Thursday, May 22, 2014

Swingin' singles

Life brings constant surprises.

That's a good thing; it would be terrible to wake one morning, realizing that the world offered no more mysteries, no more unexpected answers.

Discovery is one of life's many spices.

Happily, I continue to discover new wonders about Guaraldi's life and recorded output. Some things come my way via helpful correspondents; other items wander across my path entirely by accident, usually while I'm seeking additional sources for some other piece of information.

Two recent finds, then: both concerning Guaraldi's recordings on 45 singles.

By now, we all know the story about how "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" was "discovered" by Tony Bigg, a DJ at KROY 1240 AM, in Sacramento, California. Having received a copy of Fantasy's single for Guaraldi's album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, Bigg played and enjoyed the A-side selection, "Samba de Orpheus." But he was totally knocked out by the B-side song, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and played it as often as possible. He very likely sparked public awareness of the song, which quickly spread throughout the Golden State, and then the rest of the country, eventually earning Guaraldi a Grammy Award.

Okay, that's familiar history.

But here's my fresh question: Might Bigg have been playing a red vinyl 45?

It's also well-known that — during the label's early years — Fantasy Records got considerable mileage from its gimmick of issuing LPs on colored vinyl, generally red or blue. Old news.

Until a few weeks ago, however, I'd never heard of — let alone seen, or been lucky enough to own — a colored vinyl single.

And yet here it is, thanks to a recent eBay auction.

Fascinating, eh?

The question now is whether only promotional 45s were issued on red vinyl, and perhaps only the first printing of same. That seems logical, and they're certainly rare; standard singles of "Samba" and "Fate" are as common as blades of grass, and they pop up all over the place. This red one, though, is something truly special.

And it begs a question: Were any of Guaraldi's other Fantasy 45s released on colored vinyl?

I suspect not. Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus was the last Guaraldi LP originally released on colored vinyl — red (mono) and blue (stereo) — and Fantasy discontinued this practice shortly thereafter. In other words, all of Guaraldi's subsequent 45s were attached to LPs issued solely on standard black vinyl, so the singles would have been pressed the same way, also on black vinyl.

That was the first surprise.

Within a few days of my obtaining this little treasure, I learned about the existence of another hitherto-unknown Guaraldi 45, this one derived from the "storybook LP" released as a soundtrack, of sorts, for the 1969 big-screen film A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Guaraldi's isolated score for this film remains a major unreleased item in the soundtrack world, a sad and frustrating story I detailed at great length in an earlier post.

To my knowledge, however, Columbia Records never released a single from this LP ... at least, not in the United States.

During a routine perusal of the Guaraldi titles referenced at the very handy Discogs site, I unexpectedly came across a listing for a French single (CBS 5399), released in 1970. The gatefold-style packaging is quite attractive, as you can see from the images here. The A-side contains Rod McKuen's title song, while the B-side is unusual for its presentation of two tracks: short versions of McKuen's "Champion Charlie Brown" and Guaraldi's "Snoopy on Ice" (actually "Skating").

Granted, Guaraldi's contribution runs a scant 95 seconds, but that's still enough for this disc to qualify for inclusion in Dr. Funk's library of 45s.

Assuming you can find one. As these words are typed, the aforementioned Discogs entry lists 10 people who'd like to find this little disc, while also showing the disheartening word "never" under "Last sold." I therefore suspect that finding a copy of this puppy might be even harder than landing "Fate" on red vinyl.

But — as I said above — what fun would life be, if we didn't have things to desire, and search for ... awaiting that golden moment of triumph, when...

Sigh. If only, right?

1 comment:

Chap said...

I've got a copy in red of "Cast", without the promotional stamp. I speculate that when the song became a hit, Fantasy needed other pressing plants to come on line, and red was more expensive.