A Childhood Dream, A Sunny Obscurity and the Unexpected

When my cousin passed away several years ago, I inherited his Edison (Cylinder) Home Phonograph with Cygnet Horn along with a number of early recordings specifically designed for the unit. Edison Phonograph   Although I had attempted to operate the phonograph several times, I had achieved only modest success in playing a song from his collection.  This might be attributed in part to the age (over 100 years) of the unit.  I might not be performing at my peak at a similar juncture, especially after decades of inactivity!  Nonetheless, I tried again recently and was able to play some selections, at least in part.  One of the more interesting songs was John Philip Sousa‘s Stars and Stripes Forever March as performed by his own band (#2104).  My copy is a 1913 reissue of a recording first done in 1908.  And it sounds something like this…

Confession… although the phonograph does play the song, this recording is courtesy of the USBC’s Cylinder Perservation and Digitalization Project… by the way, lots of early recordings to be heard at their website if interested.

It is notable that, prior to the advent of domestic units such as these (save for music boxes and their ilk), the only music which existed was that which was performed live.  And, while the live music experience is without equal, it must have been a wonder to have “live music” preserved and available to be heard at one’s leisure.   That got me to thinking about my own childhood…

A Childhood Dream

I could give lots of excuses (only child, the advent of the television era, parents preoccupied with running a business) but the fact was that, as a child, I was a little too fond of watching TV.  And because we lived in a village about an hour’s drive from most of our relatives, we were quite frequently on the road on business or family visits.  I can recall sitting in the back seat thinking… wouldn’t it be great to have a little television set here to pass the time as we travel and I wouldn’t miss my favourite programs!  It was doubtless just as well such an option didn’t exist at that time…but I could dream!

I needn’t tell you that my “dream” has been realized beyond my childhood imagining.  Having reluctantly acquired a “smartphone” a few months ago, I was soon to discover that it could perform (a) as a phone, (b) as a camera, still or video (c) as a computer and (d) as a media centre.  Now whether it’s music or news or television episodes or a full-length movie, all can be accessed in the back seat of a car or (virtually) anywhere else.  That was a revelation.  Not only that, but those shows I thought I’d missed ‘way back when?  They’re probably out there somewhere in the ether, ready for streaming or download as well.

So just imagine this (riding in the back seat on October 7, 1966)…

By the way, if you didn’t notice, that’s NCIS‘s David McCallum (somewhat younger) behind the beard, later saving Las Vegas from a ten-ton stink bomb (really…)

I’m not sure if I’m pleased or apprehensive at witnessing the fulfilment of this particular dream.   That old caveat springs to mind… be careful what you wish for…

A Sunny Obscurity

In a number of recent posts I compiled an album’s worth of (more or less) obscure songs and an album’s worth of (more or less) Sunshine Pop songs.  We were recently recipients (courtesy of middle son, Patrick) of an album which qualifies on both counts.

The album Begin by The Millennium
The album Begin by The Millennium

It’s an interesting album on several counts.  It was the band’s only lp and, beyond a small cadre of fervent fans (past and present), received scant attention.  The group was the creation of Curt Boettcher, who both produced the album and played as an active member.  His name has been mentioned previously in this blog, first as the producer of The Association‘s first album and of the little-known Eternity’s Children.  While “he enjoys a godlike status among a select group of music fans, for whom obscurity is more enticing than fame”, he was never recipient of the recognition which might made him “another Brian Wilson”.

What we do have in this album are glimpses of what might have been.  Here are several tracks for your consideration…

1. Example One  I’m With You

2. Example Two  There is Nothing More to Say

 

The band in 1968.
The band in 1968.

Boettcher‘s connection with The Association after 1966 was limited because of contractual issues… but I discovered that The Association did pay tribute to their former producer in another way.  The Millennium released a single in 1968 following Begin.  It was titled Just About the Same and it sounded like this…

When The Association Live appeared in 1970, it included an onstage performance of the song and Just About the Same was then subsequently released as a studio single.  Although the song never quite reached the top 100 (#106 on Billboard), it did receive wider exposure than The Millenium recording.  By the way, if you listen, you’ll notice the two arrangements are… just about the same!

Listen to The Association single below...
Listen to The Association Live version below…

 

Interestingly, neither the live version nor the original Association single (1970) is to be found on Youtube!  I guess the recording(s) might qualify as another “obscurity”…

The Unexpected

The discovery that The Millennium had previously recorded Just About the Same (I knew only The Association version in my youth) got me to thinking about creating a (hypothetical) new collection of songs which I’m dubbing “The Unexpected“.  In this case I’ll be looking at songs (ie. same song/different artist[s]) which have been recorded by various individuals/groups and have distinctly (unlike today’s example) different interpretations of the same source material.  If that’s a little vague, hopefully the next post will offer some clarification.  We’ll see…

 

 

 

 

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