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The Japanese made beautiful record covers in the fifties and sixties. Japan reproduced American art, music and culture with care, affection, and detail. These Japanese pressings looked and sounded great. Here’s a Japanese Decca release with a vibrant cover shot of James Dean. James Dean only made three movies, but his image graced many records around the world. Like this one often the music was just a compilation of Hollywood movie music. This one, “The Glory of Victor Young”, starts off with the theme from “East of Eden,” but (thanks to LP cover lover, Roy, this shot is from his first film “Rebel Without a Cause”).
Top: “Tales for Young’uns” on Trey Records. Dan “Hoss” Blocker from Bonanza enters the Golden Throat beauty show. Below: Original TV Music From Wagon Train. These and a hundred more cool records from the LP Cover Lover collection are up on the auction block starting this weekend so throw your hat in the ring!
Peter Sellers “Songs for Swingin’ Sellers” Four EPs; Nos. 1 – 4 Parlophone Records (UK) 1959 Produced by George Martin Listen to Sellers sing George Gershwin here.
Songs For Swingin’ Sellers was Peter Sellers’ second album, released in 1959 a year after his debut The Best Of Sellers. Like its predecessor, and despite its title, Songs For Swingin’ Sellers does not actually contain many songs. It does though start with a very well delivered song, namely the velvety smooth You Keep Me Swingin’, credited on the album to a ‘Mr Fred Flange’. Flange was in fact Matt Monro, who with his career languishing in a fairly deep slump by the late 50s recorded the track for Sellers to imitate and practice singing to. So impressed was Sellers with the resultant effort though, the track stayed on the album as it was. The producer of the album, that jolly old knob twiddler man George Martin again, saw to it that Matt was signed immediately to his Parlophone label where he would go on to enjoy a much lauded career resurgence in the 60s.
Other songs do occasionally poke their tiny little heads up and muscle in on the action between the lengthier sketches. Sellers’ old music hall number My Old Dutch is given an outing, with Peter singing as a decrepit old codger in a style that is ridiculously overwrought and maudlin. The song’s denouement of an actual Dutch wife emerging from the kitchen to berate the singer is a wonderfully daft payoff that never fails to amuse me. I Haven’t Told Her, She Hasn’t Told Me (But We Know It Just The Same) sees Sellers revisit another old vaudeville favourite, this time with his trusty ukulele and without so much as a trace of a silly voice or daft punch line in evidence.
The sketches performed on the album are typical Sellers. Just as in many of his films, if there is limelight, then Peter Sellers needs to hog it. The only other artiste even so much as allowed to raise a whisper on the record is Irene Handl, famous for playing cuddly grandmas throughout much of her career and quite the most barmy comedienne of her generation. These two titans of British comedy are brought together most successfully for Shadows on the Grass, a warm and comforting comic sketch written by Handl, which sees her batty old widower seduced by by Sellers adopting a French accent straight out of the comedy foreigners Christmas selection pack. Irene Handl, here playing an elderly temptress from Dalston (aka ‘the Frinton of E8’), has the best of the repartee and delivers some wonderful malapropisms. Given Sellers’ many later neuroses and megalomania, it’s a refreshing example of generosity on his part.
Other than The Critics, where Handl also appears reviewing books that neither she nor Sellers have managed to read, every other voice (male or female) is Sellers. In The Contemporary Scene 1 for instance the female interviewee Miss Lisbon and the bluff irascible Major Ralph she is sent to interview are both played by Sellers. As is the dim-witted pop star (Cyril Rumbold aka Twit Conway) that the Major appears to keep locked up in his house. Just the names of the equine stable of pop stars are a wonderful exercise in silliness from writers Ron Goodwin and Max Schreiner. Who can fail to want to hear the hits of acts revelling in names such as Lenny Bronze, Clint Thigh and Matt Lust, or not to watch the performances of such unlikely groups as The Fleshpots or The Muckrakers?
Other than Schreiner and Goodwin, Dennis Muir and Frank Norden handle much of the remaining writing duties, with the exception of the penultimate track We’ll Let You Know, which is written by Sellers himself. Here, Sellers plays both the forgetful old duffer of an actor single-handedly destroying Shakespeare’s reputation, as well as the disdainful wearied casting director more intent on gossiping in a muted whisper to his chums than listening to the act. The fact that the actor goes by the name ‘Warrington Minge’ should alone make this album an absolutely essential purchase for any lover of innuendo and comedy. Quite what contemporary audiences made of that ludicrous moniker back in the 1950s is anyone’s guess.
Art Carney “Music for Men Working” A Columbia Records EP (1955) Sidekick and neighbor Ed Norton to Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden on the Honeymooners. Seen here popping out of a manhole cover and singing “Song of the Sewer” (on the Honeymooner’s he worked in the sewers and called himself “an unground sanitation expert”). Carney died in 2002. He won a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in 1974’s “Harry and Tonto”. Here he is teaching Ralph to dance the “Hucklebuck”!
Jeff Chandler Sings TO YOU Liberty Records (1957) Chandler was an academy award-nominated supporting actor (playing an American Indian in Broken Arrow) who took a shot at singing. He died in 1961 at just 42 years old (tragically from malpractice in a botched back surgery). Oh, and Esther Williams said he was a cross-dresser.
“A Date With Doris Day” Columbia Records (Japan)
Jim Brown “Tells It Like It Is” Main Line Records Jim Brown Tells It Like It Is This album was produced and written by Jeff Baxter and includes Jim Brown Farewell Day Speech * Press Interview: How The Negro Industrial and Economic Union (N.I.E.U.) Works * Comments On Black Nationalism * Comments On Racial Violence * Jim Brown Interviewing New N.E.I.U. Member * Negro Pride And Heritage * Comments On Black Muslems *Comments on Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali)