Boneyard Media

Archive for February, 2007

Song ID: The Beach Boys – “Beach Boys Medley” (1981)

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


Medleymania was essentially nostalgia-based, so I think we’d be pretty safe to chalk it all up (in the US, at least) to the media-generated “new morning in America” mentality that the Reagan speechwriting team cultivated like plastic flower bouquets. Capitol records was first to answer the Stars on 45 smash with a hasty, patchwork Beach Boys medley which hit #12 the same year and has never been released on CD.

A quick chart rundown of Medleymania as I remember it, which means I’m probably forgetting some entries. But the big ones are all here (dates refer to first chart appearance):

Stars on 45 – “Medley” (4/11/81, #1)
Stars on 45 – “Medley II” (more Beatles) (7/18/81, #67)
Beach Boys – “Beach Boys Medley” (7/25/81, #12)
Stars on 45 – “More Stars” (60s hits) (9/26/81, #55)
Louis Clark Conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – “Hooked on Classics” (10/31/81, #10)
Meco – “Pop Goes the Movies (Part I)” (2/13/82, #35)
The Beatles – “The Beatles Movie Medley” (3/27/82, #12)
Stars on (A Tribute to Stevie Wonder) (sic) – “Stars on 45 III” (3/27/82, #28)
Larry Elgart and His Manhattan Swing Orchestra – “Hooked on Swing” (6/5/82, #31)

The Beach Boys – “Beach Boys Medley”

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Song ID: Stars on 45 – “Medley” (1981)

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007


Thoughts of the early ’80s and the Beatles have led me to this inescapable checkpoint: the Stars on 45 medley that absolutely owned the US airwaves (a Billboard #1 hit) during the summer of ’81 and which most of us had completely forgotten by the end of the year. It was the slick product of a gang of Dutch session players doing dead-on impersonations against a disco/handclap backdrop. Other aspects of this single were clear as mud, especially the song choices: “Beat the Clock” (Sparks), a “Stars on 45” disco theme inspired by “Stayin’ Alive” (Bee Gees), “Venus” (Shocking Blue), “Sugar Sugar” (The Archies), “No Reply” (Beatles, along with the next 8), “I’ll Be Back,” “Drive My Car,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “We Can Work it Out,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Nowhere Man,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” and closing with a reprise of the “Stars on 45” disco theme.

It’s a favorite game of mine, the attempt to ascertain what psychological aspects of society demand that certain songs become hits, but this one’s not so tough – it was a well-timed beneficiary of US Beatle nostalgia just a handful of months after Lennon’s murder in December ’80 (it entered the Billboard charts early the following April). I think it’s the only way a song with a blatant opening disco chant in a very acutely disco-hungover era could have gotten any significant airplay. (The actual disco sound, of course, never really went away, but flaunting the passé word “disco” certainly did.) But in retrospect, this song ultimately had less to do with Beatlemania and more to do with Medleymania, which kicked in in a big way because of it. More tomorrow.

In the American chart listings, by the way, every song in the Stars on 45 medley was listed as part of the title, making this the wordiest chart entry in Billboard history. But the short snippet of Sparks’ “Beat the Clock” at the beginning was never included among the titles. I wonder what the story is there.

Stars on 45 – “Stars on 45” (1981)

Song ID: Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays” (1979)

Monday, February 26th, 2007


During my three years in junior high school in Salt Lake City (1981-1984), they marched all students into the auditorium one time each year to watch a 45 minute pop music show. I’ll bet all junior high schoolers in the area during those years saw the same three assemblies/shows, each of which featured a brief “don’t do drugs” or “don’t drop out” message. The shows were:

1 – A rock group of frizzy-haired characters called “Freedom Jam.” They dressed in Revolutionary War suits like Paul Revere and the Raiders and played a whole bunch of covers, mostly from REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity album. Their keyboardist, who looked like a member of the Bus Boys, would bend over impossibly far to the side when it was time for a solo. At least half the school behaved as though this were a real rock show, leaping out of chairs and high-clapping.

2 – A guy and girl duo with British accents. The guy stood behind a synth console and occasionally picked up an electric guitar after he got the loops going. The girl sang and skank-danced and reminded me of one of the female Jetsons. The only songs I remember them doing are “Tainted Love” and “I Love Rock and Roll.”

3 – A one man band synthesizer/karaoke guy also with a British accent. He may well have been one half of the duo from above. He had a microphone headset and regularly stepped away from the console and gesticulated along with the lyrics he sang. The only song I remember is “I Don’t Like Mondays.” He spent quite some time on the song’s back story, telling us about the girl who went on a Monday shooting spree, which now strikes me as strange. And I’ve never been able to hear that song since then without thinking of him in his headset, fluttering his fingers in the air to the Telex machine inside his head.

(Not posted, because the song’s on my don’t-mind-if-I-never-hear-again list.)

Sunday Service: Merrill Womach – “Happy Again” (1975)

Sunday, February 25th, 2007


Merrill Womach is a longtime fundamentalist favorite of those of us who are compelled to shove our closets full of unusual vinyl. In a nutshell: He was a Spokane undertaker who survived an early 60’s plane crash on Thanksgiving Day. It disfigured his face, but not his spirit or voice. He became a musical Christian minister, pumping out albums that evidently sold by the score (they’re all over the place, it seems) and he also starred in a short 1975 film called He Restoreth My Soul. On top of all this, he runs a robust funeral music business and he could probably beat any one of us silly record geeks senseless.

Update: Merrill Womach RIP, December 28, 2014

Merrill Womach – “Happy Again”

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Tarbox Ramblers

Saturday, February 24th, 2007


posted by Stanislav
A week or so ago I finally saw the Tarbox Ramblers live. The trio comes from Cambridge, Mass. They play the amplified blues familiar to us from bands that normally come from Memphis or Detroit or Ohio (Black Keys come to mind). Still, the Tarbox Ramblers are something else. There’s something decadent and intellectual about their approach, which is maybe characteristic from their part of the United States. In their approach, they remind me a lot of Morphine (or Treat Her Right). And after all the bands I have just name-checked, the Tarbox Ramblers are perhaps my favorite. I got excited about their music ever since their first album in 2000, which was a bit more traditional, with a lot of Cajun and bluegrass influences. Then there was the excellent “Fix Back East”, one of the best albums of the past 10 years, which was co-produced by the legendary Jim Dickinson and Paul Q. Kolderie. This was the first time I saw them live. Although they are a trio, the main character in the band is the guitarist/singer Michael Tarbox. The two other members are a drummer and a percussionist who switch from tambourine to double bass and sometime even hit a small drum set or even a second guitar. A lot of the songs that they played this night were from a future album planned for later this year, so all three members were in an extremely upbeat mood, ready to present the new music in a good light. This is one really energetic tune which they played just before the encore.

Tarbox Ramblers in Cleveland

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Song ID: Helen Shapiro – “Look Who It Is” (1963)

Friday, February 23rd, 2007


The clip below shows Helen Shapiro – with Beatle props – doing her 1963 hit “Look Who It Is” on Ready, Steady, Go, almost a year before the moptops’ plane landed in New York City. The husky-voiced Helen had a handful of big UK hits in the early sixties, and the Beatles actually first toured England as her supporting act. And this is the craziest thing to me: she was only 16 when this was filmed. (Did her moment with George Harrison in the clip inspire this 1964 album cover, I wonder?)

Helen Shapiro – “Look Who It Is” (1963)

Playlist: Audience (1969-1972)

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007


An easy comparison for the UK’s Audience is Jethro Tull because of their flutes, expressive vocals, and timeframe, but they definitely had their own progressive folk-rock thing going on. Howard Werth, their songwriter/vocalist, had a sassy Cat Stevens/Ozzy Osbourne voice and he played florid nylon-string guitar, but also key to the Audience sound were the same kinds of blaring sax choruses that would eventually become a Roxy Music staple (RM put out their first record in ’72, the same year Audience broke up). Anyway, I’ve lately gotten addicted to this short, 40-minute playlist I’ve made of my favorite Audience songs:

Banquet” (Audience, 1969)
Man on Box” (Audience, 1969)
Belladonna Moonshine” (Friend’s Friend’s Friend, 1970)
It Brings a Tear” (Friend’s Friend’s Friend, 1970)
You’re Not Smiling” (The House on the Hill, 1971)
Raviole” (The House on the Hill, 1971)
Nancy” (The House on the Hill, 1971)
Eye to Eye” (The House on the Hill, 1971)
Indian Summer” (The House on the Hill, 1971)
Stand By the Door” (Lunch, 1972)
Thunder and Lightning” (Lunch, 1972)

Daytripping – The Party (1968)

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007


posted by Stanislav (Pepperland, OH)
So, thanks to Kim I have the “Day Tripper” riff ringing in my head all night and this morning. One of the funniest movies ever is Blake Edwards’ The Party, with Peter Sellers and a killer soundtrack by his regular collaborator Henry Mancini. I probably saw that movie about 50 times in my life and my chest never fails to hurt from laughing. But is it just me or am I hearing the powerful “Day Tripper” riff in the title sequence of this film?

Henry Mancini – “Party Theme”

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Song ID: The Beatles – “I Feel Fine” (1965)

Monday, February 19th, 2007


I discovered my dad’s “I Feel Fine”/ “She’s a Woman” 45 in a basement box when I was a grade schooler. It was pretty scuffed up, so it sizzled enticingly when I put the needle down. The opening riffs on each side of the single blasted through with such abandon that I forgot all about the white noise. It turns out the white noise enhanced the music, giving that 45 an irreplacable, unique quality.

So if the experience of finding a little treasure box in our basement – which contained a single so fabulous that I can say in all honesty that I first took drugs when I was eight – makes it easy for me to say that “I Feel Fine” is one of my favorite singles, maybe what I’m really saying is that it’s my favorite material single. Is there more legitimacy to one’s experience with music and the value one assigns to it when it’s tied in with one’s tactile relationship with it, like this Beatles 45 with white noise so unique that it added something precious to the mix? Or the experience of pulling out a hidden box and finding it there in the first place? (Or what about a song’s relationship with a beloved radio? For example, I’m sure none of the Top 40 hits during the summer of 1979 would mean as much to me as they do now had I not gotten my first transistor then.) I don’t think I’m talking about fetishism when I say that the music most meaningful to me has a distinct material tie-in.

* * *

When the Beatles CDs came out in the late 80’s, I was convinced producer George Martin had made some sort of terrible mistake, especially with “I Feel Fine,” “She’s a Woman,” “I’ll Be Back,” and “Yes it Is.” These became my four main reasons why I thought CD technology was killing something vital in music. And no one else seemed to care. Then I realized, a long time later, that only the US versions of these songs had reverb, which is what I was missing so badly. So when the “Capitol Albums” box sets came out, which featured the crucial American mixes, I was a reasonably happy consumer and put my voice-in-the-wilderness complex behind me. Still, even though I know vinyl purists can be a silly bunch, when it comes to “I Feel Fine” there’s still ultimately no other way for me than that very same 45 I first discovered. Here’s a straight dub of it compared to the Past Masters Volume One CD version (that red number ones album that everyone owns uses the same dead UK mix).

The Beatles – “I Feel Fine” (Capitol vinyl 45)

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The Beatles – “I Feel Fine” (Past Masters Volume One CD)

Sunday Service: St. Mary’s Seminary (Baltimore, MD) – “Now Let Us All Praise God and Sing” (1966)

Sunday, February 18th, 2007


“[This] is truly ‘music of our time.’ It is the work of contemporary composers who are aware of the needs of our people in these days of liturgical renewal. It is music which cuts across religious sect-division, because it is the work of men whose purpose is to help men praise God, a work which knows no division.” (liner notes)

Fine, but it’s the edgy cover art that’s got me.

St. Mary’s Seminary – “Now Let Us All Praise God and Sing”

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