09-27: Metallica Cliff's Last Show Stockholm 1986 - McCartney & Wings Fort Worth 1976 - Walter Trampler : Hindemith | Reger - Rory Storm & the Hurricanes Complete 1963-64

1614 – Felice Anerio (Italian composer, singer, priest & choirmaster, Papal royal chapel)
1919 – Adelina Patti (Italian lyric coloratura soprano)
1921 – Engelbert Humperdinck (German opera composer, Hänsel und Gretel)
1935 – Alan Gray (English organist & composer)
1956 – Gerald Finzi (English composer)
1965 – Harry Reser (American jazz banjoist & bandleader)
1972 – Rory Storm (English skiffle singer & songwriter, the Hurricanes)

1979 – Jimmy McCullough (Scottish rock & pop guitarist, bass guitarist & singer, Wings)
1986 – Cliff Burton (American metal bass guitarist & songwriter, Metallica)
1995 – Christopher Shaw (English composer, pianist & music critic)
1997 – Walter Trampler (German-born American violist)
2007 – Dale Houston (American rock & pop singer, Dale & Grace)
2008 – Mahendra Kapoor (Indian playback singer)
2011 – Johnny "Country" Mathis (American country singer & songwriter)


Hello. I have been chosen to lighten Pictagoras's load on Yesterday in Dead Musicians. Think of me as a substitute teacher. That doesn't mean you can run around the room groping people like the Marx Brothers, but then again you're probably sitting in your underwear alone eating cereal; ergo, no one to grope. Well, let's start with Adelina Patti.

She was a well-received 19th century opera singer, whom Guiseppe Verdi called perhaps the finest singer who had ever lived and a “stupendous artist.” Well, there are no tape recorders in the distant past, so Verdi doesn't have a historical pool of, say, Baroque singers to compare her to. That being said, she was supposed to have had quite a voice. She made over 30 recordings, so it's possible to hear her for yourself. She even spoke beyond the grave on a New Year's Eve message intended for her husband to play after she was gone.

The critics of her time agree with Verdi. She came from a long line of operatic singers. Her parents were a tenor and a soprano; I'll let you figure out which parent was which. Adelina was born in Madrid, but her family moved to New York City soon after. She grew up in the Bronx. But back to her voice.

She had a unique, warm tone with equalized registers, and a range that extended from C4 to F6. According to the modern day oracle Wikipedia, during the 1860's, “she had a sweet, high-lying voice of birdlike purity and remarkable flexibility.” Wow. Also her lower notes gained fullness with age.

The definitive anecdote regarding Adelina Patti concerns the time she pulled a "Rasputin" when singing for Abraham Lincoln and family. Her performance moved them to tears, which wasn't difficult since the President and First Lady had just lost their son Willie to typhoid fever. It didn't help that the song was Payne's “Home Sweet Home.” After this event the song became associated with Adelina. In her time, no one else could sing it better. But in her autumn years she started to play it safe. Easy thing to do as we grow older. 

She once sang an aria by Rossini, “Una voce poco fa” from The Barber of Seville, in the composer's presence. It's not necessary to mention that this was a big deal. Bigger than auditioning for Simon Cowell. The problem was that many embellishments had been made to the vocal part (by Strakosch, Patti's mentor and brother-in-law) in order to suit her voice. Rossini asked whose composition it was. After he learned it was his, he hit the roof, insisting that it was not his and was fit for pigs, in less words.

As a testament to her fame, Adelina Patti is mentioned in contemporary literary works such as Oscar Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Grey, Émile Zola's Nana, and The Village in the Treetops by Jules Verne.

Composer Engelbert Humperdinck has a funny name. Why a pop singer born "Arnold George Dorsey" would choose it on purpose is a bit mysterious. Humperdinck is best known for Hänsel und Gretel, a children's opera that started out as an accompaniment for a puppet show his nieces were giving. The acorn grew, and in 1891 he began working on the orchestration. Richard Strauss called the opera “a masterpiece of the highest quality... all of it original, new, and so authentically German.” Humperdinck suffered a heart attack while watching a performance of Weber's Der Freischütz - in a production which was the first effort as a stage director by his son, Wolfram Humperdinck. Engelbert died of a second heart attack soon after. Our parents have such subtle ways of critiquing our work.

Gerald Finzi was a composer of many songs and other vocal works; some of them, such as Dies Natalis (1946) and Farewell to Arms (1944), feature an orchestral accompaniment. Finzi was a fairly conservative composer, and his music doesn't sting your eardrums too much. However, his extra-musical interests were a tad bizarre, in a quirky, Chekhovian kind of way. (That's to say that a character could be fleshed out dramatically by adding some of Finzi's interests to the story.) He was an apple grower. In fact, he saved several apple varieties from extinction. He was also into English literature, poetry, and philosophy. He collected over 3000 volumes, some of them rarer that my Mode edition 1 John Cage LP. That is to say, pretty rare. He died from shingles, which was related to Hodgkins Disease, a day after the first performance of his Cello Concerto had been given on the radio.

Well, this is interesting. We have a musician who played with one Beatle before he was a Beatle, and another who played with a different Beatle after he was a Beatle.

Rory Storm was born with a stutter, played skiffle, and preferred to run home after his concerts. He was devilishly handsome, as his picture will attest. What is skiffle? In a nutshell, it's old-timey music played on homemade instruments. Skiffle had a resurgence in Britain around the time Rory came of age. There were an estimated 30–50,000 skiffle groups in Britain in the 1950s. 

Rory's best-known band was Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Their drummer was a soon-to-be-famous Ringo Starr. Ringo was ambivalent about music then, but Rory convinced him to quit his job and focus on music by giving him “Starr Time,” a solo spot. And reminding him that chicks dig musicians. 

Rory changed his name legally (his birth name was Alan Caldwell) and changed the name of his house to Stormsville. He was known for swanky clothes and cars, was once caught writing “I love Rory” on the railway walls in Bootle, Merseyside, and used a pet monkey as his mascot. Other feats to go along with his image include diving off a swimming board after a song in one of his shows; playing a whole concert wearing a hood after being told about a boil on his face; and using a torch to light the stage one night when the concert lights weren't working. 

After the Hurricanes, Rory worked as a disc jockey and lived with his mother. His death was caused by a combination of alcohol and sleeping pills, but it was deemed accidental and not a suicide. However, his mother may have in fact killed herself after discovering his body, although this was never proven. 

Jimmy McCullough, guitarist for Paul McCartney's band Wings, also played in Thunderclap Newman, One in a Million, and Stone the Crows. But none of those gave him the kind of fame dreams are made of - the kind that working with an ex-Beatle can give. He started with blues-rock band Stone the Crows when, in a morbid twist of fate, their guitarist Les Harvey was electrocuted onstage. McCullough joined STC as Harvey's replacement in June 1972. The project was short-lived, and Stone the Crows disbanded less than a year later. But the position gave him enough mojo to land a gig in Wings. His debut track was “Junior's Farm.” The two Wings albums he played on are Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound. Neither have been reissued on vinyl yet (first thing that I checked), but Paul has quite a few solo albums available on wax. After Wings, Jimmy joined the reformed Small Faces and played on their album 78 in the Shade. The last song McCullough recorded before he died was with The Dukes - “Heartbreaker,” which appeared on their only album.

“Bass solo. Take one.” Those are the opening lines to Cliff Burton's bass solo, “Pulling Teeth” which is perhaps the greatest metal bass solo ever recorded in the studio. Well, it's the only metal bass solo recorded in the studio I can think of, but still that doesn't change anything. Cliff is one of the greatest heavy metal bassists of all time. I think most headbangers would agree. He recorded three albums with Metallica: Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets. All three are available on a nicely pressed/remastered Mobile Fidelity reissue. I own them on 45 rpm and the sound is mind-blowing! Master of Puppets is generally regarded as the best metal album in history. Can't argue with tradition; but it was an argument when the album came out. They lost the best hard rock/heavy metal album of that year to Jethro Tull's Crest of a Knave. While many metalheads still are scratching their matted hair over that one, I myself like both albums.

Have you seen The Seventh Seal? I can't manage to sit though it, but there is a very famous scene where the protagonist plays chess with Death. One night, 25 years ago, Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammet, Metallica's lead guitarist, were fighting over the comfortable bunk bed on their tour bus. They drew cards and Burton won with the Ace of Spades. But soon after, the bus skidded off the road, destroying both the bunk bed and its inhabitant, but leaving Kirk relatively unscathed. Fortune has a dark symmetry. What was that Blake quote about a tiger?

Walter Trampler was a German violist and viola teacher. He began music studies when he was six. He was the violist for the Strub String Quartet, and recorded with them in its second incarnation in the 30s. He emigrated to the United States in 1939, and enlisted in the army during World War II. Trampler was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and was violist for the Yale Quartet. He loved all types of classical music, including baroque and contemporary music. The avant-garde composer Luciano Berio tailored a composition for him. (Mode records has a nice Berio CD box set containing his complete Sequenzas.) 

Mahendra Kapoor was in Indian playback singer. Playback singing is a convention of the Bollywood musical genre, in which a singer is prerecorded for use in movies. (The actor or actress who is "singing" the song in the movie is of course almost always a different person from the real singer.) Kapoor sang over 25,000 songs, and he was most famous for patriotic songs. Trained by the legendary Mohd. Rafi, he was the first Indian playback singer to record in English. For his debut recording, he was singing “Adha Hai Chandrama,” with Asha Bhonsle in the recording booth with him. Due to some technical problem, the music director couldn't hear Kapoor's voice, so he entered the booth and asked why Kapoor wasn't singing. Then Asha explained that he was singing brilliantly. The problem was fixed, and Kapoor had a career because of it. Kapoor also got a chance to record a duet with Mohd. Rafi, his idol and guru. The song was "Kaisi Haseen Aaj Baharon Ki Raat" from the 1967 film Aadmi. The song had originally been recorded as a duet with Rafi and Talat Mehmood, but Manoj Kumar, one of the leading stars in the film, refused for Talat's voice to be used for him. So, the song was re-recorded with Kapoor replacing Talat. It is a unique song, with Talat and Rafi in the original version, and Kapoor and Rafi in the movie version. Also, the movie version is the only duet recorded by these two legends of playback singing.

Johnny “Country” Mathis has no relation to the other Johnny Mathis. “Country” hailed from Texas and learned guitar playing in his father's church. He picked cotton to make ends meet. He played in the duo “Jimmy and Johnny”, and had a Top 10 hit with “If You Don't Someone Else Will.” He wrote over 500 songs, many of which were sung by the likes of George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Charlie Pride, Johnny Horton, Ray Price, Jimmy Dean, George Hamilton IV, Freddy Fender, Melba Montgomery, Webb Pierce, The Whites, Carl Smith, Bobby Helms, and Elvis Costello. 

He was part of the Louisiana Hayride, a radio and television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana. While the Grand Old Opry was big stuff even then, the Hayride was the place to go to find virtual unknowns. It made some big careers, including that of Mathis.

One day Johnny had an epiphany while driving down a Texas road. At that moment he devoted his life to Jesus Christ. He then wrote, “I'm Gonna Thank You Jesus.” Mathis abandoned country music and became a gospel singer. So I guess at that point he became Johnny "Gospel" Mathis. Mathis died of a stroke one day before his 81st birthday. 

Well, that's yesterday.


1 comment:

  1. Bravo, Waex... a fine job, indeed! Of course, it doesn't hurt that you learned from the best... hahaha...