Cross-over Man

Cross-over. It was a buzz term in music marketing, back in the 80s. Like many things from that decade it was applied cynically. Industry executives were worried that Micheal Jackson would not make them quite enough money because, well, he was black, n’ all.  So they hired Eddie van Halen, with impeccable redneck street-cred, to play the guitar solo on “Beat It”. This would ensure radio airplay in the Southern states, you see.

Just one of many examples of such cold calculation, which brought the whole idea of cross-over into disrepute. This is a shame, because, at core, music which crosses over between cultures, or even sub-cultures, is surely a good thing. Elvis. Dylan. The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. All cross-over in one way or another. It means reaching out, breaking down barriers of prejudice.

“Prejudice”: literally, to pre-judge, decide without a fair hearing. Which is to say, without just listening.

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Jim Reeves. Image: WikiMedia

Which brings us to Jimmy Reeves. “Gentleman Jim”, they called him. Starting out as a shrill hillbilly country singer, Reeves changed his singing style, brought in elements of pop, elements of swing jazz, and became something of a crooner – but still country, and in many ways much more than that.

Born in 1923, Reeves served a long apprenticeship working the country music circuit. He performed on the great radio shows of the 1950s, Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry, and was already established in country before he broke through to the pop charts in 1957, with the hit “Four Walls”.

And did he cross-over, or what? It is one thing to record in Nashville and make the US pop charts. It is quite another to become a revered, genuinely loved artist across nations and cultures, most of which have never seen a Stetson hat outside of a movie theatre. And that is what Reeves did.

Reeves was listened to and loved – and is still remembered fondly if fan websites are anything to judge by – in the UK, in Norway, in the Netherlands, in South Africa (he was so big there that he recorded songs in Afrikaans), in India, in Sri Lanka, and in a whole host of other places you would not expect. Reeves died tragically young, killed in an air crash in 1964, but his music lived on.

The secret of  Reeve’s appeal? Part was his pure, smooth vocal style. Part was his ability to give emotional conviction to the (let’s face it) sentimental lyrics which are country music’s core. He was a Christian, too, and he expressed his faith in his music without being bombastic or preachy.

This track “Suppertime” is the B-side to a 1965 single. It is sentimental to the extent it needs a heart-health warning, but Reeves carries it off. He was already dead when the record was released, which makes the message all the more poignant: there is a loving God, at whose table all of us are welcome. Just listen.

  • Artist: Jim Reeves
  • A Side: How Long Has It Been
  • B Side: Suppertime
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, mono
  • Label: RCA
  • Made in: UK
  • Catalogue: RCA-1445
  • Year: 1965

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big in Norway

Jon English, an Australian singer and actor, died earlier this year. I had one of his records for sale online, the soundtrack to a 1978 historical drama, all about Australia in convict times, Against the Wind.  Soon after Jon died, someone ordered it. Not too surprising – except that the order came from, of all places, Norway.

atw

One of the great things about selling old records is chatting to the people who buy them. There is so often a fascinating story. So I asked:

One thing I am curious about – Jon English was big here in Australia, but I am a little surprised that anyone in Norway has heard of him. I take it you are a fan? Sad about his passing.

The buyer, Leif, replied:

Jon English is well known in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Denmark). Against the Wind was broadcast on Norwegian television in the 80s, and in Sweden and Denmark at about the same time. The soundtrack album came with its own translation. In Norway, we bought the Swedish version. The Danish title was “Mod vinden”, meaning “Against the Wind”, the Swedish title was “Mot alla vindar”, meaning “Against All Winds”

A Danish artist, Lene Siel, did a duo with Jon English with the song “Six Ribbons”.

Norwegian band Green Carnation did a cover version of the same track.

Jon English played at the Sweden Rock Festival 2013.

So, you see, he’s well known here. And yes, I’m a fan myself. Very sad he died so early and so unexpected!

Lief also tells me that complete series of Against the Wind is now available on DVD in “Australia, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands … So, as you see, Sweden and Norway, again and again…”

Usually on Planet Vinyl, we don’t play the hits, but here I will make an exception. I learned this song back in primary school, and love it still. Have a listen, and you’ll see why it was big in Norway.

  • Artist: Jon English and Mario Millo
  • LP Title: Against The Wind
  • Track: Side 2, Track 2 “Six Ribbons”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Polydor, 2907 048
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1978

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs. Mention this code “MSD519” to receive a free 7-inch disc of your choice (up to the value of $5.00) with any purchase.