)

- - -
* The standard pronunciation of Wangaratta, Victoria, has the WANG rhyming with SANG, but on the record it is pronounced "WONGaratta".