Hear the real Maria

Sound of Music tragics, of whom there are many, will tell you that there is a scene early on in the film in which Maria, played by Julie Andrews, passes through an archway, and you see an old lady in the background. That, so I have heard, is the real Maria von Trapp. A fellow blogger has gone to the trouble of capturing the frame – thank you!

real maria

In a strange way, The Sound of Music is a bit like Macbeth. A piece of theatre is based on real people. The show is a huge success, such that the real people fade, are forever seen through the lens of the fiction. You can forget there really was a king of Scotland called Macbeth, and he never said “Is this a dagger I see before me?”. You can forget that there really was a Trapp family, and that they became refugees who managed to make a living from their music.

The Trapp Family Choir sang and played complex interwoven harmonies, mostly arrangements of traditional German songs. Like in the musical? Not really. There is a hint of similarity, here and there. Rogers and Hammerstein clearly took some songs as starting ideas. “Wohlauf ihr lieben Gaste (Now Then, Dear Guests)”, is a party wind-up song, and identifiable as the distant ancestor of “So Long, Farewell”.

This track was one of a dozen the Trapp family recorded in December 1938, not long after they had left Austria. It is a traditional Christmas song, “Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging”, which means roughly “Mary Walked through a Thorny Wood”. The family must have felt they were in a thorny wood of their own. A rousing show tune it ain’t, but the singing is quite lovely. Forget what you know, and listen to the real Maria.

  • Artist: The Trapp Family Choir
  • LP Title: The Sound of Folk Music of Many Lands
  • Track: A2 “Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging”
  • Label: RCA Camden
  • Catalogue: CAS-904
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1965 (song recorded 22 Dec 1938).

 

That’s Daryl on the left

There are not many songs about engineers. I don’t mean engineer in the American sense – the guy driving an old steam locomotive, face black with coal dust, desperate to get the Ol’ 97 into Spencer on time. I mean the sort of engineer who sits at a draft board, pencils and protractor at hand, designing houses and bridges and viaducts and such.

My brother is an engineer of that sort, and so was my late father. And so, from time to time, the profession of engineering comes up in conversation. When it does, my wife, who enjoys singing, will often burst forth with:

I wanna be an engineer, my friend
I wanna be an engineer

And this is the sort of engineer who inspects concrete slabs.

D&O1975 The song is a childhood memory. As a girl my wife had a record called Hey! Hey! It’s Darryl and Ossie. “Daryl” was Daryl Somers, and Ozzie was an ostrich, or at least a puppet thought to resemble one. That’s Daryl on the left. The two were big on Australian television for the best part of twenty years.

I found a copy of Hey! Hey!, and my wife was very excited, but we found that the Unpasteurised Milk Paradigm applies to this, as to most comedy. Wonderful fresh, but it doesn’t last. Still, there is nostalgia value, and in honour of my family connections I have to play this track: quite possibly the only song ever written about civil engineering.

  • Artist: Daryl & Ossie
  • LP Title: Hey! Hey! It’s Daryl & Ossie
  • Track: A4 “Gonna Be An Engineer”
  • Label: Hammard
  • Catalogue: HAM005
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1975

Soul man

After a couple of weeks stranded on Earth, attending to the small matter of making a living, it is a relief to again board the Planet Vinyl shuttle and land … well, it’s a place called Topanga, and we are in the company of a funky 1970s TV cop.

S&HDavid Soul was one half of Starsky and Hutch, the immensely popular cop show. I never got to watch it – my parents were a bit eccentric, and we didn’t have a TV in the 1970s – but I remember Starsky and Hutch pencil cases had serious street cred at primary school. Back then, I was too embarrassed to ask which one was which – and now I don’t care. At any rate, David Soul is the guy with blond hair, and he was also a musician.

David was a Chicago boy, born in 1943. His family name was Solberg, and truncated for the stage he entered the performing arts. He once appeared on a television variety show, wearing a mask. The reason, he explained to the audience: “My name is David Soul, and I want to be known for my music”.

Fair to say he failed in this ambition – he will forever be associated in popular memory with squealing tyres and shootouts – but he did enjoy real success in music. I remember one of his hits, “Silver Lady”, which was a UK number 1 in 1977. That was a sentimental ballad, as is the A-side to this release, but Soul could range more widely.

soul topangaThis track is called “Topanga”, which is, I discovered, a real place. It is a small town which is quite close to Los Angeles, but inside the Santa Monica Mountains nature reserve. This combination (handy to Hollywood, spared the smog) made it a popular place for artists. At different times Topanga has been home to, or at least a rural bolt hole for, Stephen Stills, Mick Fleetwood, Marvin Gaye, the Morrisons Jim and Van, Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Woody Guthrie, and a Warner’s back-catalogue of others.

The song is lyrically modest – just praising Topanga as a pleasant place to live, really – but it is a nice piece of country-rock, strongly arranged and performed.

  • Artist: David Soul
  • Single title: Going In With My Eyes Open
  • Track: B-side “Topanga”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Private Stock
  • Catalogue: PVT-11416
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1976

 

Posted in LP.

Jamming with le dieu

Sidney Bechet was among the very first improvising soloists in jazz. He was a Creole, born in New Orleans in 1897, and so a contemporary of friend and rival Louis Armstrong.

Bechet started out on the clarinet, but while touring Europe in 1919 he discovered the soprano saxophone, and made it his own. He pretty much invented jazz saxophone, and was an astonishing and inventive stylist. He was not, however, an easy man to get along with, and for many years what a biographer delicately calls his “erratic temperament” prevented him from gaining the full success he deserved.

sidney_bechet_freddie_moore_lloyd_phillips_gottlieb_00521

Sidney Bechet in 1947. Picture: Library of Congress, via WikiMedia Commons

However, he mellowed with age, and in 1950 he settled in France, and there became a genuine star. Very popular among bohemian intellectuals, in Existentialist circles he was known as “le dieu” (“the god”).

Here is one of his works, recorded in duet with trumpeter Jonah Jones, with their take on the Fats Waller tune “Squeeze Me”, recorded in Paris in 1954.

  • Artist: Sidney Bechet and Jonah Jones
  • EP Title: Sidney Bechet – Jonah Jones
  • Series Title: Paris by Night
  • Track: B1 “Squeeze Me”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, mono
  • Label: PYE International
  • Catalogue: IEP008
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1960 (recorded Paris, 1954)

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs.

 

Who killed Eleanor Rigby?

According to the song, Eleanor Rigby

… died in the church
And was buried, along with her name

How did she die? The song gives no clues, though I used to be suspicious of Father McKenzie. But I now have a new theory. Eleanor Rigby was killed by a Moog.

moogThe Moog (which is pronounced to rhyme with Minogue, as in Kylie, rather than moo, as in cow) was the first synthesiser to be widely used. There were earlier machines – one of them, the Novochord, appeared on a recording in 1949 – but the Moog was the first one to be commercially viable, and in the late 1960s it became popular to set well-known tunes to Moog arrangements.

And so Marty Gold, a veteran arranger and producer with RCA Victor, recorded Moog Plays the Beatles. It was released in 1969. The Beatles were still together, the Moon landings were big news, and the Moog must have sounded exciting, space-age, the wave of the future.

And now?

Well, have a listen, with open ears, and make up your own mind. Was Eleanor Rigby was murdered by a Moog?

  • Artist: Marty Gold
  • LP Title: Moog Plays the Beatles
  • Track: Side 1, Track 1 “Eleanor Rigby”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Summit
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1969

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

 

Rhyming slang

It is a misfortune perhaps unique in the whole of popular music. Barry Crocker was an Australian pop crooner in the early 1970s: something in the style of Tom Jones or Englebert Humperdinck. He must have sold truckloads of records, because it is a rare op-shop in Australia which does not have several of his LPs. He is up there with James Last and Nana Mouskouri.

This means, of course, that Barry Crocker is now hopelessly daggy, a fossil, a man whose record covers could be used to define “uncool”.

barry-crocker-lp

They don’t make satin shirts like the used to …

But that is true of lots of singers of yesteryear. No, Barry Crocker’s singular curse is that his name was used as rhyming slang for “shocker”, and the term stuck. You will hear a sports commentator say of a football player “He’s having an absolute Barry Crocker. Can’t do anything right!” The expression is entrenched, used by people too young to get the connection. Like a “Dorothy Dixer”, (which is an unchallenging question asked by a sycophantic journalist at a press conference), the “Barry Crocker”, meaning dreadful performance, is just part of the Australian vernacular.

All a bit unfair, really. As this track, a single he released in 1973, attests, Baz could sing.

0160-crocker-aA piece of trivia: one of the singers on backing vocals is Olivia Newton-John. In the 1970s, it was considered hilariously funny to call her Olivia Neutron-Bomb. Unlike the Barry Crocker, that joke has  not lasted.

  • Artist: Barry Crocker
  • Single title: Suzie Darlin’
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Festival
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: FK 5087
  • Year: 1973

Unpretentious in Spokane

I used to be a journalist, and worked briefly for the best-selling tabloid newspaper in Australia. One of the expressions we used, and which I hated, cropped up if a financial institution collapsed, or a con-man was exposed. The story about the victims would gravely begin “They are the mums-and-dads investors …”

This has nothing to do with music, but it illustrates the strange nature of prejudice. I had an aversion –irrational, absurd – to a record by a band called “The Mom and Dads”. I had never heard of them, never heard their music: the name just pressed the wrong buttons because of bad experiences in a news room 25 years ago.

The Planet Vinyl motto is just listen! And The Mom and Dads, off-putting name and all, are worth listening to.

0053-a

The Planet Vinyl motto is just listen! And The Mom and Dads, off-putting name and all, are worth listening to.

They really were one mum/mom, whose name was Doris, and three dads: Quentin, Leslie and Harold. They hailed from Spokane, Washington. (The state, in the far north-west of the United States, not the angst-ridden capital city.) The four all had day jobs and played dance music, in all sorts of genres, out of hours. They did it well and gained a local following. One of their tunes, “The Ranger’s Waltz”, was picked up by a radio station in nearby Minnesota, and because the signal carried to Canada, suddenly The Mom and Dads became small-big, especially in Canada and Australia.

0053-bAnd they deserved their success. This was the beginning of the 1970s, and bucking all trends they played tight, old-style dance music, much of which was of their own composition. “The Ranger’s Waltz” is the best known, but I have gone for the B-side of that single. It is a fun boogie tune, in B flat, written by the band member called Quentin. It is called – they are unpretentious folk in Spokane – “Quentin’s B Flat Boogie”. And you know what? It’s great! Have a listen.

  • Artist: The Mom and Dads
  • Single title: The Rangers Waltz
  • Track: B “Quentin’s B Flat Boogie”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: GNP Crescendo
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: CNPK-4428
  • Year: 1971

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs