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Odd (Musical) Lots

  • Today we have a first: an all-music Odd Lots. The idea is to make a few worthy songs (worthy in my view; YMMV) more visible. Where they can be purchased online, I’ll provide a link. Some are only on CDs. And a few may well be unobtainium. Not sure what to suggest about that. I’ve mentioned a few of these before and even linked to some. Where relevant, I’ll mention why I think they’re worthy.
  • Rayburn Wright’s “Shaker Suite” (here, by the Canadian Brass) is a short compendium of three Shaker melodies: The well known “Simple Gifts” plus two very obscure tunes: the somber “We Will Walk with Mother and Mourn” and the marvelously energetic “I’ve Set My Face for Zion’s Kingdom,” which (assuming Carol isn’t in the car with me) I blast whenever it comes up on the mix SD.
  • It was never a single, but the Monkees’ cover of “Shades of Gray” is in my view the best song they ever did. I’ve mentioned the song here before, and yes, I’m biased for personal reasons (read the entry) but still: When did 60s pop ever have a lyric that sane and subtle?
  • I have always had a fraught relationship with religion, but one thing I discovered when I returned to Catholicism in the ’90s was that there were actually hymns that weren’t 350 years old. Marty Haugen has written quite a few, but none serves my energetic spirit so well as “Send Down the Fire.”
  • Energetic? Punch in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Running Set,” dial it up to eleven, and you’ll know what “manic” means.
  • Is it a sendup of Fifties political paranoia? Or is it just a silly beer-hall march? Jim Lowe’s “Close the Door” defies analysis…which doesn’t mean it isn’t great fun.
  • A lot of people have covered “Sweets for My Sweet,” but I don’t think it’s ever been done better than a local Chicago band called The Riddles. I heard it live at a church Teen Club dance in 1968, and eventually found a slightly crufty 45 rip on the peer-to-peer networks ten years ago. It’s now on YouTube, though you have to either listen to or FF past the flipside.
  • One of the best (and perhaps weirdest) soundtrack cuts I’ve heard in the last 20 years is “Building the Crate” from Chicken Run. It’s not available as an MP3 single, but you can buy the full soundtrack CD, or listen to the song on YouTube. Klezmer, kazoos, and a full orchestra with a strong tuba line–what more could you ask for?
  • Although rougher than I generally like my music, there’s just something inexplicably likeable about “You Don’t Want Me Anymore” by Steel Breeze, which hit #16 on Billboard in 1982. Energetic, well, yeah.
  • This is probably my favorite TV series theme song ever, from what is almost certainly the first steampunk western. Lee Anne down the street had it bad for Artemis Gordon, and I’m betting a lot of other girl geeks did too. Yeah, the giant steam-powered tarantula in the movie was cool, but nothing will ever beat the original series.
  • My high school turned down Styx’s bid to play for the 1972 senior prom because they were…too obscure. Heh. Bad call. And this is what I consider their best song, a terrific waltz that is almost a hymn: “Show Me the Way.”
  • Another soundtrack cut that I don’t think ever got the recognition it deserved: “Through Heaven’s Eyes” from Prince of Egypt.
  • From the same soundtrack, the item that gave me the idea for the scene in The Cunning Blood where Sahan Grusa destroys Sophia Gorganis’s pirate colony by simulating the biblical plagues using nanotech.
  • Well. This was fun. I have to remember to do another one at some point. Let me know what you think.


  1. Mike Weasner says:

    You hit two of my favorites: The Canadian Brass band and the Wild Wild West theme.

  2. TRX says:

    > Styx

    I was a major Styx fan for years, and then they just… went away. Happened to a lot of bands, I guess.

    “Borrowed Time” probably wasn’t their best track, but it’s my favorite since it’s easy to sing along to.

    [Peter Grant?] posted a link on his blog to a Spanish bagpipe band playing their version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” on YouTube. I noticed that Thunderstruck is some kind of minor meme there, and clicked on a couple of guys doing their version on cellos. Which is how I discovered 2Cellos, who are a pair of insane Croatians who do covers of popular rock music… on cellos. Apparently they’ve been a big deal for a long time, but I just now discovered them. They do AC/DC, Rolling Stones, U2, and a bunch of newer stuff I don’t know.

    Here’s a music video they did of Thunderstruck:

    AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, in concert in Verona:

    Another music video, something called “Wake Me Up”:

    U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” in Pula:

  3. TRX says:

    Oh, and for something else demented: whatever you think of Kiss, check this out anyway:

    That’s “Alive IV” from 2003, and they’re playing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who are all wearing Kiss makeup and doing a full orchestral version of Detroit Rock City.

    They were all professional musicians used to playing in public, but from the way they acted at the beginning, I don’t think they were used to playing to a standing-room-only venue of screaming fans. But the more they played the more they got into it, and by the end they were rocking on…

  4. Tom Roderick says:

    Although Shirley Ellis did it much earlier this version by the Belle Stars became an ear worm for me after I heard it for the first time a year or two ago.

    It is called “The Clapping Song” and the lyrics may go back way beyond Shirley Ellis’s version in the 1960’s since it makes me think of other similar songs from my childhood.

  5. Jim Tubman says:

    The Monkees’ 2016 album “Good Times” is really, really good. (When I tell this to people, generally they look at me like I have two heads, but I stand by my judgment.) Buy it; you won’t regret it.

    1. I’d forgotten about that. Will buy it, no hesitation.

  6. TRX says:

    People forget exactly how huge the Monkees were. Yeah, the band was created by a studio and they had a lot of help in the beginning, but they certainly weren’t the only ones… they were just the most successful.

    Of course The Ventures sold even more albums than the Monkees, and almost nobody remembers them now.

    1. Unless I’m forgetting something, The Monkees were a brand new idea: A TV show about a band that actually recorded and sold the music played on the TV show. Sheer brilliance. The shows themselves were pretty dumb, as Carol and I learned recently when we streamed a number of them from Netflix, but both of us remember enjoying the series fifty years ago. The songs had strong melodic lines, which we like, and were mostly upbeat. (Their albums had a few screechers, like “No Time” and a few downers, like “Early Morning Blues and Greens.” But all albums in that era had what we considered filler, and it didn’t bother us.)

      For some reason (and I truly don’t understand it) instrumentals seem tied to a particular era. Even I have to strain a little to remember the hit instrumentals of the early-mid ’60s. “Calcutta?” “Lisbon Antigua?” “The Lonely Bull?” The TV theme from “Dark Shadows” was a single and had a title, but I don’t remember it, even though my mother and my sister both followed the series. “Wipe Out” was about surfing, and surfing was pretty much done as a music culture thing by 1965 or so. I know a lot of this stuff because I have all the Joel Whitburn books and get newsletters like Forgotten Hits. Most people, I’d guess, would hear the songs and think they were familiar, yet couldn’t name the title or the band. Theory: People need faces and (especially) personalities to remember music. Instrumentals may show the band on the jacket, but there’s no lead singer, no memorable voice, and no celebrity culture. So we forget them.

      1. Carrington Dixon says:

        “Lisbon Antigua” made the charts in 1956. (I looked it up.) That kinda rules it out of the “early-mid ’60s” sweepstakes,

        1. I didn’t look, and I remembered wrong; I was thinking 1961 or so. One problem I had is that my dad listened to WGN, which back then played music all the way from the end of WWII to the current day, including he 50s. He liked “Lisbon Antigua” and used to turn it up when it came on the car radio. He also liked something called “The High and the Mighty,” which isn’t in Whitburn and probably goes back to the early 50s; IIRC it was a movie theme.

          1. 1954 John Wayne movie about an airliner from Hawaii with mechanical trouble trying to get to San Francisco. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I only remember the tune being whistled by John Wayne’s character in the movie. Phil Harris and Claire Trevor were also in it, as well as William Campbell (aka Squire Trelane and Captain Koloth from Star Trek).

      2. TRX says:

        The Monkees were the first “created” band I’m aware of too, but by the time they broke up, they weren’t the only ones.

        1. Michael Black says:

          Though oddly, The Charlatans in San Francisco in either 1964 or 65 were kind of manufactured. George Hunter was a visual artist, and started firming a band, but making choices for visual appeal. They dressed up as cowboys and in Victorian or Edwardian era clothes. And ten at some point “Oh, we’d better learn to play music”.

          They disappeared early, and never had success beyond San Francisco, but they set the tone for later SF bands.

          So their story may have influenced the development of The Monkees. Though, Skip Spence was a guitarist, but asked to join the Jefferson Airplane as a drummer, “because he looked like a drummer”.


          1. TRX says:

            Thanks! I’ll look them up.

  7. Tom Roderick says:

    Instrumentals… Classical Gas is one I remember and Herb Alpert had several in the sixties I believe. Finally, what geek out there doesn’t remember Telstar by the Tornados.

    1. Well, me. Arrgh. I think I’m demonstrating the point I’m making.

    2. TRX says:

      The only Telstar I remember was by The Ventures. I’ll see if the Tube has a Tornados version.

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