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Ferrante & Teicher: The Forgotten Gods of Easy Listening Music
09:38 pm

Some Dangerous Minds readers will immediately recognize the names of Ferrante & Teicher, the prodigiously talented dual piano purveyors of the easiest easy listening who sold 90 million albums in their five decade career, but those readers will be of a certain age or else crazed crate diggers.

I just asked my wife, who has deep knowledge of all kinds of zany things, what the names “Ferrante & Teicher” meant to her and she said “Nothing” (we were even listening to them at the time). Most people under 45 will draw a complete blank when that question would be posed to them. However, those of us north of that age will likely recall the “grand twins of the twin grands” from various light entertainment TV programs in the 60s and 70s (they were probably on The Lawrence Welk Show a lot) and our grandparents record collections. The pair was primarily known for their dexterously executed two piano mind-meld arrangements of popular classical music pieces, film themes and Broadway show tunes. They were a huge draw on the “pops” classical concert circuit. Along with the likes of Peter Nero and Arthur Fiedler, they produced the whitest, most inoffensive music ever made—which isn’t to say that they weren’t great, because they were really quite extraordinary musicians.

Before becoming the of the biggest selling instrumental acts of all time, Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher were classically trained pianists who met at Juilliard. The pair started out doing John Cage-influenced “prepared piano” pieces (sticking cardboard between keys, laying metal bars across them, using glass mallets and so forth) and used a lot of studio manipulation, operating in the Joe Meek/hi-fi demonstration territory a little bit, too. Some of their early material, as heard on mid-1950s albums like Soundproof, Blast Off! and Soundblast sounds like, I dunno, an Eisenhower-era version of Tangerine Dream (Isn’t that description intriguing? I’m proud of that one…).

When the duo signed to United Artists in 1960 it was suggested to them that they might want to record some movie themes and their career instantly took off with their version of the theme from Billy Wilder’s classic comedy, The Apartment and their stirring rendition of the “Theme From Exodus” (which made it to #2 on the singles chart). Many people might have assumed that Ferrante and Teicher were a gay couple because of the dressing alike “twins” nature of their two piano shtick (they were neither related or twins), but the matching mustaches, horn-rimmed glasses, pompadour toupees and the bargain basement Liberace tuxedos were just a part of the act. Both were married at least once and had kids.

I expected that Ferrante & Teicher would have some sort of critical re-appraisal, like Esquivel did during the whole “lounge” craze—they’re awesome!—but that never happened. It’s kind of strange considering HOW LARGE of a flea market and 25 cent record store bin footprint they left behind. Imagine a warehouse with 90 million albums in it. A lot of their records are still floating around. Why haven’t young people with ironic facial hair discovered Ferrante & Teicher? Why haven’t more of their songs been sourced for obscure break beats? Why have virtually none of their 150 albums ever been released on CD?

To add insult to injury, there’s precious little about Ferrante & Teicher on the Internet, their website has hardly been updated since they died and they have almost no presence on the torrent trackers. At least there are several choice clips of them on YouTube, doing what they did best.

A great example of their more avant-garde earlier work, the gorgeous, Martin Denny-esque “African Echoes”:

Amazing, right?

I have a special memory of Ferrante & Teicher because I actually went to see them in concert on my first real “date,” believe it or not, when I was in the 8th grade, with the young lady who would end up being my girlfriend throughout much of my teens. Perhaps it’s an event recalled decades later with particular fondness because it was such an auspicious night in my young life, but I would honestly have to say that it was one of my peak concert going experiences, it really was (up there with Einstürzende Neubauten, Crass, dozens of Nick Cave shows, the evil Psychic TV gig I described the other day and Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl). The show was held in an intimate outdoor amphitheater and I still have a strong sense memory of being there, where we were sitting relative to the stage, the lightning bus and how dazzling, virtuoso and telepathic their playing was.

“Midnight Cowboy:

More Ferrante & Teicher after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger
09:38 pm
Easy listening medley of Hawkwind, T-Rex and Alice Cooper by The James Last Orchestra, 1973

I could hear this playing in the other side of the house on my wife’s computer. “It isn’t?”

Oh, but IT IS: Mr. Dante Fontana of Mod Cinema has posted this clip of fab German bandleader James Last and his Orchestra performing an indescribably great medley of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine,” “Children Of The Revolution” by T-Rex and Alice Cooper’s anthem to juvenile delinquency, “Schools’ Out.”

How lucky are we that this clip exists in the world: The James fucking Last Orchestra playing a decidedly UN-IRONIC (but truly incredible) big band version of Hawkwind’s greatest hit in 1973??? I mean, for that alone, sign me up, but throw in T-Rex and Alice Cooper covers in this style, too? That’s a party. A voodoo party.

Dig the fashion-forward stripey shirt and tie combo on some of the band members. That look takes “power clashing” to a whole new level. Makes it into an art form.

This is heavenly and I think you’ll think so too!

Via Mod Cinema/WFMU


Posted by Richard Metzger
08:12 pm
Music Hall Star Tessie O’Shea shows audience how to play the paper bag

Forget The Beatles and The Stones, the sixties was really about “Two Ton” Tessie O’Shea vs. Sing-a-Long Pianist Mrs. Mills.

These two giants of British Music Hall slugged it out during the 1960s and 1970s, each selling shed-loads of records, making top-rated TV shows and performing sell-out concerts across the globe - from Las Vegas to The Wheel-Tappers and Shunters Club - in a bid to be top Light Entertainment Star.

Celebrated ukelele and banjo-player, Tessie O’Shea debuted with The Beatles on the same legendary Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 - their appearance drew the largest audience in the history of American television at the time. It also made both international stars over-night. Though Welsh-born O’Shea was already a star of stage and screen back in Blighty (cast in plays by Noel Coward), her performance on the Sullivan Show guaranteed her a highly successful career on US TV and in Hollywood, making such films as The Russians Are Coming and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Mrs Mills was signed to the same label as The Beatles, Parlophone, and rubbed shoulders with the Fab Four at the Abbey Road Studios, where they both recorded. Mrs Mills was also for a time under the same management as The Stones. While Mrs Mills was arguably a bigger star in the UK, with a dedicated following across Europe and Australia, she never took off in the States as Tessie O’Shea did. However, Mrs Mills did release over 50 albums in 20 years, all of which were best-sellers. No mean feat.

I liked Mrs Mills, but preferred Tessie, who had an infectious twinkle and jolly sense of glee. Here, then, is “Two Ton” Tessie, decked out in a Dolly-Parton-wig and what looks like the living-room curtains, serenading an audience (that looks straight out of Michael Caine’s Get Carter) with a paper bag. From the bizarre Wheel-Tappers and Shunters Club.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:50 pm