“1900 Yesterday”: Bye White Whale

Liz Damon and the Orient Express Band were once the house band at the Hilton Hawaiian Village whose debut album, At the Garden Bar, Hilton Hawaiian Village, was originally issued on local label, Makaha, in 1970.  Enter White Whale, the indie label that likely released surf music’s final first-wave recording (i.e., “Surfer Dan” by The Turtles).  As Billboard would write in its piece – “White Whale Gets Express Product” – for the December 12, 1970 edition:

“White Whale Records has acquired the worldwide rights to the product of Liz Damon’s Orient Express on the Makaha label.  Makaha Records is a Hawaii-based firm.  White Whale is rushing into release a single titled ‘1900 Yesterday’ and an album titled Liz Damon’s Orient Express.”

“1900 Yesterday”     Liz Damon’s Orient Express     1970

“1900 Yesterday” – which hit #33 on the US pop chart in 1971 – would also enjoy release in Spain, Australia & New Zealand.  Liz Damon, tragically, would sign with White Whale at the end of its commercial run and thus serve history for being the label’s last 45 & LP.

Interestingly enough, Betty Everett had already released “1900 Yesterday” the year before as the B-side to a single (“Maybe”) that bubbled under at #116 in September, 1969.

Aside from anchor act, The Turtles, White Whale’s early releases would include influential UK band, John’s Children (“Smashed, Blocked“), New Orleans Public Library (“Trippin’ Down the Street”), Nino Tempo & April Stevens (“All Strung Out“), and guitarist, Jan Davis (“Lost in Space“).

1973 LP = Title track by Bacharach-David

Liz Damon LP

“Games People Play”: Bassist Wakes Drummer Using Musical Chops

Session bassist extraordinaire, Carol Kaye, is certainly no stranger to the philosophical notion of “bass as bottom end.”  And yet, it was an uncharacteristically flamboyant performance that led (ironically, perhaps) to unexpected commercial success.  Songfacts has a great interview that reveals the comical back story behind Carol’s unusually baroque bass lines for Mel Torme’s 1969 version of “Games People Play”:

Songfacts:  Did you ever come out of a session and you didn’t think much of it, and then one of the songs from that session became a big hit?

Carol: Oh yeah.  A few times.  Most of the time I could predict which take was going to be the hit. You just felt it. It just kind of came together.  But there was one time when I overplayed on bass to try to wake up a drummer.  The drummer was in on tour and he was sleeping.  You could tell that.  And it was a big band.  He was slowing down in the parts and the part that I was playing was slow according to the tune.  The tune required just a few notes on my part.  So somebody in the band said, “Do something, Carol.”  And so I played a lot of notes and it woke up the drummer.  And I walked in the booth after the take, and I said, “Now we can do a take.”  And they looked at me and laughed and said, “That was the take.”  I said, “Oh, no, that’s a bass solo.  All the way through that’ll never be a hit.”  But it was the biggest hit that Mel Tormé ever had.  It was a #1 hit.  The bass part that I invented is a test now at schools around the world.  It’s funny, the name of the record was “Games People Play.”  And he’s just going, “La di da” and here’s all this bass and stuff coming in.  I thought, That’ll never be a hit.  And it was a big smash hit for him.  So yeah, a lot of times you’re wrong:

“Games People Play” by Mel Torme featuring Carol Kaye on lead bass

Carol Kaye touched on the hilarious Mel Torme episode in her interview with Horizon VU Music Blog:  “I went home thinking I failed the fine Mel Torme, musical genius and wonderful Jazz musician/composer/singer. Well, that turned out to be his biggest money-making record.”

Carol Kaye’s Lone 45?

A search of the 45Cat database with the keywords “Carol Kaye” only turned up 2 false hits. But wait – a comment by 45Cat contributor, Davie Gordon, tips us to a fascinating piece of trivia:  1976 UK single by Spiders Webb includes a B-side called “Reggae Bump” that I can only presume – based on the title and date of release – is an instrumental disco reggae take on the popular 70s dance step.  According to Davie Gordon:  “[Carol] ‘Kaye,’ the co-writer of “Reggae Bump,” is session bassist, Carol Kaye, who was married to drummer, Spider Webb.”

For discos only

Spiders Webb 45A previous blog piece featured Carol Kaye & the Hitmen’s Latin-flavored instrumental – “Baia” – that could easily have been a Top 40 hit if released at the time of its recording.

Tokyo Happy Coats: Japanese Pop on King Records

There is, interestingly enough, a Japanese label that shares the name King RecordsJapan’s King Records even predates Cincinnati’s King Records by twelve years or so.

But back in 1970, it was Cincinnati’s King Records who released two LPs and exactly three 45s by an “all-girl” Japanese pop group, The Tokyo Happy Coats, who are five sisters, we are told — Eiko, Keiko, Shoko, Tomiko & Ruriko Hakomori.   This would make at least three prominent family acts vying for dominance on the pop chart at the dawn of the 70s:  The Jackson 5, The Osmonds & The Hakomori Sisters of Tokyo Happy Coats.

Ed Sullivan Show – February 27, 1966   (source: William Bickel)

Tokyo Happy Coats b&w

I confess I am still bewildered by the fact that I only just now found out about these “guys.”  Did any of the local stores in my Cincinnati hometown stock The Tokyo Happy Coats in the early 1970s, I wonder — back when Ultraman, the Japanese space superhero television series, was broadcast regularly on Cincinnati’s local independent station, WXIX (channel 19 in Roman numerals)?   Check out the gals’ take on Sonny & Cher’s “Beat Goes On” from their 1970 live club performance LP, The Tokyo Happy Coats Live:

“The Beat Goes On”     The Tokyo Happy Coats     1970

Music writer, Ken Shimamoto (The Stash Dauber) writes a fascinating first-person essay that leads into a review of and “appreciation” for The Tokyo Happy Coats from which we learn that “they were a lounge act that toured the states pretty extensively from the mid-’60s on, playing Las Vegas and The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as dives in Pittsburgh and Detroit.  Between ’em, those Happy Coats played a whopping 26 instruments.”  Shimamoto perfectly captures the oddball element in this real-life transcontinental story when he observes, “incredibly, they used to record for King Records, the same label as James Brown.”  Even more revealing are the heartfelt and enthusiastic comments attached to this blog piece that attest to the group’s magnetism, as well as magnanimity.

Tokyo Happy Coats LP Starday-King (the King label having been consolidated with Starday upon the death of founder, Syd Nathan in 1968) actually leased these recordings from another label — the discography does not indicate where.  What’s odd, however, especially in light of their popularity, is the complete absence of Tokyo Happy Coats recordings in either 45Cat or Discogs apart from these five Starday-King releases.

Billboard‘s June 13, 1970 edition reports that the “Tokyo Happy Coats, another of the Starday-King acts, opened at the Sahara Tahoe on June 4.  They recently released their first single, ‘Forevermore,’ and their first album, The Tokyo Happy Coats Live.”

“An Astro Sonic Production” – distributed by Starday-King

Tokyo Happy Coats 45

Tokyo Happy Coats Starday-King Discography

King 45 #6296 “Forevermore” b/w “Harlem Nocturne” 1970

King 45 #6337 “Tea A-Wanna Whistle” b/w “Here Is Happiness” 1970

King 45 #6419 “Forevermore” b/w “Here is Happiness” 1970

King LP #1096 The Tokyo Happy Coats Live 1970

King LP #1125 Forevermore 1970

“Body Surfing With the Jet Set”: Anyone for Beach Bums?

The words of Rod McKuen and music of Anita Kerr effortlessly intertwine on this breezy romp through the Pacific Coast of one’s mind:

Body Surfing With the Jet Set – The San Sebastian Strings

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play ”Body Surfing With the Jet Set” by The San Sebastian Strings.]

Soft Sea LP

“Hello Yellow Bug”: First-Rate Tot Pop

The Johnny Mann Singers channel their inner child to optimal effect in “Hello Yellow Bug” from 1968’s Love is Blue album on the Liberty label.  Somewhat surprisingly, this song did not enjoy single release:

Hello Yellow Bug – Johnny Mann Singers

Is it possible that The Johnny Mann Singers were taking a page from young upstarts, The Free Design, whose debut album had been released the previous year?

Johnny Mann

The Most Literal Cover Version Ever

I remember having a good laugh the first time I listened to Stu Phillips‘ ever-so-sleepy arrangement of the Kinks’ classic, “Tired of Waiting for You“:

The original Kinks hit was recorded in late 1964 and released January 1965 in the UK (one month later in the US).  Stu Phillips, interestingly, arranged and recorded his version just three months later on May 21st.  I am struck by the dichotomy between the swiftness of his response and the torpor of his results:

“Tired of Waiting for You”     Stu Phillips & the Hollyridge Strings     1965

“Tired of Waiting for You” — an LP-only track from 1965 album Feels Like Lovin’ — would enjoy a new audience of “space-age bachelor pad” enthusiasts when included on 1997 compilation, On The Rocks – Part One, part of Capitol’s “Ultra Lounge” CD series.

This “torp pop” approach will be re-examined in Zero to 180’s next piece on The Sandpipers.

Stu Phillips

Could this sort of “languid pop” have set the stage for future indie subgenre, “slowcore“?