Saturday, November 06, 2004:


Vince Martin with the Tarriers -- Cindy, Oh Cindy
The Tarriers -- The Banana Boat Song
Chillin' with some 1950s music today. I think it's wonderful but kind of deceptive--it's been used so often in films and TV shows to paint a sort of idyllic, clean-cut world (that's invariably white and well-mannered), but at the time in, say, L.A., heroin use was spreading into more residential areas and being picked up by teenagers, child molestation was a big issue (made public by the abduction, molestation, & murder of a young girl), and police and politicians were struggling to stem gang activity. I don't know how close Rebel without a Cause is to how things really were, but I'd bet it's a mite closer than Leave It to Beaver.

Here are a couple of gems from the 1950s folk/pop scene, from the trio The Tarriers (mostly because I needed to go to the grocer but instead sat checking email and being lazy).

The first is a story of a sailor's love; the sailor sees her face in the waves, feels her kisses on the breeze, paces the deck "caressed by memories." He waits for a letter, hoping for an excuse to come home. The vocals are top-notch, though the melody might seem a bit dated--not harsh enough, not hurt enough, pining but controlled--but it's a timeless theme and I think the song has aged well. And I wish I knew more about music theory because the guitar seems to fit into some sort of tradition that I can't place.

The second is The Tarriers' version of "The Banana Boat Song," a Jamaican folk song which dates back at least to the 1940s. The Tarriers released their take on it just before Harry Belafonte released his. Oh, cruel fate: a good version eclipsed by another good version, one forgotten, the other in the shrimp dinner scene of a Tim Burton film.
[] Good collection, sadly out of print. Scarce on ebay, too.
[] Another collection, in print, decent but not mind-blowing.

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