Articles by Dave Hoenack

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Irene would like us to share her favorite Beach Boys track, the end of Pet Sounds. The album’s title is a reference to Brian Wilson and the fantastic arrangements he created on the record, largely working with session musicians without the other Beach Boys. Still, it ends with some actual pets.

Another LP ending of special interest to dogs is heard on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album widely known to have been influenced by Pet Sounds.  Here the album concludes with a lock groove, also called a loop groove, meaning that the needle will track through the same two seconds over and over. This obnoxious feature is only found on the original UK Parlaphone pressings of the album, but the two seconds of sound and voice can be heard on the US compilation Rarities.

What many people didn’t know is that the loop is preceded by a 15-kilohertz tone that will get your dog’s attention.

We have encountered a number of acetates of radio station spots and themes with lock grooves at the end of each track — the technique was originally developed by record cutters to help prevent disc jockey errors. Basically the grooves do not allow the needle to continue forward either to the label as at the end of a record or to the next track if somewhere in the middles of the side’s program. In the case of radio stations and spots the loop is simply silence, which we’ll find again in the Moby Grape recording below.

The normal groove runs to a lock groove at the end of the run out space, just outside of the needle. Sgt. Peppers may be the most famous record with a lock groove but it was not the first one we encountered.  When we were kids we did not understand the technology but loved the fact that Fozzie the Bear is left forever calling for help at the end of the Muppet Show 2, as heard here.

Arista Records, the label which released the Muppet Show 2 is also the label which released Monty Python’s vexing three-sided album (Matching Tie and Hankerchief) which features parallel grooves, meaning that two entirely separate programs could be heard on one side depending where the listener dropped the needle.  We’ll visit that anomalous record sometime in the future.

Our research suggests the earliest use of a lock groove in ‘popular’ music was a flexi disc that came with issue #3 of the short-lived multimedia magazine Aspen in 1966. The track was produced by John Cale of the Velvet Underground and was titled “Loop”. On the disc it said, “final groove purposely left open.” This was, of course, not as widely distributed a release as the Beatles album.

Some years later, Cale’s bandmate Lou Reed concluded Metal Machine Music also ends with a lock groove. The the time listed for side four of the album lists it as ∞. It’s possible that nobody has ever noticed because nobody has yet made it to the end of side four. Other loop grooves in our collection appear on Sonic Youth’s Evol album, where the track’s time is likewise listed with the symbol for infinity, and on Moby Grape’s album Wow.

Wow is already an interesting album in that it was packaged along with a second separate record (Grape Jam) but the end of its first side makes it one of the most uniquely mastered albums in rock and roll.  After “Can’t It Be So” Skip Spense reminds listeners to change the record to 78 rpm for the next song. There is then a lock groove preventing the needle from moving forward. After the listener has changed the speed to 78 rpm and nudged the needle forward he or she would hear this track. We’ve left in Skip Spense’s introduction.

That’s Arthur Godfrey introducing the number and playing ukulele (oh, for the days when a Arthur Godfrey was a kick ass guest artist).  The song by Spense is called “Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot”.  Surface noise has been added to increase the old time feeling of the track.  It was likely this was not an enormous inconvenience to listeners in 1969 but when three-speed turntables were more common, but it may mean trouble for many with more modern machines.

Our old friends the Southside Aces have been holding down a residency at the Eagles Club #34 here in the neighborhood for longer than we can remember. On the second Thursday of every month the present an evening of traditional jazz certain to please even the most discriminating listener or dancer. Often we discuss upcoming themes with clarinetist Tony Balluff here in the shop, whether it’s a night of early Ellingtonia or an evening with the music of Sidney Bechet.

And for a long time we have been encouraging the talented Mr. Balluff to consider a jazz theme that is ostensibly outside the box — the music featured on The Muppet Show!

You may think its silly at first, but the early Muppet performers — Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt and more — loved traditional jazz. The show itself was modeled after a vaudeville program. Its magical and meteoric five year run was peppered with tunes from the turn of the century through the jazz era.

We have been posting about the music of The Muppet Show since the early days of the Hymies blog, just search in that box on your right for “muppet” and you’ll see! We are very excited for the Aces to perform many of the jazz standards which appeared on the show as well as their interpretations of some Muppet originals we suggested. All this happens this coming Thursday and the Eagles Club!

Here is one of our favorite Irving Berlin tunes as it appeared in the third season of The Muppet Show. A little background: “Blue Skies” was also the first song heard in a motion picture, when Al Jolson sang it in The Jazz Singers. It was written to fill space in a largely forgotten Rodgers & Hart musical called Betsy but went on to become a favorite of jazz music.

 

Since his tragic death in 1998, Phil Hartman has been mourned by fans as one of the greatest comic actors of his time. His performances, from Pee Wee’s Playhouse to Saturday Night Live and News Radio, displayed a comic genius far beyond his peers, and his film career was far too brief. Many like myself remember him best as two of television’s funniest character: Struggling lawyer Lionel Hutz and washed up actor Troy McClure, beloved residents of The Simpsons‘ Springfield.

What many may have not known about Phil Hartman – who’s name was actually spelled with two n’s before he got into show business – is that he had a career as an art designer when he was younger. Hartmann designed at least twenty-five album jackets for bands in the 70s, notably several for chart-toppers Poco and America.

 

(History: America’s Greatest Hits, by the way, is one of my least favorite Greatest Hits albums even though I like the band all right.  Here’s why:  George Martin started producing America’s albums in 1974, after they had already recorded three albums.  Tracks from those three records – America, Homecoming and Hat Trick (the only really good America albums) – were remixed by Martin.  It’s subtler than what he did with, say, “The Long and Winding Road”, but unnecessary nonetheless.  It’s also sort of anathemic to the idea of a Greatest Hits album.)

We haven’t found a list of the complete Phil Hartmann covers – send us a link if you have.  The Silver album was surprising because it came a few years later and was on the then-new label Arista.  It’s also interesting because it’s credited to Hartmann and Goodman, so must have had a partner or started a firm.  Phil Hartmann’s album covers are pretty cool, anyway, and Cantamos is pretty awesome.  We’d bet you have an album with a Phil Hartmann cover and you never knew it.

Today’s musical entertainment will be the original, pre-George Martin 45 of America’s “A Horse with no Name”.

Then we’ll be open from 1-6pm today.

We hope you all have a wonderful labor day!

“Remix Regrets” are a favorite form of difficult listening around here. Every crate of 12″ singles is sure to provide at least one or two tragically ill-thought remix, dub or dance version or acapella cut. Here for your listening enjoyment is the vocal from “Ice Ice Baby” and a dub mix of “Walk Like an Egyptian”:

hammond on holidayBillie Holiday’s classic Columbia recordings (1933-1941) are her very best. Producer John Hammond describes them as “unique in music” on this little bonus record. “I don’t believe we’ve ever gotten this kind of interplay in the years since Billie’s prime,” he continues. The record was included in promotional copies of God Bless the Child, a 1972 double-LP compilation produced by Columbia in response to the success of Lady Sings the Blues, a bio-pic starring Diana Ross. We rarely sell copies of the soundtrack, which hasn’t aged particularly well, but Billie Holiday records have a one or two day shelf-life around here.

“We ought to have a lot of fun, having this record listened to by people who only know Billie Holiday through the movie,” says Hammond at the end.

The movie was loosely based on Holiday’s autobiography. It was fairly successful and nominated for several Academy Awards, but panned by jazz musicians who performed with Holiday, and jazz fans in general. Ross’ meek performance re-casts Holiday as a mid-level pop singer — it’s remarkable, for instance, that neither Lester Young nor Teddy Wilson appear in the film, even though Holiday collaborated closely with each for years (bringing out, we think, some of their very best). Hammond, who produced her records for years, likewise is nowhere to be seen.

Then again, what can you expect from a Hollywood movie starring Diana Ross? At least the film revived interest in her original recordings. There are several collections from her Columbia discography besides the 1972 double LP. Their nine volume Quintessential Billie Holiday series is on the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces imprint (the ones with the blue borders) and the sound on the LPs is fantastic, as are the notes for each. There’s also an earlier three-album box set, sort of a ‘best of’ collection, called The Golden Years. All are worth the search.

the man i love“The Man I Love” recorded December 1939. The band features Buck Clayton and Harry Edison (trumpets), Earl Warren, Jack Washington and Lester Young (saxes), Joe Sullivan (piano) Freddie Greene (guitar), Walter Page (bass) and Jo Jones (drums).

time on my hands“Time on my Hands” recorded June 1940. The band features Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Billy Brown, Joe Eldridge, Kermit Scott and Lester Young (saxes), Teddy Wilson (piano), Freddie Greene (guitar), Walter Page (bass) and JC Heard (drums).

 

uncle scrooge

One of our favorite places over here on East Lake Street is Nostalgia Zone, the incredible comic book shop just a couple blocks west of our building.

We’ve never really been comic book fanatics, but we love reading them with the kids. They have lots of favorites: Batman, Spider-Man , the various Star Wars series, and Bone are all favorites in our house.

And Uncle Scrooge, of course. The author of the classic comics starring the world’s richest duck was Carl Barks, who loved National Geographic and often based the adventures which took Scrooge and his nephews to the far corners of the Earth on real places.

This short, goofy record is hardly as exciting a story as some of Bark’s best, like “Land Beneath the Earth” or “The Adventure in Trala La.” And fans of Duck Tales, the animated series based on Bark’s stories, will find this Uncle Scrooge to be even more gruff and Scottish.

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