Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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Toots Thielemans: Ya Ya!

From Toots Thielemans‘ appearance on David Sanborn’s ‘Night Music’ TV show, I learned that Toots is a jazz harmonica virtuoso who (1) played the harmonica on the original ‘Sesame Streettheme song, as well as (2) whistled the famous melody for the Old Spice deodorant TV ads of the 1970s.

I recently picked up a Toots Thielemans LP on ABC’s kitschy Command label, famous for its 60s “Mad Men”-era geometric designs that often celebrated percussion:

Command - Percussion

The Toots Thielemans album that I picked up, Guitar and Strings … and Things from 1966, is notable for showcasing Toots’ great guitar work – which I hadn’t previously known about:

Toots - Guitars & Strings

Some of the tracks are very much in the sound and style of “Lolita Ya Ya” – such as the lead-off track, “The Continental:

“The Continental”     Toots Thielmans & His Orchestra     1966

When Fred Astaire danced to this sweeping tune in the film, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, the huge studio orchestra that accompanied him could scarcely project the essence of the tune as excitingly as this gentle easy treatment does.  The octave unison of Toots Thielemans’ guitar and the vocal trio is decorated with airy swirls from Phil Bodner’s flute.  Toots’ solo fits logically into the overall pattern of the arrangement, moving out of the line that he plays along with the girls.  And pay special attention to the drumming by Bill Lavorgna behind the girls after Toots’ solo as he dances merrily with his sticks and then joins in a little by-play with Phil Kraus’ scratcher.

[from the album’s liner notes]

Toots’ Big Pop Moment:   Toots’ harmonica adorned Julian Lennon’s #5 US hit – “Too Late for Goodbyes” – in 1985.

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