Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hits Hits Who?-Ray!

The recent thread about '50s and '60s budget knockoff recordings on an internet list to which I subscribe, Spectropop, has finally given me the courage to come out of the closet into the cool, clear light of day. Until now, I thought that I was the only person in the universe who collected this stuff. Yes, I can now walk proudly into the clean, clear light of day and proclaim that I, too, am a furtive collector of this swill (I tend to concentrate on the Tops and Hits Hits Hits Hooray labels).

For those unfamiliar with this sub-genre, here's the way it is described on one of the pages of the excellent and invaluable BSN site:

". . .re-recorded versions of the hits of the day by studio musicians, sort of a 'Your Hit Parade' on record. The early releases that cover popular hits were effective, but as rock and roll began to dominate the charts, these big band leaders could not duplicate the rock and roll recordings."

Not exactly true, but these re-recordings of late fifites hits with at least one foot stuck back in the pop music aesthetic of the forties ("Unchained Melody," etc.) DO tend to be more verissimilitudinous. . .and less laughable. In theory, the ultimate goal was the achievement of a carbon copy of the real thing. But in only a handful of instances was this ever reached. Besides. . .who cares? What is of more interest to me are rare occasions when the track sounded just as good or interesting or (rarer) better than original. Too, there are those (often-as-not) awful-beyond-belief attempts at xeroxing the original, but that come off more like a childish crayola rendering. To whit: oleaginous over-the-hill boy tenors attempting to sing doo-wop.

I even own a boxed 78 rpm (!) set on Value Records ("Play twice as long for half the cost of ordinary records"). It is the pride of my collection. Four ten inch discs with four songs on each one. However, only a few of the cuts ("Rock Around the Clock", "Pledging My Love", etc.) qualify as rock. The remainder consists of "Davy Crockett", "Learnin' the Blues", etc. The front of the box bears the legend "vocals and orchestra by popular radio and televison artists," and what I would like to know is, if they're so goldarned "popular" why don't you tell us who they are?

In more recent times I have also begun snapping up Japanese covers of US hits, especially those late 50s, 60s and 70s tracks known as "eleki" (i.e., electric) and also "group sounds" (the name the Japanese originally gave to "rock and roll" because the latter was difficult for them to pronounce). The Japanese tracks come somtetimes in English but more often Japanese, with the latter oftimes proving a bit distracting due to pronunciation of English ('runny bear," etc.) that tends to wander all over the map.

A particular ten inch bargain basement covers album, Tops in Pops, on the fine fine super fine Allegro label is another album in my collection of this stuff where the names of the artists are not identified. Instead, on the front, the text reads "Played and sung just as you hear them on radio and TV," to which I would reply, "Welllll, not exactly."

This one contains a doesn't-quite-make-it cover the Royal Teens' (of which still-active musician Al Kooper is an erstwhile and founding member) and their "Short Shorts." Others of the eight cuts include: "Catch a Falling Star" (orig. Perry Como), "Oh, Oh I'm Falling in Love" (orig. Jimmy Rodgers), "It's Too Soon to Know" (orig. Orioles), "Don't" (orig. Elvin Pelvin), "Sail Along Silvery Moon" (orig. Billy Vaughn) , "Sugartime" (orig. McGuire Sisters) , "The Stroll" (orig. Diamonds). Some of it is, as we used to day, "close enough for jazz" I suppose.

When I was a teenager back in the 1950s, I really did not have the disposable income of some of the more monied of my chums, and so I bought these el-cheapo recordings out of neccessity. And was subsequently ridiculed to my face. (I know exactly how Ann ("Veeeeeeda!") Blyth felt in Mildred Pierce.) Now, however, I collect this stuff more out of perversity, I suppose, and for the sheer clutter of it all. And, let's face it, s'always fun to compare and contrast.
Isn't it . . .isn't it?

For a whiplash-inducing cultural experience, click HERE
My web site

No comments: