Thursday, November 29, 2007

Inca Dinca Doo?

I spotted an interesting side in Lee Hartsfeld's Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else blog ( ) the other day, the 1934 Decca of Louis Katzman's Orchestra playing Valderamma's Inca Step. It's a fine early example of exotica, recorded over fifteen years before Yma Sumac's Voice of the Xtabay album...and it's one of those pieces that quickly creates an "ear-worm." You'll carry it with you forever (at least it's not some awful disco record of the 1970s, right?).'s another version of the same piece! It's a completely different arrangement, however. It's from that stash of 1929-31 Brunswick Radio discs I had the privilege of transferring recently. Although the orchestra isn't credited, it's probably Katzman again (his name showed up on another disc or two in the same stash). The announcer is Norman Brokenshire.

XE-35709 Forget-Me-Not, show Y, part 3 (excerpt) Inca Step Brunswick Radio Orchestra (probably Louis Katzman) (early December 1930) radio show, unissued

Oh...the picture was shot at a friend's house a year or so ago. Nice Edison phonograph in the background, isn't it? I was actually doing a few steps to a bizarre 1910s ethnic Columbia 78...I may get around to posting that one too. I still have to get around to posting those silly line-dance records I mentioned here a couple of months ago.

Thanks to the generosity of Lee Hartsfeld, here's the Decca version!

38362 Inca Step Louis Katzman's Orchestra
Decca 462
NYC 21 August 1934: Louis Katzman Orch.
Lee says there's an Inca Tango (by Katzman's Castillians Orchestra) as well...I'll try to get it and post it. It's another Valderamma piece...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


As promised in the last posting on Hitchcock-related records, here are three (count 'em, three!) completely different records, all called Psycho.

Of course, not one of them has anything at all to do with the Hitchcock movie...but the term "psycho" became such a common figure of speech that it was only a matter of time before a song or two would show up with that word as a title. As it turns out, there were three (and I'm not counting songs like Psycho Killer or Psychotic Reaction)..

The first Psycho is by Bobby Hendricks, who had a big hit in 1958 with Itchy Twitchy Feeling (he's also on The Drifters' side Drip Drop). Here Hendricks is being psychoanalyzed by WWRL (New York) disc jockey Dr. Jive (Tommy Smalls). This 1960 single hit the market when the movie was new in theatres, and made it to #73 on the charts. It's definitely one of the oddest Top 100 cuts ever...and one must wonder whether Hendricks's demented babbling might have been an influence on Shirley Ellis, who had a monster hit with The Name Game in 1964.

Psycho Bobby Hendricks Sue 732

The second Psycho is a cute novelty record by Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns. Smith had a number of good-selling records from 1956 to 1959 for the Ace label (Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, Don't You Just Know It, Don't You Know Yockomo, etc.), but Smith got ticked off by Ace owner Johnny Vincent's tampering with their recording of Sea Cruise (the original vocal was wiped off and Frankie Ford's was spliced in), so he left Ace and went to Imperial, where fellow New Orleanians Fats Domino and Smiley Lewis were doing pretty well. And Imperial was also distributing Minit records, where Allen Toussaint-produced records by Jessie Hill and Ernie K-Doe were also selling quite well too.

All should have been rosy for Smith, but it wasn't to be. Imperial had their money behind Domino and Ricky Nelson, and these delightfully catchy, but fairly lightweight records didn't sell at all. They were great sides, indeed, but a fatter, funkier sound was beginning to come out of the Crescent City and these sides sank without a trace.

Smith's 1961 Psycho, with Gerri Hall's bubbly vocal and humorous lyrics, actually remained unissued for quite a few years...I have it on a mid-1980s Pathe Marconi/EMI LP.

Psycho Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns Imperial unissued (EMI LP)

The first two records were amusing.

The next one is scary.

Leon Payne, San Antonio songwriter (They'll Never Take Her Love From Me and Lost Highway among others) wrote Psycho between 1966 and 1968...I've heard that it was inspired by Charles Whitman's sniping attack at the University of Texas in 1966, but I've also heard that he wrote it after watching Psycho in 1968 (actually, he had to have someone describe certain scenes for him. He was blind). In any case, his version, if there ever was one, seems to remain unissued. Maybe there's a demo tape out there.

Eddie Noack apparently was the first to record the song in 1968, for the K-ARK label. And the song's been covered by Jack Kittel, Elvis Costello, and several others. I think this is the most chilling version.

Psycho Eddie Noack K-ARK 45 (unknown number, got as a download) the final scenes of the Hitchcock movie, didja ever notice how Norman's mother's mummified face is superimposed over his own as the camera dissolves to the car being pulled out of the pond? It's so subtle...almost unnoticeable...unless you're looking for it.

That'll do it for now. I think I'll take a shower bath.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Exploiting Hitchcock, from a record-collector's perspective

A couple of months back I promised a posting on music associated with the films of Alfred Hitchcock...and almost forgot about it. I'm finally getting around to it...

A few years ago I watched a terrific documentary on Bernard Herrmann, one of my musical heroes. Two scenes really struck me. The first was about the early scenes of Psycho, before Janet Leigh stops at the Bates Motel...someone suggested turning the sound off for a minute during the scenes in which she's driving, especially during the rainstorm. They're well shot, of course, but nothing's really happening. Then watch those scenes with the sound's Herrman's music that keeps you on edge...

Of course, the shower scene has been discussed so many times that I'm not going to bother. It's probably the most-recognized musical cue from the movies.

The other scene in the documentary dealt with Torn Curtain...a movie that's not all that bad, even though it's certainly not top-drawer Hitch. In the movie, there's a particularly brutal killing scene. The scene is run through twice, the way it exists now (with no music)...and then with the music that Herrman wrote. The latter was far more effective.

Yet, Hitch decided to scrap Herrmann's music and go with a score by John Addison. Why? That's anybody's guess, although it appears that someone wanted there to be a hit pop record from a Hitchcock movie, or at least some lighter-sounding music, and Herrmann wouldn't (or couldn't) comply.

And that's where this blog comes in...I'm going to show how the record companies tried to exploit Hitchcock films. Of course, there are several albums of Hitchcock soundtracks available now...but almost all of them came out long after the movie did. And there were a couple of LPs that Hitchcock himself was involved in...namely the Alfred Hitchcock's Music To Be Murdered By LP on Imperial by the Jeff Alexander Orchestra and his Ghost Stories for Young People LP, but that's not what I'm concerned with in this blog (but you can see/download them here ) I'm going to play selections that have been overlooked by most of the experts...records that were issued at the same time as the movie that inspired them.

I'm going to start with Spellbound, from 1945. There actually was a soundtrack album issued on 78s (ARA pressed it...and poorly, I might seems the records all came out slightly off-center), but here I'm more concerned with the popular market of the day. There was a big-selling 12" Victor called Spellbound by the Al Goodman adaptation of the Miklos Rosza score.

Spellbound Al Goodman Orch., Irving Prager, violin Victor 28-0404

The next time a record connected to a Hitchcock movie shows up is for 1955's The Trouble With Harry...which was the first movie with Shirley MacLaine, featuring Herrmann's first score for Hitchcock. And six-year-old Jerry Mathers discovers the body of Harry. Yes, Harry's trouble is the fact that he is dead...and his body keeps getting buried, exhumed, and finally stuck in a bathtub. The movie's a dark comedy, obviously.

There was a cute novelty record that's labeled as being "inspired" by The Trouble With Harry. Here, Harry's a pianist who's stuck in a rut and seems incapable of playing anything other than a catchy little riff...that is Harry's trouble. He's not dead here...and there's absolutely none of Herrmann's lovely score here either.

Oh...does the voice sound familiar? Imagine it yelling at a singing rodent named Alvin.'s David Seville, alias Ross Bagdasarian.

The Trouble With Harry Alfi and Harry (Ross Bagdasarian and Friends, 1956) Liberty 50008
This was a fairly big seller, peaking at #44 in the States and #15 in the UK.

It was big enough to inspire two cover versions...this one by the Les Elgart Orchestra...

The Trouble With Harry Les Elgart Orchestra (1956) Columbia 40617

...and this one by Poppa John Gordy, buried in an RCA Victor Extended Play 45.

The Trouble With Harry Poppa John Gordy and his Piano (1956) RCA Victor EPA 719

Hmmm....three different versions of a ditty that really has nothing at all to do with the Hitchcock movie...but all three plugging the film that "inspired" them.

The next Hitchcock movie, his 1956 remake of The Man That Knew Too Much actually did have a hit single...Doris Day's record of Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera) hit #2 on the US charts. The Jay Livingston/Ray Evans song has become her theme song, at least for her 1968-73 CBS television show. And the song was indeed in the movie...actually, it's an important element of the plot.

The record is so well known, in fact, that I'm going to skip playing it...instead. I recommend that you see the's very exciting and entertaining...and you actually see Herrmann conducting during the climactic Albert Hall scene. You might want to compare it with the Hitch's 1934 version...that one is just as entertaining, and it's a helluva lot shorter. And Peter Lorre is a memorable villain. They're both great movies.

The Herrmann score for 1958's Vertigo was actually issued then on a Mercury LP at the that didn't sell all that well at the time. It has been reissued several times since...I have it on CD, but I'm covering pop singles here.

Bypassing 1959's North By Northwest, which has another terrific Herrmann score, but didn't generate any kind of vinyl at the time, we come to 1960's Psycho. That movie didn't generate any vinyl either, at least not intentionally (I'm imagining a Bates Motel Twist...shudder). However, the term "psycho" became part of the vernacular...and there are three very different records that have that word as their title. I'll post those next time around.

1963 was the year of The Birds, which had no real score, just bird sounds (electronically manipulated by Herrmann). There was also a strange little 45, again "inspired" by the Hitchcock movie...a surf instrumental and a bossa-nova blues, both written by Decca staff men Bud Dant and Sonny Burke. Needless to say, this record never made a ripple on the charts.

Blues For The Birds The Surf Riders Decca 31477
The Birds The Surf Riders Decca 31477

Finally, we reach 1964, and Marnie. There was a rather pleasant song by Nat King Cole released then. This one's unusual, because it's probably the only time anybody tried to make a hummable pop tune out of a Herrmann melody, one that was indeed in the movie, but not sung. It's too bad that this attractive side never charted, and never showed up on any album until the compilations of the 1980s were issued.

45-AA52146 Marnie Nat King Cole (1964) Capitol 5219
1964: Nat King Cole, vocal; Ralph Carmichael Orchestra.

The next movie was Torn Curtain, but I've already covered that....

...and that's the final reel.

Next time around I'll dig out those Psycho records. Save an aisle seat for me...I heard there's dim sum in the lobby.

Monday, November 05, 2007

For my friends at the Havana Cafe

Finally, North Addleberry has something different, restaurant-wise...Havana Cafe. It's run by a couple of very nice folks...this posting is for them.

This version of Mama Inez is fairly straightforward...from the late 1920s, by the Sexteto Habañero...this is the version that's on a CD I burned for them the other day.
Mama Inez Sexteto Habañero (Victor 81272)

I just got a flash from Steven Abrams, who supplied me with the recording date (28 May 1928) and the original Victor release number. Thanks, Steve!

And here's the really strange version of the same copy is titled Oh, Mama! It starts out as a straight rumba, but the soloists start to clown a bit...there's some bizarre laughter...and it ends up with some fairly hot jazz.
Oh, Mama! Havana Novelty Orch Victor 22597
NYC, 19 December 1930: Nat Shilkret, conductor; featuring (among others) Mike Mosiello, Bob Effros, trumpet; Andy Sannella, alto sax, clarinet & steel guitar. Who did the crazy laughter? I've heard it's Bob Effros.
Apparently this record was also released with the (correct) title Mama Inez as well...that seems to be the more common issue.

Here are a couple of other sides, also recorded in Cuba, and issued in the American Victor International Series just after WWII. Unfortunately, I have no info on these sides, but they're good.

Flash! I just found this website: and it supplied me with the recording dates, anyway. (5 March 2008)

Muero Por Ti Septeto Habañero Victor 23-0831
3 March 1948: It looks like the Sexteto added a seventh member...

Dos Gardenias (vocal by Alberto Ruiz) Conjunto Kubavana Victor 23-0821
12 February 1948: vocal by Alberto Ruiz...gee...sounds like Jalousie to me.

Hmmmm....I just realized that I don't have any pictures this time around. I think I can remedy that sitchy-ashun....

Here's another pic from our recent NYC excursion...I brought a few 45s to play before the party that night (notice the Jazztime USA EP set in my lap). The Gorshin record is rather weird...and it has a terrific picture sleeve. It's a rare one, too.

That'll do it for now. Time for some flan.