26 June, 2011

Some Nuggets from my 45s Collection

At the risk of sounding like a miserable old fart, I feel a little bit sorry for generations for whom there is no ritual to playing music. Whether it’s actually playing an instrument and singing, or setting up a piano roll, putting a vinyl record on, slipping a cassette into a ghetto-blaster, or even selecting a CD, there has always been some kind of physical act involved with playing music until recently. I can’t help but wonder if the ability to just dial up a track and have it play without any real tactile interaction with the recording is making people value music a little less.

I’m not a vinyl purist by any stretch, but I confess that I sometimes miss the ritual of putting a record on and seeing it being played as I hear the music. I think the fact that all software media players have glorified screen-savers called visualisations is confirmation that people want something visible to focus on while they listen. Every once in a while, I set up my old turntable and plug it into the computer to digitise a few more records. I’ve been enjoying the trend on YouTube towards showing the record playing and thought I’d post a few myself. The video quality is a bit crappy but the audio is good. I’ve taken care to post only music that is rare, out of print or by people who don’t need the money, but I accept that this is a grey area of copyright and repeat here what I said on all the uploads: If you enjoy the music, please support the artists. Don’t steal music!

Here are a few nuggets from the more eccentric corners of my 45s collection:

Redgum: The Drover’s Dog
I bought this before I even had a turntable of my own. Redgum are best known for I Was Only Nineteen. This was released a few years later and tells the story of Bob Hawke’s political career a capella to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan’s When I was a lad, from HMS Pinafore. The title refers to a comment from Bill Hayden, who Bob Hawke replaced as ALP leader shortly before the 1983 election, that the drover’s dog could beat the incumbent Fraser government.

Wings: Give Ireland Back to the Irish
This record belonged to my dear departed Godmother.  I have never seen another copy of it anywhere.  Early Paul McCartney 45s are really very easy to come by, even though they’ll probably be scratched to buggery and missing the original covers.  Look in any second-hand record store, charity shop, antique dealers or junk shop, and you’re probably more likely to find a few copies of Another Day and Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey than not, but Give Ireland Back to the Irish seems pretty rare. 

John Lennon also wrote a song about ‘the troubles’ - The Luck of the Irish - and it illustrates the two different approaches of Lennon and McCartney.  While John’s is direct and confrontational, (“If you had the luck or the Irish, you’d be sorry and wish you were dead,”) Paul adopts the more-flies-with-honey-than-vinegar approach.  The opening verse starts, “Great Britain, you are tremendous / Nobody knows like me,” which sounds like a bit of sucking up but it gives context to the following lines, “But really, what are you doing in the land across the sea?”  It pre-empts any accusations of being anti-British before appealing to people’s sense of fairness: “Tell me, how would you like it?”

Wings: Mary Had a Little Lamb
Paul said he did it for his kids, but it’s also been suggested that this was a sly protest at the BBC’s refusal to play Giver Ireland Back to the Irish.  We report, you decide.  I can’t remember where I got this copy.  I’ve had a copy with generic Capitol label for years and I bought this copy because it had an original custom label.

Barry Humphries: Wild Life in Suburbia
This also came from my Godmother.  As far as I can work out, The Migrant Hostess is the first appearance of the Edna Everage character.  I can’t quite work out if this is devastatingly subtle satire or if she wasn’t very funny back then either.  One thing is does show is that educated hipsters taking the piss out of working class suburbanites is nothing new. 
Side 1: The Migrant Hostess

Side 2:Sandy Stone

Skies, Lufthansa Theme by Klaus Doldinger with Passport
I found this in a second-hand shop some time in the mid-80s and bought it purely out of curiosity.  Dated 1973, it seems to be either an advertising or corporate theme.  If so, it’s certainly successful in conveying the mood of travel.  It reminds me a little of Mason Williams’ One Minute Commercial.

Lonnie Donegan: Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour (on the Bedpost Overnight?)
I bought this two years ago at a very cool little second-hand place in Healesville.  Lonnie Donegan and the short-lived skiffle trend was quite an influence on the Beatles in the early days and that’s reason enough to have at least one example of his work.

Louis Armstrong: St Louis Blues
Can’t remember where I bought this, but I got it mainly because I was intrigued by the fact that it came in a generic Myer Emporium cover, which suggests that the records were supplied without covers and the retailers had to provide them.  I’ve no idea if that was the case, I just can’t think of any other explanation.

Clearly this record has done a lot of work but in a way, this is how Louis Armstrong should sound.  5.1 High resolution audio wouldn't be authentic.

Roger Waters and the Bleeding Heart Band featuring Paul Carrack: Money (live)
This was the B-side to Sunset Strip, the second single from the Radio K.A.O.S. album.  I don’t doubt that this is a live recording, but it’s pretty clear that the audience noise has been added separately.  I don’t know why he felt the need to do this, but it was released at a time when the Pink Floyd breakup was at its most bitter.  When this single came out, the remainder of Pink Floyd were just about to release A Momentary Lapse of Reason and launch a world tour, so this may have been Roger’s way of saying, “I’m Pink Floyd too!”  It’s an interesting version, but the fakery is unnecessary and undignified.
It’s very good to see that Waters and Gilmour have reconciled their differences now.

Midnight Oil: Instant Karma
Another single (King of the Mountain) bought for the B-side.  Yoko gave approval for the Oils to perform this at the Exxon protest in 1990, but it shows why the future minister for education should stick to singing songs written for him.

Frente: Horrible
Released at a time when 7” singles were becoming a novelty, this is possibly the first time the single version of a song was actually longer than the album version, which clocks in at just 2 minutes.  Frente were always clever at packaging records.  For their first, self-released EP, they could only afford one colour for the cover, so they made it a different colour for each print run.  This led to some fans buying one of each colour.   With this single, initial copies came with a unique Polaroid of the band.
The B-side is the “acousdelic” version of The Destroyer, which I like much more than the album version.  Both these songs are classic Frente.  Frente were one of those bands that released an unrepresentative single very early on and sadly had to spend the rest of their career trying to live it down.  Far from being the shiny happy people of the Accidently Kelly Street video, Frente’s other output was closer to Neil Finn’s “Leonard and McCartney” method, wrapping slightly dark lyrics around gorgeous pop tunes that often belie the subject matter.

Julian Lennon: Stick Around (extended version)
Ah yes, the 80s 12” single and slapped-together extended mix!  But even that can’t wreck this great song.  I’ve got a lot of time for Julian Lennon – I think he’s had a raw deal.  I’ve no doubt Virgin signed him as a 21yo for his name only, but he’s a real talent in his own right.  He’s been criticised for not being as talented as John, which is kind of like being told you’re not as handsome as George Clooney.  He’s also copped flak for sounding too much like his father, which is ridiculously unfair.  So it’s okay for people like Lenny Kravitz and Liam Gallagher to sound like John Lennon, but it’s not okay for people who were genetically predestined to.  And then when Julian went and wrote a song that even his father would be proud of, people just assume it’s John anyway.

I found this 12” at the Camberwell Market about a year ago.  It’s stamped as a promotional copy and I’m not sure if this version was ever officially released.

No comments:

Post a Comment