First “Women’s Liberation” LP

Thanks to William Vernola for recommending the 1991 PBS documentary “mini” series, Making Sense of the Sixties.  At one point in the accompanying soundtrack — during the examination of women’s rights, undoubtedly — I was hooked by the catchy chorus to a song called “Drop the Mop“:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Drop the Mop” by Ruth Batchelor]

As it turns out, “Drop the Mop” is the obvious radio hit from feminism’s first full-length record, Reviving a Dream:  Songs for Women’s Liberation, issued on the Femme label in 1972.

“First Lady in the White House”:  The dream remainsruth-batchelor-lp-aa

My timing happened be impeccable, as I was able to obtain the one available copy of this now-forgotten record from the Bay Area’s preeminent music store, Amoeba Records, who has this to say about the album:

Unusual album with all original songs’ content centering on women’s liberation, with titles such as – “Drop The Mop,” “Barefoot And Pregnant,” and “Stand And Be Counted.”  All the material was written by Ruth Batchelor and sung by Ruth Batchelor & the Voices of Liberation.  The back cover has liner notes by Ruth.

How curious that America broke away from the British crown to create “The Land of the Free” — and yet the UK would elect a female head of state decades before the US did (and has yet to do).ruth-batchelor-lp-bb

“WE NEED TO KNOW MORE about THE PRINCESS … about WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN to us when we’re older … about spending our lives BAREFOOT & PREGNANT … about PROGRESS … about REVIVING A DREAM … we need to STAND AND BE COUNTED … we need to know other ways to KEEP HIS LOVE … we need EQUAL RIGHTS and we need to DROP THE MOP.

A dream was started in 1776 when our Fore-FATHER Thomas Jefferson drew up the Declaration of Independence declaring that all MEN were created equal (while our Fore-MOTHER Betsy Ross was allowed to sew a flag).  He didn’t mention WOMEN.  Women however were having the same dream – it took them until 1920 to get it realized.  The suffragettes suffered and got us the vote.  But what have we done with it?  Their dream has been asleep for 50 years.  The album is our way of REVIVING A DREAM.”

[Ruth Batchelor’s original notes from the album’s back cover]

Bob Glassenberg, reporting in his “Studio Track” column for Billboard in the August 28, 1971 edition, would quote the album’s songwriter and organizer-in-chief:

“‘The hardest thing for me as a lyricist is getting the song recorded and then being able to hear the lyrics,’ said Ruth Batchelor, whose current tune, written for the theme of the movie Love Machine, which was sung by Dionne Warwicke, Scepter recording artist.  ‘I find it difficult hearing the words from some of the pop groups around today.  And I feel this is a pet peeve of many people who write lyrics,’ said Miss Batchelor.

Batchelor has been writing lyrics for quite some time.  I couldn’t pin her down as to the length–something to do with disclosing her age.  But she is a young lady in any man’s book.

‘Right now I have an album of dirty women’s liberation poems recorded and I’m trying to sell the master.  I don’t know who will buy it, because the last company I recorded for folded,’ she laughed.  The title of the album is A Quarter for the Ladies Room.  But she has written tunes for other artists, such as Elvis Presley, The Partridge Family, Carmen McRae, and Mel Torme.  She has had no high school or college education and says her only formal training was a book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.”

Flashback to the early 1970s:   Page 6 in the June 1972 issue of Broadside helpfully suggests such “Feminist Gifts” as—

Reviving a Dream (the first feminist record album — for every record sold, a contribution will be made to [National Organization for Women]) and Sexism, the board game, in which a woman tries to make it from the Doll House to the White House while a male chauvinist tries to send her back into the Kitchen or the Typing Pool.  Players are forced into situations which necessitate role playing and discussion.

Sexism, the board game

sexism-the-board-game-a

A songwriter and television & radio reporter, Batchelor would found the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 1975, as pointed out in her 1992 New York Times obituary, and serve as its president and executive director for three years.  Twenty years prior, The Times had reviewed Batchelor’s album in its March 12, 1972 edition, though not favorably, I’m afraid.  Warren, Pennsylvania’s Times-Mirror and Observer, on the other hand, would be a little more open-minded in its February 3, 1972 edition:

Ruth Batchelor’s name doesn’t make it easy.  She is used to bad puns about her name and puts up with them, albeit with clenched teeth.  She has trouble with her image, because if she wears her hair in a fall, she is accused of being a sex symbol, and if she wears it short and close cropped, which is comfortable, she is called a lesbian.

Being Ruth Batchelor, songwriter, isn’t easy.  Solving the hair problem was relatively simple.  When she performs, she wears pigtails, a happy compromise for a girl who comes from California and started her career writing songs for Elvis Presley.  Since then she has done the music for three Presley movies; a musical version of Fielding’s Tom Jones for CBS Television; Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose – a TV special with Sherman Edwards [i.e., mastermind behind 1776]; and composed a raft of songs including the theme from Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine.  It is her most recent accomplishment that she is currently touting.

Miss Batchelor has written the music and lyrics, sung and produced a stereo LP record, her first for her newly-formed record company. Femme Records, called Reviving A Dream:  Songs for Women’s Liberation.  “And from now on, if I can, I would prefer to write nothing but songs for women,” the slight, dark-haired composer said recently as she sat strumming her guitar in her west side apartment.  “I think it’s a great mistake that Women’s Lib has become identified with lesbians,” she said.  “I think the image is in trouble.  If I weren’t interested in the movement and heard all those anti-men speeches, I’d be turned off, too.  I’m not anti­-men.”

Among the ten songs on the record are “Barefoot and Pregnant” (“That’s the way my last husband felt about women”); “The Princess,” a song about women s economic dependency (“We need to know other ways to keep his love we need equal rights and we need to drop the mop.”) and, it follows, one called “Drop the Mop.”  The first song she thought of for the record was a march.  “I felt that NOW (National Organization for Women) needed a march of its own,” she said earnestly.  “A march turns a mob into a parade.”

She is a member of NOW. and makes a donation to the organization for each record she sells via mail order [$5 F.D.R. Station. N Y. 10022].  The record from Femme Records, P O Box 548, is also available at Doubleday Stores.  Perhaps the most feeling of her songs is called “What’s Gonna Happen,” which she sings in a small voice with echoes of Western music to a guitar accompaniment.  The difference between the aging of men and women in today’s society is its subject.

Now that the record is a fait accompli (it was recently bought by the Record Club of .America to be offered to its 2.5 million members), she is busy whipping up others.  “On Sunday, I wrote a great song about rape,” she reported, singing a few choruses.  “Men always think it is the woman’s fault.” She also rewrote the Lord’s Prayer (“Nothing blasphemous, I just changed it to a woman”).  The aim of the game is to get the Women’s Liberation message across, said the divorced mother of two teenage sons.  “It’s what I tried to say in the lyrics for ‘The Princess,'” she said.  “If you’re pretty, you’ll get a husband, and he’ll take care of you for the rest of your life.  That’s the American dream.  The only thing is, it isn’t a dream, it’s a nightmare.”  Because you care about other people’s feelings, because you know how important it is to tell them they’re needed, wanted, loved.

Ruth Batchelor in pigtails:  images from back cover

ruth-batchelor-aaruth-batchelor-bbb

To those who view the issue of women’s rights and equality an amusingly antiquated notion, one should consider the fact that women — (a) could not serve on a jury until 1973; (b) could not keep their job while pregnant until 1987; (c) could not pay a man’s rate for health insurance until 2010’s (now-vulnerable) Affordable Care Act (d) could not get credit cards in their name until 1974’s Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and (e) still are not paid the same as their male counterparts, despite the number of women-only households with children.

Ruth Batchelor, 1963 – courtesy of Shelley Fabulousruth-batchelor-b

Ruth Batchelor Songs:  A Selected Discography

Ruth Batchelor Trivia

Phil Spector produced “I’d Like to Miss My Graduation,” a 1961 single for Karen Lake that was written by Ruth Batchelor — very likely her first professional composition.

Desired image unavailable – Pretend this is the flip side

karen-lake-ruth-batchelor-45

Willis Brothers: Giants of Diesel

When you think of truck-driving country classics, the names of four artists should come readily to mind:  Dave Dudley, Red Sovine, Red Simpson … and The Willis Brothers!  Brotherly harmonies + offbeat humor + trucker tales = a winning sound and track record.

“Give Me Forty Acres (To Turn This Rig Around)” would put The Willis Brothers on the musical map in 1964 with a Top 10 Country hit that would go all the way to #1 in Canada.

Willis Brothers 45-bAn album of the same name with a pronounced truck-driving theme would follow in 1965, as well as another in 1967 Travelin’ & Truck Driver Hits (recycled + new tracks) plus one last stellar effort Hey Mister Truck Driver! in 1968.

   Essential truck driving LP #1                    Essential truck driving LP #2

Willis Brothers LP-aaWillis Brothers LP-bb           1967 LP = old + new tracks               Willis Brothers in blue suits – LP cover

Willis Brothers LP-ccWillis Brothers LP-dd

Nathan D. Gibson would note in The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built:

“[Suzanne] Mathis [graphic designer co-responsible for Starday truck driving covers], like many others, got her job at Starday through her neighbor and accordionist, Vic Willis.  The youngest of the Grand Ole Opry’s Willis Brothers trio, John ‘Vic’ Willis was both a recording artist and a song scout for Starday throughout the mid-sixties.  He was also a career counselor on the side.  He convinced [Starday head, Don] Pierce to employ several of his friends and at one point he even had Shot Jackson’s daughter, Arlene, and three of the Willis Brothers’ wives working at Starday.

The Willis Brothers — Charles ‘Skeeter,’ James ‘Guy’ and John ‘Viv’ — began playing professionally in 1932 and already had an impressive resume before joining Starday in 1960.  Aside from making their own recordings for Mercury, Coral, Sterling, and RCA Victor (as the Oklahoma Wranglers), they also backed the immortal Hank Williams on his first recordings for the Sterling label (as the Original Drifting Cowboys), as well as Eddy Arnold for eight years at the peak of his career (1948-57).  By the time they joined the Opry in 1960, they were again known as the Willis Brothers and that same year began a relationship with Starday.”

The Willis Brothers would release an impressive number of classic truck-driving 45s on Starday going all the way back to 1961 (i.e., pre-“Six Days on the Road”):

Two Willis Brothers “non-truck driving” albums would yield a pair of classic diesel tracks – “Soft Shoulders, Dangerous Curves” from 1966’s Goin’ South and “Drivin’s In My Blood” from (previously-mentioned) 1968 LP Bob.

Note:  B-side “When I Come Driving Through” not yet available for preview on YouTube

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle to hear “When I Come Driving Through” by The Willis Bros.]

check out the Peter Max-inspired cover for 1973 MGM single “Truck Stop”

Willis Brothers 45-aThanks to “outlaw” voices in country music on “renegade” labels, such as Starday and Shelby Singleton’s Plantation Records, the “new social awareness” would begin to inform the country rockin’ scene by the late 1960s.  1970 would see the release of wry 45 “Women’s Liberation”:

Willis Brothers 45-cSurprise!   Live rendition of “Women’s Liberation” on TV’s Porter Wagoner Show – 1974:

Sonia Pottinger: Jamaica’s First Female Record Producer

Trailblazing, by definition, can be a lonely enterprise – but someone has to move civilization forward.  Therefore, hats off to Jamaica’s first woman music producer, Sonia Pottinger, who managed to navigate a path through a field that is still overwhelmingly dominated by men and left future generations a legacy of classic recordings.

“Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl” – one of the few photos of Sonia Pottinger

Sonia Eloise PottingerUpon her passing, Howard Campbell in the November 7, 2010 edition of The Gleaner would pronounce her “Jamaica’s most successful women producer” although, curiously, neglect to point out she was the first.  Campbell would also write:

“Born in St Thomas, Pottinger was introduced to the music business by her husband L.O. Pottinger, an engineer who had relative success as a producer in the mid-1960s.  She went on her own during that period, scoring a massive hit with ‘Every Night‘, a ballad by singer Joe White.  Pottinger had considerable success in the late 1960s with her Tip Top, High Note and Gay Feet labels. She produced Errol Dunkley’s debut album, Presenting Errol Dunkley, and hit songs by vocal groups like The Melodians (‘Swing and Dine’), The Gaylads (‘Hard to Confess’) and ‘Guns Fever’ by The Silvertones.”

I was also intrigued to learn that, as Campbell notes, Pottinger bought the catalogue and operations of the esteemed Treasure Isle label after the passing of its founder/owner, Duke Reid (but only after first doing battle in Jamaica’s Supreme Court with Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, as well as Duke Reid’s son and Edward ‘Bunny’ Lee’; sadly, she would die the very next year after winning her case).   Incredibly, this same publication – just 16 months later – would publish a piece entitled, “Women Who Shaped Jamaican Music” … and fail to even mention her!  Is my indignation righteous enough?  Today’s piece, consequently, is my attempt to bring about some measure of pop music social justice.

Sonia Pottinger, who would go on to receive Jamaica’s Order of Distinction

Sonia PottingerAs pointed out in yesterday’s piece, Sonia Pottinger issued two singles by pioneering reggae vibraphonist, Lennie Hibbert.  Additionally, Pottinger would be among the first of the producers in Prince Buster’s wake to incorporate the traditional and deep Nyabinghi hand drum rhythms into rocksteady and reggae music, as evidenced on Patsy Todd’s uniquely Jamaican interpretation of Miriam Makeba‘s big hit, “Pata Pata” (with backing by Count Ossie’s mighty band) – both versions released in 1967:

Every Culture album that bears the Pottinger production mark is top-notch and a must-own.  Other crucial Pottinger productions worthy of your time include this short list:

“Plain Jane”: Mean People Suck

Thanks to Lester Bangs for pointing me to one of the more unusual storylines in pop music – B.J. Thomas’ 1966 single, “Plain Jane”:

A dramatic narrative about a serious issue, “Plain Jane” might strike today’s ears as being a bit hokey or kitschy, even though this sort of thing still happens and will continue as long as our popular culture puts a premium on looks and surface appearance.  Quoth Bangs:  “But dig the denouement:  the kids pull a fake phone call from a football hero, ‘inviting’ her to the prom, and when he fails to materialize on the big night, she commits suicide!  Take a lesson from that, kids.  Your brothers and sisters certainly did, at least until the next day at school where class lines were the lessons that mattered, where pariahs were pariahs, and the sentimental compassion mushed up from the pop songs was just that:  sentiment.”

“Plain Jane” – released December 17, 1966 – came close to bubbling under at #129 on the Billboard Pop chart.  Song composed by Mark Charron, who wrote quite a number of single sides for Thomas, as well as The Vogues, fellow Scepter artist, Chuck Jackson, Hanna-Barbera legends, Pebbles & Bamm Bamm, and many others.

Plain Jane 45Seven years prior in 1959, Bobby Darin, had also voiced something called “Plain Jane” written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, a song – when voiced by Bobby Darin – that manages to charm the listener, despite the lyric’s male chauvinism, nice hat trick that. Eddie Hickey, Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians and Sammy Hagar, among others, have written original compositions entitled, “Plain Jane.”

“Swimmy”: Sounds of a Buchla Box?

I am very appreciative that Scholastic Video, in partnership with Weston Woods, has done such a consistently great job adapting children’s literature for the small screen and in a way that appeals to people of all ages.

PV000324_storytimefavorites_VSOne such adaptation is the story of a fish named Swimmy, who shows his friends how—with team work and ingenuity—they can overcome any danger.  The film’s soundtrack is particularly effective in conjuring up a nautical netherworld, and yet no information seems to exist about who scored these sounds.  In absence of any facts, I would not guess that a Moog is making those undersea burbling sounds but rather a Buchla Box:

Swimmy Soundtrack

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play the soundtrack to the film adaptation of “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni.]

Swimmy - page from book

120 Years of Electronic Music provides the historical overview:

“Donald Buchla started building and designing electronic instruments in 1960 when he was commissioned by the Avant Garde composer Morton Subotnik to build an instrument for composing and performing live electronic music. Subotnik was interested in developing a single instrument to replace the large complex Electronic Music Studios of the day where most ‘serious’ avant-garde music was composed and recorded. These studios consisted of multiple individual oscillators, processor units, filter and mixers that, with the help of technicians (each of the studios had it’s own unique system), needed to be manually patched together. The advent of transistor technology allowed much of this process to be miniaturised into a single portable, standardised version of the Electronic Music Studio but still using the modular, patchable approach.”

Buchla Modules - Series 100

(Notice – no keyboard with the original 100 Series Buchla Box)

By the way, I called Weston Woods to inquire whether they had a historian/librarian who could provide any information about this film and its soundtrack and was told that Weston Woods actually licensed this title from Italtoons, a film production company based in New York City.  Italtoons, unfortunately, seems to be no longer in business.

I then reached out to electronic music pioneer, Suzanne Ciani, who very kindly agreed to listen to the “Swimmy” soundtrack to determine whether a Buchla Box might have been used to generate the sounds that accompany the narration of the story.  Ciani concluded that, while these analog sounds certainly could “be done on a Buchla,” nevertheless, “there is nothing particularly Buchla-esque” about this synthesizer-embellished soundtrack.  Will that stop me from creating false controversies in future posts?  Doubtful.

Worth noting, by the way, that filmmaker, Connie Field, finished her Kickstarter Campaign last October and is presumably at work on her new documentary, Buchla:  California Maverick on a New Frontier.

This piscine piece is dedicated to the (former) Invertebrate House at DC’s National Zoo – no longer extant as of today.  Is it hopelessly naive to think that a petition might help reverse this decision by Smithsonian officials?  Quite possibly – but let’s try anyway.

Free Game!  Suzanne Ciani:  Real-Life Pinball Wizard

Riveting film clip of Suzanne Ciani living out every 70s teenage rocker’s fantasy:  creating the music and special effects for a Bally pinball machine.  Peter Ustinov narrates an 8-minute clip from the science TV news magazine, OMNI, that shows Ciani at work in the recording studio experimenting with a vocoder, programming in BASIC, and creating various synthesized sounds for 1979’s Xenon – one of the few pinball machines to feature a woman’s voice.  Click here to see (and hear) a video of two games being played on Bally’s Xenon pinball machine back-to-back, with an exciting multi-ball climax at the end of the second game.

Extra Ball:  Buchla Box Meets the Mad Men

Check out this Clio-winning General Electric dishwasher ad for which Suzanne Ciani wielded her trusty Buchla Box to create the synthesizer-driven soundtrack.

“A Woman’s World”: Feminist or Traditionalist?

Teresa Brewer – whose duet with Mickey Mantle, “I Love Mickey,” reached #87 in 1956 – would later record ever so briefly for Shelby Singleton.  June 1968’s “A Woman’s World” was the first of but two singles Brewer recorded for SSS International:

The song initially gives the impression of threatening to challenge the status quo regarding gender roles and division of responsibilities, as the singer sobs over the plight of a homemaker’s isolation and lack of fulfillment.  “The woman’s born to make the man a home,” begins the second verse, “You cook and clean and sew all the time he’s gone.”  But somehow, just the sight of him entering their domicile after a long day’s work is enough to make her forget all about the deep structural inequities of their relationship.

Who wrote this song, I wonder – and was it a man?  I am hoping to obtain the answer to that question without leaving my seat, but alas, the Internet has let me down.  So I go fetch the record, half expecting to see the name “Tom T. Hall” when, lo and behold, it turns out to be Teresa Brewer herself!  Or wait – is it?  According to the songwriting credit on the 1969 Plantation compilation album, Country Gold Volume 1, Brewer is the song’s composer.  But according to the 45 image that I just now retrieved and attached to this blog piece, the tune’s creator is Ben Peters (a man – just as I had suspected).   The truth?

Teresa Brewer 45“A Woman’s World” was paired with “Ride-a-Roo,” a large rubber ball toy that kids bounce upon (also known worldwide as a space hopper, moon hopper, skippyball & hoppity hop).

Ride-a-Roo poster(Also known as a kangaroo jockey ball)

Commercially speaking, “A Woman’s World” did not do well, unfortunately — according to 45Cat, “this record did not chart.”  As one YouTube contributor astutely observes, this song finds Teresa Brewer very much in the Sandy Posey mold.  How interesting to consider that just five years hence we will find Teresa in London embracing the hard rock sound of Oily Rags.

The liner notes for the 2-disc anthology of Shelby Singleton’s Plantation and SSS labels, Plantation Gold, confirm Ben Peters as the tune’s author.

Teresa Brewer & MuppetsTeresa Brewer with Miss Piggy & Kermit – July 1977

 

“Wave Bye Bye to the Man”: Good Riddance to Bad Man

Lynn Anderson’s ‘hard country’ take on “Wave Bye Bye to the Man” – a mother and child’s declaration of independence from a bad dad – provides a musical punch that perfectly matches the lyric:

Interesting to hear Lawanda Lindsey’s version of the song from the previous year (1968) and notice how the flute part takes some of the edge off the song.  As lovely as it sounds, the flute, unfortunately, is no match for the twin guitars that kick off Lynn Anderson’s driving version. Oddly, “Wave Bye Bye to the Man” ended up as a B-side to “Our House is Not a Home” (unless, inspired by The Beatles’ example, this was intended as a double-A side).

Anderson recorded for the Chart label for four years beginning in 1966, until she got a record deal with almighty Columbia in 1970.  “Wave Bye Bye to the Man,” however, is notable for its renegade sound and darkly humorous sensibility that is very much in keeping with what Shelby Singleton and Plantation Records were putting out at the same time.  Song included on 1970’s Uptown Country Girl  (Lynn would go on to release two more albums that year, having also released three albums the previous year).

Lynn Anderson LP“Wave Bye Bye to the Man” – Music and lyrics by Betty Jo Gibson and Buck Lindsay.