July 25, 2013

Records From My Father, Part 3: "Memories Are Made of This."

For Part 3 of this series, I chose "Memories Are Made of This," a 1960 album by Ray Conniff/His Orchestra and Chorus. This is extremely, possibly insanely cheerful music.


There are vocals, but no words, indeed, no individuality. We hear blended voices bopping along, making "ba" and "ah" sounds, as if they were another section of the orchestra, a section less important then the trumpets which get way out in front at times. Whoa! Settle down, you might want to say to Doc Severinson, blaring out in "Three Coins in the Fountain."

The idea is to take "biggest hits of the past ten years" — like "Three Coins" — and put them through the Conniff-grinder, which processes familiar songs into bright, incredibly perky instrumentals. Check out "Tammy."

My favorite rendition was "Unchained Melody," which you can listen to here. If you're used to The Righteous Brothers' achingly soulful version, you might find this hilarious or awesomely refreshing. Since, as noted, the words are never sung, you can use this as a karaoke background track, perhaps inspired to revise the words to fit the very cheerful instrumentation:
Time goes by so quickly
But time can't mean too much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
If not your love
Some other love for me!
Oh, my love, my darling
I'm hungry for some lunch
It is lunch tiiiiiime!
Like both of my parents, Ray Conniff served in the U.S. Army in World War II.  I was 9 years old when this album came out, and I conveniently avoided living through the Depression and WWII, so I was in no position to understand the emotional impact this music had on the people it was designed for. When I look at the 1960 Top 100, I remember liking "The Twist," "Cathy's Clown," "Running Bear," "Puppy Love," "Ally-oop," "Chain Gang," and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini." I liked the singers and the words of these songs (whether I knew what a chain gang was or not, I got "Give me water! I'm thirsty!").

But my father enjoyed the wordless Conniff, who explained his musical revelation like this:
"One time I was recording an album with Mitch Miller - we had a big band and a small choir. I decided to have the choir sing along with the big band using wordless lyrics. The women were doubled with the trumpets and the men were doubled with the trombones. In the booth Mitch was totally surprised and excited at how well it worked."
I love the front cover of "Memories Are Made of This." That lady in what we used to call a bulky knit sweater is charmed by her charm bracelet. But the back cover is pretty dull, so I'm hiding it below the jump:


The back covers for albums often had, like this, advertisements for other albums. In this case, lots of other albums by Ray Conniff. When I finally got around to buying my own record albums — this was my first — in 1962, I did not like seeing any ads for records my father might buy. I wanted clear separation from the things that were his and the things that were mine. In the 1960s, this was called the "generation gap." This series, "Records From My Father," is a belated effort to bridge that gap.


Brent said...

Thank you for this! Loved Ray Conniff! Still have the "Somewhere My Love" 8-track cassette that I used to go to sleep at night with in junior high.It was soothing and relaxing, perfect for getting the days constant puberty problems out of your mind at the end of th3e day.

Now that I say that out loud, it definitely sounds uncool for a junior higher in 1969. But, it worked!

Ipso Fatso said...

On the back cover, I remember the album on the top right from my parents collection. Haven't seen that in years. Did your dad have any Bert Kempert? (sp?) There was a certain sound that must have appealed to people in their early 40s at that time. Kempert had a distinct sound as well that would not challenge you but was almost perfect back ground music. Also if memory serves, Screamin' Jay Hawkins did a recording with the Ray Coniff singers which he said that had no idea what they were getting into. "I Love Pairs In The Springtime" was one of the songs they did. Priceless.

Darrell said...

There were Ray Conniff recordings with the actual words. The versions with singers just singing sounds were intended to be less distracting to employees: With instrumental versions, people attempt to remember the lyrics to fill the void. The sung sounds provide placeholders that people generally don't try to override. All were meant to be just pleasant background while employees or shoppers completed their tasks. No lyrics that anyone could find offensive. No worries about the original recording artists and who they could offend with their lifestyles.

traditionalguy said...

Great memories from the Top 100 Hits list by billboard. 1956 was a tipping point into the singer centered songs. Before that the music was still Big Band sounds with some mixed in lead singer of note such as Julie London and Doris Day.

Ray Coniff still leaned to the old style using pop song melodies but arranging them for a Band with the singers hardly there.

I expect albums by Percy Faith or Ferrante & Teicher will be on the list, or maybe the Robert Shaw Chorale.

Nomadic100 said...

My wife's deceased father was a career musician in the service. When he died, she collected stacks of albums and reel to reel tapes - which are in the basement moldering. I have told her about your project in hopes of inspiring her.

Henry said...

"Memories are Made of This" could describe the whole series. The evocation of a father through music really speaks to me. I wanted to make that comment on your first posting in this series, but comments weren't turned on, so I'll make it now.

My father is a great lover of classical music. When I was growing up he had a small but carefully selected record collection of Baroque and early Classical works: J.S. Bach, Handel, Telemann. St. Matthew's Passion on 33-1/3 LPs was a 5 record set, to be carefully stacked on the spindle so they could be released one-by-one onto the turntable, then flipped halfway through.

Mostly my father listened to classical music on the radio. NPR is nothing but self-aggrandizing chatter now, but back then it was mostly classical music.

On Sunday afternoons he would turn on the Metropolitan Opera, lie down on the living room couch, and listen with his eyes closed. During the intermissions he would get up to take care of the bills or just doze. He didn't care about the interviews or the plot summary. He disliked the details of intrigues and bloodletting. He just loved the music.

Parents create a sensory environment that you forget when you grow up and move away. You think in terms of memories, of stories, and forget the colors and smells and sounds. That's why they surprise you. On a visit some years ago I found my father listening to one of Gluck's operas. He had used inter-library loan to locate CDs of multiple versions and he was listening to each one all the way through and learning something new about the music through the different interpretations.

So for a long holiday weekend, I was immersed in my father's aural environment in a more cognizant way than I had been in a long time. It was incredibly poignant. Of all the many facets of my father -- his religious belief, his career as a scientist, his love for family -- classical music is his most personal passion; it is the way that he escapes to his own place.

Music is at once collective and individual. You can listen to the same music as another person, but how the music is experienced, even by someone you know and love, is a mystery. My father is not purposefully a mysterious man, which is one reason I love this about him.

victoria said...

Lets not forget Mitch Miller!

Carol said...

I think we got one Ray Conniff album with our 25 free LPs!!1! that came with our Motorola hifi in 1956, "S'Wonderful." I never listened to it because it was Lame.

I take it as some kind of milestone that I now LOVE that kind of music. Easy Listening..ahh..I wish you could still get those Music of Your Life stations on late night AM.

I'm too late for everything.

Michael said...

This is a wonderful project and I hope that some melody will carry you back to where you were standing, a little girl hearing her father's music, a sonic Proust madeleine. I can hum along to many Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey tunes overheard when I was a child and I can remember even now the wistfulness of some of them, the melancholy, the exchanged looks of my parents. A little boy in the back seat on a hot summer night speeding down country roads on the way to the bootlegger, the radio going up front and mixing with the night sounds and the road.

GRW3 said...

This is such a coincidence. I too am going through my fathers record collection. I've had them a couple years but have only just now got my long planned, empty nest music room with a turntable. The first step was triage, separating the ones of interest from those I'll pass on. The Ray Coniff records did not make the cut. The split is fairly even, about 100:100.

The nostalgia is palpable. Dad loved music, mom not so much. She was OK with me listening to music so he taught me at an early age how to properly handle a LP. I play guitar and mandolin so one of the first ones I played was from 'the great folk scare' of the early '60s. I was taken aback by some songs that could not be done today - four white frat boys from Seattle singing with fake Spanish accents is jarring in this day and age. If you dabble in vintage recordings be sure to screen them first before you share them.

It's stlll true that CDs are cleaner but there is still a certain warmth you get with LPs. (I have a theory but would not want to bore you with it.) I find watching disk rotate and tone arm / stylus combo mesmerizing. Fortunately, thanks to the short time of a LP side cannot be too addictive (unlike my iPhone which could play tunes for a couple of months w/o repeats).

Old RPM Daddy said...

I don't know if my parents had any one type of music they liked best, but I remember the radio station we listened to in the house had a classical music program every night at ten, and I'd hear it playing downstairs while I was in my room waiting for sleep. Between that and my mom's piano playing, I guess I had an appreciation for what they liked.

Not that it did much good. When my older brother joined one of those record clubs in the 70s, he let me pick out an album. I selected a record by the shaggiest-looking rock group I could find that had a song I knew. So much for rebellion. But I'm perfectly happy to listen to Sinatra or Perry Como now.

richardsson said...

"Memories are Made of This" was a big hit for Dean Martin, and that version is the basis for my favorite version of the song by Spike Jones. The Spike Jones version was on the album "Dinner Music for People Who Aren't Very Hungry."

According to Chuck Cecil, the Swing Era in music was all but over by 1956. After that Rock 'n Roll dominated the charts. Chuck Cecil, who is 91 years old, still does his Swingin' Years program on public radio stations KKJZ Long Beach, California and WPPB Long Island, New York. The New York show streams on line.

richardsson said...
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Smilin' Jack said...

Music to rip your ears off by. This helps me to understand how Bob Dylan could have become popular.

Pianoman said...

I was introduced to Ray Conniff by my 5th grade teacher. He had this huge record collection in the classroom, and when I expressed an interest in them, he allowed me to spend part of my lunchtime listening to the vinyl.

That was the first time I heard songs like "Georgy Girl", "Paperback Writer", and "Surfin' Safari". And of course, "Sing Along With Mitch" albums ... which is how I learned about early 20th century pop songs like "Toot Toot Tootsie" and "Pack Up Your Troubles".

I've still got stacks of albums at home, waiting to be digitally converted. I doubt I'll ever finish; there's just too much stuff that was never issued on CD.

This is a great project, and I'm looking forward to more treasures.

Ann Althouse said...

"Did your dad have any Bert Kempert?"

I've never inventoried the whole pile, but I think the answer is no.

Ann Althouse said...

This is nice commenting. I'm finding it very sweet, to go along with the already sweet nostalgia.

Brent said...

I am a choral conductor now for 35 years. The music my father listened to undoubtedly had an influence on my direction - he would always put on Handel's "Messiah" every Thanksgiving morning while dishes were being prepared. Robert Shaw was the best. The things we are raised with - the not so overt, but consistent things, always have an influence, What's the old saying about children . . . "more things are caught than taught".

Someone (possibly Dale Carnegie) wrote about the strong but subtle influences in a story about a mother who's two sons had become sailors and she sadly never saw them. "How could they become sailors?" she asked the visitor. "We have no sailors in the family, nor we do we know any." The visitor asked, "Where did you seat them at the family dining table?"
"Why right here" she pointed out. "There's your answer" the visitor told her, pointing to the large paining of a beautiful galleon ship sailing on the open seas that hung directly across from her two sons' dining table chairs.

Michael Ryan said...

I do wonder what sort of musical legacy is being left for the next generations. I think about what "my generation" music I have, originating from the mid-70s to -80s. Yet, I enjoy artists going back to the 30's. Maybe even more now than when I was younger.

Now "my music" is as old to someone in their 20s as Cole Porter or Gershwin were to me. Do they see Chicago or Linda Ronstadt with the same nostalgia?

And what of 30 or 40 years from now? Will the young look back at Jay Z and Taylor Swift and say "those were the days!"?

David Avera said...

I have a number of records owned by my parents and their friends that they played at steak cookouts in the late 50's and early 60's. Of course the kids got the "hamburger steak". Lounge music. Cocktail party music.

Any Jackie Gleason in your dad's collection?

victoria said...

My folks, who were your dad's contemporaries, also loved Jazz. I listened to Dave Brubeck when I was 8 years old and fell in love forever. Also loved Vince Guaraldi. Used to play at half-time of Stanford games in the 60's, before Charlie Brown. "Cast your fate to the wind." Awesome


I was born in late 1951.

FWBuff said...

Ann, my father loved his record collection dearly, mostly Country and Western and folk. His music was a constant presence when we were growing up in the 60's and 70's. Now he has Alzheimer's, and his world is getting very small. But on his 82nd birthday this spring, we found a portable Crossley record player that is very simple to use. We put on his John Denver and Sons of the Pioneers albums, and his face lit up with joy and he started to sing along! In fact, my step-mother says that he sings all the time, now. What a sweet, poignant memory. Thank you for this project.

caplight45 said...

The Ray Coniff Singers would be a guilty pleasure. My Dad loved their music while my Mom was definitely all gospel and hymns. We only had the albums with words and that was how I learned a lot of the old standards.

For my parents generation there was a strong and rich tradition of popular (Pop?)choral music. I suspect it was rooted in church, school and community choirs and was just a more prominent part of the music landscape. Just off the top of my head I can think of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, The Robert Shaw Choral, the Harry Simeon Choral, Mitch Miller, the Ray Charles Singers (the white one), and the Ray Coniff Singers as mentioned. A great deal of music was written for group singing even on a casual basis. I have often been to social events with the senior adults of the WWII generation and they would love to spend time singing together as a group. It was actually kind of neat.

I have a tape of the first Ray Conniff Christmas album. I could still sing it word for word and love every minute of it.

Thanks for making me think of my Dad and Mom and our home in my growing up years. Last Saturday was the twenty-first anniversary of their funeral and I didn't take time to reminisce. Now I have.

William said...

Nostalgia, as they say, ain't what it used to be. I can go along with Julie London, but Ray Conniff is a bridge too far. Percy Faith at least had A Summer Place, but I can't remember a single song of Ray Conniff--just a vague memory of predigested mush music. I strongly doubt if any here were conceived with Ray Conniff playing in the background.

gadfly said...

The 1950s brought Rock and Roll to us teenagers but our parents still hummed and sang the songs of the big bands from the '40s - so the orchestras of Ray Coniff and the Percy Faith found a place among the adults. In the early '60s, instrumentations such as Theme From A Summer Place, Deep Purple, Unchained Melody and Over The Rainbow blended nicely with the rat-tat trumpet of Herb Alpert and R&B guitarist Earl King singing Come On, Let The Good Times Roll. Yeah, Jimi Hendricks made the song famous later but I was listening to less music by then.

In the '50s and '60s we had FM radio and "stacks of wax" on the record player. No smart phones, no video games, no cable TV and no Facebook - so I made music and girls (not in that order) my avocations back then.

Ann Althouse said...

If you click through to the Top 100 for 1960, you'll see that "Theme From a Summer Place" was #1 for the year.

GRW3 said...

This thread has obviously hit a real nerve. If the old deal about one letter equals one hundred opinions equates to comments there is a lot of interest.

I note there is some amount of nostalgia for artists that I put in my 'culled' stacks. I would surely like to see them go to somebody who would want them. Does anybody know of an LP exchange forum/website? I was thinking of bundling by artist and putting them on Craigslist just for the USPS flat rate box cost but I don't want to reinvent wheel if it already exists.

Last night I listened to the LP "Whipped Cream" by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass such a titillating cover to a teenager.

ganderson said...

When we went to church on Sunday morning my dad (not Catholic) would crank up Texas Jim Robertson, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, or Hank Williams. He'd been stationed at Fort Hood and Fort Sill during the war and brought back a taste for Western Swing. And...anybody remember those records the tire companies put out at Christmas? Lots of Ray Conniff on those puppies!

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

I may just have to drive over to the folks' house this weekend and fire up the old console hi-fi and listen to some Tijuana Brass myself. Good stuff!

Hazy Dave said...

...four white frat boys from Seattle singing with fake Spanish accents...

That first LP by the Brothers Four is imprinted indelibly in my memory. Besides that one, my folks' record collection was heavy on the "Ken Griffin At The Organ" series, a few Mitch Miller, and of course, the Goodyear and Firestone Christmas albums. I'll still pick one up at the Goodwill or Half Price Books if I find a copy that's not beat to hell.

Lovernios said...

My father had a great collection, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sara Vaughn, Lena Horne, the Mills Brothers, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. Great music. Great talent.

All gone, lost among the may times we moved from apartment to apartment. All told we must have moved over thirty times, keeping one step ahead of the landlord.

He had a great voice. Could have been someone, if only he wasn't lazy and an alcoholic.

Rocketeer said...

There was no Ray Conniff in my household – though I was born and (mostly) raised in the state’s Big City, my parents grew up in rural Kentucky, and the music of choice for them was country, western swing, bluegrass, and cowboy music. My father liked jazz, too, but even then it was pretty dated stuff – Dixieland and big bands. I remember being slightly embarrassed by it if my parents’ musical tastes ever managed to be displayed to those outside the family; say, visitors from church or parents of my friends. I’m not sure why exactly – almost all of them grew up in circumstances similar to my parents, and probably shared their tastes to a great degree. I guess I knew none of my friends liked it, so I thought I shouldn’t either.

Funny, though, now I fondly recall lying on the floor, watching Hee Haw and abashedly enjoying it. I’m not embarrassed at all as an adult to say that I like it: Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Bob Wills, Sons of the Pioneers. Even King Oliver, Pete Fountain, Louis Armstrong. I especially like the older stuff.