Carmen was a boy

Carmen Dragon was the stage name of, well, Carmen Dragon. Slightly unusual name, especially for a male born in California in 1915. His first claim to public notice was as the composer of a theme song for his local high school. A local newspaper gave the composing credit to “a high school girl, Carmen Dragon”. Even in our more gender-fluid times, you can understand the mistake. But this Dragon was made of tough stuff, and he thrived in California, bringing his musical talents to the emerging film industry, and establishing himself as a leading composer and arranger of film scores.

Dragon SpainHe also served as conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, which performed for decades on a radio music program introducing classical music to primary school audiences, and the HBSO also recorded several LPs. This is one of them, and I will admit that I had low expectations. The cover is a tad tacky. Scratch that: bigly tacky. With the Spanish theme and the toreador on the sleeve, I was expecting lots of castanets and mariachi brass. There is a bit of that, but it is subtle, used well. This is a fine recording of classical music, the pieces all chosen around a theme which is not overworked.

This is my favourite track, an arrangement of Manuel de Falla’s ballet piece “Ritual Fire Dance”, which was written in the year of Dragon’s birth. It is dramatic and beautiful.

  • Artist:, Carmen Dragon, conducting the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
  • LP Title: Echoes Of Spain
  • Side 1, Track 2: “Ritual Fire Dance”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, mono
  • Label: Capitol Records
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1955

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

 

 

Early-model Bieber

Paul Anka was a sort of early-model Justin Bieber. A Canadian-born singer who became a star at a young age, and was a bit of a honey.

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Paul Anka in 1961. Photo Wikimedia

This was his first big hit: a love song in which a young man expresses his undying devotion to a lady by the name of Diana. Lyrically, Shakespeare it ain’t:

Thrills I get when you hold me close
Oh, my darling, you’re the most

Hmm. Even the start: “I’m so young and you’re so old”. In my experience, telling a girl you fancy that she’s old is not a great plan. If untrue, she will be offended. If true, she will be offended …

Never mind, the song was a one of the biggest hits of all time – something like nine million copies were sold, which in 1957 was a staggering number.

Paul Anka, happily, seems to have avoided the personal tragedy which is often the lot of the teen star. He reinvented himself several times, and remained active as a performer and composer for  some fifty years. Among his credits are the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way”. He is still with us, and well into his seventies he is still performing. This is a guy whose first recordings came out on 78 rpm. If Justin Bieber manages something similar sixty years from now,  he’ll be doing pretty well

  • Artist: Paul Anka
  • Single Title: Diana
  • Format: 10”, 78 rpm, mono
  • Label: W&G
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: WG-XPN 496
  • Year: 1957

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

 

Easter special

How many pop songs about Easter do you know?

It’s is a curious thing. There is lots of lovely church music for Easter, just as there is for Christmas. But popular music? Every man and his dog has released a Christmas album – there are so many in the op-shops of Australia that they effect Earth’s gravitational pull. But there is no “Rudolph the Red Nosed Rabbit”, no “I Saw Mummy Kiss the Easter Bunny”.

vaughan and erskineIf you want something rare, though, Planet Vinyl is the place to go.

In 1958, the great Sarah Vaughan teamed up with Billy Eckstine – not so well-remembered now, but a star singer and bandleader in his day – to collaborate on an album of Irving Berlin songs. One of them is “Easter Parade”, written by Berlin in 1933 and later a hit for Bing Crosby and Liberace, among others. Sage observers declare “The song is often considered to be one of the most popular Easter songs of all time”. Not sure that it has a great deal of competition, but it’s fun and happy and Sarah and Billy sing it beautifully.

Happy Easter from Planet Vinyl.

  • Artist: Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine
  • LP Title: Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine ‎Sing The Best Of Irving Berlin
  • Side 2, Track 4 “Easter Parade”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, mono
  • Label: Mercury
  • Catalogue number: MG 20316
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1958

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

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.

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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.

 

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

 

Twang!

Duane Eddy was one of the first rock ’n roll guitar heroes. He used the bass strings of his Grestch guitar (the one on the right on the album sleeve picture below) to play a melody line. This was recorded through an echo chamber to create a distinctive, almost grungy rock sound.

2977-coverEddy is best remembered for the theme to the detective show Peter Gunn, but he did a lot else, including movie and television soundtracks, and with his band The Rebels had a long string of huge hits, selling more than 12 million records between 1958 and 1963. Eddy’s ‘twang’ sound made him a rich man, and inspired legions of teenagers to learn guitar. Among his admirers were Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ry Cooder.

This track was his first release. It was only modestly successful, but it is a perfect jukebox number. The low-down guitar is complemented by a brassy, sleazy saxophone. It’s wild, and sexy. Imagine hearing this bursting out of the speakers in a small town diner in 1958. Twang!

  • Artist: ‎Duane Eddy,
  • LP Title: $1,000,000 Worth Of Twang
  • Track: B1 “Moovin’ ‘N Groovin’”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: London Records
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: HAA 7621
  • Year: 1962 (this track first released 1958)

A young Catholic wife’s lament

To say that “Padre” is a sentimental song like saying that Donald Trump may prove an unfortunate choice as American president. It is a 1950s pop weepie, sung here by the actor Erin O’Brien, but also a hit for Toni Arden and later performed by many another, including Marty Robbins and Elvis Presley.

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Erin O’Brien (image Bud Lewis, via Wikipedia)

The song is, as they say these days, heavily gendered, so the lyrics change depending on whether the artist is male or female. For Erin and Toni, it is a young Catholic wife’s lament. She is telling the Parish priest how her happy marriage is threatened by a gorgeous, possibly Protestant, hussy who has caught the eye of her to-date loyal and lovin’ man.

Then she came along
And sang him her song
And won him with honeyed lies
She of the golden eyes
Now it’s my heart that cries

I did warn that it was sentimental.

O’Brien had no need of method acting to be convincing. Born in Los Angeles in 1934, she was one of 14 children. She was first married at 17. Her brothers and sisters were (I’m not making this up) Sean, Denis, Tighe, Petrice, Mavourneen, Kevin, Eileen, Kathleen, Timarie, Vernon, Sheila, Tessy-Lou, and Michael. Guessing that she counted the odd rosary as a girl?

Erin O’Brien was a genuine star in her day, though more as an actor than a singer, but she does a nice job of tugging at heartstrings here.

  • Artist: Erin O’Brien
  • Single Title: Padre / Honey Boy
  • Track: Side A “Padre”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Coral
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: CK-3619
  • Year: 1958

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