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

Five things I didn’t know about Dave Brubeck.

Five things I did not know about Dave Brubeck.

  1. He studied for two years to be a vet, before his zoology professor told him: “”Brubeck, your mind’s not here. It’s across the lawn in the conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours.”
  2. During the Second World War, while Brubeck was serving in the US Army, he helped organise the first racially integrated army band.brubeck
  3. His most famous number, “Take Five”, is the best-selling jazz single of all time.
  4. The album from which it came, Time Out, was the first jazz album to sell one million copies. That album is notable for unusual time signatures. “Take Five” is in 5/4, while the track featured below, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” is in 9/8.
  5. In 1951, Brubeck was badly injured while swimming in the surf in Hawaii. For a time it was feared he might never play music again. (Perhaps Brian Wilson’s aquaphobia was mere prudence?)

One thing I did already know, because it is folklore among Australian journalists. When Brubeck arrived here for a tour in 1960, he was asked possibly the dumbest question ever raised at a press conference: “Mr Brubeck, how many musicians are there in your quartet?”

Dave Brubeck was one of those rare musicians who was both seriously experimental, pushing the boundaries of his art, and hugely popular. Tune in to “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, which was inspired by the rhythms of Turkish folk music, and you will understand why.

  • Artist: ‎ The Dave Brubeck Quartet
  • LP Title: Time Out
  • Track: Side 1, Track 1 “Blue Rondo A La Turk”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Columbia
  • Manufactured in: Japan
  • Catalogue number: YS-214
  • Year: 1964 (original release 1959)

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

More than one gay in the village

The Village People were a marketing concept before they were a band. A record producer, Jacques Morali, had the idea of a camp disco-dance act, which would draw on gay stereotypes. He secured a recording contract before he even had found anyone to fill the roles of dog man, biker, cop and the others. Despite this calculated beginning, what emerged was unique. in_the_navy

The period of the Village People’s success was short, just a couple of years, and in truth they were a one trick pony. All their music sounds pretty much the same.

Exhibit A:

That comes from “Manhattan Woman”. But you could mistake it for “In the Navy,” for which it was the B-side, or indeed pretty much any of their hits.

But, hey, on Planet Vinyl we don’t dis anyone who makes music, especially when that music brings joy to millions of people. You still see people jumping around to the Village People’s hits, and enjoying themselves hugely. The music is fun and danceable.

More than that, there is a subversive streak to the Village People which entirely missed me when I heard them on the radio back in the late 1970s. I thought “In the Navy” was, well, a song encouraging people to join the navy. But listening to the lyrics now, one appreciates a certain double-entendre goin’ down.

If you like adventure, don’t you wait to enter
The recruiting office fast
Don’t you hesitate, there is no need to wait
They’re signing up new seamen fast

They must have had fun coming up with all that, and they sound like they are having fun in the singing, too. Unlike the guy in Little Britain, there was more than one gay in the village.

  • Artist: Village People
  • Title: In the Navy
  • Tracks: A “In the Navy”, B “Manhattan Woman”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: RCA Victor
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1978

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

Flavoursome creamy goodness

I was born too late, but I would have loved to have done the voice-overs for the old newsreels. You know the kind of thing: we see grainy footage of Lancaster bombers taking off, while a slightly posh, nasal, monotone voice intones “The brave boys of the RAF take to the air, off to give Jerry a packet. You won’t be getting much sleep tonight, Mr Hitler!”

2082Sometimes these soundtracks turn up on disc, and this is one of them. It is the voice-over which was played to accompany a six-minute film promoting a brand of butter, Western Star, in about 1962. Western Star was then, and is still, an iconic brand in this part of the world.butter

The butter, I’m happy to say, is genuinely excellent. Sadly, I can’t eat butter any more – cholesterol issues, weight, all that drab stuff which comes with middle age. But tell you what, listening to this makes me want to rush out and buy a pound of “flavoursome creamy goodness” and whip up a sponge cake.

  • Artist: Western District Co-operative Co. Ltd.
  • LP Title: Western Star Butter
  • Format: 12” acetate LP, 33⅓ rpm, mono
  • Label: Audio Visual Australia
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: c. 1962

Many of the records featured on this blog are for sale via Discogs

 

Love song to a weed

The key to appreciating the music of Hawaii? Ignore the kitsch album covers. Pay no attention to the palm trees, hula girls, frangipani and bright shirts. As Hawaiian LPs go, this one actually isn’t too bad: just a murky sunset. Lame, rather than loud.

2074-coverEven more important: do not read the sleeve notes, which belong to the same genre as try-hard travel brochures.

2074-detailI did tell you not to read it.

Ignore all that. Just listen.

This record is cocktail-hour, hammock-sway stuff, skillful and restrained mood music by the Maile Serenaders, which was a floating collective of some of Hawaii’s best musicians of the 1950s. On Evening in the Islands they do laid-back versions of island standards, including this one, “White Ginger Blossoms”.

It is actually a bit hard for an Australian to get misty-eyed about White Ginger, which is listed under the Biosecurity Act (2014) as “a restricted invasive plant”. It is, in other words, a declared noxious weed. You might as well sing romantically about Kudzu Vine, or Prickly Pear. But a lovely tune, even if it is about a weed.

  • Artist: The Maile Serenaders
  • LP Title: Evening in the Islands
  • Side 1, Track 5 “White Ginger Blossoms”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, stereo
  • Label: Warner
  • Catalogue number: WS 1584
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1963

Many of the records featured on Planet Vinyl are for sale on Discogs.

 

A bratwurst wearing lederhosen

The Germans, it is said, have a word for everything. What we call a “Long Playing record”, for example, is a Langspielplatte. It is popular to scoff at the Germans for their long, compound words. According to the Guinness Book of Records the longest German word in common use is Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften, “legal indemnity insurance companies”.

1039-cuHere on Planet Vinyl, we do not engage in such Brexit trash talk. If you love Veraltete Tontechnik (“obsolete sound engineering technology”) you quickly develop a great respect for German craftsmanship. Those Deutsche certainly knew how to make a Grammophon.

1039-disc-and-sleeveOne of the great things about music is its capacity to smash stereotypes. This is a recording by the pianist Helmut Rollof of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Fifteen Variations and Fugue in E Flat Major” (also known as the “Erioca Variations”). German composer; German pianist; German record label. As German, in short, as a bratwurst sausage wearing lederhosen, and as beautiful as a butterfly landing on a cherry blossom.

  • Artist: Helmut Roloff
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • LP Title: 15 Variationen Mit Fuge In Es-dur Op. 35 (Erioca)
  • Side 2, Track 1: “Variation 14”
  • Format: 10” LP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • Catalogue: 16009 LP
  • Manufactured in: Germany
  • Year: 1952

Many of the records featured on this blog are for sale via Discogs