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ca quintet 1

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“Trip Through Hell” (Part one) by the C.A. Quintet

I think we’re all pretty familiar with “Surfin Bird” (and it’s a great song!) but some of the other great garage-y Minnesota records of the 60s are less famous. Less than 500 copies of the C.A. Quintet’s awesome 1968 album Trip Through Hell, and judging from this copy which recently passed through the shop it seems like maybe 400 of them are pretty beat up. It played all the way through without a skip, and that’s good enough for our ears!

Since Narco States are going to visit our shop tomorrow afternoon and play some good old fashioned Minnesota garage rock, we thought we’d explore some of the awesome and rare records we’ve been recording as the appear here in the shop.

First of all, here is the debut EP by Narco States, which was released by Piñata Records last month as a 7″ record. We’re super excited for their in-store performance and we think a lot of people who love the classic Minnesota rock singles collected in this post would really enjoy seeing them, too. They’ll be performing some of these songs and more at 3pm tomorrow!

We’ll have plenty of copies of the new Narco States EP in stock tomorrow, but many of these other local records show up infrequently and sell to collectors very quickly. Here’s a couple that have only appeared once in the past several years, both on a label called Bangar Records. The put out about sixty records, all around 1964. One of them, “Gorilla” by the Shandells, was one of the most expensive 45s that we have had in stock over the past year. It’s too bad we had to sell it because this would be a fun one to play at DJ gigs, maybe people would dance “the gorilla“.

We remembered to record both sides of the single for the blog, but not to take a picture of the label! All of the Bangar singles look the same, and we did remember to photograph another great one with a silly side – the Readymen’s “Shortnin’ Bread” is another old rocker that could have a fun dance associated with it. It was actually the b-side, and the instrumental “Surfer Blues” the a-side.

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“Shortnin’ Bread” b/w “Surfer Blues” by the Readymen

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“Gorilla” b/w “Hey Little One” by the Shandells

chancellorOf course, the most famous Minnesota label of the era was Soma Records, which was founded by Amos Heilcher (Soma is his name spelled backwards!) – he was also, with his brother, the owner of the Musicland chain of record stores, where Dave bought his Ratt and Kiss tapes as a pre-teen in the 80s.

Soma’s subsidiary, Garrett Records, was the label on which “Surfin’ Bird” was released in 1963. It was named for George Garrett, who was an engineer on many of the recording sessions released by Soma. Other famous Soma releases include the Castaways “Liar Liar” and the Chancellors “Little Latin Lupe Lu”. A lot of the local rock singles were covers of popular rhythm and blues tracks.

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“Little Latin Lupe Lu” by the Chancellors

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“Let the Good Times Roll” by the Del Counts

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“Book of Love” by the Underbeats

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“Turn on your Lovelight” by the High Spirits

This next song is off a single we recorded a couple years ago before selling it to a local DJ – it’s a 1959 rocker by the String Kings, a band that included future members of the Trashmen. This was released on a label called Gaity Records, which was not renowned for it’s high quality recordings, but the song’s killer guitar makes up for it. We forgot to take a picture of the label for this one, too.

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“Bloodshot” by the String Kings

Stillroven was a local band that recorded several singles that were produced only in short runs, so they don’t appear very often. There have been a couple discs compiling their material, including the album they recorded for A&M that was shelved (and on which David Rivkin, aka producer David Z, played with the band). I’ve read that Sundazed Records, the 60s psych and rock reissue label out of California, has considered reissuing these compilations, maybe on LP – they do such a good job of collecting “lost” music that it would be a welcome project here in Minneapolis!

Stillroven’s biggest hit was a cover of “Hey Joe” (which was better than the other, more successful garage-y version by a California band, the Leaves). Their next single was “Little Picture Playhouse” backed with a trippy psychedelic track, “Cast thy Burden upon the Stone”.

stillroven august 45

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“Little Picture Playhouse” by the Stillroven

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“Action Woman” by the Litter

The Litter is probably one of the most popular local garage bands of all, and their debut Scotty Records is one of our favorites from the era. Unfortunately, when the Hymie’s computer crashed recently we lost a number of recording we’d made, including one of the b-side of that single, which was an awesome cover of the Who’s “Legal Matter.” Here instead is the a-side, an original by the Litter.

There are several albums by this band, including one from when they reunited in the 90s. One of their albums, the ultra rare $100 Fine, is on the Hexagon Records label, which is pretty awesome. We’re not sure if there’s a relationship between the Hexagon Bar and the label, but there’s something to think about next time you’re watching some super-loud local band shred it up at that legendary watering hole.

The track you heard at the beginning of this post was from Trip Through Hell, an album that Sundazed has reissued, although it’s currently out of stock so we can’t order new copies of it anymore. Some time ago we had one of the few singles the band released in stock, but it was light-hearted and fun compared to their dark, ooky spooky album. Here’s the C.A. Quintet covering the Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey”:

ca quintet mickey's monkey

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“Mickey’s Monkey” by the C.A. Quintet

In the same collection we had the single of Michael’s Mystics covering “But it’s Allright” by J.J. Jackson, but we must have forgotten to record that one. Fortunately, somebody else has made a Youtube video of that fun single, so we can still hear it.

If you ask us, this next track is obscure for a reason. We’re not sure why a collector would want to pay much for “The Cat,” a 1967 single by the Sting Rays, from Rochester. Here is the recording we made of that single on Welhaven Records – we’ll let you decide if it’s a “lost classic” or not:

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“The Cat” by the Sting Rays

One thing’s for sure, our kids love this one. Their favorite old garage rock songs are the silly ones about animals, including of course “Surfin’ Bird” and “Gorilla.” In fact, we made them a CD of songs like those! So we were all disappointed this next one was not about a giraffe, given the picture on the label. It did turn out to be a pretty good song.

icc 45

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“Don’t Love Me” by the ICC (In Crowd Consolidated)

Somewhere back in the archives of the Hymie’s blog there’s already been a post about this single because we just loved the label for Hy Nibble Records so much.

There are many more great garage rock record from Minnesota but we’ll save some of the others we have recorded for a future post. Missing from this collection is, of course, “Surfin’ Bird” – tune in (or click in) tomorrow, and we’ll explore the history of that legendary Minnesota Record.

And stop by the shop tomorrow and check out Narco States, and maybe buy their record before it becomes as obscure and rare as all these other ones in today’s post.

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“Trip through Hell” (Part two) by the C.A. Quintet

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“Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” b/w “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. Capitol 5706, released July 18 1966. Peak chart position: #8.

 

 

 

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“Spill the Wine” b/w “Magic Mountain” by Eric Burdon and War. MGM 114118, released in May 1970. Peak chart position: #3.

 

 

 

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“Soothe Me” (live version) b/w “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” by Sam & Dave. Stax 231, released in 1967. Peak chart position: #2.

 

 

dancing in the dark 45pink cadillac 45

 

 

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“Dancing in the Dark” b/w “Pink Cadillac” by Bruce Sprinsgteen. Columbia 04463, released May 4, 1984. Peak chart position: #2.

 

proud mary 45born on the bayou 45

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“Proud Mary” b/w “Born on the Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fantasy 419, released January 1969. Peak chart position: #2.

 

you sexy thingamazing skin song

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“You Sexy Thing” b/w “Amazing Skin Song” by Hot Chocolate. Big Tree 16047, released in November 1975. Peak chart position: #3.

 

fat bottomed girlsbicycle race

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“Fat Bottomed Girls” b/w “Bicycle Race” by Queen. Elektra 45541, released October 13, 1978. Peak chart position: #24.

 

 

ninemoody fucker

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“Nine” b/w “Moody Fucker” by Lambchop. Merge 48, released in 1995. Did not chart.

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(“You Are the Sunshine of my Life” by Jim Nabors)

Jim_Nabors

It gets worse from here, so if you can’t make it to the end of Jim Nabors’ version of “You Are the Sunshine of my Life” (it’s three minutes long) you might want to skip today’s post altogether.  Actually, as an aside, I was never sure how seriously we’re supposed to take Jim Nabors.  Is it okay that I really enjoy his records on an un-ironic level?

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(“What’s Going On?” by Cyndi Lauper)

So here’s today’s nightmarish narrative: You’re a star and you’re slipping down the charts. There’s really only a couple of things you can do – get arrested driving drunk, firing a gun at someone or with a whole buncha drugs in your possession (or all three – they call that “the Richard Pryor” in Hollywood) or you can cover a Motown song. Guaranteed easy ride because everybody already knows the words, and if you’re criticized for your clumsy reading of a classic like “What’s Going On?” you can claim you’re just trying to pay tribute. Or you’re being ironic:

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(“Money” by the Flying Lizards)

There’s a moment at the end of the Flying Lizards cover of “Money” where a shrill electric beep accents the rhythm. It’s the most unpleasant thing we can find on a record here in the shop, and we just posted a Jim Nabors song. The irony of 80s acts like Cyndi Lauper and the Flying Lizards covering Motown classics is that the original songs were so memorable they’d survive for decades because they were original.  The Flying Lizards’ entire act was obsolete before they started, considering that Yoko Ono had already done it – add in an obnoxious cover of a song we all used to love and it’s a recipe for disaster.

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(“He Was Really Sayin’ Something” by Bananrama)

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(“You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins)

It’s a Friday afternoon and there’s three or four people looking around at records in the shop. I’m busy recording what was supposed to be the ten worst Motown covers of all time.  Fourth song along, this fella comes up to the counter and looks at the turntable and at the computer. “What are you doing?” he asks. He’s English. “I’m recording the worst Motown covers of all time,” I answer, because its a perfectly normal thing to be doing. “This was a #1 hit in England,” he tells me.

“Sorry,” I say. He shrugs. I shrug. “The next song is even worse.”

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(“How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You” by James Taylor)

The worst thing about listening to James Taylor sing “How Sweet it is to be Loved by You” is that it really seems like he means well. There was probably some hippy chick he really wanted to bang and this was the way to make it happen.

I think James Taylor is actually an evil genius, and all this “Sweet Baby James” bullshit is an act. Where do I get off making such an accusation of a man who could probably buy and sell our little record shop?  I’ll tell you.

#1  He looks like an evil genius.

 

(James Taylor and perennial villain Gary Oldman – Separated at birth?)

#2 If you scramble the chorus to “Carolina on my Mind” I’m pretty sure you can write out “Satan command me.” (I haven’t checked though) No way that was an accident.

I never thought it could get any worse than JT limping through “How Sweet It Is” until I heard the same song performed by Kenny Rogers while I was shopping for sneakers with my kids at Saver’s. That’s one of those moments where music can make you feel violated. Well, that and these…

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(“You Keep me Hanging On” by Vanilla Fudge)

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(“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Peter Frampton)

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(“Stop! In the Name of Love” by the Hollies)

In the 80s the so-so Motown cover was standard procedure for so-so country stars, big and small. Motown lends itself beautifully to CMT-style country because it’s simple and inoffensive, and the distinctive feature of most recordings is that they sing the song slooooower.  Sometimes awkwardly so.

 

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(“My Girl” by Savannah)

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(“Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” by Billy Hill)

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(“The Way You Do the Things You Do” by Rita Coolidge)

You probably stopped listening to these tracks after thirty seconds of Jim Nabors and now you’re wondering what the worst Motown cover of all time could possible by, considering how low the bar has been for so long. Our guess is it’s the 1995 import disc by LaToya Jackson, Stop in the Name of Love, which was alleged to have been recorded in an hour. Some copies were issued with a topless photo from LaToya’s Playboy spread, and none were issued in the US.

She take the joy out of Motown for eleven tracks before audaciously taking on one of her brother’s best early performances and squeezing all of the love and joy out of “I’ll be There”:

Fact: Creedence Clearwater Revival never had a #1 single.  They hit #2 several times but never topped the charts.  Yet you know the words surely a half dozen or more songs.  If you have any interest in popular music at all you can probably name half or more of the 20 songs on their popular “best of” collection Chronicle.  The reason CCR has become so ubiquitous is that their songs have always been easy to license on the cheap.

In fact, one of the most remarkable thing about CCR is that they probably had the worst management and representation of any band in history. Most of the money they made went into a bank in the Bahamas and despite legal victories little was recovered by any member of the band. The primary beneficiary of their short and magnificent run of hits was the owner of Fantasy Records, who sank most of the money into shitty movie productions and the acquisition of classic independent jazz labels. We suppose those of us who love to listen to records are still, as a result beneficiaries, because affordable reissues of some of the greatest jazz albums ever, on labels like Riverside and Prestige, are easy to find.

Earlier artists on Fantasy Records were more fortunate than CCR. Dave Brubeck, for instance, left for Columbia just before recording a series of successful albums after he discovered how poor his contract with the label was. The members of Creedence, on the other hand, were still bound to the label even after the band imploded and they began solo careers.

Brothers John and Tom Fogerty never reconciled. The band reunited only once, and never recorded again. For years its legacy was cheapened by appearances in television commercials and lousy movies.

Fans looking for just a little more Creedence have to look in the various solo records that followed the band’s woeful 1972 swan song, Mardi Gras

John

When I was a little kid I knew John Fogerty best through his paean to baseball, “Centerfield.”  Baseball was very important in my world in 1985, and just became more important two years later when the Twins won the World Series. Fogerty’s song is one of the best baseball songs ever written:

Centerfield was the first album he had made in nine years.  His 1976 album Hoodoo was rejected by Fantasy and never issued, leading to his near-decade exile.  Bootlegs are out there but we have never seen one – We would really like to hear the album. We’ve never even found a copy of the single that was released (“You Got the Magic” b/w “Evil Thing”).

Unfortunately, John Fogerty acted like a colossal jerk when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That’s really the nicest way you can describe it, and there’s a lot more accurate ways to describe his behavior that are also a lot more vulgar. Surrounded by hipper rock stars like Bruce Springsteen and rock star-turned-Hollywood leaches like Robbie Robertson, Fogerty had security keep his former bandmates from the stage. Doug Clifford and Stu Cook were essentially not a part of the induction ceremony. Tom’s widow, Tricia, expecting the only-ever CCR reunion (excepting the one at their wedding in 1980), had brought the urn containing her husband’s ashes to the event.

Guess he’s a hard man to love.  Someday well understand. There’s tracks on his Fantasy-era solo albums that have a lot of Creedence in them. His voice is as distinctive as ever on the Blue Ridge Rangers album, even though he tried to establish a new band and separate himself from the shadow of his past (the picture below is of a reissue, after Fantasy realized that it would sell better with his name on the cover). Unfortunately, even though Fantasy would later sue Fogerty for plagiarizing his own songs, he really wasn’t writing ‘em like he had between ’67 and ’70.

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“Rocking all over the World” by John Fogerty

“Hearts of Stone” by Fogerty’s Blue Ridge Rangers

Tom

Tom Fogerty’s albums are a favorite around Hymie’s. We usually listen to each one until a customer buys it right off the turntable, and this usually only allows us a couple plays. With the CCR rhythm section of Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, Tom’s albums are the closest to Creedence after Mardi Gras as you’re going to find.

tom fogerty s:t

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“Wondering” by Tom Fogerty

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“Trojan Song” by Tom Fogerty

tom fogerty myopia

Tom Fogerty tragically contracted the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion and died in 1990. He recorded sporadically throughout his life and, after fighting for royalties for his work, lived comfortably with his wife Tricia in Arizona, where he was an occasional surprise call-in guest on KSLX radio.

Doug and Stu

Doug Clifford and Stu Cook are sort of maligned by fans for their years touring as Creedence Clearwater Revisited and later as Cosmos Factory.  Compared to the way they were treated by their bandmates, touring some old songs to make a living doesn’t seem all that classless. The two must have loved working together, and they lent their distinctive sound to a lot of great records. The only solo record the pair produced – Doug Clifford’s Cosmo – is a a fun, lively romp.  Its also a record that people like so much that we usually sell it within a day or so of a copy arriving.

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“Latin Music” by Doug Clifford

You’re probably worried your kids are going to grow up and snort bath salts too. We’ve been reading this series about synthetic drugs in the Star Tribune and now we have one more thing to think about when we can’t sleep. Our toddlers are young enough that we can delay our anxiety over it all for a few years, but the series has been a reminder of just how different a world they will grow up in than what we remember. We should start keeping an eye on things … maybe even the records they’re listening to …

IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR CHILD TO GROW UP TO BE A MONSTROUS DELINQUENT YOU HAD BETTER NOT LET THEM LISTEN TO THESE RECORDS

You have probably been thinking of Don and Phil Everly as upstanding young teens who sing like those country singers you’re familiar with, but these two delinquents have been celebrating decadence and getting away with it for years. We was shocked to find a stack of their 45 singles hidden in our kid’s bedroom, and the things on those records shocked us.

 

Rapturous behavior

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Gang fights

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Apathy

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and domestic abuse

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Lord, these boys are so stoned they can’t even make it through a night of depravity without passing out.

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These men are addled and addicted. Listen to this song “‘Til I Kissed You”, clearly referencing the pipes used to smoke drugs. Just listen to these shocking lyrics:

Things have really changed since I kissed you

My life’s not the same since I kissed you

Only a couple lines letter the “brothers” sing “I can’t without you”. Sounds like an addict’s words to us.

Do you really want these men telling your son and daughter how to behave?

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Each recorded from this copy I grabbed from our clearance bin on my way out the door last night. It’s been there – priced 50¢ – for weeks.

The Victor Talking Machine Company is inseparable from the history of recorded sound and records. They were not the originator of flat records (that would be the Berliner Gramophone Company), but they were an influential technological innovator. The records they made included some of the earliest “super hits” as well as recordings that are still enjoyed by millions today. The company was purchased by the Radio Corporation of America in 1929, creating the RCA/Victor label you’re familiar with because of your large collection of Ames Brothers recordings.

6 – The first million-seller!

In 1904 Enrico Caruso recorded an aria from Ruggero Leoncavello’s opera Pagliacci which became the first record to sell a million copies. One must have found its way into the home of William “Smokey” Robinson, who twice made reference to Pagliacci in classic Motown hit (his own “Tears of A Clown” and “My Smile is Just a Frown Turned Upside Down,” which he wrote for Carolyn Crawford).

This is an example of early acoustic recording, predating the use of electric microphones. As a a result the frequency range is greatly limited compared to recordings Caruso would make later in his career.

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5 – Fritz Kreisler is a great composer as well as a performer

Violinist Fritz Kreisler is commonly regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time, and his encores were said to be sublime. Three of his original pieces, collectively called Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen, remain popular today, especially “Libenfreud” (heard here) and “Leibesleid.” Kreisler originally attributed them to Austrian composer Joseph Lanner. In September 1910 he copyrighted them in his own name.

It was not until 1935 that Kreisler claimed credit for the many encores he had attributed to other composers. In response to criticism, he said, “the names changed. The value remains.”

Kreisler recorded with famed composer Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1928 (performing Beethoven’s Sonata no. 8 in G Major). Rachmaninoff transcribed two of Kreisler’s Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen melodies for piano and recorded them himself in 1931.

The performance of “Leibenfreud” you hear below was recorded in 1915.

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4 – Sergei Rachmaninoff himself performing his famous prelude

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor” is so popular as to be recognizable far outside the world of classical music. Paul Revere and the Raiders and Ekseption based classic rock tunes on it. The Beastie Boys and Blackalicious sampled it. Charles Mingus weaved it into the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” in his composition “All the Things You C#”. Harpo Marx played it with such passion in A Day at the Races that the piano explodes.

Rachmaninoff first performed the prelude in 1892 at the Moscow Electrical Exhibit. He was nineteen years old. He recorded it for Victor thirty-six years later, which is the recording you are hearing below.

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3 – Harry Belafonte introduces America to Jamaican music

In a performance that he would follow him for the rest of his life, folk singer Harry Belafonte sang “The Banana Boat Song” with its distinctive “Day-O” chorus on NBC’s Colgate Comedy Hour. The following year his third album for RCA/Victor, Calypso, became the first LP to sell more than a million copies. Although “Day-O” (as it was called on the original album) was a traditional Jamaican song and not a calypso number, the balance of the album introduced Americans to a favorite new form of music.

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2 – Arturo Toscanini brings the classics right into America’s living room

Arturo Toscanini was born in Italy but beloved in the United States, where he was one of the most famous conductors of his time. The notes to 60 Years of “Music America Loves Best” says that Toscanini was initially adverse to “mechanical music” (ie recordings), but he became, through television and radio, one of the most innovative classical performers of his generation by introducing the classic repertoire to millions in an accessible way without compromising integrity.

Toscanini made all but a handful of his recordings for RCA/Victor, who last spring issued an astounding 84-disc box set compiling his work (actually an affordable $120 on Amazon). He is known for his precision and many of his recordings are still highly regarded. This writer is particular fond of his recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies and of the great 19th century operas, especially Verdi. Many of his recordings lack the warmth of concert hall recordings because the NBC studio where they were made was intended primarily for television broadcast, not classical music (this is true of his Beethoven’s 9th for sure), but the performances are outstanding. Toscanini performed the premiere of many operas, notably the 1892 debut of Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavello, which was discussed in our first selection up above.

In the late 40s, Toscanini pioneered the performance of lengthy pieces on live television. These performances were simultaneously broadcast on the radio. Included in his series of ten productions for NBC were the first televised presentation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and a complete performance of Guiseppe Verdi’s Aida (featuring Herva Nelli and Richard Tucker). This recording of Wagner’s Prelude from Act III of “Lohengrin” was the first of these televised specials, an all Wagner program broadcast on March 20, 1948. For many people all over the country, this was the closest they would ever come to enjoying a world class performance of the classics.

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1 – Marian Anderson defies the Daughters of the American Revolution

Marian Anderson, born in 1897 in Philadelphia, is often misrepresented as an opera singer. While she did often include arias in concert, she was almost entirely a concert performer. She was the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, sang at two Presidential inaugurations, and christened a nuclear submarine.

In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Anderson permission to perform to an integrated audience in their Constitution Hall (in Washington DC), bringing Anderson into an unexpected international spotlight. President Roosevelt and Walter White, the secretary of the NAACP, orchestrated a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939. The performance attended by 75,000 people and heard by millions over the airwaves. Anderson began the program with “My Country tis of Thee.” Also performed was this recording of Schubert’s moving “Ave Maria,” one of the seven songs the twenty-eight year old Schubert based on Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady in the Lake in 1825.

An alternate scoring of this piece (for a full chorus) was recorded by Leopold Stokowski the next year and used by Walt Disney in Fantasia, and has become one of the most familiar recordings, but Anderson’s performance that Easter Sunday was surely remembered by each of the millions who listened.

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(The famous image of Nipper the dog looking into the cone of a Victor Talking Machine is itself the subject of a long history. Nipper was an actual dog who lived in Bristol, England and bit the ankles of visitors (hence the name) and died in 1895. Francis Barraud, his owner, painted a picture of him looking into an Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. After being rejected by the Edison-Bell company as a potential logo (actual quote: “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs”) the painting was purchased by the Victor company and their English counterpart, HMV, and registered as a trademark in 1900.

I am entirely done trying to get Irene to pose like this.)

let it be label

doris troy apple lp Today’s post is inspired by this Doris Troy album, which was in a recent collection here in the shop. We were surprised to notice it was issued by Apple Records, the label founded by the Beatles in 1967. Between George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music and Ringo Starr’s Blasts from your Past compilation seven years later, Apple released a wide variety of unusual records.

The label provided an outlet for the Beatles’ solo recordings from the very beginning, but also their individual whims – Classical composer John Tavener, for instance, was the brother of a builder who worked on Ringo’s house. The result is a catalog that reflects four very different interests.

Unfortunately we can’t hear the Doris Troy album, because this copy is sealed. The album credits her as the producer, but the internet says George co-produced it (probably better than John co-producing it). Ringo is credited with co-writing a couple songs and performing on the album. A couple tracks are covers (like Joe South’s “Games People Play”) and others are presumably originals. There’s not a lot of text on the back of the album. We can only hope an open copy passes through the shop sometime…hopefully it sounds like this:

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“Just One Look” – Doris Troy’s 1963 hit for Atlantic Records.

And not like this:

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“Those were the Days” by Mary Hopkins

mary hopkins post card

The Mary Hopkins record is, of course, the most common non-Beatles Apple release in used record stores around the world. Nobody really wants a copy of Post Card anymore, but it must have been very successful in its day, considering the number of copies kickin’ around.

Another folky record from the early years of Apple Records was Brother by Lon & Derrek Von Eaton, who caught the ear of George Harrison. They were the first group to record in the studio in the basement of the Apple Corps building in London.

lon and derrek von eaton

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“Sun Song” by Lon & Derrek Van Eaton

Harrison and Starr both participating in the recording of Brother. It’s clearly got a similar sound to Harrison’s own Apple releases around the same time (All Things Must Pass, Living in the Material World) and just a little sense of McCartney’s sound, too. It’s not too difficult to guess who was responsible for this next album.

radha krishna temple

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“Sri Gurvastakem”

The Radha Krsna Temple “charity” album was produced by George and features devotional music from the Raha Krishna Temple in London. Two tracks on the album had previously been issued as Apple singles, and one was even an unexpected success in the UK (peaking at #12).

The track “Govinda” is still played each morning in ISKCON temples around the world (that’s the International Society for Krishna Consciousness for you regular rubes out there). This is per the request of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON, who you could call the first Hare Krishna.

concert for bangla desh

George’s interest in devotional music went far beyond the Krishna Temple, of course. His most famous foray was his long collaboration with the late Ravi Shankar, surely the most famous Indian musician in the world from before the time he met the Beatles until his recent passing (our own Dave wrote the City Pages‘ obituary for Shankar, which you can read here). Their relationship is best represented in separate performances on the epic 1972 Concert for the People of Bangla Desh, and less successfully on the follow-up Ravi Shankar Family and Friends LP and tour.

John Lennon’s pet projects issued by Apple are equally idiosyncratic and peculiar. There’s no doubt which Beatle would produce these next couple records.

the pop smokes dope

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“Everybody’s Smoking Marijuana” by David Peel and the Lower East Side

According to the story, John Lennon discovered David Peel and his band playing in Washington Square, and was so impressed he produced The Pope Smokes Dope, an album that rehashes Peel’s two earlier albums for Elektra.

elastic oz band

Around the same time John and Yoko were involved in protests during the Oz Magazine obscenity trial in London (at the time the longest such trial in English history) and produced the single “God Save Oz” as a fundraiser in 1970. The single featured the Elastic Oz Band, assembled just to perform it’s two songs. Here is the b-side:

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“Do the Oz” by the Elastic Oz Band

Paul McCartney produced the most successful side projects for Apple. James Taylor’s first album featured the songs “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Carolina on my Mind” (which were re-recorded for his mid-70s Greatest Hits package because of the legal quagmire over using the Apple recordings). Taylor left the label after just one album, but another McCartney project, the Iveys, would stay to produce a series of hits. This was, of course, after they changed their name to Badfinger.

no dice

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“No Matter What” by Badfinger

The 1970 album No Dice not only has the awesome single “No Matter What” but also the original recording of “Without You,” which was a monster hit for Nilsson the next year and Mariah Carey twenty-four years later. It’s a beautiful, moving song in all its various recordings. Sadly, the Badfinger story is filled with tragedy, and original members Pete Ham and Tom Evans, who wrote “Without You” together, both took their own lives under the financial pressures of their success. Badfinger was more than just the seminal power-pop band, they were one of the awesome-est rock bands of their era. They deserved a lot better than they got, and they said as much with the cover art to their last Apple album, Ass, which shows a donkey being led by a giant carrot. The album opens with a poignant break-up song.

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“Apple of my Eye”

ass

A couple of soundtracks came out on Apple Records. You’d think All this and World War II or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would have been among them, but they were on 20th Century and RSO, respectively. Here are the soundtracks on Apple that we could find in the shop this week:

cometogether soundtrack

el toro soundtrack

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“Entierro del Primer Juguete” by Alexandro Jodorowsky

Judging from the pictures inside the jacket, El Topo has got to be one of the strangest movies ever made. Come Together looks a little less strange, but it’s a sealed copy so we can’t tell you if the music is out there or not. If it turns out Doris Troy cover of “Games People Play” is a disappointment, you can hear Joe South’s original on this soundtrack.

You’ll note that we’re not including any of the Beatles’ solo releases in our collection of Apple records, although many of the most interesting Apple releases were by John, Paul, George or Ringo. They were also the ones who got to have special Apple labels, such as the “Apple Jam” label for sides 5 and 6 of All Things Must Pass, the white Apples for John’s first release (as well as Yoko’s), the blue Apple for Ringo’s “Back of Boogaloo” or the eaten Apple logo for Extra Texture (presumably a nod to the label’s imminent financial demise).

Several of the Beatles’ solo albums from the Apple era are enduring classics – especially George’s All Things Must Pass, John’s first album, Plastic Ono Band, and Imagine, and Paul’s McCartney album (ie the “bowl of cherries” album). We are also big fans of Ringo’s first record, Sentimental Journey, on which the drummer hams his way through a series of pop standards arranged by the likes of Elmer Bernstein, Quincy Jones, George Martin and others.

It should come as no surprise to Beatle fans that their friend Billy Preston, who was but sixteen years old when he first met the Beatles, would record for Apple. His role with the band during the Let it Be sessions was so significant that the “Get Back” single was credited to the Beatles with Billy Preston. He also contributed to a couple tracks on Abbey Road – “Something” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. Preston’s Apple albums featured covers of Beatles’ songs and he was the first artist to cover “My Sweet Lord” from George’s All Things Must Pass.

Preston’s first Apple album was his fifth, although he was only twenty-three years old. We’re pretty sure there’s more than one jacket for That’s the Way God Planned It, but this is the one we found in the shop this week. The memorable title was was also performed  on George’s Concert for the People of Bangla Desh.

bill preston that's the way god planned it

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“That’s the Way God Planned It”

tandoori chicken

Apple 1832 was a single by 60s pop legend Ronnie Spector, and an entire album was planned but never released. Spector’s husband had, of course, produced the Beatles’ last Apple release – Let it Be – and some of John Lennon’s solo recordings. George Harrison wrote the A-side for Spector’s single (“Try Some, Buy Some”) and he even re-recorded it with the same backing track for his album, Living in the Material World. John Lennon liked the old fashioned ‘wall of sound’ B-side, “Tandoori Chicken,” so much that he asked Phil Spector to recreate the sound for his Rock & Roll album. He also recorded the song as a demo once, which you can find on bootlegs.

 

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“Tandoori Chicken” by Ronnie Spector

The intention may have been to revive Spector’s career, catching the 50s revival wave led by American Grafitti and its successful soundtrack compilation. Rock & Roll might suggest what the Ronnie Spector album would have sounded like, although George’s Material World and Extra Texture LPs may also be the key, since they include songs that were recorded by Spector (“Try Some, Buy Some” and “You”). Spector tried to reunite the Ronettes several times in the 70s and later lamented she was always perceived as an ‘oldies’ act.

And finally, no survey of the various non-Beatle Apple releases would be complete without the four albums Yoko Ono recorded between 1970 and 1974 (a fifth was not released until the mid-90s). Each was initially received near-universal disdain, as fans around the world blamed Ono for “breaking up the Beatles.” One of the few positive reviews given to Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band in 1971 was by Lester Bangs, who encouraged listeners to “give it a try, and at least a handful of listenings before your verdict. There’s something happening here” (read the entire review here).

feeling the space

In fact, Lester Bangs was right. Record collectors seek the early Yoko Ono albums because they so clearly presage punk and new wave. Lennon famously compared the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” to Ono’s records, and you can recognize the influence in the music of a number of other early American punk/new wave acts (Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, even southern California bands like X and the Germs). The third and fourth Apple albums by Ono featured more straightforward arrangements and conventional vocals and Feeling the Space explicitly explored feminist themes.

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“Run Run Run” by Yoko Ono

mjq space

Another interesting influence Yoko Ono had on Apple Records was manifested in the two albums by the Modern Jazz Quartet, Under the Jasmin Tree and Space. They are the only jazz recordings issued on the label, and are exceptional even by the high standards of the group’s other records. Space, in particular, has a meditative, dreamlike quality, especially in the originals by pianist John Lewis. The first track – “Visitor from Venus” – seems like as fitting a finale to our survey of the Apple Records catalog as any. We hope you’ve heard some music you enjoyed today.

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“Visitor from Venus” by the Modern Jazz Quartet

In one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs (“Motel Matches”) he sings
Though you say I’m unkind / I’m being as nice as I can

Here’s a guy whose first album opens with a full compliment of snark (“Now that your picture’s in the paper being rhythmically admired…”) and once called Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant nigger,” and yet his back catalog is so popular as to be revived and reissued every couple years. How can one person invent so many venomous lines?

(8)
You never asked me what I wanted
You only asked me why

Miracle Man

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You could probably write a book about what Elvis Costello does with the first line of each song on his first album. Its like you got into a fight with this guy and he started by punching you in the adam’s apple. Here he’s just bitter but in the most memorable opening line on My Aim Is True he’s just downright arrogant, singing “I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused” on “The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes”. Yeah, the title of this album may come from the song “Alison” but it may also refer to his malicious wit.

(7)
But its easier to say “I love you”
Than “yours sincerely” I suppose

Big Sister’s Clothes

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Trust SOUNDS like Costello’s snarkiest album, even if he hasn’t yet mastered his craft of cold-heartedness. “Big Sister’s Clothes” is driven by its nasty chorus, as the verses seem pretty abstract. Still, fans of Costello’s snarkiness must love a line like “Compassion went out of fashion / That’s all your concern meant”.

(6)
She fingers a string of pearls
An imitation but he’ll never know it
Imitation lashes flutter above
Looking for an imitation of love

You Little Fool

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I’ve always seen this song from Imperial Bedroom as a continuation of the character assassination started with “Big Sister’s Clothes”.

(5)
If it weren’t for some accidents then some would never ever learn
Chemistry Class

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So much of the catty snark on Costello’s early albums seems to be set in high school, or at least stuck at a tenth grade emotional level. “Chemistry Class” is one of those tracks that could have been written by a sixteen year old who had read enough Camus to feel he understands the world. Oh, dear…Have I myself written a snarky description of this snarky song?

(4)
My Favorite Things are playing again and again
But its by Julie Andrews and not John Coltrane

This Is Hell

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Amusing as it is, “This Is Hell” is actually one of the least interesting songs on Costello’s 1994 reunion with the Attractions. The Attractions never sounded better than on Brutal Youth, where Costello ranges from sentimentality (“Rocking Horse Road”) to soulful (The heartbreaking “Still too Soon to Know”). Although its fantastically snarky, “This Is Hell” has a dreamy quality, floating on top of Pete Thomas’ rolling drum work (He is at his very best on this album). Were it not for Costello’s voice it might snark you to sleep.

Naturally, on the subject of hell Costello is bleak: “Its not the torments of the flames that finally see your flesh corrupted / Its the small humiliations that your memory piles up.”

King of America – This man probably hates you.

(3)
She said she was working for the ABC news / it was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use
Brilliant Mistake

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The best part of this line is the way he pronounces “al-fra-bet”. Its my personal favorite example of classic Costello snark. “Brilliant Mistake” opens his first album without the Attractions, King of America, establishing the singer’s new setting as a very traditional English folk/pub rock sound with a fresh supply of bile. Here he bills himself by his given name, Declan MacManus, and at first blush delves into self-depreciation with the last chorus: “I was a fine idea at the time / But now I’m a brilliant mistake.” Hard to say if it isn’t back-handed self-depreciation.

(2)
Absolutely every line of “The World and his Wife”

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Heard here in a live version issued as a bonus track on the 90s Rykodisc reissue of Punch the Clock, “The World and his Wife” could be the snarkiest song ever written if one could appreciate it without cliff notes. I understand maybe 40% of this song, but what makes sense serves to prove he is the master of snark, specifically this line from the first verse:

The little girl you dangled on your knee without mishap
Stirs something in your memory and something in your lap

The master of snark has taken it to a shocking and unprecedented level. As much as an old English colloquialism like “the world and his wife” may suggest some universality to this story, this is a family you can’t altogether identify with, even if you would like to take the garbage out and keep walking.

(1)
I knew then what I know now
I never loved you anyhow
And I hope you’re happy now

I Hope You’re Happy Now

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Finally, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” from the 1986 album Blood and Chocolate. Here is a masterpiece of snark, a song so magnificently malicious and snide you can’t help but to imagine he can also shoot lightning out of his hands like the Emperor.

You’ve all heard of the Grinch, and of Ebenezer Scrooge, and Henry F. Potter, and of Professor Hinkle…

but do you recall…

Loretta Lynn:

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Yeah, you can insist that “To Heck with ole Santa Claus” is just good fun, but the last track on her Country Christmas album sure isn’t. “Gift of the Blues” has got to be one of the loneliest Christmas songs ever written.

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While we’re at it, probably all of these guys too:

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(“Lonesome Christmas (parts 1 & 2)” by Lowell Fulson)

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(“Christmas Eve Alone” by Tommy Warren)

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(“Santa Put the Hurt on You” by Benny Crunch & the Bunch)

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(“X-Mas Shopping Blues” by the Christmas Jug Band)

Stan Freberg:

Speaking of the X-Mas shopping blues, maybe you have already been quietly begrudging the holiday season’s conflicting messages – Well, I’ve got a surprise for you – Complaints about the commercialization of Christmas are as old as most of our Christmas traditions. If you’re feeling the pressure to build a family fairy out of the fantastic fifties, we want to remind you that some people were already lamenting the whole mess. This is Stan Freberg’s 1958 satire, “Green Chri$tma$”:

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Of course, Freberg risked his recording and advertising careers to release this satire. Capitol refused to release it and he approached Verve Records, who offered to press it before even hearing the track. Eventually Freberg won and his satire has even been reissued several times by Capitol. His advertising career didn’t suffer either, and although “Green Chri$tma$” rarely received any airplay it’s one of his most well known pieces of “audio theater”.*

Yes, we realize that we’re a store and we’d like you to come in and buy stuff. I think the larger message here is about finding a little more meaning in the holiday, like Freberg’s “Bob Crachit” says, even if our televisions seem to be telling us otherwise.

One of my favorite writers is Bill Mikkibon, who wrote a short book about reclaiming Christmas traditions called The Hundred Dollar Holiday. In it he suggests “there is no ideal Christmas, only the Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your desires, values, affections, traditions.” Mikkibon is best known for his writings on environmentalism, but his most interesting writing has focused on how little we’re actually getting from all this media we’re consuming – another of his books, The Age of Missing Information, is an all-time favorite of mine.

The Hundred Dollar Holiday is saddled with a somewhat silly suggestion a family limit its Christmas spending to $100, one which the author himself has later dismissed as impractical, but it also includes a thoughtful history of the development of over-commercialized, over-stressed holidays. More than anything else, the book argues that we’re allowing it to make our lives overwhelmingly stressful at a time when we should be doing more meaningful things.

*Yes, you are hearing Daws Butler as “Bob Cratchit” – The same Daws Butler who voiced a seemingly endless variety of cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss and the imitable, delightful Scooby Dumb.

Oscar the Grouch:

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(“I Hate Christmas”)

No real surprise here, is there? Except for just how well he makes his case for hating Christmas – Oscar is an enigmatic performer, when you really get down to it. The other side of this, figuratively, is of course “I Love Trash”, which kind of leaves one liking trash a little bit.

Probably most state troopers:

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(“A Christmas Song” by Jethro Tull)

Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull’s ever-moralistic schoolmarm, sternly reminded us years ago in “A Christmas Song” that “Christmas spirit is not what you drink” – adding more admonishment to this 90s live recording – but the fact is it is the season for the spirits to flow freely.

And we all know where that leads…

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(“Christmas in Jail” by the Youngsters)

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(“Santa Got a DWI” by Sherwin Linton)

Paul McCartney:

Yes, Paul McCartney. What other possible reason would Sir Paul have for writing and recording this three and three-quarter minute monstrosity?

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True fact: In recording this 45 to post it to the website, I am the first person to actually choose to listen to this entire song in it’s thirty-two year history. How do I feel about that? Pretty bad. Ashamed, really. I had to stand with a basket full of crap and look blankly at the cover of People en Español just to get through it.

More true facts about “Wonderful Christmastime”: Amy Grant once covered this song. I’ll leave it to you to search out a copy – I would guess her version would be unstoppably wonderful. We can only hope it was even longer.

In fact, it’s been covered more than 20 times by actual recording artists. People have actually thought, “Wow, that song is so good I’d like to sing it too!” This Forbes article estimates that Paul McCartney has made $15 million from the royalties on “Wonderful Christmastime”. $15 fucking million!

The b-side, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae”, is actually worse than “Wonderful Christmastime”. And I think both sides are actually better at 33 1/3 RPM. Listen:

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$15 million! It a Christmas absurdity, not a Christmas miracle – he was stoned when he made this, just like everything else that came out of the McCartney II “sessions”. Think about that next time you’re stuck in line and you hear this song.

Oh, and the Devil:

He probably hates Christmas.

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A few people have pointed out I post a lot of records which were intended for children. Some are ironically adult-themed or weird, and some are just awesome to listeners of all ages. I listened to a lot of records as a kid, and I still feel like a kid when I listen to them now – working in a record store doesn’t make me feel like a kid in a candy store, it makes me feel like a kid in a record store!

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(“Jack and the Beanstalk”)

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(“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”)

These 78s by Al “Jazzbo” Collins was one my kids really dug, to use hip vernacular. They were into it, man. I don’t know if they knew what to make of it, but they wanted to hear it again and again, baby.

Collins was a disc jockey back when working at a radio station had something to do with music. He hosted a few TV shows over the years, too, including “Jazzbeaux’z Rehearsal”, which featured boiled egg spinning contests. For a short period of time (in between Steve Allen and Jack Parr) he was the host of the Tonight Show – someday that fact is going to come up in bar trivia and you’re going to look like a freakin’ genius, all thanks to the Hymie’s blog.

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(“The Three Little Pigs”)

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(“Little Red Riding Hood”)

Last week we posted some saucy 50s 45s, including “Stop Whistling Wolf” by Eve Boswell (check it here, yo). There’s a cookin’ rockabilly version of the same some by the Maddox Brothers & Sister Rose, but don’t check Hymie’s for it – I already did and we haven’t got a copy. Little Red Riding Hood songs are a lot of fun – the most famous, of course, is by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Another favorite of mine is by the totally underrated 90s “punkabilly” group the Gr’ups:

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(“Red Riding Hood”)

I probably shouldn’t but I play that record when the kids are around – I love that band! No Idea recently reissued a compilation LP called A Li’l Lost 1992-1994, which I enthusiastically recommend and would be thrilled to special order for you.

A record I haven’t played for my kids is George Carlin’s Toledo Windowbox, a comedy album with a charming before/after jacket (already post on the blog here) and a lot of drug humor (it is, afterall, the album on which Carlin bills his work as “Goofy Shit”). Here is his interpretation of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – it kind of sums up things up for today:

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