Amoeblog

Interview With Tony Thaxton of the Bizarre Albums Podcast

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 24, 2020 06:55pm | Post a Comment


 

Tony Thaxton by Brian Keith Diaz
Tony Thaxton by Brian Keith Diaz

By Audra Wolfmann

If you're at all like me (and I have a strong suspicion that you, dear record collector, might be), then you enjoy a deep dive into the dark corners of music history AND you also love a good Novelty album. You grew up cherishing your Dr. Demento collections and World Wrestling Federation LP, but you also burned with questions about that Leonard Nimoy album your parents had next to the hi-fi in the living room. Well, there's a place for us and, of course, it's on the internet in the form of a podcast called Bizarre Albums. Hosted by drummer Tony Thaxton of Motion City Soundtrack, Bizarre Albums serves as a sort of VH1's Behind the Music for the novelties, oddities, and the just plain strange in the wide world of weird records. Since nothing could be farther up Amoeba's alley than celebrating the unexpected vinyl find, we tracked down Tony and asked him about his show and his own record collection.

Amoeba: What makes an album “Bizarre” by your standards?

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10 Spooky Musical Pieces for Halloween

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 26, 2015 03:33pm | Post a Comment
At one of the several jobs at which I work we’ve started listening to a Halloween playlist from Spotify or Pandora and like all of those pre-fab playlists it sucks. There aren’t that many explicitly Halloween songs so whomever programed it resorted to tossing in things like Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf" because what's scarier than a hungry Brummie? The Searchers’ “Love Potion No. 9” is not scary and although it's a bit mad, neither is Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You” -- both apparently chosen because, you know, potions and spells and such. That sort of thinking is also why David Seville’s deeply annoying (but not scary) “Witch Doctor” now haunts every facet of my brain. Basically this playlist is 90% the kind of stuff collected by Dr. Retarded, novelty record collector and chief head of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

I like spooky music and horror films (although they're sadly almost never scary) so this kind of lazy mix-making gets no “squeaks” from me. There is so much more appropriate music out there. The other night some friends and I went to the Million Dollar Theatre to see Dawn of the Dead and before the show former Amoebite Jimmy Hey DJed a set which drew from film scores by Goblin, naturally, and some more unlikely picks, such as Scott Walker’s “The Electrician.” Of course this inspired me to write the following listicle for your enjoyment.

One Album Wonders: The Zodiac

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 17, 2015 11:07am | Post a Comment


Zodiac
 were a studio group who released one album, Cosmic Sounds - Celestial Counterpoint with Words and Music, in May 1967. The members of Zodiac were respected session musicians Bud Shank, Carol Kaye, Cyrus Faryar, Emil RichardsHal Blaine, and Paul Beaver. Each song is devoted to the signs of Chaldean astronomical zodiac. The music was written by Canadian synthesizer pioneer Mort Garson
The spoken word narration was penned by Jacques Wilson and are narrated by Faryar in a voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison's who as part of The Doors, had recorded their debut in 1966 and released it in January 1967 to great acclaim.

The success of The Doors was a primary inspiration for the project. Elektra head Jac Holzman came up with the concept and hired Alex Hassilev, a member of The Limeliters, to produce. Hassilev brought Mort Garson to the project -- the two had just formed a production company together.

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Mort Garson 1924 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, January 14, 2008 06:58pm | Post a Comment

Every once in while you realize certain names are always appearing in the credits of old albums, and it’s a constant surprise. I was always astounded by how often I’d find Mort Garson's name, and on some of the most unlikely records. From Doris Day to Mel Torme to Glen Campbell, and all those albums of nice soft-pop vocals from the likes of The Letterman or the Sandpipers or the Glenn Yarborough record of Rod McKuen covers. And you would usually find Mort Garson conducting or arranging those safe but somewhat innocuous collections of ‘pop hits of the day’ by the Hollyridge Strings or the Sunset Strings. And if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’d see Mort Garson provided background music to Laurence Harvey reading poetry on Atlantic. And why do I think it’s so odd? Because whenever I think of Mort Garson I think of the legendary pioneer in electronic music, and not the multi-faceted, in demand arranger and conductor.

Mort Garson, who also co-wrote the classic "Our Day Will Come," died this past January 4th of renal failure in San Francisco. He was 83. Born July 20, 1924, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Garson attended the Juilliard School of Music. He was a pianist and arranger with dance orchestras before serving in Special Services during World War II and before moving onto Los Angeles and the pop music world. But it was his work as a composer using the then novel Moog synthesizer on a series of albums in the late 1960s and '70s that is his lasting claim to fame, especially to record collectors and electronica enthusiasts. These albums, especially the 1967 exotica classic, and influential, The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds,  established his cult following. The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds is one of the first electronic and psychedelic albums put out by Elektra Records.

Drenched in sitars, unusual percussion, twisted and tweaked guitar sounds, weird electronics and augmented by a narrator coolly reading each Astrological sign’s characteristics, the album comes with instructions written on the back in large purple letters: "Must be played in the dark". The first track is perhaps the best: “Aries - The Fire Fighter”, just too groovy, too dramatic! Garson’s following album, Electronic Hair Pieces, was based on the music from the hit Broadway musical and counter-cultural phenomenon Hair, the album featured liner notes written, by of all people, Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers. Other heavily collected and much sought after albums include the musical soundtrack, meant to accompany and enhance the reading of the book,The Sensuous Woman, by Z, and perhaps his oddest and most esoteric release, the 1976 album Plantasia, is a collection of music to help plants grow! In 1969 he recorded a 12-volume set for A&M Records Signs of the Zodiac, featuring one album for each astrological sign. He wrote the brilliant electronic album Black Mass under the pseudonym Lucifer, featuring once again the Moog synthesizer. Garson followed Black Mass with Ataraxia- The unexplained, electronic musical impressions of the occult, a collection intended to accompany meditations to a mantra of the listener's choice.

In addition to "Our Day Will Come", co-written with Bob Hilliard, which was performed by Ruby & the Romantics  and rose to No. 1 on national charts, (more recently covered by K.D. Lang), Garson also worked on film scores, such as Beware! The Blob and on theme songs for game shows including Gambit, The Magnificent Marble Machine and Baffle. In 1975 Garson composed the music for Mel Brooks' and Carl Reiner's animated television special The 2000 Year Old Man, and later on The Untamed World documentary series, plus he provide incidental music for many of the National Geographic Specials. Mort Garson's is survived by his life partner, Florence; a daughter and a grandson.