The Beatles throw a long shadow, such that other parts of the rich musical tradition of Liverpool can get a bit lost. Like many other ports and industrial centres, Liverpool drew waves of migrants in search of work. Each community brought their own music, and the result was a melting pot of influences from all over Britain and Ireland and beyond. This is not to gloss over the poverty, discrimination and sheer hard grind Scousers often faced, but there was creativity, solidarity and humour as well.
One face of Liverpool as the Singing City was the Spinners, a folk group (not to be confused with the Detroit soul outfit of the same name) which formed in 1958. The Spinners became a fixture on the folk scene, and then took their music to wider audiences. Their repertoire was a mix of their own original material, traditional songs, and the work of other songwriters. This is one, “Liverpool Lullaby”, written by fellow Scouser, Stan Kelly-Bootle. It is a song of tough love, and is funny, dark and tender, all at the same time.
Artist: The Spinners
Album: The Singing City
Track: B1 Liverpool Lullaby
Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl
Made in: UK
Catalogue: 6382 002
Year: Unknown (early 1970s?)
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“This is an age of Do-It-Yourself,” proclaims the sleeve note on this battered old LP, “not only for novice carpenters, plumbers and Sunday painters”. No indeed. Our copywriter – as ferocious a fan of alliterative adornment as ever clanged the keys of a QWERTY keyboard – goes on:
For millions of music-minded moderns, tired of being drenched by store-bought ‘n, factory made-music which gushes out of the radio and the television set, it is an age of Sing-It-Yourself. Business is booming for pianos, guitars and harmonicas, the “do-it-yourself” instruments.
The big book of favorite old songs is become as standard in the modern home as black wrought-iron furnishings and foam rubber cushions. We are starting to sing again, in old-fashioned family style. It’s as healthy and nourishing as the big Sunday dinner at Grandma’s.
And so this Long Playing songfest of old favorites to help get the fun started at your house. You don’t need a piano or guitar or harmonica. But if you have one, all the better. All set? Let’s everybody sing.
Oh well, the guy was just making a living.
The Hugo and Luigi whose names grace this album did much more than make a living. (Speaking of grace, you can imagine Grace Kelly as the elegant young woman on the right, but I digress.) Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore were huge in the recording industry in the 1950s. Seriously, Empire-State-Building huge. They were songwriters and producers, and oversaw recordings by Perry Como, Sam Cooke, and The Isley Brothers. Another production credit was a handsome young Southern boy by name of Elvis Presley, for whom they also co-wrote ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’.
So why would Hugo and Luigi, who can’t have been short of a crust in 1959 when this record was released, why would they have put out a DIY singalong record, running through standards from “Auld Lang Syne” to “When You and I Were Young, Maggie”? Not sure. But Grace Kelly and her pals can really sing. It is a nicely produced record – a bit straight-laced, like the folk on the cover, but there are lovely harmonies. One gripe. Lots of the tracks begin with a short intro from an electric organ. This sort of thing:
Much as I try to love all music and all instruments, that burst of Hammond makes me think I am trapped in a church service in 1978. So I have (not like me at all) edited out the organ intro to this track, an otherwise lovely rendition of “All Through the Night”.
Nice singing, for a bunch of novice plumbers.
Artist: Hugo and Luigi with their Family Singers
LP Title: Sing Along by the Fireside
Track: Side 1, Track 6 “All Through the Night”
Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
Label: Wing (Mercury) MGW 12207
Manufactured in: United States
Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs.