RIP Cilla Black 1943-2015

The week began with news that Cilla Black had passed away at 72 years young. She'd had an awesome career, considering she was a singer delivering a series of charting hits throughout the 60s, hosted a chat show in the '70s and fronted a dating game show for almost two decades from the mid-'80s. I wasn't a massive fan, but knew a number of her songs that still stand as classics, as enduring and recognisable as her ranga bob and prominent choppers.

The first time I was aware of Cilla was when she appeared on The Don Lane Show, the long-running Australian tonight show hosted by the 'lanky yank' of the title. During her appearance, she happened to refer back to her previous visit downunder.

"I'd just given birth, and was all poofy," she said, in her Liverpudlian accent.

"You mean 'puffy'," Don corrected her, in his American accent.

"Yeah, 'poofy'," she repeated. "What's the difference?"

"Oh, believe me," Don explained, "there's a difference."

It was still the '70s, and Australia, so if making fun of people who speak differently or are in same-sex relationships was neither funny nor inoffensive, who could tell? (Or, more to the point, who would tell?)

In time I'd learn more about Cilla Black in passing: contemporary - and friend! - of the Beatles, who helped get her noticed by their manager Brian Epstein; real name Priscilla White, gaining the stage name she kept as a result of a gig booker muddling her name.

Some of her enduring hits include fine Burt Bacharach songs like Alfie and Anyone Who Had A Heart (or, as Peter Sellers delivers it in the sketch A Right Bird, Anyone 'Oo 'Ad An 'Art); Lennon/McCartney songs like Love of the Loved, It's For You, and Step Inside Love (the latter, the theme to her chat show, Cilla), and You're My World.

At its height, her dating show Blind Date rated around 17 million (if you were ever a fan of Ben Elton's stand-up, you'll recall the phrase 'strictly for the birds, Cilla; strictly for the birds…'; I can't remember the context).

And she maintained the respect of the next generation(s) of viewers doing a sterling job of hosting episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks: "Hullo and welcome to the Boozcocks…" (Thanks for the reminder, Cat!)

 

 

If I were a cartoonist, my tribute to Cilla would be a single panel with St Peter at the pearly gates, welcoming her with the words "step inside, love". Failing that, I figured I'd photoshop the same with some judiciously pilfered images.

However, in the process of locating suitable imagery, I cam a cross this lovely photo of Cilla hamming on the sofa as a guest of Jonathan Ross:

 

Article-0-18B187B000000578-921_634x424

 

So I figured there might be a different 'tribute' to Cilla, a different song title:

 

IT'S FOR YOU

 

You'll no doubt recognise the grim reaper from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I think it's fitting, since my first glimpse of Cilla Black's Cilla was as a visual 'quote' in a season 4 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It's an episode of Cilla featuring Ringo Starr as a guest, so fittingly, the graphic brings Cilla, Python and Beatles back together (It's For You being one of the Lennon/McCartney songs she recorded).

However, my search revealed this gem: Cilla, when she was smoking hot!

 

Cillablack

 

Finding a suitable St Peter was more difficult than finding a God, and there's an awesome God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail - so again Cilla, Python and the Beatles come together:

 

STEP INSIDE LOVE

 

Admittedly, the Old Man n the Sky comes across as a Dirty Old Man in the Sky, but… well, can you blame him?!

I apologise for my efforts failing to do justice to Cilla Black. The best tribute to her, of course, is the miniseries Cilla. Made in 2014, it's utterly brilliant, not only for the presence of Sheridan Smith in the title role - she's a knock-out and, apparently, supplied the vocals herself. That's the facsimile - imagine how amazing the real thing must have been in her own time.

 

 

 


Getting the Finger from Jerry Garcia

I was tickled pink by the news that the Grateful Dead were reconvening for their 50th Anniversary: July 3-5 at Soldier Field, Chicago.

Once I'd gotten my head around the staggering ticket prices - a three-day pass has been offered on StubHub for $116,000 (that's US dollars, I'm guessing) - a series of questions immediately sprung to mind:

  • Will there be a return of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests?
  • Will the Kool-Aid be available in drip-bags with deluxe attachments that older fans – the not-quite-Deadheads – may affix to their disability scooters?
  • Who will fill the spots left vacant by founding members who haven't managed to last quite as long as the band?

At least they've been clear on the final issue: deputising for lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, for example, is Trey Anastasio, of Phish.

 

B_M3lG4UwAMaDPY

 

Check him out: Trey clearly has been deliberately chosen f0r his ability to look enough like the Jerry Berry to fool the baby boomer acid casualties.

Which reminds me, there is one final essential question:

  • Has Jerry Garcia ever given you the finger?

No?

If not the finger, how about a finger?

If not, there's certainly the opportunity to get one now, that's for sure!

According to gossip newsletter  Popbitch, a dude called Matt is selling one via Craigslist. ("$5,000; Good Condition.")

 

Jerry Finger Craiglist

 

Matt reckons he's selling the severed finger to raise money for said upcoming 50th Anniversary show.

"It pains me to part with this one-of-a-kind collectable," he writes, "but I believe Jerry would want me to see the last show."

Matt doesn't explain how he came to own Jerry Garcia's picked finger, preserved in brine solution and hermetically sealed "for long term storage".

Of course, this is the perfect marketing opportunity: individual vials with replica Jerry Berry Finger tabs, immersed in the specially prepared Electric Kool-Aid Acid available at the merch booth.

 

Jerry Berry's finger

 

If they really wanted to, they could clone a whole new Jerry Berry from the DNA contained in the preserved digit.

At the very least, this concert should be recorded for posterity. Adorned with the image of Garcia's finger, it would be the perfect way in which to revive that series of live Grateful Dead recordings known as 'Dick's Picks'. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dead Heads, Acid Casualties, Mobility Scooter-bound Baby Boomers – may I present Dick's Picks Volume 37:

 

DicksPicks37b

 

 

 


Best. Discumentary. Ever.

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It began with a friend's status update on Facebook, proudly announcing the imminent arrival of a newly purchased turntable, anticipating the opportunity to play "vinyl records". (Bravo for not calling them 'vinyls'!)

She posted a very nice image of a Crosley turntable - on a shelf in a shop, looking nice and new, despite also looking like the kind of vintage turntable that would have the 'warm' sound of 'tubes'.

So I googled 'Crosley'. And discovered, courtesy of a phonophile's YouTube clip, that it's just one of any number of mass-produced turntables marketed under a vintage brand name, out of China. Affordable. It certainly wasn't this easy when I bought mine, a good 15-0dd years ago. Although, I'm a bit happier, in a smug sort of way, about my one: I bought an authentically old turntable - not as old as these new Crosleys are made to look - that had been reconditioned, along with an amp and pre-amp, from Egg Records. There was an old-age pensioner who used to recondition them. He looked a lot like Hoggle from Labyrinth.

 Bowie and hoggle2

 

After the phonophile's Crosley profile, I discovered this brilliant paean to the pleasures for collecting records. The best discumentary ever. Simply entitled Vinyl.

Now, no more talk; just watch:

 

 

 


Remembering David Bowie

Bowie Memory MX

Last week the Sydney edition of MX - a bastion of journalism - threw up as its 'music memory' the day Bowie announced his Sound+Vision world…ish tour:

January 23, 1990

David Bowie announced his Sound+Vision tour during which he invited each local audience to decide on a "greatest hits" running order, organised through local radio stations. The tour spanned five continents in seven months.

What Sydney MX failed to tell you was… well, it was a lot.

See, cos I do remember the Sound+Vision tour of 1990. I don't remember what the five continents were in those seven months. What I do remember is that Australia wasn't one of them.

Sound+Vision - in addition to being a great song, and single, from the album Low - was also an excellent boxed set spanning Bowie's career and featuring a wealth of unreleased tracks and alternate mixes along with greatest hits, delivered chronologically, across a bunch of discs. Sound+Visioncame out in time for Christmas 1989 (I was working in a music shop at the time; I remember the arvo the order arrived in the store. Very exciting.) Makes sense there'd be a world tour behind it - a 'greatest hits of my life'. (There was a later edition of the boxed set, that took it up to the end of the next decade… that's another story for another blogpost.)

Sound+vision

It kick-started a furious Bowie re-issue campaign in which his albums were reissued on CD, lovingly remastered with bonus tracks and excellent booklets, often reproducing original artwork (the 'dress cover' of Man Who Sold the World , for example).

I remember vividly the disappointment I felt knowing Bowie wasn't heading downunder for the Sound+Vision tour. I'd only seen Bowie live once: the Glass Spider Tour a few years earlier. The Sound+Vision tour was putting a bit of distance between itself and that.

As I wasn't going to see Bowie live in 1990, I felt totally justified in splurging on a bootleg album from that tour: Sound + Vision Japan 90. I bought it from Red Eye Records in the city.

 

Sound+vision japan 90

Sound+vision japan 90_back
David Bowie: Sound + Vision Japan 90 bootleg vinyl cover art

It was a double album with both records in the one sleeve - no gatefold for those bootleggers, even if they did actually go to the trouble of printing labels Not all bootleg records come with labels; rarely so stylish, that's for sure. The bootleggers were going to some effort to draw from official cannon with this apocryphal release.

 

Sound+vision japan side one

Sound+vision japan side two

 

So back to MX from last week: I don't think the editors remember much about the Sound+Vision Tour of 1990. Because they've used a photo of Bowie from the wrong period. That's the thing about David Bowie: he changes image regularly. You can match photo of him to the time it was taken fairly easily. And that's the thing about News Ltd: with such an extensive database, if they wanted to, they could have got it right. Talk about Bowie in 1990? Find a photo of Bowie from 1990. Oh, you know, maybe employ someone who'll know the difference.

The Bowie image in the above clipping isn't from Sound+Vision 1990; it's from around the mid-t0-late-’90s - before the Reality tour, after Outside (or 1. Outside to give it its correct name; 1. Outside: The Nathan Adler Diaries if we're being pedantic). But I'm disingenuously being vague. Any fan worth their weight in Bowie Bonds knows it's from the tour that followed the Earthling album.

Still, good on 'em for trying.

 

 

 

 

 


Ah… Soul

I apologise in advance for any offence perceived in or caused by some of the images in this blogpost.

 

  Souledoutheading

 

Ask me what recording I'm most embarrassed to admit I own and you probably expect it's something Paul McCartney-related - because you probably belong to that demographic still convinced that Lennon was the genius who died too young, and Macca, the one who sold out too early. Although you'll wonder why I have so many pressings of the same single, that you can't tell the difference between (it's okay, I can). Or it's something by Yoko Ono, because, of course, she 'can't sing' and 'broke up the Beatles' and all that other nonsense that makes you a day-tripper, no matter how much you claim to love the Beatles.

Clearly, the most embarrassing recording I own, is a particular piece of vinyl dating - I assume - from the mid-'70s. It's an Australian compilation album, on the Majestic label, called Souled Out (Majestic NA 450).

 

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Some background: Majestic was an Australian TV-advertised label. Like many other TV-advertised labels, it leased masters from other labels to put together top 40-type compilations of current hits, or hits of particular artists. Initially distributed - and then taken over - by K-Tel, Majestic (and then the Australian version of K-Tel) was the local version of K-Tel International, a label that originated in Canada. An abbreviation of 'Kives Television' - a Winnipeg, Manitoba station founded by Philip Kives - the label existed in order for the station to make money through mass-marketing. By the 1980s, K-Tel proved to be the biggest source of compilation albums in most of the markets it existed in. And - (this may come as a surprise) - it still exists, issuing music digitally. (Lousy mastering and poor pressings were the norm for TV-advertised albums; this is much less of a problem with digital downloads.)

 

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Anyway, back to this particular embarrassing record. I haven't owned it all my life. I picked it up a few years ago, probably for a fiver from Egg Records in Newtown (or even their city store, while it still existed), most likely at the end of a shift behind the counter. In fact, I reckon I would have paid less than five dollars for it; it would have been in the five-dollar rack, but the beauty of the Egg Records five-dollar rack is that you can have ten records for $25, and that's probably what I would have done to secure this particular specimen.

 

 

It's an Australian pressing. I doubt it could exist in any other territory. Because it claims to be a compilation of 'soul music' (ie black artists performing black music). There are a handful of artist photos around the border - but the central image is an illustration. A 'caricature', if you will. It's a horrible blackface golliwog image, wielding an acoustic guitar at a microphone.

 

Souled_out_30cm

 

Perhaps you could could perpetrate so racist a record cover anywhere in the world in the '70s. But remember, many Aussies were still scratching their heads in recent years, not quite understanding how or why a Michael Jackson parody on one of the reheated soufflé editions of Hey Hey It's Saturday was racist. It was a Red Faces sketch utilising blackface, leaving Harry Connick, Jnr with the reddest face of all. Meanwhile, mainstream media was still trying to work out how or why it was racist. That was in 2009. This record in the 1970s? I wasn't old enough to remember ads for it, or how it went down. I'm sure there was no furore in Australia back then.

I'm not questioning the offensiveness of the image, and I accept I'm as guilty of racism, presenting it here, even though I do so 'ironically'. I know I should destroy or discard the album. It's not quite like owning Nazi paraphernalia, but it differs in degree, not kind. I have friends who have walked out of potential employers' offices when they've spotted a golliwog doll on a shelf; I don't react so strongly, but I also haven't spent a lifetime being harassed by cops and fellow citizenry purely because of the colour of my skin. I do feel a bit guilty owning the record and bringing attention to it.

However, if you've read this far without having to close your browser, please allow me the indulgence to continue.

 

Souled out muso

 

Much as you'd rather put out your eyes, or at least wash them with methylated spirits, please take a moment to consider the image. For starters, note the shiny mirror-ball disco boots. Note also the musician's classic "keep on truckin'" pose, as made famous by Robert Crumb.

 

Stickers_keep_on_truckin_sticker_101

 

Of course, Crumb's also famous for his portraits musicians - a series of images collected as R Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country.

Had the 'soul' genre of the music not been illustrated by blackface caricature, the cover would be 'cutting edge'. Ish. Instead it's a rather rude misappropriation of Crumb's work.

 

CrumbHeroes

 

And then there's the title pun. 'Souled out' is supposed to sound like it's filled to the brim with soul music. But to have 'sold out' has negative connotations in the music biz.

The best part is one of the truly evocative tracks on the compilation is that proud clarion call by Aretha Franklin: 'Respect'. Pity they compilers of this release showed none to her and her fellow artists.

In conclusion, I can only regard this album as a compilation for people who kind of only sort of slightly like soul - you know, the mainstream cross-over hits - without understanding any of the other cultural aspects or politics that go with it. And it can only exist in a culture that doesn't realise just how racist it is.

And yet, I hold onto the record, even though I know better. Should people walk out in disgust when they spot it on my shelf?


Some hand-some artwork

Capitol Classics CLCX047_20cm

Not too long ago I blogged about my recent acquisition of an Australian pressing of the Capitol Classics edition of Copland's 'Billy the Kid', performed by the Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Joseph Levine. I quite love the cover and was keen to discover who was responsible for it.

I asked my mate Coatsie, who is an artist, as well as other artist and record collecting mates if they happened to recognise the style or know who the artist might be.

Coatsie suggested it might be Thomas B. Allen. Not a bad suggestion. Turns out Allen did provide the cover art to a recording of Copland's 'Billy the Kid'. But not this one.

His work adorns the cover of The Copland Album, a CBS Masterworks release (nowadays it'd be on the Sony Masterworks label) featuring the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, performing a number of Copland's pieces.

R-1861516-1298666396-1

R-1861516-1298666410

 

 

In my travels, googling 'Billy the Kid', 'Copland' and 'Capitol Classics', I stumbled upon an excellent website belonging to Nori Muster, outlining aspects of the Capitol label's history. Nori's father Bill spent some years as Capitol's merchandising manager during the 1950s. In addition to being a working musician, her stepfather, Don Hassler, was a sales rep for Capitol for the better part of that decade, beginning in 1953. Given the Capitol Classics Billy the Kid album was released in 1953, this could well lead me to the information I was after. So I emailed Nori.

Sadly, Nori's stepfather passed away a few months ago. It's likely he would have known the answer but we couldn't put the question to him. Instead, Nori offered to put the cover on her site and ask the question there.

Her historian friend, Mark H.N., suggested it might be the work of Donfeld, "better known," according to Mark, "for his costume design for movies and television". I admit, I didn't know Donfeld's work. Or rather, I did; I just didn't know his name. Mark gave me an excellent example: Donfeld designed Linda Carter's Wonder Woman costume.

Origart-11le

Mark goes on to say Donfeld's first job, after graduating from college, "was as a designer and art director at Capitol Records starting in 1953, the year this album was released". He points out similarities in the Billy the Kid cover to some of Donfeld's costume sketches, "especially the upraised hand holding the gun":

Capitol Classics CLCX047_detail_southpaw

Mark offers, as an example, Donfeld's sketch of Sylvia Miles's costum in Evil Under the Sun.

75364976_large_Donfeld_5

 I will admit my ignorance of the work of Donfeld. I love how, like Sting, Bono and Miles, he gets around with just the one name. Although a little bit of research reveals he was in fact christened 'Donald Lee Feld' and his film and television work is as extensive as it is varied. (Spaceballs and Prizzi's Honour!)

That means the thing by the showgirl's thigh that looks like a bit of a running writing on its side is in fact just filigree or ribbon, and not a stylised signature.

CLCX047_detail signature

I hope he produced more covers. I look forward to stumbling upon more of his work. Meanwhile, check out his portrait and see if you aren't drawn to his hands, which seem very similar to the hands that he's drawn.

Donfeld+portrait+1


Billy, Don't Be A Hero

Capitol Classics CLCX047_20cm

 

The other 50-cent album I picked up at Epping St Vinnie's, purchased, again, on the strength of the cover art, was a recording of Aaron Copland's 'Billy the Kid' - a piece of music I've heard of, but never heard. (However, everyone's heard Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man'; it used to be a particular favourite piece of soundtrack for certain items of bling in the Sale of the Century prize pool; it always gets cranked out for sports-related anthologies of music, even though it was designed for 'common' man rather than 'superhuman' man. While the piece was written for the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Goossens - after whom a performance hall of the ABC's Sydney headquarters is named - my favourite version is by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.)

There are sleeve notes on the back - which is one of the things I love most about vinyl and even CDs over mp3s: something to read, along with artwork you can actually see, while you listen. The text for Billy the Kid provides the biographical details of Billy that are embodied in the ballet that we can't see, along with the music  we can hear. "Despite many fine qualities," we're told about Billy, "he soon developed a terrible talent for murder." Interesting turn of phrase. Turns out a townsman, Alias, fired a stray shot that killed Billy's mum, and that's what caused Billy to develop that talent of his.

The notes also tell us that the recording was made under the supervision of the composer, providing authenticity.

 

 

 

Frequently a 'serious music' album (on CD or vinyl) has more space than one piece of music can fill; the accompanying piece[s] are designed to complement the main one featured on the cover.

Accompanying  pieces often complement the main feature. They'll provide a broader understanding of the composer by presenting more of their work, or a better understanding of the ensemble and/or conductor by providing more of their repertoire. This album combines William Schuman's Undertow with Billy the Kid. I know nothing of Undertow, but love the notes:

"Its tortured hero, frustrated in his infantile love for his mother, writhes through the ballet, doomed to hate the women who most attract him. The story starts with the birth of the Transgressor. The mother immediately turns back to her lover, rejecting the son. Thus the neurosis is also born."

(The record was first published in the US in 1953 - at the height of the post-war rise of psychoanalysis and the beginning of the ever-growing male identity crisis.)

Sadly, the CD release of the Levine conducted Ballet Theatre Orchestra's recording of Billy the Kid replaces Schuman's  Undertow with Morton Gould's Fall River Legend and Elmer Bernstein's Facsimile.

Sadder still, the sleeve notes don't mention the cover artist.

But I love the cover: Billy's cowboy hat has an incredibly wide brim. The brim could almost be the work of Saul Bass - but none of the other art, to the limited experience of my untrained eye, seems to be.

CLCX047_detail hat

Although, maybe that hand - doing gunslinger tricks with the gun - may be a precursor to the golden arm… And note it's the left hand doing the fancy gunslinging - making Billy a southpaw, artistic, not to be trusted.

Southpaw arm

Combined with it the floral print shirt and flamboyant waistcoat, suggesting Billy's 'yeller' maybe; certainly arty. The sleeve notes have already established him as somewhat of a mama's boy.

CLCX047_detail shirt wastecoat

The 'crowd' is pretty cool though. It's hard to tell if it's two legal dudes holding one of Billy's floozies 'hostage' or if it's Billy's accomplices manhandling a 'tart with a heart'.

CLCX047_detail crowd

My copy is an Australian pressing, but I'm guessing an early one since it's on the purple 1950s Capitol label, and rather than naming EMI as the parent company, credits instead The Australian Record Company Ltd, 29 Bligh Street, Sydney. Rather than the US catalogue number, P-8238, it carries an Australian one: CLCX 047.

Maybe an original US pressing or a current CD pressing will carry cover art credits. Meanwhile, I'm having a hard time determining who the cover artist is. I thought perhaps the show girl's filigree might be a stylised signature - like a Hirschfeld 'Nina'.

CLCX047_detail signature

I'll be honest. I can't make out what, if anything, it says. Perhaps a Russian emigre, by the name of 'Minin'? That'd be a nice irony, given the uber-Americana embodied within the contents of the record.

I've asked the collectors and artists (and collector-artists, and indeed, artist-collectors) if they've got any ideas. None do.

ADDENDUM:

My mate Simon Coates (awesome Aussie artist, currently in Canada) suggested it's Thomas B. Allen, but it turns out it isn't.


Nuts about the Nutcracker

Polyphon 2542 007_Tchaikovsky Nutcracker

Another one of the records from the Epping St Vinnie's. Only, I liked this stupid cover enough to splash out and pay 50¢ for it.

In the first place, I'm not one to collect classical music on vinyl or otherwise. I own the odd disc (vinyl and CD) but it's down to the composer and/or performance ensemble. So there's quite a bit of 'modern' composer in my collection: Michael Nyman - and not just the Peter Greenaway soundtracks; Stravinsky - particularly the recordings he conducted or supervised; Webern because I felt like I should; stuff conducted by Pierre Boulez and Kent Nagano because they'd worked with Zappa so I felt I could trust their choices; Varese, of course, because of Zappa; heaps of Philip Glass, some John Cage and Gavin Bryars; even some Ades when he was the Next Big Thing in the serious literary mags towards the end of the last millennium - but mostly because he was my age and a celebrated genius while I was just some schmuck reading about him on public transport to soul-destroying day jobs… I never could get through a whole Ades disc.

 

 

 

What I do know about classical music, from a lifetime in music retail and my brother's own extensive collection, is that classical releases typically have artwork on the cover, or serious photos of the performers - either in performance, or in high quality portraits.

This record was different. It's cover was a photograph that was ironic and silly. It was on the 'Polyphon' label, of which I know nothing, except that, since the second part of the word is 'phon' rather than 'phone', it's probably European. (The Parlophone label, for example, was 'Parlophon' is non-English parts of Europe.) The rainbow motif above the name reminded me of a local cheapie classical label, 'Rainbow'. What does cheap classical label mean? Old recordings, probably not remastered, on thin vinyl pressings with not a lot of dynamics when it comes to volume or frequency range.

Nutcracker detail_cat and comp

But I don't care: I'd never listen to it. I was buying it for the cover.

Which is awesome: crosseyed dude in a '70s perm, buried up to his head in walnuts, with one in his mouth. Get it? He's just vomited a mountain of walnuts. He's sick. He's nuts. He's crackers.And it's a recording of a popular ballet, Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite'.

Nutcracker detail_dude

It's a 1972 recording of the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ferdinand Leitner (of whom I'd never previously heard). It's distributed by  Phonogram, which by the late-'80s, would become PolyGram, the Australian distributor of Polydor and Phonogram and associated labels. (This company would eventually become the Universal Music Group conglomerate). The sleeve notes are in English, but not particularly well-written. There's a reference to Tchaikovsky bucking the nationalistic trend of his time, "prefering to follow the German symphonic tradition", but the 'p' has been left off; so he spent his career "refering to follow…".

There's some illustration crowbarred into the top of the back cover, of a mouse attacking a toy soldier, in as much space as the poorly written sleevenotes allow.

Nutcracker detail_back cover illo

I don't know terribly much about Tchaikovsky, although Monty Python tells me he was homosexual. Cartain parts of the sketch that traces his life (a 'special episode' of 'Farming Club') makes me cringe now, but what I can say about it is Michael Palin's particularly camp arts show host is a parody of someone who dressed as flambouyantly and had as fluffy hair (and as fluffy and flambouyant a voice) who was presenting such programming on the BBC at the time. Don't remember his name. I've just seen footage of him in old docos, and can see why he'd be a perfect character to send up. Palin's characterisation is funny without knowing the original.

Given this profile of Tchaikovsky, I can't help but want to make a comment about the dude on the cover whose got the composer's nuts in his mouth.

Meanwhile, comedy lovers may well be familiar with the idea of the cover. There was a very popular comedy album by Allan Sherman called My Son, the Nut.

61u1FFqWZaL._SL500_

I should probably point you to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite online. Here's my favourite version of it - a musical comedy version by Spike Jones that adds lyrics to tell the story (cos while you can listen to the music, you can't 'hear' the story the ballet is illustrating). Again, the dated material makes me cringe in some places, rather than laugh; that racism is not funny anymore.

To complete the post, here's Allan Sherman's complete My Son, the Nut. It's chock-full of foolish lyrics added to recognisable tunes and styles. Like the letter home from camp, to 'The Dance of Hours', that we now know better as 'Hello Muddah, Hello Fudduh!' (This album also has one of my favourite comedy tracks ever, certainly my favourite by Sherman, which I've blogged about before: 'Hail to Thee, Fat Person'.)

 

 


In front of Liberace

Jameliberace

 

A factoid I knew as a kid but never thought much of is that Liberace came to Australia, 'discovered' the talents of a local kid, and took him to America.

I remember this factoid being reiterated during a music lesson. By an old man who used to teach English.

Let me back up a bit: Mr Barrington was an old codger who could have been a granddad. But he had a teenage kid. He spoke like an old man - not a cranky old man, more a Sandy Stone type. He had a tendency refer to students as 'young rabbits' - as in, 'settle down, you young rabbit!' Or maybe he didn't - maybe that was an 'elementary, my dear Watson' line attributed to him in impressions. He'd also hand out Butter Menthols to keep kids on side, apparently. But he had a teenage kid, to which, whenever someone brought it up in conversation, I'd have to exclaim with a Harry H. Corbett impression nobody could possibly get (Steptoe & Son hadn't been on telly for a long time, nor was it currently available on video, and DVDs had yet to be invented), "you dirty old man!"

 

 

 

One day our music teacher was away, and Mr Barrington supervised our elective music lesson. We were supposed to be composing some piece of music or other in a specific key… and he insisted that if we couldn't hear it in our heads, we weren't real musicians. We got into a discussion about favourite musicians, and Mr Barrington brought up the young singer who had been taken to America by Liberace.

I must have known this already, because Mr Barrington couldn't remember the singer's name, but I could: it was Jamie Redfern, a 14-year-old with the voice of an adult opera singer, and an original member of Young Talent Time's Young Talent Team.

I hadn't thought about it again.

Not even when I went and watched Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra.

Behind_the_candelabra_ver2_xlg


The film is based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson, a young man who became Liberace's paid companion at age 16. Surely Jamie Redfern must have become 'of interest' to Aussie journos when Behind the Candelabra was released.

But I didn't think about it, hadn't remembered Jamie Redfern.

Until the other day, wandering through Epping, when I came upon a St Vinnie's a block away from Station and succumbed to that constant urge to browse through old vinyl in charity shops.

And I saw a copy of a Jamie Redfern album with Liberace on the cover with him. Of course, the cover image is at the top of this blog post, but I've included the hastily snapped, out-of-focus image of it here too.

Worth noting: Liberace doesn't seem to perform on the album - his only appearance is in the publicity photo appearing on the cover.

Turns out Jamie Redfern was briefly of interest to Aussie journos this year, on account of the Liberace biopic. He says nothing untoward happened, apparently.

A more in-depth interview with Jamie Redfern was conducted as part of a profile on the ABC show George Negus Tonight, back in 2003.

Oh, and speaking of 'elementary, my dear Watson' moments - I was disappointed that Liberace never got to say, 'I wish my brother George was here' in Behind the Candelabra.

 

Jamie Redfern album