Monthly Archives: May 2013

78: “The Moondog” b/w “Poon-Tang!” by The Treniers. Okeh 6937. Recorded in 1953.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Well. First of all, according to the lyrics, there is nothing dirty going on here AT ALL. See, Poon is a hug. Tang is a kiss. Put ‘em together and what do ya get? Poon-Tang!

Folks have been singing about poon-tang since the beginning of recorded sound. Nothing dirty about it.

Also: it’s a hoot. Drummer Henry Green brings a solid swing to the steady rock and roll backbeat, the vocal interplay is on point, and the saxophone squeals like it’s having the orgasm of its life. Even if the salacious novelty wasn’t there, the song would stand solidly on its own two feet.  Continue reading

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45: “Dedicated to You” b/w “You’re All I Need,” “Ev’ry Day” and “I Love You” by Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan. MGM X-1002. Recorded in 1953.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Billy Eckstine may never have pursued music had he not broken his collarbone while playing football for Howard University. It is hugely fortunate that the Pittsburgh native did, though, because not only did his sonorous baritone and musical dexterity combine to grace some incredible recordings, but those recordings would then go on to inspire and pave the way for everyone from Nat “King” Cole to Miles Davis to Sammy Davis Jr.

Newark native Sarah Vaughan agreed to accompany her friend on piano when she played the Apollo Theater talent show in 1942. It’s a very good thing that she did, because the experience encouraged her to come back and audition as a vocalist herself, winning a weeklong gig opening for Ella Fitzgerald that attracted the attention of Earl Hines. Hines asked her to join his band, which featured Eckstine on vocals. When Eckstine soon formed his own bebop big band combo—which featured Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker—he asked Sarah to join as well. She did, though she left in 1945 to pursue a solo career. Billy and Sarah remained close friends, however, and would record duets several times over the course of their careers.

Which brings us to 1953, and this lovely duet: “Dedicated to You.” The way Sarah’s vocal rises and descends on top of Billy’s around the 1:30 mark is unexpected, and shows how Sarah really used her voice like a musical instrument.

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78: “Was It a Dream? Part 1” b/w “Was It a Dream? Part 2” by The Dorsey Brothers and Their Concert Orchestra. Okeh 41083. Recorded in New York City, 7/16/28.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, born in 1904 and 1905, respectively, grew up in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, under the instruction of a bandleader father who was so intent on getting his sons to practice their instruments that he would hide their shoes to keep them from leaving the house. Both brothers started out on cornet but, by the time they were teenagers, had moved on to the instruments that would bring them fame: Jimmy to alto saxophone and clarinet, and Tommy to trombone. They were traveling with various bands by the age of 17, and by 1925 they had begun to find work in New York City, where the radio boom had created a big demand for musicians who could handle the pressure of playing live over the airwaves. The Dorsey brothers were reliable workers and expert sight readers, so they did well as freelancers.

By 1928, they had gained enough experience and respect to form The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Eddie Lang and Glenn Miller were early members, as was Smith Ballew, who takes the vocal turn on “Was It a Dream?”

“Was It A Dream?” must have been a gig hit for the songwriting team of Sam Coslow, Larry Spier and Addy Britt, because it was recorded by at least six different acts in 1928 alone. Continue reading

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45: “Sex Shop” b/w “Quand Le Sexe Te Chope” by Serge Gainsbourg. Fontana 6010 073. Recorded in Paris, 1972.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Sex Shop was a French film that playfully examined the effects of the sexual revolution on the bourgeoisie by telling the story of a milquetoast merchant who converted his bookstore into a sex shop, thereby solving his financial woes and spicing things up with his wife in the bargain. The merchant was a homely man with a disproportionately beautiful wife—and this was a full 30 years before Judd Apatow’s “lovable schlub gets the prom queen” storyline came to dominate American comedy, so director Claude Berri (Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring) gets credit for being influential.

Who better to sing the theme song than Serge Gainsbourg? He was French (though of Ukrainain Jewish lineage), he wrote songs of sex and love and their myriad complications, he delighted in making people uncomfortable by making them acknowledge their own twisted libidos, and yes, he was a homely, painfully insecure guy who managed to attract the most beautiful women in the world.

Serge hid his insecurity with arrogance and bitter cynicism, as evidenced by the lyrics to this song, which, loosely translated tells of a man who discovers his lover has cheated on him and wants her to tell him every detail as a kind of humiliating punishment for her infidelity.

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