Category Archives: 45s

“Ceremony” b/w “In a Lonely Place” by New Order. Factory 33. Recorded 1/22/81 in Manchester, U.K.

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

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

Anyone writing about New Order is obliged to begin by writing about Joy Division. That is especially true in this case.

As a teenager growing up in Rochester, I thought of Joy Division as the band with the beautifully austere album covers that cooler kids listened to. I was not that cool, and I still have a hard time making it through an entire album. But as an adult, it isn’t because the music is over my head—it’s because the gloom and sadness is so thick. And it is beautiful, this gloom and sadness, even when it’s coupled with a manic adrenaline. A good example of that coupling can be found in this live clip of “She’s Lost Control.”

 

The guitar is playing a rhythm part, while the bass playing is unusually melodic. The beat is both robotic and frenzied; the drummer is playing acoustic drums, but all most of us hear is that beautiful Synare 3 handclap. And the singer’s voice is so low, both tonally and emotionally, that it walks the line between sublime and embarrassing like a tightrope. And his dancing seems all too appropriate for a song about losing control.

This was one of many fascinating musical directions that the British took when punk fizzled out in the late 1970’s.—much more musically ambitious but just as bleak as anything from the Sex Pistols, with a serious debt to the work of German electronic music pioneers like Kraftwerk. You could slam to some of it, you could do a kind of Goth vogueing to the rest of it, or you could do what singer Ian Curtis did and dance in a way inspired by the epileptic seizures that plagued him in real life. Continue reading

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“Je Finirai Par L’oublier” b/w “Milisse Mou” by Nana Mouskouri. Fontana 6010 066. Recorded in France, 1972.

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

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

Born in Crete to a projectionist father and usher mother in 1934, Iōánna Moúschouri (Nana to her friends) had shown a clear gift for music at a young age. So did her sister, however. Her family could only afford music lessons for one of the girls, so they asked their tutor which one should have them. They were told that Jenny was more skilled, but Nana had the passion and the need to sing.

Nana got the lessons. They must have been a bright spot in a childhood marred by the Nazi occupation of Greece. Her father fought in the Communist resistance.

Nana spent eight years studying opera at the Athens Conservatoire, but was barred from taking her final exams because of her moonlighting in a jazz club. As a child in Athens (her family had re-located when she was three years old) Nana had listened to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra on her radio, and the temptation to apply her skills to that work had been too great to resist. So opera proved to be unwelcoming, but exposure in the clubs lead to recordings—this is one of her first, 1958’s “Ilissos.”

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45: “Orphans” b/w “Less of Me” by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Migraine Records~Lust/Unlust CC-333. Recorded February, 1978 in New York City.

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

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

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

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

Folks from Rochester take a lot of pride in our ability to deal with winter weather. This has been an unusually harsh winter here in New York City, but compared to storms in which two feet of snow fall over the course of a day, it hasn’t been that bad. Something else that defines Rochestarians is a desire to get the hell out, which is what Lydia Lunch did at the age of sixteen, in 1976. She moved to New York City in part because she was a big fan of The New York Dolls: “I felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body, and here were men trapped in women’s clothing.” Her confrontational attitude served her well in her new home of late-70’s downtown Manhattan. She fell in with some like-minded creative types—like Alan Vega and Martin Rev of Suicide—and it didn’t take long for her to start making music. This recording of “My Eyes” is from 1977, though it wasn’t released until 1980:

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“Bed of Lies” b/w “Chains of Freedom” by Cruzados. Arista 109 488. German release. Recorded in 1987 in Los Angeles.

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

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

I’ve made it to a new set of shelves in the archive that provides the jumping-off points of all of this musical goodness. For the first time, I’‘m starting to see singles from bands from the 1980‘s, and we’ll probably be going over a lot of those in the weeks and months to come. Let’s begin with Cruzados.

The story of Cruzados can not begin without telling the story of The Plugz. The Plugs were a Chicano punk band from Los Angeles that formed in 1977 and disbanded in 1984. Tito Lavarria (vocals/guitar), Charlie Quintana (drums) and Barry McBride (bass/backing vocals) came together and, in the manner of punk rockers, took pride in their musical heritage while mocking it at the same time. The reverence/irreverence ratio is in the ear of the listener. To wit—their cover of “La Bamba:”

 

By 1983, The Plugz had a more polished and eclectic sound—their second album, 1981’s Better Luck, even featured a horn section. They contributed a number of songs to the Repo Man soundtrack, including this cover of the Johnny Rivers hit “Secret Agent Man.” Here’s “Hombre Secreto.”

 

Charlie and new bassist Tony Marsico became friends with Bob Dylan, sometimes having loose sessions at his house in L.A. A year after they’d started playing together, Dylan  called them up to join him on his Late Night with David Letterman appearance, in which he played three songs. Here they are, along with guitarist J.J. Holiday, performing  “License to Kill.”

 

A few months after that broadcast, The Plugz became Cruzados and embraced a more commercial sound. But commercial was a pretty relative term in the mid-eighties. While the songs had a fair amount of studio sheen, they still felt more human than what could be typically found in the Top 40. Their sound—hitting a sweet spot between bar rock, blues and country— was right in time for the creation of VH1, once a home for Adult Contemporary music videos, believe it or not. From their self-titled debut, here’s “Motorcycle Girl.”

 

New guitarist Steven Hufsteter had a few writing credits on the album, including this look at artistic ennui called “Hanging Out In California.”

 

 

Hufsteter had left the band when it was time to record the second album, After Dark. Marshal Roehner took his place, and quite ably, if this song is any indication. Here’s the single I found in the archive, sharing shelf space with so many other forgotten 80’s bands: “Bed of Lies.”

 

 

There was no third Cruzados album, unfortunately. They had contributed three songs to the soundtrack to cult favorite Road House, but none of them made it onto the album. You can still see them play at the beginning of the movie, and the song was later released on a collection of their unreleased rarities. Here’s “Don’t Throw Stones.”

 

That song sounds like a band hitting its stride, but just it wasn’t in the cards. As main songwriter and singer Tito Lavirra put it,

“The Cruzados started at the tail end of the punk scene, the way I see it, we were punk rockers at heart and in true punk rock fashion we said fuck you to the punk establishment because for us it was over. We changed our name from Plugz to the Cruzados and went in a totally different musical direction. I felt we were on to something but like most bands in the mid 80’s, coke and too much fun cut the ride short”

 Tito would go on to form Tito & Tarantula, who were prominently featured in the Robert Rodriguez films Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn. Tony Marsico would go on to play bass for Matthew Sweet, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and many others. Charlie Quintana played with Izzy Stradlin and the JuJu Hounds and then later Social Distortion.  Marshall Rohner went on to play guitar for T.S.O.L. but, unfortunately, died in 2005 of AIDS-related causes.

Let’s close with Tito & Tarantula’s version of a song from the first Cruzados album. This is “La Flor de Mal.”

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45: “Thou Swell”/”Mad About the Boy” b/w “Gong Rock”/”Lope City” by Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson. Bethlehem Records. BEP-115. Recorded January 26th + 27th, 1955, in New York City.

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

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

J.J. Johnson (not to be confused with MTV VJ J.J. Jackson) was born in Indianapolis in 1924. He learned to play piano at the age of nine, and then picked up the trombone at 14. By the age of 18 he was playing with Benny Carter’s band and by the age of 21 he was playing with Count Basie. So he knew how to play big band music, no problem. But what about the then-ascendant bebop school of jazz? In the mid-1940’s it was commonly thought there was no place for trombone in bebop, simply because the instrument lacked the keys that allowed trumpeters and saxophonist to be so nimble. Big notes on “Sing, Sing Sing!,” no problem. Trying to keep up with Charlie Parker on “Koko,” there’s a problem. But no less a bebop authority than Dizzy Gillespie heard Johnson’s playing and told him, “I’ve always known that the trombone could be played different, that somebody’d catch on one of these days. Man, you’re elected.”

Kai Winding was born in Aarhus Denmark in 1922. His family came to the United States when he was 12 years old and settled in New York City, where Kai attended Stuyvesant High School. He started playing trombone professionally as soon as he’d finished school but had to put it on hold to do his duty in the Coast Guard. After the war, Kai played with first Benny Goodman’s and then Stan Kenton’s orchestras. Clearly, he also knew how to play big band music.

Both trombonists were tapped to play on the sessions that would become Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool. The album was recorded over the course of three sessions in 1949 and 1950, and employed a nonet. A nine member band was clearly more ambitious than the quartets that typified bebop, but this was an ambitious group, sprung from the musical discussions at salons hosted by Gil Evans. Those discussions would eventually lead to the creation of cool jazz, a sound that would come to be more associated with West Coast artists like Chet Baker. Kai played on the four songs from the first session—here he is with “Godchild.” Note the tasteful solo at the 2:35 mark.

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45: “The Ballad of Jimi” b/w “Gloomy Monday” by Curtis Knight and Jimi Hendrix. EMI/Stateside C006-91963. Recorded 8/8/67 and 1970 in New York City.

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

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

 

Curtis Knight’s Wikipedia page claims that he was born in 1945, but one has to wonder if he gave a later birthdate at some point in his life to seem younger. He was part of a late 1950’s Harlem Doo Wop group called The Titans—that act was featured in the 1957 Hollywood Rock and Roll cash-in Bob Girl Goes Calypso. Here’s “So Hard to Love, So Easy to Cry.”

Very, very solid work. That was Charles Wright singing lead, with Curtis Knight as second tenor. Now, it was a common thing for Doo Wop groups to have teenaged members, but it’s hard to believe that anyone in this group is twelve years old. Whatever his age, Curtis wasn’t about to let the eventual decline of Doo Wop’s popularity hold him back. Here he is as a solo artist in 1961, with the moody “Voodoo Woman.”

A little more sophisticated than the typical Top 40 number, what with the additions of the glockenspiel and the gong. Things got interesting for Knight by the end of 1964, when he saw a young guitarist playing in Greenwich Village and was blown away. He’ was young, but had already toured  with the likes of Wilson Picket and Little Richard. Here he is backing up Buddy and Stacey, who had opened for Little Richard on that particular tour.

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45: “Gloomy Sunday,” “Am I Blue” b/w “Body and Soul,” “Long Gone Blues” by Billie Holiday and her Orchestra. Columbia B-2534. Recorded 08/07/41, 05/09/41, 02/29/40, and 03/21/39 in New York City.

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

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

When I find a 45 from an obscure Dutch progressive rock band, it isn’t that difficult to pick five or six songs that give a good sense of that band’s career arc. For other artists, that simply can’t be done—their influence is too strong, their lives too compelling, or their catalog simply runs too deep to attempt such an abbreviated presentation of their work. All of those conditions are met by Billie Holiday. So I’m going to include the songs on this 45 EP, and a couple of others of note, but as any fan of Billie’s will tell you, I’ll only be scratching the surface.

A little background. Billie was born Eleanora Fagan, in 1915, and raised by distant relatives in Philadelphia while her mother worked as a server on passenger trains. Her absent father was most likely Clarence Holiday, a musician who played with Fletcher Henderson’s band—Billie and Clarence would reconnect later in her life. She was in reform school for truancy at the age of 10, raped by a neighbor at the age of 11, and, after moving with her mother to Harlem, forced to join her as a prostitute at the age of 14. A childhood spent listening to Louis Armstrong and King Oliver gave her the confidence to develop a singing style that allowed for non-traditional phrasing and intonation, as if her voice was a cornet. She recorded songs for 26 years and sold out Carnegie Hall multiple times, but was hampered by addiction, racism and bad management. Her rendition of “Strange Fruit” is a stark cry against lynching and was one of the very first popular protest songs. She died in New York City in 1959 of cirrhosis of the liver, with police guarding her room in hopes of trying her for narcotics possession if she got better. She was an early example of the romantic doomed-addict-musician-whose-light-burned-too-bright-to-last notion, an idea which, ultimately, gets in the way of appreciating exactly how good she was as a singer and how painful her life must have actually been.

Here’s her very first single, “Your Mother’s Son-in-Law.” It was recorded with Benny Goodman and his orchestra for Columbia on November 27, 1933. Note how she had yet to settle into the higher register that would later become her trademark.

Fun, jaunty stuff. Continue reading

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45: Moods, Vol. 5. “Lullaby In Rhythm,” “There’ll Never Be Another You” b/w “All the Things You Are,” “Moonlight In Vermont” by Marian McPartland. Savoy XP 8108. Recorded in New York City, 12/22/52 (Side B) and 4/27/53 (Side A).

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

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

Born in a small town in Southeastern England in 1918, Marian McPartland started playing piano at the age of three. She was encouraged to learn the violin at the age of eight—perhaps because her parents weren’t thrilled about her love of Jazz and they hadn’t heard of jazz violinist Joe Venuti—but she continued to spend all of her free time at the keys. Marian studied classical music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but quit in 1938 to join a four piano vaudeville act run by Billy Mayerl.

The piano quartet was a hit and continued to perform over the course of the war, entertaining both British and American troops, courtesy of the USO. She met her husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland, in a show in Belgium in 1944. They were soon wed, and moved to Jimmy’s native Chicago. Marion continued to play, and the couple’s move to New York City in 1949 would soon prove to be a good career choice. Jimmy encouraged Marian to form her own trio, which played at clubs like The Embers and Hickory House. A recording contract with Savoy Records came in 1951.

This extended play 45 shows Marian at a bit of a crossroads, at least in terms of personnel. “Moonlight In Vermont” features the rhythm section of Eddie Safranski (bass) and Don Lamond (drums).  Continue reading

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45: “Try It Baby” b/w “If My Heart Could Sing” by Marvin Gaye. Tamla 54095. Recorded in Detroit, May 21,1964.

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

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

 

Marvin Gay Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. His father was a minister in the House of God branch of the Pentecostal church. It was a faith that demanded strict obedience to the Bible and conservative behavior at all times. Unfortunately, Marvin Sr. took this to mean that he had the right to beat his children—but Marvin in particular—as often as he saw fit. Without music (and a compassionate mother) to get him through, Marvin said, he might have committed suicide as a youth. Fortunately, for him and for us, he left home as soon as he could, doing a brief stint in the Air Force and then returning to D.C. to join a four man vocal group called The Marquees. They drew the attention of Moonglows co-founder Harvey Fuqua, who took them on as his backing vocalists. Now called Harvey and the Moonglows, the group let Marvin take his first recorded lead vocal in 1959 with “Mama Loocie.”

The Moonglows broke up in 1960, and Harvey and Marvin relocated to Detroit, where they did some session work. Berry Gordy first heard Marvin sing at a Christmas party he was hosting. He was impressed, and signed Marvin to Motown subsidiary Tamla. The two labels were, for all intents and purposes, one company. But having two names meant D.J.’s wouldn’t be accused of playing too many songs from the same label; if they did, payola accusations would mean trouble for everyone. Continue reading

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45: “Et même”/” Tout Me Ramène à Toi” b/w “C’est la Passé”/” Apprends-le Moi” by Francoise Hardy. Vogue EPL-8222. Recorded in Paris, 1964.

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

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

Françoise Hardy was born in 1944 and grew up in the 9th arrondissment of Paris. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her father spent little time with Françoise and her younger sister, Michèle. Still, he did play a critical part in her career: Françoise was given a guitar as a gift both for her birthday and for passing the baccalaurèat, the French equivalent of graduating from high school. She’d been raised on a musical diet of both French (Charles Trenet, Cora Voiucaire) and Anglophone (Cliff Richard, Connie Francis) singers and wanted to try her hand at writing songs of her own.

Hardy’s chance came at the end of her first year at the Sorbonne, when she answered a newspaper ad looking for fresh young singers. It soon lead to her being signed with Vogue records, who decided that a song penned by the writers behind pop star Johnny Hallyday would be the best introduction to the masses. 1962’s “Oh Oh Cheri” did not do so well, but the B side, written by Hardy herself, would lead to the disc selling 700,000 copies in France alone. Here it is: “Tous Les Garçons et les Filles.”

The success of the song spawned an English language version called “Find Me a Boy,” which sounds pretty shallow. Bilingual Youtube commenters swear that it is an awful translation, and that the lyrics of the original can be compared to the lyrics of “As Tears Go By.”

The disc I found in the archive is from 1964, and at this point in her career, Hardy was really hitting her stride. Mickey Baker’s arrangements are bigger, fuller, almost like something Phil Spector would have put together. “Et même” is a great example of this, right down to the handclaps.

This, too, spawned an English version. Even if the translation is off, it’s clear that Hardy was taking a more mature look at love and its vagaries. Continue reading

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