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Dust, Crackle and Pop: Vinyl cuts

August 12th, 2009 5 comments

Today, August 12, is International Vinyl Record Day. To mark the event, here are a few songs I”ve ripped from my LPs lately. I have old LPs stashed all over the house. Most of them ““ almost all of them ““ have not been played in more than a decade, some in more than two decades. None was played after my son, then three or four years old, broke the stylus on my Technics turntable. It has been great playing some of these old records again, and in some cases painful as I realise that the music wasn”t as great as my memory had deceived me to think. These songs here did not disappoint. Happy Vinyl Record Day.

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Tony Schilder ““ Madeleine.mp3
tony_schilder Tony Schilder is now retired, but in his day he was a keyboard maestro in the field of South African jazz-fusion. His trio regularly featured guest artists, of whom the internationally best known is Jonathan Butler. Schilder”s trio was the houseband of the Montreal nightclub in Cape Town”s Manenberg (which lent its name, inaccurately spelt, to Dollar Brand”s jazz opus), an impoverished, gang-riddled township established by the apartheid regime for South Africans classified as “Coloured” (that is, people of mixed race). In that community”s vibrant nightclub scene, Montreal was the place to be in the 1980s. It had style and Cape Town”s great artists would regularly appear there, such as frequent Schilder collaborator Robbie Jansen (a gifted saxophonist and vocalists, whose unrecorded version of Marvin Gaye”s What”s Going On is the best I”ve heard) or Dougie Schrikker, “the Frank Sinatra of the Cape Flats”.

The cheerful Madeleine (such a beautiful name) was the highlight in Schilder”s sets; it”s opening keyboard bar alerting the serious jazz dancers (and by this I mean Cape Town jazz-dancing, which is a sexier version of ballroom styles) to take to the dancefloor. Strangely Madeleine didn”t appear on his CD of re-recorded classics released in 1995. The 1985 LP it came from, Introducing the Music of Tony Schilder, has never been released on CD, to my knowledge. The song features Danny Butler on vocals, and his brother Jonathan on guitar (and check out his great solo).

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The Four Tops & The Supremes – Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).mp3
four_tops_supremes The famous version, of course, is that by Diana Ross, her first solo single after splitting from the Supremes. Shortly after La Ross recorded the Ashford & Simpson composition in 1970, the Supremes (now fronted by Jean Terrell) recorded it with the Four Tops, creating a more joyous version than Diana”s, which was lovely but not particularly soulful in arrangement or vocal delivery. I will be honest and admit that I had forgotten I even had this until last weekend, when I ripped most of the tracks featured here. It”s on a collection of soul tracks released in 1974 which I picked up cheaply some 20 years ago in a second-hand shop. Whatever I paid for it, this song alone made it a bargain.

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The Mystics – Hushabye.mp3
MYSTICS American readers of a certain age may well remember this: Hushabye was the song with which the legendary DJ Alan Freed closed his televised Big Beat Show. Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, it was released in 1959 by the New York doo wop group The Mystics, Italian-Americans from Bensonhurst. A year after Hushabye was released, a young Paul Simon (then calling himself Jerry Landis) joined as lead singer, albeit only very briefly.

The Mystics were supposed to be given Pomus/Shuman”s A Teenager In Love, which in the event was recorded to great commercial success by Dion & the Belmonts. The record label, Laurie Records, were not too pleased, it seems, and ordered the songwriters to come up with a new tune for The Mystics. The next day, Hushabye was ready. It became a #20 hit in summer 1959. Five years later, the Beach Boys recorded a cover for their All Summer Long album.

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The Crusaders ““ So Far Away (live).mp3
crusaders Jazz legends The Crusaders covered Carole King”s So Far Away twice. The studio version is nice; the live take, from 1974″s Scratch: Live At The Roxy, is brilliant. It”s warm and cool, exciting and relaxing. And it sounds barely like the original tune. At 1:54 trombonist Wayne Henderson begins a note which he holds continuously for a minute, driving the crowd mad with concern for his safety (one member shouts “stop!”) before Sample, Hooper, Felder, Carlton and Popwell resume to finish the song off in a rhapsodic orgasm.

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Mungo Jerry ““ Have A Whiff On Me.mp3
mungo_jerry A typically exuberant Mungo Jerry number with its boogie woogie piano, improvised instrument, percussive oral noises and Ray Dorset”s obligatory scat and exclamation of “all right, all right, all right”. Most of Mungo Jerry”s tracks sounded like they were remakes of old songs, but few actually were. Have A Whiff On Me is an exception; it was an old blues song which the folk/blues historians John and Alan Lomax picked up from James “Ironhead” Baker (he of Black Betty original obscurity) and Lead Belly, then titled Take A Whiff On Me. It was recorded subsequently by folk singers such as Woody Gutrie, Cisco Houston and, in 1970, by the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. A “whiff” is slang for cocaine, and the song is alternatively known as Cocaine Habit Blues.

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Misty In Roots ““ Own Them Control Them.mp3
misty_in_roots The regular reader will have noticed that this blog features very little by way of reggae (one Peter Tosh track, and one by Freddie McGregor in 321 posts). For a brief time in the mid-“˜80s I was into reggae, absorbed a lot of it, and then got bored with it. During that fleeting flirtation, I bought the 12″ of Own Them Control Them by the London band Misty In Roots. It was not a hit ““ none of the group”s single bothered the UK Top 75 ““ and I hadn”t heard it for a very long time. When I did, it did remind me why I bought the record in first place: it”s very good indeed.

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Christopher Plummer & Phillip Glasser ““ Never Say Never.mp3
american_tail Before Disney had their massive resurgence following 1989″s A Little Mermaid, the studio had lost its mojo It took Universal with the Steven Spielberg produced An American Tail in 1986 to show Disney the way to make great animated films again (even if some of them were too saccharine for my taste). The adventures of the immigrant mouse Fievel were charming, certainly in the first film. Children in film can be very endearing or very annoying. Phillip Glasser, barely eight-years-old at the time, voiced Fievel beautifully. His reprimand to Plummer”s French Statue-of-Liberty-building pidgeon for using the word “never” is very cute without being too sugary.

The song, an old-style production number by James Horner which classic Disney would have been proud of, was set early in the movie. Fievel has arrived in America but had lost his family, with whom he was immigrating from Russia (on the false premise that there are no cats there). Henri the pidgeon encourages Fievel not to give up. And, “” ***SPOILER ALERT*** “” you”d never guess it, but Fievel actually does find his family. Phew!

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George Fenton ““ The Funeral (Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrika).mp3
cry_freedom We started with a bit of South African music, and here we wrap up with the greatest ever South African song which in a truncated form and combined in a medley with the old apartheid-era anthem Die Stem is part of South Africa”s current national anthem. To this day, I refuse to sing the apartheid-anthem portion, an act of recalcitrance which many South Africans with much greater grievances than I can lay claim to evidently do not share, for they sing it with gusto.

This recording is from the 1987 film Cry Freedom, in which Denzil Washington played the murdered anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko. Biko represented the radical Black Consciousness Movement, which held that liberation must come from black people and not through the mediation of whites. This placed him closer to the Pan African Congress, a breakaway from the African National Congress of Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela. That”s why this version of Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrika includes parts of the anthem which the ANC (and, in the “˜80s, its internal federation, the United Democratic Front) excluded. Written by a Methodist school teacher named Enoch Sontonga in 1897, it was originally a Christian hymn ““ the title means God Save Africa ““ before in 1927 one Samuel Mqhayi added further verses to it.

The version here, scoring Biko”s funeral on 25 September 1977, is dramatically orchestrated by George Fenton, starting off with a solo by Thuli Dumakude, with the choir directed by the great Jonas Gwangwa. It is real goosepimple stuff.

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On International Vinyl Record Day, don”t forget to visit those blogs which heroically keep the memory of crackling, dusty vinyl alive. These include AM Then FM, The Hits Just Keep On Coming, The Vinyl District, Great Vinyl Meltdown, Dusty Sevens, Funky16Corners, Dust And Grooves, and Dr Forrest”s Cheese Factory for the truly weird stuff (apologies to the fine vinyl blogs that I have neglected to mention).

Clack, Crackle & Pop: The Vinyl Days

August 12th, 2008 9 comments

If you belong to a certain generation, you will be familiar with the old music consoles featuring a radio tuner (in Germany with bands indicating exotic places such as Hilversum, Dubrovnik and Königsberg) and a record player with a spindle on which you”d stack up to ten records which would drop on to the turntable when the previous platter was finished. A bit like a pre-historic WinAmp playlist. I was such a record player.

I cannot remember exactly how old I was. Probably two years old. But I remember it. My shtick was to run around with my left arm pointing up with an outstretched index finger as my right hand made half-circular motions around the left index finger. All that was accompanied by soulful singing, usually songs by child star Heintje. Suddenly the singing would stop, I”d say “clack”, and begin singing a different song. Usually by, yes, Heintje. My first idol, was Heintje.

Today I continue to be a source of recorded music. If my friends have a party, I bring the music. If they are looking for something new to hear, I”m the man. And, seeing as you are here, each song I post signals the clack of a record dropping from my index finger, with the link being my right hand rotating the record, and the click of the mouse the soundeffect.

I have four older siblings, the youngest of whom is six years older than I am, and my mother was a young 21 when I was born (I need not point out that the elder siblings originated from my widowed father”s first marriage). Records were everywhere in our house. My siblings introduced my to all kinds of German Schlager music (the youngest of my sisters loved Udo Jürgens before falling for Peter Maffay), the Beatles, David Cassidy, and later Jethro Tull”¦ My mother, although her first love was classical music, had a singles collection, too. And I loved singles. So it was on my fifth birthday that I became the proud owner of a compact record player, the box-type where the lid doubles as the speaker. I commandeered my mother”s singles collection, kept in an album with plastic sleeves for the purposes of prudent storage. Manfred Mann”s Ha! Ha! Said The Clown, Chris Andrew”s Pretty Belinda, the Archies” Sugar Sugar, Al Martino”s Spanish Eyes (not knowing English, we sang: “Du, sperr” mich ein”), Trini Lopez singing America from West Side Story, Gilbert Becaud”s Russian-flavoured Nathalie, The Peels” Juanita Banana ““ and Jane Birkin”s Je “˜taime non plus. I loved the keyboard line but felt sorry for the girl who apparently was suffering a nightmare.

My grandmother, at whose nearby house I”d spent half of my childhood, also had records. None of these were as cool as Al Martino, of course. Still, I loved playing records, even if the music I played meant nothing to me and my life. I loved her classy shiny music box with the mirrored liquor cabinet which smelt of brandy. I”d choose the records according to the aesthetics of the record label. My favourite was a dramatic “50s design in orange with a logo which looked vaguely like an exploding star. It was a recording of a Montenegro Choir performing the Hebrew Slave Chorus from Verdi”s Nabucco. It remains one of my favourite pieces of music.

In my second-oldest sister”s flat, I became a fan of the Beatles, without knowing it. I liked the music on the green Capitol label, especially Paperback Writer and, with deplorable predictability, Ob-ladi-Ob-lada (though that was on the Apple label, I think). I also liked the one with the red label, which was a song with the barking dog barking to a tune. Of my mother”s singles, I liked The Peels” Juanita Banana primarily because of the karate label. It reminded my of my favourite ice lolly in Denmark, where we”d holiday, called (I think) Kung Fu. In 1999 I had the opportunity to sample the same liquorice-flavoured ice-lolly. It remains my all-time favourite ice-lolly, and I still can”t tell martial arts apart.

My grandmother must have been a big music fan in her time. By the time I was four or five (and she 75), I think she wanted to live her hipness through me. Perhaps she felt it lacking in dignity to rummage through the singles shelves. So when we”d visit the record section of the local Karstadt department store, she would strongly recommend a single I should pick for purchase. Invariably it would be something by the evil Heino, or perhaps by the delusionarily-monikered Czech crooner Karel Gott. Just before I turned six, I finally bought my first deliberately and self-chosen record. It was no less ghastly than Oma”s Heino grooves, but it was my choice: Roy Black & Anita”s Schön ist es auf der Welt zu sein. I suppressed the memory of that purchase for 35 years. The purchase signalled the start of a frenzied, Oma-sponsored acquisition of a fairly-sized record collection which would include such luminaries as Vicky Leandros, Mireille Mathieu, Roberto Blanco and Freddy Breck. For my fix of English music ““ the Sweet”s Poppa Joe! ““ I had to go home to Mom”s plastic sleeve album. By the time I was eight, I had worked out that the German Schlager was terminably uncool. I stopped buying German records ““ and, for a while, any at all. The fever struck again before too long, thanks to the Bay City Rollers (cutting edge cool I was not).

1977, the year I turned 11, was made of vinyl. A single soundtracked the death of my father (Don”t Cry For Me Argentina by Julie Convington), my first love (Rod Stewart”s Sailing), my first crazy record-buying spree at the huge Saturn store in Cologne, at the time Europe”s biggest record shop (Kenny Rogers” Lucille). And then there was a life-changing song, though I didn”t know it at the time.

I had started to learn English in school only a year previously, so I relied on a monthly song lyrics booklet to provide the lyrics of popular songs. A single word in one particular hit bothered me: esitayshon. I looked it up in the songbook for the correct spelling (“hesitation”, apparently), and then consulted my English-German dictionary. It felt fantastic having learned a word like “hesitation”, which even in its German form did not form part of my daily vocabulary. This was the beginning with my ongoing love affair with the English language, thanks to a heavily-accented Spanish duo”s hit, Yes Sir, I Can Boogie (an celebration of dancing skills, I believe). Within a few months, my record purchases would focus on more sophisticated music. The Stranglers thus taught me the word “sleazy”. A couple of years later, I would subscribe to an English football magazine, Match Weekly, to enrich and polish my English vocab.

Your presence here, having persisted with my rambling memoirs of vinyl, suggests that you may well have an appreciation for this blog, hopefully taking some pleasure from both the writing and the music. If so, you may give credit for that to Baccara, Heintje and record players that used to go CLACK!

And so to the music: The first lot of these songs are new uploads, the rest is recycled from the Time Travel 1970s series.

Heintje ““ Mama.mp3
Trini Lopez – A-me-ri-ca.mp3
Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg – Je t’aime moi non plus.mp3
Al Martino ““ Spanish Eyes.mp3
Udo Jürgens ““ Merci Cheri
The Beatles ““ Paperback Writer.mp3
Vicky Leandros – Ich hab’ die Liebe gesehen.mp3

The Peels – Juanita Banana.mp3
Gilbert B̩caud РNathalie (French version).mp3
Chris Andrews – Pretty Belinda.mp3
Manfred Mann – Ha! Ha! Said The Clown.mp3
Roy Black & Anita РSch̦n ist es auf der Welt zu sein.mp3
Sweet – Poppa Joe.mp3 David Cassidy – Daydreamer.mp3
Rod Stewart – Sailing.mp3
Baccara – Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.mp3
Julie Covington – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.mp3
Kenny Rogers – Lucille.mp3

This post was written in celebration of VINYL RECORD DAY on August 12, marking the 131st anniversary of the the invention of the phonograph. Visit The Hits Just Keep On Coming for an index of more articles written especially for Vinyl Day.

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