When you turned on the radio in the early Sixties, you weren’t going to hear a lot of international influence in the music. Things were All American back then. In a typical twenty minutes you might hear Elvis, The Four Seasons, Johnny Mathis, Brenda Lee, Chubby Checker, and Neil Sedaka. That’s what the Top Forty sounded like. But then, in November of 1962, along came Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass with their first big hit, “The Lonely Bull.” Over the next five years, they landed thirteen songs in the Top 40, all of them with, what must have seemed at the time, that exotic south-of-the-border sound. They even made “Zorba The Greek” sound like he was from Guadalajara.
Two years later, Stan Getz jumped on board with his Top Five bossa nova hit, “The Girl from Ipanema.” And a couple of year later, Sergio Mendez and Brazil ’66 joined the crowd. After that, you weren’t surprised when you turned on the radio and heard the Baja Marimba Band, Hugh Masakela, or Ray Barretto. And when FM radio came along, we got our Latin rhythms from Santana, War, Osibisa, and Malo. Well, today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl got its start when I was listening to The Mongo Santamaria Band’s cover of Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” That led me to another jazz composition, also done in a Latin style. The group El Chicano had a big hit with a version of Gerald Wilson’s “Viva Tirado.” From there I just let the congas and bongos take us from one country to another and from one song to the next. Rhythms from South America, Africa, and Cuba. Bits of tangos and rumbas. Mambos and salsas. And loads of batucada. And somehow in the middle we end up with Leonard Cohen and Roxy Music, but the beat went on. A sultry Latin mood pushed by that tumbao rhythm. So, “Oye Como Va,” as they say. Listen how it goes, this rhythm’s good for dancing.
|Mongo Santamaria||Watermellon Man|
|Paul Simon||Further To Fly|
|Leonard Cohen||Here It Is|
|Roxy Music||My Only Love|
|El Chicano||Viva Tirado|
|Santana||Oye Como Va|
If that on line encyclopedia can be believed, the opening line of “Oye Como Va,” literally means, listen how it goes. But colloquially it’s more like, ‘Hey, check it out.” This rhythm’s good for dancing, or something along those lines. That classic track is a great example of musical recycling. Santana covering the late Tito Puente’s composition which I’m led to believe is actually a rewrite of another tune composed and recorded in the 1930s. Before that, more recycling. From 1970, the group El Chicano, formerly the VIPs, with their cover of Gerald Wilson’s “Viva Tirado” which, thirty years later, ended up as the basis for Kid Frost’s Chicano rap single, “La Raza.” At the top, all the way from Havana, we heard Mongo Santamaria who played with Tito Puente, Perez Prado, and many others. Here he covered Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” a song Herbie recorded on his first solo album. Paul Simon after that with another serving from his international sampler platter, this time with all that Brazilian percussion, that batucada, from Rhythm of the Saints, a track called “Further to Fly” featuring Ringo Starr on guitar of all things.
That led us into Leonard Cohen’s moody little samba, or tango or whatever it was from the album, Ten New Songs. This one called, “Here It Is.” And there was something about the mood of that song that led me to Roxy Music and the one tune in the set that got in on mood alone, a track called “My Only Love” from the album Flesh and Blood. And now it’s time to gather my bongos and congas and rumba on out of here. By the way, if you’re just dying to find out more, it’s all on my website and the Facebook pages and Amazon, so be sure to stop by next time you’re surfing around. From the Way Back Studios, I’m Bill Fitzhugh back sooner or later with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.