Tag Archives: 1957

Rocks In The Attic #815: Various Artists – ‘Christmas In England’ (1957)

RITA#815Christmas in New Zealand is definitely a different prospect than Christmas in England, and after twelve years I’m only just getting used to it.

I have my own kids now, so it’s a busy, busy day. After opening a few presents, we visit my father-in-law and his family for a pancake breakfast. This usually involves pigging out on a mountain of pancakes, complimented by a batch of bacon cooked on the barbeque.

Then we rush back home, collecting my mother-in-law on the way, for Christmas dinner back at ours. The sun’s usually out all day, so it adds an unreal element to the proceedings, compared to the cold and snow I grew up with. It’s not the peak of summer yet, which is fortunate as the stress of Christmas Day cooking would be so much worse with the humidity of a hot day.

RITA#815aWhile the temperature might not be too high, it’s just past the mid-point of our seasonal year. The longest day of the year – June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere – falls on December 22nd here, and so Christmas Day feels a lot longer than it does in the UK. There are no woolly hats or big coats; Christmas dress is a pair of shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt. And a Santa hat, of course.

One of the oddest things about a New Zealand Christmas is that, just like the UK, we get the Queen’s Speech at 3pm on Christmas Day, which means we see it approximately 12 hours before it goes out on the BBC. This has never felt right, and I don’t think people would be too bothered if it was held back to Boxing Day.

RITA#815bChristmas TV is the same. We get the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and the usual festive programmes. But by this time, I’m in a food coma and have consumed a flagon or two of cider. The only thing I’ll have room for – and this is when that second stomach reserved exclusively for dessert comes into its own – is for a door-stop sized portion of pavlova and cream.

This record, featuring choral arrangements of all the Christmas classics, is a great help in setting the mood. These songs really send me back to the UK, before the dark times, before Wham.

Hit: Ding Dong Merrily On High – King’s College Chapel Choir Of Cambridge

Hidden Gem: The Very First Christmas Of All – Ruby Murray With Ray Martin’s Orchestra

RITA#815c

Rocks In The Attic #606: The Ink Spots – ‘The Ink Spots In Hi-Fi’ (1957)

RITA#606I’d never heard of these fellas until my kids gave me this record for my birthday a few weeks ago. I’m glad they did, as it’s a pearler.

Finding fame as a vocal group in the late ‘30s and throughout the ‘40s, the group produced the kind of smooth ballads that Hollywood leans on every now and again to portray rural quaintness. It’s the sort of music that Martha Kent listens to while she washes the dishes in her Kansas farmhouse.

Their music is seen as a stepping–stone in the progression of rhythm and blues and doo-wop into rock and roll, and as a result the group were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 1989 – a great accomplishment considering the ever-growing list of artists who haven’t been inducted.

Since the Ink Spots officially disbanded in 1954, more than 100 vocal groups have performed under the name – claiming to be first or second generation Ink Spots. I guess the legalities around intellectual copyright have come a long way in the last fifty years – I can’t image that sort of thing happening these days aside from a couple of ‘60s bands doing the circuits with only one or two original members.

The Ink Spots definitely found their formula and stuck with it. Nearly every song starts with a ascending chromatic riff on the guitar, before the vocal kicks in. The other thing to look out for is a piano part in When My Dreamboat Comes Home that was undoubtedly lifted for the main riff in the BusBoy’s Cleaning Up The Town from the Ghostbusters soundtrack.

Hit: Blueberry Hill

Hidden Gem: To Each His Own

Rocks In The Attic #506: Various Artists – ‘The Sounds Of Time A Dramatisation In Sound Of The Years 1934-1949’ (1957)

RITA#506I love records like this; time-capsules from another era. Back when this was released in 1957, the only way for a household to have such a recording was on a vinyl record. Television was still in its infancy, and video wouldn’t see mainstream acceptance for another twenty years.

It’s easy then to imagine the whole household gathering around the record player to listen to this recording. It’s nice to picture that kind of shared experience. One day, I might try and sit my daughters down and force them to listen to this. I’ll be lucky if they don’t roll their eyes and ask me to turn the boring talking off.

This record is full of famous moments, essentially the history of the Second World War, bookended by a couple of years either side. There isn’t a great deal of light relief, but it’s all fascinating stuff; some of it well-known, some of it new to my ears.

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Desert Island Discs, a slimmed-down version of the Radio 4 broadcast. It’s essentially the same as what is transmitted live, except that the songs are shortened quite drastically for copyright reasons. A couple of years ago, one of the “castaways”, the novelist Vikram Seth, chose as one of his discs a recording of a Nightingale singing as a wartime bombing raid passes overhead. It’s a fantastic recording, the purity of the birdsong contrasting completely with the ominous drones of the bombers. I was so happy to find that a short clip of the recording is included on this record.

The story behind the Nightingale and bombers is worth sharing also. Every May, the BBC would record birdsong for live transmission. On the day in question – May 19th, 1942 – a quick-thinking engineer pulled the plug on the transmission, believing that the sound of the bombers could potentially forewarn German forces of the impending attack. A full recording exists, with the 197 bombers recorded on their way to Mannheim, and only 186 recorded on their return.

Hit: “Oh the humanity…” – The giant airship Hindenburg bursts into flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey, May 6th, 1937

Hidden Gem: Nightingale in a Surrey wood matches its voice against the drone of a thousand bombers striking at Germany