Monday, May 28, 2007

On the search for Old Music...
...and the weird thing is, it's not rock and roll!

I grew up in the '60s, and the first two 45's I bought were "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds and "She's Just My Style" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. And of course, I bought records by everyone else; Creedence, The Beatles, Steppenwolf, and on and on. I feel like I'm a walking encyclopedia of music that came out between 1964 and 1980. I've tried to stay current 'after 1980', and to a degree, I have, but I prefer the richness and variety of music which came out in my younger years. And, whenever I hear a record from '64 thru '80 that I've never heard before, I like it just as much as the stuff I've been familiar with for a long time. Case in point: There was a 60s group called the "Liverpool Five", who recorded for RCA. They didn't have any big hits, but I'd remembered hearing about them, and the group name stuck in my mind. I ordered their first album on Ebay, never having heard a note of it until last week. And it's great! It really is. I don't know, there was an exciting freshness to the music back then that a lot of current music (or post-80s music) just doesn't seem to have.

When I was a kid, Mom used to take me shopping at a St. Vincent DePaul store. Then we'd go to a Salvation Army, and those places were where I had my first exposure to buying 2nd hand records. At the age of 10, I was buying all the cheap 2nd hand records that struck my fancy. And, I bought not only 45's and LP's, but I would actually buy old 78's, from the '20s, '30s '40s and '50s. I like most any music if it's got a snappy tempo and a catchy melody. So at that tender age, I not only had Beatles (and other groups') records, I had 78's by Glenn Miller, Paul Whiteman, Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye, Woody Herman, among many others. This was when I was young. Listening to music way before my time. So why did I like those old 78's? It might have had something to do with listening to records that Mom would play on the stereo, such things as "Oklahoma!", "Porgy and Bess", Big-Band Swing records, and spirituals, hymns and the like. So I guess I had all of that bouncing around in my brain before I'd ever started buying records. And I still prefer big, booming music with plenty of diversity and creativity.

How else can I explain that I like "MacArthur Park" (a symphony of sorts) as much (but for different reasons) as "I Am The Walrus" (the strangest song ever), and then perhaps I'll hear some old tearjerking love song, and it comes close to bringing me to tears. Music pulls at me, tugs at me, and it always has. Or that my record collection includes Perry Como and Frank Sinatra, alongside Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Captain Beyond, Barclay James Harvest and the Moody Blues (among many, many more). And, I was very pleasantly surprised by how the group "U-2" has grown through the years; when their first album came out at the turn of the 80s, I thot it was good, but that it sounded like a whole lot of other bands at the time. Then, several years later, I got "The Joshua Tree", their big album that really put them on the map, and I was literally astonished by how great it was, and by how much the group had gone. If I was going to try and find a "new Beatles of the 80s", I imagine "U2" would come close in terms of intensity, believability and musicality. Like I said, I've made efforts to stay current. Meager, perhaps, but efforts nonetheless.

But, I'm drifting here. After all, this post is about the search for old, pre-rock and roll music, because after all, I can listen to that stuff too. One of the '78s I bought when I was a kid was by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra. He evidently specialized in Latin-type tunes, and I found a record of his called "La Ola Marina". It's a peppy little song...several singers, in harmony, bark out, "AY! La Ola Marina"...and of course I don't speak Spanish, so I don't know what the rest of the lyrics are. The last time I'd heard that record was in the late '60s. Trouble is, ever since, at various times over the yearsw, that song would come to mind, and I actually heard it as it played in my head! So I decided to do something about it. If a song gets stuck in my head, I actually have to obtain a recording of it and play it. Then the song assumes a more logical place in my musical memory. So, I went into Ebay's "Want It Now" section, and posted that I was looking for Xavier Cugat's "La Ola Marina". And, someone out there had it, and sold it to me just recently. And, when I played it last week, I had not heard the song in almost 40 years! And it's just like I remember it. "Ay-ay-ay a-boom-boom-boom, La Ola Marina!" I'd say that record came out in the late 40's to early '50s era.

And, now, just lately, there's another one o'them old "78 songs" that have been invading what's left of my brain, and to me, the song is just immortal. Some songs have lyrics that just "take you there"; they're written so well and their lyrical imagery is so vivid, that you just can't forget a song like that. And, in this case, it's by a singer who I don't even care for that much, because most of the time, his voice just GRATES on my eardrums. The singer is Jerry Vale, who got his start in the big-band era and then established himself as a solo artist right around the turn of the '50s, and recorded well into the '70s. But there is ONE SONG that he does, that I picked up on one of those old '78s, back when I was a kid, and the title of the song is "Two Purple Shadows". When I bought that record, I had actually heard of Jerry Vale, so there was a little bit of recognition there, but it was the title that grabbed me, and I thot, "I've gotta hear this"! So, I bought it, took it home, played it, and it became a musical "worm" that buried itself in my brain, and tho I got rid of the record long ago, the song has a way of staying. It is a beautiful song, and Jerry Vale's voice is just right for it, and I tell ya, I have "felt" these lyrics deeply at various times over the years. Let me share the lyrics with you:

Two purple shadows on the snow; shone from her window to the street below
And I was so surprised; I stood there hypnotized, I never realized I loved her so...

Two purple shadows on the snow; so close together they were kissing, I know
That date she had with me, she broke so easily, that it was plain to see I'd better go

What would you do in my place...what would you do?
What would you do in my case ... if it happened to you?

The wind blew the fire from my heart ... somehow I found the courage to depart...
And as I tore up two tickets for a show ... They turned to two purple shadows on the snow.

Those lyrics! While I don't gravitate to them out of a sense of love lost (usually I FEEL BETTER after a breakup), many times in my life I've felt like I was "on the outside", rejected, with no hope, all by myself. Upon hearing the song, it's easy to imagine a cold night, a covering of snow on the ground, mingled with a sense of bitter disappointment and letdown...I feel like I am there...shivering...totally at wit's end...feeling lonelier than the Maytag Repairman. And when I think about that song, I can picture myself standing up to my knees in snow, looking up at the window, as my heart implodes into several thousand miniscule tidbits before disintegrating altogether. That's a hallmark of a good song; it takes you there, it makes you feel things. "Two Purple Shadows" may not be a blues song, but it's just as powerful. If I had to sum up in one word how that song makes me feel, I would have to say that one-word would be DESOLATION.

And, I found "Two Purple Shadows" on the internet. Turns out that old 78 was also released on 45, and I found it at a website called, which works a lot like Ebay, only it deals strictly with records. (Back in the 50s, records were released in numerous forms until the industry settled on 7-inch 45 and 12-inch LP, and 78s bit the dust.)


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