Weihnachtssongs, die fast nicht nerven

Eels sind überzeugt: Weihnachten geht vor die Hunde. Clarence Carter singt vom Weihnachtsmann, der die kleinen Mädchen in den frühen Morgenstunden glücklich macht, während die Knaben draussen spielen.

Otis Reddings Version des Weihnachtsklassiker “White Christmas” ist unübertroffen: Zerrissen, verzweifelt und sehnsüchtig träumt er von einem weissen Fest. Poly Styrene zerschmettert, von einem Reggae- Rhythmus unterlegt, die weihnachtliche Idylle. Ella Fitzgerald hingegen lädt zur unbeschwerten Schlittenfahrt. Und Neil Diamond zitiert sein eigenes Repertoire.

Die Spotify-Liste ist eine eigenwillige, aber nicht zufällige Mischung aus Soullegenden, Rockgiganten, Jazz, Elvis und Indiebands.

Fröhliche Weihnachten. Oder wie die Ramones sagen würden: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).

Guitar-Legend and Master-Arranger Billy Strange Celebrates 80th Birthday

Nancy Sinatra, Billy Strange (middle) and Lee Hazlewood in 2003.

Today Billy Strange celebrates his 80th birthday in Nashville, TN. Here’s a video interview with Billy Strange I did. He talks about working with The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Phil Spector and Nancy Sinatra.

Billy Strange helped the Beach Boys, Elvis, Frank and Nancy Sinatra and many others to make hits.

He was a number one studio guitarist in the music studios of Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s. You can hear his guitar on songs like “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, “Sloop John B.” and countless other Beach Boys and surf songs. He’s also famous for playing the haunting guitar on “Bang Bang”, the song that was used by Quentin Tarantino in “Kill Bill”. His arranging skills made songs like “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”, “Some Velvet Morning” and “Something Stupid” immortal.

Brain Wilson: A Creative Mind At Work

The Behind The Sounds series on YouTube presents informative clips that illustrate the creative process behind the recording of Beach Boys songs. By editing together audio of the session, pictures and text it gives you an idea about how Brian Wilson worked together with the studio musicians and the Beach Boys.

Great American Drummer Earl Palmer Has Died

His legacy is immense: he shaped American popular music with his drumming from the late nineteen-forties until the nineteen-eighties. Earl Palmer, born October 25, 1924, in New Orleans died on September 19th at his home in Banning California. He had to undergo a lung surgery about a year ago and was suffering since then.

Earl Palmer was a jazz drummer at heart, but his tasteful and incredibly diverse drumming felt at home in every style of music: rhythm ‘n’ blues, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, rock, soul, funk, film scores, cartoon music, or easy listening. He can be heard on dozens of historic songs and film soundtracks.

In then nineteen-fifties his drums made teenagers dance all over the world. He played on defining rock ‘n’ roll songs like I’m Walkin (Fats Domino) , Tutti Frutti, The Girl Can’t Help It, Long Tall Sally (Little Richard) , La Bamba ( Ritchie Valens) or Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran). He recorded for soul star Sam Cooke (Cupid, Twistin’ The Night Away), for Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Herb Alpert, Glen Campbell, Mel Tormé, Lou Rawls, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, The Byrds, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Randy Newman, Barbara Streisand and many others.

And then there are the film soundtracks: He worked with great composers like Quincy Jones, Elmer Bernstein, John Barry, Neal Hefti and Maurice Jarre. He supplied the rhythm to movies like Judgment At Nuremberg, Baby The Rain Must Fall, In The Heat Of The Night, Bullitt and he played on many television scores: 77 Sunset Strip, Peyton Place, The Partridge Family, M.A.S.H. and many others.

Earl Palmer was a tap dancer when he was a child and later picked up the drums. Soon he played with many local bands in New Orleans. After World War II he used the GI schooling for entering the Grunewald’s School of Music in New Orleans. He studied music theory, sight reading and arranging. So when he moved to Los Angeles in 1957, he not only brought with him the New Orleans “swamp beat”, but also a strong theoretical background that served him well in becoming the number one studio drummer of the Los Angeles music studios.

Drummerworld presents interesting information about his drumming including video samples. There’s also a very good biography called Backbeat: Earl Palmer’s Story that came out in 1999.

The Link Between Glenn Miller And Brian Wilson

Paul Tanner
photo: RS Theremin Homepage
Paul Tanner: trombonist, professor and inventor of the Electro Theremin

The link between Glenn Miller and “Beach Boy” Brian Wilson is trombonist Paul Tanner who played in Glenn Miller’s big band in the nineteen-thirties and forties.

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In 1966 Paul Tanner (born 1917) played on Brian Wilson’s milestone composition “Good Vibration”. But he didn’t play trombone, he played an electronic device called “The Box” (also called “Electro-Theremin”) that sounds like a Theremin. You can hear it on “Good Vibrations” about 25 seconds after the beginning at the start of the first chorus (”I’m picking up Good Vibrations …”). If the sound should remind you of classic science fiction and suspense movies your feeling is right. The sound of the Theremin was very popular on film soundtracks in the fifties and sixties. Its eerie and longing sound is ideal for these genres.

The Theremin is an electronic instrument that is played without being touched. The player has to move his hands in front of it to master the pitch and to control the volume. In 1919 the Theremin was invented by Leon (Lev) Sergeyevich Termen (1896 – 1993) in the USSR. Termen lived in the USA from 1927 until 1938. His life story is more exciting then a suspense movie. Some sources say, that he was a soviet spy. Why he left the USA in 1938 is unclear. Some say, he was kidnapped, others claim he was in financial trouble or homesick. After his return to the USSR he became a political prisoner for a while. On this amateur video (from Paul Lansky’s page) you can see a demonstration of the Theremin by Leon Termen himself. The Giant Gila Monster

Back to trombonist and inventor of “The Box” Paul Tanner. When the big band area came to a halt he started working as trombone studio musician in Los Angeles. During one recording session with a Theremin player, Tanner noticed that the Theremin was hard to play. So he developed together with Robert Whitsell “The Box” which was easier to play than a Theremin. From then on he was often hired whenever the Theremin sound was required.

You can here Paul Tanner playing his “Box” on the TV shows “The D.A.’s Man” and “My Favorite Martian”, and on the movies “The Giant Gila Monster” and “Strait-Jacket”. Listen to a piece of soundtrack from The Giant Gila Monster (WAV format from Badmovies).

Music for Heavenly BodiesTanner recorded an LP with his “Box” called “Heavenly Bodies” in 1958. Listen to Somewhere (Real Media format – taken from www.electrotheremin.com). Paul Tanner is not only famous for his trombone playing and “The Box”, but he was also a professor at UCLA, wrote many educational books about jazz and a biography (”Sideman”) about Glenn Miller.

For more information about Paul Tanner please go to Electro-Theremin, RS Theremin Homepage and Space Age Pop.

More information about Lev Termen’s unbelieveable life story: 120 Years of Electronic Music and Thereminvox.

Theremin on YouTube: A BBC TV report and Theremin live TV performance from 1953.

Lost & Sound writes about Theremin’s grand-niece Lydia Kavina, a Theremin virtuoso: Theremin Artist Lydia Kavina

The Birth Of A Beach Boys Song: Brian Wilson And Studio Musicians At Work

This lovely video re-creates the making of the Beach Boys song Salt Lake City. It gives a rare insight into the way Brain Wilson used to produce songs together with the great Los Angeles studio musicians in the sixties. Some of the best play on this song: Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Plas Johnson, Howard Roberts and many more. Here’s a bit for trivia lovers: guitarist Billy Strange for once plays the tambourine.

Ukulele on ‘Help Me, Rhonda’

UkuleleUkuleles usually don’t make it onto hit records. They don’t have a cool image and stand in the shadow of the guitars. But one ukulele was lucky and made it onto “Help Me, Rhonda” by the Beach Boys in 1965. It’s barely audible, but it is around.

If you get tired of listening to the song again and again while trying to hear the ukulele, you can go to Ukuleledisco and watch dozens of ukulele videos. There you can enjoy the sound of ukuleles without straining your ears.