Beatles For Sale – Recovered

November 27th, 2014 5 comments

BFS Recovered - front

On 4 December 1964 The Beatles released their second LP of the year, just in time for the Christmas. Sandwiched between the masterpieces A Hard Day’s Night (released just six months earlier) and Help!, and released just a year before the game-changer Rubber Soul,  the album — titled perhaps not unironically Beatles For Sale — looks like the runt of the litter.

The cover image is emblemic. The guys look tired and irritated. It was a busy year. In 1964 they had recorded A Hard Day’s Night, for which Paul and John had written all the songs, filmed the movie of that name, promoted both, and toured extensively in Europe, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, and the USA, where they had broken big with their appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show (which is recalled HERE, with a great jazz mix of Beatles covers).

Beatles For Sale was recorded over seven days between August and October. For the last time on a Beatles LP, it included covers of songs by the band’s rock ‘n’ roll heroes: Chuck Berry (Rock and Roll Music), Buddy Holly (Words Of Love), Carl Perkins (Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby), Little Richard (Hey Hey Hey Hey), Wilbert Harrison (Kansas City, also recorded by Little Richard), and Dr. Feelgood and the Interns (the much-maligned Mr Moonlight).

The covers were obvious fillers, but it would be wrong to dismiss Beatles For Sale on their account. There are several underrated gems among the Lennon/McCartney compositions. The opening trio is as good as almost any on Beatles album: No Reply, I’m A Loser and Baby’s In Black. Eight Days A Week, I’ll Follow the Sun and Every Little Thing are stone-cold Beatles classics. The latter is a rare thing: John singing lead on a McCartney song.

The compilation of cover songs of tracks from the album, presented here in the original order, is great fun. I don’t know if I really like the version of Every Little Thing by Yes, but if I approve of Isaac Hayes totally reworking a sing in psychedelic style, then I should at least express my admiration for this 1969 version, recording of which might have involved the use of drugs.

1. Les Lionceaux – Ne Ris Pas (No Reply) (1965)
2. Eels – I’m A Loser (2003)
3. John Doe – Baby’s In Black (2004)
4. Humble Pie – Rock And Roll Music (1975)
5. The Brothers Four – I’ll Follow The Sun (1966)
6. The Hollies – Mr. Moonlight (1964)
7. Little Richard – Kansas City Hey Hey Hey (1959)
8. Alma Cogan – Eight Days A Week (1965)
9. Jeff Lynne – Words Of Love (2011)
10. Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band – Honey Don’t (1990)
11. Yes – Every Little Thing (1969)
12. The Savoys – I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party (1970)
13. The Fantastic Dee Jays – What You’re Doing (1965)
14. Johnny Cash feat. Carl Perkins – Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (2003)

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More great Beatles stuff:
A Hard Day’s Night – Recovered
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Any Bizarre Beatles
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2

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Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 2

November 20th, 2014 4 comments

Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 2

Here’s the second of three mixes of full versions of well-known TV themes, including the highly-rated one for True Detective, and two of the all-time greats, Dragnet and Hawaii Five-O. Especially the latter is fantastic in its full length. And listen out for the theme of S.W.A.T..

Most are well-known, but two themes here are from German TV: from the detective series Derrick, which ran from the 1970s to the ’90s, and the music show Musikladen (née Beat Club), footage of which regularly turns up on VH-1 type shows and on YouTube. Both themes are excellent; the latter was a single from 1966 which was borrowed as a TV theme. The theme of Derrick was written and arranged by Les Humphries, who also was the leader of the Les Humphries Singers, a multi-national, multi-racial bunch of hippie-looking people who were phenomenally successful in Germany in the early 1970s.

A good number of themes here have scored sitcoms, going back to I Love Jeannie. Not all of them were good, and some pretty bad (Growing Pains!). But it occurs to me that even as people are talking about US television experiencing a golden age, it doesn’t really apply to sitcoms, animated shows aside. Some of the current sitcoms were very good when they started, but have outlived their welcome (Big Bang Theory) or have fallen into a rut (Modern Family); some are just awful (Two And A Half Men, for pity’s sake), some are just overrated (Girls). I had hopes for Blackish, alas… So, we’re left with the genuinely good Brooklyn Nine-Nine and… what else?

No, the golden age of the sitcom was the 1990s: Seinfeld, Friends, Murphy Brown, Frasier, Larry Sanders, the first few seasons of Mad About You, or  Married With Children stood out above much of the crap we watched anyway on TV, because we had no broadband Internet and DVD box-sets.

The first mix of full TV themes is HERE.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-couchpotatoed covers.

1. Family Guy – Full Theme Song
2. Valley Lodge – Go (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver)
3. Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar (How To Make It In America)
4. Regina Spektor – You’ve Got Time (Orange Is The New Black)
5. Dave Porter – Breaking Bad Theme
6. The Handsome Family – Far From Any Road (True Detective)
7. Ryan Bingham – Until I’m One With You (The Bridge)
8. Dandy Warhols – We Used To Be Friends (Veronica Mars)
9. Lazlo Bane – Superman (Scrubs)
10. Malvina Reynolds – Little Boxes (Weeds)
11. Frank Sinatra – Love And Marriage (Married With Children)
12. Ray Anthony – Theme from Dragnet
13. Hugo Montenegro – Jeannie (I Dream Of Jeannie)
14. The Monkees – (Theme From) The Monkees
15. Mood Mosaic – A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass (Musikladen/Beat Club)
16. Orchester Les Humphries – Derrick
17. Morton Stevens – Theme from Hawaii Five-O
18. Ja’net DuBois & Oren Waters – Movin’ On Up (The Jeffersons)
19. Waylon Jennings – Good Ol’ Boys (Dukes Of Hazzard)
20. Andrew Gold – Final Frontier (Mad About You)
21. B.J. Thomas & Dusty Springfield – As Long As We Got Each Other (Growing Pains)
22. Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams – Without Us (Family Ties)
23. Dave Grusin – St Elsewhere
24. Jack Elliott – Theme from Night Court
25. Rhythm Heritage – Theme from S.W.A.T.

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A Life In Vinyl: 1980

November 13th, 2014 7 comments

A Life In Vinyl 1980

In 1980 I turned 14, and shortly before that I bought my 100th single — that is, the 100th single in my collection since I had dumped all my old Schlager platters and started accumulating proper pop records. The honour of providing my century went to Peter Gabriel’s Games Without Frontiers, a song he also recorded in very broken German. I preferred the English version. Within a year I would almost stop buying singles in favour of albums (though I’d rediscover the joy of the single when I lived in London in the mid-’80s).

A couple of months later I bought in short order a quartet of singles which, along with New Musik’s Living By Numbers, define my year 1980: Tim Curry’s I Do The Rock, The Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket (to this day I have no idea what Chrissie Hynde is singing much of the time), the Ramones’ version of Baby I Love You, produced by Phil Spector, and Dexys Midnight Runners’ Geno.

If forced to choose, I’d call Geno my favourite single ever. It’s not the best single ever, of course, nor is it even my favourite song to be released as a single. It is my favourite single because never before or after have I loved a single — as an item and a song at a particular place and time – as much as Geno. I remember vividly buying it and sitting on the bus home, staring at its stark cover, anxious not so much to play it, but to own it, to place it in my collection of singles, as if this new acquisition was going to complete it.

The song may be somewhat derivative, but it sounded like nothing I had ever heard before: the urgent chants of the titular name, the minor notes of the stirring brass, and then Kevin Rowland’s distinctive style of staccato singing. It caused a weird sensation in my guts. I’ve heard Geno many, many times since then, and I can still feel that sensation of hearing it 34 years ago.

New Musik’s Living By Numbers is perfectly situated in 1980: the paranoia of the 1970s anticipating the computer age of the 1980s. Towards the end, there is a series of different English-accented individuals proclaiming: “They don’t want your name” (they want “just your numbah”, apparently). I derived much fun, and still do, from imitating the different voices as I sang along; correctly locating the strangely shrill and nasal women’s moment at 2:46 being a moment of particular personal triumph. I associate the song with another new innovation: it was one of the songs I recorded off a music show on our new video recorder, a machine using a format that was already obsolete in 1980!

covers-gallery

1980 was indeed an exciting time for music. Lots of new sounds emerged from Britain. The lyrics, to me as German-speaking teen, were secondary.  And so it was only a couple of years ago that I discovered that The Vapors’ Turning Japanese is not an ode to acquiring a taste for sushi and saki, nor  a narrative about the notoriously difficult act of assimilating to life in Tokyo, Osaka or Fukuoka. Turning Japanese apparently refers to the narrowing of the male’s eyes as he reaches the point of orgasm, in the case of the song brought about by masturbation. It might not be true, but I’ll accept that interpretation as fact.

It seems Germany in general didn’t care much about lyrics. How Frank Zappa’s Bobby Brown received wide airplay, to the point of turning this 1979 song into a big hit in 1980, is something I shall never understand.

1980 was, of course, also a year bookended by the deaths of two favourite singers. In February AC/DC’s Bon Scott died in London. Not long before that I had bought the Highway To Hell LP. On 9 December the radio alarm clock went off with more terrible news. I was just rising when the announcer said that John Lennon had been shot dead while we were sleeping. On my turntable was the second LP from The Beatles 1967-70 collection, which I had listened to, for the first time in a long time, the night before, when John was still alive.

covers-gallery-1

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in in comments.

1. Status Quo – Living On An Island
2. Electric Light Orchestra – Confusion
3. Cheap Trick – Dream Police
4. Cherie & Marie Currie – Since You’ve Been Gone
5. AC/DC – Touch Too Much
6. Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers
7. New Musik – Living By Numbers
8. The Vapors – Turning Japanese
9. Tim Curry – I Do The Rock
10. Marianne Faithful – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
11. Pretenders – Brass In Pocket
12. Dexys Midnight Runners – Geno
13. Ramones – Baby, I Love You
14. Frank Zappa – Bobby Brown
15. Randy Newman – The Story Of A Rock And Roll Band
16. Joan Armatrading – Me, Myself, I
17. The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
18. Robert Palmer – Johnny & Mary
19. David Bowie – Fashion
20. Kate Bush – Army Dreamers
21. John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over

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NYC in black & white

November 10th, 2014 12 comments

New York in Black & White

A reader asked me to re-up the broken link to this mix, first posted in early 2010. So here I post the whole shebang again, this time with covers, since I suspect some thoughtful children and grandchildren of people who witnessed the time this compilation recalls might want to give the mix as a Christmas present. As always, the thing is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. PW in comments.

I hope that this collection of songs about or set in New York, spanning 30 years, will find an audience. And I hope that some of these songs will inspire the listener to seek out more music by some of the artists who are largely forgotten now.

Here I think of the great Anita O’Day, featured here twice, an extraordinary vocalist whose lifestory would mirror any sordid rock & roll tale. Or Red Nichols, the innovative jazzman who is said to have recorded 4,000 songs before he turned 25. Danny Kaye played him in the 1959 biopic The Five Pennies, which also starred Bob Crosby, the younger brother of Bing, who was a vocalist and bandleader in his own right, though here he appears as a guest of The Dorsey Brothers, both of who feature in this mix heading their own bands.

Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey played with Sam Lanin as did two other future bandleaders included here: Red Nichols on the cornet and saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer. Lanin was more an arranger than he was a musician, but a 1920s hit factory nonetheless (Bing Crosby got his break with Lanin’s orchestra). By the late 1930s, Lanin had retired from the music business.

The Mills Brothers may be most widely remembered better for their 1952 proto-doo wop hit Glow Worm, but by then they were veterans in the music game, having started in 1928, paving the way for the similar Ink Spots. The brothers stopped performing 61 years later, in 1989 (by then having been decimated to two by death).

Dolly Dawn, known to her mother by the more demure name Theresa Maria Stabile, was a massive singing star in the 1930s and early ’40s. She was one of the very first female singers to lead her own band, the Dawn Patrol. Her career was cut short when many members of her band were drafted to serve Uncle Sam in WW2.

The 1920s and ’30s were the golden age of African-American vaudeville acts of the age of the tap dance and the soft-shoe, silver-capped canes and gleaming cufflinks, the Bojangles scene. Jimmy Lunceford, whose orchestra began as a high school band which Lunceford taught in Memphis, is perhaps the best example here of that influence on jazz, incorporating humour in the music (in much the some way the Italian Louis Prima would). Rumour has it that Lunceford died in 1947 after being poisoned by a restaurateur in Oregon who resented the presence of a black patron in his establishment. More extreme things happened in the sorry history of 20th century US racism.

TRACKLISTING
1. Anita O’Day – Take The ‘A’ Train (1958)
2. Tommy Dorsey & Jo Stafford – Manhattan Serenade (1943)
3. Dolly Dawn and her Dawn Patrol – Blossoms On Broadway (1937)
4. Mound City Blue Blowers – She’s A Latin From Manhattan (1935)
5. Louis Prima and his Orchestra – Brooklyn Bridge (1945)
6. The Dorsey Brothers feat. Bob Crosby – Lullaby Of Broadway (1935)
7. The Quintones – Harmony In Harlem (1940)
8. The Mills Brothers – Coney Island Washboard (1932)
9. Tempo King’s Kings Of Tempo – Bojangles Of Harlem (1936)
10. Albert Ammons & Pete Johnson – Sixth Avenue Express (1941)
11. Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra – Cowboy From Brooklyn (1938)
12. Judy Garland & Fred Astaire – A Couple Of Swells (1948)
13. Lee Wiley & Ellis Larkins – Give It Back To The Indians (1954)
14. Dinah Washington – Manhattan (1959)
15. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Autumn In New York (1956)
16. Gene Krupa feat. Anita O’ Day – Let Me Off Uptown (1941)
17. Cab Calloway Cotton Club Orchestra – Manhattan Jam (1937)
18. Mills Blue Rhythm Band – There’s Rhythm In Harlem (1935)
19. Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra – Slumming On Park Avenue (1937)
20. Artie Shaw and his Orchestra – To A Broadway Rose (1941)
21. Red Nichols and his Orchestra – The New Yorkers (1929)
22. Sam Lanin’s Orchestra with Jack Hart – The Broadway Melody (1929)
23. Frankie Trumbauer – Manhattan Rag (1929)
24. Leadbelly – New York City (1940)

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In Memoriam – October 2014

November 6th, 2014 6 comments

I fear this blog is becoming a death trap: Of the songs featured on the first two Life in Vinyl compilations, covering the years 1977 and 1978, three musicians died in October. First there was Lynsey de Paul (Rock Bottom, 1977), then Tim Hauser of The Manhattan Transfer (Chanson d’Amour, 1977), and a few days later Raphael Ravenscroft, the man who played that great saxophone on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.

in_memoriam_1410Raphael  Ravenscroft was not only a session sax man who tried his hand, unsuccessfully, as a solo recording artist, but also wrote books on saxophione technique. Other than on Baker Street and other Rafferty tracks, you might have heart him on Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut and Roger Waters’ The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking, or Marvin Gaye’s Heavy Love Affair.

Among the great 1960s rock trios, two stood out: Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And while the members of the latter was all dead by 2008 (the only big rock act I can think of whose members are now all dead), Cream lost its first member in October: bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce (his were the vocals on hits like Sunshine Of Your Love, Crossroads, I Feel Free etc). I think it’s fair to say that Bruce pioneered the electric bass as a central element in rock.

Before Cream, Bruce had played with Ginger Baker in the Graham Bond Organisation (apparently they hated each other) and with Eric Clapton in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, with whom he later joined a trio named Powerhouse, featuring Steve Winwood. In between he played on UK #1 hits such as Manfred Mann’s Pretty Flamingo and The Scaffold’s Lily the Pink. After Cream he recorded solo and played with artists such as Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gary Moore and others.

Reggae legend John Holt led the way in what was to be called lovers rock, with his reggae ballads which often drew from the word of pop and soul. He had hits with songs such as Help Me Make It Through The Night, Just The Way You Are and Touch Me In The Morning — but he also wrote a pop classic with The Tide Is High, which he first recorded with his band The Paragons in 1967 and became a global hit for Blondie in 1980.

For those who complain about the artificiality in pop today, the answer is Alvin Stardust, who had success under two made-up personae, none of his own making. Born Bernard Jewry in London in 1942, he was a roadie for The Fentones in the early 1960s. Its leader was Shane Fenton, whose real name was Johnny Theakston. Just aged 17, Johnny died just before The Fentones made their breakthrough. Bernard stepped in as Shane Fenton, keeping the stage name at the request of Mrs Theakston. Shane Fenton & the Fentones had a handful of UK hits and then disbanded. Bernard was at loose ends for the next decade.

In the early 1970s, Pete Shelley, co-founder of Magnet Records, was performing under the moniker Alvin Stardust.  But when he recorded a Spirit In The Sky rip-off titled My Coo Ca Choo, it unexpectedly entered the charts. Unwilling to become Alvin Stardust himself, he knew he had to find somebody else to take that role. Step forward Bernard Jewry/Shane Fenton II. With his slightly creepy rock & roller in glam clothes image, he went on to have a string of hits.

There is always something especially tragic about a musician dying while working. So it was with the keyboardist Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens, who died at 38 of a heart attack in his hotel room in Puebla, Mexico, while touring with Jack White. The night before he had played in Mexico City. Owens had previously worked with indie acts like The Mars Volta and toured or recorded with TV On The Radio, Shuggie Otis, Blowfly, Barrington Levy, Mastodon and others. He also recorded with Free Moral Agents, a fusion group he founded.

If you’re American, you’ve probably heard English conductor Ian Fraser’s work somewhere along the way. If not, you’ll still know his composition: David Bowie’s Peace On Earth counter-melody to Bing Crosby’s Little Drummer Boy, from the 1977 Bing Crosby TV special, which Fraser conducted. In his career he received eleven Emmy Awards out of 32 total nominations, the first 25 of which were in consecutive years. He was the most-honored musician in television history, getting awards for things like the 1993 Presidential Inaugural Gala, Julie Andrews TV specials and the Christmas in Washington shows which he conducted for many years. Much of his work was on stage, arranging the scores of musicals such as Stop the World – I Want to Get Off and Victor/Victoria. He also arranged movie scores, including Scrooge with Albert Finney.

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George Roberts, 86, jazz trombonist, on Sept. 28
Harry James and his Orchestra  - Autumn Serenade (1945)
Ella Fitzgerald – All Of You (1956)

Lynsey de Paul, 64, English singer and songwriter, on Oct. 1
Lynsey de Paul – Sugar Me (1972)

Rob Skipper, 28, member of British indie band The Holloways, announced on Oct. 2
The Holloways – Sinners ’n’ Winners (2009)

The Spaceape (Stephen Gordon), 44, British dubstep MC and vocalist, on Oct. 2

Paul Revere, 76, American musician, on Oct.4
Paul Revere and The Raiders – Louie, Louie (1964)
Paul Revere and The Raiders – Song Seller (1973)

Leonard Delaney, 71, drummer with The Tornadoes, on Oct. 5
The Tornadoes – Bustin’ Surfboards (1962)

Andrew Kerr, 80, co-founder of the Glastonbury Festival, on Oct. 6

Lou Whitney, 72, rock musician, producer and studio owner, on Oct. 7
Jonathan Richman – Since She Started To Ride (1990, as producer)

Lincoln ‘Style’ Scott, 58, Jamaican reggae drummer, apparently murdered on Oct. 9
Gregory Isaacs – Permanent Lover (1981, on drums)

Olav Dale, 55, Norwegian composer and jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 10

Brian Lemon, 77, British jazz pianist and arranger, on Oct. 11
Brian Lemon – Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You (1995)

Geoff Nugent, 71, rhythm guitarist of beat group The Undertakers, on Oct. 12
The Undertakers – Just A Little Bit (1964)

Mark Bell, 43, member of British electronic music group LFO, producer (Bjork), on Oct. 13
LFO – We Are Back (1991)

Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens, 38, keyboardist (Jack White), on Oct. 14
The Mars Volta – The Widow (2005, on keyboard)
Free Moral Agents – Six Degrees (2007)

Tim Hauser, 72, member of Manhattan Transfer, on Oct. 16
The Manhattan Transfer – Birdland (1979)

Clive Jones, 65, saxophonist-flautist of British rock band Black Widow, on Oct. 16

Paul Craft, 76, musician and songwriter, on Oct. 18
Don Everly – Brother Jukebox (1977, as writer)

Mick Burt, drummer for English duo Chas & Dave, on Oct. 18

Raphael Ravenscroft, 60, British saxophonist and author, on Oct. 19
Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street (1978, on saxophone)

John Holt, 67, singer of Jamaican reggae band The Paragons and songwriter, on Oct. 19
The Paragons – The Tide Is High (1967, also as writer)
John Holt – Stick By Me (1971)

Ronny Spears, outlaw-country singer, on Oct. 20

Tyson Stevens, 29, singer of rock band Scary Kids Scaring Kids, on Oct. 21

Marcia Strassman, 66, singer and actress (Welcome Back, Kotter), on Oct. 23
Marcia Strassman – Out Of The Picture (1967)

Alvin Stardust, 72, English singer, on Oct. 23
Shane Fenton & The Fentones  – I’m A Moody Guy (1961)
Alvin Stardust – My Coo Ca Choo (1973)
Alvin Stardust – I Feel Like Buddy Holly (1984)

Jack Bruce, 71, Scottish-born bassist and singer of Cream, on Oct. 25
Cream – I Feel Free (1966)
Jack Bruce Band – Lost Inside A Song (1977)

Shin Hae-chul, 46, singer with South Korean pop group N.EX.T, on Oct. 27

Renato Sellani, 88, Italian jazz pianist and composer, on Oct. 30

Ian Fraser, 81, English composer and conductor, on Oct. 30
Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Little Drummer Boy-Peace On Earth (1977, as co-writer)

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(PW in comments)

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Germany’s Hitparade 1938-45

November 3rd, 2014 17 comments

This is the second part of the recycled German hitparade of the era just before and during the war. Again, if you dig genocidal fascism and want this mix to have a Nazi party, please go somewhere else.

In 1944, the Third Reich’s propaganda and culture minister Joseph Goebbels issued a list of artists who were exempted from military duty. The list included individuals deemed too valuable for sacrifice on the battlefield — and friends of the regime. The Gottbegnadeten-Liste (God-gifted list) included authors, architects, painters, sculptors, composers (including 80-year-old Richard Strauss), conductors as well as singers and actors. Those included on that list have featured on these two compilations included Willy Fritsch, Paul Hörbiger (soon to be arrested for resistance activities), Hans Albers, Wilhelm Strienz, and Heinz Rühmann.

These artists enjoyed protection because of their sometimes unwitting collaboration in Goebbels’ endeavours of feeding a positive mood among an increasingly demoralised German population that had lost its youth on battlefields, its homes in bombed cities and its comforts with shortages in food, heat and clothing. It had long been Goebbels’ strategy to distract the German population from the less savoury sides of life under Nazism. Throughout the Nazi-era, he actively promoted light and apolitical feel-good films and songs (much as Hollywood did during the Depression). This meant that artists who were critical of the regime could work in the German film industry without troubling their conscience. Most probably did not realise that they were being used.

In the notes to the German Hitparade 1930-37 we encountered the affable Heinz Rühmann, who demonstrably differed with the Nazis on notions of racial purity. Yet it was he who prepared Germans for the war and the encouragement to see it through stoically when his signature hit Das kann doch einen Seemann nicht erschüttern (That can’t rattle a seaman) was released just a month before the invasion of Poland. The song came from the film Paradies der Junggesellen (with Josef Sieber and Hans Brausewetter, who also appear on the song; watch the clip and note the swastika on the walls of the hall). It seems more of a coincidence, however, that Lale Andersen recorded her famous Lili Marlen, the original, almost exactly a month before the start of World War 2.

Zarah Leander confidently predicts that there will be a miracle in the 1942 film Die große Liebe.

During the war, many songs that ostensibly dealt with matters of romance had a rather unsubtle subtext that exhorted Germans to endure the war until the inevitable final victory. As the news from the fronts became increasingly troubling, so these songs became more frequent. While Bomber Arthur Harris destroyed German cities, Zarah Leander sang Davon geht die Welt nicht unter (Cheer up, Volk, it’s not the end of the world) and the optimistic Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh’n (I know that one day there’ll be a miracle). Lale Andersen suggested that everything will pass eventually. By then, a sense of cynicism began to prevail. Wags would complement her hit’s title Es geht alles vorüber, es geht alles vorbei with the rhyme “erst geht der Adolf, dann die Partei” (Everything must pass, everything will go away; first goes Adolf, then the party). People were executed for less. But as the end neared, a sense of fatalism started to creep in. The final song on this compilation, from 1944, will have resonated with soldiers on the front: Seagull, you’re flying home; send it my regards. Many of the soldiers did not go the way of the title’s feathered friend.

Some of the singers certainly were glad of their relationship with the Nazi regime, but it does not follow that all of those who appeared in German film were sympathisers. Some actors were jailed in concentration camps; some were executed or died of illness in camps. These unfortunates included the actor Robert Dorsay, a dancing comic who for a few months between 1932 and ’33 was even a party member. In 1941 he was drafted into the army, where he drove trucks. While on home leave, he was overheard making political jokes, which was reported to the Gestapo. The secret police then intercepted Dorsay’s mail. In one letter, dated 31 March 1943, he asked (rhetorically) about the war: “When will this idiocy end?”. That was enough for a court to sentence Dorsay to death. The 39-year-old actor, who had appeared in more than 30 movies between 1936 and ’39, was executed within hours of being sentenced in October that year (see a clip of Dorsay singing and dancing in the 1936 film Es geht um mein Leben, which – irony spotters, take note – could be translated as It’s a matter of my survival).

Another singer featured here was arrested: Evelyn Künnecke (1921-2001), daughter of two big opera stars, had not impressed the Nazi hierarchy by singing the racially impure and altogether degenerate American swing music (see this article on Germany’s Swing Kids scene) . Despite going on tours entertaining German troops on both eastern and western fronts, Künnecke was arrested for “defeatism” in January 1945. She was released shortly before the war with a view to recording English-language “propaganda jazz” songs for the disinformation station Germany Calling. It is not clear that Künnecke ever recorded with the station’s houseband, Charlie and his Orchestra.

In short, it would be rather too easy to damn all German artists of the era for lacking the courage to openly oppose the Nazis. By the same token, it is difficult to understand how some of the enthusiastic collaborators with Nazism were able to make such an easy transition to lucrative post-war careers.

The case of Lale Andersen (1905-72) is an interesting example of the thin ice German artists skated on at the time. Andersen reputedly was Hitler’s favourite singer, and her recording of Lili Marlen (originally titled Lied eines jungen Wachtposten and based on a WW1 poem) had made her well-known beyond Germany. Andersen had been reluctant to record the song because she didn’t like its martial tone; for Goebbels, who hated it, Lili Marlen was not martial enough. By 1942, the Nazi leadership decided that Andersen’s signature song was too morbid, and banned it (it had been subject to limited bans soon after its release). It seems Andersen disregarded the proscription, for she was strongly admonished never to sing it in public again, least of all in front of soldiers.

She then aggravated matters by declining to appear in concert in Warsaw and further by writing allegedly critical letters to refugees in Switzerland, which the Gestapo had intercepted. It is said that only a premature report of her arrest on the BBC saved Andersen from an already ordered arrest and deportation to a concentration camp. Like Evelyn Künnecke, Andersen was made to cut a deal in exchange for freedom: she had to perform weekly with Germany Calling’s Charlie and his Orchestra. Unlike other, more willing, participants in Nazi propaganda, this action brought the singer a brief post-war performance ban.

Foreign stars seemed to be better behaved than some of their local counterparts, such as the magnificent diva Zarah Leander (1907-81), who with her extravagant gestures and alto soprano was an obvious favourite drag queen character in the West Germany of the ’70s and ’80s. Born in Sweden, Leander’s life would make a great biopic. She enjoyed her first success in Vienna in 1936 with the operetta Axel an der Himmelstür, the libretto of which was written by one Paul Morgan, a German émigré. Within two years, Morgan had died of pneumonia in the Buchenwald concentration camp, while the singer who had sung his words on the Vienna stage had become one of Nazi Germany’s biggest stars, appearing in many propaganda films. Leander always claimed to have been apolitical; not everybody was convinced of it. She left Germany in 1942.

Another Scandinavian, the Norwegian Kirsten Heiberg (1907-76) had a glittering career as an actress of the femme fatale type. But she did not endear herself to the Nazi brass by refusing to join the NSDAP, and when she spoke out – albeit without forthright trenchancy – against the German occupation of her home country, she was banned from performing in public for two years. Norwegians did not forgive Heiberg’s association with the Nazi regime, and she retired from show business in 1954. [Edit: See comments for a further discussion on Heiberg and her politics.]

Heiberg was married to Franz Grothe (1908-82), who was a party member, having joined the NSDAP in May 1933. Before that, the composer had written many songs for Richard Tauber (who left Germany after being beaten up by Grothe’s new pals). After the war, Grothe resisted the denazification process, but that act of noncompliance did little to obstruct his post-war career. Until his death, he was chief conductor on the very popular, long-running and conservative Volksmusik TV show Zum blauen Block.

Another non-German who had a glittering career in the Third Reich was Johannes Heesters (1903 – ), who appeared on the first compilation and here duetting with Marika Rökk (1913-2004, an admirer of Hitler in her day and, guess what, another post-war star whose Nazi-sympathising past was not a problem). The singing and dancing actor, who came to Germany in 1936, is still despised in his native Netherlands as a Nazi collaborator. Heesters, who performed for Hitler and in 1941 visited the Dachau concentration camp (apparently to entertain SS guards, which Heesters denies), did not distance himself from the Third Reich. But at the same time, in 1938 Heesters did appear on a Dutch stage with a Jewish group of actors. His unapologetic collaboration with the Nazi regime notwithstanding, the allies allowed him to continue his career after the war. Heesters is the world’s oldest active entertainer. His career started in 1921, he last appeared in a TV film in 2003.

Perhaps the most active Nazi featured here was the tenor Wilhelm Strienz (1900-87), who in 1933 joined the Sturmabteilung (Ernst Röhm’s brownshirts) and produced a series of propaganda hits on themes such as “Being German means being faithful” and “Fly, German flag, fly”. He regularly contributed to cultural Nazi propaganda, which did not deter London’s Covent Garden opera house from engaging him. After the war, German radio blacklisted Strienz – not a very common step – but the singer continued a successful touring and recording until his retirement in 1963.

Die Goldene Sieben was the regime’s attempt to create German jazz as an alternative to the decadent swing music from the USA. The attempt failed.

Die Goldene Sieben, featured in part 1 with Ich wollt’ ich wär ein Huhn and here with Oh Aha!, were a musical experiment by the Nazis. The group was founded in Berlin to record “German jazz”, a type that would conform to the moral requirements of the Third Reich, as opposed to the “decadent” US jazz. However, the ever rotating members of the band failed to invent German jazz, doing so much of US-style swinging that Goebbels’ ministry disbanded the group in 1939, after five years of activity.

Likewise, the Austrian singer and composer Peter Igelhoff (1904-78) was considered too jazzy, and was prohibited from performing in public and banned from radio in 1942. Instead, the entertainer was drafted into the army and sent to the front. He survived and enjoyed a rewarding career in post-war Germany.

Among the most successful songwriting teams of the era was that of Michael Jary and Bruno Balz, who wrote those escapist anthems Das kann doch einen Seemann nicht erschüttern, Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh’n and Davon geht die Welt nicht unter. These songs were useful propaganda, and in the end might have saved Balz’s life.

Bruno Balz (1902-88) was jailed in 1936 under the notorious anti-gay law of 1872 (which the Federal Republic of Germany retained until 1973) for having homosexual relations. He was released early under the condition that he keep his name out of the public domain and that he enter into a marriage with a party loyalist. Moreover, his name was not to appear in song or film credits (a situation that was not rectified until many years after the war). Bruno “re-offended”: in 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured. It took the intervention of Jary who said that he could not produce the songs which Goebbels demanded without Balz. The lyricist was quickly released. The story goes that within a day of that traumatic event, Jary and Balz wrote the two Zarah Leander classics mentioned above.

Michael Jary (1906-88), who died just four months after his old songwriting partner, was not only a Schlager writer and an accomplished composer and arranger of classical film scores, but also a bandleader in the style of US swing orchestra leaders. Born in Poland as Maximilan Jarczyk, the Catholic Jary — who at point studied for the priesthood — was often mistaken for being Jewish, and so changed his name (also calling himself Max Jantzen and Jackie Leeds). Running an orchestra came in useful for Jary: just 19 days after the fall of the Third Reich, he was recording programmes for Berlin radio commissioned by the Soviet forces.

Jary’s preferred lead singer was Rudi Schuricke (1913-73), who in 1931 was invited to join the Comedian Harmonists but instead went on to found his own trio, the Schuricke–Terzett. He recorded with his group, guested on orchestras such as Jary’s and released solo records, often expressing sentimental longings for exotic locations (and in the 1930s and ’40s, when foreign holidays were unattainable fantasies, ideas of Napoli and Capri were very glamorous indeed). Schuricke’s post-war career was brief, a short-lived comeback in the 1970s notwithstanding, and he ended up running a hotel and laundry.

The best rumour concerning anyone featured here involves Ilse Werner (1921-2005), who was famous for whistling interludes in her songs. It is said that it is her whistling on the Scorpions’ hit Winds Of Change. Werner was also something of a pioneer of TV, presenting a programme on German television – the world’s first – before the regime stopped broadcasts in 1944. Like Andersen, Werner was given a performance ban after the war before she re-established herself.

TRACKLISTING
1. Zarah Leander – Kann Denn Liebe Sünde Sein (1938)
2. Rudi Schuricke – O Mia Bella Napoli (1938)
3. Peter Igelhoff - Der Onkel Doktor Hat Gesagt (1938)
4. Die Goldene Sieben – Oh Aha! (1939)
5. Michael Jary Tanzorchester mit Rudi Schuricke - J’attendrai (Komm zurück) (1939)
6. Lilian Harvey – Guten Tag, Liebes Glück (1939)
7. Heinz Rühmann – Das kann doch einen Seemann nicht erschüttern (1939)
8. Lale Andersen – Lied eines jungen Wachtposten (Lili Marlen) (1939)
9. Hans Albers – Goodbye, Johnny (1939)
10. Marika Rökk & Johannes Heester - Musik, Musik, Musik (1939)
11. Wilhelm Strienz – Abends In Der Taverne (1940)
12. Heinz Rühmann u. Herta Feiler - Mir Geht’s Gut (1940)
13. Heinz Müller Orchester – So schön wie heut’ (1941)
14. Hans Moser – Die Reblaus (1941)
15. Ilse Werner - So Wird’s Nie Wieder Sein (1941)
16. Franz Grothe – Wenn Ein Junger Mann Kommt (1941)
17. Peter Igelhoff – Ich bin ganz verschossen in Deine Sommersprossen (1942)
18. Zarah Leander – Davon geht die Welt nicht unter (1942)
19. Zarah Leander – Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder geschehen (1942)
20. Lale Andersen – Es geht alles vorüber, es geht alles vorbei (1942)
21. Kirsten Heiberg – Liebespremiere (1943)
22. Gerda Schönfelder – Ganz leis’ erklingt Musik (1943)
23. Evelyn Künnecke – Das Karussell (1943)
24. Marika Rökk – In Der Nacht Ist Der Mensch Nicht Alleine (1944)
25. Herbert Ernst Groh – Frauenaugen (1944)
26. Magda Hain – Möwe, Du Fliegst In Die Heimat (1944)

RUNTERLADEN (PW in comments)

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Songs about Vietnam Vol. 2

October 30th, 2014 5 comments

Songs_About_Vietnam_2

To mark the 50th anniversary of the election of Lyndon B Johnson as US President, here is the second mix of anti-Vietnam songs (you can find the first mix HERE). Nixon might have sabotaged the opportunity for peace in 1968, just to win an election, and Kennedy might have started it, but Vietnam was very much LBJ’s war, as Bill Frederick noted in his 1967 song and Tom Paxton in his song two years earlier.

Soul and folk singers were in the forefront of protesting against the war, though Motown — the voice of young America — played it safe until 1970. That year Martha Reeves and the Vandellas released the first protest sing on the label, I Should Be Proud. That opened the floodgates a little. Soon Edwin Starr had a hit with War, The Temptations with Ball Of Confusion and Marvin Gaye with a large swathe of his What’s Going On LP (and long after the fact, Stevie Wonder on his blistering 1982 track Front Line, which with Do I Do marks an end to classic Stevie brilliance).

Perhaps the most touching song here is Bill Withers’ I Can’t Write Left Handed. The opening verse lands a couple of punches the way Lennon’s thesaurus-robbing Give Peace A Chance doesn’t: “I can’t write left-handed. Would you please write a letter, write a letter to my mother? Tell her to tell, tell her to tell, tell her to tell the family lawyer, trying to get, trying to get a deferment for my younger brother…”

vietchoppers

And if it’s straight-talk you want, Gene McDaniels (who featured on Vol. 1) socks it to us via Roberta Flack in Compared To What: “The President, he’s got his war. Folks don’t know just what it’s for. Nobody gives us rhyme or reason; have one doubt, they call it treason.” Three and a half decades later, another president had his war, and his critics were called traitors.

Sensitive listeners might want to avert their ears when Country Joe McDonald does his swearwordy chant in the beginning of his Woodstock performance. He clearly isn’t impressed with the crowd’s spirited singing to his 1967 song: “Listen people, I don’t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that. There’s about 300,000 of you fuckers out there. I want you to start singing. Come on!” With that in mind, the placing of the next song, by Pete Seeger, is no accident. Listen to it to see why.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments.

1. Stevie Wonder – Front Line (1982)
2. Roberta Flack – Compared To What (1969)
3. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – I Should Be Proud (1970)
4. Freda Payne – Bring The Boys Home (1971)
5. Joe Tex – I Believe I’m Gonna Make It (1966)
6. Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed (1973)
7. Kris Kristofferson – Broken Freedom Song (1974)
8. Tom Paxton – Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation (1965)
9. Bill Frederick – Hey Hey LBJ (1967)
10. Country Joe McDonald – Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag (1969)
11. Pete Seeger – Bring Them Home (1969)
12. Phil Ochs – Draft Dodger Rag (1965)
13. B.J. Thomas – Viet Nam (1966)
14. Bob Seger System – 2+2=? (1968)
15. Grand Funk Railroad – People Let’s Stop The War (1971)
16. Jimmy Cliff – Vietnam (1970)
17. Terry Callier – Ho Tsing Mee (A Song Of The Sun) (1973)
18. Marvin Gaye – What’s Happening Brother (1971)
19. Johnny King & the Fatback Band – Peace, Love Not War (1969)
20. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Let’s Make Love Not War (1971)
21. The Emotions – So I Can Love You (1971)
22. Johnny & Jon – Xmas In Vietnam (1965)

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Germany’s Hitparade 1930-37

October 27th, 2014 16 comments

Listening to this mix, previously posted in 2010, the other day, I thought it might be useful to recycle it, especially since with the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 the era is of heightened interest again. Obviously, if you want this mix, and the second one I’ll repost next week, because you are nostalgic for the Third Reich, you are not welcome to it. As Indiana Jones so memorably put it: “Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This is the first of two compilations of German hits covering the era from the rise of Nazism to its demise. The first compilation leads us through the latter years of the Weimar Republic to 1937, just before war became an inevitable prospect. The second mix will start in 1938 — the year of the Anschluß, or annexation of Austria — through the war to 1944 (there were no hits in 1945, it seems).

None of the pre-war Schlager featured here are of the Nazi propaganda sort, and even the propaganda of the war-period songs is subtle, framing national optimism and encouragement in romantic song (with sentiments such as “I know one day there’ll be a miracle” and “Everything must pass”), which was very much in line with Goebbels’ propaganda strategy which used film and song to distract the Volk’s mind from matters of war.

The careers of some of the artists featured in the first mix ended with the advent of Nazism. Marlene Dietrich (1901-92), whose Ich bin die fesche Lola comes from Der Blaue Engel (filmed simultaneously as The Blue Angel in 1929), launched her Hollywood career before Hitler assumed power on 31 January 1933. While Dietrich agitated against the Nazis from the safety of Hollywood, her sister ran a cinema near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, frequented mainly by SS guards. Marlene renounced her sister as a result, yet after the war helped her financially. In post-war West Germany, Dietrich was long regarded by many as a traitor on account of her support for the Allies in WW2. At a 1960 concert in Düsseldorf, an audience member threw an egg at her (in fairness, other audience members gave the offender a good beating for his troubles).

Comedian Harmonists

The sextett Comedian Harmonists created many pre-Nazi classics which became German standards (such as Veronika, der Lenz ist da; Wochenend und Sonnenschein; Ein Freund, ein guter Freund; Mein kleiner Kaktus). Half of the group comprised Jewish members, and the group struggled soon after the Nazis took power. In 1934 the group was prohibited from performing in Germany; after a year of foreign tours it split in 1936. The three Jewish members emigrated, and formed a band which toured under the original name; the three Aryans formed a new group called the Meistersextett. Likewise, the Hungarian Jewish singer Gitta Alpár (1903-91) left Germany after 1933, and was divorced by her Aryan actor husband Gustav Fröhlich on top of that.

Richard Tauber (1891-1948), the Austrian tenor who was the subject of Tom Waits’ blues, was the son of a Jew who had converted to Catholicism, and had even hoped Richard would become a priest. Instead, Richard joined the stage, appearing in operas and operettas. Already a big star in Germany, Tauber was badly beaten up by Nazi thugs, presumably because of his Jewish ancestry, and left Germany for Austria. He fled his homeland after its annexation. He subsequently became a British citizen, and died in London at the age of 57.

Then there was the tragic Joseph Schmidt (1904-42), a Jewish tenor who was among the first artists to be banned from German radio by the Nazis. A few months after the release of his film Ein Lied geht um die Welt (the title track features on this set; see the video clip from the film) in May 1933, Schmidt fled Germany for Vienna, then after the Anschluß to Belgium, then after its invasion by Germany to France, and following France’s occupation to neutral Switzerland, where he arrived in September 1942. Several escape attempts had weakened Schmidt, leading to his collapse on a Zürich street. He was identified as a Jewish refugee, a category that in Swiss law was not regarded as political emigrés, and taken to the internment camp Girenbad while his residence application was being processed. While interned he fell ill and was treated in a hospital for an inflammation of the throat. The doctors refused to follow up his complaint about chest pains, and Schmidt was returned to Girenbad. Two days later, on November 16, he died of a heart attack. The following day, his approved residence permit arrived.

Just as dramatic is the story of Renate Müller (1906-37). Müller was a movie star (appearing in 1933’s Viktor und Viktoria, a movie banned by the Nazis and remade in English in 1980 as Victor/Victoria, from which the featured song comes. See video clip). After the departure of Marlene Dietrich, Adolf Hitler himself asked the beautiful, thoroughly Aryan Müller to make Nazi propaganda movies. She refused to do so, and also resisted pressure to split from her Jewish lover. Her sudden death at 31 in 1937 was attributed to epilepsy, but in reality she died after falling from a window. It might have been suicide, but Gestapo officers were seen entering the building shortly before. She might have jumped in a panic at the approach of the feared secret police, or she might have been pushed the agents. There are rumours that Müller had some incriminating information on Hitler.

The Polish-born actress Pola Negri (1897-1987), the famous femme fatale of Hollywood’s silent movies era and former lover of Rudolfo Valentino and Charlie Chaplin, had returned to Europe after her career floundered with the advent of the talkies and after losing a fortune in the Wall Street Crash. She acted in a few Goebbels-commissioned films, then fled Germany in 1938 as rumours of her part-Jewish ancestry appeared. Other rumours concerned an alleged affair with Hitler, who counted the Negri movie Mazurka among his favourites. Negri won a libel suit against a French magazine that had made the claim.

Like the unfortunate Joseph Schmidt, many artists left Germany as the horror of life under the Nazis began to reveal itself. The movie folks and writers among them, Jewish and gentile, tended to move to the US. These included the comic actor Siegfried Arno (1895-1975), who in his day was known as “the German Chaplin”. But the USA had no great demand for singers. So many of them continued their careers in Germany. Some of them surely had Nazi sympathies, or at least exhibited exceedingly high levels of pragmatism and wilful ignorance. Some, like Dutch-born singing hoofer Johannes Heesters, Swedish diva Zarah Leander or Führer-favourite Lale Andersen, would claim that they had no idea about politics, as though one needed the insights of a Chomsky to realise that very bad things indeed were happening under the swastika, even while cocooned in the protective shell of celebrity.

But it would be an error to believe that all artists were supportive of the Nazis. Hans Albers (1891-1960), one of the biggest stars in Nazi Germany, despised the Nazis. The regime forced him to officially split from his half-Jewish girlfriend, Hansi Burg, but he continued to live with her. In 1939, he arranged for her escape to Switzerland. When she returned to post-war Germany, Albers dropped his girlfriend at the time to reunite with Burg, with whom he lived until his death in 1960. His Flieger, grüss mir die Sonne is sometimes considered a Nazi propaganda anthem. It was nothing of the sort, at least not in intent. Released the year before the Nazis took power, Albers sung it in the sci-fi film F.P. 1 Antwortet Nicht.

Paul Hörbiger (1894-1981), an Hungarian-Austrian actor, became a resistance fighter against the Nazis. Arrested by the Nazis in 1945, he was sentenced to death for treason, with the BBC even reporting his death. Hörbiger lived, and enjoyed a long career on film, TV and stage which ended just a year before his death in 1981 at 86. Long revered in Germany and Austria as a grand old gentleman of stage and screen, Hörbiger’s film credits include the classic The Third Man, in which he played Harry Lime’s nameless porter.

Hans Söhnker (1903-1981) was discovered just as the Nazis took power. With some fellow actors of much courage he helped hide Jews on the run from the Nazis. Reportedly Söhnker was blacklisted by the Gestapo on several occasions because of these activities, with his celebrity presumably protecting him from the serious consequences non-famous Germans risked doing the same noble thing. He went on to have a long, fruitful career in Germany, where there was much affection for him.

Lilian Harvey (1906-1968) was born in London to English and German parents. During WW1, her father worked in Magdeburg, preventing the family from returning to England. Lilian might have become a big British star; instead her career hit the big time in Germany. After a failed attempt at breaking through in Hollywood, she drew the attention of the Gestapo in the ’30s for her refusal to disassociate from her Jewish friends. Based in France after war, she resumed her career in West Germany.

Others were apolitical. Heinz Rühmann (1902-94) was one of Germany’s biggest stars for close to six decades (he appeared in the excellent 1930 comedy Die drei von der Tankstelle, and in a 1941propaganda comedy with the entirely unfortunate title Der Gasmann, which, unusually for comedies, liberally used the “Heil Hitler” salute). Rühmann, reportedly Anne Frank’s favourite actor, presented himself in public as entirely apolitical, but after the war he was accused of having divorced his Jewish wife in 1938 so as to protect his career in the Third Reich. However, his next wife, Hertha Feiler, (with whom he remained until her death in 1975) had a Jewish grandfather, which caused Rühmann some trouble with the Nazi hierarchy. A Rühmann & Feiler duet appears on the second mix.

Willi Forst (1903-80), an Austrian actor, director and singer, was highly regarded by the Nazis, and made movies commissioned by them (including that Hitler favourite starring Pola Negri). After the war he defended himself from accusations of having been a sell-out, referring to his country’s “occupation” (for which his compatriots had voted, of course) and pointing to subtle subversion in his films. The fine actor Curd Jürgens later recalled Forst’s advice during the Nazi era to never make any political statement in case it might come back later to bite him.

Actor Willy Fritsch (1901-73) was a member of the NSDAP, though he made no political statements in his films other than the 1944 propaganda flick Junge Adler (which featured post-war movie star Hardy Krüger and 1970s TV host Dietmar Schönherr). Fritsch’s Nazi party membership was not held against him after the war, when he was one of Germany’s most popular actors. Singing with him on Ich wollt’ ich wär’ ein Huhn, recycled from the film Glückskinder, is Lilian Harvey (video clip). Their lyric is different from the more comedic version of Die Goldene Sieben (more about whom in part 2), who draw some verses from the movie version of the song, including the notion that Mickey Mouse lives in a mousehole. In the hit version Fritsch is more interested in being a chicken so that he need not have to go to the office. And it is that everyday-man persona with which he cemented his acting career.

In some of these post-war roles he played the father to young Romy Schneider’s characters. The ill-fated Romy was the daughter of the committed Austrian Nazi actor Wolf Albach-Retty and Magda Schneider (1909-96), of whom it is said that she had been close to Adolf Hitler. Like Heesters and Fritsch, her post-war career was not inhibited by the taint of Nazi associations. Another performer with a dodgy Third Reich record could never be taken to task: the Viennese crooner Luigi Bernauer (1899-1945) died in Oslo while on a tour entertaining German troops in occupied territories.

TRACKLISTING
1. Marlene Dietrich – Ich Bin Die Fesche Lola (1930)
2. Comedian Harmonists – Ein Freund, Ein Guter Freund (1930)
3. Siegfried Arno – Wenn Die Elisabeth Nicht So Schöne Beine Hätt (1930)
4. Richard Tauber – Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeoffizier (1930)
5. Paul Hörbiger – Das Muß Ein Stück Vom Himmel Sein (1931)
6. Lilian Harvey – Das Gibt’s Nur Einmal (1931)
7. Gitta Alpar – Was Kann So Schön Sein Wie Deine Liebe (1932)
8. Hans Albers – Flieger, Grüß’ Mir Die Sonne (1932)
9. Die Weintraubs – Wenn Wieder Frühling Ist (1933)
10. Joseph Schmidt – Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt (1933)
11. Renate Müller – An einem Tag im Frühling (1934)
12. Comedian Harmonists – Gitarren spielt auf (1934)
13. Herbert Ernst Groh – Ein Walzer für dich (1934)
14. Hilde Hildebrandt – Liebe ist ein Geheimnis (1934)
15. Eric Helgar – Wir wollen Freunde sein für’s ganze Leben (1934)
16. Erwin Hartung – Kannst du pfeifen, Johanna (1934)
17. Luigi Bernauer – Nachts Ging Das Telefon (1935)
18. Jan Kiepura – Ob Blond, Ob Braun, Ich Liebe Alle Frau’n (1935)
19. Pola Negri – Wenn Die Sonne Hinter Den Dächern versinkt (1936)
20. Hans Albers – Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins (1936)
21. Willy Fritsch & Lilian Harvey – Ich wollt’ ich wär ein Huhn (1936)
22. Die Goldene Sieben – Ich wollt’ ich wär ein Huh (1936)
23. Die Metropol Vokalisten – Buh-Buh (1937)
24. Hans Söhnker & Magda Schneider – Wem gehört Ihr Herz am nächsten Sonntag, Fräulein? (1937)
25. Heinz Rühmann & Hans Albers – Jawohl, Meine Herren (1937)
26. Johannes Heesters – Ich werde jede Nacht von Ihnen träumen (1937)
27. Willy Forst – Kapriolen (1937)

RUNTERLADEN

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 1

October 23rd, 2014 7 comments

Halloween_1

A few years ago I posted a couple of Halloween mixes. Neither exists any longer, so it seems good to revisit the project. So, for this Halloween, the first new mix.

There are spooky and unnerving songs — The kind of stuff that might freak out Bart, Lisa and Milhouse in their treehouse. — as well as a few more light-hearted novelty tracks, and a pretty funny comedy song by a young Jimmy Fallon. None of them are The Monster Mash.

One artist features twice: Dr John with 1968’s unsettling Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya, and nine years before that as Morgus & The 3 Ghouls, riffing on a popular TV character of the time.

Stan Ridgway’s Camouflage is as spooky a song as they come with the story of a ghostly soldier in battle; Warren Zevon has a similar theme, with some politics thrown into the stew for good measure.

For a truly sad tale, read the tragic story of Jackson C Frank, who was produced in the mid-‘60s by Paul Simon and went on to influence artists such as Nick Drake and his ex-girlfriend Sandy Denny. He might well be the most luckless man ever in music history.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-scared covers. PW in comments.

1. The Go! Team – Phantom Broadcast (2005)
2. Rob Zombie feat. The Ghastly Ones – Halloween (1998)
3. The Pogues – Turkish Song Of The Damned (1988)
4. Tony Joe White – They Caught The Devil And Put Him In Jail In Eudora, Arkansas (1971)
5. Dr John – Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya (1968)
6. The Box Tops – I Must Be The Devil (1969)
7. Donovan – Wild Witch Lady (1973)
8. The Who – Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1968)
9. Fleetwood Mac – The Green Manalishi (1970)
10. Golden Earring – The Devil Made Me Do It (1982)
11. Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell (1996)
12. Sam the Sham – Haunted House (1964)
13. The Duponts – Screamin’ Ball (At Dracula Hall) (1958)
14. Soupy Sales – My Baby’s Got A Crush On Frankenstein (1962)
15. Big Bopper – Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor (1958)
16. Morgus & The 3 Ghouls – Morgus The Magnificent (1959)
17. The Moon-Rays – Blues For Vampira (2004)
18. Hoodoo Gurus – Hayride To Hell (1985)
19. Stan Ridgway – Camouflage (1986)
20. Warren Zevon – Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner (1978)
21. Jackson C Frank – Halloween Is Black As Night (1960s)
22. Tim Curry – Anything Can Happen On Halloween (1986)
23. Nancy Dupree – Fankenstein (1970)
24. Jimmy Fallon – Happy Halloween (1998)

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A Life In Vinyl: 1979

October 16th, 2014 8 comments

A Life in Vinyl 1979.

As 1979, the year I turned 13, began I tried to fast-track myself to serious popfanship. The previous year I had started to investigate the pop music of the past. I had read up about the rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s in a fanzine, and I had been particularly taken with the 1960s. The Box Tops’ “The Letter”, released ten years earlier and therefore in another lifetime altogether, was a particular favourite. For Christmas I asked for and received the three essential Beatles double album compilations: 1962-66, 1967-70 and Love Songs.

And in 1978 I had dabbled in punk. Now I flirted with the other side. I listened to Al Stewart, whose music I still like but who didn’t really aim for 13-year-olds. I pompously expounded on the “brilliance” of Barclay James Harvest’s XII album, which I neither understood nor actually liked. It is, indeed, quite awful. I soon became sick of the pretense. That didn’t stop me, however, from getting Supertramp’s Breakfast in America album later in the year.

By the time my birthday in April arrived, I had reverted to eclectic record-buying. LPs by Status Quo and Queen, and singles by artists as diverse as Thin Lizzy, Hot Chocolate, Billy Joel and the disco outfit The Richie Family. With that in hand, Barclay James Harvest and their prog-rock noodling was soon passé.

I was not immune to questionable musical choices. I would hesitate to describe ownership of Olivia Newton-John’s Totally Hot LP or Suzi Quatro’s Smokie-produced If You Knew Suzi…  album as evidence of musical sophistication. Still, I knew the real horrors of 1979, the songs which are forgotten by the nostalgia that recalls the year  as a highwater mark in pop — which, of course, it was..

Much of the charts were infected by some of the worst music ever made. There were some post-disco horrors around in Europe: Snoopy, Luv and Luisa Fernandez (couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance) were among the most talent-free offenders, and the Vader Abraham Smurfs song cannot be redeemed even by the most indulgent childhood nostalgia (Holland, you nearly fucked up 1979!).

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But I reserved my most virulent bile for two particular songs which, with hindsight, I acknowledge to be quite brilliant. First there was Patrick Hernandez “Born To Be Alive”, which blighted every German school disco (where I lived, it was “danced” to by jumping with legs closed from one side to another, if possible with the beat). The song still evokes the taste of cheap cola and peanut twirls, and the anxiety of relating to girls who suddenly had become romantic notions.

The other musical nemesis was Cliff Richard’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore”. It’s a very good song, but it was ubiquitous in the summer of 1979. Besides, I had taken a dislike to Cliff Richard before I ever knowingly heard a note he sang. I was not going to surrender my antipathy to that song.

Cliff scored my unhappy summer of 1979, on which I was sent on a church youth camp, as I had been two years before. In 1977 the camp group had been great. I had fallen “in love”, we had great outings and fantastic leaders. In 1979 the group was populated by creeps, and I didn’t like any of the girls other than those older than I was, and therefore unattainable. On top of that, the camp leaders ignored my complaint of theft, the sort of commandment-violation one might think would require some sort of reaction in a church-run jam.  I never went again.

Things picked up in autumn. And what an autumn it was — indeed, the stretch from autumn 1979 to early summer 1980 produced a fantastic run of singles purchases. It started with The Knack’s “My Sharona”, the cover of which, I must confess, excited my hormones the way the girls in my age cohort on summer camp didn’t (I liked the song, too. Still do). There were some new kind of sounds. Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army, with the synth sound that seemed more musical to me than the robotic Kraftwerk, set the scene for the New Romantics which would arrive within a year and a bit. “Video Killed The Radio Star” sounded very unusual too.

But my favourite act of 1979 was the Boomtown Rats. I had liked them before, of course, but “I Don’t Like Mondays” was a few cuts above “She’s So Modern” or “Like Clockwork”. I loved their The Fine Art Of Surfacing LP. It has not really stood the test of time, but I’ll stand by the trio of singles — “Mondays”, “Diamond Smiles”, “Someone’s Looking At You” — and closing track “When the Night Comes” .

And as 1979 ended, I started to get into AC/DC — just in time for Bon Scott’s death in February 1980.

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For those who really need to know, songs with a green asterisk I owned in 1979 on Single, red on LP (track 7 on a compilation album), blue on tape.

1. Status Quo – Accident Prone **
2. Thin Lizzy – Rosalie (live) *
3. Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again *
4. Patrick Hernandez – Born To Be Alive
5. Ritchie Family – American Generation *
6. Billy Joel – My Life *
7. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York *
8. Elton John – Return To Paradise *
9. George Harrison – Blow Away *
10. Art Garfunkel – Bright Eyes *
11. Clout – Save Me *
12. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood *
13. The Knack – My Sharona *
14. Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric *
15. Electric Light Orchestra – Don’t Bring Me Down *
16. B.A. Robertson – Bang Bang *
17. The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star *
18. Thom Pace – Maybe *
19. Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles *

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