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10" 1930s 78 rpm Jazz

A man of appetite

A man of appetite, was Fats Waller. Like many a sensualist, he was the son of a preacher man, born in 1904 in New York State. Astonishingly gifted, he was playing piano and organ in churches by the age of ten, and worked as a professional cinema organist while in his teens. He moved into […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm Jazz Pop

That whistling man with the bones

Freeman David was a shoeshine boy from Alabama. While he worked, he would whistle and tap out percussion with whatever was to hand. He became good at it, a precise whistler and able to play the bones, holding four sticks in each hand rather than the usual two. As a performer, under the name “Whistling […]

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12" 1950s 33 rpm Jazz LP

His piano talks

It was a battered old op-shop LP which introduced me to George Shearing, the blind working class lad from London who became a star jazz pianist. In my post about that record, You’re Hearing George Shearing (1952), I wrote: It is a cliché, but I can think of no better way to say it: his […]

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12" 1950s Jazz LP

A Sergeant Pepper’s before there was one

The technology for stereo sound was invented in the 1930s. No one used it much. It was partly that the equipment, both to record and play back stereo, was expensive. But mostly, no one saw much point in stereo music. The first stereo LPs came out in the mid-1950s, and they were all of sound […]

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12" 1980s 45 rpm Jazz

The alt + obscure litmus test

The true test of whether a record is both obscure and alternative? You should be able to pick it up and look at the cover, read the words on it, and have no idea what is the band name, and what is the record title. Equal Local (which turns out to be the band) pass […]

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10" 1930s Jazz

Chopin does the tango

The world is so full of strange coincidence that I should stop being surprised. But still. The shuttle which lands on Planet Vinyl is programmed to be random but different. If yesterday we heard a 7-inch 45 rpm playing eighties synth-pop, the only certainty about today is that it will NOT be a synth-pop single […]

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1980s 45 rpm 7" Jazz Pop

The ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ Guy

“Bobby who?” That is what people will say if you mention Bobby McFerrin. But start to sing “Don’t worry”, they will instantly join in “be happy”, and most of the time will also start to smile. I too knew “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, a novelty hit from 1988, which I liked at the time and […]

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1970s 7" Jazz

Played banjo, wore funny hats

He was, everyone agrees, “a Melbourne institution”. Perhaps because my day job is to teach criminology, the term institution has an ambivalent ring for mine. Her Majesty’s Prison Pentridge, where the hardest criminals in the land were incarcerated behind bluestone walls and razor wire until the 1990s, that too was “a Melbourne institution”.Graham Francis Fitzgibbon, […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm Jazz

I happened to pass by a music store

Marie Warder was a teacher, writer and pianist who grew up in South Africa. Not long after the end of the Second World War, she was walking on a street in Johannesburg. I was about nineteen, newly married and very much in love, when I happened to pass by a music store one day, and […]

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1950s 45 rpm 7" EP Jazz Latin

The Iron Chef deception

There are crushing moments when illusions, fondly nurtured for years, are shattered. Santa Claus isn’t real. No Viking ever had horns on his helmet. Chairman Kaga, the poncy Japanese playboy who used his personal fortune to create Kitchen Stadium and named his men the Iron Chefs, did not exist. Not quite as devastating, because I […]