Dick and Dee Dee, The Mountain's High.
Ernie K-Doe, A Certain Girl.
Roy Hamilton, You Can Have Her.
The Texans, Rockin' Johnny Home.
Stan Getz, I'm Late, I'm Late.
Jacques Brel, Les Biches.
Jean Ritchie, Barbara Allen.
Patsy Cline, Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue).
Ron Carter and George Duvivier, Bass Duet.
Frits Weiland, Study In Layers and Pulses.
The Outlaws, Tune For Short Cowboys.
Ornette Coleman, T. & T.
The Flares, Foot Stomping (Pt. 1).
Bobby Parker, Watch Your Step.
Elis Regina, Sonhando.
Phil Upchurch Combo, You Can't Sit Down.
Wayne Worley, Red Headed Woman.
Eddie Holland, Jamie.
Andre Williams, Rosa Lee (Stay Off the Bell).
Anna Karina, Chanson d'Angela.
Bill Evans, Waltz for Debby.
"The Mountain's High," nearly a half-century old, remains unknowable, with its bizarre vocals (in which the male singer overdubbed higher harmonies over the female singer's harmonies) and its distorted, murky sound, which makes it seem as though the whole thing has been taped over another, lost performance; it has an unfathomable lyric, both trite and inexplicable, like a half-remembered shard of childhood; its players seem to move under hypnosis--the track rumbles, shudders, relapses, its structure mainly one long chorus. Punctuated by martial drum rolls, with cuckoo cries at the fade out.
"Mountain" was by two young California songwriters, Dick St. John and Mary Sperling. St. John, who had gone to high school with Nancy Sinatra and Jan & Dean, was lingering on the edges of the LA record industry until he connected with arranger Don Ralke and a local band called the Wilder Brothers and offered them a demo of two songs, Sperling's "I Want Someone" and his "The Mountain's High," for which Sperling had sung harmony.
The track was taped in a small room above engineer Armen Steiner's garage, and only when they received the pressed single did Sperling and St. John discover they would be professionally known as "Dick and Dee Dee" for the rest of their days. The duo cut more records throughout the '60s that didn't do much, and even recorded versions of Jagger/Richards' "Blue Turns to Grey" and "Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind."
Released as Liberty 55350 c/w "I Want Someone"; on Best Of.
Ernie K-Doe is best known for "Mother-in-Law," a song whose subject is as ageless as the west wind, but his "A Certain Girl" (written by Allen Toussaint under his mother's maiden name, Naomi Neville) is just as fine. Memorably covered by Warren Zevon, though Doe's sly vocal and Toussaint's piano gives the original the slight edge.
Recorded 5 July 1961 and released as the b-side of Minit 634 "I Cried My Last Tear"; on Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet.
Roy Hamilton's "You Can Have Her," in which Roy gives up on his girlfriend like a rajah abandoning a throne, was released as Epic 9434 c/w "Abide With Me"; on Golden Age of American Rock & Roll Vol. 10.
The Texans were the brothers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette under an assumed name. The Burnettes, after the Rock & Roll Trio broke up in the late '50s, went to Hollywood and literally sat on Rick Nelson's doorstep until Nelson listened to their songs.
"The Texans" sides (recorded sometime between '59 and '61) likely came about as a quick way for the brothers to cut discs for other labels (Infinity and Gothic, two small indies). "Rockin' Johnny Home," a surf version of the Civil War song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," was the second and last Texans single, though the brothers tried again later that year under the name The Shamrocks.
The Burnettes came to untimely ends: Johnny died in a boating accident in 1964, while Dorsey was felled by a heart attack at age 46.
Released in May '61 as Gothic GOX-001 c/w "Ole Reb"; the only place to find it on CD is apparently this massive complete boxed set.
Stan Getz had spent much of the '50s in exile--literally (living in Europe) and spiritually (blissed out on heroin). But by '61, Getz was poised to become one of the last truly popular jazz musicians of the 20th Century. He would soon introduce America to bossa nova and Antonio Jobim, and in his LP Focus, which he considered his masterpiece, he attempted a fusion of jazz saxophone and avant-garde string arrangements.
For the LP, the arranger Eddie Sauter pitted Getz against ten violins, four violas, two cellos, a bass, a harp and Roy Haynes, who played a drum kit consisting of a snare drum, an open bass drum and a hi-hat cymbal. The string players taped their parts a few days before Getz entered the studio--Getz listened to the tracks, then improvised and recorded all the sax parts over the course of a few hours.
Getz recorded two takes of the leadoff track "I'm Late, I'm Late," the piece inspired by both Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the White Rabbit's song in the 1951 Disney film of Alice in Wonderland. After Getz, Sauter and producer Creed Taylor couldn't decide which take to use, they just looped the takes together.
For Getz, here was hard freedom--no charts, no set melody, no rhythm section, no real chord changes. In "I'm Late," Getz spirals around a corridor while Sauter's strings veer off away from him. It could have been a mess; it winds up being a freewheeling exchange of ideas, with Haynes' snare drum brushes setting the frenetic pace and adjudicating between the warring parties.
Recorded at Webster Hall, NYC, on 14 July 1961 with the Beaux Arts String Ensemble, including Gerald Tarack, Alan Martin (violins), Jacob Glick (viola), Bruce Rogers (cello), John Neves (bass). Conducted by Hershey Kay; on Focus.
Jacques Brel, staggering down the streets of Montmartre, collapses in exhaustion. Hauled to his feet by a friendly waiter, deposited in a cafe chair, he graciously accepts the glass of water handed him and begins telling his story to the waiter and the well-fed man at the table next to him. "Elles sont notre premier ennemi," Brel begins--they are our first enemy, our most beautiful, our most implacable--at age 15, at 20, or at whatever age they eventually kill us. The waiter nods absently; the well-fed man glances across the square, squinting at something in the half-light.
Recorded live at the Olympia Theatre in Paris; on the essential The Olympia '61 & '64.
"Barbara Allen" is an English or Scottish ballad from the 17th Century, though it blossomed most fully in America (there were some 100 variants in Virginia alone). Jean Ritchie, from Kentucky, recorded an a cappella version of the song in 1961 that sounds as though it could have been the first time the song was ever given voice.
Originally released on Ritchie's Smithsonian Folkways LP Ballads From Her Appalachian Family Tradition (SF 40145) and later reissued on The Rose and the Briar.
Patsy Cline was far from a traditionalist--in '61 alone, she recorded rockabilly ("Seven Lonely Days") and mainstream pop ("Fooling Around"). And when she did offer standard country heartbreak, it was by taking a pop standard from the '30s ("Have You Ever Been Lonely," written by Peter DeRose, was first recorded by the jazz singer Ted Lewis) and making it effortlessly bend to her will.
Recorded 24 August 1961, with Hargus "Pig" Robbins (p); Floyd Cramer (organ); Walter Haynes (steel g); Randy Hughes, Grady Martin (g); The Jordanaires (backing vox); Harold Bradley, Bob Moore (b); Murrey "Buddy" Harman (d). On Gold.
Ron Carter was as much a cellist as he was a bass player, so when he recorded his first LP as a leader, he asked bassist George Duvivier to fill in on the tracks Carter played cello. But the prospect of a bass duet proved too enticing: Carter and Duvivier open the theme together, Carter takes the first solo, Mal Waldron's piano provides a cue for the two to jointly improvise again, and then Duvivier takes off.
Recorded in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, on 20 June 1961, with Charles Persip (d). (Eric Dolphy, not heard on this track, was also part of the session.) On Where?
"Study in Layers and Pulses," by a Dutch electronic musician named Frits Weiland, was collected on a Donemus LP (Anthology of Dutch Electronic Tape Music), which was intended only to be distributed to university libraries, like a dissertation. "Study," like the other tracks on the compilation, had been recorded in one of the studios of the Netherlands Radio Union, Delft Technical or Utrecht University.
"Study"'s UFO telegraph sounds have been familiarized over the decades (mainly by the soundtracks of dozens of horror and SF films) but the track remains ominous and unnerving; it could be put out as a new release tomorrow, and no one would know the wiser. The whole LP is available (or used to be available) here.
The Outlaws' "Tune for Short Cowboys" is the closing track of the the band's 1961 LP Dream of the West, the British producer Joe Meek's oddball re-invention of the American Western. It barely qualifies as a cowboy song, centered as it is on Bobby Graham's parade-ground drumming. On Crazy Drums/Crazy Drummer.
Ornette Coleman cut his final sessions for Atlantic in the first three months of '61, ending what would be his most prolific (and mainstream) period. In the next few years to come, Coleman existed as mainly a rumor: never recording, hardly performing. At last he would resurface just when the decade had begun to boil, playing a new set of anthems and backed by his 10 year-old son on drums.
"T. & T.," a showcase for drummer Ed Blackwell, features one of Coleman's sprightlier melodies; recorded in New York on 31 January 1961, with Don Cherry on pocket trumpet and Scott LaFaro on bass; on Ornette!
"The Flares' "Foot Stomping (Pt. 1)," which needs no explanation, as its powers are self-evident, was released in August 1961 as Felsted 8624; on Doo Wop Uptempo.
Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step" was the target of one of the all-time great Beatle heists--John Lennon later publicly admitted that the band nicked the riff for "I Feel Fine" from this (and the kernel of "Day Tripper" is in there as well). Released as V-Tone 223 c/w the aptly-named "Steal Your Heart Away"; on The World of Guy Stevens.
The Brazilian singer Elis Regina, cutting her first album at age 16, already possessed a good deal of mastery and daring--she covered calypso and rock & roll, along with more traditional Brazilian songs, and her version of "Sonhando" is a crystalline dream. Originally released on the Decca LP Viva a Brotolândia; on Os Primerios Anos.
Frank, Crags and Crevices
"You Can't Sit Down" has long faded into a minor pop memory, performed by Bill Clinton on saxophone during his inaugural party, and serving as the soundtrack to a host of awful television commercials for everything from second-hand auto dealers to microwave tamales. But the original, by the Chicago guitarist Phil Upchurch, is a pretty phenomenal groove, and deserves more respect.
Released as Boyd 3398; on You Can't Sit Down.
Rockabilly was supposedly dead by '61, but Wayne Worley didn't get the news. A 20-year-old kid from Dyersburg, Tennessee, he cut this barb of rock & roll and then promptly vanished. Some twenty years later, he was found playing in a Chicago nightclub, still rocking out "Red Headed Woman," acting as if nothing had changed.
Released as Elbridge 11016 c/w "To Be Alone"; on Rockin' On Broadway.
Eddie Holland's "Jamie" is glorious confectionery pop, bound together by the sweeping string section, which seems to be cuing rapid changes of scenery. Holland was one of Motown's first songwriters and performers, but it was only when he teamed up with his brother Brian and Lamont Dozier that Motown's key songwriting team was in place. "Jamie" and Holland's follow-up hit "Leavin' Here" were actually high-charting singles, but Eddie Holland's bad case of stage fright eventually caused him to retire from performing in 1964.
Released October 1961 as Motown 1021 c/w "Take a Chance on Me"; on Heaven Must Have Sent You.
Unlike Holland, Andre Williams was already a major name in Detroit music when Berry Gordy hired him as a staff writer and producer in 1960. Williams had worked for Fortune Records and had had a big regional hit with "Bacon Fat" in the '50s. Yet Williams' stay with Motown (which lasted, sporadically, until 1964) was a bit of a disaster--Gordy routinely fired Williams, only to hire him back whenever Williams produced a hit for another label. And "Rosa Lee (Stay Off the Bell"), Williams' first single for Motown, for a short-lived subsidiary label Miracle, was cut but never released.
"Rosa Lee" represents a road seriously not taken at Motown--it's a strain of country R&B that Carl Perkins could've sung. Slated to be released as Miracle 4 c/w "Shoo Ooo"; on Complete Motown Singles Vol. 1 1959-1961.
Bunshaft, One Chase Manhattan Plaza (NYC).
"Chanson d'Angela": World, meet Anna Karina. (see Une Femme Est Une Femme, below). Michel Legrand makes the introductions. On Jean-Luc Godard: Histories de Musique.
Finally, close out the night at the Village Vanguard. Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motion converse so quietly and effortlessly that the whole performance is a miracle of precision. The death of the brilliant LaFaro, who was killed in a car accident (at age 25) ten days after making this recording, remains one of jazz's grimmer losses.
Recorded 25 June 1961; on Waltz For Debby.
Une Femme Est Une Femme.
Kohayagawa-ke no aki (The End of Summer).
The Ladies Man.
Tsuma wa kokuhaku suru (A Wife Confesses).
Chronique d'un été (Paris 1960).
Paris Nous Appartient.
The Guns of Navarone.
Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Bo Diddley, 1928-2008.
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley.
Ronnie Hawkins, Bo Diddley.
Ronnie Hawkins and the Band, Who Do You Love (live).
Adios, Ellas McDaniel. Here's the man and some of his disciples. Much more at the Rev. Frost and Boogie Woogie Flu.