Today's posting deals with two subjects dear to me heart: The ersatz, fake-o, bogus, unlicensed 'cover' album' (for kid's, in this case) on a 'knock-off' or low-budget label; and the work of legendary guitar specialist, composer, conductor Vic Flick.
Mr. Flick's guitar artistry on dozens of hit singles and lps is well documented, but his work as a composer and conductor somewhat less so.
I discovered Flick's foray into the world of Sesame Street in 2002 whilst compiling Muppet/Sesame material for a music project. A collector pal brought over his latest Sesame record score and not only was it obviously unlicensed but credited Vic on the cover--a must-listen!
In much the same way as the also-ubiquitous session guitarist Jerry Cole in the USA, Flick kept very busy working in various UK studios during and after his tenure as chief instrumentalist and bandleader of the John Barry Seven from 1961 to 1966. I corresponded with Mr. Flick about the Sesame Street project when I sent him a copy on CD and he had a chance to hear it for the first time in over 30 years:
Flick: Received the CD. Wonderful. The voices are so British and the mix is definitely UK 60/70s. John Timperly, the engineer on the project, must get a copy.
...I worked on a series of childrens albums at that time, all recorded at Chappell's studio in London.
Drew: I'm sure you were busy enough conducting and arranging, but did you play guitar on this one?
Flick: I did play some guitar on it but the majority was, I think, Big Jim Sullivan, one of my heroes and a very good friend.
...When I mentioned those 60/70s mixes I hope you didn't think it was derogatory. I love them. They are transparent but a little too 'airy' for today.
Flick: I had no compositions on that Howard Scott production so I'm flattered. The whole series was children oriented songs. Songs from Sesame Street, and others from kiddies productions from all over. And we were in the studio for a week, sometimes six titles a session, a good few days work.
An interesting side note: Everything had been going fine until it came to the last two sessions when Howard Scott 'told' me he wanted the music copied by his 'friend' in Brighton - with me running the music some 50 miles to get it to him and pick it up. My copyist had worked his butt off keeping up with the work load over the past days, sometimes working through the night. So I 'told' Scott no deal. Unfortunately, from then on it was all on the skids for the last two sessions with Scott acting like a spoilt child who wasn't allowed his candy. Some of the musicians wanted to pack up and quit the sessions the atmosphere got so bad; but we made it to the end of the date and out the studio without any blood being spilled. That's showbiz for you.
Drew: Moving away from the Wonderland stuff, I wondered if you play on one of my favorite Bond soundtracks, Casino Royale, by Burt Bacharach?
Flick: I worked with Burt a few times but was working on other things when they booked the orchestra for Casino. I was disappointed as I love his music. A vivid memory is when we recorded an instrumental version of Trains and Boats and Planes. He'd written the whole solo double stopping with slides indicated all over the place. Burt was a perfectionist and even if the tambourine wasn't to his liking he'd do another complete take. I was on the point of having bleeding fingers when he wrapped it.
I hadn't seen him for about seven years and he stopped me on the way out of a studio to ask how I was, remembering my name which I thought was amazing.
A bonus piece of Vic Flick technical trivia: upon studying up on early 'fuzz' and distortion boxes I discovered that "Gary Hurst came up with the Tone Bender in 1965 after Vic Flick, guitarist of the John Barry Seven, asked Hurst to improve on the Maestro Fuzz Tone, the first fuzz box, introduced by Gibson in the US in 1962 (and having used a Maestro for years- I can attest to it's need for 'improvements', and yet it is STILL a wonderful guitar box- Drew). " Quote from Beatles Gear/revised edition, by Andy Babiuk.
Here we have yet another artist who's body of work is downright scary to me in that it touches so many people and genres. I look forward to tracking down all of Flick's under-the-radar records for kids and others. The same friend who has this Sesame Street production owns the infamous Tom Glazer / Vic Flick team-up lp for children, but he couldn't locate it in his vast stacks when I was quizzing Vic about this period. Being a big Tom Glazer fan, I'm extremely curious about that one. By the way, everyone knows that Tom Glazer composed the score for the incredible Elia Kazan picture A Face in the Crowd, right?
Before I launch into the discussion of the tracks on the record, let me explain the condition of the files: at the time I transferred this, I was collecting audio from all kinds of Sesame-related vinyl records for use on a noise project, often copying only bits of the lps we found. In this case, I liked rather a lot of the record, but didn't copy the whole thing. Thus we have here only four of the five Sesame Street 'covers' from the A side of the lp; and a handful of my favorite moments from the B side, which is traditionally where budget / rip-off labels put their 'stock/original/filler'. I was tickled when I first heard this by the so-obvious 'Britishness' of it all. The vocalists try hard to sound like the Sesame Street cast but they thankfully take it all in another direction. Or at least it adds some unusual colors to the Sesame Street musical universe. I had always assumed that this was a pirate record and unlicensed, due to it's lack of copyright indicia, but perhaps it wasn't..?
Thusly: this is not the compleat album, but a good sampler, as some of it is a bit painful anyhoo. But most good children's albums have moments that make me cringe and that's ok- they're not made for me. Not the grown-up me. As it is I listen to and watch a lot of very non-grownup material mixed in with the 'adult' media. And Mr. Flick can pop up anywhere I start dredging about.
Here come the nine tracks from our lovely WLP-256.
There is a very high frequency tone at the top of this record, mastered into the lead-in groove which I liked enough that it was left in at the beginning of this track. It was an odd production glitch on their part. Not something I would normally leave on the intro of a file, but this disc was originally made for in-house use, and so has funny editing. Wicked electric guitar breaks.
A favorite song from the SS canon. Lovely vocals.
Flick doesn't spare us the rock on this version of a fun SS classic.
This is such a cute little classic. I've always pictured the lead singer as stripping off their outer costume and down to something slinky at the magic point in the song where it shifts gears ("Now let's do it more like today!"). Where did they lift these pieces of music? If this is a cover of an arrangement on another kid's album, I'd sure like to hear it and compare, as this version is ripping, with more nice guitar.
Again, I love this piece of music. Who wrote it? Trad.? Check the nice psychedelic/space break in between the sections towards the end of this medley.
Beautiful. I can totally do my barn work and gardening while rocking out to this. I bet some parents were nicely tortured by this played over and over by their kids. But then I suppose that's almost always the case...
This features an amazing soundtrack-like break/B-part. A whole mini-movie in two minutes. Outrageously, lushly orchestrated.
Smoking. Gawd, I don't know why this stuff sends me so, but it still does. And I imagine that some other folks'll like it as well. What a rocker. I shudder to think what glories await me on the as-yet-to-be-discovered Vic Flick Wonderland lps.
Footnote: I was bad and didn't give Mr. Flick time to copyedit this before publishing, and I imagine that being the gentleman that he is, he wouldn't want to leave the comments about Howard Scott in the piece, but since they add so much spice to the story, I'm gonna leave them in, with apologies to friends and family of Mr. Scott.