The Tin Pan Alley record label, of New York City (and later, of Sarasota, Florida), is known - if known at all - largely by two groups of people. First, there are doo-wop collectors and fans, who enjoy the records earliest releases, some of which have even been put together in a few anthologies one can find here and there.
Then there are those like me, who collect the much longer and broader section of Tin Pan Alley's history of releases, their song-poem output. Actually, my understanding is that even the majority of the doo-wop releases (many of them quite valuable) were actually song-poem records, but made with the involvement of some of the top talent in the doo-wop world of the day, leading to considerably better quality than might otherwise have been the case.
One thing I'd never seen before on a Tin Pan Alley record was a vanity recording - someone's own performance of his or her own song. These crop up on some of the other large song-poem labels, but judging from the American Song-Poem Music Archives Tin Pan Alley page, there was, at the time that that site stopped updating, only one confirmed vanity record on the label. I now have another, with a very similar label number to the one previously confirmed.
And it is, I must say, a doozy. Someone named Frank Geramita wrote both sides of the record, and is the credited performer on both songs, as well. The really amazing track is the one identified as the A-side, a recording so filled with incompetence it's hard to know where to start, but the obvious place is with the misspelled title, "I'm So Sad Your (sic) Gone". Then there's the first thing you'll hear, which is the recording cranking up to speed (the record similar comes to a sudden - and more rapid - shutting down at the end).
But the real fun is in listening to the guitar part which seems to have been grafted on, over the strumming and singing that make up the majority of the track. First, this track is recorded loudly enough to dominate vocal sections here and there. But more than that, it is played by someone who clearly has a rudimentary idea of how to solo, and even apparently some decent improvisory ideas, but who just as clearly was nowhere near learning the techniques necessary to pull off what he or she intended to do. Bum notes fly out in almost equal number with good ones at times, the "lead strumming" overpowers the rest of the track at other points.
Almost obscured by all the guitar weirdness is the sort of droning, ponderous nature of the song and performance, which stretches out to nearly five minutes. Be sure to listen for some very odd, and out of place ho-ho-ho-ing just before the song's sudden termination.
The flip side, "As the Time Ticks Away", should absolutely have been the A-side, to my ears. I don't like it much, but I like every aspect of it more than the flip side. While it's still very much a drone, it's a bit more lively, the vocal interplay (where it occurs) is more effective, and it's a better song than "I'm So Sad".
"I won't book another concert for you, Devere. Neither will any agent! Audiences run from your concerts. You play music that drives them nearly mad! People can't listen to you and stay sane."
Ahhh, yes, the years before auto-tune. Step back again this week if you will into that dark place where a chance encounter with a musician or composer might lead to madness at the least, or being an accursed soul for all eternity on the outside.
In our first little yarn, as illustrated by the Atlas/Marvel companies favorite artist (in the 1950s, anyway) Joe Maneely, we will learn a wickedly popular new dance that was all the rage back in 1954 when it appeared originally. Then we will roll back to 1952 and the Fawcett Comics company to hear the soothing strains sure to issue from "Satan's Stradivari", as expertly drawn by the stalwart Golden Age artist Sheldon Moldoff, better-known for his many fine contributions to the Batman comics family, while ghosting for many years under Bob Kane's signature. A special mention should go to the unknown colorist of this story, who did a fantastic job, it is a treat to look at!
And so, for your listening and dancing pleasure, put on your dancing shoes, adjust your earplugs and join me after the jump for some mighty cheerful (and cultural) goings-on!
WFMU's Studio of Tomorrow silent campaign to raise enough money to open our 100-seat radio theater to the public is gaining steam! Help us make our goal by October 31st by making a pledge below!
Earlier this year, WFMU reclaimed the ground floor space of our building* and renovated it on a shoestring. But right now the space is just an empty room with a stage, and we now need to bring it up to code and purchase some basic audio equipment so that we can open our doors to the public and start hosting events.
*(previously, we rented it out to a business that closed shop)
Station Manager Ken explains it all in the video below:
And if that didn't convince you to pledge, perhaps we can entice you with our fantastic new Junk Food T-shirt ($50) or Knit Hat ($100). More swag on view here.
Here's a twelve inch 78 for children, all about why one should mind one's manners (and what those manners are), sung by Frank Luther. Each side has a set of short songs.
Side one features:
1.) How Do You Do? 2.) We Get Up 3.) Before You Know It 4.) Towels and Clothes 5.) At the Table 6.) Listening 7.) We Say "Please" 8.) Excuse Me
Side two features:
1.) Fair Play 2.) The Whineys 3.) Smash, Rip, Ruin 4.) Toys Belong in Boxes 5.) Animals Have Feelings 6.) Goodbye and Thank You 7.) When It Is Bedtime 8.) Having Good Manners
Frank Luther recorded in a variety of genres, but it legendary mostly for his children's records. He made some records my mother loved, particularly a couple of 78's featuring a set of songs by A. A. Milne, and those records are pretty wonderful. This one tries hard to convince the listener that, yes, "Manners Can Be Fun", but the end result seems more like lecturing then it does the explanation of something fun.
Compare with the low budget Peter Pan releases I offered up in the 365 Days project, which are just as didactic, and clearly had a quarter of the musical budget. And yet those records are a hell of a lot of fun, and as a result, they got played to death by my brother and me when we were kids. I don't perceive the same level of "fun" when I listen to this record, although it was clearly quite well loved (i.e. it's beat to hell, as you'll hear) by whoever owned it before me, so what do I know?
This week the Comic Supplement swings back into the
horrific and scary aspects of music, as we look at two 1950s fright books; with a tale from The Beyond #30, dated January 1955, and Web of Mystery #13, from September 1952.
Leading the way, from the last issue of The Beyond, we'll learn about the The Spell of the Hypnotic Chord, which sounds like a charming musical lesson, as stylishly illustrated byLouis Zansky, and penned by an unknown writer.
As a cheerful follow-up to that story, we'll wind things up with a wonderfully visual and strange tale drawn by Lin Streeter and scribed by another unknown writer, with a cover by Lou Cameron.
Oh, Boy! Death songs and hypnotic chords await us right after the jump!
Jimmy Driftwood (1907-1998) has been a musical hero of mine ever since the early '90's, at which point I first heard his song "Fidi Diddle Um-a Dazey" on a tape recording of a folk music radio show from 1960. That sent me back to my family's own tapes from WFMT's "The Midnight Special" folk program from the same era, and the few Driftwood songs that were heard on those tapes, including the wonderful "Rattlesnake Song". I've also always known his amazing song "He Had a Long Chain On", via the recording by Odetta. And of course, nearly everyone my age grew up knowing "The Battle of New Orleans" via the number one hit version sung by Johnny Horton in 1959.
I find Driftwood endlessly entertaining, endearing and fascinating. His songs are catchy and direct, with good humor, and often a really upbeat view of life. Plus there's his infectious vocal style and the unique sound of his homemade guitar. An excellent, lengthy biography of Driftwood can be found here.
Just as I was discovering Jimmy Driftwood, the folks at Bear Family were releasing a box set of his entire output for RCA Victor (five albums, 1958-1962), which I happily ordered (that "Americana" box set on Bear Family remains available, and highly recommended). I later was able to find his more obscure Monument albums from the mid '60's, and a few self-released albums from the '70's.
But until this month, I didn't know that he'd had a one-off release six years before he signed with RCA Victor, in 1952, one what appears to have a small regional label, Cardinal. I was happy to be able to put my hands on a copy shortly after finding out about this record's existence.
Each side features Driftwood in a musical setting not found on his later records. The A-side, "Grapevine News", features a few of the things I love the most about Driftwood's stuff - his humorous lyrics and singular style of singing, attached to a Western Swing track, which works quite nicely. The flip side "Precious Peace of Mind" has more of a Gospel feeling, and the lyrics have a lot in common with that genre, although there is no actual mention of Christ, God or Christianity anywhere in the lyrics.
I think that I now own everything that Jimmy Driftwood ever released. I wish there was more. He was the real deal.
Today in the Comics Supplement we find more educational material from some 'non-fiction' comic
books from the 1940s, specifically the yellowed pages of True Comics and Picture News magazines.
We've talked previously at BOTB about the proprietors of True Comicshere, and Picture News was helmed by editors Leigh Danenberg and Emile Gauvreau with art editor John A. Lehti assisted by Henry Cordes. More information about them seems to be hard to come by, but I did publish another piece from this comic book series here, and we'll be seeing more from that same unknown artist in todays section.
We'll lead off with Ludwig Van Beethoven and then join Picture News for stories about Benny Goodman and Captain Robert Crawford (who he?). All of this knowledge and color pictures too - right after the jump!
Before Bob Dylan, before Joni Mitchell, before Chuck Berry, heck,
even before Elvis Presley, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was rockin’ it gospel
with her electric guitar at a time when such a thing was unimaginable.
Born in 1915, the Arkansas native began playing guitar at the age of
four and performing with her mother at Southern tent revivals from the
age of six. Tharpe stayed on the road until her untimely death at the
age of 58, confounding critics and supporters alike with her blend of
the spiritual and the secular and inspiring scores of performers along
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, born Rosetta Nubin, began performing for
charismatic evangelical church audiences with her mother in Chicago,
where she achieved fame for being such a unique child talent. Throngs of
church attendees would flock to Chicago’s Church of God in Christ to
witness the “the singing and guitar playing miracle,” performing hymns
and dancing on the church piano. From the very beginning, 'Little
Rosetta Nubin' understood the importance of a strong stage presence,
something that she would carry with her throughout her performing life.
In the 1930’s, Nubin moved to New York, married for the first time,
changed her name, and in 1938 was the first gospel artist signed to
Decca Records. Her first singles, such as “This Train” and “Rock Me”
transformed traditional gospel hymns into rollicking, rhythmic
recitations. “Rock Me” was actually a spiritual called “Hide Me in Thy
Bosom,” that Tharpe repurposed into a sultry and sensual seduction.
Here's an interesting little seven inch, 33 1/3 RPM record from Kellogg's, all about their most popular products in 1971, which, they proclaim, would be "A Kellogg's Year".
There are eight songs in total, ranging from just under a minute to just over two minutes. I suspect this was for internal use, perhaps at meetings of some sort, or to be given to the employees. I say that largely because of track three.
Track three, "Low Noon", is easily the high point of the record. It's a parody of Johnny Cash's singing style and musical style, in which the lyrics make repeated fun of those who claim that that Frosted Flakes have little or no nutritional value. The dismissive way these complaints are handled (especially since those complaints were certainly spot-on) makes it unlikely that this was ever meant to be aired in public. I'll let you enjoy them for yourself rather than going into any more detail.
Of the other tracks, three are instrumentals, including one which claims to be about Sugar Pops, but it's hard to tell without any lyrics (the rough edit in the middle of that one is on the record, it's not an MP3 glitch). I also get a kick out of the way that "The American Breakfast" is described - the first word in the description is "Sugar".
Apologies for the poor sound quality, especially on side two - this record is fairly beat up.
Today while I'm still out of town, let's look at two oddball stories here in the Comics Supplement, one by an unknown creative team from 1954, and another by old favoritesSteve Ditko and Stan Lee from 1962.
Our first story comes from the fourth and last issue of MAD magazine clone Madhouse, the Sept./Oct. issue from 1954, an infamous and surreal little yarn - Going-Going-Real Gone. A bigger bunch of screwed-up and made-up 'hip' lingo and situations I could hardly come up with! The only firm credits we have for the book are of its editors: Ruth Roche, and art editor Sam Iger, who both had long and interesting careers before working on this Ajax-Farrell comic book line in the 1950s. Words fail one on this tale, you'll see what I mean.
We'll close with a bonus short story from Amazing Adult Fantasy magazine number 13, June 1962, as brought to us by Ditko and Lee in "The Magazine that Respects Your Intelligence!", and it deals with one of their favorite recurring themes: the power and influence of television.
So hold onto your intelligence and your sanity against the assult about to come - right after the jump!
What makes a great grind band? Doing as much as you can in an average of 43 seconds' song duration, flexing those ferocious chops from all angles, and, though this may be hard to explain to someone whose ears are attuned to pop music and the traditional song form, a certain "catchiness," an anthemic propulsion that will make the listener/receiver want to propel oneself into the pit without a care for personal safety. Psychic Limb have all these qualities, in spades.
I've liked these guys from the second I heard them, they stand out mightily from the pack of late 2000s grind on bandcamp and elsewhere, and they make records that stand firmly amongst the classics of the genre. And yes, they can and do reproduce it all in person.
For months, drummer Casey and I tried to schedule a live radio appearance for PL, and finally were able to line something up for the final MCoQ weekly broadcast on June 7, 2013.
This set represents their latest (and reportedly final) release, Jamaica. They still seem to be playing a few shows here and there, so if you have the chance, catch them live while you still can.
Huge thanks to live-sound engineer Juan Aboites, who deftly scultped many a live Castle session in the show's final months of its original tenure. Thanks also to Tracy Widdess, for taking these photos of the band, and for co-hosting the last show with me in person, flying in from Vancouver Island, BC, to do so. Full broadcast archive can be streamed here.
Track titles, though they hardly seem to matter, are as follows: 22, 27, 19, 20, 29, 28, 24, 26, 21, 23, 30, 25. Psychic Limb's set is presented here as it should be, as one continuous mp3.
Andrzej Żuławski’s “intellectual horror film”, Possession
begins with the protagonist’s return from an unspecified but apparently
dangerous assignment. In an empty room at Tempelhof Airport in
Berlin, Mark’s employers plead with him to stay but he is adamant. His
“subject” (and his pink socks) will elude them for now.
Returning to his bland apartment in a 70’s housing complex, Mark (played
somewhat woodenly by Sam Neil), finds his wife is leaving him
for Heinrich, an intellectual martial arts expert with a wardrobe of
there the film spirals into a queasy out of control psycho-drama, with
acts of gratuitous violence appearing out of the blue with increasing
frequency. Schlock is piled upon schlock until it almost becomes a
bonfire of all the vanities of European art house cinema of this
period, as well as being a cathartic scream and (perhaps) a
pitch black comedy in the tradition of the Grande Guignol.
Żuławski, a protégé of Andrej Wadja, was never a director shy of overstatement. Here in Possession,
his first and only English language film, scripted in the midst
of a messy divorce case, he piles it on thick with
Back in June, I posted a tape containing some radio station and advertising jingles, from circa 1957, all of them apparently demos. There was a nice response, and I got to thinking that there was at least one other tape from the same batch which was similarly marked.
Well I've found that second box this week, and while it doesn't have the variety or length of the first tape, there are still some nice items. These are also all radio jingles, and from seemingly all over the country, too. but there are no products advertised here. And again, based on the box, it appears that these are demos, rather than finished products.
These are SO short (there are 13 jingles in barely 5 1/2 minutes), that I did not separate them into separate tracks, but I will list here the radio stations which are advertised, with the cities where mentioned:
And now, here's another radio related tape which may be of interest. Whoever owned this tape used it again to record some fairly awful country music (and they didn't even record it very well), but through the magic of half-track recording, the original material is still present on the second side of the tap, so we all get to here it here.
This is a tape from an advertising jingle company called Pepper Sound Studios, from some time in the early to mid 1960's. The tape begins with some testimonials from satisfied customers in the radio industry (heard in part one, below), then moves on to the meat of the material, a series of commercials done for a variety of products - examples of the work that Pepper Sound Studios was capable of. This can be heard in part two, below, followed by a sales pitch, also in part two.
Rolling out a couple of weeks worth of vacation posts for the Comics Supplement while I'm travelling about, and today we'll start with two yarns from the unusual 1950s love stories comic book Youthful Romances, which had the distinctive gimmick of featuring real-live music celebrities in at least one story of each issue, as well as on the cover.