Monday, October 20, 2014

Rock 'n' roll etiquette: Celebrity books on manners from 1959-60

In the 1950s, amid widespread concerns about the negative influence of rock 'n' roll on teens, about juvenile delinquency, and about young people's moral lassitude in general, some of the respectable faces of rock 'n' roll wrote zany books of etiquette for teens. 

Parents could take comfort in knowing that their children were being schooled by some of the most successful and clean-cut pop celebrities of the day. Dick Clark was a swell disk spinner on TV, so he'd probably be the best person to teach your daughter about menstruation. Pat Boone drank a gallon of milk a day for health, so he should teach your daughter how to comport herself around boys.

These celebrity advice books weren't confined to the '50s and early '60s. I used to have a copy of a similar book by Susan Dey of The Brady Bunch, which was published in 1972.

Today on Music Weird, we'll look at five rockin' and rollin' books of moral instruction.

Dick Clark – Your Happiest Years

Parents "have a strange way of being right most of the time," Dick Clark wrote in his 1959 self-help book for teens, Your Happiest Years, which covers—as Kirkus Reviews wrote—"the entire familiar range of adolescent problems—puberty, belonging, family conflict, dating, makeup, going steady, manners, the battle between the sexes, personality, and finally, reluctantly, teen-age marriage." 

Clark was, in the words of Arnold Shaw, "the great tranquilizer of the era, reassuring parents by his suave manner that rock 'n' roll was not bad...." As the "world's oldest teenager," Clark was uniquely positioned to provide teens with some low-key advice about menstruation and grooming. His lacquered hair was always perfectly sculpted, so his authority on the latter was unquestionable. 

You can read some quotations from the book here.

Pat Boone – Twixt' Twelve and Twenty: Pat Talks to Teenagers

Pat Boone was the "good boy" of rock and roll, and the second-biggest hit-maker of the '50s after Elvis Presley. Pat was a paragon of virtue, sporadically championing "good music" (when he wasn't covering other artists' rock hits) and generally setting a good example for the kids. When he covered Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame," he wanted to correct the grammar and sing it as "Isn't That a Shame," but his record label wouldn't let him. Too bad.

It's fun to make jokes about Pat Boone, but I'm a fan. I have the two big Bear Family box sets that compile his recordings through 1962, and I saw him live several years ago. He put on a great show. 

Boone wrote two advice books for teens: 'Twixt Twelve and Twenty (which was also the title of one of his hit songs) and Between You, Me and the Gatepost: A Heart-to-Heart Message for Teen-agers, which is featured next. Despite my fandom, I find 'Twixt Twelve and Twenty to be extremely irritating. The voice is cornball and the advice seems random. It's like sitting and listening to Pat pontificate for 176 pages. Oh, wait—that's exactly what the book is.

Here are a few quotations from 'Twixt Twelve and Twenty
No matter what the other girls tell you, I say, if you want to be attractive to boys always look your best! Let the other gals wear Dad's shirts and sloppy blue jeans—you'll have the guys all to yourself.
Kissing for fun is like playing with a beautiful candle in a room full of dynamite! And it's like any other beautiful thing—when it ceases to be rare, it loses its value and much of its beauty. I really think it's better to amuse ourselves in some other way. For your own future enjoyment I say go bowling, or to a basketball game, or watch a good TV program (like the Pat Boone Chevy show!), at least for a while.
Whether we've been spanked or not when we arrive at the teen age is entirely out of our hands. If we have been spanked, our reaction will determine whether we become "spanking" parents. It is simply one of the methods used to help children distinguish between right and wrong at an early age. And of course there are spankings—and there are spankings. There is the delayed spanking that sets in when you're too old to go across Mama's knee and have to wait until you get you home and lean over the bathtub. There is the angry spanking, and the loving spanking. My mother never gave "loving" spankings. I wouldn't know what they were. But hers weren't angry spankings either; they were intelligent and they were just. 

Pat Boone – Between You, Me and the Gatepost: A Heart-to-Heart Message for Teen-agers


Boone's second book for teens followed his first by only a year. But what more was there to say? 

It reminds me of Lawrence Welk's second autobiography, Ah-One, Ah-Two!: Life With My Musical Family. After Welk's first autobiography, Wunnerful, Wunnerful! became an unexpected hit, he was given the opportunity to write a second book. He didn't have much to say, though, so the most dramatic episode in the book is when someone gives him a ham and he doesn't know how he'll fit it on the plane. 


Connie Francis – For Every Young Heart: Connie Francis Talks to Teenagers


"Never wear slacks on a date," Connie Francis counseled teenage girls in her book For Every Young Heart. "I think slacks are an insult to a boy."

Francis seemed matronly even as a young woman, so she's just the kind of person you'd expect to deliver unsolicited advice about what to wear. 

I'd like to know how much content in these books (if any) was actually written by the nominal authors.

Patti Page – Once Upon a Dream: A Personal Chat with All Teenagers


Patti Page, the Singing Rage, was well past being a teen singer when she put her name on this advice book. She was in her 30s at the time, having started her recording career in the 1940s. 

Nevertheless, Page cut some rock and roll records. There's a pretty good bootleg CD of her rock-oriented cuts that is titled The Singing Rage Rocks. In 1959, a widespread belief in the music trade journals was that rock and roll was waning as teenagers' tastes matured and became more sophisticated. That trend boded well for traditional pop singers like Page, who theoretically would be able to start having hits again soon with the same kind of music they'd always made. It didn't quite work out that way for Page, though; she wouldn't have another Top 10 hit until 1965 (with the adult-contemporary ballad "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte"), and then she defected to country music in the 1970s. 

In the book, Page has a lot to say about how girls should act and dress in order to get a husband:
If you will just remember that woman’s traditional role is to help a man make something of himself, you will realize that there is always the chance that you can help the drip of today become the man of the moment tomorrow.
You can read more quotations from the book here.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Hula-hoop songs of 1958-59

When the hula-hoop craze took off in 1958, the ensuing marketing (and buying) frenzy was compared to the Davy Crockett craze of 1955, which had every child in the nation wearing coonskin caps. In the grip of hula-hoop mania, county fairs held hula-hoop contests, novelty toy manufacturers sold wind-up hula-hooping monkeys, and recording artists piled on with records that were designed to cash in on the public's hunger for anything related to the hula hoop. The hula-hoop craze in music lasted only a few months, but hula hoops have been a standard item in toy stores ever since.
Although hoops like the hula hoop had been around for millennia, the Wham-O toy company introduced the plastic hula hoop in the summer of 1958. The toy's name coincided with a surge of interest in Hawaiian music and reflected the similarity of hoop users' gyrating hips to those of hula dancers.

Hula hoops were an instant smash and quickly became a benchmark of success in marketing. In 1959, a number of manufacturers optimistically touted their products as "the next hula hoop." In 1960, in advertisements for Ray Bryant's hit "It's Madison Time," Columbia Records described the dance of the same name as "the biggest epidemic since the hula hoop." Rolf Harris' "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" was also advertised in 1960 as the biggest thing since the hula hoop. None of these things was as big as the hula hoop, but the claim made for good ad copy.

The highest-profile hoop records were also among the first ones to appear. Georgia Gibbs recorded "The Hula Hoop Song," which gave her one of the last Top 40 hits of her career. The song was practically an advertising jingle for hula hoops and asserted that even 110-year-old people could use them. When I interviewed Gibbs, she was dismissive of "The Hula Hoop Song." "I had no say" in recording the song, she said, and expressed a dislike of novelty material in general. (She preferred to sing ballads.) Teresa Brewer covered "The Hula Hoop Song" and siphoned off some of Gibbs' sales. In France, Billboard reported, Gibbs' record was used "as an instruction guide to using the hoops."

Betty Johnson, who'd had an earlier novelty hit with "The Little Blue Man," cut "Hoopa Hoola (With a Hula Hoop)," which referenced a number of other hit songs of the day and reached Billboard's Hot 100. Steve Allen recorded a song called "Hula Hoop" and premiered it on his NBC-TV show in a lavish choreographed production. Maureen Evans gave hoop songs a whirl with her own version of "The Hula Hoop Song" and included a cover of Johnson's "Hoopa Hoola" on the flip side for good measure. 

Pop vocal music wasn't the only genre in which hula-hoop songs could be found. Johnny McDowell and Grady Boles recorded the instrumental single "Hula-Hoop Boogie" b/w "Beat of the Hoops." The recordings were probably given those titles to capitalize on the craze rather than to reflect any real connection with hula hooping. J.D. Orr and the Lonesome Valley Boys entered the ring with a country boogie that was also titled "Hula Hoop Boogie" but was a vocal number; the lyrics said that the hula hoop was overtaking rock and roll in popularity. The Platters, an R&B group, recorded "Hula Hop," and the Frank Woharowski Orchestra served up some hula-hooping polkas on the album Hula Hoop Polka (pictured at the top of this post). David Carr Glover wrote a beginner's piano piece, "My Hula Hoop," that was sold as sheet music in 1958.

The hula-hoop craze wasn't confined to the United States, either. A number of hula-hoop songs appeared around the world in 1958. In Germany, Angèle Durand recorded a German-language version of "Hoopa Hoola" as "Hula Hopp," and rocker Ted Herold offered "Hula Rock (Roll, Rock 'n' Roll That Hula Hoop)." In France, Annie Cordy recorded "Houla Houp." In Finland, Olavi Virta released a two-sided hula-hoop single that included the song "Hula Hula Hula Hula Hula Hoop." And in Italy, Teddy Reno released a two-sided hoop disc that included the song "Tempo Di Hula Hoop."  

As Christmas 1958 approached, the inevitable hula-hooping holiday novelties hit the shops. The Pixies (with Thurl Ravenscroft!) had "Santa's Too Fat for the Hula Hoop," which was released in December, with Thurl providing the booming voice of Santa. In the Chipmunks' chart-topping hit "The Christmas Song," released the same month, Alvin the Chipmunk expressed his desire to receive a hula hoop for Christmas. 

The fad for hoop songs had mostly run its course by the end of the Christmas season, but a handful of hula-hoop records trickled out in early 1959. Hal Singer released "Hula Hoop Rock" on Time Records in the U.S., but most of the remaining hoop records appeared in other countries. Ana Maria cut "La Canción del Hula-Hoop," and Giorgio Gaber cut a version of "The Hula Hoop Song" for Italy. Thereafter, hula-hoop records were few and far between. Dave "Baby" Cortez released "Hula Hoop (Shoop Shoop)" in 1967, but—musically as well as thematically—it seemed like a song that had been recorded years earlier.

I can't immediately think of another popular toy that inspired such a rash of novelty songs. Neither the Slinky, the Frisbee, pet rocks, nor lawn darts made appreciable dents in popular music (although Ed's Redeeming Qualities recorded a great song about lawn darts.) The actual "biggest epidemic since the hula hoop" in music would be the Twist craze, which dominated music from 1960-62 and continued to generate the occasional hit for two years thereafter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Traits' "Nobody Loves the Hulk": An interview with Rosalind Rogoff

"Lucky is the collector today who finds a 45 copy of the obscure 1969 garage/psych record, 'Nobody Loves the Hulk' (QNS 101)," writes Mark McDermott in the book Web-Spinning Heroics: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man. Music Weird recently tracked down the song's composer, Rosalind Rogoff, to find out the story behind this sought-after comic-book novelty record. 

Recorded by a band called the Traits (not Roy Head's band), "Nobody Loves the Hulk" is surprisingly well remembered when you consider that Rogoff sold it exclusively through an ad in the back of Marvel comic books, and that only a few hundred copies sold during its initial run.

A few videos of the song appear on YouTube (one of them is below), and the record is featured in Kirk Demarais' extremely entertaining book Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads!. It’s also included in two anthologies of '60s psychedelic and garage rock: volume 21 of the Pebbles series and volume 4 of the Glimpses series.

The song was later recorded by at least two other bands. Swedish garage rockers the Maggots recorded it in 2006 for a single that was issued with two different sleeves, one of which is very similar to the Traits' original single. A free-jazz group, the Tight Meat Duo, recorded the song in 2007. 

The song is actually quite good for a comic-related novelty. It tells the Hulk's origin story, describes his physical appearance, and finally portrays him as a victim of the Establishment. The song even takes a subtle swipe at racism with the line "We don't allow no green skin people in here." For fans of the Hulk, it really captures the underdog status of the Hulk, whose uncontrollable rage made him more of a force of nature than a conventional superhero. The Traits' performance is great, and the overall quality of this mail-order item was much higher than that of the typical fare that was offered through comic-book advertisements, like X-Ray Spex and Sea Monkeys

Rogoff lived in New Rochelle, New York, in the late '60s and hired the Traits, a local garage band, to record the song. Around that time, the Traits also contributed a song called "High on a Cloud" to the compilation album Ran-Vell Records Presents Battle of the Bands Vol. 1. Ran-Vell was a label/studio in White Plains, New York. The album says that the Traits were from Pelham, not New Rochelle, but Pelham is only a couple of miles away from New Rochelle. The album lists the members of the Traits as:
Mike Carrol, vocals 
Don Chicherchia, guitar 
Bob Creaturo, guitar 
Jim Klieforth, organ 
Bobby Williams, drums
After giving up on the music business, Rogoff became a technical communicator and wrote a book about instructional design in the 1980s. Today she writes the blog San Ramon Observer and seems like someone I'd enjoy hanging out with if I ran into her at a Society for Technical Communication meeting. 

Music Weird's interview with Rosalind Rogoff took place between October 5-7, 2014. 

Tell us about the recording session for "Nobody Loves the Hulk."

The group that recorded the record was called "The Traits.” They were a high school garage band in New Rochelle, where I lived at that time. The high school band teacher gave me the contact info. I don’t remember the names of the guys in the band. There were five or six of them. I recorded the song at a studio in New Rochelle and the record was pressed by Capitol, which gave me the best price for 45s. 

What inspired you to create a Hulk-related novelty record? 

I was a nerd then and still am. I’m not as nerdy as the Big Bang Theory guys are, but I was very much into comics when I was in my twenties. My mother kept telling me to get rid of all the old comics I saved, so I sold them to some guys for $25. I knew they would be worth a lot more in a few years, but it made my mother happy. 

Did you sell the single only through comic book ads? 

I advertised it in Marvel Comics and had about 2,000 copies made. I sold a few hundred and donated a bunch to the Fire Department as Christmas Gifts and sold the remainder to a collectables store. Many were later found in a warehouse, but I don’t know what happened to them after that. I kept one copy for myself. It’s not terrible, but I prefer not to associate myself with it. It’s part of my unsuccessful, entrepreneurial past.

The original ad for "Nobody Loves the Hulk"

The book Mail-Order Mysteries describes the record as an "unauthorized" tribute to the Hulk. Did you get permission from Marvel to use the Hulk name and image? 

You will see credit given to Marvel on the record sleeve for permission to use the Hulk name and image. 

Did you play an instrument? If not, how did you communicate the song to the Traits? 

I wrote the music and lyrics but I didn’t play an instrument in the group. One of the guys in the Traits did the arrangement, but I don’t recall any of their names. I also recorded a song one of them wrote for them to use as a demo. I don’t have a copy of it.

The B-side was another song that you wrote called "Better Things." What's the story with that? 

“Better Things” was an anti-Vietnam war song, but could apply to any of the stupid wars we’ve had since.

"Nobody Loves the Hulk" is often categorized as a psychedelic/garage rock record. Was that the kind of record you set out to make? 

It’s certainly not psychedelic rock, or at least not on my part. I considered it a gag or novelty song and hoped it would catch on with Hulk fans and make a lot of money.

What kind of music were you listening to back then? 
I liked jazz and the great American songbook. I had a big collection of 78s of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong Hot 5 and Hot 7, Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, and Bix Beiderbecke. I wasn’t into rock at all back then. This was strictly an economic venture.

Did you know that other artists had recorded this song? 

I did not know it was ever recorded again. They [the Maggots] did a pretty faithful reproduction. My copyright expired in 1997. I didn’t renew it, so the song is probably public domain now. I received some small royalties from BMI for radio plays after I mailed copies around, mostly to college stations. I didn’t get anything after 1970. I’m not sure if I’m even still a member of BMI. I never renewed that either.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

10 more albums that were withdrawn after release

The previous Music Weird post covered 10 albums that were withdrawn from release. Today we have 10 more albums that were shelved or altered because of contractual disputes, controversies, copyright problems, politics, or artists' whims.

1. John Lennon – Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits (1975)

The convoluted story behind this television mail-order album is here. In short, Lennon got into a copyright infringement feud with music publisher Morris Levy when Lennon appropriated some of Chuck Berry's song "You Can't Catch Me" in "Come Together." To mollify Levy, Lennon agreed to cut a few of Levy's songs for his next album. While browsing Levy's holdings, Lennon saw so many songs he liked that he decided to do a whole album of them. That didn't work out as planned, though, because of Phil Spector's flakiness and other stuff that came up, so Levy retaliated by releasing the rough mixes on his own Adam VIII label. The album was advertised on TV for three days before Capitol/EMI shut it down. Only a few thousand copies of the album were pressed, so they're valuable collectors' items today, despite their awful cover art and poor sound quality. Later in 1975, Lennon released his official covers album, Rock 'n' Roll.

2. Body Count – Body Count (1992)

Body Count's self-titled debut contained the controversial song "Cop Killer," which elicited such a widespread negative reaction from authorities that President George H. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle were compelled to comment on it. The vocalist on the song, Ice-T, said that "Cop Killer" was a fictional narrative song, but the general populace has a hard time distinguishing fiction from nonfiction in music, since we don't categorize music the way we do books (fiction and nonfiction) and films (movies and documentaries). Tons of movies depict the death of policemen, but I don't remember anyone calling for these films to be banned. Anyway, the reaction to the song became so fevered that Body Count's label, Warner Bros., received death threats. Ice-T finally decided to withdraw the album and re-release it without that song, but he said, "If you believe that I'm a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut." 

3. The Five Keys – On Stage! (1957)

I can think of lots of examples of controversial album art that was withdrawn, but usually, the changes to the cover art didn't affect the music itself, so I consider these to be outside the scope of what I'm writing about here. This Five Keys album is a particularly funny example, though, so I'm including it. When the Five Keys' album On Stage! was released in 1957, some people thought that Rudy West's right hand (far left, crotch level) was something other than his hand, so Capitol reissued the album with a new cover that removed the questionable appendage. 

4. Heart – Magazine (1977)

Heart's third album, Magazine, was surrounded by contractual disputes. Heart wanted to get out of its contract with Mushroom Records and sign with Portrait Records, but Mushroom said that Heart was still under contract to them, so the label released Heart's unfinished recordings as Magazine. Heart got an injunction, the album was withdrawn, and in 1978, Heart released an official, re-recorded, remixed, re-sequenced version of the album. 

5. James Brown – Sings Out of Sight (1965)

When James Brown moved from King Records to Smash, King said that Brown was still under contract with them, so Brown's first Smash album, Sings Out of Sight, had to be withdrawn. The album was reissued in 1968 with a different cover after the dust had settled. 

6. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

If you ever find the original, withdrawn version of Dylan's album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, it's worth a shit-ton of money. The original release differed from the version that most of us know in that it had four different songs and a different track sequence. Dylan wanted to replace some of the songs with newer recordings, and Columbia Records was supposed to destroy all copies of the original version, but a few copies got out into the world. 

7. Shirley Bassey – The Bond Collection: The 30th Anniversary (1987)

Shirley Bassey recorded an entire album of songs from James Bond movies in 1987 but decided not to release it. Several years later, the album was released without Bassey's consent, first by ICON Records as The Bond Collection and then by Tring Records as Bassey Sings Bond. In 1995, Bassey got an injunction to prevent the album from being sold, and the existing unsold copies were withdrawn. 

8. The Yardbirds – Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page (1971)

Here's an album that was withdrawn twice: In 1971, Epic Records released this 1968 live Yardbirds recording against the band's wishes in response to the popularity of Led Zeppelin. The album was notable for it's inclusion of "I'm Confused," an early version of Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused." The sound quality wasn't great, though, so Epic tried to cover it up by overdubbing crowd noises. Jimmy Page threatened legal action and the album was withdrawn. CBS reissued it in 1976 and Page objected again, so the album was withdrawn for a second time. 

9. The Almanac Singers – Songs for John Doe (1941)

The all-star folk group known as the Almanac Singers included Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. In 1941, the group released the album Songs for John Doe, which contained several protest songs that opposed the war and American intervention in Europe. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the band changed its stance and recorded pro-war songs such as "Round and Round Hitler's Grave," and Songs for John Doe was withdrawn from circulation. 

10. The Electric Chamber – Pieces in a Modern Style (1995)

This 1995 album by William Orbit was originally released under the band name Electric Chamber. The album featured modern electronic reinterpretations of works by classical composers. The album was withdrawn when Arvo Pärt objected to the inclusion of two of his compositions. In 2000, the album was reissued under Orbit's name with the two Pärt pieces replaced, and it went to #2 on the UK album chart. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

10 albums that were withdrawn after release

Almost everyone knows about the Beatles' album Yesterday and Today and its infamous "butcher" cover that was quickly withdrawn after Capitol sent out promo copies, but that was far from being the only album to be withdrawn after release. Today on Music Weird, we'll look at 10 more albums that were withdrawn.

1. Beyoncé – B'Day (Deluxe Edition) (2007)

The two-disc deluxe edition of Beyoncé's B'Day sparked a feud between Beyoncé and rival singer Des'ree. The deluxe edition included a song called "Still in Love (Kissing You)," which was a retitled remake of Des'ree's "I'm Kissing You." Des'ree, the co-writer of the song, brought a $150,000 lawsuit against Beyoncé, saying that the song could not be retitled or included in a video. While waiting for the court decision, the label withdrew the album and re-released it without the offending track.  

2. Various Artists – Bob Crewe Presents the Dynovoice Story (2001)

Crewe objected to the unauthorized use of his face on the cover of this anthology of his Dynovoice label, so the two-CD set was withdrawn. After initial shipments went out, it became very hard to find and now fetches high prices on the secondary market. 

3. Peter Gabriel – US (1992)

Japanese releases often contain extra tracks, and the bonus track "Bashi-Bazouk" was included on the initial Japanese release of Peter Gabriel's US. The problem was that Gabriel didn't authorize it. The album was not only withdrawn; the label asked record buyers to please return the copies they had bought. (I wonder how many people actually returned them?) Unfortunately for Gabriel, 30,000 copies of the album sold before Toshiba-EMI could withdraw it. 

4. The Del Vikings – Come Go with the Del Vikings (1957) 

Buchanan & Goodman (of "Flying Saucer Pt. 1" fame) released this unauthorized Del Vikings record on their own Luniverse label. It wasn't even a Del Vikings record; it was a collection of a cappella recordings that the members made before they became the Del Vikings. Buchanan and Goodman hired studio musicians to overdub instrumental parts and then released the album as a Del Vikings platter. Dot Records sued and the album was withdrawn. 

5. Little Jimmy Scott Falling in Love Is Wonderful (1962)

Ray Charles invited jazz luminary Jimmy Scott to record for his Tangerine label, and Scott cut this album. Savoy Records claimed that Scott was still under contract to them and got an injunction. The album was withdrawn, but not permanently—Rhino Handmade reissued it years later. 

6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Epic Records allowed MCA to release the album E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which featured Michael Jackson, with two restrictions: MCA was not to release the album until December of 1982 (so that it wouldn't compete with Michael Jackson's Thriller), and MCA was not to issue the song "Someone in the Dark" as a single. MCA failed to comply with either restriction, releasing the album in November of 1982 and sending promo copies of "Someone in the Dark" to radio stations. Epic took MCA to court and got the album withdrawn, but the album still won a Grammy that year for Best Children's Album and charted in the UK.

7. Jackson 5 – Super Show (1972)

This various-artists album that was released in Brazil was withdrawn for using the Jackson 5's name without permission.  

8. Tomita – Holst: The Planets (1977)

Isao Tomita's science-fiction interpretation of Gustav Holst's The Planets created a controversy after its release, because Imogen Holst, Gustav's daughter, refused to grant permission for her father's work to be interpreted this way. Consequently, the album was withdrawn, and the original vinyl release is rare. 

9. Frank Zappa – Zappa in New York (1977)

Zappa's DiscReet Records label released this double live album in the UK in 1977 and then quickly withdrew it. A second version was issued the following year with changes that were ordered by Warner Bros., which distributed DiscReet. The 1978 version peaked at #57 on the Billboard pop album chart. Warner Bros.'s changes included removing the song "Punky's Whips," editing the song "Titties & Beer," and resequencing the album. 

10. Prince – The Black Album (1987)

Prince's The Black Album was withdrawn the week before its release, but some copies got out and the album was widely bootlegged. Warner Bros. finally officially released the album in a limited edition in 1994, and offered to give free official versions to the first 1,000 people who sent in their bootleg versions. Although the official release was a "strictly limited edition," it wasn't very hard to find; I bought a sealed copy in Chicago for $15 a year or two after its official release and never opened it, thinking that it would become a great collectors' item.

Not albums that were canceled before release, but ones that were withdrawn after release. I know of a few:

Various Artists: Bob Crewe Presents the Dynovoice Story – Bob Crewe objected to Westside Records' use of his face on the cover of the CD and insisted that it be withdrawn. After the first shipments were gone, it became very hard to find.

Peter Gabriel: US – Gabriel objected to the inclusion of an extra track in Japan, so the label not only withdrew the release but asked people who had bought copies to return them.

Dell Vikings on Luniverse – Buchanan & Goodman's label. Featured pre-Dell Vikings a cappella recordings that were overdubbed and then issued under the Dell Vikings name. Dot Records filed a lawsuit and the album was withdrawn. √o
Bob Not albums that were canceled before release, but ones that were withdrawn after release. I know of a few:

Various Artists: Bob Crewe Presents the Dynovoice Story – Bob Crewe objected to Westside Records' use of his face on the cover of the CD and insisted that it be withdrawn. After the first shipments were gone, it became very hard to find.

Peter Gabriel: US – Gabriel objected to the inclusion of an extra track in Japan, so the label not only withdrew the release but asked people who had bought copies to return them.

Dell Vikings on Luniverse – Buchanan & Goodman's label. Featured pre-Dell Vikings a cappella recordings that were overdubbed and then issued under the Dell Vikings name. Dot Records filed a lawsuit and the album was withdrawn. 
Not albums that were canceled before release, but ones that were withdrawn after release. I know of a few:

Various Artists: Bob Crewe Presents the Dynovoice Story – Bob Crewe objected to Westside Records' use of his face on the cover of the CD and insisted that it be withdrawn. After the first shipments were gone, it became very hard to find.

Peter Gabriel: US – Gabriel objected to the inclusion of an extra track in Japan, so the label not only withdrew the release but asked people who had bought copies to return them.

Dell Vikings on Luniverse – Buchanan & Goodman's label. Featured pre-Dell Vikings a cappella recordings that were overdubbed and then issued under the Dell Vikings name. Dot Records filed a lawsuit and the album was withdrawn. 
Not albums that were canceled before release, but ones that were withdrawn after release. I know of a few:

Various Artists: Bob Crewe Presents the Dynovoice Story – Bob Crewe objected to Westside Records' use of his face on the cover of the CD and insisted that it be withdrawn. After the first shipments were gone, it became very hard to find.

Peter Gabriel: US – Gabriel objected to the inclusion of an extra track in Japan, so the label not only withdrew the release but asked people who had bought copies to return them.

Dell Vikings on Luniverse – Buchanan & Goodman's label. Featured pre-Dell Vikings a cappella recordings that were overdubbed and then issued under the Dell Vikings name. Dot Records filed a lawsuit and the album was withdrawn. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cassette Store Day 2014

Today is Cassette Store Day, the annual international event to promote the value of cassettes as a music format. Cassette Store Day started in 2013 as the cassette world's answer to Record Store Day and has grown significantly in its second year. In 2013, the Cassette Store Day release list had 50 titles; this year, that number has risen to 300. 

The event originated in the UK but has garnered fairly robust participation stateside. The official Cassette Store Day website has separate areas for UK/EU and US, and separate release lists for each region.

Cassettes seemed to be so dead as a format that the Oxford Dictionary removed the term "cassette tape" in 2011. But some indie music niches, especially in the pizza punk/Burger Records/Gnar Tapes arena, have embraced and championed the cassette, partly out of nostalgia and partly out of contrariness. 

In reality, it's hard to say how many people are really listening to these cassettes. Many music buyers now primarily listen to digital music while handling their physical media—cassettes, limited edition vinyl, deluxe CD box sets that are housed in impractical unusable packaging—as collectors objects, like action figures that can never be played with and graded comic books that can never be read. Some of the people who bought my cassette have told me that they don't even own a cassette player. 

I love the spirit behind Cassette Store Day and can understand the fondness that some people have for physical media. I used to be a serious record collector and, at one time, had nearly 10,000 LPs and CDs. I couldn't imagine giving up physical media and listening to stupid files that could evaporate in an instant with the crash of a hard drive. I couldn't imagine how "record" collecting could continue to provide any joy or challenge in a digital environment in which practically every recording you might ever want is readily available for download or streaming. And yet today I buy very little physical media and take my iPod Classic (now discontinued) everywhere. I still feel the same joy of discovery when I find great new music for download that I felt with physical media, like when I finally tracked down that mint copy of the Go-Betweens' Very Quick on the Eye LP.
If you'd like to browse the releases for Cassette Store Day 2014, a list of US releases is here, and the list of UK/EU releases is here. The official site also has a list of participating record stores.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pig Latin in music

What influence has Pig Latin, the children's language game, had on popular music, you ask? 

Not much, but a little more than none. Jazz vocalist Anita O'Day took her last name from the Pig Latin word for "dough." In Wikipedia's article on Pig Latin, the "in popular culture" section lists a few songs that are sung in Pig Latin. Some songs have "Pig Latin" in the title, like Todd Rhodes and LaVern Baker's "Pig Latin Blues," but aren't sung in Pig Latin.

Today on Music Weird, we'll survey almost 50 years' worth of songs that feature singing in Pig Latin.

Nellie Lutcher – "Pig-Latin Song" (1947)


This song registered on Billboard's "race" chart in 1948 when it appeared as the B-side of Lutcher's "Fine Brown Frame." In a review, Billboard said, "Nellie imparts [her] own peculiar vocal pattern to her own tune." Maybe it's the poor audio of the video, but Lutcher's vocal performance seems very weak to me here. 




Johnnie & Jack – "Pig Latin Serenade (Pa Won't Know and Ma Won't Care)" (1953)

On "Pig Latin Serenade," Billboard wrote, the "duo gets together on Pig Latin clambake. Could be an attention-getting gimmick." I used to use a weird Johnnie & Jack instrumental, "Yeah," as the theme of my rockabilly radio show on WFHB-FM.

Lead Belly – "Pig Latin Song" (1953) 

Lead Belly recorded this song more than once. 



Johnny Brooks – "Pig Latin" (1960) 

No audio for this one. "Pig Latin" was the B-side of Brooks' "Help Me Somebody."



Bob Luman – "The Pig Latin Song" (1961)

"The Pig Latin Song," the B-side of Luman's "The Great Snowman," was also recorded by Holland's Magic Strangers in 1964. This might be the best-known Pig Latin song. Bob Luman had a some pop hits as a rocker in the early '60s (including the Top 3 hit "Let's Think About Living") and then notched a lot of country hits in the late '60s and 1970s.


Zoom – "Ig-pay Atin-lay" (1977)

The cast of the television children's show Zoom cut an album, Playgrounds, in 1977 that includes a song in pig Latin, "Ig-pay Atin-lay." No audio sample.


The Hemmer Ridge Mountain Boys – "Red Neck Mother (in Pig Latin)" (1977)

This record is a version of Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Red Neck Mother" sung in Pig Latin. YouTube has a video of Wrecks Bell performing this version live.  



Ben Stiller – "The Pig Latin Lover" (1990)

Even if you're not a fan of Ben Stiller, you have to admit that this is impressive, especially when he gets to "American Pie." Taken from Stiller's sketch comedy show, The Ben Stiller Show, this sketch parodies those old television ads for records, like the ads for Slim Whitman's albums.




Mr. T Experience – "Pig Latin" (1990)

From their album Making Things with Light. You can hear a sound sample here.  


Black Maddness – "Igpay Atinlay" (1993)

Features rapping in Pig Latin.



Dillinger Escape Plan – "Pig Latin" (2002)

Some hardcore in Pig Latin. 

Bonus track: Louis Jordan – "Ofay and Oxford Gray" (1945)


This song about racial harmony uses the word "ofay," a derogatory African-American term for white people. The origin of the word is unclear, but one popular theory is that it originates from the Pig Latin word for "foe." Whether or not "ofay" is Pig Latin, it's the only (potentially) Pig Latin word in this song.