Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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 — ended 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 Records discography seems to indicate) overdubbed onto instrumental tracks — licensed from the Versailles label — of French studio musicians.

King would issue three 45s from But Wild:

Baby Let’s Dance” b/w “Oh Yeah, Ah, Ah” in 1963

Mickey Baker King 45-aa

Steam Roller” b/w “Side Show” in 1964

Mickey Baker King 45-bb

Do What You Do” b/w “Night Blue” in 1965.

Mickey 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:


Mickey Baker (1962)

LP Musician Credits

Mickey Baker – Lead Guitar
Armand Molinetti – Drums
Daniel Humair – Drums
Michel Gaudry – Acoustic Bass
Léo Petit – Bass Guitar
Pierre Cullaz – Electric Guitar
Georges Arvanitas – Piano & Organ
Sylvelle CollartOndes Martenot
Michel de Villers – Alto & Baritone Saxophones
Claude Gousset – Trombone
Nat Peck – Trombone
Vinko Globokar – Trombone
Roger Guérin – Trumpet

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 (or 1965), eight years after the song originally hit the charts.


Ondes Martenot:

Cross Between An Organ & A Theremin

The Guardian‘s David McNamee tells us that the Ondes Martenot is one of the earliest electronic instruments whose origins date to the First World War.  The instrument’s Paris-born inventor, radio operator (and cellist) Maurice Martenot, was attempting to emulate the accidental overlapping tones of military radio oscillators that he found so intriguing, while also being able to facilitate the tonal expression of a cello, according to McNamee, who notes that the Ondes Martenot and Theremin were both patented in 1928.  Fans of the Ondes Martenot include Edgar Varèse, Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen, and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.

Maurice Martenot [1949]

(image courtesy of The Guardian)

 Thomas Bloch, one of the world’s foremost practitioners of the Ondes Martenot, explains the mechanical workings on his website:

In front of and along the keyboard there is a ruban (ribbon) with a ring through which the interpreter puts the forefinger of his right hand.  The frequency corresponds to the key facing the ring and allows to obtain the same effect as with a string instrument, without frette, or with a voice (glissandi, effects, lyric, song) on nine octaves.

On the left, a drawer contains all the controls:  sounds (one hundred possible combinations), transposition buttons (among others:  quarter tones), loudspeakers controls, balance, pink noise and «touche d’intensité» (intensity key).  As with a bow, no sound is produced if the interpreter does not press that key which allows to create intensities and attacks.  Two foot-controlled pedals (mute and intensity) complete the instrument.

Jean Laurendeau of Ensemble D’Ondes Martenot De Montréal demonstrates the Ondes Martenot in this 7-minute video clip.


Related story = Bernard Purdie at King Records

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