Exotic Beginnings


 Some of you have been following me since my beginning post on Sett.com, so you know to expect a variety of music-based topics. It seems however that my most recent post did not do much toward expanding my readership, or fulfilling the reading pleasures of my most loyal followers, and may have even left some of you confused. When I called this whole thing “mappinghappenings” you may not have realized that the happenings could be imaginary or that the travelling could just be inside my head. “But that’s the way it is”, to quote Ella Fitzgerald. And, what is the difference in talking about something totally fabricated and something that happened to me 50 years ago, where the memories inside the same old head are rattling around with those imaginary events? As a matter of fact, unless I am reporting on what is happening right this instant…no, that one is gone now…this one…oops, it’s gone, too; you see, “in the moment” cannot be written. And if I write about the future, it has not happened yet, so you are only reading my expectations or predictions for what might happen. If I write about the past, whether it is recent or long past, my past or someone else’s past; it is all coming out of my mental storage unit, called “the brain”.

Now, the past includes facts as well as interpretations of those facts. And, there are time-based facts, such as events, and there are facts that do not change with, nor are influenced by, time. For example, the formula E=mc₂ is a constant fact, but the discovery of this fact is time-based, some time shortly before Einstein published this discovery in 1905. In “fact”, this discovery actually just came to Einstein as he thought it out, inside his head.

So, what am I getting at? It is all in the mind. Memories are like photos. And we know that the photo may not be a totally accurate description of what was, because it only reflects what the lens could detect when the shot was taken. The capability of the lens is based upon both time-based and constant facts. Memories can actually be more fiction than fact; “more of gravy than of grave”, as Charles Dickens’ Scrooge once said. So, just read it “in the moment” and if it connects with you, that is great. When speaking of the past that actually happened, I will attempt to be as accurate with the facts as I can.

And here is where I want to begin. My beginning. The day I was born, the top single in the U.S. was “Till I Waltz Again with You” performed by Teresa Brewer. I do not consciously recollect ever hearing that song. I have no idea what it sounds like. But up to the age of about seven, I had collected a host of songs in my little head that I still fondly recall, although I could not tell you at what age I first heard them. Some are tied to events in my life but I cannot guarantee that it was during those events that I first heard any of these songs, or that they first registered in my memory. Most were hits at the time. But some were not, such as the recording of “’Round Midnight” by Miles Davis and Michel Legrand. I remember hearing this on the car radio when we were visiting Cucumber Falls, near Uniontown, PA, in the late 50s. I searched high and low for this song and then in 1975, a friend bought me an LP of Miles Davis’ early recordings, and I immediately recognized the song I had heard on that trip!

This recording of “’Round Midnight” needs a close listen, since the arrangement by Legrand has so much going on – all the exquisite little parts make a wonderful whole; it is a great example of how to do an orchestral arrangement. ‘Round Midnight was composed by Bernie Hanighen, Cootie Williams, and Thelonious Monk, and stands out as one of my all time favorites. This recording includes jazz greats Phil Woods on alto sax, Jerome Richardson on baritone sax, Paul Chambers on bass, Kenny Dennis on drums, Barry Galbraith on guitar, Betty Glamann on harp, Herbie Mann on flute, Bill Evans on piano, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Eddie Costa on vibes, Miles Davis on trumpet and Michel Legrand, conductor/arranger.





Another song from around that same time period that stuck with me my entire life was Martin Denny’s version of “Quiet Village”. “Quiet Village” was written and first recorded by Les Baxter in 1952, for his album Le Sacre du Sauvage (Ritual of the Savage), but the classic version that is most remembered was recorded by Martin Denny in 1956, formerly the pianist in Les Baxter’s band. Denny first released it in 1957 on his Exotica LP, with added bird calls and frog sounds created by his percussionist, Augie Colon, and other members of the band. The song was released as a single in 1959 and became a major hit, making it to number two in the pop charts that summer. Denny actually appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1958. Denny recorded the song a couple more times in the 60s, one with a bossa nova rhythm and one using moog synthesizer, but it is the 1959 single that is most remembered, and is the version that was emblazoned into my memory. I never knew who did this or how to find it until I heard it on a compilation CD my parents obtained in the late 90s. I was quite excited about this discovery and had to obtain that same compilation, just for this song.

There are several stories about how it was that Denny decided to incorporate the sounds of the tropical jungle into his music. He had a regular gig at the Shell Bar in Hawaiian Village in Honolulu beginning around 1955 and also had a love for collecting ethnic and obscure musical instruments from around the world. He incorporated these instruments into his combo, which included Augie Colon on percussion and Arthur Lyman on marimba/vibraphone. While at the Shell Bar he noted that bullfrogs in the tropical bar setting would croak when he played, so he began incorporating an approximation of their sound as well as bird calls made by Colon and Lyman into his music. It went over so well that he used this idea when recording his first LP, Exotica.


Arthur Lyman decided to strike out on his own in 1957, and continued in the Denny fashion of using the sounds of tropical birds and fauna in his music. Both would remain friends while competing for the same audience. Lyman had a hit with “Yellow Bird”, whose exotica version is another song I was fascinated with as a child. Augie Colon also did a couple albums in the early 60s. Martin Denny replaced Arthur Lyman on vibes and marimba with Julius Wechter, who also later left Denny to form the Baja Marimba Band. Sandy Warner, the voluptuous model who graced the majority of Martin Denny’s album covers, tried her hand in recording an album with Steve Allen, titled Fair and Warner.


Les Baxter laid the ground work for the exotica genre beginning in 1952 but the trademark sound that is commonly associated with the genre began with Martin Denny’s first LP. Arthur Lyman took it a step further. The three would be considered the primary leaders in the exotica musical phenomenon. The heyday of exotica would be approximately from 1957 through 1963, though there are many examples from before and after that period. There were many other notable exotica artists in that time period, George Rains being one of my favorites with his LP Lotus Land, which I only discovered about five years ago. The style’s influence could even be argued as being one of the stepping stones to the psychedelic music era. Indeed, eden ahbez, with his 1959 LP Eden’s Island, is considered to be one of the earliest artists in psychedelic music, as well as an example of exotica. Both genres were based on escapism with incorporation of sounds of other cultures from across the planet. All this coincided with the increasing use of air travel both in the business world as well as in the vacationing public. Travel agencies lured customers to exotic places with pictorial brochures that I am sure were the fodder for exotica album covers.

Kim Fowley


There were songs in other genres that stuck in my mind from early childhood. One such example was the novelty song “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles from 1960.  I bring this up because that song was written and recorded by Kim Fowley, with assistance from Gary Paxton who sang the ditty and some studio musicians who included Sandy Nelson on “garbage can and screams”. They named themselves the Hollywood Argyles because Argyle Street ran next to the studio. Kim Fowley died two days ago, January 15, 2015, at the age of 75, from bladder cancer. Two years ago, at the 30th anniversary of Ugly Things magazine, magazine editor and publisher Mike Stax, had invited Kim to MC the UT tribute concert at the Casbah in San Diego, but he could not make it due to ill health. I was at that concert weekend and came that close to actually meeting Kim. I have two of his albums, Outrageous from 1968, and Living in the Streets from 1978. I have both in LP and CD formats. Kim was a great behind the scenes catalyst in Southern California rock, and if there was true justice in rock music would have already been in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

And with that, I close. R.I.P., Kim.

The Study of Tubular Prisms

“Life is strange
How it differs from the rocks”
Crown of Creation, Jefferson Airplane, 1968


I always love a good concert. It has been awhile since I’ve been to one at a larger venue. Most performances I’ve attended in the past few years have been smaller, more intimate settings. But recently I decided to splurge and spend some money to go see a band that I have wanted to see ever since I heard them on a small college radio station near Palomar, CA.

So let me start at the end instead of the beginning. On the way home from seeing the Handy Mannequins at the out-of-the-way Solar Flare Arena (a former rave setting hidden in the mountains between Temecula and Pauma that was updated to arena status about a decade ago), I passed a white van with the name “Gobbling Knobs” inscribed on the side. Gobbling Knobs is another band, and ironically their lead singer, Chlamydia Jane, was formerly the singer for the Handy Mannequins. Chlamydia has been replaced by retired jazz-lounge veteran, Miss Hortense Roadheaver, which made a big difference in the Mannequins’ proto-punk/rave-up sound. With Ms. Roadheaver on board, they have expanded their musical palette exponentially.

The opening act tonight was Belladonna & Her Wicked Stepladders, who did a fantastic set. After concluding with a lengthy hypnotic dirge from their CD release, “Damn Hankies”, they left the audience yelling for “More Belladonna!” But twenty minutes after they left the stage, and Handy Mannequins hit the stage, de-tuning their instruments, I knew this was going to get interesting. There was no real introduction as their fiddling about transitioned into a free jam. Sniveling Sam Liverwurst did his imitation of Snakefinger on guitar, then Psycho Pin Cushion Pete on drums rolled into a Gene Krupa “Sing Sing Sing” rhythm while Sniveling Sam performed Benny Goodman’s clarinet licks on guitar. Joe-Harlan Honkers weaved his sax stylings in and out and Bartholomew Benchmarker’s bass kept the bottom from falling out of the mix. Up to this point I had never before heard Hortense and worried about the change from Chlamydia and what effect it would have on their performance. Suddenly there appeared an apparition at the side of the stage in a white wedding gown and eye patch. It was septuagenarian, Hortense Roadheaver, who strutted onto the stage – the left side of her head shaved; the right side left as a tangled mess. Hortense grabbed the mic, clinging to it like a crutch, gurgled and spat on the floor, then in a husky, gravelly, nicotine-and-whiskey-damaged voice she croaked “Hi, I’m Hortense – let’s give a hand to Sniveling Sam, Pin Cushion Pete, Joe-Harlan and Bartholomew – better known to the world as the Handy Mannequins! Are you ready to get really high tonight?” and the audience enthusiastically responded with a “Hell, yeah!” This was certainly becoming some enchanted evening. I quickly forgot about my Chlamydia.

They quickly transitioned that wild jam into their punk anthem “Bananas in My Nostrils” and Hortense ripped a few vocal cords spitting out the lyrics in intense fashion, adding a bit of cabaret swagger to the mix. The band fed off her aged energy and knocked it up a half-notch – guitar and sax roaring out over the cymbal-heavy drums. There was no waiting for applause. They went right into the next song, “Melvin the Mummy Molester”, which was a sad song about the loneliest Egyptian on Earth. As the band moved into a slow funeral march, as if walking down Bourbon Street, Hortense gave an intense reading of this ballad with her lower lip quivering. I was not sure if she was having a stroke or just feeling the lyrics. It sure kept this member of the audience on the edge of his seat! Suddenly with a loud crash they blasted their way into the next number “I’ve Got Three Arms, I’m a Freak!” The only lyric to this song is the title, and it is done with the audience in a call-and-response style. I truly believe I saw a human arm crawling across the stage for a brief moment. They had a lot of fun with this one.

The performance continued song after song, until the last one, which gave poor Hortense a break from singing. This was a long version of their tribute to either a type of DMT or a hard candy, “Square Purples”. It began slow, laying down the modal theme with sax and guitar. Then, the guitar began to meander and the next thing you know, Bartholomew’s bass gets in on the fun with guitar and bass appearing to compete in a race to an imaginary finish line. The bass player seemed to be in a musical nirvana. With a big smile on his face and eyes closed Bartholomew’s fingers frantically raced up and down the fret board. The drums pounded out a steady rhythm holding everything together. I noted a huge puddle of sweat appearing beneath the drums and I wondered if they would float away! Hortense fell into a trance and waltzed around the stage in some type of dance macabre – both beautiful and grotesque. Suddenly she picked up a harmonica and blew it into a mic-fed vintage tube Maestro Echoplex I had been coveting all night. Her bluesy harp stylings heaped upon the guitar-bass race to the finish was so intense that people began to pass out. Others just got up and left. After Joe-Harlan’s intro he didn’t have much else to contribute to the piece so he just nodded off, but his snoring added a certain ambience to the composition. I had to stay for the entire hour-long jam, just like years ago when I had to stay in the theater for the end of David Lynch’s nightmarish film, “Eraserhead”.

I left the concert with their LP, “The Study of Tubular Prisms”, autographed by the band, and Hortense kissed the album cover leaving her ruby red lipstick in the form of her huge mouth, with a cookie crumb stuck to it, no less. I headed home, and after passing the Gobbling Knobs’ van and wondering about my dear Chlamydia, I saw that human arm again, crossing the road. I swerved to miss the arm and collided with the car to my left. I blacked-out, awakening in my own bed – it had all been a dream. But what a lovely dream it was.

There is actually no Solar Flare Arena, nor Handy Mannequins, nor Gobbling Knobs. Hortense and Chlamydia are evidently both figments of my subconscious. I checked my record collection and could not find the Tubular Prisms LP. But I did have the memories.

A New Home

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Look Familiar?

It is a new year and so I needed a new home for mappinghappenings. Still mappinghappenings, but no longer found at http://www.sett.com/mappinghappenings. Changed username also. Now Popeswami (I’ll have to find the appropriate avatar). Actually this comes from an old Yahoo account where I used it. Interestingly, I must have set up this account in WordPress back then and did nothing with it, but I just do not recall. Nevertheless, here eye yam. If you want to see what this is all about go back to my beginning post(s) under Sett.com, or simply stay tuned right here. I will be learning about WordPress features as I go, so expect to see many visual changes as well as other treats in the coming months.

2014 brought many musical experiences my way, both locally and via CD and vinyl purchases. Some local artists that were pleasant surprises and outstanding performers include:

Robin Henkel and Whitney Shay as well as Robin Henkel Horn Band – country blues, rhythm & blues, jazz

Tomcat Courtney – Country blues, electric blues

Charles Burton Blues Band – electric blues, blues rock

Taryn Donath Trio – blues, jazz, “beatnik blues”

Three Chord Justice – country, country swing

Clay Colton Band – country rock

Western Collective – old time, folk, country-folk, eclectic jazzy folk

Jamie Shadowlight – violinist, member of Western Collective, but have seen perform also with Choro Sotaque, JazzMikan Trio, and Robin Henkel Horn Band – a mix of genres

Normandie Wilson – lounge, 60s pop, standards, singer-songwriter, member of Blue Velvet and Casino Royale

Blue Velvet – lounge-pop, cabaret

Casino Royale – 60s pop and rock

Some CD/vinyl acquisitions that came my way include the following highlights:

Valley of Ashes – Cavehill Hunters’ Attrition.  This is a triple LP from 2006, from a Louisville, Kentucky based folk-experimental collective similar to the Jewelled Antler collective. There are six songs on this six-sided album, each about 20 minutes long, making it a 2-hour album of varied jams mellow acoustic to heavy guitar drones and free jazz sounds. There are even some bluegrass stylings on the last piece. Quite an amazing trip.

Crystalline – Axe Music. A remastering from the original tapes, and not doctored with additional sounds as was the prior bootleg. Both CD & LP sold together, issued on the Spanish Guerssen label. This was an official release, not a boot. Group was called Axe, Axe Music, and Crystalline. They were Crystalline when recording this album, back in 1970.  Some of the best British heavy psych with beautiful female vocals and a touch of folk.

Anonymous – Inside the Shadow. Master tapes long lost, a private press from 1976 on A Major Label. The originals were off-center, giving a slowed-down-speeded-up sound. An acetate was found and cleaned up for this release on both CD and LP on the Machu Picchu label. Later in 2014,  Machu Picchu released their (unreleased) second album – by this time going under the name J Rider and the album title, obvioulsy, “No Longer Anonymous“. The music from both albums sounds like this Indiana group had time traveled back to late 60s San Francisco. 12-string Byrds-like guitar, complex arrangements similar to Tripsichord Music Box, male-female vocals reminding me of Balin & Slick in Jefferson Airplane, and interesting lyrics. IMHO, Anonymous has a slight edge over J Rider.

Saturn – s/t. This is an EP reissued on 10 inch vinyl by Subliminal Sounds in a limited quantity of 500. Originally a private press “rhinestone dance rock” album demo from Colorado in 1978. Terrific female vocalist. Outer space and mystical themes. All original material, this demo album shows what this band was capable of – quite impressive.

Haley Loren – Heart First. Haley is headquartered in Oregon but has travelled and sang internationally. This singer just flips me out, with a rich and expressive voice, with incredible phrasing. Primarily a jazz singer, she writes her own music (such as the title track of this 2012 album) as well as singing some great jazz, pop, and even rock standards, always with a jazzy twist. Highlights of this album for me are the title track and “Sway (Quien Sera)”.

Eva Cassidy – Live at Blues Alley. How did I ever overlook this singer! Eva lost her battle to melanoma in 1996 but left a small collection of songs that prove she was one of the greats working in jazz, blues, folk, gospel, and pop. Some wonderful selections are on this album, recorded only months before her demise. Not only was she an accomplished vocalist but also a strong guitarist. This album shows her versatility of styles in a live setting.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Perhaps some of these I will feature in future postings.