Category: Music

It’s only a Record Player but I like it…

There were many things I was looking forward to having when we moved into our new home just over a year ago. Top of the list was being reunited with my piano and getting a record player!

I grew up in a house with a record player. My Dad was a vinyl enthusiast and he loved valve hifi equipment too. The living housed his record player, large speakers and various other bits of kit. I still remember flicking through boxes of records, their dusty smell and the fact that long before I could read, I could recognise my favourite tracks by the colour and design of their sleeves!

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When choosing my own record player, what I really had my eye on was one of these gorgeous 1960s Dansette models. The kitsch value is unbelievable isn’t it? And the styling and colours are just so great. There is someone in my vicinity that refurbishes them. He really does give them a very thorough overhaul, fixing the innards, replacing broken components and replacing cosmetic details too if necessary. I watched his hard work come up for sale on eBay and then watched the bidding soar into the many hundreds each time. Sadly, it was just not an amount of money I could justify spending.

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I happened to mention that I wanted a record player when we were staying with my husbands family last Christmas and his mum mentioned she had a record player that had been in a cupboard for the last 20 years! She was on the point of taking it to the charity shop and offered it to me instead. I of course accepted much to the dismay of the Dr (my husband) and it was bundled into the boot of our car to the make the journey home with us.

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Surprisingly, when we got it home and connected the amp, speakers and record player – it worked! The effects of 20 years in a cupboard hadn’t been too detrimental, and it was quite a novelty to try to remind myself how to choose the correct speed and lower the needle onto the grooves of the disc.

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It has been used – it has been the accompaniment to meals and a barbecue already this summer and it will be used for many more events to come. I now have a new hobby – buying vinyl!

It is with a yearning for an extensive vinyl collection I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only George Martin but I like it…

2016 claimed another legend this week when we bade farewell to a very special pair of ears.

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George Martin is perhaps best known for being the man that produced much of the Beatles output but his career was actually much more far reaching than that.

Martin joined EMI in 1950 as an assistant to the head of Parlophone records. Parlophone was seen as a small and inconsequential arm of the corporation at that time and Martin assisted in the recording of chamber groups and regional music. When the head of Parlophone retired in 1955 he took over as head of the label. As the 1960s neared he took on a few novelty acts and subsequently worked with Spike Milligan, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Bernard Cribbins, Bill Oddie and many more. He wanted to add some rock and roll to Parlophone’s repertoire and had some sway now that the small company had become quite profitable.

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I’m not going to dwell too much on his work with the Beatles as we’ve all heard that story. I think, as do so many, that his role in the incredible output of the band was incremental. He added the string quartet to Yesterday, the harpsichord solo to In My Life and those twinkly piano parts to Lovely Rita to name but a few gems. He encouraged the band to experiment with instruments and techniques they would never have encountered. He supported, coaxed and inspired and eventually, all members of the band acknowledged how he had helped shape their work.

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I was born into a very geeky muso family and we devoured every radio programme and TV documentary about musicians that we could get our hands on. We had reams of videos and cassettes that we’d recorded with such material, often listening to or watching them over and over. We had an early episode of Radio 2’s Sounds of the Sixties presented by George Martin. He had a such lovely soft voice and gentle laugh. He did sound quite posh – as if he’d just got down from his Spitfire! In it he chose some of his favourite sounds of the 60s and, as I remember, these included some Matt Monro tracks he’d produced and the aforementioned harpsichord solo from In My Life. He revealed how he’d actually written the little two-part invention and played it half speed and an octave lower, before speeding it up to the right speed and pitch. I was blown away!

Throw in the film scores he wrote, the several Bond themes he produced and the countless artists he works with and you have a truly incredible legacy. I admire his inventiveness and his ahead-of-his-time postmodern mixing of high and low art. I like the fondness with which he spoke of all the artists he worked with, his professionality and above all the fact he comes across as a true gentleman of a bygone era.

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It is with real sadness I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Blossom Dearie but I like it….

I discovered Miss Dearie on a film soundtrack some years ago. I think the first song I fell in love with was Put on a Happy Face. I can’t seem to find it on YouTube but it is the soundtrack to this film on Vimeo…

http://bret-moss.tumblr.com/post/133843899389/osamuito-bikelore5-from-toshiki-sato-on-vimeo2

What a unique voice. I had to find out more about this lady…

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Turns out Blossom Dearie (that’s her real name!)  was born in Albany and studied piano as a child. She got into Jazz as a teen and moved New York shortly after. She mixed with all the rising stars of the day and formed her own vocal group, arranging popular songs of the day for them to sing.

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She soon got noticed and then signed by a big studio. In the years that followed she sang and recorded all over the world, not least recording four albums in London and performing regularly at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. She was notoriously strict about her environment when performing. She disliked background noise or even the movements of waitresses. Given that she sung a lot in nightclubs it’s a wonder these stipulations were adhered to, but they were! More often seen as a mark of her seriousness about performing than diva-esque tendencies.

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I love the fact that her name perfectly matches the tone of her voice. Her gentle, wispy, childlike tone is almost ethereal and quite unique. I never tire of a jazz standard sung by Miss Dearie. She often turned down full orchestras in favour of hand picked backing bands consisting of the best musicians of the day. The phrasing is very finely observed and her choice of material is sublime. I urge you to check out this back catalogue and be charmed as I have been.

It is with clicking fingers I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!