Monday, September 20, 2010

Alex Farkash - our Music Maestro

I first met Alex Farkash late 1993 after I was tasked with managing the music on Primedia's newly acquired station Today FM. One of the programme directors for Primedia, John Taylor, had heard about Alex's great collection of music through Alex's sister-in-law Jeanne of Mai FM, and gave me the phone number to make contact and see what he had to offer. Well, what a treasure trove of material on CD covering then, mainly all the major hits from the mid fifties through to the mid sixties - just so right for Today FM aiming at the more mature market.

Alex was really enjoying being able to help a station build up its repertoire and so initially he would come over from the North Shore with a pile of his CDs to 107 Great North Road, Grey Lynn in the weekends and we would load these into the automated 'Dalet' system used at the time.

After most of the big hits were loaded into the system, we changed to my going via Alex's place mid week to sort out the Tonight At Seven artist features for the next week and plan Alex's inspired segment of lesser known numbers to be played from 7:30 to 8pm Friday nights.
Alex got special pleasure from hearing Jacqui Taite of the morning/afternoon show playing requested songs from the previous Friday Show. This meant Alex's picks were striking a chord with some of the listeners.

These were the days before the prevelance of the internet, so I would have a carry case for CDs and Alex would note what CDs I had borrowed. That list was very useful to remind me what I still had to return - especially where he had spent hundreds of dollars on the rarer imported collections (Including the Sony Japan collection of 9 Nat King Cole CDs). Alex's box sets of his favourite artists also had so much biographical material, with the Bear Family collections being especially full on (with more information than you ever thought you would need to know). The information was great for building the Tonight At Seven features on various artists - and adding to my knowledge of the music and artists.

With so much artist information swirling around we would each remember different segments of an artist and song. Thus sometimes I would remind Alex it was him that shared a snippet of trivia that he had since forgotten. Graeme Andersen was a name that came up from feed back on our Features on Today FM and it seemed logical to introduce Graeme to Alex as a fellow music collector affionado.

Thus developed our Saturday Music Lunches, probably after Today FM had closed down and the Unforgettable Music Society was formed to fill the void. Alex even came to a meeting at Eric Allen's place about our options in acquiring our own frequency but we were up against some major players in the changing and competitive radio market.

With Errol Baker of Auckland Jazz Radio and myself with Unforgettable Music we hired time on Soo Lee Lim's Radio Asia Pacific, on 1593AM.
One of the bereft listeners of Today FM, Brian Cumber, put me in touch with Ayden Wolf, as a young man, who had some very useful computer skills. Ayden quickly had us moving from CD players and Alex's CDs to things being computerised and music being converted to mp3 files on a computer hard drive. Through Ayden needing his father to meet the learner driver requirements we had his dad Jim Wolf come on the scene as well.
We managed 10 years on 1593AM until dwindling resources forced us to stop. During the heyday of our time on 1593AM we had Saturday evenings as well as Sunday afternoons.

With Unforgettable Music on 1593AM being mainly run by volunteers we were needing to introduce radio students and new people to radio and getting them to plan Feature Artist programmes was a good learning process. Alex remained ever helpful finding the songs requested by these 'young uns' that they learned about from their research, mainly on the internet.

Another feature of the Sunday Show was the Comparison segment, illustrated by playing the hit version and the orginal release. Alex developed this further as a new focus for him in working Dick Rosemont of the US and his website Originals Project. Alex also worked with some fellow music collectors in the US, (Wayne Swickley, Kaarlo Rintala and that he caught up with when visiting with sister Clari.
Even after the winding down of Unforgettable Music's Sunday programmes, and less need to search out songs, myself, Jim Wolf, occasionally Ayden and even ex neighbour Don Stuart continued meeting at Alex's place for our Saturday music lunches.

Which brings us to the day of Alex's funeral 21 September 2010 and unfinished projects of completing the Billboard Top 100 to the end of the 1970s.

We still have work to do and with the help of the Farkash family, we can press on - in honour of one big heart that might have stopped beating but the melody lingers on.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Musical Memories - sometimes different for migrants...

I've found this in the past when on Today FM, the British migrants having a different listening history, sometimes had me scratching to remember a particular song that was big for them. Debbie from South Africa had sought help from me at Coast to pull up some of her memories with the help of Alex. Then just recently came this request ...
I need your help AGAIN please. I was watching a movie the other day and a song came up from the seventies that I haven't heard for ages!! I tried to see it in the credits but they rolled too fast. I cannot remember the movie it was in either, seen too many since then. All I can tell you is that it sounds very "hippyish", has a beat that sounds as if there is someone knocking a cow bell and the only words I can come up with are in the chorus - "Why did you do it, why did you do that thang to me"? Please tell me you know it!!
How is Alex? Regards Debbie

That knocking a cowbell reference had me thinking of Blacksmith Blues but that was the fifties (and someone in Nelson Riddle's Orchestra tapping an ashtray). So I sent a message off to Alex and to Scotty, music collector maestros and Scott came up trumps ...

Ray, this is probably it. . I'd never heard it in my life before, but apparently reached # 16 UK charts 1975.

Stretch - Why Did You Do It? on You Tube

Debbie came back with ... Thank you so much, that is the exact one, was quite popular in "Rhodesia" in my sister's era and I really liked it.

Interesting story on Wikipedia
about how the group got ready to do a 'Fleetwood Mac' tour to help out Mick Fleetwood but he left them to manage on their own and there were a number of peeved fans. The song was a expression of frustration that Fleetwood had left them hanging in the gallows of public opinion.

Another song I was interested in finding a single version copy of, was the Dutch group Focus with Hocus Pocus - being used by Nike for their Football World Cup promotions.
Our daughter in Amsterdam didn't recall the name of the band, perhaps if I'd told her I used to play the LP really loud, she might recall.

There are a number of versions available

but my Google search even brought up a lyric site for the 'instrumental'
Now isn't that marvelous

Ôi orôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi ohrorô poPÔ
Yôi orôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi ohrorô

Aaaah aaah aaah aaah
Uuuh oooh oooh ooooooooh

Ôi orôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi ohrorô poPÔ
Yôi orôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi rôrôrôi ohrorô

Aaaah aaah aaah aaah
Uuuh oooh oooh ooooooooh

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best remembered more for his idle boasts than his music

Music collector maestro Scott Hughes emailed to ask if I heard that "Crispian St Peters has gone now. He seemed to have more hits in NZ than anywhere else with Pied Piper, You Were On My Mind, Changes, Your Ever Changing MInd and my personal favourite, No No No. Not a surprise I guess, as been sick for years but losing a lot of singers from that era."

From Wikipedia I condensed down his bio to
Born Robin Peter Smith (b. 5 April 1939 d. 8 June 2010) a British pop singer best known for his 1966 hit, "The Pied Piper". As a young man, St. Peters performed in several relatively unknown bands in England. In 1956, he gave his first live performance, as a member of The Hard Travellers.
Under manager David Nicolson's tutelage the shy star was momentarily transformed into arrogance incarnate and is perhaps best remembered more for his idle boasts than his music.

I don't recall any of the controversy over his comments and claims, maybe that just didn't seem so important down under, in N.Z. In asking music maestro Mark if he remembered any of these extravagant claims he said, "No have never heard that before. Usually it's P.J. Proby that has the big ego."

In looking in Google Images for a suitable pic I came across this website dedicated to the man and his music

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Asking Don again about Lonnie Donegan

I was asking Don Stuart at our regular 'Saturday Music Lunch' about him getting his Lonnie Donegan memories he told us about, onto the computer, so I could post here. Well, Don has supplied three jpegs of his efforts in getting his memories recorded, so until I find an OCR programme that I can relate to, here are those images, those memories - with the first jpeg now typed out ...

I was 17 at the time when I went to the St Andrew's hall in Glasgow to see Chris Barber and his Jazz band. They were, in my opinion, the best jazz band in Britain and at the interval Chris Barber then introduced Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle group. Barber forsook his trombone for the bass and with Beryl Brydon on washboard, and Donegan and Dick Bishop on guitar they played a style of music that completely blew me away. Skiffle music went on to become very popular and Lonnie Donegan was the man who inspired the Beatles, Elton John and lots of other Big stars in Britain!

My pal Sammy McDougall and I decided to buy ourselves guitars, and it wasn't very long until we were strumming and singing all Donegan's hit records as they were released! One night my young brother Norman found himself a wash board and thimbles and we began to sound like a skiffle group. My dad came home from work one night with a huge balalaika looking double bass he had made. It had real strings on it, and was painted black and white! It looked and sounded real good. Another pal of ours, Eddie Brady, began to play it. We then met Vicky Casware, a good singer and Bango player and our group was complete. We were on our way! We began to practice in my house 3 and 4 days a week and I still don't know how my Mum and Dad put up with the noise. However at a party one night someone taped us and when I heard the playback I was amazed at how good we sounded!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blitz Partys

London's party people are donning grandmother's floral dresses, World War Two uniforms and heading to the air raid shelters again for evenings of swing music, champagne cocktails and other Blitz nostalgia.

This story brought to mind a... couple of Woody Herman numbers and of a request from a man to play Golden Wedding for his 11 year old grandson - who was into his drumming. Granddad wanted to expose the lad to some great drumming from an earlier time.
Check out also, Woody Herman in his later years performing Woodchopper's Ball

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Musical memories for 30 Somethings

"musically conscious since 1988" posted our daughter on Facebook, so I responded ...

"Fits my generalised theory of around age 10 that you start noticing the music. Three biggest hits in NZ 1988, U2 - One Tree Hill and The Holiday Makers - Sweet Lovers, both 6 wks at #1 and U2 - Desire, 5 wks at NZ#1"

(Jeantine) Watching Top of the pops look back at the 80s, while I recognised earlier songs the first song I remember listening to at the time was from 88, sadly not U2, but The Only Way is Up - Yazz. Maybe it was that platnium blonde hair that did it, hard to forget!

(Ray) Only Way Is Up was NZ#1(3) from 20 Nov 1988

Viliah Overwater, also in Amsterdam posted her thoughts ...
I'm pretty sure the year was 1979 for me ... though it is hard to pick a first song.

(Ray) Too Much Heaven was big for Bee Gees in NZ at the beginning of that year - from memory (will now go check)

(Viliah) I was only 5 at the time ... I'm thinking more along the lines of Bright Eyes. My first TV memory was Hogan's Heros on colour TV in 1976!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Originals and cover versions

From Facebook, Donald Stuart said; "Ray can you please tell me what's the big deal if a record lasts 3min 2 secs when it's supposed to be 3min 5 secs. Alex was monking about this on Sat but I just cant see what's the big deal .Do people phone you in and complain about this. Do they sit with stop watches when listening to you."

No, as you suspect, listeners do not phone and comment on duration of tunes on the radio, unless they perceive you are cutting their favourite song short. However you do get phone calls asking why don't you play the original version instead of 'that re-recording'. And that is part of what Alex and other collectors are on about. Duration is a clue as to whether a track is the original off the original master or an indication of sloppy work by record companies in going to their vaults for reissues.

Some listeners are not aware that the under resourced record labels can supposedly 'reissue' songs by having a surviving member of a band to front some studio musicians to capitalise on the nostalgia market and by careful choice of words pretend that it is the original that you used to groove and move to. Major labels have been known for sloppy work in perhaps sending a junior to the vault to reissue a hit and they select the wrong take.

Not only that, upsetting for the fussy collector, is when the label remixes the reissue and comes up with a different sound than the collector used to hear on vinyl. I think Alex bought about 10 CDs trying to get the original mix version of Les Baxter - Quiet Village. I think in the end he cleaned up a 45 to get that balance of beach sounds and guitar along with the other instruments.

Most listeners would not notice but there are enough that do, so a Radio Station should try and play the originals to satisfy both camps so long as you don't have to chase your tail too much. Some callers can be mistaken about what was the original and have been listening to a remake, others have supplied the original and then phoned to suggest we are not playing the orginal. Then we advise they drink filtered water.

Maybe I should tell the story of adjusting the listeners to the original of 'In The Mood', after someone mentioned the version Today FM was playing DID NOT have Glenn Miller on trombone.

Tuesday 13 April, Don replied on Facebook,
Thanks for the info Ray. Now I understand.Come to think of it I must have a bundle of Lps, tapes. and cds that I know are not the originals.The worst are the live recordings when the singers change the words and alter parts of the tune. Cheers Don

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Music you can discover from a social networking page

Stephen Manktelow, on Face Book commented; "Funny how music can make you feel better ehen you're feeling a bit low. Jay Epae from Hawaii with Putti putti (1961). The only hit on the Swedish top list with Hawaiian lyrics!!!" and included the You Tube link

This prompted me to do a Google search and was surprised to find he was a Kiwi artist and the guy who wrote one of Maria Dallas' big hits.

Played the song on Coast Sunday 21 March and got a call from Alan of Northland who told me Jay Epae was originally from Matauri Bay in Northland and "was pretty good on the Taranaki circuit" when the province was on a roll with rugby's Ranfurly Shield. I'm guessing Alan was referring to when "the shield returned to the province for another 15 gripping games in 1963–65"