Monday, November 26, 2012
Behold! The Kaleidocosmicorgrig - The Strangest Instrument EVER?!
I don't usually pay $10 for obscure old records - that's like real money - but how could I resist this description from the back cover: "This is a recording of The Kaleidocosmicorgrig... it is 35' in length, 12' tall, weighs approximately 2 tons... a contrivance of pedals, keyboards, pulleys, mousetraps, electrical wires, wind machines, magnets, bellows, fishing weights, stovepipes and bicycle wheels, arranged so as to control a parlor piano, 30 tuned bottles, 13 10-foot tuba pipes, a fine bass drum, 2 tambourines, a mariachi marimba, a wooden xylophone, Swiss glockenspiel, castanets, maracas, wood block, cymbals, bonkers, zonkers, and taxihorn."
Sounds too good to be true? Many eye/ear-witnesses have testified to its one-time existence, in a Shakey's Pizza Parlor near Disneyland, California. This 1970 album, recorded live, consists largely of frantically energetic instrumentals (with a lot of Greek influences for some reason); great versions of two Latin classics, "Tico Tico" and "Malagueña;" a few originals; some silly lyrics (from what I could make out - the vocals are not well recorded, but it hardly matters); and a final group sing-along that does not feature the giant whatsit. The album is on red vinyl, and originally came with a strawberry-scented incense stick (did I mention this was 1970?)
Orchestrions - mechanical music orchestras - were popular a century ago, before recordings became hi-fi. I have other albums of this sort, but this beast is clearly the granddaddy of 'em all. Featured here are the old-fashioned tunes you'd expect, but also recent soundtracks hits like "Zorba The Greek" and "Never On Sunday" (see what I mean about the Greek influence?) that suggests that Nick O'Lodeon (aka Nick Cornwell) was actively programming his machine by punching new piano rolls, creating new music boxes, and building the robots necessary to play contemporary music. Unless it was all theatrics, and Nick was playing live, but I don't think so - sure, he was playing and singing some live, but the rapid-fire piano and xylophone sound like they're playing too fast for human hands.
So what's it sound like? Pretty much like what you'd think it would sound like - berserk circus music filtered thru a '70s California hippie sensibility. It's a lot of fun, upbeat, and to say the least, unique. Who knew such things existed in our universe? Far out, man!
Nick O'Lodeon Plays Actual Music On His Kaleidocosmicorgrig