Thursday, April 10, 2008


I don’t have an iPod yet, but my ten-year-old son does. I watch him downloading singles and remember when I was just a little older than him getting one of those new little 45 record players that were almost like toys and beginning my collection of 45s.

Thinking about 45 singles, as opposed to the long-playing records that became my obsession when I got older, and CDs in recent years, I began to consider what I might compile on an iPod if and when I get one.

That led me to last night, when having been woken up by the usual garbage collection commotion around 4AM, I tried making an alphabet list of recordings of individual songs that others might have forgotten or not be aware of, because they were either made by relatively unknown artists or are lesser known recordings by well-known artists.

In other words, obscure recordings that deserve, in my opinion, to be better known. This is what I came up with before I was in dreamland again (I wonder if most of these can even be found to download on an iPod):

ALORS ALLEZ performed by Disturbed Furniture (on a 45 from the NYC c. 1980 punk/new wave short-lived band, I knew the lead singer, Alexa Hunter, from an independent film we acted in together and saw them live at The Roxy back then and totally dug their sound)
BLUE MOON sung by Elvis Presley (on THE SUN SESSIONS CD, though I first heard it on his first RCA Victor album put out as two 45s in a folding cardboard “album”—it’s the song on which he does a kind of falsetto cross between yodeling and croon-scatting)
COUNTRY FIDDLE—C, THE played by Pete Seeger (banjo) and Jean Carignan (fiddle) (from the INDIAN SUMMER soundtrack LP)
DARK MOON, HIGH TIDE performed by Afro Celt Sound System (on the soundtrack for GANGS OF NEW YORK and probably on one of their CDs)
EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME sung by Frank Sinatra (the original 78 recording, when he was still almost a kid and sounded like it)
FAMINE spoken/sung/rapped by Sinead O’Connor (don’t remember which CD it’s on, but it’s almost all the Irish history lesson you’ll ever need, simply brilliant)
GUESS I’LL GO BACK HOME THIS SUMMER performed by The Glen Miller Orchestra (I think that’s the title, as sung on the original 78 recording by the great saxman and vocalist Tex Benecke, it’s about as poignant a heartbreaker anyone could ever sing jauntily, from a Great Depression/WWII perspective that gets me every time)
HOME COOKING performed by Spanish Kitchen (I love the bass groove on this 45, and not just because my oldest son Miles is playing it)
I’M GLAD I’M PREPARED FOR THE RECESSION sung by Terence Winch backed by The Fast Flying Vestibule (the brothers Winch band before they created the original Celtic Thunder, Terence wrote this tune back in the 1970s but it still applies), and I have to add one of the best original songs I’ve heard in the last decade or so that my daughter Caitlin turned me on to: Cheryl Wheeler’s rap/talking blues tune IF IT WERE UP TO ME (from her SYLVIA HOTEL CD)
MARAT WE’RE POOR sung by the cast of Peter Weiss’s MARAT/SADE as it was known in shorthand (from the 1966 cast-recording album, THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE and as good an expression of one aspect of the spirit of the 1960s protest years as anything else, though so much more than that too)
NEARNESS OF YOU, THE played by Nat Adderly (on his LP, NAT TO THE IVY LEAGUE, in which he “samples” old style—in other words he “quotes,” on his cornet, phrases from other songs, other musicians’ improvisations, and, in this case also TV commercials—it is a tour de force and defines for me one of the key elements of jazz improvisation)
O NOSSO AMOR played by Antonio Carlos Jobim and many others (all the several versions of this tune on the soundtrack of BLACK ORPHEUS, though the sweet MANHA DE CARNAVAL is the more memorable tune from this film in many ways, and I also love it, O NOSSO AMOR is the life of the film and a rousing expression of its spirit)
PISS FACTORY spoken/rapped/sung by Patti Smith (her first recording, put out on a 45 from the unfortunately now defunct best NYC literary bookstore, The Gotham Book Mart—or at least backed by them, as I remember it—c. mid-‘70s, it’s almost proto-rap, or a talking blues, about working in a South Jersey factory before she headed for the big city)
QUIET MAN THEME, THE played by the studio orchestra I assume (from the soundtrack, which I could never get a copy of so have to just dig it from the movie when it’s on; I guess I could buy the DVD and record it from there, and also find out who’s performing it for sure)
RED IS THE ROSE performed by Irish Fire (this traditional Irish tune as sung by Dominick Murray and Grace Griffith with both playing guitar I think and Dave Abe on fiddle is about as poignant a heartbreaker as the Irish can come up with, from their self-named CD IRISH FIRE)
SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD played by Charlie Haden (bass of course) and Hank Jones (ditto piano) (from their STEAL AWAY duet CD of “spirituals, hymns and folk songs,” one of the all time great jazz and spiritual recordings ever, and a unique combo)
TOO MANY CREEPS performed by THE BUSH TETRAS (on a 45 by the NYC downtown all female punk band c. late ‘70s)
UNION STATION sung by Joe Stork backed by The Fast Flying Vestibule (the title song from the only FFV LP, UNION STATION, another tune written by Terence Winch, and as you can tell I’ve been listening to his early records lately)
VIVA LA VIDA performed by Trio Marimberos (from the FRIDA film soundtrack)
WHO FEELS IT KNOWS IT sung by Rita Marley (from the only LP I remember of hers, although I’m sure there was more than one, but I can’t remember the name of the album)
YSABEL’S TABLE DANCE played (and composed) by Charlie Mingus and a host of great musical talents, including Ysabel Morel on castinets (from his TIJUANA MOODS LP)
ZIPPITY-DOO-DAH sung by Johnny Mercer, one of the few songs he recorded that he didn’t write the lyrics to (from the first “record album” I ever owned, the soundtrack songs from SONG OF THE SOUTH on 78 recordings in sleeves in an actual “album,” a gift when I was a little boy that I never forgot, despite the later criticism of that film as politically incorrect)

If you can download any of these, I’d be very surprised if most of you aren’t either delighted, moved, and/or thoroughly engaged by these performances.


Doug said...

Great list, Michael. A whole lot of music that I don't know, but would love to hear, as well as some old favorites.

Made me think about my own record buying history. First 78 was Gunfight at the OK Corral b/w 3:10 to Yuma by Frankie Laine. I was disappointed that the OK Corral recording lacked verses that were sung during the movie. Also, I wished that the remake of 3:10 to Yuma had included the Frankie Laine song.

I've been listening to a lot of anthologies of old 78s from around the world. I've always loved the way that music travels across time to us. Your post inspired more thoughts about that. I'm gonna see if Piss Factory is available in some form -- I've heard of it, but never heard it. And there's a lot of other stuff on your list that I'm gonna check out.

Caitlin said...

Famine is on You Tube, very cool. Lyrics only on Cheryl Wheeler song. Cool idea pops, Caitlin

The Kid said...

speaking of


let's watch the movie....soon

Lally said...

Doug, Let me know if you find anything you dig, and Cait, so happy you dug FAMINE, but I don't think the lyrics to Cheryl Wheeler's song work anywhere near as good as the way she sing/raps it. As for the kid, any day now.