Boneyard Media


Archive for March, 2007

Album ID: The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)

Friday, March 30th, 2007

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A few more sentimental/ potentially fetishistic words on the virtues of dead media. Until recently, I’d always heard this record three important ways:

1 – As a cassette from the strip mall library close to where I grew up. The tape was horribly muddy-sounding, and it came packaged in a hard shell that the librarian would toss in one of those big brown folders with the string that wrapped around a brad under the flap. A photocopy of the freaky cover had been glued onto the shell but it was all bubbly and on the verge of peeling off. The album sounded mysterious indeed as I listened on my shoebox tape recorder with the Graeme Edge recitations and all and I checked it out many times.

2 – As an 8-track in 1981, when I was somehow roped into a ride to the dump with my friend and his ancient brother in their parents’ Oldsmobile Toronado. Sitting in back, I found the tape under the passenger seat, and it looked much like that library cassette, with the cover picture starting to peel off. I showed it to my friend who stuck it in the 8-track player. It played uninterrupted and had our undivided attention. So there we were, wind blowing through our hair, garbage-scavenging seagulls frolicking above us in the sun, and “Voices in the Sky.”

3 – As a vinyl LP in terrible condition which I bought at the Deseret Industries shortly after the spectacular ride to the dump. The DI was a thrift store near our house in which it was, in the early eighties, always 1968. I always got very contemplative and even a bit reverent whenever I went to this particular location. (It always smelled vaguely of mothballs and vegetable soup, which is certainly how 1968 must have smelled.) I bought it for a quarter. The group’s name has been traced with pen on the front. In the gatefold it says “from John to Franklin on a Saturday night!!” and “wild dreams with Chuck.” It’s also got a crude drawing of an eagle with the words “some bird” next to it, and someone started to treat the Hindu Om design as a color-by-numbers project. I recently bought a remastered CD version of this, and it’s great, but it’s a completely different album. Needless to say, I’ve gotten accustomed to hearing my mellotrons under a layer of crackling murk, so I prefer my DI version.

The Moody Blues – “Voices in the Sky” (DI vinyl version)

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Bruce Golden, The Beach Boys: Southern California Pastoral (1976)

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

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Bruce Golden’s Southern California Pastoral, one of the earlier Beach Boys books (the version pictured is the 1991 update), is an artifact from an era when laid back English professors were the primary academic curators of pop music studies. (A favorite from that era is David Pichaske’s A Generation in Motion from 1979, a unique, “rock lyrics as poetry” social studies exercise on the sixties.) Golden, recently retired, worked the English beat at the University of California-San Bernardino, and his book was the first volume in a Borgo Press projected series of pop music analyses. (Vol. 2 was a 1997 treatment of Rush, so watch for vol. 3 in 2018 or so.)

Golden’s main purpose is to tie the BB’s into the ancient Greek pastoral poetic tradition in which simple methods of expression, prompted by longings for peace and tranquility, were frequently used to communicate a wide range of complex emotions. Fine with me, and frankly, so is his decision to skip too many details on the ancient side of things and to present us with a manageable 50 pages (fewer than the 54 pages of discography, notes, bibliography and index).

Some things to keep in mind: 1) Golden is writing to an audience that has perhaps heard of the Beach Boys but knows little about them; 2) this is not a biography so much as a rumination on their cultural significance, and may therefore be the only Beach Boys book not to mention Murry Wilson; 3) He sets a world record even in this small book for words written about the Still Cruisin’ album (but he skips altogether Carl and the Passions as well as everything between Holland and Still Cruisin’); 4) He utters, in the beginning, what may sound like sinister words to those who have always yearned for Brian to break down barriers and to never stop reaching for the heavens: “Learning to operate freely within one’s limits is the first sign of professionalism in the arts.” But don’t worry, that’s as sinister as it gets.

(Passage spotlight: “Perhaps the most interesting aspect of 1985’s Golden Harmonies compilation is the cover. Set in a golden frame, it shows a postcard-like picture of ‘today’s’ Beach Boys running along the shoreline. Most prominent is Brian, running in the middle of them all, his large, white, untanned stomach thrust forward and bearded head tilted back. He seems to be enjoying himself, as does the rest of the band.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen this album before, and the picture Golden paints in my mind is kind of hysterical. Does anyone have it?)

Krešo Blažević RIP

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

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posted by Stanislav

Sad news comes to us that Krešimir Blažević has died. Krešo played guitar, sang and wrote songs for his band Animatori in mid ’80s Yugoslavia. Although his band was based in Zagreb, Krešo was born in Slavonski Brod, a provincial town some 110 miles down the Sava river. Perhaps this was why Blažević and his Animators sounded so much more humble than any other band in Yugoslavia at the time. But that was not an obstacle for them, who had huge regional success with their first album Andjeli nas zovu da im skinemo krila. The album had a disarming summertime feel to it and revealed Krešo’s and the other band members’ influences, especially British pub rock and Americana. Their beach rock vibe was similar to that of Djavoli (who appeared a few years later) from the coastal town of Split, which was not surprising since the album was actually recorded there with producer Željko Brodarić Jappa. Animatori recorded two more LPs before Yugoslavia dissolved. These didn’t sell quite so well, but were far from embarrassing, and established Blažević as one of the region’s most consistent songwriters.

Animatori – “Andjeli nas zovu da im skinemo krila”

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Animatori – “Kao ogledala”

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Walter Eriksson and Andrew Walter’s Orchestra – “Du Ska Fa Sukkertoy” (197?)

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) sponsored this “Norwegian sing-a-long” special along with many other Nordic delights that perhaps await you now at your nearest Salvation Army. (The Standard-Colonial label actually issued a whole bevy of “World of Music” LPs – not just Scandinavian – but I haven’t been able to verify if they were all sponsored by airlines.) The title of the selection below translates to (I think) “You Get Candy,” and it’s guaranteed to cheer you up under any circumstance.

Walter Eriksson and Andrew Walter’s Orchestra – “Du Ska Fa Sukkertoy”

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Adams Extract Building, Austin, TX (1955-2002), Pt. 2

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

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Hats off to Boneyard visitor Benji for having the foresight to capture the Adams Extract building in full nighttime splendor (and for sending it along). The sign is apparently still up at the new location. Here’s a slightly enlarged view.

Sunday Service: The Cowboy Church Sunday School

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

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Stuart Hamblen was a popular singing radio cowboy who found religion in the late forties after attending a Billy Graham revival and ended up running for president on the Prohibition party ticket in ’52. After his conversion, he also transformed his radio show into “The Cowboy Church of the Air,” the popularity of which moved this single all the way to the Top Ten in 1955. The singers are Hamblen’s wife, his two teenage daughters, and their two friends. The record was recorded Chipmunk-style at 33 1/3 RPM so they’d all sound like children at 45 RPM.

The Cowboy Church Sunday School – “Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine In)”

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Pet Sounds – More from Barnes

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

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Another nugget from Ken Barnes’ The Beach Boys: A Biography in Words and Pictures:

“Finally, then, Pet Sounds appeared, complete with a piquant cover shot of the boys feeding goats at the Children’s Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego (just before one or more of the boys began to torment the animals and the group was banned from the premises).”

Ken Barnes, The Beach Boys: A Biography in Words and Pictures (1976)

Friday, March 16th, 2007

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One thing we can appreciate about USA Today is its music editor, Ken Barnes. The man’s a veteran, and he’s one of those rare breeds of entertainment journalists who can play that familiar role of the garrulous, opinionated remote-twiddler but also double up as a trustworthy and informed industry analyst. Barnes knows a thing or two about music biz nuts and bolts – not only did he work the record reviewing trenches in Rolling Stone and similar mags throughout the seventies, but he served a good chunk of time as editor for industry trade publication Radio and Records before settling in at USA Today in the late nineties. So the American Idol blog he currently maintains over there with such devotion, folks, is probably the single most worthwhile coverage of the show you’ll likely find anywhere. And the craziest thing about it is that he really does seem to be enjoying himself.

Which leads us to his The Beach Boys: A Biography in Words and Pictures (1976), which pre-dates David Leaf’s The Beach Boys and the California Myth by a couple of years and stands as perhaps the first serious – but never at the expense of fun – overview in book form of the Beach Boys’ music. It’s certainly got the aura of a quickie assignment. It was one in a series of six artist bios published by Sire-Chappell, none of them over sixty pages, and each of them jam-packed with photos and typos alike. But you never get a single hint from Barnes that he’s going through the motions, because he’s not. All too aware that recent magazine articles by Tom Nolan (Rolling Stone) and Nick Kent (NME) make any attempts at biographical revelations momentarily pointless (he even refers readers to these articles on the copyright page), he attends to the Beach Boys story using the classic, most basic rock-crit method: the record player. Approaching his subject the way a five-year old approaches monkey bars – rung by rung and with a focus on fun – Barnes evaluates the group’s entire catalog song by song, and even if the book’s format limitations don’t allow him to do much more than thoughtful drive-bys, it’s the very attempt at completeness and the always-engaging writing that makes this curio worth sniffing out. Barnes’ musical worldview, for that matter, in which reverent treatments of the Mystics, Tommy Facenda’s “High School USA,” and the “dense, dreamy mix” of Pet Sounds all share neighboring mountain peaks, is one we might all consider subscribing to.

(Barnes’ frustrations with portions of the BB’s 1971-73 period make for some funny moments. My favorite paragraph: “Sadly, the chief unifying factor [of the Surf’s Up LP] was a pervasive lyrical banality, exemplified by Al and Mike’s opening track, “Don’t Go Near the Water.” Here the boys jumped on the trendy ecological bandwagon (no doubt with complete sincerity, etc. etc.), suggesting we all help the water out of a tight spot (‘toothpaste and soap will make our oceans a bubble bath/So let’s avoid an ecological aftermath,’ lines worthy of an Eric Burdon) and proving that writing [sic] on top of the waves was a much sounder idea than examining their constituent elements.”)

Mel Tormé – “Games People Play” (1969)

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

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The effect of the late sixties/early seventies on popular music’s old guard is worthy of a book. But I think if each tablespoon of “Golden Throats”-style camp and ridicule required to market and sell the book was matched with at least an equal portion of respect and/or compassion, it would be closer to what the doctor ordered. I got to talking about this stuff once with my dad, who used to play in show bands for countless oldies-but-goodies acts in the late sixties/early seventies, and his comment that “that era scared the hell out of a lot of people” has always stayed with me. And it wasn’t the turbulent politics or volatile cultural divide we were talking about so much as the jarring, disorienting changes in the pop music playing field.

The collective memory of this era is Bing Crosby singing “Hey Jude,” Mel Tormé in a cravat (see above), and Elvis shaking hands with Nixon. Less memorable are details of the dogged efforts classic vocalists like Tony Bennett and Andy Williams made to keep active and stay at least somewhat relevant by releasing steady streams of movie theme LPs and hair-trigger reinterpretations of contemporary hits. (Tony Bennett, according to Stan Cornyn in Exploding, was a standards purist who dragged his feet throughout the entire era.) Or songwriting legend Sammy Cahn prematurely publishing his memoirs in 1974 (I Should Care) when he ended up having an illustrious career of songwriting and songwriting advocacy still ahead of him (Cahn assumed leadership of the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in the early 80s). Or this absolutely nifty – under any standard – cover by Mel Tormé (see above) of Joe South’s “Games People Play.” That’s LA studio legend Carol Kaye tearing the house down on bass.

Mel Tormé – “Games People Play”

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Sunday Service: United Medical Laboratories, Inc. Concert Chorale – Commitment (1969?)

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

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“This album of sacred and secular songs comes to you … as an expression of appreciation to our clients, their patients, and our friends everywhere who, with us, are dedicated to the ideals of providing humanity with relief from pain and suffering. When United Medical Laboratories was established sixteen years ago [in Portland, Oregon], its founders recognized the vital role scientific data could play in improving the health-care of mankind. The handful of people who made up its original staff endured every sacrifice to achieve scientific excellence in their commitment to this ideal.” (liner notes)

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I’m big on scientific methods too, and here’s how I deduced the probable year of this record: I took a close look at the middle picture on the back, which looked like Che Fong’s forensics team from Hawaii Five-0 episodes of the late 1960s. Hence the year I’ve chosen: 1969.

United Medical Laboratories, Inc. Concert Chorale – “The Lord’s Prayer”

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