Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Braddock cigarettes toe-tappingly tackle women's lib: The Braddock Way of Seeing Things - Larry King (197?)

More cigarette advertising songs! This is a promotional 7" I found at the always awesome 3MBS record fair. Braddock are a brand of cigarettes that no longer exist, but who were clearly aiming for a very manly, conservative image with this campaign. I found it very difficult to get any details about this record at all until I found the website of what turned out to be the producer: Brian King. There are a lot of Brian Kings out there, and it wasn't until he replied that I knew he was the right man. Here is an excerpt of his email:

For about 10 years starting in the 70's I was in partnership with Larry King (no relation). We had a company which produced advertising jingles and film music.

When "Braddock" came our way it was right in the middle of the "Women's Lib" movement and the brief was to create a campaign which celebrated the differences between men and women. Larry King was a good looking guy, kind of like the "Marlborough Man" and as well as our company producing the music Larry also got the gig as "The Braddock Man". This involved a short live tour to Melbourne which was the place they decided to test market the brand. The slogan for the campaign was "Braddock....Not Mild".

It was all good fun but to this day I've still never smoked a cigarette!

I emailed Brian back with a few follow-up questions - I was quite curious as to whether there were any photos of 'The Braddock Man', for example - but he didn't reply.

There are eight tracks on this record with lyrically consistent themes of women dressing differently to how they used to, bureaucracy and red tape making a man's life difficult and very little mention of tobacco or cigarettes - although every composition ends with Braddock's aforementioned tagline, 'Braddock…not mild'. As Brian alludes to, this was a pitch aimed at the kind of blokes who were threatened or bewildered by the womens' rights movement and there's an amusing lack of subtlety in the lyrics which pretty much all boil down to 'Everything is different to how it used to be (so smoke our cigarettes)'.

Label: Private press
Released: 197?
Players: Larry King - vocals
Brian King - producer

Friday, 3 January 2014

Australian Geographonic - tracks from Pat Aulton, Philip Merifield and Barry Hall At The Conn Organ.

The Place I Want To Be - Pat Aulton (1980). Pat Aulton is quite a celebrated musician and producer who was particularly successful in the sixties and seventies, producing hit records for people such as Normie Rowe. I was familiar with Aulton through a fantastic library track called Barrier Reef that he contributed to Standard Music Library ESL 126 alongside John Sangster and Sven Libaek. On The Place I Want To Be he is front of the microphone and singing this somewhat awkward paean to Great Eastland - a chunk of northern New South Wales and south Queensland. Aulton forges ahead with gusto, even (almost) selling artless lines like, ‘We’ve got people peanut picking up in Kingaroy’ or ‘All through the inland and right along the coast, when you look at people’s faces, you can almost see them boast’. I suspect this was the theme song for the regional television network Great Eastland Television as they commissioned the track and the term ‘Great Eastland’ isn’t widely used in a geographical sense. The B-side, Country Nights fares no better lyrically but has some lovely production touches.

It’s Another World - Phillip Merifield (198?). It’s Another World is actually the B-side of this single, but I like it better than the A, so here it is. This is another promotional single either for the Gippsland region in general, or a business called ‘Lakeland Wonderland’ in Lakes Entrance, that rare thing that has basically zero Google presence, so I haven’t the faintest idea. Anyway, the song itself is in the same ‘list as many towns as you can’ school of songwriting as The Place I Want To Be, but feels a little bit more natural. I haven’t found any information at all about Merifield, but the single was produced by John Wallis, a folk muso who has been active since the eighties and is still playing today. (And, to illustrate the incestuousness of the Australian music scene, on his 1984 LP A Singer Of The Bush he was joined on keyboards by Ian Eccles-Smith, whose progressive releases I have previously showcased on Urban Bowerbird.)

The Lights Of Adelaide - Barry Hall At The Conn Organ (1969). Barry Hall is a bit of a star organ player who released a number of LPs in the sixties and seventies and at 77 years old still has new CDs for sale on his website today. This track is off his Choose Your Own LP which was the name of Barry’s radio show on Adelaide’s 5DN. On this show, Barry would ‘spin records, give cheerio calls to listeners, handle competitions and play the organ’. Little wonder that Barry remained a ‘firm favourite with housewives over the years’. One competition that 5DN held in 1968 was an Australia wide songwriting contest for a song about Adelaide. The winner, The Lights Of Adelaide written by Mr. Cliff Johns of Belair, is given Barry’s organ-driven treatment with accompaniment from Kevin Roper on drums and Roy Wooding on guitar. Sure, it’s a daggy and antiquated tune (have you ever been to Adelaide?) but it’s pretty charming and the addition of live guitar lifts it above the general standard of op-shop organ music. All in all, it perfectly sums up Adelaide, or ‘Radelaide’ as it is regularly, sarcastically referred to by Melbournians and Sydneysiders alike.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Maori folk pop with a hint of Hawaii: The Fabulous Howard Morrison Quartet (1960)

Although the fabulous Howard Morrison and his quartet were all New Zealanders playing tradition Kiwi songs, there’s a definite Hawaiian feel to this four-track EP. It seems obvious enough why they would take this stylistic route; Hawaiian music was huge in the sixties and these fellow denizens of the Pacific must have felt a kinship with its culture, and why not take advantage of a musical trend while you can? 

The songs on the EP all showcase the strong multi-part harmonies of the fabulous quartet and are all sung in their native Maori tongue. My favourite is the upbeat closing track, Haere Haere Ra E Hine, which features some sweet, reverby sixties guitar playing.

Label: La Gloria
Released: 1960

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Our man of many trumpets: John Robertson and his Multi Trumpets – John Robertson (196?)

John Robertson was a classically trained trumpeter, originally from New Zealand, who emigrated to Australia in the fifties or sixties. Despite a strong reputation as an orchestral player, he also cut a few popular LPs such as this exotica/Latin record from the mid-sixties. The reference to ‘multi trumpets’ seems to simply refer to Robertson using multi-tracking of trumpet lines and accompanying himself on most tracks – fairly standard practice, I would have thought, but I guess you’ve got market your instrumental trumpet LP somehow.

Most of the information I’ve been able to find about Robertson has been from a conversation on a trumpet forum from 2005. They’ve got some solid information about Robertson and some good stories such as this one about the musicians who were playing at Sydney’s famous Trocadero jazz venue: One of their numbers had each musician playing some novelty trick... Robbo's gimmick was to hold a high C for 16 bars revolving the trumpet on his lips, while the band played chords underneath. Apparently all the Sydney musicians would crowd in to see him do this act - couldn't believe the lack of mouthpiece pressure. And [trumpeter] George Dobson commented later about these days saying each night he (still seated) would be covered in 'a fine spray of spittle as Robbie (standing) went into act'!

Anyway, John Robertson and his Multi Trumpets is a fine set of instrumental standards played with great skill by Robertson and arranged beautifully by Thomas Tycho. The first track to really make an impression on me was Sugar Plum Cha-cha, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s piece of (more or less) the same name. Yes, it’s twee as fuck, but the bass and percussion is swinging and it’s ultimately quite a well executed interpretation.

Label: RCA
Released: 196?
Players: John Robertson: Trumpet and flugelhorn
Thomas Tycho: Musical director and arranger
Don Andrews: Guitar soloist on La Spagnola


Friday, 18 October 2013

Bach + koto and shakuhachi + jazz trio = ?: J.S. Bach Is Alive And Well And Doing His Thing On The Koto – Tadao Sawai et al (1971)

This rather unusual and improbably named LP marks the moment that I realised I had been neglecting the ‘classical’ bins at the record fairs. I’m not a huge fan of Bach – he’s a bit too chromatic and conventional for my tastes – but I couldn’t go past an album of his music being interpreted by traditional Japanese instrumentation supported by a jazz rhythm section.

How/why did this get made? God only knows, but I suspect that it was conceived and produced by the Japanese players who thought it would be an interesting musical exercise but that it then later made its way into the hands of an American label who thought that the only way to market such a chimera would be with a wacky angle and silly record cover. (As you can see, the cover depicts a gentleman in full baroque regalia whimsically nursing a koto in a traditional Japanese room.) The liner notes continue this light-hearted theme with a faux interview with Bach himself who muses on his works, gives his approval to this new interpretation of his music and cracks a few very corny gags. The LP appears to have been released in an earlier incarnation in 1969 with the (slightly) less silly title “A New Sound From The Japanese Bach Scene”.

Despite the label trying to sell this set off as a bit of a joke, the music itself is very well produced and skilfully played. The fusion of the disparate elements of Bach, Japanese traditional and jazz works seamlessly and it’s actually a very congruent listen overall.

Label: RCA
Released: 1971 (Original release 1969)
Players: Tadao Sawai - first koto
Kazue Sawai - second koto
Hozan Yamamoto - shakuhachi
Sadanori Nakamure - guitar
Tatsuro Takimoto - bass
Takeshi Inomata - drums

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Qantas's marketing team get hip: The Kangaroo Hop - Qantas Air Cargo (1971)

How you going to swing down there on the ground? This is the question posed by the hip young man who sings The Kangaroo Hop - a groovy new sound which incongruously extolls the virtues of the usually prosaic business of air cargo. The Kangaroo Hop is featured on a transparent red flexi-disc that I found at last year's Kew Record Fair

The A side has The Kangaroo Hop 'single', a rockin' piece of seventies pop with an exciting male vocal punctuated by a horn section and accompanied by some funky drumming. I've no idea who the players are, as the information on the disc indicates that the song was 'invented, arranged and performed by Qantas Air Cargo'. The B side has a few snippets of the aforementioned song but is mainly taken up by a typical old-style Australian announcer - a man, of course, this is business sweetheart - describing the benefits of using Qantas air cargo for your company. (The best part is the very beginning where he awkwardly repeats the first couple of the lines to the song, vaguely in time with the music.) The Kangaroo Hop was featured in Australian newspaper advertisements in 1971 with pretty much the same sort of copy that appears on the record. 

I often wonder how these sorts of promotional vinyl releases were meant to be received. Some are obviously intended to be played on radio, but based on the presentation of the disc and the nature of the information on the sleeve and B side, I suspect this one was intended to be played by the businessmen themselves. The language positively screams that using Qantas air cargo is modern, groovy and in tune with the times. Although, this does seem at odds with the graphics they chose for the disc of old fashioned ballroom dancers - perhaps they were just stock pictures from a library. 

I love hearing promotional releases from the sixties and seventies of Australia. There's a sort of unintentional honesty to this music which evokes the time they come from with a sincerity and veracity that pop music simply doesn't have. So come on, grab a jet and go with the groovy new sound - it's the Kangaroo Hop! It's the Kangaroo hop!

Label: Private Qantas label.
Released: 1971 (based on newspaper advertisements)
Players: None identified. 


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Viva Elec. Guitar - The Spacemen (1965)

Apparently, back in the sixties there was quite a big wave of Japanese bands inspired by the surf guitar bands of the United States. They called this music 'eleki' and there were many bands playing in this style, until the Beatles and the British Invasion kind of wiped them out. The Spacemen seem to be a pretty obscure proponent of this sound, but hot damn are they good! 

My brother found this LP in a tip shop in Canberra and it's a great listen -  inventive arrangements, ancient keyboard tones and loads of baritone guitar. There's also a kind of 'outsider' feeling to the overall sound of the album, presumably due to the amplified isolation of Japanese musicians in the early sixties who were miles away from the California surf sound to which they were paying tribute. Even standards like Tequila and Caravan, tracks that I thought I might be skipping past, are given exceptional interpretations by The Spacemen and the LP is a great listen from start to finish.

Label: Victor
Released: 1965
Players: Unknown. There are extensive liner notes, but they are in Japanese.