The Triplets Bagdad Beat 45 (Dore, 1963)
Here's a gem to end the year with: A cool instrumental number by San Jose's the Triplets, featuring the Brothers Black - Bobby & Larry. Those guitar aficionados among you might recognize the name Bobby Black. Black is a member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and played years with country artists like Lonnie Mack, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Commander Cody, and others. Here he is sliding away in this exotica cum garage instro song. It is some sweet playing. Too bad Bagdad of 2007 doesn't sound this way. See you next year!
Little West & the Group-ettes of Sacramento Glory Glory b/w He'll Understand 45
(Gospel Corner, 1969)
Merry Christmas! While this unbeliever has little use for the religious trappings of this feast day, I will use the opportunity to lay one of my favorite gospel records on you. Special this is for two reasons. The first is that it is from my hometown of Sacramento, which, for years has had a vibrant Black gospel scene, yet one that is poorly documented and much neglected outside of African American circles. This scene is so underground and under-appreciated that even it participants are hazy about its past. For years, I've tried to get information on this single and its author, Little West, but have succeeded only in finding out that Little West was not so little and that he no longer lives in Sacramento. The second reason this 45 is so special is that the B side, "He'll Understand", kicks ass. Slow and soulful, with a very cool, great piano, and gorgeous guitar, Little West pushes his way though fantastic backing vocals by the Group-ettes of Sacramento. Though I could easily use another minute or two, it is a perfect gospel song. And with that I leave you to enjoy this holiday.
Raga Theme for Ragu
Dave Brubeck featuring Ragu Raga Theme for Ragu b/w Do Not Fold Staple, Spindle or Mutilate 45
By 1967, it was pretty common for jazz musicians to dabble in psychedelia. Of course, those jamming on free jazz had already been working with out there material, reaching to the East or way into the American past to find sounds to recontextualize. Ayler, Coltrane, Ornette, Pharoah, Dolphy: Those are the big names we associate with such experimentalism. Dave Brubeck? Yes, Dave Burbeck. For one brief moment, Dave Brubeck went from the campus library to the off campus head shop and then recorded this gem of a 45. Maybe...but I'll get back to that.
Unlike anything Brubeck had recorded, "Raga Theme for Ragu" starts out with a low drone, a few very cool piano runs, and then what sounds like a guitar imitating a sitar comes in. Palghat Ragu joins the band, on the mridangam, an Indian drum. It is a good jam, with Brubeck playing a few themes over and over, even getting a bit discordant. "Raga Theme..." was included on the album Summit Sessions. The flip side of this record was not.
"Do Not Fold, Staple, Spindle or Mutilate" is Brubeck at his loudest. The drums start this fucker off and they do nothing less than pound their way in. The bass plays a short theme and then Brubeck does a series of loud runs, each ending with a clank. Ragu does a little bit. Dave comes back and pounds. The pounding is both pinpoint and abstract. It is the most wild I've ever heard him. Another drum interlude, clang, and it is over. What a great fucking tune!
Now, there is no recording information on this record. Although, "Raga Theme..." came out on this single and on the Summit Sessions LP, much of that record was recorded in different sessions and no date is fixed to this song or "Do Not Fold..." One book states that Brubeck first jammed with Pahghat Ragu in 1958, the same year Burbeck's Jazz Impressions of Eurasia was released (a great record there). But Ragu isn't credited at playing on Eurasia. The great Teo Macero produced Eurasia and this single and that would muck up things further if not that Macero produced a lot of Brubeck over the years. If Brubeck did indeed record this stuff back in '58, it was a pretty bold move. For Brubeck, doing it in '67 was pretty out of character, however everyone else was doing it at the time. Perhaps, some Brubeck freak out there can clear this up.
Sorry about the quality of the record. It is a bit beat, but what do you expect for a dollar find. I'd get a near mint replacement copy but that would run me $40+. I'll stick with some surface noise.
You Won't Forget Me
Chris Warfield You Won't Forget Me 45 (Liberty, 1957)
It's cold, it's dark, and a storm is coming in: It is the right time to spring another noir song on you. Don't know much about this one other than it is the b-side to a rather fruity tune called "Three-Dollar Orchid". No need to post that one, as it stinks. "You Won't Forget Me" is a winner from the start. The dark horns and the way the beat steps in and stops and starts back in, a kind of retarded cha-cha-cha, is the perfect set up for Warfield's warbling croan, all drenched in lovely reverb, that expands while the song faints away. Enjoy.
The Rockin Guys
Merlin Bee & Lonnie Carr Am I Asking to Much b/w The Rockin Guys 45 (Razorback, 1963)
I don't know anything about either Merlin Bee or Lonnie Carr other than Merlin put out a handful of records on the Razorback Records of Arkansas label in the 1960s. I assume that most of them fit in the netherworld that sits between rockabilly and 60's garage, which is a might fine place to sit. I've been pretty lucky on scoring records on Razorback and by lucky I mean both finding them cheap and them being good. Of course, you can't miss with Sonny Burgess and Razorback's house band The Pacers made a handful of good singles. It is definitely a label to keep an ear out for (and I think has a CD collection of their stuff available - though not this single).
I like this record for a number of reasons. The duel vocals and teen dance sound are certainly pluses, but the big draw for me is that "The Rockin Guys" is not only the duo's theme song, but it is full of regional pride!
I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself
Buddy Knox I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself 45 (Roulette, 1958)
Within the stacks of records that crowd this place, I have a collection of suicide songs. I think I have amassed at least a hundred, probably more. Some of my favorites include Ede Robin's soul classic "Dead", Mott the Hoople's "Death May be Your Santa Claus", the Thought Criminals hilarious KBD standard "More Suicides Please", Il Ya Volkswagon's "Kill Myself", Dickie Lee's sappy tale of class struggle & self-suffing "Patches", and this one by Buddy Knox.
Part of the appeal of Buddy Knox's "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself" is that it is so damn upbeat! With the same kinda pep he used in his first and biggest hit "Party Doll", Knox's matter-of-fact delivery and hum-inducing tale makes suicide seem like a pleasant stroll on a beautiful fall day! I'd attribute it's chart success to song's pep, but 1958 was also the year in which Jody Reynolds' "Endless Sleep", a fantastic rockabilly song about drowning oneself, also charted.
That suicide songs were early rock & roll hits isn't surprising when you include them in with the teen tragedy sub-genre. From 1957 to 1962, when rock & roll was getting subverted and watered down my the major labels, there were hundreds of songs, though musically on the flaccid pop side, which were lyrically pretty morbid. A perfect example is Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her", the story of a boy who flips his car over in a stock car race and dies. Because the kid has a feeling he is gonna die and tells his girlfriend's mom to pass on to Laura that he loves her, his crash might have been suicide. Whether it was suicide or just an ordinary fiery death in an overturned race car didn't stop "Tell Laura..." from being a big hit, and that after Peterson's label RCA/Victor refused to release it and, when finally released, the song was widely banned.
"I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself" was also banned in many cities, but despite (or perhaps because of) the song's prohibition it still wasa minor hit. Unfortunately for Knox, it was his last bit of chart success. Though he continued to play music, his career wound down like many an early rocker, playing his big hit, "Party Doll", over and over on oldies shows.
Felix Saucedo y Guitarras de Kike Subia El Diablico 45 (Artelec, 19??)
Another mystery single and that is fine with me. One of the pleasures of digging for records is coming up with gems that defy easy explanation. For instance, who is Felix Saucedo? Assuming that he is the vocalist, why does he get top billing when Enrique "Kike" Subia, a noted Panamanian folkloric musician, is on guitar? Is it because is very good at making the sounds of a man possessed by the Devil? And is the song about a man possessed, as the title "El Diablico" would leave one to believe? Is this a split single because it is a novelty song (the flip is a standard cumbia by La Alondra Interiorana)? Why is "El Diablico" the A side of this single? And when was this made - the 1960s or 70s? Some things to ponder while listening to this strange but wonderful song.