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LAST COPIES RE/Search #14 Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I

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Genres examined include: “easy listening,” “exotica,” and “celebrity” (massive categories in themselves) as well as more recordings by (singing) cops and (polka playing) priests, undertakers, religious ventriloquists, astronauts, opera-singing parrots, beatnik and hippie records, and gospel by blind teenage girls with bouffant hairdos. Virtually every musical/lyrical boundary in the history of recorded sound has been breached; every sacred cow upturned. Like other RE/Search books that have (sadly) gone out-of-print, soon this book will be as rare and highly sought after! In this economy, books can simply not be reprinted on real paper – costs are prohibitive. Going, going, gone . . . Now you see it, soon you won’t!

 

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Product Description

GREAT CRAMPS INTERVIEW! Incredibly Strange Music created a NEW MARKET, causing hundreds of LPs to be re-released on CD. It spotlighted neglected “garage sale” records (mostly from the ’50s-’70s), identifying genres, artists and one-of-a-kind gems that will delight and surprise…

Click here to read excerpts!

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2 reviews for LAST COPIES RE/Search #14 Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I

  1. 5 out of 5

    :

    Essential! This is the definitive book on thrift store music finds. Of course, because of its publication it’s become increasingly difficult to make good thrift scores since it’s opened up the field to many more collectors. But at least we have eBay! If the Velvet Underground can lay claim to launching 1000 bands, then the “Incredibly Strange Music” series is responsible for launching thousands of record collections.

  2. 5 out of 5

    :

    After the popular “Incredibly Strange Films” book, Re/Search shifts focus to music, specifically to fringe genres represented primarily by forgotten vinyl releases of the past. Interviewing assorted individuals, both music lovers and cult stars alike explore their record collections and tell anecdotes about beloved artists, treasured finds, and favorite album covers. In the first volume, Ivy and Lux of The Cramps recall their discovery of rockabilly and garage rock through thrift store scavenging, and members of the Phantom Surfers discuss surf and hot rod music, monster party albums, and Beatles knockoffs. Brian and Stuart of San Francisco’s Amok Books talk about lounge and exotica music (Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman, Korla Pandit), and the founders of Norton Records detail the strange careers of Hasil Adkins and Esquerita. There are also chats with Eartha Kitt in Manchester, U.K., exotica legend Martin Denny in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Jean Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley on their work both together and solo. Throughout the pages are hundreds of B&W photos and images of classic retro album covers. A companion CD was released featuring selections from some of the records covered. These books are an excellent read for those drawn to the bizarre, the shameless, and the ridiculous in music history. These are the unsung artists who never get mentioned in traditional music guides. Definitely recommended.

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Excerpt: The Cramps

ism_ivy-1 RE/Search: How did you meet?

IVY RORSCHACH: We met in 1974 in college in Sacramento, California. Under the guise of the Art Department there were classes like “Art and Shamanism,” which was really a study of amanita muscaria; the textbook was The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. The class was real loose; the teacher would ask you, “What grade do you want, an A?” He would gravitate toward certain students and invite them to “heavier” classes at his home–he had this fabulous spread. Lux and I met in his class, although actually we met hitchhiking.

ism_lux

LUX INTERIOR: There isn’t that much to tell about that first encounter–she was hitchhiking and I picked her up. Later, we would both hitchhike down to San Francisco and back every weekend, barefoot.

IR: We met hitchhiking , we talked and discovered we were going to see each other again in this teacher’s class. Actually, the first kiss was in this instructor’s house–we’d taken mushrooms, I think.

R/S: Tell us about some strange records you’ve found–

LI: There are a lot of great slow instrumentals on the B side of rockabilly singles, and a lot of them sound like Martin Denny in a way, but weirder because it was just the band having fun-they figured no one would ever listen to them. That’s a whole genre I never see any reissues of. And that is incredibly strange music, because it was all these hillbillies on speed!

IR: A lot of people who collect rockabilly think those B sides aren’t any good. But it’s a whole other world

LI: They sound like what a stripper would have stripped to in the 50s. It’s considered schlock, but eventually even that will become something: a genre.

Excerpt: Gil Ray

GIL RAY: THE LOUVIN BROTHERS’ Satan Is Real was re-released on Stetson Records, but the Stetson hat people raised a fuss. So the British record company changed their name to Longhorn Records—they’re a really good reissue company; they provide all the information, including the session dates. There’s a note about the making of this cover image of Satan with buck teeth: “The fiery setting pictured on the cover of this album was conceived and built by the Louvin Brothers themselves using chiefly rocks, scrap rubber and lots of imagination. The scene became a little too realistic, though, when Ira and Charlie were very nearly burned while directing the photography for this dramatic cover photo.” All the songs are quite good, with high harmonies that sound kinda “creepy” to me. The title song “Satan is Real” is probably the best number. There are a lot of songs about drunks: “The Drunkard’s Doom,” “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea”—I guess alcohol is the Louvin Brothers’ most besetting sin. Their music is “a personal crusade against the Prince of Darkness” and I’m sure they were serious, too. But they could have built a better Satan—that one looks like Captain Kangaroo . . .

REX ALLEN’s The Hawaiian Cowboy not only has a great color cover but a color picture-disc inside as well [Bear Family label]. This is mainly a YODELING album. “Texas Tornado” is a great song; “Who Shot That Hole in My Sombrero?” has a racist “Mexican” accent. “Slap Her Down Again, Pa” is “great” if you’re into slapping women when they get cantankerous—we’ve come a long way since then, hopefully. “Chime Bells” best shows off his amazing vocal technique. Rex Allen narrated a lot of Disney nature specials like Old Yeller—almost any ’60s and ’70s Disney production features his voice. He did some nice western albums in the ’40s, but then turned into the Wayne Newton of western singers doing a Vegas-type act. Another singer with a real “cowboy” sound was ROY ROGERS—he put out some great records with good clean vocals and a crisp backup band. I hope it’s true that he had his horse Trigger stuffed . . .

R/S: Are there more country records dealing with abuse of women?

GR: WAYNE RANEY, a country guy from the ’40s or ’50s, wrote “Why Doncha Haul Off and Love Me?” which Rose Maddox covered. But you don’t haul off and love somebody—you haul off and hit them! Another song called “My Little Yo-Yo” has lyrics like “you come bouncin’ up whenever I throw you down” . . . predecessors of Two Live Crew! Unrelated to this topic but amazing is The One and Only WEBB PIERCE, which has the strangest female background vocals that almost sound like steel guitars, behind his primitive vocals.

This SONS OF THE PIONEERS & FRIENDS record has “Festus” from Gunsmoke on it. I don’t think you can get much weirder than Festus singing “The Hokey Pokey” backed by The THREE SUNS, who combine skating rink music with light jazz like no other. I was impressed by that, plus the fact that there are two songs here by opera singer EZIO PINZA—my wife Stacey, who’s an opera buff, freaked out when she saw this. You haven’t lived until you hear him sing “The Little Ole State of Texas” backed by the Sons of the Pioneers!

Excerpt: Mike Wilkins

MW: EVEL KNIEVEL is tops. On his record he sings, there are excerpts from press conferences; he’s even written some of the songs. At one press conference Evel says “America doesn’t have enough heroes . . . I don’t care about death”—square-jawed things like that. He was also in a movie in which he starred as himself (called Viva Knievel!). The love interest is Lauren Hutton as a woman’s libber, so Evel says goofball things to her like, “Are you a woman or a Ms.?” There was also Evel Knievel, which starred George Hamilton. I visited Twin Falls, Idaho, where Evel tried to jump the Snake River Canyon in a motorized jet-cycle back in 1974. Even though he failed, that big earthen take-off ramp is still there, and so is a commemorative marker with the jet-cycle etched into it.

Another person who was really good at self-promotion is RONA BARRETT, the gossip columnist. She wrote an autobiography, she wrote a novel, and she released an album on which she sang Broadway hits. And it was straight: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”—that kind of stuff. She was always pushing, and each item that got into stores paved the way for another. The promo could say, “She wrote a novel, The Lovomaniacs; she’s a novelist now.” It all builds on each other.

MUHAMMED ALI was a great boxer, of course, but he also had great PR instincts. He starred in an autobiographical movie called The Greatest. Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” is about Ali, with lyrics like, “The greatest love is learning to love yourself.” He starred in his own comic book, Muhammed Ali vs. Superman, in which he fights Superman and wins! He even put out Muhammed Ali’s Kentucky Cabin Barbecue Sauce (“It’s the greatest.”)

I have an album, Ali and His Gang Vs. Mr. Tooth Decay: A Beautiful Children’s Story. This LP includes Howard Cosell and Frank Sinatra among others, and I’m guessing that some hustler-businessman-promoter somehow wrangled his way in with this idea to see Ali. The record features Ali, but it’s produced by Arthur Bernard Morrison whose name is everywhere; he is another guy who understands PR. He probably went to Frank Sinatra and said, “This is good for children, and good for the black community,” and Frank probably said, “All right, I’ll give you ten minutes,” and then he goes to the American Dental Association with the same pictch. The back cover features this painting with all the entertainers’ heads collaged in; there’s Frank Sinatra, and there’s Jayne Kennedy. It says “Volume One” although I doubt if there were any follow-ups. When he was pitching the story to Ali, Arthur Morrison probably said, “Then for Volume Two you’re going to fight juvenile deliquency, and then heroin addiction! You’re going to save the black community! But let’s start small; let’s start with tooth decay and build from that.”

When Mr. T came out with his children’s album, Mr. T’s Commandments, in 1984, his songs could attack other problems: “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” and “No Dope No Drugs.” Thanks to Ali, tooth decay was under control . . .

Excerpt: Norton Records (Miriam Linna and Billy Miller)

R/S: Tell me about HASIL ADKINS—

ML: Hasil, rhymes with Basil—and that’s also his brother’s name. He totally blew our minds when we first heard him. Then when you meet him, you realize he’s the genuine article.

BM: I first heard “Haze” in the ’70s when I found a copy of “She Said.” What’s wild is: that record was produced on a Brooklyn label about a mile from where we live! Then a friend showed me “Chicken Walk” and I went, “Wow—this guy made two records?” Another friend, who generally only looks for R&B groups, located Hasil in West Virginia. The great thing about him is: his personality, his vision, his talent were still intact—that’s rare; most of these guys who are really crazy fizzled out or drove off mountains. He started sending us tapes which mixed up old and new recordings—you couldn’t tell which was which. One tape sounded straight outta the ’50s—I thought he was yelling, “Hey, we’re rockin’!” but it turned out to be “Hey there, Reagan!”—it was new. Every record he does he sends to the White House—Nixon actually sent him a “thank you” letter.

ML: We went to West Virginia and brought him to New York and people went crazy over him—

BM:—much like the script of King Kong.

ML: People are hungry for that kind of emotion.

BM: Hasil doesn’t sleep; he drinks about 30-130 cups of coffee a day.

ML: He eats more meat than any other human being we’ve ever met; he carries around Vienna sausages in his pocket. “What would you like for lunch?” “Meat.” “Any special kind?” “Meat.”

BM: He’ll go to a restaurant and order three separate hamburger platters, just eat the patties and say, “Hey Billy, you want these french fries?”

ML: Just meat and coffee. He has an endless supply of girlfriends; girls are always chasing him, fighting over him—he’s really a popular guy in that respect . . . but also a really sensitive guy. His personality is like: either really up (totally up there) or so down that you can’t even get him to talk. He’s among that 1% of manic-depressives who cannot sleep—

BM: He’ll “sleep”—like all day long he’ll lay down, but he’ll get up periodically. Our sax player stayed with him and at 4 AM Hasil woke him up, saying, “Come on, Lars, let’s go out and play some music on the porch!”

ML: He was the youngest of 9 or 10 children and was born long after his nearest sibling. He grew up with his mom and lived with her until she died in 1985—that really destroyed him because he loved her so much. He had lived his entire life, including his adult life, in this house where he also did all his recording all that time; he’d never married. When his mom died, that sent him into this intense dimension of blueness.

BM: But he’s also this outgoing wild man who takes out a couple girls and drives into telephone poles for laughs—

ML:—and puts rattlesnakes in the back seat of the car just to watch girls scream!

Excerpt: Eartha Kitt

ism_earthaRE/Search: When you were invited to a White House luncheon, didn’t you cause a scandal?

EARTHA KITT: In 1968, during the Vietnam War, I was invited by Lady Bird Johnson to give my opinion about the problems in the United States, specifically, “Why is there so much juvenile delinquency in the streets of America?” The First Lady seemed to be more interested in decorating the windows of the ghettos with flowerboxes. I mean—it’s fine to put flowers in the ghettos, but let’s take care of the necessities first: give people jobs, and find a way to get us out of poverty.

When it came my turn to speak, I said to the president’s wife, “Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason.” I said that the young ghetto boys thought it better to have a legal stigma against them—then they would be considered “undesirable” and would not be sent to the war. In their opinion, in this society the good guys lost and the bad guys won.

I didn’t say this ranting and raving, but we were in a large room, we didn’t have microphones, and we had to speak loudly enough to be heard. That incident, reported in such a way as to deface me in the eyes of the American people, obviously had to have been given by someone from the White House—probably the press secretary: “Earth Kitt makes the First Lady cry…” There were no reporters present! So this was a manufactured furor.

R/S: Didn’t you suffer because of this?

EK: Of course—within two hours I was out of work in America.

Excerpt: Gershon Kingsley

R/S: What are your thoughts on originality?

GERSHON KINGSLEY: Originality is not such a big thing to me—sometimes I encounter a homeless person on the street who is very original. A more difficult question is: How can you find the essence of your own inner being? Sometimes you don’t even know what that is, or you may have once known but then destroyed it.

I was in psychoanalysis for years to become more “conscious” about myself and to deal with fears; it was very fashionable in the ’50s. I’d discover, “Ah, yes! Now I know why I do what I’m doing.” Then I’d confront a situation and realize I was still making the same mistakes I made in the past; I’d realize that it didn’t work. I think there is something wrong with our common brainpower; I think our brains are very decadent. There’s a story about Richard Strauss, who like me loved to talk and speculate about life. When they were at parties his wife used to say, “Do us a favor, Richard—go back home and compose.”

R/S:: But it’s important for artists to be verbally articulate—

GK: One of my important software programs is called Articulation; it allows us to accent the music you write. This is the basic ingredient that makes music music instead of bup-bup-bup-bup you can make it bop-bup-bop-bup. You need this articulation—the same applies to all human behavior. I keep a journal and am writing fiction about a character I call “G”; for example, “The only thing ‘G’ wanted to do was write a hit tune, because everybody wants to write a hit tune.” Then I describe how he achieves his aim—then undergoes all this tribulation.

R/S:: How were you affected by the holocaust?

GK: I’m an indirect holocaust survivor. When I left Germany in 1938 I was fifteen; this was just before Kristallnacht. I belonged to a Zionist youth group and we were very motivated to come to pre-Israel to til the land and live in a kibbutz. My mother was Catholic (she later converted to Judaism), my father was Jewish. That’s already going against the grain!

Excerpt: Mickey McGowan

R/S: Do you collect contemporary objects—the collectibles of the future?

MICKEY MCGOWAN: I have to admit the ’80s haven’t been as rewarding as previous decades. I’ve acquired a few yuppie objects, but right now I’m focusing on ’70s artifacts like the pet rock, Farrah Fawcett memorabilia, Dukes of Hazzard mugs, and things related to car chase programs like Starsky & Hutch. From the ’80s I’ve collected Cabbage Patch Kids, Masters of the Universe memorabilia, and Garbage Pail Kids bubble gum cards. Anything from the year I was born to the present day is fair game. I try not to go beyond those years; there’s no “antiques” here.

Endless vistas of memory unfold as you walk through the Museum. The kitchen alone reveals the fantasy heroes of the food empires: Bob’s Big Boy, the Kentucky Colonel, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Mister Potato Head, Davy Crockett—all the icons that have been put on food items, lunch pails, thermos bottles and serving trays. The only contemporary items are paper cups with the straws and the lids from Round Table Pizza and other fast-food joints. In the future those will be important and revealing—as well as any form of hamburger packaging. The museum is a mirror held up to the last four decades of American history; it’s there to reflect back your life.

The Museum is very popular with teenagers, many of whom are experts on the Brady Bunch—they know more about them than most people who lived through the ’60s. In this day and age when everybody moves frequently and storage costs are astronomical, not everyone has been able to drag their heritage with them . . . except in one place [points to head] where the rent is free. The memory cells will always be there, and at any moment they can be stirred up and accessed by the proper cue and artwork. And that’s what I’m after: to stir up those thoughts . . .

Excerpt: Lynn Peril

R/S: What kind of books do you collect?

LYNN PERIL: It’s not just a matter of “want”—I collect what I need, to enrich my life. Art books, pulps, pseudoscience or cryptozoology (like Heuvelman’s In the Wake of the Sea Serpent and On the Track of Unknown Animals), and books on women. Le Petomane, about a performer who could fart at will—everyone needs that one! And what is life without sleazy biographies? A favorite is Jayne Mansfield which was written by her friend, the writer May Mann—allegedly Jayne came back from the dead to tell her to write this. TINY TIM wrote an autobiography published by Playboy Press; it’s replete with repressed gay sex, bizarre heterosex—it’s just chock-full of guilt and repression. SPY magazine did a total comparison chart of celebrity biographies: first sex, big regrets. Mamie Van Doren wrote Playing the Field in which she talks about “doing it” with Rock Hudson. Florence Aadland, this Hollywood stage biddie, wrote a total exploitation, trashy book called The Big Love about her underage daughter’s affair with Errol Flynn. She said, “There’s one thing I want to make clear right off: my baby was a virgin when she met Errol Flynn.”

Another kidploitation book is My Life With Chaplin by Lita Grey Chaplin. She was 12 when she met Charlie, 15 when she first slept with him, and 16 when she had her first child by him. I have another book, Chaplin vs. Chaplin, which is basically transcripts of their divorce proceedings. She was testifying as to what went wrong in the marriage and said that he made her do “unnatural things”—meaning fellatio. When questioned, he replied, “But all married people do that!” This caused a big scandal at the time.

Pamela Des Barres’s I’m With the Band is totally sleazy, as is Neon Angel which was written by the lead singer of the Runaways, Cherrie Currie. Of course, there are lots of books about Elvis written by relatives and bodyguards (like Elvis, We Love You Tender). The best ones are all dirt.

Excerpt: Martin Denny

ism_denny R/S:What is your musical background?

MARTIN DENNY: Well, I have a classical background. At age ten in New York City, I studied piano–I was kind of a child prodigy. When I was quite young I went to South America with a six-piece band and spent over four years traveling down there. As a result you can detect a lot of Latin rythmic signatures in my music.

When I started my group I didn’t limit myself to Hawaiian songs; I used popular tunes as well as the ones I’d composed. My group included piano (I’m the pianist), vibes, bass, drums, and Latin percussion. Everybody doubled on their instruments; the vibes person played marimba and bells, and I leaned heavily on this interplay of percussion. Together we achieved the “Martin Denny” sound, which was a blend of all these instruments. And the hook was these exotic bird calls.

R/S:Who thought of that?

MD: Well I did—I put em in there! But it began quite accidentally. I opened at the Shell Bar in Henry J. Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village in 1956. The Hawaiian Village was a beautiful open-air tropical setting. There was a pond with some very large bullfrogs right next to the bandstand. One night we were playing a certain song and I could hear the frogs going [deep voice], “Rivet! Rivet! Rivet!” When we stopped playing, the frogs stopped croaking. I thought: “Hmm–is that a coincidence?” So a little while later I said, “Let’s repeat that tune,” and sure enough the frogs started croaking again. And as a gag, some of the guys spontaneously started doing these bird calls. Afterwards we all had a good laugh: “Hey! That was fun!” But the following day one of the guests came up and said, “Mr. Denny, you know that song you did with the birds and the frogs? Can you do that again?” I said, “What are you talking about?”—then it dawned on me he’d thought that was part of the arrangement.

At the next rehearsal I said, “Okay, fellas, how about if each one of you does a different bird call?” I’ll do the frog…” (I had this grooved cylindrical gourd called a guiro, and by holding it up to the microphone and rubbing a pencil in the grooves, it sounded like a frog). We played it the next night, and all evening people kept coming up and saying, “We want to hear the one with the frogs and the birds again!” We must have played that tune thirty times. It turned out to be “Quiet Village.”

Excerpt: Lypsinka

R/S: Tell us about Valley of the Dolls-

LYPSINKA: Does Valley of the Dolls need any kind of introduction? It’s really the great gay cult film, although I suppose it’s been superseded by The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the world at large. I’ve seen it so many times and it’s such a constant reference point that . . . I really am a Valley of Dolls scholar. I’ve read scripts that were not used; I’ve studied stills; and to me it’s beyond description—fascinating in its awfulness. Patty Duke plays Neely O’Hara, a young singer who becomes a malicious, vicious, wicked-tongued drug addict. The film is really just a mean version of How to Marry a Millionaire. 20th-Century Fox did lots of films about three girls, especially when Cinemascope came along, and Valley of the Dolls was a sexed-up, drugged-up version of that kind of thing: about three girls trying to make it in show business, and they each end up on pills for one reason or another. Some other films in this “genre” include Three Coins in the Fountain, The Best of Everything, and The Pleasure Seekers (basically, a remake of Three Coins in the Fountain).

BARBARA PARKINS became famous when she was in the TV version of Peyton Place, and Valley of the Dolls was really her greatest moment in feature films. I like her lines about that rush of loneliness that overcomes you just before the “pills” you’ve taken come on. The music in the background is eerie and disturbing. She was in The Mephisto Waltz (1971; a Satanic cult story) and a film with Faye Dunaway and Frank Langella, La Maison sous les Arbres/The Deadly Trap (1971).

Speaking of pills, DODY GOODMAN sings that great comedy number “Tranquilizers” on her album Dody Goodman Sings? She played Mary Hartman’s mother on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Some people think that song perfectly summed up the frustrated housewife of the ’50s—that decade when tranquilizers were gulped down as freely as aspirin, and were just as freely available . . .

Excerpt: Amok Books

R/S: In order for you to desire more unusual records, your esthetics had to expand—

STUART SWEZEY: A guy from Germany stayed with me and looked through my records. He said, “Your records are very interesting, but this one is terrible.” He was holding Hafenmelodie by HEINO. I asked, “What’s so bad about Heino?” and he said, “This is too conservative.” I guess Heino is identified with the vaterland feeling of German oompah—he offends the hell out of the younger Germans. But he’s a major sex symbol to middle-aged German women. Basically, he does lively beer-drinking songs which are the MOR (middle-of-the-road) music of Germany, but he throws in a little marimba or steel guitar. And he has an imposing voice which doesn’t quite go with the light tunes he selects.

BRIAN KING: He looks like such a swinger—black turtlenecks, shades, Wally George haircut.

SS: I found out about HEINO when I was in Germany. I saw an album cover showing a guy who looked like Andy Warhol with sunglasses and white hair. I thought, “This is wild—who is this?” Apparently he really was a Warhol fan and that’s where he got his image.

Once you start opening up to these possibilities, you lose your embarrassment about buying some “square, dorky” record because you know you want it.

BK: A lot of this is just instinctual. If I like a Michael Jackson song, I like it—even if it is Michael Jackson. And he’s becoming more perverse: the Howard Hughes of the music industry.

SS: I started out immersed in rock’n’roll. First it was punk rock, then SUN rockabilly records, like WARREN SMITH. Brian and I saw the BLASTERS countless times. Then I realized that rock’n’roll isn’t getting people off the whole societal control thing—the rebellion that it’s supposed to be is such a packaged con.

BK: And so much of it now is remakes—why listen to Tom Waits when you can listen to Louis Armstrong? Unless the remake is perverse. SS: Plus, music today is self-conscious.