I was originally going to post something new (old) today, but I changed my mind and decided to tie into the Funky16Corners 2009 Pledge Drive by re-posting what is by any measure my favorite mix from the Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast Archive, ILDT#5 – The Party.
I didn’t link the two last year, but since both blogs originate in the same sick mind (that would be mine), and have all of their files, mixes etc stored in the same space, I figured that the cause was the same.
If you are so inclined, and can afford to in these dire times, take a second and send along a contribution (any amount) for the Funky16Corners 2009 Pledge Drive. This will help to pay for the server space wherein both blogs, as well as the Funky16Corners web zine reside on the interwebs.
So, as they say on PBS, pardon the interruption, give what you can – by clicking on the link below – and we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming next Monday.
1 Henry Mancini (The Party OST) – The Party (vocal) (RCA)
2 Keith Mansfield – Boogaloo (CBS)
3 Enoch Light – Over Under Sideways Down (Project 3)
4 Moe Koffman – Dr Swahili (Jubilee)
5 Mr Jamo – Shake What You Brought With You Pt1 (SSS Intl)
6 Dick Hyman – The Liquidators (Command)
7 Walter Wanderley – Kee Ka Roo (Verve)
8 Sweet Charity OST – The Pompeii Club (Rich Man’s Frug) (Decca)
9 John Philip Soul & his Stone Marching Band – That Memphis Thing (Pepper)
10 Andre Brasseur – The Duck (Palette)
11 Tony Newman – Soul Thing (Parrot)
12 Jimmy Caravan – Look Into the Flower (Vault)
13 Vic Mizzy (Don’t Make Waves OST) – Vox Box (MGM)
14 New London Rhythm & Blues Band – Soul Stream (Vocalion)
15 Dave Grusin (Candy OST) – Ascension to Virginity (ABC)
16 Henry Mancini (the Party OST) – The Party (instr) (RCA)
The podcast I bring you today – Iron Leg Digital Trip #5 – is something that has been a kind of running project of mine for a long, long time.
I have been fairly obsessed with the sounds of the 1960’s since – believe it or not – the actual 1960’s, a decade that departed a few months after my seventh birthday. While there’s certainly an element of what might be termed retroactive nostalgia (longing for things I vaguely remember but was far too young and context-free to appreciate in any real way) at work through my many years of pop culture absorption and regurgitation (via zines/blogs), I like to think that those of us who make note of this period of pop culture – and there are many far more obsessive and devoted to minutiae than I – are engaging in an interesting experiment of postmodernism.
Back in the day, when I was deeply involved in the garage/mod revival scene, there were very few among us who had experienced the music we all loved firsthand. In 1986 I was 24, and even then at the high end of the age scale for that crowd. Sure there were a few folks who had been old enough to have bought their Chocolate Watchband 45s off the shelf, but not many.
Though there were those that went beyond mere collecting to track down and interview the people that made the music, the vast majority of us were consumers of a lifestyle that we connected to via old records and bootleg video, less recreating than recasting the mid-60’s, patching together a quilt of sorts made from mod clothing, hairstyles, music and films. What we were doing – though we would have been loathe to admit it at the time (and some even today) – was play-acting at 1966-ism through an American International Pictures prism in what amounted to a Vietnam-free vacuum in the middle of the blissfully idiotic Reagan years.
I mention all of this because the roots of this podcast reach back to those years, when my own fascination with the era began to get a grasp on certain small micro-zeitgeists within the larger picture, i.e. biker films, spy movies, garage punk and psychedelia.
The heart beating at the center of ‘The Party’ is in fact a film called – not surprisingly – ‘The Party’.
If you haven’t seen it, go out and find it, because while it may not be a particularly good film (using generally accepted criteria of quality cinema), it is an amazing artifact, offering up within its frames something akin to the magnetic center of a long gone, but amazing vibe.
My good buddy Voger and I have – over the 20+ years we’ve known each other – had a recurring discussion about a certain kind of Hollywood product, in which a warped conception of the “hip” world was created by middle-aged, cigar chomping suits and thrown up on the screen for popular consumption. The end result of this was the worlds of youth culture, the international jet set and rock music intersecting where cultural icons (starting with beatniks and ending with hippies) continued to appear years after their real world counterparts had moved on. The product generated was utterly without authenticity, but in a strange way incredibly compelling. What was created was a kind of cultural shorthand that 20 years hence would set our synapses firing wildly.
The kinds of movies I’m talking about range from things that were clearly aimed at kids – i.e. ‘Riot On the Sunset Strip’ – slightly more sophisticated (yet no closer to the mark) fare like ‘The Sweet Ride’, and completely insane creations like ‘How To Commit Marriage’ (Bob Hope in a Nehru jacket and sideburns) and the ne plus ultra of these relics, ‘Skidoo’.
All of these films (and hundreds more) had one connecting thread, that being an attempt to capture the “Swinging 60’s” from various levels of exploitation and with widely varying levels of success.
Where this all came together – at least for me – was my generation, obsessed with the 60’s devouring these bits and pieces of artifice like so many handfuls of candy, i.e. pop culture as so many empty calories, guaranteed to provide a momentary boost but essentially without nourishment.
‘The Party’ sees Peter Sellers engaging in a bit of South Asian minstrelsy that would be all but unforgivable today, but which in 1968 was just another dash of international seasoning in Blake Edwards cinematic stew. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sellers character ‘Hurundi V Bakshi’ was a proxy for the cultural fascination with the Indian subcontinent, sitars, gurus and the spiritual tourism of the Beatles. Bakshi is accidentally invited to a Hollywood party, thrown by a producer whose latest film he (Bakshi) is responsible for wrecking.
The film is little more than an extended string of fish out of water gags and broad physical comedy which is in the end only slightly amusing.
However (and this is a big however kids), the soundtrack, composed by the genius Henry Mancini features a title song that seems built from all of the elements I’ve been talking about. Mancini’s tune ‘The Party’ is a Hollywood establishment version of rock music, wrapped tightly in an electric sitar riff. What you end up getting with ‘The Party’ is the distillation of a mid-decade discotheque vibe where studio “straights” were gathering – magpie like – shiny bits of pop music ephemera and reassembling them into a strange approximation of the real thing, where walls of brass butt up against sitars, cheesy combo organs and pounding drums to create the pulsing soundtrack to an imaginary discotheque where aging swells in crushed velvet dinner jackets and frilled shirts are doing the frug with heavily made up dolly birds (or almost any episode of Playboy After Dark featuring a rock band).
The motif of the discotheque scene, in movies and television became a visual shorthand for all things “swinging ‘60s”, even long after the international jet set dance floor had been surpassed in the public consciousness by images of muddy fields filled with bare-chested longhairs (though, once again Hollywood continued to use these scenes long past when they had peaked in the real world).
Iron Leg Digital Trip #5: The Party was a work in progress years before Iron Leg the blog ever got started. Beginning with Mancini’s ‘The Party’ as a hub of sorts, I kept my eyes out and my ears peeled for records that could radiate from it providing complementary sounds. Certainly, not all of the records in this mix fit the definition above, at least in the sense of their individual creation. While some of the selections herein come from that mainstream Hollywood machine, there are also contributions from the “Easy” side of things, as well as jazz, funk, soul, library music and rock.
I should mention that when I was getting ready to put the mix together the specter of ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In’ loomed large. ‘Laugh-In’ was really the ultimate distillation of the leitmotifs above (again in a largely artificial, Hollywood-ized way). On ‘Laugh-In’ two nightclub comedians presented a wide range of ‘hip” archetypes (in the regular cast, and the guests) week after week in what amounted to a psychedelic (looking) vaudeville.
‘Laugh-In’ mixed traditional comedy with topical and vaguely outrageous (for the time) material presented in a fast moving, colorful format, that while fairly far removed from actual hip culture, presented a passable simulacrum thereof for the millions of straights watching at home. Though I remember enjoying the few episodes I was able to watch at the time (it was on from when I was 6 to when I was 11) looking back on the show today it seems not only horribly dated, but also the kind of thing no self-respecting member of the counterculture would ever have given a moment of their attention. When I think of ‘Laugh-In’s relation to the counterculture, the image that comes to mind is of something like the Bob Hope of ‘How To Commit Marriage’, i.e. the establishment taking some time out to slum amongst the unwashed hordes, if not actually exploiting hip culture, coming awfully close.
So crucial is ‘Laugh-In’ to the vibe I’m trying to nail down, that I decided to use excerpts from the show (all taken in fact from a single four-minute track on a 1969 ‘Laugh In’ LP) as the “connective tissue” in the mix. In it you get to hear cast members who went on to become the establishment (like Goldie Hawn) and others who are remembered solely as relics of a bygone era (Arte Johnson anyone?).
Either way, if you’ve seen the show, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, it has been re-released on DVD and is definitely worth a viewing.
The mix itself begins and ends with two versions of the theme from ‘The Party’ (vocal and instrumental). The musicians on the track are a who’s who of West Coast session musicians/jazzbos, with the vocals credited to the “Party Poopers’. Some years ago the Wondermints recorded an outstanding cover of ‘The Party’ for a Mancini tribute LP.
Next up is Keith Mansfield’s rare US 45 of his track ‘Boogaloo’ (also included on his 1968 LP “All You Need is Keith Mansfield’). I picked up this 45 years ago (at what turned out to be a bargain price) sight unheard (as it were) and was blown away when I finally put it on the turntable. Of all the tracks in this mix, ‘Boogaloo’ is probably the one where you can close your eyes and really “feel” what it is I’m talking about. Vaguely funky, featuring an interesting array of percussion and (what I believe to be) the Hammond stylings of none other than the legendary Alan Hawkshaw (the man behind the Mohawks). Mansfield manages – like Mancini – to mix a rock rhythm section with a highly polished backing of horns and woodwinds.
Enoch Light’s version of the Yardbirds’ ‘Over Under Sideways Down’ is really a perfect example (maybe more so than any other track in the mix) of the sounds of youth culture being put through the Cuisinart by a pack of straights. This is not to say that Light was incapable of capturing a sort of funhouse mirror vision of the hip world, but that hearing the fuzzed out psych of the Yardbirds reshaped thusly is a fairly jarring experience. This in addition to the fact that Light was (via his Command and Project 3 labels) a sonic pioneer of sorts, experimenting with recording formats (like going directly to 35MM film) and unusual material.
Moe Koffman is an interesting guy. Hardly a “straight” Koffman got his start as a popularizer of jazz sounds (‘The Swinging Shepherd’s Blues’) and made some very groovy albums in the 60’s and 70’s. ‘Dr. Swahili’ was on his 1966 LP “Moe Koffman Goes Electric’, and features both electrified flute (Koffman’s main instrument) and electric sitar.
Mr. Jamo was another incarnation of the Bahamian singer Jamo Thomas who made some ace soul records for Chicago’s Thomas label in the 60’s (‘I Spy For the FBI’ among others). What happened to him between ‘I Spy’ in 1966, and ‘Shake What You Bought With You’ in 1970 is a mystery, but by the sound of the latter record, it may have involved a drop or two of Mr. Owsley’s finest. In my many years of collecting and listening to music, few 45s have hit me the way this did the first time I heard it. ‘Shake What You Brought With You’ is a bizarre (and amazing) mix of styles that comes very close to being a humorous and somewhat more lighthearted cousin of the soundtracks of Manfred Huber and Siegfried Schwab. There are bits of funk, soul and psychedelia bouncing around in the mix, all woven together with Jamo’s insane vocals. I mean,
What’s that supposed to mean? Is it a strange, inspired one off, or is ‘Shake What You Brought With You’ the mysterious Rosetta Stone that links together Jamaican toasting, the sounds of Disco Tex and rap? In the end it matters not a whit. It’s just brilliant.
Dick Hyman has been featured in this space before, and if ‘The Liquidators’ is any indication; he will be in the future as well. Recorded for the Command label (Hyman would record several LPs as leader and sideman for Command) and appearing on the excellent ‘Man from O.R.G.A.N.’ LP, ‘Liquidators’ was written by Lalo Schifrin (no slouch he). It’s typical of Hyman’s Command recordings in that his jazzy style rises above the high gloss (it helps that any of his sidemen were veteran jazzmen as well).
Brazilian organist Walter Wanderley is best known for his 1966 hit ‘Summer Samba’, a key part of the 1960’s lounge/easy canon. Wanderley recorded for a wide variety of labels in Brazil and the US, but he is remembered mainly for his work for Verve. I was first turned on to ‘Kee Ka Roo’ by my old buddy Haim (a man responsible for countless such acts) who eventually passed on to me my copy of the album of the same name. The tune (which incidentally features playing by Bucky Pizzarelli and Bobby Rosengarden, two compadres of Dick Hyman’s) is a great combination of upbeat, jetset lounge and Brazilian flavor, sounding like it came from some Amazon spy caper.
My initial interest in the movie ‘Sweet Charity’ was in its status as a remake of Fellini’s ‘Nights of Cabiria’. As it turned out, the movie was a great time capsule of the late 60’s, very colorful and with some cool incidental music on the soundtrack (not to mention a very groovy turn by none other than Sammy Davis Jr.). The coolest bit is ‘The Pompeii Club (Rich Man’s Frug)’ which clocks in at just under two minutes of fuzz guitar and horns.
Despite some research, I’ve never been able to nail down exactly who ‘John Phillip Soul and his Stone Marching Band’ were. They most definitely hailed from Memphis (aside from the title of the tune ‘That Memphis Thing’ Pepper was a Memphis based label) but aside from that anything I offer you is no more than an educated guess. That said, my educated guess is that this is probably a grouping of studio players, perhaps the American Studios crew. Aside from the goofy (and likely pseudonymous) band name, there’s also the big, BIG production, which doesn’t sound at all like the work of an anonymous, one-off crew. I wish I had more details, as the tune opens with a sweet drum break, and the organist is a killer.
Belgian organist Andre Brasseur had a long career in Europe, but only glanced the US charts with ‘The Kid’ in 1966. ‘The Duck’ – a record you won’t soon forget – dates from 1968. His discography is an interesting mix of exciting, Mod-ish Hammond grooves and somewhat weaker novelties, but as you’ll hear with ‘The Duck’, when Brasseur was on, he was ON. Each and every time I spin this tune in a club, without fail someone comes up and has to know what this song is. Unfortunately it’s a pretty scarce record to turn up, especially on 45.
We return to the sounds of Keith Mansfield (indirectly) with drummer Tony Newman’s cover of ‘Soul Thing’. The original version of ‘Soul Thing’ appeared (as a piano feature with a very sweet drum break) on the ‘All You Need Is Keith Mansfield’ LP. Newman’s cover features Alan Hawkshaw on the Hammond, and give the tune a much more muscular, dare I say funky vibe. This is the version I remember hearing as a kid, used behind a PSA on local New York TV, and (as it was used in Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’) as incidental music during coming attractions in the movies, betraying its roots as a bit of ‘library’ music.
Jimmy Caravan (who’s made a couple of appearances in Hammond mixes over at Funky16Corners) recorded two very cool albums in the late 60’s for the Vault and Tower labels. The Vault LP, ‘Hey Jude’ has a lot more to offer for funk fans. The Tower LP ‘Look Into the Flower’ is composed largely of then current pop and rock covers. One of the few originals, the title cut has a very cool au-go-go flavor with some excellent playing by Caravan. Oddly enough, one of the few other things Caravan ever did was play keyboards on Captain Beefheart’s 1974 ‘Bluejeans and Moonbeams’ album.
If the name Vic Mizzy isn’t ringing any bells, his music ought to. During the 1960’s Mizzy was one of the busiest composers of soundtrack music, with a very distinctive style. Mizzy is responsible for the music to ‘The Addams Family’, ‘Green Acres’ as well as a string of Don Knotts films (‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken’, ‘The Reluctant Astronaut’ etc.) . Mizzy had a great, lighthearted sound with a humorous edge, often accented with elements like harpsichord and chromatic harmonica. ‘Vox Box’ is from the soundtrack to the 1967 film ‘Don’t Make Waves’ remembered mainly for its inclusion of an otherwise unreleased Byrds song.
The New London Rhythm & Blues Band is another one of those great mysteries I’d like to get to the bottom of. I picked up the album years ago (pre-portable) because there were some interesting cover songs. Imagine my surprise when I get the record home and it turns out to have some slamming Hammond sounds. My assumption has always been that this album has its roots in the UK library scene, but I can’t say for sure. What I do know is that the record (with a few minor variations, like the group name) was repackaged and released in a number of countries. Either way, ‘Soul Stream’ is amazing.
The film of Terry Southern’s ‘Candy’ is mainly remembered as a star-heavy relic of a bygone age, but if it has anything going for it, it would have to be the track ‘Ascension to Virginity’. Composed by Dave Grusin, the tune opens with (and repeats) a heavy breakbeat, the tune only gets better with ringing guitars, hand claps and odd (but engaging) female vocals. I have no idea who’s playing on this, but both the drums and guitar are outstanding. ‘Ascension to Virginity’ clocks in at around the five minute mark, but you’d never know it.
Things come to a close with the instrumental reprise of ‘The Party’, opening –not surprisingly – with a short sitar interlude before returning to the original theme.
That said, I hope you dig this little experiment of mine. Give it a listen (or two) and maybe throw it on the next time you throw a wingding of your own.