dinsdag 26 november 2019

A spooky Christmas song...

Lois Lynn: Every Christmas We Know / Lullaby, My Heart
(Concept Records, 45-896, USA, 1956, 45 rpm, big hole)
In 1956, Concept Records, a small label from Elizabeth Town, Kentucky, released the debut 7” of singer Lois Lynn. It featured two songs, both written by Beth M. Walker and Agnes K. Quinlan, a female songwriting duo: the Christmas song 'Every Christmas We Know' on the A-side, and 'Lullaby, My Heart' on the B-side. Although this was her debut single, Lynn was not a newcomer to the music business. She was born in 1931 as Lois Catherine Barcroft, the youngest daughter to the five piece family of Paul William and Laura Marie Barcroft, who lived in Coshocton, Ohio. Already at a young age, Lynn started participating in talent contests, under her stage name Lois Lynn. Early on, critics were not that much impressed, 'Brunet Loïs Lynn sings musical comedy in a soprano of uneven quality. Her delivery is lively, but just doesn't occupy attention' was a reaction on a perfomance she did in January 1942. In the 1940s, while she was still a teenager, she performed with the Carmen Cavallaro and Art Mooney orchestras and with Joe Basile's band. In 1948 Lynn joined the just founded WAF (Women in the Air Force). The WAF appreciated her talent, and she contributed to several air force base shows while stationed in San Antonio, TX and Chicopee, MA. In San Antonio, she sang with Charlie Malone's air force band and while in Chicopee, she appeared in Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour television in New York and was invited to perform on Mack's ABC radio program, where she performed with Charlie Barnet's band. Lynn, nicknamed Torchy after her singing style, also played piano (both boogie classics and her own compositions). When she was transferred to Newfoundland, Lynn was assigned to the Armed Forces radio station in Stephensville, Newfoundland, where she wrote, produced and performed in an one-hour late night show called 'Dream Hour'. In 1952, Lynn joined the 596th Air Force band as vocalist and in April 1953, Lynn maried staff sgt. M. Bruce Rebalsky. With him she got a daughter.

When Lynn recorded her debut single in 1956, she was living in Louisville, KY and was a disc jockey, commercial writer and producer for radio station WSCA in Ft. Know, KY. Although Lynn was not living in Coshocton anymore when she recorded her single, it was very much a product of Coshocton, as one of the songwriters, Agnes Quinlan, was also from Coshocton. In real life, Quinlan was a welfare worker and had met Beth Walker, a New York editor, through a classified ad that encouraged those with song writing abilities to submit their work. Quinlan, who, as a local newspaper claimed in 1952, 'didn't know one musical note from another' and Walker formed a songwriting team, with Quinlan composing the music and Walker writing the lyrics. 'Every Christmas We Know' was already registered for copyright in June 1951 by the two. The next few years, the duo wrote more songs, like the 'The Whop' (1952), Truely Dear' (1952), 'Cold Water Flat' (1952) and 'I'm Going Home' (1956), but the duo never made it big as songwriters. Still, 'Every Christmas We Know' as recorded by Lynn, was something special. The performance of Lynn does her nickname Torchy justice, as she turns the song into a true torch song. The musical accompaniment is very minimal, just a soft sounding xylophone, with gives the song a really spooky atmosphere, even further reinforced by Lynn's 'who-hu-hu-ing', that serves as the refrain. The lyrics paint a portrait of 'every Christmas we know' when 'Candles and stars are a-glow' and 'all through the night there is a spirit alive' (talking about spooky!), and 'there's joy and there's peace in the heart of us' as 'Christmas was made just for love'. The single did not bring Lynn her much deserved breakthrough and her solo career ended just after one single. In 1964 Lynn returned to the spotlight, for one short moment. Now known as Loís Hill, because of her marriage to Milwaukee's radio station newsman Bill Hill, she became one of the first female newscasters.

Listen to the song on Youtube:

zondag 24 november 2019

Murray Christmas!

George Faulkner: Murray Christmas!
(Bolt Records, Bolt 019, USA, 45 rpm, big hole)

‘Murray Christmas!’ is the second volume in the ‘George Faulkner Sings Murry Wilson’-series. George Faulkner is an American songwriter and recording artist, who was the lead vocalist of New York-area powerpop band The Rabies in the 1980s and of indie rock band The Juicemen in the early 1990s. George seems to have a fascination for the Wilson-family, as in 2015 he released a digital single of the Dennis Wilson track ‘Under The Moonlight’ (as ‘George Faulkner Sings Dennis Wilson’), and now he is in the process of recording twelve ‘lost’ songs by the padre des familias, Murray Wilson. Although he was not as talented as his son Brian, Wilson senior had some success as a songwriter since he started out in the early 1940s. He wrote at least over 50 songs, of which some where recorded by the likes of The Bachelors, The Jets, The Four (Hollywood) Flames and Johnny Hall And His Star Rangers. But he never had any hits, like his far more succesful sons had.

In 2016 George released a digital single of the Murray Wilson song ‘Two Step Side Step’ as volume 1 in the series ‘George Faulkner Sings Murray Wilson’ and now, three years later, he releases a vinyl single with two Murray Wilson songs as volume 2. And what is of interested for us here, is that the A-side of the single is a Christmas song! Murray Wilson wrote ‘Happy, Happy Holiday’ in 1952 and that year, it was also recorded by The Bachelors. The Bachelors were a trio from Los Angeles, led by accordion player Jimmy Haskel. The song was released as B-side to The Bachelor’s 78 rpm single ‘If The Sun Took A Shine To The Moon’ (Palace Records 111). In the early 1950s, the 78 rpm record was still the standard single format, and many singles were not yet released on a 45 rpm vinyl record. Unfortunately, that was also the case with this Bachelors single – so no need to hunt a 7” version of this single down.

George takes this project very serious, seeing who he brought in to record his version of ‘Happy, Happy Holiday’. The track was produced by Tony Maimone (member of legendary art rockers Pere Ubu from 1976 to 1982, and then again from 1987 to 1993 and in 2003 and 2004, who also worked with Bob Mould, They Might Be Giants and Frank Black, among many others) and arranged by Joe McGinty, (who was in the Psychedelic Furs and worked with Ronnie Spector), while George is accompanied by members of the NYC tribute collective The Losers Lounge.

No more accordion on George’s version of the song, but instead, a Moog! The original recording is nowhere to be found on the internet, so I don’t know how that version sounded, but this new version of ‘Happy, Happy Holiday’ sounds like a Christmas on a sunny beach somewhere in California, with a pina colada in hand. The pa-pa-pa’s and Beach Boy-style harmony vocals give the song a real sunshine pop feel, and the Moog, xylophone and percussion add a happy party feeling – totally in line with the lyrics, as these are all about having a good time at Christmas. Great song!

The B-side, 'Te-e-e-e-ex-as', another Murray Wilson-song that originally had been recorded by The Bachelors, has nothing to do with the season. It sounds exactly as you would expect from a song about the Lone Star State – as a country song. It was recorded with Peter Katis (Kurt Vile, Interpol,The National) behind the console.
The 45, that was officially released on November 8, comes with great artwork by Peter Bagge, is released by George’s own label Bolt Records, and can be bought directly from George via Discogs.

‘Happy, Happy Holiday’ is now also on Youtube, here:

And while we are talking - the three Snowflakes Christmas singles (by Us And Them, Superbravo and Livingmore) can still be ordered through the Snowflakes Big Cartel and now also through the Snowflakes Bandcamp.