Billy J Kramer, looking all dreamy…
Listen/Download – Billy J Kramer – 1941
I hope the last week of the summer (contractual, not actual) finds you all well.
The fam and I took a short vacation last week, and I’m happy to say that among our many touristy stops, we also fell by one of my old record haunts (out in the hinterlands) where I was able to scoop up some new stuff for both blogs.
This was of course a bittersweet experience, because back in the day (like a decade ago) this place was packed from floor to ceiling with all kinds of groovy 45s, so much so that every time I went out there I ended up having to sift through my stack and prioritize, returning several discs to the box because my covetousness far exceeded the limits of my billfold.
Sadly – as is almost always the case – word got out and before long every single digger within 100 miles had descended upon this store and pretty much cleaned it out (and as is also always the case, I’d heard that my pals and I had been preceded in this location by collectors with even deeper pockets and were left to wonder what amazing stuff we had missed).
That was about eight years ago, and when I returned I held out little hope for a serious score, but as I am pathologically unable to pass up an opportunity to paw through records I stopped anyway, and I’m glad I did.
Though the situation hasn’t really improved (most of the 45s appear to be post 1985 jukebox filler) there were a couple of cool things to be grabbed, and since the seven-inchers were relatively uninspiring, I worked my way through the newly arrived LPs and got some cool stuff.
That said, the tune I bring you today is something I picked up at the last all-45 show in Allentown. It goes out to my man Mr Luther, with the dedication ‘Awright little children!’ (he’ll know what it means…).
Though I knew that Billy J. Kramer had a few interesting post-Beat era sides, I did not know that he had covered one of my favorite Harry Nilsson tunes, ‘1941’.
This 1968 45 is a very faithful rendition of Nilsson’s original, hewing closely to the arrangement (with a little added church organ), and while Kramer was not the possessor or Nilsson’s crystal clear tenor, he was no slouch vocally and did a fine job on the song.
The song, which juxtaposes a jaunty arrangement with one of Nilsson’s sadder (autobiographical) lyrics, originally appeared on his 1967 ‘Pandemonium Shadow Show’ LP. If you’re not already hip to Nilsson’s first two RCA LPs, you need to track them down because they really are lost treasures.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back later in the week