Larry Kart

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In his 3/12 New Yorker piece about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s memoir and his  musicals, Adam Gopnik writes: “At a deeper level, Lloyd Webber’s memoir exposes a central fault in the history of popular music, In the late fifties, not only was the ‘My Fair Lady’ cast album the biggest seller of its time but s[pinoff jazz albums with musicians playing ‘My Far Lady’ material were huge sellers, too.”

No, Adam, while there were several “My Fair Lady’ jazz albums, only one of them was a “huge seller,” the one with Shelly Manne and Andre Previn.
 
So, on the one hand, Gopnik doesn’t know this but is dealing with a subject that leads him to state otherwise, while there's no one on the New Yorker’s vaunted fact-checking staff who knows this either. Suddenly, it became clear to me what the rest of my life is going to be like — not only will  what I lived through and know did happen during the course of the time I’ve been alive be increasingly stated or remembered inaccurately or just plain erased, but eventually there will be no way, no means, to do anything about this. 

51r0BYOaB3L._AC_US218_.jpg

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He's only wrong if you take a purist view of jazz, Larry.

Nat King Cole, who I think is a jazzman, had a hit with this

Natlady.jpg

 

And Sammy Kaye had one with this

R-2957815-1521128967-4510.jpeg.jpg

OK, lots of people would call this sweet jazz, then ignore it. Gopnik didn't.

MG

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Oh, and the Contemporary LP you illustrated wasn't a hit at all. The hit was on Columbia, by the well known typo, Andre Preview. That's this.

R-2445957-1284485145.jpeg.jpg

Doesn't he look like Bobby Darin?

OK, details from Joel Whitburn's Billboard pop album chart book:

Original cast - entered 28 Apr 56. 15 weeks at #1, over 9 years on chart.

Andre Preview - entered 19 Dec 64. peaked at #147, 4 weeks on chart.

Nat Cole - entered 26 Sep 64. Peaked at #74, 23 weeks on chart.

Sammy Kaye - entered 4 Aug 56. Peaked at #20, 1 week on chart. (At the time LP chart was of variable length including between 10 and 30 albums.)

MG

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6 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

So, on the one hand, Gopnik doesn’t know this but is dealing with a subject that leads him to state otherwise, while there's no one on the New Yorker’s vaunted fact-checking staff who knows this either.

I've got a Penguin book, Winter King, by Thomas Penn - about Henry VII. The guy has a PhD in Tudor History, which legitimizes it in the eyes of publishers and readers. It came out in 2011 and has been a big hit here, changing the way people see the man. It professes to get inside his head, to which end (IMO) it uses creative writing techniques. I.E. Penn looks to have done creative writing courses and then applied the technique to his sound knowledge of the period to produce what is essentially a historical novel  dressed up as history,

Yet it's got rave reviews, from people who one would expect to know better. That's a judgement of mine - that they've been taken in by a historical novel dressed up as history - and I doubt I'd get anywhere trying to convince all those who have bought into it (they've got too much to lose and there's too many of them - and the subject is one I'm not a specialist in).

The book makes a really, really dumb mistake in its introduction:

"Perhaps the most telling verdict of all is that of Shakespeare, who omits Henry VII altogether from his sequence of history plays..."

Actually Henry appears in one of the Henry VI plays (in a minor role) and in Richard III (in quite a substantial one). I'm not a Shakespeare expert and I had to look it up to check it, but I thought "well surely Henry VII might appear in Richard III" - and, sure enough, there he was. But nobody at Penguin - and certainly not Penn, with his bold wrong-headed certainty, could be bothered to do so. It just really gives you pause, this sort of thing. I mean this is basic stuff, knowing your Shakespeare - and that a trusted publisher like Penguin doesn't have the staff at hand to pick up this howler, it's just frightening.

So, from that point, I go to the book is horseshit and nobody's picking it up.

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I'm nowhere as concerned about Fake News as I am Fake History.

The 1956 Contemporary LP by Manne/Previn/Vinnegar was a hit.

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8 hours ago, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

Oh, and the Contemporary LP you illustrated wasn't a hit at all. The hit was on Columbia, by the well known typo, Andre Preview. That's this.

R-2445957-1284485145.jpeg.jpg

Doesn't he look like Bobby Darin?

OK, details from Joel Whitburn's Billboard pop album chart book:

Original cast - entered 28 Apr 56. 15 weeks at #1, over 9 years on chart.

Andre Preview - entered 19 Dec 64. peaked at #147, 4 weeks on chart.

Nat Cole - entered 26 Sep 64. Peaked at #74, 23 weeks on chart.

Sammy Kaye - entered 4 Aug 56. Peaked at #20, 1 week on chart. (At the time LP chart was of variable length including between 10 and 30 albums.)

MG

Never knew of that Previn Columbia MFL album, but I don't think it really counts because it's from 1964, way after the time of the Manne-Previn MFL album (1956), which as Jim says was a hit, and became a hit right on the heels of the show.

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Wow I'm shocked that the Shelly Mann led date didn't chart. It was ubiquitous when I was in college and IIRC Leroy Vinneger  sued when he heard Previn was getting royalties and he wasn't. 

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4 hours ago, Simon Weil said:

I've got a Penguin book, Winter King, by Thomas Penn - about Henry VII. The guy has a PhD in Tudor History, which legitimizes it in the eyes of publishers and readers. It came out in 2011 and has been a big hit here, changing the way people see the man. It professes to get inside his head, to which end (IMO) it uses creative writing techniques. I.E. Penn looks to have done creative writing courses and then applied the technique to his sound knowledge of the period to produce what is essentially a historical novel  dressed up as history,

Yet it's got rave reviews, from people who one would expect to know better. That's a judgement of mine - that they've been taken in by a historical novel dressed up as history - and I doubt I'd get anywhere trying to convince all those who have bought into it (they've got too much to lose and there's too many of them - and the subject is one I'm not a specialist in).

The book makes a really, really dumb mistake in its introduction:

"Perhaps the most telling verdict of all is that of Shakespeare, who omits Henry VII altogether from his sequence of history plays..."

Actually Henry appears in one of the Henry VI plays (in a minor role) and in Richard III (in quite a substantial one). I'm not a Shakespeare expert and I had to look it up to check it, but I thought "well surely Henry VII might appear in Richard III" - and, sure enough, there he was. But nobody at Penguin - and certainly not Penn, with his bold wrong-headed certainty, could be bothered to do so. It just really gives you pause, this sort of thing. I mean this is basic stuff, knowing your Shakespeare - and that a trusted publisher like Penguin doesn't have the staff at hand to pick up this howler, it's just frightening.

So, from that point, I go to the book is horseshit and nobody's picking it up.

Sounds ugly. This review is far from positive, though:

http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1301

 

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9 hours ago, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

He's only wrong if you take a purist view of jazz, Larry.

Nat King Cole, who I think is a jazzman, had a hit with this

Natlady.jpg

 

And Sammy Kaye had one with this

R-2957815-1521128967-4510.jpeg.jpg

OK, lots of people would call this sweet jazz, then ignore it. Gopnik didn't.

MG

Gopnik was referring to MFL "spinoff jazz albums." I'm fond of Nat King Cole, but the tone of his MFL album wasn't particularly jazzlike IIRC, even by his own standards. Sammy Kaye ? Surely his album belongs with Mantovani or the Melachrino  (sp?) Strings. And I'd bet anything that Gopnik had no knowledge of the Kaye MFL album when he wrote what he did -- not to mention the actual other MFL "spinoff jazz albums" from Billy Taylor-Quincy Jones and Johnny Richards, which were not "huge sellers." Gopnik was, as usual, just vamping on a stairway to nowhere.

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8 hours ago, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

Andre Preview - entered 19 Dec 64. peaked at #147, 4 weeks on chart.

Nat Cole - entered 26 Sep 64. Peaked at #74, 23 weeks on chart.

Sammy Kaye - entered 4 Aug 56. Peaked at #20, 1 week on chart. (At the time LP chart was of variable length including between 10 and 30 albums.)

I'd not consider any of that to be reflective of a hit. A "hit", at best and in the case of that Previn, hardly a hit at all.

If you're going to rely on Billboard, rely on all of it, not just the charts: https://books.google.com/books?id=ICkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA1&lpg=RA1-PA1&dq=shelly+manne+my+fair+lady+billboard&source=bl&ots=c3j1WfUIeF&sig=0Px7Oo148Lh0rqK02CMNXVq1LvY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjMy8-eqvbZAhWSwFMKHVszAw44ChDoAQguMAM#v=onepage&q=shelly%20manne%20my%20fair%20lady%20billboard&f=false

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35 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

Sounds ugly. This review is far from positive, though:

http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1301

That's not a bad attempt at a review - from the point of the view of an academic constrained by a powerful public acceptance of the thing and his lack of certainty as a critical literary judge. My copy of Winter King has, at the top of the front cover in capital letters, History Book of the Year - Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Financial Times, BBC History.

That's a large chunk of the "quality" press in the UK - plus the BBC mag and the Times Literary Supplement (which is a top organ of intellectual credibility here). Basically Penn has the substantial support of the "quality" (and hence opinion-forming) media in the UK on his side (The BBC has since done a documentary based on the book).

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24 minutes ago, Simon Weil said:

That's not a bad attempt at a review - from the point of the view of an academic constrained by a powerful public acceptance of the thing and his lack of certainty as a critical literary judge. My copy of Winter King has, at the top of the front cover in capital letters, History Book of the Year - Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Financial Times, BBC History.

That's a large chunk of the "quality" press in the UK - plus the BBC mag and the Times Literary Supplement (which is a top organ of intellectual credibility here). Basically Penn has the substantial support of the "quality" (and hence opinion-forming) media in the UK on his side (The BBC has since done a documentary based on the book).

That's distressing, especially the TLS. And the London Review of Books applauded too. Time for people like us to fold our tents?

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12 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

 

Suddenly, it became clear to me what the rest of my life is going to be like — not only will  what I lived through and know did happen during the course of the time I’ve been alive be increasingly stated or remembered inaccurately or just plain erased, but eventually there will be no way, no means, to do anything about this. 

 

I am afraid you've nailed it. I've had the same feeling every now and then (not just in the field of music history). Erroneous statements of "facts" put into printing by reputedly authoritative sources (though clearly incorrect) tend to be taken as the gospel truth after a while if read and quoted often enough.

Talking about dumb mistakes that ought to have been spotted (such as in your example or that of Simon Weil), it is a moot point IMO if these errors ought to have been spotted by the author or the proofreaders but in fact you CAN sometimes make an attempt at setting the record straight. Some time ago I came across a similar rather glaring error (that should not have happened to ANY writer in this field) and will therefore just quote part of my review I put up on Amazon, hoping it might rebalance the rating of the book:

It is about "Dance All Night - The Other Southwestern Swing Bands" by Jean A. Boyd (about some lesser-known Western Swing bands), and I did have this bone to pick:

"... there are some factual errors in the book that are hard to understand. To name just one example, "South" was indeed a tune picked up by many 30s and 40s Western Swing bands but how could this possibly have been suggested to the Light Crust Doughboys as "the new release" of the Bennie Moten band (the originator of the tune), given that Moten recorded the tune in 1928? It almost was an "old chestnut" by the time the Western Swing bands picked it up. ((The tune was recorded by the Doughboys in 1940, BTW - 12 years after the Moten original, so I guess my comment was being kind )) And as for Count Basie taking over the Moten band because Moten "quit the band business"? Dying on a doctor's operating table due to a botched tonsil operation and leaving the band leaderless from one day to another certainly is a way to "quit the band business" but is this really an appropriate way of summing up the man's history? No doubt ANY however brief bio of Bennie Moten consulted for reference would have highlighted this fact."

A glaring blunder? I'd say so. Sloppy researching? I am afraid so. Couldn't care less (because it is not part of the core of the history)? Hopefully not.
Not wanting to overrate the effects of an Amazon review (just an attempt at setting things right a little) and not wanting to make this review sound like a case of "look, I've spotted a mistake" but this should not have happened in the first place. And to me it read like more of a blunder than the question of how many "My Fair Lady" jazz albums actually were hits.
ANY bit of research done should have yielded the correct facts.

The author is at her third book in this field so will probably be regarded as an expert in some circles, yet to me her writings in many instances read not so much like those of someone with an innate feel for all the meanderings of the history of the music and the musicians but rather like those of an interested outsider (or observer) looking in. 
Rather odd for someone who is a professor in music history.

Anyway, it's a pity ...  

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Further, Gopnick's next sentence after the MFL jazz spinoffs one:

“Sinatra’s  great albums of the mid-fifties were heavy with theatre songs. By 1964, all that had altered for good; a successful original-cast album went from  the place where hits happened always happened to a place where they rarely did.”
 
 First, the theatre songs on Sinatra’s albums  of the mid-fifties were from the thirties and early forties — none IIRC were from recent Broadway shows. Second, I believe that the tradition of albums where a singer interpreted such so-called  standards began with Lee Wiley’s Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart album of 1939-40.  Whether Sinatra was directly inspired by Wiley's albums, I don’t know, but in any case — outside of cabaret circles, perhaps -- singers between Wiley and Sinatra essentially recorded whatever came to hand. One probably could say that Wiley (and/or her A&R advisor) “invented" the concept of the standard and Sinatra encased it in gold, while both of them also did something else that was essential — took good theatre songs and performed them in ways that placed those songs in a personal to the interpreter, non-theatrical context. Just listen to how the original performers in those shows and film sang those songs and compare them to the ways Wiley and Sinatra did. Important footnote: The songs Fred Astaire sang/introduced. When he touched a song (and those songs were written for him), it became an incipient standard — I think because his interpretations were so much more intimate and “modern” in style,  musically and emotionally, than those of contemporary performers on the Broadway stage would have been.  (Of course, Astaire was on film, and didn’t have to project to the back of a theatre.)  But we’re far from Gopnik now.

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1 hour ago, Larry Kart said:

That's distressing, especially the TLS. And the London Review of Books applauded too. Time for people like us to fold our tents?

 You may hate this, but...from Lord of the Rings (the film):

 Frodo: "I wish none of this had happened."

[Picture deleted]

Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil."

So....

 

 

Edited by Simon Weil

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DSCN1196.jpg

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12 minutes ago, Simon Weil said:

 You may hate this, but...from Lord of the Rings (the film):

 Frodo: "I wish none of this had happened."

[Picture deleted]

Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil."

So....

 

 

I'm at peace with the idea that when my time is over, it's over. I just don't like the idea of being buried alive.

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There's a tremendous barrage going on at the moment, and one might well deduce that our position is hopeless. But that's not personally the instinct I have about myself. I believe I'm going to get my shot.

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3 hours ago, JSngry said:

I'd not consider any of that to be reflective of a hit. A "hit", at best and in the case of that Previn, hardly a hit at all.

If you're going to rely on Billboard, rely on all of it, not just the charts: https://books.google.com/books?id=ICkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA1&lpg=RA1-PA1&dq=shelly+manne+my+fair+lady+billboard&source=bl&ots=c3j1WfUIeF&sig=0Px7Oo148Lh0rqK02CMNXVq1LvY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjMy8-eqvbZAhWSwFMKHVszAw44ChDoAQguMAM#v=onepage&q=shelly%20manne%20my%20fair%20lady%20billboard&f=false

Co-incidentally I notice that there is an ad in there for a Billy Taylor MFL Lp. 

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That Taylor thing seems to have been "popular" enough, seeing as how long it stayed in print and/or made the transition over to impulse! Can't say that I've ever been inclined to go there, but ABC ported a few thing over to impulse! but not that many, so I'm thinking it sold well enough to stay alive for a while longer than its original release.

billy-taylor-trio-my-fair-lady-loves-jazbilly-taylor-my-fair-lady-loves-jazz-imp

No matter, check that signature in the lower right corner of the back cover of the original:

18707319985_240fb9da30_b.jpg

 

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It reminds me of a certain jazz magazine that I contacted about becoming a contributor. I was rebuffed by the younger editor. Then they printed a review by an incompetent writer who didn't recognize a song on the CD he reviewed that was labeled as "Dolphin Dance" by Herbie Hancock was actually "Passion Dance" by McCoy Tyner. I wrote a rather nasty letter to the editor which ran unedited. I allowed my subscription to lapse after that incident. 

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13 hours ago, JSngry said:

I'd not consider any of that to be reflective of a hit. A "hit", at best and in the case of that Previn, hardly a hit at all.

If you're going to rely on Billboard, rely on all of it, not just the charts: https://books.google.com/books?id=ICkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA1&lpg=RA1-PA1&dq=shelly+manne+my+fair+lady+billboard&source=bl&ots=c3j1WfUIeF&sig=0Px7Oo148Lh0rqK02CMNXVq1LvY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjMy8-eqvbZAhWSwFMKHVszAw44ChDoAQguMAM#v=onepage&q=shelly%20manne%20my%20fair%20lady%20billboard&f=false

Well, it was top of the JAZZ chart, which, in the fifties, certainly indicated better sales than it did in the eighties and nineties.

And an album that makes the top 20 of the pop chart isn't a hit? OK for 1 week, but all those weeks when only 10 were published, something that made 11 wasn't a hit?

MG

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9 hours ago, JSngry said:

That Taylor thing seems to have been "popular" enough, seeing as how long it stayed in print and/or made the transition over to impulse! Can't say that I've ever been inclined to go there, but ABC ported a few thing over to impulse! but not that many, so I'm thinking it sold well enough to stay alive for a while longer than its original release.

billy-taylor-trio-my-fair-lady-loves-jazbilly-taylor-my-fair-lady-loves-jazz-imp

No matter, check that signature in the lower right corner of the back cover of the original:

18707319985_240fb9da30_b.jpg

 

Yeah, I think it was that signature that inclined me to buy it, as I think he'd produced Ray Charles' "Genius + soul = jazz". I didn't listen to it much and flogged it soonish.

Following producers rather than musicians does sometimes lead you into hotels where the beds ain't too comfortable. But 99% of the time, it works.

I don't think i'd attribute much to Taylor's name in 1965; it was several years after he'd left Impulse, which was into very different stuff - that's A77, A75, I recall, is "Fire Music". And so was Taylor - all those Wes and Getz hits. This LP was nothing like anything much of any kind, as I recollect.

MG

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12 hours ago, Larry Kart said:
Further, Gopnick's next sentence after the MFL jazz spinoffs one:

“Sinatra’s  great albums of the mid-fifties were heavy with theatre songs. By 1964, all that had altered for good; a successful original-cast album went from  the place where hits happened always happened to a place where they rarely did.”
 
 First, the theatre songs on Sinatra’s albums  of the mid-fifties were from the thirties and early forties — none IIRC were from recent Broadway shows. Second, I believe that the tradition of albums where a singer interpreted such so-called  standards began with Lee Wiley’s Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart album of 1939-40.  Whether Sinatra was directly inspired by Wiley's albums, I don’t know, but in any case — outside of cabaret circles, perhaps -- singers between Wiley and Sinatra essentially recorded whatever came to hand. One probably could say that Wiley (and/or her A&R advisor) “invented" the concept of the standard and Sinatra encased it in gold, while both of them also did something else that was essential — took good theatre songs and performed them in ways that placed those songs in a personal to the interpreter, non-theatrical context. Just listen to how the original performers in those shows and film sang those songs and compare them to the ways Wiley and Sinatra did. Important footnote: The songs Fred Astaire sang/introduced. When he touched a song (and those songs were written for him), it became an incipient standard — I think because his interpretations were so much more intimate and “modern” in style,  musically and emotionally, than those of contemporary performers on the Broadway stage would have been.  (Of course, Astaire was on film, and didn’t have to project to the back of a theatre.)  But we’re far from Gopnik now.

I think Gopnik missed a few hits here. Original cast albums that were top 20 hits from later years included:

Drean girls - #11 in 1982;

Fiddler on the roof - #7 in 1964;

Hair - #1 in 1968;

Hello Dolly - #1 in 1964;

Rent - #19 in 1996;

Though those are five exceptions in thirty years. And compared to the late fifties/early sixties, he wasn't wholly wrong there. But there were very many smaller hits against MUCH more competition.

MG

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There are demographic and economic sides to the change in the period, too. Speaking personally, I started buy records, mainly R&B singles, in 1958, when I got my first record player. But '65 was the first year I bought more than a couple of dozen LPs. I think that was true for a very large proportion of the public. LPs were expensive stuff for the well to do middle classes.

But in the late fifties/early sixties, economic prosperity spread very widely and even the working class started buying them. There's not one lump called 'THE PUBLIC' there are dozens, scores even, of publics. And even what we in the west call pop music is only the music of the largest minority. To find a pop music that is actually the music of the majority, you have to go abroad - say to Senegal, where Mbalax is the universal music.

MG

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