About 25 years ago, I struck up a conversation with an older couple who were selling sheet music and a small number of records, at a vintage music sale in Union, IL. I had found a few things of great interest to me among their records, and we bonded over a love of The Weavers. It turned out that the couple lived fairly near to my home, and I was invited to come over and look through their records, and buy whatever I was interested in.
Records were everywhere! In boxes in the basement, loose in closets, on shelves in the spare bedroom. (Come to think of it, that’s what my house looks like now.) I spent at least three Saturdays there, looking through records while the lady of the house gave piano lessons. I ended up spending a couple hundred dollars on the records I chose, and it was probably the first time in my young life that I’d really gone through a huge number of records in that way and splurged on a big stack o’ wax.
At this point, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which of the records in my overabundant collection came from these nice folks. I know there was a late-era Limeliters album I’d been searching for (and which I found completely disappointing), but that’s about it, except for today’s selection. Among the predictable 78’s, 45’s and albums, and quite a few obscurities that nonetheless fit into recognizable genres, I came across a record that seemed completely out of place, a seven inch, 33 1/3 EP by the China Youth Corps.
This record has always held a fascination for me, and just the site of it reminds me of those day-long searches through the stacks and boxes of records in that little bungalow. How DID this record come to be in that couple's collection? On the first listen, I found it unnerving and otherworldly, not only because of the general sound of the thing, but also because its combination of what I perceived as Western song styles and structures with Asian scales, melodies and other flavorings.
Since then, I’ve heard other examples of Chinese records, and know it’s not the unique melding of styles I once thought it was. But I still find a couple of these tracks haunting and endlessly fascinating, specifically the first track, and even more so the third track on the EP. And I find the singing style on the fourth track is quite curious. Also, I'm fairly sure that, whoever was recording these songs, he or she thought that track two was over at the halfway point, and turned down the mikes, then turned them back up again as the music continued. See what you think.
I have no idea what the titles or lyrics of these songs might be, and if anyone wants to translate the titles and/or summarize the lyrics, by all means, do!