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In addition to lots of reel to reel tapes, I also collect home recorded and other one-of-a-kind acetates. These heavy records, often are recorded with the same sort of things that can be so fascinating on reel tapes, although usually with the opposite end of things in terms of sound quality. Here's an example, a pep talk for a sales team heading into a difficult sales period.
Here's what little is evident from what is said on the two-sided, eight minute recording (and on its label): A man named Cy held a position in management with the company that made the automatic coal stoker for furnaces known as The Iron Fireman. It was early winter. It had been an election year, and it was a war year - maybe 1942? 1944? Or possibly during the Korean War (a possibility which depends on whether that conflict was called a "war" at the time, or if it really was called a "police action" at the time).
Cy is trying to sound buddy-buddy with the guys, and also seems to want the talk to sound off-the-cuff and conversational. But he can't pull it off - it is painfully obvious that he's reading a script - he's just not that good at it. Travel back to another time and place, and see whether you would have had what it took to sell The Iron Fireman during winter:
This week, I went digging around in the corner of the catacombs where I keep stacks of radio ads and PSA's, and dug up a batch of 20-30 year old spots, on four different tapes, which are from a variety of very different times and places.
First up, four 1981 PSA's from the US Customs service, two featuring the dulcet tones of Lorne Greene, and two featuring (a less-than-involved) sounding country singer Terri Gibbs:
Here are three ads from Computerland, with bargains that can hardly be believed: Imagine saving $400 on your purchase of an IBM computer, with enhanced keyboard, DOS and 640 K of RAM, all for only $1999! Where do I sign up????
Next up, a dozen ads, in a variety of lengths and styles, telling people about the 1982 Tax Filing Season, and the things you might want to know. You'll hear from Lyle Waggoner, Fernando Lamas, Mason Adams, Michael Warren, James Gregory, Anthony Geary and Sarah Purcell, from a recent retiree and from a snooty aunt, among others:
I've saved the best/weirdest/most unexpected for last. When I saw "Land-O-Lakes" on the box, I initially thought it would contain butter or other dairy ads. Not quite, as a closer look at the box indicated (although the box indicates only four ads). This set of eleven ads is from the Land-O-Lakes Co-Op, and feature ads for a variety of products to help your pigs, hogs, calves, cows, and other farm issues. There's some good listening here!:
Today's story begins with another story, from another time and place: It's 1982, and I'm in the music library of Northwestern University. A few years earlier, I had been turned on to Casey Kasum's American Top 40, and I quickly found that following the charts tied in nicely with my expanding love of then-current pop music, my passion for playing with numbers (and math in general), and, in the years that followed, my burgeoning adoration and knowledge about the music of the '50's and '60's.
So it was that, when I went to a small community college a few years later, and my studies took me to Northwestern's library (mere blocks away), I quickly discovered that their music library had copies of Billboard Magazine going back to the turn of the century - not on microfilm, either, but the real thing. I soon began spending copious amounts of my overabundant free time copying the top 40 pop charts out of those Billboards - by hand, mind you (filling in endless sheets with numbers 1-40, then copying the positions from the previous two weeks in the margins (for use in adding the details later), typically while listening to cassette copies of the contents of my latest reel to reel purchases!) - starting with the year of my birth (1960), and quickly expanding forward. Then, when I wanted to find out more, I began copying the earlier charts, too, going back to the first printed top ten chart, from July 20, 1940. I also developed my own method of determining the biggest hits of the years, and played with the mathematics of the charts for hours on end. (Ah, those were the days - the binders of handwritten charts and math-play chart numbers still sit on a shelf in my office at home.)
Looking through all those magazines also afforded me the opportunity to look at the reviews, ads and other information about records which were released during all those years. This was wonderful for many reasons. Among many examples: I got to see what Billboard had said, upon reviewing all manner of records that I loved, such as "Mecca" the most peculiar and wonderful 45 ever released by that most peculiar and wonderful of early '60's singers, Gene Pitney. I got to follow the shameful way the trade paper fell in line with the Red Scare of the early 1950's. More to the point for this story, I also got to find out about records I would never have otherwise known about, due to them being mentioned in ads or reviews. This was great in terms of many different artists I was interested in, and I developed a lengthy list of records to look for, in the front of my chart binder, but it turned out to be particularly helpful in terms of one of my other quickly expanding passions of the time - collecting records by Thurl Ravenscroft.
In one corner of my basement archives, there is a large stack of tapes I bought two or three years ago, which have proven especially fascinating, to the point that I'm deliberately parceling them out to myself, as sort of periodic "gifts" of really special listening. These are media tapes, many of them raw audio from television or film, and most of those having something to do with the CBS networks. I previously shared a tape of Howard K. Smith and Sen. Albert Gore, Sr., from this same collection (which contains a lot of Howard K. Smith tapes).
Today's tape is different than the others that I've listened to in that it is the soundtrack for a film, specifically, a film meant to drum up advertising business for CBS radio. There are enough moments of background music, and even a few sound effects, to make it clear that there was a visual element to this presentation. And this tape is undoubtably the final raw source tape for the soundtrack - there are upwards of 50 splices in the tape, where various recorded elements were stitched together from what were probably multiple takes, some of which are visible in the scan of the tape. There's even a cut in the middle where a very non-announcer-like voice tells us that there would be a switching of film reels.
It's an interesting presentation, even without the visuals. After a brief, catchy introductory piece, there is a lengthy discussion of how prosperous America has become in the last 15 years (and I'm sure those who were in abject poverty in 1953, and/or fighting racism would love to hear how the country was one big middle class at that point, with very few people living at the fringes). It ties this in with the increased buying power of Americans. Then it moves into the sales pitch.
I was sort of fascinated by the fact that although the subject becomes RADIO at about the six minute point, the word "radio" is not mentioned until more than three minutes later (although there are clips from radio programs, and there may have been many visuals of radios, of course), and even more interested in the fact that CBS is not mentioned until about 3/4 of the way through, and initially, it's mentioned as an example of a network, rather than the focus of the presentation.
The presentation concerns itself largely with the omnipresence of radio in the country, its varied uses and its mobility, and finally, the value of advertising on radio, versus print or television, especially the lower cost for what had been proven to be greater audience attention. There is a funny series of short ads for a fake hair care product in the mix, too.
A odd point is made about CBS having "more of the top 29 programs than all other networks combined", which made me wonder if that "more" number was 15, making the the more typical statement, which would be about the top 30 shows, impossible. Or perhaps there were only 29 network shows left by 1953 - whether the CBS honchos knew it or not, national radio programming of the sort being promoted here was quickly leaving our world. Before the end of 1957, the very last radio network comedy show (Stan Freberg's masterful half-hour) would go off the air, and by 1960, there were precious few dramas, and few, if any, variety shows.
A dozen years ago, I had a couple of conversations with a young person I knew, during which I mentioned my pastime of collecting, er…passion to collect the recorded ephemera of many years ago. She was baffled by my interest in this, let alone the degree to which I sought this thing out, finding it odd, if not downright weird. At the time, I wrote this essay, as a way of explaining why someone (well, me) would have developed into the collector that I am. I share it here (with a few edits and addenda made necessary by the passage of even more time), as a sort of background to the material that I’ve been sharing, particularly in my “Exploring My Reel to Reel Archives” posts.
The opening section, which is partly about the rarity of personal recordings way back when, may be familiar ground for those of certain generations. But it was written specifically for this friend, and is offered here for those considerably younger than me, those who have always been able to see and hear huge portions of that which has happened during their lifetimes, I hope that it’s an interesting glimpse into another world.
As the story goes forward, I mentioned several items that I’ve been lucky enough to share (subsequent to the writing of this story), here at WFMU, and I have provided links to those postings. In many cases, I’ve found out much more about those individual recordings in the twelve years since I wrote this, details which are found at those links.
Here’s my story:
November 22, 1963, saw the end of John F. Kennedy's life, and, as many have observed, the end of many hopes, dreams and wishes, of a certain innocence, and of any success for Vaughn Meader. But literally within days, the events on that Dallas afternoon had given birth to a new cottage industry, that of JFK tribute records. Has anyone been to a rummage sale, estate sale or used record sale without coming across at least a few copies of Kennedy tribute LP's?
More interesting to me than the mass produced big budget albums from the major labels are the one-off singles done with perhaps more sincerity than talent. For your consideration today, here are two of them.
Johnny Tucker appears to have made only one single for the obscure Sonic label. The record is undated, but one online source indicates that the backing band heard here is listed on some copies (although not mine) as The Pastels, aka The Vigilantes. Johnny's tribute is simply titled "Mr. Kennedy", and is straightforward enough until about the halfway point, where someone made the bizarre decision - one I can't remember ever hearing on a record - of having a spoken word section double tracked, made even weirder by the fact that the two vocals are ever so slightly out of synch with each other!
I've included the flip side, "Walk With Me" (which does not related in any way to Kennedy) for completists:
Song-Poem companies also made hay off of the Kennedy tragedy. Today's other record came from the Sterling song-poem factory in Boston, and features one of my favorite song-poem singers, Norm Burns. My particular love for this singer is fairly hard to explain, if all you have in evidence is this record, which is fairly awful in both writing and performance, but there are enough examples of his gifts here to demonstrate why I think so highly of him.
This record, however, is more entertaining for its deficits, particularly some of the choices made by the songwriter, who contributed the lyrics to both sides. The more famous song here is "John F. Kennedy Was Called Away", which was included in both the first (LP) and second (CD) song-poem compilations released, back in the '90's, and again, I'll include that here, both because it fits the topic, and because there may be some who haven't heard it. The flip side has not been heard outside of those of us obsessives in the song-poem collecting world, and it shares some of the same qualities with its more famous record-mate. It's called "John F. Kennedy's Election Race".
The laziness (or perhaps incompetence) of the songwriter really calls attention to itself. I particularly like:
"And now he is gone, and all we can do is sing these songs" (did the obvious and more effective rhyme "carry on" really not occur to the writer?)
(about Oswald): "He saw that there's really no use, because there's nothing anyone wanted to do." (um...huh?)
"He did not discriminate any race.... (he) tried to keep each and every one in his place" (well, which was it?)
"Now in West Berlin, he had been"
And my favorite is the way the lyrics to "Election Race" build up to the big finish, that last important line, in which we learn that:
"John F. Kennedy loved our air force base!"
This record, by the way, came out nowhere near time of the events it describes, but rather, was produced some time around 1972.
Time was, when a group of friends would get together, they'd fire up the reel to reel recorder and spend a few minutes recording the visit for posterity. Sometimes it might be conversation, sometimes it might be skits, sometimes it might be music. For me, finding such recordings on a secondhand reels of tape is like successfully panning for gold must be for a prospector. There is something special about hearing people enjoying each others company, and listening to the full throated, untrained but enthusiastic singing that rises up on such occasions. Today, two significantly different groups of people, recorded (mostly likely) not so many years apart from each other, enjoying fellowship and singing around the piano.
In the first tape, features a group of perhaps a half-dozen young adults. I believe this tape was in the same batch of tapes from which I excerpted the off color fairy tales two months ago, and two of the voices here sound to me like the same people who were on that tape. Don't be put off by the fairly out-of-tune rendition of "Row Row Row Your Boat" that leads off this segment - it gets more interesting, as they spend about 15 minutes going through a surprisingly wide variety of music. Throughout the eight or so songs, there is a great, infectious energy and a strong feeling of friendship.
My favorite point is probably when they veer from the traditional hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" directly into Tom Lehrer's wonderfully macabre "I Hold Your Hand in Mind". Another highlight is a version of "Jamaica Farewell" which manages to feature moments both of lovely harmony at some points and of seemingly tone-deaf singing at others. Then there's the moment that everyone in the group repeats an off color phrase, moments before launching into yet another hymn ("For the Beauty of the Earth"). If you stick around until the end, you'll hear a switch from piano to some nice acoustic guitar playing and a spirited rendition of "Bill Bailey".
The second recording features another group of friends, older than the first group, and made up of three couples, I believe, named (if I've heard things right) The Beaumonts, the Curtises and the Cohens, and a seventh person named Clara (another couple is mentioned later, but they do not seem to be heard on the recording). The recording here lasts about ten minutes. After the host couple engage in a bit of banter about recording their friends, and some giving of thanks, the other couples arrive, and more bantering for the microphone ensues.
A brief, sweet rendition of "Always" is followed by some joking comments about the performance, then a longer version of a song I don't recognize, and more jolly comments.
The remainder of the tape, as you'll hear, is poorly recorded, and I have cut out a lengthy solo version of the song "Some Enchanted Evening", sung by one of the women, due to it being particularly badly recorded. This rendition is referenced in the closing two minutes of the tape, in which various people present make some closing comments and thank their hosts for a nice evening.
Meloclass turns up in the American Song-Poem Music Archives listing of song-poem labels, but I have two records on the label, and neither of them - at least not their respective a-sides - strike me as being song-poems.
To be sure, there is some overlap. One of the writers of today's record (Gordon Vanderburg) shows up with songs on several other song-poem labels, including one where he composed several offerings on a Las Vegas-themed album, all performed by the great Rodd Keith.
But in that case, and in the case of the Meloclass songs, it seems more likely that the song-poem companies were being employed to turn out records of completed songs, often written by a song-writing team, rather than submitting lyrics to have music written to order. It's a key difference between a song-poem and a vanity recording.
And in this case, I really wonder if this (and the other Meloclass record from my collection) are neither song-poems nor vanity records, but legitimate attempts at novelty records. There is a higher level of professionalism in the writing of "Credit Card", for one thing, and for another, the artists listed on the labels of these records show up nowhere else in the song-poem discography.
All of that is just obsessive speculation, from this obsessive collector. Here is the song itself, a charming performance of "Credit Card" as sung and played by Richard House and the Five Fellows:
The other Meloclass record to which I've referred, a truly engaging song written tribute to a Marine, from his fellow Marines, performed in a truly unique and ridiculous fashion, and titled "Friendly Melvin", can be found here.
The flip side of "Credit Card", with the same co-writer, is considerably less interesting, and muddies the waters considerably by sounding very much like the product of the Globe song-poem factory, while still credited to The Five Fellows, this time joined by "A Girl".
Interestingly, the single of "Friendly Melvin" also features a flip side credited to the same group as on the A-side, yet like this record, the flip side sounds like a song poem, the flip features a different vocalist, and the performers heard on the two sides do not sound remotely similar.
Somewhere in my collecting travels, this reel came into my collection. On it, the recipient of (what I'm sure were) countless audio letters from her sweetheart, collected four of them, splicing what were originally three inch reels back to back onto a seven inch reel.
The sender, as the tapes makes clear, was at the time a soldier stationed in Thailand. The month was June, and the days of the week mentioned (i.e. Saturday, June 19th) would indicate that the year was either 1965 or 1971 (assuming as I do that the tapes were made during the '60's or early '70's).
The tapes begin on June 7th, but most of that tape seems to have been lost over the years, so I've included the fragments (the first two minutes of side one and the last two minutes of side two) at the end of this post.
The meat of the audio here are three tapes from late June - on the 19th, the 25th and the 27th. The first tape is nice to hear, but to me doesn't contain as much of interest as do the other two tapes. In between the tapings on the 19th and 25th, the man speaking and a cohort took a lengthy trip to Bangkok, and the sites seen during that trip, and another shorter trip make up for the most interesting parts of the audio letters from the later in the month.
The tape from the 25th describes the drive, and the endless farm fields, as well as some particularly interesting temples. The tape from the 27th has my favorite moment, in which talks about a bike ride he took with another soldier, and how they were invited into one of the temples, at the virtual insistence of the monks, the reasons why, what happened once they were inside, and... well, you'll hear it, as well as his explanation for why he believes they acted in that way.
In between all that are descriptions of life on the base, discussions of the oppressive heat, random observations on other things, and many, many tender expressions of his love for the girl he is missing.
Finding recordings as like the one on this tape is among the biggest reasons I spend my free time delving into the contents of old reels, and I'm sure there are others out there who will enjoy this just as much. Here are the three main recordings, split up into the two sides as they originally would have been heard on the small reels:
From a Soldier in Thailand - June 19th, Part One (MP3) | From a Soldier in Thailand - June 19th, Part Two (MP3) | From a Soldier in Thailand - June 25th, Part One (MP3) | From a Soldier in Thailand - June 25th, Part Two (MP3) | From a Soldier in Thailand - June 27th, Part One (MP3) | From a Soldier in Thailand - June 27th, Part Two (MP3)
Here are the fragments of the earlier recording, as well as a scan of the tape itself:
Here are two much beloved instrumental 45's from my collection, both of which I've owned for over 25 years. Each features (among other things) soloing by a trumpeter, both of whom appear to have been quite accomplished players.
And yet both of these records wormed their ways into my heart not because of excellence of performances, but rather, due to the fairly garish, even obnoxious sounds captured on them. I can distinctly remember laughing out loud at the sheer over-the-topness of certain moments of each of these records, the first time I heard them.
First up, George Girard, who seems to have been considered a very promising up and comer in the world of New Orleans jazz, before his life was cut short by cancer at just 26. This is indeed a fine performance, but I've always been taken with the harsh edge (is "blatty" a word?) on his playing, especially in the opening notes of his performance, and in the final 15 seconds of the record. I think the issue here is the production: the whole thing seems to have been recorded in a tin room, and then slathered in reverb, with the drums and Girard's trumpet getting the worst of it by far.
From a different world entirely come The Cousins, whose organ, bass, trumpet and bump-n-grind drums sound seems to have been designed for the finest in strip clubs. The opening fanfare appears designed to announce that something interesting is going to happen, and sure enough it does, with a sleazy trumpet and tom-tom duet following, leading up to a second half in which the trumpeter and organist vie for attention for a while, before giving way to the tom-toms again. And as with the George Girard record, there's a big finish, in which all three featured players go all out during the last 25 seconds.
For completeness sake, here are the flip sides of each of these records, neither of which quite hit the heights of the featured sides, although the entry by The Cousins does have its own charms, some of which are provided by a tenor sax player not featured on "My Baby". Also included are scans of the George Girard record (I digitized The Cousins' songs ages ago, and can't find the actual record at this moment to scan, but if I find it later, I'll add it to this post).
I am slowly listening my way through my late mother's cassettes and reel tapes, well over a thousand of them. Just last week, I was reminded of why I decided to do this, rather than just chuck them all, when I came across this sweet, endearing recording of my daughter, long ago, at the age of about six (she's now 21), accompanied by my brother on piano, in a brief rendition of "You're a Grand Old Flag".
I'm quite certain that I was not present at the time of this recording, and that I'd never heard this tape before. While it's hardly a demonstration of technical excellence in singing, I wish I could bottle and distribute the joy of life captured in this performance, particularly the note (one for the ages) at the 20 second point. I thought I'd make it my gift to everyone here, on this fourth of July:
Today, three tapes which I've been saving for awhile, for just the right time. Now, instead of making each into a post of it's own, I've decided to bundle them together, into an "odds and ends" post.
First up, a very brief tape featuring someone named Oliver, a radio newsman who has been asked (in 1975) to provide a few seconds worth of introduction to a special program on Foreign Policy. He does so, giving seven nearly identical readings in about 90 seconds. What makes this tape memorable is the obnoxious version of the text he shares with his recipients after the seven intros, in giving an eighth intro, in an altered fashion. While I hope this sort of thing no longer goes on, I suspect it probably does.
Next up, an equally obnoxious tape. I knew I was in for an interesting listen when I opened this box and saw that the inside cover was labeled "Phallus in Wonderland". The resulting tape did not disappoint, although my enjoyment of it was mostly in the wonder of listening to two people who clearly thought they were being much funnier than was actually the case, rather than any humor or titillation I got out of it. For about 16 minutes, Jerry and an unnamed woman take a trip through a few different children's stories, replacing key words here and there or accenting certain syllables. If you're in the right mood, you may find it either fascinating or mind numbing, or maybe even both.
Finally, and on a truly different note, there is a recording of an amazing televised Civil Rights Discussion, probably from a public television station, from a some time in 1968. The last half hour of what was an hour long show is recorded here.
I'm calling it a discussion, although for significant stretches of it, it's really more of a barely-under-control argument, to the point that at times, the microphones in one of the two studios being used are cut so that the other parties can respond without being interrupted (although you can still hear the "cut" participants continuing to talk). I think I've identified one participant as Maryland Representative Charles Mathias, and wonder if "Mr. Kilpatrick" is one-time segregationist James J. Kilpatrick. I also think one of the speakers may be Hosea Williams, who was part of Dr. King's inner circle. As to the others, I think there are mentions the names Mr. Field, Mr. Palmer and Mr. McKissick, but beyond hearing those names, I have been unable to identify these other speakers.
At the end of the show there is over nearly 90 seconds of muffled conversation, followed by some ending voice-over comments, and I couldn't help but laugh at the song which started the commercial for an upcoming show, a song whose lyrics did not really fit with what had just gone down. I've left in a moment of that song for your enjoyment.
I've just taken possession of a record I've been looking for for many years, and upon receiving it, was amazed to find that it wasn't the version I've known for almost a decade, but that it contains an alternate version, with new lyrics! And I wanted to share it with as many people as possible! To start from the beginning:
Back in 2003, in what turned out to be one of the last (if not the very last) new posts to the wondrous, late and lamented Oddball Auditorium, curator John Fitzpatrick offered up several records with song-poem connections, the most endearing and memorable of which, to me, was Harold Duncan's "Be American". This is not a song poem - it's a vanity record found as an acetate on a song-poem/vanity hybrid label, and is as curious as any song-poem record could hope to be.
Over acoustic backing, driven by some nice ukulele playing, Mr. Duncan offers up his paean to America and Her People. The lyrics are just odd enough to never quite make it quite clear if Mr. Duncan is an all-around patriot ("faithful and true to the red, white and blue"), a rabid isolationist ("let the foreigners fight - stay in the USA") or just a crank ("live American, talk American").
Here, with great thanks to Mr. Fitzpatrick (and apology for reposting), here is that original acetate version:
Now just try to get that song out of your head!
As I said, I've looked for this record since perhaps two minutes after I heard it for the first time. Finally, last month, an opportunity came to own my own copy (and dirt cheap, too - I'd have paid 50 times what I got it for!). Wonder of wonder, it's on a real record label, has the same performance on both sides of the record, and it's a different vocal, with a few key phrases changed. He even talked over the "doodle-doodle-do" section (although that wordless vocal is still there, too).
Now, instead of letting the foreigners fight, Mr. Duncan mentions our "power and might", and later, where the line would have been again, he has decided that "if we have to, we'll fight", although he then immediately adds "stay in your own back yard" - is he talking to Americans or the foreigners? Actually, the lyrical changes leave me just as confused as to his politics as the first version.
Here, then, is the alternate version of "Be American":
So who was Harold Duncan? Damned if I know. But I can tell you that he also wrote both sides of a 45 on the Key West Record label for an act called Houston & Dorsey, a comedy duo who released several records on another song-poem/vanity hybrid label, Carellen, one which was associated with National Songwriters Guild, the label on which the acetate version of "Be American" appeared. "Key West Music" is also the publisher of "Be American". If I can find my copy of that record, I'll post it here next time around. And although it's unrelated, I'll just throw in that Carellen Records (Houston and Dorsey's regular label) also released a 45, the provenance of which is unclear, but if it is a song-poem, is by far the best song-poem I've ever heard.
(Incidentally, I know that these two versions (which clearly have the same backing track) are in slightly different keys and speeds. I know that my version played as calibrated at 45 RPM. The acetate version may have been mastered slower than on my version or may have been recorded from a turntable that was running a bit slowly.)
I was 16, in 1976, when I first discovered the availability of bootlegs. After written requests to addresses in the back of a magazine, a few different catalogs arrived in the mail, and I stocked up on things like The Sweet Apple Tracks (still a favorite), The Beatles Christmas Album and a host of other Beatle related products of varying quality, from priceless to dubious.
One catalog promised something a bit different - reel to reel tapes featuring spoken word content involving or about the Beatles or the individual members. There were collections of Beatles press conferences, excerpts from the "Lennon Remembers" interview with Jann Wenner, a copy of a promotional interview released for a George Harrison album, and so forth. And so, long before I started deliberately collecting ephemera on this most magnificent of recording formats, I sent away for a half-dozen reels, perhaps the first reels I owned that were not pre-packaged releases from record companies or home-recorded tapes from my family's own collection.
The one that intrigued me the most promised to hold a radio documentary about the "Paul is Dead" rumors of late 1969. Every now and then I've thought about this tape, especially after a different program on the rumors was posted to the first 365 days project, several years ago.
This program is hosted by Christopher Glenn, who later went on to be the voice behind the iconic Saturday Morning "In the News" programs for kids, as well as the voice of the CBS World News Roundup, until just months before his death in 2006. The show features some of the early "clues", an interview with one of the people who broke the "story", other "expert" insight, and a lot of speculation.
I've always found the Paul is Dead stuff really fascinating - Iwhile don't believe for a moment that The Beatles were in any way behind the rumors, the sociology of it is quite compelling, and the lengths to which people went to imagine some of the clues is amazing. You can do the same thing with a lot of different ideas - I knew someone who came up with dozens of clues to show that The Beatles were trying to let us know that John had gone blind, just to show how easy it was to make unrelated lyrics and photos seem to mean something more important, and of course Charles Manson went in yet another direction with what he was sure was hidden in the lyrics. But that this particular group of clues spread so quickly and so completely is really something.
There is no indication within the program, as heard on the tape, as to its source, and the tape box was completely generic. But this program appears to date from very early in the spread of the rumors - I'm guessing late October or early November of 1969 - because many of the more obscure "clues" which were later taken as central to the "hoax" are not mentioned, and don't appear to have been "discovered" yet. What's interesting here is the almost complete acceptance of the exceptionally unlikely idea that The Beatles were involved in the hoax, on the part of everyone who is heard on the show.
Also interesting is that, despite being put together by a talented, respected newsman (and no doubt at least a few researchers), this program repeats the assumption that Paul wrote the music and John wrote the words, a description of their partnership that was never true, let alone by 1969. And finally, where would the report have come from in late 1969 that "The Beatles are known to be working on a new album"? By the time Abbey Road was released, John had quit the band, although this had been hushed up quite effectively, and although Let It Be was still awaiting release, no one at that time would have been reporting that the Beatles were recording together.
Don McNeill was a radio legend, host of The Breakfast Club, heard on WLS in Chicago and nationwide on the Blue Network (and later ABC) for over 35 years. At the height of his run on the show (and shortly after ending a brief TV simulcast), in 1956, McNeill teamed up with Archie Bleyer, founder and head of Cadence Records, for a one shot 45 of a song which had been sung on The Breakfast Club, "Make America Proud of You".
This record appeared on the label during a real hot streak, in between number one hits by The Chordettes and BIll Hayes (the year before) and Andy Williams and The Everly Brothers (the year after).
For the A-side, McNeill engaged what sounds like at least a hundred Chicago area young people, including lots of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and the choruses from two North Shore high schools, Evanston and New Trier (the latter being the school I would attend, some twenty years later, at that school's West Campus). This assembled multitude made quite the boisterous recording.
For the flip side, McNeill and Bleyer again utilized the talents of the New Trier chorus, minus all of the other performers, however, for a much more sedate (and, to these ears, dull) performance of the material, complete with a recitation by McNeill which touches on, among other things, how even if you're not the smartest, fastest or otherwise bestest, you can still do your own personal best in everything you attempt, and in doing so, "make America proud of you".
Don McNeill, Evanston and New Trier High School Choruses, Chicago Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Archie Bleyer - Make America Proud of You (MP3) | New Trier High School Chorus, Conducted by Archie Bleyer, Narration by Don McNeill - Make America Proud of You (MP3) | Single A-Side Label (JPG) | Single B-Side Label (JPG)
Today's sampling of my reel to reel collection features a tape containing a speech made during a gathering at Lake Forest College in Illinois, on February 22, 1967. On that date, Dr. Adrian Ostfeld, then the head of preventive medicine at the Univeristy of Illinois College of Medicine, spoke about his findings as an early researcher (at the beginning of the 1960's) into the effects of LSD.
As you will hear, he generally found the effects to be fairly limited, with the exception of a very few subjects who had quite extensive responses to the drug. Because of the many visual effects reported by those involved in the experiments, he expanded his research into those who were blind, and who had experienced the removal of their eyes, and he reports on the findings with those subjects, as well.
He goes on to discuss the vast difference between his rather banal findings and the amazing LSD experiences being reported by a variety of sources in the press and elsewhere, in those more recent days of 1966 and 1967, and speculates on some of the reasons for this, before ending with his own views on the likelihood of discovering anything worthwhile via the continued study of the drug.
This was apparently part of a larger presentation or event: the tape begins with a brief organ piece and an equally brief choral piece, before someone named Dr. Smucker introduces Dr. Ostfeld (another piece of music is beginning as the tape is shut off, after the speech). I have separated this four minute set of introductory items into a separate file, for those who might not be interested in this material, and the speech (which runs about 35 minutes) is heard in the second file, below.
The response to Joe McCarthy's war on Communism, and its tactics, famously drew responses, comments and critiques from many corners of the worlds of art, news and entertainment. What other aspect of life in mid-50's America played such a strong role in the work of such diverse perfomers as Bob and Ray, Pete Seeger and Edward R. Murrow, among others far too numerous to mention? On the fringes of this response were some less well-known chapters of the story. Today's example is a 10" LP by The Barton Brothers, performing a 20 minute play written and directed by Hal Collins, titled "Mister Chairman! A Point of Order", and released in 1955 on the Allo Records label.
Such was the fear of McCarthy and his power, that the album - despite being released after public opinion and his Senate colleagues had turned against McCarthy - carries text on the back cover almost begging the listener to understand that it's contents are SATIRE, and that SATIRE is really OKAY. Oh, it's also that rare, special brand of SATIRE - "HUMOROUS SATIRE"! After going on to say that their album contains a caricature (capitalizing that word, while spelling it wrong, by the way) of the manner of presentation of a political investigation, they even assure us that "any similarity to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I'd love to say that hiding behind this timid, apologetic marketing lurks a great work of satiric, biting art, but...I don't actually believe that to be the case. This is fairly hamfisted stuff, in which McCarthy's doppelganger gets upset at being denied his favorite meal, and then becomes suspicious of the red.... well, I'll let you hear it and find out.
The Barton Brothers - Mr. Chairman! A Point of Order, Part One (MP3) | The Barton Brothers - Mr. Chairman! A Point of Order, Part Two (MP3) | Album Front Cover (JPG) | Album Back Cover (JPG) | Label (JPG)
And now, if I may toot my own horn a bit, I'm very happy to say that an album's worth of humorous songs I recorded in the mid 1990's, and distributed privately on cassettes in 1997, has now been released by the fine folks at the online Happy Puppy Records label. It's full of originals, in addition to a couple of parodies, a song-poem cover, and even a cover of one of my beloved Star Ads. Have a listen, if you will!:
On today's tape (recorded sometime in the 1960's), a gathering of friends had been puttering along nicely, if somewhat boringly, being recorded for posterity. But at some point, one of the men present mentioned that he had a story he'd written about people he knew in childhood, which he intended to submit to Reader's Digest, and perhaps other magazines.
A bit later, he got around to reading his story to his friends. It turns out to be about life in 1926, at age 11, and specifically the two kids in his neighborhood, a boy and a girl, who were quite a bit more precocious than their peers, professing as they did to knowing about any and all things regarding sex. It's not a long or complicated story, but it is a little slice of life, and one from a very different time and place. Rather than summarize his story, I think I'll just let the listener experience it:
Nearly two years ago, I posted an album featuring C. Northcote Parkinson speaking on the subject of Democracy. I mentioned that, when I had picked up that album, I also got two more albums in what was a ten part series of interviews with Parkinson, regarding various political systems. Since then, I've had a couple of requests to feature the other two albums, and so that's what I'm doing today. Album seven in the series covered "Dictatorship", and album eight covered "The Russian Communist Theocracy"
Like the Democracy album, both of the other album covers were badly damaged in a flood, so I can't offer up scans of those covers (all of which were identical, except for the volume and title), but I will share this quote from the back:
"Dr. Parkinson adheres to the pessimistic belief that democracy died a long time ago as a creed and an inspiration and while he feels that dictatorship is the characteristic 20th Century form of government, he believes that all systems end to bear the seeds of their own destruction...that no one system is best for all countries and for all times".
C. Northcote Parkinson - Dictatorship, Part One (MP3) | C. Northcote Parkinson - Dictatorship, Part Two (MP3) | C. Northcote Parkinson - The Russian Communist Theocracy, Part One (MP3) | C. Northcote Parkinson - The Russian Communist Theocracy, Part Two (MP3)