Pop Master Pretenders

Yaskiels versus Warwicks

It was revised and updated in a third edition for the 21st Century. With 1,100 pages, each of a larger than average size for a paperback, it looks, just by its very bulk, as though it will be comprehensive, and because it bears the title of the Encyclopedia Of Rock & Roll, it sounds like it will be comprehensive and because that title appears under the banner of The Rolling Stone it is damned well guaranteed to be comprehensive.

It was actually printed in 2001 and the book I am looking at has, until now, been owned by Larry Yaskiel, former rock & roll music executive with A & M Records (about which more later) and currently about as retired (and retiring) as I am. Larry, recently awarded an MBE as reported in our post on 6th February 2023, entitled British Ambassador And The Legendary Larry, is also the Honorary Editor of the quarterly glossy Lancelot magazine which offers sound advice for tourists and visitors to our island.

The partner referred to as A in the A & M company title was, of course, Herb Alpert.

The following is taken from Wikipedia – credit below this section. 

Herb Alpert (born March 31, 1935) is an American trumpeter who led the band Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass in the 1960s. During the same decade, he co-founded A&M Records with Jerry Moss. Alpert has recorded 28 albums that have landed on the Billboard 200 chart, five of which became No. 1 albums; he has had 14 platinum albums and 15 gold albums. Alpert is the only musician to hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 as both a vocalist (“This Guy’s in Love with You”, 1968) and an instrumentalist (“Rise”, 1979).

Alpert has reportedly sold 72 million records worldwide.[1] He has received many accolades, including a Tony Award and eight Grammy Awards, as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Alpert was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Barack Obama in 2013.

Herb Alpert was born and raised in the Boyle Heights section of Eastside Los Angeles, California, the youngest of three children (a daughter and two sons) of Tillie (née Goldberg) and Louis Leib (or Louis Bentsion-Leib) Alpert. His parents were Jewish immigrants to the U.S. from Radomyshl (in present-day Ukraine) and Romania. Alpert was born into a family of musicians. His father, although a tailor by trade, was also a talented mandolin player. His mother taught violin at a young age, and his older brother, David, was a talented young drummer. His sister Mimi, who was the oldest, played the piano. Herb began to play trumpet at eight years old.

Alpert started attending Fairfax High School in Los Angeles beginning there in the 10th grade for the Class of 1951. In the 11th grade in 1952, he was a member of their Gym Team, where one of his specialties was performing on the Rings, but an appendectomy a week prior to a League Meet sidelined his path to continue there. It was in his Senior year (1953), he took to focusing on his trumpet.

While attending the University of Southern California in the 1950s, he was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band for two years. Alpert served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he played in the 6th Army Band.In 1956, he appeared in an uncredited role as “Drummer on Mt. Sinai” in The Ten Commandments.

 In 1957, Alpert teamed up with Rob Weerts, another burgeoning lyricist, as a songwriter for Keen Records. A number of songs written or co-written by Alpert during the following two years became Top 20 hits, including “Baby Talk” by Jan and Dean and “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke. In 1960, he began his recording career as a vocalist at RCA Records under the name of Dore Alpert In 1962, Alpert and his new business partner Jerry Moss formed Carnival Records with “Tell It to the Birds” as its first release, distribution outside of Los Angeles being done by Dot Records. After Carnival released its second single “Love Is Back In Style” by Charlie Robinson, Alpert and Moss found that there was prior usage of the Carnival name and renamed their label A&M Records.

All artists should be looking for their own voices, says Alpert now. I went through a period of trying to sound like Harry James and Louis Armstrong and Miles [Davis]. And then when Clifford Brown came along, it was almost discouraging. The guy was so good! But I kept at it. I loved playing. And then when I heard Les Paul multitrack his guitar on recordings, I tried that with the trumpet. Boom—that sound came out. After I released ‘The Lonely Bull,’ the record that started A&M in 1962, a lady in Germany wrote a letter to me. She said, ‘Thank you, Mr. Alpert, for sending me on a vicarious trip to Tijuana.’ I realized that music was visual for her, that it took her someplace. I said, ‘That’s the type of music I want to make. I want to make music that transports people.’

The song that jump-started Alpert’s performing career was originally titled “Twinkle Star,” written by Sol Lake (who would write many Tijuana Brass songs over the next decade). Alpert was dissatisfied with his first efforts to record the song, then took a break to visit a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico. As Alpert later recounted, “That’s when it hit me! Something in the excitement of the crowd, the traditional mariachi music, the trumpet call heralding the start of the fight, the yelling, the snorting of the bulls, it all clicked.” Alpert adapted the trumpet style to the tune, mixed in crowd cheers and other noises for ambience, and renamed the song “The Lonely Bull”.He personally funded the production of the record as a single, and it spread through radio DJs until it caught on and became a Top 10 hit in the Fall of 1962. He followed up quickly with his debut album, The Lonely Bull by “Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass”. Originally the Tijuana Brass was just Alpert overdubbing his own trumpet, slightly out of sync. It was A&M’s first album (with the original release number being #101), although it was recorded for Conway Records. The title cut reached No. 6 on the Billboard pop chart. For this album and subsequent releases, Alpert recorded with the group of Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, whom he holds in high regard.

 Alpert’s 1965 album Whipped Cream & Other Delights proved so popular — it was the number one album of 1966, outselling The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and The Rolling Stones  — that Alpert had to turn the Tijuana Brass into an actual touring ensemble rather than a studio band. Some of that popularity might be attributable to the album’s notoriously racy cover, which featured model Dolores Erickson seemingly clothed only in whipped cream. However, as writer Bruce Handy pointed out in a Billboard article, two other Brass albums, Going Places (1965) and What Now My Love (1966), “held the third and fifth spots on the 1966 year-end chart despite pleasant yet far more anodyne covers.” Another measure of the band’s popularity is that a number of Tijuana Brass songs were used as theme music for years by the ABC TV game show, The Dating Game. 

In 1966, a short animated film by John and Faith Hubley called “A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature” was released; it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1967. The film featured two songs by the band, “Tijuana Taxi” and “Spanish Flea.”] Also in 1967, the Tijuana Brass performed Burt Bacharach’s title cut to the first movie version of Casino Royale. 

Alpert’s only No. 1 single during this period, and the first No. 1 hit for his A&M label, was a solo effort: “This Guy’s in Love with You”, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, featuring a rare vocal. Alpert sang it to his first wife in a 1968 CBS Television special titled Beat of the Brass. The sequence was filmed on the beach in Malibu. The song was not intended to be released, but after it was used in the television special, allegedly thousands of telephone calls to CBS asking about it convinced Alpert to release it as a single, two days after the show aired. Although Alpert’s vocal skills and range were limited, the song’s technical demands suited him. 

After years of success, Alpert had a personal crisis in 1969, declaring “the trumpet is my enemy.” He disbanded the Tijuana Brass, and stopped performing in public. Eventually he sought out teacher Carmine Caruso, “who never played trumpet a day in his life, (but) he was a great trumpet teacher. What I found,” Alpert told The New York Times, “is that the thing in my hands is just a piece of plumbing. The real instrument is me, the emotions, not my lip, not my technique, but feelings I learned to stuff away — as a kid who came from a very unvocal household. Since then, I’ve been continually working it out, practicing religiously and now, playing better than ever.”] The results were noticeable; as Richard S. Ginell wrote in an AllMusic review of Alpert’s comeback album, You Smile – The Song Begins, “His four-year sabbatical over, Herb Alpert returned to the studio creatively refreshed, his trumpet sounding more soulful and thoughtful, his ears attuned more than ever to jazz.”

Herb Alpert´s discography reveals that most of his recordings, whether solo or with an ensemble, and whether as singles or album tracks all had genuine cross-over appeal, with many climbing the Billboard pop charts as well as the US Jazz charts of the era. 

The above is from a Wikipedia Article

So, Larry recently presented me with what I am sure he has always thought of as a very precious book, on a day when we were all  chatting over cups of morning coffee. We were sitting outside the Café de las Plaza, in a beautiful setting over-looking the rich man´s harbour  of Peurto Calero and pretty much the first name I noticed, as I flecked through the first handful of pages, was that of Herb Alpert on pages 15 and 16 between The Allman Brothers Band  and of Dave Alvin, a singer-songwriter of Americana music and an artist and his song who are always first name on the team sheet when I select a play list.

Already aware that Larry had worked for several years with Herb Alpert when they were both executives at A & M , I commented on Alpert´s inclusion. Larry responded and spoke of Alpert in high regard, as both a musician and as a man. I could offer only anecdotal references and hearsay never having met Herb Alpert. I did say that Alpert´s presence in this book, the recollection of a track of Alpert´s that Larry loved, a recollection of my own and of how I had published an interview recently on these pages with Jenny Bray, a jazz musician based in the UK and currently recording in the States, that included her memories of being a child loving the music of Herb Alpert  so much that she still includes his work in her act.

Larry told me how much he enjoys Alpert´s phrasing on This Guy´s In Love, his vocal version of a song by the late Burt Bacharach.

And I spoke of a Spanish Flea, a huge summer UK hit of my pre-teen childhood that I listened to non-stop in the Hideaway Café in St. Column Major in Cornwall throughout a very wet fortnight´s holiday with my parents and brother..

That is how The Encyclopedia grows existentially,…. the name of one entrant bringing together  a former record industry exec (Larry) a semi retired music journalist (me) a rock photographer (my wife Dee) a magazine publisher (Liz) and an absentee full time working musician to sing the praises.(Jenny Bray.

Thousands of contributors to the legacy and perpetuity of rock and roll are included  in this third edition encyclopedia of what is clearly stated to be rock and roll rather than simply an encyclopedia of ´the somewhat obscure names listened to by Norman Warwick. Nevertheless a casual leaf through the entire a to z threw up a list of many artists who now live in the shaded part of a Venn diagram that sees many in the circle representing the most well know of rock and roll aristocracy, and others I would consider to be Norm´s unknowns, all living together in the shady area.

So we have, for instance 

Eric Anderson alongside Amen Corner and

Hank Ballard next  to Joan Baez

J.J. Cale beside Captain And Tenille

Iris DeMent joining Destiny´s Child

Townes Van Zandt goes to Velvet Underground

Jerry Jeff Walker asks the Who ?

X feels like Xtc

Weird Al Jankovic scares The Yardbirds

Warren Zevon walks with The Zombies

Every one of these, artists,  however,  can stand solitary and proud as a seminal figure in rock and roll history and so, too, could another thousand or so of their playmates.

For instance, flicking through the book, Larry Yaskiel and I woke up to smell the roses. Larry thumbed his way to Burt Bacharach and praised the singer-writer for his strange rhythmic patterns and his way of making every-day ´catchphrases´speak so eloquently in his lyrics. Larry alluded again to This Guy´s In Love, written and recorded by Bacaharch and recorded too by the aforementioned Herb Alpert.

So two of Larry´s favourite artists are included in this encyclopedia and there is a huge section on Jimi Hendrix with whom Larry occasionally worked whilst a record label exec..

The next hour or so flew by as the Yaskiels and the Warwicks nattered away about all the musicals, music and musicians we have loved in our lives, However, when the waitress came out to refresh our cups she re´fuelled Larry´s first, smiling at him and saying ´that´s because you´re special. ´Immediately she recognised that phrase as a line from a song  but began  fretting that she could not remember the title and that it was recorded by a group with a name she couldn´t recall,  but she know it had a line  that said ´´ you´re special´,

None of us could name that tune, and the waitress was shaking her head but then suddenly turned her frown upside down into a smile as the name of ´THE PRETENDERS´ came to her.

Whilst grateful to the waitress, we couldn´t help but feel a bit embarrassed: two publishers, a music journalist and a photographer and not one of us could remember the name of, oh,… you know.,,,, thingy,…the whosits,…..the watchercallems,…you know.

Until that moment, we had perhaps all felt that if this had been an edition of Mastermind, The Chase or Catchphrase or Eggheads we would have been a winning team, each an individual champion.

In fact, we were all earnest, our faces set in concentration like those of the old me who play chess, cribbage and cards on the sea wall ion Arrecife. We thought we´d known it all,….but were shown by the waitress were nothing but a bunch of Pretenders.

We set off home in a silence of chagrin, and although the skies were clear and blue, to Dee and I it might as well have rained until September,……. 

´who sang that? ´I asked Dee. 

She didn´t know.

My mood lifted as I told her that I did,

´So you should´, she huffed. ´You´ve got an encyclopaedia the size of  Glastonbury on the back seat,

The rest of the ride home turned to silence.

So why does this little story, of two couples, meeting up for a chat in an al fresco coffee bar with a wonderful view, merit being included on these pages of Lanzarote Information?  Perhaps you had to be there, to feel the warmth of ten a.m. sunshine on your back, to chat easily with pals about island cruises and encyclopedias, perhaps you had to see the smile on the face of the waitress when she solved her own pop-master problem.

It was all so typically Lanzarotan. on one of those days when nothing and everything happens as one, and music is such an integral part of Lanzarote life. And slow speaking conversations in English cede to the loud rapid fire of voices all speaking at once in Spanish. It was a day when the palm fronds were silhouetted against a blue sky that settled on an infinity horizon beside a sky blue sea several miles away.

This is not a story about a rock and roll encyclopedia, nor the glories of previous careers in the music or publishing industries but is instead a story of integration and admiration for an island people that are literally having the time of their island´s life.

Its like that story by Guy Clark about Desperadoes Waiting´For A Train who, actually, are just two old me drinking beer and playing Moon And Forty Two, (a Texan domino game).

You can see groups opf me (and women) who could be characters from that song, huddled in deep concentration over their dominoes, even as loud advice pours in from sideline spectators. They play outside the library just across the ropad from the old immigration hall.

This story deserves to be here because it is a story of the Lanzarote liofe-style: open air, tiny cups of coffee, and conversations that rumble with argument and erupt into shared laughter-It is a life style of óld friends who shine like diamonds (another Guy Clark line). 

Yeh, winning pop-master has alñways been my ambition but Ken Bruce has moved and there is all sorts of specuialtion about where the quiz goes from here. Personally I think he´ll take it to television as he apparently owns the rights to the format.

But not even winning a tv show pop music jackpot would be as satisfying as sitting with friends at our favourite café knowing that the chances are slim to nil of all us remembering the name of a group one of is talking about at any time, but Dee, after some delay will eventually shout out Cliff Richard, Larry will shout out Witney Houston or Carole King, Liz will shout a name of an exotic artist from the sixties and I will shout out the name of some American songwriter I know who isn´t even a household name in his own house,….but the waitress will shout out The Pretenders, leave singing a verse and chorus to herself and come back with another round of coffees. 

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