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“The Door To Yesterday” #44

New Year (2013) Edition

 

Goodbye EMI

And so it came to pass that the legendary British record company EMI Records is no longer a stand-alone, independent organization.  It was purchased a few months ago by Vivendi-owned Universal Music Group, thereby bringing to a close its British ownership, the roots of which date back to 1897 when what was known as the Gramophone Company was founded.  EMI, which stood for Electric And Musical Industries, was created when the Gramophone Company merged with its competitor, the Columbia Graphophone Company in 1931, the year that EMI’s fabled Abbey Road Studios first opened its doors.

 To many, the sale of EMI is just another takeover in the music industry but to those of us who worked for the company for any length of time, it’s a sad page in the story of the history of once major player in the record industry.  I was lucky enough to be employed at the company’s Manchester Square head office between 1961 and 1968, a period during which British EMI was not only home to such local superstar talents as The Beatles and Cliff Richard but it was also at the forefront of the exploding singles market and the beginning of the independent producer movement.  Whereas The Beatles and Cliff were produced by in-house A&R men, many hits came from outside producers such as Mickie Most (whose artists included The Animals and Herman’s Hermits) and Giorgio Gomelsky (The Yardbirds). 

 To the left of this article, the 1963 poster (one of the countless promotional aids which were sent to record dealers for in-store display) shows how regularly successful the company was in those days.  All the singles listed there are releases of British product along with one by Ray Charles whose ABC-Paramount recordings were licensed to EMI outside the US.

 This was also the period when EMI took over the British representation of Motown Records, known over there as Tamla Motown.  Prior to Motown being given its own its own label identity, its product was released on EMI’s Stateside label and I vividly remember the excitement throughout the building in 1964 when “My Guy” by Mary Wells became the very first Motown record to enter the New Musical Express chart.  

 Indeed, the Manchester Square offices were an exciting place to work partly because you never knew who you might see in the halls or in the elevator.  For instance, one day in 1965, I walked into the office of Rex Oldfield (head of the licensed repertoire division) and he introduced me to three cute young girls who turned out to be The Toys whose hit single “A Lover’s Concerto” was released in the UK on EMI’s Stateside label.

 The American jewel in EMI’s crown is of course Capitol Records which was founded in 1942 in California by songwriters Johnny Mercer and Buddy De Sylva along with music store owner Glenn Wallichs.  British Decca originally handled the UK releases of Capitol product until in 1955, EMI purchased a controlling interest in the west coast-based company and eventually, it took over the entire operation. EMI’s ownership of significant American masters was further enhanced in 1979 when it bought out United Artists Records which included the catalogs of the Blue Note, Liberty, World Pacific, Imperial, Aladdin and Sue labels.  In later years, EMI acquired both Virgin and Chrysalis Records.  

 EMI was once an international powerhouse within the industry both in recorded music and in music publishing.  The publishing arm has been acquired by an investor consortium led by Sony and Universal will be divesting itself of certain overseas masters to a third party. 

From a personal point of view, it will be fascinating to see how Universal markets the legendary back catalog masters of Capitol and the other inherited American labels.  As the saying goes ‘There’s gold in them thar hills”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Weedon and Jerry Lordan

British guitarist Bert Weedon died last April at age 91.  His how-to book “Play In A Day” was published in the UK in 1957 and many young rock musicians (including Paul McCartney and George Harrison) used it to learn the basic steps for playing the guitar.  Signing with Top Rank Records, Bert cut a string of successful singles which began in 1959 with “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”: a remake of “Guitar Boogie” which had been a 1948 seller for American guitarist Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith.  In 1960, Bert cut a tune written by a young singer-songwriter called Jerry Lordan and titled “Apache”.  Bert’s version made the UK chart but was beaten out two years later by a cover version recorded by Cliff Richard’s group The Shadows, namely Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris & Tony Meehan.  In the US, “Apache” was a huge hit via a version by a guitarist from Denmark called Jorgan Ingmann.

Jerry Lordan not only wrote “Apache” but two other Shadows hits namely “Wonderful Land” and “Atlantis”.  He also wrote “Diamonds” and “Scarlett O’Hara”, the first two instrumental hits by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan when they left The Shadows and recorded under their own names on British Decca, plus “I’m A Moody Guy” which was the debut charted single by Shane Fenton & The Fentones on Parlophone in 1961.  (The singer known as Shane Fenton later changed his name to Alvin Stardust).

As a singer, Jerry was produced by George Martin for Parlophone.  His “Who Could Be Bluer” 45 reached the UK Top 20 and was released here by Capitol.

For those with strong trivia appetites, another of Jerry Lordan’s songs namely “Love Where Can You Be” was recorded byJulie Rayne on HMV in 1959.  Julie was a British singer who never hit the big time though she garnered some attention in 1961 with her cover of an American song by Philip Springer and Jonas Schroeder with the ridiculously long title “Green With Envy Purple With Passion White With Anger Scarlet With Fever What Were You Doin’ In His Arms Last Night Blues”!

Here are links to YouTube postings containing audio of APACHE by Bert Weedon (http://youtu.be/wQX5DXsp3e4), WONDERFUL LAND by The Shadows (http://youtu.be/zzCj_429FtI) and WHO COULD BE BLUER by Jerry Lordan (http://youtu.be/TBkL3qlhhDk)

 

 

Hollywood of yesteryear

Here’s a Hollywood landmark that has gone through various changes during its storied lifetime.  A beautiful Art Deco structure on Sunset Boulevard just east of King’s Road, it was designed in 1929 by architect Leland A. Bryant and initially opened as an elegant apartment building called Sunset Towers where Hollywood stars resided.  By the 1980’s, it had fallen into disrepair, suffered from flood damage and was boarded up giving the shabby appearance of an unwanted and discarded property.  Luckily, the London-based St. James Club purchased the property in the late 80’s and spent millions renovating it as the first American branch of the club.  These days, the building houses the Sunset Tower Hotel, the interior of which was re-imagined by designed Paul Fortune and its restaurant is regularly populated by Hollywood power players.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old songs in American TV commercials

There’s a great use in a recent commercial here for HP Office Jet Pro of the 1939 hit favorite “Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)”;  the song was written by trumpeter Sy Oliver along with James Young;  watch the ad here: http://youtu.be/BduCTDh0SRY

“Tain’t What You Do” was originally made popular by two versions: one by Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra and the other by Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb & His Orchestra.

A much newer song caught the imagination of the folks producing a 2012 commercial for Target stores;  written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, “Fallin’” was a 1958 best-seller by Connie Francis.  An extract from Connie’s version is used on the soundbed of the TV spot; watch it here: http://youtu.be/KHBU7BiIBoU

 

 

Old songs in British TV commercials

An extract from “The Bee Song” (Kenneth Blainby Arthur Askey (HMV: 1938) was recently used on the soundtrack of a UK TV commercial for Rowse honey;  around the same period, Danny Kaye’s 1952 record of Frank Loesser’s “The Ugly Duckling” was heard in the commercial for the Audi A5.

Here are links to YouTube postings of the original records:  “The Bee Song” by Arthur Askey:http://youtu.be/A2skW43HNpE     “Ugly Duckling” by Danny Kayehttp://youtu.be/B40woarKXng

 

 

Did they really say that? 

You can usually rely on PEOPLE magazine for editorial accuracy but an article on Macaulay Culkin in their September 24th2012 issue contained the line “He Was The Most Successful Child Star Ever”.  Does nobody on their staff remember Shirley TempleMickey Rooney and Judy Garland?!!!

 

 

Movie song of yesteryear

Written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, “Smoke Dreams” was performed by Penny Singleton (of ‘Blondie’ fame) in 1936’s “After The Thin Man”, the second of MGM’s series of “Thin Man” pictures which famously starred William Powell andMyrna Loy as Dashiell Hammett’s sleuthing couple Nick & Nora Charles.  Among the commercial recordings of “Smoke Dreams” was one by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra featuring vocalist Helen Ward (on Victor) and another by Red Norvo & His Orchestra featuring Milded Bailey.  In the photo above, that’s Mildred standing in front of the microphone with Red Norvo standing to her left.  Here’s a link to their version of the song, released in 1937: http://youtu.be/krwW6uwE9_g

 

  

Another Singing Actor

In “Door To Yesterday” #36, I wrote about some movie & tv actors who also made vocal records such as Robert Mitchum andRichard Chamberlain.  More recently, to tie-in with the release of a boxed DVD set of the early 1960’s TV show “Route 66”, the New York Times ran an article on the program along with quotes from one of its stars, George Maharis.  New York-born Mr. Maharis was another actor who had a significant recording career;  signed to Epic, he released seven albums and even scraped into the Top 30 singles chart in the spring of ’62 with his version of the Sammy Cahn/Gene De Paul ballad “Teach Me Tonight”, arranged and conducted by Robert Mersey.

 

  

Movie Quote of yesteryear: 

“Damn the torpedoes…Full speed ahead!”

Spoken by Charles Coburn as the lovable old gentleman Benjamin Dingle who tries to find a boyfriend for Connie Milligan, played by Jean Arthur, in George Stevens’ comedy “The More The Merrier” (Columbia: 1943)   

 

Rock on!

Alan

1/3/13

“The Door To Yesterday” #43

Olympic Musical Flashback

The musical selections in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics certainly proved to be an entertaining and diverse mixture from Sir Edward Elgar’s LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY and Sir Hubert Parry & William Blake’s JERUSALEM to Queen’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and The Beatles’ HEY JUDE.  A few American compositions were included although most folks these days instantly identify THE LIBERTY BELL as the Monty Python TV Theme rather than the work of John Philip Sousa.  One of my favorite inclusions was George Botsford’s BLACK AND WHITE RAG which was a huge hit parade success in Britain in 1951 as recorded by Trinidad-born ragtime pianist Winifred Atwell.  I’m sure that Ms. Atwell, who died in 1983, would have been thrilled that an extract of her work was included in such a prestigious event.  She sold masses of units for the Decca Record Company throughout the 1950’s both with individual compositions (also including THE BRITAINIA RAG and THE POOR PEOPLE OF PARIS) plus a series of medley singles such as LET’S HAVE A PARTY, LET’S HAVE ANOTHER PARTY and LET’S HAVE A DING DONG which were combinations of singalong favorites ranging from IF YOU KNEW SUSIE, KNEES UP MOTHER BROWN and BOOMPS A DAISY to YES WE HAVE NO BANANAS, I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES and OH YOU BEAUTIFUL DOLL.  One of the keys (pardon the pun!) to Winifred’s success was that she recorded mainly on an old upright piano which was referred to by Decca as her ‘other piano’.  Her records were endlessly played on BBC radio request programs during the 1950’s and, as you can see from the following advertisement from May 1962, she was a headliner on the London cabaret scene.

 

 

And here’s a link to Winifred’s recording of BLACK AND WHITE RAG.  http://youtu.be/MLN8AiQk-dw

 

Did they really say that?

In a recent issue of Billboard magazine, Cee Lo Green was described as a ‘veteran artist’.  So with that in mind, I wonder how would they’d describe Smokey Robinson and Lionel Richie or, for that matter, Dave Brubeck and Clark Terry!

 

Source Music

American TV shows continue to feature some very interesting choices of commercial recordings on their soundtracks. I was particularly struck by the use of WISH YOU WERE HERE (John/Michels/Moushon/Panzer/Silverman/Wray) by Lee Fields & The Expressions from their recent CD “Faithful Man” on an early August episode of USA’s legal comedy-drama series “Suits”.  Similarly, there was a poignant use of Johnny Cash singing his song GOD’S GONNA CUT YOU DOWN on the season finale of TNT’s successful revival of “Dallas”. 

 

Whistling up a storm!

The latest chart single by American rapper Flo Rida is “Whistle” and it got me to thinking how many memorable records of years gone by featured whistling. Here’s an alphabetized list of just a few prime vintage examples of whistling on vinyl, if you get my meaning!  As Lauren Bacall said to Humphrey Bogart in 1944’s “To Have And Have Not”: “You know how to whistle don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow”!  I’ve included some YouTube links so that you can sample some of the recordings I remember.

 

AIN’T GWINE WHISTLE DIXIE ANYMO’ (Blackwell/Gilmore/Davis/Mahal) 

By Taj Mahal (Columbia: 1969)  http://youtu.be/pHMxOjgAuL0

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE (Idle)

By Monty Python (Virgin: 1991)  Eric Idle’s hit song from “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian”  http://youtu.be/L2Wx230gYJw

BONY MORONIE (Williams)

By Larry Williams (Specialty: 1957)  http://youtu.be/mdmuqYCf5Ik

CHARLIE’S SHOES (Baham)

By Billy Walker (Columbia: 1962)  http://youtu.be/ARkn2niw-Jw

DAYDREAM (Sebastian)

By The Lovin’ Spoonful (Kama Sutra: 1966)  http://youtu.be/fwH4wPz-URM

DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY (McFerrin)

By Bobby McFerrin (EMI Manhattan: 1988)  http://youtu.be/d-diB65scQU

FREIGHT TRAIN (James/Williams)

By The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group Featuring Nancy Whiskey (UK Oriole: 1957)

-A Top 5 hit in the UK.  Nancy Whiskey sang and Chas McDevitt whistled   http://youtu.be/YAuQV0IA8vk

GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE (Washington/Harline)

Cliff Edwards voiced Jiminy Cricket with this song in the 1940 Walt Disney cartoon feature “Pinnochio” http://youtu.be/KqkdXV8ig9s

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (Morricone)

Ennio Morricone’s theme from the soundtrack of the 1966 classic western  http://youtu.be/LQGGQ-FCe_w

A HANDFUL OF SONGS (Steele/Bart/Pratt)

By Tommy Steele & The Steelmen (UK Decca: 1957)  http://youtu.be/XsKZ-NL_1Vg

THE HAPPY WHISTLER (Robertson)

By Don Robertson (Capitol: 1956)  http://youtu.be/1SH37ksKseg

HEARTACHES (Klenner/Hoffman)

By Ted Weems & His Orchestra (Decca: 1947)  Featuring the whistling of Elmo Tanner  http://youtu.be/Mx4gi5_AV2U

HEARTACHES BY THE NUMBER (Howard)

By Guy Mitchell (Columbia: 1959)  http://youtu.be/fmRjgWW8yn0

I WAS KAISER BILL’S BATMAN (Greenaway/Cook)

By Whistling Jack Smith (Deram: 1967)  http://youtu.be/7fRS5nxYxoo

IF I WERE A BLACKBIRD (Murphy)

By Ronnie Ronalde (UK Columbia: 1950)

JUST WALKING IN THE RAIN (Bragg/Riley)

By Johnnie Ray (Columbia: 1956)  http://youtu.be/8uCsvWgmjwg

KNEE DEEP IN THE BLUES (Endsley)

By Guy Mitchell (Columbia: 1956)  http://youtu.be/wkTFrGkwxsA

MAGIC MOMENTS (Bacharach/David)

By Perry Como (RCA: 1958)  http://youtu.be/9ND3oghPL5M

MARCH FROM THE RIVER KWAI (Arnold) and COLONEL BOGEY (Alford)

  By Mitch Miller & His Orchestra & Chorus (Columbia: 1958) Theme from the 1957 war movie  http://youtu.be/CB8F8g1-4Uw

MARDI GRAS IN NEW ORLEANS (Byrd)

By Professor Longhair (Atlantic: 1949)  http://youtu.be/_3UDmZAVC1U

ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD (Simon)

By Paul Simon (Columbia: 1972)  http://youtu.be/46Cfrl7hMoQ

MONTEGO BAY (Barry/Bloom)

By Bobby Bloom (L&R/MGM: 1970)  http://youtu.be/gbXds42ZOj4

MY NAME IS JACK (Simon)

By Manfred Mann (UK Fontana: 1968)  http://youtu.be/CwqhLdDYl1E

ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK A HEART (Bacharach/David)

By Gene Pitney (Musicor: 1962)  http://youtu.be/uYya-hIus-U

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA (Merrill)

By Guy Mitchell (Columbia: 1952) http://youtu.be/LNGRnJlvuhI

ROCKIN’ ROBIN (Thomas)

By Bobby Day (Class: 1958)  http://youtu.be/PUKTgIK8DxA

SCHOOLBOY CRUSH (Schroeder/Gilbert)

By Cliff Richard & The Drifters (UK Columbia: 1958)  http://youtu.be/B8gNaXN8RLc

SINGING THE BLUES (Endsley)

By Guy Mitchell (Columbia: 1956) http://youtu.be/hhrX6D1bBeo  and Tommy Steele (UK Decca: 1956)

(SITTIN’ ON) THE DOCK OF THE BAY (Redding/Cropper)

By Otis Redding (Volt: 1967) http://youtu.be/8nA18g_PwG0

STANDING ON THE CORNER (Loesser)

By The Four Lads (Columbia: 1956) From the Broadway musical “The Most Happy Fella” http://youtu.be/rlbGQ0xKZbY

THE STRANGER (Joel)

By Billy Joel (Columbia: 1977) http://youtu.be/bnlvPoDU5LY

SUKIYAKI (Ei/Nakamura)

By Kyu Sakamoto (Capitol: 1963) http://youtu.be/mvuO0BsEEss

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (Bernie/Pinkard/Casey)

By Brother Bones & His Shadows (Tempo: 1948) The signature theme of the Harlem Globetrotters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tbiFphWHc4&feature=share&list=PL2B10E21910E2FA01

TWISTED NERVE (Herrmann)

Bernard Herrmann’s theme from the 1968 British horror film “Twisted Nerve” which was later used by Quentin Tarantino in his first “Kill Bill” in 2003.  http://youtu.be/qX4lBeRtexI

WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK (Churchill/Morey)

From the soundtrack of the 1937 Walt Disney cartoon classic “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” http://youtu.be/PgW3NDH6kmY

WHISTLIN’ BLUES (Lewis)

By Meade Lux Lewis (Bluebird: 1937)  http://youtu.be/P2bxJfSUasE

WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL (Stephens)

By The New Vaudeville Band (Fontana: 1966)  http://youtu.be/gxLAzuGtPpI

WISHING WELL (Trent D’Arby/Oliver)

By Terence Trent D’Arby (Columbia: 1988) http://youtu.be/n2Nd_lS9Kcs

 

I also loved the way that Alfred Newman’s “Street Scene” melody was whistled over the opening titles of Otto Preminger’s film noir classic “Where The Sidewalk Ends” (20th Century Fox: 1950) and, of course, TV viewers will never forget the Earle Hagen’s whistling theme which opened every episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” which ran from 1960 to 1968.

As I said earlier, this is just a selection and doesn’t include a number of more contemporary examples such as in John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” on his “Imagine” album in 1971 and I’m sure you have your own favorite examples.  Thanks for reading about mine.

 

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Movie Quote of yesteryear:

“I am big…it’s the pictures that got small”

Spoken by Gloria Swanson as the fading movie actress Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” (Paramount: 1950)

 

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Rock on!

Alan

8/30/12

“The Door To Yesterday” #42

First of all, many thanks to those who emailed me following my article “Growing Up In 1950’s Britain” in my last bulletin.  I really appreciated all your personal memories of the same period.

One that I wanted to share with you was sent to me by the British music writer and contributor to Record Collector, Austin Powell:

“Here’s a story I often tell about today’s “24 hour delivery” systems offered by so many people.

 In the mid-50s my Grandmother took in lodgers. One regular was a man who worked for (I think) a food distribution company called Kearly & Tonge.  He arrived on a train that arrived in my home town Knighton (on theEnglish/Welsh border) from Shrewsbury (in Shropshire) at about 1pm on, say, a Tuesday and then proceeded to visit each of the 3 (of 5 grocers in the town of 1800 inhabitants) shops he had dealings with.

 He then went to my Grandmother’s, wrote out his orders and walked back to a post box in the centre of the town and mailed off his day’s orders.

 The following morning (Wednesday) he took a bus to the next town, took his orders from those shops, and then returned to my home town to catch another train further into Wales to repeat the routine.

 Having posted his orders mid-afternoon on the Tuesday, on the Thursday morning on a train that arrived very early in the town, all his orders would then be delivered to the various shops by railway ‘dray’.

 Not quite a 24 hour service, but pretty impressive using first class mail and the British Railways.”

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Fun British ads of yesteryear

 

 

Sabrina was a so-called ‘dumb blonde’ British actress who made various appearances on British television in the 1950’s often with comedian Arthur Askey and she appeared in his series “Before Your Very Eyes”.  She was thought of as Britain’s answer to Jayne Mansfield.

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R&B Legends #3:

 

Rudolph Toombs (c.1914-1962)

 

I’ve long been a fan of the R&B songwriter Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Toombs and I’m listing below a group of his most successful compositions.  Billy Vera tells me that Rudy was a comic actor and a tap dancer before he started writing songs.  Indeed, he appeared in three black movies in the 1940’s including “Reet Petite And Gone” which starred Louis Jordan.   He was a staff writer at Atlantic Records and key songs in his portfolio are the three major hits he wrote for Ruth Brown (DADDY DADDY, 5-10-15 HOURS and the unforgettable TEARDROPS FROM MY EYES),  HOME AT LAST which charted for Little Willie John plus four standout drinking songs: CRAWLIN’, ONE MINT JULEP, NIP SIP and ONE SCOTCH, ONE BOURBON, ONE BEER.  Below in blue are links to YouTube postings of certain of his songs.

 

CRAWLIN’ (Toombs)

  By The Clovers (Atlantic: 1953) US #3 R&B

DADDY DADDY (Toombs)

  By Ruth Brown (Atlantic: 1952) US #3 R&B

5-10-15 HOURS  (Toombs)

  By Ruth Brown (Atlantic: 1952) US #1 R&B  http://youtu.be/u_lw1hqdTJ8

GUM DROP (Toombs)

  By Otis Williams & His New Group (DeLuxe: 1955) http://youtu.be/c8dTjahNMdo

  Covered by The Crew-Cuts on Mercury and by The Mills Brothers on Decca, both in 1955

HOME AT LAST (Toombs)

  By Little Willie John (King: 1956) US #6 R&B

I’M SHAKIN’ (Toombs)

  By Little Willie John (King: 1959) http://youtu.be/Bl-sagy3uzI

IT HURTS TO BE IN LOVE (Toombs/Dixon)

  By Annie Laurie (DeLuxe: 1957) US #3 R&B  http://youtu.be/q58TAGu8-pQ

NIP SIP (Toombs)

  By The Clovers (Atlantic: 1955) US #10 R&B

ONE MINT JULEP (Toombs)

  By The Clovers (Atlantic: 1952) US #2 R&B  http://youtu.be/2rNoR8jnPRU

  By Ray Charles (Impulse!: 1961) US #1 R&B

-Superb instrumental version from Ray’s LP “Genius+Soul=Jazz”  http://youtu.be/Sizi33LthYg

  Lots of other interesting cover versions including Sarah Vaughan (Roulette: 1962) http://youtu.be/rjUlIHB8ra8

  and Freddie Hubbard (Blue Note: 1960) http://youtu.be/jgVGL5Pauh4              

ONE SCOTCH, ONE BOURBON, ONE BEER (Toombs)

  By Amos Milburn & His Aladdin Chickenshackers (Aladdin: 1953) US #2 R&B http://youtu.be/vs72AsFfgfk

TEARDROPS FROM MY EYES  (Toombs) http://youtu.be/Wyi8XLiJxv8

  By Ruth Brown (Atlantic: 1950) US #1 R&B 

THAT’S YOUR MISTAKE (Toombs)

  By Otis Williams & His New Group (DeLuxe: 1956) US #14 R&B

 

 

 

Rock on!  Alan

“The Door To Yesterday” #41

 

Growing Up In 1950’s Britain

 

Just recently, a friend was showing my wife and I the wonders and capabilities of their newly-acquired iPad and it suddenly struck me how far the world has progressed, not just in this vastly superior age of technology, but in the sheer availability and increase of material things.

Without wishing to sound extremely ancient, I remember growing up in a time when life was rather primitive by comparison to today’s world.

In the 1950’s, post-war Britain was very slowly coming to terms with new inventions. Not everybody had a television set and the only way you could see a contemporary film was at your local cinema.  When I was at school, there were only two television channels, both transmitting only in black and white, and neither the BBC nor ITV broadcast 24/7.  Very few theatrical films were shown on TV back then and those that did make it to the small screen were usually vintage fare.  One of the best-selling magazines was the BBC’s weekly “Radio Times” which is still called that even to this day although in addition to the corporation’s radio output, it also contains the most detailed coverage of BBC Television programs to be broadcast over the next seven days.

Radio played a much greater part of daily life in the 1950’s and it was the major source of news and information.

I remember that radios had valves until the birth of the transistor in the late 50’s!  Apart from hearing it on the radio, the only way you could listen to the latest hit song was to buy a physical copy at your local record store or to borrow a friend’s copy.

With tightly-controlled government regulations, the BBC was only allowed to play so many hours of ‘gramophone’ records; this was to ensure that radio would also employ British musicians to play their versions of popular songs of the day on the air!

Not every family owned a car and only the very rich owned more than one.  Home appliances were gradually becoming modernized in British homes but very often on a small scale;  the fridge we had well into the sixties was by no means large compared to today’s models.

Yes, it was not a world of convenience as further evidenced by the fact that it was virtually impossible to buy food or indeed anything else on a Sunday.  Only small, ‘sweet’ (candy) shops were open on Sundays and this situation continued well into the 1960’s.

Radios had valves until the birth of the transistor in the late 1950s!  Apart from hearing it on the radio, the only way you could listen to the latest hit was to buy a physical copy at your local record shop or borrow a friend’s copy.  With tightly controlled government regulations, the BBC was only allowed to play so many hours of ‘gramophone’ records…in what the industry referred to as ‘needletime’.  This was to ensure that radio would employ British musicians to play their versions of popular songs of the day on the air.

Not every household owned a telephone and of course, personal ‘phones didn’t exist, hence the banks of call boxes at airports and railway terminals.  When you did get a telephone installed at home, one of the services provided was the ‘speaking clock’ which gave you the exact time with which to set your watch.

We didn’t have massive-sized supermarkets back then…you went to the butcher to buy meat, to the baker to buy bread and to the greengrocer for fruit and vegetables.

Today we also take credit cards for granted but when my mother went shopping, she only ever paid in cash.  In fact, we take so much for granted these days that it’s very easy to forget how far we’ve come in just a few short decades.

Rock on!  Alan

“The Door To Yesterday” #40

 

We listened, we marveled!

 

It’s hard to believe it now but in the late 1950′s, stereo sound was a very big revolutionary deal.

Stereo (short for stereophonic) records began appearing around 1958 and the major labels started issuing LP’s in both Mono (Monaural) and Stereo versions. For instance, RCA tagged their

new releases as ‘Living Stereo’ and the inner bags which housed the actual vinyl discs contained an explanation of how stereo sound is recorded and reproduced.

 

Record companies began issuing records which clearly demonstrated the sonic advantages of the ‘new’ audio experience. For instance, “Liberty Proudly Presents Stereo” (illustrated below) provided the listener not only with richly recorded orchestral tracks such as “Stranger In Paradise” by the exotic ‘Tiki’ sounds of Martin Denny and “Salta Perica” by the bongo-playing Jack Costanzo but also actual sounds of a sonic boom, a roller coaster in an amusement park, a jet aircraft in flight and two people playing ping pong! Oh yes and for good measure, they also inserted some dialog by David Seville & The Chipmunks!



Over in Britain, similar reality sound recordings were offered by (among other labels) EMI on their Stereo Demonstration LP including audio of a train approaching and passing through the railway station at Hayes, just outside the EMI factory in Middlesex.

 

Enoch Light’s Command Records heavily invested in recording product for the stereo market as

did the Everest label which began recording product on 35mm magnetic film. United Artists launched their “Wall To Wall Stereo” line offering such delights as “Echoing Voices And Trombones” by Don Costa, “Blazing Latin Brass” by Nick Perito and “Unique Percussion” by Terry Snyder.



 

 



 

 

“Try A Little Tenderness”

 





 

The names of three deceased songwriters were recently listed on the Hot 100 and R&B/Hip-Hop singles charts in Billboard magazine. They are credited on the track “Otis” recorded by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Otis Redding due to the fact that the track samples the late Otis Redding’s version of the 1930′s ballad “Try A Little Tenderness”. The three writers are Harry Woods, James Campbell and Reginald Connelly.

 

Harry Woods was born in Massachusetts and, in addition to collaborating with various other songsmiths, he also enjoyed some solo successes, writing both words and music to such sellers as “I’ll Never Say ‘Never Again’ Again” (by Ozzie Nelson & His Orchestra and by The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, both in 1935), “Side By Side” (by both Nick Lucas and by Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra in 1927 and successfully revived in 1953 by Kay Starr), “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians and also by Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra, both in 1932), “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” (memorably recorded in 1935 by Billie Holiday singing with Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra and revived in 1972 by Diana Ross in the Lady Day biopic “Lady Sings The Blues”) and the singalong favorite “When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bobbin’ Along”. Woods also single-handedly wrote “Over My Shoulder”, the big hit song from the 1934 British musical movie “Evergreen” starring Jessie Matthews.

 

For “Try A Little Tenderness”, Harry Woods teamed with two British songwriters namely Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly who had their own publishing house, Campbell Connelly Music. That threesome also scored with “Just An Echo In The Valley” that provided both Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee with best-selling records in 1933, “Linger A Little Longer In The Twilight” which also was a big success from the crooning Mr. Vallee in ’33.

 

“Try A Little Tenderness” has far outlived their other collaborations, even catching the ear from time to time of prominent movie makers. For instance, with tongue firmly in cheek, director Stanley Kubrick used it in the opening title sequence of the dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” in 1964 and in John Hughes’ 1986 teen romance “Pretty In Pink”, Jon Cryer mimed to the Otis Redding recording. Of course, a wide range of singers have interpreted it over the years including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Mel Tormé, Diane Schuur, Solomon Burke, Nancy Wilson, Percy Sledge and Chris Connor plus more recent versions by Michael Bublé, Rod Stewart and even the Cast of “Glee”.


 

“I know that face!”

Famous actors & actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age

JANE DARWELL (1879-1967)


 

 

As much as Charles Coburn (whom I profiled last time) was among the most memorable actors who portrayed grandfathers in the Hollywood’s golden age, so Jane Darwell was one of the finest American actresses when it came to playing good-hearted and strong-willed mothers! Her finest role was as Henry Fonda’s mother Ma Joad in John Ford’s film of John Steinbeck’s novel about a family’s harrowing journey from Oklahoma to California in “The Grapes Of Wrath” (20th Century Fox: 1940); “Tom, we ain’t the kissin’ kind” she says as Fonda tells her he’s leaving but he kisses her anyway. Ms. Darwell was also very impressive as Tyrone Power’s mother in “Jesse James” (Fox: 1939) and her very last film appearance was as the old lady in the “Feed The Bird” sequence in Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins” (1964).

 


 

EMI Records – the way it was

In November, it was announced that the Universal Music Group had agreed to buy the storied EMI recorded music organization.

 

I began my career in 1961 at EMI’s London head office in Manchester Square, just off Baker Street. At that time, the company’s homegrown major record sellers included Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Shirley Bassey, Adam Faith, Matt Monro, The John Barry Seven, Peter Sellers, Russ Conway and The John Barry Seven. In late ’62, The Beatles began their meteoric rise to world-wide fame and they, along with a slew of other groups including Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy

J. Kramer & The Dakotas, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Dave Clark Five and The Yardbirds went on to revolutionize EMI and greatly enhanced its reputation as a hotbed of UK talent. The 1960′s were not only very exciting years musically but also fashion-wise with Mary Quant and Twiggy leading the “Swingin’ London” explosion.

 

I have a lot of great memories of EMI during that period and over the next few issues of “Door To Yesterday”, I’ll be sharing some of them. We got used to seeing recording artists in the halls or in the elevator but occasionally, the visit by an absolute teen heatthrob sent shockwaves thru the younger female employees. I initially worked in an office on the third floor, just near the typing pool and I remember that one day, Cliff Richard arrived outside the building and all the girls were leaning out of the windows screaming and waving!

 

EMI had a very active press and publicity department and the company’s in-house photographer (John Dove) could often be seen in and around Manchester Square taking shots of the latest singers and musicians. From time to time, major visiting American artists such as The Supremes and The Beach Boys posed for press cameras outside the offices and then occasionally, there were very unusual happenings such as the one pictured below…

 

 

 In the spring of ’61, EMI had a #1 hit with a George Martin-produced single of a 1920′s-style jazz group called The Temperance Seven with the 1931 song “You’re Driving Me Crazy”. For one of their follow-up releases, they recorded the 1924 ballad “Sahara”. So, in order to get mass publicity coverage, the group dressed up in tropical gear and gathered outside EMI House alongside a real life camel. It caused quite a stir when the camel was led into Manchester Square in the middle of a weekday morning! Incidentally in the photo above, the group’s singer Paul McDowell is the one in a white shirt.

(The illustration above is from the front of ‘Record Mail’, a monthly EMI-produced magazine about their latest pop releases; the magazine could be purchased in record shops for the princely sum of one penny!)

 

 Movie Quote of yesteryear: 

There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of
champagne

Spoken by Bette Davis as author Kitty Marlowe in “Old Acquaintance” (Warner Bros: 1943)

 

Rock on!

Alan

12/21/11

“The Door To Yesterday” #39

Gone but not forgotten… Buildings from Hollywood’s storied past

Everyday, tourist-filled buses meander along the streets of Hollywood and Beverly Hills with alarming regularity but I fear that the descriptive commentaries that they provide for their passengers do not tell the hidden histories of buildings that they pass such as the one at 8225 Sunset Boulevard. Back in the late 1940′s, it was opened as The Players, a club that was established by the legendary film director and screenwriter Preston Sturges. The photo above shows the original club with part of the Chateau Marmont hotel rising behind it on the right hand side. In the 1970′s, the building was home to a much-loved Japanese restaurant called Imperial Gardens. Most recently, it was a less celubrious establishment called Myagi but it’s boarded up now; a construction crew has moved in and it’s going to re-emerge as a “Pink Taco”!

 

“I know that face!”

Famous actors & actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age

This week: CHARLES COBURN (1877-1961)


Above Left: Charles Coburn   Above Right: Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Charles Coburn in “Monkey Business”

Charles Coburn was a very familiar face in Hollywood movies of the 1940′s and 1950′s. Born in Savannah, Georgia, he specialized in playing elderly gentlemen and very often sported a monocle. He contributed a group of memorable serious characters such as the lawyer Sir Simon Flaquer in Hitchcock’s “The Paradine Case” (Selnick/United Artists: 1947), Bette Davis’ dying uncle in John Huston’s “In This Our Life” (Warner Bros: 1942) and the vindictive doctor who made the unnecessary decision to amputate both of Ronald Reagan’s legs in Sam Woods’ dramatic “King’s Row” (Warner Bros: 1942) but he also shone in an outstanding string of fine comedies; he was the lovable old gentleman who shared a room with Jean Arthur in George Stevens’ “The More The Merrier” (Columbia: 1943), the department store owner who had a change of heart in another Jean Arthur picture “The Devil And Miss Jones” which Sam Woods directed for RKO in 1941, the aging diamond dealer Sir Francis ‘Piggy’ Beekman who flirts outrageously with Marilyn Monroe in Howard Hawks’ “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (20th Century Fox: 1953) and, as Cary Grant’s boss, he again flirted with Ms. Monroe in another Hawks comedy “Monkey Business” (20th Century Fox: 1952).

 

Who’s Who In Musical History

Mini-biographies of important music figures

This week: KAI WINDING (1922-1983)

An outstanding Danish-born trombonist in the bop jazz field, he came to the U.S. when his family moved here in the mid-30′s. Kai was a sideman with Benny Goodman in 1945 and a year later, joined Stan Kenton’s band, playing on such tracks as “Artistry In Boogie” (Kenton/ Rugolo) and “Willow Weep For Me” (Ronell), both for Capitol in 1946. His own Kai Winding Sextet featuring Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax cut Gerry’s memorable composition “Crossing The Channel” for Roost in 1949. In 1954, Kai teamed up with fellow jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson and their critically-acclaimed recordings included the albums “Trombone For Two” and “Jay And Kai” both for Columbia in 1955. Ironically, the most famous Kai Winding solo release was his least jazz-inspired: a 1963 instrumental version (arranged by Klaus Ogerman and billed as ‘Kai Winding & Orchestra’) for Verve of the romantic ballad “More” (Oliviero/ Ortolani) which had been introduced to movie audiences as the theme to the controversial 1962 Italian documentary film “Mondo Cane”. Musically, a far superior single release (also on Verve in ’63) was the very first recording of Jerry Ragovoy’s classic song “Time Is On My Side” credited on the label to ‘Kai Winding with Vocal Group’.

 

Movie Quote of yesteryear:

“There’s a name for you ladies but it isn’t used in high society – outside of a kennel!”

Spoken by Joan Crawford as the bitchy Crystal Allen in the original version of “The Women” (MGM: 1939)

Rock on!

Alan

8/17/11

 

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“The Door To Yesterday” #38

Inka Dinka Doo!*

On one of my very early birthdays, I remember being given an expensive fountain pen.

At school, we were instructed to use pen and ink and strictly forbidden to use ‘biros’. Of course this all sounds very archaic now at a time when today’s younger generation are texting messages twenty to the dozen.

 

After my father died, we discovered not only his personal diaries which he’d kept up until almost his last day but also his bank statements dating back to the 1930′s which were hand-written by the local branch of Nat West.

 

Just as typewriters are becoming extinct, so the written word is in danger of being discarded. Newspapers are desperately trying to retain their readers and, just as we used to talk about curling up with a good book, so I imagine folks will in future curl up with a good kindle! Then again, there’s something entirely satisfying about a dog-eared paperback particularly if I’ve scrawled a note here and there in the text. I also have some treasured books that contain dedications from their authors whether it be a copy of the first 1970 edition of rock critic and broadcaster Charlie Gillett’s “The Sound Of The City” or the 2007 paperback edition of “Tommy Cooper: Always Leave Them Laughing” by author, playwright and TV producer John Fisher whom I first met at the Michael Parkinson show at the BBC in the mid-1970′s. Please tell me how you’d get someone to write a physical inscription and then sign the page of an e-book.

 

It’s the personal touch which is fast disappearing from other portions of our daily lives and you only have to look at songs of eras past to realize how many services that were once provided by humans have been replaced by changing habits and modern technology.

 

Fats Waller used to sing about “My Very Good Friend The Milkman” (Burke/Spina) and Nancy Walker sang “Milkman Keep Those Bottles Quiet” (Raye/dePaul) in the 1944 MGM movie “Broadway Rhythm” but of course, both of these examples date back to the days when milk was transported in horse-drawn vehicles and delivered to your door.

 

Long before the invention of cell phones there was a spate of songs reflecting an earlier wave of emerging and more conventional telephone systems such as “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven” (written in 1901 by the same Charles K. Harris who gave the world “After The Ball”) and around the same time there was an infectious ragtime ballad called “Hello Ma Baby” (Emerson/Howard), part of the lyric of which ran “Send me a kiss by wire/Baby my heart’s on fire”. The merits of Western Union were still fully on display in 1972 when Marc Bolan topped the British charts with his T.Rex hit “Telegram Sam”.

 

Female telephone operators were once referred to as ‘Hello Girls’ and as late as 1979, Nick Lowe recorded a song called “Switchboard Susan” (Jupp) reminding us of those manual exchange systems which required literally plugging cables into an upright board. With a tip of the hat to rail travel of yesteryear, jazz pianist Clarence Williams sang the “Pullman Porter Blues” back in 1921 and more than a dozen years later, he vocalized about an “Old Street-Sweeper”.

 

Finally, two songs which reference the gentle art of letter writing: Bobby Goldsboro’s composition “With Pen In Hand” which charted by country singer Johnny Darrell in 1968, by rock singer Billy Vera the same year and by ballad vocalist Vikki Carr in ’69. From even earlier days, there was Fred Ahlert & Joe Young’s 1935 copyright “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” which was initially popularized by Fats Waller (below left) and also by The Boswell Sisters (below right).


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*“Inka Dinka Doo” was nothing to do with writing implements but was one of the signature songs of the wonderful comedian Jimmy Durante who co-wrote it in 1933 with Ben Ryan. Jimmy actually performed the song in the 1934 movie “Palooka”.

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The Songwriters Hall Of Fame

 The music industry organization known as The Songwriters Hall Of Fame was founded in 1969 by the legendary lyricist Johnny Mercer along with music publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. Each year, the organization mounts a gala evening in New York at which a group of songwriters are newly inducted into the Hall Of Fame.

This year’s gala event was held in June and among the honorees was New Orleans’ singer/songwriter/arranger/producer Allen Toussaint (below).



Photo y

His portion of the program began with Boz Scaggs singing Allen’s “Hercules”;  after that he brought Allen out to accompany his version of “Hello My Lover” and then Boz and Allen duetted on another classic from the Toussaint repertoire: “What Do You Want The Girl To Do”.  Obviously I’m biased, but this segment was the absolute highspot of the entire evening.  Boz was in great voice and Allen’s mastery of the piano has never sounded better.

 

The evening’s other highlights included Dwight Yoakam singing “Superstar” before introducing its composer Leon Russell who gave a very touching acceptance speech and sang his classic “A Song For You”.  Paying tribute to Hal David, Trisha Yearwood looking & sounding at the top of her game sang a medley of Bacharach & David songs beginning with “A House Is Not A Home” and ending with “What The World Needs Now Is Love”. Chrissie Hynde introduced Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly and then sang their “I’ll Stand By You”. Drake sang his “Best I Ever Had” and, honoring John Bettis, Skylar Grey sang his “Human Nature” after which John sang his million-seller “Top Of The World”.  Valerie Simpson inducted Chaka Khan (for a Hitmaker award) who sang Valerie & Nick Ashford‘s “I’m Every Woman” and the show closed with Billy Joel introducing Garth Brooks;  Garth sang his own composition “The Thunder Rolls”, gave a very humble acceptance speech and then brought Billy back out on stage and together they sang the evening’s closing number, Billy’s very own “Shameless”.    

 

Funniest moment of the night occured when Bill Medley & Sam Moore saluted Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil;  they were sharing a piece of paper which contained their intro-duction…Bill read a couple of lines but then, when it was Sam’s turn, Bill pointed at the sheet and, peering at the paper through his glasses, Sam exclaimed “I can see it – I just can’t read it!”   Then they sang Barry & Cynthia’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” together and brought the house down.

 

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Movie Quote of yesteryear: 

“If a woman sleeps alone, it puts a shame on all men”

Spoken by Anthony Quinn in the title role of the hearty and spirited peasant, “Zorba The Greek” (20th Century Fox: 1964)

 

Rock on!

Alan

7/16/11

“The Door To Yesterday” #37

Gentlemen, start your engines!

I’ve always loved rock ‘n’ roll songs about cars and when I started to put a list together of ones that I remember, I realized just how many there’ve been! In most cases, the versions I’ve chosen are the most famous and the original ones. However, I realize that there are two or three where I was torn deciding which records to mention. For instance, Gene Vincent’s original of “Pink Thunderbird” is outstanding but Jeff Beck’s remake on his 1993 album “Crazy Legs” is pretty darned good also! Similarly, I just had to single out Charlie Ryan’s account of the “Hot Rod Lincoln” saga yet at the same tipping my hat to Commander Cody’s fine revival in 1971.

So here goes — my list of over 40 memorable car songs…

Back Seat Of My Car” (McCartney)
By Paul & Linda McCartney (Apple: 1971)

Big Yellow Taxi” (Mitchell)
By Joni Mitchell (Reprise: 1970)

Black Limousine” (Jagger/Richards/Wood)
By The Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones: 1981)

Cars” (Numan)
By Gary Numan (Atco: 1980)

Crawling From The Wreckage” (Parker)
By Dave Edmunds (Swan Song: 1979)

Crosstown Traffic” (Hendrix)
By The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise: 1968)

Dead Man’s Curve” (Berry/Christian/Kornfeld/Wilson)
By Jan & Dean (Liberty: 1964)

Diamonds On My Windshield” (Waits)
By Tom Waits (Asylum: 1974)

Drag City” (Berry/Christian/Wilson)
By Jan & Dean (Liberty: 1963)

Drive” (Ocasek)
By The Cars (Elektra: 1984)

Drive My Car” (Lennon/McCartney)
By The Beatles (Capitol: 1966)

Drivin’ My Life Away” (Malloy/Rabbitt/Stevens)
by Eddie Rabbitt (Elektra: 1980)

Driving In My Car” (Barson)
By Madness (Geffen: 1982)

Fast Car” (Chapman)
By Tracy Chapman (Elektra: 1988)

Fun, Fun, Fun” (Wilson)
By The Beach Boys (Capitol: 1964)

Geronimo’s Cadillac” (Murphey/Quatro)
By Michael Martin Murphey (A&M: 1972)

Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” (Ocean/Lange)
By Billy Ocean (Jive: 1988)

Hey Little Cobra” (Connors)
By The Rip Chords (Columbia: 1964)

Hot Rod Lincoln” (Ryan/Stevenson)
By Charlie Ryan (4 Star: 1960)

I Can’t Drive 55” (Hagar)
By Sammy Hagar (Geffen: 1984)

I’m In Love With My Car” (Taylor)
By Queen (Elektra:1975)

Jaguar” (Townshend)
By The Who (MCA: 1967)

Last Chance To Turn Around” (Bruno/Millrose/Elgin)
By Gene Pitney (Musicor: 1965)

Little Deuce Coupe” (Christian/Wilson)
By The Beach Boys (Capitol: 1963)

The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” (Altfeld/Christian)
By Jan & Dean (Liberty: 1964)

Little Red Corvette” (Prince)
By Prince (Warner Bros: 1983)

Low Rider” (Allen/Brown/Dickerson/Goldstein)
By War (United Artists: 1975)

Maybellene” (Berry)
By Chuck Berry (Chess: 1955)

Me And Bobby McGee” (Kristofferson/Foster)
By Janis Joplin (Columbia: 1971)

Mercedes Benz” (Joplin/McClure/Neuwirth)
By Janis Joplin (Columbia: 1970)

Mercury Blues” (Douglas/Geddins)
By David Lindley (Asylum: 1981)

Monster Truck” (Borrell/Fuentes/Harris/Marks/Gonzalez/Rosso)
By Plastilina Mosh (Capitol: 1998)

Mustang Sally” (Rice)
By Wilson Pickett (Atlantic: 1966)

No Particular Place To Go” (Berry)
By Chuck Berry (Chess: 1964)

“Ol’ 55” (Waits)
By The Eagles (Asylum: 1974)

Pink Thunderbird” (Davis/Peek)
By Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps (Capitol: 1957)

Red Barchetta” (Lee/Lifeson/Peart)
By Rush (Mercury: 1981)

Rockin’ Down The Highway” (Johnston)
By The Doobie Brothers (Warner Bros: 1972)

Runnin’ Down A Dream” (Campbell/Lynne/Petty)
By Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (MCA: 1989)

Rush Hour” (Rafelson/Wiedlin)
By Jane Wiedlin (EMI/Manhattan: 1988)

She Loves My Automobile” (Gibbons/Beard/Hill)
By ZZ Top (Warner Bros: 1979)

Tell Laura I Love Her” (Barry/Raleigh)
By Ray Peterson (RCA: 1960)

Under My Wheels” (Ezrin/Dunaway/Bruce)
By Alice Cooper (Warner Bros: 1971)

You Can’t Catch Me” (Berry)
By Chuck Berry (1955)

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Don’t you believe it!

We all make mistakes but I get very annoyed when I hear factual errors on television and radio. The BBC in London recently broadcast a television documentary called “The Joy Of Easy Listening” and among the songs to which it refers is “Release Me” which was a transatlantic hit in 1967 for Indian-born British crooner Engelbert Humperdinck. Written by Eddie Miller and W.S. Stevenson, it did start out life as a country song but it was never a hit for Dolly Parton as this documentary’s commentary would have you believe! Three country versions were best-sellers all in 1954: by Jimmy Heap & The Melody Masters on Capitol, by Ray Price on Columbia and by Kitty Wells on Decca and then the song was successfully revived in 1962 by R&B singer ‘Little Esther’ Phillips on Lenox.

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Did you see who that was?

 

Two contrasting faces of British actress Eve Best: On the left, as Dr. O’Hara alongside Edie Falco in Showtime’s glorious dark comedy series “Nurse Jackie” and on the right, as Wallis Simpson in the Oscar®-winning film “The King’s Speech”.

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More Singing actors


Thanks for your responses to my piece on Singing Actors in #36. There are many other thespians who took to singing and made commercial recordings; here’s just a random list….

Eddie Albert, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, George Chakiris, Jeff Chandler, Johnny Crawford, Tim Curry, James Darren, Bette Davis, Yvonne DeCarlo, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Dors, Clint Eastwood, Vince Edwards, Rhonda Fleming, Andy Griffith, Richard Harris, Lisa Hartman, David Hasselhoff, Tab Hunter, Sophia Loren, George Maharis, Keith Michell, Jim Nabors, Hugh O’Brian, Maureen O’Hara, Gwyneth Paltrow, Fess Parker, Anthony Perkins, Keanu Reeves, Jane Russell, Telly Savalas, Lizabeth Scott, Harry Secombe, Steven Seagal, George Segal, David Soul, Connie Stevens, Gale Storm, John Travolta, Tracy Ullman, Jack Wagner, Vanessa Williams, Bruce Willis and Tom Wopat.


The list doesn’t include actors who made records but didn’t sing such as Lorne Greene, Burt Lancaster, David McCallum, Anthony Quinn and John Wayne. Nor did I include the many comedians who sang on wax including George Burns, Jerry Lewis and Steve Martin.

By the way, five of the above six album covers display the full names of each artist; just to complete the details, the one on the far right above depicts “Lizabeth”, the 1958 album recorded by the seductive noir actress Lizabeth Scott.

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Movie Quote of yesteryear: 

I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light!”

Spoken by Woody Allen in his classic comedy “Annie Hall” (United Artists: 1977)

 

Rock on!

Alan

6/6/11


 

“The Door To Yesterday” #36

Flying so high!


Do you remember when air travel was something you actually looked forward to? At one time, the thought of packing your bags and heading for an airport meant that you were in for a rewarding experience. Everything and everybody was courteous in attitude and if you were flying first class, you felt compelled to dress appropriately. Men wore jackets and neckties but never sneakers or cheap t-shirts!  On transatlantic flights, meals were often served as if you were dining at the Ritz and when the meal arrived, succulent meat was actually carved before your very eyes!  

Even prior to boarding your flight, the airport experience was of course far more civil than in today’s post 9/11 world.  No long lines of passengers waiting to be screened, prodded and often snarled at by uniformed officials who command you to remove shoes and belts. A couple of years ago, Pat & I witnessed an older gentleman being unduly harassed at Kennedy Airport because he wore a pacemaker that kept setting off alarms.

 

Traveling with the past

I don’t know about you but these days, despite so much in-flight entertainment being offered by the airlines, I still find it hard to find a movie that I really want to see so my solution is to take my own.  On the recent trip that my wife and I made to London, I took such favorite DVD’s as “Out Of The Past”, “Duck Soup” and “The Palm Beach Story”. On the flight back to LA, I powered up our trusty laptop and watched “Citizen Kane” for the upteenth time.  

 

Singing Actors!

There seems to be a new wave of actors making commercial records. Hugh Laurie (the star of “House”) has a new album of blues songs recorded in New Orleans and Jeff
Bridges is coming with a record to be released on the legendary jazz label Blue Note. These two gentlemen are following in a grand tradition of dramatic actors entering the hallowed halls of recording studios which stretches back decades. Almost fifty years before Hugh Laurie’s project, another TV ‘doctor’ namely Richard Chamberlain hit the Top Ten, softly crooning a vocal version of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Theme From Dr. Kildare” which, with a lyric by Hal Winn, became “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight”.



 

Without a doubt, Robert Mitchum was one of the coolest singing actors of his or any other generation. Even when he was riding a horse, strumming a guitar and warbling a fairly run-of-the-mill ballad called “O-He-O-Hi-O-Ho” (Roy Webb/Waldo Salt) in RKO’s 1948 film “Rachel And The Stranger”, it was obvious that he could carry a tune.

Then in 1957, he cut an entire album of calypsos for Capitol Records.



A few months later, he joined forces with veteran songwriter Don Raye to create a fine title song for his picture “Thunder Road”, a drama that he co-wrote about the Southern moonshine wars. Titled “The Whippoorwill”, the song was sung as a slow ballad under the opening titles by Keely Smith but was recorded at an uptempo pace by Mitchum himself and issued as “The Ballad Of Thunder Road” on a Capitol single which even made the lower rungs of the hit parade!

 

Even more Wedding music!

Many thanks to those of you who sent me additional song suggestions following my listing of some favorite wedding-related records in the previous “Door To Yesterday”. Billboard’s website even got in on the act with their own Royal Wedding Playlist which included “White Wedding” by Billy Idol and “Kiss The Bride” by Elton John.

The repeated shots on television of the happy couple riding in their horse-driven coach through the streets of London reminded me of Ronald Colman as the impersonating king and Madeleine Carroll as his princess in the 1937 black-and-white Selznick version of Anthony Hope’s classic novel “The Prisoner Of Zenda”. MGM mounted a reputable color remake in 1952 with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr leading the cast but the most interesting element was that the producers hired Alfred Newman to rework the score that he’d originally written for the earlier version and for good reason; the music was extremely memorable particularly the trumpet fanfare-led march which perfectly contrasted with the soft and initimate wedding sequence that employed a female chorus.

Ronald Colman and Madeleine Carroll in the 1937 version of “The Prisoner Of Zenda”

 

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Movie Quote of yesteryear: 

 

There’s always a girl in the picture. What’s the matter, don’t you go to the movies?”

Spoken by Joel McCrea as film director John L. Sullivan in the Preston Sturges comedy “Sullivan’s Travels” (Paramount: 1941)

 

 

 

Rock on!

Alan

5/19/11