‘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”.

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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

 

 

 

Early-model Bieber

Paul Anka was a sort of early-model Justin Bieber. A Canadian-born singer who became a star at a young age, and was a bit of a honey.

Paul_Anka_1961

Paul Anka in 1961. Photo Wikimedia

This was his first big hit: a love song in which a young man expresses his undying devotion to a lady by the name of Diana. Lyrically, Shakespeare it ain’t:

Thrills I get when you hold me close
Oh, my darling, you’re the most

Hmm. Even the start: “I’m so young and you’re so old”. In my experience, telling a girl you fancy that she’s old is not a great plan. If untrue, she will be offended. If true, she will be offended …

Never mind, the song was a one of the biggest hits of all time – something like nine million copies were sold, which in 1957 was a staggering number.

Paul Anka, happily, seems to have avoided the personal tragedy which is often the lot of the teen star. He reinvented himself several times, and remained active as a performer and composer for  some fifty years. Among his credits are the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way”. He is still with us, and well into his seventies he is still performing. This is a guy whose first recordings came out on 78 rpm. If Justin Bieber manages something similar sixty years from now,  he’ll be doing pretty well

  • Artist: Paul Anka
  • Single Title: Diana
  • Format: 10”, 78 rpm, mono
  • Label: W&G
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: WG-XPN 496
  • Year: 1957

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

 

Stage fright

Mea culpa. Or, as young folks say these days: “my bad”.

It’s like this. I pick up a battered old single, a local release, mid-sixties. I have not heard of the artist,  Ned Miller, but I recognise the song on the A-side. “Do What You Do Do Well”: one of Johnny Cash’s hits. Clearly, then, Ned Miller was a second-tier country artist, pumping out a cover.

My bad. The great Johnny Cash did have a hit with “Do What You Do Do Well”, but that was after this release. Not only did Ned Miller release it first, he wrote it. In fact, Miller wrote lots of great songs. One, “From a Jack to a King”, was a top ten hit in many parts of the world, but mostly he wrote excellent songs, which other people recorded. “Invisible Tears” and “Dark Moon” were two: hits for Bonnie Guitar and Elvis Presley respectively. There were plenty more: Miller was in the top echelon of Nashville’s songsmiths. Why didn’t he have more success as a performer?

0673 labelSimple, really. He didn’t like performing, and often suffered stage fright. He retired from the entertainment business in 1970, saying: “If you love shows and like to perform, it’s a great business, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t be in it.”

It was not that he couldn’t play and sing. Just listen to this, “Dusty Guitar”, the delightful B-side to a more famous song. The record is a bit battered, but the performance shines through. It is a rumination on musical fame, ironically enough from someone who achieved it, and then decided it was not for him.

  • Artist: Ned Miller
  • Single title: Do What You Do Do Well
  • Track: B “Dusty Guitar”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: W&G
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: WG-S-2321
  • Year: 1964

 

Election special

There is a federal election on today in Australia. It will be very close, as elections here often are. Usually, in a close election, the government hangs on, but you never know. It has been a dreary, unedifying election campaign, which is also as expected.
Even so, it is something wonderful and precious thing to take part in choosing the government. It is also something I like about our community: the actual voting is invariably peaceful. I have never heard so much as an angry word exchanged at a polling station. There are no police present – they are not needed. The people handing out how-to-vote cards might be a little frosty with each other, but that is about as bad as it gets. Everyone queues up patiently, chats amiably.
0254 BThe ballot boxes are made of cardboard – no need for metal or padlocks. Regardless of the result – even if we end up with a hung parliament – there won’t be riots, there will not be armoured cars patrolling.
It is easy to take these things for granted, but we shouldn’t. This is not a natural state of things. Free elections which might cause a change of government, and which carry no risk of violence – historically, these are a very recent development. Even in the modern world they are the exception.
So, I am thankful for Australian democracy, even if many of our people in public life rather lack personality.
Someone who certainly didn’t lack personality was Lloyd Price. I only knew him for his biggest hit, “Personality”, which you still hear played on golden oldies radio. It’s a fine pop song, beautifully arranged and Price sings with a warm rich voice. It is a delight.
But on Planet Vinyl we shy away from things you might hear on commercial radio. If it’s the golden hits you want, you are on the wrong planet. We are going for the B-side, “Have You Ever Had the Blues”. It isn’t really a blues – much too cheery for that, and lyrically lightweight – but a fine, danceable, singalong soul-tinged number.
This is one battered record. Just look at it! This disc has been to many a party, bounced down the stack of many a radiogram, and from the look of things survived being attacked by a child learning to write. It needed a good clean, but plays surprisingly well. The vinyl of 1959, like the music is carried, was made to last.
It is getting late in the evening, and the election is still undecided. One way or another, one of those guys in suits who lack personality will end up having the blues.

  • Artist: Lloyd Price
  • Single Title: Personality
  • Track: Side B “Have You Ever Had The Blues”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: W&G WG-SPN-800
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1959

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

Backwards déjà vu

In this country we play a code of football known as Australian Rules, or AFL. It is different to all the other codes. At its best, it is the most spectacular and exciting sport anywhere. Okay, I am a bit biased, but I really do think so.

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Australian rules is the best game in the world. Really.

Every team has a club song, which the players and fans sing after a win, usually with more enthusiasm than skill.

The tunes are often borrowed. My team, Geelong, pinched its tune from a Rossini opera. Other clubs use the French national anthem, the official hymn of the U.S. Marines, and a weird re-working of “Song of the Volga Boatmen”.

If you follow AFL closely, you hear these songs so often that they float free from their origins. Playing an old record, and hearing one of them, but with different words and in a completely different context is surreal, a sort of backwards déjà vu, if that is possible.

This track comes from an EP released in the 1950s, but the style suggests the original recording was done perhaps twenty years earlier. I have not been able to find out, because the band, Gene`s Musette Orchestra, is seriously obscure. They were obviously a nightclub dance band, putting well known tunes to swing arrangements, and they really could play.7043 Sidewalks A

I put this obscure EP on the turntable, and was astonished to hear in the one medley number, two AFL club songs. By coincidence, the two teams, Melbourne and Hawthorn, actually played each other a few days ago.

The Melbourne theme is based on the first song in the medley, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”.

Sadly, the match was won by Hawthorn, who have won the premiership three years in a row, are traditional rivals of Geelong, and are annoyingly good. So, after the game, the Hawks boys all linked arms in a circle and tunelessly belted out:hawks

We’re a happy team at Hawthorn
We know how to play the game

I wonder if any of them knew that they were singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy”?

  • Artist: Gene`s Musette Orchestra
  • EP Title: Sidewalks Of New York
  • Side 1, Track 1: “Yankee Doodle Dandy”
  • Format: 7” EP 45 rpm
  • Label: W&G WG-EMR 161
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1956

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

 

Automatically cooler

It is hard to make a living in music. Most musicians do it for love, and either earn nothing or have a day job. So whenever people are payed to play and sing, that is a good thing. If it is playing at birthday parties, playing favorites-and-requests at a country pub, creating a soundtrack for a video game, recording an advertising jingle – whatever. If a creative soul performs and gets some cash for it, then the world is a better place. Many a poet has paid the bills writing advertising copy; this is no different.

What’s more, there can be fun and genuine creativity in the most unlikely places. The MOST unlikely places.autocool tyres

In 1962, Dunlop launched a new brand of truck tyres. There was a big advertising campaign, including print ads and this radio jingle. It’s a bit twee, there is no getting around it, but a good enough ad.

Radio ads were, in those days, distributed on vinyl records. They were never released for purchase, but they sometimes turn up second hand. These records usually have an identical tracks on each side, or sometimes the “B” side was just left blank. But at Planet Vinyl we love nothing more that the Weird and Unexpected, and what is on the flip side of the Dunlop jingle takes W&U to a new level.0172 Dunlop Autocool 1962 sleeve

Imagine.

It is 1962. You are a country musician, making a living working the RSL circuit in western New South Wales. Then you are offered a commission, for decent money. An advertising jingle – fine, you’ve done plenty of those – but Dunlop also wants you to write and record a full-length song, which will a/ explain why the new tyre is so good, and b/ motivate the Dunlop sales force.

Seriously?

But here is a great truth. Give creative people a theme and a deadline, and just let them be, and they will almost always come up with something unexpected, and unexpectedly good.

And that is what this unknown group of musicians did here. They wrote, and performed, very well, a song about … truck tyres.

It’s a ripper! You will learn about tyre technology! You will find yourself singing the chorus! You will want to get out there and sell truck tyres!

Seriously.

  • Artist: Unknown
  • Title: Dunlop Autocool Jingle
  • Tracks: Side A “Dunlop Autocool Jingle”, Side B “Dunlop Autocool Tyres (Internal)
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: W&G No catalogue number
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1962

This record is one of hundreds I have for sale via Discogs