[Updated with some links. I just can’t believe what’s out there.]
“Who will remember what I know?” is a favorite line from a John McCutcheon song. McCutcheon is a favorite folksinger, a Rounder Records artist, whose CDs accompanied a certain percentage of Ben’s childhood. I always liked this line, and so I am using it to title a blog that memorializes things I know about but almost no one else does. In no particular order, I will list ten 45 RPM singles that I always play whenever I find myself sifting through my singles box, which has to be retrieved from Remote Storage (a.k.a. the laundry room), then riff upon them. Some of these are good, some are just weird, all are noteworthy to me for autobiographical reasons…and probably to no one else. You will almost certainly never be able to hear more than one or two of these, yet I needs must bear witness to them, even though I be yea verily screaming into the void.
Because They Matter To Me (God spare my twisted soul). Happy New Year, if I can’t manage anything before then.
1. “The Martian Hop” by the Newcomers. This is not the more famous original version by the Ran-Dells (“We have just discovered an important note from space/The Martians plan to throw a dance for all the human race”), made famous by Dr. Demento. No, this is an inexplicably straight-faced soul version by the Newcomers. My brother worked at a couple of different radio stations, and radio stations always received free promotional copies of oddities, abject dreck etc. that desperate companies and artists implored them to play. Other masterpieces I remember (but didn’t save): “Father Mackenzie” (by, of course, the band Eleanor Rigby), songs titled “Nocturnal Emission” and “My Family Was Gay,” etc. You’d stare at these singles—whether you heard them or not—the way you’d stare at a car wreck. I was told later that an entire batch of these grim testaments to doomed human endeavor were sold at the local swap meet for $10. The young buyer was assured they were “unreleased hits.”
2. “Overture to the Sun” (A theme from the film Clockwork Orange [sic]) by Terry Tuckers [sic] Orange Clockwork. There is an isolated little track by this name, a pseudo-Renaissance dance, by Terry Tucker that was used for the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange. I think this was playing when lead character Alex has first been “cured” and is being publicly tormented to demonstrate how his violent impulses have now been curbed. Anyway, I found this in a singles bin when I was in England in 1975–76: Not For Sale—Promotional Use Only. The little dance has now become an exceedingly boring synthesized round-and-round-and-round over both sides of the single. (It is not this version, by the way.) I used to use a variety of versions of this tune for a ballet exercise, and so the sheer weirdness of Tucker’s long-shot at wider play appeals to me. I may be the only person on earth who knows or remembers this version.
3. “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Sailor (I think 1976). Sailor was a Dutch band who had a couple of hits when I was in England, and who I saw on Top of the Pops. This one is a tribute/send-up of a movie-musical showstopper, and its words are clever and the music well put together. I have another song of theirs called “Glass of Champagne” as well.
4. “Arms of Mary.” Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, also 1976. Live version here. Not sure why I like this; it’s sort of a bland pop ballad. Possible reasons:
1) the subject matter is about all I was thinking about at the time; and
2) so many other things on the English pop charts were so appallingly bad that
certain mediocre things sounded great. You don’t believe me? Fine: look up the bands Showaddywaddy, the Bay City Rollers, the song “The Last Farewell” by Roger Whittaker, the song “Back in the New York Groove” by Hello, “Goodbyee” by I can’t remember who, “Don’t Play Your Rock and Roll to Me” by I can’t remember who…
GOD. YOU’VE JUST NO IDEA HOW BAD IT WAS.
5. Bev Bevan, “Let There Be Drums,” 1976. This is a cover of a Sandy Nelson song. Remember Sandy Nelson? Very “Sing Sing Sing”—interesting clips of him, discussing drumming history and theory, can be found on youtube. This is Rock spun down to
its DNA: a bass line (played on a lead guitar) alternating with solos. Bev Bevan was the drummer of the Move and E.L.O., two of my favorite-to-the-point-of-idolatry bands, and so I snapped up this solo effort the second I found it. For no real reason, he double-tracked the drum part. I did meet him and the rest of ELO backstage at the Portsmouth Guildhall, the night of (I think) June 19, 1976…
6. “Washington Square” by the Village Stompers.
Mid-1960s, folk revival, Dixieland meets Klezmer, this song is so great
it’s like a drug. It was also used as the soundtrack for a black-and-white documentary about Greenwich Village that my family saw as an added feature (they did that then) in Lake Arrowhead in, perhaps, 1966 or ’67. This song and “Love is Blue” obsessed me something about the chord changes—when I was ten or so.
7. “River Bayou” by the Beckies (mid-1970s); co-composer and pianist is Michael Brown of the late-1960s, New York-based Art Rock ensemble the Left Banke (“Pretty
Ballerina,” “Walk Away Renee”), though he was not a member of the band proper. Brown’s was one of the approaches to what I then called “Classical Rock” that I liked far more than (say) Yes, Genesis, Focus etc. who I found to be impossibly ponderous. I also liked piano-based bands rather than “keyboard”-based bands. Still do.
8. “You Can Run” by the Shake Shakes. I know nothing about them except that they were a band based near Pomona, California (where I lived for seven years, and next door to Claremont). Great song (late 1970s, I think, though it has a 1960s pop feel), fine performance, Eddy Cochrane recording ambiance, sank without a ripple.
9. “Call My Name,” by Jimmy McCullough, maybe 1975. A solo effort by the boy guitar genius of Thunderclap Newman (“Something in the Air,” “Hollywood,” “Accidents”—staples of the Los Angeles underground radio playlists) and later of Paul McCartney’s band Wings. He had issues (N.B. understatement) with substance abuse, and died at age 26 (maybe 1976?) from heart failure. A superb track, later reissued with odds and sods (including two other versions of the song) on a CD devoted to him.
10. “Ship of Time,” by Jaim. The keyboard player in this UCSB-based band (Late 1960s, I’m guessing), was Paul R. Bishop, who was later my piano teacher in high school, the first non-old-lady teacher I ever had. (I believe he now on the music faculty of Scripps College, in Claremont, CA, my hometown). I envied Paul his sightreading ability (his everything ability, really—he was also an organist and harpsichordist and composer…AND he had been in a rock band, damn it!), his car (a gold Mercury Capri), and his utter coolness. So
when my brother later ran across both this single and another by the same band, I snapped them up.
Thus this installment of absurdity. Certain of these numbers might better have been categorized under “Music and Torture,” but there it is. Wishing all and sum a warm, safe, and loving holiday season.