My colleague Peter Stenshoel intrigues me on a regular basis. Every week, there's a different old album on his desk. Here's this week's pick:
Since moving to our new studios, I have made it a habit to dress up my desk with different phonograph records from my collection. Ever since my first record purchase (Unit Structures by Cecil Taylor Unit) from money earned baby-sitting my little sister, a good portion of my (debatably) expendable income has gone to exploring the amazing variety and breadth of recorded music.
This week’s decorative platter is actually a box set of five long playing records. It’s the Bear Family label’s Rockin’ Rollin’ Bill Haley. It documents a ten year span from “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” in 1954 to “The Green Door” in 1964. I’ve been a Bill Haley fan ever since my dad brought home a big used speaker cabinet that had a surprise cache of 45 rpm records. Among Elton Britt green translucent goodies and Sy Oliver’s jump version of “Maybelline,” there was “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” the original 1954 pressing by Bill Haley and the Comets.
I had never heard Big Joe Turner’s original version of the song, but something about the recording was so full of pep, brash happiness, and a confident, straightforward musicianship, I had to play it again and again.
One of the things I noticed was the incredible balance of the recording. It had a natural reverberation to it -- not the weird echoes on Mitch Miller or Les Paul records. A few years later, when I heard the novelty jump singer Louis Jordan, I admired that same sense of how the sounds filled the air and fell off so gracefully. Imagine my surprise when I heard somebody on the radio point out that Bill Haley and Louis Jordan both recorded their records at a place called the Pythian Temple auditorium in New York! This was a stunning realization: The acoustics of the auditorium, considered sublime, had had a hand in Bill Haley’s dynamic recordings, from the beginning to 1959.
See you next platter!
- Peter Stenshoel