I was ready to abandon K-Tel for greener pastures, when I recalled with great amusement a K-Tel hits collection that someone (okay, Tom Avazian) once tenderly pressed into my eager hands. I can’t imagine anyone would be shocked that a label famed for recycling older tunes had thieved its title – Gimme Indie Rock – from a song by former Dinosaur Jr. bassist, Lou Barlow … and then oddly omitted the title track!
Includes a Dinosaur Jr. song in lieu of Sebadoh’s title track – ironic?
No one should be surprised that a label known for being a step or two behind contemporary pop music trends would embrace 80s and 90s punk and “alternative” rock by the dawn of the new century (I hear some of you grumbling this is not your father’s K-Tel). Nor should anyone be taken aback that this double-disc set from 2000 is a CD-only release that was never pressed onto good ol’ vinyl.
Gadzooks: [insert name of indie band below] on a K-Tel collection!
The CD cover would also break the K-Tel mold by being a 6-panel foldout poster, with liner notes provided by Option Magazine‘s Scott Becker and a quote at the top of the page attributed to Minutemen frontman, D. Boon (“The how, the why, the where, the who – can these words find the truth?”) from a song – “The World According to Nouns” – that was, in fact, written by the group’s bassist, Mike Watt! Oh, K-Tel…
To read Scott Becker’s essay, save image to hard drive and magnify in image viewer
Generally speaking, Zero to 180’s rule of thumb (you may or may not be aware) is to feature under-celebrated studio songcraft that is, minimally, 20 years old, thus enabling indie and punk to fall fairly within the scope of this music history blog. Previous attempts to feature more contemporary sounds, Zero to 180 realized belatedly, would not be a good fit for a historically-oriented website, something that should have been apparent at the outset (nothing personal, Roy Sludge – you know I love you).
And yet, it’s as if Zero to 180 has learned nothing, as today’s piece sidesteps protocol by ignoring Gimme Indie Rock in favor of a modern rock track — power pop, to be more precise — that is a mere 12 years old, but is already showing alarming signs of being consigned to the dustbin of history:
“Misadventures of the Campaign Kids” King of Prussia 2007
Such an obvious lead-off track, Zero to 180 is a little disappointed to discover “Miseducation of the Campaign Kids” to be the third song on King of Prussia‘s 2007 CD release, Save the Scene. The opening chords would seem to be a loving nod to Paul Weller’s demo for The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” — could that have been the songwriter’s intention, I wonder. Yes, there are five YouTube clips of this compelling King of Prussia track, and yet the total combined “views” of these audio clips do not even total 5,000 — a musical injustice that this history blog is attempting to remedy.
Lyrics to the song can be found here on Bandcamp, where you can also buy the album for only $6.99 – a bargain. Thank you, as well, to Zero to 180 science correspondent, Paul Guinnessy, for once forwarding a flash drive filled with 3.42GigaBytes of songs (e.g, “Misadventures”) from artists – including King of Prussia – who appeared at the 2008 South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas.
News Flash: Zero to 180 Filters Out the Rubbish!
The Zero to 180 screenshot above, by the way, shows this music history blog in its infancy at a time when I was still grappling with scope and content issues. After five years and over 700 posts, I finally cottoned onto the necessity of adding several filters to help readers (to the extent they exist) pick out the few interesting bits amidst the mountains of refuse. Consequently, Zero to 180 now has added a handful of “buttons” at the top of the screen to help minimize wasted time you will never ever get back —
Just for fun, find a casual fan of Barbra Streisand‘s music, and study her/his reaction closely when you play a fairly obscure track – “Come Back To Me” – for his/her virgin ears:
“Come Back to Me” Barbra Streisand 1973
Believe me, Zero to 180 is just as stunned as you are to find Streisand’s name attached to a history piece on “experimental pop” — and yet here we are, thanks to 1973’s Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments being included (#34) in Mojo’s list of The 50 Most Out There Albums of All Time in their March 2005 issue, alongside such (truly) outre artists as Ennio Morricone, John Coltrane, Holy Modal Rounders, Hawkwind, Funkadelic, Captain Beefheart, and (of course) Sun Ra.
Mojo’s Jonny Trunk explains the album’s concept, as a whole —
“The soundtrack to Barbra’s fifth TV special, the plan was to explore – literally (and laterally) – the world of sound and music, as opposed to the world of just Babs again. This Barbra is on a sonic world trip, and the luggage is piled very high, indeed — percussion from all global villages including darabukas, gagakus, o-daikos and baglamas, as well as Moogs, mellotrons, Studers, Arps, a Putney (!) and a Tempophon. And don’t forget the bagpipes. They’re from Ireland.”
“Come Back to Me,” one of the more experimental tracks on the album, finds Streisand, as Trunk playfully puts it, “talking to herself through delay pedals.”
Avant-Streisand: Experimental Pop – emphasis on Pop
Would you be surprised to learn that Billboard would deem …And Other Musical Instruments to be one of their “Top Album Picks” for the week of November 10, 1973?
“Since this is the soundtrack from her TV special, there are plenty of effects one can only enjoy with all the senses. But since you can’t see the things going on as Barbra walks through all the visual settings which are at the core of the program, your imagination has to take command. Nonetheless, her fine tones and majestic power are sheer entertainment. There are lots of off-beat ideas, like an Indian raga effect on ‘I Got Rhythm’ and sound effects on ‘The World Is a Concerto.’ ‘Glad To Be Unhappy’ is Barbra at her ballad best. Ken and Mitzi Welch’s arrangements for TV provide an interesting experience on record.”
The commercial response to Barbra Streisand’s most daring work – before and forevermore – can be shown in the album’s Billboard rankings:
entered the Pop chart at #146 for the week of November 24, 1973;
advanced to #115 the following week, December 1, 1973;
before beginning a downward descent — #132 the week of February 9, 1974;
down to #149 the following week, February 16, 1974;
hanging on at #191 the week of March 9, 1974 before dropping from the charts.
Ten years later, Billboard‘s Paul Grein would report in his “Chart Beat” column that the TV special, unfortunately, had been “poorly received.” 38 years later, a test pressing of Streisand’s … And Other Musical Instruments LP would fetch $30 at auction in 2011.
Hendrix, Beatles, the Stones … and Streisand: K-Tel Luminaries
Barbra Streisand – whose considerable commercial heft makes her, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the world’s best selling female recording artist – would famously relax her “No K-Tel” policy in order to allow “Evergreen” (Theme from A Star Is Born) to appear on 1981 K-Tel release The Elite (US, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and the Netherlands), as well as 1981’s The Platinum Album (UK, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, Greece, New Zealand & Australia).
Streisand would also give consent for the inclusion of chart-topping hit “People” (from Funny Girl) on K-Tel Brazil’s Sucessos Nunca Esquecidos, as well as special 2-LP set, Stars for Jerusalem, in partnership with Columbia Special Products, under the auspices of The Jerusalem Foundation.
True or False? Led Zeppelin have appeared on a K-Tel album.
The band that famously refused to do TV appearances did not, generally speaking stoop to K-Tel‘s level of crass commercialism. Led Zeppelin cultivated such a mystique amongst their fanbase, in fact, that it was thought the band didn’t deign to do singles — obviously untrue when you browse their 7-inch output on 45Cat (each and every Zep album was accompanied by a 45 release, don’t kid yourself).
And yet, unbelievably, Led Zeppelin once said yes to K-Tel: 1980’s The Summit, released by K-Tel UK & Ireland — an album that includes “Candy Store Rock” (from 1976’s Presence), fittingly as the final track:
“Candy Store Rock” Led Zeppelin 1976
Does the band get forgiveness points, since “proceeds from this album are contributed to The Year of the Child to help sick and handicapped children”?
“Hot on the heels of the Kampuchea concerts, K-Tel rush-released The Summitin January 1980, featuring a baker’s dozen of tracks from rock royalty, all of whom donated their proceeds to UNESCO’s The International Year Of The Child (1979). Kurt Waldheim, then secretary-general of the United Nations, was crucial in organizing both the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea and The International Year Of The Child projects.”
Zep on K-Tel cover!
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In 2003, Jimmy Page would even make the CD cover, when “Misty Mountain Hop” made an encore appearance on Time-Life’s Do It Again from the ‘Legends’ series (with liner notes from Ben Fong-Torres), also in synergistic partnership with Warner Special Products.
11311 K-Tel Drive = Minnetonka, Minnesota:
The New “Hitsville USA”?
Thanks to family members strategically located in Minnetonka, Zero to 180 is grateful to have had the opportunity to visit 11311 K-Tel Drive, the corporate headquarters of K-Tel International since 1975, as any music scholar will tell you.
K-Tel’s service in maintaining the commercial vitality of our great nation’s pop hits – long after their initial “expiration date” – has been widely mocked, which is sadly short-sighted, given the company’s honorable efforts in fighting Madison Avenue attitudes (i.e., old = bad) that have unmistakably infiltrated popular consciousness due to a relentless bombardment of advertising that fetishizes newness for the sake of newness.
K-Tel would celebrate 35 years of success in grand style with a supplemental 17-page advertisement in the March 8, 1997 edition of Billboard.(pages K-1 through K-17) that includes messages of congratulations from Sony Music Special Products, EMI-Capitol, Polygram, Curb Records, Select-O-Hits, local heroes The Trashmen, The Castaways, Steppenwolf’s John Kay, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Ernest Evans himself (a.k.a., Chubby Checker). These 17 packed pages include a profile of founder Phillip Kives (K-Tel = Kives Television), who “starred in what may have been the first infomercial: a five-minute spot in support of a non-stick frying pan,” plus a history of the music label (“Original Hits! Original Stars! K-Tel’s Super Gold Music Machine Rolls Right On”) that states the company’s musical inventory to be “approximately 2,700 masters, dating from the ’50s up through the ’80s and beyond.”
Just months after terminating a deal that would have divested its music assets, K-Tel International has restructured the music company and set ambitious plans to become an online music retailer and a distributor of other labels’ recordings.
As part of the change, the company has tapped Mark Dixon, its top financial executive, as COO of the music unit, K–tel International (USA), which remains based in Minneapolis. The corporate offices, however, are moving to Los Angeles, where company president David Weiner will oversee the music unit, international operations, a direct-marketing subsidiary, a home video imprint, and a new Internet venture. Weiner says the move will enable K-Tel to “tap into a larger talent pool.”
By mid-December, Weiner says the company will launch K-Tel Online and develop the site over the next year into a major Internet retailer to compete with CDnow, Music Boulevard, and World Wide Web sites operated by traditional music chains. At the site www.ktel.com, consumers will also be able to order customized CDs made up of tracks from the company-owned catalogs.
Alas, Greg Beets would break the sad news — “Where were you when you found out K-Tel declared bankruptcy and shut down its U.S. music distribution subsidiary?” — in the May 4, 2001 edition of the Austin Chronicle. Turning popular wisdom on its head, Beets points out that “although K-Tel’s buffet-style MO [modus operandi] seems quintessentially American,” the company was actually founded in Winnipeg, Ontario in 1962, before Kives moved operations to Minneapolis in the early Seventies.
Kives wasn’t the first (that would be Art Leboe’s Oldies but Goodies series), and he wasn’t without competition (Ronco and Adam VIII), but “it was K-Tel,” Beets observed, “that truly cultivated the form into a pop culture institution ripe for parody.”
K-Tel’s Krass Kommercialism: A Tribute by Greg Beets
During the Seventies, K-Tel’s marketing ploys had the same seedy appeal as a carnival barker’s come-on. The pitch was fast and furious, with deftly spliced snippets of music, song titles rapidly scrolling across the screen, and an overcaffeinated announcer imploring you to order now. Some aficionados swear the ads said K-Tel albums were not available in stores, even though they were — at unhip outlets such as drug and discount stores.
You won’t find a much better snapshot of pop music in the early Seventies than 1972’s Believe in Music. Named for Gallery’s “I Believe in Music,” the album kicks off with the 1-2-3 feel-good punch of “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, “Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone, and “Sunny Days” by Lighthouse. Throw in Donny Osmond, the O’Jays, and a few more weird obscurities like Mouth & MacNeil’s “How Do You Do?” and Bulldog’s “No,” and you have a bass-ackwardly definitive compilation rivaled only by Nuggets.
Maybe K-Tel butchered art for profit. But even if that were true, does it make K-Tel any worse than a record company padding a marginal artist’s album with filler? Though it came at the expense of artistic vision, K-Tel’s Seventies output was nothing if not value-driven. Where else could you get up to 25 hit songs for the low, low price of $5.98 ($7.98 for 8-track)?
That said, the sonic quality of vintage K-tel albums is truly awful. You’ll find better low end on a distant AM radio station, and the flimsier-than-Dynaflex vinyl ensures quick scratches if you so much as breathe too hard on it. And no discussion of K-Tel would be complete without mentioning the blinding colors and screaming fonts utilized in the subtle-as-a-meat-cleaver cover art. But, as the tired old saying goes, that’s part of the charm.
Note: Beets would also voice the widely-held notion that “respectable artists, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, never showed up on K-Tel” — a view that, as Zero to 180’s recent research has revealed, does not withstand factual scrutiny.
It still boggles my mind that Ronco somehow found a way to compile an album featuring tracks from top pop acts – Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, and the Byrds – one would not normally associate with TV-advertised hits labels, such as Ronco.
Jimi Hendrix – third artist listed after The Beatles
In light of this knowledge I began to wonder: Is it possible Jimi Hendrix has appeared on a K-Tel album?
Answer — Yes! K-Tel Japan would include “Purple Haze” on 1971’s 20 Dynamic Hits – an album that would also feature a Beatles track (admittedly, 1961’s “My Bonnie” with singer, Tony Sheridan).
Perhaps the strangest release of all would be K-Tel Australia’s The Legend of Hendrixalbum (date unknown).
3rd known photo of Hendrix on K-Tel album cover
18 tracks in all – note the curious decision to include a Noel Redding composition, “She’s So Fine”:
1. Hey Joe
2. Purple Haze
3. The Wind Cries Mary
4. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
5. Stone Free Again
6. All Along The Watchtower
7. Foxy Lady
8. Voodoo Chile
9. Crosstown Traffic
11. Like A Rolling Stone
12. Ezy Rider
14. Johnny B Goode
15. Blue Suede Shoes
16. Gypsy Eyes
18. She’s So Fine
“She’s So Fine” Noel Redding’s Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967
Of course, all of this begs the question — why no Hendrix tracks on US K-Tel releases? Was Warner Brothers afraid that the appearance of a Hendrix track on a K-Tel album might inflict damage on his viability in the marketplace, given the snobby rock press?
“My Bonnie” on this 1972 4-LP set = only US K-Tel LP Release to feature The Beatles!
The Stones on K-Tel: The Truth Is Out There
1982 would prove to be the year the band made the momentous decision that permitted K-Tel UK/Ireland to sell a 2-LP (mostly monophonic) “greats”-only package, Story of the Stones, in Great Britain, as well as Spain, Portugal and (“unofficially”) Japan and Singapore.
Track listing: any quibbles, Stones fans?
The following year, the Stones’ Organization then made the staggering decision to allow “Satisfaction” the honor of kicking off K-Tel’s Best Party Album in the World — a various artists release that would also include “Get Off My Cloud”!
Any Other Ronco LPs with Hendrix Tracks?
Q: Besides Do It Now, are there any other Ronco LPs that feature Jimi Hendrix tracks?
A: Yes! “All Along the Watchtower” would join 43 of its closest friends for Ronco UK’s soundtrack to the film, Stardust, from 1974.
Additionally, in 1974 Ronco Netherlands would release 44 Golden Hits of the Sixties, a 2-LP set that included (you guessed it) “All Along the Watchtower.”
In 2016, Heritage Auctions (“the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer”) sold two acetates of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album — note that the Columbia label for the left image reads “Electric Landlady“(!)
double-Click on image for Super-maximum resolution
“Electric Landlady”: Inspiration for Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album
Melbourne-born, Helen Reddy would begin her career in 1963 laying down vocals for a Consulate cigarette jingle with Bob Young and His Orchestra.
Reddy’s win on Australian Bandstand would, according to Discogs, spur her big move in 1966 to the United States, where two years later, she would make her official debut in the pop marketplace with Fontana 45, “One Way Ticket.”
Monty Montgomery, Music Director for Bakersfield’s KERN would select “One Way Ticket” as Billboard‘s ‘Best Leftfield Pick’ for the week of May 11, 1968. The song would hit #83 nationally in Australia in May, 1968.
From the songwriting team of Stephen (“Sesame Street“) Lawrence & Bruce Hart
For uncertain reasons (though likely due to runaway 1972 smash hit, “I Am Woman“), K-Tel made an executive decision to include this Laugh-In-era track on a collection of US radio hits from primarily 1973 (i.e., James Brown’s “The Payback“; Love Unlimited’s “Love’s Theme“; Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock“), thus indirectly helping to direct attention to a melodic sense and production sound that seem very much out of place with the rest of the song’s surroundings:
“One Way Ticket” Helen Reddy 1968
American music consumers would find itself treated to “One Way Ticket” via 1974 K-Tel release, Dynamic Sound, while discerning Canadian ears would discover the track on 1974’s Music Power, amidst such 1973 highlights as Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“; Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie“; and Al Wilson’s “Show and Tell.”
Helen Reddy + Shirley Bassey + Dusty Springfield = butterfly
Aside from the K-Tel and Pickwick LP releases above, “One Way Ticket” otherwise found itself orphaned as a non-album single until the song’s inclusion as a bonus track for the 2-album-on-one-CD reissue No Way to Treat a Lady / Music, Music in 2005 — but for the Australian market only!
As has been pointed out elsewhere, Reddy is the first Australian artist to win a Grammy (for the aforementioned “I Am Woman”), as well as top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Thanks again to record collector extraordinaire, Tom Avazian — underwriter of numerous Zero to 180 research initiatives (most recently, Scotland’s The Poets) — who provided a vinyl copy of 1988 UK anthology, 20 One Hit Wonders, an album that includes a strong track from a band of Birmingham musicians, TheLocomotive, who began their career playing rocksteady in a rather convincing manner, before changing gears altogether on their next single and subsequent album before disbanding soon after.
Billboard would announce in their November 16, 1968 edition (“Locomotive Disk on Speedy Track“) that “the Parlophone single ‘Rudi’s In Love’ is being released in 14 countries in Europe and in the US on the Bell label.” According to Brum Beat – whose list of Top 20 Birmingham bands includes The Locomotive – “The catchy ‘Rudi’s In Love‘ proved very popular on the dance floor and reached Number 25 during its eight week stay in the charts.”
And yet, amazingly, for a song so widely distributed, “Rudi’s In Love” (as of today) is only available on YouTube in the form of a live BBC version that, unfortunately, is not well recorded. How can this be? 45Cat contributor, jimmytheferret, proclaims “Rudi’s In Love” to be “one of the most iconic records of the late sixties” and consequently has posted audio for the song on YouTube. And yet, when you click on the video link, YouTube informs us that “this video contains content from WMG [Warner Music Group?], who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.” Ah ha…
However, for a limited time — the next ten days — Zero to 180 will make this track available to whomever has accidentally stumbled upon this blog:
[Time limit has expired – MP3 since removed. Sorry, folks!]
[Pssst: Click triangle above to play “Rudi’s In Love” by Locomotive]
BigBearMusic reports that the inaugural release for Big Bear Records (“UK’s longest-established independent record company”) was a “spoof ska 45 rpm single entitled ‘Rudi The Red-Nosed Reindeer‘ by a band whose nom-du-disque The Steam Shovel disguised the fact that they were, in reality, The Locomotive” (!)
Would you be surprised to learn that EMI reissued “Rudi’s In Love” in 1980, at the height of the second-wave ska craze, in a two-tone-themed picture sleeve?
Norman Haines, who penned “Rudi’s In Love,” would later prove to be “instrumental in developing how Black Sabbath worked” in their earliest days, notes Big Takeover‘s AJ Morocco, “He orchestrated their first arrangements and likely taught them how to commit their songs to tape in the studio.”
Sheet music below serves as bedroom poster when you click on image
I must have been about 9 or 10 when I first became aware of the “break-in” record, in which the man-on-the-street dishes up pop hit sound bites in response to each and every one of the news reporter’s questions. I remember hearing “Watergrate” and “Mr. Jaws” on Cincinnati’s pop juggernaut, WSAI 1360 AM, and then, not too long after, obtaining an LP compilation of the better Buchanan and/or Goodman break-in records, from the first flying saucer 45 in 1956, all the way up to “Superfly Meets Shaft” & “Convention ’72.”
[Pres. Nixon in the driver’s seat, with Henry Kissinger riding shotgun & Spiro Agnew in the backseat, flanked by Superfly and Shaft]
I enjoyed the silliness of it all and was thrilled, as a fan of satire, by the send-up of pop culture, as well as straight society. My brother Dean’s experiments stitching together break-in records at home inspired me to make my own, and I even roped in my friends to help me in my pointless series of “interviews” set at Fred’s (fictitious) Delicatessen.
Zero to 180, thus, would like to celebrate a milestone — 5 years!over700 posts! — by force-feeding you an amateur “break-in” home recording (c. 1976) that features extensive sampling from the family record collection, aided in no small part by the 4-LP box set, Superstars of the Seventies. Best to ignore the reporter’s inane line of questioning:
“Fred’s Delicatessen” Chris Richardson & Co. 1976
[Pssst: click triangle above to play “Fred’s Delicatessan” by Chris Richardson&Co.]
1st anniversary piece that featured an exclusive “Howard Dean” remix of a delightful Sesame Street song about anger management (with a special rant about how WordPress’s peculiarities made me homicidal the moment I launched this blog).
2nd anniversary piece that refused to acknowledge the milestone but instead celebrated the under-sung legacy of songwriter and session musician, Joe South – with a link to South’s first 45, a novelty tune that playfully laments Texas’s change in status as the nation’s largest state upon Alaska’s entry into the Union.
3rd anniversary piece that revealed the depths to which Zero to 180 will sink in order to foist his own amateur recordings onto an unsuspecting and trusting populace.
Most music fans in the US (and even quite a few in the UK) are unaware that a major 1970s British rock star put out an album on K-Tel (!) during a period of peak popularity – one entitled Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster, no less. There’s a good reason for this record’s obscurity, as these notes from Discogs make clear:
“Released in a limited edition of supposedly 300 copies. Comes in a beautiful gatefold-sleeve and a 12×8-inch 16-page booklet. This is mostly a spoken-word album containing interviews with people claiming to have seen the Loch Ness Monster. It features additional narrations by Richard O’Brien and Alex Harvey and one short musical track at the end.”
This limited release means that some Alex Harvey fans are willing to shell out £200 (only a couple months ago) or even £300 (back in 2014) for this tribute album to Nessie. These prices are not an abberation, thus affirming the wisdom behind the decision made in 1977 by an elite group of Alex Harvey fans to purchase this long-deleted, vinyl-only release, which finally enjoyed reissue on compact disc in 2009 (John Clarkson’s review also provides a bit of back story).
“I Love Monsters Too” — the album’s final selection, as noted above, is the lone musical track, and a concise one at that: 37 seconds (thus, deserving of inclusion on Zero to 180’s list of short songs in popular music):
“I Love Monsters Too” Alex Harvey 1977
As YouTube contributor Mags1464 drolly observes, the song is “from an album that Alex made while the rest of the [Sensational Alex Harvey Band] were recording Fourplay.” Zero to 180 just figured out why the group is relatively unknown here in the States — according to Discogs, only four of SAHB’s nine albums released in the 1970s were distributed in the US.
Elaborate packaging includes an annotated map of Loch Ness
Dear Diary: Saturday 17 July 1976
[Double-click image below to view in high-resolution]
Seven years prior to Alex Harvey’s run-in with K-Tel, Trojan Records attempted to cash in on Britain’s fascination with its most famous Scottish resident through the release of a horror-themed reggae compilation, Loch Ness Monster that contains, annoyingly, only one musical tribute to Nessie (and at least one dubious song selection — “Suffering Stink,” really?).
1970, coincidentally, would also see the UK release of an album – That’s How You Got Killed Before – by Jamaican ex-pat, Errol Dixon that features “Monster from Loch Ness” (not yet available for preview on YouTube).
In recent years, John Carter Cash would travel to Scotland to perform his own Nessie tribute live in an attempt to “summon the beast” from the depths of Loch Ness — successfully? At least one person says yes:
Eternal debt of gratitude to Larry Appelbaum of WPFW’s Sounds of Surprise program for pointing listeners (including myself) to a fascinating moment in our nation’s history about which not enough seems to have been written.
“Moon Maiden” Duke Ellington Quartet @ ABC in NYC July 21, 1969
A rather surreal television moment, as the Apollo 11 rocket lifts off in a video montage behind Duke Ellington that then dissolves into a shot of the moon. “Moon Maiden” would be the regal bandleader’s debut vocal performance, amazingly enough, thus exquisitely underscoring the theme of Appelbaum’s program: vocal performances from otherwise staunch instrumentalists.
Jazz Lives reports (via his “expert friends“) that Duke Ellington’s televised performance – with Al Chernet on guitar, Paul Kondziela on bass, and Rufus Jones on drums – had been “pre-recorded for the telecast.”
Duke Ellington, composer-bandleader-pianist par excellence who has taken The A Train through the Air Conditioned Jungle to his Satin Doll, climbed musically aboard Apollo 11 with his specially composed song, Moon Maiden, for the Moon-bound astronauts. The veteran musician, 70, whose musical composition is an accompaniment to man’s first steps on the moon, permitted himself a public first: he sang as well as played the Moon Maiden tune. The 10-minute composition for piano, bass, and drums, commissioned by ABC-TV for the network’s day-long broadcast of man’s first walk on the moon, says:
Moon Maiden. Way out there in the blue … / Moon Maiden. Got to be with you / I made my approach and then revolved / But my big problem is still not solved / Coming in loud and clear / I’m just a fly-by-night guy, but for you … / I might be quite the right–so right guy / Moon Maiden. Moon Maiden. Maiden, you’re for me.
Asked why he composed a song about a “maiden” when the astronauts going to the moon are men, the veteran jazzman, surrounded by a set the simulated the lunar landing site, replied: “For those cats to want to be there, there must be a chick around someplace.” Onlookers and studio buffs who witnessed the musical taping said Duke didn’t “sound bad” as a singer. Duke said this first vocal effort is his last. A studio spokesman declared: “It seemed appropriate–as man first sets foot upon the moon–that we should celebrate with music.”
Ken Vail’s invaluable reference, Duke’s Diary, points to September 4, 1969 as the day that “Duke Ellington and his Orchestra again record for Reader’s Digest in New York City” with the following musical personnel to record “Moon Maiden” — twice, including a version that features vocals from Duke himself — along with four other songs:
Richard Jurek, in the February 15, 2017 edition of Smithsonian’s Air & Space, writes about this fascinating musical footnote in American aeronautical history, when an emerging TV network – with a reputation for “counterprogramming” against its competitors – commissioned a 10-minute vocal paean to our planet’s lone satellite to be broadcast to the entire nation. Jurek also notes with amusement that our good friends at Pickwick did their level best to capitalize on the national sentiment in 1969 by churning out a covers album of ten popular “moon” songs.
Seasons in Your Mind would go one step further and compile an annotated listing of other “moon-sploitation” albums from the year 1969 (although shamefully neglect to include the Journey to the Moon album released that same year by Cincinnati’s King Records).
Zero to 180 is reminded of a time when television news had a modicum of dignity — although hard to say with a straight face as one spies the prominent product placement for Tang on the newscasters’ rostrum.
Tang: Proud NASA Sponsor
Big tip of the hat to Aeolus 13 Umbra, who posted the above television clip from his own video archives and noted the striking juxtaposition of Duke Ellington with full-sized replicas of the Apollo 11 Command Module and Eagle Lunar Lander in ABC’s television studios. Thank you also to Brent Hayes Edwards, who gets very specific about Ellington’s “Moon Maiden” (as well as “Spaceman“) in Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination:
“Ellington’s manuscript for ‘Moon Maiden’ is located in the Duke Ellington Collection, Subseries 1A: Manuscripts, Box 229, Folder 8, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Duke Ellington, ‘Spaceman,’ Duke Ellington Collection, Series 5: Correspondence, Box 6, notes, undated, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.”
Scooter “The Music Computer” Magruder – WPFW radio host and general manager of Silver Spring’s Roadhouse Oldies – deserves much praise and respect for his leadership role in stoking an appreciation for our popular musical heritage over the years. My recent album purchases at Roadhouse Oldies affirmed yet again that plenty of interesting songs remain primarily (if not solely) on vinyl, as originally intended.
Of the five albums that I picked up, the grooviest cover, by far, should have won an award for design, particularly the typography –- note the individualistic lettering:
However, since Out of Sight! was issued by a subsidiary label of crass cash-in label, Pickwick, that somehow invalidates the album from consideration (in which case, I would again direct your attention to the uniquely expressive lettering above).
A couple tracks caught my ear, including one by Tommy Roe in which the musical backing track suddenly “departs” from the vocal fairly soon into the song … and never really returns! Check out the steep “musical drop-off” that occurs around the 40-second mark — did Tommy Roe really intend for the mix to sound this way?
[Pssst: Click on triangle above to play “Foreman” (the ‘Pickwick’ mix) by Tommy Roe]
Posted as a special treat for Zero to 180 readers (Hi, Mom) for the rest of the year only
Note that nothing of the sort happens in this “proper” mix posted on YouTube — the only audio recording of the song publicly available (and one that was only posted last month).
A working-class blues that is not without a certain amount of boastful pride (since, after all, the singer has a good job at the mill making “30 cents* an hour” as the “foreman of the garbage brigade”), important to note that “Foreman,” was originally issued in 1961 by Diplomat – Pickwick peer and purveyor of equally exploitative fare (as previously celebrated here) – on Tommy Roe’s Whirling with Tommy Roe and Al Tornello, and would subsequently be reissued two years later on bedraggled and beloved Crown Records (as paid musical tribute here). I am assuming that the same recording was used for all 3 LPs.
1961 Diplomat LP 1963 crown LP
The other tune that thrust itself upon my musical consciousness is an amusing surf-slash-drag-racing hybrid that is talk/sung in Bob Dylan fashion and backed by a bunch of smart alecks (who sound suspiciously like the backing vocalists on “The Ostrich”). Halfway through the song, I spy the Pickwick logo on the back cover, and the realization suddenly hits: Lou Reed! Sure enough, “Cycle Annie” is from the pen of Lou Reed, as are three other tracks on the album: “Soul City” by The Hi-Lifes; “Don’t Turn My World Upside Down” by The J Brothers; and “The Wonderful World of Love” by The Liberty Men.
“Cycle Annie” The Beachnuts 1964
* [Note: 30⊄ an hour in 1961 dollars roughly equates to $2.45 an hour in 2017 dollars.]
Roadhouse Oldies, alas, will be shutting its doors for the last time in December, 2017. Message currently posted on the record shop’s website:
A SAD NOTE: Sorry to report that, after 43 years in Silver Spring, we will be closing the business at the end of this year. As you can probably understand, the demand for good old songs is fading. We wish to thank our many loyal customers, and invite you to please come see us before we close, even if it is just to chat about the good old days. We were the first true ‘oldies’ store in this area, and we thank you for 43 terrific years!
Zero to 180’s Photographic Tribute to Roadhouse Oldies
original streamline moderne storefront on nearby Thayer St. (demolished)