Out of the Shadows

Terence “Jet” Harris was a star bass player in the early days of British skiffle and rock. In the late 1950s he joined Cliff Richard’s backing band, the Shadows, and became famous. But he suffered depressin, and began drinking heavily. He quarreled with the other Shadows, leaving the band in 1962.

Jet at Abbey Road

Jet Harris recording at Abbey Road Studios. Image: http://jetharrismemorialfund.org/

By 1963, Harris was on the slide, in trouble with the law for alcohol-fuelled violence and badly injured in a car crash. He slid out of music, and worked as a labourer, a bus conductor and a hospital porter – drinking all the while. In 1988, he was declared bankrupt. But at that time he also, for the first time, admitted to his alcoholism, sought help, and gradually began to return to music and rebuild his career and his life. He successfully performed with old mates, including other former Shadows, and Marty Wilde, and remained active on the stage until his death in 2011.

After the Shadows and before the drinking really took hold, Harris had some solo hits, including this one, a version of the Mexican song “Besame Mucho” (roughly “kiss me a lot”). It might be reading too much into things, but is there, in the dark, moody twang of Jet Harris’ guitar, a portent of things to come?

  • Artist: Jet Harris
  • Single Title: Besame Mucho
  • Tracks: A “Besame Mucho” Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Decca
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: Y-7081
  • Year: 1962

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Hard rubbish

There are some artists who are hard to take seriously, not because they are obscure but because they were once enormously popular. If you love to hunt for old records in op-shops and thrift-stores, as I do, you see these guys so often that you flick straight past them.

James Last. Nana Mouskouri. Kamahl. Harry Secombe. Yawn.

Even on Planet Vinyl, where inclusiveness is our creed, it is hard sometimes to give a fair go to the over-familiar. So it is that I only came to own a copy of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights because someone put it out for hard rubbish collection.

whipped cream coverNot sure if people do this elsewhere, but in Australia there is a strange social convention. No honest person one would think of taking, say, an exercise bike from someone’s front porch. However, if the same exercise bike is put out on the nature strip, it is there for the taking. There is no need for a note saying “free, please take”. Everyone understands that the thing is being given away. The same applies to couches, barbeques, DVD players – the whole detritus of modern life.

Only once have I ever met records put out in this way, but it happened. Not far from my house, by the side of the road, was a birdcage, a foot bath, two standing lamps and a box of records – jazz and pop from the fifties and sixties. My family were with me, and impatient, so there was no time to be choosy – I just grabbed the whole lot. And so, after marvelling at the cover and giving the disc a good clean, I finally just listened Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass.whipped cream label

Herb, I discovered, could blow. The Tijuana Brass was slick, with a great sound: big-band swing with a touch of Mariachi.

Something else I learned. Whipped Cream & Other Delights was massively popular. The copy I found was an Australian re-issue from 1966, but it was released the previous year. It was number one on the album charts in the US for eight weeks. It stayed in the charts for more than three years. The cassette tape was a new technology then, just becoming popular as a way to play music in cars, and Whipped Cream was one of the first titles to win a “Gold Cartridge”. That sounds kinda funny now, but must have been worth a lot of money back then.

So, imagine. It is 1966. Fuel has lead in it, speeds are in miles-per-hour, no one wears seatbelts, and you have installed a tape deck in your Holden Monaro. You are out on a date on a warm summer night. Roll down the windows, and press ‘play’.

  • Artist: Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass
  • LP Title: Whipped Cream & Other Delights
  • Side 1, Track 5: “Whipped Cream”
  • Format: 12” LP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Festival SFL-931,680
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1966 (first released 1965)