‘Greater commercial success expected …’

There is an entire continent of Planet Vinyl called Neverquite. This is where we find the recordings of those honest toilers in the vineyard of song who “never quite” made it big. There is sadness here, but less than you might expect. There are those who were crushed along with their dreams, and whose ghosts are bitter. But more often there is pride in having done something good, and a mature acceptance that failure in terms of fame and showbiz is not failure in life.

The patron saint of Neverquite is Dick Contino. He was a talented piano-accordionist from L.A., who had a hit or two in the late 1940s. He later became friends with crime writer James Ellroy, who wrote a novella about Contino. Right at the end Contino muses:

My career never regained its early momentum. Lounge gigs, dago banquets—I earn a decent living playing music I love.

So many artists who pop up on Planet Vinyl belong in this space: happy enough living in Neverquite.

Here is another. Jackie Lee. No, not the handsome young country singer of recent times. This Jackie Lee was female, born Jacqueline Norah Flood, in Dublin in 1936. She was a child prodigy, enjoying success first in Ireland and then after moving to London. She sang with dance bands and vocal groups and was a fixture on variety shows. She sang backing vocals on international hits, including Tom Jones’ “Green, Green Grass of Home”.

jackie_1

Jackie Lee. Image: The World of Jackie Lee

She had extraordinary vocal range, and she was good looking, and a decent actor. She seemed set for stardom  … but it never quite happened. If you are interested, some loyal fans have established a website, The World of Jackie Lee which tells her story. Meantime, have a listen to the two sides of this single, an Australian release from 1962.

There’s No-One In The Whole Wide World

(I Was The) Last One To Know

The website says of this record:

The fact that these … recordings were issued overseas suggests far greater commercial success was expected than actually happened.

Never quite … but she earned a decent living playing music she loved. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Artist: Jackie Lee and The Raindrops
  • A Side: There’s No-One In The Whole Wide World
  • B Side: (I Was The) Last One To Know
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, mono
  • Label: W&G
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: WG-S-1361
  • Year: 1962

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

 

 

 

Kali or an octopus

The uilleann pipes is a musical instrument of such extraordinary complexity it could only have been invented by the Irish.

pipesIt is related to the bagpipes, but you don’t blow into it. The uilleann pipes is inflated with a small set of bellows, strapped around the waist and the right arm. It has three sorts of pipe: the chanter (on which you play the melody) , drones, and also regulators. There are three of these (tenor, baritone and bass), and each one has a set of keys to play chords accompanying the melody. It is astonishing that this instrument can be played by anything short of the many-armed Indian god Kali. Or maybe an octopus.

2060 sleeve full

But played it is, and it is a beautiful instrument, quieter and more subtle than the bagpipes. Among the bands which kept is use alive was the Gallowglass Ceili Band, part of the Irish cultural revival. This track comes from an LP released in 1968, the same year as The Beatles’ “White Album” and the Stones’ Beggars Banquet. It was, in short, irredeemably square even at the time of its release. Just look at the bloke playing the pipes on the album sleeve.

2060 sleeve Pot-smoking flower child on the Summer of Love? Not so much.

Ah, but we respect all music here on Planet Vinyl, and we have a special place in our hearts for those dedicated souls who keep alive ancient traditions by playing impossible instruments. And Gallowglass could pump out a mighty tune. Just listen.

  • Artist: The Gallowglass Ceili Band
  • LP Title: Irish Night
  • Side 1, Track 4 “McDermott’s Reel”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, mono
  • Label: Hallmark
  • Catalogue number: Hallmark
  • Manufactured in: UK
  • Year: 1968

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

 

The wheel turns

“Majella has a very bright future” declares the sleeve note on this LP. There are lots of quotes from the papers, too. “Majella will be a recording star of international fame,” says one. “Majella Brady is currently tipped to be Ireland’s top pop export for many years,” opines another. On it goes: “A new star will shine in the North- Greatest hope of a top line singer since Ruby Murray.” So, no pressure.

Majella front cover

Majella Brady is a native of Country Derry, in Northern Ireland. And for a time she was the Next Big Thing in Irish music, the Republic as well as Ulster. She had a few top ten singles in the mid-1960s, when still a teenager. But here’s the thing. Ireland is a pretty small place. Its population in 1969, when this album was released, was just over three million people. This is about the same as Mongolia now, and fewer than Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Majella back detailNot a big market, which is why all the talk about being an “export”. Majella got exported and had some success, especially in the country and western scene, but never quite broke through into the mainstream. Just guessing, but inflated expectations from a parochial homeland may not have helped.

She lives in Scotland now, and is still about, and still performs and releases music. She returned to Derry in 2014 for her first performance there in nearly 40 years, and she told the local paper: “I feel I am the forgotten singer of Derry”. But there is no bitterness: she comes across as a cheerful, kind, vivacious woman. She makes a good living playing music she loves, and who could ask for more?

In “The Spinning Wheel”, the title track of this album, is in this spirit. A young woman grabs the chance to sneak out to meet her lover in the moonlight. The wheel turns, but live life to the full.

  • Artist: Majella, with Don Lowes and his Orchestra,
  • LP Title: The Spinning Wheel & Other Irish Favourites
  • Side 1, Track 2: “Piano Trio In B Flat, Op. 99, D.898, Second Movement, Andante Un Poco Mosso”
  • Format: 12” 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Hallmark SHM 699
  • Manufactured in: England
  • Year: 1969

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