Nov 232009

Greetings, fellow seekers of the weird, the wonderful, and the incredibly cheap! I’ve returned to you after an autumn filled with notable thrifty musical finds, scoured from the junk store bins, the yard sales, and the flea markets of our nation’s capitol. And I’m here to share!

Truth be told, this autumn was an embarrassment of riches — I’ve got about a dozen thrifty music finds I really want to play for you — and I’ve still got about 70-80 singles I’ve yet to go through. In fact, I’ve got so many choice tunes worth posting that I struggled to find a unifying theme among them — i.e., some silly Thrifty Music concept that would amuse, delight, and give me an excuse to pad my post out with mind-numbing prose.

So, instead, I decided to just go for the jugular with the three tunes that (so far) have jumped out as the strongest of the bunch. These tunes require no explanation, no contextual analysis, and certainly no excuses. They all completely kick mo-fo ASS, as far as I’m concerned. I trust you’ll agree.

First up: “Leave Me Alone” by Detroit’s own Nathaniel Mayer. The InterWeb tells me that Nathaniel Mayer was a peculiar soul artist whose voice and choice of backing instrumentation was so raw as to presage the whole garage/punk ethos of the mid-to-late-’60s. And, for once, I agree with the InterWeb! From the moment I threw this disc down on the turntable, I was hooked. It’s a winner.

Next, a song that has joined a select few at the top of my list of flawlessly sweet, tender, uncompromising love songs: Lee Williams and the Cymbals“I Love You More”. Good God, but — what could possibly be added to this tune to make it any better? The arrangement and instrumentation is sweet, in every sense of the word, the melody is total brain glue, and that chorus! “I love you more than anybody’s ever loved anyone…” Man, to be able to a) write that lyric; and b) sing it successfully, without the faintest whiff of cheese — well, it’s just brilliant.

Last up, The Vacels — an early ’60s white doo-wop group that somehow made the transition into the mop-toppin’ mid-’60s with toe-tappin’ aplomb. Their most famous (and that’s a very relative thing with these guys) track was a cover of a Dylan number (see illustration), but for my money, this B-side, entitled “You’re My Baby,” is the band’s big winner. I am extremely curious to hear Townsman Mockcarr‘s take on this song. He’s always sported a boner for riff-y ’60s rock that wasn’t afraid to make liberal, front-and-center use of the Rickenbacker 12-string, as this one does. So howzabout it, Mockcarr and all you other slavishly devoted mop-top wannabes? What’s your verdict on The Vacels?

So there you go — three songs that I didn’t look for, that just showed up in my musical life because I was patient and willing to spend 50 cents on musical commodities I knew nothing about. It’s true, I had to sniff a lot of dogshit to find these sweet-smelling gems, but I think it was worth the effort. I hope you agree.

There’s a lot more thrifty music to come, by the way. I just wanted to get these winners into your ear-bones as soon as possible. Let me know what you think!

Your humble, frugal musical servant,



  9 Responses to “Thrifty Music, Vol. 18: The Cream of the Crop”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    Glad to hear a return of the Thrifty Music series, Hrrundi. Thanks. The Mayer track is oddly appealing. I like how the backing vocals are given equal weight in the mix as the lead vocals. And the surface noise, captured digitally, really adds to things. I’m not kidding.

    The middle track is pretty good, but for me it just sits there after a while. I was getting antsy as it crept along.

    The Vacels track packs a lot of white energy and enthusiasm! These guys must have whizzed through midterms and finals! Not a bad showing for a B-side.

  2. I really liked that second track. It has a lot in common with early Impressions and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing that Curtis-Mayfield-gospel-inflected guitar the appears here and there throughout the song (see the 44 second mark for example).

    The first one was cool too. I love this kind of rock/r&b hybrid stuff before everything got too polished.

    The last one is okay but I’m not sure what it’s bringing to the table. It has cool elements but they don’t really add up to much.

  3. mockcarr

    Gotta love that drums in the mildewed basement corner sound in the first one. Bass singer seems right at the bottom of what he can do, I love crap like that, man. The performance is maybe not quite getting where they want it to be, but putting the balls right on tape.

    If I’m not mistaken that’s a bass trombone defeating the low end in the second one. Very cool! He sings the hell out of that stand along “I” every time. Great stuff.

    Yep, the third could be a solid Nugget, perhaps akin to the Mockingbirds? That sax bit is the only off thing for me, although it’s more interesting than what usually would pass for the standard melody solo there, I guess. The horns give it a little more production value, along with the solid vocals, but at heart it wants to be garagey. The 12-string opening promises a bit more than it delivers, so McGuinn and Georgie are still safe, but the song DOES kick ass most assuredly.

  4. junkintheyard

    You have tapped on the hidden splendor of cheep unwanted vinyl! I’ve found many gems over the years (including the White Album for 50 cents!! I’m holding my breath for a butcher cover, ya never know) and will sometimes come across this. They usually sit between the 5th copy of Perry Como’s greatest hits and yet another Engelbert Humperdink.

    These are some great finds. The first one is years ahead its time vocally and instrumentally. “oh your like a boll weevil!” Love the abrasiveness.

    I dig the second one, just not much to say on it. Agreed on hitting the “I”! The slight guitar twang punctuating every few bars is a nice touch as well.

    The third is nothing but powerhouse! I was jamming the whole way! The sped up “money” sytle intro with great build up and sustained energy all the way … then along comes this sax solo… it may be the only thing out of place.

  5. BigSteve

    Cool tracks. The rawness of the first one is appealing, but you’ve got to admit that it doesn’t rise to the level of awesomeness reached by Mr. Mayer’s conk. The garagey guitar solo is good because it’s right at the edge of competence, though it really should have ended after he shouts out “Cotton pickin’ time!” I think the guitarist knows he’s overstayed his welcome, because he cuts his solo short and doesn’t make it through the second eight. I also like the city/country dynamic in the lyrics.

    I like the spacey vibe(s) in the second track. And I like the way the vocalist reaches up for the maj7th (I think I’ve got that right) at about 1:32. And I agree that the lyrical hyperbole is oddly moving. It works because the vocal isn’t aggressive, I think.

    And I really liked the sax solo on the third track. It may be ‘out of place’ but it’s the main thing that keeps the record from being generic frat rock. The macho lyrics wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows at the time, but from today’s perspective they sound vaguely threatening.

    Somebody at Kama Sutra was pretty hip to have them cover Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? in 1965, but what kind of name is Vacels? Do they belong in another thread?

  6. Mr. Moderator

    I too pondered that last band’s name, at first thinking it should be pronounced with a long a. Is it a misspelling of “The Vassals,” which sounds and looks more like the name of a ’60s garage band?

  7. Great crop of songs, hvb. That middle tune is a winner for all the reasons already listed. If you told me that title line I’d have said there was no way anyone could pull that off but he nails it perfectly over and over.

    I for one would love to here the Dylan cover a-side. Any chance you could put that one up?

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    I have no insight into the Vacels, other than the fact that a.) they were a white doo-wop band with at least one single in the early 60s; and b.) that they covered that Dylan number. (About which: sorry, Al, but that’s not the A-side of “You’re my Baby.” Here’s “Ricky and the Vacels” (the same group) in 1962:

    BigSteve, thanks for your comments. I was particularly interested in your thoughts on that Nathaniel Mayer number. Real country!

    Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Incidentally, I think the real star of that Nathaniel Mayer number — in addition to the basso profundo, of course — is the drummer. Man, that’s some crazy slop he’s playing!

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