Korla Pandit: The Universal Language of Music Vol. 1

[photo of Korla Pandit] The 1950s’ mysterious, romantic exotica organist Korla Pandit was born in New Delhi, India in the early 1920s. Born into a higher-caste family, he showed immense musical talent at a young age, and his father sent him to study music at elite prep schools in England. In the early 1940s, he came to the United States to enroll at the University of Chicago.

Actually, that’s all lies. That was the story Pandit always gave, and for decades it was accepted by everyone as his biography. But after his death in 1998, it was discovered that he really was a black guy from St. Louis named John Roland Redd.

Heh.

Anyway, the rest of his biography is less murky. His big break came when he was hired to do background music for the revival of the radio show Chandu the Magician in 1948. He caught the attention of a producer with KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, who hired him to star in a daily 15-minute show, in which he played the organ and never spoke.

Pandit had already released several singles (including a couple under his previous incarnation, “Juan Rolando”) and a few EPs, but this is his first full-length LP: The Universal Language of Music, Volume 1, from 1954.

[photo of album cover: The Universal Language of Music, Vol. 1]

  1. The Banjello
  2. Clare de Lune
  3. Stormy Weather
  4. Over the Rainbow
  5. Samba
  6. Trance Dance
  7. Theme from Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony
  8. Aicha’s Dance (Moghul Suite)
  9. Intermettzo
  10. Beyond the Sunset
  11. Chopin’s Waltz in A Major

I should add that the voice you hear on these tracks (in full 1950s Authoritative Narrator mode), is not Pandit, who never spoke on his shows or at performances, but rather somebody named Dave Ballard. Ballard also was the announcer for Pandit’s TV show, but I haven’t been able to find out much about him. He might be the same guy as this Dave Ballard who was active in 1950s television. IMDB says he’s 7'6"!

Kangaroo Kourt: Atmospheric Distortions

Nobody seems to know anything about Kangaroo Kourt, but their albums found their way into many college radio stations’ libraries in the late 1980s. This is Atmospheric Distortions, which I believe is their first album.

Side 1 has interesting noise interspersed with samples of children’s records and some apparently-original skits. Their humor isn’t for everyone, but it’s so off-the-wall that I greatly enjoy it (“The High Geek has repealed the 7% suicide tax”). Also, another warning against masturbation (see my earlier post). One more and it’s a trend!

Side 2 is just straightforward noise (if that’s not an oxymoron) — no voice samples. Still very much worth downloading.

Jerry McCain: Choo Choo Rock

[photo of Jerry McCain]Jerry McCain is an inexplicably obscure harmonica player who was most active in the 1950s. His first recordings were on Trumpet Records for Lillian McMurray (who also discovered Elmore James) in 1953; they were decent but unremarkable blues sides. In 1955, however, he put together a band with his brother and went uptempo, recording eleven raucous rock and roll demos in his living room, all original compositions. On the strength of these recordings he got a contract with Excello and issued several tracks, all great rockers but not up to the level of the insane, crude demos.

He’s been active on-and-off since then; his biggest hit was a 1970 cover of Guy Drake’s right-wing anthem “Welfare Cadillac”. He retired from his day job — private investigator — in the 1980s and later opened a nightclub, where he still performs occasionally.

The living room recordings have been reissued a few times, originally on a European bootleg called “Choo Choo Rock”, then later on another boot and then finally on a legit-looking reissue that also included his complete Excello sides. All are long out of print.

These tracks are all great, but be sure to check out “My Next Door Neighbor”, which is in my Top 5 Best Song Lyrics of All Time list (he would record a tamer version for Excello a year later, with the the line about the Devil removed), and “Bell in My Heart”, where McCain is accompanied by an alarm clock that is starting to wind down by the third verse.

  1. A Cutie Named Judy
  2. Geronimo Rock & Roll
  3. It Must Be Love
  4. Rock & Roll Ball
  5. I Want Somebody to Love
  6. Turn Your Damper Down
  7. I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from a Rock & Roll City
  8. Choo Choo Rock
  9. Bell in My Heart
  10. My Next Door Neighbor
  11. Crying Like a Fool

Nanonuts

[Panel from Nanonuts]Nanonuts is a rather odd comic I found several years ago at Quimby’s book/zine store in Chicago. It was all very mysterious, with no credits or contact information (there were a couple URLs, but they were for straightforward sites about nanotechnology and apparently had nothing to do with the book’s creators). And it was bound with yarn. Of course I had to have it – it combined two of my greatest loves, nightmarish surrealist deformities and Peanuts.

[Panel from Nanonuts]Luckily for me, I loved it so much that not only did I buy a copy, but I made at least two friends also buy copies. So when I lost my copy, I told Colin and he sent me a scan of his copy and saved me. And now I can post it here.

Dance the Screw

[photo of Phil Spector]Sometimes you do feel like there’s a rough karmic justice in the world, like when you consider the fates of the twin geniuses of 1960’s record production. The good twin, Brian Wilson, seems to have conquered most of his demons, is happily married, has a band that actually respects him, and finally finished Smile, which was far better than anyone dared hope.

And the evil twin, Phil Spector, is finally where he probably deserves, too; like Lex Luthor at the end of a Superman comic, he’s locked up to face justice.

Wilson, touchingly, swears there’s no way Spector is guilty; his logic seems to be how could the creator of the greatest album of all time be guilty of murder? Well, there were always signs.

[image of Dance the Screw record label]My favorite is this one. Spector drove his partner, Lester Sill, out of the label they had formed for a pittance — Sill was entitled to far more money but he took Spector’s lowball offer just so he wouldn’t have to deal with him ever again. But Spector wasn’t satisfied with just victory; he had to twist the knife for that extra thrill. He found a session piano player and dragged the Crystals into the studio on a Saturday to cut this minimalist gem; “Ha ha, fuck you” set to music. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something rather creepy and haunting about this, even aside from the context; like a nightmare about sounds coming from a cave.

I haven’t been able to find “Part II”, but you probably will get the idea from this.

Christopher Recordings on Sex Instruction

For our inaugural post, I’ve put up Christopher Recordings on Sex Instruction, an early-1950’s album for good Christian parents on how to properly teach their children about the mysteries of sex. Highlights include some of the worst adults-pretending-to-be-children acting of all time, and the stern warning against masturbation in track 3.

There’s a semi-interesting story behind these files. I originally made them in 1997 from my copy of the album, a collection of four 78 RPM 10-inches (it was also issued on LP). I then posted them to the newsgroup alt.binaries.sounds.mp3, the best way to trade MP3s in those pre-Napster days. Not long after that, I moved and put most of my records in storage (this will be a recurring theme, I’m afraid). A couple years ago, I wanted to play some of these on my radio show, but the records were packed away and I couldn’t find the MP3s on any of my backups. I did a search, without much hope, on WinMX, and to my surprise I found them all. After downloading them and looking at the tags, I realized these were the exact ones I had encoded and posted years earlier — they had been bouncing around the various P2P networks all these years.

  1. How Babies Are Made
  2. Girls and Menstruation
  3. The Problems of Growing Boys
  4. The Marriage Union