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