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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Childhood memories: magical songs

     There's no accounting for what will spark seriously magical childhood memories. For instance, for me, it's such stuff as

The Murmaids - Popsicles and Icicles, 1963
     This modest recording from 1963 is a serious sparker in my imagination. I do believe that I heard it often on the tinny radio on the school bus. School, back then, was Villa Park Elementary*, which still stands, and it was old then! (We immigrated in late 1960, and neither Annie nor I were up on the English language at the time. Not sure about Annie, but for me this tended to exaggerate my timid/loner tendencies—or so I suspect. Annie was always the gregarious sort.)

Horst Jankowski "A Walk In The Black Forest," 1965
     Here’s another sparker, this one from 1965. A real toe-tapper. I seemed to be into instrumentals. This one’s by some ivory tickler in Germany. Go figure.

Washington Square - The Village Stompers - 1963
     Yet another instrumental. Always loved this kind of so-called “Dixieland” jazz**, at least when I was a kid. I recall hearing this one on the radio in the car with Ma. Seriously magical.

Villa Park Grammar School, 1925
Sukiyaki - Kyu Sakamoto, 1961 
Actual name: "Ue o Muite Arukō" (上を向いて歩こう?, "[I] Will Walk Looking Up")
     It says a lot about our culture—at least the culture of 1961—that this song was given the name “Sukiyaki” in Anglo countries. Ridiculous. I recall in particular listening to this song on the radio while we (the family) were stuck in traffic in the Santa Ana Canyon—about where Weir Canyon is today. The road was a mere two-lane highway then, and there were still some old farm/ranch homes to be seen against the canyon wall. I recall always looking up at the hills to the south (east?), which loomed amazingly—still do, if you catch it in the right dusky light. I wanted badly to be way up there in those hills, where I imagined western scenes of ranching and farming, old pickups, etc.

The Doors - Light My Fire, 1967
     I include this one only because I have such vivid memories of listening to it as a kid. I associate this song with the one year I went to summer school (down on Taft street), owing to boredom. Still pretty magical for me. I think this song sounded special to people then. It did to me.

Stranger On The Shore - Acker Bilk, 1962
     Seriously magical, for me. Yet another instrumental. First released in Britain in 1961.

Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen - "Midnight in Moscow", 1962
     It was released in ’61 but became a big hit in the U.S. in early ’62. Love it. Yet another “Dixieland” Jazz number. I seem to love the stuff.

Louis Armstrong - Hello, Dolly!, 1964
     Quickly recorded in 1963, it became a big hit in ’64 after the musical became a hit, though Armstrong couldn’t remember doing it and evidently hated it. (His manager pressured him to do this kind of "shit.") All that matters to me is the terrific instrumental break, which starts at exactly one minute into the song. Love it.

Mr. Soul - Buffalo Springfield, 1967 
     I recall that I would catch bits of this song “in the air” during Junior High (7th grade). It seemed very dark and underground to me at the time. I liked and wanted this song, but took no steps to "get" it until years later. (I was a sheltered and diffident kid.)


     *Re Villa Park Elementary: Old Building Could Be History (LA Times, 1998). Also: Villa Park Elementary School: class of 1901;
     **Re “Dixieland” jazz. From Wikipedia:

Kyu Sakamoto
        …There was a revival of Dixieland [i.e., early, New Orleans-style Jazz] in the late 1940s and 1950s, which brought many semi-retired musicians a measure of fame late in their lives as well as bringing retired musicians back onto the jazz circuit after years of not playing (e.g. Kid Ory). Many Dixieland groups of the revival era consciously imitated the recordings and bands of decades earlier. Other musicians continued to create innovative performances and new tunes....While the term Dixieland is still in wide use, the term's appropriateness is a hotly debated topic in some circles. For some it is the preferred label (especially bands on the USA's West coast and those influenced by the 1940s revival bands), while others would rather use terms like Classic Jazz or Traditional Jazz. Some of the latter consider Dixieland a derogatory term implying superficial hokum played without passion or deep understanding of the music and because "Dixie" is a reference to pre Civil War Southern States. Dixieland is often today applied to white bands playing in a traditional style. White bands such as those of Eddie Condon and Muggsy Spanier were tagged with the Dixieland label. 

     It would appear that the “Dixieland” songs that I loved as a kid (aside from Armstrong’s) fit into the latter category and perhaps into the "superficial" category as well.
The school district doesn't want to pay for a safety retrofit. Some citizens have fought the building's destruction.

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