Wednesday, October 04, 2006


what a beautiful world this will be

Charles Mingus, Haitian Fight Song.
The Spaniels, You're Gonna Cry.
The Pastels, Been So Long.
Carol Lawrence, I Feel Pretty.
Art Pepper, Red Pepper Blues.
The "5" Royales, Dedicated to the One I Love.
Red Sovine, Juke Joint Johnny.
Mal Waldron, Nervous.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets, I'm Looking For Someone to Love.
Thurston Harris and the Sharps, Little Bitty Pretty One.
Lloyd Price, Just Because.
The Hollyocks, You For Me.
Lillian Offit, Miss You So.
Sonny Rollins, I Can't Get Started.

"Haitian Fight Song could just as well be called Afro-American Fight Song," Charles Mingus once said. "It has a folk spirit, the kind of folk music I've always heard anyway." As to his solo, Mingus said: "I can't play it right unless I'm thinking about prejudice and hate and persecution...and it usually ends with my feeling: 'I told them! I hope somebody heard me.'

Recorded in New York City on March 12, 1957, with Shafti Hadi (alto sax), Jimmy Knepper (tb), Wade Legge (p) and Dannie Richmond (d). On The Clown.

"You're Gonna Cry": a soulful imprecation, or just wishful thinking from a broken-hearted man. Released as Vee-Jay 257. It's hard to find on CD right now--if you want to spend too much, go here.

The Pastels
were a quartet of Air Force servicemen who met in Greenland, and, after playing at various Air Force functions, tried to land a recording contract. Lead singer DiFocso (Dee) Ervin had written "Been So Long"and auditioned it for Bea Caslon, who owned Hull Records. Caslon liked the song and signed them-- the Pastels, still on active duty in the Air Force, released "Been So Long" in November 1957 as Mascot 123. The Pastels soon left the military in search of fame, but wound up disbanding in 1959--Dee Ervin, however, kept on as a songwriter for decades. Find on Golden Age of Rock and Roll Vol. 8.

"I Feel Pretty," is sung here by Carol Lawrence, the original Maria in West Side Story. A melody so perfect that you really can't say much more about it, and Sondheim's lyric is a joy as well. Recorded on September 29, 1957, three days after the show premiered. On the original cast recording of West Side Story.

what a glorious time to be free

"Red Pepper Blues" is the confident sound of the young Art Pepper, although this session has a legend of being complete chaos--Pepper allegedly hadn't played for six months, had never met the players before, had only a broken saxophone. Recorded January 19, 1957, with Miles Davis' rhythm section, the sort of backup angels dream of: Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b) and Phily Joe Jones (d). On Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section.

You may know "Dedicated to the One I Love" in its sweeter incarnation as a Shirelles or Mamas and Papas cover--the original, by The "5" Royales, is a rock & roll song, first and foremost. Eugene Tanner's searing lead is complemented by Lowman Pauling's guitar, which has an unnerring sense of time and drama. Just an astonishing track.

Recorded in Cincinnati on August 13, 1957, and released in December as King 5098. Find on Golden Age of American Rock 'N Roll Vol. 10.

Red Sovine offers a nice taste of rockabilly on "Juke Joint Johnny." The lead guitar is likely by Nashville session god Grady Martin. Released in March 1957 as Decca 30239. Find on That'll Flat Git It! Vol. 6.

"Nervous": Mal Waldron's quiet frenzy. Recorded December 5, 1957, during the sessions for The Sound of Jazz television show. On Sound of Jazz.

"Looking for Someone to Love": "Drunk man/street car/foot slip/there you are." Buddy Holly takes center stage at last. This is the B-side of "That'll Be The Day" (not a bad single, eh?). Recorded on February 25, 1957, in Clovis, New Mexico, and released in May as Brunswick 55009. In 1957 alone, Buddy Holly also recorded "Words of Love," "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," "Peggy Sue," "Not Fade Away," "Oh Boy," "Everyday," "Maybe Baby" and "Tell Me How," among others. On Greatest.

"Little Bitty Pretty One": pop transcendence, initiated by Bobby Day, achieved by Thurston Harris. Released as Aladdin 3398, find on Golden Age Vol. 5.

Lloyd Price's "Just Because"--with a vocal bigger than the world. A track that obsessed John Lennon, who finally recorded a (masterful) version of it in the 1970s. Released in January 1957 as ABC-Paramount 9792. On Golden Vol. 10.

the future looks bright

Two gems from Nashville's Excello Records: Lillian Offit was a Nashville girl, who landed a great track written by Morgan Babb, head of the Radio Four gospel group. "Miss You So" starts out with a serpentine riff by an unknown session guitarist, who later contributes a nice 12-bar solo (the only credited player is the pianist Edward "Skippy" Brooks); the whole track has a spooky, dense sound that sounds years ahead of its time. It was released as Excello 2104 and became a top 10 R&B hit later in '57.

And "You For Me" was one of the first releases on Nasco, Excello's "pop" spin-off, performed by the Hollyocks, one of the few doo-wop groups Excello signed. The lead singer is Clifford Curry (who co-wrote the song), with the tenors Willie Earl Drummond and Vestee Huddleson, and Clayton Whittington (baritone). Released as Nasco 6001 c/w "Don't Say Tomorrow". Find both tracks on Excello Story Vol. 3.

Sonny Rollins' take on Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin's "I Can't Get Started" is from Rollins' engagement at the Village Vanguard in late '57, and shows his ability to craft solos that seem to dance across the lifespan of popular music--for example, he makes a brief foray into "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" as the performance wanes. Recorded on November 3, 1957, with Wilbur Ware (b) and the young Elvin Jones (d). On Night at the Village Vanguard.

Films of '57

Les Mistons. Truffaut's perfect first film, a 23-minute short, which makes everything else he did (& don't get me wrong, I love much of it) a bit superfluous. Youth, beauty, summer, death.
The Tall T.
Decision at Sundown. Two more Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott Westerns, which are among the finest of the genre.
Sweet Smell of Success. You could quote from this one all day: "You're dead, son. Get yourself buried"; "You're a cookie full of arsenic", etc. My favorite bit is when Lancaster notices that the broke Tony Curtis hasn't worn a jacket to a nightclub. and says something like, "Ah, no coat check tonight, eh Sidney?"
Night of the Demon.
3:10 to Yuma.
Paths of Glory.
Il Grido.
No Down Payment. Amazing, cold-eyed look at suburbia; makes American Beauty look like the work of a child.
Donzoko (The Lower Depths).
Run of the Arrow.
Man bo nu lang (Mambo Girl).
Funny Face. Yes, I've seen the Audrey Hepburn Gap commercial. Let's not talk about it. And at least they didn't eviscerate this performance.

Next: 1958, right? Well, not quite. As the kind Mr Abramovich has flatteringly compared this site to Tristram Shandy (and the original subhead to "Locust St.", as old-timers might remember, was "digressions"), it seems only fitting to go on yet another detour. To celebrate Locust St.'s second anniversary (cotton!), there will be a month-long series of posts which, while still in the time-traveling vein, will be a bit more ambitious in scope than usual. Everyone from Bert Williams to Bing Crosby, Albert Ayler to Nellie McKay, has been invited. You too. Starts next week.

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