A Fistful of Dollars
One of the vinyls we picked up last week has on one side the lead song “For a Few Dollars More” across Clint Eastwood in his signature photo in the film with the same title, and “A Fistful of Dollars” on the other side showing Eastwood in his gun slinging position from the back. We played it after Su deep cleaned both the vinyl and its jacket. Very nice sound effects. I examined both the jacket and the disc, but could not find any reference to the names or identities of the artistes or the orchestra who performed the music in the 18 tracks, except that the record was made by a company in Japan called The Sunshine Limited.
From memory, the “Dollars Trilogy” films as they were known, namely “A Fistful of Dollars”, “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, were shown in Hong Kong cinemas in the early 70s or maybe late 60s. From the internet, I have learnt that they were directed by Sergio Leone in the mid-60s and filmed in Spain; that the first was released in Italy in 1964, and then later in the United States in 1967. The three films were hence known as Spaghetti Western and had catapulted Eastwood into stardom and the international film industry, even though Eastwood was not paid too much at the time, reportedly US$15,000 with the total low budget of, again reportedly, US$200,000 for the first film.
I like the tunes featured in all three films. These three were the lead titles in the record; and I was attracted by the titles to pick the disc home in the first place. The others were much more ancient; and more than a few of them brought back old memories. Let me mention a few, for friends who have lived through those eras; and I need to declare that I got some of the facts from Wikipedia.
Wheels, which debuted as a single in 1960 and quickly got into top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, peaking at No. 3. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. Many artistes had recorded it, but I was first attracted to the version made in 1961 by Billy Vaughn (1919 – 1991), an American singer and orchestra leader, who also did “Theme from a Summer Place” which I had listened to many times at my very good friend Joseph’s home in North Point in the mid-Sixties. Last week, I saw at the flea market a copy of the record by Billy Vaughn in the same jacket that Joseph had, but it was so tattered and scratched and I did not have the nerve to pick it up. Maybe I should have. But I have already acquired records with the track by other artistes before, including Percy Faith and his orchestra in 1959, and Andy Williams in 1962. Billy Vaughn also did Come September, which is another track on the disc. I had discussed the movie and the principal protagonists associated with it last September, and I would leave it at that. Back to Wheels, it was very popular in Hong Kong in the early Sixties. A popular hit song radio programme had used it as promo which helped to further popularize it.
My Blue Heaven was another very popular song in the early Sixties. The popular vocal versions included one recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1950 and one by Gene Austin in 1927, but this track was all musical and it was good. Then there were two tracks on marches, March from the River Kwai, from the 1958 film which became so popular that some local artistes had put in Cantonese lyrics which became very popular too; and The Longest Day from the 1962 film of the same title featuring John Wayne with lyrics sung by Paul Anka. Again, both tracks were music only.
Love at First Sight might not mean a lot to most listeners, particularly among the younger generation. It had another catchy name, Je T’aime, which is French for I love you, and was a catchy and popular tune in the mid-Sixties when I was an undergrad. It was featured in a French film dubbed in English, better known as “A Man and a Woman” and many singers had recorded the song, including Matt Monro. This track I had was mainly music with some French vocals based on Je T’aime.
Tea for Two Cha Cha was an all-time classic at parties since the Sixties. Most people would not fail to pick up its catchy and characteristic tunes and beats. I have learnt that it was an extraordinarily old tune, first popularized in 1940 by Art Tatum (1909 – 1956) an American jazz pianist who was legally blind.
Baby Elephant Walk was composed by Henry Mancini (1924 – 1994) in 1961 for the 1962 film Hatari. The music turned out to be more famous than the film, much more famous, probably because of Mancini, the American composer, conductor, arranger, pianist and flautist, who was often cited as one of the greatest composers in the history of films. He had won so many awards, including a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Most people would remember his Theme from Pink Panther, Moon River, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet, and others.
As I listened to these oldies, my thoughts went back to the Sixties and even before. I remember listening to most of these tunes the first time on the radio, sometimes on the turntables in friends’ places or from juke boxes. I recall that I often fancied owning my own turntable and collection of vinyl records, which was not possible nor practical for various reasons, some of which I had discussed in my first memoir. It’s all attachment, I told myself. Let’s move on. And tomorrow will be another day.