Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cool & Strange

Mike Rogers is a former musician turned writer living in Japan; periodically, he writes on his favorite subject, Cool and Strange Music, which inspired me to list some of my own C&S faves. Enjoy:

Makoche Company

The Makoche is a world-class recording studio (right here in North Dakota) that specializes in preserving the music and spoken-word traditions of Native-American culture in the Dakotas and beyond. I give their catalogue the highest possible recommendation.

Hamilton Camp

Best known as an actor (particularly his work in the Star Trek franchise) the late Hamilton Camp also made a mark as a singer-songwriter in the sixties in the vein of folkies like Bob Lind and the early Neil Diamond. Camp’s collaborations with Bob Gibson hold their own with the best neo-folk of the era, and his one Top Forty hit, Here’s To You, is the essence of trippy late-sixties pop.


Beach Music

“In 1954 our music wasn’t known to any white people, outside of a few kids at the University Of Virginia.”
-Jerry Wexler on the rise of Atlantic Records

The story of how white kids in the segregated South discovered what was then called “race” music is a fascinating one; which brings us to Beach Music.
Beach Music is not, as one would expect, synonymous with Surf Music; it’s literally a continent away. Specifically it’s the blend of pop, early rock and light R&B indigenous to the Virginia and Carolina resort areas. Though the genre includes some legitimate hits, like General Johnson’s Give Me Just A Little More Time, and Bruce Channel’s Hey Baby, most of the stuff is rather obscure.
The acid test for any Beach song is simple: can you shag to it? The Shag is a looser, sexier variation on the Lindy three-step – tailor made for dancing in the sand by campfire light. Generations of Carolina kids have memories of learning to shag partnerless in their bedroom, holding onto a doorknob!
The Ocean Boulevard box set is among the definitive Beach Music collections.


Charlie Feathers

Totally lacking Elvis’s TV-friendly looks, Charlie Feathers made up for it in the power of his music. Among fans of hard-core rockabilly, Feathers is the Real Deal.


Atomic Platters

Something to listen to during your next Civil Defense drill…Nuclear-themed ditties along with snippets of Cold War poplorica (like the PSA with Groucho Marx, explaining how “excellent” one's chances were of surviving the Big One). The adjective “Strangelovian” was made for stuff like this.


The Crusin’ Series

Produced in the seventies by radio programmer Ron Jacobs, this year-by-year series of Top-40 radio “recreations” features some of the actual DJs of the era. One volume of the series, the 1957 album featuring Philly’s Joe Niagara, was actually incorporated into the stage version of Grease in the mid-seventies. WARNING: the original pressings have the genuine hit versions of the songs; when the series was reissued in later years, many of the original hit versions were replaced, presumably for legal or production reasons, with cheesy re-recordings. Try to get the vinyl originals, if you can; otherwise, carpe diem...


The Golden Age Of Underground Radio Vols. I and II

The FM “underground” version of the Crusin’ series, these two volumes do it one better by including airchecks (snippets of the actual shows) of San Francisco DJ Tom Donahue (who literally invented the FM album-oriented rock format) and LA’s B. Mitchell Reed. A must for fans of classic rock radio.


More to come. Happy listenin'...

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