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Monday, May 2, 2016

Basic Biittner : Musical Musings

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I hate to admit it, but I have been listening to popular music for more than fifty years now. Actually, I haven't listened to much "new" stuff for the last 30 years or so, but I listened to records from an earlier era, too, so, basically one could say I'm very familiar with pop music from the late 1930s to the 1980s. I am not, however, what is classified as an "audiophile," because, as I understand it, audiophiles are concerned with the actual fidelity and sound of the recordings. They swear that the old vinyl records have a better sound than compact discs. Sorry, audiophiles, but I still think that CDs have a brighter, clearer sound, and I was won over immediately when CDs started being produced in the 1980s. When digital music came along, I heard parts I'd never heard before, and understood lyrics I'd never understood before, on many songs with which I was very familiar. I can still remember when I got one of my first CDs, a collection of Buddy Holly recordings, and was thrilled with the crisp, clear reproduction of 30-year-old recordings - and they still sound great 25 years later - 50+ years after the original recordings. No, I'm sorry - I do not miss the scratchy-sounding (and occasional needle-sticking) records of yesteryear. For one thing, I haven't owned a phonograph for years now, so I wouldn't have anything to play my records on to check out this supposedly superior sound - if I still had some records, that is.

There are SOME things I miss about the earlier recordings, though. Number one would have to be labels. Records - especially 45 rpm 'singles'- had great, easily - recognizable labels, with the record company's logo proudly displayed front and center - the yellow Sun Records label; the black RCA Victor label, with Nipper the dog listening to his Master's Voice on an old gramophone; the purplish Capitol Records label, which was switched to a more modern orange and yellow swirl - look when the label's Beatles and Beach Boys hit it big; Columbia Records, who switched from yellow and black to red and white... you get the idea. I also miss the cover art of the 33 1/3 rpm long-playing (LP) albums. They helped give the album a face. Yeah, the CDs still have covers, but, you know, they're so small...

One other thing I miss from the popular music of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s is the instrumental. For those of you who don't remember, or you young whippersnappers who may not know what I'm talking about, the "instrumental" was a song which didn't have lyrics (words), featuring just the instruments - the featured instrument might be a guitar, or perhaps a keyboard or saxophone, maybe even an entire band or orchestra.

Thirteen instrumental songs were number one hits between 1960 and 1985. They were, in order, Theme from A Summer Place,Telstar, Love Is Blue, Grazing in the Grass, Frankenstein, TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), Love's Theme, The Hustle, Theme from 'S.W.A.T,' A Fifth of Beethoven, Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band, Rise, Chariots of Fire, and 'Miami Vice' Theme . There have been none since that time, 24 years ago.

These songs were hardly unique, though. The following songs also charted in the Top 20 between 1959 and 1985 (listed in order) - In the Mood, Out of Limits, Soulful Strut, Classical Gas, Popcorn,The Entertainer, Rockford Files, Nadia's Theme (The Young And The Restless), Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Music Box Dancer, Feels So Good, Theme From 'Hill Street Blues', Hooked on Classics, Axel F, and Love Theme From 'St. Elmo's Fire'

But wait - these are just the beginning - here are just a few more instrumental gems from the golden days - Sleep Walk, Tequila, Wipe Out, Topsy pt. 2, Menominah, Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky), The Colonel Bogey March (from Bridge on the River Kwai), Walk Don't Run (and many others) by The Ventures, Rebel 'Rouser (and many others) by Duane Eddy, Penetration, Pipeline, Misirlou, Apache, Pick Up the Pieces, Java, Stranger On The Shore, Rockit, and Green Onions (and many others) by Booker T. and the MGs.

And that doesn't even include the original "Dueling Pianos," Ferrante and Teicher, playing the themes from 'Exodus' and 'The Apartment,' or Al Caiola doing the Theme from 'the Magnificent 7' (aka "The Marlboro song").

And don't forget 'The Happy Organ' by Dave "Baby" Cortez. Okay, you can forget that one, if you want.

Those were the days ...

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner