Archive for the '1960s' Category

10
Dec
17

Bob Terri “Judy, featuring Bob Terri”

I bought this record because of the cover, which is a gigantic, a little bit cartoonish, color portrait of a woman—her face taking up most of the cover—it kind of reminds me of one of the Mad Magazine artist renditions. I don’t know who this is, but I’m guessing, “Judy.” It’s all a bit confusing, I guess because Judy, Bob, and Terri are all first names, so it kind of sounds like a movie: Bob, Terri, and Judy. (There are a lot of movie titles that are two names, but are there any that are three? There must be, but I can’t think of any offhand.) There are liner notes on back that tell us who is Bob Terri, but it reads kind of like a very dry CV—so I didn’t take much from skimming it. There is no date (Internet tells me it’s 1966), and the songs are mostly standards, but with one song (“Judy”) by Terri. Because of the garish cover, and that the singer is a guy named “Bob”—and because of my association of Judy Garland with drag queens, I guess I was sort of hoping this would be a kind of campy, crazy, drag queen record. Though I don’t even know what that would sound like. As it is, it’s a lot of straight, quiet renditions, pretty much piano and voice (with some accompaniment). I guess you could imagine walking into a little, dimly lit piano bar, and it’s just him there playing.

It’s still a little hard to listen to “Blue Velvet” and not think of the movie, Blue Velvet. I don’t want to think about the bar where Dorothy Vallens sang—I’m still trying to imagine a small, dark, perpetually smoky place… pretty much empty. No picture of this Bob Terri, so even if I imagined him, I’d probably be wrong. I guess he wrote the song “Judy” so I’m paying especially close attention to that. It’s a good song. It’s got an intro, then it’s a loving portrait of this Judy. I’m guessing it’s about a real person. I wonder what Judy thought about this song? Well, I certainly hope she was into it, or else she’d be a little creeped out. “Shadow of Your Smile”—that’s a good song, and this is a nice, pretty intense version. I had a fairly negative reaction to this record the first time I heard it, I’m not sure why, but now I’m really liking it. I can listen to this record. And it’s kind of interesting that I can’t really find anything about Bob Terri on the Internet. It was worth buying for the crazy cover, but it’s a nice listening record, it’s really growing on me. And it’s on Terri’s own label—it might be extremely valuable. I feel like I solved one mystery: what this record sounds like—but so many more mysteries have opened up, like: who is Bob Terri, and where is he now?

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06
Dec
17

Stan Getz “Reflections”

This is a 1964 Stan Getz record, with “arrangements by Claus Ogerman/Lalo Schifrin” on Verve Records—11 short songs (I wish they were all longer!)—all really nice—what would be a great make-out record, except you have to get up too often to turn it over—but that’s one of the drawbacks of records, in general, for making out. I don’t know why this made me think about making out—I was not thinking of that; I suppose it’s because there is certain evocative appeal of these songs, and these arrangements, and this playing; that tenor sax is so out front at times it’s almost obscene. Or maybe it’s the songs with the choral arrangements, that sound like a movie (some of it is, such as Charade)—from a pre-rock’n’roll corner of the Sixties—a montage with beautiful people driving in a sports car with the top down, Cary Grant with a sick tan, or maybe Tony Curtis acting semi-inappropriate.

The cover has Stan Getz (I assume; he looks like that one character actor, you know, Jimmy Stewart’s cop friend in Rear Window) lying on a hillside in a seersucker jacket, smoking a cigarette, with an expression of either cool or defeat. It looks to me like the art department blacked out the area directly behind him so he wouldn’t just blend in with the grass, but it ends up looking more like we’re seeing a cutaway of him entombed in a fairly spacious grave. If you were to interpret it that way, you might interpret his expression as “not giving a shit.” You could even imagine this cover as one of those early anti-smoking ads, except he doesn’t look miserable enough, even for a man buried alive. Seeing how the album is titled “Reflections,” I’d have to say he’s… reflecting.

There are some serious liner notes on the back (three columns) by Jack Maher—I’d like to read it all, but maybe tomorrow after coffee. Okay, it’s now the next day. Have any of you reached the point in your life where coffee really does nothing as far as keeping you awake? I mean, it works in that it makes me feel normal, but say, to keep awake while reading three columns of text on the back of an album… no. Isn’t it great that someone would think it was cool to put three columns of text on the back of this album? I’d love to read it all, discuss it intelligently, but I don’t really feel like doing any kind of research right now. I know Lalo Schifrin from film scores, but I don’t know much else. I don’t know the Bossa Nova from a Chevy Nova, and I think the Samba is a pocket of dough, deep-fried and filled with something delicious. I read somewhere that everyone was all pissed off at Getz for “selling out” with this record—and I kind of love that idea, in its quaint sincerity—kind of like the folk people getting mad a Dylan for “going electric.” It’s a good reminder for anyone, in any time period, to step back and realize that even if you could look into the future, you have no idea just how bad things can and will get.

30
Nov
17

June Christy “Something Cool”

My dad had an identical copy of this 1962 record, so I kind of grew up with it, but don’t remember playing it a lot; more, I remember the distinctive album cover—a black and white (actually blue and white, for “cool”) illustration of June Christy with a three drink, closed eye smile, and an icy, sweating, tall drink in the foreground—so it’s bigger than she is. With an album cover like that you’re just asking for the ironic tag once the inevitable struggle with alcohol becomes public knowledge. The back has an even more stylized drawing of a highball and some brief biographical notes. I guess June Christy was famous for singing with Stan Kenton’s band and is most associated with “cool jazz.” This record, recorded with the Pete Rugolo orchestra, first came out in the Fifties, and was re-released many times in different versions and was ultimately her most successful album.

The internet tells me she was from Illinois and her real name was Shirley Luster, which is a great name, and you kind of have to wonder why she changed it, but it seems like people in entertainment all changed their names back then. This is a pretty upbeat, poppy record, and I always liked it; it’s got a few of my favorites: “The Night We Called It A Day,” “I Should Care,” “It Could Happen To You,” and the title song, by Bill Barnes, is really nice. I never listened that closely to her voice before, though I liked it okay, but now I’m paying more attention and finding it really captivating, kind of low, and very sexy, with a lot of personality. At times she reminds me a little of Anita O’Day and a little of Ella Fitzgerald, but also someone else—but I can’t figure out who. Maybe it’s not even a singer she’s reminding me of, but someone I know, or once knew. Oh, boy, I said I wasn’t going to fall in love again this year, especially with disembodied voices haunting lonely rooms above downtown shops, wind swirling early snow under a streetlamp. So much for promises.

17
Sep
17

Skeeter Davis “Sings The End of the World”

This 1963 LP starts out with Skeeter Davis’ 1962 hit single, “The End of the World,” written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee. The song was a huge hit, recorded by tons of people over the years (including the Carpenters), and used in countless movies and TV shows. You’ve probably heard it. I still like this version of it best (of those I’ve heard). The album, then, like most of her LPs, has six two to three minute country and pop songs per side. They’re all good. This is a solid Skeeter Davis record, through and through. If you were going to buy only one of her records, this could be the one.

There’s a picture of her on the back, in the studio with Chet Atkins, who produced a lot of her records. He looks like a bad-ass. The three B&W photos of Skeeter on the front and back of the album cover look like three different people—and two of them remind me strongly of other people. She had a lot of different looks over the years, and online now you can find about a million images of her; there must be other people out there as obsessed with Skeeter Davis as I am. The liner notes, by (it doesn’t say), start out talking about the thirteenth and sixth letters of the alphabet—M and F—and the significance of these letters, in standing both for “Many Fans” and “Mary Frances” (Skeeter’s given name). Those letters bring something else to my mind—yes, “My Friend”—which might be the best way to describe the way I feel when I listen to Skeeter Davis sing.

Had I read these liner notes in 1963 (and been a few years older), I might have been crushed to discover that SD was married to country music DJ, Ralph Emery (or maybe delighted to find out she had a Pekingese named Tinker)—and this may well have been the first time I put together the idea of equating the heartbreak of lost love with Armageddon. I appreciate, even now, the strength of the sentiment, but the years have only revealed the selfishness of this sentiment. You’re going to get over the heartbreak—no reason to upset the game-board for all of humanity. Though—only a year after this record—someone very close to me took this “all or nothing” crap very literally; not to get too personal, but it sickens me to this day. Not to end this review on such a grim note: my favorite songs (as well as the title song), here, are “Mine Is a Lonely Life,” “Why I’m Walkin’,” “Longing to Hold You Again,” and “(I Want to Go) Where Nobody Knows Me.” Yes, the sad ones—it’s always the sad ones for me.

15
Sep
17

Phil McLean “Small Sad Sam / Chicken”

I guess this is considered a “novelty record”—it’s a humorous, story song, backed with music. It seems like if you just pick up 45’s at random, like at yard sales and thrift-stores, you’re as likely to get novelty records as anything (like with Christmas records, for LP’s). Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound good and is not funny enough for me to have even focused on the story. I’ll try again. Okay. It’s the boring tale of a small guy who didn’t do something heroic. The B-side is called “Chicken”—which would normally be more promising, but it’s corny music with an annoying harmonica, and just going on and on—sounding like a musical interlude in a redneck moonshine and smokey movie—and then it pauses and Phil McLean’s low voice says: “I say you’re chicken.” It’s not funny and not weird enough to be interesting. On the other hand, there are much worse novelty records out there. The internet says it’s from 1961, and Phil McLean was a DJ on WERE radio in Cleveland, and this was put out as a parody of Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John.” I suppose if you heard this on the radio when you were little, this might strike you as nostalgic—or it might just bring back annoying memories. If anyone wants this, I’ll fling it in your direction.

10
Sep
17

Porter Wagoner and Skeeter Davis “Sing Duets”

I have more records by Skeeter Davis than any other recording artist, but I don’t have even half of the albums she released in a long career. If I had to name a favorite singer (please don’t make me do that) I would not hesitate to say Skeeter Davis. For some reason I can’t explain, she has a special place in my heart. And that is just based on the recorded music of hers I’ve been lucky enough to hear. She is firmly based in country and western, but crossed over to pop, and always sounds to me like a little of both, so maybe that’s part of the appeal. But mostly I just love her voice. It always strikes me as having an underlying sadness to it, but also an outward expression of hope, joy, and happiness. But there also is just a quality of someone singing at home, maybe, just one person to another. Or maybe in church, or while working. Her voice always strikes me as the opposite of slick, professional, over-produced. I guess in some sense, there is the same essence of what is essential to me about punk music in her voice, and that is at the heart of the music I love—that quality of “I’m doing it my way”—even when the smoother road might have been strongly suggested as the easier path to success.

This record, from 1962, is one of her earliest albums, and it’s a duet record with Porter Wagoner, who is, of course, one of the giants of country music. I’ve always been aware of him, but never a big fan, which doesn’t mean I might not be someday, if I’d take the time to get to know his music through and through. It starts out with a song that—if this was the song I was to judge Skeeter Davis on, that’d be my loss—not my kind of song. If there was one word I’d use to describe a style of music (any music) I don’t like, it would be “jaunty”—and so much do I despise jaunty music, it makes me wonder about the sanity and even human quality of fans of the jaunty (as in, are they pod people, or Stepford wives?) After that alarming start, though, they settle into really beautifully sung versions of some classic country songs—sweet, introspective, and melancholy. My favorites here are: “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “Heaven Help Me,” “Sorrow’s Tearing Down the House (That Happiness Built),” and “There’s Always One (Who Loves a Lot)”—but really, they’re all good.

This is on the RCA Victor label (with the dog looking down the Gramophone horn) and has a very old-fashioned, color drawing of the two singers on the cover, in a style that makes me think of a young adult romance series book. The blond woman in a blue dress doesn’t match that much any likeness to any Skeeter Davis photo I’ve seen. A sliver of photograph on back (of part of the recording studio control board) accompanies some extensive liner notes in typewriter font by Bill Porter (legendary Nashville recording engineer) where he goes on about how much he loves these songs, but also thinks highly of the artists. It’s very nice, really, but then he goes on about especially one song, which happens to be the jaunty song on here I don’t like (“Rock-A-Bye Boogie”). Oh, well, I guess it’s all a matter of taste, and that’s what makes the world interesting. As I continue to listen, it strikes me—as well as these two voices compliment each other, Porter Wagoner’s is so straight-up country, that—and especially on the kind of duet where he sings a verse, and then she does—you really hear a contrast in their voices—and the quality of her voice (that’s an ongoing obsession with me, trying to understand why I love it so much) it occurs to me that it sounds a little unhinged—if you know what I mean. You probably don’t, but I mean that in the best way.

09
Sep
17

Donnie Brooks “Mission Bell / Do It For Me”

I decided that I will write about 45s, as well, on this site (DJ Farraginous)—singles, seven inch records—as well as 7 inch 33 RPM records, 12 inch singles, EPs, 10 inch records—anything I can play, as long as it’s vinyl. I have a box of 45s that’s even more random than my LP records… I have no idea where half of them came from. Anyway, I made a random system to chose what I’d write about—and the first one up is this beat to hell, old Donnie Brooks single on Era Records (whose logo is a kind of cool atomic symbol). I’ve never heard this record before, and if you asked me if I had it, I’d have said “I don’t think so.” I really have no idea what’s in this box. It plays pretty well, though, sounds good. Both songs are pretty wimpy, but “Mission Bell” is the better of the two, and I guess it was a hit record in 1960. I can see how it might grow on you—there are backup singers, and bells ringing in the ether—a very poppy love song, with cornball lyrics—kind of Pat Boone sounding, I guess, or Bobby Darin? I don’t know. I have no knowledge or real interest in these 1960-era pop singers.

Anyway, Donnie’s real name was John Dee Abohosh, which is kind of a great name, but he went by several different performing names, including Dick Bush! “Donnybrook” is the name for a fight, or brawl—I’ve heard it most used for those baseball brawls—you know where they all get puffed up and red-faced and everyone comes pouring from the dugout, but no one thinks to use a baseball bat? Also, apparently, he played the role of Jesus in the rock opera, Truth of Truths, in 1971, which I’d love to get a recording of, if it exists. It strikes me as interesting that he was born the same year as my mom (1936—and they both passed away at almost the same time, too), and this record, which I now, somehow, find myself listening to for the first time, came out the same year I was born—when Donnie Brooks and my mom were like 24. Not that young or old to have a kid, or a hit single, I guess, but when I think about people I know having a baby at 24 it kind of freaks me out. I know a lot of people are emotionally equipped for it at that age, but I certainly would not have been, at 24—staying up for days at a time, drinking Night Train Express, waking up in “how did I get here?” vestibules of… was it looking-for-love desperation, or just the out of control sugar/alcohol regions of my brain?




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