“The Singer Sang His Song”: Leave Them Wanting More

In 1969 Columbia Special Products teamed up with the United Nations in order to help save the world’s refugee population using the proceeds from sales of star-studded hits collection, World Star Festival.  Interestingly, this musical arts venture in humanitarianism predates by nearly two years George Harrison’s groundbreaking benefit concert for the refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in August 1971.

World Star FestivalAnd whereas most of the money from Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh was tied up for years in litigation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, however, optimistically projected in his January 1970 report to the UN General Assembly:

“Although the final results of the sales of the new long-playing record World Star Festival were not yet available since sales were still continuing, it was already clear that this record would yield substantial profits for refugee assistance.  In this connexion, the High Commissioner emphasized the importance of Governments waiving taxes and duties on the record.  A full report on the subject would be submitted to the Committee at its next session.”

One of the top tunes on World Star Festival, “The Singer Sang His Song,” is a Bee Gees contribution that was part of a ‘double A-side’ – paired with “Jumbo” – that was originally released March 1968 (and available only on vinyl until 1990):

The Singer Sang His Song – Bee Gees

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “The Singer Sang His Song” by The Bee Gees.]

Only in the UK,curiously, was this song listed as the A-side — otherwise, in the US, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Singapore & Japan, “Jumbo” was the A-side.

Bee Gees - Jumbo EP

Each artist’s recording on World Star Festival (it later became clear to me) was shortened or altered in some way – presumably as a precondition for release in order to help facilitate participation among these top pop artists.  This realization really hit home once I had become intimately familiar with the World Star Festival version of “The Singer Sang His Song” – and then happened to hear the song’s original full-length mix on YouTube:

Lo and behold, the song’s tunesmith is Neil Diamond – not the Brothers Gibb (who, lest we not forget, laid down some of the earliest melodica sounds on a popular recording).

Moral of the story:

World Star Festival‘s short version brilliantly leaves the listener wanting more, while the full-length version with the additional minute of extended coda overstays its welcome, one could argue.

Afterword – from the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme

The Executive Committee,

(1) Noted with satisfaction that considerable progress had been made in the sale of the new long-playing record World Star Festival and that representatives of other United Nations agencies and of non-governmental organizations had contributed to these results;

(2) Expressed appreciation for the fact that a number of Governments had seen fit to waive taxes and import duties on the new record, or had agreed to the remission of such impositions, as recommended by the Committee in its earlier decision on the subject;

(3) Urged Governments which had not yet done so, to consider favourably the remission or refund of duties and taxes collected on the dale of World Star Festival.

Pioneering Pop: The Melodica on Record

You may not know the melodica by name, but you might have seen one or, more likely, heard one at some point in your life.  Essentially, the melodica is a wind-powered keyboard that sounds much like a harmonica:

Melodica-x

Wikipedia tells me that the “modern version” of the melodica (also known as the “pianica” or “blow organ”) was invented by Hohner in the 1950s, although its more primitive forebears go back to 19th-century Italy, apparently.

I first encountered the instrument in the 1980s during college via Joe Jackson’s ska-inflected “Pretty Boys” and the great side-two opening track off New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies album, “Your Smiling Face.”  Around the same time, someone lent me an album by Augustus Pablo, a dub reggae musician and producer who almost single-handedly popularized the melodica and inspired others to see it as something beyond simply being a “kiddie instrument.”

Wikipedia also tells me that composer, Steve Reich, was the first to use the melodica as a “serious” musical instrument in his 1966 composition entitled, “Melodica.”  Fortunately, serious music is outside the scope of this blog – and besides, as the person behind the electronic music blog, Orpheus Music, even admits, Reich’s piece is “certainly not among [his] better works”.  Moreover, I have discovered another musical artist who committed the melodica to tape around the same time as Reich but utilized the instrument within a composition that was aimed at a broader audience.  Who, you might ask, first pushed the boundaries of pop to include the lowly melodica?  Incredibly, it’s the Bee Gees.  Their second album – originally released in Australia in 1966 under the title, Monday’s Rain (later Spicks & Specks) but repackaged here in the States on Atco as Rare, Precious & Beautiful – includes a catchy, Beatles-y track, “Tint of Blue,” that features an instrumental break whose haunting melody is played on the melodica:

The first person who can find a melodica on a pop recording prior to 1966 wins the lucky two-dollar bill that I keep in my wallet.