Thursday, July 04, 2013

Gimmicks and Sounds Are Soooooo 1922

So it's 1952 and you're bemoaning the current state of popular music recordings, if not recordings themselves. You cannot stand the music industry's thirst for trendy studio gimmickry, non-musical sounds, and bizarre instrumentation. Well, Dave Dexter Jr. wants to drop some history on you. In a Billboard article entitled "Have Gimmicks Replaced Music? 'Sounds' Made Hits for 25 Years," he reminds mourners that gimmicks and "sounds" stretch back at least as far as the early 1920s and then provides a de facto playlist proving his point. 

So voila - a mini-seminar on sonic gewgaws of the 78rpm era.

"The Okeh Laughing Record" 1922:

Johnnie Ray hit big in 1952 with "Cry." Deaf, gay, Methody, punk-as-fuck in retrospect, he himself was a gimmick. Dexter pegs Gene Austin and his "extreme" falsetto as Ray's progenitor. Pretty weak connection but here he is floating through "My Blue Heaven."

Hot harpsichord? Artie Shaw used it:

You can hear Gray Gordon and his trademark tic-toc rhythm (along with other sounds) on this 1939 date:

Shep Fields used a coke straw and a fish bowl for his Rippling Rhythm sides:

Duke Ellington emulated a train on "Daybreak Express:

Sidney Bechet led a one-man band for a brief moment in 1941:

Satchmo trafficked in non-musical gimmicks in "Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train":

Ditto in "Laughin' Louie":

Glen Miller anticipated the rhythm gimmick of then-contemporaneous smash "Blacksmith Blues" with "The Anvil Chorus":

And there were gimmick tunes aplenty. Here's "The Music Goes 'Round":

Not sure what's so gimmicky about "Oh, Johnny" but here's The Andrews Sisters scatting away at it:

And here's a little masterpiece called "The Hut Sut Song" accompanied by an appropriately insane Soundie (that word!):
Above is "Knock, Knock, Who's There?" from Fletcher Henderson's ork.

And finally some "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" from The Andrews Sisters again:

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