Morton Gould was a soul in anguish. He couldn't work out if he wanted to be Charles Ives or Nelson Riddle.
Like most American composers of his day, Gould paid the bills through pop music—he was the first musical director for Radio City Music Hall—but also conducted every major American orchestra, often in his own compositions.
It was his mainstream musicianship that made Master Right swoon, as you can read in Part One. Gould's version of Cole Porter's So in Love signed off the Sunday Night Western Movie Theater across Japan for much of the Showa emperor's reign. My husband, and many like him, grew to treasure this musical piece, many thinking that it was penned by, say, a Russian impressionist.
It caused such a fog of nostalgia to settle on Master Right's head, we had to track it down. We managed to find some downloadable copies, but most of the sources smelled a bit shifty. And even now, when everything is e-biquitous, it was harder to find in hard-copy than you'd think.
A man of prolific brilliance, Gould was a bit of an oddball among mid-century American composers. George Gershwin, Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein put the energy and innocent optimism of a young nation into melody. Gould..well, good vibes weren't his strong suit.
As I type this, an album plays in the background. It contains Gould's Fall River Legend.
In Fall River Legend, Gould composed a ballet around Lizzie Borden, who put the term axe murderer into the vernacular. Other well-known pieces are Ghost Walzes and the Jekyll and Hyde Variations. The centrepiece of his most successful broadway musical, Billion Dollar Baby, is a funeral procession.
So when this album arrived in the post, it didn't surprise me to discover Gould dressed a little like an undertaker.
Ah...words like Living Stereo and High Fidelity take me back to a childhood soundtracked by my mother's collection of Dean Martin, Henry Mancini and the lightest of classics, etched into those lazy new LPs which took almost two full seconds to make a complete turn. (Of course, all the really interesting music of that era, like Elvis and the Beatles, spun much faster on the turntable, mostly in Lo-Fi mono).
Our family coughed for a 1968 Magnavox Astro Sonic specifically to play such albums. Fresh from elementary school science class, I joked about the badge which read Solid State. "What? Do other stereos play with gas?"
I didn't know how misinformed that joke was. Record players had, unitil then, used an absence of gas, in the form of a vacuum tube. The handsome cabinets you see to the left were largely empty, save for a small chip full of pills on prongs. I looked.
Few of us realised the radical change it meant for sound quality.
Gould experimented with the many different forms of sound that a record could now reproduce, mainly through pizzacato that bordered on violin torture. In his version of I Get A Kick Out Of You, Gould uses that pointless technique where you bounce the bow off the strings. Glorious Hi-Fi makes it sound like a choir of castanets.
Missing the obvious.
Now, you'd think that anyone who is putting together a greatest hits album for Cole Porter would include his masterpiece, So in Love. Wouldn't you?
Bozo here forgot to check the track list. WTF? A Cole Porter tribute that doesn't cover So in Love?
So we were back to square one.
We googled until our cache was sore, but we couldn't find a copy of Morton Gould's arrangement of So in Love from Curtain Time. Neither on CD nor vinyl. But one source held hope.
To be Frank.
Frank Bristow holds a vast knowledge of music in his head. I'm not sure how he accumulated his collection of Music from the Past, but it's a treasure-trove of mid-century song. His father was a Captain in the entertainment section of the Australian army, and the teenaged Frank got plenty of scarce vinyl on the sly during the War. After his own discharge from the RAAF, Frank continued to collect.
As the century progressed, he grew frustrated by record companies who refused to re-release these gems of popular culture, and began to do it himself. He netwoked extensively with music lovers at home and abroad, and became an authority of some standing. For many years, he consulted for both Ivan Hutchinson and Bill Collins, two Australian celebrities who held much the same role as movie-critic/national treasure which Yodogawa filled in Japan.
(An aside: Collins is such a film authority that other Australian Bill Collinses have had to take great steps to disambiguate their web presence).
"That's not it," he said.
"What do you mean that's not it?" I sputtered, aghast. "Frank Bristow, Melbourne's Mr. Mid-Century Music, assures us that this is, undisputably, the one-and-only Morton Gould and his fucking orchestra, fiddling a lushly-stringed So in Love, just for us!"
"Sorry," he repeated, "that's not it."
OK, Morton Gould recorded more than one version. We were back to square one.
The Vinyl Route
Square one felt quite familiar, by now. What to do?
The internet proper didn'r seem much help. Odd, since I thought the internet knew everything. But like most people with full heads, the internet forgets. Or at least it has things shoved into a corner and forgotten.
Cached copies seem to sink to the bottom of a million-strong list of hits, and we ignore them. Sometimes, Google doesn't keep up with pages that appear and disappear in a short time. (Well that's my theory). So you can hit gold if you go straight to the source.
We found this curiosity for sale. Odd, since it was clearly labelled not for sale.
As lush strings made way for mellow rock on stereos across the planet, Gould's back catalogue would have tanked. This calls for sales psychology.
If something costs a buck and it doesn't sell, what do you do? Drop the price to fifty cents, or sell three for $2.00? Perversely, the latter works better.
So the sixties and seventies gave rise to direct marketing schemes and record clubs that promised vast amounts of music, offered personally and exclusively to astute collectors. You would get the offer because you were a member of a elite group of who appreciated such things—like, say, subscribers to the Reader's Digest.
My parents were two such highbrows. Here are two of the boxed sets that our home music library wouldn't be complete without.
That's neither here nor there. While googling the track titles individually didn't yield much, googling track list did. We found many of the tracks on Curtain Time scattered across a number of syndicated collections, skipping from record vault to record vault, reissued in a number of guises.
And it lurked here. On a used CD, available online.
Master Right now owns a copy of Morton Gould's version of So In Love. He's put it away someplace safe, to thrill his Japanese baby-boomer pals later.
Why am I telling you all this? Because the other day, we found the damn thing on YouTube. Life's like that, I guess.