Musiquarium Dec 4 2022
A REALLY GOOD JO
A jazz legend shows her stripes.


Above you see a live concert photo of musical pioneer Jo Thompson, who broke segregation barriers as a jazz performer, particularly in Miami, where she played often and where this image was made by famed photographer Bunny Yeager. Thompson also performed in Detroit, where she was based, New York City, Havana, London, Paris, and other European hotspots. She isn't well known today but she's considered by jazz lovers to have helped pave the way for black performers who came along slightly later, and critic Herb Boyd said about her that she was, “a consummate storyteller whether standing or at the keyboard."

That being the case, we'll highlight a story Thompson occasionally told about Frank Sinatra, the hipster gadabout of the mid-century, who came to see her one night at the Cork Club in Miami. He was with Ava Gardner, and after the show invited Thompson to join them at their table. The Cork, being in the deep south, didn't allow black performers to sit at the tables, let alone with white companions. But Sinatra being Sinatra, the rule crumbled, at least for the night. Thompson greatly appreciated that. And the jazz world appreciated her. She was a trailblazer. She lived a very long time, long enough to receive many overdue tributes, before finally dying just two years ago of COVID-19. 

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Intl. Notebook | Musiquarium Nov 26 2022
ABBE'S DAY OUT
Okay, my dear. Let's get you back indoors. You've provided Italy more than enough spank bank material for one day.

We recently showed you Abbe Lane on one of her album covers, but we've brought her back today because of this fun photo and the ones below. Lane was once deemed by Italian television authorities to be too sexy for broadcast. That's right—in Italy. So you can imagine the excitement when she donned this striped bikini for a photo shoot on the Lido in Venice, Italy during the summer of 1956. The proprietary arm belongs to her husband, Spanish bandleader Xavier Gugat. We think of the couple as the Beyoncé and Jay Z of their era, which is to say, Lane is waaaay too pretty for Cugat. She was also thirty-one years younger than him, which just goes to show what talent can do for a man:

Xavier: You have inspired me, baby. I will write a song about you.

Abbe: You've already written me dozens, Xavier. All that cha-cha stuff is getting a little old.

Xavier: Music is just one of my abilities, cariño. Did I ever make you my authentic paella Valenciana with garrofó and rabbit? I almost became a chef, you know, but music beckoned.

Abbe: Men have cooked for me before. Yves Montand once made me a chocolate and pear soufflé. It was an exquisite grace note in a magnificently composed dinner, and that wasn't even really the dessert.

Xavier: Yes, that Yves. How urbane of him. How about I give you a purifying seaweed mask and a pedicure? I am a bit of an amateur aesthetician, and I love your feet.

Abbe: My skin—in case you haven't noticed—is perfect. Several men told me that today, and a cabana boy named Guido gave me a foot rub. You were snorkeling at the time.

Xavier: Grrr... I see. Well, I could paint your portrait. I am quite a good artist. I spent some time studying egg tempera at the Reial Acadèmia Catalana.

Abbe: I could never sit still that long again. Marcello Mastroianni painting me nude last year was quite enough. Day after day, hour after hour in that... well, frankly provocative pose he wanted. You were on tour, but I knew you wouldn't mind.

Xavier: Is that so? Well, fine, but I was at his house just a month ago. Why did he not show me this painting?

Abbe: I don't know. It's hanging right in his bedroom. So he tells me.

Xavier: *sigh* No meal, no skin care, no song. I guess I am just an old man unable to impress you any longer. When we get back to the villa I will simply take out the garbage, then finish reading that book I was—

Abbe: Take out the garbage? Oh, sweetheart. Tell you what—you do that and I'll put on the g-string and thigh-high boots you like and meet you in the bedroom.

The lesson from that day in Venice is that, for a wife, the ultimate turn-on is a husband who's willing to do chores. Cugat spent eleven years with Lane before they finally divorced in June 1964. She was married again before the year was over, which was a pretty fast rebound and remarriage even for Hollywood. Meanwhile, a few years later Cugat married Spanish singer and dancer Charo, who was his junior by fifty-one or forty-one years, depending on who you believe. Either way, music, cooking, and even chores are all fine, but maybe Cugat's real talent was for bedazzling younger women.
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Musiquarium Nov 4 2022
A-BOMB
Not only was she explosively sexy, but her voice could blow you away.


We love this nuclear themed 45 sleeve for an Abbe Lane four song disc, which we guess is titled simply Abbe Lane. It came from RCA Española and was released in Spain in 1958 with the offerings: “Que será será,” “¡Ay! Que Me Vuelvo Loca,” “Banana Boat (Day-O),” and “Very Satisfied.” All four songs are easy to sample online, so give them a whirl if you wish.

The rear sleeve text is fun. It says: Abbe Lane is without a doubt one of the most popular and applauded voices of the current musical moment. All her performances are hits and the songs she sings come to us covered in a rhythm and color that make them even more seductive.

Without a doubt, the secret of her success lies in herself, in her warm voice, in her exquisite way of conveying the message of her music to the listener, in her magnetic figure and great physical attractiveness.

In this recording, Abbe Lane sings in English and Spanish, interprets two calypsos, a fashionable rhythm that has come to dispute the primacy enjoyed by the much-discussed “rock and roll,” and two melodies that will be popular through the warm voice of the artist pampered by the public and critics worldwide: Abbe Lane.

The promotional staff at RCA Española might have loved Lane, but they couldn't spell. They open the third paragraph by calling her “Abre,” instead of Abbe. That amused us. We also like how, according to the front office brains, calypso was supplanting rock and roll. Really? Well, it turned out to be a marathon, not a sprint. We have a bonus shot of Lane below, for your viewing pleasure.
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Musiquarium Oct 7 2022
HOUSTON HOSPITALITY
Fitzgerald and friends enter the no-go zone.


Today in 1955 in Houston, musicians Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, personal assistant Georgiana Henry, and concert promoter Norman Granz were arrested, ostensibly for the crime of illegal gambling. Five undercover cops had barged into the backstage area at the Houston Music Hall during a mid-set break and caught Jacquet and Gillespie playing craps. Fitzgerald was having a snack. Henry was nearby, as assistants tend to be. And Granz was arrested for blocking the cops' access to Fitzgerald's private bathroom because he feared they might plant drugs—a trick he'd seen before. The photo shows Fitzgerald and Henry. The despondent singer told gathered reporters, “I have nothing to say. What is there to say? I was only having a piece of pie and a cup of coffee.”

The gambling charge was, of course, just a pretext. Ella and company were actually arrested for playing to an integrated audience. Segregation had been made illegal the year before, but local authorities weren't budging in their attempts to keep the city divided, and jazz music, because of its popularity and tendency to elevate black culture, was feared by the old guard as the thin edge of the wedge of equal rights. Back then, opponents of equality called non-segregated shows such as Fitzgerald's “forced integration,” because whites had no option to partake without mingling with blacks. The phrase is eerily similar to “forced diversity,” which you hear a lot in 2022, and will continue to hear in upcoming years.

Pretext arrests are really about plausible deniability. Even today on fact-checking websites like Snopes, the arrest is not fully labeled an incident of racist harassment. They were actually gambling, goes the logic. But so were thousands of other Houstonians that night, including, probably, cops at poker sessions in their dens. Everyone breaks the law. Policing is about who is targeted. Five of Houston's finest bursting into a private backstage area when no probable cause existed is itself proof that the arrest was harassment. But it's the cops who write the record, and in covering up their true motivations they also get to skew official history. It's the oldest game in the book.

Fitzgerald and her companions weren't taken to jail until after they completed the few songs left in their show, a concession doubtless bestowed in order to prevent the audience from getting riotous. After being released the musicians made it back to Houston Music Hall and played a second contracted show—again, leniency that was probably a crowd control measure, if not a favor to the concert venue itself. The police had accomplished their objective. They'd sent a message and, because news media were present at the jail, had embarrassed the performers nationally. We suspect that Fitzgerald's heart wasn't really in that second performance. It had to be clear to her that no matter what protections blacks were given with a pen and ink in Washington, D.C., actual power in the south flowed from a corrupt badge and the muzzle of a gun.
If you want to hear Ella at her magical best, have a listen to this.
 
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Musiquarium Sep 26 2022
SONGS OF LOVE AND BEAUTY
Rarely has adult contemporary music inspired thoughts quite this adult.


The lovely sleeve you see above for the 1956 George Shearing Quintet album Velvet Carpet features as its cover model the always alluring Vikki Dougan, nicely posed in a gold gown that covers far more of her body than fans could have reasonably expected based on her many racy promo images. The photos of her below actually holding the album while wearing see-through lingerie are more in keeping with her usual modus operandi. Shearing, who was born blind yet became a virtuoso pianist, was a very popular performer beginning in 1950 and continuing though the 1980s. That's a nice run for a musician. We went online and checked out the tunes on this platter. They're pure easy listening, which, contrary to its name, made us uneasy as hell. But as our ears rebelled, Dougan was on hand to soothe our eyes, so it worked out fine.

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Musiquarium May 9 2022
LET'S GET PHYSICAL
You should have started long before now to look good for June.


May is when the typical person really starts thinking about his or her beach body. Sadly, they should have started thinking about it in November or December to have a shot at a skinny summer, but who can pass up all that holiday food? Well, British pin-up June Wilkinson wanted to help. Fitness is a time honored niche for celebrities who can't quite sustain careers in more glamorous areas. Sometimes those who go into the field were never true stars. Other times they were top of the heap but fell off, like Jane Fonda when she became a fitness queen during the 1980s, or Miss Thighmaster of 1991, Suzanne Somers.

Wilkinson was in the never category. She wasn't a big star on screen or television, but was popular as a model—and people always want to know how models stay fit. Calendar Records was happy oblige the public by releasing a Wilkinson exercise record in 1962. Titled June Wilkinson and Her Physical Fitness Formula, the platter featured instrumental tunes along with exercise lessons narrated by Wilkinson, among them those classic old school calisthenics like swing kicks and leg raises. There's also a fitness guide, a calorie calendar, a chart of desirable weights for various heights, a sample menu, and of course, photos of Wilkinson demonstrating the exercises.

We have no sales figures for the record, but if it had been a runaway success she'd have made another—which she didn't. But it probably wasn't June's fault. Calendar Records was a fledgling imprint that went on to release a few obscure singles and a political spoken word record by Barry Goldwater. Need we say more? We have a bit more Wilkinson in the website. We recommend checking out her famous tongue here (maybe some tongue exercises would have helped the record's sales), and the famous rest of her here.

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Musiquarium Jul 13 2021
CONSTANTLY ATTIRED
I'm supposed to be working plainclothed but what's a queen to do?


The blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones premiered today in 1973, so we thought it was an appropriate moment to post this sleeve for the soundtrack, a pretty good record, like blaxploitation soundtracks tended to be. It's a re-issue, which is why it looks so pristine. The artists include Joe Simon & The Mainstreeters on the title tune, plus contributions from Millie Jackson, Carl Brandt, and J.J. Johnson. But our interest in this is the image of star Tamara Dobson, who plays the titular badass government agent cum fashion plate. We cropped and de-texted the cover and the result is the poster-like image you see below. Fun movie too.

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Musiquarium Jun 17 2021
PLAYING WITH DOLLS
Monroe doesn't even have to be real to steal the show.


Bet you've never seen anything quite like this before. And depending on how you feel about dolls maybe you don't want to see anything like it again. The photo shows Japanese singer Junko Sakurada performing with a terrifying—er, we mean fascinating—doll of film immortal Marilyn Monroe. This is not quite as leftfield a pairing as it looks. Sakurada covered the Monroe song “I Wanna Be Loved by You” on her 1976 live album Nee ki ga tsuite yo, aka Hey! Be Aware, so she's possibly performing that tune with the help of some terrifying—er, we mean appealing—visual accompaniment. Try not to imagine this nightmare version of Monroe being somewhere inside your house when you go to sleep tonight.

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Femmes Fatales | Musiquarium Mar 2 2021
KILLING US SOFTLY
The performance was good, but the encore was unforgettable.


We asked you to stay tuned, and quicker than you can say ring-a-ding-ding above is Setsuko Ogawa as promised. Her guitar isn't just for decoration. In addition to her many film credits she released a 1973 single and later sang the theme song of the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick Enka Jôshikô: Kizudarake no Kaben—translation: “petals full of scars”—in which she headlined.

We've seen Ogawa described as the first roman porno star, and that could be true. Her debut film was 1971's Irogoyomi ōoku hiwa, aka Castle Orgies, and it was Nikkatsu's first official offering from its radical new genre, or possibly the second, depending on which source you believe. She starred in another Nikkatsu movie that year, so she was certainly among the genre's first recognizable faces.

The above image was pasted together from two larger shots and put online several years ago. We found full-frame versions of those separate shots, but not at a useful resolution, so two cropped shots stuck together like Siamese twins is what you get. However the resolution on that image is good, so we put it under the digital knife and split it during a dicey operation that took all of five seconds, with the results below. We'll have more from Ogawa at some point.
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Femmes Fatales | Musiquarium Feb 27 2021
VARIETY GIRL
Hmm... it's always a tough decision. Which of my many talents should I flaunt today?


Above is a photo of vaudevillian, stage actress, movie star, television host, writer, and internationally renowned singer Pearl Bailey. She excelled in all the various areas of her artistic pursuits, but began her career as a nightclub performer, for years touring around the U.S. before her rise to household fame began by appearing in movies, firstly 1947's Variety Girl. The next year she split a platter with Buddy Clark, and went on to release more than two dozen albums. The regal image above is undated, but were we to guess, we'd say it's probably from around the time she appeared in the hit film Carmen Jones in 1954.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
December 04
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
December 03
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
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