Philadelphia’s Rebirth Begins Here

WCAU, one of Philadelphia’s earliest radio stations (first broadcast:  May 22, 1922), couldn’t sit idly by and allow Philadelphia’s less-than-stellar reputation go unchallenged — so it went on the offensive.  The result:  Just a Philadelphia Minute.

Philadelphia LP-x

WCAU, “a CBS-owned station – represented nationally by CBS Radio Spot Sales,” produced this collection of 60-second spots that were created by a number of top Philadelphia advertising agencies.  Incredibly enough, no information whatsoever can be found on the Internet about this historic effort to rebrand the City of Philadephia — I can only guess that this album was issued sometime in the 1970s.  The text on the back cover is priceless:

Just a Philadelphia Minute is in itself an end, and a beginning.

An end to Philadelphia’s dark ages and Chinese wall ugliness.  An end to a city thinking with an inferiority complex.

And a beginning that says Philadelphia doesn’t have to take a back seat to any place.  A beginning that means a new spirit of positive action for Philadelphia.

The committed Philadephia advertising agencies who produced these 60-second spots constitute the beginning.”

My favorite piece on this album is this jaunty musical number — needless to say, it’s the old-timey theater organ that steals the show:

[Pssst: Click the triangle above to play “Philadelphia Is the Greatest Little City in the USA”]

Considerably less effective is this spoken-word radio spot in which the tough-guy announcer appears to berate the listener into appreciating Philadelphia’s charms – or else:

[Pssst: Click the triangle to play “How Long Has It Been Since You Visited Philadelphia?”]

“A Bubble Called You”: No Offense, Philly

Just an hour or so up the interstate from Baltimore resides a prominent metropolitan area that was once the “Rodney Dangerfield” of East Coast cities:  Philadelphia.   Somehow in the course of looking for bowling songs, I chanced upon this curious piece of sunshine pop – “A Bubble Called You by the Alan Copeland Conspiracy – that casts a rain cloud over Baltimore’s big neighbor to the north:

“A Bubble Called You”      Alan Copeland Conspiracy    1967

“A Bubble Called You” would lead off the second side of Copeland’s 1967 ABC album of the same name (one that includes a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Bowling Green,” hence the ten-pin connection).  Despite its status as the album’s title track, “A Bubble Called You” would remain, surprisingly enough, under house arrest during its lifetime and not enjoy single release.

Bubble Called YouCopeland, in a playful bid to stoke controversy that might potentially boost sales, would subtitle the album, All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be Here Than in Philadelphia.

Its indignation sufficiently stoked, the City of Brotherly Love would strike back years later with a concerted campaign to bring about “an end to Philadelphia’s dark ages and Chinese Wall ugliness, an end to a city thinking with an inferiority complex” — as we shall see in tomorrow’s post

By the way, before we leave Baltimore behind, I would like to thank another music scholar, Joe Vaccarino – author of Baltimore Sounds – for his generosity of spirit.  Joe’s additions to the “Baltimore in Song” list filled an important chronological gap that has resulted in an impressive 17-year continuous streak between the years 1995-2012.  Thanks also to Geoffrey Himes, whose knowledge of numerous other song titles that reference Baltimore place & street names, sets the stage for a future piece on Mobtown “Honorable Mentions.”

90+ Years of Baltimore in Song

Myla Goldberg, a self-identified and staunch “Yankee,” contributed an essay in State by State:  A Panoramic Portrait of America that relates, in amusing fashion, how her “incipient sense of state pride” as a grade-school student “was dependent upon Maryland’s Northern-ness.”   Maryland’s decision, for instance, to fight for the Union cause, Goldberg reasoned, validated her unquestioned assumption that the Free State had, indeed, “chosen the correct side of history” — in spite of the fact that Maryland, after all, was a slave-holding border state located below the Mason-Dixon line.

Goldberg was forced to confront a much more complicated truth, however, when she tried to get fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Henley, to lead the class in a sing-along of Maryland’s state song.  This Confederate marching song and plea for secession (sample lyric:  “Maryland!  She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb.  Huzza!  She spurns the Northern scum”), was written, Goldberg would later learn, in violent response to the sight of Federal troops disembarking in Baltimore en route to protect the nation’s capital, i.e., The Baltimore Riot of 1861.  Myla would eventually figure out why Mrs. Henley had failed to honor her request.

Maryland Oh Maryland

I, too, went through a similar psychological journey and process of “civil re-education” after my move to Maryland in 1992, as I tried to make sense of the state’s history.  Baltimore’s mayor (I was late to learn) – along with the city’s council, police chief & entire police board – were all imprisoned in Fort McHenry during the Civil War due to their Confederate sympathies.  The plot to kill newly-elected President Lincoln on his railway journey from Springfield to Washington in 1861, I discovered thanks to Smithsonian Magazine’s special report in 2013, would be foiled by detective Allan Pinkerton in Baltimore, a hotbed of anti-Northern sentiment at the time.

But Baltimore’s big-city charm and strong industrial past obscure its Southern heritage — at least to relative newcomers such as myself, who commuted there for a number of years.  Charm City also has a vital arts scene, as evidenced by its annual Artscape festival, quirky Visionary Arts Museum, prestigious Maryland Institute College of Art, renowned music conservatory, the Peabody Institute – and John Waters.

Most interestingly, Baltimore – like Cincinnati – would inspire a surprisingly vast number of songs that bear the city’s name in their song titles — thousands of thanks to the esteemed music writer Geoffrey Himes for his invaluable assistance with the research:

Baltimore Is the New BrooklynBaltimore 45-aBaltimore 45-aaaaBaltimore 45-bBaltimore 45-cBaltimore 45-dBaltimore 45-eBaltimore 45-fBaltimore 45-gBaltimore 45-iBaltimore 45-h

1966 hit originally written for Bobby Bare — and yet this version came out in 1964?

Baltimore 45-zShore Bird – mascot of Orioles farm team – and yet this is a label from Oklahoma!

Zappa Bust - Baltimore LibaryZappa Penny - Baltimore

Bust of Baltimore-born Zappa at A Local library & Penny shaped into Zappa’s image (from a pressed penny machine at a Maryland state service plaza off interstate 95)

 

“Whine and Grine”: Rocksteady with Pre-Fame Jeremy Sisto

Thanks to Dave Katz’s feature article about Prince Buster in the June 2008 issue of Mojo for leading me to this 1998 Levi’s ad that stars a young Jeremy Sisto before the HBO series, Six Feet Under, made him a breakout star:

The advert utilizes Prince Buster‘s 1968 single “Whine and Grine” for its musical backdrop (although, as Katz points out, this version has been reconfigured by the rhythm section of top UK roots reggae outfit, Aswad – click here to compare with the original release).  Amusing how the “shake it up” lyric sets up the pivotal earthquake plot point around which this ad centers – note how Sisto’s rigid jeans stay unfailingly affixed to his body.

Hope the Prince got paid a King’s ransom for the song’s use.

Island would issue this new version on the heels of the buzz created by the Levi’s ad, and Buster would have a UK Top 30 hit (#21) in April of 1998.  Aswad’s Drummie Zeb and Tony Gad would get producer credits on the updated version.

Tribute to MLK: Eerily Prescient

Wilson Simonal’s tribute to Martin Luther King, a single that was released – eerily enough – the year before his assassination:

“Tributo a Martin Luther King”     Wilson Simonal de Castro     1967

“Tributo a Martin Luther King” would be the A-side of a single released in 1967 – around the same time Simonal would be given his own television variety show (where he can be seen singing this musical tribute to Dr. King).

Largely unknown outside of South America, Wilson Simonal – according to Jason Ankeny’s biography in AllMusic – is deemed “a seminal force in the development of Brazilian music” and the Brazilian nation’s “first black superstar,” as well as the inventor of the “pilantregem” sound – a “dynamic fusion of soul, jazz, and samba infused with rhythms inspired by the Latin American boogaloo sound.”

Wilson Simonal EP

“Bowling U.S.A.”: Ten-Pin Pop

A rousing game of the ten-pin variant known as duckpin made me wonder recently how many songs have been written in celebration of the sport of bowling — an all-ages balm for these fun-starved times.

Wayne Kent, lead singer behind The Blue Flames’ “Bowling U.S.A.,” exalts in one of America’s favorite pastimes while bravely confessing a physical frailty that (he claims) makes it impossible for him to even hoist the ball:

“Bowling U.S.A.”     The Blue Flames     1960

Many thanks to 45Cat contributor mickey rat, whose research reveals indie label, Strand, to have once been a subsidiary company of Consolidated Frybrook Industries — founded in 1958 by Canadian entrepreneur, Jack Kent Cooke, who would go on to own a number of media outlets and professional sports teams, including the Washington [Pig]skins, as well as – at one point – the Chrysler Building.

Bowling USA

Listed below are a number of notable bowling-related tunes that include links to streaming audio – another public service from those tireless researchers at Zero to 180:

  • “Bowling Alley”     Harry Harden & His Musette Orchestra     1941
  • The Bowling Song”     Joe Montgomery     1957
  • “Gotta Go Bowling”     Guy Goodwin     1960
  • Bowling U.S.A.”     The Blue Flames    1960
  • “Bowling Alley Blues”     The Flintstones     1962
  • Tenpin Bowling”     Bryan Davies      1962
  • Bowling Ball Blues”     Mack Fields     1964?
  • Let’s Go Bowling”     Bert Kaempfert     1964
  • “Let’s Go Bowling”     Fred Baca     1965
  • “Left Hand Bowling Ball”     Dubb Pritchett     1965
  • “Bowling Alley Oop”     The Cavemen     196?
  • “Bowling Brings Out the Swinger in You”     The Twilights     1967
  • The Bowling Song”     Don Lewis     1968
  • Let’s Go Bowling”     The Telefones     1980
  • Bowling with Bedrock Barney”     The Dickies     1980
  • Crayola Bowling”     Stick Figures     1981
  • Take the Skinheads Bowling”     Camper Van Beethoven     1985
  • “The Bowling Ball”     Carl F. Becker     1985
  • L.G.B.”     Let’s Go Bowling     1988
  • “Bowling Ball Gardens”     The Halibuts     1994
  • Inside a Bowling Pin”     Fabric     1997
  • Bowling and Beer”     Da Yoopers      1999
  • The Bowling Song”     Asleep at the Wheel     2001
  • Let’s Go Bowling”     Camera Obscura     2001
  • Bowling Song”     Stephen Lynch     2002
  • Bowling with Mark E. Smith”     The Ik Jan Cremers     2007
  • Red Bowling Ball Ruth”     The White Stripes     2011
  • Laser Cat Bowling”     Parry Gripp     2012
  • Miss Marlene”     Donald Fagen     2012
  • Beer Frame Judy”     Mike J. Laneside & the Front Four     2013

Bowling 45Cincinnati in Song Alert!

On the flimsiest of “related” notes, I just discovered a song composed by Roger Bowling that somehow got excluded from my vast list of songs with Cincinnati in the song title — 1967’s “I’m Leaving Cincinnati” by Larry Roberts.

“Rise”: The Spirit of Sahm

It was hard not to get swept up in Ed Ward‘s enthusiasm in his October 1, 1970 Rolling Stone review of an up-and-coming Texan band (by way of Prunedale, California) that had been “discovered” and mentored by Doug Sahm.  The band’s debut, a masterpiece in Ward’s estimation, had been released on almighty Columbia’s imprint, Epic, and described as a curious collision of sounds — “Creedence meets The Byrds” (as others have since quipped), with horns, steel guitar, fiddles and a healthy amount of Tex-Mex thrown in — but in a unified and cohesive way, Ward assured us.

I was reminded of Ward’s original review when I read James ‘Bigboy’ Medlin’s tribute to the Texas Tornado himself – Doug Sahm – in this year’s ‘Southern Music Issue’ of the Oxford American, so imagine my complete disbelief when I switched on the Internet to learn more these renegade rockers … only to discover not a single trace of their existence!  Unfathomable.  How could this be?  Even trusty ol’ Discogs.com was bereft of any info about the one and only long-playing release by “Love and the Lovers,” as they are clearly named in the review (as well as the index of The Rolling Stone Record Review, where Ward’s piece had been reprinted).

As it turns out, heh heh, it was just a typo.  If you type the phrase “Louie and the Lovers,” a veritable floodgate of information spews forth.  At the top of the list, interestingly enough, is Ed Ward’s piece for National Public Radio about the 2009 release of the band’s complete recordings by pioneering reissue label, Bear Family, of Germany.  How fascinating to learn from Ward’s NPR piece that, after the band’s experience with Epic, Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler (at Doug Sahm’s urging) would pick up the baton.  At great expense, Wexler would fly Louie and the Lovers in his private jet – their first ever plane trip – for recording sessions in Miami, as well as Hollywood, only to release one single and then shelve a (“long-rumored”) second album that had been planned for release.

Title track “Rise” would lead off their debut Epic album on which the band would be backed by Doug Sahm’s band, The Honky Blues Band:

Not to be confused with Little Louie and the Lovers, who would release one single in 1962 before vanishing.

Even with major label backing and support from A-level musicians during the Miami recordings sessions – Dr. John, Joe Lala, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Flaco Jimenez – as Ward notes in “The Slow ‘Rise’ of a Lost Treasure,” the band’s recordings would fail to make a dent in the marketplace, a situation undoubtedly exacerbated by their decision not to tour.  Over time, however, the music’s reputation would grow — to the point that Sony UK, in 2003, would reissue the band’s debut on compact disc, followed by Bear Family’s decision six years later to release the band’s entire 27-song output.

Louie & Lovers 45

“Rock Steady Rodeo”: Saddle Up, Mon

1996 saw the independent release of the debut album by a group of renegade Canadian musicians – The Reggae Cowboys – who, in a supreme leap of faith, dared to fuse Jamaican reggae rhythms with, well, cowboy music and imagery.

Van Halen’s “Hang ’em High” as kick-off track

Reggae Cowboys debut LPAs reported in this February 17, 1996 Billboard piece, “Reggae Cowboys Corral Audience“:

“Bird Bellony, leader of The Reggae Cowboys, figures that executives at multinational labels based in Canada might not be too impressed with his five-member group or reggae/country/blues-flavored debut album, Tell the Truth.

With an 1850s photograph of African-American roper and bronco-rider, Nat Love (a.k.a., ‘Deadeye Dick’) on the cover, the album features songs about black gunfighters and cowboys of the Old West.  The album was independently released Nov. 24, 1995 on the band’s Tumbleweed Records.

‘We chose not to look for a deal with a major Canadian record company, because black music, particularly reggae, is dead in Canada,’ says Bellamy, who goes by the name Stone Ranger in the group.

Reggae in Canada has not evolved much from the late ’60s and early ’70s, when such acts as Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Toots & the Maytals, Burning Spear and Third World were widely popular, while such Canadian-based acts as Jackie Mittoo, Joe Isaacs, Ishan People, Ernie Smith’s Roots Revival, Leroy Sibbles, Carlene Davis, Faybiene Miranda, and Messenjah struggled to find an audience.”

Two years later, country duo, The Bellamy Brothers, would title their album – coincidentally or not – Reggae Cowboys.  Musical thievery?  It is possible we will never know the answer.

The Reggae Cowboys would produce a video for the tuneful title track behind 1999’s Rock Steady Radio – an album of Bill Bellony originals (save for Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”):

“Rock Steady Rodeo” — The Reggae Cowboys — 1996

According to Discogs.com, this song – the album’s kick-off track – would be (wryly) retitled “Reggae Rodeo” on the track listing itself.  Is it possible this title change hampered the public’s ability to locate the band’s second studio effort?  Another musical mystery that may never be solved.

The Reggae Cowboys would round up one last collection of songs – 2003’s Stone Ranger – before riding off into the sunset.

“Jamaican Boy”: Jazz Fusion Reggae

Three musicians – Stanley Clarke, Jeff Beck & Steve Gadd – with keyboard embellishments from a fourth, Bayeté Todd Cochran:

“Jamaican Boy” was a 45 release from 1979’s I Wanna Play for You studio/live hybrid LP.

Stanley Clarke 45Not to be confused with Lloyd Clarke’s single release from 1964, “Fellow Jamaican.”

In a (potentially ironic) twist, NYC-born percussionist, Lenny White – Clarke’s former partner in jazz fusion supergroup, Return to Forever –  later served as the drummer for The Jamaica Boys, who released two albums on Warner Brothers.

Jeff Beck, interestingly, had received a shout out from Clarke three years previously on “Hello Jeff” (both an A-side and B-side on which Beck played guitar) and three years prior to that from Stevie Wonder on “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love” – an album track from Wonder’s 1972 breakthrough LP, Talking Book, on which Stevie encouragingly chuckles “Do it, Jeff” around the 2:00 mark.

“Swan Lager”: Prog Rock Reggae

Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman’s beery take on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” became the A-side of a 45 released by A&M in 1979:

“Swan Lager” also served as side two’s closing track for 1979 double album, Rhapsodies.

How interesting to see one of the leading exponents of progressive “art rock” flirt with reggae rhythms on a track that Billboard, in its June 30 1979 edition, would identify in its list of recommended LPs as one of the album’s best cuts.  It would appear, unfortunately, that this attempt at classically-infused reggae failed to chart.

bowie producer, Toni Visconti, twiddles the knobs

Rick Wakeman 45Link to companion piece, “Yancey Special:  Prog Reggae II