Grab Bag No. 3

Originally posted January 23, 2009

Getting around at last to digging into Grab Bag No. 3, I find that the Texas Gal and I pulled some fairly interesting records out of the box. And happily, they’re all in pretty good shape. We’ve got some late 1960s country, an early 1960s movie theme and a little bit of late 1980s anger.

First up, the country record: It’s by one of the true giants of country music, Eddy Arnold, who crossed over last May at the age of eighty-nine. In his long career, Arnold had a total of 147 songs on the charts, including twenty-eight No. 1 hits on the Billboard country chart. Today’s record wasn’t one of those No. 1 hits, but it didn’t miss by much.

“Misty Blue,” which went to No. 3, was pulled from Arnold’s 1966 album, The Last Word in Lonesome. It’s a sweet and simple love song by Bob Montgomery that Arnold sings with his customary assurance. The B-Side is Wayne Thompson’s “Calling Mary Names,” one of those songs that take the narrator from childhood to adulthood; as a kid, he calls Mary names that are never specified, but they got him in trouble in school. Along the way, Mary changes, and now he calls her names like “sweetheart.”

Both sides of the single were arranged and conducted by Bill Walker, and Nashville standout Chet Atkins produced both.

“Misty Blue” by Eddy Arnold, RCA Victor 9182 (1967)

“Calling Mary Names” by Eddy Arnold, RCA Victor 9182 (1967)

The Texas Gal actually pulled five 45s from the box of unsorted records the other day, and my plan was to offer here the three that played best. One of the three I’d settled on was an EP titled Ray Anthony Plays For Star Dancing, four sweet performances from 1957 by Ray Anthony and his orchestra. (The EP was one of three in a series; all twelve performances were issued on an LP, too.) Sadly, there was just too much surface noise for me to be happy with the record. Maybe another Ray Anthony record waits in the box.

But that left me a record short, so I reached into the box this morning and pulled out a relative rarity: a record in its original sleeve, or at least in the record label’s standard sleeve. And the 1961 Pat Boone record in that sleeve is a movie theme whose words proclaim thoughts that echo in today’s headlines.

The film was Exodus, a screen adaptation of the Leon Uris novel of the same name. The book and the film were about (choose your viewpoint) either the settling and creation of the land of Israel as a Jewish homeland after the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, or the theft of Palestine from its original inhabitants.

“The Exodus Song” makes it clear which side Uris, the movie-makers and Boone were on, as it proclaims in the opening words: “This land is mine. God gave this land to me.” Why are we sure Boone is on that side and not just singing? Well, actually, we can’t be entirely sure, but Boone wrote the lyric to the song (Ernest Gold wrote the music), and one can only assume. I may be wrong.

I saw the movie with my folks when it came out in 1961, and I recall being moved by – among other things – Gold’s soundtrack, but based on the LP of the soundtrack, it doesn’t appear that Boone’s performance was used in the film. At least it didn’t make it to the record. And Boone’s performance of the song isn’t all that great, anyway. The song – whatever one makes of the viewpoint of its lyrics – is too big for Boone.

Boone does better on the B-Side, at least as far as performance goes. The flip side of the single is a recording of “There’s A Moon Out Tonight,” a cover of the Capri’s No. 3 hit from the early months of 1961. Boone does an okay job with the song – he doesn’t seem utterly lost as he did during some of his covers, most notably “Long Tall Sally” from 1956 – but he’s still far shy of the luminous quality of the Capri’s performance.

“The Exodus Song” by Pat Boone, Dot 16176, 1961

“There’s A Moon Out Tonight” by Pat Boone, Dot 16176, 1961

I’m not sure where I got the above two records. I think the Eddy Arnold was a Leo Rau record, and I’m pretty sure that the Pat Boone was in one of the boxes I got during the early 1990s from my friend Fran at Bridging Inc.

But I have absolutely no idea how I ended up with today’s third record, a single from an Austin, Texas, group called the Pocket FishRmen. Maybe in a box at a garage sale. I tagged the record – which was recorded in 1989 – as punk, because it’s angry and ragged. Maybe it should be called something else. Anyone out there have any ideas?

The group has a MySpace page with some of its stuff available there, and there’s a piece here from the Austin Chronicle about the group’s final gig. Members of the group at the time the single was recorded were Brant Bingamon, Chris Burns, Marcus Trejo and Ron Williams.

The A-Side of the record is “The Leader Is Burning,” written by Bingamon, and the B-Side is “Yr Story,” written by Williams. The single was on Noiseville Records of Yonkers, New York, but there’s no catalog number. Burns produced both songs on the single.

“The Leader Is Burning” by the Pocket FishRmen, Noiseville Records, 1989

“Yr Story” by the Pocket FishRmen, Noiseville Records, 1989

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