Draft76

From CleanPosts

Jump to: navigation, search





CHAPTER 76

During the war there had been a strike by the unionized professional musicians, banning any form of recording, until a better royalty-shar- ing arrangement was conceded by the labels.

The most popular style of music going into the War was big-band swing, but the recording ban from 1942 to 1944 forced radio stations to fea- ture crooners who would sing over recycled jazz recordings. These crooners such as Frank Sinatra became the first pop idols, and the older purely instrumental swing style faded into the background.

Only when the recording strike was over did white audiences learn that swing, in the meantime, in the clubs, had given way to bebop jazz, which emphasized complicated chord progressions rather than melody, and at first they didn't like it, much as rap music took a long time catching on to white audience in the 1980s. Bebob or rebop was lumped with rhythm and blues and termed, as Ruth Bergin did, "race music".

In response half of the whites in America shifted their listening hab- its to "hillbilly" music, the progenitor of Country and Western, and the other half gravitated to folk music which celebrated the politics of the labor movement. Over the next ten years, bebop and hillbilly music would merge to become "rockabilly", then merge again with 1930's style blues to form the final, most stable genre of twentieth century popular music, rock 'n' roll.

Folk music would fall out of favor in the wake of the McCarthy hear- ings attempting to root all communist influence out of American cul- ture, only to emerge again in the late 1960s and early 1970s when solo singer-songwriters became prominent and there was an unpopular war to protest.

After magnetic tape technology was introduced following the War, there was no longer any need to record a performance in one take directly to a shellac master disk. Musicians with less skill, therefore, could still create acceptable recordings by making numerous attempts. The number of recordings grew far beyond the ability to catalog them, and record companies began to compete for radio air time.

Also the major radio networks, which first opposed the advent of tele- vision, found to their surprise that through a circuitous route tele- vision was profitable for them indeed. They began developing music- centric shows for the new technology.

Hunky-Dory's big break was on a television show called Sidney Buller Time, which featured amateur performers. Hunky-Dory was the first white bebop quartet. Their "gimmick" was essentially race music sung by a German-American singer to a beat delivered by a German-American drummer. Hunky-Dory's native American saxophonist and bassist were largely overlooked. It was quite a novelty in 1946, but there was much cross-fertilization of cultures after the war, and some dared hope for an end to racial inequality.

By the middle of the summer of 1946 Rebekah Redstar became something of a "roadie" ten years before such a thing became popular in the days of touring rock bands. Never without her clipboard, she became very good at directing work crews to set up Hunky's drum kit, Robyn's pia- no, the microphones, and the amplifiers. Her organizational skills applied to the band as well. It was Rebekah who set up their gigs, and scheduled their tours. Sometimes she even came on stage with har acoustic guitar and played with the band.

Working out of a garage they had decorated with empty egg cartons to control reverb and noise) Hunky-Dory played sensuous but ghettoized rhythm and blues race music mixed with the brainless fun of hillbilly music, the social conscience of folk, the swing of boogie woogie, and the sweaty energy of gospel revival music. Only the fact that Hunky- Dory's influence remained confined to a few widely-scattered cities the northwestern United States led music historians to attribute the creation of Rock 'n' Roll to Chuck Berry, or Elvis, or Little Richard, or even Bill Haley and the Comets.

Hunky-Dory songs were usually under two minutes long, written mostly by Dory using an AABA song structure, with Gabriel on saxophone for the solo B part. The band used no electric guitar in those early days, but Rebekah with har acoustic guitar was essentially a fifth member of Hunky-Dory. With Hunky keeping 4:4 time and Dory stitching the songs together harmonically on bass, Robyn kept the whole thing chugging along with high-flying chords on her piano, and she did all the sing- ing with her vampy, come-hither voice.

Their first album was titled Stampede and that title seemed to de- scribe the proceedings to a 'T'.

Whole Town's a Rollin' was the first song, and the best one. Hunky- Dory wanted to hook the listener and show them right up front what they were getting. And what they were getting was a lot of energy but not much in the way of sound fidelity. The tapes were recorded on a two track system but the second track was for overdubs, not a separate channel. So the resultant vinyl disk was monophonic, and a little noisy by later standards.

The second song was named for a girl they all knew named Erin, and it was a gentle ballad. It established a pattern that would be duplicated on all subsequent Hunky-Dory LPs. The second song on the band's plat- ters was always a down-tempo ballad, just for dancing cheek-to-cheek. The girl in question was Erin Spencer and she was a high school drop- out who found herself working at a B'nei Elohim safe house to keep body and soul together. Dory wrote this song of encouragement for her.

And what would an album be without a little filler? Hunky-Dory would always put what they felt was their weakest tracks third (That's Some Lovin) and sixth (Tumblin' an' a Boppin). But the songs were never actually bad, and there were always fans who appreciated them.

She's Everybody's Baby was the only track from the album that was re- leased as a single and the only song to garner radio play. This naugh- ty ditty about a girl with loose morals would have earned a quick ban in the South or on the East Coast, but the Wild Wild West was a little more open about such things. Besides, Robyn snarled some of the words to the song unintelligibly to deliberately mislead censors.

Opening side two is an updated cover of the Duke Ellington song they once played at a recital, It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing). Before Robyn became B'nei Elohim she would have never con- sented to perform this song. It inevitably reminded her of her father, who missed the original performance because he lay dead in a mine shaft at the time. But now Robyn herself had been through death. Her attitude towards many things was decidedly different.

The title track was a jam with no vocals named for Stampede Pass high in the Cascade Range where the band often went skiing. It started the second trend that would be faithfully executed on every Hunky-Dory record. The seventh track was always an instrumental, but never fill- er.

Goin' Skiin' started the third trend of Hunky-Dory albums: The last song always mysteriously foreshadowed the album that would follow in 1951. Every Hunky-Dory album would have the same pattern: Exactly eight songs, with the second one a ballad, the seventh one an instru- mental, and the last one a segue to the next album. Only the styles would change, sometimes wildly, and the band would consistently fore- shadow the changing tastes in pop music by several years, sometimes by an entire decade. But they would rarely get credit for that. And the members of the band didn't care. They were doing all of this for fun.

After the album was complete, they had far less difficulty distribut- ing the LP and the single, and getting radio play, than bands with less name recognition. Hunky-Dory was already modestly famous, but only locally, and their impact was regional, not yet national, and certainly not international.

Personal tools
Strangers In Paradise