Mozart for shopping malls

There are times when putting on a record whisks you though time and space, and places you down in an achingly familiar yet strange world. Suddenly you are watching Sunday television sitting on a beanbag in a shag-pile carpeted lounge-room. It is 1973. The theme music from the shows of this period is distinctive, evocative. You can almost smell the faint linger of cigarette smoke in the drapes, see the burnt-orange tiled coffee table.

waldoIt is now hopelessly daggy, even a bit tasteless, especially when lovely music from the past has been put through a crushed velvet mangle and served with a prawn cocktail. Mozart for shopping malls. My dad, a classical music purist, hated this “classics up-to-date” style with the fire of a thousand suns. Listening now, even on open-minded and inclusive Planet Vinyl, ya have to admit it: he had a point.

But, hey, it was of its time. It gave musicians a living. And it transports me back to a world in which there were wholesome black-and-white television shows about show-jumping, macramé pot hangers and English country houses. There are worse places.

  • Artist: Waldo De Los Rios,
  • A Side: Mozart: Symphonie N° 40 En Sol Mineur K. 550 – 1er Mouvement (Allegro Molto)
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Hispavox
  • Made in: Belgium
  • Catalogue: 2022 004
  • Year: 1971

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

 

Those Rambunctious Monkees

They are the Pinocchio of pop music, The Monkees. The four members were brought together by the producer of a television show. They were hired as actors, to play the roles of members of a fictional band. The show, and the music in it, became enormously popular. In the late 1960s they were seriously likened to The Beatles. Some wit dubbed them “the Pre-Fab Four”.

monkees_tv_guide

Image: TV/Tropes

Pinocchio-like, there was some deceit involved. In the first two albums credited to The Monkees, the members of the “band” did not actually play the music – they sang the vocal tracks, but that was all. They wanted to play, but weren’t allowed to. That came later – this artificial creation, this made-up pop group, won artistic control.

Pinocchio-like, they were transformed into a real band.

You can understand why The Monkees wanted to be free, but their early, semi-artificial records stand up well. Okay, mostly. Hearing Davey Jones reciting sentimental poetry is like being having luke-warm treacle poured over your head. Twenty seconds gives you the picture …

But mostly, it is great – bouncy pop, with the odd harder rocker and some hints of musical theatre. Here is a fun track from their second LP, all about the complexities caused when the object of your affections has, annoyingly, a family.

  • Artist: The Monkees
  • Album title: More of the Monkees
  • Tracks: B3 The Day We Fall In Love (extract); A5 Your Auntie Grizelda
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: RCA
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: COS 102
  • Year: 1967

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

 

 

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”.smacka sleeveGraham Francis Fitzgibbon, better known by the nickname “Smacka”, was an institution of a happier kind. He was a jazz musician, a singer and player of the banjo. He made a living doing disxieland and comedy. He established a successful jazz club and restaurant, the first of its kind in Melbourne. Smacka died quite young, in 1979, so I don’t remember him. So I asked some older friends for their recollections. “Played banjo, wore funny hats,” replied one, via an iPhone. Others recalled him as a genial entertainer, a legend in Australian jazz circles, appeared in some ads, a hard-working showman.

He appeared on television variety shows, and also on a peculiar thing called The Penthouse Club, which interspersed gags and music with coverage of the harness racing at Moonee Valley.

“The trots under lights at Moonee Valley” is another Melbourne institution. People flock on there Saturday nights to eat the sort of food they bring to you in hospital, and to lose money. Better than Pentridge, I admit, but I am not a fan of either gambling or horse racing.

But if hosting a TV show based around the trots, and doing ads and corporate gigs allowed Smacka Fitzgibbon to make a living from his banjo, good luck to him. He was an entrepreneurial spirit. This record seems to have been given away at a corporate function, sponsored by a long-defunct Australian tool manufacturer, Daniel Forge. Now that is something from another time – in Australia we no longer make even nuts and bolts, let alone the spanners to tighten them.

The thing is, forget the the silly hats and slapstick. The bloke could play. Have a listen to this recording, a version of “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas”. Smacka played well, sung smoothly, and led a tight band performing Dixieland jazz in fine style.

  • Artist: Smacka Fitzgibbon
  • Single Title: I’m a Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas
  • Track: Side A “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Fable FB-236
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1975

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