THE ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS BLOG

Sunday
Aug042013

XTC "No Thugs In Our House" Die-Cut Picture Sleeve

From a record shop in western MA-- this pressing of the UK single from 1982's "English Settlement" comes in a sleeve that doubles as a puppet theater! 

XTC's Andy Partridge is a visual-artist, as well-- he has often said that sleeve design is one of his favorite parts of releasing records. 

"No Thugs In Our House" tells the satirical story of a couple who refuses to believe that their son-- a juvenile delinquent-- could be up to no good.  Note the policeman walking up to the front door outside the kitchen window! 

The insert features the cast of characters:

Graham, a teenager
Mother, a busy housewife
Father, a conservative husband
Policeman, a young constable

They're designed to be cut out and used to put on a play-- the lyrics for the song comprise the libretto:

Here's XTC performing the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1982, shortly before they retired permanently from live performance:

Sunday
Jan272013

Peanuts "The Pursuit Of Happiness" Game

Another antique store find:  The “Pursuit of Happiness” boardgame was released in 1965, as a tie-in with Charles Schulz's book “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”.

 

 

The board itself is actually a poster, and includes the story of the game: “The best-selling book prompted readers from around the world to send in their ideas on happiness. These varied and imaginative concepts inspired the creation of 'The Pursuit of Happiness Game'.”

 

Included are half-a-dozen booklets with Snoopy and the gang, featuring a list of “happiness statements” sent in by readers. The object of the game is to guess which of these statements your friends agree represent happiness. Some of my favorites:

 

Happiness is being forty and they still whistle.

Happiness is a big brass band.

Happiness is when they pick on you but you have a bigger brother.

Happiness is finishing Moby Dick.

Happiness is seeing your reflection in a pond.

Happiness is a new song to sing.

Happiness is a weenie roast.

Happiness is knowing you're more humble than anybody.

Happiness is a popcorn and a coke at the movies.

Happiness is when everybody tells you you look like Ringo Starr.

 

Speaking of Ringo Starr, the book also inspired a-million-and-one “Happiness is...” spin-offs over the years, not the least of which was The Beatles' 1968 doo-wop send-up “Happiness is a Warm Gun”.

 

 

On a bizarre, vaguely-related note, I remember seeing alternative rockers The Pursuit Of Happiness perform on “The All New Mickey Mouse Club” in 1989-- the song was followed by a kids air-guitar competition, judged by lead-singer Moe Berg. I'll wager that was one of the weirdest moments of his life.

 

 

P.S.: The Pursuit of Happiness' debut record Love Junk was produced by Todd Rundgren.

Monday
Oct012012

Estey WWII Chaplain's Field Organ

September 30th, was Estey Day in Brattleboro, VT.   Every year, the city celebrates the legacy of the Estey pump organ with performances, classes and factory tours.  In honor of Estey Day, here is my  WWII-era Estey Chaplain's Field Organ:

The Estey Organ Company was founded in Brattleboro, VT in 1863.  For over 100 years, they manufactured hundreds of thousands of reed organs of every size and description.  This model was originally designed for 19th c. missionary work and travelling tent revival shows.  It folds up into a carrying case:

By 1941, the company was producing 500 per month for the US military alone, who used them to accompany religious services in the field.  (Estey also contributed ammunition boxes and pontoon bridges!)

The pump organ uses the same reeds found in harmonicas or accordions.  This one has two foot pedals that operate a bellows inside the case to generate air.  It's a very creaky, haunted house-sounding instrument. 

I first heard it on this record by Ivor Cutler:

Cutler was a Scottish poet, musician and schoolteacher, signed to Virgin records in the early days.  Paul McCartney liked Cutler's BBC radio performances so well that he cast him as Buster Bloodvessel in "Magical Mystery Tour". 

Here's Ivor Cutler at the harmonium, singing "The River Bends"

I wish I'd had this instrument when I was recording "Oh, You Kid!"-- it would have been just the thing for "Ghost Story" and "My Doppelganger"!

Monday
Aug132012

"LET'S LISTEN TO HAYDN" RECORD BY CORNELIA MEIGS AND ED ARNO (and joseph haydn)

This record caught my eye at a book sale last week:

 

It's a children's biography of Joseph Haydn, with musical examples, released by the Haydn Society in Boston in 1951.  The narration was written by Cornelia Meigs, who won the 1932 Newbery Award for Invincible Louisa, her biography of Louisa May Alcott.

It was Ed Arno's cover illustration that attracted my attention.   I knew him first from his illustrations for The Gingerbread Man:


and The Magic Fish:

  

Billboard magazine gave "Let's Listen To Haydn" a score of 85 the week of its release  (an "Excellent" review-- just five points shy of "Tops".)  According to Billboard, it is recommended for older children and moppet geniuses but is "...not suitable for juke boxes!" 

By the way, the #1 record that week was Patti Page's recording of "Tennessee Waltz" and the #10 record was Guy Lombardo's recording of "Tennessee Waltz".  Evidently that was a good week to release a recording of "Tennessee Waltz".

Sunday
Jul222012

CLUB 47 CALENDAR FOR FEBRUARY, 1967

 

I found this at a flea market in New Hampshire. It's the February, 1967 calendar for the historic Boston folk venue Club 47.  Now known as Club Passim, it remains one of the premier listening rooms in the country.  I've played Passim several times myself, and have been to many concerts there-- but even knowing the illustrious history of this legendary room, it's still amazing to see such a line-up.  

Taken as a whole, this calendar is a snap-shot of a remarkable time and place.  And, taken individually, each person on the calendar has their own remarkable story that fits into the history of contemporary music.  

For example, here's Tom Paxton sharing a picnic table with Pete Seeger:

Sandy Bull was a best-known as a traditional fingerstyle guitarist, but here he is on a Vanguard duo record he did with jazz drummer Billy Higgins:

Reverend Gary Davis was one of the all-time giants of fingerstyle blues guitar.  Ry Cooder, Jorma Kaukonen, Stephan Grossman and countless others studied with him.  I learned a lot of my fingerstyle concepts from his records.

The Chambers Brothers had their biggest hit in 1967 with "Time Has Come Today".  Here's a wonderful version of "People Get Ready".  I'm still working on figuring out why the guitarist is sitting in a golf cart:

Mose Allison (six nights on the calendar!) is a truly astounding writer and musician.  He's sharp, funny, creative and takes chances left and right.  I would love to have seen the trio he was using back then:

Junior Wells was a prime mover on the Chicago post-war blues scene. 

Guitarist/Singer/Artist Eric Von Schmidt makes his second appearance in the Roadside Attractions Blog this month-- this time with Amos Garrett, Billy Rich and Chris Parker:

 

And here are The Staple Singers sitting in with The Band from The Last Waltz:

Dudley Laufman is an NEA fellowship-winning barn dance caller and musician.  Tony Saletan hosted many PBS shows for young children about folk music and music education.  David Mackay was a renowned jazz pianist and arranger, who worked with Don Ellis and many others.  Last but not least, Mike Cooney, who has released many albums and bills himself as 'a one-man folk festival', still performs nationally.    

A lot of these performers have had a profound influence on both my writing and playing over the years.   What an astounding thing that you could see them all in one place at Club 47-- and that Club Passim is still going strong after 50 years.