Tuesday, March 16, 2010
SONGS FROM THE SEWER
Teenagers in the '50s were all hip rockabilly rebels, while their parents where strictly squares-ville, daddy-o. Right? Wrong. As evidenced by this stupendous collection, compiled by Windbag, a good friend of this here blog, no-one really knew what the hell rock 'n 'roll was all about when it first hit an uncomprehending public. Was it simply swing aimed at teenagers? Goofy novelty records? Easy-listening songs with "rock" in the lyrics? Many of these tracks, all rescued from 45s, came out on major labels based far from Memphis, desperate to get in on the phenomenon, and willing to throw anything at the teen market to see what stuck. Much of it sounds awfully white in it's attempts to bleach out the whole Negro-ness of rock.
SONGS FROM THE SEWER
Apart from this, miscellaneous exotic/novelty/oddities/atrocities are strewn throughout the mix. Windbag's notes [my notes in brackets]:
"Little Blue Man" Betty Everett on Atlantic. Hugh Downs (tv journalist) is the other voice on this disc. Apparently an embarrassment for him. [Classic flying saucer novelty!]
"To Old To Dance The Rock 'n' Roll" Patty Andrews on Capital (of the Andrews Sisters) [Reminds me of Nat King Cole's "Mr Cole Won't Rock 'n' Roll"]
"I Walk The Line" Carole Bennett on Capitol [If Johnny Cash wasn't dead, this woulda killed him.]
"Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" Edith Piaf on Capitol. A Leiber & Stoller song in French.
"The Teenage March" Carlson's Raiders on Capitol
"The Return of a Soldier" Ric King on Capitol. Lex De Acevedo (also known as David Axelrod) on the label credits. A "talky" song along the lines of "Open Letter To My Teenage Son" travesty by Victor Lundberg.
"Cootie Wootie" Tommy Sands on Capitol.
"Tokyo Boogie Woogie" Columbia Tokyo Orchestra on Columbia. I think this song turned up on "M.A.S.H."
"My Baby Rocks Me" Rosemary Clooney on Columbia. This is the "dirty" version before she and Columbia realized that they made a white pop version of a song about f...ing. They re-recorded it after cleaning up the lyrics. Check out the [original] version of the song on the COPULATING BLUES album.
"Song of the Sewer" Art Carney on Columbia. John Lithgow did a passable version of this on a recent CD.
"Rock 'n' Roll Mops" Henri Cording with Big Mike & His Parisian Rockets. A pseudonym for Henry Salvador, well-known French singer (Celine Dion recorded with him not that long ago). Other side of the Columbia 45 is "Hiccough Rock) Rock-Hoquet)" [Aw, man, I gotta hear that!]
"Rock-A-Billy" Guy Mitchell on Columbia. So someone stamped Elvis and all his copiers as perjorative "rockabillies" and this pop artist tried to cash in with a song title. This is to "rockabilly" what square-dance records are to honky-tonk. I didn't include his later "If You Ever Go Away (I'll Go Out And Eat Some Worms)" 45; I thought this was enough.
"Rock Around the Island" The Lancers on Coral. The Lancers vocal group backed Kay Starr on several Capitol sides. This was a song from a movie "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts."
"Rhythm & Blues" The McGuire Sisters on Coral.
"Teenage Meeting" Don Cornell on Coral. Songwriting credit has Alan Freed as the #3 credit on the label.
"Rock This Joint" Lola Ameche on Mercury. I think this is a pop version of a Bill Haley song?
"The Polka Rock" Angele NcNeill on Prep (Capitol subsidiary label). [Reminds me of Annette Funicello's "Rock-A-Polka"...still think '50s teens were such rockabilly hepcats? They wanted to POLKA!]
"Rockin' Shoes" The Ames Brothers on RCA.
"Pineapple Rock" Claude Gordon & His Orch on Warner Bros. Songwriting credit shows Billy May.
"Ko Ko Mo" Perry Como on RCA. Billboard ad at the time: "He Rocks! He Rolls! Perry Como!" or words to that effect, circa 1954. [Hey, it hit #2 on the charts Jan '55, so plenty of kids apparently thought that he did indeed Rock! and Roll!]
"Bad Bad Leroy Brown" Frank Sinatra on Reprise. 1974-ish, charted around the bottom of Billboard. I like the final gruff Sinatra comments at the end of the song. [There's a great version of Stevie's "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" off that same Sinatra album.]
"Rockabilly Party" Hugo & Luigi on Roulette. These guy's schtick was the "cascading voices..." albums on Roulette and RCA. On this turkey, it's one of those list songs - those 1956 rock 'n 'roll artists. [Ha! Maybe the most ludicrous thing on here - Mitch Miller? Andy Williams? Just what is their definition of 'rockabilly'?!]
"Moscow Cha Cha Cha" Kay Thompson on Signature. I only recently found out this c.1959-60 45 was by THE Kay Thompson, Liza Minelli's godmother and author of those Eloise kids' books. From the height of the Cold War, and the flip was "Dasvidanya."
"I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You") Ray Odom on Torino. I believe an indie vanity record. When you play it, you'll know why.
A million thankyous to Windbag, who has sent plenty of other goodies my way that I hope to get to in the future. (Although you might not want to thank him after you've heard the final track on this collection...)