Sunday, January 24, 2021

Dance and Sing Mother Goose with a Beatle Beat (Golden Records LP 127; 1964)


There was such a boatload of Beatles knock-offs during the first wave of Beatlemania, I wonder if anyone has catalogued them all?  Golden/A.A. Records wasn't expecting this effort--arranged by Milton DeLugg and performed by Wynken, Blinken, and Nod--to make much of a splash, but Dance and Sing Mother Goose with a Beatle Beat turned out to be the outfit's sleeper release for the year (1964).  Well, not really, but I think it's safe to call this LP the best-ever attempt to merge Mother Goose nursery rhymes with 1964 teen dance beats.  The only one, probably.  

This was a surprise.  And the surprise is not that a children's record label would release an LP of nursery rhymes with a British Invasion feel--any and every excuse to Beatles-link a collection of tracks, whatever those tracks may be (nursery rhymes, Poe adaptations, train sounds, belly-dancing instructions) was used in those days, and when all existing excuses were exhausted, new ones were made up.  As Beatles tie-ins go, this one is actually pretty conventional.  What's surprising is that it was done so well, that everyone took the project seriously.  Low-budget LPs for children--especially albums based on current crazes--were not usually this thoughtfully or skillfully conceived, but what we have here, against all odds, is a collection of amusing texts and expert, studio-level backings that really rock the shoe.  Since it's Milton DeLugg behind the music, I guess we couldn't expect anything less than expert arrangements, but the lyricists--Jeff Harris and Ann DeLugg--do expert work, too--nothing like the phoned-in rush job we might expect with such a kiddie effort.  In fact, the words get pretty hardcore at times--take these (to Three Blind Moose): "The moose hung Bruce, The moose hung Bruce, He hangs in a caboose, He hangs in a caboose.  Now, Bruce was a goose, was a goose on the loose, But Bruce wasn't loose when they put on the noose, And the three moose have got Bruce's loose goose juice, For three blind moose, Three blind moose."  The perfect lullaby for little sleepyheads.  "So, they (yawn) hung Bruce and drained his juice and (yawn) the blind moose got some goose juice?"--Child.  "That's right, dear.  Sweet dreams."--Mother.  Three hours later, the child wakes up yelling.  Clever verses, though they might work better for, say, Boris Karloff Reads Mother Goose for Naughty Children.

Anyway, I enjoyed this oddball issue quite a lot, and, after doing some quick track comparing, I see that my suspicions were correct--the backing tracks here were also used on the same label's The Beatle Beat LP of the same year (left), which I posted here.  Great way to save on production costs: use the same instrumental tracks twice--once, for backing, and the next time, as solo numbers.  Hard to be sure with this label's weird catalog scheme, but it would appear The Beatle Beat followed Dance and Sing Mother Goose with a Beatle Beat, which must mean someone said, "Hey, why don't we recycle these tracks using titles that vaguely reference the song names?"  The Mother Goose LP also came out in EP issues as part of the Nursery Beat Series.  In fact, it looks like these selections made up the whole of the Nursey Beat Series.

I forgot to mention The Golden Rock-a-Twisters, who assist Wynken, Blinken, and Nod.  And it just occurred to me that the "moose juice" lyrics are all the more perverse, given that this is a Mother Goose-themed LP.  A Mother Goose rhyme about a captured and killed goose?  And I can't believe I just typed "Mother Goose-themed LP."  Anyway, maybe the Beatlemania craze was regarded by some in the recording industry as not merely peculiar and unconventional, but potentially harmful.  This could account for the occasionally disturbing lyrics here.  Actually, I'm deliberately overanalyzing things to up the word count, so as to maintain a balance between text and image.  With New Blogger, there's no way to be sure how things are going to coordinate (or not coordinate) in that regard.

And the preview image indicates I have more space to fill.  Well, how about that jacket art, which is very nice, though I can't make out the artist's signature?  Everyone and everything has a Beatle wig, including the clock, cat, and mouse, though I don't recall any mention of the cat in Hickory Dickory Rock (which is called Hickory-Dickory-Dock on the jacket).  I don't quite get the banana with the glasses, vest, and Beatle hair--I don't recall any lyrics along that line--though there are the three blind moose twisting away, Snoopy-style, with Bruce the Goose mercifully left out of the picture.

Why does Blinken (pictured under the drummer) have four arms and four legs?  Weird.  And I'm assuming Nod is the Paul McCartney-looking guy with the tiny guitar (to the left of the moose).  Except he's egg-shaped, which would suggest Humpty Dumpty in a Beatle wig, and I think I'll just quit trying to make sense out of this...

DOWNLOAD: Dance and Sing Mother Goose With a Beatle Beat (Golden Records LP 127; 1964)


Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Now Generation--Hits Are Our Business (1970)


From the notes: "The Now Generation contributes their winning ways to the tremendous versatility of the group."  Someone must have won the 1970 Filling Space with Words Award for that.

Now, the big question: Is that Jimmy Buffett on the far right?  Does he appear on several songs?  So claims the Discogs entry for this album.  And, at a well-known record forum, one poster asserts that Jimmy was "involved in a covers-only band called the Now Generation circa 1969."  At eBay, Jimmy is the selling point for LPs by this group.  

So, was Jimmy a member of this group?  I'm guessing absolutely not.  I'm basing my guess on simple logic--The Now Generation, in this case, was completely made up.  Therefore, Jimmy could not have been part of it, because there was no group to be part of.  There were groups named The Now Generation, but this wasn't one of them.  No, this LP is clearly the usual Spar Records tomfoolery.  Spar was the parent company of Hit Records, Modern Sound, and Top Pop Hits, among other cheapo labels, and much of Spar's output consisted of fake hits.  I sound-compared three of these to their original 1965 and 1966 versions--they match, exactly--and the six then-current tracks (Down on the Corner, etc.) all appeared in 45 rpm form on Spar's Top Pop Hits label, credited to Hit Records holdovers like The Jalopy Five, The Chords, Kathy Shannon, and Bobby Sims.  There's no consistency in sound or style, and even if this was a covers band, there'd be some sameness in those areas, and there isn't.

Spar's Now Generation LPs all feature a mix of then-current tracks with older numbers, a sure sign that Spar was raiding its vaults in order to get the maximum mileage from its holdings.  Similarly, Spar's umpteen Hit Records/Modern Sound LPs of the 1960s were almost randomly tossed together, with the same tracks appearing on multiple LPs--which is to say, Spar was following the standard cheap-label pattern. Some of the overlapping could have been accidental, given that quality control was a thing of zero concern to the cheapies.

So, am I insulting the music here?  Not at all--these are all competent fakes, and most are quite fun.  The quality is a little surprising, since this company put out its share of dreadful sound-alikes (its Beach Boys and Jan and Dean fakes were especially terrible).  But today's tracks all fall someplace between okay and not bad, and much of the fun here lies in the weirdness of the line-up--Down on the Corner, Honky Tonk Women, and... It Must Be Him??  These Boots Are Meant for Walking and Wooly Bully are strange enough choices, "now generation"-wise, but Vikki Carr's comedy classic It Must Be Him is so utterly non-"now generation," we have to wonder why Spar didn't add Strangers in the Night.  (Likely, Spar never did that one.  Too bad--it's one of my Boomer guilty pleasures.)  I should note that, back in the day, anything that hit the pop Top 40 was played on AM radio--it could be Dean Martin followed by the Stones.  A surprising number of "older" pop stars hit the charts in the 1960s--the Beatles and Barbra Streisand played side by side (but not together).  When People was being played every five minutes on Top 40 radio (I was 6 or 7), I remember drawing a cartoon in which a character was grooving to the rock hits of the time, only to toss the radio out the window when Barbra came on: "People, People who need people. (CRASH!!)"

Here is the Now Generation.  Hits were their business.  Making them under multiple aliases was their game.  On the mp3 tags, I included the names of the groups and singers credited on the 45 rpm releases.  Many of those names are fake, too, but at least I'm giving you the authentic fake names, so to speak.  

Now for the Time Generation.  I mean, time for the Now Generation...

DOWNLOAD: The Now Generation--Hits Are Our Business (Spar Records 4807; 1970)


Thursday, January 14, 2021

When are Chinese Christmas LPs not Chinese Christmas LPs? A: When they're Japanese.


Oops.  On December 10, I featured a ten-inch LP of Western Christmas songs sung in Chinese.  Except they were actually sung in Japanese, as I found when I plugged the label images into Microsoft's Translator app.  Going from Chinese to English got me nowhere, so I tried Japanese to English, and...

"Japanese Nativity Song Seika," with "Seika" meaning either "birth" or "home."  Definitely not a Chinese LP...

I like "Nativity song."  It's a cool phrase.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Priceless information on "He Will Set Your Fields on Fire"


Last month, reader Gary kindly sent me this scan of He Will Set Your Fields on Fire.  It is copyrighted 1925, as is the book containing it (Winning Praise, The Sebren Music Co., Asheville NC).  

Then, today, reader Leah--the great granddaughter of Homer Ballew (lyricist H.M. Ballew) left this comment at my Dec. 30, 2018 Fields on Fire-athon post:

"Hello, My name is Leah Stewart, daughter of Leta(Ballew)Stewart and great grandaughter of the late Homer Ballew. According to my 94 yr old grandpa Charles L Ballew who is sitting her next to me...His father Homer Ballew wrote the song he 'will set your fields on fire' when he was a young boy in the late 20's."

Huge thanks to Leah for providing this priceless information.  I asked her for a little more information, mainly to clarify that Homer was the lyricist (i.e., that he had no hand in the tune--just checking to be sure, as I don't place absolute faith in songbook credit order), but whether I hear back or not, a billion thanks for Leah's comment, which I didn't answer immediately, as I wanted to have all the relevant data on hand first.  This is the sort of feedback and handle on history which makes blogging a joy.

I am fully convinced 1925 is the correct year for this number, and I've been wondering for years when this first appeared.  A zillion thanks to Gary, as well, for providing these scans.

Sometimes, the internet is a pure miracle.  This has totally blown my mind!  Finally--the year and credits for this gospel masterpiece established. 


Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Shawnee Choir--The Caroling Season (1974); The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (1977)


Here are the other two wonderful Shawnee Choir "reference recording" LPs ripped and scanned for this blog by Brad, the King of Jingaling.  Speaking of, be sure to check Brad's site for the Line Material booklets from 1956-62 (save for 1957).  I had hoped that maybe I had a 1957 LM brochure sitting around, but memory told me mine was the 1960 catalog.  For once, my memory was correct.  Oh, well.

I suppose that, if your church has a first-class choir, these LPs would make fine reference recordings, but not many church choirs are on or near the level of the superb Shawnee outfit.  Whatever.  All I know is that lovers of brilliant choral performances live to find LPs like these.  Well, if they're into vinyl.  If they have a phonograph.  Then again, with folks like me, Brad, Ernie, Buster, and all the other vinyl bloggers digitizing audio media of old, I guess it's not necessary to own a phonograph to enjoy vinyl.  Amazing.  I made a claim, and then I obliterated it.  But I'm a good sport about such things.

What am I babbling about?  Don't ask me.  It's mild migraine time, I'm afraid.  That's what I'm dealing with right now as I type--a light migraine with occasional stabbing pains and a general feelings of "I'm not real."  That not-quite-here feeling is one of my psychological migraine symptoms--I also, on rare occasions, have audio hallucinations, OR my sense of smell is altered.  I've read that the pain aspect of a migraine is caused by inflammation outside the brain, whereas the neurological symptoms--an altered sense of smell or a not-quite-here feeling (in my case)--are caused by inflammation of the veins inside the brain.  What a wonderful thing to be discussing when we're about to hear exquisitely performed holiday music.  So, just leave me to my migraine, and meanwhile the Shawnee Choir will make anything-but-easy choral arrangements sound like child's play.  Absolutely gorgeous stuff here, and thanks again to Brad.  I had planned to get these up sooner, but you know the old joke: If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him your plans.  I guess that applies to both grand plans and to the little ol' plans of bloggers. 


The Caroling Season--The Shawnee Choir (1974)

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols)--The Shawnee Choir (1977)


Friday, January 08, 2021

Lowrey Brings Joy to the World (Lowrey 802219; 1982), or Old Lame Sines

I checked Ernie's blog, and I found no sign of this LP, so I figured I was good to go.  When I'd completed my rip, I did a recheck, and I saw that Ernie had posted this in 2018.  All I can figure is that I misspelled "Lowrey" on the first search.  But... this is a fabulous, fun, delightfully weird, and historically significant share, so... here's my rip of Lowrey Brings Joy to the World ('tis the season to be humble).

This is from 1982, which maybe takes us into the digital area, and I have to wonder if some digital sampling (of a not-advanced type) is happening on some of these numbers.  Two organs are played on this Lowrey Christmas promo--the Cotillion Model D-575 and The Lowrey Holiday Model D-350.  It should be noted that Pete Townshend used a much earlier Lowery--a 1968 Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1--to create what sounded like a sequenced synthesizer on Baba O'Riley.  A repeated-note feature was employed, as shown in this YouTube video.  Electronic organs, which date back to just before 1900, are the obvious ancestors of synthesizers, but (in my tech-limited mind), I've always considered them the original synthesizers, since the things had to generate waveforms, right?  By one means or another, they had to create artificial sounds.  In fact, doesn't sound synthesis date all the way back to the telephone?  Voices don't literally travel through wires, any more than music literally swells up out of record grooves.

Anyway, I'm old enough to remember when the sounds on this LP sounded stilted but not comical (that took a few decades).  They sounded, well, modern.  And you've got to admit that a number of the voices--including the notes produced by the "Solo, Orchestral and String Symphonizers" (to quote from the notes)--were likely sampled.  "Symphonizing" is obviously an elaborate, if cheesy-sounding, manipulation of a waveform or waveforms, so if much of this sounds like a cheap synth of today, it's only because the same sounds can be accomplished more simply and within a far smaller space.  Notes: "Choir introduces the unique sound of human-like voices singing in perfect harmony"--a sound which starts out the LP, and I could swear Lowrey sampled a vintage vocoder.  To call the effect unconvincing is an act of kindness, but it's sure cool in a "Dear God, that probably sounded cutting edge in 1982" type of way.  I remember being highly annoyed by electric organ rhythm effects back in the day, and, while I haven't grown to love them (in fact, they have me appreciating my Casio WK-3800's way better built-in beats), I've come to regard them as pricelessly hilarious.  This album is like Christmas Day on the Love Boat.

The occasional cool voice is followed by ultra-cheesy ones, and rarely is the fake percussion remotely convincing, suggesting that sampling was a very new art in 1982.  But the frequent juggling of voices adds a lot to these tracks--it makes for fun, often ill-advised mood changes mid-track.  The players are all very skilled, of course, but, all these years later, they sound like they're messing around on modern stocking-stuffer make-your-own-music (Ages 3-10) toys.  Exception: the basic, classic Lowrey organ voices, as heard, for example, on Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.  Just take away 80 percent of the special voices, and you have some superb-sounding organ--nowadays, a sound easily sampled and offered in a keyboard-only unit (with an little add-on box for registration effects).  

Verdict: Some awesome(ly dreadful, in a fun way) vintage effects mixed with the classic Lowrey sound, all made hilarious by percussion on the level of the effects I used to create for my own homemade comedy tapes--such as, putting a mike inside a shoebox and rapping on the outside of it.  I just can't believe that, at the age of 25, I would have found these tracks modern-sounding.  But I did.  Because nothing changes faster than modern.  Even retro evolves.  In the 1920s, everyone was making fun of the pop culture of 1870-1915, or thereabouts.  Then it was hippies making fun of the 1950s.  Then the 1970s were a hoot.  Now, I guess we're at the 1980s.  I've lost track.

Hey, an almost cool effect at the end of Auld Lang Syne: a synth-sax sound which quickly degenerates into that horrible synth effect used on TV police show themes of the 1980s.  I think I heard some pitch swerve.  

DOWNLOAD: Lowrey Brings Joy to the World (Lowrey 802219; 1982)


Thursday, January 07, 2021

20 German Christmas Favorites--Let's Be Happy and Cheerful; Sleigh Ride From the Sky High; In Dulci Jubilo; O Fir Tree (Peters International 7040; 1977)


Well, according to the Julian calendar, it's Christmas!  So, merry Christmas!  And I would have had this up sooner, but I was sort of glued to the TV yesterday, telling myself, "This isn't happening," even though I knew better.  In the evening, I finished my Lowrey Brings Joy to the World rip--before discovering Ernie had posted the LP in 2018.  Now, I know I checked Ernie's blog prior to ripping the album, and I know I saw no sign of anything Lowrey there.  Therefore, I must have misspelled Lowrey (probably as "Lowery") when I did my first search.  Dang.  And it's such a beautifully cheesy LP, with snyth-style sounds coming from two 1982 Lowrey organs.  Of course, electric organs were the precursor(s) to synths--and though my technical knowledge of such stuff is limited, electric organs had to produce (and manipulate) waveforms, so they would seem to be an early type of synthesizer.  Fans of the Who know (or should know) that what sounds like a sequenced synth in Baba O'riley is actually a Lowrey organ, with a repeated-note effect activated.  (I didn't know that until last night.)

Since I've got the thing ripped and ready, I may put the Lowrey LP up, anyway--after all, I didn't swipe Ernie's rip or images.  Decisions, decisions.  For the moment, we have a wonderful LP of the TV-offer-looking variety--20 German Christmas Favorites--and it's packed with top-quality performances, and it even has a choral version of Silent Night that I love.  Typically, I don't even like choral versions of Silent Night--not because it's not a good number (it's a great one, imo), but because it's probably the most played traditional Christmas number of them all.  Few things remain fresh after a zillion plays--except for Jingle Bells.  But the Thomanchor version in this collection is totally splendid, and I hated having to do a quick fade-out at the end, but a noisy defect in the pressing made it necessary.  A noisy conclusion to Silent Night--the irony.  Anyway, I spared your ears the sound of the errant closing grooves.

And just Googled "Most popular traditional Christmas song," expecting a list of traditional Christmas songs--i.e., carols and hymns of the non-Tin Pan Alley type.  And, of course, the idiotnet--er, internet--coughed up lists which include Frosty the Snowman and The Christmas Song.  Great job, internet--don't simply play to ignorance, encourage it!  Anyway, Silent Night would certainly be one of the most-sung traditional Christmas songs, even if "traditional" apparently has no meaning in cyberspace.  ("Well, my mom heard it on the radio, so it's got to be real old!")

Bryan led me to the free Google Translate app, which translates writing from images, and I used it for the first time here.  It did mostly a good job, though there were wonky moments--I had to figure out that, in addition to a couple other terms, "People's style" meant "Folk song."  I'm assuming.  And I'm still not sure about Sleigh Ride From the Sky High, but I'll take Microsoft's word for it.  The funnest of the literal translations was the one for the great Martin Luther chorale, Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come), which came out as That's Where I Come From.  Okay.  And O Tannenbaum is O Fir Tree, and I like that, so I kept it.  And I have no idea what A Muh, A Mowing is all about (animal sounds?)--only four matches in a Google search, one of which has someone asking, "'A Muh, a mowing' is a Christmas song?" Apparently, yes.  I think.

And we get a lovely version of the already lovely Italian carol You Come Down from the Stars, only under the title, Children's Eyes Under the Christmas Tree, which sounds like something out of Charles Addams.  I'm guessing it means something more like, "Children searching for presents under the tree."  I hope, anyway.  Again, marvelous performances, and I'm guessing that these are performers famous in Germany (duh), though I only recognize James Last.  A perfect mix of solo and choral material, and this should have been my opening post for 2020.  

And can anyone explain Power up the Door?  Wait--Wikipedia to the rescue: Macht hoch die Tür.  "Fling wide the door."  Of course.  What was I thinking?

"Freddy," by the way, is a terrific singer--his rendition of Vom Himmel Hoch is gorgeous.  He must be the Austrian singer Freddy Quinn.  Merry Christmas!

DOWNLOAD: 20 German Christmas Favorites (Peters International 7040; 1977)


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

If you want the feeling of floating, buy Super Boron!


I searched everywhere for this acetate, except in a crate of 12-inch 78s, where it's probably waiting to be found (unless it fell into an alternate dimension).  Access to the crate is limited, so I'm using a previous rip, plus a previous scan.  I had my heart set on a new rip, but these tracks are very lo-fidelity, so it probably doesn't matter.  These are Sohio/Boron radio spots for Ex-tane gas, apparently the ideal winter car fuel.  No idea on the year, but I'm guessing 1962/63.

The ads run the gamut from funny to weird (or both), and there's some unintentional humor in cut 5, a rhythmic narration in which the announcer can't quite find the proper meter--this is followed by a far more successful effort.  The henpecked husband in tracks 3 and 4 sounds familiar--anyone who recognizes this voice actor, let me know.  All I can say for sure is that it's not Wally Cox.

Help stop hubcap theft, and don't forget to buy Atlas Cushionaire Tires!  Only two days until (Julian calendar) Christmas...

DOWNLOAD: Sohio ET #54 ad spots


Monday, January 04, 2021

SPC, Pickwick, and Spear Records Christmas!--Sing a Kris Kringle Jingle, Sleigh Ride, Mixie Pixie, Love Is Strange


Let's pretend we're living in the days before England's Calendar Act of 1750, in which case Christmas would be three days from now, on the 7th. And let's further pretend that the internet was invented more than 250 years ahead of time.  So, we have the internet, and the Julian calendar is still valid, so... we're good to go.

This time, more kiddie stuff, some of it performed by kiddies, including three Pickwick tracks which appeared on both Playhour Records (in mono) and on this two-record set (in stereo):

The Joyous Season was a Pickwick special, by which I mean it was Pickwick at its... Pickwick-est.  Not only are there no artist credits to be found, there isn't even a label name--that is, unless The Joyous Season was supposed to pull double duty as both the set title and the label name.  With Pickwick, any act of cheapness is possible.  By the way, my copy made it to Goodwill with only one record in the fold-out packet, so I guess I could call mine The Semi-Joyous Season.  Miraculously, the single, sleeveless record is in like-new condition.  Except for the missing record, someone took good care of this.  (Maybe they never played it.)

Anyway, we get stereo versions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Up on the Housetop, and--especially for Bryan--The Twelve Days of Christmas.  All appeared on Pickwick's Playhour label in mono mixes, and I've included the mono mix of The Twelve Days.  What's cool about this is the novelty of hearing a Pickwick children's track in actual stereo, and you can hear how the mono mix gives the voices a more strident quality.  If Pickwick had never issued The Joyous Season, we might never have had the chance to hear any of the group's kiddie efforts in stereo, so... this is cool.  It rocks my world, anyway.  My therapist told me, "Whatever excites you--so long as it's legal."

Next, Spear Records, which Discogs tells us was connected to Spear Products.  Going to Spear Products, we learn that Spear Products was connected to Spear Records.  Going to Spear Records, we learn that Spear Records was connected to Spear Products.  So, going to Spear Products, we... (Somebody stop me... Help!!)  Whew.  And, so, we--or, at least, I--know zilch about Spear Records, except that it was a very, very cheap operation which managed to convince some talented folks to record for it, which only goes to show that there are more talented people than labels to feature them.  Something like that.  The Spear sides are fun and short.  Their 45s were co-released with six-inch 78s in the manner of Golden Records.  Which was connected with Golden Products, which was connected with Golden Records, which was connected with... just kidding.

Spear's choral direction was by Hugh E. Perette, who also recorded for Mayfair and Mercury.  One of his Mayfair sides was Kiddie Konga, on which he backed June Winters (left), who was married to Hugo Peretti, one of the writers of Elvis' Can't Help Falling in Love.  What stories these cheap labels tell.

Then, Laura Leslie--who recorded Baby, It's Cold Outside with Don Cornell on RCA Victor--somehow finds herself at SPC (Synthetic Plastics Co.), recording charming but poorly pressed Peter Pan Records sides like Sleigh Ride, which I really love in this version.  Actually, I love it in any version.  I'll have to jump down so I can combine the label image with text.  Here I go.

What a cool pic label.  And someplace, buried or tucked away in all my stuff, is the cool pic sleeve for this side.  I'll have to swipe the Discogs image and see if I can coax over here, on this side. 

Well, I almost did it.  There it is, directly below.  Note the cruder but fun "period" art.  Then, one of my all-time favorite low-budget kiddie holiday sides, Sing a Kris Kringle Jingle, written by none other than J. Fred (Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town) Coots.  According to the seven-inch Peter Pan 78 I ripped, the singer is Bobby Stewart.  According to the 45 rpm edition, the singer (who gets one or two short solo spots) is Gabe Drake.  I'm going with Drake, because it's clearly the same guy who did the Prom fake-hit version of Rock Around the Clock--the best of the RATC fakes--though this assumes he was actually named Gabe Drake.
Next, La Dee Dah and Love Is Strange.  And what are these two numbers doing in a holiday playlist?
Simple--they were both issued by SPC with Christmas art on the labels.  I have no idea why.  Logic would suggest that SPC simply screwed up, or... that it ran out of regular labels and decided to use a stack of leftover Christmas-themed labels (waste not, want not).  As I'm always saying, the cheapie labels saved money on quality control by not having any.  Very clever strategy.  See labels below.

On Peter Pan, Gabby Dixon and the Crickets (pre-Buddy Holly?) give us When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter, a fairly well known song by Johnny (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) Marks.  And I guess I figured that Pickwick had trademarked "Crickets" and all variations thereof (Cricketones, etc.), but I'm looking for order in the cheap-label world, and I already know there's none to be found...

And here are four later (post-1950s) SPC efforts, from an EP whose sleeve art makes me cringe.  I don't know why.  Rudolph is supposed to look cute, but... I don't know.  Something's wrong with the art.  For one thing, he doesn't look like a reindeer.  Maybe that's it.  And did I say post-1950?  Yes, except for the same ol' Johnny Kay version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which likely showed up in so many different issues, someone could write a book about it.  Or at least a long chapter in Johnny Kay--a Discography. Kay was the SPC singer with Perry Como's voice but not his looks--he looked more like Johnny Desmond, but with less sex appeal.  Not knocking his looks--Kay had nothing to worry about in that department, but we all know that singing stars need more than excellent pipes if they're going to make it big.  Oh, and Rudolph's Christmas Party may not set new standards for terribleness, but then again... Other than Kay (who, of course, is not credited), the artists on Rudolph are the usual unknown kid singers.  We have to wonder if there was a special musician's union for uncredited artists.  

Then, we hear what I regard as the second-best recording of Carol of the Drum, under its much better known stolen title (not quite sure how to put that), The Little Drummer Boy.  This is allegedly by the Peter Pan Caroleers, but this sounds very recorded-in-Europe, and the choir is simply too good to be Peter Pan regulars.  Otherwise, I can't figure how such a superb rendition would end up on the cheapest of the kiddie labels.  It has a fairly cool picture sleeve.  Well, actually, it's not very good, really...

The rest of our tracks are Pickwick specials, including the mono Playhour label rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas, plus the fun, toss-away Mixie Pixie.  The echo-drenched Carol of the Bells is well done--perhaps too well done for Pickwick, a la The Little Drummer Boy for SPC--and I think it's important to annually post at least one recording of this great number done correctly.  Namely, in its original version with its wonderful counterpoint and its slow, dramatic crescendo.  (We also hear it earlier in the playlist as Ring Christmas Bells.) I suspect the most famous rendition of Bells is that bit of mindless, noisy repetition by a group I'd love to have banned from all thrift store PA speakers during Christmas.  Done stupidly, Carol of the Bells is nothing but the same four (actually, three) notes repeated over and over and over, and I totally get why so many folks hate it--I used to be one of those folks.  That is, until I heard the Robert Shaw Chorale's first RCA recording, at which point I realized, "Hey, this is music!"  Superb music.  Performers who don't feel like doing it correctly, or who can't read more than one line of music at a time, or whatever, should jump down a well rather than debase this choral classic.  Just a kind, cheery suggestion for the season.  Remember--three more days!!

Saturday, January 02, 2021

I Don't Believe in Santa Claus/Teddy Bear--The Staffords, Featuring Mark


When I spotted I Don't Believe in Santa Claus on eBay, I knew it had to be one of two things: a cute-kid-singing-loudly-and-off-key number or a piece of garage band punk, circa-1967.  I was leaning toward the latter, since the title seems a bit subversive for the I Saw Mommy../Nuttin' for Christmas genre, but... sure enough, it's a cute-kid-singing-loudly-and-out-of-key Christmas number.  As in, very out of key, and very loudly.  Maybe the Staffords (featuring Mark) were trying to bring new life (and volume) to this type of tune, but the lyrics don't work.  The song goes from (spoiler alert!) Mark denying the existence of St. Nick and promising to be as bad as he can manage to be, only to take everything back and assure us that he does, he does, he does believe in Santa Claus.  You see, the first part was all a bad dream.  He was dreaming that he didn't believe in Santa Claus.  This isn't a case of a good concept gone wrong--it's more like a vague concept evaporating before the needle reaches the run-off portion.

Who, I wonder, was "Schoch" (second label)?  And was this the 177th 45 in his or her collection?  Note how the letters are written in ink over pencil.  Normally, I would have cloned out the writing, but "Schoch" seemed fitting.  I can't explain why.  Nor can I explain why my Epson decided this bright green label was something much closer to blue.

The flip (?), Teddy Bear, is not an Elvis cover, but a would-be heartwarmer about how the simplest things in life are the best ("Happiness is a big brown teddy bear").  Mark has all he wants or could ever want for Christmas--a teddy bear--but his two friends, both of whom got much fancier gifts, couldn't disagree more.  That is, until Mark belts out a tribute to his teddy bear, whereupon his friends join him (leaping ahead of the arrangement, it sounds like) for this classic chorus:

"Teddy bear, teddy bear, You are my friend, you are my friend, Through rain or shine, shine or rain, Through thick or thin, thin or thick, You're a tried and true, real true blue, cuddly teddy bear..."

You know you want to hear this, just to make sure I didn't dream it.  Maybe I did...

(UPDATE: See Bob's comment. Lyricist Max Spickol, who did the less than memorable lyrics for the first side, also wrote the words for Bill Haley's ABC Boogie, among other songs!)

DOWNLOAD: I Don't Believe in Santa Claus/Teddy Bear--The Staffords (G&S Records 111168)