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)
One of Zero to 180’s earliest pieces (from 2012) concerned itself with documenting the earliest recording of a melodica (i.e., keyboard version of a harmonica), and 1966 seems to be year to beat in this regard, with the composer, Steve Reich, as well as future pop giants, The Bee Gees, having both committed the melodica to tape that same year.
This summer on a long road trip, I was enjoying a CD compilation of rare 45s and obscure album tracks that had been thoughtfully assembled by musician/scholar, Joe Goldmark, (and partner at San Francisco’s legendary Amoeba Records), when I was startled to hear a 1960s recording of South African township jive that includes a melodica!
Incredibly, when you search the entire Discogs database for recordings by the group, Soweto Stokvel Septette, only one item turns up: a various artists LP release issued on the Mercury label for US distribution entitled Ice Cream & Suckers: South African Soul, and which features the title track, parts one and two (stitched together in the mix above).
Zero to 180 is impressed with Mercury’s receptiveness to the exciting new sounds coming out of South Africa at that particular time in the 1960s (20 years or so before Paul Simon’s Graceland album) — only question is exactly when? Before 1966, possibly?
Assuming this is true, can we necessarily assume that Soweto Stokvel Septette recorded their two-part title track in 1966? In other words, was the recording made the previous year or even earlier? The back cover liner notes (courtesy of ElectricJive), unfortunately, do not shed light in this regard. Nevertheless, “Ice Cream and Suckers” is now, at the very least, part of a three-way tie for earliest melodica recording.
Double-click on image below to view liner notes at maximum resolution
One other supporting clue: Soweto Stokvel Septette recorded a 45 of “South African ska” that also happened to be released in 1966, according to this vendor.
“[At what Frank intended to be his final recording sessions with Don Costa in October, 1970] There were two duets with Nancy Sinatra, ‘Feeling Kinda Sunday’ and ‘Life’s a Trippy Thing’, written by Nino Tempo and Howard Greenfield [with (a) Annette Tucker & Kathy Wakefield and (b) Linda Laurie, respectively]. Austin Powers would have loved them. ‘I mean what I sing, Life is such a trippy thing.’ Really? Frank ended the second song with the words, ‘That’s silly.'”
“Life’s a Trippy Thing” – recorded in October, 1970 with Don Costa in the producer’s chair – did not chart when originally released in April, 1971. 45Cat and Discogs both peg “Life’s a Trippy Thing” as the A track (see note on this DJ promo) paired with “I’m Not Afraid.” Both songs would be released for a French 45, whereas “Life’s a Trippy Thing” would find itself paired with 1967’s “Somethin’ Stupid” for the German market.
French 45 [note charming typo!] German 45
“Life’s a Trippy Thing” would also find release in Italy on a 1972 long-playing collection called The Voice, Vol. 3.
Those hoping to acquire “Life’s a Trippy Thing” today can pursue the original 45s on the resale market, or obtain the track via these other more contemporary ‘music products’ worldwide:
(4) one of two ‘B-side’ tracks included on the 2001 European CD single release of “Something Stupid.”
(5) one track (among many) on the Frank Sinatra Complete Reprise Studio Recordings20-CD box set.
Howard Greenfield, co-writer of “Life’s a Trippy Thing,” is one of the great Brill Building songwriters, whose four co-written #1 hits include “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Greenfield was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991. Linda Laurie, Greenfield’s songwriting partner for “Life’s a Trippy Thing,” is probably best known for penning the 1959 novelty hit “Ambrose (Part 5)” while a senior at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School, according to Billboard.
This past April, Billboard would note that, with 1967’s ‘Somethin’ Stupid,‘ Frank and Nancy Sinatra became the only father-daughter duo to top the Hot 100 — Nancy would tell NPR’s Fresh Air in 1996 that “DJs dubbed it ‘the incest song…’ It gave them something fun to kid about.”
The ringing, echo-drenched electric 12-string guitars on the debut single by Scottish rockers, The Poets, are such a striking sound for 1964 and yet a strangely familiar one: might it be possible that the band later reincarnated as Brian Jonestown Massacre?
“Now We’re Thru'” The Poets 1964
[play at strong volume]
What a revelation when one finds out – thanks to Richie Unterberger’s interview with lead singer and songwriter, George Gallacher – “apparently, there were no 12-string guitars, but what there was, was the two guitars having the 1st and 2nd strings tuned the same, thereby creating a semi-12 string effect.” That very same year interestingly enough, Lou Reed would take this concept to the ultimate extreme when he tuned all six strings to the same note for his satiric (non) dance hit “The Ostrich.”
With the utmost of commitment from each and every band member, “Now We’re Thru’” is a classic A-side from top to bottom, with the chiming guitars – and particularly the lonely vocal at song’s end – ratcheting up the mystery and angst. The song would find release in Japan (manufactured by the “other” King Records), as well as the US,Australia, and the UK, where the song charted at #31, doing particularly well in Scotland, confirms Unterberger in his (revised) history of ‘overlooked innovators and eccentric visionaries’ — Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers.
“Bob Crewe, independent record producer, has formed his own label, Dynovox, which will be distributed by Amy-Mala Records.
The label’s first release is ‘Now We’re Thru” by the Poets. Crewe is currently producing sides for the 4 Seasons, and current releases ‘Watch Out Sally‘ by Diane Renay on MGM; ‘Dusty‘ by the Rag Dolls on Amy-Mala; newcomer Michael Allen on MGM Records with ‘She,’ and the forthcoming Travey Dey release on Amy-Mala.
The New Crewe label will not confine its efforts to pop releases. The New York Youth Symphony and show and movie scores are being recorded for future releases.”
Unterberger attributes much of the “brilliance” of The Poets’ singles to their manager/producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, and proclaims the band to be “certainly the most talented act in Oldham’s production/management stable other than the Stones.” According to a November, 1964 edition of New Music Express, the band’s name is “presumably derived from the fact that they wear their hair Burns-style and have ruffled lace-fronted shirts.”
After recording two singles for Oldham’s Immediate label, The Poets would carry on for one more single after Gallacher’s departure – 1967’s “Wooden Spoon” – before disbanding. Wait a minute, 1967 is the birth year for Anton Newcombe: coincidence or musical reincarnation?
The Poets would reunite in 2011 for a live performance at Glasgow’s Eyes Wide Open club. Tip of the hat (yet again) to Tom Avazian for hipping me to this track via UK anthology album from 1983: 20 One-Hit Wonders, Volume 2.
In fact, [George] Harrison’s Rickenbacker wasn’t the first electric 12-string on a British recording session. That honour belongs to a Burns guitar played by Hank Marvin of The Shadows. Marvin, a Fender Stratocaster player, had teamed up with British guitar-maker, Jim Burns, to design a new solid-body six-string electric. Burns also came up with an electric 12-string, and around October, 1963, Marvin received an early sample of the Burns Double Six. He took it along to various sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London where he was recording with Cliff Richard & The Shadows.
Marvin intended to record “Don’t Talk to Him” using the Burns 12, but problems arose, so instead he doubled a six-string line to achieve the prominent hookline. A few weeks later, however, he recorded another Cliff session and played the prototype Burns 12-string for “On The Beach.” Unusually, the 12 was strung like a six-string bass plus octave strings, clearly heard on the song’s low-down double string runs. Later in November, Marvin used the Burns 12 with regular stringing for “I’m the Lonely One.” These Cliff Richard songs weren’t released until 1964 — in the UK singles chart, “I’m the Lonely One” went to Number 8 in February and “On the Beach” to 7 in July — but they are important as early British recordings of the electric 12-string sound.
The book goes on to say:
The very first release of a British record with electric 12-string — just ahead of The Beatles and well ahead of Cliff & The Shads — was the result of another Abbey Road session. Paul McCartney gave one of his songs to Peter & Gordon, a new duo signed to EMI. They recorded their single “A World Without Love” at Abbey Road in January 1964, with sessionman Vic Flick [of James Bond theme fame] on guitar.
No doubt about it: Jimmy Page, given his role as composer, arranger, and producer, dominates this B-side by a group you’ve never heard of (i.e., recording career = exactly one 45). This song, I am now discovering, is virtually unknown to American fans of Page’s work, as it has mainly enjoyed release in the UK and Europe — first as a B-side, and later on compilation albums that showcase the daring and original music produced by UK’s renegade indie label, Immediate. Even now, when you search YouTube, the song barely registers: just one lonely audio clip, with a mere 1,707 listens to date.
Will you please tell us the song title already?! “Just Like Anyone Would Do” — the B-side to “Bells of Rhymney” on the one and only single ever released by Fifth Avenue:
Fifth Avenue “Just Like Anyone Would Do” 1965
From the flamenco-style guitar riff that propels the song, to the instrumental bridge with the majestic piano chording, to the ghostly backing vocals that linger after the rest of the mix has faded, there’s something fairly compelling about this song (ditto for another great Jimmy Page production from that same year that unfairly sank without a trace — Nico’s “I’m Not Sayin’“).
I first encountered this haunting track on a double-album anthology of Immediate singles (with album sides devoted to “The Most Obvious”; “The Rarest of the Rare”; “Happy to Be a Part of the Industry of British Blues”; and “Jimmy Page Productions/Sessions”) that was released, oddly enough, by Nashville-based Compleat Records in 1985.
Five years before “The Monster Mash,” King Records would peddle their own piece of Halloween pop in 1957, with the only release ever by The Swinging Phillies on DeLuxe — “Frankenstein’s Party” (backed with “L–O–V–E“):
The Swinging Phillies are a Philadelphia-based group, and are composed of Charles Cosom, lead; Philip Hurtt, first tenor; Richard Hill, second tenor; Ronald Headon, baritone; and Al Hurtt, bass singer and founder of the group.
More band history below courtesy of the “bio-disc“:
Hard to believe that people have paid hundreds of dollars for an original copy of this doowop 45, but they have.
A search of the 45Cat database seems to suggest strongly that DeLuxe 6171 is the first of the “Frankenstein” songs, two years before Buchanan & Goodman’s “Frankenstein of ’59” (and one year before Bo Diddley’s “Bo Meets the Monster” – although this source says 1956), but is it also pop music’s earliest Halloween-slash-horror song? All attempts to find “scary” songs earlier than 1957 – using such search terms as monster, ghoul, vampire, mummy, spooky, haunted, Halloween, et al. – have not yet proven abundant. According to AllButForgottenOldies, the “flying saucer” songs of 1956 would kick start the teen horror fad in popular music, which merely echoed the big screen — although I’m not sure I would include “Old Black Magic” (especially as rendered so touchingly by the Glenn Miller Orchestra; same goes for Margaret Whiting’s “Old Devil Moon” — ditto Perry Como’s “Haunted Heart“) on a Halloween song list.
“Frankenstein’s Party” just might be King’s only Halloween and/or horror tune.
Q: Aside from the “flying saucer” discs of 1956, can you find a Halloween/horror tune earlier than 1957?
One can be forgiven for mistaking the heartbeat bass line and the off-kilter, syncopated hand drumming in this 2-minute heavy chant as being part of the Jamaican Nyabinghi tradition. Note the special effect at song’s end — somewhat “high tech” for King in 1954:
“Oooh-Diga-Gow” Cecil Young Quartet 1954
And yet, this King track by the Cecil Young Quartet, according to Michel Ruppli King Labels discography, was recorded December 7, 1953 in Cincinnati. But where – given the live audience sounds – exactly? We the listeners can only presume that stage movements and vocal inflections, designed to accentuate the “meaning” of the lyrics, are what’s eliciting periodic bursts of laughter. To make sense of the laughs, it is imperative, given the lack of accompanying video, that the listener consult his or her inner oracle.
“Oooh-Diga-Gow” was originally a B-side that enjoyed release on 78 as well as 45. Five years later, King would reissue the song on Audio Lab LP, Jazz on the Rocks. One Ebay ad for this song (with no reference to the A-side) describes the music as “rare jazz exotica Yma Sumac,” while another seller would go even further.
King’s art department would turn out some delightful ‘cool jazz’ covers for Cecil Young and his crew during their short run with the label 1953-54:
The Guerrillas‘ “Lawdy Rolla” is a King reissue of a European single on Polydor.
Points out the YouTube contributor who posted this audio clip:
“Traditional worksong recording [from] Alan Lomax’s Negro Prison Blues & Songs – ‘Early in the Mornin” http://youtu.be/lw6GFCupesI US ish (issue) of a French Congo acoustic RnB/Jazz tune, has an amazing vibe and groove”
“Lawdy Rolla” The Guerillas 1969
Alan Lomax would record a performance of “Early in the Mornin'” in 1947 at Mississippi State Penitentiary’s Parchman Farm, thus setting into motion a chain of events that would lead to this prison work song entering the realm of popular music.
Australia’s Purple Hearts would inject “Early in the Mornin'” with fresh energy in 1966, as would Christchurch, New Zealand’s The Chants (as noted here), no doubt using The Graham Bond Organization‘s more polite version from the previous year’s The Sound of ’65 album as a template.
King would release “Lawdy Rolla” in October, 1969. Little to no information seems to exist about this obscure 45, which commands a respectable price at auction. The Guerrillas would record these two songs at Studio CBE in Paris.
Polydor picture sleeve – Note the spelling variant of Guerrillas
Lyrics to the original prison work song can be found here — for mature audiences only.