Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Spike Jones and His City Slickers

Out of all the artistes on all these 78 rpm records (er... 650ish at current count) Spike Jones and His City Slickers have to be amongst the zaniest characters in the slightly musty boxes!

Spike is the drummer in the center of the photo and one of his favourite instruments (apart from his trusty revolver) was a line of different sized pans hung from a washing line. They released a shed load of records with all sorts of sound gags, from hiccuping and gargling musicians, to falling objects and bursts of maniacal music in the middle of a quiet ballad.

Featured singers were sometimes credited with unlikely and song-related names such as this one featuring Del (Water-on-the-Brain) Porter. The band featured in many short films, a few of which my Dad used to have on 16mm film stock and I remember watching them playing Hotcha Cornia in the 1943 film Thank Your Lucky Stars. Saturday afternoons aren't the same these days now that BBC2 has stopped showing those old black and white films!

Holiday for Strings is an instantly recogniseable tune banged out in manic style on the line of suspended pans. In fact one of the joys of listening to 78s is that you come across a tune that you have known for years but without knowing what it was called.

I already had ten Spike Jones records and found a few more in the Janet Carling Collection. Some were duplicates but there was a complete series of the 3-Disc set of the Nutcracker Suite. This tells the story of a young girl's dream through Tchaikovsky's famous ballet music over the 6 sides of the records. These short sets were not uncommon in the 78s era before the advent of EPs and LPs allowed all the tracks to go on a single disc. Because of the fragile nature of these early records, finding a complete set is not always easy. It's the first time I've heard all of this. Hearing Tchaikovsky played on a set of pans is an experience that shouldn't be missed!

A couple of years ago I bought this 3-disk CD set of Spike Jones and His City Slickers. But you know what? I've never played it. It just doesn't seem right to listen to Spike's very distinctive music on anything other than a flat shellac disc spinning under a needle at 78 revs per minute!

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