Saturday, November 24, 2007

That's Rock and Roll

I think that sometimes I go on too long about the recordings I'm sharing here, so today, I'll just say that I'm offering up a classic by a lost father (or perhaps brother) of Rock and Roll, Mr. Barry Gordon, and his classic MGM release "Rock Around Mother Goose". Rock Me Another, Barry!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Drama Queen

I'll say right off the bat that today's selection is one which may have many listeners having the sort of negative response which may range anywhere from "no, that's not for me" to violently stopping the sound file with something approaching disgust. And I'll admit that the opening 19 seconds, which contain a dramatic recitative type introduction, are cringeworthy, and I encourage you to wait them out and try the rest of the song. 

There is simply something about a certain subset of teen girl records from the late '50's and early '60's that makes those records connect with me in a way few other records do. I've already shared the Merigail Moreland recording of "Oo-Lee, Papa", in this blog and elsewhere, and the masterful "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got)". 

In this case, the song is "She's Going Steady with You", by Janie Grant, the B-side of a hit song from 1962 called "Triangle". While the A-side visits much the same topic within the same genre of music, the real winner is hiding on the flipside, and should have been the hit. 

It helps that the song is, at times, taken almost directly from the song "A Fool Such as I", in terms of chords and melody, and that the overall feel is similar to Elvis' rendition of "Fool" (perhaps my favorite of Elvis' big hits). But there's something more to it, and for me, that's in the singer's performance. 

There are at least as many teen girl songs in this genre that I can't stand, the worst of all perhaps being "Bobby's Girl", and that's where I have a hard time explaining what's wonderful and what's horrid. For me the difference tends to be in what I perceive in the performance. 

In "Bobby's Girl" and its ilk, I don't sense for a moment that the singer or anyone else on the record believes the lyric - the singer sounds like she's there to do a job. On today's record and others I have shared and might share, I sense that the singer feels the lyric with every inch of her being, perhaps has even lived it, and I also find that the music sounds as if the musicians were trying to make a good record, rather than simply make something that 13 year olds might like for a month. 
Have a listen, and let me know what you think:


ADDENDUM, 2021: After writing this post, I heard from Janie Grant herself, who confirmed that, yes, this was a song based on personal experience, as I had perceived upon hearing it. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Guessing Game

I have no real clue how many folks are reading the these posts, but I wanted to involve as many people as possible by asking you to guess the recording act heard on this record. Comments are always welcome, and can be shared by clicking on the comment button at the bottom of any post. 

Anyway... The Golden Age of Novelty Records (roughly 1956 through the late 1960's) is, in my opinion, well named. There is a virtually endless list of funny, odd, and downright peculiar records from that era, hits, near hits and obscurities, that were made in order to deliberately make people laugh, become confused and/or collapse into bewilderment.

Certainly a favorite of mine from that era is Rolf Harris' "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". It was a massive hit, one of the bigger hits of any genre in 1963, and like most novelty records, would seem to be the type of thing that wouldn't really work well as a cover record or remake. 

Novelty songs as different in style and quality as "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha", "Witch Doctor", "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" are all so unique, and uniquely tied in with their creators that to have made another version, particularly while the song was still a hit, seems ludicrous. 

But here we have just such a cover version. I would never have expected this song to be covered, and I never would have expected this recording act to have done such a record. The charm of the original is completely lost in this overblown version, with it's sound effects, unnecessary additional shout outs, such as "in memoriam", and the sheer incompetence shown by the singing of the line "watch me wallaby's feed" as "watch me wallaby's feet".

Anyway, let's play guess who made the record. Here 'tis:


ADDENDUM, 2021 - The answer has long since been in the comments, below. Did you guess him? 

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Frantic Pointlessness

I frequently buy used reel to reel tapes, if either the price is right, or the contents look intriguing, or both. I tend to come into possession of tapes quicker than I can find opportunities to listen to them, and so have a backlog of interesting listening at all times. 

This week, I listened to a tape made by someone in the Washington, D.C. area, of various public radio programs, one of which was a featuring on early 20th century recordings of ragtime music. It was quite enjoyable, but the first several records simply did not prepare me for the wonders of this recording of a song called "Oh! You La! La!", by Wilbur Sweatman and his group of apparently tireless instrumentalists and perhaps overcaffeinated drummers. 

There is more energy in this record than in anything else I can think of at the moment, particularly in the second half of the tune. I suspect that at least a few of these musicians had to lie down when they were done making this recording. I certainly would love to have had the opportunity to hear these fellows live! 

(By the way, the host of the radio show reported that the edge of this disc was "scooped" - I think that's the term - and that's what led to the first notes bending upwards as the performance begins.)

Click on the link, and enjoy!


ADDENDUM, 2021: The Wikipedia page for Wilbur Sweatman is worth a read. He seems to have been quite the pioneer.