You never know who you’re going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter’s not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By – or, better, that TGB needed his column – which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
This is an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. These aren’t the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they’re just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.
What happened in 1953?
- Well, I was in third grade
- Jonas Salk released a polio vaccine
- Ian Fleming published his first James Bond book (Casino Royale)
- Elizabeth Windsor was coronated
- Hugh Hefner published the first edition of Playboy
- Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize
- Australia won the Davis Cup (again)
- Hank Williams died
LES PAUL pretty much invented the electric guitar as we know it. He also invented multi-track recording techniques, back in the day of two-track recorders so that was even more impressive.
He was one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived (or at least recorded) and with his wife Mary Ford had a bunch of hits in the Fifties.
As you can see Les had many strings to his bow, although he didn’t use one of those. I imagine he could have, as Jimmy Page did when he played his Les Paul guitar when he was trying to be pretentious. Okay, that’s something Les never had to do, be pretentious.
Back to Les and Mary as I wandered off the track there for a bit, and probably my favorite song of theirs, Vaya Con Dios, even if the song’s sentiments are an anathema to me.
There are few more interesting entertainers than EARTHA KITT.
As is evident from this track, Eartha spoke French fluently. She was also proficient in several other languages.
When she was young, she attracted the attention of a French entrepreneur who took her to Paris to perform. She was a great success.
Years later when she was invited to a lunch with the first lady (that one was Lady Bird Johnson), Lady Bird made the mistake of asking Eartha her opinion on the war then raging in Vietnam. Eartha assumed she was serious and that this wasn’t some fluff piece lunch, so told her what she thought of it in no uncertain terms.
The Johnsons, vindictive to the core, ensured she’d never play in their country again (at least until Jimmy Carter invited her back) so Eartha spent lots of years again performing in Europe and particularly France.
There’s a lot more to her life that deserves mentioning but there’s not enough space. This is C’est Si Bon.
I always thought that Sonny Til and the Orioles were the first to record Crying in the Chapel. What a sausage I am. That claim goes to DARRELL GLENN.
Darrell’s dad, Artie Glenn, wrote the song and Darrell recorded it while still in school. This version made it big on the charts. Sonny and the boys recorded their version that same year and it also went gangbusters. Since then, everyone’s recorded this song from Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis on down.
Artie and his band, the Rhythm Riders, provided the backing for Darrell on his record. The record company didn’t think Darrell was talented enough or old enough to support so they they did nothing to promote the song. In spite of this it became a huge hit.
Here’s Darrell with Crying in the Chapel.
I’ve always liked the insouciance of DEAN MARTIN. He made it look easy as if he’s not really trying. You know, or at least I do, that there’s a vast amount of work going on in the background.
I get the impression that Mozart was the same; I imagine that he could whip up a piano concerto or a symphony at the drop of a powdered wig. He almost certainly could. However, checking his papers and diaries you can see the amount of work that went into his outward display of nonchalance.
One of my long-time work mates had the surname of Amore. I hope he doesn’t mind my referencing him here. He said that when this song came out it made his life at school hell.
I’m sorry about that but the song must be included. Here’s Dean with That’s Amore.
NAT KING COLE again.
It sounds as if I’m tired of him but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that Nat has turned up so often in my columns that finding something else to write about him has become difficult, so I’ve given up. Here’s Nat with Pretend.
PATTI PAGE is someone else I’ve featured quite a bit over the years.
As with Nat, I’m scratching my head about what to say as I don’t want to recycle stuff I’ve said before. Of course, that may be preferable to my waffling on about how I have nothing new to say.
Clara Fowler, for that’s what her folks knew her as, began recording in 1947 and hasn’t stopped. She had hit after hit in the Fifties and most of them are great (because she recorded Tennessee Waltz I will overlook Doggie in the Window). And she is one of the biggest selling artists in history.
Patti continues to perform to this day. You wouldn’t want to play Changing Partners back-to-back with Tennessee Waltz; you’d think it was the same song. However, as the waltz is not in sight, here is Changing Partners.
By 1953, rhythm & blues was creeping into the consciousness of the musical public outside its natural constituency. One of the best creepers, as it were, and possibly the man who invented rock & roll, is BIG JOE TURNER.
Before he sang Shake, Rattle and Roll and sent shock waves through the parents of teenagers and younger folks, he recorded a song called Honey Hush, a sort of blues song that’s yet another contender for the first rock & roll song.
Alexander Borodin sure gave us a lot of hits. Of course, he didn’t know about that because he thought they were just the second string quartet, the opera Prince Igor and his Polovtsian Dances.
It was these musical sources that Robert Write and George Forrest pinched when creating the music for the musical “Kismet”. This show had many hummable tunes, thanks to Alexander, and many were hits outside the musical itself.
One singer, among many, to have a hit with one of the songs is TONY BENNETT.
Tony’s is generally considered the definitive version of this song, but The Four Aces and Tony Martin also had some success at the time. Since then there have been numerous versions. Here is Tony with Take My Hand I’m a Strange Looking Parasite. Okay, the jokes are from 1953 as well as the music, but you know what I mean.
I’m sorry, but I really don’t like the lush orchestral sound that was popular throughout much of the Fifties. I’m not picking on PERCY FAITH, for that’s who’s next; it’s all of his ilk.
Unfortunately, 1953 was a really bad year for interesting music so I’m going along with Percy just this once.
I’ve included it because it’s not just lush strings but it also has a vocal refrain by FELICIA SANDERS.
Besides, it’s the theme from the film, Moulin Rouge, the 1952 version. This was an entertaining flick, if not particularly good. Anything with José Ferrer wandering around on his knees and Zsa Zsa Gabor being Zsa Zsa Gabor is worth a look.
The fairly recent remake, if that’s the right word, is less than ordinary although it does have Kylie Minogue as the Absinthe Fairy – that alone made it worth watching. However, it doesn’t have this song called the Song from Moulin Rouge (Whenever We Kiss).
From the way I see it GEORGIA GIBBS made a career of covering other songs better done by those other people.
Of course, this is a rather glib synopsis of her career, but glib is what happens when I’m trying to come up with something interesting to say about 100 different singers in a short time.
She had a difficult childhood. Her father died when she was young and she was put in an orphanage, separated from her siblings. She liked to sing and made her recording debut around about age 16.
This song was recorded by many people, most notably from my point of view, Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson. However, here is Georgia with Seven Lonely Days.
1954 will appear in two weeks’ time.