The Haunting Guitar Sound of James Wilsey

It’s one of the great guitar intros of pop music: the haunting guitar on Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games. The man behind the unforgettable guitar sound is James Wilsey.

Check out his great album “El Dorado”, that is packed with wonderful instrumentals. James Wilsey tastefully combines acoustic guitar shades from the nineteen-fifties and sixties. You can hear influences from surf guitars, guitars from Italian western soundtracks, a little bit of Billy Strange, Duane Eddy, the Shadows and t. But still Wilsey manages to create his own sound and style.

GDR Beat Revolution

Amiga Cocktail, 1964 Berlin Friedrichstadtpalast

 In the nineteen-sixties the GDR regime tried in vain to keep the East Germans away from western “beat” music. The Berlin Wall separated Germany, families, friends and lovers – but the so called “anti-fashist wall of protection” (“antifaschistischer Schutzwall”) couldn’t prevent that teenagers and young adults in the GDR listened to “decadent” popular music from the west. Many musicians in the GDR started playing rock music, or how it was called back then “beat” music.

In November 1964, when the Berlin Wall was just three years old, the show “Amiga Cocktail” took place at the “Friedrichstadtpalast” in Berlin. “Amiga” was a state owned record company. The show was broadcast live on television and radio. There were many young people in the audience.

Besides stars who appealed to an older audience, also “beat” bands from the GDR such as the Sputnicks, the Amigos and the Franke Echo Quintett were scheduled. When the Franke Echo Quintett performed, the crowd went wild. It wanted more of the instrumentals in the style of The Ventures, Duane Eddy and The Shadows. The audience wouldn’t let the Franke Echo Quintett go, it applauded frenetically.

The host, a small and portly guy, is visibly annoyed. He tries in vain to stop the cheering. The enthusiasm in the hall swells even more, and the scenery gets a revolutionary touch. Unerringly the host announces the singer Vanna Olivieri. She enters the stage smiling and as soon as she opens her mouth the audience starts booing. Without batting an eye she keeps on singing in front of the booing audience.

Note

This article is based on a partial broadcast of “Amiga Cocktail” as part of a nostalgia show on MDR television (Germany) in late summer 2008. The host of “Amiga Cocktail” probably was the actor Heinz Quermann. The Franke Echo Quintett is still performing under the name Echo Franke Berlin.

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DDR Beat Revolution

Amiga Cocktail, 1964 Berlin Friedrichstadtpalast
Amiga Cocktail, 1964 Berlin Friedrichstadtpalast. Quelle: http://www.franke-echo.de

Das DDR-Regime versuchte mit der Berliner Mauer vergeblich, die DDR-Bevölkerung von der westlichen «Beat»-Musik fernzuhalten. Zwar trennte sie Deutschland, Familien, Freunde und Verliebte. Aber der angebliche «antifaschistische Schutzwall» schaffte es nicht, der ungestümen Kraft der US-amerikanische geprägten Musik standzuhalten.

Im November 1964, die Berliner Mauer  war gerade drei Jahre alt geworden, fand im Berliner Friedrichstadtpalast der «Amiga Cocktail» statt, eine Musik-Revue der staatlichen Plattenfirma Amiga. Die Revue wurde live im Fernsehen und Radio übertragen. Im Publikum waren viele Jugendliche und junge Erwachsene.

Neben Schlagerstars treten auch «Beat»-Bands aus der DDR wie die Sputnicks, die Amigos und das Franke Echo Quintett auf.  Beim Auftritt des Franke Echo Quintetts erreicht die Stimmung im Saal ihren Höhepunkt. Die instrumentalen «Beat»-Stücke im Stil von The Ventures, Duane Eddy und The Shadows reissen das Publikum mit –  es will die Band nicht mehr von der Bühne lassen und fordert sie mit endlosem Applaus zurück. Der behäbige Moderator, der in seiner Nachkriegs-Beleibtheit an Heinz Erhardt erinnert, versucht verägert, den Applaus und das Gejohle zu unterbrechen. Vergeblich. Die Begeisterung schwillt noch mehr an, es schwebt ein Hauch von lebensfreudiger Revolution durch den Saal. Unbeirrt kündigt der Moderator die Schlagersängerin Vanna Olivieri an. Sie betritt lächelnd die Bühne und wird – kaum öffnet sie den Mund – ausgebuht. Stoisch, übertönt von einem ununterbrochener Buhruf-Teppich, singt sie ihr Lied.

Heute ist es schwer zu verstehen, was für eine Begeisterung die «Beat»-Musik auslösen konnte. Und zwar weltweit, nicht nur in der isolierten DDR. Die heutige Pop-Musik ist endgültig domestiziert, und auch ehemals rebellische Stile wie der Punk lösen keine Irritationen geschweige denn irgendwelche Tumulte aus. aus

Anmerkungen:

Dieser Artikel stützt sich auf eine Aufzeichnung des «Amiga Cocktail», die im Spätsommer 2008 im MDR in einer Nostalgiesendung gezeigt wurde, deren Namen mir leider entfallen ist. Beim Moderator des «Amigo Cocktail» könnte es sich um Heinz Quermann handeln.  Das Franke Echo Quintett ist übrigens immer noch aktiv unter dem Namen Franke Echo Berlin.

Weiterführender Link: Der «Leipziger Beataufstand» im Oktober 1965

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood: The Forgotten CD

Nancy Sinatra, Billy Strange, Lee Hazlewood
Nancy Sinatra, Billy Strange, Lee Hazlewood

In 2004 Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood (1929–2007) released the great CD “Nancy & Lee 3”. Only problem was, nobody noticed it. It seems, that everything was done not to promote it. It was only released in Australia, there was no international distribution. The cover art work is amateurish, but the music is excellent. At Amazon you have to pay at least $47 to get a copy (a while ago it even cost $99). Not bad for a four year old CD.

CD Cover “Nancy & Lee 3″“Nancy & Lee 3” was recorded in Nashville. It was co-produced and arranged by Billy Strange. He has worked a lot together with Sinatra and Hazlewood in the sixties and seventies. His arrangements made songs like “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”, “Some Velvet Morning” and “Summer Wine” unforgettable. And you can hear Billy Strange’s guitar on Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).

Of the thirteen songs on “Nancy & Lee 3”, twelve are Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood duets, one song is a Nancy Sinatra solo. Most of the songs are carefully chosen old and new covers, only a few songs are written by Lee Hazlewood.

“Goin’ Down Rockin’” is a Tony Joe White song, “Texas Blue Moon” was written by Texan singer/songwriter Shelley King, “Don’t Let Go” is a Rhythm and Blues classics by Jesse Stone (who also wrote “Shake Rattle and Roll” and “Flip Flop and Fly” for Big Joe Turner). And there’s a nice version of “Save The Last Dance For Me”.

Neatly interwoven into these covers are songs that Lee wrote, like “Strangers, Lovers, Friends”, “Loving You Loving Me”, and “Gypsies And Indians”. The tongue-in-cheek “Is Makin’ A Little Love Out Of The Question” – a song written by Lee Hazlewood and his old friend Tommy Parsons – shows very well the Sinatra-Hazlewood magic, you can feel how they enjoy singing with each other. Another highlight is “She Won’t”, co-written by Duane Eddy. He plays his famous “twanging” guitar on it. Duane Eddy and Lee Hazlewood have known each other since 1954. Lee produced Duane, wrote for him and helped him launch his career.

Together with the albums “Nancy & Lee” (1968) and “Nancy & Lee – Again” (1971) “Nancy & Lee 3” forms a trilogy of timeless music by two great singers. Their music is a wonderful hybrid of Pop, Country, Folk, Novelty, Rhythm And Blues, and Rock. It’s hard to categorize – it’s unique.

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