King’s “Red River Rock” Cash-In

Catchy King instrumental — and what is that instrument, exactly?  Sounds like a blend of organ and harmonica, most likely:

“New Annie Laurie”     Gene Redd     1960

New Annie Laurie” seems an obvious attempt by King to “cash in” on the fresh organ retooling of “Red River Rock” made famous the previous year by Johnny and the Hurricanes, although without directly resorting to plagiarism, cleverly enough, by using an olde Scotch ballad.

Billboard‘s review of the single in its October 10, 1960 edition would have this to say about the A-side “New Sidewalks of New York” — “Gene Redd sells this happy rocker with warmth on this driving instrumental side, it’s the old tune dressed up with a rocking beat” — and then, hilariously, utter two words “same comment” about the B-side “New Annie Laurie”!  Worth noting that Redd covered “Red River Rock” for King the previous year.

Gene Redd 45Brian Powers’ King Records Scrapbook informs me that Redd, originally a session player and King artist who became a talent scout for the label, would go on to do arrangements for Kool & the Gang, for which his son, Gene Redd, Jr., served as manager.

King’s “Tequila” Knock-Off

King Records would try to cash-in on the success of “Tequila” by The Champs, as Johnnie Pate‘s 1958 Federal 45 “Muskeeta” would demonstrate:

Johnnie Pate’s     “Muskeeta”     1958

Johnnie Pate (b, ldr); Ronald Wilson (fl); Williams Wallace (p); Wilbur Wynne (g); Donald Clark (d).

Chicago, March 20, 1958

According to Armin Büttner‘s Johnnie Pate history website, the version of “Muskeeta” on the French EP (below) is exactly the same as the version on King LP 584, but for a tenor sax probably overdubbed by Ronald Wilson himself.  It is not yet known, which version of “Muskeeta” is on Federal 45-12325.

Johnnie Pate - Muskeeta - French EPThis would not be the first time King Records would attempt to mine this particular vein, as Zero to 180’s lengthy examination of “Rare & Unissued King Tracks” revealed another 45 released that same year, “Snake Charmer” by The Puddle Jumpers that attempted to ride the coattails of “Tequila” and its unexpected meteoric ride.

Billboard‘s April 21, 1958 edition would report that “Muskeeta” made the #5 spot of “R&B Best Sellers” that week in the Cincinnati area.  Song would be included on 1958 full-length release Swingin’ Flute Dance Beat for the Ivy League.

Johnnie Pate King LP

Mickey Baker on a King Surf LP

Session guitarist Mickey (“Love Is Strange“) Baker — whose work would grace dozens of releases by King Records and its subsidiaries — would end up being allotted exactly one solo album by the label as an artist in his own right:  1963’s But Wild.

Mickey Baker King LP

Recorded in Paris in June of 1962, this album would feature Baker’s guitar (as Michel Ruppli’s King Label discography would seem to indicate) overdubbed onto instrumental tracks – licensed from the Versailles label – of French studio musicians.

King would release three 45s from But Wild:  “Baby Let’s Dance” b/w “Oh Yeah, Ah, Ah” in 1963, “Steam Roller” b/w “Side Show” in 1964, and “Do What You Do” b/w “Night Blue” in 1965.

Mickey Baker King 45-aaMickey Baker King 45-bbMickey Baker King 45-cc

Note the degree to which this rare King LP commands big bucks at auction, according to Popsike.  One seller on Collector’s Frenzy describes But Wild as “Shadows/Ventures guitar instrumental rock.”  In fact, “Zanzie” (along with “Gone”) would end up being rightfully pressed into service on King surf compilation album, Surfin’ on Wave Nine, a fairly obscure release that also changes hands at respectable prices:

“Zanzie”     Mickey Baker     1962

Baker’s 2012 obituary in the New York Times notes, sadly, that he moved to France in the early 1960s and “rarely returned to the United States.”

King would eventually get around to issuing “Love Is Strange” in 1964, eight years after the song originally hit the charts.

Mickey Baker King 45-d

“Snowfall”: Soulful + Strings

The Soulful Strings evoke the magic of falling snow — thanks to Dorothy Ashby‘s harp — on their classic instrumental track, “Snowfall“:

“Snowfall”     Soulful Strings     1968

Discogs helps us appreciate how The Soulful Strings were able to create an identifiable sound despite only playing other people’s material:

“The Soulful Strings was a project of the Chicago soul arranger Richard Evans, working with several musicians from the Cadet Records house band between 1966 and 1971 including Charles Stepney, Bobby Christian, Billy Wooten, Phil Upchurch, Lennie Druss, and Cleveland Eaton.

Employing a repertoire composed almost entirely of covers, Evans and company created a unique sound, combining a sharp, soulful rhythm section with a lush string backing.  Evans pushed the strings to the front, assuming an attitude previously reserved only for the hulking funk of bass and rhythm guitar.  It was this crucial element that made The Soulful Strings sound, so successful.”

soulful-strings-magic-of-christmas-lp“Snowfall” can be found on The Magic of Christmas, released in 1968 on Chess jazz subsidiary label, Cadet.

soulful-strings-magic-of-christmas-xCadet would issue 7 albums by The Soulful Strings between the years 1966-1970.

The Dead: In the Twilight Zone

For those keeping count, today’s piece is (gulp) the 666th posted since Zero to 180 began December 12, 2012.  What better way to face down this (meaningless) milestone by paying tribute to a classic television series – and also a musical ensemble – that bravely broke the bounds of conformist thought, intrepid travelers who dared to confront “the fifth dimension.”  No, the band in question is not The 5th Dimension (although, good guess) but in actual fact  The Grateful Dead, who (not everyone seems to be aware) recorded the theme music to the revitalized TV series in 1985:

Opening & Closing Theme – “Twilight Zone”     The Grateful Dead     1985

As Blair Jackson would note in Garcia:  An American Life — “The band and [Merl] Saunders worked out a new main theme, which was a short dissonant burst of ‘space‘ ending in a variation of the original Twilight Zone theme by Marius Constant.”

Merl Saunders (courtesy DISCOGS)Merl Saunders

Dennis McNally would document some of the historical particulars of the Twilight Zone experience in 2002’s A Long Strange Trip:

“Few shows could possibly have been more appealing to the Dead and Garcia, who remarked, ‘Man, I live in the Twilight Zone.’  They leaped at the chance to record their own version of the signature three-note motif that identified the show.  They didn’t stop there.  [Producer Rick] DeGuere and his music director, Merl Saunders, came to a board meeting to discuss the band’s doing all of the music for the show, the ‘stings’ and ‘bumpers’ that set the atmospheric soundscape.  Garcia left the meeting early, announcing that he voted yes.  Lesh was ‘adamantly opposed,’ recalled DeGuere, and the decision was made to proceed without him.

They set to work, and while their music was appropriate and effective, the deal’s business aspects were badly handled, dooming the project to continuous friction among all parties involved.  [Grateful Dead legal counsel] Hal Kant had delegated the negotiation of the arrangement with CBS to an associate, who didn’t know the Dead very well and produced a fairly standard contract.  The head of the music department at CBS [Robert Drasnin, presumably] didn’t like the deal, since he now had no control, which put Merl in the middle of both an unhappy CBS and the Dead.  Very quickly, Mickey Hart took the lead for the Dead in the studio, and proved to have a gift for sound design.  Just as they began, he went into the hospital for back surgery, and ordered that all the necessary equipment be set up in his room.  At first [road manager] Ram Rod vetoed this seeming insanity, but Mickey pleaded, ‘When I wake up, I want to go to work.’  The Demerol he’d gotten for his surgery proved to be aesthetically stimulating, and he produced music for the first four episodes from bed.”

The loss of Phil Lesh, the band member most closely linked to the musical avant-garde, is a notable one.

Composer, Robert Drasnin, as Variety noted in its obituary posted on May 15, 2105, would have a central role to play:

“While head of CBS’ music department in the 1980s, he worked with the Grateful Dead on music for the revived Twilight Zone series, along with scoring several episodes himself.”

Robert Hunter would later recall in his online journal entry for February 4, 2005:

“I’m still grateful that a steady salary for the two seasons The Zone ran
helped make the house payments and put food on the table for our family
of five back when the GD was staggering financially and I was set
running around the country doing low paying solo gigs to support us.
‘Touch of Grey’ was soon to solve that problem.”

Is it merely a coincidence that, just last month, a 1985 Twilight Zone contract between CBS Entertainment and The Grateful Dead — signed by all members of the band — would sell on Ebay for $29,470.70?Grateful Dead Twilight Zone contractIt is curious the extent to which The Twilight Zone ‘reboot’ is under-remembered, given the caliber of talent that went into not only the music but the writing and acting, as well — as pointed out in arts blog Delusions of Grandeur:

“Writers such as Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, and Paul Chitlik wrote screenplays for the show.  It was directed by many different talents including Wes Craven and William Friedkin.  Many different mainstream stars made their appearance in the series including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Season Hubley, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Jonathan Frakes, and Fred Savage.  The theme music was composed by Jerry Garcia and performed by The Grateful Dead.”

How funny to see the inclusion of a Grateful Dead track – “The New Twilight Zone” – on TV theme compilation Television’s Greatest Hits, Volume 6 from 1996.

Hooterollin Around music blog (an “appendix to Lost Live Dead“) writes a fascinating piece that draws many musical connections between Jerry Garcia and stalwart session guitarist, Howard Roberts, a musician who is best remembered for having played the original haunting Twilight Zone guitar riff.

Zero to 180 cannot close this piece without reminding everyone of that uncanny musical ‘Twilight Zone’ moment:  last July’s discovery of Germany’s The Dead-Heads, who released their debut single in 1966 — just one year after the The Grateful Dead’s official formation!

Grateful Dead (not) Twilight Zone pinballZero to 180’s Gallery of Grateful Dead 45 Picture Sleeves

Given the band’s famous disregard towards commerce, I thought it would be great ironic fun to pull together all of The Grateful Dead’s 7-inch picture sleeves from around the world.  Interesting to see domestic marketing efforts lag behind Warner Brothers’ international arm overseas, as the Dead would not see comparable investments on single releases, curiously enough, until the band’s tenure with Clive Davis’s Arista label, especially after the unexpected success with “Touch of Grey”:

Germany

Grateful Dead 45-Germany-aGrateful Dead 45-Germany-bGrateful Dead 45-Germany-cGrateful Dead 45-Germany-d

Japan

Grateful Dead 45-Japan-aGrateful Dead 45-Japan-bGrateful Dead 45-Japan-cGrateful Dead 45-Japan-dGrateful Dead 45-Japan-eGrateful Dead 45-Japan-fGrateful Dead 45-Japan-gGrateful Dead 45-Japan-h

United States

Grateful Dead 45-US-aGrateful Dead 45-US-bGrateful Dead 45-US-ccGrateful Dead 45-US-dGrateful Dead 45-US-e-promoGrateful Dead 45-US-fGrateful Dead 45-US-gGrateful Dead 45-US-heart

UK (1977)

Grateful Dead 45-UK-a (1977)Grateful Dead 45-UK-aa (1977)

France

Grateful Dead 45-France-aGrateful Dead 45-France-b

Netherlands

Grateful Dead 45-Netherlands-aaGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-bbGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-cc

Rear sleeve of German 45 “One More Saturday Night”:  Mini fold-up coffin!Grateful Dead 45-Germany-cc45 above references “neu” Jerry garcia solo 45 “Sugaree” / “Deal” (below)

Jerry Garcia 45-aJerry Garcia 45-bJerry Garcia 45-cJerry Garcia 45-cc

honorable mention:  Colombian EP from 1967

Grateful Dead EP-South Africa-aGrateful Dead EP-South Africa-b

This audio playback format was once considered state of the artGrateful Dead extended play cartridge

While the rare “Good Lovin'” US picture sleeve illustrated above can fetch $75 at auction, you might be surprised by the number of picture sleeves that go for three (and even four) figures.

Twilight Zone reference in this brilliant TV Guide/MTV spoof by Blair Jackson

GDTV - Grateful Dead TV

Paul Beaver Played Clavinet, Too

Remember last month when I was hot on the trail of identifying the first recording of a clavinet, thanks to a tip from Jim Kimsey: “Six O’Clock” by John Sebastian & The Lovin’ Spoonful?  Was John Sebastian‘s “electric harpsichord” (as he referred to the instrument), in fact, a clavinet?  Sebastian himself was gracious enough to respond to this historian-in-training:

“It was a Hohner Clavinet.  My father [John B. Sebastian] was a concert chromatic harmonica player, so I was way inside when it came to Hohner (I played with Matt Hohner’s kids.)   I may have had one of the first, due also to the band’s success.”

I cannot help but imagine the incredible array of harmonicas between the two households. Fun to note how musical advertising from around this time was so refreshingly fun and uncomplicated.

Hohner ad-iiHohner ad-i

Hohner ad-charlie mccoyHohner ad-johnny cash

Throwing a musical bone to Paul Guinnessy here

Hohner ad-astronautGuess who else was in on the ground floor with the clavinet?  If you guessed Paul Beaver, because his name is in the title of this piece, you would be correct!   Zero to 180 is eternally thankful to the Bob Moog Foundation for all the fascinating (and free) history on its website.  As Thom Holmes writes:

“One can’t help but notice that nine of the first ten Moog albums had one person in common—musician Paul Beaver.  By late 1966, he and Bernie Krause had pooled their funds to buy a Moog Modular of their own.  Beaver was designated as Moog’s West Coast Representative and together, he and Krause operated a company called Parasound that provided consulting, recording, and production services using the Moog Modular and other instruments.  Beginning in April of 1967, he and Bernie were recruited to bring the Moog Synthesizer to a variety of recording sessions.  These first Moog productions from the April 1967 time-frame began to appear on vinyl by May and June 1967.  Another burst of activity occurred after Beaver and Krause set up a booth to demonstrate the Moog at the Monterey Jazz Festival in June 1967, leading to several sessions with rock groups including the Doors and The Monkees.  By January, however, you still only needed ten fingers to count the number of records featuring the Moog.”

Photo of Paul Beaver – courtesy Bob Moog Foundation

Paul BeaverVibraphonist Emil Richards would pull off a birthstone concept with his New Sound Element “Stones” album from 1967:  twelve songs, one for each astrological gemstone.  Surprisingly little has been written about this early Moog album that still fetches decent scratch on the second-hand market.

Clavinet, what clavinet?  And yet it says right there in the musician credits – Paul Beaver, clavinet, as well as Moog.  All I hear is the Moog.

“Diamond”     Emil Richards     1967

Was New Sound Element, in fact, recorded prior to February, 1967 — the release date of the debut album by The Left Banke, whose “Let Go of You Girl” appears to be the first clavinet on a pop record?   Almost certainly not, as recordings with Beaver & Krause’s new Moog only began that April.  Nevertheless, Emil Richards’ “Stones” album would be the third recording ever to feature the Moog modular synthesizer, according to Holmes:

“Although Paul Beaver set-up the Moog, Richards was actively engaged in experimenting with the synthesizer for this session.  Richards told me that, ‘Beaver assisted as programmer for these sessions.  I played the synthesizer and all mallet instruments on all twelve tracks.’

This is the first commercial recording to credit the ‘Moog Synthesizer’ by name.”

In 2011 NPR’s Weekend Edition put together a feature piece on “Tinseltown’s Timekeeper” — Emil Richards — who would perform the finger snaps for The Addams Family TV theme, bongos for Mission Impossible‘s theme song, xylophone on The Simpsons‘ opening theme, and endless other sessions as one of the top percussionists working on the West Coast.

Photo of Emil Richards courtesy of NPR

Emil Richards-x

Selected Emil Richards Sessionography

Also worth noting that Richards played on one of my wife’s favorite albums – Queen Latifah’s Dana Owens Album from 2004.  The following year, Richards would help Paul Anka recast contemporary rock (e.g., “Smells Like Teen Spirit“) in swing band fashion (á la In a Metal Mood, Pat Boone’s rebranding effort from 1997) via 2005’s Rock Swings.

Richards is still musically active — follow him on Facebook why doncha?

Garlic in Popular Music

There are a considerable number of people on this planet who are not yet aware of the existence of a restaurant – The Stinking Rose – that celebrates the garlic bulb in all its glory, with garlic infused into the majority of the menu offerings.  With only two locations (one in Beverly Hills, the other in San Francisco), I’m afraid this dream destination will simply have to remain one for the indefinite future for many of us.

In the meantime, I will to have content myself with garlic-themed music for my soul food.      But do songs about garlic exist?  Here’s what Zero to 180’s investigation turned up.

As it turns out, garlic songs – at least here in the States – are at least as old as the blues.  Sylvester Weaver‘s “Garlic Blues” from 1927, it bears noting, will turn 100 in 11 years:

“Garlic Blues”     Helen Humes with Sylvester Weaver & Walter Beasley     1927

Not much else would appear for a couple decades, it seems, until The Max Brüel Quartet from Denmark released their jazz instrumental composition in 1955, “Garlic Wafer.”

“Garlic Wafer” by The Max Brüel Quartet – side one, track 2

Garlic 45-b 1966 would bring another garlic sighting, when Capitol subsidiary label, Tower, released its single “(Get Off That) Booze & Garlic Bread” by garage rocker, Denny Rockwell.

This 45 deserves, if not partial credit, at least an asterisk

Garlic 45-aGarlic 45-aa

Two years later, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and his Quartet would channel the spirits, and beat John Lennon to the punch in the process, with the wryly-titled “Instant Garlic” from the group’s 1968 album, Insight.

Instant garlic’s gonna get you — gonna knock you right on the head

Garlic LP-bb1972 would see the release of NRBQ‘s (Eddie Kramer-produced) Scraps, a wide-ranging album that would include the whimsical and dadesque “Who Put the Garlic in the Glue.”

“Who Put the Garlic in the Glue” by NRBQ – back when the Q stood for Quintet

NRBQ LP-a[42 years later, Lin Brehmer from Chicago’s CBS affiliate XRT would single out NRBQ’s “Who Put the Garlic in the Glue” for her October 22, 2014 ‘Hump Day Unusual Moment‘ segment.]

Sometime in 1977 — within the confines of Italy, appropriately enough — garlic would get the funky instrumental it so richly deserves in the form of “Garlic Salt” by The Joy Unlimited Group & the Continentals:

“Garlic Salt”     The Joy Unlimited Group & the Continentals     1977

1978 would see the final album – Spaceguerilla – from German progressive jazz-rock group, Missus Beastly, with “King Garlic,” fittingly, as its closing track.

“King Garlic” by Missus Beastly — Side 2, track 4

Garlic LP-fBefore decade’s end, Leo Kottke would do his part to advance the cause with the release of 1979’s Balance, an LP that would include “1/2 Acre of Garlic.”

“1/2 Acre of Garlic” by Leo Kottke —  Yugoslavian PressingLeo Kottke LP-a

1979 would also see the release of a Folkways album – Folk Songs from Latin America by Suni Paz – that would include the heartfelt paean “Al Ajo (To Garlic)”:

“Al Ajo (To Garlic)” — side 1, track 4

Garlic LP-e1979 would prove to be a banner year, with the release of the soundtrack to George A. Romero’s vampire-themed film, Martin — an album that would include “Garlic Chase #6.”

“Garlic Chase #6 — side 1, track 7Garlic LP-a

But the big breakthrough for garlic in song would come by way of Chapel Hill foursome, Superchunk, who no doubt “sweated out” vast amounts of garlic recording their unabashed 1990 declaration of bulb love, “Garlic” — the B-side of a split single on noted indie label, Merge, along with Seaweed and Geek (“released to go with a US tour of the three bands”):

“Garlic”     Superchunk     1990

By the turn of the new century, it was a whole new era for Garlic in Popular Music, and even LeeScratchPerry and Guided By Voices would eventually get in on the game, as you will note on the list below — a public service from the tireless research staff at Zero to 180.

Garlic in Modern Pop:  An Exhaustive & Exhausting Discography

Also Worth a(n) Historical Asterisk

Bobby Gregory‘s Country Comedy LP includes a comic routine “We Always Feed Our Baby Garlic” that is also illustrated at the very bottom of the album cover – dead center:

Garlic LP-d

The “contents” of Side A from Monty Python‘s Previous Record from 1970 – written from the perspective of a ‘Harley St. dentist’ – is an amusing bit that includes a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game:  can you find the phrase “stinking garlic”?

Garlic LP-c

Early 90s Ohio Valley EDM

In retrospect, I now realize that Ed Goldstein was the first musician I knew personally to  obtain formal permission to record another musical artist’s work.  This was in 1992 — before the Internet would so much more readily facilitate this kind of information sleuthing — and I remember being somewhat impressed, and a little envious, that Ed and his musical partner, Scott Fuqua, were able to navigate this aspect of the music business.

Scott + Ed = Fuquay

Fuquay-xGoldstein and Fuqua joined together in the early 1990s to form Fuquay, Ohio Valley practitioners of EDM – “electronic dance music” – a full two decades or more before this musical genre (and I never saw this coming) would enter the pop mainstream.

cover art by Lynn Punkari

Fuquay Psychosis1992’s Psychosis would find the duo crafting 11 original instrumental compositions — and one inspired cover:  Oliver Nelson‘s theme to the 1970s TV action series, The Six Million Dollar Man:

[Pssst:  Click on triangle above to play “Six Million Dollars” by Fuquay]

I think it’s safe to say that Scott and Ed were the first “pop modernists” to breathe new life into Nelson’s composition following its mid-70s heyday.  Nelson, a respected jazz composer, bandleader, arranger and saxophonist, would be best remembered for The Blues and the Abstract Truth, his 1961 album with Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Roy Haynes, .

Fuquay – like Peter Gabriel’s bagpipist, Larry Fast – would fully embrace the digital realm, as noted in the album credits:

“Scott Fuquay uses Emu-Systems, Korg, Ensoniq, Kawai, Tascam, Technics, SR&D, Charvel and Alesis equipment.

Eddie Goldstein uses Drum-Kat, Alesis, Dauz, Akai, and Vic Firth sticks.  All drum and percussion tracks played digitally, live, in real time.”

Zero to 180’s one and only encounter with a Vic Firth truck

Vic Firth truck-x

Zero to 180 is stunned to discover (thanks to Bionic: The Wiki) that Dusty Springfield sang the original theme song, which was used for the second Six Million Dollar Man “telefilm” Wine, Women & War but then replaced by Nelson’s instrumental version once the weekly series began.

one-time percussionist for LES NESSMAN & THE FINNYTOWN BRASS

Ed Goldstein-cc

We will all miss your joyful spirit, Ed.

Ed Goldstein-aaEd Goldstein-bb

“Yancey Special”: Prog Reggae II

Keith Emerson would captivate me as a grade schooler with the deep, heavy Moog sounds he conjured for “Lucky Man” — the final track, fittingly, on a 4-LP box set from 1973 that got a lot of mileage in our household growing up, Superstars of the Seventies, one of the earliest titles in the Warner Special Products series.

Superstars of the 70s-a“Lucky Man,” from Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s 1970 debut album, derives much of its appeal from being a “power ballad” that builds to an explosive solo, and yet Aerosmith would get all the credit for having created this new rock subgenre, even though “Dream On” did not hit the record racks until 1973.

Dig the ’70s earth tones, man

Superstars of the 70s-xAfter Emerson, Lake and Palmer went their separate ways in 1979, Emerson would arrange a reggae-tinged take on a Meade Lux Lewis boogie instrumental, “Yancey Special” for his 1981 solo album Honky:

“Yancey Special”     Keith Emerson     1981

Most fascinatingly, Emerson’s first solo album post-ELP global fame would be released on an independent Italian label, Bubble, aimed at the “Italo-Disco” progressive dance market. Honky would find release two years later in the UK on Emerson’s imprint, Chord RecordsRock and Roll Paradise asserts Italy to be the only country where Honky was a hit album.

Keith Emerson - bubble This review in Vintage Rock would note —

“Emerson, on an extended vacation in the Bahamas, rounded up a crew of local musicians and exploded with a wild variation of calypso and reggae tunes—foreign substances to the legions of ELP fanatics who were expecting something less whimsical and more monumental.  But really — you can’t blame him for turning his back on the “legendary” noose around his neck and indulging seafaring gems like ‘Hello Sailor’ and ‘Rum-A-Ting.’  And the irresistible boogie woogie of Meade Anderson ‘Lux’ Lewis’ ‘Yancey Special’ shakes the manacles off completely”

Keith Emerson LPAccording to the liner notes, “honky” was a nickname used by children of the island and, thus, appropriated by Emerson for the album’s title.  “Yancey Special” would hit the airwaves two years after Rick Wakeman‘s cod reggae version of “Swan Lake,” the featured instrumental in Zero to 180’s January, 2015 piece, “Prog Rock Reggae.”

Keith Emerson:  One of The Best (Literally)

BB Chronicles offers a 1990 soundboard recording of a little-known (and short-lived) supergroup named The Best that once included Keith Emerson, along with John Entwistle (The Who), Joe Walsh (James Gang/Eagles), JeffSkunkBaxter (Doobie Brothers), and Simon Phillips (801/Jeff Beck).

           Keith Emerson & the skunk                        Emerson & the ox & the skunk

Keith Emerson & the skunk-xKeith Emerson & the ox & the skunk-x

Emerson’s spirit, sadly, would leave us this past March. – his obituary from the March 13, 2016 edition of The Guardian.

Larry Fast: Digital, Experimental

Tip of the hat to my old tennis partner and high school music rival. Ed Goldstein [he was in The Head Band with future “Smooth” songwriter, Itaal Shur, and one-time-bassist-for-Sleepy-Labeef-turned-sociology-professor, Adam Moskowitz, while I was in The Max, formerly Max & the Bluegills], who recently paid tribute to Peter Gabriel and late-70s Genesis as pivotal influences on his approach to percussion, with “Games Without Frontiers” leading the way as his favorite Gabriel track.

As music entered the ’80s, I remember how things got increasingly and disconcertedly digital — MIDI, disk drives, drum machines and the like — putting some of us analog-minded folks off, at least initially.  Not Ed, though, who helped serve as a bridge to fearful, reactionary types like me, whose old school heart will always yearn for analog-only devices, such as a Hammond organ with a rotating Leslie speaker, or a Moog Taurus bass pedal synthesizer (my college roommate had one), or an Echoplex tape delay effects unit (sax man & friend, Bruce Batté, once had one), without which dub reggae would almost certainly have never been born.

                  Hammond B-3                                   red Walnut Leslie Speaker Cabinet

Hammond B-3Leslie speaker

Moog Taurus II Bass Pedal Synth                 Echoplex – Complete with Case

Moog Taurus Bass PedalsEchoplex - vintage

“Games Without Frontiers,” unsurprisingly, would be cited in a fun historical romp – “Ghosts in the Machine:  The Most Important Drum Machines in Music History” – which begins in 1959 with Wurlitzer’s built-in percussion sidekick, the Side Man.  Peter Gabriel, as it turns out, utilized a Linn Drum predecessor I was not aware of until now – PAiA – that enjoys the distinction of being the “first programmable drum machine in history,” having been introduced to the marketplace in 1975.

Frustratingly, that information is not spelled out in the otherwise detailed credits captured on Discogs for the UK edition of Peter Gabriel’s third album from 1978.   Did Gabriel himself do the drum programming vs. Jerry Marotta & Phil Collins, the drummers listed on the track?  We do know, however, that Gabriel and Larry Fast both did some programming with respect to synthesizers, such as “Games Without Frontiers,” on which both musicians programmed synth bass lines (one of which I initially assumed to be Tony Levin playing a Chapman Stick).

Larry Fast LPSoon after playing bagpipes on the album’s concluding track “Biko,” Larry Fast — under the name Synergy — would issue his fourth long-playing release Games, an “all electronic production” that, like his three previous efforts, would be produced, engineered and programmed by Fast himself.   Released in 1979, Games is an instrumental song cycle that some might deem “experimental, ambient” (Discogs) and challenging at times but is hard to categorize given the dynamics and dramatic shifts in mood and intensity, as demonstrated on six-minute composition “Delta Four”:

“Delta Four”     Synergy     1979

From the liner notes courtesy of Discogs:

Digital synthesis realized using the digital synthesizer at Bell Laboratories – Murray Hill, New Jersey.

Mixed at House of Music June and July 1979 by Larry Fast except Delta One which was mixed by Charlie Conrad & Larry Fast.  Mastered by Robert Ludwig, Masterdisk, NYC.

Digital synthesizer computer programming by Greg Sims.  Equipment used on this production manufactured by — Moog Music Inc.; Oberheim Electronics; Sequential Circuits; Paia Electronics; 360 Systems; Musitronics; MXR; DBX; MCI; Eventide Clockworks; Sony; Teac-Tascam; EMT; The Synergy System; Apple Computer Corp.; Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer; Deltalab Research.

Soundcheck:  “Delta 3” [parts A-F] developed from themes written during soundchecks on the August to December 1978 Peter Gabriel Tour.  “Delta Two” themes are remnants of 1974’s electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestra writing sessions.  “Delta Four” is a surviving digital synthesizer sequencer program experiment combined with some advanced tape loops.  “Delta One” is an experiment fusing the pop and electronic vocabularies of turn of the decade composition.

Electronic music pioneer & Occasional Bagpipist – Larry Fast

Larry FastIn a 2004 interview, Larry Fast would have a lot to say about the experience of the album:

“Games was the first encounter on a Synergy album with digital synthesis and to some degree, digital recording.  It was done under laboratory conditions at Bell Labs, which was then the crown jewel of the AT&T Research Lab.  It’s still there [or is it?], but it’s now part of the crown jewels of Lucent.  AT&T was the telephone company—Ma Bell—back then and had lots of wonderful “blue sky” research going on in computers, audio and various other technologies.  They would fund these things thinking—and rightfully so—that at some point, something would surface out of these free thinking projects that might be beneficial to the phone company.  They don’t do that so much anymore.  At that time, there wasn’t any real competition in the phone business.  Now, it’s very cutthroat.  However, at that time, one of their great, shining lights was Max Matthews, one of the pioneers of computer music and electronic music, at the academic and theoretical level. One of his departments was speech and synthesis.  They were exploring several areas of synthesizers, speech and vocals, which could be made into singing.  He had worked on one project as early as 1976 that incorporated aspects of that.

By 1978, they had some of the very earliest digital synthesizers, running essentially as software, with some concurrent specialized hardware they had built on minicomputers.  They were just mind-boggling to me after struggling to extract sounds from the Moog, Oberheim and related instruments I had been working with in the analog world.  This was positively world changing.  Again, like any technology at the beginning, it was a little tedious and difficult to control. I was just getting my feet wet, but there were a few passages recorded at Bell Labs that found their way onto the Games record.  The passages were enhanced with some of the analog synthesizers to flesh out the arrangements.  It was a very eye opening experience.  It set part of the tone for the album.  The other aspect of Games it that I was on the road a lot with the Peter Gabriel band and recording with them as well.  It meant that some of the writing was done on the road, captured on small cassette recorders and lots of scribbled-down notes.  It was the first album where I hadn’t set aside a block of time in my composer’s studio to write.  It was a different approach.”

Is it ironic that this digital work was issued on 8 TRACK?

Larry Fast 8 trackEd Goldstein’s current percussion philosophies are being carried out through Big Car Jack.

Big Car Jack-xThis piece, by the way, is not Zero to 180’s first reference to bagpipes in popular music — sorry Ed, I’m not referring to AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” but rather “Reggae Bagpipes“!

Abstract Interjection!  This is the 4th Zero to 180 piece tagged as “Experimental Pop