Exotic-aaaa

Springtime here at Vinyl 365 central means it’s time for us creatures to venture into the Great Outdoors, turning face towards the warm sun, shaking off the winter doldrums and dreaming of relaxing in tropical pools while sipping Mai Tais.

In reality, we’re just sitting on the deck enjoying a beer. But, a soundtrack is still in order!

Yesterday was the birthday of band leader Martin Denny who, as a disciple of Les Baxter and teacher of Arthur Lyman, created a music fad known as Exotica.

Denny, in residence at Waikiki’s Shell Room, drew on his Latin beat experiences of touring in South America and merged his current Polynesian surroundings to create this genre. The 1957 album Exotica may have been a one-off were it not for Hawaii joining the United States and fueling the culture of all things Tiki.

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Denny at the height of Exotica

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Denny in the early 1990s. 

To add to the fantasy, more than a dozen of Denny’s Exotica releases featured cover model Sandy Warner, who became known as The Exotica Girl.

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My Sandra Warner collection

Collecting these albums has been a real Joy! Most are readily available at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets and are reasonably priced enough that upgrades and giveaways won’t break the bank.

So let’s all raise an umbrella drink toast to mr. Martin Denny and stare into the eyes of Sandy Warner as we escape into the depths of Exotica.

Great-est

What evil marketing genius okay’s the release of a greatest hits type compilation album but leaves off the one truly phenomenal hit from that group? The dude from Wand records, that’s who!

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To be fair, it is the Kingsmen 15 Great Hits, so I guess, linguistically speaking, they are within their rights to withhold Louie Louie.

Lucky for me I have the fantastic Louie Louie compilation so I’m covered!

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One side note about this Great Hits compilation is the back cover release notes were written by none other than Don Steele; famous Los Angeles afternoon DJ who got his start right here in little old Spokane Washington!

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Thanks For Keeping Me Alive

19 years ago one of the most fantastic stories in rock and roll unfolded. An amazing artist who had faded Into obscurity 25 years earlier was reborn, live on stage, in front of thousands of adoring fans.

His name is Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, and his story is documented in the film Searching for Sugar Man.

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The Cliff Notes is this: unbelievably talented singer-songwriter (in my eyes a mix of Bob Dylan, Jose Feliciano, and Batman) gets picked up out of a Detroit dive bar by a heavy hitter record producer to make an album. The album bowls everybody over critically, but fails to chart commercially.

The artist fades into obscurity.

Meanwhile, an American coed transports this obscure album to apartheid South Africa. The album is shared amongst friends and many bootleg tapes are produced. This bootleg becomes a phenomenon and is picked up by several reputable record companies that service South Africa and is mass-produced, selling hundreds of thousands of copies to this small and oppressed Nation.

Rumors abound that the obscure artist went out in some blaze of glory; self-immolation, blowing his brains out, massive drug overdose… all while on stage in front of uncaring and undeserving audience members.

Some years later, and after apartheid has disintegrated, fans and local journalists seek the truth. Following obscure lyrical references and vague Cold Fact, they stumble upon the truth: Rodriguez is alive and kicking!

He dropped out of the music business because reality is a strong motivator. He raised three daughters while working at construction and demolition, hard labor.

Informed by the investigators of his cult like status in South Africa, he is convinced to perform several live concerts in that country for his long adoring fans.

Those concerts held in early March 1998.

If you own a copy of RodriguezCold Fact, it is a rare bird and worth several hundred dollars. If you don’t own it, it has been re-released and can be had for a $20 bill. You should all go out and buy this interesting record and watch the documentary Searching for Sugar Man that tells the story in depth.

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Introducing…

On December 10th 1964 Beatles fans across America were treated to the first long playing album of the The Fab Four in this country:

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No not that one! That one would come out ten days later. This album, Introducing… The Beatles (England’s No.1  Vocal Group) was rushed out by Chicago record label Vee-Jay, launching a months long soap opera of legal wrangling, backroom deals and giving birth to an underground counterfeit operation that lasted well into the 70s.

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The story goes like this: The Beatles recording company, EMI, had a top 20 hit in the UK with the song Love Me Do. But British acts weren’t selling outside of Great Britain. EMI subsidiaries (like Capital Records in the US), downright refused to issue these Beatles singles in the States.

Another EMI affiliate started shopping The Beatles around to other US record companies. Several labels passed before Vee-Jay records, known mostly for their R&B and gospel lineup, signed the deal.

Ironically, The Beatles were tacked on to the deal that Vee-Jay really wanted. There was a singer named Frank Ifield who Vee-Jay wanted to release in the US and the EMI deal made them except the Beatles as well.

Vee-Jay received both stereo and mono master tapes from the current UK Beatles album Please Please Me. Rather than  just issue the Please Please Me album, Vee-Jay released several Beatles singles in 1963… but none of them got any real traction on the charts.

Vee-Jay eventually settled on the track listing that became Introducing… and begin preparations for a July 1963 release of the LP.

Also during this time, Vee-Jay’s president got into some gambling debt and started pilfering money from the label to cover those. This threw the operation into turmoil and some shady business practices on the part of Vee-Jay got them into some trouble with the EMI and their contract was deemed null and void.

With the popularity of The Beatles now growing worldwide, Capitol Records decided it was time to jump on The Beatles band wagon. Capital announced plans to  release a Beatles album,  sponsor an advertising Blitz  to herald Beatlemania into the States and The Beatles  got a booking on The Ed Sullivan Show for February 1964. Vee-Jay, strapped for cash but sitting on this treasure trove of Beatles material in its vault, decided to rush out their album Introducing… just edging out the official Capital release of Meet The Beatles.

Within days Vee-Jay had ordered all three of its processing plants to start pressing the Introducing… album. Even though the pressing masters were assembled and the front cover was ready, Vee-Jay had not decided on a back cover for the album. They got around this problem by first duplicating the inner sleeve on the outer cover and, when those ran out, just printing a plain white rear cover with nothing on it! Finally official rear cover was designed and produced. It was just simple white with two columns of black text identifying the songs on the record.

Less than a week after Vee-Jay released Introducing… they were served with a restraining order. It seems that in their haste to capitalize on the latest Beatles hit, Love Me Do, they included that song and its B-side, PS I Love You, on initial runs of Introducing…, two songs did not have the rights to!

A version 2 was developed, replacing the two songs with Ask Me Why and Please Please Me, which they had already released as singles.

The legal battles continued through most of 1964, with restraining orders and injunctions issued by Capital, counter suits by Vee-Jay, and Vee-Jay furiously printing records in the lull periods to get around these legal problems.

Finally a settlement was reached in which Vee-Jay could issue any of the Beatles songs under its control in any way they saw fit into October 1964 at which point Capitol Records would regain control.

All these shenanigans amounted to lax consistency standards at dozens of pressing/printing plants resulting in numerous different label configurations on Introducing…

All together, it is estimated that there were just over 1.3 million copies of Introducing… released by Vee-Jay. The vast majority of these were in the monophonic format with less than 50,000 stereophonic copies printed and sold. The scarcity of original pressing of this album made it a ripe target for counterfeiters trying to make a fast buck on record collectors.

As early as the late 60s, counterfeit copies of Introducing… were showing up on the market. Most were fakes of the rare stereo version first pressing which included the songs Love Me Do and PS I Love You. This counterfeiting went on through the 70s, purportedly with mob connections attached. It is estimated that Introducing… was counterfeited millions of times over the years. Some estimates I’ve seen believe that there are at least 10 fakes on the market for every legit copy.

There were several “tells” that an astute observer could look for to separate the fakes from the real deal.

Originals had covers with glossy paper both front and back. The printing was sharp and clear and the sleeves were grey or brown cardboard with quarter-inch flaps holding the back side to the front side. The front cover photo had a shadow of George in the background on the right side of the record. Counterfeit versions often had blotchy printing on the rear cover, especially in the word “Honey” in the song title for A Taste Of Honey.

Label variations and disc printing of the vinyl record itself was even more telling. The album title “Introducing the Beatles” and the artist “The Beatles” both have to appear above spindle hole. If the title and artist are separated by the spindle hole, your record is a fake. Labels needed to be gloss or semi-gloss with rainbow colored bands and bright sharp silver print. The color band is especially important as many fakes have it ragged, offset or forgetting the color green all together. The dead wax of all originals is 1 inch or less in thickness, many counterfeits had more than 1 inch thick dead wax. Also in the dead wax were matrix numbers both scribed and machine stamped on originals where as counterfeits don’t have any machine stamping.

Finally, the biggest tell of all was in listening to the record. Due to the fact that the stereo version was most rare, most counterfeits pretend to be the stereo version. If your record does not say stereo on the label or does not play in stereo when the cover purports to be a stereo record, it is fake. Finally, an original is a pretty good sounding record! (even better than the corresponding Capital releases) The fakes I’ve heard sound like poo!

I have two copies of this album in the collection, one real stereo version and one awesome counterfeit. Can you tell the difference?

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Front covers

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Rear covers

There are many other variations too including some black label pressings.

The best of source I’ve found for identifying Introducing… the Beatles is this awesome site: http://rarebeatles.com/photospg/introvj.htm

I Read The News Today,Oh Boy!

45 years ago today, January 7, 1972, in the British weekly paper The St. Cleve Chronicle & Linwell Advertiser, a scandal was revealed.

The Society for Literary Advancement and Gestation (SLAG) reversed their previous decision and stripped young Gerald Bostock of his first place prize in the Literary Competition.

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The distinguished SLAG committee reconvened a panel of judges and held an inquiry with child psychiatrists. These psychiatrists found that “Little Milton’s” work was “extremely unwholesome toward life his God and Country“.

the riveting lead story in this week’s SCC&LA in no way detracts from other important stories of the era including non-rabbits, unfinished wars, emperor penguins (stuffed or whole) and numerous people dying on Christmas.

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Environmental protests, sand castle magic, wedding announcements and recipes don’t take a backseat either!

And of course there’s a crossword and a connect the dots… for the children.

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To say that the major beat group Jethro Tull had a one-track mind when recording “Little Milton’s” poem would be an understatement.

So Long 2016. You Suck.

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I’m sure this picture needs an update by now. 2016 saw the passing of too many wonderfully talented, admired and beloved people and too few scoundrels. In fact, it seems like the scoundrels outnumber the rest of us these days.

Happy New Year to you. May you have a scoundrel free 2017!

 

Great Voice In The Sky

Every once in awhile you will be listening to some piece of music… a new album, an old friend, or getting into the back catalogue of an artist that you already know when, out of blue, comes a sound that absolutly floors you! A voice so perfect that it makes your heart skip a beat.

It demands your full attention. Conversation is paused. Work stops. Drowsiness  retreats toward lucidity. If driving, you must pull over.

My first experience with this phenomenon came while listening to the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. It was probably the first time I’d heard the record, lifted from an older brother’s bedroom at a friend’s house one summer afternoon.

It was the end of side one, which we had listened to second in order to get at the good stuff on side two first. There was a slow part with some random voices saying God knows what and then Boom! The Voice!

After the chills subsided, all of us goosebump covered pre-teen boys looked at the wide-eyed friend next to us and mouthed “what the fuck!” in unison.

It turns out the voice belongs to a woman named Clare Torry, uncredited on the DSOTM album, and, unfathomably, somewhat lost to obscurity thereafter.

I’d have never known this except for the fact that Torry sued the band in 2004 for songwriting royalties and settled in 2005, ever after being credited with co-songwriting lyrics for Great Gig In The Sky with Richard Wright.

Torry did have a career as a successful session / backup singer for most of the seventies and eighties, singing a lot of jingles, TV theme songs and what not. She did manage one 2006 release of original material on an album but it was not critically acclaimed.

I dove into my record collection to find any other vocals by Clare Torry. Other than DSOTM, my finds were the Alan Parsons Project Eve album where Torry sings lead vocals on the song Don’t Hold Back. The Meatloaf album Bad Attitude from the mid-eighties where Torry sings on two songs, Modern Girl and (uncreadited again, WTF?!?) Nowhere Fast,  backing vocals on the Culture Club song The War Zone (very GGITS-like) and a Tangerine Dream record called Le Parc where Torry’s vocal can be heard on the final track Yellowstone Park.

Honestly, none of the above rose to the level of Great Gig In The Sky, but the essence of that performance remains intact.

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So, happy belated birthday to Clare Torry, who turned 69 on November 29th.